Emerson Creek is a treat

Many people seem to equate sustainability with using organic materials. While that’s a very important part of it, a lot of factors contribute to making a product – or a brand – truly sustainable. The idea is to think of each step of creation in terms of what can be improved towards our planet and the people who inhabit it. Going chemical-free and using consciously grown materials is critical, but the human factor is just as important. That means making sure the chain of production stems from a fair environment, where employees get living wages, healthcare and benefits. It also means respecting traditional crafting processes, treasuring their cultural value. And, in its own little way, these are all factors the people behind Emerson Creek Pottery take into account.

This beautiful pottery brand has been around since 1977, and its approach is quite a noble one: maintaining the American tradition of pottery making. Based in Virginia, the entire production is local, handcrafted and aesthetically based on the long-standing tradition of American pottery, dating back to colonial times. Even the brand’s name is historic, stemming from a New England creek flowing by Emerson House, where the founders began making pottery way back when.

While their pieces are wholly modern (dinnerware, bakeware, kitchenware and home décor), the American legacy is at the centre of the brand. Emerson Creek’s handcrafted pieces are a visual throwback to how 17th and 18th-century American pottery looked like, taking inspiration from early American Cobalt decoration on stoneware. 

In the beginning, all Emerson Creek pieces had simple and monochromatic designs handpainted on them with Japanese Sumi e-brush, a 2,000-year-old technique. When starting out on their first Massachusetts workshop in the 70s, there was only a single pottery wheel on-site; four decades later, they have a whole team of designers and potters making beautiful things in Virginia. Their processes have become streamlined over the years, yet Emerson continues to make handcrafted pieces based on the design of the old masters. 

The Emerson Creek Pottery design and techniques have evolved to create their own approach to the classics. Still, the All-American heart remains, to the point that they’ve had their works featured on places like Monticello, Mount Vernon, and the Smithsonian.

As one would expect, the actual pieces from the Emerson Creek gallery are breathtaking. Delicate and classic, they come in a broad array of colours. One thing you can always be sure of when purchasing handcrafts is that there isn’t a single piece just like yours anywhere else on Earth. Even if the same artisans followed the same design a million times, the technique, pulse, and even weather will create different looks every time. It’s a beautiful notion I strive to maintain in my life, having completely unique statement pieces everywhere inside my home, giving it different hues of personality. As Emerson Creek Pottery has existed as a brand for quite some time, you can also find a lot of options depending on your current needs – they even have pet dishes. Also, the motifs of their pieces are quite enchanting, often inspired by natural landscapes, particularly from Virginia.

If you’re around the East Coast, one cool thing about Emerson Creek is that they have an outlet around their workshop, in Bedford, Virginia. The location is beautiful in itself, with distant views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a plus, they sell seconds, overstock and more, between 30 and 60% off retail prices. 

Emerson Creek items will easily become talk pieces in a home – and the pieces are also non-toxic. Too often, industrially-made dishware contains a percentage of lead, though a fairly small one. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration allows for dishes with small traces of lead to be sold and regulated within the country. There’s one major issue with this logic, however: these can be activated through the use of microwave ovens or even particularly acidic foods and liquids. It’s just the kind of risk that seems the scariest, as these are items in direct contact with the food we put in our mouths. 

Emerson Creek, meanwhile, has vowed to keep their production lead-free. The company also complies with California Proposition 65, which requires that all products containing traces of lead be marked as such.

This long-standing brand has made it a point to be a voice in sustainability in more ways than one. Besides being a flagship of American pottery culture by keeping the traditional style and educating customers, they abide by five basic eco-friendly rules.

First, they keep away from lead in all their processes, ensuring non-toxic products for all their customers, their families, and house pets. Second, they’re locally-minded, as every single one of their products is made in the USA, without any industrialised machines in place; just expert potters doing their thing at the workshop. Third, Emerson Creek keeps its packing materials as green as possible, wrapping products with recycled paper, boxes made with 95% recycled fibers, and using the UPS carbon-neutral program for all their online shipments. Fourth, they skip paper as much as they can, doing away with paper catalogues unless customers specifically request them. Fifth, and an essential of so many great sustainable brands for the home: their products are made to last.

Fast fashion becomes particularly dangerous in homewares, as they come into direct contact with the food we consume. And it’s so easy to find safe, beautiful and functional handcrafted kitchenware!

Emerson Creek Pottery is a lovely example, but there are many ways out there to fill up a kitchen’s utensils with fully sustainable products. Buying from local artisans, keeping an eye out for conscious brands and even browsing through garage sales are all great ways to find treasures. Each entrepreneur fair you go to probably has a few potters or other makers of kitchenware, where you can ask them yourself about their processes. The composition is most likely much healthier than anything you may find at a major retailer, and you’ll have more control over the materials inside your kitchen. 

