The Note Passer

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On vacation

Hi all! I’ll be on vacation until September 4th. I’m not going to post, but you might see some changes going on around the site and in the Resources section. 

I’m also spending time with family, reading, and relaxing as much as possible. 

Views From My Grandparents’ House

My grandparents are moving from their house in Florida after 37 years to Arkansas to be closer to family. Growing up, my house was a block from theirs and I spent a lot of time with them. This is a series of things I’m used to seeing at their house. See more on Instagram

Ethical Writers Coalition

While I’m gone, check out the site I designed and the cool new group I’m a part of: Ethical Writers Coalition. Add all of the members to your social media and reading lists because they are awesome!

Fixing Fashion

FIXING FASHION is on Kickstarter. Fund an industry insider’s expose of the global apparel trade, critically examining the best and worst of industry practices.

As an 18 year apparel industry professional who has spoken out vocally against the social, economic, and environmental costs of the global fashion trade, Michael Lavergne has been deeply disappointed that few industry insiders have come forward to publicly address the real issues at the heart of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

This project is a manifesto for the collective consumer, business, and civil society actions he believes are needed in helping us to rethink the way we make, market and buy our clothes in one of the global economy’s most lucrative and labour intensive sectors.

Tears in the Fabric is a multi-platform resource bringing together eyewitness testimonials, video, photography, journalism and campaign information surrounding the Rana Plaza factory collapse of 2013, as well as other materials relating to the international garments industry.

Tears in the Fabric is run and curated by Rainbow Collective and OpenVizor and and all materials are free for non-profit use.

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Filed under Instagram Ethical Writers Coalition Kickstarter

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Guest Post: Shop Local in Canada’s Capital

Today’s post is brought to you by Malorie Bertrand of EF Magazine. Malorie is a freelance writer, blogger, and stylist in Ottawa, Canada. If you like my blog, you’ll love finding out about cool fashion brands and sustainable beauty on EF Magazine! Follow her on a sustainable tour through Ottawa…

Call me crazy, but I think it’s often quite hard to find a city’s shopping area gems. Don’t you agree? It’s easy to find the touristy spots — for Ottawa this includes Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, Chateau Laurier, the Byward Market and Sparks Street, to name a few. It’s equally as easy to find shopping malls, but if you want the quaint boutique or cozy cafe, you have to dig a little deeper or be a really good sleuth and sniff out the hot spots on various travel blogs. 

So I’ve put together a short list of some of my favourite places to shop in Ottawa for Made in Canada, locally made, ethical, sustainable, vintage, you name it fashion. This isn’t an exhaustive list but these are my go-tos when pulling for photo shoots or buying for myself.

Starting from east to west:

Young Janes

Young Janes is an adorable vintage boutique on Dalhousie Street, just east of the famous Byward Market. Dalhousie is a great little shopping district with the original Victoire Boutique location (more on that diamond to come), Workshop, Wunderkamer and now Isabelle too. Young Janes is a well-curated shop full of vintage finds that somehow manage to be contemporary and oh-so-wearable. Owner Mika and her husband used to live in the UK and she is as trendy as they come.

Bread & Sons Bakery

Bread & Sons Bakery is my go-to for scrumptious, vegan, chocolate oatmeal cookies or a refreshing cold, gazpacho soup. You might want to stop here on your way west. Hope on the 2 Bayshore bus on Bank Street and you’ll be at our next shopping destination in fifteen minutes! 

Oresta Organic Skin Care

Oresta Organic Skin Care is a well-established, locally owned organic spa and eco-beauty business with three locations in the city. Owner Oresta has designed each location with warm, wooden furniture to showcase a beautiful collection of hand-picked all-natural and organic skin care, body and makeup lines. My favourite place for a facial!

Bridgehead Roastery

Bridgehead Roastery is where the magic happens, for coffee that is. Bridgehead is a local coffee shop that has expanded to 15 locations, plus the new roastery space. The coffee is fair trade, organic, and strong, just the way I like it.


Victoire is Ottawa’s boutique darling that has found much success. As I mentioned before, co-owners Katie and Regine expanded to this second location and most recently opened up a shop in Toronto on Ossington. Victoire is known for their pretty dresses and rockstar accessories, not to mention the retro decor and that timeless floral wallpaper. Here you’ll find a plethora of Canadian designers.

Jasmine Virani

Right next door is the lovely Jasmine Virani and her namesake store/studio. Jasmine not only sells pieces from her own line but a slew of other jewelry lines from all over Canada. Expect a lot of silver, gold, raw stones, and recycled materials.

Twiss & Weber

Twiss & Weber is the new kid on the block. I (gasp) have yet to actually go into the store, but I’ve poked my head in once and squished my face up against its windows a few times to take a peek after hours. Co-owners Laura and Tonia met through mutual hobbies of knitting, felting, and dyeing and five years later opened up shop to sell their own ethical clothing line. The shop also features accessories from other Ottawa-based and Canadian designers.

