Category Archives: Reviews

The Clean Bin Project: Documentary Film and Butt Kicker

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My friend Jen emailed me a few weeks ago asking for help finding green organizations in my area that she could contact about her upcoming documentary screening. Because in case being a non-consumer for a year and generating no trash wasn’t treehuggery enough, Jen and her partner-in-crime Grant made a documentary about their year long experiment, firmly placing the two of them into the category of Eco Rockstars.

So I did what any loudmouth know-it-all would do and emailed her back with a few organizations to try as well as a link to Idealist.  In return, Jen gave me free tickets to the screening closest to me.  To be frank, she went above and beyond any helpfulness on my part.  Tickets to a movie screening from the filmmaker herself in exchange for a few links?  I hit the green lottery, my friends.

I skidded into the darkened movie theater just as The Clean Bin Project: Documentary Film began rolling last weekend, and sat down among the 20 or so other moviegoers who were eating their popcorn and sipping their sodas and murmuring to their friends.  Over the course of the movie, we watched Jen and Grant explain the project.  We watched them struggle to find retailers who would give them rubbish free groceries.  We watched Jen grow a garden and compost and make personal care products, and the two of them research ways of reducing trash and learn about what garbage is doing to the environment.

If you thought the Clean Bin Project blog was comprehensive, you should check out the movie.  Not only do you feel the desire to do something good for the planet, but you gain the kick in the pants that you otherwise wouldn’t get when you’re sitting home alone in your pajamas reading the blog to yourself and eating cheese (not that I have ever done that).  Because what’s better than realizing you’re killing the planet with your plastic soda cup than realizing you’re killing the planet with your plastic soda cup while in a roomful of people?

Seriously.  There came a point in the movie when Jen and Grant showed the work of artist Chris Jordan, who uses everyday disposable objects in art.  It was a piece showing 1 million plastic cups, the number of cups used on airline flights in the US every six hours.  What look like pipes snake across the image, but then we zoom in and see that they are not pipes at all, but a horrifying number of plastic cups stacked one inside another .  Every six hours?  We saw that and people in the audience began murmuring.  They fiddled with their drinks and rustled their now-empty popcorn bags, and I knew they were feeling guilty.  I even pulled out my trusty notebook and wrote it down in the middle of the film:

“Looking at the artwork and people are gasping, about half have popcorn and soda cups and water bottles.  Wonder how many people will stop using disposables or think twice in the future.”

(Yes, I bring my notebook to movies.  I’d show you, but it’s in reporter chicken scratch.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

I felt a moment of smug-awesome for having brought my water bottle, but it lasted only a moment.  Because while I am a bit green, Jen and Grant take it to a whole new level.  They do public speaking.  They started a garden.  They competed to see who could produce less garbage and made a documentary, for pete’s sake.

The whole thing was eco friendly and intense in that fun sort of “OH MY GOD I’M EATING POPCORN FROM A DISPOSABLE BAG,” sort of way.  Like you realize you could do so much more than you ever thought.

I recommend The Clean Bin Project Documentary for anyone who has ever had a squidgy feeling about plastic forks and knives, for anyone who has thought that the plastic packaging in grocery stores is getting ridiculous.  For anyone who has ever wanted to do more.  Go for it.  If you have the time and mental energy to think about reducing trash, go for it, because the rewards go beyond what you can do for yourself.  What’s the harm in doing it for the planet too?

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I got my rear in gear this weekend and I’m doing more, gosh darnit.  It’s such a privilege to be able to think about reducing my waste.  All images courtesy of the Clean Bin Project’s press page.

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Vivobarefoot Venus at Six Weeks

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Six weeks have gone by since I received my pair of VIVOBAREFOOT Venus shoes, courtesy of the VIVOBAREFOOT marketing team.  I’ve worn them with no insoles all day, five days out of the week.  And without sounding too sycophantic, let me say it’s been six weeks of absolute comfort.  I love these shoes.

The Pros

These shoes are mary-jane style ballet flats.  They are cute.  They are comfortable — like running around barefoot, but more socially acceptable.  They are easy to put on and take off, and in the rain it takes at least a little while for your foot to become completely soaked.  They must have some sort of coating or lining to the canvas upper which does that.

When Lily and I go for walks at lunchtime, these shoes come with.  They traverse grassy land and concrete with ease, and I have never once felt out of place wearing these shoes at a work function.  This is why I wanted these Venus shoes and what these shoes are all about.

The Middle Ground

They have, however, a few peculiarities.  For one, the toe box is too short for my toes.  To be fair, just about every toe box is too short for my toes.  I have long toes.  However, the length of my toes is a problem in that I ordered a shoe one size too large.  There is a clear half-inch of space at my heel when I keep my toes touching the very front of the shoe.

I tried to remedy this fit issue by keeping the insole in the shoe.  It worked in that my heel wasn’t loose in the shoe, but with the insole in, the tops of my toes pressed against the underside of the top of the shoe rather uncomfortably.  So that didn’t work.

