Thursday, January 27, 2011
Kristi Reimers wasn’t like most 13-year-old girls. In her free time she would stand in front of Longs Drugstore – when most of her peers were poring over US Weekly and BOP Magazine – handing out pocket brochures from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals highlighting products that did not test on animals.
She and her friends also wrote anti-animal-abuse-or-testing letters to local politicians and Congress members. And, long before it became common, Reimers decided she’d be a vegetarian because she didn’t want to perpetuate the potential abuse of animals.
“I felt like I was being a hypocrite if I wasn’t a vegetarian,” she says.
Two decades later Reimers still actively impacts causes she believes in – and has turned that effort into one of the most talked-about businesses in Monterey County. The simplest way to describe her upscale shop, Eco Carmel – besides immaculately clean – is as an environmentally conscious general store.
She carries everything from hypoallergenic mattresses and bedding to organic baby clothing and natural body products for pets (like Boo-boo Gel for cuts and burns) and their humans (like the Healing Hand Cream). There are non-toxic paints and stains in cans on her shelves, and layered on the walls and floors surrounding them.
Sustainability advocate-activist and former Pacific Grove mayor Dan Cort has traced her store’s evolution.
“I can’t think of any place,” he says, “that’s developing a list of [green] items as comprehensive as she has.”
There are soy wax candles scented with essential oils, stainless steel straws and crayons made from melted down nubs collected from classrooms.
“There are so many different avenues to take,” Reimers says.
An attention to detail further speaks to her thoroughness. Reimers keeps what she sells displayed on furniture made from reclaimed wood. Some of her display tables are made out of old railroad ties. She uses handmade “trees” made out of thin driftwood to dangle bracelets or necklaces. Interspersed with her merchandise are framed “eco tips.” Eco Tip #73: It takes 250,000 trees per year to make the disposable diapers we use, and those same diapers take 500 years to decompose.
“Giving people a healthy and safe way to live is something I’m passionate about,” Reimers says.
That said – and with carbon dioxide levels rising in the atmosphere, chemicals leaching into our foods, or our landfills busting at the seams – it can get a little intense.
“Inundating someone with all the ways they can be green will often stop a person from doing anything, as it becomes overwhelming,” Reimers says.
Lots of homework, paired with service intended to inform and empower, helps there.
“There is a story for every product we have,” she says. “We’ve done the research.”
The story behind the slick automatic composter is a personal one.
“I was lucky that I grew up with my dad composting. But he had to work with it for eight months before it was done,” she says. With the Nature Mill composter that Eco Carmel carries, up to 60 pounds of food waste can be converted into fertilizer for a garden every two weeks (and probably should for the $399 sticker price). All you do is open the lid and drop in broken eggshells, coffee grounds, or scraps from dinner to take an immediate strain off our local landfills (organic waste accounts for about 50 percent of landfill space use).
Another simple practice Reimers coaches her customers on is eating lunch. Unlike Tupperware, the Tiffin stainless steel sets ($27.50) are 100 percent recyclable. They’re also easy to wash, save space because they stack, and retain cold or heat better than plastic containers can. Hot food in plastic containers is also a liability that the general population doesn’t necessarily notice.
“It is always a concern putting hot food into a plastic container because of the leaching that occurs,” Reimers says. “Also, as much as you avoid using plastics, the better.”
The To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Kit ($14.50) also comes in handy, with a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks set with a recycled holder and a carabiner attached that can be taken and used anywhere. Cort says he always has a set with him in his briefcase.
“All our communities need dynamic young folk, like Kristi, to develop businesses that are sustainability-oriented,” he says. “With the tourism in Carmel, [Eco Carmel] might inspire others to take the idea back to their homes.”
ECO CARMEL, San Carlos between Seventh and Eighth in Stonehouse Terrace, Carmel is open 10am-6pm daily. 624-1222, www.ecocarmel.com.