AMH Style

AMH Style is my favourite consignment shop in Ottawa. It is beautifully laid out with wall-to-wall fashions for all types at great second-hand prices. From high-end vintage to popular lines such as BCBG and Club Monaco, this shop is always my first stop.

Green Tree Eco-Fashion

Green Tree Eco-fashion is Ottawa’s first contemporary eco-fashion boutique and it has a loyal following of shoppers. I also pull from here for shoots a lot because owner Sara offers a lot of European and US lines I can’t find anywhere else in town. Green Tree also carries one of Ottawa’s only eco-fashion lines, Duffield Design, which offers beautiful, stretchy pieces that are lovingly hand dyed.

Cafe My House

After a long day of shopping, head back east on Wellington to Cafe My House for a delicious raw food experience. The ambiance is wonderful and I would highly recommend sitting outside in the restaurant’s private courtyard.

Here’ a link to a Google Map of all of the places! 

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Filed under Malorie Bertrand EF Magazine Ottawa Canada Young Janes Bread & Sons Bakery Oresta Organic Skin Care Bridgehead Roastery Victoire Jasmine Virani Twiss & Weber AMH Style Green Tree Eco-Fashion Cafe My House

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Review: Luva Huva Lingerie

Luva Huva produces beautiful, handmade lingerie using ethically sourced fabrics. Joanna Ketterer, the designer, wanted to create a lingerie collection that celebrated elegant feminine style whilst also providing a sustainable alternative to the often wasteful fashion industry. All of the pieces are handmade in the UK from locally sourced, vintage, and end-of-line fabrics wherever possible. Ethical fabrics such as soy, organic cotton, and bamboo, which are brilliantly soft and breathable, are also used in this beautiful collection.

In a previous post, I covered ethical lingerie brands, including Luva Huva. Because of limited fabrics and editions, some ethical lingerie brands lack a wide range of sizes, but I’m happy to report that Luva Huva carries both larger cup sizes (A-D) and panties (UK 8-18). They sent me their Coraline Black Lace Triangle Bra and Brief Set to try out and review.

As soon as I opened the small envelope from London, I could tell the the pieces were delicate, but extremely well-made. The lovely lace detailing is strong and the bamboo jersey is soft. This bra won’t provide much support, but it’s light and breathable, making it perfect under airy summer dresses; I’ve found that lighter bras make a world of difference in the summer months. For this reason, I am definitely taking this set on vacation! 

I’m impressed with the fit, quality, and style of the Coraline set and would love to own more pieces from Luva Huva. They carry a wide range of sizes, colors, and styles which include pajamas, slips, t-shirts, bridal, and even swimwear. Luckily, they are having a huge sale online and, although they are located in the UK, shipping is amazingly only $7.95 to the US. Free recorded delivery is available on all UK orders over £50. You can also order from them via Etsy. Below are some of my favorite items (all on sale right now!)

Click on the image to be taken to the item.


*I was gifted the lingerie set featured here by Luva Huva, but rest assured I only recommend brands I wholeheartedly believe in.

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Filed under Luva Huva lingerie ethical fashion

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Vintage Bummer: Mode Marteau

Ariana Boussard-Reifel and I kept running into each other. First at the Manhattan Vintage Show and then through the business equivalent of online dating, Google Analytics (thanks to this page). We finally gave in to serendipity and, after setting up an IRL meeting, learned that we also live in the same neighborhood. We’ve been paling around ever since! The bonus point of this story is that Ariana runs an exceptionally curated online vintage site called Mode Marteau (The Fashion Hammer, in English. That’s right. The. Fashion. Hammer.) That being the case, I of course get bummed by the exceptional items that do not fit me (or sometimes my budget), but taunt me from the pages of Mode Marteau. Below are some of my favorites right now. 

Click on the image to be taken to the item.

Also, let it be known that if you are not in NYC, you can purchase the goods online on the Mode Marteau website, on Etsy, on Reissued, on Threadflip. Promo code FRESH will get you 30% off the entire site right now!

If you are in NYC, Mode Marteau is having a HUGE SALE August 14-16 at their DUMBO studio. I will, unfortunately, be on vacation. But you, you get all of the details below and go, go, go!

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Filed under Mode Marteau vintagebummer vintage Etsy Threadflip

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It’s a Clean, Clean Summer

Summer requires us to use extra products to weather the outdoors, especially people like me with sensitive skin. Daytime sunscreen and nighttime bug repellant are staples for summer living. Below are my picks for clean and natural options so you can stay outdoors and avoid chemicals.

All Terrain TerraSport Sunscreen 

I mentioned All Terrain in my Guide to Clean Sunscreen and I’ve purchased it for my upcoming vacation. TerraSport offers natural broad-spectrum protection from both UVA & UVB rays, will not clog your pores, contains no animal derived ingredients, and is never tested on animals.