Filling your kitchen with conscious utensils and pieces is a small step yet it can do so much to help you create a safe environment for your loved ones. Besides, why go for something a million other people have when you can keep a unique pottery piece close to your heart?

Find out more about this special company here.

Out There Interiors

Knowing the journey something has gone through to reach my hands has turned into an essential part of my all-around shopping experience. I love opening my spaces to welcome beautiful handicrafts from different parts of the world. By becoming more conscious about every phase in my life, I’m often also reaching out to items with a complex and lovely story behind them. Handmade items aren’t just unique; buying them also means supporting years of individual tradesmanship and perhaps millennia of tradition. And you’ll find a lot of richness in the furnishings available on Out There Interiors.

Out There Interiors was born as a side business for someone looking to break into the arts. Its founder, Jenny Hurren, was a struggling actress that earned some extra cash selecting and selling beautiful handmade items. The business grew so much, she decided to pursue it full time, later joined by her partner Mark. Over a decade later, Jenny remains the beating heart of Out There Interiors, personally overseeing every layer of brand design, selecting and purchasing pieces, surveying sales and even running the company blog. Her goal? Making breathtaking furniture easily available for those who love it. The company is strongly focused on service, always striving to provide Desirable, Diverse and Down-To-Earth attention.

A fully British brand, Out There Interiors operates entirely on a farm about 30 minutes north of Brighton, East Sussex. They also have their own warehouse, a surprisingly uncommon feature among independent furniture retailers. The choice of products is quite extensive, including varieties as different as mirrored pieces, French style furniture, Scandinavian design, retro furnishings for every area of the home, country style and even ethnic pieces from different cultures around the world. In fact, Out There Interiors sources furnishings from a broad array of countries located on different areas around the globe, although many of them are European brands stemming from countries like Italy, Denmark and, of course, the United Kingdom. Whether you’re looking for statement pieces or classic ones that will complement any area without being too dissonant, this is an online store to fall in love with.

The sustainability approach of Out There Interiors is entirely focused on all things handicraft. Every single item on their shop was handmade, from the newest pieces to recovered ones. Each product was created meticulously by a group of craftspeople, each of whom has spent decades honing their skills as a carver, weaver, and every other practice necessary for the items you see on the shop. All the company’s partners make a strong stance towards handmade items and tradition, aiming to maintain the way things have been crafted for centuries while also adapting the look and utility to the modern world. Contemporary design meets ancient techniques for a truly unique look. Out There Interiors partner brand HKLiving, for example, currently hosts a 2020 catalogue that is heavily inspired by ancient Greece, also adding newer terrazzo and marble trends to thousands-of-year-old concepts. On the other hand, you’ll also find aesthetically enchanting recovered furnishings, taking up the necessary idea of making things that last a lifetime, stepping away from fast consumption.

While I’d love to see a more direct approach to sustainability from Out There Interiors, their work towards finding handicrafts and recovered items is nothing short of admirable. Looking around their website you can see that they take a very careful approach to selection, finding furnishings with a lot of personality. As it happens with handmade items of any type, there is always a level of so-called imperfections – but these are also the details that make each little thing unique in its own way. 

Easily available, Out There Interiors’ prices vary depending on different factors, including country of manufacture – due to general price of living, British-made items are more expensive than Chinese-made ones, for example. They also have a price match policy, in which they’ll thoroughly review any link you send them with an item on their stock that’s cheaper elsewhere. 

Out There Interiors is a wonderful little online store for people who love design and are on the constant lookout for handmade, one-of-a-kind décor. They’ve been around for a while and know their way around the furniture industry, and are available for a more in-depth explanation of their different collections. I fell in love with their niche selection, chosen with love and care by someone who clearly loves decorating with a passion. With items from around the world, including lots of British design, it’s quality craftsmanship at its best, with a strong approach towards the handcrafted!

Barker And Stonehouse

The United Kingdom is an old nation with a broad history of entrepreneurs. And sometimes, businesses pass through generations whilst keeping a family-centric vein and fusing in an increasingly modern approach. One such company, with a rich history and energetic future ispost-war-founded furniture retailer Barker and Stonehouse.

