Category Archives: Greener

Better In-Between

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The space in-between teeth is pretty neglected. Both the DH and I have been scolded by our dentist for failure to FLOSS our teeth. But because we post so much about food, we wanted to share this PSA – you need to take care of your teeth! Did you know that you can brush your teeth two or three times a day and still get cavities? If you don’t floss, food residue can settle between your teeth, then comes bacteria, then come cavities and gum disease. Some experts even link higher risk of heart disease to poor dental care. All this because you don’t floss.

To our surprise, most flosses aren’t vegan! The stringy part is normally coated in beeswax and some flavors even contain dairy ingredients. Geez! And talk about NOT eco friendly – we have not yet found the mainstream company that can make biodegradable dental floss. It’s just string you run between your teeth, right? Why so artificial?

On the search for vegan, greener dental floss we found two companies we liked. They aren’t perfect – still made from nylon/polyester. But they’re vegan and made without a long list of nasty chemicals or artificial dyes. It’s an improvement, a step in the right direction.

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First we found Radius Cranberry Floss. It is a completely vegan, nylon floss coated in candelilla wax and cranberry essence from USA-sourced berries. Radius contains no glutens, preservatives, GMO’s, artificial sweeteners or color, or fluoride and is sweetened with Xylitol. Cranberry is a natural source of phytochemicals which have been proven to stop unwanted bacteria clinging to surfaces (think UTIs, ladies!). It acts as a natural inhibitor to plaque on the surfaces between teeth and helps prevent gum disease.

We couldn’t taste a strong cranberry flavor, but it got the job done and it’s worth checking out! Yea, it’s in a plastic container, we know. But, floss is considered a medical device by the FDA and they require it to be packaged in a plastic container. If your area accepts #5 plastic, you can recycle it. And of course, the cardboard box is recyclable (and printed on recycled paper!)

Radius flosses are manufactured in a family owned, fair trade farm cooperative in Colombia. You can buy them online at Amazon or at MOM’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, the Vitamin Shoppe and Wegman’s in the Maryland/DC area. Oh – Radius also makes vegan floss in mint and they DO make a biodegradable floss, but it is made of silk and is not vegan.

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The second floss we found was Theraneem. If you haven’t heard about neem oil, you need to get with it. Neem oil is like a miracle! It’s  rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants;  it’s gentle, skin conditioning and renowned for its beautifying properties. Prized for its rich nutty-garlic like aroma, it is used widely to increase the health of the skin for humans, pets and to support healthy gardens. Theraneem‘s ethically wild-harvested and certified organic.

This floss is made of polyester and contains  extracts of neem leaf and bark, grapeseed, clove, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and licorice. It’s vegan and it tastes awesome!!! Again, it’s not compostable, but you can recycle the paper box and the plastic container. We loves this floss, it has a strong spicy flavor, even an slight aroma!

Theraneem is available locally at MOM’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, David’s Natural Market and they have an online list to help you track some down local to you!

Now – take care of your teeth. So you can eat more delicious food!! 🙂

Making Mardi Gras

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It’s been a few years since myself or the DH have been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But the holiday stays with you.  Once you’ve been to (or is that through?) Mardi Gras, it’s part of you forever.

As our lives have changed, we have a new perspective on some parts of the holiday. For example, the traditional masks.  New Orleans has been celebrating Mardi Gras for hundreds of years, and is the largest masked party in North America. In the beginning, masks worn during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to escape society and class constraints. Wearing a mask, festival-goers were free to be whomever they wanted to be, and mingle with whatever class they desired . Today, everyone wears masks during Mardi Gras. In fact, float riders are required to wear masks by law.

