Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Thrift Store Clothing Stigma

   Having 13 year old girls in my house has brought the issue of the impact on that discarded clothing has on the environment front and center, as it seems they wear a piece of clothing once and then it is quickly cast off for lack of trendy fashion sense. In our house we have donated our cast offs either to Goodwill or personally to a friend from Africa who takes them for his village for years. However we are not a reflection of the average household.

   Prior to the 1920's clothing was still not mass produced. Most people either made their clothing themselves or for the wealthier had them made so as clothing became old or damaged it was simply repaired, mended or altered to be handed down to another family member. Mass production of clothing grew after World War I allowing consumers to participate in more fashion trends not only yearly but seasonally. With a flourishing post war economy and the industrial age boom, consumers could purchase new clothing each season easily and affordably.

     Now, with new clothing so readily available not only in brick and mortar stores but also on the internet, the average household of 4 spends $1700 annually on clothing. Between seasonal needs and a desire to be fashionable, clothing is discarded and replaced with little consideration to the impact on the landfills. The statistics are pretty alarming. Annually, 1.2 million pounds of household textiles ( this includes bed and bath textiles) are disposed of in landfills. 6% of the average household waste is textiles.

    Thrift and consignment stores became more and more popular as environmental awareness grew. Thrift stores such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and local church thrift stores were becoming more and more popular to those who wanted to reduced their impact on the environment. A 2006 poll showed that 12-15% of American households shopped in thrift stores. Clearly, the stigma of buying used clothing has taken a back seat to the bargains in a struggling economy. As a result, thrift store shopping has increased steadily every year by 7%.

   Not sure whether you are ready to dive into the thrift store sea? There are some ways to wade in and get your feet wet. When my children were small, I recognized a need to find clothing for my babies on a budget at a time in their lives where they grow out of their clothing long before they wear out. Enter yard sale shopping and consignment store shopping.

   The yard sale season is just gearing up so here are some great tips to take advantage of this unending resource.

-During the week, grab the local paper. Yard sales are often listed in the classifieds. Find the ones that will be in your area, make a list and plan a route. I recommend finding the higher income areas to shop.

-Go early! This is critical. The best items will go quickly so grab your coffee, put on your comfy shoes, dress for the weather and get out there!

-Bring small bills and change. Often when you hit the sales early, large bills will be harder to break for the sellers. There is a culture that says that when buying at yard sales you should haggle the price. I never haggle. I am not a fan of haggling. The seller is already selling the items for virtually pennies. How much more of a discount do you need really?

-Be selective about your stops. I usually do a drive by. You can usually tell whether a sale has what you need without even getting out of the car. Time is of the essence in finding the best stuff so try not to waste time wandering a sale full of tools and dishes when you are looking for kid's clothing.

-Get ready to dig a little. Get in there and scrutinize the clothing. Look closely for damage and stains. Weigh the price against whether it can be easily repaired or cleaned. I generally will overlook slight overall wear but will pass on major stains or tears.

-DON'T buy things you don't need on impulse. This is a tough one. It is tempting to make purchases that you didn't come out for because they seem like such great bargains. Before you know it, you have spent the money that you have saved by buying used clothing AND you now have bought a bunch of stuff that you didn't necessarily need creating even more clutter in your own life.

-teach the kids. I always brought my kids. They now love to go hunt with me. I give them a set amount of money ( usually about $5.) When they have their own money in hand, they learn a valuable lesson about budgeting and thoughtful buying.

  So feel like you can swim a little deeper? Look for large, well known thrift stores in your area. I have several Goodwill stores near me. Be prepared for what you see and feel. Walking into these stores can kind of freak some people out. I am going to be honest here. These items are donated and the employees are often volunteers. As a result, clothing items don't get cleaned or ironed before being put out for sale but just like yard sales, be ready to dig and scrutinize. Look at the item objectively just like you would if you are buying new. Will you wear it? Is it appropriate for this season? Does it fit your style? Otherwise you tend to end u with closets and drawers full of more stuff that never gets worn and this defeats the purpose.

