Oysters and Orchids, Oh Mole!

The first day was just travel and we arrived in Veracruz without incident (although my mother had to throw out her apple since you can’t bring stuff like that into other countries for fear of spreading disease and pestilence).  We were greeted at the airport in Veracruz by our American guide Mike Vondruska and our local, Mexican, English-Speaking guide, Jorge Alberto Vidal Lopezolivera.

Bags were transferred to a large van and we met our fellow tour attendees like deer in the headlights (as often happens when you put a bunch of people together who have just met for the first time but know they have to spend nine days together having no idea how this is all going to go).

We arrived and were checked into the Gran Hotel Deligencias.  My mother and I were in room 419, each in our own bed.  A quick “snack” dinner of oysters, guacamole and chips, and cold cervezas at the hotel restaurant later and we were ready for sleep.  The passionate locals were enjoying loud music until at least 1:00a.m., but we were so tired, we faded into dreamland.

Next morning, we were up at 7:00a.m., showered, repacked and in the elevator back to the hotel lobby by 8:00a.m.  We loaded our baggage in the tour van and walked across the street to Gran Café del Portal Veracruz for a breakfast of café, orange juice and Machaca (eggs with “dried meat” and salsa) and warm corn tortillas.

Bellies full, bill paid and money exchanged, we were in the van on our way to a local town, Coatepec.  Our first stop was an Orchid Museum (Museo de la Orquidea), established by Dr. Isiaias Contreras Juarez over the course of 40 years.  There are over 350 species of orchid from 2mm tall to about a foot tall.  Most were not in bloom, but the ones that were stretched their beautiful blooms (even the ones we had to use a magnifying glass to see). J

Some important things we learned about orchids are:

  • They have a symbiotic relationship with the plant they grow on
  • The changes in temperature they experience throughout the year help them bloom
  • Climate change is affecting their natural growth rhythms
  • They need mostly air (and some water) to live
  • Vanilla is an orchid!
  • The word “orchid” means “testicles” (from the shape of their bulbs)

After the orchid museum, we walked to see a jade plant in bloom.  Then, we drove down the road and ate lunch at a very nice restaurant and enjoyed artisanal bread and dark beer.  Mom had grilled chicken and I had snapper, rice and vegetables with a fresh, salad.  At the end of the meal, the wait staff bought a large bottle of tequila (a casa (“on the house”)) and we all partook.

Then, we were off to our next hotel, a boutique-y place near the town square called Casa Real del Café.

We peeked into one of the local Iglesias (churches) and chuckled at the statue to Santa del Café (the patron saint of coffee).  Then, we walked around the town for a bit and enjoyed people watching a typical Sunday evening in the town square, complete with live singing, couples dancing, artisans selling their wares, children playing and other street performers.

Our final activity at the end of a full day was a cooking class with Art Cuisine, a local mother, Tanya, and her family taught us how to make picaditas (masa cooked on the griddle, pinched, and topped with frijoles and queso, or rojo salsa), chicken and mushroom mole dish, and coffee lemonade (made with local coffee with just the right technique).  And, we finished with coffee gelatin and vanilla and raisin ice cream.

The bed felt so welcoming after such a colorful and adventure-filled day!

Green Up Your Garments

Lisa Curwen


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Curwen, a fashion industry veteran and founder of Lisa Curwen Studio.  She got her Master’s degree studying, researching, and publishing on the subject of sustainable practices for the fashion and textile industry. She is a former treasurer of Fashion Group International (FGI.org) and has taught an Eco Fashion course as an adjunct faculty member of the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design (RMCAD). She really knows her fabrics.  Read on!

Interview with Lisa Curwen:

S3:  What do you focus on mostly in your studio?

LISA:  Recently, I have been designing tablecloths and tea towels for a company called Amelie Michel.  The company is located in Connecticut, but will be having a pop-up sale in Denver at Wash Park Studio. Thursday Sept. 13th through Wednesday September 19th, 10am-5pm every day.

I have also designed home furnishings textiles, many of which are sold in showrooms in the Denver Design Center and at Calico Home. In addition, I re-upholster furniture as a hobby.


S3:  What do you see as the more sustainable aspects of the fashion industry?

LISA:   Sustainble practices must include the social (fair labor practices), the environmental (non-toxic techonology and organic farming), and the economic aspects (being able to make a profit). All three have to be present to have a viable model. Historically, it used to be much harder for companies to be profitable while implementing sustainable practices in both the labor market and environmentally friendly textile manufacturing; but it is more accepted now, and almost required, for companies to operate in a socially responsible manner.


S3:  What are some ways the fashion industry practices sustainability?

LISA:  Reduce the amount of packaging, reduce transportation (energy usage) in the supply chain by using smaller and more local supply chains, reduce water usage and pesticides for farming, make sure effluents from textile manufacturing don’t go into water supplies,  create prodcuts that use closed loop lifecycles.


S3:  What is the best way for fashion consumers to support eco-fashion?

