June 9, 2011
We have decided to discontinue and liquid-ate all of our liquid products. Below the photo we’ve listed our reasons for doing so if you care to read them. If you don’t care about that and are wondering if this is a good deal for you, all you need to know is in the next paragraph.
All of our products sold in liquid form are 50% off. This included foaming hand soap, soap nuts tea, shampoo, bubble bath, baby wash, all-purpose cleaner, and pet and equine shampoos, which are all in the Sales and Deals Section. Shipping liquid can get expensive (see reason #2, below, if you care), but the United States Postal Service Flat Rate Boxes can make it economical when sending heavy items. Our shopping cart won’t give you the flat rate options because it has no opposable thumbs and can’t actually try to make things fit in a flat rate box like we (humans) can. We always try to use the boxes when we can if it lowers postage. Please contact us if you’d like to know how much shipping will cost (let us know the items you are interested in and your zip code).
For those of you who care why we are discontinuing our liquid products, here are some of our top reasons.
1. We don’t like the idea of shipping liquid around the country. It is sort of like the bottled water argument. Do you really need to ship water around from place to place? Sometimes yes, but usually no. If you are lucky enough to have local natural and organic liquid soaps and the like, use those. If not, hopefully there is a local store where you can buy them. Yes, the store had to have the products shipped in too, but they typically do it on a larger scale (think cases, not bottles), which makes it more efficient. Better yet, make your own.
2. Shipping heavy liquids is expensive. We charge actual shipping costs which means you are footing this bill. We don’t like it when you have to pay a lot for shipping and neither do you.
3. All the plastic! They all come in plastic and we need to use plastic tape to secure the lids for shipping. We believe in these natural products and don’t really have a better solution for containing them, but we’d like to have less plastic and more natural fibers around this place.
May 31, 2011
Memorial Day is the weekend we put our gardens in up here in Vermont. This year it also happened to be the weekend I became a beekeeper. That’s it for this month – the Mac can’t compete with soil, plants, and honey-producing insects.
April 30, 2011
May 2011 has some unique holidays distinctions such as “Date Your Mate Month”, “Dance Like a Chicken Day” on the 14th followed by “National Chocolate Chip Day” on the 15th. Although it didn’t make Holiday Insights’ official list, International Compost Awareness Week is May 1-7.
I wonder, when did we humans, stop becoming aware of compost? To one extent or another humans and animals have been composting, or at least recycling biological nutrients, all along. Historically, nomadic people just moved on without leaving mounds of non-biodegradable trash behind. George Washington was a composter, and just a century ago composting was essential on the family farm. Even a female crocodile builds a compost nest to help keep her eggs warm.
This year’s theme, “Compost!…Reconnecting with Nature” speaks loudly. In the last few decades we’ve become increasingly connected (plugged in), yet increasingly disconnected with the natural world. Biologics go in the trash (landfill), essentially never reconnecting with nature again. Perhaps a backyard bin or a few composting worms will make the re-connection both for humans and our precious resources.
March 29, 2011
I don’t mean the whole of you, but the pieces and parts we shed periodically as part of living life. My hair and nail trimmings regularly go to the compost. Urinating on a compost (easier for men) is a great boost for a pile in need of a bit of nitrogen. A facial tissue used to stop a bloody nose? Sure, as long as the tissue doesn’t have any of those offensive antibacterial additives.
A general rule of thumb is that all things previously alive (plant, animal, fungi) can be composted. Following that rule, excluding pacemakers, dental fillings and the like, all the parts of us will rot.
We might not be pure enough for the compost though. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals analyzed urine and blood from a sample of US citizens. Among their many findings, they report widespread exposure to some industrial chemicals.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) are fire retardants that accumulate in fat tissue. One type, BDE-47, was found in the blood of nearly all study participants. This is why my kids sleep on wool-wrapped organic cotton mattresses (wool is naturally flame resistant).