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen

I also mentioned Babo in the guide and I’m interested to try out this clear zinc version. I think it will be great to use on my face. It absorbs quickly, won’t clog pores, and is moisturizing against wind, all without white residue!

Real Earth Bug Away Balm 

This solid bug balm by Real Earth is convenient for travel. It provides natural protection against mosquitoes, biting flies, black flies, gnats, no-see-ums, chiggers, and other pesky insects. And it’s safe for pregnant women, children and pets.

Meow Meow Tweet Herbal Insect Repellant 

Meow Meow Tweet’s Herbal Insect Repellant is powerful enough to combat prehistoric mosquitoes without toxic chemicals. Plant-based essential oils combine with natural skin toners to create a body mist that can be sprayed directly onto your skin, hair, and clothes. AND it’s packaged in an aluminum bottle with a biodegradable label!

Prosperity Candle Citronella Coffee Tin 

Keep the bugs away without chemicals! Made in a repurposed coffee tin, these soy-blend candles feature a wood wick for a long-lasting, wind-resistant flame. Prosperity Candles are artfully hand-poured by a woman earning a living wage; each candle comes with the portrait and name of the woman who made it, connecting candle lovers with candle artisans. Check out the 50% off summer sale going on now!

Simply. Natural. Heal. Up. Balm 

Even when we have the best preparation, sometimes bug bites and sunburn still happen. Heal up quickly and safely with this balm made with natural ingredients like lavender and tea tree. 

Summer is in full swing and I’ll be on vacation in less than a week! I’ll be taking a break from posting, but I’ll be working on the Resources section to help you find more clean and ethical options.

* This post contains affiliate links to Abe’s Market, a site I highly recommend for clean and ethical products.

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Filed under sunscreen bug repellant Abe's Market Babo Botanicals Meow Meow Tweet Real Earth Bug Away Balm Prosperity Candle

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How to Get Rid of: Books

I realize “get rid of” might sound a little aggressive, but rest assured I don’t mean in a Fahrenheit 451 manner or anything. Books represent knowledge which, as you may have noticed, I love to share freely; so I constantly get rid of books by swapping with friends or sending them to family members via media mail (the super slow and cheap choice). And as I become more of a minimalist, I also find myself parting with that growing stack of books I thought I’d read, but probably never will. I’d like to pass on to you some of the best ways I’ve discovered to share, swap, or donate used and unwanted books.

Swap Through the Mail

Swap sites are cropping up everywhere which is indicative of the new sharing economy. There are quite a few book swapping sites, but the following seem to be the ones most people are happy with. I haven’t used any of them personally.

BooksFreeSwap: After joining and activating your free account you can list books or audiobooks you no longer want, along with their condition, and you will be notified when a member wants your listed title. The recipient pays shipping, you pack the book, print the prepaid label, and mail it. Create your own Wish List and you’ll be notified when the books are listed and available. In order to help support the community atmosphere at BooksfreeSwap, you must list 5 Items and add funds (minimum $10) to your account before you can receive a book from another member. 

BookMooch: This site is completely free through a points system; in order to mooch books from others, you need to earn points which you use up as you get free books from other people. Entering in a book you own and want to give away gets you 1/10th of a point. Giving books away gets you 1-3 points. You can also give your points to the charities they work with. See more about the points system here.

WhatsOnMyBookshelf: This one also uses points; for every 5 books that you register on the site you will receive 1 credit as a promotion. List your books and either write a description or use a commercial description. Members also control the categorization of books. Unlike a library or bookstore, the organization of books depends upon personalized tagging rather than traditional categories or numbering schemes. Other users request your book by redeeming some of their credits. You pay to ship the book, but it’s free to receive.

Host a Book Swap

My mom periodically hosts a books swap. They are really fun and easy to pull off:

  1. Pick a date.
  2. Send out invites.
  3. Everyone brings their unwanted books.
  4. Pile up the books and swap away (or take turns if you prefer).
  5. Get rid of the leftovers with one of the methods in this post.
  6. BONUS: Literary-themed refreshments! 

Yerdle for Credits

I’ve written about Yerdle* before. Their aim is to reduce consumption by promoting a sharing community, which certainly includes books. List your books (or anything) on Yerdle from the mobile app and receive points which you can use to get other stuff. This is a good option if you want something other than books for your books. The recipient pays the shipping ($2-4), you print the label, and then send it off. 

Sell or Trade at a Local Bookstore

I’m lucky enough to have the excellent Strand Bookstore and Westsider Books here in NYC. But many local used bookstores take trade-ins for cash or store credit. One more reason to support the increasingly rare local, independent bookstores.


If you’d rather just donate your unwanted books, there are many options available. 

Thrift stores: Your local thrift store will gladly take and resell or recycle your books, so just drop them off!

Shelters: Local shelters often take books as well, especially children’s books in the women’s shelters. Call ahead and ask for details.

