The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

A Non-Toxic Manicure and Thrift Shopping July 23, 2010

Ugh, so sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week. But I’m back, and this will be the first of several backlogged posts.

Saturday was catch-up-on errands day. You see, I had to finally get rid of some old clothes. I cleaned out my closet months ago with the help of a stylist, and even after one trip, there was still an impressive pile on the floor of cast-offs. I poured it all in a couple of reusable bags to take with me.

The whole city was hot, muggy, and inhospitable. My air conditioner labored to keep my room comfortable, and we had all the lights switched off so we didn’t blow a fuse in our old apartment. As I got my stuff together to run out the door, I decided at the last minute to switch bags. “It’s too hot to carry a leather purse,” I complained to Vicki. The idea of having black leather touching my skin, even if it was a thin strap, was gross. I poured everything in a cotton shopping tote, picked up my stuff, and took off for Brooklyn.

I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it to the cool air conditioning of the subway, and drenched again when I emerged into the hot sun and walked two blocks to my destination: Beacon’s Closet. I gratefully pushed open the glass door to the air conditioning.

Beacon’s closet is great, because it’s such an easy process to consign your clothes.

1. Dump your bags full of clothing and accessories with the girls in the back.

2. Either leave and go home, or go shopping on 5th Ave for an hour while they go through your stuff.

3. Pick up your voucher for store credit or cash.

If you decide to just go home, they’ll donate everything they don’t take to charity and you can come back another day for the voucher. If you decide to come back, you can take back all the clothes they don’t want. So easy!

So I left my unwanted stuff with a hipster girl with a brassy blond pixie cut and went to get my nails done. I found a place only a block away and popped in.

Now, a word about getting your nails done: It is not good for you. I mean, it’s great if you want to stop biting your nails (that may or may not be a problem for me) but in reality, a nail salon is a viciously toxic place, with toxins that have been linked to birth deformities, cancer, and liver damage. About this time last year, I made the trek down to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to get my nails done at a green salon, but lets be honest – it’s just too much to ask me to be on the train for an extra hour for a manicure. (There are other salons who use organic nail polish, but none of them are anywhere near the Upper West Side or even Mid-town.) So I came up with a solution: bring my own stuff!

Priti is a great line of nail polishes and nail polish that…well, I’ll let them explain:

Priti Polishes have been formulated without Toluene, DBP and Formaldehyde, all known carcinogens and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. They are fast drying, chip resistant, and super glossy.

As much as I like O.P.I. and Essie nail polish, I like my health more, and these Priti polishes really do the trick. Oh, and you can find them on Amazon, among other places. I had come prepared with pink nail polish, a top coat, and nail polish remover in my bag, and as I slid into a seat at the table, I took them out and put them on the table. “Can I use my own?” I asked the nail technician. She nodded as she took out her various sterilized tools. Then she took a cotton swap and began to soak it with blue liquid. I slid my nail polish remover forward and indicated it. She paused, quizzically, and with an expression of curiosity unscrewed it and soaked a new cotton swab, then set to work.

While she was  pushing up my cuticles and soaking my fingertips, I was able to study the ingredient list on the “fancy” lotions displayed next to me, so when she reached for a bottle I was prepared to turn down the offer of a hand massage. I can’t say for sure there were toxins in there, but if I need a chemistry teacher to identify it, then I don’t use it. It’s a rule that has served me well.

I could just imagine what the technician was saying to her neighbor as she giggled in Korean. “What is this silly white girl doing? Man, do we get some crazy hippies in Brooklyn.” No matter, the woman getting a pedicure next to me and I had a great discussion of the merits of bringing our own polish, and, God help me, Birkenstocks.

When she was done applying the last layer of polish, she picked up my stuff and settled me in the cancer causing UV nail dryer. When she walked away I subtly turned off the light switch and settled for a blow dry.

All prettied up, I stopped by a smoothie shop. I quizzed the girl behind the counter to establish that no extra sugar is added or syrup, and then ordered a pina colada.

It came in a styrene cup.

ARG! I just can’t win! It was too hot to get mad though, so I stopped outside the door to pet a cute pooch and headed back to Beacon’s Closet. I still had time to kill when I got back in, so against my better judgment I started to peruse.

I actually didn’t think I would find anything. Beacon’s has weird criteria for what clothing they pick. They usually turn down 75% of what I bring them, but they do keep some fairly ugtastic items. I guess I’m just not hipster enough to understand what is “fashionable”.

Despite this, I found several cute items:

One very fashionable (a la Refinery 29) Dooney & Burke long-handled leather purse in perfect condition, $25

One gorgeous maxi dress in bright tropical colors with neckline embelishments, $19

One adorable vintage bow tie for Mike to wear to the Jazz Age Festival on Sunday (post coming!), $9

Even minus the clothing I ended up buying, I netted $14. New clothes, AND money. I should clean out my closet more often!