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a component of epoxy resins and plastic (including food containers) with potential reproductive toxicity. CDC found BPA in more than 90% of urine samples. This is why I drink from a stainless steel water bottle.
Polytetrafluoroethylene, used to create non-stick coatings on cookware, was found in most study participants. This is why I invest so much time cleaning egg off stainless steel cookware.
Call me a purist, but I would never knowingly put anything containing these industrial chemicals in a compost that will be used for food production. The irony is here is that if I am similar to the study participants as a whole, then I really don’t meet my own standards. Hmmm, so where to I put those nail clippings after all?
February 28, 2011
A trip to The Works Bakery Cafe in Brattleboro, Vermont is not likely to disappoint.
This place says right on their website “We go out of our way to avoid agri-businesses and their pesticides, antibiotics, added hormones, and stressful confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s).” Nice. They buy from family farms when possible, their coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified, and their meats are humanely raised without the addition of antibiotics or hormones. Reclaimed materials are used in the cafe, including some seriously cool chairs made from old tractor seats. If that isn’t enough, perhaps their friendly and efficient staff will win you over.
With a tasty sour dough bagel in my belly, I visited the waste (resource) stations and found three bins instead of the usual one for “trash”. What a joy to compost compostables and recycle recyclables in a public setting. For me, this was better than having dessert (not that I did). My waste (resource) station experience was further enhanced by the “trash” bin, labeled “Landfill”. The “landfill” bin makes you appreciate the compost and recycling bins a whole lot more. In stead of good-bye forever, it’s see you the next time around.
I wonder what would happen if we (the collective we) starting writing Landfill on all of our trash containers. Would we be more willing to take an extra moment to sort out our things and use three bins instead of one? Perhaps we’d even start speaking differently. Instead of the phrase “throw it away”, we might say “throw it to the landfill”. We would no longer be able to think of “away” as some mystical place that destroys matter. Why don’t we just say it like it is? What is the worst thing that could happen? We’d just need a few extra bins.
January 31, 2011
Last year I was thrilled to find a restroom bin that said “Paper Towels Only – Compost”. I’m happy to report that I’ve since found two additional fine examples, one a school and the other a church, promoting the responsible disposition of a common and frequently used item: the bathroom paper towel.
Although careful to not use more than they need, Bellwether School, a preschool and elementary school, goes through a lot of paper towels. Kids wash their hands upon arrival, before snacks and lunch, and of course, after using the bathroom. This turns out to be about 7 paper towels per day per child. You can do the rough math and realize the quantity required for the school year.
Bellwether takes seriously its responsibility towards the careful use of resources, and so at this school you’ll find two bins, one for compost and one for trash, in each bathroom. Students and staff have adopted the practice of composting their paper towels as part of their daily routine, but the unsuspecting visitors have less success. It takes a bit of a cultural shift at every level to make this happen, and Bellwether doesn’t shy away from taking the lead.
The school also composts food and other compostables from lunches brought from home. Recyclables are recycled at school, but lunch trash (string cheese wrappers, etc) go back home with the kids. I applaud this practice as it encourages us all to be responsible for our own trash and serves as a reminder that there really is no such thing as “away”, as in where we throw stuff.
The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington also takes composting seriously. Notice they have a big compost can and a little trash can (just the way it should be in my opinion) in their bathrooms under the paper towels. According to David, the facilities manager, compliance in the bathrooms has been quite good since there isn’t much other trash there typically. A few more mishaps occur at coffee hour. Although compostable food service items are exclusively used, a few end up in the regular trash each Sunday. Old habits are hard to break.
In addition to the enriching experiences that my family has had at both institutions, I love that I can go there and wash and dry my hands without guilt. What truly inspires me, though, is the people behind efforts like these. They have the vision and foresight to realize the direction in which we collectively need to go and have boldly implemented those changes. They are the change we wish to see.
