Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Impact Man - Let's all have no impact!

The following post was written for the Memphis (Missouri) Democrat, as part of a regular series on Dancing Rabbit.

Hi all. This is Alline with the latest news from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Things here at Dancing Rabbit are pretty much the same – folks coming home from holiday travel, others leaving for trips. Gatherings, dinners, and our first snowfall of the year – yay!

But what has been on my mind most lately is movies. Last night we watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” It features two of my personal heroes; Michael Pollan, the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (http://www.michaelpollan.com/), and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (http://www.polyfacefarms.com/). Among other things it focuses on the importance of small local farms, of being aware of where our food comes from, and just exactly what it in it.

I also previewed the documentary film “No-Impact Man” in preparation for this weekend’s free public screenings at the Milkweed Mercantile. I wasn’t sure what to expect – the film is billed as “Colin Beavan and his family turn their small Manhattan apartment into the site of an experiment in radical non-consumption.” They go off the grid for a full year—while still living in New York City—to see if it’s possible to make no net impact on the environment.

There are many parallels between the No Impact Project and Dancing Rabbit that, for me, elicited a kind of kindred admiration for the Beavans. While the project was, admittedly, a ploy for his next book, he genuinely wanted to learn how one person could make a difference. By doing so, he opened himself up to criticism and ridicule. No where in the movie or book does he suggest that others do what he is doing. But when the New York Times gets wind of the No Impact Project they write a sneering article, calling the project “an ethically murky exercise in self-promotion.”

Here at Dancing Rabbit we’ve spent countless hours with reporters and journalists, documentary makers and students – sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they completely miss the point. The New York Times focused on the Beavans’ lack of toilet paper (the article was entitled “The Year Without Toilet Paper”) while the Colbert Report honed in on DR’s composting toilets. The Beavans learned what members of Dancing Rabbit continue to learn – living one’s life in a demonstration community, willing to showcase both the successes as well as the challenges, is not for the faint of heart.

The evolution of Colin and Michelle’s marriage was much more entertaining that many soap operas; this also struck a bell of recognition. Michelle’s disdain for “nature” was hilarious, and reminiscent of the attitudes of many of our friends who don’t quite get why we’re living in rural Missouri.

About halfway through, the film takes a surprising turn. Colin starts to seem more humble and less domineering, and Michelle turns from whiny skeptic to good sport. The family bikes around the city and cooks organic food by candlelight, and the no-impact regimen mutates from family issue to family adventure. We get to watch Colin and Michelle deal with questions that we at Dancing Rabbit ask ourselves every day – how much of what we consume really adds value to our life vs. how much of it is filler, or worse, inhibits us from living our lives to the fullest? The Beavan family discovers that when they remove many things from their lives, they spend more time enjoying each other instead of wandering around the mall or staring at the television. They discover that eating locally and using human-powered transportation result in reversing pre-diabetes indicators and losing 20 pounds. They discover that their 2 year old daughter really enjoys gardening and the beach and riding on a bicycle. (One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Isabella sees fireflies for the first time.) Without No Impact Project they'd have missed out on all of those discoveries.

I think that in the end the movie presents us with a choice: instead of casting environmental activists as either hypocritical or self-righteous, are we able to watch the movie and then find a change in our own lives that will not only reduce our negative impact on society but also more positively impact our life? It could be more human-powered transportation, more local food, buying fewer new and more used goods, having things repaired instead of replaced, adjusting that thermostat, improving one’s home to be more energy efficient, buying 100% green energy through the utility company, drinking less bottled water... or any other number of things. We all have the opportunity to make a choice: how will the world be better today because of our/your changes?

So come see for yourself. The movie will be shown at the Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage Friday, December 11th at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 12th at 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 13th at 2:00 p.m. Admission is free. For directions please call 883-5634.

The Milkweed Mercantile has donated a copy of both the “No Impact Man” book and film to the Scotland County Library in Memphis.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Milkweed Mercantile Hosts Its First Event!

The weekend of October 23rd the Milkweed Mercantile hosted its first event. We're not quite ready for prime time (we cooked the food in our house and hauled it over to the Mercantile) but it was a fantastic "dress rehearsal" and a lot of fun.

The stage was set - Danielle and Mary Beth (along with Ramin Rahamian, who took the photos here) arranged leaves, pods and stalks of locally-gathered vegetation and candles on the mantle. The table, set up in the middle of the room, was set with with sterling flatware, more leaves and candles, while the store's merchandise took a back seat. A fire blazed in the fireplace, adding ambiance and warmth.

The party, hosted by Ma'ikwe Schaub Ludwig, was a surprise 60th birthday bash for her husband Laird. Two of his sisters, a nephew, his daughter and a pair of friends all traveled from out of state to be here. Also attending the party were members of Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms.

First we served dinner and dessert, then it was time for Laird to open his gifts.


Telling stories...

The next day, Saturday, the Mercantile catered a picnic lunch out at Ma'ikwe's house (which is currently under construction). Saturday evening we were back in the Mercantile space with two cakes (a maple cake and a vegan carrot cake) for 30.

I promise, I was never going to stab Laird with the knife, in spite of what it looks like below:

It was a fabulous weekend. Laird & Ma'ikwe's guests were incredibly gracious and an absolute delight. Mary Beth proved herself to be a divine bartender, and Danielle impressed us all with her skills in the kitchen. I am excited to know that not only did we pull it off, but there were no disasters, mishaps or even fumbles. Our Field of Dreams staffing method ("if you build it, they will come") seems to be paying off. And in March our chef comes, and the whole thing will really take off.

We look forward to hosting YOU at a future event - heck - we can hardly wait!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aligning My Nose With My Values

Photo Credit: Alienmeatsack on Flickr

It’s no secret that I love hankies.

Granted, I used to think they were tremendously un-cool. My only positive hanky experience was my friend Denise. She carried them in her purse all during high school and didn’t suffer any diminution of coolness. Somehow she made them coordinate with her platform shoes and micro minis (it was the 70’s).

Photo Credit: KellyandApril on Flickr

But to me, hankies were for grandmothers, or really old people. To many of the people currently at Dancing Rabbit, I qualify for the latter, but I digress.

