Recycled Keepsake Mosaic

Besides writing for The Green Extract, practicing as green and sustainable a lifestyle as possible, designing custom ethical and sustainable jewelry and generally trying to spend my days being kind and compassionate, I also spend about 40-hours a week working for a good friend who owns four ACE Hardware

stores. In general, I try to make his job easier, and specifically I do so by handling the print and online media presence of his four stores.

I spend most of my time at the Palo Alto ACE location and have gotten to know the manager, Maureen, a little better than I know the rest of the managers and staff. She also happens to make jewelry in her free time, and has a penchant for other creative projects. Her birthday was earlier this month, and as part of her celebration, her family decided to make her a mosaic table. The intent and thought and beauty around the making of this gift is so true and beautiful, I wanted to share it with you.

Her father and daughter, ex-husband and his family, her boyfriend, and everyone’s significant others came together on her birthday, bringing with them the supplies needed to create her gift. Not only did they bring the requisite broken tiles, mirrors, vases and whatnot, they brought something talismanic and meaningful to each one of them, to include in the table, to be there forever and remind Maureen of the love that is all around her.

Her father included a little plastic toy bike to signify his love of cycling and therefore himself. Her daughter included a mug she’d had in her college days. An earring of a beloved and passed brother was added; and for each family member, a coin made during their year of birth was pressed into the design.

Besides being meaningful both in content and in process, this table was made using recycled materials ranging from old tiles and vases, to the college coffee mug.

This is a fun project for any age and a great way to use up those chipped flower pots, old mugs, aging mirrors that are loosing their backing, and any other pretty or meaningful discarded or forgotten item you have lurking by the plants in the sideyard or taking up space on the garage shelves.

For the things you need that aren’t recycled, Palo Alto ACE (or any local ACE Hardware) has the rest of what you’d need, including some fun trinkets that represent what’s personal and important to you. I know, I’m partial to ACE, but I was that way before I started working with them.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Green Your Purse

On Tuesday, I posted an article on all natural lip balm, which inspired me to think about all the other things we women carry in our purses that we could make less toxic for ourselves and the planet.

Lip Balm versus lipstick and lip gloss: lipstick and lip gloss contain petroleum derivatives, synthetic preservatives and paraben, which is a known carcinogen. Think about your skin being your largest organ and then think about where all that lipstick and lip gloss goes when it wears off (generally in your mouth). If someone asked me to eat a cracker with all the chemicals present in most commercial lip products, I wouldn’t do it – so why would I put it on my lips?

Perfume: Most people don’t think about perfume being toxic, but it’s full of lab-produced fragrances and chemicals, and again, this is going on your largest organ. The two that struck me were Benzaldehyde – a narcotic and sensitizer; and Limonene – A known carcinogen.

Pens: Several popular brands are now making eco-friendly options for the ubiquitous ballpoint pen.

Cell Phone: For your plan, check out CREDO Mobile. They rock. Among other things, they donate to environmental groups (10M plus to date); they use 100% post-consumer recycled paper for billing; they were the first mobile phone company to join Carbonfund.org; and they offer solar-powered phone chargers. For the actual phone, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola all sell recycled-content and otherwise eco-friendly phones.

Business Cards: Most business card companies will print on recycled paper and use soy-based ink. Ask for it. It’s worth it.

Lotion: Try anything that has natural oils, not petroleum-based oil.

I also wanted to include a bit about non-toxic makeup, but that subject needs an entire article – so stay tuned.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image © Jess James Jake

All Natural Lip Balm

I really like lip balm. In fact, for years, I couldn’t be more than a few inches from a tube of it, I used it so often. Turns out, the petroleum products in my non-natural lip balm were actually drying my lips out and forcing me to reapply constantly; not to mention that I was absorbing or swallowing at least 60 percent of the chemicals and non-natural oils I was slathering on my lips all day long.

