Artist of the Month: Anne Ferrari of Vita Pulita

055_0The following post was written by Anne Ferrari, Owner and Founder of Vita Pulita, the first Herban Lifestyle Store Artist of the Month. During the month of December, Anne’s soaps will be featured at our new brick and mortar store in Fairfax, VA.

I was always fascinated by soap. As a child growing up in the Bronx, NY, I didn’t have many soap options, but I was still fascinated with making soap pretty. My holiday gift to my first grade teacher was an ordinary bar of soap on which I pinned a homemade pompom. The obsession with soap remains. It wasn’t until my good friend Mary Kearns shared with me that she had started making soap herself that I was finally inspired to give it a try. And once I did, there was no turning back.

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As a professor with a PhD in psychology, I am accustomed to using research in my work experience. This serves me well as soap ingredients need a great deal of research too. One customer of mine confessed that she didn’t worry too much about what she put on her skin as she believed that it was not absorbed by her body. Unfortunately, research on breast cancer and the use of parabens in beauty products shows us otherwise. Vita Pulita products never contain parabens, as they never contain artificial fragrances or colors. They are products that I feel confident using and sharing with my family. In fact, Vita Pulita was born of necessity, when my pregnant daughter could not find a safe yet still luxurious body butter. I whipped up a combination of unrefined shea butter, unrefined cocoa butter, rice bran oil, and essential oil. I still sell that body butter, and it is a customer favorite.

Although I am not an artist, one of my favorite things about making soap is making it beautiful. Many of us assume that” beauty” and “natural” do not go together and quite frankly, there are some colors that simply cannot be made naturally in soap, such as a vibrant blue. However, natural soap can be just as lovely, especially when one dives into her creative side. Check out my White Wedding Soap, Carrot Orange Soap with Cocoa, Black Charcoal Facial Detox Soap, Cupcake Soap or Pink Sea Salt Bar and see what you think. All of the colors and scents in Vita Pulita Soaps are from natural and healthy sources, such as plant essential oils and ground up spices. If a color or scent cannot be made using this method, then it will not be made.

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It wasn’t until recently that my father shared with me that his mother made soap in Italy from olive pomace left over from the farm. I was shocked, but not surprised. I was named for her after all (over the protests of my mother who did not care for the sound of “Anna Maria”), as I was born on the anniversary of her death. And I chose to name my company Vita Pulita, which means “clean life” in Italian, although I don’t speak Italian myself. Perhaps the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, would say that my need to “soap” is part of my family collective unconscious, inherent in me. It certainly feels that way at times.

You can find Anne’s products online at the Vita Pulita website, on Etsy and seasonally at markets in Westchester County.

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Meet One Well, Our New Eco-Chic Brick and Mortar Friend

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The One Well opened its doors in Brooklyn last month. It is a home and body boutique featuring the work of local and global eco-friendly artisans along with carefully selected vintage pieces. The One Well was created by owner Kerry Jones as a place where people can find beautiful, environmentally responsible items to help beautify their homes and treat their bodies.

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The One Well offers artisanal foods (like a yummy-sounding authentic Mexican caramel made with goat milk), hand casted beeswax candles, quilted bedding, gorgeous paper goods, unique jewelry and much more.

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I met Kerry when she visited my booth at this year’s Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, NY. As she described her vision for One Well, it sounded like the perfect place for my products and a place where I would love to shop. Along with the work of a variety of artisans, the One Well will carry a special line of my fuzzy soaps in earth tones, with earthy scents, as well as my MAN grooming products.

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You can read more about them and see more photos of their gorgeous offerings on their Facebook page.

Their grand opening celebration is being held on the very auspicious date of 11.11.11. One Well is located at 165 Greenpoint Avenue (between Manhattan and Guiness), Brooklyn, NY.

Putting Thoughts Into Words for the First Time in 10 Years

I fell in love with New York City when I was 5 years old. I had seen glimpses of it on Sesame Street, but mid-town Manhattan, where my father took me to work with him one day, was much bigger, louder and more exciting.

