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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.

Read More

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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

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Review: Arzoyi Argan Oil

The History

Argan oil is like the Beyoncé of the oil world ― rare, transformative, and luxurious. It is produced from the fruit of the argan tree, which grows only in a very small area in a specific region of Morocco. Argan oil has been used since ancient times by the native Berber people who are now seeing ever increasing demand as more people find out about its healing and rejuvenating powers. Fortunately, the Moroccan government has seized on this opportunity to make life better for a huge section of its people and has plans to increase argan oil production. The majority of argan oil comes from argan nut processing facilities in Morocco which are typically owned and operated by Berber women co-operatives. The argan oil boom has worked wonders in liberating Berber women and making them economically independent and able to take better care of themselves and their families.

The Process

The lengthy process follows a very traditional method of extraction which begins with collecting the kernels, washing them, and cracking them open using stone grinders to make a brown paste. Further refinement with the grinders extracts the oil. It is interesting to note that separating the kernel from the fruit is still done by hand as efforts to mechanize the process have been unsuccessful. Not surprisingly, this makes extracting the oil quite a time consuming and labor intensive effort (it takes about 20 hrs to produce one liter of oil by hand). For these reasons, argan oil is priced at a premium. 

Why Arzoyi?

Arzoyi is a small family run company based in New Jersey. It’s a labour of love borne out of the search for high quality, reasonably priced argan oil that the founder, Dr. Jasleen Lyall, could use on her pregnant belly (she named the company after her daughter). Arzoyi is committed to argan oil production that is pure, organic, ethical, environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and GMO free. It’s certified ECOCERT ICO and USDA Organic and is a proud supporter of Vitamin Angels, an American non-profit helping expectant mothers, new mothers, and children under five gain access to lifesaving and life changing vitamins and minerals. The end result of Arzoyi’s ethos is a pure, handcrafted two ounce bottle of argan oil, the sole product available on their site.

The Review

When the amber bottle of Arzoyi Argan Oil arrived, I did a little dance (as you do when packages arrive) and proceeded to get pumped about all of the possibilities for use. Argan oil has extremely high levels of Vitamin E and 80% fatty acids which make it perfect for healing and moisturizing. It’s full of vitamins and antioxidants and forms an excellent base for skin and hair care products (hello, DIYs!) or it can be applied directly to hair, cuticles, or skin. Here are just some of the possibilities:

  • A hot oil treatment - blend 2 tablespoons argan oil with 6 drops of rosemary essential oil in a glass container. Set in a hot water bath to warm up. Work the warm oil throughout your hair and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes. Shampoo as normal.
  • Put a few drops into the palms of your hands, rub your hands together, and run your fingers through your hair to create shine and tame frizz. 
  • Use in the Oil Cleansing Method - it restores elasticity and leaves skin feeling plumper and softer while anti-oxidants help heal damaged skin cells and reduce inflammation.
  • Use on lips to make them plump, soft and supple.
  • Mix a mask of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 3 teaspoons of Greek-style yogurt, 1 tablespoon of honey and 3 drops of argan oil. Apply and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
  • Add a drop or two of argan oil to your foundation, bronzer or tinted moisturizer.
  • Add a few drops to body lotion to boost elasticity and moisture.
  • Add to pure aloe for after sun care.

I immediately used the precious liquid on my dry and itchy legs. Shaving makes them dry, but the argan oil soothed them and absorbed faster than the coconut oil I normally use. Following a trip to the gym, I mixed up a hot oil treatment for my hair. I let it work while I shaved my legs and then shampooed and rinsed. I’ve got some split ends going on, but after the treatment my hair was soft and shiny. I know from prior use, argan oil does not break me out, so I added a few drops of Arzoyi to the oil blend I normally use to cleanse my face at night. Argan oil heals acne and combats signs of aging, so it’s a fantastic addition to oil cleansing. Since a little of the “Moroccan gold” goes a long way, I still have plenty left to address all of my moisture needs. I highly recommend Arzoyi Argan Oil and celebrate their commitment to sustainability and purity. 

Arzoyi Argan Oil is available via It is reasonably priced, arrived quickly, and is a pleasure to use. 


* I was gifted a bottle of Arzoyi Argan Oil. I only promote products I genuinely believe in and that I would use myself.

