Posts Tagged ‘Denise Robbins’

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Club: Self-Sufficiency

Below is a post from guest blogger Denise Robbins.  You can also read Denise’s blog here and here.

On December 2nd, a rainy Sunday, DC Ecowomen met for the monthly bookclub at a small shop called “Think Outside the Store.” Gathered around 3 small tables in an intimate room filled with rolls of fabric, sock puppets, beads, magazines, and hot glue guns, we discussed ideas behind “The Urban Homestead.”

Self-sufficiency was the theme of both the book and the craft session – being able to create things yourself and lessen your dependence on the consumer economy. To remove yourself from the grid one small step at a time. To be free of the constraints of choosing between one manufactured product or another. To create, and give meaning, to the things that you do consume.

So while we were creating our own crafts, we were also talking and learning.

One woman has made her own kimchi.  A few were interested in infusing alcohol, which is actually quite simple. Another plans to make homemade limoncelllo. We discussed the processes, and dangers, of pickling and canning (if done wrong, and stored for a long period of time, bacteria can grow and make you sick).

This book club couldn’t have come at a better time. The holiday season is a perfect time to try your hand at self-sufficiency.

There’s nothing better than a homemade gift, where you can tailor your gift to your recipient and make it doubly special. It can be as simple or as difficult as you like – what matters is that it was crafted with your two hands.

If you’re new to making things yourself, and the idea of giving a hand-made gift is too intimidating, consider the other end of it. Ask your family for gifts to help get you started, like a how-to book, or beginning materials for gardening, canning, or renovation.

However, I encourage you to learn. The venue “Think Outside the Store,” is hosting several workshops this coming month on holiday gifts, where they provide the materials and instruction for each 2 hour session. Personally, I love picking up a new how-to book and teaching myself a new skill. It gives me the chance to be creative, and test my own capabilities. If done right, teaching yourself something new can be extremely rewarding. But, it can also be valuable to get some instruction and help from people that know what they’re doing!

In an urban environment like D.C., it can seem impossible to grow or create anything yourself. Most live very busy lives and are only able to choose between the products at their local supermarket. But with a little time, patience and creativity, anyone can learn the steps to self-sufficiency in the city.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Holiday Shopping at Eastern Market

Below is a post from guest blogger Denise.  Denise has written for Ecowomen previously, and is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where she studied environmental science and statistics. She now works in communications and is passionate about the environmental movement, writing short stories, and living sustainably.

It’s getting to be that time of year again. The winter wind is starting to bite, the leaves are turning and falling, and Christmas jingles are on repeat in shopping malls. The holidays are quickly approaching, and with the holidays, come the stresses of gift shopping, and the stress of finding the perfect gift – a gift with meaning amidst the mindless consumerism associated with the holidays.

This year, I urge you to look for gifts with sustainability in mind. A sustainable gift not only brings joy to the recipient, but also benefits the community and the ecosystem. A sustainable gift can be meaningful in so many ways.

There’s no better place than DC to find these gifts. The Eastern Market, a haven for localites, overflows with colors, produce, and life. Shopping at a local market is inherently sustainable, as the products don’t travel far from producer to consumer. Many of the vendors take sustainability even further, with recycled or used materials. If you’re looking for gift ideas along those lines, there are several vendors and types of goods in the Eastern Market that will fulfill your needs.

Hand-made Artwork
The artwork at Eastern Market is incredibly diverse and beautiful. Some of the bigger pieces might be a bit pricey, but most artists have small, affordable pieces as well that make great gifts.


Tiles and Magnets

Jeannette Landphair makes tiles and magnets from old newspaper clippings. The bathroom tiles have a retro look to them, and could easily be used as coasters. The magnets are signs from San Francisco newspapers, and would make a very entertaining addition to the door of your refrigerator full of produce you just bought from the market.

Antique mirrors that come from the East Coast can be found at the market in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Some of them are quite old, and some are quite strange. But they are all astoundingly beautiful.
Old magazines, maps, postcards

If you know someone who wants history in their art, you can browse through the multitude of vintage Life magazine covers, posters, maps, and postcards. And as an extra plus, these are much less expensive than the newly made art.


 One of the most interesting finds. The animals made from old soda cans – called “canimals” – are crafted by a man who calls himself Shumba. He says he got started because he was tired of taking out the trash. Now, friends and family give him their old soda cans- more than he has the capacity to use. These canimals are the very definition of up-cycling – taking used goods that could be recycled or thrown away, and using them in their raw form to create something new. “Can-tastic!”


At a stand called “Vintage Bling” you can find boxes upon boxes of old, vintage jewelry. For the treehuggers, there are plenty of butterflies, frogs, and other creatures as pendants and earrings. It doesn’t take a lot of digging here to find some beautiful pieces.

“Raices Handcrafts” is a vendor selling hand-made Ecuadorian scarves and jewelry. The owners of this stand travel to Ecuador twice a year to purchase the most beautiful fabric, scarves, and jewelry from local artisans and craftmakers. Take it from a bona fide scarf-lover: these scarves not only warm, they are truly stunning. If you’re preparing for another ‘snowpocalypse’ winter, why not do so with sustainable style?

Household Goods
Handmade pottery, crafted mosaic lanterns, and gorgeous cutting boards from the woods of the Shenandoah. These are just some of the sustainably-made household gifts at the Market.

Homemade Soaps
Handmade just outside of the city, the creator of Peacock Botanicals, Olivia, has been making soaps for over 15 years. The visual beauty of the soap blocks is only surpassed by their aromas. The lavender and oats soap – with real oats in the soap – and the soap called “Remembrance,” with a beautiful color palette, were my favorites. But most intriguing was the “Soup du Jour.” I still don’t know exactly what was in it, but it smelled amazing.

I am always happy with a scarf or a coffee mug as a gift, either to give or to receive. But with so many options to choose from at the Eastern Market, there’s the opportunity to branch out and still shop sustainably.

I hope you find the perfect gift this holiday season: useful, beautiful, meaningful, and sustainable. This is what I’m looking to find this year – to give the gift of meaningful sustainability.

How do you plan to make your holidays sustainable this year?