December 30, 2010
As the new year approaches, many of us contemplate the destination of our Christmas trees. Thankfully, many municipalities have programs to collect trees in order to transform them into mulch or compost, a much better alternative than landfilling. We’ve always just chucked them out in the woods behind our house, where they will eventually break down and perhaps host some animals or fungi in the process.
It always seemed to me a waste of a good tree. After about two weeks of glory and admiration, the beloved tree gets thrown to the wind and snow. I figured there must be some higher and better use for the tree than just rotting in the woods, or at least a way to extend its time.
Then I read an article in our local paper last year about Christmas tree disposal. Apparently a llama farmer comes to our solid waste district to pick up Christmas trees for his llamas and brings them back pretty much looking like totem poles. Llamas?!?! I have llamas! All these years I’ve been throwing the tree in the woods to the disappointment of a few llamas and goats (goats don’t eat just anything, but they do eat Christmas trees).
This is a huge treat for these ruminants who, by January, have been living with snow for a least a month and without good lush grass for at least a month before that. Hay must get old by mid-winter. The tree stayed on their pasture for the remainder of winter to satisfy the llamas’ occasional craving for bark. Yum.
When it was time to plant the peas, the tree came out of the pasture and into the garden. Note: plant peas closer to the tree than you think. A bit of guiding the plant here and there and you have a free trellis. When the peas were done the tree branches were completely removed by an enthusiastic 5 year old with pruners (this is optional).
At the end of gardening season, all that was left was a trunk and a pile of sticks which became the foundation for a toad house built by the same 5 year old and still in the garden in case the toad wants to move in again next year. Just the trunk went to the woods, nothing more than a log really. You’ll have to trust me that it is there under all that snow.
It will be much easier to take the tree down in a few days, knowing it will be useful and appreciated by human and animal members of the family for another ten months or so. If you hear someone signing “O Christmas Tree” in June, it is probably me picking the peas.
November 19, 2010
Earlier this month, a large percentage of my human-animal family, gave up most of their hair to someone else. I had been growing my hair for over a year with the intent of donating it to an organization making wigs for children. It wasn’t necessarily easy to have my pony tails cut off, but I’m glad for the experience. It makes me thankful for my own hair and that of others.
Every spring and fall our shearer Joe, who is also dog sledder (did you know – sled dogs can also produce fiber for yarn?), shears my two Angora goats. Each animal yields about 5 pounds of fiber every six months, much more than the 3.5 ounces I made in about a year and a half.
Getting fiber off a goat is much more involved than cutting off pony tails. The goats are necessarily twisted, turned and flipped in order to remove hair from their back, belly, legs, head, tail and everything in between, all to the sound of the shearing machine. The goats are likely chilly as a result of their sudden and drastic hair loss (we put coats on them to lessen the shock), and perhaps even a little embarrassed by their new relative nakedness. When the shorn goats are re-introduced there is quite a bit of head butting, as if to re-establish the order in the barnyard. This is no small deal for a goat.
My own hair experience made me more appreciative of the goat fiber [mohair] than I had even been before. Being November, I suppose I should say that I am thankful for their hair, and thankful that I have the opportunity to keep and care for these social animals. I’ve always thought the best gifts are the ones made by the ones we love, and this is no exception. Now, I just need to wash it all.
October 30, 2010
“Made with Renewable Resources” is showing up on all sorts of green products these days. Renewable resources implies that the material is replaced by natural processes at a rate comparable or faster than its rate of consumption by humans. Bamboo is often touted as a renewable resource because of its fast rate of growth. The downside is that it grows in China, and must travel around the world to get here.
We generally pay more attention to how a product is sourced, rather than its ultimate disposition. Because I like sheep, let’s take wool as an example. The sheep takes nutrients from the soil by eating grass (or hay in winter) and stores some of these nutrients in the form of wool. We take the wool, use it, and quite likely eventually landfill it, nutrients and all. The sheep’s pasture or hay field is relatively nutrients deficient, and eventually will require fertilizer. If it is a synthetic fertilizer, it is made from natural gas, a non-renewable resource.
