4 Unique Tips to a Greener Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Confession.  It’s not just for the trick-or-treating, October 31st also happens to be my birthday.  So my childhood was filled with costumes and candy AND cake and presents.  Seriously, it was better than Christmas.  Like most things, though, Halloween has a dark side (pun intended).  With the majority of cocoa harvested by children and single-use costumes ending up in landfills, it’s time to Green your Halloween.  We can all still experience the unbridled excitement of my childhood Halloween while making just a few changes towards a much more sustainable holiday.

1. Buy Fair Trade Candy

Organic, Fair Trade Halloween Chocolates
Sjaaks Halloween Bites

Avoid the child labor and sweatshop conditions and buy Fair Trade candy.  Yes, it will cost more.  Honestly, that’s the point.  The candy we’re buying from companies like Nestle and Hershey is cheap specifically because the producers are not provided a living wage.  A luxury like chocolate shouldn’t be the driving cause of poverty in remote African villages.  By paying a little more for your chocolate, you can ensure that the cocoa growers earn a living wage and have the opportunity to send their children to school.  Here are some great companies making fair trade chocolates and candies.

Sjaak’s Chocolates – Not only does Sjaak’s make fair trade, organic chocolate bars, but they also have Halloween tubs and chocolate bars inexpensive enough to give to trick-or-treaters.  They also happen to be vegan and seriously delicious.

Endangered Species Bug Bite Chocolates
Endangered Species Bug Bites

Endangered Species Chocolates – Another reasonably priced, fair trade, organic chocolate company.  The Bug Bites make perfect Halloween give-a-ways.

Equal Exchange – Try their minis for giving out to trick-or-treaters and be sure to stock some full-sized bars for yourself. 

Lärabar – For a sweet treat that’s a little healthier, but still well-priced, try Lärabar’s bites or kids versions.  All versions are fair-trade.

Alter-Eco – A bit pricier, but well worth it. They sell only full-sized bars rather than minis.  You can buy these organic, fair trade bars by the 12-pack to save a few bucks, and they’re having an autumn special.  Use code Autumn20 for 20% off with free shipping on orders over $65.

Ocho Candy – If you want more traditional “candy bars” rather than straight chocolate bars, Ocho makes fair trade, organic “fakes” of your favorite brands. They also have Halloween bulk minis for the trick-or-treaters.

organic, fair trade candy
Go Max Go Jokerz Bar

Go Max Go – Another fair trade, non-GMO “candy bar” company.  They don’t do minis, but bonus, all of their “fakes” are vegan (and delicious – I’ve tried them all!).  You can purchase 12-bar boxes for 10% off.

Madécasse – If you really want to take the next step in sustainable chocolates, Madécasse is the way to go.  They don’t just source their cocoa from Africa under fair trade conditions, they make the entire chocolate there.  It creates jobs and provides better living for whole communities.  At $4.50 per bar, you may not want to give them to the trick-or-treaters, but definitely treat yourself.

Lagusta’s Luscious – If money isn’t a worry, check out this luxury chocolate brand.  Yes, their prices are high, but it’s oh so worth it for a little indulgence.  They use locally sourced ingredients from small businesses and only fair trade certified chocolate.  Unique truffle combinations really make this brand stand out.

Organic, Fair Trade Autumn Chocolates
Lagusta’s Luscious Autumn Truffle Box

Organic Fruit Snacks – Don’t want to give chocolate at all?  Give the kiddies organic fruit snacks.  There are numerous varieties that have no palm oil or high-fructose corn syrup out there.  Many companies also offer multi-pack sizes like Annie’s or Yum Earth.

 

2. Find a Creative Re-Use For Your Costume

You’ve probably read time and again that it is more sustainable to buy a used costume from Goodwill or ebay.  Both have huge Halloween sections, and that will also save you some money.  While that’s a great tip, I would also suggest that you consider ways to re-wear your custom after Halloween.  Turn your one-time outfit into something you can wear over and over again.

The Wedding Dress – The year after I got married, I couldn’t figure out what one is supposed to do with this expensive wedding dress, so I wore mine for Halloween!  (I won the award for “most authentic”.)  If you’re divorced or your wedding dress no longer fits properly and you’re not saving it for a child, cut out bits to make it fit, cut out some strips along the arms and bottom, dirty it up a bit and go as the Corpse Bride!

