Grandma’s Hands

Wow!  What a busy holiday season we’ve had here!  I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, getting orders ready for holiday presents to put Sustainable Shanti goodness under trees and in stockings all across the world.  It occurs to me, as I measure and melt, watch and tend to all of the little details of each recipe and each batch of products how much it reminds me of my childhood.

My mom’s mom, Lillian Young, used to make 5,000 cookies every Christmas and she was unsurprisingly quite famous for it.  She didn’t make just the standard chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, though they were always included in her selection.  She made treats like pecan tassies, gooey butter, chocolate macaroons, snickerdoodles and sugar cookies, each individually wrapped and counted by my grandpa who was coerced into playing helper.  Her cookbooks are crammed with her lists of what she made, her recipe changes, and a record of everyone’s favorites.  They are an incredible story of her holiday seasons through the decades.

Emily and Grandma

As a child, I spent a great deal of time growing up with my grandma, learning to bake perfect pies, cookies, strudel, cakes, and frosting, always in awe of the transformative powers of an oven.  My grandpa countered these kitchen adventures with equally exciting adventures in his woodworking shop and crawling under cars.

These days, my time spent in the kitchen is a little different than those cookie days.  However, I find myself making my products using the same industrial Pyrex measuring cups and bowls which I inherited from my grandma.  When I stop to wash a dish, I think of how many times her hands touched these same tools and how fortunate I am to be able to use them for my business, something of which I know Grandma would have been unspeakably proud.

Holidays for me are hard for me without my grandma by my side, but I know that she is watching me from afar.  Through time and space, her hands are moving with mine as they did when I was little and still learning how to perfect a pie crust or shape a new cookie.  In this season of holiday shopping madness, where commercials tell us to buy bigger, shinier new cars and more powerful power tools in our quest for happiness and “the best Christmas EVER!”, let’s remember what really matters: the people in our lives who remind us how to live, how to laugh and show us the true joys of life.  Be grateful these people who love you, and thank your lucky stars for the opportunity to love them.

May your days be bright, and now, more than ever, be well, do good, and share the love.

Emily

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We’ve Been Nominated!!

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We've Been Nominated!!

We’re up for the Martha Stewart American Made Awards! We need your help, love and support (and votes) to go the distance and win the business-building award. Follow the link below to show your love. You can vote up to six (6) times a day, every day until September 13, 2013 SO GO DO IT! We love you!!

http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/83030

A Communal Call for Change: I Want and Need Your Help

This past week, I attended a screening of the documentary, Girl Rising.  Focusing on the beneficial consequences of educating girls, the film tells the stories of seven girls in developing countries around the world.  Some are in school and see themselves continuing their education; others are already married at the age of 11 years old, illiterate and trapped into a life no freer than the women who came before them.  As a young woman who was given every opportunity possible to have the finest education my family could find, I have always been deeply grateful that my parents valued learning above all else.  That gratitude has been a driving force behind my desire to work with others, whether it is by mentoring, teaching, or making someone a meal, as I believe that the best way for me to honor this gift of education is to give it back to my community and to those who do not have such opportunities as I have had.  Perhaps it is the only way I will ever be able to repay such an enormous debt for the life I have been afforded.

From its beginning roots, I have always wanted Sustainable Shanti to have a greater purpose than to simply be a business, confined to the traditional structures that exist in the commercial world.  Everywhere I look I see so much suffering in our world today, both human suffering and environmental suffering, and I feel compelled to change it even if in some small way.  I dream of one day running a company that supports small family farmers who grow crops sustainably, a company that gives back to its community by volunteering and by offering grant programs for other women entrepreneurs so that they can make a difference in other peoples’ lives.  Business as usual, for me, must be business that puts people and the planet’s health before off-the-charts profit.

Without a doubt, it is important to dream, but in many ways, it is more valuable to act upon those ideas, regardless of how small the steps may be.  Grandiose dreams drive us to strive for something more, to create the change we wish to see in the world, as Ghandhi once taught.  Actions, no matter how seemingly minute, bring us eventually to those changes.  Watching Girl Rising stirred something within me to act.  I can sit and plan how Sustainable Shanti will evolve, hopefully changing the world around it at the same time, and while I can’t help with as much of an impact as I dream of one day having, it doesn’t mean that I can’t begin now.

Starting today, this company, founded with a dedication to benefiting people and planet, will do just that.  I have created a Sustainable Shanti lending team on Kiva.org, a non-profit that gives each of us the opportunity to help another human being, no matter how small the donation.  I am asking you to actively join me in this effort.  Maybe right now I can’t afford to build a school for young girls, creating a safe space in which to learn and to grow.  Perhaps today I can only buy school supplies for one young girl, but perhaps it will be those pencils and pieces of paper, those supplies which we so easily obtain here in the developed world, that will change her life by giving her the tools to learn to read and write.  Perhaps one day, through her literacy, that young girl will change her family, her village and her country.  She will, without a doubt, change her life and that of her children.