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Filed under Arzoyi Argan Oil Vitamin Angels argan oil diy

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Join Me at the Sustainable Summer Fest

Remember yesterday when I said exciting things are happening? Here’s one of them: I got together with these amazing sustainable bloggers – Juliette from Spades+siLK, Alden from Ecocult, and Emma from Past Fashion Future, to throw a party in NYC. And you’re invited! Come celebrate summer and sustainability with us!

The Ethical Writers Coalition is teaming up with the underground dance party house, Beef Cuts, to throw a summer bash unlike anything NYC has ever seen! Held in Beef Cuts’ newly built outdoor location in Bushwick on July 12th from 3 to 10 pm, this party will feature the best in local electronic music DJs dropping beats from a reclaimed-wood DJ booth. Attendees can grab a Prairie Organic vodka or gin cocktail, sodas and mixers by SodaStream, local beer, or Runa clean energy drink at the bar (tucked inside a repurposed shipping container) before hitting the dance floor built from reclaimed wood provided by Built It Green! NYC. For discounts on all drinks and free water refills all day, attendees are encouraged to purchase a BPA-free, American-made reusable cup. You can munch on a snack from the Little Cupcake Bakeshop, or enjoy a locally-sourced, grass-fed sandwich. FINALLY, it is time for your conscious and fun side to meet at the same party!

Wanna go?

Step one: RSVP to You MUST RSVP to enter. 

Step two: go to 71 Ingram on July 12 at 3pm and pay $10 at the door.

Step three: PARTY!


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Filed under Ethical Writers Coalition Beef Cuts Studio Prairie Organic SodaStream Build It Green! NYC Little Cupcake Bakeshop

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Necessity is the Mother of (Re)invention

I’ve been plugging along here on the blog for over a year. I started it to help me (hopefully) figure out what I wanted to do beyond teaching and I believe I’m beginning to figure it out. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve become ever more interested and vocal about sustainable living. It just can’t be ignored any longer that there are negative consequences for the way we have been treating the earth. Even if we all begin today making changes, there are still going to be consequences. I’m realistic about what can be done if governments and businesses don’t do their part, but I have to do what I can for my own health and peace of mind. And I’m completely aware that many people do not have the time, money, or power to make changes, which is why we need the support of business and government. It’s why I also use my background to educate, rather than shame. I encourage you to do what is natural and beneficial for you ― and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m always learning more and I when I know better I do better, and I think that’s all any of us can do. Sorting out sustainable choices takes a lot of time, so I hope I can be a reliable resource for you to learn from (mistakes and all).

If you saw my recent interview, you’ll know I recently connected with other sustainable bloggers in New York and beyond. Instead of seeing each other as competition, we’re working together to make the sustainable agenda attractive, as well as attainable. I’m working on the website for the group and I’ll show you all when I’m done! I encourage you to check out my Ethical Friends section for other fantastic sustainable sites. Some exciting things are happening for me as a result of the group and I’ve been motivated to reinvent myself in a few ways.

I’ve also made changes here and there to the blog. The Resources tab is ever growing, so check it regularly for new brands and information. I’ll take some time off from the blog in August to improve it even more and add some affiliate links. I’m not keen to host ads, so this would add a small revenue stream for me without having to change the appearance of the site. And I’m working on a logo for The Note Passer; I’ve been blocked on what to do until recently. With all of the recent developments, I’ve needed one and so it’s another area of reinvention. I’ll reveal it soon too!

This is an exciting time and I’m thankful I have the freedom to do what I love and then figure the rest out. I’m thankful for all of you who read and tell your friends and write me sweet emails. I love hearing from you! Please keep me in mind when you have a question or concern about ethical options or sustainability or anything really! I love to research and help so just ask! I hope you’ll keep reading, learning, and growing.

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Filed under sustainable resources

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Pop-Up Shabbat Goes Oyganic

Nathan and I attended our second Pop-Up Shabbat (number six for the organization) dubbed Oyganic Table. The theme grew out of the mitzvah, tikkun olam, which calls for Jews to be model citizens and make the world a better place for others.  

