Lila Mae: Sustainable, and made in USA

11 01 2013

Many times I have blogged about the importance of buying local, many times that “local” extending to USA. Why? It is good for the local economy, good for the people who take the risk to manufacture products that will be competing with the cheaper ones made in other countries, and it is also better for the environment because a lot of gas is saved if we avoid long shipping distances. My husband was recently on a work trip to China, and upon returning his determination of buying local as much as possible was stronger. I have also blogged about some of the difficulties I have personally faced when trying to buy local; problems with conflicting schedules and lack of availability, are some of those that I have encountered.

Well, I was contacted last week by Lila Mae, a new online shopping destination that launched this week! The objective of Lila Mae is to offer quality, sustainable local products. That eliminates the problem of conflicting schedules and availability! The founders are aware that these kind of items, though high in demand, are hard to find, so they decided to put together this business. You can think of Lila Mae as an online boutique shopping center, the products are unique, small batch, including women’s, men’s, children’s, baby’s, wellness, and even furniture and art! At the moment they have items created by 70 independent manufacturers and artisans from 31 states, but they plan to expand this list. In addition to being 100% made in the USA, all of the merchandise sold on Lila Mae is safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Elegant and simple, easy on the eyes, with a pleasant combination of colors.

Elegant and simple, easy on the eyes, with a pleasant combination of colors.

With an elegant and easy to navigate website, Lila Mae shows a drop menu to the side that organizes the options in a visually simple and pleasant way. It offers a wide range of product options, starting at $12  for wooden teethers (comparable to Etsy) reaching $900 for art.

Each product includes a few words about the manufacturer and why it is a green company!

Each product includes a few words about the manufacturer and why it is a green company!

One thing I really liked about their site is that they strive to present each vendor as a real person, someone you can connect with. Therefore, each product has a short introduction to the company that produces it and an explanation of why that company is environmentally friendly. What a nice way of humanizing industry!


Greening up my Christmas Gifts

13 12 2012

One thing that I proposed myself this Season was to buy local. I really believe in supporting our community and getting local gifts is a way to reduce our carbon footprint, because of less transport.

Thought I started before Thanksgiving, it was quite an adventure. I could order a few things I liked from local vendors through Etsy, but for the most part it was a frustrated enterprise. I live in Pittsburgh and I found that a lot of the stores I was interested in were not open when I could go. I wanted to get some old books (reuse, recycle, and I love old books!!) but the store wouldn’t open till 11 AM, which is my child’s lunch time, so I came back empty handed. I wanted to buy toys in the local toy store, but being in the middle of the posh shopping area (though their prices are more than fair) I found no parking space blocks around, though I circled it over and over and over again. That made me decide to at least support USA companies, and I kept that resolution, but I ended up ordering baby’s toys through Amazon, which is a life saver if you think that sometimes the only time you have available is 5 AM…. or any time before 11 AM, for the case.

I did buy a few cheap made in who-knows-where things. I know, I know, but when I need to ship gifts for a bunch of people I appreciate back home in Argentina, I cannot spend more than a few bucks, and I needed to take advantage of my dad being here and going back home just in time for the holidays, so I sent them through him. But I restricted that to the smaller part of my shopping.

Being an artist, I designed and ordered my own cards through, the price per card (including shipping!) was spectacular and they do guide you well through the sizing of your image. You have to order in bulk, though, but you can always use the left overs next year. And you really do not need to be an artist, you can use a photo you like. But what really sold me was that I could use recycled paper with them. What a great way of greening my Christmas cards!

The Christmas card I made for my family and friends, also available for sale at

The Christmas card I made for my family and friends, also available for sale at

And for the rest of my list, those people who have been great through the year and you would like to thank in a way, even if it is with a small gift, I am making them popcorn. I got some cute bags, some Christmas sprinkles, and I will be putting my own time into making them pretty Christmas popcorn.

Lessons learned from this season: Next year I will plan better, probably start earlier, and find out the operation hours of the stores before I get myself there. Nobody said being green was easier, eh?

