Monthly Archives: October 2010

Viva Green Vacations!

eco-adventure sweepstakes

Click to Enter our Sweepstakes!

Hey, all you seriously green and natural shoppers out there, have we got a hot (as in tropical) deal for you! Have you heard about our sweepstakes – “The natural giveaway to the natural get-away?” 

We’re giving away a free week-long trip for two to la finca caribe, a private, rustic, eco-inn on Puerto Rico’s Vieques Island, dedicated to simple living and sustainable business practices.

la finca is one part funky summer camp, one part tropical wilderness lodge. So, if you enjoy life off the beaten path, simple living, hanging out in the natural environment, peace and quiet, a tropical setting and Latin culture – then this is for you.

It’s a pretty awesome sweepstakes – if I do say so myself. But before I start going on about it, I better disclose all. I’m sort of – actually really very – biased. You already know I work for TheNaturalStore.com. Well, oddly enough, I’m also the owner/innkeeper of, la finca caribe. My family and I started it 14 years ago, and since then I’ve run it (more or less) remotely from Seattle, until that lucky day when… (that’s another story)

For now let’s just say, as an innkeeper, I love to share it. So when I mentioned this crazy idea to the folks at work, they jumped at it – because so many of our guests at the finca are the same sort of folks who shop natural. So TheNaturalStore.com and la finca caribe are natural partners, teaming up to offer our shoppers a week at the finca next year! How cool is that?

The fact is we try to run the finca with as minimal a foot print as possible. We have no TV, AC, or phones in the rooms, use solar hot water in our outdoor showers, avoid chemicals in our natural saltwater pool, line dry the inn’s laundry, recycle and re-use everything we can. And of course we buy our cleaning products, soaps, and laundry supplies from TheNaturalStore.com.

So, if you’re one of those who like a little adventure; who like to leave behind all the comforts of home when you’re traveling, and you’re interested in the whole notion of eco travel and simple living, then sign up! (But I’m warning you – you’re apt to have a lizard or two dart across your floor)

(And – if you’re wondering why and how a working mother of three in Seattle would choose to buy and run an inn on a nearly undiscovered island in the Caribbean, don’t ask. I’m not even sure I know myself. I usually blame it on the kids. I think my 12 year old (at the time) had a lot to do with it. Now he helps me run it…but then they all do. (Have you noticed how kids are often the ones who expose us to the best and most challenging parts of our lives and selves?) Anyway, all good stuff for another post!)

For now, we’re thinking we know a lot of our shoppers would love to have a chance to experience old world/old school natural Caribbean life, folks who think swinging in a hammock under the stars, is just about as good as it gets. But then…like I said, I’m biased.

So, who knows?  Maybe you’ll be the lucky one. Just Go to our FB page and sign up! Hasta la finca! Viva TheNaturalStore.com…

Biodegradable confusion is downright degrading

What you see here is a biodegradable plastic bag – undergoing a real life, real time experimental study – right here in my downright, nearly scientific compost bin. I’m really interested to see firsthand how well these things actually do break down. If you’re as intrigued by this as I am, come back to check its progress as I’ll be monitoring this little guy’s degradation progress over the coming months. This is actually an “air pillow” TheNaturalStore.com uses to ship our orders with – as an alternative to Styrofoam peanuts. So of course I want it to be true to its word …and it says right here on the bag that it should decompose between 6 months and 6 years. (Hmmmmm. How curious are you?) So then we’ll see if I feel as good about putting it into the garden as I do the coffee grounds, corncobs and other organic matter it’s snuggling up with.

