May 08, 2008

Reusing and Recycling

About a month ago, I went to a talk at the recently re-opened New Museum in New York City that featured three artists presenting works in the museum’s inaugural exhibit, “Unmonumental”.  One of the artists, Shinique Smith, was particularly interesting.  In her pieces, called Bale Variants, Smith compiles clothing and other textiles such as shirts, blankets, and stuffed animal bodies, and makes them into bales.  These are replicas of the bales of used clothing that are sent to third world countries to help clothe the needy.  I was particularly intrigued by her technique, the ways in which she played with colors and had a sense of humor (in the biggest Bale Variant featured in the exhibit, one can easily see the head of a Tigger doll).  But also interesting, was how she acquired these garments.  As she stated in the talk, many of them were found on the street.  There’s something poignant about being able to find unwanted clothes just lying on the around on the streets of Manhattan.

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And that’s why I love recycling.  I always give my unwanted clothes to a charity, be it Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or Housing Works.  But now, it’s even easier.  Cool Hunting recently reported on a new collection service called “Wearable Collections” that will place textile collection bins in your residential or office building, making it easy to simply drop off your items.  Then, they’ll donate these items to places that really need them.  Instead of ending up in a landfill, your clothes are reused and recycled, thereby reducing the amount of trash in our landfills (that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle phrase never seems to disappear from our lives, does it?).

This is also why Brastilo is doing its part, as much as it can; to help keep the amount of trash that enters our landfills to a minimum.  Several of the accessories we sell are sourced from recycled materials; our Blue Paper Bowl, as discussed in previous posts, is made of recycled newspapers, the Banana Leaf Hanging Lamp, also previously discussed on this blog, is made from banana leaves, and the Tropical Flag Wall Art is made from “hand-painted recycled logs rescued from old buildings.”  To quote our Web site, these are all “beautiful example[s] of the many ways Brazilian artisans are using sustainable products to create spectacular works of art.”  Thankfully, it’s not just Brazilian artisans who are doing their part.

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I feel a little proud of my fellow man right now.  Sigh.

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April 29, 2008

Natural algorithms

Nothing inspires us more than nature.  From the banana leaf hanging lamp to the hand-carved monkey head, Brastilo is very much driven by the environment that's made Brazil famous. 

Which is why we were all so taken by these fantastic jewelry pieces from Nervous System.  As Metropolis Magazine explains, the design duo, both graduates from MIT, base their jewelry designs on patterns found in nature.  Metropolis states:

"Rosenkrantz...first conceived of the line while laser-cutting a building model with a facade of shifting hexagons for a class project. Architecture and jewelry, she realized, both like pretty patterns. Those hexagons became the basis for the Radiolaria line, named after the sea creatures whose gorgeous cellular structures influenced Buckminster Fuller."

And these pieces really are amoebic in quality (or are they more like paramecium....my 10th grade biology is failing me).  Just take a look at the stunning necklace below, part of their Radiolaria line.

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It's both web-like and floral, feminine and stark.  It's a wealth of contradictions but still organic.  It's a fascinating way to create jewelry.

Even better are the pieces from the Dendrite collection.  Nervous System describes the line best, saying, "This is a series of necklaces, each featuring a unique pattern. No two are alike, only one of each pattern is produced. We generate the patterns by aggregating tiny circles of varying sizes into complex configurations that mimic the natural forms of corals and seaweeds. These are then etched in one piece from durable stainless steel."

Because the forms are derived from natural algorithms, that means you can have your very own, unique necklace.   They're gorgeous, as you can see below, and remarkably inexpensive.  And they're a great way to bring a little bit of nature to your staid, jewelry collection.

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There's truly nothing better than well-designed pieces.  Thank you Nervous System, for helping nature inspire us at Brastilo yet again. 

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April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

I once knew someone whose mom would bake a cake to the earth for the Earth's alleged birthday.  She'd then walk it into the ocean while singing happy birthday. 

And while this love for our Earth may be a bit extreme, we do love our Earth here at Brastilo and we think you should too!  So, to help you help preserve our Earth, here are a few tips, articles, and little facts to get you on your way...