Any place in New Orleans you can pick up a feather-covered plastic mask for $5-$15. Everyone knows these masks and some are really gorgeous. But these pretty little masks are neither green, nor vegan. So we set out to create a better alternative. Our friends at Local Color Flowers here in Baltimore were equal to the task. They created these outstanding and absolutely amazing masks for us:

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On the BG is a mask made of fantail willow, pussy wilow, string of pearls (a plant!) and boxwood leaves. The DH’s mask is made from burning bush, hemlock, pussy willow, string of pearls and camellia. Both of these are created from plants that will dry safely and be preserved in the process. So they can even be worn again! And the masks were built on thin plaster, not plastic. So one day, when we tire of them, we can let the whole arrangement compost. If you’re local to Baltimore/D.C., you can call Ellen, Irene and Carling at Local Color Flowers and have them create a mask for you. The company is totally eco-friendly, ethical and uses only plants that are locally grown. We pretty much adore them and as you can see from the masks, they’re mad talented.

Not local enough for Local Color Flowers? Find a green florist near you to create the perfect vegan/eco mask! Or get crafty and try making your own with plants and supplies from your region.

But it’s not Mardi Gras without some spicy Cajun food! If you’re in New Orleans, you know that all the traditional meals are not vegan friendly. Gumbo, Jambalya, Beignets – none of it is vegan. Dirty Rice is a Cajun classic that is near and dear to my heart. My Uncle Ralph lived in New Orleans much of his life. As a little girl, his visits north were much anticipated because of the handfuls of beads he brought (pictured below – I’ve had them for years!), as well as the colorful stories of the French Quarter. He always made Dirty Rice. When I went vegan 19 years ago, the recipe changed – no longer did it include chicken livers or sausage. Beans and eggplant replace the animal products and give the meal some heft.

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You can find this recipe on the Sister Eden blog today! It’s gluten-free, keeps in the fridge well and makes great warm-ups, oh – and if you want to throw some plant-based sausages in there, that would work, too. I’d suggest Field Roast or Tofurky brands.  This is a one-pot recipe and will give you a  solid base in your belly before you venture out in your new eco-friendly mask to drink Hurricanes and Hand Grenades!

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Show some love to Cupig

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It’s Valentine’s Day. And you are all set with your chocolate and dinner reservations. But why not really share the love? Local farmed animal sanctuary, Burleigh Manor in Ellicott City has many gorgeous critters you can adopt. You can’t actually take them home to snuggle, but for a reasonable cost you can help support one of these noble creatures. Your adoption donation helps with the animal’s feeding, bedding, shelter, vet care and heating costs over the winter. With all the snow and ice storms in the Maryland region, the pigs, horses, goats, cows, chickens, bunnies, mules and donkeys could really use the extra support.

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For a one-time donation of  $15 for a bunny or chicken; $25 for a pig or goat (Cupig loves this idea!); $35 for a donkey or $50 for a horse, cow or mule,  your recipient will get a card in the mail from their adopted critter and can set up an appointment to visit if you are local to the area. These crucial sponsorships help pay for the animals’ feed, vet care, bedding, housing – and HEATING in the winter!

How can you say no to these faces? In the top photo, Moose and Cash, both mules rescued literally from a slaughterhouse; below, Jenny the donkey watches over shy Lil, the cow – both surrendered by owners who could not care for them, but didn’t want them sent to slaughter.

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Cupig is actually Mabel. Here she is with her companion, Hamlet. Mabel was taken as a runt from a farmer at the county fair, escaping her fate at the stockyard. She’s very smart and can even unlock her pen and walk over to the main house to oink for food. Hamlet was purchased to be a pet and his family loved him, but the neighbors did not, so he had to be surrendered to the Sanctuary. He has found his forever home with Mabel, but still enjoys occasional walking on a lead around his new neighborhood, just like a pooch.

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Won’t you share the love this Valentine’s Day and help a rescued animal? Visit the adoption page at Burleigh to pick out your new sweetie.

Creature Comfort

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There’s nothing like a cozy nap in the winter time. And who better to snuggle with than a zebra? Or, maybe a frog… Not real ones of course, but botanical-filled ones from Herbal Animals. These adorable critters are actually eye pillows, stuffed with organically grown herbs that have relaxing properties.

