Eco Chic Events

Realistic Green Living

January 16, 2016
peep, hole, gate, woodworking, diy, decor, flower, wood, salvage, upcycle, reclaim

Hello readers!

Have you been enjoying this week’s Instagram tour behind the scenes? If you haven’t seen it yet, check out The Eco Chic Event Instagram to get caught up. It gives a peek at easy, casual, earth-friendly living. We decided to give the tour after receiving a lot of questions about how to incorporate green living into an average daily routine. “Average” meaning people who live in the city or suburbs, and who work but aren’t about to splurge at Whole Foods every night. This week’s article expands on our Instagram home tour and answers some of the specific questions we’ve received. Enjoy!

brass, tin, mexican, light, fixture, dining, decor, santa fe , rustic

Inside

The five R’s at their best! Salvaged, reclaimed, vintage, pre-loved – however you like to describe it – these finds give the house personality and warmth. Our place has a Santa Fe style interior, so we chose rustic elements that compliment that look. See the salvaged lighting fixture above – très eco chic!

Appliances are unplugged when not in use to prevent drainage (seriously, try doing this for a month and see how much lower your electric bill is). We use LEDs in the evenings, and during the day enough sunlight comes in that we don’t need any more. Clothing is laundered in cold water on a quick wash setting, and then dried outside.

Cleaning products are nontoxic and still work just as well as the chemical-laden variety I grew up with. Plus, they smell way better: lemon or lavender instead of bleach. It’s much more inviting, and makes cleaning less a chore.

shower, tile, alcove, remodel, bathroom, blue, bronner

Showers … yes. Here is where many people will jump ship, so in an upcoming article I’ll be talking about how to make a quick, drought-aware shower feel more luxurious. In my house we enjoy invigorating, chilly, two minute showers. Before you run away in disgust, keep in mind that cold water improves circulation, doesn’t dry out the skin like hot water, and offers a number of other health benefits. And yes, the shower head is low flow, just like the toilet.

There are no paper towels in the house; we use all cloth napkins and cleaning rags. While it may sound inconvenient to those who grew up with disposables, it’s actually just as easy, and saves money, to boot! Not to mention using cloth napkins makes meals feel more like … meals.

Speaking of food, we eat very little meat, using it more as a condiment than a food group. As I always say, less and better. The meat we do buy comes from a nearby farm and is organic, free range, the whole nine yards. If that sounds extreme or unusual, it is becoming more mainstream to source meat this way … and yes, you can taste the difference. What we don’t grow ourselves comes from the farmers’ market or a local co-op that supports the community. They carry some of the best raw honey I’ve ever tasted. The way I see it, everything you eat becomes you. It’s worth the extra pennies.

bag, tote, shopping, reusable, grocery, market, dim sum, canvas

Of course, no plastic bags. We bring our own reusable shopping totes wherever we go, and keep a few in the car for unscheduled stops. With all the chic and adorable options, how is anyone not using these all the time? I also keep smaller bags for purchases from the bulk section, and to use for sandwiches, snacks, etc. Little choices add up!

goji, berry, garden, superfood, health

Outdoor space

Being vegetarian-ish, cultivating a productive garden is a high priority. We grow our own produce organically, watering the trees through a greywater system, and the vegetables as needed during approved hours. We also harvest cotton year round from a tree that requires no watering. I don’t weave, but I do use the cotton cosmetically, and occasionally for decorating (cobwebs, snow, clouds, etc.).

compost, bin, pallet, shovel, hay, scraps, garden, backyard, homestead

We built side-by-side compost bins from salvaged untreated pallets and an old fence. We like the rustic look of it in the yard. All kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and other biodegradables go into the bins, and the result is a fantastic soil conditioner year round. For those who have asked, the answer is no. The bins aren’t stinky; they smell mildly of hay and dirt.

Around town

Happily, we live only a mile from most places we like to visit regularly. It’s a short walk to the library, post office, farmers’ market, and recycling center. This keeps us fit and saves money! When traveling longer distances, we check with friends and neighbors to see if anyone would like to carpool that day, or if we can pick up anything to save them a trip. Not only are we keeping more cars off the road, but we’ve made great friends with the people on our block, and it’s made us feel more like a community.

backyard, garden, winter, trees, grow, fruit, orchard, green

Far from homesteading, this is a level of green that we find extremely comfortable and easy to maintain; it suits our eco-fabulous lifestyle. Everyone has different priorities, and that’s alright (read about this in our short post last year on eco-compromises).  Our setup is maintained on a minimal income, with some DIY magic and creative thinking. We hope this week’s tour behind the scenes has been interesting and informative – keep the questions coming and keep it green!

 

Eco Chic Events

A Dapper Birthday Dinner

January 7, 2016
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Happy new year, readers! As a special start-of-year treat, The Eco Chic Event is giving you a peek at how our most recent party came together. Read on to see how we tackled all the little challenges that make up every event….

