Articles from March 2012

Interview with Etsy Sellers

Even though I advocate minimizing the amount of material you own and buy, I understand that sometimes you need to buy someone a present or just feel like getting yourself a little treat. My personal form of shopping greed is generally in the area of jewelry, which I have a vast collection of, and which is almost entirely vintage (and thus, pretty environmentally friendly.) However, the magical world of Etsy offers many adorable and crafty items from reused materials, which are also a good choice for the environmentally-minded consumer.

I picked a few sellers to interview about their philosophy and process. I chose them based on the materials they use (both use plastic, which is not truly recyclable and suffers from a host of other problems, and is thus a great material to repurpose) and because I think they both make really nice-looking stuff. Below is the interview with Kim Baldwin of Life Accessories who makes jewelry and Sally Stokes of sararacha who makes jewelry and very cute baskets made out of recycled plastic bags.


1. What’s your main motivation for using recycled materials?

(SS) I use recycled materials for two reasons: they don’t cost anything, and I like preventing stuff from ending up in the landfill. I am very frugal and cringe when I see how much art supplies cost.

(KB) I enjoy seeing something different in an object then what it was originally created for and then giving it new life. I love art that you might not see the recycled pieces in at first glance, you just see the art, but upon further inspection you can see the upcycled gems that really make the piece special.

2. What is your process for coming up with a new item? Do you get
inspired by the material and work from there, or do you have an item
in mind and then find the appropriate materials?

(SS) I get inspired by the materials. I am always saying there has to be something useful I could make out of this.

(KB) I sometimes will have a new object in front of me for months and sketch all of the things I can imagine using the item. With my book dioramas I use old vintage puzzle pieces, and I will make up to thirty sketches before I decide on a design. I use my glass tabletop as a whiteboard to sketch the exact size of the pieces and get them into the right placement. Next, I make or find objects needed for the design and put it all together. This all takes time and love for the design!

3. Do you consider the environmental impact of the support materials you might use on the product (varnish, etc.) or the process (burning plastic?)

(SS) Yes, I do. My recycled baskets are made 100% out of recycled plastic bags. All I do is cut them into strips and weave. When I first started making recycled plastic baskets I had to try several methods including using scotch tape and hot glue before I was able to work out how to use only plastic bags. I am always trying new (to me) weaving methods which require other materials like wire.

(KB) With my bracelets I am a little worried about the resin I use. I looked into “eco-friendly” options but many of those products were less efficient. With my paper creations I try to use white glue as much as possible.

4. Where do you obtain the raw materials for your items? 

(SS) I have been saving plastic bags for about five years now. I have one large bin full. Being an old environmentalist, I have always used reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping. Once in a while, though, I will end up at a store without my bags and will end up bringing home a few single-use bags. I also have several friends who save me their single-use bags. I know someday single-use plastic bags will be a thing of the past.

(KB) Most of the things that I like to work with were discarded (used gift cards from friends or businesses, old wood, cardboard) and others are found at garage sales, thrift stores and sometimes others trash. ☺

5. Do you feel that working with recycled materials changes the way you think about waste in general?

(SS) It does. I have always been an environmentalist and grew up recycling, reusing and thinking about the impact I have on the earth. It also changes the way my friends think of waste. They are always asking me if I could use something they are tossing out. I am not a hoarder but if a creative idea comes to me the instant they ask I will accept the challenge.

(KB) Yes. I am always thinking about our world and the impact of the waste we as consumers create. I think we need to take more responsibility for the destruction we cause and not look at the earth as if we were consumers of it, but the caretakers.

Thanks so much for participating, Sally and Kim!

A Guide to Buying Used in Los Angeles

I live in one of the most glamorous cities in the world. Personal grooming is a moral imperative; million dollar houses are commonplace; there’s a C-list celebrity in every Starbucks. I’m sure it’s a great place to live if you’re rich, but, then, what place isn’t? I’m here to tell you, though, in the used goods department, the trickle down theory really holds water. For the thrifty 99%-er, L.A. is a bottom feeder’s paradise.

First of all, the yard sales are nearly year-round, and if you target wealthy neighborhoods, totally worth your while. (A barely used breadmaker for $5? A metal colander for a buck? I’m all over it.) If you don’t enjoy poring over a stranger’s belongings spread out on their lawn on a blanket, that’s okay. The thrift stores are also quite good. I’m going to break it down for you.


