The Business of Green Part 3: Tracey TieF of Anarres Natural Health

Tracey TieF has a wholistic health practice in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada called Anarres Natural Health. She’s also a Fake Plastic Fish reader and frequent commenter, and a few weeks ago she emailed me a copy the newsletter she sends out to all her clients. I was blown away. Hers is exactly the kind of business we need more of.

Besides using all natural and sustainable ingredients (she doesn’t use Indian Sandalwood or Rosewood which come from un-sustainably harvested and endangered plants), supplying the electricity for the clinic from 100% wind power, choosing suppliers who are local, small enterprises, and striving to serve the entire community through Pay-What-You-Want-Days, Tracey has a big ole anti-plastics campaign going, which she calls the The End of The World of Plastic 2008 Challenge.

Here is an excerpt from her previous e-mail newsletter:

5. Bonus article: Take The End of The World of Plastic 2008 Challenge

In short, I have always been against plastics. I’ve ranted about phthalates, Bisphenol-A, plastic drinking bottles, the damage to our health, the environmental destruction, the sheer waste of it all. That’s why Anarres Natural Health promotes glass bottles and jars, and provides discounts for bringing in your own container or refilling. Yet, I have never been more horrified, nor driven to eliminate plastic from my life as after reading the article [Plastic Ocean], by Susan Casey from Best Life Magazine…

I challenge myself this year, and therefore I challenge you, to eliminate as much plastic consumption as possible in 2008. SPECIAL OFFER: Every month that you bring me a list of at least 10 ways you’ve eliminated plastics from YOUR life, I’ll give you a reusable, handy, beautiful, ethically made, recyclable Chico bag to use or give as a gift.

List 10 items you’ll no longer buy, and what you’ll buy instead. For example:

Bad Better Best
1. tampon, plastic applicator tampon, no applicator Diva Cup or The Keeper
2. soup in can or plastic bottle soup in mason jar make own, reuse mason jar
3. brand name cleaning product Nature Clean concentrate Nature Clean in bulk, refilled
4. onions in a plastic net   loose onions, in reused bag

When I asked Tracy about her refill policy, she told me that she actively encourages her customers to refill their bottles instead of buying new ones and that she breaks out the cost of the product and bottle on the receipt so customers can see what they are paying for. When customers bring in bottles to refill, they not only get a discount for the cost of the bottle, but also a discount on the cost of the product as incentive to continue the practice. For example,

if you bought a 250 frosted glass bottle of mouthwash for $10 ($8 product, $2 bottle), you’d only pay $7 to refill with the same product, or save the $2 when filling with a different product.

About plastic, she says,

Some clients INSIST on plastic bottles for the shower and shampoos especially. So my bottles come with pumps or flip tops, they are labelled by me with a stern warning to reuse until it breaks, then recycle, and I charge $3 instead of $2. I always ask clients to bring in their own bottles, and tell them I hate to sell them new!

And she’s currently partnering with an organization called Green Shift to develop “least harmful PLA [corn plastic] bottles for wholistic practitioners. Green Shift is cultivating products and markets that are as green and ethical as possible.” The PLA bottles would be for customers who insist on some form of plastic.

I asked Tracey what inspired her to start thinking about environmental issues and packaging and waste in the first place. She says that she

was born into environmental consciousness, because my grandparents had a place in the bush, and we used to compost, reuse and incinerate because there was no garbage pick up. We hauled water from the community pump, where people often left vegetables they’d grown….

Being poor, thrifty and political as a youth, she didn’t identify with what she perceived to be the “privileged outdoorsy sorts who comprised the environmental movement in the 1980s.”

Only recently have I identified as an environmentalist – although, in practice, I always have been – because Green politics seem so much deeper and the issues so critical for our survival now.

Our household of 7 (in 1300 sq ft) uses half the utilities for the average household of 4, and all of the electricity is from wind turbines – from our coop WindShare, and another coop that we purchase green tags from. Aside from saving on utilities, we grow half of our produce needs in our tiny front and back spaces, and I grow my herbs for my practice in the waste spaces on my street – all watered with grey water from the house…

And finally, about packaging, she says,

Showing the packaging price comes from my wanting to let the client know what it really costs. Most of the time, harmful packaging is cheaper to use for the maker. It’s frustrating not being able to compete dollar for dollar with single use items, because I may be paying three times more for environmentally sounder packaging. By investing in reusable, beautiful bottles and such, and by showing the client what s/he is really paying for it, I hope that the packaging is reused indefinitely until it breaks, at which point it can be recycled or composted.

Tracey’s seems to me to be the kind of business we always talk about but rarely see in real life. I wish her the best and hope she can succeed in her sustainable endeavors. And I hope to present her business model as an example when I visit similar shops in my area (I’m thinking of one in particular) to convince them that refilling bottles and conserving packaging should not be the exception but the norm.

