Artist of the Month: Paige Mattson of Sprout Bottle

IMG_6104The following was written by Paige Mattson of Sprout Bottle.

Sprout Bottle is a handcrafted, reclaimed beer bottle, garden kit.  Each 4-pack is uniquely blended with organic soil, fertilizer and seeds and packaged with recycled materials to lighten our impact on the planet.  All of our ingredients are sourced in the US and distributed from Virginia.

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Sprout Bottle strives to provide a high quality, unique product that is sustainable and affordable. As part of our commitment to be sustainable, Sprout Bottle has partnered with 1% for the Planet.  This means that 1% of all Sprout Bottle sales goes to save land, protect forests, rivers and oceans, make agricultural and energy production more sustainable, getting toxics out of the environment, plastics out of the oceans and more.

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You can find more about Sprout Bottle on their website, Facebook Page and Twitter Feed.

7 Uses For Empty Cotton Soap Bags

IMG_8727Several of our customers have asked if there are uses for the eco-friendly cotton bags we use to package our cold process soaps, once the soaps are removed from the bags. This post contains a few of our reuse ideas. Please feel free to add yours to the comments!

1) Use it as a soap saver bag for the end pieces of your Herban Lifestyle soap! Otherwise, we don’t recommend wetting the empty bags since they will shrink and wrinkle.

2) Make a sachet! Fill the empty bag with your favorite fragrant dried herbs, such as lavender. You can place it in your drawer to add a lovely subtle scent to your clothing.


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3) Make a fun toy for your cat! Fill the bag with catnip, tie tightly, and clip off the extra string so that your cat won’t eat it. Enjoy the show!

4) Use it as storage for small, easily lost objects, like jewelry and buttons.

5) Decorate the outside and use it as nice-smelling packaging for small gifts or favors.

IMG_92316) Fill them with herbs and/or spices to make an herbal bath tea

7) Use them to store playing or trading cards

There are many more uses for these great little bags. Please let us know your thoughts. We welcome any suggestions!

 

The Benefits of a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) Habit

bagmonsterThe following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

You are sitting in a park enjoying a lovely picnic. You are taking in the peaceful moment: the birds are chirping, children are playing on the nearby swings, a butterfly flitters by, and then you look up and your stomach lurches. It’s the lurch you feel when you see a plastic bag stuck amongst the highest branches of the maple you are sitting under. You start thinking about the birds that could get tangled in the plastic, the turtle that thinks he is about to chow down on a jelly fish, and your mind starts flashing images you have seen of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and all you have your mind set on is how long it would take for that bag to eventually break down and where can you find the nearest ladder.

Plastic bag pollution is a serious problem the world over. It is estimated that 1 million plastic bags are used every minute of every day worldwide. Plastics in the ocean is a terrifying situation as today there are more pieces of ocean plastic than plankton (you know the little guys who are responsible for our every other breath). Of the 100 million tons of plastic that are manufactured each year, ten percent finds its way to the ocean, and only 20 percent by means of ships and platforms. That means that 80 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from the land. With all of this plastic floating in the ocean that does not go away but rather break up into smaller bits (46,000 pieces per every square mile according to the United Nations Environment Program), it is no wonder that a million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die each year from plastic bags and other plastic pollution.

Some quick facts about plastic bags and the environment

Some quick facts about plastic bags and the environment

So what can you do and what should be done? The first thing you should do is bring your own bag to the store. It is estimated that one reusable bag can replace 1,000 plastic bags in the reusable bag’s lifetime. Keep a small foldable bag with you in your purse or on a keychain, so if you are out and about and decide to do some impromptu shopping, you are prepared. ChicoBags makes some really cute ones that fold up super small. Next, keep a stack of bags in the trunk of your car so you have them with you when you head to the grocery store or any other store where you would need more than one bag.  For the non-car owners keeping a stack by the door is a helpful reminder as well. For the ladies, you can get a little drastic and stuff them in your bra, however, I am not exactly sure what the most lady like method of removing the bags would be when you actually need them. Once you have the BYOB habit down, start bugging your friends to remind them as well, you have a vast, powerful network, use it to help the planet out (and while you are at it, get your friends to start a campaign to ban plastic bags in your city!).

If you have a ton of plastic bags under your sink, try to reuse them as trash liners or packaging material. And if you have a desire to get creative, check out these crafts that all use plastic bags! You can also take them to most grocery stores and Staples to recycle them.