Consider this your call to stand up for the change you want to see.  Consider it the beginning of an answer to a deeply-seated desire, a yearning you have felt stirring within you your entire life: the wish to help someone else, to make another human being’s life easier, better, brighter.

We can all make a difference and we can all start today.  Please join me in creating the world of which we dream.

Let’s Talk Plastic

In recent newsletters (Sign up here if you’re not already in the know), we have been asking the Sustainable Shanti community to look seriously at their daily habits and choices with the understanding that each of us impacts the planet with every decision.  I remind people I meet that we do not have a Planet B; our daily actions have a collective momentum, but we need to consciously choose in which direction it moves.

I’m going to fess up to a pet peeve: plastic bottles.  Soda bottles, water bottles, beverage bottles in general.  They are ubiquitous, seen all across the world: a symbol of convenience.  They also happen to be incredibly destructive to our planet’s health.  You’ve heard the spiel to get a reusable steel water bottle: they’re good for the planet; they save you money; they’re convenient to have around.

So why do I see people still using plastic bottles as if there’s an unlimited supply and no consequences to their use?

If you’re still attached to your plastic bottle habit, consider this: In 2006….

  • Producing the bottles for American consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy for transportation

  • Bottling water produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide

  • It took 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.

(Data from Pacific Institute)

Is our planet’s health worth those resources?  Is it worth two liters of water just to have one liter of bottled water?  Think you could try switching from bottled water to tap water in a reusable steel bottle?  It’s one more step towards reducing your daily oil consumption.

Every choice we make, every dollar we spend is a vote and has an impact.  Your power lies in how and where you vote.

Small changes, big impacts.  It will take everyone–governments and businesses included–working together to find new solutions to our climate crisis.

Where Are We?

Wondering why it’s been a little quiet on the Sustainable Shanti front?  We’re off exploring a different part of the world, currently finding ourselves in Beijing, China!  We’ll be back at the end of February with lots of stories, new ideas, and hopefully some new ingredients with which to play.  Stay tuned!

Hester Street Holiday Market

This upcoming weekend (Saturday, December 22nd and Sunday, December 23rd) is Sustainable Shanti’s last holiday market!  Our favorite present this year, besides gorgeous organic skin, is definitely going to be sleep and some much needed lounge time with down comforters, perhaps by a fire…but before that, we will be there with bells on at the Hester Street Holiday Market (11am-7pm, 233 Mott St. at Prince).

We will also be joined by friends from Bittersweet NYC to tickle your tastebuds with handmade truffles and other goodies, and We Are Here, beautiful handmade jewelry by Emilie Shapiro.  This event is a not-to-be-missed weekend!

See you there…!

Musings on a Rainy Day

A little over two years ago, I had a crisis of sorts.  I was working five jobs to stay afloat on Martha’s Vineyard and was miserable.  The feeling that I had more to give, more to say nagged me constantly, but what was I truly meant to do with my one and precious life?  Who was I supposed to be when I grew up?

A friend suggested I write a personal manifesto: a statement of what I wanted to accomplish in my life.  I found this brief manifesto in my journal the other day:

My goal is simple: Leave this world having made a mark for the better–kids leading healthy happy lives in a safe environment, a few less people who go hungry at night, more schools and less bombs–these are the makings of a better world.  These are the ideas that make me tick.  Speaking foreign languages and finding a common bond in differing cultures makes me happy and feel free.  So what do I do with all these blessings?  How do I make an impact on the world and allow myself room for creativity?  I wish I had an answer.

As Rainer Maria Rilke once told his friend, I found my answer by living my questions: Sustainable Shanti, a company which places the highest value on protecting and nourishing people and the planet.  Happy holidays to those of you who celebrate them.  I know my life is already overflowing with gifts every day and for that I will eternally be grateful.

Double-Duty Saturday!

What a busy day we have here at Sustainable Shanti!!  If you’re in the New York area, come visit us at the following two fairs today, Saturday, December 15th:

-3rd Ward Brooklyn’s Holiday Craft Fair will be featuring nearly 100 local artists from 12-6pm!  There will be swag bags for earlybirds and apparently some nice booze while you shop.  Should be a TON of fun!  195 Morgan Ave., Brooklyn

-Up in Harlem, my lovely mom will be donning her elf hat at the Urban Yoga Foundation’s Wellness Bazaar from 2-6pm.  There will be massages, homemade tea, many artisans and apparently yoga.  It promises be a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a Saturday during this hectic holiday season.  239 West 139th St., Harlem, NY

Hope to see you there!  And now, for bed!

Toot! Toot! Brown Alumni Magazine Holiday Gift Guide!

Sustainable Shanti has been chosen by the Brown Alumni Magazine’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide!  WaaaHOO!  I must say, the tins have never looked better, and I’m honored to be featured.  It’s the perfect time to make sure your friends and family are stocked with tins of organic salve!  I won’t tell if you keep a few of them for yourself, either.  *Wink Wink Wink*

Our motto at Brown is “Be Ever True”–to yourself, to your school and to your community.  It feels like it’s the community I love so very much is showering me with love, too.

Check out the Gift Guide HERE!