Recently

8.23.2016

Review: Mable Delivers Sustainable, Self Standing Toothbrushes

Mable bamboo toothbrush review

A couple of years ago, I switched from conventional plastic toothbrushes to those now ubiquitous recycled plastic toothbrushes, which I can pick up at my local Trader Joe's for a few bucks a piece. But, while the company has a pretty good thing going, I've continued to have some reservations about a product made of non-biodegradable plastic (it turns out they have a mail-in recycling program, but I had no idea until I wrote this post, so I've just been tossing the toothbrushes in my regular recycling bin and crossing my fingers that something good would come of it).

Then Mable reached out and offered one of their bamboo toothbrushes for review and I was stoked (can you tell I visited southern California recently?) to get a chance to see what the bamboo experience was like. Bamboo is a sturdy, fast growing plant, which makes it one of the most sustainable materials in the world. Plus it's biodegradable, which makes a huge difference when you consider that "nearly five-billion plastic toothbrushes make their way into the earth and oceans every year." The Mable toothbrush is made from bamboo and new nylon, and the handle is designed so that the brush can stand all by itself on a counter top.

So what did I think?

Mable bamboo toothbrush review
I have mixed feelings. In terms of sustainability and design, the brush is spot on. I don't have to send in my toothbrush once it's worn out because it will biodegrade naturally over time (though Mable does recommend taking the nylon out of the handle and disposing of it since it's not biodegradable). The silhouette of the product is also really cool. I feel like it makes my bathroom look like a fancier place than it is.

On the downside, the self-standing aspect isn't that useful to me because I have limited counter space. I usually store my toothbrush in a little ceramic cup on one of those relic-of-the-past, built-in toothbrush holders that's been mounted to the wall of my apartment since the 1960s, but I need to store the Mable brush on the windowsill so it won't end up falling into the sink. The bamboo also feels a bit weird against your gums at first, but it loses some of its friction with continued use, so I'm adjusting to it now that I'm a couple weeks in.

Conscious consumerism is often about finding compromises you can live with and, as far as bamboo toothbrushes are concerned, Mable is a good option. They offer a subscription service that mails you a new brush every three months at a reduced rate ($8.00 instead of $10.00) and they're working on broadening their options to include new colors and a range of bristles (currently, they only offer Medium bristles).

If you've got more counter space than me and love good design, I think the Mable Toothbrush may suit you just fine.

Hannah at Life Style Justice reviewed the Mable brush last week. Check out her review here.

---------

Shop Mable here.


8.21.2016

Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism

Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism
Crashing waves near Point Dume

As a rule, when I travel, I don't network. 


There are hundreds of brilliant, inspiring women (and some men) who write on conscious consumerism around the country who I would love to meet someday, but when I go on vacation, I don't make plans with them.

I travel to visit with friends and family. I often stay at their houses, work with their schedules, and ride in their cars. I have limited vacation time provided through work, so I don't often get more than a long weekend when I visit loved ones, and it's just not worth it to me to carve out a space for friendly networking, no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it might be.

I also travel to get some perspective on my day-to-day. I spend nearly all of my spare time (and some of my work time) talking about consumer ethics, manufacturing, and sustainability. I write and photograph for this blog. I pitch articles and tinker with html and obsessively check Google Analytics. And, while I find it immensely gratifying, I also tend to get tunnel vision fairly quickly and it's hard to get a sense of what matters most.

Physically leaving my environment and visiting with people who know me outside of that context helps me better gauge my long term goals and better understand my role within the world I occupy.

Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism
Daniel and me at a dusty outlook over the city


Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is not be a "conscious consumer" for awhile. 


Now, that's not to say that I shouldn't be mindful of the things I purchase on trips, throwing my moral convictions to the wind. It's to say that I strive when I'm away to remember that I'm a person, first and foremost. It's healthy for me to separate the "consumer" part from the "conscious" part for a few days, to practice being considerate of others and myself without that being attached to want.

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I explored desert landscapes, people watched at Venice Beach, admired modern architecture, ate cuisines not available to me in Charlottesville, watched the grandest ocean sunset I've ever seen, climbed to the top of Point Dume, chatted with the locals, binge watched all of Stranger Things with friends, and took lots of naps. I helped with the dishes and chopped the vegetables for dinner. I set the table and took twilight walks.

And I felt like I was able to get real clarity on what I want for myself and what I need in both a career and in a life. I was challenged by the task of living in someone else's home for a week and learned how to compromise and work through impatience, which reminded me that this task of just being with people harmoniously is something hard and worth accomplishing.

Taking a pause from conscious consumerism to practice self care
The sunset in Malibu


I think a lot of us conscious consumers and ethical bloggers think that if we can reach some secular humanist version of enlightenment and make ourselves perfect, that will have a ripple effect and the world will be forever better. 


But I think that's a lie. If I become a vegan who makes all my own clothes out of hemp I've grown and hand dyed with herbs, if I live on a homestead and sing to the animals and paint with all the colors of the wind, I might find some personal gratification. But that's just a drop in the bucket. The world is vast and it's not my job to change it by myself.