Just remember, for every bag you refuse to take you are taking a direct action to help stop the plastic pollution problem and subsequently saving resources, animal lives, and keeping those plastic bags out of our trees and waterways!

Editor’s Note: For more information on the issue of plastic bags, presented in a fun, entertaining way, we highly recommend Bag It!, the movie.

A globe made of plastic bags, as seen at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

A globe made of plastic bags, as seen at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Trashionista: On a mission to save the world, one trash can at a time!

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate

Let’s be real, trash is probably the least sexy of all sustainability topics, especially when we are talking about hospital waste (biohazard anyone?!) I’m not going to lie; it’s been gross. And let me tell you I have weird, funny, shocking, disgusting, heartbreaking, inspiring, and just plain odd stories about having my first full-time sustainability job revolve around hospital waste, but those are stories for another blog post so, I digress.

Anyway, this Sustainababe had persevered through all the craziness of setting up three primary waste streams and teaching hundreds of nurses (and a variety of supporting staff) what is considered infectious, non-infectious, and recyclable. Sustainasnob Rant/Confession: I hate WASTE unless you can feed it back into the materials economy. As William McDonough, father of Cradle to Cradle design says, “Pollution is a symbol of design failure.” Waste causes pollution from all the hauling, burning (waste incinerators!), and rotting of the stuff (that is, if it ever breaks down in a landfill!) Additionally, dealing with hospital waste means that I either have to promote diversion from the incinerator or the landfill (not good environmental options either way you look at them) or recycling (which, at 30% recyclables for 3+ million pounds per hospital, comes out to 1 million pounds per year!) This problem drives me nuts! My school and life training taught me to believe that the best way to solve a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. My mantra is “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” And at work, it really bothers me that I cannot address the huge waste issue using the first two steps. I am an idealist and dreamer to the core, so this blog post is not going to be completely negative. On the contrary, it is about the blast I had tackling the second R – reuse. [Quick side note, check out Annie Lenord’s Story of Stuff, to fully understand the complete cycle of our products including disposal].

So now to the fun stuff! I have been working a lot in the Operating Rooms (ORs) lately (no smelling salts were ever needed, to my surprise!), stressing the proper waste guidelines and tackling the oh-so-annoying problem of blue wrap!

What the heck is blue wrap you ask? Basically, it is like wrapping paper for surgical instruments to keep everything sterile. It is the consistency of a paper towel, but made from plastic. A plastic that can be recycled. Yay! So I spent a few months getting the proper ducks in a row and now my ORs are recycling the stuff. The excitement from that project had me bouncing around the hospital for weeks knowing the blue wrap was not going to spend hundreds of years breaking down in a landfill, or worse, being burned!

The hospital where I spread the green love, received an award for their “Greening the OR” efforts and in celebration I was inspired by this video (the kids are so adorable in this video), to make my own dress from blue wrap!

I started with two different colors of blue wrap since this hospital is fazing in the darker color over the lighter color. I wanted to make a dress but had no idea how, so I got some help from Charlotte, the Sustainability Coordinator at the hospital. And later, my mom helped with the sewing, which wasn’t easy since we had no pattern. I started with tracing out panels from my favorite summer dress and things just kind of morphed from there. I had once seen a girl on Halloween sport a globe dress (her costume was Global Warming), and ever since I wanted my own Earth Mama dress (why yes, even my ideas are recycled!) So the dual colors of blue wrap presented the perfect opportunity to pull this off. To achieve realistic looking continents, I cut up an old National Geographic Map of the World poster and used the pieces as a template, traced those out onto the dark blue, cut those out, and glued the dark blue continents onto the light blue dress (while using the middle seam as the prime meridian, can you say Geography Geek?!)

I also added earrings made from fans that came from an old towel warming unit provided by my favorite Tinkerer (a mechanic who fixes broken medical equipment in the Biomed Department).

The Celebration Day came, and I put on my dress and safety pinned myself in and prayed that my dress would not fall apart. I walked into the ceremony and was swarmed by the attendees. “Oh my goodness, Katie!” “That’s made out of blue wrap!” “How did you do that?!” “Can we get your picture?!” “Look,it’s the Earth!”

