Rants and Raves for the Year Just Past

Like lots of people, I'm spending New Year's weekend thinking about the good and not so good things of the past year. That prompted me to look at products and suppliers of our company this year. In case you aren't familiar with what we do here besides the garden, we manufacture and sell my herb formulas and herb cookbooks through our website and catalog. Our products are all based on herbs and plants, and some, like Herbal Nail Fungus Soak, are healing; others, like our Roaster Seasoning, give flavor and taste to meals. My Dream Pillows and Dream Pillow blends give pleasant, peaceful sleep. We ship our products all around the world and it is very satisfying to know that people's lives (and toes and fingers) are better because of what we create here. We recycle, we live lightly on the land and we take pride in what we offer our customers.

For my rant, I'm going to mention a box company, and it relates to my garden and to yours, too., no matter where you live. This company gets my "award" this year for being the most detrimental to the environment of any of our suppliers in 2009. This company, Uline, makes great shipping boxes and we are grateful for their good service and helpful personnel. However, they get the award, from me, for being our least green supplier of the year. Why?

Uline sends us between 30 and 50 catalogs a year. One in each order, one to our billing address, one to our shipping address and one a month, regardless. This is important for 2 reasons: 1 - The catalog weighs one and one half pounds! That amounts to between 45 and 75 pounds of paper that is unnecessary. And, 2 - because there is no "opt-out" option. We've requested to be sent just one catalog a year, which would be ample, but the company tells us they can't do that. Other companies who order from Uline have also complained, according to our UPS and FedEx drivers. So, for the least green supplier we have this year, the "Boooo-Bad for the Environment" award goes to Uline. We recycle their catalogs but, how thoughtless of them to waste such resources. With thousands of customers, that's a lot of trees cut down that are totally wasted. No one can use 50 catalogs a year, no matter how big the company is! (And if you'd like to tell them they got the Booooo-Bad for the Environment award this year, or to complain that they are unnecessarily filling the landfills with their wasteful catalog mailing practices, here's the "Contact us" link: http://www.uline.com/CustomerService/ContactUs_menu.aspx).

Fortunately we have some wonderful suppliers who do care about the environment with what they produce. Lavender Lane comes to mind. They don't have a paper catalog, all of their products are on-line. They've been supplying bottles, jars, packages, oils and special kits for many years. I first met and got acquainted with the owner, Donna, at an herb conference almost two decades ago. I list them in the Sources section of many of my herb books for folks who are in herb-related businesses, simply because Lavender Lane will sell you just one bottle, or a thousand. Thanks, Lavender Lane, we appreciate what you do!

Evening Shade Farms, the nice folks who make our bug-repelling soaps for us, along with other specialty products, are just great folks to know. They have a simple, recyclable catalog, sent out once a year, with a website and fast, personal service. They care about the environment as much as we do. They use their own organically grown herbs and their own goats milk in their soap. I first met the owner, Gayl Bousman, at a Small Farm Conference, again almost two decades ago. Check out their website and if you ask for a catalog, Gayl won't send you pound and  half catalog 30 times a year, I promise! (They sell both retail and wholesale).

And the folks at The HerbPharm are also fantastic to work with. I first met "Herbal Ed" Smith, the founder, at an International Herb Association conference back in the late '80s. He was presenting a program about marketing, both the ethics of what you produce and how it effects people, along with how to price and market what you make. I credit Herbal Ed for opening my eyes to the philosophies of ethical marketing. Their company supplies us with Spilanthes-Usnea Tincture, which we sell as an additional product to our Herbal Nail Fungus Soak, for people with especially difficult nail fungus. (You probably know, any gardener who digs in the ground, eventually will encounter nail fungus). So, to Herbal Ed and all the folks at The HerbPharm, thank you for the outstanding service this year.

