Tag Archives: living green

Urban Composting

This was originally posted on May 19th on www.thenewnew.blogspot.com where I am a contributing writer……

The rain showers here in NYC haven’t let up in what seems weeks. If you are anything like me, your overall summertime morale hasn’t benefited from all this precipitation, but the flowers, gardens and lawns sure have. My own urban garden is growing so fast, lush and green it’s amazing!
Gardening is one of my favorite DIY hobbies. Such satisfaction from planting tiny little seeds, taking care of them, feeding the soil and watching everything grow! I used to think I didn’t have much of a green thumb, but those days are a changin’ my friends. Like anything else, the more you work at it the more you learn over time.
After covering the basics, the next logical step in my gardening journey is composting. For some reason composting had always intimidated me, I have always felt that you have to really ‘know what you are doing’ to get results….I sort of chuckle thinking about that now, because it’s actually pretty easy. You throw stuff in a bin, mix it up once in a while and you get beautiful lush fertilizer. It just takes a little elbow grease and patience (and of course knowing your ‘greens’ and your ‘browns’)! Not only is it organic, it reduces your garbage output and it’s totally free.
Urban composting can be done indoors or outdoors in various different ways, in small spaces and large. You can make it work for you, your lifestyle and your space. To fend off my composting fears (like how do I prevent a stinky bin, what about rats and flies and stuff…?) I attended a composting workshop held by the Lower East Side Ecology Center (through the NYC Compost Project). It gave me the confidence to go for it on my own and have been working mine for just over a month now!

My metal compost bin + what I added today (before it got a good stir!)

Don’t have enough space, time or resources to compost yourself – but want to put your organic waste to good use?
Several of the city’s Greenmarkets are running a pilot composting collection program. You can save your compost materials (like your veggie scraps, coffee grinds or eggshells) and bring them to the collection site. Did you know that over the past nine weekends they have collected almost 50,000 pounds of food scraps in Brooklyn and Manhattan? That is a ton of waste being kept out of New York City’s garbage turned into useful nutrients.

Even if your urban garden is your windowsill or your fire escape it’s enough space to have a DIY garden all your own. Carve out a little piece of green :)

Happy gardening!

Useful composting resources + links for NYC residents:

Now go out there and get your hands dirty!!

Until next time…..

5 {easy} steps towards being green

living a ‘greener’, more socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle isn’t the easy way out, and it takes some effort, i know…but there a lots of super easy little things you can do that will add up over time. i truly think that what i do makes a difference (even if some people roll their eyes and scoff at that). if even only just one millionth of a sliver of a difference. but it’s something.

let’s say that today, you don’t do anything more than casually recycle but don’t consciously make big changes or efforts to help the environment or to reduce waste. it happens…i’m not judging, but just don’t tell me you don’t have time. because i’m going to give you 5 easy things you can do to work towards a ‘greener’ lifestyle that don’t take any extra effort at all.

#1 – stop using paper napkins.
my hubby and i cook dinner and have a sit down meal everyday. we used to use paper napkins or paper towels  – until about 3 years ago when we ditched them forever. we now use only cloth napkins…and we don’t necessarily wash them after every meal, or everyday, but probably once every week or so (we have a lot) – so it never causes extra loads of laundry. it’s like a couple of extra pairs of socks in the laundry. no biggie, right?

#2 – don’t buy bottled water.
i drink a lot of water at home – and on the go. i’m hate to admit it, but we used to buy those gigantic packs of water at costco all the time. we always had water on hand chilling in the fridge. i cringe just thinking about it….we are now total Brita converts. just try it out. i promise you’ll like it, it isn’t any extra work, really, it becomes an easy routine!! i fill the Brita pitcher without even thinking about what i’m doing half the time, it just happens now…and the filters are 100% recyclable (in partnership with Preserve). and go out and get yourself a beautiful sigg stainless steel water bottle for on the go!