While this might be too extreme for most women (and maybe it’s better to donate it, anyway), how about trying one of these other tips?

Pirate Costume – Go as a pirate and make plans to visit your local pirate festival in spring or summer.  Pirate festivals invade both coasts every year.

Renaissance Faire Faeries
My friend, Grisel and I reuse our Faery Halloween Costumes for the Southern California Renaissance Faire, circa 2001.  She creatively re-purposed a bridesmaids dress.

Renaissance Costume – There are a surprising number of times a Renaissance costume comes in handy.  Get a good one and dazzle everyone at your local Renaissance Faire.  They happen all over the country.  (I was once invited to a Renaissance-themed wedding.)  Go as a wench, and you can wear the costume earlier in the month for Octoberfest, or get a traditional Irish Renaissance dress and wear it to your local Irish Festival.

Faery Costume – You and your children can dress up as matching Faeries and save the costumes for your local Faery Festival.  Faeries have also been spotted at Pirate and Renaissance Festivals as well as at the Oregon Country Fair.

Disney-inspired Costume – Be a Princess on your next trip to Disneyland.  If you’re a runner, join in on any of Disney’s character-themed runs where costumes are encouraged.

Comic Characters – My nephew got an anime costume for Halloween, and then wore it to his local Comic Con.  Yes, the San Diego one is the biggest, but they happen all over the country.  This is a great idea for super hero costumes as well.

Cross-over Holiday Costumes – Dress up as Santa or the Easter Bunny and then play that character for the kids on the holiday.  If you’re family likes a twist, dress up as the Christmas version of Jack Skellington.

Dressing up for Fairs and Festivals really enhances the enjoyment, and if you’re re-using an otherwise single-wear costume, all the better.

Of course, once you are done with a costume, be sure to donate it, sell it or trade it at a future Halloween Costume Swap.

 

3. Avoid the “Fast Fashion” Trap

Witchy Night Shirt

Every year big box retailers break out the holiday-themed version of Fast Fashion.  Rows of Halloween-themed apparel line store shelves.  I admit that in my younger days, I had to have a new Halloween-themed shirt every year.  Of course, now, I’m much more environmentally aware and I avoid those types of cheap and unsustainable garments.  That’s why this year, I was so thrilled to find cute fashions that were wearable any time of year, but had just enough of a Halloween tie-in that I could get my holiday fashion fix on.

Faerie’s Dance has a new brand that makes 100% certified organic cotton womens printed tops and tunics along with matching accessories from recycled cotton scraps, all knit, cut and sewn in the USA.  The screen printing uses only water-based inks, and the fabric dyes are low-impact.  We’ve already placed multiple orders, but for right now, check out our Cat Moon series (below) along with the Witchy Night Top (left).

The handwarmers and scarves make equally fun gifts at Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah or any Fall or Winter birthday, especially for cat lovers, full moon romantics, or astronomers. 😉  We have more designs and colors coming in November, too.

This iconic Cat & Moon Design can be worn any time of year, but is particularly fun for Halloween.

 

4. Donate Your Pumpkins and Compost Your Jack-o-Lanterns

Whole pumpkins and carved jack-o-lanterns shouldn’t wind up in landfill!  Jack-o-Lanterns can easily be composted or cut up and added to your yard waste bin.  Cut them up before they start “melting” on your porch.

If you like to decorate with whole pumpkins around the house and yard, consider donating them right after Halloween while they’re still in good condition.  Who wants whole pumpkins?  Why, big cats of course!  Check out this big guy having some fun with his first pumpkin.

In Oregon, Wildcat Ridge Sanctuary takes pumpkin donations.  Call them at (503) 625-0812 to set up a donation.

In California, contact the Wildlife Waystation at 818-899-5201.

In Florida, visit Big Cat Rescue or call them at 813.920.4130.

I’m sure there are many others around the country.  Do a local search to find out if there is a wild cat sanctuary near you that would love a post-Halloween treat.