The same situation applies to many other farmed products including corn and cotton, which are notorious for their intense need for fertilizer and pesticide.
Herein lies the first question: if a renewable (wool, corn, cotton) resource leaves the soil in such a condition that it needs to be replaced by a non-renewable resource (fertilizer), is that renewable resource (wool, corn, cotton) truly renewable?
To a certain extent, it might depend on what the material is made of. Many nutrients exist in a finite supply supply on this earth. Perhaps we should consider these nutrients (phosphorus as a prime example) and micronutrients non-renewable resources.
Herein lies the second question: if a renewable resource is nutrient rich, should we really consider it renewable if we cannot eventually return the nutrients to the soil?
I’m betting most products made from renewable resources are not composted, either because of lack of composting infrastructure or because the original renewable resource material is somehow altered or bound to a another substance such that is is not compostable.
Herein lies the third and final question: if a product is made in such a way that its nutrients cannot be returned to the soil, does it really matter that the product is “Made with Renewable Resources”?
This is where product design really matters, specifically cradle to cradle design. To avoid nutrient loss, let’s design products such that they can be composted or truly recycled. This philosophy preserves all nutrients, both “renewable” and “non-renewable”. After all, the distinction isn’t entirely clear – if we don’t adequately recycle the nutrients required for plant growth, eventually nothing is renewable.
September 15, 2010
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Each year the independent think-and-do tank the New Economics Foundation (nef) examines the food, fuel and other resources consumed by humans each year and compares it to how much the earth can provide without threatening our critical ecosystems like rainforests and oceans. Once we consume more than the earth can produce, we go into eco-debt. This year, we’re further in eco-debt than ever before.
The title of ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ is given to the day when humanity has consumed more natural resources and produced more waste than the earth’s ecosystems can replace and absorb. After that date, we are dipping into our ecological capital. Usually, that date falls later in the year (September 23 in 2008; October 9 in 2006; November 21 in 1995; and December 19 in 1987), but even despite the recession we ran out of “dividend” on August 21 this year, more than a month earlier than last year.
Why the drastic change? A growing world population and increased longevity are an obvious factors, but it is also due to the increasing demand for energy intensive resources like meat and cars in developing countries. Elsewhere, the demand for the latest consumer goods have more than offset developments in green technology and energy efficiency improvements. Finally, just like money in the bank, as our eco-capital is reduced from year to year, so are our eco-dividends.
The earlier we use up the earth’s dividends, the further we dip into capital. Overfishing, loss of rainforest habitat (and the species who live there), and devastation of other critical habitat are the sad result. Eventually, there will be very little in the bank, with food shortages and climate instability the harsh consequences.
Andrew Simms, policy director at nef and deviser of the concept of ecological debt day clearly articulates the relevance of this issue: “The banking crisis taught us the danger of a system that goads us to live beyond our means financially. A greater danger comes from a consumer culture and economic policy that pushes us to live beyond our means ecologically. From the 21st August, humanity will, in effect, start to overstretch and undermine its own life-support systems. While we tolerate huge changes to how we live in response to the crisis created by our reckless banking system, nothing is being done to prevent us going further into ecological debt…”
Excuse me for being pessimistic, but I find this really bad news for humanity and the other species with whom we share this planet. Not a day goes by, it seems, without hearing about the US Economy, but Earth Overshoot Day (also described as “the day humanity starts eating the planet”) didn’t make any of the news outlets I listen to. How is this not newsworthy?
Back in 2006 this was referred to as “the biggest issue you’ve never heard of”. Four years later and with a faster rate of consumption and larger eco-debt than ever, most of us still have never heard of it. Yet is is a simple and relevant concept with obvious consequences. If we continue to consume and waste beyond the level that earth can produce and absorb, we all end up bankrupt. Don’t count on a bailout.