Here’s a copy of the Anarres Natural Health newsletter for March. I wish I lived near Toronto and could visit the shop in person. Maybe some of you can!
 

14 comments
Tracey
Tracey

Hi everyone who commented on the Anarres post! Thanks for the discussion. Some responses of my own:I named Anarres Natural Health after the anarchist planet in Ursula K. LeGuin's novel The Disposessed. The name connects me to the activist and artist communities I wish to serve. Like the novel's Annaresti, I am contributing what I can to society through my work.ON POP:I adore China Cola and root beer in glass bottles. I feel really bad about cans being only used once, and I refuse to buy plastic. But I reuse the glass bottles!I hope someday that people completely reject big corporate crap and support their local artisan/practitioner/shoe repair guy... whomever!Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Sant
Sant

nice blog

Amber L.
Amber L.

wow! I really like the way she does this and insists on re-using everything. maybe it's not about making the customer happy anymore, it's all about keeping the earth beautiful and healthy so we all can live here longer. we shouldn't be so selfish, wanting convenience all the time.I'm a 27 year old female taxi driver, try my blog:www.smalltowncabbie.blogspot.com

terrible person
terrible person

Alexandria, what is the organization that recycles flowers? I'd love to know about it -- there are lots of flowers being thrown out in my office.Where does the name "Anarres" come from? I didn't see anything about it on her Website.And Bobitha, have you thought about maybe cutting down on soda consumption? I mean, there's some pretty nasty stuff in it -- high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, which can wreak havoc with your blood sugar and mood and energy, and phosphoric acid, which can dissolve rust - imagine what it's doing to your insides. I'm really glad I've cut down from ten or more cans a week to less than one, not just because it means I'm generating less waste. Not trying to preach, of course; what you drink is your business, but since you mentioned it ...

MeaganMonster
MeaganMonster

Wow I am loving this blog, keep it up!I'm currently trying to live a cleaner greener life myself so it's nice to find like minded folks out here on the internet.

Alexandria
Alexandria

Stores should do a better job presenting paper bags as an option, they are always hidden under the register. However solving the over usage of plastic is so much more than just plastic bags, prodcut packing is a problem too.I enjoy glass coke bottles and glass jars of strawberry jam. Not everyone has the thought of glass is prettier, they see it as pricey.have you heard about this organization that recycles flowers? They collect flowers from reciption that would normally throw the flowers away. The organization sorts them gives them to senior citizens, an excellent example of promoting recycling makes people happy.

Bobitha
Bobitha

hmmm wow i drink about 3 liters of soda a day... i waste so much id like to do something with all the empty 3 liter bottles sitting in my room but i never get around to it. well atleast i can recycle that is all good cause if there is no environment, there is no people!!!woooo~ cool blog +++ for saveing the world

Ali Schmidt
Ali Schmidt

I am a certified aromatherapist. For years, i ran a small shop in the antique district of my home town where i blended essential oils and offered hand made body care products made from the finest plant based materials. My products were petroleum, plastic, silicone, artificial color and fragrance free. I was very proud of the fact that all of my items were packaged in glass or wrapped in paper. I was a very small operation and made an effort to afford the best packaging. It is a shame to me that large companies cannot make the same effort. Also, i encouraged my clients to wash their botles in the dishwasher and i would re-blend their products fresh, while they waited and then fill their bottles. This lowered my costs and i gave the clients that did so a discount on their repeat purchase. It is possible to do such things and still meet the health department requirements. Kudos to anyone else that is so inclined!

PestProJoe
PestProJoe

Okay good Blog, but maybe a little too much information... of course my wife my appreciate the insight.=)Keep up the good work!-Joe"Do it Yourself Pest control"

arduous
arduous

Wow! What an awesome business. How do we get a business like THAT in every city in America?!!Tracey, mad props to you.

Tracey
Tracey

Thank you SO much, Beth, for the encouragement! Sometimes I feel like I am out on a limb, but you make hardcore feel good again!I DO hope FPF readers find the HOW To Tell if Your Product is Healthy at the end of my newsletter - that's the info people need to replace the petroleum products we are being marketed with ingredients that are healthy for our bodies and our planet.Love & RRRevolution, Tracey TieF

Beany
Beany

I first read about plastic alternatives in an article by Paul Goettlich. After no impact man mentioned that he was able to get milk in a bottle that was returnable I started to look for a similar program in Philly. I finally found such a place at the Fair Food Farmstand where I pay a refundable deposit every time I buy a bottle of milk (which I don't drink often). I really appreciate businesses that encourage reusing because while recycling is fine as a first step toward making the planet a bit more nicer to live in, its not enough. I wish there were more businesses like this near me as well...I would become a customer.

Sunny
Sunny

I absolutely love your site!!! I have been in the process of switching to eco friendly things so this is great!you have been tagged and I have linked to your site.please read my blog for detailsthanks!http://sunnyskysadventures.blogspot.com