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Three Local Influencers Share Their Approaches to Sustainability

Go Greener This Spring

With the season quickly turning and trees blooming, we can’t wait to get outside and enjoy all that our region has to offer! With so much natural beauty in Upstate New York such as ample parks, budding flowers, vast waterways, and more, it’s no surprise that we want to preserve the beauty and sustainability of the region. Three local influencers have found creative outlets to live a little greener – and have some fun while doing it!

Hosting a Clothing Swap Party

Tips from Local Stylist, Maggie Elizabeth @styledbymaggieelizabeth

How did you get started as a stylist?

I’ve always had a passion for fashion. Over the years I’ve loved to go shopping with friends, which then became, “Maggie, I need help finding an outfit for a wedding.” One day a friend encouraged me to take the next step and become a professional stylist and I’ve been enjoying helping people see their beauty ever since.

What is a clothing swap party? And why did you start doing them?

Sustainability is very important to me. A clothing swap party is where all the guests bring gently used items they no longer wear and get to swap for items other people brought! What better way to get together with some friends, go shopping for FREE, and feel good about it?!

When I threw my first clothing swap, I truly didn’t know how it was going to go. Some people said they didn’t have anything people would want, their size was too big or too small, or didn’t even know what a clothing swap was. At the event, every single person had fun, walked away feeling good about themselves, and had a huge bag FULL of amazing new items.

What is the impact to the environment?

The U. S. throws away up to 11.3 million tons of textile waste each year, which is around 2,150 pieces of clothing each second! Fast fashion contributes to not only this waste (only 15% is donated or recycled), but also water pollution, carbon emissions, toxic dyes, and exploitation of underpaid workers. We can help by being more purposeful with our purchases, buying less, and choosing quality over quantity.

What are some of your favorite finds?

I’ve gotten some great pieces from these parties. One I can think of is this gorgeous cream wrap blouse with balloon sleeves and blue flowers that just looks like a million bucks.

What tips do you have for hosting a clothing swap party?

Start simple and small. Find 5-10 people, have them each bring 5-10 items, lay it all out, and have people draw numbers for the order in which they pick items.

Have fun with it! Pair snacks or drinks with it. If hosting in the morning, have mimosas and fruit. If in the evening, have wine and a charcuterie board.

Be prepared. Make sure to have bags for people or ask them to bring their own. Have a mirror available as people try things on.

Encourage browsing. Give time for everyone to look at what everyone brought before letting people shop.

Get creative! When shopping, be sure to look at everything and don’t worry about size. Everyone’s style varies so you can make pieces your own and get creative.

Create a Pollinator Garden

with Christina San Filipo @mostlyperennials

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your interest in gardening.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to own a home someday surrounded by gardens. Luckily, I grew up (and still reside) in Rochester, NY, known as the Flower City, and garden inspiration around here does not disappoint. I spent a good amount of quality time with my grandfather in his vegetable patch, helping my mom plant her favorite annuals amongst her perennials, and visiting historical gardens throughout my formative years.

Gardening has become a mindful practice, a space for reflection, and a place to remain connected with those I’ve lost. As a registered nurse, it became my healing center for the unspeakable experiences I’ve had and gives me a creative outlet that brings joy to myself and others.

What is a pollinator garden and how did you get started with yours?

A pollinator garden is planted mostly with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects. While some vegetable crops do not need pollinators to help them grow the parts we love to eat, many rely on pollinators to visit them to produce fruit.

In the spring of 2020, the transformation of our yard to a garden (a yarden) began. I delved deep into resources such as Monroe County’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture, Pollinator Partnership, Beesponsible, and many books. I continue to learn more about bees and the pollination process and gain further understanding of the differences between native, nativar, cultivar, and hybrid plants.

Why is this so important for our environment?

Bees are vital to our ecosystem. With a desire to surround my home with flowers and grow food outside my door paired with the knowledge that bees are essential to creating food for humans and wildlife to survive, I intended to support pollinators in my garden and share what I learn along the way.

What should we look for when shopping for our garden?

It is essential to know differences in plant classification when shopping for plants or seeds to grow in a space supportive of pollinators. While it is nice to have different colors, you want to ensure you are not saturating the garden with plants that suboptimally support our pollinating friends, who are critical to making flowers, fruits, and vegetables possible.

Flower seed mixes are an excellent way to mass plant when purposefully used with respect for the landscape. Carefully read the list of plants included in flower seed mixes and ensure none are invasive to your region. More often than not, these mixes contain natives, nativars, and non-natives. If you harvest nativars and non-native flowers from seed mix frequently, you limit the spread of plants and increase the potential area for natives to grow.

What advice do you have for those just starting out?

1 – Wait to see what comes up. Growing up in upstate NY, you gain an appreciation for the short growing seasons, the fleeting days of fall, and how special sunny winter days are. I reached my goal of owning a home in the summer of 2018 and listened to my grandfather’s advice: Do not plant anything your first year; wait and see what comes up. The lesson he taught me is the first lesson I tell anyone looking to live a life of less grass and more flowers.

2 – Know your hardiness zone. You can ask at your local nursery or find the USDA hardiness zone webpage and input your zip code. Using the USDA hardiness zone online tool, you find the most specific information about what hardiness zone you plant in, which then informs you which plants to select that will work best for your zone.

3 – Use a mixture of annuals and perennials. When landscaping for cut flowers, edibles, and supporting pollinators, select a mix of annuals and perennials that bloom from early spring to fall and companion plants for your vegetables. This is just as important as considering the classification of plants and a commitment to being pesticide free. Spend time in the off-season learning which flowering plants are native to your region. Research shows that native plants provide superior support and are the preferred source of nectar by native bees.