   Clothes that are sold second hand as clothes are technically not being recycled in the true sense of the word. However, there are some absolutely amazing artists out there that will take a casted off article of clothing and turn it into something entirely different. This trend is growing by leaps and bounds, again, as the awareness of the impact we have on our environment grows.

   Here are a few of my designs for repurposing clothing available at

This gently used tee shirt ( modeled by my stunning previously aforementioned 13 year old)
has been block printed with my original artwork. To make it even more
 environmentally friendly the print block has been made from a used (and cleaned) styrofoam take out container. To see what kind of impact styrofoam has on the planet, check out my previous
blog post "The Doggy Bag Dilemma"

This lovely little piece of real estate for your bird friends
has been made from a felted wool sweater. The felting makes it naturally water resistant and warm for our bird friends to live in all year long.
This cuddly guy, made from a used dress shirt, can also be made to order from a family member's piece of clothing as a wonderful keepsake of that person in your life. 

I created this painting as an interactive piece of art. It gives the owner a chance to customize the painting and participate in the finished product. It is made from old blue jeans with open pockets for the owner to tuck personalized items into.

This absolutely stunning "elf coat" was created from repurposed sweaters
and is available on
and these cute jeans for kids are made trendy and cool from recycled fabric from discarded clothing. 

For more great upcycled products from the featured artists, be sure to check out all of the etsy stores below.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A quicky post to update everyone.

First here is my new painting. Such an amazing example of the gifs that the Lord has given us here on earth!

The bamboo sock experiment continues. Seeing some improvement but need a little more time to know for sure.

I'M GETTING MARRIED TO THE GREATEST GUY ON EARTH!!!! I love you, honey. I could not have asked for someone better than you!

Look for a blog post this week about dish soap. You will be really surprised!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let There Be Light

   I think it's fair to say that everyone has experienced a night time power outage. We scramble to get candles and spend the next period of time frustrated and bored because it is so difficult to see. Imagine what the world was like before the introduction of the electric light bulb. It wasn't until the 1800's that lightbulbs were mass produced and electricity was available in most homes. Prior to that people read, sewed, ate and lived by candlelight or light from oil lamps.

Flash forward more than 200 years and we find ourselves strapped with the unfortunate burden of what was originally viewed as the invention of the century. Oh, don't misunderstand me, I know that the lightbulb revolutionized the industrial age. That being said, the lightbulb in it's original version has created some pretty serious environmental issues that many people are not aware of. The EPA considers incandescent lightbulbs to be the third most environmentally harmful product on the market today.

The typical lightbulb up until recently was an incandescent lightbulb. A small wire called a filament is tightly wound between two electrical sources. As the electrical current passes across the filament, heat is generated causing the gases inside the bulb to glow. These gases are an inert gas called Argon and the more toxic Mercury. The length of the filament determines the brightness of the bulb because they can tolerate a higher wattage to be passed across it. These filaments eventually burn out leaving behind a pressurized "jar" if you will, of some stuff that's pretty bad for the environment. Compared to other types of electric lighting, they have a rather short lifespan making them in the end more expensive and more harmful to the environment because so many more are needed over any period of time.

Fluorescent bulbs have been used commercially for a long time in the form of tube style bulbs. There is no filament and much less mercury in fluorescent bulbs. The glass tube is heated using a much smaller amount of electricity. This excites the fluorescent coating on the inside of the glass causing it to glow.The brightness of these bulbs are measured in "lumen" instead of wattage. Up until fairly recently, fluorescent bulbs gave off a harsh unpleasant light. It was hard on the eyes, often flickered and required time for the bulb to "heat" up before reaching it's full brightness. This made it very undesirable for residential use.

Now, however, the technology has changed. Fluorescents are now softer in color, do not require time to warm up and do not flicker. As a result, more consumers are willing to switch over to the safer option. That being said, 600,000 incandescent bulbs are still going into landfills every year. This creates 30,000 pounds of mercury leeched into the environment every year. The CO2 used to create incandescents has been shown to have significantly impacted the ozone layer. Incandescents use 60-75% more electricity per hour used than household fluorescents. 

