My Favorites

5 Reasons Why I Love Living in the City

I have lived in two major cities in my life so far.

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The nation’s capital, Washington, DC

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and the pride of the Midwest, Chicago, IL

While living in the city does has some setbacks (so many sirens), city life has become a part of me in many ways.

Without further adieu, here are

The 5 Reasons Why I

Love Living In the City

1. Being able to walk everywhere

I can pretty much access all of life’s necessities via my own two feet. Within just a few blocks are my gym, the mailbox, the bank, the pharmacy, a grocery store, tons of restaurants, a farmers market, a zoo, and Lake Michigan.

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Just steps away is Lincoln Park Zoo

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A few steps more and I can dip my toes in the Lake

In DC, I had the ultimate luxury of being able to walk to work. The 20-minute walk to and from was my favorite way to begin and end the day. In the year and a half I lived there, I never once took the Metro to work. I walked rain or shine.

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Not many people actually live in downtown DC, but I lived smack in the middle in Chinatown

2. If I can’t walk, public transportation is always an option

Yes, there are some things that are a bit farther outside the radius of the distance I would casually walk to. But there are also some times I will make a day of it if it is nice out, like the one time in DC where I decided to walk 4 miles to and from Trader Joes.

Our location here in Chicago is right near the L and many bus lines heading into the Loop. In DC, I lived a block from the one Metro stop that could connect me to all other lines.

3. Never far from something interesting

Living in a city basically means there is ALWAYS something going on, much to the chagrin of drivers and people trying to go about their daily lives without getting stampeded by Lollapalooza attendees.

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See a movie in Millennium Park

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Go to antique and vintage markets

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Play softball on the National Mall

 

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Attend a march for a good cause

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See your favorite sports teams play

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Pick up your produce from a farmers market

4. So many spaces to exercise & explore

A lot of people think that when you live in the city it becomes harder to exercise. That is absolutely not true. While I am a bit further away from acres of undeveloped green space, I do have access to some of the greatest spaces to work up a sweat.

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Go for a run along the Lakefront Trail

Not only are there so many cool places outside to go work out, there are also so many different kinds of gyms that everyone can find something they are interested in. Aerial yoga? Got it. Trapeze lessons? Got it. American Ninja Warrior gym? Got it.

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Running the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

 

I became a part of a great fitness community while I lived in DC called November Project. It’s free and we worked out all over the Capital. From the Capitol building steps to underneath the cherry blossoms, we were everywhere. Now in Chicago, I meet up with November Project at the Bean and everywhere else in between.

5. Being able to be a part of so many different things

I am involved in almost way too many things. I serve on a non-profit associate board, regularly volunteer at beach clean ups, and participate in numerous environmental functions.

 

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Election day didn’t turn out like I thought, but I was able to serve as an election judge at my district’s polling place.

 

 

 

 

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Last year, I became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader. I can partake in projects that better my community and environment.

 

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Marching with thousands on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC’s March for Climate

 

 

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Cleaning up Montrose Beach

 

So that’s it! Do you have any additional reasons for why you love living in the city? Obviously, these are not all the reasons, and city living has some downsides, so let me know! What did I miss?

The End of An Era: Goodbye Gomez

Not too long ago I posted about how I still drove the same car that I have had since high school.

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My beloved 1998 Toyota Rav4, Gomez, with 197,000 miles on it

Our bond is just like the Liberty Mutual Insurance “Brad” commercial, except replace 4 years with 11, Brad with Gomez, and I did not total my car.

 

But really, nothing can replace Gomez. We legitimately have been through everything together.

I love my car so much that I am willing to share extremely embarrassing photos and memories of myself with Gomez through the years.

A Look Back

 

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The first day of junior year of high school when I just got Gomez, 2006

 

Driving to Friday night high school football games.

 

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Football game Friday

 

Jamming to burned CDs filled with super angsty teenage love songs.

 

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The first day of senior year with Gomez in the background, 2007.

 

Still driving to school even though I tore ligaments in my right ankle and was wearing a boot, which I removed to drive.

Piling as many people as there were seatbelts inside since I was one of the first to get my license. 