And you, did you find a way of greening your gifts? Were you successful at buying local?

Resolution: reducing trash output

4 05 2012

Stock by eby at

I am highly disturbed by the huge amounts of trash that we produce. Yes, we do recycle, but the three arrows in the recyclable materials stand for: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; “recycle” is the last one for a reason. We are supposed to first reduce what we consume, then reuse what we have and only after that recycle what we cannot reuse; besides recycling is expensive and it is not the solution to our environmental woes.

So my new resolution when it comes to greening our lives is to reduce our amount of trash. We do cloth diaper, so that is a win, but still we do produce quite a bit of garbage. One thing that would help could be to compost, but we live in an apartment and we really have no room for an indoors compost bin, so that will have to sit in my to do list, as it has been doing since I am 14. So I am out to research what can we do within our means to make our contribution to the landfill less significant.

As for now, we just are starting to regularly make our own bread (no plastic bags being trashed), we are making our own yogurt (avoiding putting in the recyclables two big plastic pots per week) and this weekend we started to brew our own beer (no bottles discarded!). I also am making an effort to not forget the canvas totes when I go shopping.

Do you have any suggestion, please let me know! I am eager to implement as much as we can!

Requiem for the Orangutan.

17 04 2012

I am so shocked that I really do not know how to start writing this post. I can’t even think of a title that can reflect what I feel right now, and though I try to keep all my posts clearly factual and not influenced by my feelings I know this one will be different.

Upon coming from vacation, and being away from news and reports, I found out that, in Jakarta, the palm oil industry has set fire to the forests to increase the plantation area and by doing this they have killed hundreds of orangutans either by the fire itself or just walking on them and shooting them while being trapped by the flames. The enmity of palm plantation owners and workers toward orangutans is long known, mainly because the orangutan, due to the reduction of their habitat predate on the palm trees, they need to eat, you know?

But the enormity of this is just unbelievable, with hundreds of these animals dead in one single event the population has been decimated possibly beyond repair. This has tragic proportions, researchers believe that the orangutans could become extinct in weeks to months. Several animals are in medical care, with people trying to save their lives, which due to the smoke and flames, are in danger. Blessings to the good people around the world. However, it is unlikely that the fate of the species in the wild will be different if these few animals are saved.

This is just terrible. I never thought that in this age that we live in I would see anything like this. Surely in the past we have pushed to extermination several species, and through slow habitat destruction we continue to do so, but the knowledge we have today, the understanding of population dynamics, habitat reduction and interspecific interactions should keep us from committing crimes like this. And all we can do is read the news with disbelief, because there is really not much we can do about what already has happened.

Several people, and groups have tried to warn about the palm oil industry for years, haranguing people not to buy good that contain palm oil. The main problem comes from the fact that palm oil is many times not listed as “palm oil” making it virtually impossible to know that you are buying it. Some of the names that palm oil goes by are:

Sorry, honey, we totally failed you.
Stock provided by NefaroStock at

-Vegetable Oil

-Vegetable Fat
-Sodium Laureth Sulfate (in almost everything that foams)
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
-Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)

-Palm Kernel
-Palm Oil Kernel

-Palm Fruit Oil

-Glyceryl Stearate
-Stearic Acid
-Elaeis Guineensis
-Palmitic Acid
-Palm Stearine
-Palmitoyl oxostearamide
-Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
-Steareth -2
-Steareth -20

-Sodium Kernelate
-Sodium Palm Kernelate

-Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
-Hyrated Palm Glycerides
-Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye
-Cetyl Palmitate
-Octyl Palmitate
-Cetyl Alcohol

-Palmityl Alchohol

(list retrieved from Say No To Palm Oil)

So how are you to know that “Vegetable oil” is palm oil and not, let’s say, soy oil? Or canola oil? This is how hard it is not to support the bastards that just killed the orangutan as a species.