LISA:  First and foremost, do research on companies.  Find the ones that are more socially responsible and support them. 

Consume less! Launder clothing in cold water and hang or dry flat to reduce energy usage. The biggest load on the environment comes at the consumer level in the care of clothing.  Buy organic cotton products.  Avoid textiles that use a lot of chemicals in their manufacturing such as rayon and leather products, however Tencel (trademark symbol) is an environmentally friendly brand of rayon. Resell, recycle, or repurpose your garments. Buy wool, alpaca or PLA (a naturally derived polyester).


S3:  What other choices can fashion consumers make to live more sustainably?

LISA:  Buy fewer new clothes and ones that have longevity.  Frequent thrift stores and consignment stores.

Beware of “green washing”! 

Research companies for authentic certifications – Listen to/watch the news and watch for business practices.

Put pressure on companies to be more ecologically/sustainability focused.

Support initiatives that are more sustainability focused.


S3:  Do you think “slow fashion” hurts fashion trends?

LISA:   Slow fashion is just a different way to approach fashion.  For instance, it might mean buying more classic styling that can be worn for a longer time.  One could always accessorize with updated fashion items, but keep the bulk of their wardrobe changing less frequently.


S3:  What do you see as the number one choice people can make towards living more sustainably?


#1:  Reduce energy usage (Consume less, drive less, recycle, reduce at home, change diet, invest in LED light bulbs, change climate controls to be more eco-friendly, turn off lights, etc.)

#2:  Compost (Divert from the landfill)

#3:  Buy less (See above tips)


S3:  Which companies would you suggest people who are passionate about slowing the effects of climate change invest in?

LISA:  Socially conscious companies.  Invest from the heart.  Vote with your wallet.

Having said all that, it is super challenging to be a purist.  Taking steps to be more green with your garments is a start.

Here are some tips to “green up” your garments:

  • Go to or host clothing swaps (have a party with friends and swap outfits)
  • Fix it when it’s broken (sew back on buttons, darn socks, repair zippers, tears, etc.)
  • Give clothing to charities when you’ve out grown them. Even clothes that can no longer be worn are useful for certain charities like The Little Red School House which turns fabrics into rags for shops and cleaning companies.  (Second hand clothing is sent to other countries like Kenya)


Earth-Healthy Holiday Travel

The holidays are upon us…perhaps sooner that we thought they would be.  By Halloween, retailers have holiday decorations up and winter coats line the racks in place of swim suits.

Many of us have to travel to see our loved ones for Thanksgiving and that poses its own set of challenges when trying to live more sustainably.

I just went to Chicago for my sister’s 40th birthday party.  I got a great fare, a ride to the airport from my ever-supportive hubby, smooth sailing through security, picked up on the far end and very little stress.

As I went through this process, I became the observer like a private investigator or secret shopper.  How much fuel was burned on our way to the airport?  How much does the plane use?  Where can I recycle and what items are accepted?  What food will they serve on the plane and in what packaging?  Does the airline recycle?

As part of this experiment, I brought my own silicone-covered glass bottle and sipped the water in it on the way to the airport…thereby hydrating my body for the plane ride.  By the time I got to security, I had finished the water since it had to be empty to go through the security scanners.  I packed very lightly so I didn’t have to check a bag and put the empty bottle in the bottle holder on my backpack before putting it on the conveyor belt on its way to the x-ray machine.

In my small purse, I brought along my empty reusable coffee cup and lid along with a cardboard sleeve.

Although I was relaxed on my way to the gate, I actually was running late for the boarding procedure.  So, on the other side of security, I quickly filled my bottle with filtered water at a bottle filling station next to the restrooms and drinking fountains.  By bringing my own bottle, I not only saved a plastic bottle (which won’t biodegrade for 450) years from hitting the landfill, I also saved anywhere from $2.00 to $5.00.

Once seated comfortably on the plane, I settled in with my book until we were at cruising altitude when the flight attendants came by with drinks.  I asked the flight attendant if I could use my own cup for a cup of coffee and she happily complied.

I feel better having used my own cup and bottle knowing that I saved a plastic water bottle from ending up in the landfill or recycled (which uses energy) and saved about $8.00 not having to buy overpriced water and coffee at the airport.  I will run those cups through the dishwasher which will be run anyway (full and using environmentally-friendly dish-washing detergent).

As for the fuel?  I can off-set that using an on-line carbon footprint calculator like one mentioned in my previous blog, here.

SustainableThree.com’s 2016 Challenge

It’s a new year…a new chance to do it better, differently than previous years.

What are you willing to commit to?

Each year, I add a level of resiliency to my lifestyle.

In 2015, I started recycling plastic bags (which you can typically do at your local supermarket – Whole Foods does it best in my opinion). I also researched solar options for our home. Watch for a blog post on comparing solar options in the near future.

In 2014, I committed to reduce plastic usage and switched to glass containers for leftovers.

