At our house, December 2009 was a blur of working, crafting and traveling. Somehow, in all of the excitement and frenzy of the holidays, the 31 days of 2009’s final month felt more like 13 days. There just never seemed enough time! That must be why, almost a full week into the new year, we are just now getting around to replacing all of the calendars in the house. In past years, I have always grabbed a big, glossy shrink-wrapped calendar from the big-box bookstore, but this year I am looking for something different. Because we are going to have to live with it for the next 12 months, I want something unique, clever and, of course, eco-friendly.
I am writing this week’s article from a hotel room in Toronto. Earlier, while I was waiting in a seemingly-endless line at the check-in desk, I had a few moments to peruse the hotel’s “environmental pledge”. It got me thinking; as diligent as we are to remain environmentally-friendly at home, it seems that many of us slip into bad habits as soon as we check into a hotel. How soon we forget that the little things, like leaving the light on when exiting the room and taking extra-long hot showers, can quickly add up. You probably don’t wash your bed sheets every day or use a fresh towel (or two) for each shower that you take at home, so why should you expect it elsewhere? I’ve compiled a few tips to help you “go green” and reduce your impact when you travel. Of course, I’ve also included a few eco-friendly, handmade items to make your trip a more pleasurable one, too. (Upcycled suitcase, above, by Get Ready, Set Go!)
Have you ever wanted to throw a dart at a map and travel to the spot that it hits? While that idea has a certain spontaneous appeal, perhaps a little more thought should go into not just the location, but the timing of your trip. Traveling during the high-season can mean a higher stress level for the traveler and for the destination itself. By shifting your travel plans to even just a month after a peak period, you allow the area to recover and rejuvenate itself. Plus, chances are that you and your family will get to see things that high-season visitors don’t and you will be get a more authentic experience. It’s a great way to get to see a culture at it’s relaxed and natural best. (Passport holder, above, by My Paper Garden.)
Eco-conscious travelers choose tour operators and facilities with strong environmental sustainability policies Before you book, do a little research and ask questions about the property that you intend to visit. If they have good practices in place, then they’ll be happy to brag about them! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that your hotel composts kitchen waste, or that they are taking actions to conserve water and energy. Ask about low-flow toilets, water-saving showerheads and earth friendly housekeeping, then reward companies that put these polices into practice by giving them your business. And, don’t forget to write home – recycled map stationary (above) by Dote.
As the old saying goes, “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”. While those little single-use shampoos and soaps are cute, they tend to generate more garbage than they are worth. Before you depart for your adventure, buy small, refillable containers to port your own toiletries. Not only will you reduce waste, you’ll be using products that you know are good for you, rather than leaving it to chance. Even better than bottled, the Lemon Basil shampoo bar (above) by Beautiful Soaps contains conditioning rose hip seed and neem oils and is 100% spill proof – perfect for the suitcase or backpack.
Whether you are hostelling or staying in 5-star comfort, you can always try to make a positive impact on the places you visit. By treating your home away from home with the same care that you treat your own, you help to ensure others who follow will be able to experience and enjoy it, too. We can all can make a difference, especially if we take the steps, both large and small, together. What else can we do? I would love to hear your eco-friendly travel tips – please comment and share them with us. (Travel journal, above, by Blue Toad.)
Recycled by Hyena: My work is infused with my ethic and each of my creations is the result of passion and dedication. My clothes are made from scratch but not from new materials. They are made with fabric from clothes I purchased in Goodwill stores and non-profit thrift stores.
I “believe” in the craft revolution and I think it is our future. The handmade and eco-friendly life is the only alternative to the consumerism destroying our planet and the living beings surrounding us.
When I was a kid, we got in the car and drove my dad out to a nearby town to take a hot air balloon ride. I remember watching the balloons gliding through the sky. These earrings remind me of that day.
Elle got started in handmade when she was struggling with depression and loneliness. Jewelry-making was her way to be totally immersed in something that was not only positive, but kept her mind off of what she was going through. She fell in love with jewelry making and never looked back. Her style incorporates vintage pieces with modern beads.
Encouraged by friends and family she jumped into selling through her shop Elle’s Beads. After taking a blind leap, she learned as she went setting up up a business strategy, goals, and a budget.
I’ve met such great artisans, both in real life and through venues like Etsy, and I feel like I have a sense of community and belonging now.
Elle’s grandmother is a huge influence. She uses her antique sewing machine and vintage buttons to make a lot of her creations. She’s also inspired by items that people cast away as trash. She has a way of viewing things not as what they are, but what they could become with a little bit of fabric, paint, or beads. She’s also started sewing now due to her grandmother’s influence (she was a seamstress) and makes a point to only use eco-friendly materials in the accessories she makes.
My favorite item is my Vintage Sapphire and Silver Glass Pearl Necklace. It’s the first eco-friendly piece I ever made and it’s from an old vintage earring I repurposed as a brooch. I’m really passionate now about reusing old materials and making them into something beautiful and new. This necklace is a constant reminder to me of the beginning of that journey.
Elle supports the views that many of us handmade artisans have, even though handmade goods can cost more than mass-produced goods, especially those imported from overseas, they’re so much more valuable! When you buy something handmade, you’re supporting an artisan – a small business and an entrepreneur. You’re supporting a craft and a subculture that values the importance of keeping craftsmanship alive. Each handmade item is a little bit different and Elle, like all handmade artists puts her love and a part of herself in every piece.
These adorable vintage birdies are my personal favorite!
Elle is a full-time paralegal working for a non-profit in North Carolina. When not working at her day job or on her business, you can find her relaxing in front of the television, catching up on the latest book club book, or talking on the phone with her family. Online you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.
In our busy lives these days, we use a lot of disposable things without giving them much thought at all. So much is single-use, single-serving, throwaway packaging—things that are (hopefully) recyclable and that (hopefully) wind up in the recycling bin.
The great thing about today’s eco-friendly artists is that they see a lot of our everyday trash as raw material. Instead of heading to the recycling center (or worse, the landfill), our single-use, throwaway “stuff” gets a beautiful new life as housewares or wearable art.
Take the plastic bottle, for example. We use a lot of plastic bottles. Somewhere near 28 billion single-serving water bottles are used each year in America alone. Yet less than 20 percent of them are recycled. Some estimates are as low as 12 percent.
Armed with a heat gun, or tools as simple as a pair of scissors, artists are making some incredible items out of those bottles. gulguvenc (photos above and below, left) uses a heat gun to shape PET bottles and then pierces them to create amazing bowls and jewelry.
anettesplastics crochets old plastic bottles into amazing jewelry forms like this necklace (above, right) and the rings below, while both arnym (below, left) and ArtworkbyKD (below, right) cut shapes from old bottles to make their jewelry.
The great thing about plastic bottles is that they can be recycled. They can be made into new bottles, or processed into other raw materials, like craft supplies. There are plastic bottle yarns out there now, and felt and fabric made from recycled bottles. But recycling, like the production of the bottles themselves, takes up a lot of energy. Keep that in mind the next time you reach for a bottle of water. It might be worth investing in a reusable bottle to complement your new handmade purchases!
Bottle rings and fruit bowl above also by anettesplastics.