 

There are so many ways to green Halloween and all your holidays.  Just take a moment to evaluate each purchase or decision.  Buy decorations from charity shops and reuse as much as possible year over year.  We can all still have fun while doing just a little better.  Wishing you all a glorious, frightfully fun Halloween.

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Organic Clothing, Technology and Owning a Small Business (or Why Doesn’t Your Website Work?)

If you had an issue ordering from us in the last month or two, we’ve fixed a bunch of stuff, so please come back and try again. (This line was at the bottom of this post, but I’m told not a lot of people read past the first paragraph and it took me a long time to get to the point. So that’s the point. Now without further ado, I present the Great Ramble…)

Being a small business owner rocks!!

  • I meet amazing people and hear lovely stories.
  • I haven’t used an alarm clock to wake up for work in 5 years. (Although, I do have a 4-legged, furry alarm who makes sure I don’t sleep in too late.)
  • I have the freedom to make my own hours.
  • I don’t have to worry about mean bosses or annoying co-workers.
  • On a daily basis I have the freedom to work on whatever strikes my fancy or not to work at all.
My Alarm Clock

Being a small business owner sucks!!

  • Technology drives more of my business decisions than fashion or ethics.
  • Even when I’m “off” I’m thinking about business.
  • It gets lonely working on my own from home all the time.
  • There is enormous financial stress that comes with working for yourself.
  • Taking vacations together with my partner is such a challenge that we rarely bother.
Earth Creation’s Madeira Top

By now you may be wondering, what is she talking about?? Good question. (Brevity has never been one of my strong suits.)

In March we had a lot of frustrated customers calling us with odd errors we’d never seen or heard of before. The most common one was not being able to choose a size because the dropdown menu wouldn’t drop down. We had our worst sales month in 8 years… And nothing had changed on the website!

After much pulling of hair, I discovered that our PHP version (the software backbone that the code runs on top of, if you will), had been automatically upgraded by our hosting company. Our “old” code wasn’t completely compatible with our “new” software version.

I’m very happy to say that we now have the main issues fixed. We also have Paypal back up as a payment option. But if you’re still having problems, please let us know including what browser and operating system you’re using so we can trouble shoot.

Of course, what this actually means is:

  • A bunch of money went into paying developers instead of buying organic clothing.
  • A bunch of time went into fixing bugs instead of adding features.
  • A bunch of mental energy went into understanding technology instead of writing coherent, interesting blog posts… And here we are.

Since you made it all the way down here, I’m going to give you two treats.

1. A discount code. We usually only share our discount codes with newsletter subscribers, but this month all of our blog readers get it too.  Take 15% off on all Earth Creations clothing. Use code: ECforEarthDay – expires on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, 2018.

2. A “hint.” Every year we have a big Anniversary Sale in July. This is the ONLY time all year that our organic bras go on sale. This year, Glen and I are going on vacation. For REALSIES! In order to go together, we are CLOSING for two weeks from Friday, June 22 – Sunday, July 8, 2018 (no shipments, no e-mail, no phone.) So we’ll be having a big combined Vacation – Anniversary sale from June 22-July 8 as a thank you for being patient with shipping. So mark your calendars!  And in the meantime, pick up a new Earth Creation’s top – they’re on sale right now!

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9 Creative Green Gift Wrapping Ideas

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard of wrapping your gifts with newspaper.  But who wants all that ink on your fingers while you unwrap, and really, who still gets newspapers anyway?  Save the newspapers to make paper bows.  Eco-gift wrapping can be much more fun and creative than that.

  1. Have some old road maps in the car?  Use those to wrap gifts for the traveler in the family.
  2. Wrap smaller gifts with magazine pages.  They’re glossy, full-color and you can be creative about what images you show.
  3. Is your fridge overrun with toddler art? Wrap grandparents gifts in art projects from the kid’s school. The wrapping itself will give them a little extra joy.
  4. Wrap gifts with gifts.  Are you giving someone tea towels or pillow cases? Use towels to wrap up other gifts, so both the wrapping and the wrapped item are gifts to themselves.
  5. Giving someone a t-shirt with a print?  Wrap another gift with the t-shirt print showing outward.  Again, you’ve got a double-gift.
  6. Buying online a lot this season?  Take the paper filler from online purchases and use rolling stamps or large background stamps to make your own festive wrapping paper.
  7. Instead of buying gift bags, pick up festive reusable shopping bags at the grocery or department store. Most stores have bright colored ones, and they can be used year-round saving plastic bags every time your recipient goes shopping.
  8. Make your own gift basket by cutting up old magazines or even the colorful grocery fliers that come in the mail and using them as liner in the bottom of a basket, watering can, flower pot or large coffee mug.  Put your gifts on top and add a festive bow. Just remember to skip the cellophane.
  9. If all else fails, buy recycled and recyclable wrapping paper.

