meeting with Etsy CEO Maria

wolf1252Last Sunday, the Capital Region Etsy Street Team (CREST) had the opportunity to meet with Etsy CEO, Maria. She is spending time talking with various street teams, getting to know the people behind the storefronts, and it was also a chance for us to ask her some Etsy questions. It was also a great chance for the members of CREST to have a chance to meet each other IRL, putting faces to the now-familiar names.

We were all struck by how accessible and down-to-earth Maria was. She told us about her background at Amazon and NPR, which had prepared her for her role at Etsy through experience not only with online retailing, but more importantly, virtual community-building. It became clear as she spoke to us that she sees Etsy as so much more than a place where crafters can sell their stuff. She sees its value and uniqueness in the opportunities for people to come together around a common desire to be creative and to be part of something genuine. The handmade movement has been growing over the last several years, and it seems to be just one aspect of the movement by many people away from the mass-produced, impersonal, throw-away culture.

I recalled a moment five years ago, entering a knitting shop on 14th Street in NYC, and seeing one of my neighbors (a former super model and wife of a rock legend), sitting in a side room taking knitting lessons. Here was someone who could have any material thing she wanted (someone who had a limo drive her to the grocery store), and there she was, with wool and wooden needles in hand, learning how to create something with her own two hands.

Besides the great satisfaction of creating a tangible product, there are many other reasons to love the handmade movement: handcrafted items from local sellers don’t have the unfair labor practices that are often associated with mass-produced items; the quality of handcrafts is so much greater than any factory-made product you could buy; plus, there’s something about the love that goes into a handmade product — it’s a tangible intangible that brings a totally different quality that commercial products are simply missing.

As we discussed with Maria, there are many things that Etsy can do to improve the experience for their sellers and buyers. But, they are offering something that nobody had done before — create a space where people can come together, share the authentic handmade experience, and find some really cool stuff in the process.


MALL is a 4-Letter Word: Buy Handmade on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

sale_bannerThe Capital Region Etsy Street Team (CREST) is holding a Black Friday/Cyber Monday CREST promotion. The following stores have contributed items for a Gift Box, which will be given away through a random drawing. Several stores are also offering discounts.

To enter, post a comment on the CREST blog along with your name and email address. The winner will be announced on the afternoon of Friday, December 5th.

Athena’s Olive Tree
Gift Box Contribution:Layered Candy Cane Soap Bar
Discount Offer: I’ve placed 42 items on sale and will be giving away a free item to a random person who purchased from my shop in the month of November… and i’ll be giving 5% off any order placed ON black friday! Ends Midnight EST.

Gift Box Contribution: I am offering up one of my wet-felted wool scrap yarn balls.  Multicolored ball about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Discount Offer: I am offering free shipping on all items.

Bella Tote
Gift Box Contribution: an attractive reusable tote!

Bette’s Bags
Gift Box Contribution: Small fabric wallet or credit card holder.
Discount Offer: Free Shipping

Gift Box Contribution: I am offering up a pair of new jade and sterling silver earrings. Valued at $8.
Discount Offer: free gift wrapping on all items, free shipping on orders over $30. Early bird special: Make it a gift set! Limited number of free earrings with the purchase of a necklace.

Designs by Erin
Gift Box Contribution: 2 knitted bangle bracelets: 1 light green & white cotton yarn, and 1 baby blue acrylic and blue Lion’s Brand Homespun yarn

Elizabethan Creations
Gift Box Contribution: Set of 4 yo-yo coasters in blue
Discount Offer: 20% of everything in shop

French Roast
Gift Box Contribution: a pendant (value $15)
Discount Offer: free shipping to the US (discounts overseas) 

Generations Tie Dye

Gift Box Contribution: A 12″x60″ hand-dyed blue and gray silk scarf

herban lifestyle™
Gift Box Contribution: organic holiday cookie sugar scrub
Discount Offer: 20% off all items in my store

Jellybug Artworks
Gift Box Contribution: a fused glass pendant. 
Discount Offer: $5 off on every $25 spent at my shop with free shipping on orders of $50 or more. 