4 – Go slow and be intentional. When designing your space, tackle one garden bed at a time. If you need to create beds where you have grass, do not rip the grass out unless it is a substantial portion. Add rocks or another edging around the border to retain the soil and add 4-5 inches of compost or soil. Place plants in your new garden bed and think carefully about the heights each plant will reach when mature. You may also want to add hard structures to your garden bed that support pollinators such as a bird bath or bug house. Be sure to include a water source and safe places to sleep, which are also essential features to create a pollinator paradise.

5 – Know your soil. Know and amend your soil as needed before planting, helping ensure your plants have what they need to thrive. Your soil type can help further specify your garden design. When it comes to planting edibles in my yard, most are in raised beds because our soil is so sandy and well-draining that it will not hold the moisture the plants need to produce. Moisture-loving perennials are strictly in full shade or carefully placed near raised beds that I routinely deeply water.

6 – A garden is a work in progress. All gardeners (novice to expert) learn and grow along the way. Apply lessons learned each season to a new bed or existing garden in your plot. No matter the level of expertise, we are all subject to the whims of nature, and sometimes things don’t work. A garden will always be a work in progress and perfectly imperfect. Be intentional with choices and build and maintain your garden with purpose.

How can we best care for our garden once it is created?

Caring for your garden is a year-round affair. Edibles and many flowers prefer frequent harvesting. Picking your fruits and flowers often leads to more blooms and opportunities for


Regular harvesting also gets you out in the garden often to check for pests or diseases, especially when committed to being pesticide free. In the fall, minimally prune to leave seeds for wildlife to forage and safe places for pollinators to wait out the winter months. In winter, resist the urge to clean up too early. Many ground insects sleep in leaves and plant skeletons. Disturbing the leaves and cleaning up brush could be fatal to the very thing we worked so hard to support through spring, summer, and fall. Try your best to wait until the ground has warmed and temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Where can people go to see local gardens for ideas and plants for their own gardens?

The kitchen garden, greenhouses, and rock garden at the historic Sonnenberg Estate in Canandaigua are among my favorites. In the spring, the Ellwanger Garden is a must-see before heading to Highland Park to admire the lilacs and tropical plants in the Lamberton Conservatory. The Stone-Tolan house is the oldest building in Monroe County, built in 1792, and has never moved. The surrounding apple orchard, herb and kitchen gardens inspire those aspiring to focus on portagers (French for vegetable gardens).

If local to Rochester, Amanda’s Native Garden in Dansville and the Monroe County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener plant sale are your best sources for straight native species.

Furniture Restoration

with Raven Moon Revival @ravenmoonrevival

How did you start restoring furniture?

My husband and I both always had an appreciation for old things and love incorporating them into our home. Our first home was a farmhouse that needed a lot of work. My first project was making a kitchen island out of an old dresser, and after that I knew this was something I wanted to do for others.

I wanted to show my community how we can take discarded furniture and make it beautiful, affordable, and better quality than box store furniture. I started my business, Raven Moon Revival, in March of 2020, and since then we’ve sold over 300 pieces of secondhand refinished furniture.

What are some of your favorite projects?

Over the summer I found an antique dresser while thrifting that I knew was special when I saw the drawers had Pin & Cove joints (also known as Knapp joints after its creator Charles Knapp). This type of joint was a huge advancement in furniture and was used from 1870 until about 1900. I was so excited to work on something that was not only functional but a part of history.

Another was when I recently found a desk in almost perfect condition at the thrift store for $35. It had been there for a while, but I saw the potential! After cleaning, repairing scratches, and sanding it down, I painted it a beautiful muted, mustard color and added new hardware. I also refinished the legs and sealed the entire desk so it could survive everyday wear and tear. It sold almost immediately after I posted it on social media!

What are your favorite types of pieces to restore?

Pieces I have found on the side of the road are my favorite because they are my most drastic makeovers. It could be a dresser, desk, buffet, end tables – as long as it’s solid wood!

What do you look for in thrift store furniture finds?

I look for functionality first and ask, is this something I think would be useful in someone’s home? Then I look at the material it’s made of and the quality of construction. I want to make sure if this is going to go into the home it’s going to last for many years. I typically don’t buy anything but solid wood. Most vintage and antique furniture was built to last, so I try to keep that in mind when looking at the quality of its construction.

How does restoring furniture help with sustainability?

Americans produce over 12.2 million tons of furniture waste and about 80% of it goes straight to the landfill while only 0.3% gets recycled. A big contributor to this is “fast furniture” or box store furniture; it just does not last for everyday consumers, and they end up throwing it away. If someone can modernize an older piece’s look and make needed repairs, it will outlive any piece of fast furniture ten times over. Creating a circular economy by buying secondhand instead of buying fast furniture could vastly improve our furniture waste. Even if I find a piece of furniture that is too far gone, I salvage as much as I can from it. I take the hardware, parts, feet, and even cut up the wood. Not only does this cut costs of future repairs, but I continue the cycle of reuse.

What tips do you have for someone who wants to try this?

It’s okay if you don’t have experience with furniture repair. I started with only a paint brush, sandpaper, and cleaning supplies. As your hobby grows you can build your toolbox.

Just start. Don’t worry about messing up; you can always start over.

Don’t skip the prep work! You can’t build a house without starting with the foundation first, and the same goes for furniture. If you want your furniture’s finish to stand the test of time, you need to make sure you thoroughly clean and prep the furniture.

Create what you love and don’t let others’ opinions stop your creative flow. Some of my best and most loved pieces have been when I’ve stuck with my creative vision.

How can someone learn more about refinishing furniture?

I share a lot about refinishing furniture with my followers on social media. I also learned a lot from my dad, the internet, and old furniture repair books I thrifted.

Where to find Raven Moon Revival: The Estate Marketplace in Spencerport, NY & Modern Mercantile in Medina, NY