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Eco-Friendly Small Business Problems

There are lots of ways to help the environment as a small business. One can pay a company to track orders for carbon offsetting. Or one can buy sustainable products to operate the business side. There are the two main ways that many small business deal with it. The problem is that in order to utilize those options the business needs to raise the prices of the items. This can lead to a lack of sales.

Many small businesses tend to walk a thin profit line. In order to compete with big box companies or even well established companies prices and products must be affordable and unique. As the bigger selling sites tend to push quantity over quality, and have the overhead to cover loss, this means that the smaller businesses need an edge.

People want a bargain, I understand that.

This has always been an issue. Grocery stores had a gimmick where you would receive stickers so that you can get a good deal on a dinner set. Banks would offer toasters when you opened multiple accounts. Sandwich club cards, free bookmarks or pens, and other cheap free gifts with purchase are still given today. All of this is to bring customers back and build loyalty. Unfortunately this causes a lot of clutter in the landfills.

Some companies offer non-tangible incentives, like free shipping over a set price, or free gift wrapping or even future percentages off the next purchase with in x about of days. While it does bring some customers back, the percentage is never high enough to justify the loss of the razor thin margin line.

In the last decade environmental friendly has become the new gimmick. I am not saying that carbon offsetting is a sham, or that climate change is real or not. But the trend has picked up pace with society and here we are. So how does a company become more environmentally sustainable?

It all comes down to money.

If a company has room in the profits to pay a company to set up an offsetting program, then that is a way to go. Of course if there is enough money, one can start buying more products that are recycled or made from more sustainable materials. But what if there is not enough money?

One of the main ways to run a small business in an environmentally sustainable & friendly manner on a tight budget is to upcycle and reuse. Yet the consumer tends to frown upon it.

For example I have twenty three bookcases- all wood. Buying them new with sustainable wood will cost me $200 per case at a starting point. But if I buy prefab or another wood from the local thrift market or seconds store it will cost me $40 each. Display cloths? $35 for newly made by people getting paid well. Or $3-10 each from a seconds shop. Glass display cases? Store closing down selling them off for cheap or have it newly made? These items would be tossed into the landfill if they are not bought and that would create more greenhouse gases. So isn’t it better to use what has already been made, instead of tossing it and making something new?

The same thing goes for packing supplies. While I can buy bags of packing peanuts that are made from vegetable matter that will dissolve in water, and newly printed papers to wrap things in, I don’t. Some stores will allow other stores to come and take their used packing supplies. Industrial waste is a massive issue, and any attempt to reuse them should be considered a good thing. I also buy gift wrap that has been marked down for clearance and brown paper bags to wrap my products.

The problem is with perception.

When I did fairs and festivals I would bring my products in cardboard boxes with paper shred made from old bills and adverts. If I sold enough and a box was damaged it would be used as firewood or taken home to be mulched. Thing is when I started to mail out products with paper shred people tended to not like it. I was told that it was trashy because it did not look nice. So I switched to wrapping items in cloth. At one point I had a lot of vintage unused handkerchiefs and tea towels. It was easy to wrap the products in and worked very well as a padding. Unfortunately customers complained that it was unsanitary and looked cheap. Perhaps they did not want to deal with the cloths afterwards, but they never said that. So now I still use those cloths when I go to shows and fairs. Envelopes need to be new, boxes have to be wrapped so that they cannot see previous company information.

Customers seem to want things to look nice and new, even if they want to feel better about how they are impacting the environment. It is getting ridiculous. Re purposing something does not mean it is damaged, nor does it mean you are getting scammed. Reusing until it cannot be used again is the other side of the environmentally friendly coin. It is the modern tale of Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree. (If you haven’t heard of this book, I suggest you find a copy!)

So this is what I suggest. If you, as a customer, want to help the environment or just follow the trend, then please not only check and see if the company is carbon offsetting, but if they are recycling & re purposing. This will not only help save the planet, it will help the small business stay in business and help save you money as well.

Happy Reading.

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Bookstore Dreams

I have always wanted to be a bookstore owner, and I have been selling books for over 20 years. Before that I had worked in both new and used bookstores, both chains and indie. I have been a worker and a manager (even though a manager title is worthless when there are only two working) and a book repairer. Now as an owner I am all of that and more.