Overall, this makes them the much smarter choice for the environment. although these facts should drive consumers to make the simple switch, people are still not convinced. Most are driven away by the face value cost of compact fluorescents. They fail to realize that dollar per hour, fluorescents are 25% cheaper than incandescents because they are 4 times more efficient.

 They are also a much smarter choice for your electric bill.  In response to environmental concerns the federal government has started enforcing some energy efficiency standards due to start in 2012. This will force lighting companies to produce lightbulbs that are 25% more energy efficient. It will not eliminate the production of incandescents but will at least make them a bit more environmentally friendly and cost effective. The change will save consumers 6 billion dollars in energy costs over the next 3 years.

So what can be done? Well the easiest solution is obvious and yet shockingly overlooked. Turn out the lights! It sounds simple but it is surprising how many of us take for granted the cost of lighting a room we are not in. Like I said, 200 years ago you were surrounded only by candlelight making it difficult to even see across the room.

The other solution is just as simple. Change your incandescents to compact fluorescents. Budget the increase in cost into your groceries one room at a time if you feel like the cost is too great. Here are some things that may encourage you. If every household replaces ONE lightbulb with a fluorescent, it is equivalent to taking 85,000 cars of the road. If everyone in California were to do this, they would reduce energy costs by 600,000 kilowatt hours a year. It would keep 1 billion lightbulbs out of landfills and keep 974,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the environment reducing global warming and that is just in ONE state!

The question of what to do with all of those incandescents still out there still remains. Honestly, there isn't much that can be done. Sooner or later they will break and the gas will be released into the environment. There are some interesting craft projects out there but there is a certain risk to working with this type of material. Here are a few of the more clever ones.

Pretty little oil lamps

beautiful covers for small white twinkle lights

mini geraniums or vases

We, at Earthlove, are on a mission to pass on information about how to be a little kinder to the planet. We also have a full line of earth friendly products made from repurposed materials. Please check us out at:

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Beautiful" by Lisa Schultheis/Earth Love Arts Gallery

In a continued attempt to find earth friendly products that I still wanted to use, a few years back I started studying up on bamboo. At the time I was considering it as a new flooring project. That project never actually happened and the house has since been sold but I have a renewed interest in bamboo because I see it now used in so many different applications.

First, lets take a look at the things that you may or may not have known about bamboo. 

  Bamboo is plentiful. There are approximately 1500 different species of bamboo.It grows naturally in it's native China and therefore needs no pesticides, herbicides or additional irrigation outside of the natural rainfall to sustain it.

 Bamboo is a grass. That makes it faster growing and more easily sustained than wood. Bamboo does not need to be replanted after harvest. It simply gets cut a few inches from the ground and will regrow from there kind of like your lawn. It is the fastest growing plant on the planet with some species growing as much as 47 inches in 24 hours. Aren't you glad that's NOT like your lawn?! What this means to you and me is that it is replaced in 3-5 years as apposed to 10-20 years for trees.

It is edible. We humans can and do eat the shoots when they are small and tender. It is also ideal as animal feed because it is easily produced and has 22% protein. This eliminates the makers of feed to add protein sources like they do with traditional grains. Those Pandas are pretty smart I think!

It is amazing for the planet and for those of us who live here! A grove of bamboo releases 35% more oxygen into the air than a similarly sized grove of trees. It tolerates many environmental and climate changes. In fact, it was planted in mass to regreen China after the Hiroshima attacks in the 1930's

Bamboo is really good for our bodies. It is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. It is hypo-allergenic as well. There are several studies being released now that are addressing whether wearing bamboo socks reduces or eliminates athlete's foot. I am doing a small personal study of my own. I have an autoimmune disease. As a result, I have developed what is believed to be a systemic fungal infection on my right heel. It has been there for years and I have tried everything short of cutting off my foot to get rid of it. When I read this report I decided to give it a try. Stay tuned for updates!

