In the heart of the Greek Danforth, where restaurants crowd the sidewalk with patios and menus speak of souvlaki, and humus, and sticky-sweet bacclava, there’s a small store that’s trying to change the world by changing how people shop.
It’s called Earthlygoods, and behind everything on its shelves there’s an issue, says owner Rob Grand.
And behind the gentle and soft spoken Grand, himself, there are years working with Pollution Probe and Earth First.
Among the issues, among the scores of different goods on the shelves, are cotton T-shirts and sweaters. « What we find is that a lot of people come in who are chemically sensitive,« says Grand.
« They can’t sleep on sheets, or wear clothing, made from chemical cotton. It’s unbearable for them.’’ Chemical cotton, he says, is grown with massive use of insecticides, and « once harvested, it goes through a lot of chemical processing, including bleaching and dyeing.’’
Earthlygoods sells only organic cotton materials and that, Grand says, spares the environment « the destructive impact’’ of chemicals.
I’ve known that farmers sprayed cotton crops heavily, but until I did some checking, I didn’t realize how heavily.
Here is some of what I found: About 5 per cent of the world’s agricultural acreage is devoted to cotton, but 25 per cent of all insecticides are used on cotton.
Crops are sometimes sprayed up to 30 or 40 times in a season, and the soil is often sterilized, which means synthetic fertilizers have to be used. To put this in a way easier to grasp, it takes about 150 grams (equal to a third of a pound of butter) of insecticides and chemical fertilizers to grow the cotton that goes into one T-shirt.
I wandered around Earthlygoods to see what else Grand had for sale. There were solar-charged bicycle lights ($29.95); a wind-up AM/FM radio ($99) and a wind-up shortwave radio ($150); 100 per cent recycled toilet paper (75 cents a roll for 24, or 95 cents for one), instructions for building your own solar oven for those who don’t want to lug propane canisters to the cottage ($5); standard-sized, organic cotton, coffee filters to replace the disposable paper ones (two for $4); garden seeds that have not been genetically altered.
There were natural based cleaners; a bicycle chain lubricant made from hemp oil instead of non-renewable petrochemicals ($8.50); 100 per cent recycled paper (« It’s unbelievable how difficult it is to get it,’’ says Grand.); water filters that will remove chlorine and lead, and a variety of pesticides and volatile organic compounds from tap water ($149.95); Burt’s Beeswax Royal Jelly Eye Creme « to nourish and soothe the delicate skin around the eyes” ($15.95); and even patterns for making cardboard cutouts for children of hobby horses and other items — such as flying saucers, swans, and tugboats — that can hang from their shoulders as they run around. ($11 to $15).
« There are alternatives for the products that people use every day,’’ says Grand. « Many ways for them to lessen their impact on the environment.’’
He owns two stores, Earthlygoods which he acquired six months ago, and Grassroots, at Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave., which he opened 3 1/2 years ago.
« These stores represent my whole belief system,’’ Grand says. « They give me a soap box to stand on. A place to show people that there is a different way of doing things.’’
Between the two stores, he employs a staff of nine. But so far, he hasn’t been able to draw a salary for himself, although he has high hopes for this year. « I’m in a tremendously fortunate situation because I have a very supportive partner, my wife (a lawyer). If I was just a single guy, I’d be out of business.’’ He pauses, then adds with a chuckle, « Not that I’m very high maintenance.’’
Grand isn’t the only one who is fortunate. We all are. Everyone who is seeking alternatives.
NEXT WEEK: A chemical nightmare