There are numerous places to buy used designer clothes in L.A. at a fraction of the original cost, such as the AdDress boutique in Santa Monica and 3020 Designer Resale in Brentwood. There are also several fashionable used chains such as Wasteland which cater to a younger demographic. But my dead favorite place to buy clothes is It’s A Wrap, with one location on the west side and one in Burbank.  These clothes are all barely used (sometimes not even worn once!) and hail from shows and studios around town. I have purchased many a pair of Bebe and Theory pants and one murderously awesome Nanette Lepore blazer (——>) from this store, usually at about 50 – 75% off the original price. (The blazer was $15! Why am I not wearing it right now? Don’t know, and seems like a bad call.) The selection is great if you’re on the small side, but they do often have plus-size stuff as well. And if you’re the kind of person who gets a kick out of wearing a scarf that was featured on a Law and Order episode or a shirt from That 70s Show, that’s a little fun bonus for you.

If you’re on a really tight budget, It’s a Wrap does have a rack outside both their stores which features items around $10 (and sometimes less), and you could probably throw together a decent outfit for $15 or $20 on a good day. (I have a jacket from there which I got for $6 which I wear quite a bit.) All the Out of The Closets I’ve ever been to also had very wearable used clothing sections that are quite inexpensive. Also the Salvation Army boutique in Santa Monica (with a regular Salvation Army next door) also features high-end clothing in excellent shape at reasonable prices. Especially good if you need some stuff for work but don’t feel like blowing your whole budget.


Especially if you like vintage stuff, the two best used furniture places on the west side are easily Wertz Brothers and Pepe’s. Pepe’s is particularly good in terms of customer service, and they just seem like super nice people. Wertz Brothers is massive, their prices are good, and they have both contemporary and vintage items. If you’re looking for something really contemporary and specific, like a Pottery Barn couch that you can’t quite afford but you really dig, you can continually check craigslist and one will eventually turn up — that’s the magic of living in a big city.

If you’re willing to travel south a little Studio Antiques in El Segundo is also pretty great, as is Street Faire Antiques in Torrance, which is where I bought my beloved dresser. They also sponsor a monthly street fair with antique dealers from all over, which is a good size and a lot easier to deal with than that flea market at the Rose Bowl.


There are several National Council of Jewish Women’s Thrift Stores in L.A. which I think are generally overpriced, though they are well-organized and tidy, which I appreciate. I hear occasional stories of some good deal had in the clothing department, but they skew pretty old ladyish, if you ask me. However, in the plus column, if you’re out for dishes or knick-knacks, it’s not a bad place. They do have decent vintage furniture sometimes. Also, because it’s not exactly run by hipsters, you can occasionally find something on the cheap that they simply don’t realize would be valuable in another setting, such as my matching mid-century lamps with shades, which I got for $25 apiece (<——-that’s one of ’em). I saw a very cheap mission style chair there recently which I fervently hope went to a good home.

For general household items, I’ll generally go to any Out of the Closet, has many stores throughout southern California. If you need something to hang on the wall, a teapot, or a lamp, you’ve got a good chance of finding one at a reasonable price.

Good luck out there, fellow shoppers!

Saturday Roundup

I was pretty psyched to find a feature in the LA Times that tells you whether specific items are recyclable or not, and breaks it down by city. I was specifically interested in padded envelopes, and it’s not looking good. I think the very fact that whether or not you can recycle chopsticks, wooden or plastic, varies so widely even in L.A. County shows how much effort it takes to recycle responsibly. I do hope this process becomes more streamlined since almost no one is going to take the time to research which bin every item goes into.

Some environmentally-minded people in New Orleans are looking to get people to recycle the 25 million pounds of plastic beads that make their way to that city each year during Mardi Gras. But apparently New Orleans has a long way to go to even embrace curbside recycling in a big way. Let’s hope it pans out!

Some hunter and climate change denier guy is prepared to give you a fancy gun if you can convince him that climate change is happening. Attention, small subset of human who are environmentalists and gun enthusiasts. Get on that!

And some woman in Florida burned down a 3,500 hundred year old cypress tree while smoking meth inside it. It’s such a famous tree it has a name and I’ve heard of it: The Senator. She even took photos of it burning down and showed them around, which is what ultimately got her nabbed. Not exactly a victory for humanity.

Have a great weekend!