Seven reasons I love hankies:
  1. I have allergies and so always seem to need one
  2. Paper tissues have a tendency to shred after one little blow. Euuwww.
  3. If I accidentally leave a paper tissue in a pocket of something that goes through the wash, ALL of the clothes in that load are covered with a plethora of little white fibers.
  4. Puppies, movies, and a perfect crème brulee make me cry. It is good to be prepared (I was a girl scout, after all).
  5. Hankies are way more eco than blowing one’s nose on trees.
  6. When you hang a hanky outside to dry after laundering, you get to inhale the smell of sunshine the next time you use it.
  7. Men shouldn't get to have all the fun!

Photo Credit: Vanigliavvelenata_two on Flickr

What brought on this current hanky rant? The Milkweed Mercantile is debuting our own line of Organic Cotton Flannel Hankies. Unable to find any reasonably-priced organic cotton hankies, I decided that it was time for the sisters to do it for ourselves. So our Artisan Co-op purchased fabric, a serger and now we’re in business. Meadow has become Mighty Queen of the Serger, and we’re all quite pleased with ourselves. Our hankies are not machine-perfect; they are hand-guided through a serger by a real live person (in this case, Meadow), and may reflect an occasional less-than-precise corner. However, we consider this part of their charm; we think you will, too.

Soft, organic hanky, available only from the Milkweed Mercantile

Meadow makin' hanky magic

So check ‘em out. And if you don't want to buy hankies, you can easily make your own - all you need is some soft fabric and a sewing machine to zig-zag around the edges. Heck, if you're not fussy, you don't even need a sewing machine!

Please consider using fabric hankies instead of paper tissues. The trees and your grandmother would approve.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Art of Kelsey Viola

Rooted Hands by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved
fabric stretched on wood bars
21 1/2" x 38"

One of the great joys of running the Mercantile is getting to know folks like Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen. Kelsey is a good friend of Rabbit Mary Beth; when MB approached me and said "my friend Kelsey has some cool art you might like" I eagerly agreed to take a look. I am so happy that I did - not only is her art amazing, but Kelsey is herself a delight.

We currently have two of Kelsey's "paintings" up in the Mercantile. The most awe-inspiring thing is that they're not paintings at all - they are entirely done in fabric and thread. Kelsey "paints" with her sewing machine. It is really fun, when someone says "oh, what a beautiful painting" to encourage them to go take a closer look, and then listen to the gasps of astonishment.

Single Hand by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved fabric stretched on wood bars
34" x 22"


detail of above

Reaching Hands by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved fabric stretched on wood bars
34" x 22"

private collection

We will be having a show of many more of Kelsey's pieces in November. Included will be a series of native prairie plants made out of fabric, including some morel mushrooms. Monsanto wanted to purchase the mushrooms and commission Kelsey to do a series of their plants - she politely declined. All this talent and ethics, too!

Morel Mushrooms
Price TBD in November

If you are interested in receiving an announcement of the opening, please sign up for the Mercantile's Once-In-a-Blue-Moon Newsletter here.

Kelsey at her BFA presentation at Truman State in Kirksville, MO.

If you are an artist with work that might be appropriate for a future Milkweed Mercantile show - nature, prairie, ecology or other themes - please contact me at alline at milkweedmercantile dot com - I'd love to chat!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Math School I Attended

I don't really enjoy math. Perhaps if I were in school today, where girls are encouraged to be good in math, it might be different. But I came of age in the innovative 60's in California, and was part of several experimental programs, including the very dreadful "new math."

I went on to flunk high school algebra twice - I just did not understand how, if "Y" could be anything, one came up with the correct answers. And "X" plus "Y"? What was "X"? What was "Y"? It was just too nebulous, surreal, and annoying for me. It was as if Salvador Dali had created a system of thinking; one which made no sense and gave one a stomach ache.

This is one of the reasons I find it very amusing to be in business. I love the creative aspects, but the actual business-y stuff? I'm dreadful to the point of hysteria. I take great comfort in my BFFs Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Lou's arguments make perfect sense to me!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Calling Your Business Green Doesn't Make It So

A bad photograph of my beautiful business cards.

The Milkweed Mercantile is a proud member of Green America. Someday, when we get all components of the business up and running, we'll have that little Green America icon on our home page. Until then, I pay my annual dues, read the material, and follow along on the Green America Green Business Network email posts.

A recent post was a request for a green printer. I am happy for this opportunity to sing the praises of a truly green printer, to cheer on those who are striving to "do it right" and to vent about a huge pet peeve.

I have a lot of "green" friends, who are doing their darndest to run "green" businesses. But it always strikes me as odd when they ask me for a "cheap green printer" or, even worse, a "cheap" printer. As in, "My green values are important until it comes to my wallet, and if no one knows that I used a cheap (i.e. non-union, non-ecologically sound) printer, well, that's OK!"

When I was a kid my mom used to tell me "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well." At the time I rolled my eyes, but I think she was on to something. We'll never change the world by taking shortcuts on the things that might not show.

When it came time to have business materials for the Mercantile printed, I chose to go with Consolidated Printing in Chicago (another Green America member). On the back of my card I requested a union bug, a women owned business logo, and a Printed Green logo. It is important to me that those I do business with are clear about my standards and hopefully, my integrity.

Consolidated was a breeze to work with - we are located in rural Northeast Missouri, and handled all transactions easily by phone and internet. The jobs were printed beautifully and delivered early. I may not always get it right, but in this instance, I think I did. Here's to Green America and its members, working hard to change the world by changing the way the world does business!

September 15th Addendum: Thanks to all of those who emailed regarding green printers. There are a number of EXCELLENT green printers everywhere, doing fine printing work and ecological activism. If you are in the Rochester, New York area, I recommend calling Monroe Litho - they really walk their talk! They are the first SGP (Sustainable Green Printer) in the Northeast and belong to FSC, SFI. They run on 100% wind power and constantly strive to make their"foot print" smaller and recycle everything. Yay!

Havin' Some Fun Now! The Mercantile Adventure Continues...

The fireplace, the gorgeous woodwork, Kelsey's artwork and some prairie wildflowers.

Oh, we're having so much fun at the Mercantile! The store is open for business, and as we cycle through some of the older merchandise (purchased last year when I got way ahead of myself!) new exciting stuff is coming in. As soon as it's up on the website I'll talk about it here. In the meantime, be sure to check the Sale section of the Mercantile online store - we're marking stuff down in a serious way and are adding new items every week.