There was a conscious use of local ingredients and sustainable practices. The decor was simple, the table settings reusable, and the flowers provided by The Youth Farm, an educational production farm in central Brooklyn. The menus were printed on seed paper in order to be composted or planted. Chef Sarah Schiear created delicious farm-to-table dishes like a whole carrot quinoa with carrot top pesto and yogurt. The challah (created, as always, by the lovely Shannon Sarna) included a seasonal twist with either spring green pesto or strawberry rhubarb butter. Summer herb infused cocktails made with local alcohol were mixed up by Pop-Up Shabbat co-founder Melissa Dain. Co-founder Danya Cheskis-Gold borrowed a skirt from vintage shop Mode Marteau for the occasion. And at the end of the night, a tzdakah box was available for those who wished to give to the Adamah Farm & Fellowship, an organization that works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and world for all. 

The event had the feel of an intimate dinner party you’d throw at your home ― food and flowers you picked up at the farmer’s market, local wine, your favorite table setting, and great friends. I’m happy to have been part of another successful Pop-Up Shabbat and I love that we supported a more local and sustainable community in the spirit of tikkun olam. 

Pop-Up Shabbat is on hiatus for the summer, but you can subscribe to their mailing list to be the first to know about the next event!

Thoroughly confused? Read A Non-Jews Guide to Pop-Up Shabbat.

Photos by Adam Thompson

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Filed under Pop-Up Shabbat NYC New York City Sarah Schiear Danya Cheskis-Gold Mode Marteau Shannon Sarna Melissa Dain

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Guide to Clean Sunscreen

While growing up in Florida, I incurred several serious sunburns. We all know sunburn causes skin damage, if not skin cancer, but what teenager is prescient enough to religiously apply sunscreen? Not I. So I’ve spend my later years slathering it on, trying in vain to retroactively protect myself. 

Still, I actually don’t wear sunscreen daily. I work at home and generally just walk to and from the subway on the days I go out, fulfilling the prescribed 15-30 minutes/2-4 times a week of unprotected sun exposure. But if I’m going to be at the beach or out in the sun all day, I encase myself in the stuff. It’s better to use mineral (rather than chemical) protection. Look for zinc oxide as an ingredient; the higher the percentage, the better the UV protection. The physical barrier it provides is the least toxic and most effective, although the white film can be discouraging for you and your swimsuit. Put it on, rub it in well, and let it sink in before putting on your suit. If you’re really concerned, try one of the clear zinc oxide options now available.

The Environmental Working Group does fantastic work categorizing and rating personal care products for their safety (consider donating to them here). Their 2014 Guide to Sunscreen, where all of the following brands are rated, is available here. Sometimes their recommendations can be a bit obscure; so I’ve sorted through the guide to recommend brands that are relatively affordable, widely available, and highly rated.

All Terrain

All Terrain uses transparent zinc oxide, so it is non-whitening, non-greasy, fragrance-free. I’ll often choose sunscreens made for kids or babies because they are usually fragrance free and better for sensitive skin. 

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: All Terrain, Abe’s Market, & more

Price: around $10 for 3 oz. 

Aubrey Organics Natural Sun

Made with shea butter and organic aloe to keep skin soft and hydrated, Aubrey Organics is now water-resistant for a full 40 minutes of swimming or perspiring. 

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: Aubrey OrganicsiHerb,, & more

Price: $10-15 for 4 oz.

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen

This formulation is hypo-allergenic, fragrance free, and vegan for extra sensitive skin. Rose hip oil and shea butter keep skin moisturized. More swim and sport Babo products can be viewed here.

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: Babo Botanicals, iHerb, Abe’s Market, & more

Price: around $15 for 3 oz.

Badger Company

Badger is always a solid and clean choice. Their formula is a certified Organic base of Sunflower Oil, Beeswax & Vitamin E that is ultra-moisturizing and soothing. And it’s biodegradable and safe for coral reefs and other ecosystems. All of their formulas are highly rated by the EWG, so choose the one that best fits your needs. See them all here.

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: Badger Company website, iHerb, Whole Foods,, & more

Price: around $15 for 2.9 oz

Elemental Herbs

Elemental Herbs gives you the added benefits of certified organic green tea, rose hip antioxidants, certified organic jojoba, and extra virgin olive moisturizing oils. Now in a SPF 33 version with the safest sun protection ingredient: pure non-nano zinc oxide. Safe for coral reefs, safe for kids, and safe for you. 

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: Elemental Herbs, Abe’s Market, iHerb, & more

Price: around $15 for 3 oz.

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

Blue Lizard Baby and Sensitive are both rated a 1 by EWG. To help you stay protected, the bottle changes color when harmful UV rays are present. Their products are now made in the US and they are one of the few brands to offer larger sizes (including one gallon jugs!), which reduces packaging.