I remember getting off the train in Grand Central Station, my father taking my hand and briskly navigating the streets filled with cars, taxis, buses, trucks and lots and lots of people. I had no idea where we were going, but I could tell that we needed to do it quickly and with purpose.

Once inside the tall office building, I was introduced to his fellow staff members, then situated at a desk where I proceeded to unpack my briefcase (a toy doctor’s bag, which I had filled with paper, crayons and a snack) and get to work. I don’t remember much of the day, except for the part where I was brought into a screening room where I sat with my father and other executives who were reviewing a film with horses in it.

At the end of the day, we made the brisk, purposeful walk back to Grand Central. This time we stopped at one of the bakeries where my father always picked up a few chocolate éclairs, which were one of my absolutely favorite desserts. New York City was the best, most exciting place in the world!

Years later, I got to know different aspects of the city, through my visits with friends and family, school trips, various business meetings, and freelance work. As an 11-year-old, I went with family friends to a concert at Lincoln Center. We sat front and center, so close that I could see the puffs of rosin smoke coming off of the violinists’ fingers. As we walked back to the car after the concert, it began to snow. New York City at Christmas time is a magical place.

As a teenager, I visited a friend who had moved to The City as an emancipated minor. She guided me through the maze of subways, popping up at various points of interest, one of which was the World Trade Center. We rode to the top, and viewed New York City from high above the streets. It made my heart pound.

And over the years, I got to know the personalities of the various neighborhoods in The City, each with its own distinct sights and sounds. As a whole, there is an energy, a music, that The City has, which I have not experienced anywhere else.

So in 2001, when I was presented with the opportunity for a full-time position at a marketing research firm, I took it. It was in the Flat Iron district on Fifth Avenue, between 25th and 26th. I would take the train into Grand Central, then head over to Fifth Avenue, where I would walk the 17 blocks to my office. As I approached my building, I could see the Twin Towers looming high in the sky, even though they were many blocks away.

I enjoyed my job, mostly because of my colleagues and the location. There were a group of us who were big foodies, and our work neighborhood provided many opportunities to experience wonderful food – from very inexpensive dishes, to some very expensive dishes, all expertly prepared with fresh ingredients. Our building was right across from Madison Park, where we would see scenes from TV shows, like “Sex in the City,” “Law and Order,” and “Saturday Night Live,” being filmed. There was also lots of great shopping, and I spent more than one lunch hour scouring the stores within a 6-block radius.

Another nice thing about the job was that, once a week, I could work from our Connecticut office if I chose to. It was a small, three-room suite, and there were half a dozen of us who commuted from Connecticut, so we had to check ahead to make sure there was room. But it was nice to make a 20-minute commute rather than my usual hour-plus.

On one of the days that I decided to work from the Connecticut office, a beautiful September day, I was surprised to find that every other Connecticut person was there. We were crowded in, using up every workable surface, but everyone was easy-going, so it was no problem. Soon after I settled in, the guy who headed up the Connecticut office came out of his office to announce that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center Building We were all shocked and saddened by the news of this tragic accident. When he came out a few minutes later to tell us that a second plane had hit the second tower, we came to the horrible realization that something much more sinister was going on.

We got through to our colleagues in the New York City office, and found that they were okay, but were very worried and not sure what to do.

A while later, the guy who headed up the Connecticut office came out to tell us that he had just gotten off the phone with a dear friend of his. His friend was very upset – his son had just called to say goodbye. He was on Flight 93, which had been hijacked. He and some other passengers had made the decision, after hearing what had happened in New York, to take the plane down before it hit its target, whatever that might be. He was visibly shaken. And we all began to think that the entire country might be under attack.

We tried contacting the New York office, both by phone and by email, and were not able to get through. Not knowing what else to do, we finished out the day in numb astonishment, frequently reading updates on the BBC website and other news sources that we were able to access.

When I got home late that afternoon, I turned on the news and watched, still numb, the images of what I had only heard about during the day.

