Tea and sympathy

teatime

 

 

A little while ago I wrote a post about Red Rose Tea. I was suspicious of the fact that their tea bags don’t degrade in my compost, and I e-mailed them about it. Well, the good news is that they wrote me back. Here’s what they said:

 

 

Thank you for contacting Red Rose.

 The new Red Rose tea bag material is poly lactic acid, or PLA. The new tea bag is an organic polymer made from plants sources. The tea bags are composed of 100% renewable plant materials. The new Red Rose tea bag material is tested by independent laboratories and has been shown to be completely safe.

Sealing Red Rose like our previous Red Rose tea bags and other single chambered (or pillow) tea bags on the market, Red Rose uses a heat sealable material. However, unlike most other single chambered tea bags in the market Red Rose is now 100% compostable and made from 100% plant material.

We truly appreciate your loyalty to our brand and products. Should you have any questions in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Sincerely,
Red Rose Consumer Services

I like Red Rose Tea, and I like getting polite letters like this. Unfortunately, I am also cynical, and I still haven’t forgotten what they did to those chimpanzees all those years ago. So I did some research on poly lactic acid.

I found out that Poly lactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable polymer made out of renewable resources like sugar, corn starch or cassava. It’s used for 3D printing, short term packaging, and even for medical uses (implants, sutures, drug capsules), among other things, and is classed as an environmentally friendly material. It will break down, but takes a long time to degrade, which is why it haunts my compost.

So there you have it: not toxic or harmful to the environment. I still like the old bags better, because they made better compost, but I’m back to drinking Red Rose.

But just to be clear: no more chimp tea parties, OK?

 

 

 

Hunter’s Dinner at The Local

You’re always welcome at The Local. I can walk in there looking like a bag of dirt, and someone will smile at me and say hi. And they don’t know me. It’s just a friendly place.

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So I am quite keen to see what they’ll be up to for the Third Annual Hunter’s Banquet on November 24. On the menu is wild game donated by local hunters, expertly cooked by Chef Aaron Linley from Linley’s Food Shop.

Cocktails in the Greenhouse at 6pm. Dinner at 7pm. Live auction throughout the evening.
Tickets are $125 (includes $50 Charitable Tax Receipt)

The Local is at 612 Erie Street
(519) 508-3663

image: Google Earth

 

The Life of Things

Hat-clock. Antiques Warehouse
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Hat-clock. Antique Warehouse

When it comes to antiques, I’m not one for a lot of clutter. Personally, I think there are some things that just shouldn’t have been made in the first place. So my trip to the Stratford Antique Warehouse wasn’t completely successful. I think this mall-like store is of more interest to people who like to collect smaller things. However, it’s a lot of fun to wander around there; there’s a ton of fun things to look at, the prices didn’t seem too bad, the people are friendly, and from an environmental perspective, it’s keeping stuff out of the dump and preventing the manufacture of new things. I think this could be called an environmentally friendly business.

 

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Dressers, Glen Manor Galleries

 

But today I was really out looking at more practical objects, so I decided to continue on to Shakespeare, where there’s a whole community of antique stores. I started off at Glen Manor Galleries, which has a number of breathtaking pieces. I asked Brian Campbell, the owner, if he thought his business is environmentally friendly.

Brian does not suffer fools gladly. It is obvious to him that fine furniture is much more ethical than Ikea particle board, and he told me as much. I then asked him if there were any problems with chemicals used in refinishing furniture, as when lead paint must be stripped off. His eyes bulged slightly. “Paint? On my furniture? I would never stock such a thing.”

Brian has pretty well convinced me that for the high end of the antiques market, there are few environmental concerns, and he’s also made me reflect on how we relate to the things in our lives. Many of the pieces in Brian’s store were made before he was born, and Brian is not a young man. The things in our life sometimes have more permanence than we do, and the careful selection of a fine piece of furniture that may outlast you could well be an act of anti-consumerism.

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Barn Boards, Flip! Vintage Antiques

Helpful as Brian was, I still had unanswered questions, so I crossed the road to Flip! Vintage Antiques. It seemed to be a little more my style. The first thing that caught my eye was the wonderful barn boards, at five bucks a linear foot. The owner, Wayne Ross, also showed me a huge slab of walnut, about three inches thick. I was in heaven.

I was surprised to learn from Wayne that the great majority of his customers are local. I would have thought they’d be tourists, and this really changed the way I’ve been thinking about Stratford antiques businesses. They aren’t just bringing money into our community, they are providing a service for it.

 

 

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Wayne also runs Land & Ross Antiques & Designs, across the road from Flip! He refinishes a lot of the items he sells, so he could help me with my environmental questions. He said he uses mostly Varsol and TSP, which he believes to be relatively harmless to the environment. He also reminded me that there are organic paint strippers. I’ve used these, and they do work, but I know they’re a lot more expensive than Varsol.