Gift Box Contribution: a small redecorated spice tin (“Warm Fuzzies”) that the recipient can fill with glitter, bath salts, powder, or tea, spices, etc.

Katie’s Kritters
Gift Box Contribution: a duo of Christmas pins, Santa and Mrs. Claus

Mishutka Design Studio
Gift Box Contribution: Victorian Pink Rose Tags (Set of 6) Delicate roses and lovely pink ribbons are perfect together in these Victorian style gift tags. Delightful vintage tags to decorate your gifts! Or use them for scrapbooking and as bookmarks.

Gift Box Contribution: Original upcycled bookmark and an original watercolor Christmas theme card
Discount Offer: Free shipping 

Gift Box Contribution: On The Go Pouch – A cute little japanese fabric pouch to stash you stuff!
Discount Offer: 15% all items in my shop

Silver Dot Jewelry Designs
Gift Box Contribution: Crystal Rose Necklace A faceted rock crystal quartz briolette is accented with a lovely rose gold vermeil charm and suspended from sterling silver chain. Necklace length will be made to customer specifications. Necklace retails for $33.50
Discount Offer: BOGO Sale – Buy One item and get lower priced or equal value item at 50% off.

Undefined Village
Gift Box Contribution: 5×7 photographic print, matted and signed
Discount Offer: Buy one get one 1/2 off all prints 8×10 or larger.

Wild Honeysuckle Creations
Gift Box Contribution: A pendant or ornament.

Happy Shopping!

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

greenchristmasThe holiday season is a time of sharing,  preparing, celebrating and buying. And it has become, increasingly over the past century, a time of excess consumption. This year, with concerns about the economy, personal finances, and the state of the environment, many people are looking for ways to strech their dollars and green their holiday habits.

While I admit that I dive unabashedly into the holidays and all their trappings, I have always tried to offset my excesses through greener practices. Here are some of the things that I’ve been doing over the years to lessen my impact on the environment. Because my mantra is “it’s all about balance,” especially during the holidays, all of these ideas are relatively easy to implement, and generally don’t take any more time than their un-green equivalents. And several of these options cost the same or less than taking the traditional commercial route.

1. Rethink your Holiday greeting cards. I have several friends who have switched over to email-only holiday greetings, which definitely saves paper. However, if you are more traditional, there are earth-friendly ways to send your season’s greetings. You can purchase cards made from 100% recycled paper, or cards from organizations that donate money to environmental or social causes. I’ve always either made my own cards (on recycled paper) or purchased UNICEF cards, as they have great designs and the money goes to helping children throughout the world. Their cards are available online or at Pier 1 Imports. If you’re opting for gorgeous recycled cards, Fig+Sage offers some great recommendations.

2. Use last year’s holiday cards as gift tags. One of my parents’ friends, an artist, has always done
this, and it looks great. Just cut off the front of the card and write your message on the back. You
can either tape the card to the gift, or punch a hole in it and string a ribbon through.

3. Replace those environmentally-unfriendly paper goods. Several years ago, I purchased about 50
dessert-sized plates from a discount store, and have used them for parties in place of paper plates. They’ve paid for themselves over and over. If you don’t want to do dishes, there are several brands of eco-friendlier disposable goods, including compostable plastic plates and utensils. Whole Foods
carries some, and Green Party Goods has a great selection.

4. Get creative with wrapping paper. In the past I’ve used beautifully printed cloth napkins or larger
cloths and tied them with ribbon. I’ve also bought reusable cloth gift bags at Whole Foods. I also package collections of smaller items in baskets or other reusable containers. I’ve also taken plain kraft paper and printed it with rubber stamps or potato prints. This is a great activity for kids, as it allows them to be involved in holiday preparations and it’s easy for them to do. There are several companies that offer recycled wrapping paper. National Geographic has an article on earth-friendly paper and cards. Or try wrapping your gifts in plantable seeded wrapping paper from Bloom!

