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





by Gia on March 19, 2014

LipstickWhen 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, she was right.  Our skin is our biggest organ, and yet we don’t seem to pay much attention to what we put on it every day. (Please note: I am not a dermatologist – in fact I have no medical credentials at all – but this is common sense).  With spring around the corner, many of us will be buying the latest style of clothing, new shades of makeup, and hair and skin care for the new season.   But it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients and materials that make up our spring style.  Otherwise we could be exposing our skin (and therefore our bodies) to toxic and harmful chemicals.

Just as you may be mindful about the food they ingest, you should also be careful about the toxins that come in contact with their skin.  A good rule of thumb should be – if you don’t feel comfortable putting it in your mouth, then don’t put it on your skin!  Did you see the movie The Guilt Trip with Seth Rogan?  (Spoiler alert): I love hthat he proves how safe his cleaning product is by drinking it!  How many times have you put a lipstick or lip gloss right on your lips (which you lick!) without knowing if the ingredients are safe and non-toxic?  For whatever reason, this is not a priority right now for the average consumer.

Recently I participated in a twitter chat session about eco-fashion hosted by Triple Pundit.  While the panelists and participants brought up many important points about the labor conditions and environmental impact associated with clothing manufacturing, there was initially little discussion about the toxicity of clothing materials and health issues involved.  So I tweeted:

In addition the ecological/ethical issues – we should look at health & safety issues: #toxins in clothing #3pchat

I was very happy to get a discussion going around this topic and hear other points of view as well as gather new data to support this concern.  On Twitter, I shared a recent EcoPlum article about a GreenPeace report on toxins in brand name children’s clothing, while someone shared this fantastic article about how big retailers are lying about the toxins in their products.  One participant asked how to convince his friends and relatives to shop fair trade and organic without sounding condescending.  I replied: “Tell them about the personal health issues related to toxins in clothing,” which he though was a great idea.  Let’s keep this conversation going.  Let’s get people excited about all of the healthy and safe fashion alternatives out there.  While organic and non-toxic personal care products are becoming slightly more available in retail stores (i.e. Burt’s Bees, Alba Botanica, Jason) it seems to be much harder to find organic and non-toxic clothing options, especially for children.  We try to carry as many options as possible at EcoPlum and are adding new ones all the time.  Do you have a favorite safe cosmetic, clothing line, or skin/hair care line that you love?  Please let us know!



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