If I were to have ordered a size down, my toes would have been crunched against the front of the shoe.  There’s not a whole lot of room for foot comfort when your toes are crunched.  And the slightly shaped toe box ensures that my toes wouldn’t have been able to spread out.  So in the end, I’m happy to have bought a size up, even though my heel pops up occasionally out of the back of the shoe.

I admit, I was a little concerned about the strength of the elastics when I first tried on these shoes.  Those criss-crossed elastics in the front are super cute, but they are now perpetually twisted on one foot.  I take my shoes on an off so often that I don’t bother to correct the elastic and make it lie flat every time.  It’s not a real problem, just a minor annoyance.  Perhaps I can chalk this one up to user error.

As well, I can attribute the general dinginess of the white stripe around the bottom of the shoe to my lack of inclination to scrub my shoes.  This is one of those things that could go either way in that the shoe looks really sharp when the stripe is clean.   However, I think I’d prefer my shoes without the white stripe and not have to worry about it.

The Cons

And now for the durability: The inside stitching between the upper and the sole is showing a little wear.  Nothing’s coming unglued, and it may be a loose thread — I’ll keep an eye on it.  Six weeks is a little too early to tell if this is just one of those things or if this is a manufacturing issue, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

In addition, the dye on the front of the toes is fading slightly.  It’s barely noticeable unless you’re right up close — but again, at six weeks?  Hm…

And finally, you can see where my feet are wearing down the soles, particularly in the heel and the ball of the foot.  Not normally a problem, but with such a thin sole and only six weeks on the ground, I’m a little concerned.

Overall

Let’s go back to the caveat that I am hard on shoes.  I take them walking in the rain and tall grass and over rocky patches, I run around outside with the dog, and I wear them to work too.  I want them to do double duty, both work and play, and I’ve been wearing these shoes like they are the only pair of shoes I own.

So far, the Venus are falling slightly short BUT ONLY (and it is a big but) because my toes are so long which affects the fit.  If the fit was better for those of us with monkey toes, I don’t think I’d have a problem.  I could deal with the potential durability issues by treating my shoes nicer, by alternating out other shoes.  But fit is kind of a big deal, you know?

All in all, I like these shoes.  I like that they’re cute and minimalist, and I like that VIVOBAREFOOT offers sales every two months or so if you sign up for their email newsletter.  Their customer service has been phenomenal, and if you’re looking for an introduction into minimalist shoes, you could hardly look for a better company.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where if you look closely at the soles of my shoes, you can see I’ve been walking with more of a heel strike than a toe strike.  Whoops! 

First Impressions: Vivobarefoot Venus

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We’re coming in to spring now.  time to retire the winter boots (for the most part — curse you rainy weather!) and dig out the cute shoes.  The cute shoes go to work, or to visit my family, or to the library for just the right book to knit with.  They are not clunky.  They are light and breezy.  They look like spring.

Like these.

These are the Venus shoes from the newest line of VIVOBAREFOOT by Terra Plana.  What do you think?  I contacted VIVOBAREFOOT and asked if they would share a pair of shoes with me in exchange for a review on Simple Savvy, and they obliged.  I couldn’t be happier.

I asked VIVOBAREFOOT and not another company because VIVOBAREFOOT sells barefoot (or minimalist) shoes.  Barefoot shoes are shoes that are essentially the same as going barefoot.  Check out these soles.  They are 3mm thick.  There’s not a whole lot of rubber between me and the ground.

[As a quick introduction to barefoot and minimalist shoes, I’ll tell you that research suggests that having less cushioning and support in shoes is better for your body and health.  If you want more information, check out Damien’s blog, Adventure in Progress and the forum Toe Salad.  Damien hooked me onto minimalist shoes in 2009 when I began considering the impact of my posture on the migraines.  Which means I’ve been jonesing for shoes like these for two years.  So I’ll get on to the review.]

These Venus shoes are cute — so cute that I squeed when I opened the box.  They don’t look anything like Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs), which is currently the most popular brand of minimalist shoes out there.  VFFs are toe shoes.  Mr. Savvy has a pair of VFFs, and every time we go someplace while he’s wearing them, someone stops us to ask about them, or people openly point and stare.  And while toe shoes have their place, I can’t wear them to work.  I want shoes that multitask!

As far as first impressions go, these Venus shoes fit the bill.  They look like most normal shoes, fashionable to the point where I can wear them with business casual clothes and not get funny looks.  I ordered the purple colorway, but the shoes that arrived are closer to gray, which is perfect.  They have a criss-crossed elastic over the top of the shoe to keep them on my foot, canvas sides, and a rubber sole.  The sole is extremely flexible, and there is a little stiffness where the sole meets the heel.

Their fit is a bit big — a half size big, according to their website — but for some reason, if I leave the removable insole in, my big toe brushes the front curve of the shoe.  I’m a size 10, so I ordered a women’s size 41, which is normally a size 10.  I expected them to be big.  I didn’t expect my big toe to be pushing against the front seam when I walk.

