Author Archives for sgudersmith

There is a Styrofoam Hummer at SFO

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There is life-size and detailed Hummer made of Styrofoam at San Francisco International Airport. It symbolizes all the excess and waste in our society; I get it.

It’s part of The Art of Recology Exhibition now in terminal 3, and there until October.

As you may know I’m a little obsessed with Recology (80% waste diversion rate in SF thanks to them! Municipal composting!), and one program I absolutely love is their artists in residence program. Artists (like the one that made the styro-hummer) make all of their pieces out of things found in the dump. There are dresses, paintings, sculptures, the works. Check it out! This one in particular was my favorite because I hate Styrofoam. HATE it. It doesn’t breakdown for over 500+ years, produces toxic chemicals when it’s being formed, and breaks up all tiny and fucks with ocean life. I think it’s actually illegal in SF (oh how I love this city!).

And kudos to SFO for displaying art exhibits in the terminals. Yet another reason why I’m never leaving SF.

A Zero-Waste & Local Wedding

Well, I got married in March. It was absolutely the best day of my life, surrounded by 70 of our favorite people. Throughout the planning process (all 2.5 months of it) we worked super hard to make sure we had no waste and were minimizing our purchases. Man the wedding ‘industry’ tells you to buy all sorts of shit and it’s kind of hard not to get swept up in it…maybe I do need personalized stationary, a photobooth, and paper lanterns that we set free into the sky. To be honest, taking the minimalist approach also saved us a ton of money.

Here’s some simple things we did (and of course we didn’t get it all right!):

-Online invitations. Yep, nothing printed! I designed it in InDesign, we emailed it out, & people emailed back a yes or no. Simon also made us a great website w/ more details (www.letsbuildafort.com). (See below, free)

-We made sure the location, The Stable Cafe, had composting. The food (Jennifer’s Lunch) was so amazing that there was barely anything left and the catering staff took what was left home!

-Our centerpieces were terrariums rented from the amazing Lila B ($100 total), pieces of free driftwood our friend Shannon found on the beach (she was our wedding designer!), butcher paper that was then recycled, and all of our dishware/napkins/the tent/heat lamps were rented and returned  after.

-Edible favors! Amazing muffins, croissants, pastries, and surprise baked goods from our favorite local place: Craftsman & Wolves. They were packaged in compostable thin brown bags (total spent on favors less than $200).

-Groom & Groomsman had upcycled boutonnieres (Thanks Anna!)

-Reused old wood to write signage on (free)

-Reused an old window pane for seating assignments ($20 supply store)

-Bridesmaids could pick their own dress and one of them reused (1 free!)!

-We didn’t do any decorations – the cafe already had twinkle lights, trees, plants and that was good enough for us! (Free)

-All local and organic food. (Our plates were only $120/person for passed appetizers, bus snacks, chicken/steak/vegetarian options -and EVERYTHING was organic and local!)

-All local wine. With Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River so close, how could we not! Also all local beer except my Dad requested a 30 pack of Coors Light (seriously).

-Our favorite local pies & local legend blue bottle coffee

-We all walked to our after-party at Mission Bowling Club

-Thank you post-cards (save a whole envelope, recycled, soy ink!) from our favorite SF designer, Notify.

-Our rings had no gems or diamonds (conflict free) and were made by a local designer out of gold (mine) and stainless steel (Simon’s)

Eco-fails:

-I bought a new dress. I looked at a lot of reused options (actually tried to get the dress I loved/wore reused but couldn’t find it) and looked at upcycled options but in the end fell in love with my Claire Pettinbone. I also bought new earrings from an NYC boutique and new shoes from Anthropologie. I reused my grandmother’s purse.

-We took the entire wedding party on a cocktail-hour bus tour of San Francisco for 2 hours. Definitely better than doing cabs or something but we could have just stayed put and not put those bus GHGs into the atmosphere. Again, it was totally worth it. It was one of my favorite parts of the wedding and the first time to SF & to the Pacific for many of our family members!

-We had Shannon pick up and make sunflower bouquets from the SF flower market. They were very simple and incredibly gorgeous (and we composted them), and I don’t regret it, I just loved them.

-Groomsman all bought a new shirt and Simon bought a new vest and tie.

-We had a ‘sign in chair’ but also printed a postcard of ourselves and each person that came to the wedding and had them write notes on them. That, one menu for each of the 6 tables, and pieces of paper that Shannon wrote table numbers on were the only paper we used.

Enjoy the pics below and feel free to ask any questions about any of the above choices!