One more ranting "award," which has little to do with my garden, and you will will laugh, but bad juju on the Ocean Spray people for ignoring their customers completely and switching to a cheaper, less functional can for their Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. The traditional way for eating this common holiday condiment (or is it a side dish, as I maintain?) is to cut both ends out of the can and slide it out onto a platter, slice it and it's ready to serve. But, no, Ocean Spray has ignored customer complaints about the new can and went ahead anyway. Now, you have two choices: dig the jellied sauce out of the can with a spoon, which is just plain wrong, or, turn the can upside down and pound the daylights out of the bottom with an ice pick (which I did last week; ice pics are dangerous when people are hungry). After puncturing the bottom of the can a few times, you have to then flip the can over and cut the can lid off of the one end that the can opener will work on, and shake until the contents come out. From all of us who still eat canned, jellied cranberry sauce at the holidays, boo and hiss on Ocean Spray. (And yes, I always cook real cranberries, too, but the jellied is a tradition, a nod to the days of t.v. dinners and black and white television). Ocean Spray, hire a packaging consultant. If you agree, and want to tell Ocean Spray what you think about their customer un-friendly can, here's the contact link to send them your comments: http://www.oceanspray.com/contact/

So there's my rants and kudos to wrap up the year. Rants about companies that ignore their customers, against companies that could actually do something for the environment in a substantial way but instead continue to produce millions of pounds of over-sized catalogs, wasting resources and filling landfills unnecessarily.
And kudos to companies like The HerbPharm, Lavender Lane and Evening Shade Farms, that care about the environment and conduct their businesses in ethical, sustainable ways.

Here's to a better year ahead for each and everyone who read this blog. Thank you, I appreciate you all!


Anonymous said...

I didnt know you had a herb biz, I will be checking it out;)

I agree about the ocean spray...and the look on the cat ornaments face is how I looked this morning when I got up and saw all the snow I would have to shovel...arggg

happy new yr:)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Oh I hooted when I read through this you old curmudgeon. Here is the funny thing. I make cranberry sauce with orange peel, but my son STILL loves his Nonie's can o' sauce, but he demands the ring lines be intact as it slips out of the can, which we know can't happen now. They blew it. It may be easier for Ocean Spray, but it is harder for the consumer to access.

Love you,

KC_Compton said...

You certainly named two of my favorites: Evening Shade Farms and HerbPharm! Evening Shade for wonderful elder salve for healing skin owies and also for her "Herbal Youth," which accounts for my loverly complexion. :+] And Herb Pharm for Rhodiola and Hawthorn, which are two of my most important herbal friends.

One of my pet peeves is companies that end us samples, etc., in a bazillion times more packaging than is necessary or even rational. Really? You need to pack one little jar of salve in a huge box, surrounded by bubble wrap and secured in place by ginormous cardboard panels? Really?

Thanks for this blog post, amigo!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your rant on ocean spray canned cranberry sauce. It stopped me from buying it. I now make my own from the recipe in the cookbook, joy of cooking, for the spiced cranberry sauce and will NEVER go back to the canned version even if Oceanspray fixes the can. My family loves the homemade one, and raves about it to all their friends. It will even turn non-cranberry sauce lovers into cranberry sauce eaters!

Jim Long said...

Today's posting shows more of what I do, thanks for the urging, Sharon, Steven and Anonymous. And Sharon, go ahead and brag on "still picking basil." We're still picking ice out of the pansies here.

Jim Long said...

Thanks for the folks who wrote regarding Uline. It seems my attempts through their customer service got no farther than a very ill-informed customer service rep. At the urging of some of the readers, I persisted and today - hooray. A customer service rep that didn't say, "No, we cant'do that." We were "allowed" to opt-out of multiple mailings and a catalog in every box and now, instead of the 30-50 one pound catalogs a year, we are supposed to only receive 2! Horray, thanks for the kind readers who helped.

Nell Jean said...

The solution sometimes takes fewer lines than the problem:
run a thin knife blade down the inside of the Cranberry sauce can as you turn the can upside down.

The cans are labeled upside down so the air in the can is at the (new) top. A thin knife blade will introduce enough air to release the suction.

Lyle said...

I came to say what Nell Jean said, but she already said it quite well. Butter knife = solution to cranberry problem. It'll slide right out in one big, chunk, ridges and all.