The Restore is My Happy Place

The Restore moved a little over a month ago. It used to be a little hard to find, but now it has a big storefront at 598 Lorne Avenue. I’ll bet you pass it all the time. If you haven’t been there, this month is a good time to make a visit, because on Saturday, September 15 they are celebrating their move with a big barbecue from 11am – 3pm.

Many people think that The Restore just carries boring stuff, like old bags of nails and leftover paint. Leaving aside the point that nails are far more expensive than you would think, and old paint is perfectly good if you are not too picky about shade, there are also many surprises there. I thought I would show a few of these in this post, just to give you a general idea.

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Art Deco lamp, $15

The first thing I liked about the new location is the lighting area. Its bigger, brighter, and much better organized. I saw a really cool lamp–well, it would have been cool, with a different lampshade. You need imagination at The Restore. The shape of this shade is just not right, and it’s too low.

The best thing about The Restore is that it is a charity. You feel good about making a purchase, because your money is going to help other people. It sells things that would otherwise go to the landfill. And if you don’t like it, you can just take it back. You might be out a few bucks, but they will be able to sell it again!

Antique oak sideboard, $350

They occasionally have antiques, too, like this oak sideboard. It was a solid looking piece, refinished, not much damage. You could get a whole set of dishes and silverware in there, or maybe use it as an entertainment centre. I like old wood, it’s warm and friendly. If you have something like this to donate, just let them know, and they will come pick it up.

I was talking with Florance Daniels, who is the Assistant Manager of the Stratford Restore. She is the whirlwind organizer of all the many different things that wind up on display. Florence says that business has really picked up since the move, so hopefully there will be higher turnover.

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Metal chest, $60

The Restore is a great place to exercise your creativity. Take the metal chest on the right, for example. It would make a good low coffee table, and would really pop if you spray painted it a strong colour. You might even set it on a stand to give it more height. And you would be absolutely certain that you were the only person in the world who had a coffee table like this.

On the other hand, if you just wanted a small low table, you could try one of the cheese boxes. At $5, you don’t have much to lose, and you could really go nuts with paint or wallpaper, or you could even just leave them as is. Like the metal chest, this kind of low table is double purpose; it holds a cup of coffee, and can store an entire set of Lego. And they don’t smell of cheese. Not at all.

The Restore is best known for its architectural salvage. If you are a home remodeler, or if you like interesting things to hold up vines in your garden, this is definitely your place. The aluminum columns I saw were in really good shape, and as far as I can see were less than half the retail price. They were pretty tall, too, maybe 12 -16 feet (not certain about the height).

If you keep checking back, you can often find entire sets of kitchen cupboards for ridiculously low prices. You need to do research on refinishing, but some of these sets are in really good condition, and just need a little elbow grease to get them in shape.

And don’t forget to consider alternate uses for things. You may think this is weird, but I love toilet cisterns (the backs of toilets). They are very pretty, they’re ceramic, and they have a drainage hole at the bottom. They make wonderful plant pots, especially when you mix them with coloured or terra cotta ones. People never notice that it’s part of a toilet. Well, at least, they’ve never mentioned it…

What I like best about The Restore is the thrill of the hunt.  It’s very well organized, but you still have to really look around to find something that is of value to you. It’s an especially good trip when you are broke, and need a pick-me-up for less than ten bucks. You can usually find something. If you’re renovating, the best way to shop at The Restore is to drop by frequently. If you see something you like, make the decision immediately, because it won’t be there when you come back.

Or talk to Florance. Florance knows everything. Florance is a recycling goddess.

The Restore
598 Lorne Avenue East
Stratford, ON N5A 6S5
(519)273-7155
fdaniels@habitat4home.ca
https://www.facebook.com/StratfordReStore/

Stratford Trashion Week, April 15 – 21

Jessika Guy, Owner of The Green Hair Spa launches the first annual week-long celebration of eco-friendly fashion events to celebrate Earth Week. It was a natural, although ambitious extension of Guy’s existing business model. Her salon in Downtown Stratford, promotes an environmentally friendly approach to beauty and haircare, Stratford Trashion Week brings together her commitment to the environment with her love of vintage and recycled fashion helping her draw attention to and celebrate Earth Week in a cool and creative way.