Reading Reflections: Reading Reflections was started by the family of Edith and Morris Mendelsohn. Read the story here. They accept all new and gently used books, both children’s and adult which are then donated to various organizations worldwide.

Better World Books*: One of my favorite places to buy used books, Better World Books also accepts donations which they then sell (for charity funds) or donate to various organizations including The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Room To Read. They even pay for shipping and the carbon offsets that are part of their triple bottom line. Donate here.

Books for SoldiersYou need to register for the site, but once you do, you can help out the troops by sending soldiers the books they requested through the website.

Book4Cause: Many of the donations from Book4Causes drives and donation campaigns go to Africa to support the Good Books for Africa program.

Operation Paperback: Thisnonprofit allows you to send your used books directly to the troops. After registering with the site, you can request the addresses of troops overseas based on their requested genre. And if you’re concerned about the cost of shipping, it costs around $6 to send a box of 20 paperbacks.

As you can see, there are numerous options for getting rid of books you no longer need or want. Fortunately, swaps and local bookstores are also good ways to replenish your stock. If possible, buy used books or borrow from your local library.

How do you get rid of your books?

affiliate link 

Filed under books Better World Books BooksfreeSwap BookMooch WhatsOnMyBookshelf Yerdle Strand Bookstore Westsider Books Ray Bradbury Books for Soldiers Book4Cause Operation Paperback

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Jennifer Fukushima

Born and raised in northern Canada, Jennifer Fukushima trained in fashion design at the prestigious Ryerson University. She has worked under other Canadian fashion labels including Preloved, Peach Berserk, and Fashion Crimes. Her previous label, Paper People Clothing, was sold through retailers across Canada and the US for over 12 years.

Jennifer Fukushima’s eponymous line focuses on high quality cut and sew knitwear. Wearable mosaics are created out of luxurious natural fibers and ecologically conscious blends. Working to keep the Canadian fashion industry alive, everything is designed and produced in Canada.

As a designer and entrepreneur, I have made it my mission to source and produce locally whenever possible and to educate the public on just what goes into a garment.

Jennifer Fukushima believes that fashion should always combine style, comfort, and function without compromising quality, craftsmanship, worker rights, or the environment.

  • Fabrics are sourced from across the globe, giving special preference to sustainably grown and manufactured goods whenever possible.
  • Natural fibers are selected for their comfort, quality, and resource renewability.
  • Select synthetics are used sparingly to provide increased strength and durability to natural fibers.
  • All garments are manufactured in Canada where workers are paid a living wage under safe working conditions.
  • Great care is taken during each step of the process from design to materials selection through to construction so that each garment can be enjoyed for multiple seasons.

It’s quite possible that last winter wore out everyone’s warm clothes. If you need something warm and well-made, consider these unique pieces from Jennifer Fukushima. Keep reading for a discount code!

You can all take advantage of a 10% discount online with the code THENOTEPASSER10. When you check out, use the code + opt in to receive marketing (I’m assured that they don’t send out many emails and you can opt out anytime). Valid from Aug 1 to Oct 31 2014.


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Filed under Jennifer Fukushima ethical fashion Canada recycled

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I’m a Minimalist

I’m a minimalist. Well, aspiring anyway. I suppose it’s a natural extension of a sustainable lifestyle—having only what you need. I’ve been dabbling for a while with experiments like the 6 Items Challenge and paring down my beauty products; but I suspect that, like my vegetarianism, it will be a long process. Minimalism can take many forms, but I like this definition from The Minimalists:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. 

For many years now, my husband and I have lived in small spaces. Our apartments in China were always quite small and we didn’t own any furniture there. When we returned to the US in 2009, we had only suitcases, filled mostly with clothing. We started from scratch with furniture donated by my parents or found in thrift stores or on the sidewalk (I love finding awesome sidewalk stuff!) and we bought a bed and a couch. I think we have the right amount of furniture, but the amount of other stuff kept creeping up: books, linens, clothing, accessories, knickknacks. I come from a long line of hardcore organizers and I’d always been proud of my own skills. I can (and love to) organize massive amounts of stuff into tiny spaces where it is somehow still accessible. I even considered being a professional organizer. I thought this was a good thing (Thanks, Martha!), but then I read the article that started me on this journey, also by The Minimalists. In it, they state:

No matter how organized we are, we must continue to care for the stuff we organize, sorting and cleaning our meticulously structured belongings. When we get rid of the superabundance of stuff, however, we can make room for life’s more important aspects.

It was then I understood that my carefully organized stuff was still taking up my valuable time. And even though I enjoy organizing, I had to ask myself if that time and those things were adding value to my life. The answer: no. I decided then that I would start the journey of minimalism. The Minimalists website is a great place to start learning, specifically here. I’m still in the “getting rid of physical stuff” stage. I also have the desire to get my unwanted stuff to the most appropriate place, so I have stacks of books and piles of clothes in corners of the apartment; it’s annoying, but a necessary part of the process for me. My friend, Christina, has impeccable taste and a minimal aesthetic and is kindly helping me pare down my clothing into a capsule collection. Another friend, Lauren, is a constant inspiration of minimalism for the sake of the environment (zero waste, actually). I’m in good company and well on my way!