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California Hiking

http://instagr.am/p/WbV4iTDi2U/

It’s pretty easy to spend time enjoying nature any time of year in California; it kind of feels like cheating. Hiking has become one of my new favorite weekend activities, and we took our SECOND leg-powered vacation back in March (more on this honeymoon later). It was pretty easy to get outside. I bought some gear at REI, found hikes on Every Trail and started exploring. You should try it sometime, wherever you live!

Find a green cleaning product, the easy way.

I love, LOVE when other people vet things and make life easier for me. It’s important to trust the source doing the vetting, and I do look through the process to make sure it sounds reasonable and not like they are skimming or manipulating data. Last week the Environmental Working Group released its new online Guide to Healthy Cleaning. They are known for their database on skincare products already and this time their scientists tackled products that claim to be chemical free, non-toxic, natural, and their non-organic counterparts. Due to yet another US regulation gap, home cleaning products are NOT required to list any ingredients harmful or otherwise on their labels (disgusting right). OSHA only regulates workplace products, so while you may see ingredients on the back of some spray bottles you have at home, these are entirely voluntary and many companies leave out a few things they aren’t proud of! For instance, formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen and illegal in Europe is found in 409. Way to go USA.

EWG’s scientists went to work and spent 14 months doing a deep dive into over 2,000 products and assessing them against both national and international toxicity data sources. The full process of their research is described here.

Some brands on the A list:

Seventh Generation, Dr. Bronner, and Green Shield. Every product from Whole Foods brand was an A or a B and Mrs. Meyer’s got Bs across the board.

And brands that are doing bad things to you, from the F list:

BabyGanics, Simple Green, Tide, Gain, Downy, All, Green Works dish soap, Method dish soap, Palmolive, Cascade, and a host of others.

 

Check out EWG’s full list to see where your products rank.

 

Perhaps an eco baby gift?

Leah (yes the Leah who wrote about period cups) is preggers!! I’m super excited for her and her hubby and my mind obviously went straight to baby gifts. We sent them a few PeopleTowels in the mail (honestly, who doesn’t need a PeopleTowel) because I’ve heard babies are messy and then we put together this gem:

 

Things started off good; I found a Burt’s Bees Baby Bee set while at Target. I’ve been iffy on Burt’s since they were bought by Clorox, but still use a few of their products with positive GoodGuide ratings. This set contained no parabens, no fragrances, no sulfates, no phthalates, no petrochemicals. It was certified cruelty-free AND the tray was made from potato starch and the box is 60% post-consumer content. It also seemed to contain all of those things you need for a baby (diaper cream, baby shampoo, you know).

I was feeling pretty good until I took a tour down the baby clothing isle and ended up with this adorable duck face baby towel. I probably should have bought a similar organic cotton version online (if I was being truly eco) but the thing was so damn cute. I made up for it by then heading to my new favorite reuse center SCRAP. I LOVE this place. It only sells reused crafty things and it also is a non-profit that focuses on getting art donations to low-income schools and teachers. I browsed around and found half a roll of yellow wrapping paper and a cute wicker baby carriage (I also bought a hurricane candle holder, several items to make a jewelry board, another basket, and a hangy thing with hooks and the total was $6).  I got home, wrapped everything together with some twine that was once on a present of mine, made a card out of recycled paper (scroll style, sweet right), and felt pretty smug about myself.

That was until I spent an hour researching DLimonene.  I figured I should check GoodGuide before I actually gave them the present, and while most of the BB products I use score an 8 in health, several of the items in the Baby Bee box were at a 4 (environment and social categories were high so overall scores were 6). Crap. The reason was the same in each category: D-Limonene, a completely natural ingredient found in lemons (which is why I hate that meaningless word natural!). I read EPA reports, Scorecard summaries, and in my opinion the research is sketchy and it seems pretty harmless. It hasn’t really been proven to do anything bad. And, many doctors and naturopaths recommended ingesting it for cancer prevention, as a digestive aid, and to treat gallstones. It’s found in almost every food that has a citrus flavor (gum, pudding, OJ) and the EPA classifies it as low-toxicity. The best summary article can be found here.

I still gave Leah the present and will let her make the choice on whether to return it, but I did mentally kick myself for not pulling out the GoodGuide app at Target and figuring all of this out before purchasing it. I think this also just goes to show that no matter how hard you try, you very often will not get it all right.

I’m in love with our new table.

People seem to think that the eco-friendly option is always the more expensive one. I’m sure this stems from years ago when anything organic or Fair Trade was 50% more (side note market demand is starting to really even some things out!).

