Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tale of The Bag Lady

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Every time I go to the grocery store around the corner, I bring a canvas or nylon tote with me. Because I don’t want to be this guy … And because every plastic bag I see gives me visions of a smoldering landfill in a post-apocalyptic future, bags swirling like crows in the air.

But in my effort to stay out of the cracked-up-enviro-loony bin, I let myself take home a load of groceries in a plastic bag when circumstances seem to require it. But I swear to myself: I will keep them, dammit! And I’ll reuse every one! 

My efforts are valiant: I use them to carry maybe-leaking containers of leftovers that I’ll eat for lunch. I use them to wrap my sneakers up when I pack a suitcase. I use them to carry disgusting, oozing compost from my apartment to the community garden.

Yet the bags somehow manage to outpace me. I use one as a bathroom trash can liner, and five show up in friends’ hands when they come over for a potluck. In recent months they finally filled up the bag-of-bags in my closet and began to spill onto the floor like crinkly dust bunnies.

It was time for a purge.

I remembered hearing that many stores were required by law to accept bags for recycling, and I was certain I’d seen a collection barrel at my local big chain grocery store. So for days—nay, weeks—I kept thinking in the back of mind: I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna clean out the bag mess in the closet. I’m gonna bag up all the bags and get them out of here once and for all. Bag bankruptcy. A fresh start, a new beginning! 

But you know how it goes. You’re busy. There are more urgent spring-cleaning priorities, like the stained kitchen mat or the grout in the shower. Not that I was going to get around to cleaning those, but there they were. So I set a date: the last week of May. By then I would have planted my garden (didn’t happen), celebrated my birthday (did happen), and finished a major project (phew!).

Memorial Day came and went, and it was time to Address The Bag Situation.

So you can see what I did, in that picture up at the top. See it? I bagged ’em. And I walked to the further away grocery store, because the one closest to me definitely does not offer the take-back service. But when I walked inside: no barrel. No bin. No take-backs.

What happened? I asked one of the cashiers. Didn’t you used to take back plastic bags?

“Yes,” she said, “We did. But the company who was supposed to collect them would never come. So we had to put them out by the dumpster.”

Words could not have expressed my dismay. The round-cheeked cashier with the lovely green headscarf gave me a friendly smile, and I tried to return it cheerfully. I tried not to look like a person whose dreams of spring-cleanliness and environmental heroism had just been crushed.

Those two bags-full-of-bags? They are sitting at this very moment on the floor of my kitchen, right where I photographed them, waiting for my next bright idea for their future.

The Backyard Bouquet

The backyard bouquet is everything that the florist’s bouquet is not.

Where the corner florist’s bouquet is full of identical, stick-straight stems, the backyard flowers bend and swerve like cursive letters.

Where the local deli’s bouquet has plastic-smelling carnations, the fresh-cut dianthus from the backyard still carry a spicy fragrance. I never knew these flowers to smell good until I smelled a fresh one.

Where the florist’s bouquet is patched together from flowers that flew in from foreign countries, often raised with pesticides and chemicals and by the hard labor of those not making upscale-florist salaries, the backyard bouquet is what you cut from everything blooming under your own hands. And maybe some tall, frilly weeds to fill it out.

The backyard bouquet is simple, unpredictable, haphazard, and lovely.

And it’s a pretty nerve-racking business model, as I’ve designed it. See, about a month ago, I arranged with a local coffee shop to plant a container garden in their backyard and sell bouquets from their counter. I loved cutting my own bouquets from my garden plot all last year, and I was so inspired by Tara’s backyard bounty, that I thought I’d try a low-stakes “slow flower” business experiment. At best, I’ll make back my tiny capital investment and a little extra cash to blow on cold-brew coffee or fancy cheese this summer. At worst, I’ll get to make pretty bouquets and learn a thing or two (at a price B-school can’t beat) about entrepreneurship.

If you find yourself in Brooklyn, swing by Primrose Cafe. Venture into the backyard and smell the anise hyssop or the Siberian wallflower, and especially the dianthus. It’s delicate and you have to get your nose real close, but when you do, it smells sweet and spicy, like nutmeg or cinnamon, and you’ll wish you could carry it with you all day long.

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Getting the business IN the ground.
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Natural beauty for sale 
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A teacup-size bunch I just made