With just a little creativity the holidays can be beautifully wrapped up without all the paper waste.

 

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Celebrating Earth Day – A Year of Green Living

Earth Day is Every Day!

You hear this phrase all the time.  In one very important sense, it’s true.  We should be considering our impact on our planet home every day, with all of our decisions.  But is there any value in actually taking time out to celebrate a single “Earth Day” each year?  Yes, I believe there is.

Like any holiday, celebrations remind us of things that are important to us that we may have lost track of in our busy schedules.  Celebrations help us rejoice and come together as communities with shared values.  So I believe it’s well worth taking note on April 22nd of all the activities that effect our environment and having a little fun together in the process.

So, what should you do for Earth Day?

Attend a Fair or Festival
Many conscious businesses, artists and organizations spend a lot of time and effort to set up earth day festivals.  So check one out.  Learn, mingle and just enjoy all of the effort.

The Earth Day Network has a Find an Event in Your Area option.
The EPA has a small listing of Earth Day events.
Events12 has listings of all fairs and festivals for a number of larger cities.

The best way to find a local event is to do a web search using your city name, check with your local paper or contact your city hall.

Here in Oregon, I’ll be attending the Portland State University Earth Day Festival on Friday.  It’s free and located along the PSU Park Blocks.  On Saturday, the Oregon Gardens is offering free admission for it’s Earth Day event.

Volunteer
There are so many beach, trail and forest clean-up efforts centered around Earth Day.  This is a great time to chip in a few hours, get outside, and meet up with other caring folks.  While there’s no single website or link that covers every area, a quick web search should point you in the right direction for a local event.

For example “Oregon Earth Day Clean Up” produced these helpful links:
EarthShare Oregon Volunteer Opportunities
SOLVE Oregon’s Environmental Clean Up

Donate
Chip in a few hard-earned bucks to an environmental charity.  There are so many great organizations, you can definitely find one that resonates with your values.  Charity Navigator rates charities based on how they use funds that are collected.  It’s a great way to ensure the charity you give to is using your money wisely.  The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Guide also helps donors make more informed giving decisions.

Vote for the Environment
The League of Conservation Voters is a non-partisan, political action group that “works to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities.” Check them out to find out how your elected representatives are voting when it comes to the environment.

Contact your Congressperson and Representatives to let them know you’re pro-environment.

Get Outside and Enjoy the Day
The single best thing you can do for the environmental is to get outside.  People fight to protect what they love, and they only love what they know.  So go introduce yourself to the beautiful places in your area.

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Black Friday, Small Business Saturday… WTF Wednesday

As a conscious business owner, I get a little conflicted this time of year.  While we definitely want folks buying sustainable gifts, and organic clothing fits the bill nicely of course, it’s hard to condone or to ignore the commercialism that comes this time of year.  And yet, we count on the extra holiday sales to keep our books balanced.

 
On a completely unrelated topic, I’ve gotten a lot of eco-living questions lately unrelated to clothing.  Many people assume that since I know a lot about eco-fashion, that I might have done a little research on greening other parts of life.  So I was just pondering the idea of highlighting some of my favorite conscious businesses in the blog for next year. 
 
Then lo and behold, as a little holiday miracle, the following gem just landed in my personal inbox today from the awesome organic coffee company, Dean’s Beans.  Here it is in it’s entirety.

Black Friday,
Small Business Saturday…
WTF Wednesday


My first sit-down, face-to-face meeting with Dean was supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes. It was my intention to pitch him on my experience, explain away the inadequacies in my resume, and impress him with my innovative pseudo-millennial-tampered-with-an-old-soul approach to marketing. Within moments of meeting him, the resume was pushed to the side, my stress about finding the proper number of professional references was put to rest when he quickly called a former coworker of mine (whom he had known for 30 years), and told me that he didn’t doubt her judgement of my character. The conversation, very naturally, and very quickly, turned into a thorough examination of my soul.