One eco-friendly item that isn’t more expensive than its regular counterpart: our fabulous new kitchen table. I was strolling through SF’s Indie-mart, a mecca for the local/eco minded, and came across J and his shop The Dirt Floor Studio. My breath caught as I slid my fingers across a reddish-brown farm table with dark knots, wide beams, exposed screw heads, and bench seats. I fell in love, but it looked like something I could never afford. I have a phobia of talking to any sales-type person if I know I can’t buy what they’re selling. However, for this table, I pushed my limits. We didn’t talk dollars. We talked reclaimed wood, reuse, and how he could make something to fit any budget. (Any budget I thought? Even a recent grad student’s?!). I took his card.

He seemed so nice and honest that I found myself working up the nerve to call him a few days later. I paced around the apartment waiting for dollar signs that would crush my dream of owning this or a similar table. I researched similar reclaimed tables at Pottery Barn and at antique stores and the prices for one bench SEAT started at $549 (the same size table at Pottery Barn would have been $2200). Our budget was about $600, crap.

I panicked as I told him this over the phone, but all I heard was ‘ok, I can work with that.’ YES! We chatted further – he could get less fancy reclaimed wood and joinery; there is a way. We had another phone call and a few emails as I saw pictures of his work and pointed out things I liked. This all led straight back to the original table I saw. After one of our chats, J told me he would sell us THE farm table for $700 with the two benches included. He also lowered the table and expanded the benches for no additional cost to fit with our space and the style we had in mind.

Less than a week later, we had this gorgeous piece of art to light up our living room. The wood came from an old barn in Nevada, he built it by hand, and though ours has a polyurethane seal because it is a soft wood, many of his tables instead are finished with a hot linseed oil soak, multiple rubs of Tung oil with a beeswax top rub. So, buy local, buy reused, chat with the artist. The result can be incredibly unique.

Giveaway winners announced!!!!

Thanks to those of you who participated in the giveaway by posting on facebook, sending me emails, tweeting at me and leaving a comment. It was so much fun to read all the green you’ll be up to this month!

I truly loved each goal but picked two winners that will benefit specifically from having PeopleTowels. I also picked these two because their September green is easy to turn into long-term green.

The first winner is Pupfiction who is committing to kick her paper towel habit! With a toddler at home, I’m sure paper towels seem crucial and hope PTs are just the thing to help! Our second winner is Kristin, who will find PTs useful at work. Her office has tons of paper towel and napkin waste (living in San Fran I forget that not every city has office composting!) and these reusable gems will help keep her hands clean and dry and her garbage can empty. Ladies, please let us know if these PTs come in handy!

Honorable mention goes out to Dave who is only going to eat only organic veggies – love that you’ll be pesticide free! Thanks again to everyone who entered, next month I’ll be giving a way a Bioserie compostable iPhone cover (in PINK!)!

Starting the Week Off Right- GGG 1st Giveaway!

In addition to sharing green tips, I’m now in a fun place where I can share some of my favorite green items! We’re starting off small, but have even more great green gifts coming down the line this fall.

For our first giveaway we have two sets (2 in each set) of awesome on-the-go alternatives to paper towels, PeopleTowels.

I use mine ALL the time, as a place to dry my hands in the kitchen, bathroom at work, and as a napkin/spill remedy (I spill a lot…).

PeopleTowels are not only absorbant, convenient, and colorful, they are also 100% Organic cotton (thus compostable) and Fair Trade Certified (my favorite certification!). I am giving away two of these PeopleTowels 2 Packs (in Sustain, Not a Tree, Blue, and Celebrate Earth Day Everyday prints).

To enter: tweet this article and let me know the one simple step you are going to take this September to be green. Make sure to cc @Gudergoesgreen! No Twitter? Then post a comment with your simple green step below.  I’ll announce a winner by Sept. 1!

A Move Made Green

We have moved, yet again. This time (luckily) we only moved across town, instead of across the country. While I have no tips for moving across country except to not ship anything breakable, ever, I do have some easy ways to stay green if you’re moving somewhere close by.

First, you do not need bubble wrap, newspaper, or any packaging materials that will just end up in the trash. Use your clothes instead! I wrapped every glass, dish, picture frame, and even Nana’s china platters in clothes, towels, and sheets that were already coming along. It saves you a ton of excess material waste and cost, is easier, and as long as you are not shipping the boxes (nothing survives shipping no matter how you wrap it), it stays safe. 100% of the items we moved across town wrapped in clothes made it perfectly intact. To wrap a glass, I like to use a T-shirt. I stick one sleeve inside the glass, then roll the it up. I put jeans or pants in the bottom and top of the box with layers of these T-shirted dishes inside.

