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This section is devoted to the world around us, our community and related information. If you have ideas or suggestions for things to include here, please let us know!

Interesting Stories, Articles and Links

Product Spotlight - Organic Colorado Mountain Jam
Colorado Mountain Jams are made in the mountains of Colorado (hence the name...) where their fruit orchards live in the perfect conditions to make mouth-watering fruit bursting with flavor. The fruit is picked at the height of ripeness and turned into award winning jam in a kitchen facility situated right in the orchard. No travel-weary fruit for these delectable jams. Click here to read the full story on one of our best selling products! Colorado Mountain Jam also makes a great, affordable and always appreciated housewarming, host/hostess or corporate holiday gift!

Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream A lot of people have questions about how to 'green' up their lives - from switching out regular light bulbs for compact fluorescent to how to get their laundry clean without harsh chemicals and more. Mrs. Green comes to the rescue with timely and useful news, tips and suggestions for going green and having fun along the way. Check out Mrs. Green online at and also check out streaming audio of her weekly radio program.

Press Release - shopOrganic Launches
We launched our site on May 8th and quietly invited a few folks to come to the site and kick the virtual tires. After a few minor adjustments, we were ready to announce our site to the world. You can read our press release here.

Lundberg Organic Rice Farmers Save Wild Duck Eggs
The staff at shopOrganic are long-time consumers and fans of Lundberg organic rice. This weekend, the Lundberg farm was highlighted on NPR radio because they're not only preserving the land, but they're also saving wild duck eggs as they prepare their land for planting. Read the whole story at Weekend America's website or click here to go there now.

The World Around Us

As we add new postings here, we'll move previous postings to the archive, which you can access by clicking here.

Small Is What's Next

 posted 10.10.2008

Like you, I'm sitting here watching the unraveling of the stock market and my saving account...wondering what's next. That's when it dawns on me that small is what's next. These giant corporations have tumbled like dominoes one after the other. Were they too big for their own good? Possibly.

An economist friend of mine once said "Trees don't grow through the sky." I often repeat that and then have to explain it. Essentially, the message is that every tree knows exactly how tall to grow - based on rainfall in its area, the depth of the soil it has to grow in, the kind of root structure it has, etc. I'm not according it human decision making intelligence (but I'm not ruling it out either, given that human decision making intelligence right now seems in short supply in some sectors of our economy...), but trees naturally tend to grow in a manner that is self-supporting. Every tree just grows to an appropriate height. We humans sometimes seem to have trouble "right-sizing" ourselves and our affairs.

All of this brings me back to the topic of small companies and the small vendors we work with here at shopOrganic. Today we were on the phone with Brian from Colorado Mountain Jam. You could hear machinery running in the background. This is Brian, the guy who owns the farm that grows the fruit that makes the jam that Jill ate (well, lots of folks eat it, I just liked the alliteration).

We ardently support small vendors like Colorado Mountain Jam because we know that small companies are the backbone of this country, of this economy and of the organic and sustainable economy we're all working on building. And honestly, the quality is unbeatable. If you've never tried Colorado Mountain Jam - including their out-of-this-world spiced plum, apricot or apple pie jam, you are missing one of life's finer (and less expensive) treats!

I can't control what happens on Wall Street or on any other street for that matter, but I can manage my small corner of the world - and here at shopOrganic, we're committed to working with small companies so we can all make the world a cleaner, greener, better place. It's tough all over right now, but it's small that will win the day. We urge you to continue seeking out your local and national small businesses and sharing the love (and spending just a coupla bucks). Together, we'll make a difference now and in the brighter future ahead.

De-Thatching Our Economy

 posted 09.26.08

Those of you familiar with lawn care probably know what de-thatching is - it's a process of removing the dead grass the builds up beneath new growth. You can do it by hand or rent a power dethatcher. In either case, it's not pretty. It digs up your lawn and makes it look like a battle-scarred plot of land. Ugly as it is, it helps remove the debris that can thwart new growth. It helps aerate the soil and allows nutrients to get down to the new grass more efficiently. Though it digs up the debris and old grass, it leaves the healthy grass alone because those roots are strong enough to keep the plant in place during the rough-and-tumble process of dethatching.

Here's a snippet from a website on lawn care that sums it up:
"Dethatching is NOT a pretty process...your lawn can look pretty bad after a deep power thatching. But remember, if you dethatch just prior to the grass's prime growing season, then it should recover rather quickly." - Dawn West, columnist
I don't know about you, but this sure sounds to me like the process happening on Wall Street right now. We're having to remove the detritus so new growth can come underneath.

