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An Exercise in Eco-Friendly Living

15 Jun

Over the weekend I discovered a new love in uncharted territory: running. I’m a swimmer, and swimmers have oddly flexible ankles and a little extra body fat for buoyancy (right?) – neither of which are particularly conducive to running. But some incredible friends asked me to be a part of their team for the De Celle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay, a 72-mile race around the lake, divided between seven runners. I had the 6th leg, which culminated with a nightmare hill up to Inspiration Point. I thought I was going to die, but almost as soon as I finished (slowly but surely), I wanted another shot at my training, that hill, and a race.

The Fallon Phlygirls from left to right: Shannon, Anna, me, Rebecca, Courtney, Karla, Mackenzie

It occurred to me today that running has to be an incredibly green way to get fit – no air-conditioning required. I just need some green gear to complement this eco-exercise. A little reading and research led me to Patagonia, a company passionate about quality gear, innovative materials and environmentalism.

Patagonia's sport skirt, made from "recycled polyester," which includes recycled soda bottles and unused second-quality fabrics.

A personal favorite is their Women’s Sport Top. Who doesn’t love a long tank with some extra room in the middle? And I’ll take a little corporate responsibility, and environmental consciousness with my order – check, check and check.

Oh, and while browsing the Patagonia site, “Crystal” – a customer service rep – popped up to chat with me, asking if I needed help finding anything. No, thanks, Crystal; but I appreciate the gesture. I’m waving at you from my run – outside and in my running skirt made partly from recycled soda bottles.


{Unique} Spotlight on TYLER BENDER BOOK CO.

2 Nov

Last week, I emailed several questions to another green vendor who will be selling his wares at the Unique LA December show. Tyler Bender, whose “BOOK CO.” bears his name, thoughtfully responded to our inquiry. We hope you’ll check out his exquisitely creative, decidedly green products.

All the photos you see hail from postings on Tyler’s Etsy shop. Enjoy the interview, and thanks, Tyler, for your time. See you in December.

G|F : How would you describe what you do?

TBBC : I make functional everyday objects from yesterday’s discarded materials, currently: blank notebooks from vintage clothing, LPs, cereal boxes, and discarded library book covers.


Is the “green” element of your work a conscious decision or a pleasant by-product of your design aesthetic? In other words, what came first : the eco-mission or the art?

Our parents raised us to be frugal and resourceful, and this has found its way into every corner of my life, including the making of artwork. The green elements in my work draw more upon the concepts of reusing and reducing via the repurposing of materials otherwise labeled as waste. As I learn more about what others are doing to preserve and make the most of our natural world, my goal is now to become as ‘green’ or renewable as possible. The art is constantly evolving and adapting to this idea, but it was the art that came first.

How and when did you stumble upon book binding?il_430xN.95392645

My interest in bookbinding sparked in kindergarten, when we would ‘publish’ little story books at school. That process was always so exciting to me. After high school I made blank notebooks for myself to write and draw in, using scrap paper from other art and collage projects.

The first binding method I used was my own crude design, using what was immediately available in the house. I pounded holes into a stack of paper with a hammer and nail, and sewed it up with telephone wire.

Considering you work in art and design, where do you glean inspiration?il_430xN.95392916

Thankfully, inspiration may be found everywhere, by almost anything people do. Some of the most brilliant design or technology is often the simplest.

On your Etsy page, you offer custom work. What are some of the most interesting items you’ve been asked to bind or use for binding?

It’s amazing how rarely a customer makes a familiar request. Probably the most heartwarming idea I’ve received so far was the careful portioning of a family heirloom, a grandfather’s coat, into several books, one for each of his children.

And finally : When did you first become involved with Unique LA, and what are your expectations for the December show?

Unique’s Spring 2009 show was my first, and it was very successful. ┬áThe organizers really know what they are doing, and I sincerely look forward to December’s event.

You can find Tyler Bender Book Co. on Etsy.

We Love LA

5 Oct

new_nav_r1_c1We officially submitted our application to participate in Unique Los Angeles, an “independent design and gift sale” held in the City of Angels in December. We hear Friday whether we’ve been accepted. Sort of hoping we get it, as J and I have already planned out the booth design, talked Owen into building some collapsible shelving, and basically spent all of Saturday night sketching out design ideas whilst Tom vR was forced to watch Ghosts of Girlfriends Past by himself.

Look, Tom, no one said being on our Board of Directors was going to be easy.

Not to mention, the event itself sounds incredible : 50% of ticket sales go to benefit charity, they expect about 220 vendors and 10,000 attendees, and there’s a “green room” featuring environmentally friendly products.

Stay tuned for an update on Unique (and ticket giveaways should we be accepted!).

Bag Lady : Loving Eco-Friendly Totes

23 Sep

When I received my first Friday CSA drop-off of vegetables, herbs and tomatoes from Roy Ranch, a standout item was the sweet canvas bag in which everything was packaged. It read “I Love Dirt (Support Local Farms)” in brick red printed on natural cotton canvas.

Roy Ranch's Eco-Friendly Packaging

Roy Ranch's Eco-Friendly Packaging

I have a collection of my own reusable bags for grocery shopping, although when you live in a small town, people tend to look at you strangely when you ask them to bag your cereal in a fire engine red “Trader Joes” tote. I’m from California, what? Every time I meet up with friends for lunch at Whole Foods, I have to force myself to resist their collection of adorable recycled and reusable grocery bags. All this adds up to a rather unhealthy obsession with eco-friendly totes.