 

 

 

 

 

We also buy bankers boxes that can be reused over and over again instead of shipping boxes. While the previous bankers boxes didn’t make it across country (you can’t ship them because of the handles/top), we used our last ones for 3 moves and storage and know we’ll get a lot of use out of these new ones too. They are 65% post-consumer recycled (the good kind remember!) at Staples. We also labeled them generically as ‘bathroom, bedroom, living room, storage, or kitchen’ as there is almost no chance next time you move you’ll put the same exact things in each box, but you can easily put items from the same room in each box. If you’re moving across town or driving to another state you don’t really need to know what exactly is in each box, only where you should put it. The bankers boxes also fold and unfold for easy storage. We also used reusable bags, boxes, and suitcases that we had around the house and are proud to say we only used 1 garbage bag (I’ve seen some people move with ALL garbage bags) that we then promptly put into our garbage bin to reuse!

Moving is also a perfect time for purging and donating what you don’t need to your local reuse center – in our case GoodWill. Those pants you’re saving to wear for that one special occasion that hasn’t happened in 3 years, the shoes that don’t go with anything, and even that frying pan that you bought at Target for $10 but don’t use because you were given really nice pans as a gift – they all will be put to great use by others!

Finally day-of details. Instead of borrowing friends cars and moving things piecemeal, we rented a UHaul for $20 and moved everything in one shot (less gas = less pollution = less GHGs). We also hired day laborers from SF Day Labor, a worker-led nonprofit that allows those with barriers to employment (language, education, prior life choices, etc) a place to come together and organize. The nonprofit pays the workers 100% of the dollars we gave them (they keep themselves afloat through grants and private funding), and the workers were fantastic (and cheap!). Two movers for 3 hours each was only $100 total and it felt great to be able to employ a fellow San Franciscan who really wanted to work. Check into these type of organizations (another larger one in SF is Delancy Street which employees only ex-convicts), as you get really reliable people trying to turn their lives around. What better way to support the sustainability of your city or town?

A Leg-Powered Vacation

I’m going to skip the ‘sorry I took a few months off to travel, get engaged, get a new job, get a new apartment, etc post’ and just jump right back in. Here’s hoping you will too!

My (now) fiancee and I have been dating for 3.5 years and until just a few weeks ago, we had never been on vacation. This was primarily due to him starting a company and me going to grad school (thus one of us was always super poor), but also because we did long distance for almost 3 of those years. Since we were always hoping a bus (and then later a plane) to visit each other, going elsewhere wasn’t in the cards. Due to the lack of fun trips together, we knew we had to really kick vacation’s ass, and we wanted it to have an eco-component.

Well, our vacation kicked our ass (literally and otherwise), but it was truly awesome. We decided to bicycle our way through Tuscany Italy for an 8 day leg-powered adventure! We used a company a friend had recommended, EcoRent, who rented us the bicycles, helped plan our route, and even set up hotels, villas, and farmhouses in each destination spot. We started in Calci and made our way to Casciana Terme, Volterra (no vampires encountered), Pomarance, Castagneto Carducci, Pomaia, and Pisa – and lots of towns in between!

We biked about 40 miles per day through medieval villages, vineyards, farmland, 10 person towns, and fell in love with the wine, the pizza, the people, the riding, and even more with each other. Experiencing a country on bike is really beyond words. You don’t have a car window to block out the sounds, the smells, the HEAT, but you can still cover so much ground in a day. You truly get to SEE and FEEL the place you are visiting. We got to stop and do both an olive oil tasting and wine tasting at local farms! Due to the 90 degree days we had to wake up and get on the road by 6am, and were usually finished with the ride by noon. While much of the trip was simply magical, I did have two breakdowns – one of which resulted in a lot of tears and throwing my bike into the woods, and the other resulted in me calling Ecorent to come bring me up the last 9km hill 🙂 I think that’s fair though given the conditions.

I would definitely do it again (although not in the heat of summer!) because it left me feeling so proud of my body. Our legs, lungs, hearts, and attitudes got us so far each day. It was also an incredible team-building activity as we learned the right ways to encourage and push each other; this definitely took a few days to figure out. Each morning it was me, my fiancee, two bikes, and a map and we had to get ourselves from A to B. It really felt like survival training as we had to focus on making sure we had enough food, water, and shelter when it became too hot.

While it wasn’t completely energy-free (a diesel van moved our luggage from point to point along with other bikers’ things doing similar trips), we ate extremely local, reused what we could, used the sun to dry out our laundry, and tried to keep our waste to a minimum. One of the best parts of Tuscany is that everything you find to eat is local. I did end up eating meat (and now I remember how good salami is!), cheese, and bread – three things I don’t normally eat, as there wasn’t much of an option in the small towns (tofu does not exist there ha). But, it was delicious, and fresh, from the butcher down the street, and I felt good to be supporting the local economy. Since returning to SF I have also returned to vegetarianism but it was quite fun to eat like a local, I’ll admit.

Biking through Toscana!

More summer stories coming soon 🙂

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