2.29.2016

Plastic brings out the best and worst of people

I've been reading Plastic: a Toxic Love Story recently and I was hoping it would give me a better sense of which plastics are horrible and which plastics are mildly redeemable in our usage of them. (Maybe they off-gas less or are "cleaner" to make or are more recyclable.) So far it hasn't done much of that but it's still been a worthwhile read, featuring facets of plastic I hadn't thought about much. 

For instance, I had no idea that plastic (or early plastics like celluloid or resins) replaced the use of animal parts in so much -- insulation, billiard balls, combs, jewelry -- because it could mimic the look of a carapace, ivory, bug-based shellac, whatever and was easier to secure. Sweet - that's great less animals are dying to become "stuff" for people. As the types and qualities of plastics expanded, things got cheaper and more accessible and production abilities ramped up so now instead of your 1 comb, you could have a billion combs. (Or, more realistically, 10 combs.) But who needs 10 combs? With the ease of production, there's the question of stuff we "need" to produce so everyone can have a good quality of life (combs? medical supplies?) vs stuff we "want" to produce (billiard balls) where maybe the positives don't outweigh the negative impact of producing such an item. But no one is poised to make the judgement call but the manufacturers (looking to make a buck) and consumers (looking to make their lives better, whether based on aspiration, lesiure or convenience). 

Plastic is hard to avoid. In usage by us in daily life and in its aftermath - from the impossibility of recycling everything we use to how it impacts our world (sea life animals' guts clogged with plastic, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, etc. x 1,000). While there are benefits (sparing animals, hygienic medical supplies, sturdy plumbing or insulation products) it's still impossible not to think, "Wow, if we didn't buy so much junk, we wouldn't be pressed to find new materials to produce them. And if we didn't think we were entitled to everything, we wouldn't expect them to be on demand and cheap." 

Planned obsolescence is a part of this big plastic picture, although it doesn't have to be. The quote below struck me:


To call monobloc chairs unethical because they're flimsy and ugly and not because of what they're made out of struck me as funny, unreasonable, irresponsible. But the parameters that Fehlbaum values are design and quality, not whether the material itself is inherently bad for the environment. Things you will use and keep. There's still a ton of vintage Kartell kicking around (and probably plenty out of commission) but I wonder how often you hit that kind of design and quality luck? Or is that something that is made by us, by our culture? By the expectation that you keep and take care of the things you use instead of cycling through them.

It's the same with apparel, really. So many people go on shopping fasts or pare down their closets to an arbitrary number because that's really the only social construct we have right now that says "hey, this is a thing to do." While the fad of limiting our wardrobes is still on-going, it's less novel now. Hopefully some of us are keeping the "less is more" thought as a way to live. But it is not a societal norm yet for lots of reasons. We haven't reached that tipping point yet to have it become normal and I'm sure advertising, a pushback for aspirational luxury from the elite, convenience and the muddied mixed messaging of "get rid of your old non-eco stuff and replace it with all new" or "buy only the 'right' items for you and cull the rest" impossible holy grail will keep it from happening any time soon. 

Plastic is, of course, like any technology humankind develops or stumbles upon. We can do responsible, good things with it and we can do horrible things with it. But I have a feeling we all have a different scale as to what's justified and what's just truly horrible, dangerous and wasteful. 

2.08.2016

Cheap and easy geometric necklace DIY

After my incredible victory with re-stringing my geometric wood bead necklace (see it in its glory here), I started thinking that maybe I could make my own necklace. I started poking around Etsy for some appropriate things to string together to make a necklace (most commonly referred to as "beads" I guess) but quickly became overwhelmed by the holy-shit-woah number of beads on Etsy.

After seeing a few polymer bead necklaces on Pinterest, and finding out that it's vegan, I started to think that maybe I could be so DIY that I could make my own beads. Ignore, for a moment, that Sculpey conjures images of psychedelic starburst bead adorned bongs and weird miniature fake troll babies made of polymer clay (true story - I secretly love those). It just might work. And how hard could making some shapes be, anyway?

I found myself at an arts & crafts store, staring down their Sculpey rack with "do or die" running through my head. (Fine, it was more like, "Man, Two Boots' vegan pizza is right around the corner. I'm so hungry.") I picked out a bunch of colors because I realized this stuff is pretty cheap. I was tempted to just get like 6 packs of black and black glitter and call it a day but I decided to live a little. 



^ loooook at all my Premo! ^


I laid out a flexi cutting board (that I'd no longer be putting foodstuffs on) and started mushing around one color, with the idea that I'd construct some shapes similar to both the necklace I mentioned above and also other necklackes I've seen around town. 

I rolled some very "organic" shaped round beads by rolling them around on the mat. (Example: wonky blue piece.) After my boyfriend made a few observant comments about the artsy-craftsy nature of my effort with perhaps some concern in his voice, I figured out that if you use just your palm, the beads come out a little smoother. (See: pink marbled bead.) The cylinders came out uneven until I used a flat surface to roll it out (I used the surface area of a full Sculpey pack). I used a small knife to trim the ends off of both cylinders to make them look neater. 