#3 – buy tree-free or 100% recycled toilet paper.
this one literally takes zero effort. many tree-free paper products are made out of sugarcane pulp (called bagasse,  it’s the residue left over after the sugar is extracted – not only is it a by-product, it’s a 100% biodegradable byproduct – a double whammy!).  and it’s easy to find, duane reade sell a 75% tree-free toilet paper. yeah, it’s not the softest stuff ever, but why cut down trees and use virgin wood for your ass? …and for something you use for less than a minute and then immediately throw away? you know i have a point….

#4 – use reuseable shopping bags.
this one takes minimal effort – actually the most effort is actually in remembering to bring the bags to the store in the first place. i hate it when i forget. but it’s not like anyone is asking us to remember and recite the constitution or anything….get cute ones from baggu, envirosax or muji (my favorite) or make your own! most tuck away and fold up easily so you can keep one stuffed in the bottom of your bag or in your car…easy peasy, right?

#5 – go paperless.
are you still getting paper bills in the mail? you are, really? (i’m not judgin’, i’m just sayin’!…) …along with all the other junk those companies send out (that we immediately dismiss) we don’t need a physical memory that we owe someone money. you know and i know, we have to pay them regardless. so stop cutting down trees! most banks / credit card companies offer paperless billing these days and easy 24/7 access to your bill online. my bank even has what they call a ‘green’ checking account – which i use and love…it’s entirely paperless, no bills, statements, paper ads, notices, nothing. in fact, i don’t receive any paper bills from any companies at all in the mail (although i think my neighbor is making up for it with the amount of crap he gets daily and abandons on the floor…make it stop!!).

so what do you think? it’s an easy enough start, right? …it’s always better to do something small than nothing at all. maybe there are other things you may find easier to incorporate into your daily life, and that’s great!
we all have busy schedules and no one wants to make life more complicated, but i think these 5 things are pretty simple, and can be very impactful.

want to learn more?
these websites can help you get you going:
national geographic green guide
the green living blog
eco chick blog
planet green
tree hugger

reduce, reuse, recycle!

hey, you!! ya gonna recycle that?

i hate throwing things away. (let me rephrase that so you don’t think i’m a crazy packrat…)

i hate throwing away things i know will end up in the landfill. i think about it every single time i throw something into the garbage. i wish i didn’t have to throw anything away. but that isn’t realistic, so i recycle everything i can. and when i can’t, well – it just makes me sad.

i have pretty much always thought this way, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that i took some steps to permanently change my habits. i guess i realized that if i really did care about it, i’ve got to do something about it. so over the past few years, i have made various adjustments to my daily habits and purchasing choices, working towards being a more responsible consumer. and let’s face it, we all consume.

when i created my handbag company, sans map, i embraced this viewpoint and interweave it into everything i do. from the materials i use for my bags, right down to how i dispose of my fabric scraps. i hate to say it, but sewing creates waste.  fabric scraps, tiny unusable pieces and thread ends and random fluffy edge pieces. i cut and sew in the most efficient way i can and am conscious not to waste…but there are always some scraps in the end. normally these would get tossed into the garbage.

i recycle mine!

thanks to  wearable collections. all i have to do is drop off my fabric scraps and they do the rest. easy peasy.

among many other locations throughout the boroughs and manhattan they pitch a tent every saturday at my local greenmarket at grand army plaza at prospect park. they say that a recent study showed that ‘386 million pounds of textiles enter the NYC waste stream annually, representing close to 6% of total waste’.  that’s a shit ton of stuff. they accept all types of (clean) used clothing and textiles including curtains, towels, hats, belts, shoes, and more. they don’t list ‘fabric scraps’ on their site but i’ve not been turned away yet. wearable collections works with non-profits so the usable and wearable clothing goes to those less fortunate and several local charities.  whatever cannot be re-purposed, sold or donated gets shredded up and recycled – used for upholstery, new textiles and more. this is where i’m assuming my bag of fabric scraps go. well, i’d hope so.


