Being a Part of Something Big

by Gia on September 17, 2014

March on WashingtonI was born in the 60s and often think about how crazy that decade was.  President Kennedy was killed when my mom was pregnant with me, our good family friend Andrew Goodman was killed in Mississippi right around my birth, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were both killed when I was 4.  It must have seemed like the world was falling apart.  Yet the world changed in significant ways that decade and many people gained rights and freedoms that allowed them to achieve what they only dreamed of at that time.  On Sunday, my family, colleagues, and coworkers will be part of something HUGE – something so big that it is reminiscent of the groundswell that was the Civil Rights movement: the People’s Climate March here in NYC.

When you think about it, our rights to a clean and sustainable world are being denied by a powerful establishment that is fighting for the status quo with their billions of dollars.  On Saturday, we are taking to the streets and demanding our rights back!  Climate Change affects us all in different ways.  If you live in a coastal area, you’ve no doubt been touched by flooding from rising see levels.  Our friends on the West Coast are experiencing unprecedented drought.  In Nebraska, dirty tar sands from Keystone XL could toxify the prairies, while in Virginia, mountaintop removal mining is contaminating watersheds.  In Asia and Africa, serious conflicts could occur due to the rising number of climate refugees.  Much less serious, but closer to home and more relatable by many of us, we are losing our snow and beloved winter recreation activities.  I could go on and on.

Indeed, it feels like the world is falling apart, just like it did in the 60s.  And just like we did before, we are taking to the streets to demand action.  You may think comparing a global environmental crisis to the lack of civil rights in the USA is peculiar, and I don’t disagree, but the upshot is the activism worked.  We now have a president who, back when I was born, did not even have federally protected equal voting rights.  Let’s make ourselves heard loud and clear, so that 50 years from now, we have a world that is better than it is now, where renewable energy is the norm, where the cost of environmental externalities must be accounted for by every government, and where we will say, I can’t believe they still drilled for oil when I was born.


Join us Sunday at the People’s Climate March.


Beautiful Jewelry from… Trash?

by Gia on July 10, 2014

You may have seen our article series here at EcoPlum called The Stories Behind our Products. Well reading about our creative and talented artisans is certainly interesting, but how about a close up look at the products on video?  Today I talk about one of my favorite product lines that we carry at EcoPlum: Bottled Up Designs.  Reclaim Artist Laura Bergman makes stunning jewelry out of broken shards of glass that she finds in the woods of Pennsylvania – near Amish country where she lives.  Check out some of these beautiful pieces and find out where they came from in my latest VLOG:


Gia's VLOG

Gia Talks About Jewelry Made from Trash




Vintage 1964

Photo Credit Andrew Leonard

As I approach my 50th birthday, I’ve been doing quite a bit of self-reflection.  In my personal life, I couldn’t be more satisfied: my husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in October; both my 16 year old son and 11 year old daughter are thriving academically, athletically, and creatively; my 88 and 93 year old parents are still part of my life, and I am finding time to do the things I love: write, bike, ski, play fetch with my dog, travel, and go to concerts.  When it comes to my professional life, I feel more conflicted.  While I love what I do now, I wish it hadn’t taken me so damn long to get here!  I mean, I’ve been out there working for 25 years, and only 7 of them have been in the “green” world.  Oh, those seven years have been chock full of action: I’ve ranted extensively about personal responsibility and the need to change our consumer habits, I’ve praised those companies and individuals who are making significant contributions towards sustainability, and I’ve introduced tools and products that make our lives safer and healthier.  Surely, I’ve made some kind of an impact, no?