The weight of the animal massages accupressure points around your eyes and the fragrant herbs will coax you into a deep, healing sleep. This is serious relaxation, folks. We picked up two of them at the DC VegFest. We thought they would be sweet gifts for our niece and nephew, who are small children. Ahem… they never got them. The DH uses the frog. I use the zebra. We love them so much, we even take them on trips.

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Abra K’ Zebra is filled with lavender.

Lavender, originally a Mediterranean shrub cultivated for its aromatic flowers, is one of the queens of herbs. It relieves nervous tension, headaches and insomnia.

Buddy Bullfrog (aka, the Prince) is filled with lavender and orange.

Orange is an evergreen tree which originated in Asia and is now commonly cultivated elsewhere. Orange is an antiseptic aromatic.

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Different Herbal Animals have different herbs. The varieties include lavender, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, orange, lemon balm, mugwort, passionflower, hops, rose, sweet annie and linden flower.  Each animal pillow is made with 100% certified organically grown herbs, seeds, and cotton. Each animal’s colors and herbal scent is unique.

There are lots of critters to choose from, too: turtles, bulls, cows, camels, panda, brown bears, puppies, kitties, elephants, otters, piggies, dolphins, deer, iguanas, seals, tigers, monkeys, bunnies, sheep, whales, stallions and penguins are all available to soothe you to sleep. There are also “nighties” for the eye pillows, which can be washed and keep your Herbal Animal free of eye-goop, as well as 2-foot long animal shoulder pillows.

Herbal Animals donates to Feed the Children, The Humane Society, and Save the Children. Basically, they help kids + animals lead happier lives. And help you get a good night’s sleep! Did we mention they’re also eco-friendly? In addition to using all organic materials, these cuddly sleep companions are made in the USA in a local company based in Bethesda, MD.  Their boxes are recyclable – and made with recycled board printed with soy ink. Their website offers other eco-goodies too, like jewelry made from upcycled telephone wire and records, as well as bags and wallets made from upcycled bicycle tires.
If you are between the ages of 3 and 103, or so, you will love an Herbal Animal. Ours are like part of the family now. Even our dog has been found cuddling with them! The cutie eye pillows are $18.00 each online and are certified Cruelty-free. Neck Pillows are $39.50. If you order a bunch, there’s free shipping on $90+ of merchandise. Sweet Dreams!

Handle with Eco Gloves

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Not sure where you are reading from, but here in Baltimore, winter can be COLD. Okay, so today is like 62-degrees. but that’s weird for December. Just a few nights ago, it was 19-degrees. Which brings me to GLOVES.  Whenever it’s time to get bundled up, I feel a little like the younger brother in the movie “The Christmas Story” – the one so wrapped in layers of clothes and scarves he can’t get up when he falls in the snow?

Over time, I have learned there are better, more stylish and greener bundling options when it comes to gloves.

Like these arm warmers.  They were handmade in San Francisco by Sachiko Morino. They’re created from a blend of bamboo and organic cotton, with 3% spandex for stretch. You can handwash or machine-wash on gentle. They’re drip-dry and available in a variety of colors. And they are wonderful for layering! All for $27.  Sachiko makes a lot of other items in bamboo-cotton blends too, like skirts, tops and shrugs.

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These arm warmers are actually designed for dancers to wear during practice, however, they are super for putting under itchy sweaters, making a favorite tee “long-sleeved” in winter and generally just making you comfy in cold weather! They wash well and have maintained their shape and color over the past year (I have black and red). Super idea, Sachiko – and thanks for using sustainable fabrics!

Looking for something more “outer wear”? How about recycled cotton? These cuties are made in the USA and are created from pieces leftover in the garment-industry process. Basically, cotton scraps that would otherwise end up in a landfill. We got ours from Fair Indigo, a  catalog/website selling “style with a conscience,” but you can also buy them directly from the designers at green3apparel in Wisconsin. green3apparel‘s unique process uses unwanted material to make a great product (ours are 2 years-old and going strong), and saves land, water and energy. Brilliant!

