3 Things About the Straw Ban

By now you are probably aware of the push for a straw ban. Groups such as The Last Plastic Straw and StrawFree are among many organizations and activists working to enact national or international straw bans. The initiatives have had mixed reactions, with cities such as Seattle and New York immediately looking into (and in Seattle’s case, passing) bans while others resist the change and proposed measures. Some states, including Michigan, have gone so far as enacting preemptive laws to make it difficult for individual cities or counties to pass their own bans. For many proponents of the bans, this is understandably concerning, however, it is important to examine a couple angles of the straw ban. So, instead of listing more facts about the environmental impact of straws —which are numerous and now easily researchable — I’m going to cut to the chase with three important things to think about.


  1. Straw bans could have unintentional consequences

It’s pretty agreed upon by environmentalists and scientists that limiting plastic waste is essential for the health of wildlife and the planet. Alongside things like plastic bags and single use utensils, plastic straws seem like a no-brainer; they are used regularly and easily replaceable by more sustainable options such as metal, paper, and silicone. However, as with most things, it’s not as black and white as straws=bad. One of the biggest arguments against straw bans is coming from the disability community. Though there are a range of sustainable alternatives that work for able-bodied individuals, for those with disabilities, plastic and bendable straws are often essential. At the moment, there are no sustainable substitutes that are both as durable and malleable as plastic straws and many disabilities rights activists are worries that straw bans, while well-intentioned, will unintentionally and severely disadvantage a large subset of people.


  1. Straws can’t be the only solution

As the hot-button issue of 2018, straw bans are receiving tons of attention and everyone from cities to Starbucks are promising rapid action. While immediate action is great and limiting straws certainly targets a large source of plastic waste, there is worry that straw bans can give a false sense of accomplishment. Many experts and activists are worried that once a ban is achieved people will move on rather than forward, making a modest impact on only one section of the much larger issue of plastic waste.


  1. Straws are a good starting point

Despite the last two points sounding a bit doom and gloom for straw bans, don’t get discouraged! Whether through outright bans or more individual efforts of counties, cities, consumers, and corporations, limiting plastic straws is a good step for the environment. As these issues come up in your area, it’s important to look at them as a nuanced but also a chance for collaborative change and forward momentum in the fight to save the environment.


For more information on straw bans, check out any of the organizations, national or local, working to limit plastic waste and think about skipping the straw next time you’re out.

Essential Oils: Medicine or Marketing?

It seems there is an essential oil for everything. Oncoming cold? Use peppermint. Anxiety or trouble sleeping? Use lavender. Troublesome acne? Use tea tree oil. The cure for cancer? Ask some people, and they will say essential oils. As essential oils’ popularity has grown, so have the claims surrounding what they can do.

Still, even with all this hype, most people will agree that it’s highly unlikely essential oils are going to do much against something like cancer. But, if you’re anything like myself, you’re probably left wondering, what can essential oils do? With this much talk, it can’t all be nothing, but it’s also hard to figure out where the limits of essential oils’ benefits are.


Separating the Fact from Fiction

The first thing to know about the healing benefits of essential oils, is there is actually very little research into what they can really do. Many of the tall claims you hear about their amazing, life-altering properties don’t have substantial research to back them up. The second thing to know is that this doesn’t mean all the proclaimed benefits are fake. The reality of essential oils lies somewhere between crackpot medicine and a magical cure-all.

Part of the reason so many messages are floating around about what essential oils can and cannot do, is how they are marketed and distributed. Rachel Monroe discusses this system in-depth in an article for The New Yorker, but suffice it to say, many essential oils are sold by individuals working for a couple large companies. What this means is there are a lot of people who are really into essential oils saying a lot of things without much regulation. When it comes down to it, claims that essential oils can cure complex ailments like depression or cancer shouldn’t be taken as fact. This shouldn’t deter you from what you can get from essential oils, however.


So, What are the Benefits?