Dean’s Beans, as I have come to know the company, carries itself like a man who has just seen his doctor and been given a few months left to live. There is a fundamental focus on the soul of the company, the legacy we are leaving behind, and the quality of the relationships that we are building. No one enters into an unmeaningful relationship in the final moments of their life. They don’t have the time, and every moment must be savored and spent with the people that are as excited about you as you are about them. Dean’s Beans as a company is alive and well, but as a company, they carry themselves as if every move is the defining moment of their legacy. It has to be ethical, it has to build meaningful relationships, and it has to feed the company’s soul.

Now, what does any of this have to do with the mad dash of consumerism that takes place after Thanksgiving?

Having had my soul thoroughly examined by every member of Dean’s team at his beanery in Orange, I was hired and given the title of Chief Media Magnet. As the go-to guy for all things marketing, I immediately extended my brain to the opportunities that the holiday season provides. I even began composing tweets, email blasts, and other social media pieces about the importance of supporting this amazing company in the holiday season- especially during the feeding-frenzy of online shopping at the end of November and beginning of December.

Except that none of it felt right.

 Black Friday has reached an almost comical level of chaos in most stores, to the point where REI publicly announced that they aren’t participating this year… ironically the publicity has been a major boon for the company, and others like Nordstrom have followed suit and are making beaucoup bucks. Small Business Saturday is getting a ton of love this year from congress, the president, and small business owners world-wide. BUT IT WAS CREATED AND CONCEIVED BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IN 2010! There is a foul odor emanating from any “selfless” promotion propagated by a huge corporation like American Express.

Now all of this isn’t to say that that these days of shopping are intrinsically evil. Thousands of small, wonderful businesses really benefit from this time of year, and this increased exposure. Heck- we sure do! But to ally ourselves with them? It feels like that’s a dicey defining moment to our legacy, and I now judge all of my actions by that company standard.

Therefore- I propose that you celebrate WTF Wednesday with us this year. It’s a wonderful way for you to plant your tongue firmly in your cheek, all while supporting the stores that you want to support. We are able to engage in meaningful, direct development work all across the coffeelands, partly due to the sales we make this time of year. We are so incredibly grateful that our customers have given us the opportunity to operate in this way- and we know that as we seek out only truly meaningful relationships, you are all a huge part of that.

As the newest member of the Dean’s Beans family, I want to thank you for feeding my soul.

Drink Deep.

Robin Stewart DeMartino
(the new guy)

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Greening Your Whole Life: The Turtle Approach

Happy 2014!  You’ve made it through another year and you may already be tackling a list of resolutions.  I’m here to tell you to toss out that list.  Instead, I’d like you to consider this ridiculously slow (and permanent) way to go green and healthy forever.

I used to make loads of New Years Resolutions and, like most other folks, I’d be down to working on just one or two (if any) by February.  It’s hard to change everything overnight.  Especially if the night before was a drunken debacle – or at least a late night with a few too many glasses of wine.  

Long before I became a vegan, before I owned an organic clothing shop, before I washed my hair with mud, I was an everyday woman who wanted to green up my life a little and get healthier.  Pretty simple.  Each year I’d make my list and then end up giving most of it up.

That is until one year, I decided to address just one thing

That first year, I took on household cleaners.  That’s it.  I dedicated the entire year to greening up my household cleaners.  There was no big rush on January 1st and nothing overwhelming.  It was just this: as I ran out of each cleaner, I would take the time to checkout what’s in it, what shouldn’t be in it and what I could get to replace it. 

Over the course of 12 months, I switched my laundry detergent, stopped using dryer sheets, got rid of everything with bleach or ammonia in it and effectively changed the look of my cleaning closet.  Of course, it got easier with each cleaner.  I got to know brands I liked and could trust and automatically went to those first when the next cleaner ran out.  The beauty of that concept, was that nothing was wasted.  I didn’t throw a bunch of stuff out on January 1.  I simply switched when I would need to replace anyway.

