Archive for August, 2010

Conscious Consumerism: Wood Products

Posted on August 27th, 2010 by Tonia 2 Comments

I try very hard to be a conscious consumer. I avoid “made in China” like the plague, I buy local, handmade, organic, fair-trade, and sustainably harvested- whenever possible.  But there is a tricky little thing called greenwashing that can really rope us in and fool us into feeling good about purchases that are really not ethical or eco-friendly at all.

Have you personally had this experience? I have. Just recently I went out in search of a household cleaning solution that would be non-toxic and biodegradable…and I thought I found it, because the label said so. But when I looked closely at the ingredient list, I found no less than three ingredients that are definitely NOT non-toxic. They weren’t the most terrible chemicals ever, but I still wouldn’t want them going into our ground water.  The makers of that product should definitely be more responsible about how they label their products.

Greenwashing might be a relatively new concept to many of us {suddenly the “green lifestyle” phenomenon has made it to the mainstream and everyone, including fakers like Walmart, is jumping on the bandwagon}, but my dad is a forester and he has dealt with greenwashing in the wood products industry for many years. Wood products are one of the most mis-advertised products out there, and it is very difficult to find any real information about where the wood you are buying comes from. This goes for wood furniture more than anything else. Stop by a furniture showroom in just about any city, and you will see a variety of “sustainably harvested” wood chairs, tables, etc…But try to trace the wood in that chair back to its source and you’ll find out the sad truth.

This is why my dad, Robert Simeone, helped found the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- an organization that certifies wood products companies according to very rigid guidelines and standards. If a company is FSC certified, it means they are the most trustworthy and ethical wood products company in the industry. In most cases, it takes years to actually get certified, and each company is constantly re-evaluated to make sure they’re staying up to par.


Look for the official FSC logo on wood products you purchase

Most of the wood products available on the market today come from South America.  The country of Bolivia is a front-runner in forest certification, whereas their neighbor Brazil, sadly, is a front-runner in devastating their forest land with clear-cutting and burning.  Brazil is also one of the world’s largest exporters of beef.  The forest is burned to create pasture for cattle {just one more reason to be a vegetarian or to buy only locally raised meat.}  However, many communities in rural Brazil are completely supported by the beef industry, so to tell them they shouldn’t burn down all their trees would sound ridiculous to them; farming is how they survive and provide for their families.


Forest is burned to clear land for cattle (Brazil, 2009)

 The FSC understood from the very beginning that they needed to find a way for trees to be profitable, or people would continue to see no value in keeping them around.  By creating a market for sustainably harvested wood products, the FSC has been able to slowly change how many South American communities view their forests.  Trees are no longer in the way, they are a way to make a living {while still preserving the land for generations to come.}

I had the privilege to travel to Bolivia with Mike and our friend Dave, to photograph and interview a wood products company there that exports beautiful furniture all over the world, called Jensen Leisure Furniture. They are FSC certified, and the way they run their business is truly amazing. You can view the coffee-table book we created, for a look at what real sustainable wood products looks like.  Remember these images next time you set out to purchase a new dinet set.


FSC-certified forest technician measures tree to make sure it is the right size for cutting (Bolivia, 2009)


Every tree is marked with a unique number. Each piece of Jensen Leisure furniture can be traced back to the original tree it was made from (Bolivia, 2009)


Floor manager working in the Jensen Leisure factory (Bolivia, 2009)


Workers take personal pride in making sure each piece of furniture is perfect (Bolivia, 2009)


The end result is beautiful furniture you can feel great about buying (Bolivia, 2009)

This post could easily be a multi-post series…but I’ll leave it here for now and see what you all have to say on the matter.  Have you ever been fooled by greenwashing?  And specifically regarding wood products: do you think twice before buying wood furniture, a wooden salad bowl, lumbar/boards for building things, etc.?  Do you have questions about where to find FSC-certified wood?

My Fwavorite Tweople

Posted on August 25th, 2010 by Tonia 3 Comments

…And since we’re on the topic of Facebook and Twitter…

Oh, Twitter.  I used to make so much fun of you.  I used to swear I’d never be the type to update you constantly.  Or to check you nine-thousand times a day to see what my friends and fellow greenies are up to.  But I am the type, and I do.

I know some of you are reading this right now {mon & dad} and can’t believe your eyes because you’re under the impression that Twitter is the most obnoxious form of social networking, ever.  I mean, who really cares about what everyone is doing every second of the day??  I don’t need to know that you just bought a pair of new Chacos, or you just blew your nose, or your dog is super cute right this second.  But I’m here, as a former Twitter-hater, to tell you that if you use it right, Twitter can totally rock your world.

Itty Bird iconTwonia’s Twitter Twips {I’m really getting carried away with this, huh?}:

1.  Have a clear objective or reason for joining the Twitter community.  If your goal is to network with other homeschooling moms, your experience is going to be very different from someone whose goal is to connect with other organic gardeners.  If your goal is to spy on your ex-sig-other, your experience is going to be different than someone whose goal is to promote their pottery studio.