What do you think? Could you be a minimalist? Are you ready to get rid of anything not adding value to your life?

Filed under minimalism The Minimalists DeSmitten

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Vintage Bummer: Caftans & Beach Bags

Today’s Vintage Bummer is brought to you by Lauren Koster of Undeclared Panache!

After I read Elizabeth’s first Vintage Bummer column, I knew I had to get in on this! Like Elizabeth, I love browsing vintage. Sometimes I’m perusing Etsy for a dress to wear for a wedding and sometimes I am searching eBay for that specific Miu Miu shoe from three years ago that I still can’t get out of my head. No matter what method I’m using, I’m bound to come across some serious gems.  

Caftans & Beach Bags

Since the fashion set is starting to think fall, yet we are in the dog days of summer, I went with a few “buy now, wear now” styles. First up the caftan dress, one of my absolute favorite styles. There are an endless number of vintage caftans out there, from casual to dressy, embellished to plain, and at any price point; but the best part of buying this silhouette is that it’s sizing is virtually universal! It’s meant to be oversized and can be worn belted or flowy. Wouldn’t you like to spend your last beach days wearing one of these perfect cover-ups? And these beauties are only bummers to me because I already have an entire section of my closet dedicated to vintage caftans. Since I’m out of room, my bummer is your boon!

Click to buy on Etsy.

And second we have the perfect compliment to the caftan, the souvenir beach bag. So kitschy and Kate Spade-ish, this is a must-have accessory that is beyond fun to carry!

Click to buy on Etsy.

Don’t let Lauren’s finds get away! You can stalk more of her favorites on Etsy and all of her cheerful style, DIYs, and inspiration on her blog, Undeclared Panache.

As always, see all of the vintage and secondhand resources in my Vintage & Thrift section. And if you’d like me to help you find something in particular or if you’d like to submit a selection for this column, please email me. I’d love to hear from you!

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Filed under vintagebummer vintage Undeclared Panache Etsy

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Meet Sylvia Parker of Magpie

While walking in my neighborhood a few months ago, I noticed a chalkboard outside a shop advertising local and sustainable goods. I popped inside and found a well-curated boutique run by Sylvia Parker, a long time Upper West Sider and the knowledgeable proprietor of Magpie. Sylvia was kind enough to answer a few questions and let me photograph all the goodies in her shop. I also got to see her in action—giving recommendations, sharing the stories of items, and chatting with customers. In fact, I witnessed a man come into Magpie for the first time to buy a card and stay to recommend options for another customer looking for a housewarming gift. It was a friendly and cooperative effort and at the conclusion, gifts in hand, the woman exclaimed, “I always find the most amazing things in this store!”. The whole thing smacked of serendipity and all I can say is that if you need a special and sustainable gift, go to Magpie and you’ll likely leave with the perfect thing.

Introduce yourself. Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a native New Yorker—I was born on the Upper West Side. I attended college at Barnard and have lived here for more than thirty years after growing up in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, upstate New York, Connecticut, and Tennessee.  

Before Magpie, I was a business and legal editor, but had always dreamed of having my own shop—work that would be more visually and creatively satisfying and also support artists, the community, and companies that were doing good work. No experience, though, which is what led me to apply for a position at the American Folk Art Museum (and their shop) which I had long admired. The director there, Marie DiManno, was a gifted retailer who became a mentor and was so generous in sharing her more than thirty years of buying and merchandising experience with me. Through four years of experience at AFAM, I learned enough to do a start-up gift shop for the South Street Seaport Museum and then opened Magpie in 2012. I wanted a location on the Upper West because I realized that so many small, independent shops were being forced out of business. I wanted to bring that back and also offer brands and products that customers couldn’t find elsewhere. It gives me great pleasure to support local artists and other small businesses.

We are both Upper West Siders. Yay! Where are your favorite places to eat / play / hang out in the ‘hood?

On Sundays, you’ll often find me at the local greenmarket and flea market at Columbus and 77th Street which allows me to indulge two loves: farm-fresh, local produce and vintage shopping. For walking and biking, I love the Hudson River bike path by Riverside Park and Central Park’s rustic mini-waterfall and bird feeders in the Rambles where you can talk to local birders about their favorite sightings. Also the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which runs interesting film festivals, including one now called Sound & Vision—can’t wait to see a movie about a Japanese trance didgeridoo player!

New food discovery: the outdoor backyard garden at Bustan is a peaceful, pretty spot for weekend lunch. Try the soft egg burek (poached egg with spinach and truffle oil). And I can’t wait to try the new UWS outpost of Xi’an Famous Foods.  

