Earth-minded merchants offer green alternatives
As far as Truly Ball and Sarah Easterling are concerned, making a difference in the world can begin with a shopping trip. The mother/daughter team, whose family can be traced back six generations in Western North Carolina, co-owns Nest Organics, a green-goods shop that opened on Lexington Avenue several months ago.
“Consumers need to know that there are choices,” Ball says emphatically. It’s what they don’t know, she adds, that can harm them: substances such as formaldehyde and toxic flame-retardants are often hidden in conventional mattresses, brand-new carpeting continues emitting harmful chemicals long after it’s been installed, and cotton cultivation uses massive amounts of pesticides. (About one-third of a pound of chemicals is applied to every pound of cotton harvested in the U.S., according to the Sustainable Cotton Project.)
“People have an association with certain smells,” Ball observes. “Like something should smell that way because it’s new. But a lot of times, those smells are produced by chemical off-gassing.”
As a safeguard against hidden dangers and an alternative to unethically produced goods—Easterling cites farm workers’ exposure to toxic pesticides as an example—the two have put their energy into offering an array of products that are both safer for families and gentler on the environment. Nest Organics offers all-organic mattresses, furniture built from sustainably harvested wood, organic-cotton baby clothes, diapers, handmade quilts and baby slings; tableware made from recycled glass; and assorted household items such as rain barrels and composters.
Easterling’s 18-month-old son, Edan, sleeps peacefully in his stroller as she wheels him around the 3,500-square-foot shop. “I just felt so strongly that I had to give my son the safest products possible,” she says. Certified-organic goods, she adds, tend to be inspected for health and safety much more rigorously than products made for mass retailers. “We buy from really small companies,” notes Easterling. “A lot of them are mom-and-pop operations.”
Admittedly, these products tend to cost more. But the shop’s owners say that their clients, who tend to be more passionate about green living than the average mainstream consumer, are prepared to go the extra mile to support their beliefs.
To incorporate community spirit, Ball and Easterling frequently open up their space in the evening for educational forums or workshops on various aspects of sustainable living. They also host gatherings called “nesting parties” for parents-to-be, introducing them to the safest, all-natural options for newborn babies.
“A large part of what we’re doing is educating people,” says Easterling.
“And we’ve had an incredible response,” her mom adds. “People have been so appreciative.”
Nearly 4,000 acres protected from development
“I think every owner of large tracts of land in our region gets approached by developers,” says Kieran Roe, executive director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “There is just a lot of money being made buying and subdividing properties.”
The intense development pressure in Western North Carolina has inspired 10 land conservancies across the region to set a joint goal: preserving 50,000 acres over five years. The Blue Ridge Forever campaign fuses the efforts of groups like the Hendersonville-based CMLC and Asheville’s Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, which work with property owners to lock in pristine tracts of mountain land by means of conservation easements. On Sept. 18, the campaign scored a victory: 3,895 acres in southwestern Henderson County gained permanent protection, bringing the total protected so far to about 14,000 acres.
Property owners John and Elizabeth Ball and Sandy and Missy Schenck agreed to place their land into conservation easements with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, making it the largest conservation project, in terms of acreage, in the group’s 13-year history. “Fortunately, although it would be ripe for development if it were available, these landowners and their management of the property will ensure that it really does remain a pristine forested area,” says Roe. The land is bordered on one side by DuPont State Forest, which features some 10,000 acres of publicly held, protected forestland. It also shares a boundary with about 10,000 acres of state parkland in South Carolina.