FACT - did you know that there are TWO earth days?  I didn't either.  According to our trusty friend Wikipedia (and seriously folks, where would this blog be without Wikipedia?!), the UN celebrates Earth Day on the March Equinox.  The April 22nd Earth Day actually began in 1970 when Senator Gaylord Nelson declared that the issues surrounding Earth conservation were national issues.  So really, the Earth Day we celebrate is a commemoration of the environmental issues entering the national agenda.  Interesting. 

FACT - Earth Day has a flag.  I mean, what doesn't these days, right?   Hell I can create my own flag on sites like We Are Multicolored.  But this flag is kind of cool. It's called the ecology flag and it has green and white stripes like the American flag and a yellow theta where the 50 stars would be.  Designers chose theta "because of its historic use as a warning symbol, or the Peace Symbol."  You can view the flag here.

TIP - Composting, which admittedly sounds kind of gross in theory, is actually quite the useful tool if you're trying to save the Earth one household at a time.  Essentially, composting is the re-appropriation of waste (such as leftover food) into fertile soil for gardening.  There are numerous environmental benefits including enriching soil and eliminating pollution.  But, according to the EPA, composting can also help you save money by eliminating the need for fertilizers and soil.   Now that's handy!  And just in case you're not sure what's actually compostable, the EPA has a great chart for you to reference.

ADVICE - Since composting is a bit scary to try for the first time and seems like it could be messy, gross, and, well, ugly, we've found a lovely kitchentop composter - stainless steel composting pail.  Isn't it gorgeous?  We thought so too.  It'll make you forget all about the worms and trash inside...

TIP - When you decide it's time to upgrade from Zack Morris' brick of a cell phone to a more modern device like, say, the iPhone, just remember to recycle.  I know the temptation to just throw that ole piece of junk away, but don't do it!!  There are many organizations that actually help you recycle that thing you just can't wait to get rid of.  Check out sites like Recellular, which allows you to donate your old phone, and the site Cellphones for Soldiers, which donates your old phone to help soldiers call home. 

TIP - If you're looking to recycle something bigger than a cell phone and you live in NYC, make sure to check out the NYC WasteLe$$ site.   It has oodles of information on how to properly recyle that old TV or that now-defunct laptop you spent all of your high school savings to buy only to have it crash on you three times mid-thesis but you've been saving anyway because you simply can't bear to part with it.  Sigh.  NYC has come a long way in helping to keep our landfills free of things that don't need to be there, letting us recycle everything from wire coat hangers to egg cartons.  We love NYC's recycling program.  Well, I mean, we love NYC in general so were biased, but still - it's all-inclusive which is great for our Earth.  Hooray NYC!

TIP - Don't buy anything you absolutely don't need (she says dubiously 2 days after she purchased a $300 dress she'll never wear).  But seriously folks, the best way to be green is to not buy stuff you don't need.  And by that, I'm not telling you to forsake everything and live like a dharma bum on a hill in Berkeley (I tried that for 4 years and all I got was the freshman 15 and a higher tolerance for beer).  We understand that we have standards of living.  We want our homes to be serene and calming and we want our clothes to reflect who we are.  The point is to not purchase in excess, like my dress purchase.  And also, be conscious of what you purchase.  Like at Brastilo, for example, we source our wood from sustainable forests.  This means that we're not cutting down any rainforests to bring you our media centers.  And we don't bulldoze your backyard to create your nightstand.  We love nature.  That's why we're so careful to make sure we show it off the best way we know how with pieces that are carefully crafted.  This is the sort of design philosophy you should court when buying anything new for your home.

ADVICE - As you can see, we can go and on and on about the ways you can be green.  What do we recommend?  Check out the green sites listed in our blogroll in the righthand sidebar - sites like Spring and Worldchanging.  And also check out The New York Times Magazine's Green Issue from this past Sunday.  It's a great way to get acquainted with green issues and how you can help.


Happy Earth Day, everyone.  And if you feel really inspired, bake the Earth a cake.  I hear she likes chocolate....

