Thursday, February 19, 2009


More on my attempts at gardening: a few months ago, I purchased a basil plant starter kit that included a pot with soil and a packet of seeds. I let my daughter help me, and when she emptied the pack of seeds in the soil, it looked like nothing was there, the seeds were so miniscule. The instructions said to water it, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in a cool place, and the plant should sprout in 1-2 weeks. Well, 2 weeks later, nothing. I thought, "Me and my lack of green thumb, again."

But about two weeks after that, my daughter noticed that the plant had started to sprout. So I did what the instructions said at that point: remove the plastic wrap, water again, and place in sunlight. Well, sunlight in Tacoma is relative: it's mostly overcast except in the summer. But I placed it in a window.

Weeks and weeks and weeks went by, I watered it on occasion, and: nothing! No growth, no additional sprouting. I kept the plant, because it hadn't died, but figured this was another failure.

Then this morning, I looked at it. It has started growing suddenly! I haven't a clue why, but I watered it and decided that maybe now I should buy some plant food.

Enter TerraCycle. I learned about this company recently. They have a great story on their web site. They're a pair of Princeton grads who decided to start a company to maximize the "triple bottom line." Basically, there are three bottom lines a company can (and should) be concerned about: profit, people, and environment. Conventional wisdom says that the only way to maximize profit is to in some way shortchange people and the environment. That's why none of the most socially conscious companies out there (e.g., Whole Foods, Seventh Generation), while profitable to a degree, are among the top 500 companies in America.

These guys thought they could figure out a way. They started by making fertilizer, but have branched out into a range of gardening supplies, as well as cleaning supplies, office supplies, and handbags (!). Here's their concept: currently, waste is a huge industry in this country, and we're running out of ways to deal with it. People pay you to haul away their waste. So they decided that if they could make all their products from waste, including the packaging, they would eliminate their materials costs (and in fact, they often get paid by others for using their waste materials), and thus their revenues, minus labor, marketing, etc., becomes sheer profit. Their products are a crack-up: you can tell that they've used old soda bottles and milk jugs to package their plant food and potting soil, and they use stuff like snack wrappers, juice boxes and old diskettes to make office supplies and handbags.

I love it! And their supplies are sold at reasonable prices in a variety of stores, including Walgreen's, Fred Meyer, Home Depot, and Target. So after work today, I'll head over to Fred Meyer to purchase some TerraCycle plant food (made from food waste/worm poop!).

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