 

 

Chauffeuring my brother & his friends around when he came home from college.

Trekking down to Bloomington, IN  for 5 years worth of trips back and forth.

 

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Packed and ready for the drive to start Junior year of college, 2010

 

Filling Gomez to the brim with basically my entire life as I moved from house to house each year.

 

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Off to senior year of college, 2011

Transporting bikes and equipment to the Little 500 track.

Also transporting multiple Redsteppers (college dance team) to the football stadium. 

 

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Moving out of college for the last time, 2013

 

Hauling furniture and vintage pieces I’d find at garage sales.

 

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In storage, waiting for me while I lived in Washington, DC, 2014

 

It breaks my heart to say that Gomez is up for sale (on Craigslist of course). I now drive a slightly newer Rav4, but it is definitely not the same.

We had a great run and I will never forget my first car.

Whoever buys you is going to get a car that is well-loved.

 

Sunday at Randolph Street Market

Yesterday was a glorious day here in Chicago. It was sunny with some fluffy clouds and not stifling hot.

All I wanted to do was spend time outside so after a morning bike ride on the Lakefront Trail, I hopped over to Randolph Street Market to check out the vintage goods.

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I am always on the hunt for something unique and vintage, so much so that I made up a schedule for vintage shopping. Just like my love for Craigslist, I am fascinated by the fact that you never know what you are going to find.

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I did not end up buying anything, which is totally fine. Making a purchase is not in any way mandatory. You have to make sure you are going to LOVE what you buy.

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Even though I did not come across anything that had to come home with me (or anything would actually fit in our place), I enjoyed getting to browse what was available.

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There was definitely plenty of reuse, upcycling, and vintage charm to go around.

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On the other hand, there was also some really good quality midcentury modern pieces available.

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If you visit Randolph Street Market, there are vendors inside as well as outside! When colder weather rolls around, you can still shop the market from October through December.

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I did absolutely love these outdoor chairs! Aren’t they so clean and neat? Unfortunately, I have no outdoor space, so nowhere for them to go. I am sure someone else will love them just as much as I did and will be able to take them home.

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How did you spend your gorgeous Sunday?

Maps, Maps, Maps

This probably makes me super nerdy, but I really love maps.

I am a visual learner and physically seeing information helps me absorb it better than just reading or hearing about it. Maps and visuals also make a bigger impact on audiences.

Due to class scheduling conflicts, I was never able to take Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a course in graduate school. Basically, GIS uses data to spatial create maps and layers of different types of data and information to help answer questions and solve urban planning problems.

Now that I am out in the real world, I realize that I should have tried harder to fit it into my class schedule.

When I saw there was an opportunity to attend a 2-day GIS workshop here in Chicago, I jumped at the chance to learn a new skill for professional development and my own personal map fetish.

Over two days, we covered the basics of a skill that takes years to fully master, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

We worked with data sets and transformed them into spatial data and then applied layers of other data on top. It was so cool!

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Don’t mind the Cheshire cat, he was just a placeholder for what would have been a company logo.

 

The most awesome part is that tons of regional GIS data is available for free!

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BRB let me go make some maps.

Stand Up and March

All day yesterday I felt really weird.

Sick to my stomach, yet full of anger.

TV and the internet were avoided like the plague.

All week, I had been on the fence about attending the Women’s March on Chicago. I was afraid of the crowds and the possibility of violence, but I knew I should be there.

On the first day of this administration, we need to take a stand, so I hoped on my bike and rode down the lakeshore path to Jackson and Columbus in Grant Park to attend the rally.

 

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There are my rallying shoes since I technically didn’t stay for the march part (which actually got cancelled because there were just too many people to march)

 

I mostly just listened and looked around, taking all of it in. It was great to see families and their young children, groups of young women, and groups of older women, all gathering together in a common fight.

My favorite part is always the creativity of the signs people bring to protests. Below are some of my favorites.

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Let’s Make 2017 Better: Resolutions for a Less Wasteful Year

2017 is here. It is a whole new year and a fresh start, but it is going to be a tough road ahead.

The United States will inaugurate and swear in two men who do not believe in climate change as President and EPA Administrator respectively.