Stratford Trashion Week will feature design competitions, environmental awareness, industry experts, workshops and of course, fashion shows all of which focus on promoting the idea of eco-fashion as an alternative to the fast, throwaway fashion that has become the mainstay of the fashion industry.

Highlights of Stratford Trashion Week include:

Revival House (70 Brunswick)

 

Sunday, April 15, 2018 – Opening Night Party / Thrift and Vintage Fashion Show, Revival House (70 Brunswick Street) at 6:30. Featuring fashions from local thrift and vintage shops, art auction, expert talk on fast fashion, and retro dance party. Dress to impress in your vintage best. Tickets $50 or 4/$150 are also available through the website. Fundraiser for Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

 

 

Factory 163 (163 King)

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – Trashion Show featuring wearable creations from throw away items, Perth Pop-Up Eco Market, aerial performance artist, and presentation by Bee City Canada. No trash talking, just trash walking. Free event, 6:30 at Factory 163.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 – Beeswax wrap workshop with Upcycle Lifestyle, registration is required: email stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com. Event starts 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street) Tickets $35, also available through the website.

Friday, April 20, 2018 – Community Clothing Swap and expert talk about sustainability in your wardrobe from Daniela Siggia (VP of Textile Waste Diversion) Free event, 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street)

Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street)


Saturday, April 21, 2018
– Re-Fashion Show and Design Competition. 12 designers transform new fashion from used clothing ready for the runway. Expert judges Kelly McIntosh (actor), Dana Ruby Martin (co-founder of Revival by Martin and co.), Carrie Wreford (co-owner of Bradhaws Canada), William Riquelme (photographer for Lada Magazine) & Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks (creator of Peggy Sue Collections). Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street) at 6:30. Tickets are $75, a fundraiser for Gallery Stratford. They can also be purchased through the website.

 

Stratford Trashion Week welcomes 2017 Canadian Sustainable Fashion award winner, Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks from Peggy Sue Collections as one of the Re-Fashion Show judges and guest speaker to discuss what makes her ‘farm-to- fashion’ approach to fashion design different and why it’s so important today. Daniela Siggia VP of Textile Waste Diversion, York Region says “I celebrate the organizers of Stratford Trashion Week, for dedicating an entire week to this subject!”

Raising awareness about the effects of fast fashion on the planet is just the beginning. Stratford Trashion Week is designed to encourage change in the way we look at our wardrobe AND give people the tools they need to succeed at making sustainable fashion choices for a healthier world. Contact Jessika Guy at 519-305-0941 for further information on this event.

Other Contacts:

stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com
www.stratfordtrashionweek.ca
Facebook: @stratfordtrashionweek
Instagram: @stratfordtrashionweek
Twitter: @strattrashion

 

Keep Your Recycling Clean

Chief Security Officer and Assistant Recycling Inspector

There was interesting link posted in the Stratford Free Press Facebook Group today, leading to a CBC article about the dangers of sloppy recycling. In case you didn’t read it, here are the high points:

Problems:

  • contamination dramatically increases recycling costs
  • even a few spoonfuls of peanut butter or a gob of yogurt left in a jar can contaminate a tonne of paper
  • even a coffee stain can make a sheet of paper unrecyclable
  • many places can’t recycle black plastic
  • dirtiest cities are Toronto and Edmonton, where contamination rates can be up to 25%

 

Solutions:

  •  better sorting regulations. Clean cities like St. John’s and Vancouver sell their recyclables at a higher price, because they have stricter rules
  • change the list of accepted items
  • upgrade plants
  • educate residents

This all sounds good to me, but I notice the article didn’t say much about other ways of dealing with what we discard. Maybe we should tell our provincial and municipal representatives that we support them in their efforts to reduce waste. Maybe we should look for alternatives to disposables. And maybe we should stop meekly accepting purchases wrapped in toxic, non-recyclable plastic that cuts your fingers when you try to open them.