There are glove options with peace signs, stripes, hearts and phones. The scarves by green3apparel come with birdies, doggies, trees, plain and more. We’re into it. 🙂 So log onto Fair Indigo (they have lots of other chic eco outer-wear!) or green3apparel to get your hands warmed up for winter.

Cuz baby, it’s cooolldd outside. (Sort of. Maybe where you are!)

Born Again!

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We are honored to be the “featured blog of the week” this week over at The Born Again Vegan’s page. We know the BAV personally, her name is Chris, and we’ve had the privilege of photographing her and her lovely greyhound in the past, too, at the annual Grapehounds event in New York.

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While Chris was always vegan-friendly, she recently took the steps to commit to a completely vegan lifestyle. She’s seen great results. Her cholesterol has dropped 105 points since she made the switch to vegan (previously, she was eating lacto-ovo-pescatarian), and she feels better than ever!

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We’re honored to be featured on The Born Again Vegan blog, Chris! If there is ever anything we can do to help you or your readers on the plant-based path, do not hesitate to ask!

Baby, Light my Fire

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Nothing is as soothing as the elegant fragrance of burning petroleum. Wait – that’s not right. Which is the reason we pass by most candles these days. Why support the petroleum industry any more than you have to? Especially when there are great alternatives for other candles. Like River Road Candleworks, run by Delaware artist & craftsman, Mark Turner.

We met Mark first through his work with greyhound rescues. Already a man after our own hearts, he loves his hounds, and all animals, and many of his paintings are themed with nature and critters. When you purchase or commission animal-focused paintings from him, he makes a donation to rescue groups. Love it!

Someplace along the way, Mark started making soy candles, too. And we find them to be just as fabulous as his artwork!

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On their site, they explain their position on soy wax, palm wax and more:

Some folks trying to sell you ‘soy candles’ aren’t using eco-friendly, sustainable 100 % Soy Wax! Many so-called  soy waxes use ‘botanical oils or ingredients’ to enhance the look or performance of their products. Guess what those might be…. Many include Palm Wax made from palm oil. Palm oils come from palm oil plantations…most of those are carved out of the tropical rainforest – which destroys rainforest habitat…  My guess is that you want your candles to be as eco-friendly as possible. That doesn’t include using non-habitat sustaining palm wax in your candles.

River Road Candleworks doesn’t use any extra ‘Stuff’ in your candles. We don’t use any polymer additives. We don’t use any dyes. We don’t use any chemical stabilizers for our scents or in our wax. We don’t use any ‘universal soy additive’ (USA) in our wax. Our wax is 100% soy. We use Elevance C-3 NatureWax, not any of the other soy blends or vegetable oil-based waxes.

As you may know, palm oil is non-sustainable for another reason too – when companies kill the trees, they destroy the habitat of many endangered species, including orangutans. Read more here and just say no to non-sustainable palm oil!

Furthermore, Mark will recycle the jars from his pure soy candles! For each jar you return (with or without the lid), Mark will credit you $.25 towards your next purchase. Again, love it!

Mark’s event schedule is online here, so you can get candles from him in time for the fall and winter holidays. Or just order online!

When you are shopping around, our favorite scents are lavender, clove, citrus spruce, hot chocolate, pumpkin and olive tree. Mmmm! Of course, we haven’t had any River Road candles yet that we didn’t enjoy. They make perfect gifts, too!

Thanks, Mark, for making a sustainable and great-smelling candle!

