Ecowood Blog

Discussions about Ecowood Displays and how we interact with the Green world. 

Saving The Planet With Agave, Surf and Wine

Don George - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sustainability can take many forms, from large scale solar farms powering homes and businesses to the simple act of composting your kitchen waste into a powerful plant nutrient. At Ecowood Displays, we take reclaiming materials and producing new useful products from them very seriously. This story is a little bit different, but extols the message of sustainability just as loudly.  

I found a handwritten note in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago requesting permission to cut down a couple of dead Agave Americana that were close to the road. Answering the number on the note was Don, a soft spoken man who proceeded to tell me how he wanted to craft a surfboard from the "wood" gleaned from the prickly plants.  Not one to shy away from a mini adventure, I set a date and plans were made.

Chain saws, ropes and ladders were pressed into service and the four deceased agave stalks were cut into ten foot lengths and loaded into the back of Don’s Ford pickup truck. Because the truck was loaded to the max, the surfboard that he brought to show me had to stay at the house. (not a thank you gift!!!)

I brought the board to work on Monday so that Don could pick it up at the shop.  Oohs and aahs abounded as all the wood junkies around here ogled the cool board. Turns out Don is the head winemaker at Three Sticks Winery, a very hot artisan winery here in Sonoma. Don’s pedigree includes a long stint as the winemaker at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood.

So just where is the sustainability part of this story, you ask? Simple. 1. You harvest a dead Agave Americana stalk and build a surfboard for your son. 2. You plant a handful of new Agave plants. 3. Ten years later the new plants have grown to full size and flowered and died. 4. Your son leaves a handwritten note in my mailbox asking if he can cut down the stalks to make a surfboard for his son. and on, and on...


The Devil in Plastic Bags and the Industry That Makes Them

- Monday, June 13, 2011
If you have been paying attention the last few months, you have heard that the plastics industry has been going after municipalities for banning one-time-use plastic shopping bags.  If you have been following us on Twitter, I have been filing these articles in the "Cut Me A Break" file with the hashtag #plastic.  The industry has also filed suit against reusable bag companies, namely, our favorite, ChicoBag. The suit claims that ChicoBag made false statements in their marketing about the benefits of ChicoBags vs. the detriments of plastic one-time-use shopping bags.  Today's Treehugger article reported that the plastics industry may have a hard time proving their case.  Ya think?

A couple months ago, I attended the expo at the CA Green Summit.  Not long after walking through the entrance door I came to the booth sponsored by The American Chemistry Council.  They were handing out pamphlets titled, "Plastics. Too Valuable To Waste".  They offered me a bag made of recycled shopping bags that could hold my shopping bags at home. "No thanks. No need."

 I never really thought too much about these plastics bags until about tens years ago.  I was fly fishing up in the beautiful Hat Creek Valley and I saw a grocery bag submerged near the shoreline of the pond I was floating on.  I took my net and tried to scoop it up and, poof,  it disintegrated into a bazzillion pieces. The tiny pieces were the perfect size for trout to swallow and no doubt they would.  That was the day I not only swore off plastic bags (and got my ChicoBags on), but made a commitment to begin eliminating plastics from my life and from our products at Ecowood Retail Store Displays and Fixtures.  

We've done pretty well.  We started by looking at the way we package our reclaimed wood Floor Fixtures and Point of Sale modules.  Then we looked at our parts and hardware and made some improvements there.  Next we found an alternative to the plastic hangers that many of our customers were using and created B*green Bamboo Clothing Hangers. The biggest challenge has been our pallet bundling materials.  Recyclable metal banding was damaging products during handling in spite of cushions, so we still use nylon.  And an alternative to pallet wrapping system has yet to be found so we switched to the greenest stretch film we could find (Thank you Dennis!).  It's an ongoing challenge, but we are determined!

So what about you?  Do you use plastic bags or packaging in your retail stores or in your product?  If so, what would it take to get you to commit to the elimination of plastic from your business?