The Truth About Compostable Plastics

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We’re in a time when people are finally starting to care a little more about our environment, and we’re taking steps to ensure that it sticks around for a while. That said, some of these steps aren’t quite as helpful as they may seem, especially when all the information isn’t provided. Case in point: compostable plastic ware.

First things first, there is a misunderstanding that the words “biodegradable” and “compostable” are interchangeable. They aren’t. For an object to be biodegradable, it merely has to have the capability to be broken down organically. If something is compostable, the American Society for Testing and Materials specifies that it can be broken down according to a specific process that ultimately leads to the production of humus. What does this mean? It means compostable plastic ware isn’t dealt with in the same manner as biodegradable plastic ware, especially since the two ultimately have different uses. Since compostable plastics are eventually returned to the soil from which we derive our food and water, their decomp must produce carbon dioxide and water, leave no distinguishable difference from other compost, and produce no toxic substance, otherwise we end up eating and drinking toxicity.

So what does that have to do with the purchase and use of compostable plastic ware? First of all, purchase of compostable plastic ware, for actual composting, requires more awareness and dedication to ensuring the substantial makeup of the product. If you’re buying these to ultimately throw in landfills (I hope you’re not), the difference between biodegradable and compostable isn’t terribly important. However, if you’re buying compostable plastic ware with the intent to actually do your part and compost it, it’s important to make sure it can actually be composted and not just degraded.

Secondly, us regular environmentally aware people can’t compost compostable plastic on our own. Because of the composition of plastic ware, the processes used in a professional composting facility are extremely important to the assurance that these utensils properly degrade in order to leave no toxic substance in our soil. No matter how awesome your compost pile at home is, we can’t produce the heat necessary to compost this plastic ware in a reasonable amount of time. So if you’re going to buy compostable plastic ware, know where the closest composting facility is and whether you have access to it, as these sorts of businesses often only cater to larger companies.

Here’s the other thing: production of compostable plastic ware requires massive amounts of certain crops, including corn and potatoes, which are often grown using a system called monocropping. In short, when a farmer monocrops, he uses the exact same land over and over again to grow the exact same crop. Get it? Mono. Crop? The issue with this process is that growing in this style rapidly depletes the earth used to grow these crops, not only wearing out the soil faster, but making crops harder to grow. Lots of times this results in farmers turning to chemicals to promote growth in dilapidated fields. Is this all coming together yet? As much as many of us want to do our parts to contribute to rebuilding our planet, it seems that compostable plastic ware may not be the best route. Make sure you know what you’re buying into when you pick up that box of forks.  

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Things You Might Not Know About Coconut Oil

As a holistic designer and architect, I'm all about finding ways to incorporate natural, less-toxic substances into my daily life in place of those harmful chemicals we normally keep beneath the kitchen sink or in the medicine cabinet. One of my most recent discoveries is coconut oil. The holistic perks of this natural oil are incredible, and of course I want to share them with you. Some of my favorite uses are below!

In the Bathroom

Coconut oil is awesome as a natural hair serum. Adding just a small bit to your hair can reduce the frizz we so often deal with as ladies. Be careful here, as you don't want to overuse any sort of oil in your hair. Just rub a dab onto your palms, then distribute evenly throughout your locks!

Try mixing coconut oil with equal parts sugar to create your own simple exfoliating scrub for those long, nourishing showers. 

Coconut oil makes an easy lip balm too! Especially in colder, dryer months, our lips are susceptible to weather and have the tendency to chap and crack. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows it isn't fun! Next time your lips start acting up, try rubbing a bit of coconut oil on as a lubricating balm and soothing agent.

One of the most common beauty products containing toxic materials is deodorant. Unfortunately, this isn't a product we can really do without, unless we're all willing to deal with each others' body odor. Coconut oil can provide a natural remedy for this issue. Using the oil by itself as deodorant is very effective and eliminates the need for harsh chemicals that you may find in other store-bought products. 

Around the House

Aside from its numerous uses for the body, coconut oil also makes a super stain remover and furniture polish. You can rub the oil alone on a tough-to-conquer stain for some help, or mix the oil with baking soda for a non-toxic stain removal option. 