Or maybe we should do what these people did:

Coffee with a conscience

Every time I start getting depressed about the awful state of our environment, and the total jackass stupidity that contributes to it, something wonderful happens to me. It’s true.

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https://www.facebook.com/CarlaColesArtist/

Yesterday I wandered into Revel for a coffee. Often when I go into coffee shops I start nagging the cashier about whether they use plastic straws and cups. I try to do it in a nice way, but I do find that many shops look really relieved when I leave. So imagine my surprise when the cashier brightly replied that Revel uses biodegradable straws. If you use one of their straws in a coffee, it will melt (I didn’t try this). In fact, all their disposables are biodegradable.

Not only that, but they source their disposables from a Canadian company, Green Shift in Toronto. It’s a great company. Certification from all kinds of environmental associations, including the European Union Eco-Label, no animal testing, and fair trade products. I like this company’s holistic attitude to sourcing products, too:

Green Shift™ carefully sources and investigates products, factoring in the entire lifecycle of the product and the companies behind the products, because not only is green washing in individual products rampant, a key aspect that many people sadly overlook is that it is not just what you buy but where you buy it that counts. In other words, while a product itself may be “green” one should always consider the companies they are supporting in each purchase and whether helping that company to thrive will help or hinder environmental progress.

 

Greenwashing is a pet peeve of mine. It’s so good to find a company that understands that you can’t just look at the surface of things. You have to really dig, and use your brain. If you’re interested in ordering from Green Shift, you can have a look at their catalogue here: http://greenshift.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Green-Shift-Catalogue-2017v3.pdf

 

I’m so glad I wandered in yesterday. Now I’m wondering how many other coffee shops in town are getting the message about disposables. I’ll have to check them out. Maybe you could, too. But if you’re getting a little discouraged about pollution, drop by Revel for a coffee and give them a cheery wave.

Sugarbush trip

There is nothing more fun than taking kids out to learn where their food comes from. Especially when you get to feed them at the same time. So when maple sugar time rolled around again this year, I grabbed a couple of short folk and made my way to St. Marys, where McCully’s Hill Farm is having their annual Maple Festival Tour. It’s really easy to find, just north of town.

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Go for the breakfast tour, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of this month. For eight bucks a head, you fill your kids up with a slap-up pancake and sausage breakfast, and then, when they are weighed down and well-behaved from all the food, you all ride up to the barn, where they can visit with a variety of interesting and reasonably non-threatening animals.

 

Clydesdales
Forgot their names, but they were peaceful animals.

 

The high point of the trip is the tour of the sugarbush, on a wagon pulled by honest-to-God Clydesdales, led by a driver who knows an awful lot about the history of maple sugar, and of St. Marys in general. Even the most troublesome of our crew was attentive, and surprisingly well-behaved.

 

 

On the way back we were shown how maple syrup is made in the sugar shack, with lots of really satisfying and informative fire-stoking and sap-boiling and syrup-tasting. By the time they left the sugar shack, I think they had learned a lot. At this point, though, I would recommend avoiding the topic of whether we could all go home and make maple syrup together in our own kitchen. Instead, distract them by having them run around the pasture a few times. Five times, at  least.

 

 

It was pretty successful all round, and after the ride back we had a look around the store for interesting preserves, eggs, meat (they have bison) and other farm specialties. I got a really nice orange marmelade. It’s not really like a marmelade, more like an orange jelly, but very delicate. I like it a lot.

 

Then you go home, where hopefully the children will collapse for at least a little while. Make yourself a coffee, put your feet up, and congratulate yourself for being a great parent. That’s the part I like best.

 

Maple Festival Tour & Brunch:
Saturdays & Sundays through March & Good Friday
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
http://www.mccullys.ca/view.php?public/For_the_Kids/Maple_Syrup_Festival,_2018

About those bees . . .