The stores I worked at have all be closed down for years now. This sounds strange, like it was my fault that this occurred. When one is talking about small businesses -especially small niche businesses- this is a common occurrence. Three of the places I worked at were specialty bookstores- one cats, one history and one sports-and I was the only employee. This meant that the owner could have a day off and not lose sales. This also meant that I learned every task that there was to run the place. This also meant that when I left (small businesses sometimes do not pay much) the store would have to hire someone quickly in order to keep up. When the owner got sick or could not hire anyone the business suffered.

Two of the places I worked at were general used bookstores. These are the ones where the books are stacked floor to ceiling in general sections which can easily become a health hazard. These places had good books, but some were

used books in the bookstore

not able to be accessed without moving hundreds of others. These places deal with bulk sales and tend to not have online catalogues. They take in trades and hope to sell more than they do. This type of bookstore can succeed if they are the only used place around or are in an area with a lot of foot traffic.

I’ve worked in two chain bookstores. One of them sold music & coffee as well. This store had a problem with dealing with the change in readership. They did not host events, nor did they pay the employees well. For every trend they waited until it was proven to start it. For example they had a website where one could find the books, but not order them. For that the customer had to call the store nearest them. This was before Amazon started, but even after Amazon was growing into the creature it now is, they never decided to catch on to the seller aspect. Thus they went out of business.

When I started to sell books and started my business I wanted to stay small. I decided to gather a following through events and festivals. So I did. With only a tent, a pavilion, some rugs, a lot of foldable shelving, a reliable vehicle and inventory I would show up at SCA events, Pagan Festivals, Science Fiction Conventions, Anime Conventions, Home School Fairs and even thrift markets.

But time marches on, and I saw the need to start selling online as well. Thus my books were listed on Amazon, ABE.com and Alibris.com. I had multiple websites, but with unreliable computers and no understanding on how to actually post things it was just a glorified GeoCities.

It was always my plan to have a bookwagon to go to shows in, a brick & morter location and an active website.

Like this only bigger.

But due to 2020 the brick & morter location and the shows stopped. Now I am selling online. I have this site, an inventory that is on biblio.com, a twitter account, an Instagram account and a tiktok account. I am selling at online festivals and attempting to find newer places to peddle my wares.

While it is a struggle and a bit of a pain, I am living my childhood dream and that is, to me, the best thing that one can accomplish in life.

With that being said, if you know of any fairs, festivals, events or groups that are starting up online, please feel free to let me know.

Happy Reading.

UniqReads

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Reader’s Digest Complete Book of the Garden

Mz. Geri was sitting on a worn wooden bench drinking from a cup of hot lemon tea (hot water and a whole peeled lemon) when I asked her about the books on her shelves. We were relaxing on her porch, hidden from the street by a large Rose of Sharon and some blooming Azealia bushes that were over 4 feet in height. She loves the privacy and the colors that the plants give her, but sometimes she wishes she could see to the street like she used to.

Before the plants?

Before the glasses.

Mz. Geri had grown up in the City of New York in Queens in the aftermath of WWII. Her mother would tell her about how much of the city used to be farmland and would always have a small plant or two- basil or rosemary- that would spend most of the time on the kitchen window or the fire escape. Mz. Geri always dreamed of having a garden and loved to have flowers around, but it wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she had the opportunity to grow anything.

My son had a spot in his lungs from the pollution and the doctors said he needed fresh air to help strengthen them. So my husband got a job in Florida and we moved there. There was Nothing in that town. It’s gotten bigger now. But then the only entertainment was the church groups and the bars. The lack of shops was a big shock to me, but the heat was the impossible to describe. We had a small attached house-a duplex- with a fenced yard and a tree by the side door. I didn’t know anything about taking care of a house that big. The closets could hold a queen sized bed.

My first time planting…I had gotten these flower seeds.. multiple types of daisies and I had hooped to see a row of colorful plants down the fence line. I spent hours digging up the ground and planting them. I followed the directions watered them, and waited. Nothing grew. Not even a seedling. I tried it again in another spot. Nothing.