Back in the bathroom, coconut oil works wonders on soap scum, which is great, since bathroom cleaners can be some of the most toxic on the market. Instead of exposing yourself, and ultimately your family, to the toxic chemicals and VOCs in bathroom cleaning chemicals, try using natural coconut oil on a rag instead! 

There are literally hundreds of uses for coconut oil outside the most common uses in cooking. With an increasing number of cautious dieters and, thankfully, individuals concerned for the environment, coconut oil is becoming more and more popular, and with good reason! Next time you're near a natural market, stop in and get some coconut oil to get started on the many things you can do!

by Anjie Cho


The hellish kitchen in this Hell's Kitchen apartment needs a miraculous makeover

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Hochbaum Rosner

  image credit:  Brick Underground

image credit: Brick Underground

Everything about this apartment “just looks so sad,” says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng  shui expert. 

The fixer-upper unit is a co-op in Hell’s Kitchen at 354 West 48th St.

Cho sums the place up thusly: “The flooring is sad. The paint colors are sad. The kitchen needs a complete makeover. The lighting is really bad.”   

Listed for just $350,000, apartment #2FE, a second-floor one bedroom, is eminently affordable. (Then again, it's a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op, so there are income restrictions to keep in mind: $36,288 a year for one or two people and $42,336 for three people.) Another bonus for whoever does end up buying the place: the kitchen is big and has an eat-in area.

"It definitely has potential," Cho says.

...read full article


This loft-like UES studio needs work, but the price is right

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Rosner

  image credit: Brick Underground

image credit: Brick Underground

Priced at just $345,000, this Upper East Side studio at 223 East 78th St. is definitely affordable considering the location. But the loft-like unit will certainly need some renovating to make it habitable, according to architect and feng shui expert Anjie Cho.

“It’s a good price for a starter apartment,” she says.

Cho thinks the place is worth fixing, but she isn’t a fan of many features, especially what’s underfoot.

“Those floors are bad,” she says of the black-and-white checkerboard tiles. “[They're] so in your face that you can’t ignore them.”

For this week’s Reno Ready, we asked Cho to tell us how she’d renovate the space to render it livable. Here are her recommendations:

Kitchen (pictured at top)

How this room is updated will depend entirely on the new occupant’s cooking habits. If he or she is a recipe addict who loves whipping up a meal at a moment’s notice, then Cho would advise putting in a full-sized refrigerator and adding in an island. If, however, he or she is more likely to order a pizza than make one, Cho says she’d probably hang onto the mini-fridge.

...read full article


Choosing Quartz Composite Countertops

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Quartz is one of my favorite healing crystals to use in feng shui and other holistic adjustments, but its usefulness doesn't stop at providing balance and amplifying nourishing energy . Actually, quartz is a great option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling, which are included in most renovation projects!

What is Quartz?

Quartz is actually one of the most abundant (the second most common) minerals found on Earth and dates back to ancient times. It was used for jewelry during China's Ming Dynasty and has been found in Aztec graves, also used as jewelry. This comes as no surprise, since quartz is a durable, useful and available substance. This durability and seemingly endless stock are primarily why quartz is such a great choice for renovation projects in kitchens and bathrooms. 

Quartz, which we use often in pure crystal form, is the hardest known non-gem material in the world and compares to diamonds and sapphires in strength. In fact, when renovations include granite countertops or other granite features, quartz is generally the reason these options are so durable. Typical granite consists of a mixed makeup of minerals, including about 20-35% quartz; however, it is possible to increase the percentage of quartz to 93% for optimum performance. This is what we call quartz composite surfacing. 

How is Quartz Used?

One typical feature of both kitchens and bathrooms is countertop. From sinks in bathrooms to prep space in kitchens, homeowners often choose to refurbish or replace the surfacing material for their countertops to keep up with modern trends or guarantee sturdy, long-lasting counters. This last feature is one of the most compelling reasons to opt for quartz surfacing material and is where we commonly see it used in homes. 

One of the most popular ways to use quartz in renovations is through the Breton method, which combines varieties of quartz and other aggregate materials with crushed mineral powders, binding resin and pigment to create a customizable, uniform, sturdy, slab of stone.