I had a wonderful time at Seedy Sunday at The Local last month, and I’m just getting around to writing it up. I got variety of really interesting seeds that I’ll soon be starting on the front porch, but the best part of Seedy Sunday for me is always the presentations.

I loved the one on beekeeping, presented by Stuart Arkett. I’m quite fond of bees, and like to see them in my garden, but I’m a little overwhelmed at the idea of being responsible for a hive. But  I needn’t have worried. It was illegal to keep bees in Stratford until last year, when Stuart presented a petition to allow it within city limits. After all, the city coat of arms features a beehive. Why not live up to our history? The city agreed, but followed provincial regulations, which require a hive to be 30 meters from a property line. That puts my beehive smack-dab in the middle of my living room coffee table, right next to my husband’s beer when he’s watching sports. So it’s progress of a kind, but, short of a divorce, it’s not going to work for me. I hope Stuart continues his work to promote urban beekeeping.

Notice the beehive

I really got a lot out of Stuart’s presentation. He told us a great deal about neonicotinoid pesticides and how they work. These are the ones that cause all the problems for bees. Some crops around here just can’t be grown without this pesticide, or a more expensive alternative. It gets put on some seeds, and when dirt is blown in the wind it’s breathable. The good news is that neonics are on their way out, due to increased government regulation, and also because after an insecticide has been used over a period of time, the insects just become immune to it. You do have to question an agricultural practice that has the end result of breeding resistant bugs, but let’s save that for another day. (More about neonicotinoids here)

We also discussed colony collapse disorder, which I’m sure you’ve heard about. Surprisingly, only three crops depend completely on bees for pollination: blueberries, cranberries, and almonds. These crops use trucked-in hives, a method that stresses the bees and weakens their resistance to mites and disease.

I have always wondered why the almond farmers don’t just raise bees within their groves. That would save time and trouble in transportation, and minimize the risk of infection to the hives. And you get honey. So I put my hand up to find out. Stewart answered that almond groves do not provide a complete diet for bees, as almonds are the only thing allowed to grow there. “But…” I said, “Why not allow a little extra vegetation, so the bees can thrive?” He smiled patiently, and explained that water is very scarce where the almonds grow, and no farmer would risk the expense of watering weeds. “But… “I persisted, “Why not reduce the ratio of trees to vegetation, just a little, to allow for bees?”

His answer was accompanied by the steely-eyed look farmers reserve for city-folk who want to give them advice. I could tell he’d been asked these kinds of questions before, presumably by people with a slightly vacant stare and flowers in their hair. He said that it is the obligation of farmers to produce the maximum from their farms. Farm families aren’t charitable organizations, and farm life is hard enough without creating extra, unprofitable work.

Well, it’s pretty hard to answer back to a statement like that. But then — and this is the interesting part — I asked him another question and got an answer I didn’t expect. I wanted to know why the bees produce more than the hive can use. Turns out they just do, it’s a bee thing. They keep working until there’s no more room for honey. Many beekeepers take all the honey from the hive and leave the bees with cheaper sugar water to last them over the winter. This is not as nutritious, and some hives die, but it works out in the long run. On his farm, Stuart doesn’t do this. He tries to calculate how much honey the bees will need to keep healthy over the winter, and he takes the rest as his share.

So in other words, he’s taking a reduced profit on his hives, hives he’s bought or built — to make things more comfortable for a bunch of bugs. He is not maximizing his farm profit. Seems to me there’s a contradiction. And I find that really interesting.

There’s a kind of a way we’re taught to think about how society relates to nature. We’re tough, we’re practical, we’re in control, and nature is a product. If you watch the news these days, particularly the weather news, maybe we’re not so much in control as we think we are. And I notice a kind of vague unease; it’s like we have a conflict between our heads and our hearts, and we try to resolve it by not really thinking about it very much. But avoiding it doesn’t make it go away.

I’m certainly no expert, but maybe the bees need more thinking about. Maybe agriculture needs more thinking about. Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way.