My neighbor was this older woman who was always dressed up. She wore good clothes all of the time. I don’t think I could survive today, now that I am her age, in that much hosiery and layers in the heat. Still she would work in her garden and it looked amazing. I asked for her advise. Mz. Geri laughs softly, a smile erasing the wrinkles from her face. I showed her the instructions and told her I was too exhausted to plant them correctly. I only dug down to my knee height and not the five feet. She looked at me, looked at the seed packet and said ‘Geri, the ” mark means inches.’ My poor seeds! I was so embarrassed. I dug down 4 feet to plant them. They are probably finally reaching the surface!

I planted them again, correctly this time. By the end of the month I had some growing. It was a battle with the heat, but the soil was much better then. Now I always need extra fertilizer, some 10-10-10 or horse manure, but then it seems like I only had to dig a little and it was fine. After I replanted them, my neighbor came over for brunch and she left that book for me. You have to remember that in the 70s Reader’s Digest was considered one of the better sources of information. I still have a copy of the home repair guide somewhere. This book was amazing to read and has been very helpful.

Reader’s Digest The Complete Book of the Garden was published in 1966. According to the introduction this 800+ page book was intended to create and cultivate a successful gardener who understands the basic principles, can easily adapt to changing conditions while being able to glean information from the experts. From the basics of choosing planters for indoor use to what plants are better for your living spaces, this no nonsense guide explained zoning and composting, and even when to purchase the plants for your particular use.

You must understand that many guides of the times were designed for the expert. I could find some on Bonsai trees, or roses, but there were only a few on wild flowers or normal flowers. A lot of them focused on the designing or the pruning of the plants. While it was nice to know how to arrange the roses for different occasions, I couldn’t figure out how to get them to bloom. What made this book my favorite was that in each section they tell you what plants to use. With both names: the common and the Latin.

And it does. Each section offers at least 10 plants that are optimal for the conditions. The plants are described in each stage of growing for easy identification, and the possible issues and diseases they are prone to as well. There are also some pastel colored line drawings to give the reader a better idea of the types of plants.

The section on compost was very helpful. I would take the bus down to one of the beaches and ask at one of the seafood restaurants for clam shells and fish bones to use. People would back away from me when I would come home with a small red cooler or some buckets. Ah it reeked! All of that rotting in the heat. It reminded me of when my mom would send us to my Uncles in Maine during the summer and we would have to wait for the fishing boats to come in. We would gather the lobsters and clams then walk up to the town so we wouldn’t be showing up empty handed. But the ladies on the bus would be “tut-tutting” me and eying my kerchief covered hair. One time I got on wearing a straw hat-oh the whispers. Most of those ladies seemed to do nothing but dress up and ride the bus. Considering the price of the bus fare was much less than the cost of a bag of horse manure I didn’t care. Could you imagine how they would have reacted if I came aboard with buckets of manure? I would have been told to take the migrant worker’s bus for sure.

Over the years I have taken the information about different types and styles of gardens and mixed them together. I don’t think flowers should be in straight rows. I started planting seasonally, so that there is always something growing. She shrugs.

I would rather there be some color somewhere. So what if the only thing growing is red tulips next to the mailbox? When they start to die off the geraniums will be blooming in the other corner. I’m not the best note keeper. I write them perfectly: what I planted, when they will bloom and where, but I keep misplacing them. When I die people will find years of garden designs in cabinets, drawers and possibly the bathroom cabinet. Who knows? If anything there is one failing of this book. There should be a section for notes. Not to write in, but a little card section. Like the library books used to have to stamp when the book needed to be returned. That way you could keep your notes in the same place.

I would suggest that anyone who wants to start gardening should have a copy of this book. I don’t know if it is still in print, but I’m sure there are plenty of used copies around.

Reader’s Digest does not currently offer The Complete Book of the Garden in any format at this time. Mz Geri is correct in that a simple internet search will bring up many used copies. Some of them all chipped on the spine as hers is. (see photo).

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Free Spirit Gathering

Greetings! This is just a note that on June 18-20, 2021 Uniqreads will be merchanting at the Free Spirit Gathering. This is an online only event this year. There will be classes, games and more. For this event we will be offering 10% off of our books to the attendees. Please check out the event at the link below.