Why Choose Quartz Composites?

Aside from its durability and ready availability, quartz has plenty of perks that granite or stone countertops don't offer. Most notably, quartz is almost non-porous, which means that it resists staining and requires less upkeep than typical granite or stone options. Most stone counters are porous, which results in easy stains and means that the countertops need to be sealed, both initially and repeatedly throughout their lives. In contrast, quartz never needs to be sealed and is much harder to stain. 

Since it is one of the hardest minerals on the planet, quartz is also scratch resistant and heat scorch resistant. It also offers four to five times the flexural strength of stone, making it more likely to bend, less likely to break. All of these perks make quartz surfacing nearly maintenance free, and thanks to modern processes, it is available in a wide color palette to match any design scheme. Finally, quartz is naturally anti-bacterial as a non-porous surface, and adding additional anti-bacterial to the quartz surface composition is an option as well. 

Have you ever considered using quartz surfacing in your home renovations instead of stone countertops? I'd love to hear about your past or upcoming projects and how you choose your materials!

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Microwaves and Feng Shui

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My microwave is in the Abundance/prosperity gua. It cannot be removed. How can I improve the feng shui of the kitchen ? Can you suggest a cure?

Giuliana G., Lille, France

Hi Giuliana

Hello to France! I love that you write in such wonderful and useful questions!

In this case, my sense is that a microwave in your Abundance and wealth area may not necessarily be a feng shui issue. Things like microwaves, waste bins, laundry baskets, etc. have to go somewhere right? It's more about not letting the rubbish or laundry pile up and being conscious of your space. In the case of a microwave, are you keeping it clean and in good repair? Personally, I try to avoid microwaves because of the health risks. I also feel as though it turns the ritual of making life-force-infused food with intention into a quick and thoughtless one-minute zap. But I'm definitely not here to judge, and there is a time and place for them. Either way, I do think it is worth taking a look at the EMFs that microwaves emit. 

The radiation from microwaves isn't necessarily dangerous like other radiation (i.e. from X-rays), but there is a lack of studies regarding long term effect of the low levels of radiation from microwaves. However, microwaves do emit the same sort of EMFs as cell phones and other electronics, so they can cause stress on the body and health problems like headaches, fatigue, nausea, etc., especially in combination with the other EMFs we're exposed to regularly. Anything plugged in creates an EMF.

The best way to avoid negative effects from the microwave is to try not to spend excessive time near it. Avoid standing near the microwave and waiting for your food, and if possible, try to situate the dining table, cooking area, etc. at least 5 feet from the microwave.

Energetically I have used a plug buster (which I unfortunately cannot find online anymore) as well as black tourmaline in my home to mitigate the effects of EMFS. Black tourmaline is one of the most popular healing crystals for dispersing negative energy, and it can be very effective in working against EMFs. The stones have a quality that works to balance the energy of the body through energy conversion, and maintaining this balance can help counteract some of the many sources of stress in everyday lives, including cell phones, electromagnetic smog and other negative energies. We have a black tourmaline set in the Holistic Spaces store, and you can place a crystal between you and the microwave or around your neck.

Of course, it will also be helpful to eliminate other EMFs where possible. The fewer you are exposed to, the better!

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our “Question of the Month”.  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers.  Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Feng Shui for Weight Loss

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Feng shui can help with a wide range of problems and concerns, but there are some questions that are more popular than others when it comes to feng shui consultations. Along with feng shui for more abundance and feng shui for love, I often get asked how to utilize feng shui in weight loss. Though there is no magic solution, there are a few ways to update your space to encourage shedding a few pounds!

Keep Your Kitchen Tidy

Nancy Guberti, a good friend of mine and nutritionist, recently sent me a study conducted on the effect of messy kitchens on caloric intake. The study showed that when women were asked to wait in a cluttered kitchen and presented with the exact same snack options as those in a neat kitchen (carrots, cookies, crackers), those in the cluttered kitchens consumed more cookies and calories. This makes complete sense in terms of feng shui. When your space is cluttered, it's easy to feel out of control and react by seeking comfort, which people often find in food. Instead, keep your kitchen organized, your countertops clean and everything in its place, and see if you find yourself spending less time snacking!