photo courtesy of wearablecollections.com

so in the upcoming weeks, i am going to share with you what i do (and don’t do) in order to consume and dispose of more responsibly.  i’m not perfect, and am working on ways to do more – and maybe i’ll inspire someone to change – even if one habit.  i sure can’t change the way the world consumes, but i can change my own actions, and perhaps a few other minds along the way…

….and for me? i’m trying something new this year – – composting.  my soon-to-be veggie garden will be so happy :-)

reduce, reuse and recycle

xo c

ca pousse toujours….

calendula flower growing in my garden

whoever started the age-old saying ‘it’s growing like weeds’ wasn’t kidding around. and neither do those weeds.

a while back, i shared our progress in our back garden pre-and-post-de-gunking ….we are now into phase II of our garden beautification.

for my co-worker that was shocked when i said i don’t own a t.v., and to answer his question ‘what the hell do you do then?’…in addition to all the other stuff i keep ridiculously busy with – – i work in my garden. and i love it.

sort of like the other stress-relieving and life-enhancing activities i do like running, (the new addition of) yoga and of course the methodical and relaxing nature of sewing….gardening is relaxing, soul-reviving and fun.  i actually like watering my flowers. the gratification that comes with watching things grow, beautiful things grow, is infinitesimal happiness.

i don’t miss that t.v. a bit…

so when my ‘weed’ garden tucked in the back corner of my flower garden began getting out of control – – (i had let it go for two too many weeks), something had to be done. from the front of the garden where we sit on the patio, it was barely noticeable…..until you walk past the hydrangea bush and see what turned into literally a forest of weeds. at first it was ok. you could see the path and even walk along it.

this was how the back corner and path looked for most of the summer so far…..

my 'weed' garden is on the right (the other side is groundcover)

….then those stubborn weeds revolted and took over!!

(cue scene from home alone with macaulay culkin screaming hands slapping on cheeks…!!!!)

the great big 'Weed Take-over"!! argh!!!!!

we don’t go down that easily you crappy weeds.

so one huge trip to lowes with our borrowed jeep during a brief weekend car-sitting for a friend and we were on the attack!

with droplets of sweat running down my face in the 100+ degree heat, i pulled, tugged, yanked and got dirty in a maddening attempt to rid my garden of those unrighteous weeds once and for all!

poof! if only i had a magic disappearing wand, i would have had those weeds conquered ages ago.

weeds pulled, flowers planted and mulch spread…..almost there…..

at this point, i felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. weeds to me are like a messy closet. or piles of stuff just sitting. it’s like a silent nagging feeling…..

sweeping, pea gravel and lots of watering later – – the finished product!!!

now the back of the garden looks as pretty as the front!

phase III – – grow grass (again)……

until later, let’s hope we can keep those weeds at bay…..ca pousse toujours!

turning sweat and tears (and a few beers) into beauty…

many of you have been asking and wondering how the transformation is going in our backyard. the time has come my friends…to reveal our lovely garden before…..how it looked when we moved in….and now, lovely, clean, green and lush.

since david and i are now us +1 (we are totally loving our little ella puppy:-) we are so glad to have the backyard for her to play and run around in (she loves to run around like a maniac, it’s really funny…).

so with out further ado….before and after pics – enjoy!


here, we cleaned up the piles of garbage, beer bottles, rotting leaves and plants – heaps and heaps of rusting who-knows-what – painted the rusted metal sheets a cheerful green and watched the garden grow! we installed beautiful slabs of slate that we literally pulled from other places around the yard (they were totally going to waste!) into a colorful and unique patio space. this is one of our many seating spaces in the yard……


here, we re-furbished the cool benches left by the previous tenants, planted grass seed (we are still working on the grass, as you can see….it’s tough without a hose, if you can even believe we are doing all of this with multiple watering cans!!). worked hard and often on week-pulling and teasing the vines back into their original place…and planted lots of flowers!


here, we did tons and tons of weeding, pulling out dead and rotting crap, trimmed down existing plants and threw out heaps and heaps of dead, decomposing leaves. we planted flowers and were glad that so much was already in the garden for us to work with!


and a few extra shots for your viewing  pleasure :-)

amazing, huh? what a little effort, lots of sweat and a few cold beers can do!! :-)

uncovering and discovering

a day that could not have been more perfect started off nicely. sleeping in….jamaican patties for lunch from christie’s on flatbush….quick trip to the local hardware store for supplies…..walking around prospect heights…

working in the garden….

the weather was more than beautiful and the best day so far this year! we raked, scraped, overturned, pulled and uncovered much of our lovely garden today. it’s far from finished but we are definitely on the way to making something out of our space!

many, many bags of sticks, leaves and who-knows-what later…….the plants and flowers in our yard can now breathe a breath of fresh air, start soaking up some sun and grow, grow, grow!!

i mentioned before the ridiculous amount of old, rusty, crusty shit lying around….i did take out most of the pieces but left all of the pennies! i couldn’t help but think of all the wishes that may have been made and felt it necessary to let those wishes take root…and continue on with a wishing garden of our own…

i found this old new york city subway token……

we’ll continue to work diligently, watch as more grows and hope for all sorts of lovely things to pop up as the spring makes its way through… i promise to share our explorations, changes and sometime soon show a few before and after photos.

and look what else we found…..strawberries! (and even a cute little marker that i dug out from underneath the brush)!

i’m sure there’s more here than we even know….oh, the excitement!

looks like these daffodils enjoyed soaking up the sun – – they sure made our day brighter :-)

the hard work will continue……!! :-)

what was forgotten turns beautiful!

sans map bag purse fabric

some of my vintage skirts waiting to be transformed

things are off to a good start here at sans map – – tomorrow will be one full week up and running on etsy!

thank you to everyone who has given me feedback and/or encouragement so far – – i love to hear what you think, please don’t hesitate to let me know :-) suggestions for improvement? send them my way!

i have lots of ideas, a few new designs and plenty of stuff swirling around my head to keep me busy and i plan on adding more items to my shop very soon…

i found some amazing vintage pieces to use as fabric….it is surprising to see what other people find worthless and give away. when i got them home, a couple almost became part of my wardrobe……the fabric is stunning! (don’t worry, i didn’t give in to temptation this time….)

i love to pick apart vintage clothing, something about how the clothing was made, how it feels, a forgotten beauty. i re-purpose the material with the utmost care and respect.  i have even found some handmade items that are finding purpose again and giving them a second life! i always wonder who wore these items and what history they carry with them. it’s intriguing.

one thing that i am careful about (we always learn important things the hard way, right?) – – is inspecting vintage clothing for imperfections, excessive wear and (gasp!) moths. it is imperative. thankfully i have a good process of de-lining all skirts, throughly washing and drying them and then…..when all is said and done, ironing them while i inspect. just in case i missed anything at the time of purchase. this helps me not only to physically inspect every nook and cranny of the fabric but also to envision the fabric as a new creation!!

so don’t fret, i personally clean and inspect everything and if it’s not in excellent condition – i don’t use it.

of course, my motivation to use vintage clothing is because re-purposing is eco-friendly, cuts down on waste and helps reduce over-production. there are thousands of vintage items waiting to be used again, sadly forgotten, unwanted, and i’m in line to make it happen.

it is the entire process that gets me ticking; from searching for specific types of fabric by color, age and how the fabric feels….to the actual sewing…..i could sew for hours on end. and seriously, i do.

so as i start off, my heels firmly planted on the path leading forward, i feel like i’m off to a good start.

and i hope it only gets better from here.

….not to mention i’m moving to brooklyn in 2 weeks   :-)