Although I’ve lived here for such a long time, there’s always something new to discover. People have told me that I need to visit The Lotus Garden, a hidden gem of a garden that’s only open on Sundays.

[Note: I WILL become a key-holder at The Lotus Garden!]

Have customers (or their inquiries) changed over the past two years with regards to sustainability?

Definitely more knowledgeable; more and more customers are familiar with the concept of fair trade, for example, and why it’s important to support the fair trade community. I believe that merchandise still has to have functional and aesthetic appeal for customers, but the knowledge that a product is made sustainably of organic or recycled ingredients definitely gives customers an added incentive to buy.

How do you choose which brands to carry in the store? How do you find new ones?

I look for the beautiful, the whimsical, and intriguing—something that customers won’t find anywhere else. I also look for locally made or designed brands, and products that are handmade or made of organic or repurposed materials. If imported, I try to support fair trade companies and artisans as much as possible. Stationery and paper goods tend to be letterpress, handcrafted, or made of recycled paper.

For sourcing, I attend trade and craft shows, including a giant week-long outdoor flea market in Brimfield in Massachusetts and the Renegade Crafts Fair in Brooklyn. In the shop, we have our own in-house designer, Laura Rodriguez, who has her own company and is designing stylish products for kids and the home. Local artists will approach me, which is how I’ve found some of our most popular artists, including Jennifer Elling who makes beautiful origami-like sculptures out of vintage books. My newest designer is a woodworker from North Carolina named Buzz Coren who makes amazing earrings and pins out of intricately handcrafted hardwood. 

What’s your favorite item in the store right now?  

Teenie sterling silver and gold fill rings for $22 from Lio & Linn, two young Japanese designers from Brooklyn. The rings are handmade, can be mixed and matched, and worn either above or below the knuckle. We literally can’t keep them in stock! 

I rush into Magpie with a hostess gift emergency. Quick! What do you recommend I buy?  

Meow Meow Tweet’s Tangerine Basil and Grapefruit Mint soaps are organic, handmade in Brooklyn, and adorably packaged in labels they design themselves. Also Sobremesa’s hand-embroidered towels from a four-brother fair trade workshop in El Tun, Guatemala.  

You are the elusive New York City native! Is there any other place you wouldn’t mind living? Like, under duress?

If put to the test, I wish I could revisit New Zealand. They have incredible natural scenery, including volcanic lakes and bubbling geysers; down-to-earth, welcoming people; and delicious wine and locally sourced food.  

Where do you see Magpie and the sustainability movement going in the next few years?

I hope that people will have the foresight to realize that the sustainability movement is essential if we have any intention of preserving what’s left of the world for future generations. The impulse to buy gifts, for oneself or loved ones, won’t go away; but I hope that people will come to do so in a more thoughtful way and realize that supporting a shop like Magpie can help them to buy something that is both beautiful and sustainably made.

Find Sylvia at Magpie on the Upper West Side (488 Amsterdam Avenue) or online:


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Filed under NYC New York City Sylvia Parker Bustan Renegade Crafts Fair Laura Rodriguez Buzz Coren Lio & Linn Meow Meow Tweet Sombremesa The Lotus Garden Upper West Side Luez Design & Play

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Sustainable Summer Fest Recap

The first event given by the NYC arm of the Ethical Writers Coalition, Sustainable Summer Fest, took place at Beef Cut Studios last weekend. The hosts were me, Emma Grady, Juliette Donatelli, and Alden Wicker. If you weren’t able to attend, I’m sorry and we missed you. If you were in NYC and you didn’t attend, get ready to be eco-green with envy. Here’s a recap of what happened at Sustainable Summer Fest:

Reclaimed Wood DJ Booth

A generous discount from Build It Green! NYC helped us build a DJ booth and dance floor out of reclaimed wood. And from that DJ booth came sweet sweet electronic beats by Illich Mujica (Mothlab Recordings), Sophia Valence, and Jasper Stapleton (PART) that kept us moving all night. Get a little taste of it on SoundCloud.

Braid Bar by James Corbett Studio

The braid bar was one of the most popular areas at the party! Attendees lined up to get intricate braids created by Danielle from James Corbett Studio. Could there be a more stylish way to keep your hair up at an outdoor dance party? If you’re in the Union Square area, stop by and shop their well-stocked organic boutique.

Cupcakes by Little Cupcake Bakeshop

These mini cupcakes provided by Little Cupcake Bakeshop were a hot commodity. When partygoers learned they were free, I could see them mentally wrestling their willpower. After one, they’d move on, only to return in a few moments. “Okay, just one more,” they’d say as they helped themselves to another.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop uses only the freshest, sustainable ingredients, predominantly sourcing locally from farms in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, Vermont, and New Jersey. They do all of their baking on-site in small batches, everyday. A complementary partner to the Ethical Writers Co., their shops utilize salvaged materials, energy-efficient practices, and low-impact supplies. If you didn’t make the party, taste what you missed while you check out one of their locations in Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Coconut Cracking Courtesy of The Coco Jack

Have you ever had fresh coconut water? Have you ever tried to open a coconut without the proper tools? The Coco Jack had our backs by providing us with their clever tools so we could enjoy the hydrating benefits of coconut water without injuring ourselves. If you like fresh coco water (FYI, waaaayyy better than the boxed kind), you must get yourself one of these kits.