Declutter Your Closet

Another place clutter tends to build up is in our closets. Many of us tend to hold onto certain pieces of clothing for whatever reason, often because we see them as "weight goals", but in feng shui, keeping these clothes in your space can actually do more harm than good. Holding onto clothes that no longer fit can actually translate as holding onto weight. If you instead let those pieces go, you actually metaphorically let go of some of that weight!

Get Enough Sleep!

This aspect of weight loss tends to be overlooked, but it's very important to get enough sleep if you want to be successful here. Of course, sleep is important anyway, but slacking on it can result in your stress levels rising, which in turn leads to overeating and poor impulse control. It's hard to say no to those annoying cravings if you're exhausted! The first step here is making sure you're getting to bed on time, but there are also feng shui factors that can improve the quality of your sleep, which is just as important as how much time you're in bed. Most importantly, make sure your bed is in the commanding position! The commanding position is one of the most important concepts in feng shui, because sleeping, sitting, eating and cooking out of command can build low levels of stress over long periods of time, and it adds up! If you can't move your bed into the commanding position, use a feng shui mirror adjustment

Another way to improve the quality of your sleep is to ensure that you keep electronic devices either out of the room or at least five feet away. Anything that needs to be plugged in gives off EMFs, which can also result in low levels of stress over time in addition to other symptoms like fatigue, headaches, nausea and more! It's a good idea to move books out of your sleeping space as well, if possible, as they can be too active for a bedroom. 

There is no magic feng shui cure for weight loss, but if you are willing to do the mundane and take the time to make your space welcoming and nourishing, you may well see surprising results just from clearing negative energy and practicing self-care!

by Anjie Cho


Here's How to Bring This Kips Bay Co-Op Out of the 1960s - And Make The Most of Its Natural Light

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Hochbaum Rosner

The greatest thing this $879,000 Kips Bay one-bedroom at 300 East 33rd Street has going for it is an amenity you can't fake: natural light. “Those big windows are probably the best thing about this place,” says architect Anjie Cho, referring to the trio of floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the condo building’s private garden. “It looks like it gets a lot of light.”

Yet while it’s bright and sun-drenched, the 1960s-era unit is being sold in as-is original condition, which means it could use a ton of work in order to whip it into shape. “The worst thing is probably that kitchen,” says Cho. “It’s so small. And when you look closer and see that there’s a column [that takes up a lot of room], it’s even smaller!”

Cho has a lot of ideas as to how to modernize this space. Below, her recommendations:

...read full article


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Q&A Sunday: Quartz in the Refrigerator

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Quartz in the refrigerator is new to me. What is the benefit? Which one is the best: clear/rose/smokey/ritualised?

Rowena, 

Hi Rowena!

Thanks for your thoughtful question. We suggest clear quartz for locating in your refrigerator. The refrigerator holds food that nourishes you, and clear quartz can be used to amplify this nourishing energy. 

Be sure to clear the clear quartz and empower it with your intention that the food in the refrigerator is nourishing and creates vitality for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You can also use the feng shui bagua map on your refrigerator, and place the crystal in the center area which is related to overall health.

There are different ways to work with crystals, but I’d like to share a simple procedure to acquire, cleanse and activate the crystal. 

  • Acquire a new crystal that finds you. To me this means one that speaks to you. Go with first thought is best thought, and don’t over think it. It may be the one that you literally see first.
  • Cleanse the crystal. Again there are dozens of methods, but one simple one is to use sage, incense, palo santo or another smudging method to clear any energy.
  • Dedicate and activate the crystal with your intention. In this case we are creating the intention that the clear quartz will amplify and enhance the nourishment of the food in your refrigerator, to support your body and spirit. Be sure you’re in a positive and open healing place when this is done. You can do this while bathing the crystal in pure bright sunlight.

You can read more about working with crystals in "Love is in the Earth", one of the most comprehensive crystal reference books available.

Remember that the intention behind this adjustment is as important as the adjustment itself. Take the time to find a crystal that resonates with you, and imbue it with positive, supportive energy before placing it into your refrigerator. We would love to see which crystal you choose!

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!