It is amazingly strong and sturdy.  In structural engineering tests, bamboo has a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel, and a higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete. It even has a higher strength to weight ratio than graphite. Mild steel has a tensile strength of 23,000 psi while the humble little bamboo has a tensile strength of 28,000. A little David and Goliath-like!

That being said, it makes lovely soft fabrics. It is softer than cotton, silk and cashmere while being more durable and washable so it lasts longer. The fabrics that are now being produced from bamboo now are luxurious and soft. Anyone who knows me, knows that I WILL NOT sleep on anything but Egyptian Cotton sheets. Recently I came across bamboo fiber sheets and I have to say I am a convert. They get softer and softer with each wash just like the cotton but they are sturdier and last longer. On a broader level, bamboo requires 1/3 less water than cotton and does not require pesticides like cotton because of it's natural antimicrobial qualities.

So what are they doing with this wonder grass? Some amazing products being put out from bamboo these days, things that usually require the leveling of trees or the manufacturing of toxic man made materials. Like I stated before, it makes stunning, strong, durable flooring. It also is being made into commercial and residential cutting boards. The bamboo is naturally antimicrobial so it is safer to prepare food on than just about any surface without needing harsh toxic cleaners to clean them. I am a chef by trade and trust me this is BIG!

Bamboo has been and continues to be used as a building material all over the world. It is much lighter while being much stronger than its wood and metal counterparts. It is vastly renewable in almost all regions of the world. This also should keep the cost dowm making it a much more economical choice. Understandably, right now the price of products made from bamboo are a bit higher. As the trend swells and demand becomes greater, the price will come down. I believe that as companies here in the states and all over the world outside of bamboo's native China realize the benefits of this natural resource, they will not only start to use it more frequently in the production of their products but also start to grow it here for that purpose. This will bring the price down as well.

There are so many beautiful products on the market now. VoilaAndreanna on has made this beautiful dress.

This skirt from sandmaiden on looks lovely and soft and flatters any figure.

Lokimonkey on has this AMAZING cabinet for sale. This would be so beautiful in a kitchen or as a bar.

And check out this totally cool hammock made by slingshotsws on

I hope that this has given you something to think about the next time you are deciding on a certain product, be it flooring or furniture, clothing or bedding. I hope you will take a second to see what is available out there made from bamboo. You will not be disappointed in the quality.

To see my products made from other upcycled materials and high quality fine art like the painting done at the top of the page, please visit:

To check out the products mentioned above, please visit:


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Couch Potato

I was driving home the other day, passing through town and noticing it was Bulk Pick Up day in my district. I have a reasonably environmentally responsible municipality. We have to recycle. The township has made it very simple. we don't even have to separate paper from glass or aluminum. One day a month we are able to put out bulk trash. So I got thinking about how much waste accumulates in landfills from bulk waste,all of those couches, wall units, and mattresses. I was surprised at what I found out.

Furniture accounts for 9 million tons of landfill trash annually.

Although the life of furniture is long compared to other sources of waste like paper, furniture companies have started to use less expensive materials for construction shortening the furnitures overall life.

Many furniture pieces, especially those used in offices, are assembled using plywood or MDF, an inexpensive alternative to solid wood. These materials use formaldehyde to bond the wood together. By itself the formaldehyde releases gases into the air that are toxic and dangerous. It can lead to serious respiratory problems like asthma. Finishes on these pieces prevent the toxic gas release but wear and tear, refinishing, cutting, damage, or simply banging it around in a rehab project cause a high level of gases to be released.

Population between 1960 and 2008 has increased 69%. Households have increased by 94% because families as a whole are smaller.

The amount of upholstered furniture has increased by 6 times since 1960 with a substantial spike at the beginning of the 80's. The reason for the increase? 

Furniture in the 1960's that was discarded had probably lasted and been kept for over 20 years lessening the amount being tossed out.

Furniture at the time was made using solid woods, or at very least, plywood. Pieces were constructed using mortise and tendon joints dovetail joints,wood corner blocks, and wood glue. In the 80's furniture companies, started using cheaper materials for construction resulting in a lower quality product that needed replacement more frequently.

What can we do?