2.  Follow tweople who jive with your objective/goal.  I ONLY follow other green-living/minimalism/simple-living  folks.  My exception to this rule are a couple relatives who I like to keep in touch with.  I don’t use Twitter for random socializing.

3.  Don’t follow someone back just because they followed you.  If their tweets aren’t jiving with your goal(s), there’s no reason for your Twitter stream to be filled up with their random comments.  My stream is constantly full of pure amazingness because I’m not following anyone I’m not interested in.

4.  Be there to learn.  Every day I log onto Twitter, excited for what I’ll learn.  The folks I follow are brilliant, insightful, inspiring, and are constantly finding and sharing the coolest links.  If you’re on Twitter purely to socialize, that’s fine, but that is not how I choose to use it, and I am so I happy I made that decision.

I really want you to get off on the right foot with Twitter, so I am going to share with you my Fwavorite Tweople.  Hehehe…but really, all joking aside, these folks will light up your stream with all kinds of awesome.  You’ll be retweeting and hashtagging and replying like crazy before you know it.  GO FOLLOW THEM RIGHT NOW! :)

familyonbikes– Nancy Sathre-Vogel | Between North & South Poles
“Homeschooling family biking from Alaska to Argentina.”

gohometoroost– Bonnie Forkner | North Carolina
“Author of Going Home to Roost- a blog dedicated to the handmade and living simpler life.”

mygreenbean– Karen E McKelvey | Toronto, Canada
“Passionate about our planet earth. This is my journey. One person stepping out of their personal comfort zone to try to make a difference.”

josie_maran– Josie Maran | Hollywood, CA
“Becoming a mother inspired me to take a look at my life and ask, ‘What can I do for the world? How can I contribute?’  Josie Maran Cosmetics products are made with superior ingredients and housed in chic, biodegradable packaging, and embrace eco-friendly initiatives wherever possible.”

LowImpactBetty– Monica Schrock | Los Angeles, CA
“Low Impact living advice blogger & tip provider. I love our Earf! I’m a Vegetarian, composting treehugger that loves to bike around L.A. & help you live green!”

LocalHarvestorg– | Santa Cruz, CA
“Guillermo Payet, founder of LH, twitters about coding, eating, and family life.”

jdblundell– Jonathan D. Blundell
“Husband, author, blogger, podcaster.”

welivesimply – We Live Simply
“We live simply, so others may simply live.

RowdyKittens– Tammy Strobel | Portland, Oregon
“Author of Simply Car-free, blogger at RowdyKittens, tiny house enthusiast, cat-lover, and coffee addict.”

LiveGreenMom – Live Green Mom
“Mom. Working towards making our lives GREEN! Recycling, organics, composting, natural & preventative healing options, and getting rid of excess. Bring it on!”

SomewhatCrunchy – Cheryl | Pennsylvania, USA
“I’m a happily married, Christian, crispy not crunchy, homeschooling mom of two boys. Blogger, Influencer, PR Friendly, Social Media Extraordinaire.”

CanarsieBK– Mike Lieberman | Los Angeles, CA
” I am documenting my passion for eco-conscious living on my own blogs. Also helping other individuals and small business to extend their online presence.”

RawBoutenkos– Raw Family | Ashland, Oregon
“We are the Boutenko Family or The Raw Family & have invaluable experience in living on a raw food diet. We also started the Green Smoothie Revolution”

EpicBeautyGuide– Epic Beauty Guide | Las Vegas
“Hello! I’m Stephanie I write Epic Beauty Guide, an awesome and free how to blog on getting and staying naturally beautiful.”

CAGW – San Francisco, CA
“THE home of sustainable crafts!”

GreenTravelHub – Orlando, FL
“Feel good about green travel! We donate 20% of the proceeds from every trip to green non-profit groups!”

melisheath – Melissa Allen Heath | Atlanta
“green warrior – born tree hugger, and 25 years work experience in all environmental stuff, esp climate, energy, green building, wetlands.”

 thegreenbeanie– GreenBeanie | CaliforniaGreen
“Home and Lifestyle Consultant with a bit of Southern sass! Will discuss tips, hints & products for leading a greener & healthier life.”

autumn_normal SimplerLiving – Naomi Seldin
“Feature editor & blogger for the Times Union, a Hearst publication in New York. Living well with less, sharing what I don’t need and writing about it.”

There are so many more of you that I love as well…too many to possibly list!  You’re all an inspiration to me.  Thank you!

Joined Facebook!

Posted on August 24th, 2010 by Tonia No Comments

I LOVE my Twitter followers.  You all inspire me every day.  I love talking with you, hearing about what you’re up to, learning from each other, and even though we’ve never met in person I feel pretty close to some of you.  But our conversations and relationships are limited to 120 characters…so, I finally jumped on the Facebook bandwagon, folks. 

The purpose of my FB page is to be able to continue all the great discussions that get started on Twitter.  Facebook will be a less limiting forum for deeper discussion.  If you ask me a green-living question on Twitter or Facebook, I will reply with an answer and maybe even do a whole blog post on the topic.  I have so much to learn from you, and you from me, so let’s hop to it!  Stop on by for a visit and “like” me, so I feel cool.  :)