When lead paint must be stripped, Wayne keeps the waste in a barrel and disposes of it through a waste removal company. It is apparently burned, with a heavy use of scrubbers to clean the air. This news didn’t thrill me, but after researching this a bit, I don’t see how Wayne could deal with this waste in any other way.  On the other hand, there is room for change, but I’ll talk about that in another post.

Wayne also had his own reflections on how we deal with the things in our lives. Sometimes a piece will stay with a family for years, always with the idea that it could be sold through a dealer. In a way, the relationship with the furniture is just temporary, and somehow gives the piece an independence, a life of its own.

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Coat rack(?), Uptown Gallery

I finished my visit to Shakespeare at the Uptown Gallery. This store has a lot of midcentury modern items, and also one or two really cool old pieces, like this (coat rack?) made from barn utensils. I know mid-century modern is more appealing to the under-40 set, so I asked the owner if he thought younger people were as interested in antiques as the older generations.

He shook his head sadly. “The younger generation is a throw-away generation,” he said, “but that’s really a story for another article.”

He’s right.

So that was my antiques trip, a visit with the three wise men of Shakespeare. All in all, it was a positive one. After doing my research, I’ve still got a lot of reservations regarding refinished furniture. I think I’d have to insist on pieces that were stripped with organics (I am happy to pay extra), but I think I can continue to go antiquing with a clear conscience. It is the ultimate reuse and recycle experience.

 

Crows and cats

In my last blog post I talked about finding employment for feral cats. I was kind of joking around, but I do think that we should be considering ALL living things when we think about how our community works.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 3.36.37 PMSo I was interested in this post, which describes a project in Amsterdam that trains crows to pick up and dispose of cigarette butts. At first reading, it sounded like a great idea — the crows learn fast, they pick up the trash, and they get paid a peanut. What’s not to like?

However, a commentator brought up a point I hadn’t thought about. John Marzluff, a professor of forest sciences at the University of Washington, argued that ” it is unethical to ask a wild animal to do our dirty work. Crows have other things to do, being highly social animals and intelligent, and it doesn’t seem right to me to enslave them to work for us. Why not just pay people a good wage to do the work?”

Now, you’re probably thinking that we are getting into Philosophy 101 territory when we start worrying about making wage slaves out of crows. But I don’t think this is a silly argument. It seems to me to be a highly moral argument that we should be applying to the wildlife that lives around us. Perhaps when we start seeing nature as valuable in itself, rather than something that has been set up for us to use, we will learn to inhabit our communities in a way that promotes a healthy environment for humans and animals.

So what’s the difference between crows and cats? Basically, cats aren’t part of the ecosystem. We domesticated them and brought them here. So I think we owe them a free lunch or two. Or maybe even a career in rodent removal.

 

Cranky cats find gainful employment

I love to go into Watson’s downtown. It’s such a cool store, and there’s a cat there who is soft as dandelion fluff. Sometimes you have to wait in line to pet her. I’ll bet that cat has made a few sales in her time.

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Not all cats are as skilled in customer relations as the Watson’s cat. Some have attitude. Others are terrified, and will bite and scratch.  A select few will even pee in your shoes, just for the fun of it. It’s difficult to place cats like this in customer service positions.

The good news is that some shelters in the U.S. have come up with an ideal solution to the cat placement problem. They provide neutered, microchipped, vaccinated animals free of charge to businesses with rodent control problems. This means that no poisons or traps are needed. Sometimes just the scent of a cat sends rodents running for the hills, but if not, more drastic measures are taken by the cats.

And it’s not just warehouses that provide jobs for cats. Barns and stables are, of course, the traditional place to find a working cat, but they are also using them in condos and suburban areas. In California they’re even using them to patrol dumpsters. However, not much seems to be said about what those cats are doing to the bird population.

In any case, outside patrol isn’t really a year-round solution for unemployed cats in Ontario. I wondered if there were any programs here that provided year-round indoor work. I checked around: The Stratford Perth Humane Society has two programs for unsociable felines; one is the “Barn Buddy” programme, where you can pick up a neutered/chipped/vaccinated cat with no adoption fee (though they would like a donation). The other programme, one you’ve probably heard of, is called “Return to Field:” they clip one ear, vaccinate/neuter, and have the person who brought the cat in return it to the same place. The cat is identifiable, and because cats are territorial, it not only hunts vermin but also keeps other feral cats away. However, I don’t think they last long in an Ontario winter.

So it seems to me there’s a place in our business community for a whole army of unemployed cats, who would not only reduce the rodent population, but would also reduce the need for adding  poisons to our environment. Indoor work also avoids the bird problem. The “Barn Buddy” programme would work for this. All it needs is a little rethinking, and an advertising push to present it as a solution for businesses as well as for farms.

Wouldn’t take much. Wouldn’t cost much.

 

Source: http://www.dispatch.com/entertainmentlife/20171018/for-ornery-shelter-cats-2nd-chance-is-job-chasing-mice