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Nitpicking with Lowe’s

 Posted by on March 2, 2010
Mar 022010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

We are often hardest on those we like. It’s because our disappointment is somehow greater when we’ve been conditioned to expect better.

Like when your once cuddly child becomes a teenager. Or your beloved hairdresser turns your hair green.  Cognitive dissonance sets in, followed by betrayal, followed by disappointment (and in the case of the green hair, mortification.)

And so it was last year when I went to Lowe’s for my usual spring garden supplies — a humble gallon of vinegar weed treatment, several bags of organic mulch, some greensand etc. I count on Lowe’s to have these things. This time, though, I also was looking for a second rain barrel.

I looked and looked. Then, I asked. The manager glanced around, but in that half-hearted way that showed me he knew there wasn’t anything to be found.

That’s right. No rain barrels. At Lowe’s. And not even much sympathy from the manager, who sort of studied the rakes and hoes, waiting for me to move on.

This was jolting, because I usually get pretty good  treatment at Lowe’s, even if it is an impersonal Big Box store. The people who work there are clearly trained to be friendly and most of them are local folks.  The employees make the store. A woman in appliances recently knocked me over with her encyclopedic knowledge of energy efficient washers. I took her name, because when I buy one, I want to be sure it’s from her.

But then, when you’re not patronizing your local garden nursery — and we do try to do that too — you’re likely looking at a mega store because it’s got selection. So long story short, today I got to vent to Lowe’s spokesman Steve Salazar. I grabbed Salazar by the email and asked, ‘Youse guys selling rain barrels or what?’

He stood his ground. Turns out, Lowe’s has got rain barrels. Perhaps they’ve had them online for awhile, but some should be creeping into stores as well, if I read Salazar correctly, and if your local store considers it a priority, which they should given the benefits of free, rainwater irrigation.

Here are Lowe’s two rain barrel models:

One rainbarrel sold by Lowe's

One rainbarrel sold by Lowe's

Another rain barrel sold by Lowe's

Another Lowe's rain barrel

Both models are a little on the petite side, for my taste, but they would show well in a garden setting and won’t offend neighbors if they’re visible.

Lowe’s is making other strides — they are now addressing the other gripe I had with them, the absence of light bulb recycling. That’s now in place, says Salazar, whom I called because Lowe’s has won a top ENERGY STAR award. (Home Depot may have pushed the envelope on the light bulbs, having started accepting CFLs, which contain a small amount of mercury, for recycling last year). Salazar was quick to mention that Lowe’s has a long history of collecting batteries, helping to keep them from leaching toxics into landfills.

Salazar also noted that Lowe’s carries more natural and organic gardening items than any other national retailer. Two new products that he mentioned: Hot Shot Natural insect killer, which uses lemongrass oil extracts, a natural insecticide; and a new line by Bayer Advanced, called Bayer Advanced Natria.

That was encouraging news. Even though Bayer’s been associated with some nasty pesticides, if they’re trying to provide a green alternative, more power to them. (Though I am compelled to note here that some organic gardeners don’t much believe in killing the bad pests so much as letting the predators and beneficials have at it, as nature intended.)

But back to my original point, it can be tough shopping for greener alternatives. The marketplace is very much in flux right now, fraught with stumbling blocks for those seeking eco-friendly products. (And we don’t even have time to discuss how green products are still frequently pricing themselves out of contention.)

Let’s just leave it at this. We consumers have to show a little chutzpah — ask for what we need, shop around, shop locally, but also shop where retailers are willing to supply what we need. We have only our dollars with which to “vote”.

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