April 8, 2016

Kiss the Dry Cleaner Goodbye

Dry cleaning. Let's talk about it.
First of all, I stopped going to the dry cleaner years ago. Not for environmental reasons, but because they are SO expensive! Paying $8 in NYC to have a shirt cleaned? No. 

Besides the cost of getting my clothes "professionally cleaned", I began to learn about what they were actually being cleaned with. The truth is that the chemicals used by most dry cleaners can cause harm to air quality and to you. 

When I started making my own laundry detergent, I tested it out on my delicates and to my complete surprise, it totally worked. I now wash wool, cashmere, soft cotton, silk, linen and other delicates by hand in my sink using my laundry detergent from The Simply Co.

Many dry cleaners use perchloroethylene aka perc. Perc is a volatile organic compound aka VOC. When you get a dry-cleaning bag, most likely when you open it up it will smell a bit sweet. That is perc. The gasses from perc can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat and gasses have been said to exacerbate asthma. 

My advice... stay away from the dry cleaners except for professional repairs, steams, and pressing (if they are all chemical free) and wash your own clothing by hand. For me I hand wash and let the item dry flat on a towel and then iron or steam as necessary. 

March 18, 2016

My Ultimate Reading List

I am extremely grateful and thankful  to have received a degree in Environmental Studies from NYU. It is where I got a lot of my foundational science education that really helped to shape the way I think about things from a systems perspective. However, most of my knowledge on sustainability came not from school, but from reading.

I am a big believer that school isn't how we become well versed in something, it is a hunger for learning and a desire to constantly challenge and enrich ourselves. I have included the names of the books that have helped me to grow and expand as well as a link to where you can buy them secondhand on Amazon (I know, they aren't the best)... so I suggest first getting books at a local library, then purchasing books secondhand or on an e-reader if you have one. If you buy books secondhand online, remember to ask the seller if they can package it plastic free in an envelope as opposed to a plastic mailer. They are typically very accommodating.

The book that started it all for me: 
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: The book that was published in a series of 3 excerpts in the New Yorker in 1962 that led to the banning of DDT and helped to start the environmental movement.

Animal Agriculture/Food
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: After becoming a father, Jonathan Safran Foer looked into why we eat animals and the stories behind them. This book is top 10 for me.
Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan: Through the question of what to have for dinner, Pollan looks at our food system and how America eats.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: This book looks at the American Paradox- the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become. He suggest a "new" diet that looks in the direction of making thoughtful food choices.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser: A look into the American fast food industry.
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé: a look into not only how what we eat affects us, but the world.

Flammable by Javier Auyero and Debora Alejandra Swistun: The impact of a large oil corporation on an Argentine shantytown.
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher: A statement against "bigger is better" industrialism.
Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough: Remaking the Way We Make Things.
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond: Geography shapes the destiny of the world.
Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawkens: how businesses can be both profitable and environmentally responsible.

Collapse by Jared Diamond: How and why societies fail.
The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard: The impact of overconsumption on the environment, economy, and our health.
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Enjoy these books and please let me know if you have any additions that I might have missed!

February 16, 2016

Shopping Secondhand in NYC

People ask me all the time how I shop Zero Waste. My answer: secondhand!

I buy all of my clothing secondhand which helps me to save money and have a closet full of unique items. How do I do it? Well, I teamed up with Suitcase Magazine and Viber to create a video on why I love secondhand shopping in NYC and what my favorite spots are. Check out the video below to learn all about them!
My favorite Secondhand Stores in New York City: 
  1. Beacon's Closet
  2. 2nd Time Around 
  3. Housing Works
  4. Goodwill 
What do I look for? 
When secondhand shopping I look for simple, well made pieces that I could imagine wearing two days in a row and not having anyone notice. I like for my clothing to be basic and not trendy that way I can layer it, wear it over and over, and keep it for a really long time. I also look for pieces that are made from natural fibers like cotton, silk, hemp, wool, and leather. These materials are all naturally biodegradable. I stay away from synthetic fibers because they are bad for your skin because they are made from toxic ingredients, bad for the environment because they are typically oil derived and the extraction and production processes are chemical, water, and energy intensive, and bad for our oceans as synthetic fibers get released into our water system and mistaken for food by animal life which then suffocates them. Plastics in the ocean also attract toxins when are then consumed by animal life so I stay away from plastic based or synthetic fabrics.  

What are some of your favorite secondhand finds and stores? Let me know in the comments below!