There are microfibres in your beer

You need more than “the touch test” to find ethical clothing

This week I attended a workshop on microfibre pollution hosted by The Bus Store Bookshop at  LifeSpin in London. The workshop was designed by the Synthetic Collective, a group from Western University, and presented by Kristy Robertson, who teaches there. I hadn’t planned to do another post on clothing for a while, as there are other subjects I want to cover. I’m really encouraged, though, by the amount of interest there is in this topic. It just keeps coming up, wherever I turn.

When I first got the notice I thought, “A workshop? Really? Can’t they just e-mail me the info?” But I made the trip anyway, and I’m glad I did, because you really did need to be there, to touch and see the fabrics. We started off by trying to find an article of clothing we could be sure wasn’t harmful to the environment. Predictably, we failed. The most common reason was the presence of microfibres, tiny synthetic particles found in most clothing that we buy. When clothing is washed, these particles are shed, and they are everywhere; in water, in the air, in the food chain, and yes, even in Black Swan Porter (my personal favourite). You can’t see them, but they’re there.

The bad news:

  • Damage to environment: Microplastics are everywhere, making up 85% of manmade debris found on shorelines worldwide (I’m pretty sure you know this already). Microfibres are the smallest microplastic particles, and ride on the ocean, just under the surface, as floating goo.
  • Remediation is difficult: Most sewage treatment plants can capture microplastics, but microfibres are too small. There are filters that can be added to a washload, but again, microfibres are too small for them.
  • Harm for humans: We have no idea what this means for our health. The studies just aren’t there. This means that we can’t legislate against them.

The good news:

  • Front-loading washers shed fewer microfibres
  • Wool, silk and flax are best clothing choices, but watch out for dyes. Support knowledgeable clothing stores.
  • Used clothing has already had many of the microfibres washed out, so if you must buy a synthetic, try a consignment store.

Future actions:

  • Advocate for wastewater treatment reform
  • Support regulation for washing machine retrofits
  • Alter our washing machine use. No unnecessary washing, seek out better filters.
  • Look for biodegradables when shopping (not just clothing: linens, curtains, mops, cleaning accessories)

All in all, it was a great trip, and I’m really impressed with the Synthetic Collective. They have this great idea of putting their materials together in a slideshow that will be made available for community groups to use on their own. Anybody interested in doing one here in Stratford?

 

 

My New Year’s Resolution

Twenty seven pelicans saved from impalement

Sometimes the most effective change starts really small.

Today I went through the entire house and collected all the pens that no longer work. Twenty seven of them, in fact. These have been accumulating because of my fear that any pen I throw out will eventually wind up skewering some innocent pelican somewhere. So I have been keeping them in odd places around the house. This has been going on too long, and I am worried about becoming one of those hoarder ladies you read about in the paper.

I took all the dry Sharpies, and promised myself never to buy another one. I took all those nice pens I got from the bank. I took all the pens I get in the mail from charities (shame on you, charities!). I even took that really cool chunky silver pen I got at a conference years ago, and had been keeping in case I could figure out how to refill it. I put them all in a nice recyclable can, and when the can is full I will put them in a paper bag, write “recycle” on it, and take it to Staples on Ontario Street, which has an excellent writing tools recycling programme.

I cannot tell you how much better I feel after this 15-minute activity. I don’t know if it’s my feng shui, my chi, or my karma, but it feels very good.

I did keep the mechanical pencils, though. I know it’s unrealistic, but I do believe that someday, somehow, I will learn how to make them work.

Happy New Year, everybody!

 

Downtown Fashion

https://www.miik.ca/blogs/news/we-need-a-fashion-revolution

So this week I got to check out Good on You, the new app I found that helps you select ethical clothing. It’s easy to use, easy to read, and it’s for iOS and Android. It’s pretty useful, although they need to add more designers to their list. (I’m sure that will come with time.) As it’s Christmas, and I’m going to a party, I thought I’d shop around for something to dazzle people with. I tried to visit as many stores as possible, but I didn’t get to every downtown retail store, so it’s not as if this post is some kind of scientific study or anything. It’s really just a first attempt.