So, while the Western World decries the most insignificant actions from other countries (OMG that French white model is posing as a black person in another country that has not had the same cultural or historical issues than US!!!) and we always talk about boycotting this or that company just because we do not like how much they charge, or we do not like their logo as in the London Olympics (I know, such a deep reason!), I feel powerless when I decide to really want to not buy this product.

This is, I think, where the power of government would be of use. Palm oil should be labeled as such, period, not as an unspecific name. Furthermore, I believe that since the Western World always is speaking about their deep concern for the species, environment and other Peoples, they should just shun Jakarta from any commercial transaction. After all, why would we keep negotiating with people that do not hold to our standards, that have completely different points of view about what is acceptable and what is not? In our private life, we reserve the right to invite people into our homes, or to shop in this or that market, why don’t we exercise that same right as a country?

This is the only way we'll ever see orangutans again. Behind bars in zoos.
Stock provided by DigitalHallucination at

Practically green

7 12 2011

Surfing around the web I found this awesome website: Practically Green

It is a website that quizzes you about your every day habits and gives you a grade from 1 to 10 assessing your “greenness”. The questions are oriented to evaluate different areas: energy, water, health and stuff, and your score is tallied for each.

I like it for many reasons. The first one being that it makes you reflect on your life and what could be improved; it also suggests you ways of making better choices, not leaving you with just an unsatisfied feeling of not doing enough but arming you with a practical plan, one that should be possible to follow.

It also would tell you if there are people in your area taking the quiz, their scores, and what have they done to clean their act! Talk about peer pressure! 🙂

You can register for email updates, and every Friday they send you reminders about your plan, plus suggestions on how to lead life better for the environment by making small modifications to your decisions.

Go ahead, take the quiz! I am sure you will find a lot of things that take just a little tweaking that you can do to start a better and greener 2012!

How many slaves work for you?

24 09 2011

How many slaves work for you?

This is how receives you. Slavery Footprint is a new project that calculates a score of slaves (forced labor) that have worked for the products you use after you complete a survey on your consumer habits. The score is based on slaves involved in the several steps of manufacturing the product, including the source materials. They include anything from electronics to jewelry to food.

Slavery Footprint makes you uncomfortable, it provokes a response from the user. It is not nice to see that people were forced to work for what you are using, knowing that people might have been physically maltreated is something that, I hope, would make the most capitalist of us stir uncomfortably on their chairs. They prompt you to think of what you are consuming, where it comes from, and demand from companies that they take a compromised action against slavery in the world by becoming ourselves compromised first. That is why this website was needed.

This is a topic that comes once and again in my house, during late night conversations and moments of ‘fixing the world’ over coffee. The industrialized world is against child labor and slavery, but we do not much to make sure that we are not responsible of it happening in developing countries. I guess a lot of us think like that because people were so excited about Slavery Footprint, that the day of their release they had so many visits that they had to move to a server with 50 times the bandwidth! Now, that is refreshing!

After passing by and completing their survey, I would like to have an ‘about’ section explaining who the people behind the project are and what motivated them to build the site (currently it brings you to the ‘get the apps’). An easier way to navigate the site would be great too. As it stands now, the site is very unidirectional, with links disappearing as you advance through it. For example, there is no way to go back home or to read the “about” page  once you leave home.

I would also like to have the option to choose for local products. For example, when asked about what I eat there is no way to say that we buy from a CSA, therefore our fruits and veggies are local. It is extremely unlikely that the farmers at the farmers stand are employing slave labor in Western PA, that is not taken into account. Same with my cloth diapers, they are made by moms that work at home in USA. However, these things are assumed to come from countries that have forced labor.

The main fault I see is that there is a template of a letter to send to several companies listed in the site demanding to know about their practices regarding slave work. I would gladly send this letter, except that it mentions a survey that I can’t see, and I am not about to send a letter of this nature (any letter, to tell you the truth) that I am not aware of its contents. I cannot tell a company that I will assume they are involved in slavery when I don’t even know what I’m asking them.

All in all I think this is a wonderful project that will bring awareness about a very important topic in which all of us should be involved, but it needs some polishing to reach its full potential.