When in doubt, improvise. This is our BYOBag display, featuring bags made of recycled cotton, organic cotton, recycled plastic bags, recycled plastic bottles, and hemp.
What's not to love?

And the work on the upstairs is so, so beautiful. Tom has refinished and varnished all of the floors, and Bob, Kurt and French are crafting the most beautiful stairway, with balusters, newel posts and all kinds of things I never ever considered before. I mean, who really looks at staircases? You go up, you go down, you try not to fall. But now, we've become obsessed. When Kurt and I are watching movies on DVD, we often have to rewind because we're so busy looking at staircases in the scenes that we miss the dialog. Sheesh.

The staircase, still in progress. On the right, under the stairs, is Innkeeper Amy's Harry Potter-esque office. All of the woodwork was hand-crafted - no kits from Home Despot or Lowe's...

View from the landing, newel posts and plinths (oooh, there's another good word!) under construction.

One of my favorite parts of the building is the downstairs bathroom door. Like much of the building, it has a story. Kurt's late dad, Clyde, used to always call the bathroom "the library." As in "I'm going to the library for a few minutes." So when I found this door shoved behind a pile of chairs at the Ewing School auction, I knew that I had to take it home. We got it for $1. Once polished it will be as good as new. We will, of course, construct a curtain for privacy. And the Clyde Kessner Memorial Bathroom will then be open for guests, librarians and otherwise.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In Support of Van Jones

(NOTE: While searching for information other than my own experience, I found Greening The Ghetto by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker . Italicized text below is from this article.)

In 2007 I had the opportunity to hear Van Jones speak at Co-op America (now Green America) Green Business Conference in Chicago. He spoke of his goal of bringing environmental principles to the rescue of urban communities – have you ever noticed how dirty, polluting industries are often located in the “poor” (i.e. black, Hispanic & immigrant) parts of cities? That “job training” programs train young people for these same toxic and polluting industries (which are also being out-sourced in record numbers)?

I also appreciated when he pointed out that the green movement will not succeed if it is only affluent white people (98% of the room was white). If we don’t bring people of color along with us, as equals, the green movement is doomed. As green entrepreneurs we had a responsibility and an opportunity to really make a difference.

He spoke of his time at Yale, Jones saw a lot of things that disturbed him. One was the video of the Rodney King beating, which took place during his second semester. Another was crime. “I was seeing kids at Yale do drugs and talk about it openly, and have nothing happen to them or, if anything, get sent to rehab,” he said. “And then I was seeing kids three blocks away, in the housing projects, doing the same drugs, in smaller amounts, go to prison.”

I was absolutely mesmerized. Articulate, insightful, charismatic and absolutely right on, I was on my feet at the end of his talk.

Fox News has suddenly discovered Van Jones, and is determined to bring him down. He is not saying what Fox News wants to hear. He is the antithesis of everything Fox stands for. He is an educated Black man, who speaks his mind, intelligently. He is working to bring all of us together, to flatten inequities, to change the planet. I am really disheartened by all of the hate speech surrounding him now, and the ecstatic crowing now that he has resigned from his White House appointment. I resent that racist Fox News and their followers lack the clarity and insight to see beyond their fears.

Yes Magazine, in Stand with Van Jones, a Real Patriot, has this to say:
"Van Jones has resigned, and the Obama administration has accepted his resignation. It's an extraordinary moment. Van was not accused of breaking the law, flouting the Constitution of the United States, accepting bribes, condoning torture or other violations of international law, or going on tax-payer funded junkets to conduct adulterous affairs. No, Van was brought down for a couple of things he later regretted saying over the course of an otherwise remarkable career.

Were the attacks really about the Color of Change petition to get advertisers to stop sponsoring Glenn Beck's program on Fox? Was it a case of taking down a rising star who had the audacity to lead while black? Or was it the opening round of the battle to come over clean energy/climate legislation? In any case, it's a sad day for America and for the Obama administration."

Since when is being a revolutionary in America a BAD thing? Seems to me our country was founded by revolutionaries...

The modern environmental movement is sometimes said to have begun in the eighteen-nineties, when John Muir founded the Sierra Club, and sometimes in the nineteen-sixties, when Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring.” Muir and Carson saw themselves fighting narrow, private interests on behalf of the public in the broadest possible sense—all people, including those who had not been born. But stop by a meeting of any of the major environmental groups, and you will see that the broad American public has yet to join up. Chances are that most of the attendees will be white, and the few who aren’t will be affluent and middle-aged. A 2006 study commissioned by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental-law group, found that the “ecological base”—defined as Americans who report the environment as being central to their concerns—is “nearly ninety percent white, mostly college-educated, higher-income, and over thirty-five.”

“Your goal has to be to get the greenest solutions to the poorest people,” Jones told me. “That’s the only goal that’s morally compelling enough to generate enough energy to pull this transition off. The challenge is making this an everybody movement, so your main icons are Joe Six-Pack—Joe the Plumber—becoming Joe the Solar Guy, or that kid on the street corner putting down his handgun, picking up a caulk gun.”

“I think Van Jones is a big part of the future of environmentalism,” Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. “He, more than anyone else, is bringing together a concern about the environment and a concern about social justice. And, if I had just one thing to say, it is that we in the environmental movement cannot fail Van Jones.”

But don’t take my word for it. Make your own decision.

The Re:Visionary Project – Van Jones from Urban ReVision on Vimeo

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Writer's Almanac Brightens My Day

Oh, how I love The Writer's Almanac. Each day I open my email box, and amid the sales pitches, announcements of Dancing Rabbit meeting topics, the occasional note from a friend and the endless tasks to be added to my to-do list, is The Writer's Almanac.

Published daily, it consists of a poem and then snippets about the lives of authors appropriate to the day. Here is today's poem:


by George Bilgere

In the morning, after much delay,
I finally go down to the basement
to replace the broken dryer belt.

First I unbolt the panels
and sweep up the dust mice and crumbling spiders.
I listen to the sounds of the furnace
thinking things over
at the beginning of winter.

Then I stretch out on the concrete floor
with a flashlight in my mouth
to contemplate the mystery
of the pulley-tensioner assembly.

