Getting Green With French Paper

Lately we’ve been getting in an eco groovy mood and have been looking through our ingredients and supplies to see if we can get a little greener.  This is a fun exercise we do several times a year because we just don’t think its a good idea to rest on our environmentally conscientious laurels.

So, you may be wondering what little gem our search uncovered?  Only a sixth-generation, family owned paper company that has been making paper in the USA for 140 years.  Hold on, it gets better!  In 1922 the French Paper company installed hydroelectric generators on the St. Joseph River which flows by their mills in Niles, Michigan.  Since that year, they have been generating all the power they needed, and a little extra for the rest of us!

Here is an old school post card with a pic of the French Paper mills next to the river


The environmental impact of producing all that power on site is huge.  They have saved the equivalent of one million barrels of fossil fuel and have avoided the release of more than 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere (the equivalent to the use of over 4,878,049 lbs of coal).  While we are big fans of carbon credits and support companies buying these to offset their carbon footprint, credits just can’t beat this type of onsite, renewable energy!  Way to go French Paper!


So you are probably reading this thinking, Wayne, this is really cool but what does a paper mill in Michigan have to do with  Whispering Willow , a little soap company in North Carolina. Well, it just so happens that we use thousands of sheets of paper annually labeling bar soap, neck & eye pillows and more.  So, in the coming weeks you will notice that the labels will look a little different.  We are transitioning to French Paper’s Speckletone kraft paper.   Speckletone is French Paper’s line of recycled paper which they have been making since 1955 (talk about being ahead of the trend)! Our labels will be a little lighter in color and you will see more natural flecks and shives.    We will also eventually start using French’s standard copy paper for our office use and are working on some ideas that may be perfect for some of French Paper’s other lines of great paper.

So this is how I (known for being a little wordy) like to announce that we are changing our paper supplier.  Whoever said ‘brevity is the soul of wit’, just didn’t get it!

Be Well,

The Bearded Soap Guy


Urban Farming – Michigan Controversy

I’m sure by now most people have heard about this case, but as I generally avoid the news, I’m quite a bit behind.  I heard about this a week or so ago and it just keeps rattling around in my head.  Amazing.

Julie Bass is a homeowner in a neighborhood in Oak Park, Michigan.  Like most of us who wander into gardening, she has a bit of a back story.  It seems that a tree belonging to the city pushed it’s roots into a sewer pipe and flooded Julie’s yard, lawn, and house.  They pulled up the yard, had everything repaired, and were left with a few mounds of dirt.  After some reading and contemplating, they decided it would be a great place to grow some veggies rather than replacing the lawn.  They put in some raised beds and got to work.

Bass Family Garden

The front lawn belongs to Julie and her family…what she wants to do with it is up to her, isn’t it?  Not according to Oak Park.  The city send Julie several warnings stating that she was violating ordinances and that she needed to remove her garden beds.  Amazingly, when Julie refused, the city followed through on their threats and charged her with a misdemeanor.  She had a trial date set and was looking at significant jail time.

What was the zoning ordinance in question you ask?  According to Julie’s blog: “all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, orother suitable live plant material.”

Bass Garden

Being the brave one, Julie decided to fight back.  She started a blog and a facebook page (OakParkHatesVeggies) and a petition was circulated.  As you can imagine, there has been an outpouring of support.  The petition had over 30,000 (!!) signatures and (most importantly), Julie was victorious.  All charges were dismissed.  Her family can now grow their vegetables in (relative) peace.

As it turns out, this is not that rare of a story.  There was a family in Toronto as well and one article mentioned some grumblings in Utah regarding a front yard garden.  I love reading stories about Urban Farming, but I must say this is not something that I expected at all.

Image Source: Flickr CC: jacksonoffice2003, oakparkhatesveggies