Eco Fabulous by Design: Zem Joaquin

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Gone are the days of granola green. The stylish eco movement is here to stay, and Zem Joaquin, founder of, is leading it.  When she declares, “I want to look super glamorous, but I don’t want anyone suffering for my glamour,” she is making much more than just a simple statement. For Joaquin, it is about making bold, chic, earth-conscious choices in every facet of her life. The Marin-dwelling wife and mother of two has mastered the art of style with full-blown chic eco-consciousness, and she’s taking her message to a global level. After founding her EcoFabulous blog in 2006 – considered to be the insider’s guide to stylish, sustainable living – Joaquin has come to be known as an authority in the subject matter of stylish green living.

The green-chic movement started for Joaquin over 10 years ago – well before it was en vogue – when she joined the board of Global Green USA, an environmental nonprofit that works to stem climate change and build a more sustainable future. Joaquin, a Bay Area native who was raised in Joan Baez’s Palo Alto commune, began hosting San Francisco’s glamorous Gorgeous and Green Gala at San Francisco’s Bently Reserve in 2004. Joaquin remembers her first-ever show, which was memorable in itself and that she was able to work with the enigmatic Leonardo DiCaprio. “Leo and I agreed to co-host the first year.  He’s on the board and I just asked, ‘Leo, will you do it with me?’ And he said yes,” she recalls.

 I want to look super glamorous, but I don’t want anyone suffering for my glamour

The rest, as they say, is history. With the help of early supporters like Christopher Bently and Nadine Weil, San Francisco’s Gorgeous and Green Gala has become a glamorously green event garnering celebrity attention from the likes of Orlando Bloom, Salma Hayek and Rosario Dawson, and has raised over a million dollars. “Leo came again [in 2005] then we had all the tech founders who came out in full force,” recalls Joaquin. “Today, Global Green USA is rebuilding all over the world, especially in Northern California and in Los Angeles, where they’ve been making over schools to be greener. I really love the work we do, and I love our board. That’s very near and dear to my heart.

Joaquin, who is now Editor-at-Large of Home and Lifestyle for the Huffington Post, began her journey into eco-chic design after she gave birth to her second child. Both of her children suffered from asthma, and after careful research, she realized that toxins around the home were the root of their problems. “I took everything away, and finally I realized it had to be toxins in the house, so I started doing massive research. I read every book I could read, read all the LEED books, and did everything I could do.  I ended up designing an eco friendly house,” she remembers.   Joaquin was then commissioned as a sustainable designer for the Dwell on Design show in 2009. “It’s fun to see how you can use really small spaces in really creative ways.  Every single inch can be used wisely – and I like small spaces because they’re fun to spend time in. I love thinking about other ways people can use them,” she enthuses.

With her wealth of green knowledge, is no surprise that Joaquin has been tapped by a range of companies, including Ebay, who are looking to adopt more eco-conscious solutions, both in business and at home. She says of working with the e-commerce giant, “I really love eBay. They have really complimentary values to what mine are.  They care about a lot of the same issues and they’re always trying to do better.” Her other advisory projects include NRG, Smarty Pants Vitamins, and Cradle to Cradle Institute, a new eco certification, which Joaquin helped start with sustainable design guru William McDonough. “I’ve been working with Bill for a decade now. He’s done over 35 years of sustainability work and felt like he really wanted to share it with the world. So we helped create a vehicle to do that.  It is a non-profit certification,” explains Joaquin.

Joaquin’s weekly newsletter, Zem’s List, is her insider’s guide for chic ways to go green.  Some of the tips include ways to update your look along with Eco Deals & Steals. As Joaquin explains, “This is my personal newsletter of five things that I think are amazing.”

Joaquin’s local eco loves:
• Tesla
• Mina Olya
• Amour Vert
• Tatcha
• Post Ranch Inn (in Big Sur)

Surely the year of 2014 will prove to be even more fruitful. Joaquin is a self-admitted “huge fan of collaborations” and would give anything to work with any number of her friends, which includes a dream-team of tech luminaries and green “gods and goddesses” like Ali and Mark Pincus, Marissa Mayer, Gina Pell and William McDonough; she has already realized the dream of working with Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. She says, “I try to partner with everybody. I love celebrating what other people are doing,” before referencing upcoming projects with Suzy Cameron [wife of movie producer James Cameron] and Oliva Firth.  Despite everything that she has going on, when it comes down to it, it’s really the simple things that are important to Joaquin. She notes, “If you do things that show you’re making an impact, then you want to do more.”

Joaquins’ Eco Tips for a more sustainable future
1. I have a foot pedal on my sink. It’s such an easy thing to do. You can’t believe how much water it saves.
2. Be really careful about buying furniture. Know what’s in your furniture and know how it’s made. If you have children, you want to make sure you’re eliminating things like VOC paints.
3. Look for things that are made out of organic cotton; even H&M has tons of organic options.
4. Start taking your own water bottle. There’s something called the Bobble. It is a water bottle that has a filter right in.
5. Carry your own bag everywhere, even to a designer store. Even if I’m going shopping at Prada or wherever, I take my own bag. There’s this company called Blue Avocado that has some great bags that you can take.


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