EWG Rating: 1

Available at: Blue Lizard, iHerb,, & more

Price: around $16 for 5 oz. (buy in bulk for lower price)

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen

This is a go-to option for me in a pinch. It’s widely available and there are a lot of options including fragrance free and up to SPF 45. Be sure to stick to their mineral formulas to ensure a low EWG rating.

EWG Rating: 2

Available at: Alba Botanica, Whole Foods, Abe’s Market, iHerb,, & more

Price: $6-10 for 4 oz.

If you’re going to be getting intense or long sun exposure, please remember to protect yourself. It’s unfortunate that sunscreen is so expensive (they have us cornered) and that it comes in plastic.

Has anyone dabbled in making their own or tried one of the myriad homemade options on Etsy? Let me know in the comments - I’d love to hear your experience!

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Filed under sunscreen clean beauty Abe's Market Aubrey Organics Babo Botanicals Badger Company Elemental Herbs Blue Lizard Alba Botanica

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Everlane Open House

Everlane is conducting an experiment in Radical Transparency. 

Everyday we encounter thousands of objects, but what do we really know about them? Everlane is committed to being radically open about their products and processes: from documenting their factories to revealing their costs and markups. They took this ethos offline and into the place where we live most intimately with our possessions: the home.

They’ve created a “home space” pop-up shop in SoHo. All of the objects are accompanied by their origin and cost stories. To uncover these, they researched household items and partnered with Taavo Somer’s creative agency Friends & Family and a number of like-minded brands, including Kaufmann Mercantile, simplehuman, and ABC Carpet & Home.

When considering and encouraging sustainable purchases, the stories behind the objects bring them to life. Thanks to Everlane for sharing these stories and educating consumers in radical transparency. 

The exhibit is open every day from 11am–6pm, but ends on June 28. It’s a really interesting exercise and I encourage you to check it out if you’re in NYC. Go to hear the stories of the products or to try on pieces from the collection, which is available for sale in-store first time ever.

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Filed under Everlane NYC radical transparency Taavo Somer Kaufmann Mercantile simplehuman ABC Carpet & Home

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Cape Cod

Last weekend marked my first trip to Massachusetts and, happily, it was to Cape Cod. Our friend, Elka (well, her parents) have a house there and Nathan and I were invited for the weekend. Just a short drive from NYC, the Cape is a laid-back piece of old school Americana. 

Different from the Florida beaches I grew up with, the water was too cold for me to go in (Nathan went for it though). A gentle fog enveloped our first two days, but Sunday was warm and sunny and I got my first sunburn of the season after just an hour. 

We stayed in the town of Chatham and frequently visited downtown. Quaint retail and antiques stores line the main road alongside ice cream and candy shops. Several trips to the fish market supplied our seafood for the weekend: shrimp, swordfish, tuna, and lobster (I was pescatarian this weekend). All very fresh and so summery good!

The house, with its nautical wallpaper and requisite cedar shingles, provided the perfect backdrop for a relaxing weekend away from the city. I met a bunch of awesome people, ate a lot of seafood, and got a good dose of Vitamin D. Summer has begun and it’s going to be a good one!

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Filed under Cape Cod thegreatcapeescape photography Chatham summer travel

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Top 3 Resale Sites

I once found a pair of pink floral overalls in a DC thrift shop. I found the perfect camo jacket for ten bucks in a Florida Goodwill. I love the serendipity of thrifting, but I don’t always have the time or patience for it when I really need a particular piece. Enter resale or “recommerce” sites. Through the magic of the internet, I can purchase second-hand goods with the ease and convenience of conventional online shopping. I appreciate this model because I can search for specific items or buy brands I’m familiar with while maintaining my eco-conscious commitment.

Most them also allow you to sell or trade your own unwanted clothing (and sometimes shoes and accessories) for cash or credit. It’s like consignment without the wait. And your item gets passed on to someone who was looking for that exact piece rather than languishing in a thrift shop or being sent to the second-hand market in a developing country. Some sites like The RealReal cater to high-end designer goods, but most of them maintain a mix of contemporary and designer pieces. And according to this article on Fashionista, it’s not only designer pieces that are in demand. Mid-range brands circulate quickly through sites like Twice and Bib + Tuck. As a bonus, many of the sites even have return policies, making them just as convenient as conventional online shopping. The following are the top three resale sites I like to shop.