That is a tough pill to swallow, but not a time to back down. 2017 will be a year of trying even harder to make a change.

New Year’s resolutions are all about making a change, and I have plenty. These are not the generic resolutions everyone makes and breaks by February, but instead specific Waste Not Want Not resolutions that can make a difference beyond yourself.

I am looking forward to seeing the changes I can create in my own environment and the one around me.


 

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I am not going to focus on shedding pounds from my body, but instead, remove pounds of organic waste from ending up in the landfill. Since I was able to compost about 51 pounds in a 5 month period, I feel this is a good goal for next year.


 

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Eating healthier means paying more attention to what you are putting into your body, but it is often overlooked as to where your food is coming from. Sure you can eat broccoli that traveled across the country on a truck, or you can eat broccoli that was grown less than 100 miles away (0r even grown in your own backyard).

To find your local foods, head to a farmers market near you or a store specializing in local products. In Chicago, I love to shop at Green City Market which is just a 5-minute walk from our apartment. I recently started shopping at Local Foods and am considering joining a co-op like Chicago Market.


 

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Everyone wants to save money, but we can save even more by not buying the things we don’t necessarily need. Buying a shirt because it is marked 50% off, doesn’t save you 50%. You just spent 50% more because you made a purchase on a whim.

For the purchases of items you know you will need, do your research. Find a high-quality version of what you are looking for. Chances are it will be more expensive upfront, but in the long run, it should save you money because you’ll never have to purchase it again.

One more thing we can stop wasting money on is our food! Every time you let food go to waste, dollar signs are flying out the window. I try to repurpose leftovers into other meals, compost organic waste and freeze older vegetables to make stock.


 

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I think the Container Store is a hilarious idea. They preach how buying more stuff at their store will make you more organized. Hang your 45 infinity scarves on this specially made scarf hanger! Buy more plastic bins to store your fake plastic Christmas tree and non-recyclable wrapping paper!

How about we just pare down our belongings so we don’t constantly have to be organizing? I already read about Marie Kondo’s method in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which basically involves going through everything you own and asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” In 2017, I plan to ask myself that question with more of my belongings.


 

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I have already purged a lot of my clothes, but there are still plenty hanging around that I don’t wear that often. I want to be at the point where I do not have any more clothes left at my parent’s house.

There are many other options on what you can do with your clothes besides donating them. First, you can reuse them for a different purpose. T-shirts, for instance, make great cleaning rags. Also, consider trading clothes in a clothing swap with friends and family. Probably most important is to repair your clothing! I just noticed a hole in one of my 2 pairs of jeans. I am going to learn how to properly repair that rip!


 

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Did you know that basically half of the trips you make are 3 miles or less? Most of the places we need to go, like the pharmacy, the bank, and the grocery store are not far away (of course, this only applies if you live in a high-density area).

I, of course, advocate for everyone to get physically moving at least once a day, but another way to escape our sedentary lifestyles is to use walking and biking as our mode of transportation. I personally hate having to get into the car to run an errand while living in the city (I don’t want to lose my parking spot!). Being able to get things done by foot or bike is way better for your health and the environment.

Let’s bring on 2017! Did you plan to make any similar resolutions? Or are you inspired to add some of these to your list? Let me know! 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty in the Handmade, Secondhand, and Hand-me-downs

Originally, I had zero intentions of doing a post specifically on how I decorated for the holidays. I am not an interior designer.

But, the below picture changed my mind.

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Yesterday, some family got together to bake our traditional Christmas dessert, linzer torte. I was so proud of my work that I wanted to document its beauty.  Looking at this picture reminded me of all the beauty of the decorations I have found secondhand, made with my own hands, or were handed down to me from loved ones.

The Dining Room*

*It’s not really a dining room, I just don’t know what else to call it

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I scored this beautiful glass jar from a garage sale long ago and knew it would come in handy. My original plan was to fill it with seashells from K’s hometown in Massachusetts, but I have yet to acquire more than one. So now the jar gets to be seasonal! It currently holds my collection of cookie cutters. They are too pretty to hide away in a drawer.

