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

from anti-plastic crusader Beth Terry's blog
My Plastic-Free Life
MARCH 4, 2008
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!