And finally, with a small, keen pleasure,
I slip the new belt over the spindle, rise,
and screw everything back together.

Later, we have a birthday dinner
for my wife's grandmother, who is dying
of bone cancer. Maybe,
if they dial up the chemo, fine tune the meds,
we'll do this again next year.

But she's old, and the cancer
seems to know what it's doing.
Everyone loves her broccoli casserole.
as for the cake, it sits on the table,
a small brown mountain we can't see beyond.

That night I empty the washer,
throw the damp clothes in the dryer.
For half an hour my wife's blouses
wrestle with my shirts
in a hot and whirling ecstasy,

because I replaced an ancient belt
and adjusted the pulley-tensioner assembly.

"Whirlpool" by George Bilgere. © George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission.

How fabulous is THAT! I love being able to take five minutes out of my morning to experience the joy of words, to feel emotions conveyed by those who took the time to craft their feelings into a tangible, sharable package.

Today is the late Frank McCourt's birthday. What a writer he was! Read this snippet:

"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying school masters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all — we were wet."

Is that not a perfect paragraph? It is the book Angela's Ashes in a nutshell. (Have you not read it? You MUST!)

That's it for now. I have four dozen ears of sweet corn to do something spectacular with. What I'd really like to do is steam them all and sit down with a cube a butter, a salt shaker and a big napkin and pig out...but maybe 48 ears is too much even for me! Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How I Learned to Love Rechargeable Batteries

Until just recently I have considered rechargeable batteries to be a big pain in the, um, neck. I used them, but reluctantly. They did not last very long, needed increasingly more recharging, and were just plain annoying. They were especially problematic with my digital camera – they seemed to last only a day or so before needing recharging. I am clearly not the most patient person in the world, but they made living a more sustainable life feel like a hardship rather than a good thing.

However, this past spring the heavens parted, the angels sang and the answer to all of my battery prayers came to me in the form of eneloop Rechargeable Batteries from Sanyo.

I love them. They come fully charged, which is incredibly convenient. They last a long, long time – I’ve had two in my camera for weeks now, and have still not had to recharge it. And unlike their large, cumbersome predecessors, the rechargers are small and compact – they smaller than the size of a pack of playing cards. Yes, they're a bit more expensive (as a comparison a Duracell AA 8-pack retails for $26.00, and the eneloop 8-pack retails for $40.00). At first glance, this seems gulp-worthy. However, I fully expect my eneloop batteries to last me YEARS, instead of the weeks or even days of the Duracell. I'll keep you posted on how these batteries work for me. They're still new on the market (just came out in spring '09) and so NO ONE has had them for very long.

Another couple of cool features: they have "D Spacer" set, which means that you do not have to buy additional "D" batteries. Once you have the spacers you can use your AA batteries instead of "D"s. Gotta love that!

Even better, the chargers fit both AA and AAA. There is even a USB charger to plug into your computer.

I like these eneloop batteries so much I feel confident about selling them in the Milkweed Mercantile. (NOTE: This site does not carry any advertising – I want you to know that I am not being paid to endorse a product, and to be able to trust what you read here. But when I find something that I really like, I feel compelled to share the information.) As soon as we have them up on the Mercantile store site I'll post the link.

But Back to Reality...
Rechargeable batteries are still batteries, though, and need to be disposed of responsibly. The Milkweed Mercantile will be accepting eneloop batteries for recycling when they reach the end of their productive lives. For those who are not in the immediate Scotland County area, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation which will direct you to the nearest battery recycling or drop-off point.

The following information is from info.com and written by E Magazine’s Earth Talk. I have double-checked the links, eliminated the ones that were either inappropriate or non-functional, and edited for length.

Today’s common household batteries—those ubiquitous AAs, AAAs, Cs, Ds and 9-volts from Duracell, Energizer and others—are not thought to pose as great a threat to properly equipped modern landfills as they used to because they contain much less mercury than their predecessors. As a result, most municipalities now recommend simply throwing such batteries away with your trash.

Battery Disposal or Recycling? Nevertheless, environmentally concerned consumers might feel better recycling such batteries anyway, as they still do contain trace amounts of mercury and other potentially toxic stuff. Some municipalities will accept these batteries (as well as older, more toxic ones) at household hazardous waste facilities, from which they will most likely be sent elsewhere to be processed and recycled as components in new batteries.

How to Recycle Batteries Other options abound, such as the mail-order service, Battery Solutions http://www.batteryrecycling.com/, which will recycle your spent batteries at a cost of 85 cents per pound. the national chain, Batteries Plus, is happy to take back disposable batteries for recycling at any of its 255 retail stores coast-to-coast.

Older Batteries Should Always Be Recycled Consumers should note that any old batteries they may find buried in their closets that were made before 1997—when Congress mandated a widespread mercury phase-out in batteries of all types—should most surely be recycled and not discarded with the trash, as they may contain as much as 10 times the mercury of newer versions.

The Problem of Rechargeable Batteries Perhaps of greater concern nowadays is what’s happening to spent rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops. Such items contain potentially toxic heavy metals sealed up inside, and if thrown out with the regular garbage can jeopardize the environmental integrity of both landfills and incinerator emissions. Luckily, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), which facilitates the collection of used rechargeable batteries collected in an industry-wide “take back” program for recycling.

Additional Battery Recycling Options Consumers can help by limiting their electronics purchases to items that carry the RBRC logo on their packaging. Furthermore, they can find out where to drop off old rechargeable batteries (and even old cell phones) by calling RBRC’s hotline at 1-800-8BATTERY or by visiting the online drop location finder at RBRC.org. Also, most Radio Shack stores will take back rechargeable batteries and deliver them to RBRC free-of-charge. RBRC then processes the batteries via a thermal recovery technology that reclaims metals such as nickel, iron, cadmium, lead and cobalt, repurposing them for use in new batteries.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pushing Gravy Uphill...

Kurt putting the finishing touches on the bay window.

...is finally paying off! Yesterday, with a bunch of smiling volunteers, we moved most of the Mercantile merchandise into the store. Let me repeat that. WE MOVED THE MERCANTILE MERCHANDISE INTO THE STORE! Whooeeee! Kurt and I can walk in the bedroom now, without scooting along sideways between boxes like crazy people. We're hoping to have a "soft" opening on Friday after dinner - by soft we mean that we're just opening the doors and inviting Rabbits in for a little looksee. I'll post more pictures as I get displays done.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Food Matters - Green Mom's Carnival for July 2009

Food. It is my passion. I like cooking food, eating food, thinking about food, and reading about food. I read cookbooks for fun, and have made many new friends in restaurants after staring unabashedly at their plates. There is nothing better than cooking a hearty and healthy meal for friends and sharing it over good conversation. And while I was horrified to find out that all of those delicious photos of food that I had been drooling over online were actually referred to as "food porn," I could not stop looking!

We, as Americans, are at a crossroads, foodwise. We can continue to be taken for a ride by corporate agriculture OR we can take control and say "enough." WE CAN BE POWERFUL. Every single time you purchase produce from a local farmer's market instead of produce flown in from, say, Chile, you are taking a step in the right direction. Every time you avoid purchasing commercially prepared food with high-fructose corn syrup you score one for the good guys. Every time you let grocery store managers know what you will (and will not purchase) you make a difference. It is not only your right, it is your responsibility. There are lots of ways to make a difference. Many are included in this month's Green Mom's Carnival posts below.

Stepping off my soapbox, I'll make room for others to spout off, encourage, and share their truths. Thanks to all who participated!

Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green starts us off with two great must-see movies, King Corn and Food Inc., and a reminder that every one of us can make a difference. Watch the trailer for Food Inc. at Retro Housewife; King Corn is available from Netflix. Best enjoyed with non-GMO popcorn, organic butter and sea salt. But I digress...

Anna at Green Talk shares many ways to get local healthy food into your family's diet. Also included: inspirational photos of her garden and encouragement for all. Gorgeous!

Lynn over at Organic Mania, and Maryanne at Not Quite Crunchy Parent both have a bone to pick with the USDA and the growing ambiguity of terms like "organic" and "natural." How on earth are mere mortals to unravel the secret code and know what is really what? Lynn and Maryanne can help.

Jennifer at The Smart Mama reminds us of the joy that children find in fresh grown food, and that growing our own is often possible - what a great place to start! Fresh blueberries 1, Lunchables, 0!

Jammies and Jam are on Renee's mind at Enviromom. Yes we can!

And speaking of fresh delicious food, the post at the Green Phone Booth, where ordinary women become eco-heroes, features photos that make me happy AND hungry.

Katy at Non-Toxic Kids reminds us that organic by itself isn't necessarily the answer, and confesses her difficulty in "steering clear of the frozen and canned organic foods that call to me-- "no cooking! look, we are organic, we must be healthy!" Even better, after reading her post I vowed to forgo my daily Dr. Pepper (speaking of eco-guilt) and go out to the garden and harvest some kale for dinner.

Mindful Momma gives us just the nudge we need - it is up to each of us to help ensure that our food systems are safe. Click here to read her post, and to take (easy!) action supporting the Organic Consumer's Association, and get info on farm and food issues.

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish
provides some (organic, wholesome and plastic-free) food for thought about food packaging. Because really, don't you find it a teensy bit ironic that organic food comes wrapped/encased/surrounded/bagged in plastic? Arrrrggghhhh!

Diane and her Big Green Purse take on Pepsi, Eco-Fina and disposable plastic bottles. Because woman doesn't live by food alone. Yay Diane!

Karen at The Best of Mother Earth reminds us why we eat, and garnishes her post with some encouragement and practical advice.

Fabulous Ruchi of Arduous Blog continues to be the voice of reason, the burning bush, the spirit of sanity in a sea of orgasmic (but organic!) desserts and sweet things. Defending balance in the eco-blogosphere, she is calling for blog posts about healthy food, which while possibly less exciting, are much more real. I've got that writing assignment on my list for tomorrow!

And last but certainly not least, Lisa at Condo Blues is looking for ideas for her abundant mint harvest. Click and help her out!

Thanks for joining us!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alline 1, Lyme's Disease 0

Hi all. Just reporting in that I do NOT have Lyme's Disease. See the details at Ecovillage Musings: Doxycycline, or Alline Opens a Big Can o' Whup Ass.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dances With Ticks

Two weeks ago I returned to Dancing Rabbit from the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair ebullient, ecstatic, enraptured and just plain happy with the reception that both Dancing Rabbit and the Milkweed Mercantile had received.

People walked up to our table and a smile just spread across their faces. “Wow,” they sighed, “you have such lovely stuff.”

I had to agree. I have spent three years researching, thinking, writing, and obsessing about the perfect combination of merchandise. Products that are more than mere “stuff.” I wanted to make sure that everything would be durable, last a long time, be more than worth the money spent, be made by people who were paid a fair wage (or at least owned the business). I had spent months on Etsy looking for artisans with ethics, and had been gratified to find an abundance of talent and heart out there looking for a place to shine. I found many women-owned and SAHM businesses which I am thrilled to support, and people doing incredible things with reclaimed resources. When the only organic cotton flannel hanky producer decided she was not interested in selling wholesale any longer I hunted down the fabric and bought a serger to make the hankies myself. And I haunted auctions to build my stash of vintage hankies for my personal campaign to make the laundering of hankies (instead of the disposal of tissues) a way of life again.

But within a week I was in bed. I woke up achier than I had ever been, had an on-and-off fever, an inability to stay neither awake nor vertical, and absolutely no appetite. In six days I lost ten pounds. The doc, given the info he had, could only diagnose a vague virus, and proscribe Tylenol and sleep. Then late Saturday night, lying in bed sweating with fever while under the wind-tunnel of a ceiling fan on ‘high,’ I noticed that while all of my skin felt cool and clammy, an area behind my left knee felt warm, and a bit tender. Unable to sleep, for that moment anyway, I crawled out of bed, went downstairs, hauled out a full-length mirror and took a gander.

When they say “bulls eye” when talking Lyme’s disease diagnosis they are not kidding. There on the back of my leg, in brilliant Technicolor, was a 6-inch-wide blazing bull’s eye. I felt relieved and pissed off at the same time – relieved that I finally knew what was wrong with me, and pissed off that it was most likely Lyme’s disease.

The next morning Kurt took me to the ER, where test were taken, educated guesses made, and antibiotics proscribed. After just one pill I was able to sit upright for over an hour for the first time in almost a week. The exhaustion lifted, and I could not stop eating. (So much for my unexpected weight-loss program!). So while I do have some sort of disease (we won’t know which one until the tests come back) I at least know what is wrong, and that it can be fixed. Everything I’ve read online verifies that early treatment almost always takes care of it.

And once again I’ve come to appreciate my health, and my life. While lying in bed day after day feeling absolutely awful, unable to do anything but doze and think I couldn’t help but remember my friends and loved ones who have gone before. Marcia at 25, Carter at 40, Jess at 47, Cindy at 50, on and on and on. Lots of pain, lots of suffering. Soon my little bout of tick-ness will be neatly cleared up. I’m almost back on my feet, and am struggling to feel worthy. It’s an odd sort of survivor’s guilt I suppose – why do I get to be here? What worthwhile things can I accomplish on behalf of those I’ve loved who did not get as much time? I’m still working on it. In the meantime I'm taking lots of naps. More soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MIdwest Renewable Energy Fair

The Mercantile made its debut at this year's Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. It was a great success! It was especially gratifying to see all the little items that I have been obsessing about for the last two years sell, and sell well. We sold out of stainelss steel screens for spouts and the organic cotton/hemp un-paper towels. Vintage hankies did very well (my personal campaign continues) as did Klean Kanteens. We met some incredible people, and made a lot of really good connections for future seminars to be held at the Mercantile. I'll fill in more details later!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Creativity, Courage, and Forgetting to Drop Your PomPoms

Tomorrow morning, at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m., I am off to the train station in Quincy, Il. From there I go to Chicago ("...my kind of town, Chicago is..."). On Saturday morning, at 9:25 a.m. I will be standing in front of three (or so) editors of Country Living Magazine, trying desperately to explain the fabulousness of the Milkweed Mercantile. After my two minutes, they have three minutes to ask questions. They will choose five or six women entrepreneurs to be featured in the magazine.

I am so torn. A part of me feels supremely confident, fearless, brave and excited - this is the part of me who loves microphones, public speaking, sharing ideas and being the center of attention. But the other part of me, the part who forgot to drop her pompoms during cheerleader tryouts (at age 15) and then promptly burst into tears, is a bit worried. How to tap into the first, but not the second? How to honor the foiled cheerleader while embracing the woman I've become?

To me, the Mercantile is a wonder. Each day something new is finished, and we get closer to being open, and I am so excited that I practically jump up and down and clap my hands. I did a mock-up of a display for photos to bring along this weekend (since the building isn't exactly finished, I chose to feature bits and pieces...) and had so much fun doing it I thought my heart would burst.

But how to convey this in two short minutes? If my "product" were, oh, I don't know, a new kind of stapler, two minutes would feel plentiful and abundant. Two minutes for the Mercantile feels inadequate, miserly and impossible.
I've written and rewritten my 2-minute pitch, but was feeling totally stymied the other night. Kurt and Sparky happend to be there as I was melting down, and both suggested I listen to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk.

I did, and promptly burst into tears. This is the part I especially love:

I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who’s now in her 90’s, but she’s been a poet her entire lie and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew hat she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And the other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it “for another poet.”

I want to be there to catch the poem. I want to not miss my creativity as it goes barreling across the prairie. I want to be wise enough and prescient enough and present enough to grab it and share it with these editors, so that they can see what we are doing out here.

So Saturday, at 9:25, please stop for a second and send positive thoughts towards Chicago. I'll be waiting there, to grab them, and share.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eco Goes Mainstream - International Home & Housewares Show

Recycled glass glasses from EuroCeramica.

Where does the time go? It's been over a month since I returned home from the Home & Housewares Show in Chicago.

What a great four days that was!

Topping off my experience was the opportunity to be on a panel of retailers discussing The Green Gourmet: Merchandising Green in a Gourmet Housewares Setting--What Works and What Doesn't. The three panelists were various shades of green, ranging from extremely customer-service oriented, green-if-it-sells Dominic Cimilluca of Dominic’s Kitchen Store, a traditional gourmet housewares store to way, WAY green (that would be me). In the middle was Maria Ornesto-Moran of Green Home Experts, who tries to lead her customers to greener options in her fabulous Oak Park, Illinois store, specializing in all things green for your home, from cleaning products to paint. Thoughtfully moderated by Bill McLoughlin of Gourmet Insider Magazine it was a fascinating look at how the cooking industry is slowly but oh-so-surely ooching it's way into the world of true sustainability. To listen, click here.

This is the Oatmeal Brulee from breakfast at the Hyatt. At the risk of sounding a bit naive, I thought it was a really cool idea!

In addition to the microphone aspect (which, as you may know, is my idea of a good time!), it was really fun and thought-provoking. I so enjoy speaking about the Mercantile and sustainable business, and am passionate about being able to share my ideas. Bill's questions led us down a very interesting path, and brought up all kinds of new ideas for me. It is also a really fun interacting with the audience, and I love practicing thinking on my feet. Trying to convey the many layers and facets of sustainability felt challenging and creative. Like most things in life, there are so many shades of gray, but a few key points stand out:

1. First of all, do you really need to purchase something new?

2. If you decide to purchase, consider investing in top quality goods and using them for decades. While a Le Creuset pot uses a lot of embodied energy to create, it will last FOREVER. This is so much more sustainable than a $5.99 "bargain" from WalMart that gets thrown in the landfill after a year.

3. Given a choice, choose the greener company. Granted, this is often VERY difficult - greenwashing is rampant! The good news is that many companies have certification that will help you determine if they're real or not. Take Bambu for example; on their website is a page that tells you all about their sustainability initiatives. They are members of 1% for the Planet, use certified organic bamboo, and have sustainable packaging. Additionally, they support Fair Trade practices (they are members of Green America) and take a socially responsible approach to business.

4. Ask questions, scrutinize the fine print, and use common sense - This Luminarc glassware display was shouting "GREEN" at the show. Upon closer inspection the product was glass, but not recycled glass. The box it came in was not made of recycled materials, it was merely "recycleable."

5. Which brings me to point number five: do we really need so many disposable, um, I mean recycleable products? No matter what they're made of, they're STILL disposable. It's time to return to bringing real plates to picnics instead of bamboo or compostable plates. Because, honestly, how many of those plates really get composted? Very few, I'd imagine.

Can you say "Greenwashing?" This product was supposedly green becasue it was glass, and came in a cardboard box that was recyclable. Wake up, Luminarc! This isn't going to cut it!

That's it for now. More soon on the very exciting, well-made, sustainably-sourced products from responsible companies that the Milkweed Mercantile will be bringing in. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What We Eat When We Eat Alone - A New Book by Deborah Madison

One of the sheer, unadulterated joys of my life is eating fresh, beautifully-prepared food. This kind of food is the inspiration for the Milkweed Mercantile Organic Cafe, and I spend more time than I care to admit reading cookbooks, food magazines, food blogs, gardening blogs, and then trying all of the ideas out on Kurt and whichever friend happens to wander in (they, of course, keep telling me to "keep practicing!").

Because of this food fetish, one of the publications I delight in is the local version of Edible, which is called Edible Iowa River Valley. (Because we are just 15 miles south of Iowa, and about 200 to either St. Louis or Kansas City, it seemed the most appropriate version). I LOVE these people, the food they produce, the food they write about, and the passion with which they do it all.

What brought on all of this (above) Edible love blathering? On the latest email blast, the following video was featured. It is for Deborah Madison (her first cookbook, The Greens Cookbook, was written with Ed Espe Brown. Both are bright stars in the sustainable food galaxy).

What do YOU eat when you're alone? I laughed at how often bacon came up. I tend to gravitate towards breakfast (eggs & bacon), or comfort foods like homemade mac & cheese or tapioca pudding, eaten warm. Sometimes when I'm missing my mom I'll make a brown sugar sandwich (don't knock it 'til you've tried it - spread butter on two slices of bread, generously sprinkle with brown sugar, put 'em together and eat). I make a lot of cookies, but usually tire of them by the second one (thank goodness!).

Time to go finish up the homemade pizza - oh, so good! I think I'll put a couple of fresh asparagus spears on one of them...yummmmmm!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009 - Let's Make a Difference!

Ah, Earth Day. Created in the 70’s to raise awareness, it has morphed into another demon shopping holiday – or has it? As the host of the Green Mom’s Carnival for this Earth Day, I am delighted to share the insights of some very talented, thoughtful women. Always impressive, they continue to astonish me with the ways they look at the world, and how hard they are working to make it a better, and greener, place.

When I received an email notice from American Airlines suggesting that I celebrate Earth Day with a discounted international flight, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I was thrilled to read Jennifer Taggart’s (of The Smart Mama) post, which absolutely nails the nuttiness of Earth Day right on its pointed little head in A Cranky Rant on Earth Day. Long live cranky rants!

In 7 Kid-Friendly Ways to Celebrate Earth Day, Jenn Savedge of The Green Parent extorts us get outside, get dirty, and show our kids why this planet is worth protecting,.The best way to teach kids about going green is to help them fall in love with nature.

In a poignant and heartfelt post entitled Take Care of the Earth and Yourself on Earth Day, Anna Hackman of Green Talk reflects on the fragility of life, and turning inward to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the Earth on such a special day.

Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth brings gratitude to the forefront in Dear Mother Earth: Thank You for Trees.

Lynn at Organic Mania inspires us to local action in Earth Day and Graham Crackers. Yes, you and I really CAN make a difference!

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish reports on those who have taken the pledge to use less plastic. There are so many ways to less your impact - check out some of these great ideas!

In Earth Day: Looking Back and Thinking Forward, Micaela at The Mindful Momma looks back on some of the eco-friendly changes that she’s attempted to make over the past year or so, admitting that while some have been more successful than others, all have been a learning experience. And isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Diane at Big Green Purse brings us Ten Low Cost, High Impact Ways to Celebrate Earth Day.
These are things that we all can, and must be doing!

The Green Superheroes at The Green Phone Booth (Where Ordinary Women Become Eco Heroes) present Earth Day is For Sharing, where letting their green show around the edges since last Earth Day have inspired people to change their non-green ways, with very non-preachy, creative methods.

Over at In Women we Trust Mary Hunt brings us Viva La Green Revolution! where she says: "Everything is changing for the sake of a better planet - politics, manufacturing, food production, construction, education, media... Everything is getting better, people are talking and nations are looking for ways to put down the guns and work together. That's something to celebrate and turn into your own personal battle cry." We should be so fortunate to have such women in charge of all of our revolutions!

Lisa at Retro Housewife shares a lovely video and a message of hope, while Lisa at Condo Blues double-teams us with both a happy-ending story and a giveaway of Dr. Bronner's soap (which, btw, is certified fair trade and packaged in bottles made of recycled plastic).

And last, but certainly not least, the oh-so-fabulous team of Jenn and Karina at Tiny Choices are campaigning to bring back the drinking fountain in their Earth Day Extravaganza.

Thanks for stopping by. Here's wishing that your own Earth Day is filled with nature, good thoughts and hope for the future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Blogosphere's Best and Brightest on Evil-Spawn-of-the-Devil Plastic

It's time for the mid-April Green Mom's Carnival, hosted this month by the spunky and unwavering Beth at Fake Plastic Fish. Read what 19 of the best bloggers in the business (plus me, humbled at the company) have to say about plastic, here. You'll be glad you did. And thanks for checking in!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Enough with the plastic, already!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
—Yogi Berra

If you're reading this blog, you undoubtedly know that plastic is a plague. It is everywhere, and it isn’t going away. Ever.

It is time for me, you, and all of our friends to take action. Just say no to water bottled in disposable plastic bottles, and carry your own refillable bottle. Yes, this is sometimes (often) not the most convenient option. Plastic bottles never go away, the bottled water industry is unregulated (meaning that it is not tested and can be water from the tap at the bottleing plant) and costs from 240 to 10,000 times what you are paying for tap water. So save your cash, buy a filter and a Klean Kanteen.

And speaking of the plastic never going away, if you haven’t already, please watch this brief (7 minutes) Ted video featuring Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. It is absolutely fascinating, eye-opening, depressing and yet inspiring.