5. Keep the ribbon and bows to a minimum. We use tons of petroleum-based plastic ribbon in this
country every holiday season — I heard on the radio the other day that it’s enough to wrap around the entire planet! Replace the plastic with raffia, twine or nothing at all. I often decorate packages
with an ornament or candy cane.

6. Purchase gifts that do dual duty by patronizing shops that benefit non-profits. When I lived in
Connecticut, I would make an annual trip to the Save the Children gift shop. They have a huge
selection of items and all profits go to their international aid projects. I now shop at Ten Thousand
, a fair trade organization that represents artisans from over 30 countries.

7. Buy a tree locally, or better yet, buy a live one. Look for local tree farms where you can cut your
own (when I lived in Connecticut, we would cut our own tree at a local organic farm), or nurseries
that sell live trees, which you can plant in your yard after the holidays (that’s what my parents did
every year). The National Audubon Society has an article on live versus cut, and how to find a local
tree farm.

8. Buy gifts locally. Every year I make it a point to patronize craft fairs and local artisans. I also go to Etsy and do a search for artisans located in my area. Buying locally is better for the environment and for the local ecomony.

9. Make your own gifts. They don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive — you can do something simple like making a forced bulb planter, or homemade cookie mix in a reusable jar. You can find tons of great, easy ideas in books at the library or search on Google for “homemade christmas gifts.”

Happy Holidays!

Kudos from Balance/Act

ba1Yesterday we were featured in a post on Balance/Act, a blog on sustainable living in the DC area. Balance/Act covers a range of green topics, and provides lots ideas for local sustainable shopping and environmental resources.

Here’s what they said about our Tangerine Dreamsicle lip balm:

“DC/metro girls put down that lip-tingling-chemical-whatever-it-is! A local, organic artisan is hard at work making beautiful, all natural, and dare we say…tasty lip balms. Herban Lifestyle is based out of Falls Church, VA and offers your cranky lips a choice between Dolce de Limone or Tangerine Dreamsicle balm flavors.

“Did we mention herbal lifestyle is all natural? Want us to prove it to you? Ok we will!”

Then they go on to compare the ingredients in a typical Bonnie Bell lip balm to my lip balm. Unlike the commercial brand, which has several suspected carcinogens, my list of ingredients is very simple and pure.

Thank you so much for the kudos, Balance/Act!

Another Brick and Mortar Friend

logo_newLast Sunday, I attended the DC Green Festival, a huge marketplace of products and ideas focusing on finding solutions to help make our lives healthier—socially, economically and environmentally. It was a smorgasbord of cool eco-friendly products, interesting speakers, yummy food, and lots of ideas on sustainable practices for your home and business.

While there, I met Steve Ma, founder of LiveGreen, a membership organization providing support to green businesses and discounts on everyday green products and services for consumers. Steve introduced me to Honi Borden, owner of Holeco™ Wellness Medi Spa in Falls Church, VA. We hit it off right away with our common love of beauty, fashion and all things organic and natural.

Holeco is a very special kind of day spa. It is the first organic Medi Spa in the US to be recognized by Co-op America as a socially responsible GREEN company and every product in Honi’s setting has holeco1been extensively researched and only those that are not harmful to people’s health or environment are chosen.

So, I was extremely honored when Honi chose to offer the Herban Lifestyle product line in her spa.  She selects products based on several criteria, including ingredients that are of the highest quality, with no chemicals, preservatives or petroleum-based constuencies, and packaging that is earth-friendly. She also gives high priority to women-owned businesses.

Thank you, Holeco!

My Muse

The Muse, Frederick, MD
The Muse, Frederick, MD

As of this week, Herban Lifestyle™ products are now available at The Muse, a gift shop in Frederick, MD. On its website, they state: “Our store offers a fresh and funky twist to everyday items, all created by artists and crafts people.” It’s a wonderful place to shop for unique and beautiful gifts. I found some adorable handmade baby gifts the last time I was there.

