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I’m betting that most of us (especially if we are artists or parents) have lots of art supplies that we don’t use. Now you have a chance to clean up your office… and help out local schools: donate them to Creative Pitch.

This Chicago-based organization collects art supplies (new or used in good condition) and donates them to local art teachers in need. The reality is that school budgets don’t always allow for basic art supplies—many teachers pay out of their own pocket for necessary supplies.

Let’s help them out by cleaning up our offices (or kids’ playrooms) and donating our unused art supplies. I have been participating in Creative Pitch for many years now, and I’m always delighted to receive an email from a happy art teacher.

Creative Pitch is currently seeking the following items:

  • markers
  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • paper
  • scissors
  • stock photo/illustration books

Have items to donate? Email info@creativepitch.org to inform them of your donation items and/or to set up a drop off time. (NO OFFICE SUPPLIES, PLEASE.)

Learn more or make a donation to Creative Pitch here.

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Most of us spend a good part of our day sitting in front of the computer. And I’m guessing we don’t always have perfect posture.

I realized this was taking a toll on my health, and I needed an easy way to remind myself to stretch throughout the day. I created a stretch book by making copies of fast and easy stretches I could easily do at my desk. I placed the stretches in sheet protectors and paired it with a cover that would stand out on my bookshelf—making sure I wouldn’t forget to take a break and stretch. It worked!

Another useful tool for good office posture is an ergonomic chair cushion, such as the Fitball Wedge by Ball Dynamics. It can be used as lumbar support or an angled seat cushion that encourages proper posture. (your grade school teacher was right: sit up straight, no slouching!)

And don’t forget to schedule a 30-minute to 1-hour  yoga or stretching session at least once a week. It can help prevent repetitive stress injuries, back pain, and bad posture. Personally, I have found that doing yoga and stretching regularly keeps aches and pains away. Can’t make it to a class? Try a DVD that focuses on upper body and back stretches such as my top picks, the RX: Yoga series and Back Care Yoga by Gaiam. There’s even an online yoga-at-your-desk routine at My Daily Yoga.

No more excuses.. and no more slouching!

When people used to think of recycled papers, they envisioned a brown paper bag or worse yet, a dirty white flimsy sheet. Well, welcome to the new world of recycled papers!

And here’s proof that more people are using recycled papers—from the latest New Leaf Paper newsletter:

…the number of leading environmental printing and writing grade papers produced in North America has more than doubled from 97 to 228 in the past 18 months (according to information released today by Canopy, a Vancouver based non-profit organization that works to improve the environmental performance of paper and wood companies, and a Steering Committee member of Environmental Paper Network.) The sharp increase in eco-paper options is the result of large paper buyers demanding more papers with ecological attributes, a growing trend despite recent troubles in the North American paper industry and global economy.

As I’ve been transitioning my line of greeting cards and stationery to 100% PCW recycled paper, I’ve done exhaustive research in this area. I’ve compiled a list of what I consider the best and brightest (literally!) recycled papers easily found in the marketplace now. Many are available in colors, in addition to white and off-white. And many are surprisingly affordable. So now there’s no reason not to think green when choosing paper for your business needs.

100% PCW recycled paper stocks:

(in alphabetical order)

A few recycled paper tips:

  1. Where can I buy them? recycled paper can be purchased in small quantities from online paper retailers such as The Paper Mill Store, which has a handy page showing all 100% recycled papers at-a-glance. You may also order directly from the paper mills—follow the links above for ordering info.
  2. How do I know it’s 100% recycled? Look for “100 PC” in the name or “100% postconsumer waste fiber” in the description
  3. Let your clients or customers know! If you’re using 100% PCW recycled paper to print your marketing pieces, you may want to let your customers know by printing the recycled symbol on the piece. This guide from The Paper Mill Store explains the correct way to use the various recycled symbols and provides a link to download the logos.

If I have forgotten any 100% recycled paper stocks, please write a comment and I’ll add to my list. Happy (recycled) printing!

click for larger image

We recently worked with Family Focus, a Chicago-based Early Childhood and Family Support Organization, to create their most recent Annual Report. (This is third in a series of Annual Reports we have designed for Family Focus.)

The organization’s annual reports focus on the key elements of families—people and relationships. This recent annual report revolved around a fictional story told by “Linda,” a 12-year old child and Family Focus participant. The design featured a touching story, bright primary colors, and sketches and drawings you might see in “Linda’s” notebook.

We are happy to report the client loved the design!

Printer: Blooming Color (Chicago, IL)

The next stop for Neighborhood Networking is a neighborhood near and dear to my heart, having been a long-time resident: Lakeview.

Join myself along with my co-hostess Elizabeth Lulu Miranda of Mercury Organizing Professionals, and our co-hosts BBR Chicago (Business by Referral), for an evening of networking at local favorite Wishbone Restaurant (3300 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL) from 5:30-8:00 pm. Make sure you stay for our now-famous raffle, which always features items from local businesses.*

Buy tickets in advance for $10 ($12 at the door). Please RSVP if you plan to pay at the door.

*Lakeview businesses: Promote your business by donating an item to our raffle! Contact us for a donation form and details.

photo by Ben Heine on flickr

As we’re all more aware of our business (and household) spending habits, I thought I’d share my latest discovery to save money when shopping: cell phone barcode scanners.

Here’s how it works… you’re out of an item in your office or household. Scan the UPC code using a barcode scanner app like ShopSavvy (available for Android and iPhone). Up pops a list of local and online retailers that carry the item and their pricing. Check the list for the lowest price and you’re on your merry way to saving money. I like to call it the green version of sale papers!

Click for larger image

We worked with our longtime client BAI to create a graphic identity and printed collateral for their newly-updated conference, BAI Payments Connect.

The challenge was not only to convey a complicated concept (the evolution and transformation of the payments industry), but also to create a functional design that allowed them to clearly market three different events. We created a bold, high-tech design that was versatile enough to be adapted to different types of printed pieces, including the Brochure and Postcard shown at left.

The client was clearly happy with the result, commenting, “You always make the marketing team look good!” And that’s music to a designer’s ear.

Shown: Conference Brochure and Direct Mail Postcard. Printer: GH Printing (Lombard, IL)