For those who have followed the link here, you can find most of our listings at our biblio.com seller page.

Happy Reading!

www.FSGonline.org

www.biblio.com/bookstore/e-campbell-tallahassee

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Book Review: Quietly in Their Sleep by Donna Leon

The Death of Faith by Donna Leon (UK edition)

Normally I would not suggest a book that is in the middle of a series, but the way that Donna Leon writes makes it a good introduction to the labyrinthine world of Vienna. Commissario Guido Brunetti comes to the aid of a young nursing Nun who has runaway after suspecting five of her elderly patients have been murdered. The readers are introduced to the inner workings of the church and the various groups connected it to. But while the deaths are suspicious, there is no evidence of criminal activity, and yet something sinister seems to be occurring. But when corruption is the rule of law, how can one fight against it?

Quietly in Their Sleep is volume five of a 30 volume series. The first volume was published in 1992 and the latest in 2021. Oddly enough, these books, by the author’s request, are not published into Italian. If you are looking for a thought provoking, slow burner series, this is a good one to read.

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BookReview: The DarkLord of Derkholm by Diana Wynn Jones

Have you ever read a fantasy novel and wanted to live in that world? Many people have going so far as to learn a language, make costumes and role play within the stories. But what most people want to do is live the life of the main character or part of their crowd. The odds are if you are put into that world you will not be the hero. You would be one of the ordinary people of that world. It still might be fun, or will it?

In The Darklord of Derkholm people from our reality travel to another planet to Larp (live action role play) as adventurers defeating the big evil. The adventure parties go on the adventure and then go home, but the people of this world are tired of this. 50 years ago they had signed a contract with an off-worlder, Mr Chesney, who had trapped them with these tours. Forced to host multiple campaigns has caused their cities to be destroyed, people maimed & killed and crops to fail. Their planet is being destroyed and there is no clear way out of the contract.

Every season a new “Dark Lord” is chosen and this time it is the mild mannered Derk, a wizard who specializes in genetics and creates new animals. His wife is now the Glamorous Enchantress and has to work on the other side of him. Derk is thought to be a bumbling fool due to his inability to do magic correctly, but he has come up with ways to save the herd animals (flying pigs and horses) from the adventurers, along with creating some griffin children.

Told from many different perspectives, this book is an amazing tale. It takes a look at the darkness of the human condition (off-worlders doing whatever they want because it “isn’t real.”) and the brightness (how the inhabitants of this world band together to save themselves). It is a very well written story that can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

It is worth mentioning that Jones and The Dark Lord of Derkholm won the 1999 Mythopoetic Fantasy Award in the children’s section.

So if you are a fantasy fan, or would just like the chance to see things from another point of view, this is the book for you.

Happy Reading.

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Book Review: The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

One of the most compelling and frustrating things about Religious Mythology tales is the lack of what seems like important knowledge. Since all of them that we have today started as oral tales, the tellers had the chance to modify things for the audience. Of course when they were finally transcribed into a written language and then translated into a more “popular” one phrases were left out and other influences crept in. This has left some interesting situations which are brushed aside.

In the Christianity Mythos after killing off his brother, Cain is marked by God and is sent away across the wasteland where he finds a wife. But there were only four humans: Adam, Eve, Able, & Cain and Able was now dead. So where did this wife come from?

In Greek Mythos the question of what the fate of the children of Coeus and the other siblings of Cronus was.

In Turkic mythos the fate of Ashina’s 9 siblings (all born of the she wolf and the human she nursed to health) is never explained.

In the Norse Mythos what happened to the brother’s of Odien? Who was the mother of Loki’s unnatural children? Where did the wolves who chases the sun & moon come from? How do some of the Gods survive Ragnarökr and the creation of a green new world?

And the same occurs in the many mythos of our world. People and places are mentioned in passing and never thought to be important and yet there is something that calls to us to inquire about them.

In her book Gornichec takes some of those forgotten issues and weaves them together into a compelling tale of trauma, betrayal and power. In the Edda Loki’s wife is mentioned “She was always a delight to wicked women.” But is that the view of the winner? Would Odien and the Asier mention the good qualities of the woman who sired the beings that bring about their deaths?