Well, I guess the first and most obvious answer is don't buy inexpensive furniture assembled using cheap materials. This actually is a win win solution. It decreases our impact on the environment both in terms of landfill space and air quality AND you have a beautiful piece of furniture that will last a lifetime. Make sure that when you choose furniture, you choose classic timeless looks for the big pieces in your home. Things like couches, hutches, bookcases, dining sets should translate through many years of changing trends. Trends can be displayed in smaller accent pieces such as occasional tables, accent chairs, and smaller shelving units. Make sure when purchasing any furniture that you check it's bones. Make sure joints on the back or bottom of the piece are made of wood, not plastic. Check for particle board or Masonite in the backs of pieces or inside the drawers. These are indicators of not so high quality furniture.

If you are like most, most very high quality furniture is out of reach financially especially in this economy. Myself included. My solution is second hand! There are tremendous stigmas about used furniture but in this challenged economy minds are changing. Great pieces of gently used furniture can be hunted down in Consignment Stores, Thrift Stores, yard sales and yes I'll say it, off of the curb.Another amazing source (my favorite, in fact) is Estate Sales. These are usually whole contents of house sales because the owner has passed away. They have them all year and you can find some AMAZING bargains at these sales! I found this120 year old grandfather clock for $75 and this table from the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel for $40.

 These are just a couple of pieces that I got for free off the curb or next to nothing at yard sales  and brought back to life with a little elbow grease. Just makes sure that you check it the same way you check the quality of new furniture. I find it a super fun challenge. I love to hunt yard sales for hidden treasures. These are some of the finds that live in my house. Reupholstering gives new life to upholstered furniture. Some is easy. Some is very challenging. Start small by picking up some great fabric and reupholstering dining chair seats. They usually come off with the removal of a couple of screws so it's an easy first project. 

Don't limit your hunt to just the type of piece you want. Be open minded and creative in your hunt.

Think outside the box about the purpose of the things you find. Repurposing furniture can make for absolutely fabulous expensive looking trendy pieces. And if you're like me, you could even start a trend with your wild creativity. These are some amazing pieces repurposed from previously owned furniture. 

Jewelry artist, KimWilhoyte ( ) came up with a creative solution when she needed a display case for her jewelry. This is  an oak medicine cabinet that has been altered slightly and painted with new glass in place of the mirrors. A leather piece from a repurposed belt makes the handle. Now she has a portable way to display her awesome jewelry.

Finally, let's talk briefly about just keeping the furniture we have a little longer. I mean, I understand that it has to be replaced when it is broken beyond repair but let's face it, the reason we replace furniture pieces so often these days is because we grow bored or tired of our decor. We have become a society of immediate gratification. I think we need to start thinking in a way that embraces a satisfaction with the things that we have as long as they are still usable. Don't be afraid to grab a book and some clamps and wood glue ( yes, has to be wood glue so it is flexible and will tolerating wood shrinking and expanding.) and do some repair work to extend the life of your furniture.

So, that all being said, we are going to have to replace our furniture pieces eventually. So what to do with the pieces that are going to be replaced? Consider donating them to a youth club, church or fire house or rescue squad. All of these places have common areas where people gather. I can tell you after being involved in rescue work for 20 years, decent couches and tables are really appreciated. 

Ask your friends and family if they could use it. My best friend is a decorator. She gets her hands on great pieces for next to nothing.She always asks me if I have a need for any of it. I now have a beautiful couch and love seat in my family room that otherwise would have gone into the trash.

I hope this inspires people to be resourceful and creative when it comes to their home decor. 

To see some really creative products for you and your home go to:


To see all of my environmentally friendly products and great high quality fine art go to:


To see the really cool upcycling by Kim Wilhoyte go to her blog at:


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Doggie Bag Dilemma

I love a great meal in a nice restaurant. I am a chef by trade so nothing makes me happier. Often the food is so good that I want to take it home and have it the next day so I will ask the waiter for a box. What he brings me has been a source of angst for for some time. THE STYROFOAM CLAM SHELL!!! We take them home and throw them away without giving it a thought as to what happens next. I am a chef at a Yacht Club at the Jersey Shore. My bartender there is a lovely young man who insists that the styrofoam plates we use must go into a recycling container. Every Friday night, he loads them into his car and drives 2 hours towards home and drops them at the local recycling plant. They are few and far between in most places so most municipalities do not collect them with the recycling.