Well, don’t call me Shirley!  I’ve got a lot more work to do.  For one, I’d like to inspire today’s youth to build their careers around sustainability and social responsibility. If only I had started earlier in my life, oh the things I could have accomplished.   I suppose it’s easy for me to say now with 20/20 hindsight, but I had so much ambition, energy and entrepreneurial zeal that could have been channeled early on to do more good.  Last week, I was invited to speak at a career transitions presentation on behalf of GreenHomeNYC and I retold my story of ups and downs and drama and disappointment that has been my career:

I started on the right track to “doing good”- as I took a job in healthcare consulting out of graduate school – I mean the next best thing to being a doctor had to be working in healthcare, right?  Well unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the equation as I ended up helping insurance companies become more profitable by making sure they got paid every last bit possible from the federal Medicare system. I continued on in that field and built a thriving software company with 30 employees and millions in revenues.  It was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, but not the most fulfilling in terms of contribution to society.  Every day I helped more insurance executives line their pockets with more profit.  But I was employing people and keeping the economy going so it wasn’t all bad.  But while I was working for radical transparency with clients and employees, my partner was fighting for radical privacy (or whatever the opposite of transparency is).  That led to partner differences which led to me leaving the company.  Two years later my partner sold the company for $35 million.  I saw none of that. Ouch.

After picking myself up off the floor and spending some time getting really involved in my kids’ schools and other non-profits, I finally found my true calling in sustainability when I started EcoPlum.  Better late than never, I suppose. But my advice to those attending the presentation last week as well as to those reading this now is to try and find meaning and purpose early on in your career.  I look up to people like Adam Werbach, Gary Hirshberg, Annie Lenoard, Bill McKibben, and others who started making an impact and spreading the word about sustainability early on in their lives and careers.  I am inspired by the young(er) social entrepreneurs like Sara Ross, co-founder and CEO of Sungage Financial, and the other co-speakers at this event.   When I turn 50 on Monday, I can only hope that I am not only doing what I can to make difference in the world, but inspiring others do so as well.

A few years ago, I was asked to contribute a quote for the 2010 Woman’s Advantage Calendar.  Here is my quote, and I still believe this today:


Gia Machlin Quote





March 19, 2014

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me not to write on my skin.  “The ink is like poison,” she would say, “and it goes directly into your blood stream.”  While I’m sure that my mother caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety for me in many other ways, in this case, [...]

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Mindycara: An EcoFashionista’s Dream

January 30, 2014

When my high schooler was a tiny two-year-old tot, he went wandering over to the next table at Starbucks to play with the cute girl sipping warm milk with her mom.  As I ran over to get him, I started a conversation with the girl’s mom.  Stephanie and I became fast friends and we often [...]

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Using Technology to Empower the Consumer in Beauty and Fashion Purchases

November 20, 2013

I was so excited to see that the Environmental Working Group has come out with an iPhone (and Android) app for its Skin Deep database. For those of you who may not be familiar with Skin Deep, it is an amazing resource to determine the toxicity/hazard level of cosmetics, skin care, and other personal care [...]

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An Inconvenient Truth about our Shopping Habits

October 16, 2013

If you have ever watched Seinfeld or any other comedy based on Jewish humor, you know that we Jews are not generally the most optimistic people.  Remember the Nanny’s mother and her constant criticism of her daughter, or Don Rickles’ insulting humor?  I recently saw a video parody of a Mad Men ad campaign, where [...]

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Being a Conscious Consumer Need Not Consume You

September 25, 2013

By now you probably know that I was not always a conscious consumer.  To be precise, in the days Before EcoPlum (B.E.), I was quite an unconscious consumer.  I used to shop for anything, anytime, with little to no regard for the environmental, personal health, or social impact of my purchases.  I did not think [...]

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Fast Fashion has to Slow Down

July 11, 2013

A few years ago, those checking labels for chemical ingredients in their food, buying organic produce, or looking at the sustainability ratings of seafood were in the vast minority. Organic and natural foods were only available in “health food” and specialty stores and organic restaurants were practically unheard of. People were also buying their clothing [...]

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A Trip to the Farmer’s Market with Smelly Scraps in Tow

May 15, 2013

Three years ago (oh my how time flies!!) as I approached my 46th birthday I wrote all about how I was going to get a composter and start composting at home.  Well as it turned out, I never got that composter.  Not sure if it was the price or space needed in my kitchen or [...]

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