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April 16, 2008

Brazil's healthful plants, part três

The final leg (at least for now) of our healthy Brazilian food series will focus on a little known berry that is actually native to the West Indies but can also be seen growing wild and cultivated in Northeastern Brazil.  Brastilo introduces you to the acerola.

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Often referred to as the Barbados cherry, the acerola is a red fruit that is largely consumed for its vitamin C content.  Interestingly, Wikipedia states that the berry is "sour as much as it is sweet".  And according to the California Rare Fruit Growers website, the acerola also has "a delicate flavor with apple notes".  So, I guess we can call the acerola the fine wine of berries.

And while nobody here has ever heard of the acerola, we believe it's the best kept secret.  According to Big in Japan, it's already being used in Japan as a cure for the common cold.  In Tokyo, vitamin C enriched acerola juices are already being sold in supermarkets....in really fun packaging!  You have to admit, you'd totally buy that over an Odwalla any day!

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The Vitamin C from the acerola can also be used in supplement form.  One example we found on the web (but the legitimacy of the product is still unconfirmed), is Dr. Ben Kim's Acerola Cherry Powder which claims to help your skin and prevent hair loss as well as build your immune system.

So this really is a magic berry.  We'd expect nothing less from the berries cultivated in our precious natural forests.  And as always, Brastilo's use of wood sourced from specially selected sustainable forests helps protect the forests where acerola grows naturally. 

Another helpful tip from your friends at Brastilo.

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April 09, 2008

Brazil's healthful plants, part dois


Following along the lines of our previous post, Brastilo brings you stevia.  You may have heard of this nifty little sweetener and sugar-substitute, but we have the total spoonful.  Get it? - spoonful of sugar - okay, I'll stop.

What is stevia, you ask?  Well, it's not just some corporate hoax to make you buy more sweets.  According to our best friend Wikipedia, stevia is an herb and shrub based in South America.  "...commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, [it's] widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar...having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar."

300 times the sweetness of sugar?  Oh yeah, and it's calorie-free.  Sold yet?

Well now that we've hooked you, where can you find this miracle, all-natural sweetener from the tropical forests of Brazil?  Not very far away, as it turns out.  SweetLeaf sells numerous sweetener products made with stevia, including packets of stevia to use with coffee and tea.  According to the brand, stevia also contains fiber so it's relatively healthy in comparison to other sugar substitutes.  And it's kosher.

Now, I feel like I'm going on and on about the wonders of stevia.

But in case you still don't believe me, SweetLeaf created this brilliant chart comparing stevia to other sweeteners:

Stevia

And, as if all this low-cal, sweetener stuff wasn't enough, Wikipedia touts the medical benefits of stevia as well for conditions like obesity and high blood pressure.  It's also great for diabetics because of it's low Glycemic Index.


Yet another healthful tip from your friends at Brastilo!

Look out for more to come...we can't help but be proud of our healthful Brazilian herbs and berries.  And don't forget, Brastilo's use of specially cultivated forests helps keep herbs like stevia alive in our naturally occurring tropical forests throughout Brazil.

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April 04, 2008

Brazil's healthful plants

I am always looking for new health foods.  After surviving countless diets, including the pungently aromatic Cabbage Soup Diet, I have my doubts about good tasting healthy foods.  As it is, I spent 30 minutes trying to determine whether to eat a salad for dinner or pasta (in case you're interested, I decided on a ginormous bag of pretzels and some low fat/disgusting chocolate cookies). 

Leave it to Brazil, bastion of the g-string bikini, to bring us healthy plants that actually taste good.  I guess it's important when you're wearing next to nothing on a public beach.

Acai (pronounced asa'i) was trendy last year but we believe some things transcend trends.  Acai is generally considered to be one of the most antioxidant laden plants around and it's native to Central and South America.  It's is a purple drupe, that looks similar to a grape.  According to Switch2Organics.com,

"Not only is the açaí berry an antioxidant, but taken in the organic form unique amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and proteins are present in these berries. The açaí berry is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world, and is nature’s perfect energy fruit." 

It's only a matter of time before we hear people proclaiming the glory of Acai to help them stay up late and study.