 Let's talk about styrofoam's impact on the planet. I think you will be as surprised as I was.

Styrofoam has been the 5th largest form of toxic waste since 1986.

1369 tons of styrofoam goes into landfills every day. That is 25-30% of the space in landfills making it one of the worst forms of landfill waste out there. Due to the way garbage is compacted in landfills with dirt then thrown overtop of them, nothing is able to decompose property making paper as difficult to decompose as styrofoam. 

Sunlight on styrofoam releases chemical pollutants into the air. Chlorofluorocarbons and hydrocarbons are released with solar exposure creating contamination of landfills, damage to the ozone,and causing air pollution. 

In landfills, styrofoam creates a barrier for water. As a result, water soaks the garbage creating  a chemical laden "soup" that will later leak into ground water in heavy rains.

It takes 500 years for one styrofoam cup to decompose in a landfill. Half a millennia.

Incineration releases 90 hazardous chemicals into the air including dioxin and styrene vapors

Currently the small amount of styrofoam that is recycled is often recycled into another product that is less than favorable to the environment, such as cafeteria trays and other forms of packing materials.

 The solution to this problem is obvious. Don't use it. Many large chain restaurants have gone to more earth friendly containers but most small restaurants continue to use them. Many companies that ship products are finding biodegradable solutions but you still see styrofoam blocks and peanuts pretty frequently. This makes not having it in your life a little difficult but there are some things you do have a little more control over to reduce usage.

Use reusable containers for food and drink like ceramic coffee mugs, plastic travel mugs.

Sit down at The restaurant rather than getting takeout. If you are going to have food wrapped ask if they can use a foil take out container or wrap the food in foil. 

There is another solution to the restaurant clamshell dilemma but count on the waiter giving you a funny look. I will do it. I have no shame. Bring your own container. Certainly you can bring your own plastic one from home but you also can clean a previously acquired styrofoam one out and reuse it.

Use products made from biodegradable earth friendly materials at home. There are several products that are made from earth friendly products available in most supermarkets. 

Buy eggs in recycled paper containers. We began getting our eggs from a local farm. We keep the 3 containers she brings them in and give them back to her to refill. (and fresh eggs taste SOOOOO much better than the ones bought in the grocery store.)

Recently I began using the take out containers that were resistantly forced into my life, to hand cut and make into printing blocks. I use the printing blocks to print my bags and t shirts which are also repurposed.They can be used indefinitely with a quick rinse in water. Simply cut the flat square out of the top and bottom of a container or plate. draw an image with a ball point pen ( one that doesn't write works well as the ink may show on your print. I sort of like that so I vary between the two.) Paint it with acrylic paint and print on paper, cloth or wood. 

I have heard of using them as "shrinky dinks" for making jewelry but that requires heating them in the oven creates fumes that are dangerously toxic even in a well ventilated room so i wouldn't recommend it.

If for some reason you end up with a mess of peanuts, they can be used to make or refill a beanbag chair. 

They can be sewn into a couple of squares of fabric to make an insulated seat so your bottom isn't freezing at that next football game. Again just cut the flat parts out of the plate or container. Layer them about four or five deep and tape them together with duct tape. Slide them into the fabric pouch and sew shut.

And I had to include this because I was absolutely in awe when I found it.This hanging lamp is made from PACKING PEANUTS!!!

Styrofoam is effective, light, inexpensive, and versatile. People are going to continue to use it. However, we do have the ability to reduce the amount that is used. I understand that changing our behavior can be a hassle but once you get used to it, it really is very simple. Every time you grab a styrofoam cup at the coffee pot at work, just picture that coffee cup laying on the ground 500 YEARS from now. 

To see more of my block printed shirts and bags and other cool up cycled stuff, check out my shop at: