Author Archives: The Natural Store

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!

Introductions are in Order

Corky and "The Mona Lisa"

So…I guess introductions are in order.  As our Director of Corporate Sustainability, I’m also our chief blogger here at TheNaturalStore.com.  That means when I’m not blogging, I’m tasked with the interesting job of trying to make our business run as sustainably as possible, from developing our recycling efforts to commute trip reduction programs.

Going green — as they say these days — isn’t anything new to me. I’ve been sort of impassioned (some might say obsessed) about living a more natural lifestyle since the second grade, and when you’re as old as I am, well let’s just say — I’ve been doing this sustainability thing; studying it, making a career out of it, raising my kids with it, for quite a while.

Still, it’s a daunting job, for sure, and one that I would never even attempt to do  – if it wasn’t for the whole team around here, and the incredible energy and smarts they share. We have a Sustainability Task Force as well as our Green Merchandising Team: all kinds of talented, dedicated folks who you’ll be hearing from down the road.

So welcome again! Let’s get started. Together we’ll plow through; answer some questions, raise more and hopefully have some fun – or at least discover a neat new product, or great deal, while we are at it.

What We’re All About

It’s Called Sustainability
Some of us shop natural for personal health reasons, others to help the environment by using fewer chemicals. We don’t think it’s a choice of one or the other, “green” or “natural” but both – and more. When you think about the interconnectedness that our choices have on our personal lives, our society, our economy, and the planet — it’s called “sustainability”. It’s that funny new term that sounds more complicated than it needs to. I like the official definition, created by the U.N’.s World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

TheNaturalStore.com’s sustainability vision is three-fold. Our highest priority is offering our customers the largest and best selection of natural and environmentally friendly products online.

Reducing Our Footprint
Secondly, here at the office, we’re focused on reducing our overall footprint, and doing so in a manner that is authentic and transparent. Since we started our Going Green Initiative just two years ago we have had some tremendous successes, and no doubt we’ll be going into various programs in more detail here. (Meanwhile, if you can’t wait to know more, read our Green@Work tab, for more about what we’ve been up to.)

Sharing Information and Resources
A huge priority for us is educating our shoppers. We love sharing the information and resources we come across in our research with you. It’s sort of a passion. I love it when a shopper or employee asks, “What makes this green”? It’s not that I necessarily have the answers – but I get a kick out of pointing folks in the right direction, or helping them learn the questions to ask for themselves. Because really it’s for each of us to ask ourselves what’s sustainable for the kind of home, community, and planet we want to sustain. What does your version of future needs even look like? Yours may not be the same as mine, and that’s where it can get sort of interesting, so let’s learn more together.

Partnering with  Brands that Support Sustainability
Over the years we’ve developed long-lasting partnerships with brands we consider to be the real leaders in sustainability. These are companies, like Seventh Generation, Burt’s, Clif, Method, and SunMar, that are helping develop product and ingredient standards and transparency, or product life cycle guidelines that help us all. We’ve learned much from them over the years, and look forward to sharing that knowledge with you.

But buying more isn’t always the answer . We’ll share household tips that may even cut back on purchases, spending and hopefully natural resources (my clothes are hanging on the line here as I write). No, that doesn’t mean I have my laundry draping all over the office, although I sort of like that image. I work from home—my small farm – two days a week. Lots of us at the office telecommute, which is another way we actively cut our impact on the environment, reduce traffic, and equalize the work/life balance we are all after—or so I hope!

We call it “Livin’ the Green”

Welcome to livin’ the green — our new blog! Happy to have you with us as we get started. We’re taking steps towards greener, more natural – healthier living, and I’m guessing, just by being here, you’ve made some similar decisions. Sharing information is what this blog is all about. We want to provide guidance around product labeling and ingredients, as well as share standards and guidelines that can help you make the best sustainable shopping decisions. Clearly, there is no one formula, or one-way to “be green”. But sharing information and committing to learning more is a great place to start!

Livin' the Green

Just Livin' The Green!

We call it “livin’ the green” because it isn’t that we are all trying to do? Live our own dream. And if you are shopping at TheNaturalStore.com I figure your dream most likely includes a natural, greenish hue, or at least a green tinge around the edges. Hopefully we all care about keeping ourselves and this planet in the best shape we can…whatever that looks like –  for each of us.

Picking one photo for our masthead has proven to be just about impossible. What one single image conveys green and natural living? Is it the food we eat? The kids we raise? The bikes we ride? The mountains we climb? The garden we grow? For me – I try to integrate sustainability into just about everything I do. Not to say I always  make the greenest choices. No way. But I do try to be conscious of the impact my choices make. Hence the array of photos, from rural to urban and the suburbs in between; from working and commuting, to farming and taking tropical adventures; we all have choices to make. Which really is why we are doing this. It’s sort of like we can’t help it.

For the last couple of years, here at the office, we’ve been sharing cool bits of info about the green and natural world in emails to the whole company. Folks here seem to have liked getting sustainability tips and new product ideas, or learn just how important it is to turn off their monitors – to save energy over the weekend. So we got the idea to go further with it; turn it into a blog and share it with our loyal customers. Hopefully, that’s you!