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.


DIY Terrariums with Margaret West

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Terrariums are increasingly popular houseplants, but arrangements can get expensive. My talented and crafty sister, Margaret, shared with us how to make beautiful miniature terrariums with succulent plants, so you can make your own arrangement!

A terrarium is generally a transparent enclosure or similar container for cultivating plants. This version is not sealed, but is enclosed in a small container. Margaret’s interest in miniature terrariums started while browsing Pinterest. She opted for succulents, as they are a bit heartier than other houseplants. Their ease of care makes them a good choice.

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Margaret browsed the web for instructions on assembling her terrariums. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, so Margaret recommends you adapt her instructions based on what materials you can find.

So, let's get started!!! 

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First, the supplies:

THE CONTAINER.  Margaret used glass containers she had left over from flower arrangements. You can find vases like this second-hand at thrift stores or garage sales. Have fun finding containers in interesting shapes! It’s helpful if they don’t have a lot of patterns on the surface of the glass, obscuring the view of your plants. She also used hanging glass terrarium globes that were purchased online. They are easy to find as single pieces or in larger sets in bulk. Margaret prefers the flat bottom globes, they are simpler to travel with because they do not roll around. She also recommends the globes that are meant to be votive candle holders. The additional holes make it easier to water the plants.

SOILOrganic soil is always preferable to synthetic-chemically treated potting soil. Margaret recommends an aerated mix such as a cactus blend, rather than general potting soil. The cactus blend has more sand and rocks mixed in. She likes “E.B. Stone Organics” Cactus blend. If you can’t find an aerated blend, mix some porous rocks, such as perlite, into your mix.  

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GRAVEL.  Gravel is easy to find at a pet store or aquarium. Margaret opted for the neutral earth tones, but she’s seen people use colored glass, black or white stones, and even sand instead. The size of the gravel depends on the size of the container as well as your preference. If you’re using 4” diameter globes, a 3-5mm pebble size is appropriate. For larger container, you can use the smaller pebbles, or go bigger, like 10-16mm.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL. You can find this at your local pet store or aquarium too. It’s mixed into and used to filter the soil and minimize any odors. Any leftover activated charcoal you have can be used in a satchel in your closet or shoes, again to minimize unwanted odors. 

SUCCULENTS. Margaret suggests you purchase 2" or smaller sized plants at your local nursery. In NYC, I love Sprout in Brooklyn. You can also find varieties of small succulents on Etsy. Margaret’s favorite at the moment is the Echeveria, because they look like little roses and come in different colors. Avoid purchasing cuttings, which don’t have roots yet. Instead, look for potted plants with root systems.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS. A spoon, mixing bowl, and soft bristle brush, such as a ½” wide paint brush.

Finally, it’s time for the assembly!  If possible, this part should be done outside to minimize the clean up.

1.  CLEAN THE CONTAINER. It is a good idea to start with a clean container. It will get messy as we assemble the terrarium, but starting out clean keeps the cleaning you’ll do later to a minimum. The soft bristle brush is excellent for wiping off the dust.

2.  MIX THE SOIL AND CHARCOAL. Combine 5 parts soil with 1 part charcoal, and mix thoroughly. Add water to this mixture; the soil should be moist, but not wet. How much water to add will depend on how dry the soil is to start with. We recommend ¼ cup increments. Add a little at a time; you can always add more water. If you overwater, just add a little bit more soil and charcoal. Make sure the entire soil mixture is combined well.

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3.  PREPARE THE PLANTS. Squeeze the outside of the plant container to loosen the soil and roots. Then tip the plant upside down and lightly pinch container until the plant comes out with the roots intact. Gently massage the root system, to release the loose dirt. The goal is to have the root system exposed and loosened, because there will not be enough room in the container for all the soil.

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4.  ADD GRAVEL.  Now is a great time to rinse your hands off. With clean hands, add gravel to the bottom of the container. Margaret suggests using a spoon to ease the pebbles through the small opening of your container. Add about 1/2" layer of gravel for a 4" bulb. Then add a thin layer of charcoal on top of the gravel. This layer of gravel and charcoal will drain the soil, which is especially helpful if you overwater.

5.  ADD SOIL/CHARCOAL MIXTURE AND PLANT. Next add a couple spoons of the soil mixtures into your container. Margaret likes to make a well for the plant to go into, with more soil towards the back of the container. Loosely wrap the root system into a ball, and gently place the succulent plant roots down into the soil. Move the soil around with your fingers to gently pack in the roots. At this point, you can add more soil as required to cover the roots. 