Rescuing Farm Animals: Burleigh Manor Sanctuary

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There is a magical place hidden away in Ellicott City, a home for unwanted, neglected and abused farm animals. It’s called Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary and Eco-Retreat and it’s 10 1/2 acres of bliss for the 19 animals and 7 fowl that now live there. Lisa Davis, along with her husband, daughter and father live on the grounds of the estate, built in 1810. And the animal sanctuary is a new addition. They opened their doors in summer 2012 and the fields were full in just a few months – with horses, goats, pigs, mules and donkeys – as well as a few chickens, cats, bunnies and pooch, too.

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Burleigh Manor operates as a non-profit, so volunteers, interns and other kinds of support are crucial to the animals. To help with the costs of the sanctuary, different areas of the estate are available for parties, meetings and social events. You can check out the wine cellars, club house, pool/pool house or tennis courts for your next occasion.

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Even the resident goats enjoy the wine cellar, as you can see…  🙂

burl3_lrReally, though, Burleigh is all about the animals. They are the stars of the show and give heart to the small Sanctuary.  On any given day, you can catch the retired horses strolling in their fields, hang out with a friendly donkey, rub a piggie belly, or interact with a group of chickens.

You can sponsor any of the Burleigh animals, which is a fun & compassionate gift idea, too. The newly “adopted” animal will send your giftee a card with a photo, and the funds go toward their care, feeding and veterinary expenses.

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Want to help in other ways? Burleigh keeps an online “wishlist” you can see, and they’re always open to ideas like bake sales and more. Just visit their “How Can I Help?” webpage.

If you are in the Ellicott City area tomorrow, Friday September 6, you need to swing by Burleigh for open house visiting hours from 4pm to 6pm! Nothing compares to meeting these incredible people and animals in person!

Boots are recommended, and you may bring apples or  carrots to feed the critters. Goats are extra hungry, so be sure to pack plenty! There is a $5 donation for the tour. Visit in person tomorrow or online anytime!

We want to say “Welcome!” to Lisa, her family and all the Burleigh animals! It is exciting to have these beautiful creatures so close to Baltimore and in a safe, supportive home! We will see you tomorrow!

Earth Overshoot Day

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Have you ever borrowed money  from your mother? You know – like for a car, or even just to make ends meet for a month?

Well, we – as in humanity – are borrowing big time from Mother Earth. In fact, every day from now till January 1 of 2014, we are borrowing all the resources we need to survive.  Today marks Earth Overshoot Day, 2013. We are living too large on a finite planet – using up resources like land, air and water we may not be able to pay back.

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Because they say it so eloquently, I will quote the folks over at the World Wildlife Fund:

August 20, 2013 marks Earth Overshoot Day—the estimated date when we’ve used up the Earth’s annual supply of renewable natural resources and carbon absorbing capacity. After that, we’re using more than the planet can sustain. It’s a  one-day reminder of a year-round problem—we are living too large on a finite planet.

You probably have a general sense of why. Our human population continues to grow. We are consuming more and more resources. And we still have only one planet. To appreciate just how large we are living in relation to our finite planet, let’s look more closely at some numbers.

According to the Global Footprint Network (www.footprintnetwork.org) Earth Overshoot day became an issue around 1975. That’s when humanity’s ecological footprint first exceeded the “biocapacity” of the planet.

Before that, our ecological footprint—measured as the area required to supply the food, fish, fiber and energy we consume every year—was within what the planet could sustain. In 1975, there were about 4.1 billion people. Today there are more than 7.3 billion. As the cumulative footprint of our population has grown, Earth Overshoot Day happens 2-3 days earlier each year.

To get a feeling for what our global footprint looks like, consider the land we use to feed ourselves. We presently use 38% of the planet to grow crops and raise livestock.  (Dirty Hippie note: If you are vegan, you use a lot less! Go vegans!)

Many of our agricultural lands are in places that were once temperate grasslands. So much habitat has been turned under by the plow, that temperate grasslands are the most imperiled and least protected habitat types on the planet. However, the future frontiers of agricultural expansion will most likely be in the tropics as people clear high biodiversity tropical forests to raise cattle, grow soy, and install palm oil plantations.