Barker and Stonehouse was first founded in 1946 by two Royal Air Force veterans, Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse. After enduring the trauma of WWII, the two friends dreamt of bringing a bit of pizzazz to British homes after the dreary years of the war. In the time since, Barker and Stonehouse has remained a family company, with the Barker side buying Stonehouse out in the 1970s. They’ve also grown considerably too, since starting out on Stockton-On-Tees in the ‘40s, expanding around the north-east with stores on Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Gateshead, Darlington, Hull, Knaresborough, Leeds and Nottingham – ultimately reaching London. The brand has also been able to be agile and nimble enough to change with the times, shifting towards a more conscious approach to retail. 

Over the past decade, Barker and Stonehouse has vowed to become more sustainable, with some well-meaning initiatives. For starters, they’re founding members of Trees4Trees, a reforestation initiative in Indonesia. Focused on helping the environment, Trees4Trees doesn’t just plant new trees in deforested areas, they also host educational programmes on communal reforestry, advocating for a more responsible treatment of trees. Indonesia is arguably one of the world leaders in sustainable forests, with government policies aimed at reforestation and a solid commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy. Many British and European furniture brands have joined the Indonesian efforts towards responsible forest management to create durable pieces that respect our Earth.

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Mas Salagros, A Magical Eco Resort Right Outside Barcelona

My life can be a little hectic, with a busy career that keeps me travelling on a fairly regular basis and a toddler to care for – and whose childhood I have no intention of missing. When our family look for spots to have a holiday, even for a short weekend getaway, we want a space where we can relax for some down time with the option of action-packed activities if we are up for it. And on this last recent trip to Barcelona, that’s exactly what I got.  An eco resort with a strong focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, which does not compromise on luxury or culinary standards. Sweet.

About 30 minutes away from the busy centre of Barcelona stands Mas Salagros, an eco resort that serves as a haven for mindfulness. Advertised as the first entirely eco-friendly destination in the Iberian peninsula, the resort meets the standards established in European regulations on sustainability in the hospitality industry. More specifically, every single slice of life in this place is crafted to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, all furniture is handmade in sustainable materials, including the beds and their mattresses. There is an honest commitment to sustainable living, including following energy efficiency practices and using the most organic waste management system possible. These details were what drew me here, so you can imagine I had very high expectations of a spot like this – and I have to say I was quite satisfied. Read more…

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Tenderleaf Toys

Sustainability isn’t just the basis of my work in fashion: it’s a guiding force in my life. I make a very conscious effort to navigate the world through environment-friendly practices, such as trying to cut back on plastic consumption in all areas of life. When I became a mother, this way to see things came with an extra responsibility: I am now raising a small human to be aware of his direct impact on the planet. I wanted to pamper my child with beautiful and fun toys, of course, but I also wanted the things that surround him to be meaningful. And so the quest to find sustainable toys began.

As a new mum, I have a set of basic standards when it comes what I want my baby to play with. I’m looking for nice-looking toys that can help him through each stage of development, but I also need toys that will entertain him and keep him safe, which quickly eliminates more than a few brands that still use toxic components. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic polymer with tons of harmful additives, has long been used to build toys, and it hasn’t been entirely phased out yet. Some of the biggest brands in the world continue to use this hard-to-recycle and dangerous plastic, which is good enough reason for me to steer away from those companies’ products. Unfortunately, crossing out brands that use harmful chemicals also diminishes the umbrella of options and so when it comes to eco toy sets, I am not there yet!

Finding environmentally sound toy brands with ethical work practices can prove somewhat difficult, even in Europe and the US. The amazing thing is that we’re getting an increasing number of choices, which in turn means they’re not a luxury anymore. Celebrities and royalty aren’t the only ones who can afford sustainable toys for their toddlers and growing children at this point, as there’s a growing variety of more affordable options. There’s no need for children in general to grow up surrounded by PVC and who knows what other toxic components.

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Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Lanco

Tender Leaf is a fairly new company, but there’s another toy maker I recently fell in love with that has been doing this for decades. Barcelona-based company Lanco has been making fully artisanal rubber toys since all the way back to 1952. The raw material used by Lanco stems from the same place as Tender Leaf Toys: the rubber tree. For over fifty years, this Catalan company has manufactured natural rubber toys for babies and even pets. A family company, Lanco has been at the forefront of European toy making for quite some time, and it was a joy to discover them, as I became a mum.