You and I and all of our friends and relatives can make a difference. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Make a pledge to never again use plastic water bottles. Give reusable bottles like Klean Kanteens and Sigg bottles to everyone you know for birthdays and other holidays.
  2. The same with soda bottles. If you’re going to drink soda, purchase it in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles. Yes, the embodied energy that goes into producing a can is higher; however, the likelihood that the can will be recycled is much higher, too.
  3. Stop plastic on land before it reaches the ocean – be responsible for your own plastic, and that of others. Pick it up when you see it, and make sure it gets into a garbage can somewhere.
  4. No more plastic shopping bags. Bring your own reuseable bags.
  5. Consider bringing your own reuseable produce bags, too. You can find some fantastic ones on Etsy.
  6. Patronize only companies that use recycled plastic in their packaging. For example, Dr. Bronner’s products are packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. If your favorite product does not come in recycled plastic packaging, let the company know that you want it to. Change starts with you!
  7. Consider plastic when shopping. Do you really need individually plastic-packed yogurt?
    Consider making your own food instead of food that comes packaged in plastic: yogurt, mayonnaise, etc.
  8. Use lists like this one when shopping. Perhaps what you’re looking for is made of recycled plastic – if we don’t support the companies using recycled materials they have little motivation to continue!

Working together we CAN make a difference. Now, go save the earth!

“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.” ~ Captain Charles Moore, Algalita

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shampoo, Sunscreen and Cosmetics – Are You Safe?

Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m not much of a make-up wearer. Even before taking up the Ecovillage lifestyle, it wasn’t very appealing. In high school I tried makeup once. But the foundation was gross (how did one manage to scratch one’s nose without wiping it all off?), the mascara smeared under my eyes no matter what brand I tried (and I tried many) and lipstick just plain tasted gross (I now know that it often contains lead – yum!). Why on earth would I want that on my face? I also tried to paint my nails, but jeez, the polish was always chipping, and I simply have too many other things to do besides sit around and wait for my nail polish to dry.

It makes sense that I met my husband on a backpacking trip, where there was more dust than blush. When we got married, our photographer suggested that I wear a bit of makeup for the photos – my friends had to put the makeup on me right before the wedding, and then it all went back into the bag, where it is still sitting, 12 years later…

But enough about that. I used to make product decisions with an eye towards ease of use and a smidgen of common sense. Since then, I’ve learned to read the labels. But what are we to do when the labels are misleading, or incomplete?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of personal care products in the U.S., but lacks basic authority needed to ensure that products are actually safe. The FDA cannot require companies to test products for safety before they are sold, does not systematically review the safety of ingredients and does not set limits for common, harmful contaminants in products. The FDA also does not require contaminants to be listed on product ingredient labels. As a result, consumers have no way of knowing if their products contain toxic contaminants.

I don’t know about you, but I find this troubling.

I have come to rely on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database. It is where I turn when I need to buy products for myself, and even more importantly, products for the Milkweed Mercantile. I trust EWG, and support their efforts. (NOTE: In an effort to be as transparent and ethical as possible, I purposely accept no advertising on either of my blogs.) I also support their Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is working to protect your health by eliminating the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

Some companies are making safer products today and striving for even greater improvements. More than 1,000 companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to replace hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives and to publicly report on their progress. I encourage you to support these companies.

As an adult, I have a choice about what I slather on my body. If I want to trade off having no dandruff for the scary stuff in, say, Neutrogena Shampoo, well then that's up to me. But kids depend on us to keep them safe.

Children’s bath products are often marketed as safe and gentle. However, laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found these products are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane – and, in many cases, both. These two chemicals, linked to cancer and skin allergies, are anything but safe and gentle and are completely unregulated in children’s bath products. To learn more and make your OWN decision about what you want to be bathing and shampooing your children with, click here to read No More Toxic Tub.

I don't use most major brands of shampoo and cleansers - there are many, many brands which use only non-toxic ingredients, have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, are affordable and really work. Why expose myself and my family to ingredients which have not been proven to be safe? Do some investigating before going shopping. Plug your favorite brands into the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database and see what pops up. If it's good news, fantastic! If the results aren't so rosy, well, that's good too - becoming informed is the first step.

Good luck, and let me know if I can help!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yay For Diane MacEachern and Her Big Green Purse!

A BIG congratulations to Diane MacEahern of Big Green Purse (and fellow Green Mom's Carnival blogger). She is in the latest issue of Glamour Magazine as one of 70 "female eco-acheivers." I am so happy to see her amongst such august company - Rachel Carson would be proud!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Speed Posting from the Housewares Show

Super quick post. Am at the fabulous International Home & Housewares Show in equally fabulous Chicago. Today attended the Specialty Retailer's University; learned so much my brain is exploding (but in the best way possible).

Monday at noon (in the small theatre adjacent to the Specialty Retailer Consulting Sessions near booth #S42) I'll be leading a discussion regarding green business. Officially titled "Keeping Your Bottom Line Green," I'll be covering some of the following:

  • How to go green and actually enjoy it
  • How to tell the good guys from the “green-washers”
  • How to communicate the value of green products to customers
  • It all begins with you: setting an example for your customers and employees
  • Involving your community for maximum goodwill and customer loyalty
Then, on Tuesday morning (in the Housewares Design Theater, Level 3 Lobby, Lakeside Center, from 9:30 -10:20), I am on a panel sponsored by HomeWorld Business with the topic "The Green Gourmet" Merchandising Green in a Gourmet Housewares Setting." The panel will be moderated by the very knowledgeable Bill McLoughlin. Maria Ornesto Moran of Green Home Experts will also be on the panel.

It's an interesting position to be in. I'm very clear about how I want to do business and how I believe that business should be handled, which is apparent from the model that we are working hard to develop for the Mercantile (everyone making the same hourly wage, profit sharing, financial transparency, selling only ethically produced and environmentally sustainable products, not selling "stuff" just to make money, etc.). But in the world of bigger is better, selling more because one can, sourcing product as cheaply as possible from China - it is challenging and exciting to try to bridge the gap. I'm finding that people are much more interested in what we're doing at DR and at the Milkweed Mercantile now than they were ten or eight or even three years ago. We're riding the green wave, and I'm hoping that our authenticity will shine through.

If you are at the show, please stop by the Specialty Retailer Consulting Session area and ask for me - I'd love to chat!