In addition to the great merchandise, every month they have at least one special event, including trunk shows and craft workshops. I’m looking forward to the weaving workshop they will be holding in early 2009.

We’re In Daily Candy’s Guide to Green DC Today!

logo-regularSeven years ago, a colleague introduced me to the NYC version of DailyCandy. With it’s witty write-ups, cute illustrations, and spot-on recommendations for the latest, greatest products and services, I became an instant fan. It became an invaluable guide for finding good stuff in The City.

When I moved to the DC area three years ago, I was sad to find out that there was no DC version of Daily Candy. How was I to navigate my new environs? Who could I turn to for inside info on the hottest DC trends? As if in answer to my concern, Daily Candy launched their DC version one month after I arrived in The District. I was delighted.

The first thing I found through Daily Candy was a source for the best cupcakes ever — it turned out that they were available in a coffee shop right across the street from my apartment! And I’ve since found just about everything I’ve needed: hair salons, spas, organizing consultants, restaurants and so much more.

So, it was an honor and a thrill to be featured in today’s issue of Daily Candy Washington, DC as part of their green guide. Daily Candy says, “Who knows what you’re ingesting with each smack of that lipstick? New, all-natural, local line Herban Lifestyle is the balm. (It has organic scrubs, oils, and lavender dream pillows, too.)” Thanks Daily Candy!

The Beauty of Organic Cotton


Organic herbal dream pillows are one of the handcrafted products I offer through my online store. They are filled with blends of organic herbs and spices, which are designed to encourage restful, happy sleep. A friend who specializes in fabric crafts has commented on a couple of occasions that she doesn’t use organic fabrics because they are so expensive. Granted, these fabrics cost more than other types of cotton, but I feel strongly in making products that are good for people and for the environment. To help encourage the use of organic products by consumers, I price my pillows comparably to other non-organic ones.

I recently came across an article on the production of conventional cotton, and it reinforced my conviction to use only organic cotton in my products. The following article is reprinted with permission from the Blue Ridge Eco Shop blog:

Although cotton is marketed as clean, fresh and natural, conventional cotton is anything but. 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of insecticides in the US are used to grow cotton. It takes 1/3 pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce (1) cotton t-shirt.

Cotton Farms aren’t just using any pesticides. Cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market including aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan. These are broad spectrum organo-phosphates–pesticides originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II. Many of these pesticides are endocrine disruptor’s and are creeping into our systems.

What does this mean to us?

Water Contamination – Cotton pesticides are contaminating our groundwater and surface waters which lead to our drinking water. Pesticides can be washed into streams and rivers where they contaminate aquatic ecosystems and kill fish.

Beneficial Insect Destruction – Pesticides kill beneficial insects as well as pests. Pesticides are suspected to be responsible for the severe drop in honeybees, the increase in frogs with extra legs and eyes, and the annual death of 67 million birds.

Farm worker poisoning – Pesticides used on cotton poison farm workers worldwide–causing acute poisoning and chronic illnesses. In California, cotton was ranked the third highest crop for pesticide-related worker illnesses.

Insect Resistance – Cotton pests are become resistant to pesticides. Insect resistance costs US cotton growers up to $1.4 billion per year and has caused a 30% drop in cotton yields in recent years.

Food Residues – Cotton pesticides can enter the human food chain through cotton seed oil used in processed foods and through meat and dairy products from cows fed on cotton seed meal.

What Can I Do?

Buy Organic. There are a lot of alternatives to conventional cotton. Organic fabrics these days are plentiful. The Blue Ridge Eco Shop sells organic cotton, soy, bamboo, hemp, a variety of organic fabrics. Buying used clothing is a great inexpensive alternative as well. This decreases the demand for convention new cotton clothing.