Acaiberries image via Switch2Organics

In 2007, several companies began to use acai in various drinks.  Check out Bossa Nova and O.N.E. Amazon Acai for some examples.  But, most interestingly, acai is often eaten as a fruit in Brazil, and even acts as a great flavor additive.  Wikipedia notes:

"The juice and pulp of açaí fruits (Euterpe oleracea) are frequently used in various juice blends, smoothies, sodas, and other beverages. In northern Brazil, açaí (or jussara, which is one of the fruit's common folk names) is traditionally served in gourds called "cuias" with tapioca and, depending on the local preference, can be consumed either salty or sweet (sugar, rapadura and honey are known to be used in the mix). Açaí has become popular in southern Brazil where it is consumed cold as acai na tigela ("açaí in the bowl"), mostly mixed with granola - a fad where açai is considered as an energizer. Açaí is also widely consumed in Brazil as an ice cream flavor or juice."

Acai flavored ice cream?  I thought this was supposed to be healthy.  But there are so many uses for this plant, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing acai na tigela in NYC cafes.

 

And it should be noted that because Brastilo uses its own sustainable forests we are helping to protect the rainforest where acai and other rare fruits and berries are found.  We like to do our part wherever we can!

Stay tuned for even more posts on other Brazilian foods that can help you stay healthier...so we can all look good in our g-string bikinis!

This healthful announcement brought to you by your friends at Brastilo. 

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March 27, 2008

Saving the earth, one hour at a time

Maybe it's the memory of my mother hollering at the top of her lungs, "Turn off the light in the bathroom if you're done in there!!!", but I am really good at turning off electronics when they're not in use.  I even keep most of my electronics on power strips that I can turn on and off when necessary, so there's no "over-charging".  You could say I'm obsessed.

Well, finally there are people more obsessed with saving electricity than me.  Earth Hour is a fantastic initiative begun last year in Sydney.  Designed to demonstrate the amount of electricity that can be saved simply by turning out the lights, Earth Hour asks businesses and households to turn off their lights and electronics for one hour.  As they say on their website:

"It started with a question: How can we inspire people to take action on climate change?

"The answer: Ask the people of Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.

"On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour. If the greenhouse reduction achieved in the Sydney CBD during Earth Hour was sustained for a year, it would be equivalent to taking 48,616 cars off the road for a year.

"With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by the collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement."

Well to all you fellow electricity-saving-obsessives, it's your time to shine....or not.  Earth Hour is happening this Saturday, 3/29 at 8pm EST.  Participating cities are listed on the website, and Brastilo is encouraging you all to participate, even if you're city isn't listed.  We love the idea of Earth Hour, the idea that this small step can both make a point and actually save valuable resources.  Brastilo does what it can to use sustainable resources, and we encourage our customers, you loyal readers, to do the same.  Last year, the Sydney event saved between 2-10% of the cities electricity.  That's an enormous amount.  And imagine how much we can all save if all of the participating cities can save that much.  It's remarkable. 

So get your friends together and throw a candlelight party.  Or just enjoy the time away from the TV, the computer, and the rest of it all, with a loved one. 

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March 18, 2008

Superuse, the superhero of eco-design

Bored by staid design?  Tired of wasting useful resources on stupid things?  Have more trash than you know what to do with?  Superuse to the rescue (cue superhero music)!  It's described as an "online community of designers, architects and everybody else who is interested in inventive ways of recycling."  Truly amazing.  This site highlights just how important eco-friendly design has become to consumers and designers.  And some of the designs featured definitely require superhero strength. 

Quite possibly the coolest thing I've seen thus far on Superuse is a woman who recycled a defunct plane and made it her home. Look at the image - hanging amidst the trees.

Plane_home via Superuse


It's truly a sight to behold and a great way to make use of something that would otherwise make a ton of waste.  And, to top it off, it cost a lot less than a typical house!

