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!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happiness is a Warm Microphone

Hi everyone. First, a big fat apology for my lack of posts. I'm learning the hard way (the only way I seem to learn lessons) that sustainablity is about more than lightbulbs and strawbales. I seem to have more balls in the air than I can juggle at one time; I've been taking turns ignoring one thing and then another. Not really the best plan; I often put myself last, and then come crashing down, exhausted.

So my new goal is a post or two a week, which I'm sure is all you have time to read anyway. And while I have your attention, please know I really appreciate that you are reading!

I am in Chicago for the International Home and Housewares Show, which begins Sunday. I am writing this from the 21st floor of the Merchandise Mart Holiday Inn - one can only sleep on friends' and relatives' couches so many times.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I am attending the Specialty Retail University. I attended last year and it literally changed my life - I learned SO MUCH, and met some amazing people. The fabulous woman who runs it, Joanne Stone-Geier, has become a friend and mentor. One of last year's presenters, Sue Reardon of The Growth Coach, has become a friend and my business coach, keeping me from freaking out as I launch the Mercantile. An architect who spoke last year, Joel Berman, sketched out a design for our store fixtures that was so perfect that we scrapped our old plan and implemented his immediately. I also had to opportunity to get to know Bill McLaughlin, the editor of Gourmet Insider Magazine.

All of this hobnobbing resulted in some exciting opportunities, two of which involve microphones, which as you know are on my Top Ten List of Favorite Things. On Monday I am hosting a noon seminar entitled "Keeping Your Bottom Line Green," and on Tuesday I am on a "Green Gourmet" panel moderated by Bill McLaughlin (if you're at the show, it's on Tuesday, March 24th, 9:30 a.m. in the Housewares Design Theaer, Level 3 Loby, Lakeside Center). Life is very, very good.

I've got to get some sleep - in order to get to Chicago from Dancing Rabbit I had to leave Rutledge at 4:30 a.m., catch a train in Quincy, Il. This got me here in time to get a haircut (actually, I had them all cut) and scope out the public transportation scene.

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Take A Duck to Work Day

Just received a newsletter from Pam at Purrfect Play (they make the beautiful, tough and SAFE pet toys out of organic fleece, organic catnip, and other good things).

In the newsletter she forwarded the story of Frank the Duck. This is really a good one. I wasn't able to stop smiling, which is just what I needed today!

More serious, or at least substantial, posts soon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Green and Clean: There is No “Away”

Sewage flowing to the sea. Photo credit Flickr Stones 55

When I learned that the topic of this month’s Green Mom’s Carnival is Green and Clean, I laughed out loud – this assumes that one actually does clean. And as everyone who knows me knows, cleaning is not exactly my strong suit.

But after thinking about it for a week, I do have something to add to the conversation:

There is no “away.” Everything that leaves our homes via the trash can, the recycle bin or the drains, goes SOMEWHERE. Which is why it really does make a difference what we use when we clean.
Here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage we have are not connected to a city/county sewage system. We do not have, as my poor sainted mother sobbed, palm dramatically placed on her forehead, “indoor plumbing.” We do have running water*, both hot and cold. But after it has been “used” it does not get washed/flushed away to a place where we no longer have to consider the consequences. Instead, we use other methods to disperse our grey water.**

Grey water from our home is piped into one of two shallow trenches filled with sand and gravel and topped with soil in a seldom-used part of our yard. Slowly, it percolates back into the earth. Because of this, we are mindful of what we use to clean. Elsewhere in the community other solutions are utilized - for example, grey water from the Dancing Rabbit Community Building goes into a constructed wetland shared with Skyhouse, where the water is filtered naturally by plants and eventually ends up in our cattail pond.

Over the years I have found that I have gravitated to cleaners that either smell good or not at all. Strong "fragrances" not only give me a headache they make me wonder what all that scent is trying to cover up. It is only in the last ten years as I have actually researched what is in my cleaning products that I realize that my instincts were right on. The lower on the "cleansing chain" the better.

Many of the products listed below are products that we sell in the Mercantile. While it seems that I am using this blog being a forum to sell merchandise, it is actually just the opposite. The Mercantile sells only products that I believe in, that I have used myself and trust. I figure I am a guinea pig for you all - many products have not made the cut. And while these are all my subjective opinions, I would never try to sell you something that I would not use myself...

For Scrubbing the sink and tub: I use Bon Ami . I love this stuff. My grandmother used it; as a child I considered it horribly old-fashioned. My mom used the much more modern Comet (did anyone else sing a camp song to the tune of “Bridge on the River Kwai” with the words “Comet, it makes your teeth so green, Comet, it smells like gasoline…”?). When I moved out on my own I switched back to Bon Ami, deciding that being old fashioned was far preferable than having to inhale whatever was in Comet. Now I know the reason I was so repelled. Comet contains stuff that I would not want to be sprinkling on my garden. Enough said.

Windows: Vinegar and water work really well - they can be mixed in a spray bottle or in a bucket, which ever you prefer - and wipe dry with either newspapers or old sheets. This combination leaves windows sparkly and gorgeous!

Floors: Downstairs we have a poured concrete floor. For this I first vacuum, then do a plain water mop, followed by a mop with a dilution of Orange Plus All-Purpose Household Cleaner and water. Also good Citrisolve. On our (reclaimed) wood floors upstairs I use Ecological Floor Soap with Linseed Oil.

Dishes: Oh dear, this is where I must expose my soft underbelly of eco-sin. I do not have a dishwasher (well, I do – her name is “Alline”). I have tried so, so many “green” dishwashing liquids and find them all appallingly inept. Nothing quite compares to Dawn, the great love of my life. I rationalize my use of Dawn by knowing that I don't use very much, and that everything else that I use is totally eco-groovy. Yes, it is still a rationalization, but it really does cut the grease. Nothing else I've tried (and I've tried many) works as well. I use washcloths that I crochet myself and Twist sponges - they are entirely compostable, and I love the loofah scrubbing surface.

For Laundry: I pretreat all stains with either Everyday Stain and Odor Remover (it works every bit as well as SHOUT, without the toxic smell or ingredients). For bloodstains I've found a brief soak in hydrogen peroxide works really well. Then it goes in the washer with either Soapnuts (these are VERY cool!) or Moon Works Laundry Soap. Moonworks is highly concentrated and so a little goes a long way. I like that in a laundry soap!

Then, of course, I hang my laundry out on the line to dry. Winter and summer. Really. It takes a bit longer in the winter, but eventually it all gets dry. And nothing, absolutely nothing smells as glorious as sheets dried in the sun and wind. A little slice of heaven.

Baking Soda is the other miracle ingredient - I use it in the cat box (along with Swheat Scoop litter) and scrub all kinds of things with it.

Enough of this. I feel that I do an adequate job, which is a step up from what I learned at my mother's knee: she kept the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room floor, and would dust it occasionally. When someone dropped in she would exclaim "oh! I was just about to vacuum!" This way, she never actually had to...
Do you know where YOUR cleaning leftovers go?

*We collect rainwater off of our roof and collect it in a 3,000-gallon concrete cistern under our house. We have an electrical pump that pulls the water from the cistern to the taps(sinks, bath tub & shower), running it through several filters. The water tastes divine. Our hot water comes from solar panels in the front of our house.
**Any water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called graywater . Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential "waste" water.