Here Come the Hipsters! June 28, 2010

I didn’t really know much about hipsters until I moved to New York, but this slick graphic summarizes them quite nicely.

[via Ffffound!]


More laziness = More Stuff December 31, 2009

Filed under: Apartment,green angst,Tips — Alden @ 4:41 am
Tags: , , , ,

There are two components to this equation of More Laziness = More Stuff: The first component is obvious. As people have sought to make their lives easier, they’ve bought food processors, washing machines, dish washers, and even stupid stuff like shrink-wrap machines or countertop rotisserie units. That part is pretty obvious.

What I’m talking, though, is creative laziness. Our society has a huge dearth of it these days. Oh sure, there are some incredibly talented artists out there. I get a kick everyday out of seeing beautiful objects repurposed from castaway hot air balloons and soda cans. I especially love the seemingly overabundance of paintings, sketches, and graphic art floating around the web. But the average American seems to have lost all that childhood imagination, that something that said to us, “That couch, with a little work, could be an awesome fort!”

This is what I mean: Americans, whenever faced with a challenge – making more room, a hole in their comforter, a colorful shirt that needs a matching bottom – never pause to think creatively about a solution. Instead we just go out and buy the answer. Closets overstuffed? Go to the container store! Hole in your comforter? Buy a new one! (Even though I just LOVE the flower patches I sewed onto my comforter a few weeks ago. They’re adorable!)Something to go with that cute top? Pshaw, “shopping in your closet” is for losers. Just go get a skirt in that perfect pink that you will wear probably three times a year.

Americans are so lazy that they don’t want to exert themselves to find something repurposed either. It takes a more time and more creativity to find a suitable chair at the flea market. You may come away with something well-made, unique and beautiful. But in return you have to trust that the apartment Gods are smiling down on you that day and you have a good eye. That’s just too much for some people, who would rather just go to Ikea and pick out a plastic chair. I mean, Ikea has some great qualities. But it shouldn’t be a solution to every furniture quandary.

So here we are, too lazy to figure out where to recycle batteries. Too lazy to cook ourselves a delicious meal instead of microwaving one or ordering in, too lazy to save the wrapping paper at Christmas so we don’t have to spend money on a new roll next year. Some of it is physical laziness. After all, flea markets can be hard on the feet and the back. But most of it is mental laziness. Just can’t take the time to see that you don’t need to buy a special jewelry box when you probably have something in your closet that would do just fine if it got a fresh coat of paint.

I think the world just needs a little bit more creativity! Instead of a knee jerk response of “Bed, Bath and Beyond will have one,” what if we just sat down for five minutes and said, “I have all those old drawer pulls that would make adorable little hooks for my coats.” It’s so ironic. One of the most popular stores these days is Anthropologie, which specializes in faux-repurposed/vintage stuff. They charge an arm and a leg for this stuff. So why can’t we just learn to be creative with what we have?


The perfect sustainable store: Kaight December 29, 2009

This post is loooong overdue. But, you know, life happens. And I wanted a picture of myself in at least one of my new items! Anyway, a couple months ago I decided to really dive into the sustainable fashion scene in NYC. Well, shopping is tiring, and I only got to a few stores. At most of them I found typical uber-hippie stuff: fragile woven afghans in oatmeal and wacky shapes, vintage stuff that was nice in theory but I wouldn’t be caught dead in, and cheap looking vegan shoes that seem to miss the point. Kaight stood out as a store that actually offers stuff a normal person would go for – AND it’s all either organic or sourced from vintage finds.

The racks were packed with gorgeous sweaters, finely-tailored pants, flattering dresses, and a lot more. There were even classic boots and edgy oxfords. I put the sales girl to work running back and forth to the dressing room with armfuls of clothing. Among the practical and elegant finds I picked up: black jeans (a staple this season) a organic brown wool skirt, an up-cycled, elegant blue day dress (perfect for work) and a yummy organic sweater. (See picture above!)

I think I’ve said before, though – we can’t shop our way out of environmental problems. I have to remember that sustainable products are for when I have a specific item in mind that will serve a particular role. I can’t just go crazy shopping for organic cotton clothing, because it still takes resources to ship it to NYC, for one. I thought carefully about everything I was buying:

  • Is it useful in more than one setting?
  • Is it flattering?
  • Am I excited to wear it?
  • Will it stay in fashion for more than one season?
  • Will it fit into a lot of different ensembles?

These questions I asked myself kept me down to a reasonable amount of clothing, and in the end I was happy with everything I bought! Well, maybe except for the jeans. They are actually rubbing dark blue ink all over my legs and hands every time I wear them. At least it’s not toxic ink…?

Kaight is located at 83 Orchard St. near the Bowery and Grand St metro stops.