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Christmas M&M’s were a staple in my house growing up. After picking some up, I realized I had nothing to put them in! Luckily, I took home a bunch of these mason jar mugs that were wedding favors at a friend’s big day. I couldn’t bare to see any left behind!

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Yes, there is a pumpkin in this picture. He didn’t make it into last month’s compost pick up, so I have been holding on to him until the next. I figured I would have some fun with it and have him wear an elf hat. Why not?!

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This enamel tray was found at an antique market in Northern Illinois and I knew it would be perfect for my kitchen table. The pinecones have stuck around since the fall, and all I had to do was add some festive ornaments.

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Over our closet is a vintage paddle we hung up to pay homage to K’s love of fishing and boating. Since I had an extra string of garland, the paddle got to be decorated too! Next year, I am thinking of wrapping it in lights.

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On our door hangs the newest edition in handmade decorations. You can read all about it here.

Living Room

 

Christkindlmarket is a big deal in Chicago. It is a traditional open-aired German Christmas market right in the middle of downtown. If you are brave enough to battle the crowds, you can get a delicious pretzel and some hot mulled wine, called glühwein, in a souvenir boot mug! I have gone many times with friends and family and displaying the mugs on our bar makes perfect sense.

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Bet you don’t realize our thermostat is in the middle of that picture right? It is usually a blank space on the wall, but now it is home to our Christmas card collection. The delightfully tacky Christmas banner was my parents and I have fallen in love with it over the years and ended up claiming it as my own.

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Last fall, my friends and I spent an evening crafting blanket ladders in a garage. It was such a blast, and I am so glad this piece provides me with memories that one bought from a store could not.

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K had this awful red IKEA pillow that he brought with him when we moved in together. It’s obnoxiously crinkly so it had been banned to the giveaway box in the basement. That was until I decided to give it some new life by turning it into a Christmas pillow. I already had the green and brown felt, so I stitched us a whole new decoration.

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This is the first year I have actually had my own Christmas tree, so that means I had nothing for it. A tree skirt is often common practice, but I saw no reason to waste any money on such an item. We had a red and black plaid blanket that works perfectly wrapped around the tree.

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Knit bunting is now my new favorite decoration. I made one for fall and now one for Christmas!

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No vintage Christmas collection is complete without a creepy Santa Claus! I found him at a garage sale and just couldn’t pass him up. You better watch out! He’s watching you!

My Favorites: Second Hand Things

I pride myself in having filled probably 75% of our apartment with second-hand things. I don’t really see the point in buying something brand new when there are plenty of other options out there.

There was a time when I was living in DC where my roommate moved out and took all the living room furniture with her. I was left to furnish it myself, and since I was on a budget, it all came from either craigslist or the dumpster behind my apartment building. I traveled around the District picking up a kitchen table and chairs, coffee table, couch, arm chair, and end table. All without a car.I ended up furnishing the entire place for under $250.

Now that I am on to my next apartment, it is no different. I love having pieces that are old, tell a story, and remind me of how I acquired them. As much as I love Home Goods, I would much rather have knick knacks that have a meaning/purpose.

These are my favorites:

Our copper bottom pots and pans were a wedding gift for my grandma and grandpa in 1953 and still going strong! My cousin used them for a while after college and now I have them! A little copper cleaner and they still look and work great.

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The metal cabinet was found while scrounging through a family friend’s warehouse that needed to be cleaned out. Read more about its transformation here.

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Our couch was originally my aunt and uncle’s. Their labradoodle, Murphy, had a specific spot he would sit in and you can definitely see that spot in the leather.

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The blue end table was bought on craigslist in DC. I took the metro out to a part of the District I wasn’t familiar with, picked it up and walked a couple blocks with it. Once I found a taxi, I shoved it in the trunk and headed home with my new find. It needs a new coat of paint and then will look brand new!

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These pillows came with the couch I found on craigslist in DC and they were super ugly, but I did not want to get rid of them so I just got crafty. Can you tell I was homesick for the Midwest?

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The bedroom set was my other grandmother’s set that my dad had refinished. Since she has passed away, it is a nice memory of her and makes my mom happy that it is being used. It is also quite in style now!