And what of her side of the story? Why would she do what she did?

This book answers these questions by starting in the middle of her tale, which was also the beginning of the Asier tale. We are introduced to Gullveig who is burned and suffering from trauma induced memory loss wandering in a dead forest trying to decide if she should survive. The arrival of Loki with her stolen heart (literally) causes her to take a new name, Angrboda, and start her life as a new person. But her previous role as a “powerful witch who did interesting things” follows her across the ages and makes her into an unwilling pawn for the prophesy. Her struggle to reclaim her self and become a more powerful piece on the board of life & death is an amazing read that resonates in all of us.

How closely this work is to the forgotten myths we will never know, but sometimes it is true that the story left out is the better one to be told.

Happy Reading.

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Book Review: The Young Architect

Activity books are fun, and retro ones can be even more enjoyable for many reasons.

First: They can bring us back to a “simpler” time where educational things can be enjoyable. The whole learn the lesson while having fun idea.

Second: They can show a different perspective or provide a different manner of teaching.

Third: They can be cheesy and nostalgic.

That being said today I am reviewing a book called The Young Architect by Buki Ltd. This book was part of the “Draw-a-Line” series. Intended for ages 5 to 11, it was first published in 1974 and still being printed in 2005.

The concept behind it is fairly simple. Teach children how to design buildings. This is done by offering a series of simplistic seeming drawings, each on a single page, with a space for the child to draw it. Included is a plastic “shape maker” which will allow the younger children the chance to trace the shapes instead of free handing. There are also a few pages of backgrounds so that the children can see how the design will fit in each setting.

For someone who wants to learn to draw, this is a good book to start. While the results will be somewhat cartoonish, it does help the child learn to see the shapes that can make a design.

Now most used copies are missing pages or the shapemaker, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal.

After all there is a reason this book has been in print for so long.

Personally I will say that this book should be geared more towards ages 3-7, but even eleven year old’s should be able to garner some enjoyment from it.

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Book Review: Mrs Peanuckle’s Vegetable Alphabet

Children’s Books are a difficult category to review. Especially as the age between the selected audience and the reviewer is separated by decades.

That being said,

What does one expect of a board book?

Sturdy. These books are designed to be held and chewed upon by small pre-readers. So they cannot be delicate.

Colors. They must attract the untrained eye of the prereader.

Compact. They must get to the point quickly and in an entertaining manner.

What does one expect of an Alphabet book?

The parent/guardian/reader wants it to be engaging, yet they expect it to be very simplistic. A will always be Apple, B will be Banana, C will be Carrot and so on. If you are lucky there will be a rhyme or a verse. Traditionally these books will have just one fruit on a page, a simple 1 to 2 color illustration or a glossy photo.

Over the decades as more fruits & vegetables have become widely available, some have snuck in: C is coconut, P is Pear or Potato or Peach or Pumpkin. Different countries highlight different ones depending on the dominate cultures. For example G can be Grapes, Guava or Grains. But on the whole most of these books tend to keep the items to one or two (or even three) syllables to make it easier for the child to learn them.

This is where Mrs. Peanuckle has changed the game.

From the art work on the cover you can see the cute smiling vegetables: Peas, Peppers, pumpkin, and a turnip? Wait three Ps? What is the deal?

She first starts out with the familiar A is for Asparagus B is for Beans and …. wait Cucumbers?

Dandelions? Eggplant? Fiddleheads? Jicama? Nasturtium? Watercress? Zucchini?

Okay. so being a vegetable only alphabet book you cannot expect apples and bananas, but asparagus? Why has she changed the game? What is with all of these things?

Honestly I think it is a great idea. It helps to introduce the different vegetables to the child and allows them to accept them as normal. This will help a child be more willing to try a different item and expand their palate from the very beginning.

Mrs Peanuckle’s Vegetable Alphabet is an amazing inviting board book full of cute, inviting illustrations and some informational rhymes, that will please the reader and the listener. For Board Books, this is a step up in the game and will be difficult to match.

A great buy for the new pre-reader.