What's the new growth look like? Like the companies whose roots are strong, whose business models are built on adding real value, whose owners, managers and employees work hard every day to do the right thing.

There are many companies in this country that fit that description. So, let's do away with the debris quickly, efficiently and intelligently. Then, those healthy, vibrant companies that have been squeezed out can breathe new life into our economy. The seedlings have strong roots and now that we're removing that dead layer, we should see a spurt of new growth soon.

Here's to dethatching our economy for the greater good.

The Middle Seat...Part Two

 posted 08.12.08

I was flying home from yet another trip (see below for details on the first middle seat story) and was waiting for my section of rows to be called. Since the line at the boarding gate door was dwindling, I knew our section would be next, so I started moseying over toward the door. A young woman wearing a bright blue top and sipping on an iced coffee drink was clearly doing the same thing. She turned to me and smiled, clearly noting we had the same objective in mind - to keep the boarding process moving forward smoothly (the gate agents were just a bit behind the curve on this).

I boarded the plane and my seat mates were already seated. The fellow in the middle seat kept looking toward the back of the plane, so I assumed he was traveling with someone. After a few minutes, two women came and stopped at our row. As it turns out, one of them was my boarding gate buddy with the bright blue top and the iced coffee in hand. The other woman announced that the blue topped woman had agreed to switch seats and take the middle seat so the man and woman could sit together. With that, the middle seat man got up and moved back and the woman with the bright blue top sat in the middle seat next to me.

I asked her if she had swapped a middle seat and she replied "No, I had a window seat, but they were just married, so how could I NOT swap seats with them?" I smiled and told her that was nice of her to do. That, I thought, was that.

About mid-way through a three hour flight, I was reading a book on geeky technical stuff and she pulled out a loose-leaf binder with printed pages that had text and images. She asked what I was reading and I told her; I asked what she was reading and she told me. From there, we launched into an hour and a half conversation that was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had - on board or not.

Lupe is a recent college graduate working for a non-profit organization called In My Shoes ( for those of you interested). It's an organization that pairs youth in foster care with adult mentors who came out of the foster care system. But that's not what's so remarkable about Lupe. She herself came out of the foster care system. She was in foster care for 19 years (apparently one can stay in the foster system through college), she lived with 13 different families and went to five different high schools in two different states in four years.

Think about that for a second. Most kids go to one high school, maybe two - usually with the same family unit. Imagine what it must have been like to go to five different schools in four years with different families! I don't know about you, but I just can't really even imagine what that feels like. However, Lupe not only survived but managed to thrive. She graduated from college, something only about 2% of all foster children do.

That in itself is remarkable, but the story continues. Lupe is a bright, articulate, open-hearted young woman full of hope, optimism and passion that she brings to the world around her. She advocates for foster children and told me that she once testified before Congress in the House Ways and Means Committee. "Were you scared out of your mind, speaking in that venue?" I asked her. "Yes, but I kept thinking about why I was there and that the issue was much bigger than I was. Then I really wasn't nervous after the first couple of minutes."

I can honestly say, that is the best middle seat experience yet (even though I wasn't the one in the middle seat). I applaud Lupe for coming through so many challenges with such grace and optimism. I know the world is a better place because Lupe's in it - and it shows me that anyone can achieve their dreams if they pursue them unflinchingly. For Lupe and all the other foster kids that manage to survive and make a positive impact on the world around them, I send a great big shout out!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle....Repair

 posted 07.12.08

I am a technical geek at heart, I've worked with technology my entire career. So, it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I still have the first laser printer I ever owned - an HP Laserjet IIP. It weighs about 40 lbs. and is a big chunky block - but that printer still prints as well as the day I first got. It can't print graphics and it just doesn't grok grayscale, but for standard printing of a document or report, it's a solid performer. I have never done anything to maintain it - I've just replaced the cartridge when the toner ran out. I know there is a whole maintenance routine one should undertake but I just never found the time and having worked with my share of printers over the years, I also believe you should know when to leave well enough alone.

The printer is now 20+ years old. A couple of weeks ago, it accidentally got turned on and off in rapid succession. This apparently blew out a power board and the printer wouldn't work.

What to do? It IS a 20 year old printer that won't print all my documents....but besides this one failure, it had never broken and never been serviced despite cranking out hundreds of thousands of pages. I had an odd sense of attachment and loyalty to this inanimate object and I was reluctant to retire the big block. On the other hand, I suspected that newer printers might be more energy efficient or more 'green' in some way. That's the trade off, isn't it? Keeping the old and avoid tossing it in the landfill or buying the new for the upgrades and improvements. Sometimes the choices are real no-brainers; in this case, it seemed like this old printer would just end up in a million little pieces being tossed (at worst) or recycled (at best). And yes, I would have sadly and with a certain decorum delivered it to a computer recycling center and not just dumped it in the trash....