I believe I have a responsibility to act with intention in small and big ways. I believe that my choices matter. But if I burn out, what good am I to anyone? If I forsake intimate relationships for networking visits, if I visit a fair trade store instead of climbing a mountain to see the sea lions play in the water below, if I am nice on the internet and mean to my husband because I'm too tired to practice kindness, am I really succeeding at bettering myself in the end?

Some days, being a person is hard enough.

My advice to myself and to you is to be as patient and kind as you can be to yourself and others. Take a break from your personal brand and watch a sunset. Sometimes in the clutter of war, sweatshop tragedies, and political turmoil, I forget that life is actually still worth living. I forget why I'm fighting or what I'm fighting for.

But after time away, I remember that I'm fighting for my and everyone's right to laugh raucously with friends and binge watch Netflix and get soaked by the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean. 


I'm fighting for a right to live, and live well.


Additional Reading:

8.18.2016

Happy Fox Studio Jewelry: Minimal, Architectural, Sustainable

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry
The custom, mismatched ear crawlers Allison made to my specifications

Allison of Happy Fox Studio makes modern pieces from vintage and reclaimed materials. We first got in touch on Instagram (gotta hand it to Instagram for putting me in touch with people I never would have "met" otherwise) and it's been great to learn more about her process and why she's passionate about sustainable jewelry-making. I'm impressed with her attention to detail and ethical sourcing. I hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes interview as much as I did.

---------

When did you first become interested in making jewelry?


I started making jewelry about 10 years ago, when I had a hard time finding simple jewelry that wasn’t, well, too simple!  I actually had someone at a bead shop show me how, but it wasn’t long before I started making my own, unique “findings” – the wire part of the earrings. It was a slow first few years, I really ramped up my making and selling in 2011.

What sets Happy Fox Studio apart from other independent jewelry shops?


There are a few things that make happy fox studio different from the majority of shops. The first is that the majority of my materials are reclaimed. For me that might mean something I bought at a creative reuse store, or vintage jewelry I take apart, or something from a “junk” bin at an antique shop. The second is that most of my pieces are one of a kind, but priced in a way that is accessible for a lot of people. Third, I want my customers to be super happy with their product, and working with reclaimed materials can sometimes present unforeseen challenges. Because of this, I work really hard to get feedback, and if there is ever a weakness in the materials, I find a way to fix it right away!

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry


What are your favorite materials to work with?


Right now I’m sort of obsessed with finding individual, vintage earrings – I call them “orphan” earrings – and turning them into pendants. I also really adore working with vintage metal – I bought a whole stash of vintage copper and brass bangles at a ‘junk’ shop and have made around 30 minimalist, architectural necklaces with them. I’ll be very sad when it is all used up!

What inspires your designs?


There are a few things that really drive my style. One is architecture and design. My family is in construction and I had a career in urban planning, so that design element is always there for me. Another is simplicity – I feel like, for the most part, I don’t want my jewelry to be the first thing people notice about me. But when they do notice it, I want them to be like, wow, that is so cool, where did it come from? I love making jewelry that has a story, a history, way before it was made or purchased.

You mention you sell a lot of jewelry locally and in person. How do in-person relationships help you refine your craft?


It’s so important! I only make my best-selling mini earrings because they had such a good response when I made a template that people loved at a market. I make studs and ear crawlers because so many of my customers requested them! I love that my business is small and not static, so that when people show an interest in something, I can respond. (However, I probably won’t be making anything with druzy, despite multiple requests!) I do quite a bit of custom work as well. It’s really cool that my customers trust me enough to say something like “I want something medium length, maybe silver, maybe blue or green” and let me come up with the end product. I made my first piece of wedding jewelry this way, and she was really happy with it, it looked amazing, and I made something totally unusual and reclaimed.

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry

What is your favorite design or piece to make?


I most enjoy making necklaces, I think. Sometimes they come to me as I am falling asleep, other times they are a labor of love, trying many different thing until one clicks. I love the process of finding materials that work together aesthetically and then making them work functionally. I also really love making my whorled studs because every earring is individual and I love all the variations. It actually makes them incredibly frustrating to make, too, but the end result is great.

How does sustainability and ethics factor into your process?


It’s a huge part of both how and why I do what I do. Using reclaimed materials and educating my customers on why that is important is an honor and a challenge. I have not found wire yet that I can verify the geographical source or recycled content, which has been frustrating. I guess it’s not a question many jewelers ask.

Anything else you'd like to add?


I’d encourage your readers to ask the favorite jewelry makers where they get their materials. The more people asking that, the broader the conversation is about our ability to reuse and recycled. One last thing - when I say I make reclaimed or eco-friendly jewelry, I think many people envision bottle-cap necklaces or paperclip rings! I hope that I can expand people’s idea of what eco-friendly jewelry look like, that it doesn’t have to look “different” – just awesome!

---------

Allison made me a custom pair of mismatched ear crawlers to my general specifications (she always puts her own creative spin on custom pieces, so it's truly a collaborative experience, which is awesome) and I'm really happy with them. Unlike other ear crawlers I've tried, once they're on and adjusted, they don't budge at all. She'll make you a custom piece, as well. Just ask. 


Shop Happy Fox Studio here and on Instagram


Follow along: Instagram | Facebook