Superuse also links to a site called Airport Journals which has a whole article about planes that have been recycled into homes.  It's funny, it seems so bizarre.  But with the Dreamliner in the air and AirForce One decked out with beds and a press corps, is it that hard to imagine retrofitting a plane for your home?  I can totally picture the interior of my old Pan Am - mod wallpaper, the Brastilo Swivel Arm Chair, and, my absolute favorite piece, the Brastilo Bench with Moveable Tray.  Of course, there would have to be a disco ball and a lava lamp too. 

But seriously, all hippie/disco fantasies aside, we are obsessed with inventive ways of recycling.  And we love finding new inspiration for our designs, our philosophies, and our own personal lives.  We already sell 2 pieces that are made from recycled goods - the Blue Paper Bowl made of recycled newspapers and the Banana Leaf Hanging Leap made out of banana leaves.  But the possibilities, as Superuse has proven, are endless - and we love the challenge.

So go forth and inventively recycle!


Via VSL

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March 12, 2008

The Architectural Digest Round-Up

This past weekend Brastilo was on location at the Architectural Digest Home Show in NYC.  Our booth rocked (don’t you love the mock Portuguese mosaic?), and we had tons of visitors. 

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And, true to the beauty of a show like this, we heard some wonderful feedback about being able to touch our pieces and see them in real life.  People really liked the Blue Paper Bowl, and they were impressed by the details of the 2-Door Pine and White Lacquer Cabinet, including the wood veneered wheels.

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The show was attended by people who are in the furniture trade, architects, interior designers and, of course, consumers. It’s always great for us to interact with our consumer and we really appreciate everyone who visited our booth.  We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you!

So what else was on view?  Quite a bit actually, and it ran the gamut from contemporary to old-fashioned.  One trend I noticed was repurposing wood for flooring.  There were a number of booths that seemed to focus on the use of reclaimed wood, and we’re in full support of the many environmentally friendly ways to source wood.  Despite the plethora of flooring booths, one in particular stood out.  The Mountain Lumber Company specializes in antique flooring sourced from old mills.  Founded in 1974 in Virginia, Mountain Lumber scours the depths of the world to find the best wood that can be re-used for commercial and residential purposes.  The best example?  They’ve reclaimed wood from handcrafted vats once used in the Guinness factory in Ireland.  That’s right, folks – all you Guinness drinkers can now have Guinness on your floor, and not from simply spilling it.  The wood is gorgeous.  Grainy, grey, with a healthy layer of patina to boot.  I fell in love with this idea and I hope you do too.

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One of the weirdest things I saw at the show was the EcoSmart Fire.  The fireplace is very contemporary looking and is “fuelled by a renewable modern energy (Denatured Alcohol), [that] burns clean and is virtually maintenance free”. It also doesn’t require a flue and is therefore able to be placed anywhere in your home.  The versatility of this fireplace really is something and, as a city girl, that’s definitely appealing.  I have to admit though, while I love the idea of an eco-friendly fireplace, there’s something romantic about a brick fireplace with wood a-crackling.  You snuggled up under a blanket with your big bushy dog and a hot cup of cocoa.  Sigh.  But, seeing as I can’t build a fireplace in my 60 year old building in my one apartment on the 4th floor, the EcoSmart might have to suffice.

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Finally, one of the most amazing organizations I found at the show is Green Demolitions.  In short, the program allows you, the consumer, to donate any of your old architectural elements – be that a full kitchen, a generator, an HVAC system, or simply some antique furniture.  The organization will come in and remove everything, if you so desire, at a discount.  Then, they bring everything to one of their 3 stores in the Northeast and sell everything back into the community.  And then, and this is the part that amazes me the most, 89% of all profits made in the stores are donated to Recovery Unlimited “whose mission is the sustaining and expansion of the All Addicts Anonymous program.”  89%.  Astounding!  So, in short, the organization does great things for the environment by preventing you from trashing your wonderful kitchen cabinets that you simply decided to change because those orange lacquer things are so last season.  And then, to top that off, it donates almost all of the profits it makes from reselling those orange lacquer cabinets to help people in need.  I don’t know about you, but I suddenly feel great about my fellow man. 

That’s the round-up everyone.  Hope you enjoyed it and we can’t wait to see you all at our next show...ICFF, perhaps?

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March 04, 2008

Oooh, a Brastilo sale...

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