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A bowling pin my parents picked up at the Randolph Street Market because they thought I would like it and an IU 1976 NCAA Champs 7Up bottle I found at a garage sale in Indiana. Go Hoosiers!

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Rival Ice-O-Matic ice crusher that was in my grandmother’s basement and thought was super cool looking.

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Vintage Coleman cooler we searched for and found at the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market. Right now it is being used for storage.

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My Favorites: LL Bean Canvas Tote

When I lived in DC, I did not have a car. Anywhere I went was on foot, bicycle, Metro, or

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Rolling Around DC on Capital Bike Share

bus. Since I knew I was going to be walking a couple blocks to the grocery store every week, I needed a good sturdy bag to haul my goodies home.

This is where my LL Bean tote comes in. It’s seriously the best bag ever and I love it more than any human being should love a bag used for groceries. It always fit everything!

My tote was so sturdy, I never worried about the bag ripping and the zippered top was helpful on windy days when receipts could go flying across the street. I will definitely have that bag for the rest of my life!

I took it with me on weekly trips to Safeway and monthly trips across the District via bus to Trader Joe’s. I needed this bag not only because I walked/bused, but because DC had banned plastic bags!

My tote helped me limit my purchasing because I knew it had to fit in that bag in order for me to get it home. Most of the time I could fit an entire weeks worth in it, except for the time I thought it was a good idea to buy a large pumpkin for Halloween. Seeing me struggle down the street with my bag of groceries, a gallon of milk, and a big ol’ pumpkin, what a sight!

(Side note: due to lack of car, I have carried a number of odd items down the street and on the metro. That includes an IKEA Lack coffee table, end table, and a chair. I am strangely proud of this.)

Anyway, if you are in the market for a durable bag for your groceries, I highly suggest a canvas tote from LL Bean. It is guaranteed to last.

Besides LL Bean, what is the best way to carry your groceries around town when using alternative forms of transportation?

Oddisay: The Eco-Friendly Etsy

Over the summer I had the opportunity to work with a start up called Oddisay as an expert sustainability consultant. Oddisay just officially launched as a sustainable goods marketplace. It is like Etsy, but with an eco-friendly  focus.

For instance, when you open a shop on Etsy (which I have done before), there is no vetting on the materials your product is made of. You could say it is made of local, organic, biodegradable hemp all you want, but you never have to actually prove anything.

On Oddisay, every product that is posted gets evaluated by 3 key qualities:

  1. What it is made of
  2. How it is designed
  3. How it is disposed

What It Is Made Of

Products on Oddisay must be made of sustainable materials that can be recycled, reused or reclaimed. Additionally, Oddisay strives to make sure that products are fairly sourced. It was described to my colleagues and I that everything in the product must be useful.

How It Is Designed

The design of products is especially important. Each product sold on Oddisay is designed to be easily recycled, reused, or reclaimed keeping in touch with the cradle to cradle mentality.

How It Is Disposed

No part of a product should end up in a landfill, therefore Oddisay products eliminate or minimize landfill waste through recycling, reuse, and responsible environmental design. There are even sellers that have a merchant buy back program!

Rating System

Additionally, products are evaluated against a rating system, earning either a standard, silver, or gold rating in the following categories:

  • Gentle Impact
  • Fair Trade
  • Efficient
  • Merchant Buy Back Program
  • Multi-Use
  • Modular
  • Recyclable
  • Sustainably Made
  • Compostable
  • Biodegradable
  • Smart Packaging
  • Renewable

Trusted Certifications

It doesn’t end with the rating system. Oddisay uses a large amount of trusted certifications when assessing its products. USDA Organic, FSC Certification, B Corp Certification, and Energy Star are just some examples you may be familiar with.

During my time with Oddisay, I did extensive research on biodegradable adhesives, inks, and dyes. Beforehand, I knew synthetic glue was not necessarily good, but I had no idea how much petroleum went into every synthetic adhesive. I learned more a bout glue than I ever thought I would need to know!

Overall, Oddisay is a pretty cool marketplace developed by people all around the world who care about what goes into the products we buy. So if you want to make a difference, you should check it out!