Essential oils aren’t about to solve the most serious of issues, but they do still have benefits. Herbal medicine and aromatherapy have been around for a long time for good reason. Just like a hot toddy truly does soothe symptoms of a cold, the scents and compounds of essential oils have legitimate benefits. Scent is a powerful thing and there is a definite link between stimulating the right smell receptors and reaping some emotional and even physiological benefits. For instance, if you love the scent of lavender, smelling it will give you a pick-me-up as the smell can trigger chemical messages that make you feel happy and calm. Will it cure depression? Probably not. Can it calm you down, relax you, and help set you up for sleep? Certainly.

Beyond the connections of smell and mood, there are some studies showing certain connections between essential oils and physical ailments. For instance, tea tree oil has been linked to helping with acne and peppermint oil might ease symptoms of digestive issues and IBS. These studies are still early and neither claims the oils are a cure, but there are true benefits when it comes to easing moods and symptoms.

Ultimately, there is a reason traditional herbal remedies and aromatherapy are still around, and it’s the same reason essential oils are popular: for the right situation, they do work! While you shouldn’t look at essential oils as a cure-all, there are many things you want them on hand for, from adding scents to soaps and lotions to using diffusers or creating home versions of vic’s vapor rub or natural sleep aids. At best, you’ll find some scents that soothe aches and help lift your spirits, and at worst, your home and life will smell really great.




For an in-depth read on the distribution system of essential oils, check out:

“How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety” by Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, October 9, 2017.


For more information on the science of essential oils, check out:

“The Science of Essential Oils: Does Using Scents Make Sense?” by Cari Nierenberg, LiveScience, September 2, 2015.


Myths About the Paper vs. Plastic Question

You’re at the grocery store and you get asked, “paper or plastic?” Most people have a standby option they believe is better, whether that’s thinking paper is more recyclable or plastic can be reused for garbage bags. But, is one actually better than the other? To settle this debate, I debunked two myths about the plastic vs. paper debate to help you decide, once and for all, which way to go.


MYTH: Paper is better than plastic

Over time, paper bags have garnered the reputation of being the better alternative when asked the perennial question “paper or plastic?” However, the reality is that paper bags really aren’t much better. While paper bags are easier to recycle and have about 50% more capacity than a plastic bag, the energy it takes to make a paper bag is more than the energy required for plastic bag. Just making the paper alone consumes huge amounts of energy (including fossil fuel based energy) before it even gets to the stage of becoming an actual bag, outweighing some of the benefits of recycling.


MYTH: Plastic bags aren’t recyclable

Luckily this myth is false! There is nothing in plastic bags that prevents them from being recycled. However, before you get too excited, recycling plastic bags is an arduous process that requires re-melting and re-casting the bags. This process uses less energy than making new bags, but the quality of the plastic is “downcycled,” meaning the plastic is not as viable and is therefore rarely made into new bags. Just because the bags do not turn into new bags does not make them entirely useless, as they can be turned into raw materials for other plastic-based products, but recycling plastic bags is not a perfect fix.


Ultimately, experts almost unanimously agree that reusable canvas bags are the way to go over plastic or paper! Beyond the obvious that they can be used again and again, reusable bags are stronger, sturdier, and carry more than paper or plastic, meaning less trips to get all the groceries in from the car. Reusable bags are not the solution to all plastic waste, but using them can be a small step in reducing the nearly 380 billion plastic bags we use every year in this country.


For more information on the “plastic versus paper” debate, check out:

"Paper of Plastic? A Look at the Facts, Myths and Numbers of Shopping Bags" by Collin Dunn, Huffington Post, July 16, 2008


Small Businesses Supercharging Southwest Michigan

Big businesses dominate the news cycle: Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods, Apple without Steve Jobs, the perils and pluses of Facebook Live. Because of this, it’s sometimes too easy to forget about the small businesses; yet, they might be more influential than we give them credit for. A recent infographic in 269 Magazine shows that 99.6% of businesses in the state of Michigan are small businesses, and 49.8% of the Michigan workforce is employed by those businesses. I don’t know about you, but I was shocked at how high that number is, almost half of Michigan is tied to small businesses

With those kind of numbers, the amount of money flowing locally must be impressive too. In fact, according to local giant Quicken Loans, for every $100 spent at a small business, $70 stay within the local economy as opposed to $43 with non-local businesses. It’s pretty hard to beat a 70% retention rate, especially when you think about the human component of your local economy. That $70 is going into things like paying friends and family who work locally, maintaining the stores on main street that are unique to your town, and the local artists and artisans who sell to those stores. Plus, it’s been shown that multiple small business bring more local jobs with them than one large chain store. So those businesses are helping build robust local economies and a diverse range of jobs.