Since I knew I'd want to weight the necklace correctly, I paid attention to how many bars of Sculpey each bead took to make. The blue bead was 2. The gray cylinder was 1. The pink bead was 1.5 -- and the black tube was going to be in the middle so its weight didn't matter. 



^ these are the shapes I made, inspired by other necklaces ^


I needed to create holes to thread the necklace cord through. With the round beads and the small cylinder beads it was not a problem. I used a wooden skewer and made sure to move it around a bunch so the hole would be big enough to thread cord through. The black curved tube was a bit more challenging. I was able to use the skewer to make a pretty big hole through the straight tube and then carefully bent it into the shape I wanted - and just hoped for the best. (Well, I bent it and then carefully unbent it to neurotically check to make sure the hollow was still intact. About 10 times.) Once I trimmed the ends, I needed to reinforce the hole again but the clean edges seemed to stay intact despite the re-holing efforts. These all went in the toaster oven at 275 for 30 minutes. That's right! Not even the real oven. It wasn't as fun as my old Holly Hobby Easy-Bake oven where I essentially used a lightbulb to "cook" cake when I was 7 or Creepy Crawlies where I used some weird plug in cauldron to make the best gummy bugs ev...er. But still pretty neat. 



^ all baked and ready to thread ^


Thankfully {insert all holes were okay comment without sounding gross} and I was able to thread the cord through with no problems. With the curved tube I was able to thread it by staring it on one side and giving it a jostle until it went all the way through. Basically I'm the best at this stuff, I guess. 

Then I went ahead and finished my necklace by knotting each bead into place with some consideration as to weight. It's not exactly weighted but it's such a small difference that the necklace lays the right way when worn. 





I left that orange speck in the granite cylinder purposely, after noticing it happened accidentally.  I just liked it. Plus, lazy.

So, there you have it. My cheap and easy geometric shape necklace.

2.02.2016

3 ingredient facial cleanser DIY

I feel like I blacked out back in early January and just woke up right in February. I'm grateful, I guess. Who wants to actually experience January in the northeast US anyway?

While it's been milder than usual, we have had some legit winter weather and when that starts to kick in, I usually swap out my facial cleanser and moisturizer. The cold and wind make my skin cranky and I go a little gentler on the cleanser front. And obviously - like most humans with skin - cold weather and dry radiator heat tend to make me need a heavier moisturizer. 

When I was still subscribing to vegan beauty boxes, I tried out a simple 3-ingredient cleanser made by an independent company. It was gentle and smelled good and I figured I'd purchase another bottle...until I realized it was $10 for not more than 4 oz. And it only had 3 ingredients. Ingredients which, if purchased separately, would cost me less than $5 to make for the same bottle. I mean...I like to support the little guy and all but a 50% discount was too steep to pass up. And I wouldn't have to get a new container each time.

What you need:

^ ingredients needed ^
- vegetable glycerin (3 oz)
- rosewater (1 oz)
- optional: sweet orange essential oil (a few drops, less than 5)



^  sweet orange essential oil ^ 


It's extremely simple: 3 parts vegetable glycerin and 1 part rosewater. Less than 5 drops of sweet orange essential oil. Pour into a clean bottle. Shake. (The vegetable glycerin and rosewater are a different viscosity so they separate. One will sit right on top of the other unless you mix them.)



^ 3 very thick ounces of vegetable glycerin ^ 



^ I used an empty bottle purchased from the Bach's Rescue Remedy line ^


To use, apply to your wet face and rinse with water. I know that's like most cleansers, although I have one that tells you to apply it dry (it is so weird) so I guess it bears specifying.

Rosewater acts as an astringent so if you need to up that factor in your cleanser, you can increase the ratio of rosewater. 

Learn from my mistakes

Don't try to pour both the vegetable glycerin and rosewater into a glass and try to mix it with a cocktail stirrer. It doesn't mix as well as you might think. You're already going to be pouring it in a bottle with a cap where you can easily mix it by shaking it.

Don't use a teeny tiny funnel for your bottle. The glycerin is just thick enough that it will slow down to droplets and it won't be efficient. A funnel with a hole straw-sized and larger would probably be fine - but that's not what I did.


A note about some essential oils:

Some essential oils (including a bunch of citrus ones) are photo-toxic or can make your skin photo-sensitive (more sensitive to the sun). What can these essential oils do to your skin? It can cause burning or skin pigmentation variable (when exposed to sun). It's also possible to have more severe reactions.

Sweet orange is on a few of the lists for somewhat photo-toxic and on a lot of lists for not being photo-toxic so, up to you! I'm okay with it because it doesn't seem to bother my skin and also it's in a small amount in a cleanser (which I'm washing off my face) vs moisturizer (which would stay on my face.) The original recipe for this cleanser used tea tree oil.

I've really just started reading a few books on essential oils and use in skincare and one of the very first scared-straight lessons I've learned is that it's important to know what's safe on skin, in what dilution and to pay attention to the latin names! (You'll notice lemon and lime variations are on both "yes - burn your skin off" and "no - I'm okay to use" lists.