No worries — out come the removable insoles, leaving me with less cushion and fantastic ground feel, which is exactly what I wanted.  It feels like I’m walking barefoot, except with shoes on my feet.  I can’t feel the texture of the grass, but I can tell I’m walking on grass.  Ditto for my flagstone walkway and wood floors.

Unfortunately, without the insole, the shoes slide around a little.  I expect them to mold to my feet as I wear them more, and the sliding isn’t deterring me from wearing them, but that’s something to keep an eye on.  The seams on the inside are all finished, so no discomfort there.

In the day since I’ve owned these, my feet have worn a dusty outline on the shoes’ soles, leaving me with some concerns about durability.  Lily and I are hard on my shoes.  We went through a pair of (admittedly cheap) winter boots in six weeks.  I’ll be sure to watch that progress as well.

Overall, I’m pleased.  My feet stayed dry as I dashed through the downpours we’ve been getting.  I wore these shoes to work and no one noticed they were different from normal shoes until I pointed them out.  Score!  I’ll be sure to check back in a few weeks to see how things are coming along.

There are a lot of companies out there offering barefoot shoes of different styles and colorways.  Check out VIVOBAREFOOT if you’re interested in stylish minimalist footwear that you can wear to work.  And if you want to go barefoot, there are some really comprehensive resources out there with great information.  Learn ahoy!

My favorite barefoot people

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I’ll give you fair warning: don’t just jump into minimalist footwear, or you’ll hurt your feet.  Take it a little at a time, okay? 

The Wilder Life

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The Wilder Life

One night this winter, I decided to see how other people felt about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and came across a soon-to-be released book The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure.  Laura geek that I am, I requested it at the library for the moment it came out.

A few months later, I had forgotten about it until one trip when the librarian said, “Oh, I have something for you!” and delivered this bit of goodness into my outstretched hands.

The Wilder Life.  It’s a memoir written by a woman who becomes so enamored of the comfortable scenes in the Little House books that she does everything she can to be a part of the world.  She bakes Long Winter bread, churns butter, and embarks on an epic, on-again, off-again trip to visit the homesites.

She’s also funny.  Wicked funny, as we would say if we were still in New Hampshire:

“I wanted to go out into the backyard and just, I don’t know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground, and bring it all inside in a basket and have my parents say, “My land! What a harvest!  There were a host of other things from the books that I remember I wanted to do too, such as: Make candy by pouring syrup in the snow.  Make bullets by pouring lead.  Sew a seam with tiny and perfectly straight stitches.  Have a man’s hands span my corseted waist, which at the time didn’t seem creepy at all.”

Wendy makes fun of herself for loving these things.  She makes fun of other Little House lovers too — to the point where it’s a bit off-putting at times.  Irreverent, they call it.  Keep reading, and it’ll get better.

As she journeys, Wendy realizes a few things.  She learns facts about Laura that she doesn’t want to learn.  She feels lost and grumpy at the homesites instead of transported, and expects more out of it than she gets.  She tries to grab at the history, as if learning and owning everything she can will make her happy.

She doesn’t think the Laura Ingalls Wilder books promote simplicity.

Reader, would you be surprised that I almost put down the book when I read that?  I was impatient with Wendy to get to the point, impatient for her to realize that simple does not mean easy, and that having everything in reach doesn’t mean happiness.

In the end, Wendy got it. She realized that Laura’s books and her own journey are “a love letter to the promise of success and prosperity,” as she says, and let everything go.  Because you can always write love letters, but then you must live life as best you can.

If that’s not simplicity, then I don’t know what is.

Pick up The Wilder Life and give it a read.  See if you come to the same conclusions I have, and enjoy the many, many details I left out.  It’s a good book for “bonnet-heads” (as Wendy calls us), and a good book about the pursuit of happiness.  This savvy girl couldn’t ask for more.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where this book looks so friendly that I felt like I was carrying a friend around in my hands.  I love books like that.  Book image courtesy of Amazon.  The other photos are mine.  Also, I have no affiliations with either Wendy McClure or Amazon.  I read this book and loved it, and wanted to share it with you.  End of story.

The Tipping Point for a Peaceful Home

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sadie

I don’t know who recommended The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, but I picked it up two weeks ago not knowing what it was about.  After reading 300 pages about epidemics, I came away with one key point about simplifying:  context matters.

According to the Gladwell, “what really matters is little things….You can prevent crimes just by scrubbing off graffiti and arresting fare-beaters…..it is possible to be a better person on a clean street or in a clean subway than in one littered with trash and graffiti” (150-168).

That last sentence (emphasis mine) really stuck with me.  It’s possible to be a better person in a nice place because a cared-for environment shows that someone will notice when it’s messy and work to change it.  This is why a peaceful home is a clean home.  It’s because we feel like someone will notice when it’s out of place, and so we all do our part to keep it tidy together.

It’s a far cry from dirty dishes in the sink to the crime rate of New York, but there’s a lesson I can learn here: Keeping a home clean and uncluttered means that everyone will feel better.  I think I can live with that.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I included a picture of Sadie on this post because nothing says “peaceful home” like a sleeping cat.