6.  FINISH OFF WITH SOIL AND GRAVEL. Once you have the soil level as you like it and the plants where you want them, spoon a single thin layer of gravel on top. This is decorative and also helps to keep the soil layer in place. Use the soft bristle brush to clean off any dirt and gravel from the sides of the container as well as from the plant(s).

And voila! Your own beautiful miniature succulent terrarium!

If you need some inspiration on the plant arrangement, check out Margaret’s Succulents Pinterest board. You can also look at Sprout’s gallery. Margaret reminds us that odd numbers tend to look best, but two can also work. Pay attention to the size of our container.  And look around the web for inspiration!

CARING FOR YOUR NEW TERRARIUM. Keep the terrarium in indirect sunlight. Although succulents love sun, because it's a terrarium, the heat gets amplified like the greenhouse effect. Lightly water your plants every two weeks, or as needed. A good way to tell when using a glass container is to water when you start to see the soil turn light brown and dry. Be careful not to overwater! Remember that succulents need very little water. 

by Anjie Cho

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Margaret West is my fabulous and brilliant younger sister and mother to my adorable nieces, Mia and Julia. Margaret has always enjoyed doing crafts and DIY projects.  She lives with her family in Seal Beach, California.  Follow her on Pinterest

 

How to Spring Clean & Green your Beauty Cabinet with Anjie Cho

featured this month on Modern Minerals by Mo Mi

image credit: Lotus Wei

image credit: Lotus Wei

In the late summer of 2015, I was in Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan where I found a book titled “108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces“. I was in a bit of a rush, but snapped a photo of this because I knew this was something I needed to read. At the time I was with my Mom and said “I would love to meet this designer one day”. A year later, my friend Katie Hess invited me to a super moon soirée on the roof top of building in Flatiron. I sat down next to Anjie and we started talking and I immediately knew we were going to be friends. It wasn’t until in 2017 that I had finally got around to organizing my photos when I found this photo I had taken in 2015 to remind me I wanted to read this book, and to my surprise the author was my incredible friend Anjie Cho! Since getting to know Anjie and watching her on YouTube, I often turn to Anjie when I’m feeling like something could be made better or for practical solutions to improve the flow of energy and balance in my space. Learn more from her podcasts HERE.

I wanted to find out more about Anjie for some advice on how to Spring Clean our beauty cabinets and asked her for some advice…Check it out!

...read full article


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


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui and Pregnancy

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Is there any sort of feng shui I should pay special attention to if I'm pregnant?

Stephanie C., Washington D.C.

Hi Stephanie,

First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! 

There are a few things to consider when we look at feng shui and pregnancy. For one, I would encourage you not to do any kind of house renovations during your pregnancy. Your home represents your body, so during a pregnancy, you don’t want to do any renovations or move things around or rebuild things. Not only does this disturb your body's natural chi, any chemicals or substances that become airborne during a renovation can be harmful to an unborn baby. 

Since your body, for the next nine months, is your baby's only space, do your best to keep this space healthy, both emotionally and physically. Avoid high-stress situations and instances where you might come into contact with anything physically harmful for your baby's growth. Check out my recipes for DIY non-toxic cleaners and laundry detergent, and if you feel the need to nest (which you most likely will!) aim for a green cleaning approach, natural space clearing and the like. And don't do any painting yourself, but check out how to create a relaxing atmosphere, use the color wheel and incorporate other feng shui aspects into your baby's space

Don't forget to take time out for yourself to eliminate stress too! Meditate, use essential oils or do any other activities you can to calm down without changing the overall chi of your baby's temporary space. 

In feng shui, there are also some important factors to consider before you get pregnant, when you are trying to have a baby. One of the most important is to avoid cleaning out from under your bed during this time. Though feng shui recommends keeping space beneath your bed clear, it is important to understand the concept of "ling particles" as it relates to pregnancy. 

Feng shui practitioners believe that there are what we call "ling particles" in the air that help create and support life. When a baby is conceived, a ling particle gives the embryo life, and these particles are said to collect under the bed. For this reason, if you're hoping to become pregnant, you don’t want to clean under your bed. I would also encourage you not to do any renovations when you’re trying to get pregnant.

For the most part, feng shui advocates creating a healthy, positive space for your baby. This means not making any drastic changes to the environment you've already created, and doing what you can to maintain a stress-free, healthy lifestyle. This will also help to create a holistic space in which for you to welcome your baby to the world!  

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!