The next day, we received notice that our office would be closed for the remainder of the week. That evening, several emails and voice messages came through from people who had tried to contact me on the 11th to see if I was okay, people who thought I was in the City as I was supposed to be that day.

I eventually spoke to a colleague who had been in the office on the 11th. She told me that she had stepped outside and saw a stream of dust-covered people walking up Fifth Avenue. They were expressionless, clearly in shock. She said they looked like Zombies.

And when I returned to work the following week, I found New York had changed. When I stepped out of the train in Grand Central, I saw heavily armed police and their guard dogs standing near all the entrances. A notice board contained hundreds of photographs posted by people asking for information on missing family members. When I got out onto the street, the roads were eerily quiet. One of the distinctive sounds in Manhattan is the frequent beeping of car horns. This was noticeably absent. As I walked down Fifth Avenue, I passed a group of firemen in full dress uniform, solemnly walking to a funeral service. This was a scene that I would experience for the next few weeks, with heartbreaking regularity. I looked down the road to where the Twin Towers had always been visible rising above the other buildings, and all that was left was an antenna. And as I was about to step through the door to my office building, I happened to look down at my shoes. They were covered with a thick layer of dust and I realized that the sidewalk in front of my building was too. It occurred to me that this was the powdered remnants of the Twin Towers and their occupants.

After some time had passed, the comforting noises of New York returned, and the dust dissipated. But for many weeks after, the photographs of missing loved ones, the armed guards and the sad looks on people’s faces served as a reminder of the painfully horrific events of the day. I grieved, and I hurt for the victims, their families, the City, this country and the world. I prayed every day for peace and healing. And I marveled at the strength and beauty of the people of New York, at their best in the wake of this incredible tragedy.

Ten years later, I continue to pray for peace and healing, and I hold out hope that one day our world will be a place where something like this would never happen again.

B-Corp Puts Companies in the Green

The following post was written by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

On Friday July 1st, B-Corp legislation will go into effect in Virginia. Virginia became the fourth state to pass B-Corp legislation back in March following the lead from my home state of Maryland, who was the first, followed by New Jersey and Vermont. I am really excited about this sustainable policy and business movement especially when other states such as Hawaii, Michigan and New York are joining the party. Soon it will be a national phenomenon!

After doing some research on B-Corp, I found myself lost in legal and economic jargon and had to phone a lifeline before attempting to write about it. It’s quite handy to have a friend getting his law degree at George Washington University. Let’s start with what I understood before my friend, David, stepped in with his legal expertise.

To start out, B-Corp is short for Benefit Corporation. B-Corp legislation has basically two parts. First, B-Corp legislation establishes a certification system, which will allow consumers to recognize socially and environmentally responsible companies, much like LEED certification (the rating system used for sustainable architecture), but for businesses. Any company from any state can apply to be certified B-Corps through a third party based on the rating system developed by B Lab, a non-profit which established this whole concept. I love this idea because it seems to be a great solution to green washing, as it provides some solid guidelines for companies to be designated as a sustainable business.

Ok….so this is where I got lost and chose my phone-a-friend lifeline to get me out of the hot seat. Having no concept of corporate law or corporations in general, I learned from David that the head of a corporation can be sued by their shareholders if the shareholders believe that the head person is mismanaging the company in a way that is causing loss of profits. Apparently, this is what is referred to as fiduciary duty of financial interests. In the minds of those trained in classic business theory, this action poses a challenge for companies who want to be socially and environmentally responsible since these actions can at times work in opposition to profit-making. However, the truth is that building sustainability into one’s business model can actually increase profitability over the long term.

In a 2010 study, three economists examined 120 U.S. corporations that were members of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which assesses companies’ minimization of economic, environmental, and social risks and maximization of long-term shareholder value. The authors compared the financial performance of these companies against that of 120 companies who were not members of the DJSI. They found that firms that had embraced corporate social responsibility had higher gross profit margins and higher returns on assets than those that didn’t. And, according to Inc., “over half of the B Corps have grown jobs by more than 5 percent over the past 24 months in the midst of a recession.”