There are so many products out now that claim to be biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable, and sometimes “all of the above.” It’s easy to feel confused, dare I say, mislead?? I have this inherent belief that most folks don’t realize that just because something says it’s biodegradable, doesn’t mean it naturally will become “one with the universe” (decompose) because – I hate to break it to you – it actually may not. Not if you throw it in the trash. You see, it all depends. Some biodegradable products are water-soluble, some degrade in the sun (not much sun in the landfill).  A well-known potato chip alternative claims to use biodegradable bags. Sounds great, right?  But I just heard, sadly, their now famous bag actually biodegrades in such high temperatures it takes an industrial composter to do the job, and there are only eight in the nation. So you see, it turns out landfills are anaerobic, specifically designed to prevent decomposing. That way they stay cleaner. That way, when the alien archeologists are sorting through our landfill sites millenniums from now, the landfill contents, theoretically, will look much like they do today. Ugh.

So do you see the potential for confusion? We’re all buying compostable picnic supplies, plastic bags, or lattés in proudly compostable cups – which all sounds good – until you realize the only way any of these will actually decompose is if we put them in water, sun, or with other microorganisms – and how on earth do you know which is which? Which is best? And which is in your landfill?

I’ve decided to go on a quest to clear it up – as best I can. (Hence the experiment). I’ll talk to a few folks in the industry and get back to you. So stay tuned, and until we know more, my advice is to pay attention:

  • Know your own community’s solid waste and recycling capabilities.
    • Ask for recycling, yard waste or composting
  • Read product labels carefully and follow instructions, putting:
    • things that compost in the compost
    • things to recycle in the recycling
    • plain old trash in the trash (Hopefully as little of that as possible)
  • Still best to avoid disposables whenever you can, bring your own commuter cup, your own refillable water bottle, etc. Get creative – even if it means washing an extra dish now and then. 

Just Say No! to Unnecessary Plastic

Story of Bottled Water

Story of Bottled Water

Like many of you, I took a summer vacation. Always fun to be off the farm, out in the world, but hard for me to live as environmentally-friendly on the road, or in the air, as I do at home. And that’s sort of hard for me emotionally – because I really do try to walk my green talk whenever, wherever, possible. But traveling can make that hard. And sometimes it doesn’t even seem possible.

Traveling, we’re out of our element and out of our routines, so it’s a challenge to stay totally true to the cause. I mean, where are the recycling bins? How many containers and package wrappers does each fast food lunch need? I actually started to keep a list of the unnecessary plastic products I was handed on my first flight. By my second flight, I’d given up (the list – not the cause). Too depressing. Each passenger was given a plastic cup for water before take off. And then, who knows how many more throughout the flight. I kept wondering how easy it would be for the flight attendant to simply ask if we would mind keeping that one cup for the whole flight, instead of using three to four per person.

Would people? Would you think that was tacky? I’d think it was totally cool. But my flight attendant seemed nonplussed and sort of hassled when I said I didn’t need the stir stick and a second plastic cup for my tea bag. Pretty sure he thought I was wacky, just like, I’m afraid, my husband does. Pretty sure my kids do.
But I tell you, the more I learn about plastic, the more committed I am, the more comfortable I am, to stand out – if I have to – in order to say “no.”

Like at work, when we order boxed meals for lunchtime meetings. They come with bottled water. Nowadays, I’ve taken to ordering mine “Hold the water.” I know it irks some folks that I do it…but come on! It’s not like we are going on safari here (although lord knows corporate life has its wild side). We’re not even going on a picnic. We’re eating in a conference room with a lunchroom and water fountain down the hall, 20-feet away.

So wacky as it may seem – I’m going for it. I’m going for holding on to one cup throughout the flight, getting my water from the water fountain, and telling the lunch counter person just
wrapping the sandwich in paper alone is fine. (If I’m just about to eat it, I don’t need my paper-wrapped sandwich put in Styrofoam box and then a bag).

Do I think my actions will make a difference on their own? No. I doubt they will. But…If all, or even a bunch of us, got comfortable using less, and speaking out about it – then yes, it could make a tremendous difference. Maybe even all the difference we need. And maybe the boxed lunch folks might throw in an extra cookie – with all they’d save by not including water!