Really what this all comes down to is, shopping local is great! You can confidently support the people and town you love when you know that you’re part of what is keeping southwest Michigan so interesting. And for our part, we’re proud to be one of the small businesses employing half of the Calhoun county and Michigan workforce.

If you want to learn more about small businesses in Southwest Michigan check out:

"Small Business in Southwest Michigan" 269 Magazine, Issue 9: May/June 2017

Small Business Saturday & How it Impacts your Local Economy” Zing by Quicken Loans, 23 November 2016

Mallory McClure

Mallory is a part-time writer and Kalamazoo College graduate native to the Pacific Northwest. When not writing blogs and small business articles, she enjoys spending time with her pets, reading Victorian literature, and supporting the Seattle Sounders.

Cool Morning Has us Thinking.

Woke up and the temperature was in the 50's. Not ready for summer to be over, but know that fall will soon be here. How long before we break out our Stormy Kromers? To get us in the mood here are some of our favorite Kromerisms.

Marshall District Library Programs

Thank you to the Marshall District Library for letting us come in to lead a program called Household Essentials. Kate Samra and I had the pleasure of talking about natural household cleaning products, some items we stock and shared some recipes to make your own. There were many great questions and we are so encouraged that people are willing to take the steps necessary to live just a little greener! Here are the recipes we shared. We have several resource books available here if you want to look at something we didn’t cover.

Gardener’s Hand Scrub*


  • 5 oz (42 gm) pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 oz (28 gm) coconut oil
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Jojoba wax
  • 25 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 15 drops Lemon essential oil



Blend salt, coconut oil and jojoba in a 4 oz (120 ml) jar, then add your essential oils.


This is a very oily recipe so you may want to shake the jar before using it to mix the salt which will act as an abrasive.




Sticky Residue Remover*


  • 1 oz (28 gm) baking soda
  • 1 oz (28 gm) coconut oil



Coconut oil may be in liquid or solid form, just melt if in solid form. Pour coconut oil into a jar and slowly stir in baking soda. To use it, just put a little on an abrasive sponge and rub. The baking soda offers a nice gentle abrasive action while the coconut oil helps the residue slide off. Add sweet orange essential oil for fragrance.




Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner


  • ¼ cup liquid castile soap
  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 8-10 drops of essential oils to kill bacteria and freshen (lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, orange, Thieves or Purification)


Mix all ingredients in a 16 oz or larger squirt bottle or swish. Squirt in the toiler bowl and use a brush to scrub it clean



Daily Sponge Spray


  • 5 oz (150 ml) water
  • 2 oz (60 ml) hydrosol of choice
  • 1 tablespoon castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ teaspoon white vinegar
  • 10 drops Peppermint essential oil
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
  • 40 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 20 drops Lemon essential oil


Add all ingredients to an 8 oz spray bottle


May be used as a surface cleaner and keeps kitchen sponges smelling fresh!


Antifungal Cleaning Spray*


  • 15 oz water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 40 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 30 drops Geranium essential oil
  • 40 drops Palmarosa or Lemon essential oil


Mix in a 16 oz spray bottle and shake vigorously before using


Grout Scrub*


  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 10 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 10 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 10 drops Lemongrass essential oil




In a 10 or 12 oz wide mouth plastic container with a fitted top pour the baking soda. Add the castile soap to baking soda and mix. Add the white vinegar and mix (it will bubble a little). Add all the essential oils and mix, put the cover on to store.


Place a small handful of the scrub on an abrasive sponge and clean the grout.


Notes: Although essential oils are very safe some can irritate your skin, cleaning gloves are recommended with this scrub.







Furniture Polish


  • 1 fluid oz (30 ml) jojoba oil
  • 10 drops ylang-ylang essential oil


Combine ingredients and gently polish .