The mission of a B-Corp is to create a public benefit in addition to shareholder value. So B-Corp legislation is designed to protect these responsible companies and provide an incentive for more companies to convert to a more green and good means of business. The B-Corp legislation creates a second option for a corporation, by redefining fiduciary duty in terms of interests above and beyond purely financial ones, such as “create(ing) a material positive impact on society and the environment.” This new definition not only protects the corporation from being sued for taking steps that emphasize environmental and social concerns, but also switches things up a bit by allowing shareholders to sue the corporation for not being socially and environmentally responsible enough. Here is where the certification system comes in.

As I said earlier, the B Corp rating system is set up like LEED certification with different levels of certification that correspond to how many points were received in the different categories of social and environmental responsibility. A third party rates the businesses similar to the practice used for organic certification. There is also an audit clause found in the legislature to make sure the businesses are compliant with their ratings and promises.

So that’s my summary in laymen’s terms. For those of you who, like David, enjoy reading legal documents, here are the state summaries for Virginia and New Jersey. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of Benefit Corporations, I suggest you read this Inc. article or visit the B-Corp website.

And now to poll the audience members: Do you think B-Corp legislation will be an effective tool to combat green washing and to promote sustainable business?

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Join Us at Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn June 11+12!

We are super happy to be vending at the 7th Annual Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair! It will be held in McCarren Park on June 11 and 12, 2011, from 11am to 7pm each day. We’ll be at Booth 82. Besides an impressive list of some of the best crafters from all over the country, there will also be hands-on crafting workshops, food and more!

The indie-craft and DIY artisans represent both local and national talent, and you will find a vast array of handmade awesomeness including independently designed jewelry, clothing, paper goods, home + garden goods, posters, artwork, plush objects, bath + body products, and much more. We hope to see you there!

For more details, you can visit the Renegade Brooklyn website, and check out the amazing vendors who will be selling at the Fair this year!

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Found Art in NYC


I spent the weekend in SoHo. I was there for the BUST Magazine Craftacular and Food Fair, which was held on May 21st. I spent most my Saturday surrounded by awesome artists and crafters, taking in their amazingly creative works. On Sunday, my husband and I walked around checking out the various boutiques. I took note of the use of fabrics, shapes and textures displayed throughout the neighborhood, inspired with ideas for new designs and packaging for my products.

But what surprised and delighted me the most was the art I found on the streets. My favorite was the discovery of a bicycle that had been ambushed overnight with a cover of pastel crochet in a camouflage pattern. I marveled at the beauty and awesomeness of the work, while also sympathizing with the owner who would have to do quite a bit of snipping to be able to actually use it.

On one wall, I saw a magnificent graffiti mural, which I didn’t photograph (I didn’t think I could do it justice with my iPhone). But I did capture this sweet piece that I found on a door. I love the simplicity of the lines, and it sparked my imagination to think of things the girl and her rabbit might be looking at.

Later in the afternoon, we headed up to Central Park to check out Japan Day. There were several things to see, but what caught my eye was this collection of origami cranes that people were folding and donating, with the goal of sending 1000 paper cranes to Japan to show solidarity with the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

Please Join Us in NYC for the BUST Magazine Craftacular on May 21st!

We have figured out how to be in two places at one time! So we are super happy to announce that we will be part of the BUST Magazine Craftcular and Food Fair in SoHo on May 21st! It will be held from 11am – 8pm at 82 Mercer Street (between Broome and Spring), in NYC.

There will be over 100 spectacular vendors and food artisans. Offerings will include handmade jewelry, specialty foods, cards, clothes, posters, housewares, plus raffles, DJs, book signings, and a free goodie bag for the first 300 people! To give you an idea of how amazing the goodie bags are, at the Holiday show last December, customers were lined up around the block two hours before the show in the freezing rain for a chance to score one!

So, if you’ll be in the neighborhood, please stop by! We’ll be at Booth #39. You won’t be disappointed with the quality and variety of the offerings of these talented crafters.

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