 
The plan: The birthday “boy” Kevin was turning 32, and he wanted to invite a few friends for an intimate evening gathering at his modest South Park home. He was thinking something playful but still masculine, fun but not childish. After tossing a few ideas around, we settled on a dapper dinner: not quite hipster, and not trying too hard. It would give the guys an excuse to dress up without going full costume ball. It would be casually debonair.

dapper, suits, old school cool, gent, hipster

                          “Casually debonair”

The challenge: downplay the floral furnishings

The solution: draw attention from the feminine furnishings by redirecting it elsewhere.

We left all wooden elements in the house exposed, and brought in three manly-elegant pieces: an oversized clock, a large portrait of a deer (bordering on overdone, but we couldn’t resist), and a record player. These we placed wherever the floral motif was not, drawing eyes toward the themed areas.

record player, vinyl, LED, candles, cigar boxes, upcycle, reuse, the five r's, party decor, masculine

                           “Look over here!”

The challenge: make sure the men consume more than just beer

The solution: offer interesting, but not too unfamiliar, food options

Sloppy Joe sliders, Greek salad skewers, and herbed biscuits were substantial enough to fill them. Honeycomb, cheeses, and fruit kept their taste buds awake. For snacking, freshly made salted whiskey caramels, roasted nuts, and caramel corn sat in apothecary jars and tiered black trays on the game room table.

appetizer, honeycomb, cheese, fruit, platter, party, food, local, organic

             More than beer

The challenge: the birthday boy wanted to distribute goody bags

The solution: change “goody bag” to “parting gift” to make it grown up

We used wooden cigar boxes from a local shop and filled them with useful items that also fit the dapper theme: cigars (chocolate of course); tiny bottles of whiskey; pocket handkerchiefs; personalized matchbooks; and bow ties. The finished boxes doubled as party decor, and the guests were surprised and delighted to leave with a box of their own.

cigar box, seegar, party favor, gift, jim beam whiskey, chocolate, matches, recycle, reuse

                Add a bow tie and call it done!

The challenge: we had two days to pull it off

The solution: DIY FTW

With no time for special orders or custom printing, we took every detail into our own hands. From the hand-drawn party logo on the matchbooks to the naked cake, this last-minute party was a feat of creativity and last-minute sourcing.

 

The result: We kept the party subtly green with cloth napkins, real plates and glasses, and local organic food. We repurposed items and used recycled matches. We skipped extras like balloons and flowers, instead allowing the food, bow tie bar, and shoe shine station to carry the visual appeal. We opted for e-vites, both to expedite RSVPs and to save paper and delivery emissions; we kept them classic and cool by creating a logo for the party that reappeared on the matchbooks.

Kevin was very happy with the results. His gluten-free guest had been supplied with bread that everyone loved, his non-drinking friends had plenty of old-school sodas as well as a sparkling organic punch, and the homemade whiskey punch was a hit. Add to that the original broadcast recording of H. G. Wells’ “War of The Worlds” on vinyl as an entertaining background, and the feat of staying under budget … what a way to kick off the new year!

 

Keep up to date with the latest in chic sustainability, European event trends, and more by liking The Eco Chic Event on Facebook and subscribing to our newsletter!

Uncategorized

A Tiny Zero Waste Primer

November 21, 2015
minimalist, home, clean, simple, chic, modern

You’ve probably heard of Zero Waste. It’s been on the international agenda since the 1970’s, but in the past decade it has become increasingly personal. What does Zero Waste mean, exactly, and where does it fit into your modern, urban lifestyle?

We are happy to say that despite the intimidating name, Zero Waste turns out to be one of the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective ways you can reduce your footprint.

It all starts with prevention.

zero waste, the 5 r's, recycle, reduce, reuse, rot, refuse

The Zero Waste model goes beyond recycling. We all learned about the three “R’s” in grade school, but do you know the five “R’s”? They stand for Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. You should refuse items you don’t need, reduce what you already own, and reuse what you can. You should only recycle when you can’t refuse, reuse, or reduce. Lastly, you should let things rot in a composting system.

This cycle uses few new materials, and any waste returns to the earth as compost, or is otherwise reused or recycled.

You can probably tell that Zero Waste is more of a lifestyle than a concrete target. It asks us to rethink how we live and what we truly value. Making a difference in society is the new American global dream.

That’s all well and good, you’re thinking, but it seems a bit extreme. Can the five “R’s” be compatible with my chic lifestyle?

 

compost, bin, green, waste, rot, black gold, plant food, garden, zero waste

Not compatible with my chic, urban lifestyle.

Yes they can! Just start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. How much garbage am I currently producing and what kind? This will help you determine where to start reducing.
  2. What do I actually use on a daily basis? This will help you decide what to sell or donate.
  3. What products do I use that can be traded for more sustainable alternatives?