Drinks Courtesy of Prairie Organic Spirits

Prairie Organic Spirits provided vodka and gin for all of the cocktails. Prairie spirits are made from vintage organic corn, grown by just three family farms and handcrafted in small batches, making it smooth and enjoyable to drink. While all of the drinks were delicious, the best was a concoction called Bahamian Sky Juice. Sorry if you missed it! I’ll be nice and provide the recipe here so you can mix some up at home. 

Or sometimes we just added it straight in to make a boozy coconut! Highly recommended.

Seltzer & Mixers by SodaStream

SodaStream provided a row of machines to keep us fully stocked with seltzer. You can add one of their syrups to make tonic water, cola, or any number of flavored sodas. Whatever partygoers chose to drink, it was served up in a BPA-free, reusable Beef Cuts cup they got to keep. If you see someone with one, give them a high-five for being waste-free!

Cool People & Sustainability Leaders

As an introvert, I don’t always enjoy myself at parties. But everyone I met was really friendly and happy to be in the fresh air, with braids up, double fisting cupcakes and coconuts (actually, who wouldn’t be?). Being new to the sustainability community, it was fun to meet some of its leaders in such a relaxed setting. Notable attendees included Lisa Elaine Held of Well + GoodYuka Yoneda of Inhabitat, Kristen Arnett of Green Beauty TeamMara Schiavetti of A Green Beauty, Lisa Mechanic of Echoes of Cultureand Massimo Lobuglio of Little Cupcake Bakeshop. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Riding in Style with GoGreenRide

If you actually left before it became Sunday, GoGreenRide was on hand to transport you home safely and sustainably in one of their hybrid cars with a discount to boot! Get their app or book online the next time you need a car service.

Oh, and Alden was right about the chill atmosphere the music would provide. So in conclusion, ain’t no party like a sustainable party ‘cause a sustainable party is GOOD FOR YOU!

Keep following for our next event! 

Photos by Hans Eric Olson

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Filed under SustSummerFest Ethical Writers Coalition Build It Green! NYC Beef Cuts Studio James Corbett Studio Little Cupcake Bakeshop The Coco Jack Prairie Organic cocktails Spades + SiLK EcoCult SodaStream Well + Good Lisa Elaine Held Yuka Yoneda Inhabitat Kristen Arnett Green Beauty Team Mara Schiavetti A Green Beauty Massimo Lobuglio GoGreenRide Hans Eric Olson Lisa Mechanic Echoes of Culture

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We Host First Ever Sustainable Summer Fest in New York (Photos)



If you missed the Sustainable Summer Fest—the only summer party you wouldn’t want to miss—you can still live vicariously through all the fun photographs from the event in Brooklyn, New York this past Saturday.

Quick recap: Past Fashion Future teamed up with the Ethical Writers Coalition and the underground dance party house, Beef Cuts, to throw a summer bash. As promised, it was unlike anything New York has ever seen.

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Sustainable Summer Fest

Sustainable Summer Fest was a success! We proved that sustainability can party and we have the photos to prove it. Watch for a recap coming very soon!

The Shirt on Your Back Interactive

This came out back in April, but I had saved it away and just took the time to go through it. It’s an excellent example of how design, technology, and education can make a subject more immersive. 

This interactive documentary will take you to the heart of this story. It will take you where millions make our clothes. While you’re with us, and them, we’ll keep track of how much they earn making our clothes and how much we spend buying them. via The Guardian

The Most Water-Stressed Cities in the World

Water shortages are becoming a scary reality in many parts of the world, most notably in urban areas and developing countries:

To gauge the scale of the problem, the Nature Conservancy recently published a first global database of urban water sources and stress for more than 500 cities. The results surprised even the authors of the report. via Fast Company

The Mayday PAC

More than 90% of Americans agree that our government is broken because of the money in politics. Members of Congress waste their time raising money instead of working for the people they are supposed to represent. The Mayday PAC, formed by law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig and others, aims to elect a Congress committed to fundamental reform in the way political campaigns are funded by 2016. The PAC will operate in both the 2014 and 2016 election cycles and wants to eventually secure constitutional reform. If you’d like to be a part of this movement, donate and 100% of you money will be devoted to campaigns. 

We want to use big money (collected from the many) to fight big money (collected from the few). Ironic, we understand. But embrace the irony. If we can pull together a large enough pool of money through this campaign, we can convince Americans that they can change the way money matters in politics. We can create a system in which it isn’t the influence of a few that matters. Instead, as any democracy should, it would be the influence of a majority that matters. via 

Biodegradable Urns Will Turn You Into A Tree After You Die

Sustainability, even in death. 