But back to the story. I searched around and found a great website called Fix Your Own Printer ( for those of you interested). It had a lot of troubleshooting information and parts for older printers. I read through some forums and found several posts related to my error code - all pointed to a specific part. I purchased a $20 part (plus modest shipping) and received it within about four days. I disassembled the printer (this was not a job for a rookie, I have a long and storied history of tearing things apart and successfully reassembling them), replaced the board, reassembled the printer, turned it on and printed several pages. Just like new...two decades later.

As a side note, I did not blow out all the dust, remove any of the dog hair or adjust anything while I was in there. It was a quick in-and-out. I have learned that machines, like people, get into rhythms and habits and ruts and you start messing with that and you're just asking for trouble.

So, I'm happy to say, my printer is back in service and it taught me a lesson about our disposable society. Sometimes it seems easier to just replace something (and sometimes that is the best choice), but sometimes our desire for change or for something new clouds our common sense.

I propose we begin pushing manufacturers to make things that are repairable again. It used to be when things broke, you fixed them. You could buy parts that didn't cost more than the item itself, you could find someone to fix it for you at a reasonable rate and you didn't throw things out and fill the landfill with 'disposal' items. Let's start buying things that can be fixed and let's let manufacturers know we're tired of throwing out perfectly good 20 year old printers just because a $20 part broke. What do you think?

Email me (you can use the handy form on the Contact Us page) and let me know your thoughts! I'll post responses in the coming weeks.

The Middle Seat

 posted 06.17.08

I recently took a trip back East to visit family. I booked my flight early but found that on the last leg of my flight home, I was unable to get the seat I wanted. On my trip out, I was on smaller planes and on both flights, the flight attendants asked those of us in my area of the plane to volunteer to move around to balance the plane (yup, pretty small planes). I was reluctant to do so since I had my carry on luggage jammed securely (read: tightly) under the seat. I grudgingly pondered moving when someone else finally volunteered. I felt a bit guilty - I mean, why should one of us move but not another? I guess I pondered too long and lucked out as someone else graciously agreed to move.

While checking in online the day before my return trip, I checked seat availability and saw that an aisle seat toward the front had opened up - which had been my initial preference. I'm a bit superstitious about changing my computer-assigned seats because I've often found that I've inadvertently traded a good one for a not-so-good one. You know, an aisle seat toward the back or one toward the front with a screaming baby or that person who seems to have a terrible cold....Still, I decided to risk it and selected the new seat assignment.

As I boarded the plane, I found my aisle seat and sat down. Lo and behold, there was a 5 year old boy in the row behind me with his parents and he was what we could charitably call "a spirited child". He let loose with a few of those really high pitched screams that only young children can manage and I thought to myself, I wonder what that seat in the back would have been like....Well, too late. I'd made the change and had to live with it.

The middle seat next to me was occupied by an earnest young man - maybe 18 or 20 years old. He was talking to another young man in the middle seat in the row just in front of us. They were discussing how they might sit together. They were both wearing some sort of club or school logo wear, so I assumed they went to school together. The conversation went a bit like this:

"Maybe we can trade with somebody."
"Yeah, well, a middle seat isn't much of a bargaining tool."

Without even thinking about it, I looked at the guy in front of me and said "I'll trade with you."
"Are you sure?"
"No really, are you really sure?"
"No, really. This is a middle seat. Are you really sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. It's not that long a flight, I don't mind."

He thanked me profusely and we traded seats. I sat down in the middle seat and the guy with the aisle seat said "Wow, that was really nice of you. You traded an aisle seat for a middle seat." I replied "Well, it's not that long a flight and they're clearly traveling together. I hope someday if I'm traveling with a companion, maybe someone will do the same for me." I hadn't done it for that reason - my decision was unpremeditated and more reflexive than anything - maybe prompted by some leftover guilt from not switching seats on earlier flights.

I settled into my seat, pulled out my book and started reading just as that spirited 5 year old let out another wail. I smiled thinking that I hadn't traded seats to get away from the screaming child, but ultimately, through a simple act, we'd all benefited. I got away from the screaming child, the guys were able to sit together and talk sports for three hours and, well, we all had exactly what we wanted. Isn't it great when life works out like that?

Want to read more? Check out our archives by clicking here.

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