Once you’ve got an idea of what you really need to be happy, check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Ms. Kondo is a charming professional organizer and a delight to read. Her book (available at the library and as an e-book) will help you with an important “R”: reduce.

 

Marie Kundo, clean, reduce, minimalist, simple, chic, tidy, clean

Even if a completely zero waste lifestyle isn’t in your near future, there are plenty of ways to lessen your impact.

One simple way is to start your own compost bin. Turning your green scraps into plant food is a great way to reuse unwanted food. If you think you don’t have enough space, or that composting is gross and smelly (I won’t blame you), check out the very chic, very green countertop composter we recommended in our Thanksgiving article. Très eco chic!

Make smart purchases from smart companies – MUD denim has an ongoing jeans philosophy that asks customers to “lease” their jeans and send them back later so the material can be reused.

jeans, denim, recycle, lease, green, chic, MUD. Levi's

For the latest news in ultra-chic sustainable fashion, check out Daniel Silverstein’s Zero Waste designs that make one outfit from one entire piece of fabric – with no unused scraps! Silverstein is huge at New York’s fashion week, and you should definitely keep your eye on him if you want to stay ahead of the fashion industry curve.

Get rid of plastic. Plastic is toxic. Donate the nicer things to your local charity shop, recycle the rest, and try not to buy it again. Replace those plastic products with sustainable alternatives like organic cotton and linen, stainless steel, wood, and glass. Just look at these reusable straws! I’ll bet that was the first time you looked at a straw and thought sexy. Well Zero Waste does that to your whole life.

Grocery stores know it; they are increasingly encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable totes and refillable containers for bulk bins. Your items stay fresher longer, your kitchen looks nicer, and you’re saying no to plastic waste.

Unverpackt, Germany, bulk, grocery, market, bins, clean, reusable, zero waste

The most simple thing to do, with the largest impact, is to pick up one of these awesome reusable tumblers for your daily coffee fix. Just like that you’ve kept at least 300 paper cups a year (or more, let’s be real) out of the landfills. Go you.

Start with the tips in this article, and if you’re itching to learn more, check out Eco-Cycle, one of the largest non-profit, community-based recyclers in the country, and Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home blog for more ideas. Si vous parlez français, this blog is also full of sustainable goodness.

And of course, when it’s time for a celebration, contact us at The Eco Chic Event to learn how to make yours sophisticated and sustainable.

Happy greening!

Holidays

Give Thanks and Give Dinner Parties

November 17, 2015
Thanksgiving, buffet, healthy, holiday, dinner, party, celebration

Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Why not show your appreciation for the planet and kick off the holidays to a sustainable start by making dinner just a little greener? For a simple and elegant dinner party, check out our eco-friendly tips.

Heritage, turkey, breed, Thanksgiving, dinner, party, holiday, roast, organic, free range

The Food

The greenest dinner party is meatless, but we would never ask you to brave Thanksgiving without a turkey. The potential for disappointed guests would be far too great. However, even the bird’s greatest fans have to admit that factory turkey always seems rather dry and flavorless.

An increasingly popular choice is the Heritage turkey. These “heirloom” breeds are raised outdoors, free to roam the pasture, and eat a varied diet. Unlike factory birds, Heritage turkeys are never fed fillers or antibiotics. They are juicy and succulent and taste the way a turkey is supposed to taste. A bit leaner, the dark meat a bit gamier, they are such a popular choice this year that Bon Aptit Magazine included special instructions on how to handle the birds in this month’s Thanksgiving issue. You won’t find the specifics on the site yet, but here are a couple hints: pull it from the oven at 150° and carve the dark meat more thinly than the white.

food-salad-healthy-vegetable, dinner, holiday, feast, table, setting, party

Despite the inevitable fuss over turkeys, most guests really look forward to the side dishes. Visit your local farmer’s market for nearly everything you’ll need to make beautiful (carbon-neutral!) sides. In San Diego this time of year you’ll find beets, carrots, celery, herbs and citrus fruits, potatoes, winter squash, and greens of all kinds. If you’re not planning on baking bread or pastries yourself, the farmer’s market is the perfect place to snatch up a few of those, as well. Bring plenty of those hip reusable shopping totes!

shopping, bag, tote, grocery, market, reusable, French, canvas, cotton, recycled, jute, chic

The Drink

Ah, wine. Maybe you’ve yet to meet a varietal you don’t love, or maybe you’re not overly interested in vintages and bottlings. Whatever your personal taste, it’s safe to say that your guests will expect wine to make an appearance on your Thanksgiving table. What are the best choices for Thanksgiving dinner? There are many acceptable options, from sparkling to Riesling. However, the two that work best from appetizer to dessert are Pinot Noir and Malbec. Pinot is low in tannin, has great acidity, and is not too heavy-bodied. This makes it a versatile pairing wine that everyone can enjoy. Pick up an Argentinian Malbec for a similar profile at half the price.

wine, pinot, zinfandel, dinner, party, drink, beverage, celebrate, winery

San Diegans can find excellent organic wine from nearby Temecula; Ponte Winery in particular has made great green advancements.