A nonprofit organization in Toronto, Canada ( is now offering the Bios Urn, a funerary urn made from biodegradable materials that will turn you into a tree after you die. via Good News Network

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Filed under SustSummerFest Mayday PAC

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The Traveling Stamps

The Traveling Stamps

Weeks ago, I received a sticker-covered little envelope that had made its way all the way from Australia. Inside were two handmade stamps.

The Traveling Stamps began with two tutorials by sustainable blogger, Summer, of tortoise & lady grey — Rubber Stamp Making 101 and 201 here on The Note Passer. Next, she showed us how to make the leaf stamps on her blog and then sent the little Traveling Stamps to me. The project is based on the original #travelingstamp over at Emma Dime.

The Ink

Having never done this kind of printing, I had some difficulties finding the right ink to use. I definitely wanted a solvent-free ink to ensure that I wasn’t using harmful chemicals. To be honest, I thought I would use a soy or vegetable based ink, but those are very difficult to find and I wasn’t interested in making them once I researched the process. I searched the art stores for low impact dyes within the fabric dye section, but the employees didn’t know of any low impact fabric dye and I was stumped. Then Summer told me she uses a brand called Permaset and I realized I was looking in the wrong section; I should have been looking at screen printing inks. Once I figured that out, almost all of the options were low impact, water based, and non-toxic. They aren’t necessarily advertised as such, but they are eco-friendly. I settled on the Versatex brand based on the price and employee recommendation. 


Well, practice didn’t make perfect, but it did help me figure out the patterns I wanted to make. These illustrations by Felicita Sala were my inspiration. I did the practice on paper which is a bit different than printing on fabric, so it still took me a few tries to get the pressure right on the fabric.


I decided to stamp the organic cotton tote I received from Alabama Chanin at the Makeshift event since we were encouraged to make it our own anyway. I like to carry at least one tote in my purse and always take several to the grocery store so I can avoid plastic bags.

Using the patterns I had practiced, I started stamping the tote. As I said, it’s difficult to get the pressure right. I don’t mind the variation in opaqueness, but I could do without the blotches. Some of this was because of the bag’s uneven surface. Learn from me: make your first attempt on a flat surface like a kitchen towel, cloth napkin, or t-shirt. I bought a foam roller, but since the stamps were so small, I found it easier to use the smaller foam brush. I was concerned about getting paint in the negative space, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem if you don’t press to hard.

Find detailed stamping instructions in Rubber Stamp Making 201.


After the ink dried, I ironed the fabric on the reverse side per the Versatex instructions. Now my ink is heat-set and my tote is ready to use! 

The Traveling Stamps are now on their way to Hannah of Lifestyle: Justice. Follow her to keep up with the project! If you are a blogger and you’d like to participate, please let me know in the comments or by email.

Or you can learn to carve your own stamps with Rubber Stamp Making 101.

*Map in title graphic designed by me using open source tool ©Stamen Design

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Filed under rubber stamp traveling stamp Emma Dime Versatex Permaset Lifestyle: Justice Alabama Chanin

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Vintage Bummer: Sundresses & Sandals

I spend an embarrassing amount of time shopping for second-hand and vintage online. Since I try to buy mostly secondhand and only what I need, it takes a lot of time to find what I’m looking for. A byproduct of this pastime is that I see tons of cool stuff that isn’t my size or style. Luckily for you, my time suck and misfortune are your gain! My bummer is your boon! I’m trying out this column where I show you all the stuff I can’t wear, but you should know about. I already do this for several friends via Pinterest and my goal isn’t anything other than to share cool stuff and promote secondhand shopping. I don’t even have any affiliate links going on here (I’d let you know if I did!). I just love that this stuff already exists, is well-made (much more so than fast fashion), is reasonably priced, and supports small businesses. The drawback is that you can’t try it on first and the possibility does exist that it just might not fit. Pay close attention to the measurements given, measure garments you already own to compare, and take a leap of faith! If you do, you can find some unique, quality pieces to enjoy.

Sundresses & Sandals

Today, let’s look at my Etsy favorites and focus on summery dresses (it is summertime in this hemisphere after all). Maxi dresses are still in and are always comfortable, especially ones made from cotton or linen. Like these:

How about some sandals to go with that lovely dress? The current trend is 90s (aka 70s), minimal, and slip on. Like these:

Find all of these items and more in my Ethical Fashion favorites on Etsy. If you like something, size it up, and act quickly before someone else gets it! And I’m always adding more to these boards, so follow me or check back regularly. Don’t let my misfortune go to waste! As always, see all of the vintage and secondhand resources in my Vintage & Thrift section.

And let me know if you want more of this or are looking for a specific item to add to your collection. I’d be glad to shop help.

Filed under Etsy vintage secondhand second-hand