The Lanco founder and grandfather to the current owners, Alfredo Benet Domingo, was an artist who fell in love with the endless possibilities of rubber. Feeling a deep affinity to children, he decided to focus his talents of creating beautiful and colourful toys for babies. In the 1950s’, sustainability and ecology weren’t particularly popular concepts; it was just the way things were done. It’s a testament to Lanco’s commitment to the craft than in over 50 years they never neglected natural rubber for more toxic materials, staying true to latex for more than half a century. Still, it was only recently, in 2015, that Lanco began focusing its corporate image on the sustainable practices that have been the company’s backbone throughout its history. The company’s manufacturing process occurs in their factory in Fez, Morocco; each toy then heads to Barcelona, the starting point for them to be shipped internationally. As it often happens with traditional and family-based companies, the better part of Lanco workers have been there for over two decades, and women comprise 64% of their staff.

One thing I like about Lanco is that they make toys for babies as young as one month old. The items are hermetically sealed so that no mould can accumulate inside, in turn making it safe for newborn babies that are still too young to be vaccinated, and are thus much more exposed to bacteria. Lanco fulfills every European toy standard, using only biodegradable materials, from natural rubber to food-grade dyes. Every single one of the Lanco toys is crafted by hand, from prototyping in Plasticine all the way to adding the colour details.

Lanco focuses on making toys for babies, with squeaky and silent varieties that are soft to the touch and completely safe for any infant to chew. They have a few collections specialising in one of the toughest moments of parenting a baby: teething, which can be painful and traumatic for everyone in the household. Teethers Amapola are comprised of simple and unicolor shapes for babies to grasp and bite; Teethers Huella toys are shaped as animals, helping babies become familiar with their shapes and stimulated by colours; Teethers Semilla toys are all in bright colours, shaped as plants and fruits; and Teethers Orilla are two-piece toys inspired by waves, showcasing sweet shapes like elephants and birds.

The Spanish company categorizes their baby-focused products on four age groups: 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The toys for each age are designed to fit each developmental stage, so, for example, toys for newborns have a focus on grip, which they can eventually change between hands.

Lanco also has a whole catalogue dedicated to one of the most traditional and beloved toys we inherited from the 20th century: the rubber duck. After manufacturing rubber ducks for over half a century, Lanco has this product down to an art. They go beyond the yellow rubber duck and expand to more colours, including white, black, green, purple and brown; there’s a holiday version with a Santa hat and they also have some “bad” duckies, including a Diablo one.

The classic versions don’t even begin to cover the wide variety present in the Lanco rubber duck arsenal. They have a multicultural line that includes a Viking and a Miss Piggy-type fashionista; there are work-inspired ducks like a bobby, a fireman and a DJ; and even some romantic ducks, from one holding a rainbow flag to a married couple. The options go on and they’re all very sweet and silly. It’s clear Lanco goes beyond simply making them for little kids; some of these can make a nice present for an adult who has stayed young at heart.

In all, I want my child to grow up in a world that’s increasingly aware of each product: where it comes from, who works on it and on what conditions, what measures are taken for it to be safe. The best way I can think of creating that kind of consciousness in him is by surrounding each step of his development with carefully thought-out items crafted by brands that care. I’ve fallen in love with the products and worldviews of Tender Leaf Toys and Lanco, and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m also madly excited to see my son go through each step of life, and I also can’t wait to find the toys that will help make him a happy and aware little human. Find out more about the company here.

Harley and Lola, impeccably sustainable

More than anything else, I believe in the relationship between fashion and sustainability. My personal quest on conscious living began designing and producing clothes ethically, and it has expanded to every corner of my everyday life – or I try my best for it to! There’s no reason living as sustainably as possible should mean drifting away from aesthetics, even when it comes to the customisation of our spaces – in fact, it should be quite the contrary. When redecorating my home, I was glad to see that sustainability has permeated the furnishings industry for a while, and the that the trend is still very much growing. When researching about sustainable British furniture brands, one happily kept popping up: Harley & Lola. While mostly focused on retail, they also have their own brand, which offers a comprehensive range of natural candles and diffusers, wood and Capri leather furniture. 

Take a look at the Harley & Lola website, you will know pretty instantly that this is a brand with a vision for our planet. On the homepage, centre stage, you’ll find information on their Green Scheme, a programme dedicated to being friendly towards our environment, by keeping their emissions as low as possible. Fully focused on responsible handling of their own carbon emissions as a business, Harley & Lola has a strong will when it comes to lowering their impact. Their environmental scheme consists of two major steps: carbon neutral delivery and free CarbonClix for every lb spent on their store. 

While it’s nearly impossible to fully eliminate the negative carbon imprint of shipping (products will always need to be moved around, most often in polluting trucks), this company is truly dedicated to offsetting emissions. The initiative is simple yet effective and when purchasing with Harley & Lola, customers have the option to choose carbon neutral delivery. Then, the company commits to balancing things out by either planting new trees or building green energy plants, whether they’re hydroelectric, solar or wind-based.

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