Feeding the Green Machine

There was an article last week in the New York Times about how “going green” is going more mainstream…in small towns like Nantucket, some schools and corporate communities, the concept of “zero waste” is taking hold in a big way. I’m glad to see people are more and more moving towards reducing waste, reusing and recycling. Here in the Hamptons, I see more and more grocery store shoppers using reusable grocery bags. But I’m proud to say that other measures have been in place here for years.

When Chris and I first moved to the East End, East Hampton was just putting the finishing touches on its recycling center (formerly known as the dump), and we really got into the “source separating” necessary before you could get rid of your trash. Beyond the usual bins for plastic, aluminum cans, newspaper, and cardboard, there were separate bays for glass (one each for green, brown, and clear), batteries — whether tiny AAAA or automobile, mixed paper (for all that junk mail!), and the immensely popular household exchange section euphemistically called “Caldor East,” after one of Kmart’s defunct competitors. Additionally, the leaves you collected for curbside pick up each Fall was returned to the center where, using green and some food waste, they produced wonderful mulch which you could come back with your garbage can and pick up in the Spring for free. Going to the dump and splitting up our stuff into all these stations was amazingly gratifying. We’d leave feeling like we’d done something, saved a little teeny bit of the Earth from landfill overflow.

Recycling is in both Chris’s and my blood…whether it is repairing and refinishing furniture found in a thrift store or yard sale, or repurposing an item whose purpose is obsolete into something useful or decorative. Don’t even get me started on all the offcuts and discarded building materials Chris has fished out of the dumpsters on construction sites. And oh boy, do we compost. All those orange peels from the OJ, the hulls of strawberries and skins of pineapples, the thousands of eggshells, all the coffee grounds…Chris’s team of compost engineers, the earthworms, love all the green waste we deposit on the compost bin daily. And his garden thrives with the resulting nutrient-rich soil. The photo above shows some of that rich soil on the ground in front of the bin where it is made, and the vegetables that benefit from it.

In the hospitality industry, “going green” is a big catchphrase nowadays. When we established A Butler’s Manor in early 2002, we knew we wanted to create luxurious accommodations with every amenity our guests might need. But deciding how to present these amenities presented a challenge. Our research turned up the dismaying fact that, even when made of “recyclable” plastic, those cute little bottles found in high-end hotels are in fact NOT being recycled. Plastic recycling begins with shredding, but because the amenity bottles are too small to fit on the conveyor belts, they quite literally fall through the cracks and end up in landfills. .And individually wrapped bars of soap…arrrgh! No, we couldn’t do it. So how to do provide our guests with the quality we wanted, yet with the least amount of environmental waste? We chose to do the following:

— Mounted dispensers in the shower for our premium quality shampoo and conditioner
— Full-sized bottles of Bath and Body Works’ Aromatherapy line of shower/bath gels and hand soap
— Bath salts, shower caps, dental and shaving needs provided in boxes made of recycled card stock
— Glass tumblers, changed daily, rather than plastic-wrapped plastic cups
— Glass water carafes with tumblers for our filtered water, rather than plastic bottles of water
— One copy of the daily New York Times to share between five rooms, rather than individual copies (in eight years of operation, this has never caused a problem…in fact, guests meet each other swapping sections over coffee)

After much consideration, the one amenity we decided we had to provide in small bottles is mouthwath, replacing our (repurposed!) crystal liquor carafes of Scope in view of possible hygiene concerns. It remains a difficult choice.

We believe the days of individually-wrapped hotel amenities are numbered. Our world just can’t afford the waste. One bright light: Not long ago, Sean Doane of CBS Evening News did a story on how two former traveling salesmen founded a business called Clean The World to recycle those tiny bars of soap and send them to Haiti where, despite the known link between hygiene and the spread of disease, soap is a luxury few can afford. (We’ve all been reminded lately how important it is to wash your hands in order to halt the spread of the H1N1 and other flu viruses.) How cool is that?

Meanwhile, here in our tiny corner of the world in Southampton, we’ll try to do our part too.

Quote of the Day: Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find. — quoted in Time Magazine

(For more information on Clean The World and how you can help, click here.)

Columbus Day Weekend

It was a very international breakfast table today. Joining us this weekend: a family from Paris, a couple from India, a couple from Canada, and a relatively local couple from Westchester County.  Breakfast conversation literally spanned the globe! (The Southwest Souffle added yet another international dimension. ;))

We’ve had a very international month, actually. This past week we enjoyed meeting our very first visitors from Thailand, followed by a lovely mother and daughter from Australia. Later this month. we’ll host a series of guests from England.

There is much to do this holiday weekend: there is a Harvest Festival in Southampton, with a sidewalk sale, hayrides, a soup contest between a number of the village restaurants, delis, and caterers. Those who love the movies will enjoy the Hampton International Film Festival, which this year has venues here in Southampton as well as East Hampton. A very popular option and show stopper (literally, a traffic jam) is Pumpkintown, a seasonal park of slides, cool things to climb on, corn maze and good old pumpkin picking, located right on the highway near Watermill.

Shops, highways, and farmstands were all very busy on this perfect Autumn day. Temps were in the mid 60’s, with clear skies and a slight breeze. Just the weather our dog Truffle most loved.

Truff’s been gone just about a year now, and we are still missing her. So I headed over to ARF (Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, where we adopted her 14 years ago now) to get a puppy-love fix by walking some of the adoptable dogs through their lovely woodland trails, kicking through the fallen oak leaves of autumns gone by. We’re not ready to replace Truff yet, but when we do, there is no more laudable shelter than ARF…truly, a home away from home. The shelter holds an ARFan reunion each year, and when we’d bring Truffle back, she’d bound out of the car, run straight for the front door, wagging and grinning, eager to greet the volunteers…no unhappy associations for her!

Tonight we’re heading up to Bostwick’s for their closing night…the end of fifteen years on Harbor Marina in East Hampton. It will be a bittersweet night. We’ll enjoy owners Kevin Boles and Chris Eggert’s other two restaurants, Indian Wells Tavern and Cherrystones, but will miss that great sunset view over the water on summer eves…

Ah well…Onwards, Autumn!

Quote of the Day:  It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. —P.D. James