Wednesday, May 12, 2010


On Saturday I participated in the Designers Downtown Market in Raleigh. If you haven’t been before, it’s a great artist’s market that takes place five times a year in the parking lot of Ornamentea in Downtown Raleigh. ( I participated as a vendor selling my bows and clips. While I was there, I of course, did some shopping!! Counterproductive, I suppose, but never the less, I noticed several vendors/artisans whose wares were made with recycled materials. I thought this would make an excellent topic for this week’s article.  Here are a few I spotted and chatted with!

Ella Vickers Recycled Sailcloth Collection
I met a nice couple who were set up at the booth next to me. Caroline, the rep, was selling these wonderful and fashionable bags by designer Ella Vickers. Ella who is a former sailor makes all of her bags from recycled sail cloth. “All items are handcrafted in the USA using yachts sails from around the world, saving 20 thousand yards of sailcloth from the landfill each year. Inspired by her days of sailing as first mate on a classic Americas Cup winner, Ella made herself a set of bags from a discarded sail. When regatta guests bought them right off her arm, a company was born.” The bags range from duffels to handheld clutches (I bought a clutch). She even makes dog beds and shower curtains (I wanted the shower curtain bad!!)

Zass Design's
My next stop was Zass Designs. These artists are a mother/daughter graphic design team who use recycled materials to create wearable works of art in the form of jewelry.  I bought a pair of earrings that are made from recycled plastic bottles.  Zass Designs features necklaces, earrings, headbands and hair clips. The neatest part about this duo is that you can send them anything printed (birthday cards, wedding invitations, postcards etc.) and they can transform it into a piece of custom jewelry! I loved their slogan too! “Thinking and acting environmentally it's not a passing fashion, it's a respectful attitude, so please reduce, reuse, recycle!”

River Basin Outfitters
Unfortunately, by the time I reached River’s booth I was spent; but I felt she definitely deserved mentioning!! Designer River Takada-Capel had the greatest stuff. Very hip clothes all made from recycled materials.  “My goods are made from materials that are recycled, found, and reclaimed.  I get my materials from thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets and through the giving hands of so many people.”   River’s booth was filled with dresses, jumpers, skirts, shorts and skirts for men and women. She had bags too; made from plastic shopping bags.  It was really great to see how she had transformed some of her pieces into really current, trendy looks!  I will surely be making future purchases!

I have always loved festivals and artist markets. I love to find different and unique piece as well as support someone’s creativity and talents. I think I may have spent most of my earning for the day but I met some great people and I have some new and fun accessories to show for it! I hope you enjoyed shopping with me! Buzz!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Organics 101

Before I became a Special Education teacher my background was in PR. I worked as a fundraiser and event planner for two non-profits; and then after a move, I worked for a short period as a local marketing coordinator for an organic food chain. Most of my time was spent answering questions and informing local consumers of the benefits of buying organic. There is a ton of information on organics out there; here, I hope to give you a brief overview and also show you  how I incorporate organic products into my life.

What Does “Organic” Mean?

Lots of products these days tout the claim of “organic” but what does that mean? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has three levels in the determining and labeling products “Organic”.

"100% Organic": Products can only contain organic ingredients. No antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers can be used.

"Organic": Products contains 95% organic ingredients, with the balance coming from ingredients on the approved National List.

"Made with Organic Ingredients": Products must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients, three of which must be listed on the package, and the balance must be on the National List. (;
Products labeled "100% Organic" or “Organic" may carry the USDA organic logo; products labeled "Made with Organic Ingredients" may not.

If you are unsure what a label means, Consumer Reports has a green website that offers a label search. You can plug in any label, product, or certifier to make sure what you are buying really stands up to their claim.

Why Buy Organic?

Most people know that buying organic products can help you reduce your exposure to chemicals and hormones but buying organic helps the environment as well. Georgia Organics lists the following top 10 reasons to buy organics. (Visit the GO site for a more detailed explanation,

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Organic and Sustainably-Produced Products

1. Protect future generations
2. Prevent soil erosion
3. Protect water quality
4. Save energy
5. Keep chemicals off your plate
6. Protect farm worker health
7. Help small farmers
8. Support a true economy
9. Promote biodiversity
10. Taste better flavor

Besides the benefits to your body and the planet, organic food just tastes better. Milk is richer, meat is more flavorful and since fruits and vegetables are grown and available in the season they were intended, you typically branch out to try more varieties. According to Ed Bagley, flavor results from a mixture of many different and complex molecules. Healthy, living soil provides a constant and more complex mixture of these molecules, which results in more flavor. (

What to Buy:

If I could afford to buy only organic products, I would. I truly see the benefits all the way around in an organic diet. Since I can’t do this, I try to incorporate the most beneficial products into my family’s diet, mostly for my daughter.

From everything I have read for buying organics on a budget, the general gist is this, invest in meat and dairy first and then thin skinned produce. Most conventional meat and dairy products often contain hormones and show the highest concentration of pesticides. If buying completely organic meat is still too expensive, try buying antibiotic- or hormone-free meat. Milk is the number one priority at our house. We go through about two to three gallons of milk a week and we always buy organic. When buying produce, if the skin is thin and /or you eat the skin, buy organic. Thin skinned fruits and vegetables absorb the most pesticides and other chemicals. You can move produce such as a watermelon with a think rind to the end of your priority list.

Where Can I Buy Organic?

Almost all grocery retailers carry organic foods now. Whole Foods, Earth Fare and Trader Joes are all known for their organic products and commitment to only carry products that do not undergo certain processes or contain certain ingredients. So if you want to keep it easy, and not have to read labels, these are a good standby. You can find a list of each stores “no, nos” on their websites. (,,

However, not all areas where you live may have these options. More and more, stores such as Kroger, Publix, Ingles and Food Lion (just to name a few) are starting to carry organic products. If your store does not, ask the general manager or produce manger if they can. Enough requests will usually do the trick; at least it’s worth a try.

If are you still unable to find organic products in your area, search for local farmers markets or co-ops. Small scale farmers markets are popping up everywhere. These markets are usually once a week and are held in a central community location (town square, community center, etc.) Co-ops are a membership program where you can join for a certain dollar amount for each delivery cycle. Co-ops work with local farmers to bring produce and meats directly from the farm to you. (You can search both of these options online, here are two co-ops I am familiar with, there are MANY others: and

As you can see, I could go on for days about organics. I hope I have a least given you a starting point and provided additional resources to answer any further questions you may have. You don’t have to go “all organic” to help yourself and the environment; small changes can make a big impact. Buzz!!