I began my search at one of my favourite stores. I asked if they had anything in natural fibres or sustainably manufactured clothing. The clerk suggested I try another store.

I was crushed. I really liked that store. But that’s the thing about becoming a Greener and Completely Better Person: sometimes you have to close some doors. Not a great start, but things got better. Clerks in a couple of other shops stared at me blankly when I made my request, but some Stratford stores are really aware of the environmental damage and the unfair labour practices of the clothing industry. It really is pretty bad. Did you know that our consumption of clothing is projected to TRIPLE by 2050?? It all winds up in the landfill. And the ocean.

The first cheerful note in my shopping trip was at Resonance, on Downie Street. The clerk was knowledgeable and concerned. She showed me some really nice lines of clothing, things that looked comfortable and stylish, but wouldn’t keep you up at night worrying about burnt Bangladeshi teenagers.

So I started looking at labels, and checked on the ones that claimed to be sustainable and ethical. I did the same at Cora’s in the Market Square, and at their upscale store, Cora Couture. All the people I talked to in these shops were very concerned about the social and environmental problems in the clothing industry, and they were very helpful.

These shops have given me a good start in looking for ethical fashions. I’ve begun a list of environmentally friendly designers available through Stratford retailers, and I plan to keep checking back to update my list. Click here to see the list.

To make a long story short, I didn’t buy anything, even though I found some really nice things. This happens to me a lot these days. I read what’s happening in the world, and it just makes me heartsick. So instead of buying a new dress, I went back to to the store I started out with, Kinna Sohna, where I had seen a beautiful silk scarf. It’s sustainably made, and will last years and years. It kind of dazzles, and people won’t notice that it’s on the same dress I wore last time. And anyway, what’s so bad about wearing the same thing twice?

I’ve pretty well established my shopping mantra. Shop locally, but buy less. Think about quality and longevity. Don’t be surprised if it’s more expensive. Accessorize instead of buying new things. Check the label, do research. Think: natural and organic fibres, working conditions, company transparency.

I still can’t say I feel great about clothes shopping, but I do feel better, and this is a good start on making shopping trips a lot simpler and easier.

Ethical Threads

In clothing, as in everything else, I believe in shopping locally, and it’s not just because when you shop locally you are helping everybody out, including yourself. Nope. I shop locally because I want to look that clerk in the eye. I want to see what she does when I ask the touchstone question: “Does my ass look big in these pants?” When you find a store you can trust, you stick with them.

On the other hand, if I want to become a Greener and Completely Better Person I need to identify  clothing that does the least harm to the environment and to people. My visit to Kinna Sohna was just the first trip out, and that one was easy, because Sartaj, the owner, has a face-to-face relationship with her suppliers. Not all Stratford retailers can say that. It’s not their fault, it’s just the nature of retail these days.

goodonyou
Good on You: https://goodonyou.eco/app/

I want to set up a list of local merchants who stock ethical merchandise, but I need a tool to help me be sure a label is really what it represents itself to be. So I looked around for something portable and reasonably comprehensive. I chose Good on You, an app for iOS and Android. There are others, but I like the philosophy of this app; it applauds companies that are doing well, and encourages others to do better. Really, there’s no point in being nasty about it. We’re all in this together.

 

Jennifer Fukushima Fashion
https://www.jenniferfukushima.com/

 

The app, as the name implies, is from Australia, established by the nonprofit Ethical Consumers Australia.  It rates labels for their treatment of their workers, for their attention to the environment, and for their transparency. They seem to be expanding fast, and although they don’t have some of the Canadian suppliers I looked for, they do have Canadian content, like this article on Canadian designer Jennifer Fukushima (You can find Fukushima clothing and accessories at Resonance, 23 Downie Street).

So that’s it for a start. I’ll be trying out my ideas next week with a shopping trip to downtown Stratford. There are a lot of labels, and a lot of research to do. If you use the Good on You app, let me know how it’s working for you. If you know of a better one, let me know that too. Happy shopping!