I felt like Miss America! To my embarrassment, I was just getting over laryngitis so all I could do was squeak a few yeses and thank yous. Yet through it all, I had a blast playing with blue wrap and creating the coolest piece of Trashion, I own ☺. It’s all about perspective! Here’s to rocking the Creative Reuse! So glad this dress is made of plastic, it will last FOREVER and will be required attire for every Earth Day for the rest of my life!

How to Make Orange Blossom Star Cookies


One of our favorite Christmas time rituals is the making of the cookies. And one of our favorite recipes is for stelline d’oro (little golden star cookies) which comes as a bonus in Tomie dePaolo’s children’s book, Clown of God. If you have young children, I highly recommend you buy the book (or any by dePaola).

I wanted to share the stelline d’oro cookie recipe with you, but because it is copyrighted, I can’t include it here. So instead, I offer you my adaptation. The orange blossom water (available in gourmet shops, or Italian or Indian groceries) gives the flowers a unique delicately floral flavor. The original recipe contains saffron, which adds a warm earthy flavor. I recommend you check it out. Anyway, here is my recipe:

The cookie dough:
2 cups unbleached organic flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup organic butter*
1 cup fair trade evaporated sugar
1 cage-free organic egg
2 tablespoon orange juice

The glaze:
1 tablespoon warm water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 cup fair trade confectioners’ sugar
Natural vegetable coloring (optional)

Colored sugar (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the orange juice to the butter/sugar and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, mixing well. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 sections. Roll out each section until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (sometimes we use different sized stars to make it look like the night sky). Place cookies on a baking sheet that is either lightly greased, or covered in parchment paper (my preference). Bake at 375-degrees for about 6 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges.

Cool on a cookie rack. Once cooled, glaze the cookies, using the following recipe:

Mix the glaze ingredients together until all lumps are gone. You can tint the glaze with food coloring (I use India Tree natural vegetable colors).

Glaze the cookies and, if you want, sprinkle with coarse colored sugar (I use Joby and Marty’s Amazing Colored Sugar, which I buy at Whole Foods).

Voila!

*Make sure you use real butter, as butter substitutes will keep the cookies from holding their shape

New Offering: Customized Gift Bags

Today I am delivering these gift bags to a client who order them for a bridal shower she is hosting this weekend. I am particularly happy with the way they came out, so I wanted to share some pictures with you. I have created a few gift bags now, and have discovered that I really enjoy coming up with the theme and customized labeling. This set includes a mini organic sugar scrub, organic Dolce de Limone lip balm, and a sample of my new Herban Lifestyle Naked line Pretty Pink Facial Masque.

The items are packaged in compostable cellulose bags and tied with paper ribbons. As always, the labels are printed on 100% recycled paper, and the containers are recyclable.

I have decided I will start to offer these through my Etsy shop. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on pricing, timing and customization!

Hello Spaghetti Scrub!

The innovative Spaghetti Scrub

The following is a totally unsolicited review

One of my favorite DC stores is Greater Goods on U Street (one of my favorite streets in DC). They have a great selection of environmentally-friendly household supplies like biodegradable garbage bags, composting bins, shower filters, reusable produce bags, and much much more. I can always count on them to have some fun eco-friendly product that is new to the market. On my last visit to Greater Goods, I discovered the coolest dish scrubber I’ve ever seen – the Spaghetti Scrub.

The Spaghetti Scrub is part of a new line of environmentally friendly scrubs made with natural materials such as recycled corn cobs, peach pits and walnut shells (unlike conventional scrubbers and sponges, which are made from petrochemicals). The scrubs are distributed through an American company, Goodbye Detergent!, but the products are the genius creations of industrial designer Hiroki Hayashi and are made in Japan. These innovatively-designed products have apparently won international design awards.

image copyright Goodbye Detergent!

Not only does the Spaghetti Scrub look cute, it works really really well. And, unlike course scrubbing sponges or steel wool, it feels very soft and comfortable in your hand. Plus, I found that, just as promised, soap wasn’t necessary when dealing with even heavily baked-on messes, and the Spaghetti Scrub seemed to require less effort than any other scrub I’ve used. At first I thought this was simply due to the fact that I was having so much fun with it, but I’ve been using it for over a month now, and I’m still enamored with it!

I know this sounds like a commercial, but I am really happy with my new discovery and can’t say enough good things about it. Now if I could just find out more about this Hayashi guy. A Google search turned up several people with the same name, and I couldn’t tell if any of them were the genius Spaghetti Scrub guy. If you can point me to his other work, I would be truly grateful!