No surprise that I ended up surfing the ‘net this week in search of some plain, “green” cotton or canvas bags to use for packaging holiday gifts this year. Yes, it’s September, but at the first sign of a crisp morning, I start thinking sleigh bells, hot chocolate and fresh garland. Not to mention Starbucks is now serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It might as well be Thanksgiving. I am my mother’s daughter.

Anyway, my search led me to Reusable Bags, a website that compiles information on lots of eco-vendors. The site carries loads of reusable loot, but my focus was on finding a plain, durable bag made of recycled cotton, if possible.

Ecobags Recycled Cotton Tote

Ecobags Recycled Cotton Tote

Ecobags carries one such tote : roomy, sturdy, reinforced with 22 inch handles, which can easily be slung over a shoulder. Add in a stencil with a cool design, some pomegranate juice in lieu of fabric paint, and you’ve got yourself a stylish, eco-friendly treat all wrapped up in a recycled cotton tote. {LOVE}

Gratefully Green : Eco-friendly Hostess Gifts

25 Aug

Summer is a great time for parties. We’re invited to barbecues, Friday night cocktails and easy Sunday night dinners. Wine and flowers reign as go-to tokens of appreciation. However, I love the idea of giving something useful, inexpensive and eco-friendly. My friend, Kristen, brings an oversized mason jar filled with herbs from her organic garden, tied with twine. She’s also been known to churn out a fresh batch of homemade salsa or mint jelly, all packaged in her signature mason jars, which are both retro-chic and reusable.

Kristen Roy's Homemade Mint Jelly

Kristen Roy's Homemade Mint Jelly

Another {less labor intensive} option is to stock up on eco-friendly stationery. I love the idea of saying “thank you” by giving a set of chic thank you cards. My favorite place to peruse unique, handmade treats is Etsy. Check out this set of four thank you notes by Etsy seller laurabrownart, hand-colored and printed on recycled cardstock. Shannon Lowry of Round Robin Press allows you to customize your 4- or 8-pack of quirky letterpress cards, printed on plantable paper! You should also definitely check out the two most recent product listings on the G|F Etsy shop : sets of four letterpress thank you cards, printed on tree-free cotton rag paper. The sets include one of each of our kelly or black designs, and arrive to you exquisitely wrapped and ready. Not only are these gifts green, lovely and economical, but they’re sure to make your next host or hostess feel incredibly appreciated.

{Clockwise from upper left} Packaging for new stationery set :: Four cards included in "black" set :: Gift materials for "kelly green" set :: Four cards included in "kelly" set

{Clockwise from upper left} Packaging for our new stationery set :: Four cards included in "black" set :: Gift materials for "kelly green" set :: Four cards included in "kelly" set

Back to School (and Shoplifting)

20 Aug

My name is Catherine, and I’m a designer.

{Hi, Catherine}

Strike that. Let’s try this again :: My name is Catherine, and I’m a shoplifter.

{Hi, Catherine}

Two years ago, when Jacqueline and I toyed with the idea of starting a “written communications company” (J insisted “stationery” didn’t fully encompass our mission), I began researching design – our competition, if you will. So much beautiful work out there, so many unique perspectives – it just makes you want to get married all over again. Anyway, last summer, I came across Lucky Me!, the official blog of Lucky Designs, for the first time. So naturally I was thrilled to stumble upon it again today while doing some very necessary market research (also known as “surfing the net” or “procrastinating”).

Yesterday, Kathryn posted her take on the Back to School theme. It’s gorgeous, whimsical and – most of all – inspirational : those chalkboard place mats, the classroom bridal portraits, the lunchbox favors, the apples, the school bus, the Mead composition book. It’s enough to make a girl want to sharpen a whole slew of Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils.

So I’m a designer who shoplifts ideas. Stay tuned for my “inspired” invitation suite based on this theme. Thanks, Kathryn!

Kathryn's Back to School Inspiration Board, as found on the Lucky Me! blog

Kathryn's Back to School Inspiration Board, as found on the Lucky Me! blog

Ideal Bite NEEDS to know GREEN|FINGERPRINT, right?

13 Jul
Tom vR - in GREEN and at the grill

Tom vR - in GREEN and at the grill

Tom vR, brother-in-law and beloved member of our BoD, tipped us off to the site and blog of Ideal Bite. The site headlines as “bite-sized ideas for light green living,” and its tag line describes Ideal Bite as “a sassier shade of green.”

Well, we’re green AND we’re sassy, so this kind of seemed like a perfect fit. As the recovering academic of the group, I did a little research.

I love that Ideal Bite’s aim is not to levy an environmentalist guilt trip, but to “connect enlightened companies with responsible consumers.” For those of you still reading: YES, I picked up on the fact that GF is – hello! – enlightened! (see title of this post)

“Being green” is necessary today; but while many of us recognize this, most of us don’t research environmentally conscious products for a living. We have jobs, families, floors to vacuum (reminds me…), dogs to walk and Fair Trade coffee to brew.

Which is why a site like Ideal Bite is, well, ideal.

I just signed up for the daily tips, but have no love from the “Add our tips to your site” widget. Yet. Project for the week: put together a package for Ideal Bite so they can (cross your fingers) showcase our very green tree-free thank you notes, recycled announcements and eco-friendly line of invitations. Happy browsing!