About: Threadflip is a social marketplace for new and pre-loved fashion.The idea was inspired by CEO Manik’s wife, Tea, who wanted to pass her unique items on to someone who would love them as much as she had.

If You’re Selling: You can upload images of your items on the web or from their app and start selling (there’s a 20% commission fee). There’s no approved brand list –– just make sure your items are in new or excellent condition and current styles. Threadflip’s Full Service allows you to request a box, send in items, and they take care of the rest (in this case, the commission is 40%).

If You’re Buying: You’ll discover new, unique, and pre-loved items from a community of fashion-lovers.

Returns: Returns are at the discretion of the sellers who are only required to accept a return if the item was faulty, fake, or falsely advertised.

About: Twice is an online store that buys and sells second-hand clothing and handbags for women. Founders Noah Ready-Campbell and Calvin Young both grew up in families where money was tight and second-hand clothes were the norm.

If You’re Selling: You can request either a free shipping label or bag for your goods. Items must be from the pre-approved list, in good condition, and less than five years old. Twice reviews, measures, and photographs every piece and pays upfront.

If You’re Buying: You’ll find contemporary and designer brands for up to 90% off retail.

Returns: Return shipping is free with a provided a shipping label and tracking number.

Bonus: Use your personal invite link to refer friends and earn credits up to a total of $500.00!

About: thredUP is an online consignment shop for buying and selling quality used clothing (including kids’ and maternity). New to the site is thredUP X, a premium shop, featuring pieces from high-end designers.

If You’re Selling: You can request a free Clean Out bag to fill and send in. thredUp works just like a consignment shop, so if your item doesn’t sell, you must reclaim or donate it.

If You’re Buying: Buyers will find thousands of items, certified for quality, and discounted up to 90% off.

Returns: Items returned in their original condition will receive a full refund (minus shipping costs), but handbags are final sale.

Bonus: Get 40% off your first order when you join, and credits for new members who make their first purchase through your referral code.

Read about my other favorite resale sites on BeGood Clothing’s blog.

All of these sites and more are in the Vintage & Thrift section of my Resources tab.

*This post contains affiliate links. I get shop credit if you sign up and buy something. However, I love these sites and only link to products I believe in.

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Filed under thrift store resale recommerce Threadflip Twice thredUP second-hand secondhand BeGood Clothing

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Pop-Up Shabbat: Oyganic Table

You may remember the last Pop-Up Shabbat I attended. The next one (June 20) is all about sustainability:

In the spirit of tikkun olam, a mitzvah that calls for Jews to be model citizens and make the world a better place for others (no pressure), our upcoming dinner is rooted (farm-to-table joke) in local ingredients, as little waste as possible, and giving back to our community.

Tickets are still available here. Visit the Pop-Up Shabbat website.

Turning greenhouse gases into mobile phone cases

A California-based tech company has created a machine that harnesses the carbon in greenhouse gases and turns it into materials that are as strong as (but less expensive than) oil-based plastics. They are starting with phone cases, but the possibilities are exciting! Read more on The Guardian.

Atelier Angel Chang

Having lived in China, visited Guizhou, and now promote sustainability, I am in love with Angel’s mission. Sadly, I missed out on her Kickstarter campaign, but I’m looking forward to the collection.

Atelier ANGEL CHANG is a womenswear project using traditional hand-woven fabrics of the Miao and Dong ethnic minorities in Guizhou Province, China. The collection brings 1000 years of ancient craftsmanship re-interpreted into modern silhouettes by an emerging New York designer. For the past year, Angel has worked closely with masters of several rural mountain villages where families have maintained all-natural, chemical-free traditional processes. The fabrics and embroideries are made completely by hand, from locally-grown raw materials, using fresh plants native to the mountains, and without the use of electricity. The aim of the project is to create employment opportunities in rural Chinese villages and to promote global appreciation for indigenous craftsmanship.

The Art of Repair: giving old objects new life in east London – video

Art of Repair charts the stories and passions of those whose job it is to fix and to mend – cars, upholstery, violins – in a world away from city pressures of new purchases and consumption. via The Guardian (Thanks, Juliette!)

*You will find these and other videos in the Media section under the Resources menu.

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Filed under Angel Chang The Art of Repair film AirCarbon Pop-Up Shabbat