Monday, March 03, 2008


Greening business and home

I'm not going to mention books this time - DOH! Too late... No, really - I've had a lot on my mind lately besides reading and the bookshop. For one I'm thinking more and more about ways to continue going green, by reducing, reusing, and recycling at work and at home. On the home front, since we've moved and now have curbside recycling, that last bit is the easiest part. We now put out glass and cardboard and paper and some types of plastic. But it's the first two parts that are the most important - if you don't ever have it in the first place, you don't have to worry about recycling it.

Reducing: I'm scrutinizing all purchases. What's it made of, who made it, how was it made, how far did it travel to get here, how much packaging does it have, is it necessary, is it beautiful, will it last, am I proud to have it living with us in our home? Do I want to dust it for the rest of my life? The only things we've bought for the house so far have been storm windows made by a local glass company, an antique match safe for the kitchen, and secondhand chairs for the dining table. (And a few made-in-China curtains from Target which I felt very guilty about but I just couldn't find anything decent I could afford elsewhere. And I don't have a sewing machine.)

Reusing is easier: secondhand furniture I love, used books of course, nice old dishes, garden tools from local yard sales, antiques from the shops that line the Maine coast - you know - nice old things that were well-made to begin with, hence have already lasted for decades, and will last for decades more. I didn't mention clothing because besides a few necessities, we really haven't bought anything this year at all. Neither Ryan nor I have to "dress up" for work, so we're discovering what it takes to actually wear out pieces of clothing. Besides, if I have money to spend, guess where it goes first. (B-o-o-k-s.)

The other area I splurge in is good food. I love to eat well and we're lucky to live near a great co-op, and the nearby supermarket also carries a lot of organic food, though not much local organic, so we pick and choose carefully. We've got our cloth shopping bags in hand and some light muslin bags for produce and bulk food. We try to buy only glass containers, but there's so much plastic around almost everything that I despair easily and often. Anyway, we've got a great compost pile started at home, and this year we're planning a vegetable garden, with edibles both for immediate eating and for winter storage. My sister Kate and her family successfully canned a huge amount of organic applesauce last fall, and this year we're going to help each other out canning whatever we can figure out how to can.

A lot of this comes naturally to me, so to speak. I grew up on a small farm in rural Maine - no running water (outhouse, hauled water by hand from a well), barn with goats and sheep and chickens, big gardens, lots of canning and food storage, house heated only by two woodstoves, VW microbus parked outside, parents not so much hippies as rather purposefully rusticating intellectuals. The works. We lived very close to the land, and with a lot of integrity, I now see. (House full of books...) But all of a sudden, it seems, it's been over twenty years since I've weeded a garden or taken the kitchen scraps out to a compost pile. Too long! I'm placing seed orders right now, and it feels like coming home.

And at the bookshop: I've been recycling cardboard, and not giving out bags unless people specifically ask for them (or if it's raining heavily - don't want the books to get wet). Most of the fixtures in the shop are secondhand, and oh yeah, so's my entire inventory.

What's next? Ryan's going to begin telecommuting from home next month, at least part-time, then eventually full-time. I don't know if I want to continue driving a half hour by myself to come into town to the shop (we commute together in our small fairly-fuel-efficient ten-year-old car), not to mention the rising price of gas - which could mean that on very slow days I pay more to get to work than I actually make at work - a ridiculous state of affairs. I may try to find a new home for the shop, closer to where we live. There are several towns within ten miles of us that could really use a good used bookshop. Like mine. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, a few blogs of greenish hue: I'm still reading No Impact Man, and I check in from time to time with Little Blog in the Big Woods, his friend Crunchy Chicken, and finally Sharon, queen of victory gardens.

Back to the books, next time.

How exciting. I'm trying to negotiate space to open my very own brick and mortar bookstore in Tacoma, WA, but things are moving quite slowly. It is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, given the financial obligations involved, along with quitting my day job (which pays quite nicely, thank you very much). May your search for a possible new location go well.
Thanks! I hope your own search for a space is fruitful - it's a daunting prospect, leaving a "real" job, I remember doing that myself. I finally left my last job when my other income sources (from selling books) had grown enough to insure that I could keep paying my bills in a timely manner. Granted, I live rather simply (I'm frugal by choice!), but hey, I like it that way. And I'm DEBT FREE except for the house mortgage. Big difference, if the number of bills you have coming in are few. Makes it so much easier to squeak by if you have to, while doing what you love.

And did I mention that my darling spouse is gainfully employed...? And has benefits...?
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