Wood Polish*


Makes one 4 oz bottle of hard polish for wood floors


  • 1 oz beeswax
  • 3 oz jojoba oil
  • 30 drops Siberian Fir essential oil



Kitchen scale

Pyrex style large measuring bowl

Medium stovetop pot

Glass stirring rod

One 4 oz glass jar with lid




Use the stovetop melting method to liquefy and combine the beeswax and jojoba oil.


After removing from the heat, add the essential oils and stir.


Pour into jar, add lid and allow to fully cool and harden before using. This should take at least an hour.


Notes: Use a clean cloth or rag to spread a small amount of the polish vigorously over wood. Use a second clean cloth to remove all excess polish. There should be no excess greasiness.


Outdoor Furniture Scrub Spray*


  • 5 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 20 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 20 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 20 drops Juniper essential oil


Pour the water and vinegar into an 8 oz spray bottle. Add the essential oils and shake well to mix. Note: Shake before using. Spray patio furniture liberally. Clean and scrub with a heavy rag. Avoid spraying directly onto the skin.


Cloth Diaper Laundry Booster*


  • 4 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 4 drops Lavender essential oil




Add the tea tree and lavender essential oils to the soaking cycle of your washing machine. Notes: Tea tree oil helps to disinfect dirty diapers as they soak. Lavender gives the diapers a subtle, fresh aroma as they rinse.


Diaper Pail Spray*


  • 4 oz water
  • 15 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 15 drops Lemon essential oil


Add oils to the water in a 4 oz PET plastic spray bottle, shake gently to mix.


Notes: Shake before using. Spray liberally onto the diaper pail and onto any plastic surfaces around the diaper changing area. This spray is not for use on the skin. Avoid spraying directly onto the changing pad as baby’s bare skin may come in contact with it. If you prefer, you can use 30 drops of peppermint instead of the blend of white pine and lemon oils







*Recipes courtesy of the Aromahead Institute



We Love the Ocean!

One of the things that we love in this world is the ocean. Some of our fondest memories are of time tide pooling in Alaska. The memories of observing the fascinating creatures will stay with us forever. We were reminded of those memories while listening to NPR's radio program, Science Friday. Below, you will see two videos of some amazing creatures. We may never have the opportunity to observe these animals in their natural settings it brings us joy just knowing that they are there.

Enjoy the videos.

How long these animals will be able to survive is in question. Every decision made while shopping for consumer goods for ourselves and homes has the potential to negatively impact the worlds oceans. Laundry products are among the most critical when thinking about the environment. At the Green Scene we are pleased to sell and use at our home, Zum Clean Laundry Soap, among the fine products from Indigo Wild. If you are not sure about the soap please ask for a free sample and give it a try.

In addition the plastic containers that laundry soap comes in is creating a major problem for the oceans and The Great Lakes. One of the most important steps we as consumers can take to help keep plastics out of the environment is to make sure we are recycling. At the Green Scene we take recycling serious. Bring your empty Zum laundry soap bottle back and we will refill it with the same great soap, and you will save $1.00 just for bringing in the bottle.

Sunny Saturday

It has been another glorious spring day here in Marshall, Michigan. A couple of hours ago we experienced a minor earthquake which is very unusual for our area. At the same time there was a loud crash so I thought a truck hit something and didn’t realize until an hour later what happened. Fortunately it only measured 4.2 and had it’s epicenter about 30 miles from us. We are so grateful that it was small, making us wonder what it is like to be in the center of a 7 or 8.

On a completely unrelated topic I just had my inspiration for next years Kentucky Derby Day Sale. Check out the lovely couple on our Facebook page, she is sporting a fabulous hat in honor of Derby Day.

Have a lovely weekend!

Get out in the cold!

YEP! It's cold outside.

We live in Michigan and it gets cold in the winter. At The Green Scene we believe in getting outside, no matter what the weather. Barkley will not let us hole up for the winter, he likes it. We like it too. The only time not to go outside is when you are not dressed for it. Fortunately we have what you need to get outside.

Stormy Kromer and Smartwool are companies that believe winter is a great time to be outside. When your head and feet are warm you have a great chance of having fun outdoors.

Don't be afraid, get outside.