In 2013, we did an energy audit and switched 95% of our light bulbs to LEDs which use very little energy and last 8+ years. (The remaining 5% are incandescent lightbulbs we are using up so as not to just waste them). we also converted our showers and toilets to be more water conservative.

In 2012, I started donating items to R.A.F.T. (http://www.raftcolorado.org/)

In 2011, I started a backyard garden.

In 2010, I started a compost bin in my back yard. We also purchased a hybrid car.

In 2006, I started line-drying our family’s clothes.

Since 1996, I’ve recycled every item I can…

You get the idea. ll these efforts accumulate as new habits and become easier each time.

Here are some other options:

Eat less meat or switch to a plant-based diet

Bike to work or school 1, 2, 3 or more days/week

Take the bus 1, 2, 3 or more days/week.

Switch to solar for your electricity source.

Recycle if you don’t

Reuse more if you don’t

…there’s so much more.

What are you willing to commit to in 2016?

Submit your personal challenge in the Comments section. Our environment thanks you!

Fall Clean Out!

De-Cluttering is like raking leaves in Autumn

The weather is starting to get cooler.  It’s a great time to clean out.  But, what to do with all that STUFF?  More and more people are finding that they can live with less and less…stuff.

Most of what we want to get rid of will not bio-degrade any time soon.

The good news is that there are heaps of options for donating, repurposing and recycling your unwanted stuff.

Clothing, Shoes, Textiles and Other Household Items

The Junior League – Not only will The Junior League take high fashion clothing, but will take ANY textiles.  They are repurposed for quilts and more.

Red Apple Recycling / Little Red School House – Fund schools’ sustainability and wellness programs through clothing and shoe donations.  They also will take any clean textiles which are repurposed for cleaning rags and more.

USAgain – Collects unwanted textiles and resells them in the U.S. and abroad, effectively diverting millions of pounds of clothing from landfills, generating new revenue streams for U.S. businesses and non-profits, and fueling local economies in emerging countries.

The Salvation Army – You can schedule a pick up or drop off to any of their nationwide locations.

Goodwill –  Accepts most clothing and household items.  There are a few things they can’t accept – such as items that have been recalled, banned or do not meet current safety standards. In addition, if you’re looking to donate specialty items such as computers, vehicles or mattresses, it’s best to give your local Goodwill agency a call first to find out any rules or restrictions around these items.

Computers, Electronics, Batteries, Paint, Papers and More

Whole Foods provides collection boxes in many stores for cell phones, ink jet cartridges, batteries, lightbulbs (CFLs), corks, toothbrushes and more .  What is accepted varies by location.  You can find your closest store here.

There are also mail-in programs like this one .  It’s a bit pricey, but if you don’t want to drive to drop off your items, it’s an option.

Some areas have programs where items are repurposed for classroom use.  Like R.A.F.T. in Denver, CO.  They accept all sorts of things – like corks, bottle caps/lids, Styrofoam and much more.

Paper Shredding and Electronics Recycling through programs like Clean Sweep (Denver, CO)-  Clean out your home and responsibly dispose of old documents, electronics, and paint.  This is a great way to securely dispose of that computer or cell phone that no longer works.  They do an FBI wipe of the hard drive and responsibly recycle the components.  Papers are shredded securely.  Donations are redirected to the school sponsoring the activity and the sponsors get great exposure.

Children’s Clothes, Shoes, Toys, Strollers, Cribs and More

Just Between Friends (JBF) holds bi-annual sales around the US of good, clean, reusable items at a fraction of retail.  It’s like a giant garage sale with high standards for cleanliness and safety.  All items are inspected prior to acceptance into the sale.  And, no re-called toys are accepted.  Since children spend so little time in any size of clothing or toy, it just makes sense to pass them along.  Want to make a little money in the process of cleaning out? You can become a consignor here.

This is just the beginning.  There is much more to come!

Taking a Hard Look at My Carbon Footprint

I’m sitting at my desk for the first time all summer. This is the first time I’ve had to really contemplate my impact. This past summer, I did a lot of traveling…to New York City, Paris, Pennsylvania road trip and San Diego. Realizing that no matter how much recycling, composting and conservation I do at home, one trip in an airplane pretty much negates all my efforts. So, I set out to off-set my carbon impact by doing a bit of research.

I quickly found www.carbonfootprint.com and used their calculator to determine my carbon footprint just from flights and the road trip.

Denver –> New York –> Paris (Return) (Plane)

2.58 metric tons of CO2

Denver –> Northeast Corner of Pennsylvania (Return) (Hybrid SUV Automobile)
1.30 metric tons of CO2

Denver –> New York (Return) (Plane)
.82 metric tons of CO2

Denver –> San Diego (Return) (Plane)
.43 metric tons of CO2

Total: 5.13 metric tons of CO2

For a little as $58.92 I can off-set my usage. Wow. There’s one way to get the “should” off my back!

Other options include:



25+ Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

among others…. Google has a wealth of resources on reducing your carbon footprint and off-setting your carbon contribution.