Want to offer an alternative to vin? Before Prohibition, hard apple cider was the most popular drink in the country. Why not celebrate Thanksgiving with the original American beverage? This time of year, apples are at their best. Try the hard apple cider from Julian – pick it up at most any market, or for a fun autumn outing before the cooking begins, you can visit the mill! Don’t forget to recycle those bottles!

apples, harvest, fall, bushel, cider, autumn, orchard

The Prep

Give your house a once-over with non-toxic cleaners – these are better for your family and for the planet. Some of our favorite eco-friendly cleaning lines include Mrs. Meyers and Method. They not only get the job done, but they smell great and are the packaging is recyclable and made from recycled material, too!

Plan your menu and shopping schedule in advance to avoid multiple trips to the market.

Turn down the thermostat; the combination of guests and cooking will heat your home plenty.

The Decor

table, setting, party, holiday, dinner, fruit, minimalist, simple, chic

Use real plates, napkins, and utensils. They’re better for the environment and they look better, too. Unless you’re eating on a folding card table, you can skip the tablecloth. Break out a runner or a simple wooden board if you like, but let the food take center stage. Thanksgiving dinner is all about the bounty of the harvest, so why not display all that beautiful, seasonal fruit you picked up right there on the table? Ripe, perfumed pears and persimmons are just as lovely as flowers – paired with maybe a few beeswax candles, you can call your table complete!

The Aftermath

Compost scraps (you do compost, don’t you?) If not, toss veggie scraps in the green waste bin and then add this to your Christmas list.

Rejoice in the wonderful news that modern dishwashers are much more water-friendly than washing by hand (they use only around 20% as much water).

Sleep it off – you’ve earned it!

Eco Chic Events

If You Want Something Done Right…

October 17, 2015

Once in a while it’s good to be reminded why we do what we do. Today someone from The Eco Chic Event got a big reminder while lending a hand at a development breakfast for a national nonprofit. Warning: think twice before reading if your event date is near; this may give you nightmares.

 

What happened: Alex (let’s call our employee Alex) arrived at a well-known event venue at 6:30 in the morning to set up for a breakfast reception beginning at 8:30. The other staff member on site was socializing and the event director was nowhere to be found, so Alex set up alone. No problem; Alex could easily handle the 40 expected guests.

Just a few minutes into setup, a small construction crew arrived. There had been a miscommunication from the venue manager, and the crew had been scheduled to work at the main entrance. No problem; they promised to be out before 8:00. The event director arrived around 7:00am (half an hour late) and promptly disappeared to handle “a bunch of paperwork”. No problem.

By this time, Alex had finished setting up, but noticed that the Audio/Visual team had not arrived to cue the music and interactive stations, provide the microphone and podium, and perform the sound checks. The caterer, also, had yet to arrive. Alex found the event director in her office and informed her of the missing vendors. The director looked concerned and Alex recommended calling the vendors and offered to make a quick pastry run while there was still time. The director hummed and hahed and eventually said no. No problem; there were other ways to prepare. Alex found a security officer who knew how to handle some of the AV work, and located a backup podium and microphone.

AV finally arrived around 8:30, and the caterer not until 8:45, nearly two hours late. No problem; the host had shuffled around the schedule to buy more time.

Feeling embarrassed by the disorganization, the event director allowed the breakfast to run overtime – a great inconvenience to Alex, who had to have the area cleaned up by 11:00. Alex was unable to keep uninvited visitors out of the event space, and was equally unable to close invited guests into the area. No problem; a security officer stood guard while Alex stealthily broke down one section at a time. Through resourcefulness and cooperation, the public was admitted on time, at no inconvenience to the guests.

 

What should have happened: All vendors should have been on time (within reason) and all staff members should have contributed equally. The venue manager should have checked the events calendar before scheduling construction. A contingency plan should have been in place, especially when working with vendors who are notoriously flakey. Most importantly, however, is the event director. She is the central nervous system of the whole operation, and as such, she must be confident, competent, and decisive. This morning’s example clearly was not.

 
What should be taken away from this: Before signing a contract with someone, interview them. They will be working for you, so really get to know them. Ask questions like, “How would you handle a situation where (insert your personal event horror here)?” and, “Why did you choose the vendors you’ve partnered with?” Don’t accept their assurances that everything will always go smoothly if you hire them! Their answers to these types of questions will ultimately be more important than their answer to, “How much?”

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