The next year, I decided to switch out my beauty products.  I found new soaps, lotions, deodorants (that was the hardest one) and hair care.  I purchased my first wood-bristle brush.

The year after that was make-up, which I rarely use anyway.  But I looked into natural mascara, non-toxic lipstick (you shouldn’t have to poison yourself just to look good), and natural mineral powder blush and foundation.

You get the idea.  Just one thing.  Each year.  Consistently.  Food, clothing, cleaners, cosmetics, car, kids toys, you name it.  Even food changes weren’t overwhelming. 

One year, I committed to just consciously looking at the ingredients in every packaged item I purchased.  That’s it.  I could still buy whatever I wanted, but read the ingredients to learn.

The next year I committed to stop eating anything with high fructose corn syrup. 

The thing is, if you have the entire year to make just one commitment, it works.  Living a healthy, green life is great, but you don’t have to (nor would you really want to) change everything all at once. 

I know there’s a lot of change-your-life advice that comes out every January.  I recommend not changing your life.  Just pick one small thing and work it in to what you’re already doing.  By the end of the year, it will be so ingrained you won’t have to think about it any more.  And then you’ll be ready for the next thing.

That’s it.  One small step, taken slowly, will help you be a better you each year than you were the year before. 

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It’s that time again… Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

I had planned on doing a post about eco-wrapping later this holiday season.  Today I was going to write a bit about the first ever Eco-Model, Rachel Avalon, who won the Project Green Search eco-model competition.  I had the chance to meet Rachel very briefly last week at the first ever Green Bloggers Convention.  (On a side note, it’s thrilling to see all these new environmentally-focused events popping up.  More and more people are taking action to dance lightly on our planet.)

To my surprise, while I was looking for an introduction on Rachel, I found this fantastic little video that she produced on… you guessed it… eco-friendly gift wrapping.  So here’s Rachel introducing herself better than I ever could with some awesome green holiday tips.

In addition to all of Rachel’s great ideas, one of my personal favorites is wrapping gifts with the Sunday comics section.  If you happen to have any old maps lying around, they also make great wrapping paper. 
Reusable gift bags are good in a pinch as well.  Although many of them are made from virgin materials, well made ones can be used again and again.  I’ve had some holiday gift bags pass back and forth between family members for years.  Just fold them after use and store them for next year.
We offer a selection of tree-free gift bags made from a mix of kenaf, hemp, sugar cane, flax and recycled materials that will last through many gift exchanges.


If your child is asked to sell gift wrap through a school or event fundraiser, be sure to mention to the coordinator that you’d like to see recycled gift wrap on offer next year.  Many of the fundraising companies don’t receive a lot of requests or feedback, so letting them know what you would purchase can really make a difference.  If you have a chance to write or e-mail the company directly, take it.

As a final thought, if you’re purchasing any holiday gifts from FaeriesDance.com, you can always have us gift wrap them for you using 100% recycled apparel boxes (65% post-consumer) with 100% post-consumer recycled tissue paper and 100% post-industrial recycled kraft gift wrap finished with natural raffia ribbon.  New for this holiday, we just got in this festive tree motif recycled kraft wrapping paper design.

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Swap Your Halloween Costume this Sat, Oct 10

Folks who live in Los Angeles have a unique opportunity to swap their old Halloween costumes with other eco-savvy swappers.  Swap-O-Rama-Rama is hosting a Halloween costume swap in Venice, CA.  What a great way to reduce our holiday footprint.  You can also bring pre-loved clothing items and swap them for new-to-you fashions – a true eco-fashion initiative.  Both adult and children’s costumes are welcome.

After you’ve found your treasure, design stations are set up where you can hem, silk screen or appliqué your new clothing to make it unique to you.  What a fun idea!  Here are the details:

Saturday October 10, 2009, 12 noon to 5pm
Swap-O-Rama-Rama – Halloween Costume and General Clothing

Venice Center for Peace with Justice and the Arts,
located at Venice United Methodist Church
2210 Lincoln Blvd (at Victoria, just north of Venice Blvd)
Venice, Ca 90291

For more information, visit: http://www.hiplinemedia.com/swaporamarama.html

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