By 2050, the human population is projected to be about 9 billion people. Over that same time, demand for food, water and energy are expected to double. If you think about today’s consumption rate per billion people as a shopping cart, we are filling 7 shopping carts. Earth Overshoot Day reminds us that that level of demand is already putting a huge ecological strain on our one planet. By 2050, 9 billion people will be filling twice as many carts per billion for a total of 18 shopping carts. That’s a 150% increase in demand!

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A first step is to change the mentality about how we grow food and use other natural resources like forests, water and energy resources. Instead of taking more to make more, we need to commit to making more with less. We need to become passionate about efficiency—more crops per drop of water, more miles per gallon of fuel. It’s a challenge that should inspire innovation and ingenuity about how we produce and use our precious and finite natural resources.

We hope this sobering day helps everyone look around and see what they can personally do to help pay back Mother Earth. The options are endless and each little thing you do will help. Need ideas? Go vegan, or at least eat a lot less meat. Buy local — food and goods made locally use a lot less energy. Get non-toxic cleaners, soaps and shampoos to help save our oceans.  Turn off lights and unplug your cell chargers. Big spender? Get a hybrid vehicle or install wind/solar power for your home or business.  And if you aren’t already recycling, upcycling and re-using all you can, shame on you!

Sentimental Upcycling

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If you’re an animal lover, you know how it feels to want to keep your beloved companion with you all the time. Wouldn’t it be super if your hound could cruise the mall with you? Alas, dogs and cats can rarely accompany us to work, grocery shopping or other public places. That day may come. Someday. But till then,  if you save your friend’s annual tags, you can have a singular remembrance made that will last and last – and look incredibly cool at the same time.

Our friend Kathy, of Feathered Gems, makes unique and very special jewelry for animal lovers. Like us, she has a greyhound-baby in her life, but her work pays respect to all manner of critters – birds, dogs, kitties, rabbits, horses, ferrets and sea life. Kathy truly has a place in her heart – and her creative metal work – for all creatures great and small.

TagBracelet2_lr The tag bracelets from Feathered Gems are quite special – basically, you will have your beloved friend’s tags around your wrist all the time. You simply save up enough annual tags to circle your wrist – for the DH it was 6 tags; for my wrist, it took 4. (Most women need 4 or 5.) This is upcycling at its most sentimental!

Kathy started making the tag bracelets when a customer asked her to create a memorial for a dog that had passed away.  After polishing the dog’s tags, Kathy knew there were enough to circle her client’s wrist and linked them into a bracelet. It’s been a very popular, personalized offer for her company, she said. Some vets are even getting them for patients as gifts, and they’re suitable for men and women as jewelry. Depending on the size and shape of the tags, they can be made to show the names and dates, too.

“It’s a wonderful way to keep happy memories with you, ” Kathy said. 🙂

We couldn’t agree more. Though our houndie is still going strong, the familiar jingle of her tags – at an unexpected moment when she isn’t with us – is a welcome and comforting sound.  Not to mention an incredible conversation starter! Very few pieces of jewelry have inspired more comments that our tag bracelets!

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Love the tag bracelets but don’t have a dog, or don’t have enough tags of your own? As part of the Cooke County (Chicago) Dangerous Dog Project, there were 900 leftover, confiscated tags. In an effort to re-use them and remember the dogs, Kathy took almost 900 old tags and you can purchase the bracelets she created from them via Feathered Gems.

Based in Detriot, Michigan, Kathy’s company supports many worthy causes in the animal community and she even sends donations to groups that are holding raffles and fund-raisers. Be sure to browse all the beautiful jewelry Kathy creates when you visit her page.

To get your own tag bracelet, contact Kathy via her Feathered Gems website. Bracelets start at $25.00 plus shipping – and of course, unless you want one made from Kathy’s tags, you will need to send her your pet’s used tags! She will need measurements from your wrist and if the tags are to be in special order, you will need to make notes for her!

Jingle, jingle!