My herbalist friend, Camilla who runs the blog Life Deli, came to the rescue with an all-natural, essential-oil filled, extra-healing lip balm that I applied what seemed like every five minutes. My lips were rather raw and felt extremely naked for the first 36 hours or so of my shift from petroleum- to plant-based lip relief. After that first day and half though, my lips have never been so happy and I rarely use lip balm anymore – generally only when I’m going to be in the sun for prolonged periods; or when I feel like looking pretty; or, of course, when I haven’t had enough water and my lips give me the first sign of slight dehydration.

My favorite balms are those made with all-natural (and very few) ingredients by my friends (I have yet to foray into making my own lip care). But, since not everyone either wants to make their own, or happens to know several people who do, I thought I’d compile some fun options in all-natural (and even some organic) lip balm.

If you are feeling industrious and want to try making your own, I hear it’s pretty easy, and since making lotion isn’t all that hard, I’m guessing lip balm can’t be rocket science. Rachel’s Supply has an easy lip balm recipe and some good tips. Note that in Rachel’s note, she mentions using a nib of regular lipstick to color your lip balm – keep in mind that commercial lipsticks have petroleum and lots of chemicals – something I wouldn’t put in a nice, homemade, all-natural product.

I’m feeling like I should do a testing (or would that be “tasting”) of all these balms out there, as well as make one of my own to see which I like best. Sounds like a great weekend project that could easily turn into holiday gifts.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image © CrazyRumors.com

Green, Sustainable Artwork

I wanted to write about something pretty tonight, and so I bring you toilet-paper-roll art. I know, I know, but I was so struck by the beauty of the installation, I had to check out the artist, Yuken Teruya.

Not only can the man transform  something as banal as a toilet paper roll into something gorgeous and  ethereal, his other materials include butterfly chrysalises and pizza boxes as political and social statement.

Teruya was born in Okinawa in 1973 and holds both a BFA and an MFA. He shows his work all over the world and resides in New York city.

His works range from delightful (like the tp rolls) to deeply personal and politically and socially meaningful. He shows at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, and I hope to see his work in person one day soon.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image found on RubyReusable.com

Styrofoam Ban

There is a bit of controversy over California’s eminent ban on Styrofoam (bill “SB 568″ by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) – at least if you’re a certain type of restaurant owner who does a lot of take-out, or a Styrofoam to-go container manufacturer. Anyone else surely sees the benefit in outlawing a product that is toxic to produce, releases the known carcinogen styrene and doesn’t break down or decompose ever, in any way.

My vote is obviously for banning Styrofoam. California often leads the rest of the country in cutting-edge environmental law and has great influence in shifting not only political and public views, but also corporate opinion and policy.

Interestingly enough, this bill doesn’t actually ban or outlaw Styrofoam at all. In fact, if your community recycles 60 percent of its Styrofoam, you’re off the hook. Huh. What exactly does that mean – “community”; “recycled Styrofoam”? I know how to recycle and be green in hundreds of ways, but I haven’t the first idea how to recycle Styrofoam or where to do it.

Having said that, a ban of any measure is better than no ban at all, and in an article on this subject, Scott Cooney used a term that is new to me and one that really resonated for me: “green collar jobs”. By this I take him to mean those jobs formerly in production of all manner of toxic stuff: plastic bags, plastic bottles, Styrofoam, lead-based paints and Polaroid film, to name a few; that are now (as in the case of the Polaroid factory that now manufactures solar panels) literally less physically toxic to the people performing them.

One of the big arguments against California’s Styrofoam ban is that it will cut jobs. But that’s just a nonsensical cover-up for some other agenda. The jobs will just shift from producing non-degradable to-go ware to compostable or recyclable to-go ware. In fact, the green industry has already created thousands of jobs just in the eco-friendly restaurant-ware sector alone.

If even a partial ban, affecting only a part of California’s Styrofoam-using population, pushes us further towards “green collar jobs”; less non-decomposing, petroleum-based trash in our oceans; and more awareness of our very fragile environmental position, I’m all for it.

What about you?

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image © Vince LaConte

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