Monday, March 27, 2006

Thinking Green

In March, I long for my garden. The remedy is simple: bring nature inside. I choose the branch of a tree with buds close together – our native wild cherry works fine – and select a few side shoots for a favorite vase. This winter "bouquet" jazzes up our bed & breakfast as tiny forced leaves appear. Here are the bare branches, currently on the windowsill. After a week or two, I will replace them with some forsythia. When its blossoms fade, I will cut back the geraniums, which have spent the winter in a sunny window, and make geranium-shoot bouquets, filling the house with the promise of spring.

Last Thursday I was helping sort books for the two summer book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries, and one of the other volunteers held up a guide to the hospitality industry. She checked the publication date and muttered, “I never stay at bed & breakfasts.”

Bet your life I pricked up my ears. “Excuse me,” I said. “We have some very good bed & breakfasts here in Wellfleet, and I run one of them.”

“It’s all the fabric, I can’t stand,” she hastened to add.

I assured the lady we have no frou-frous at Chez Sven. I doubt many B & Bs in town do. Strange how people get impressions that have nothing to do with reality.

One way in which Chez Sven differs from other Wellfleet establishments is that we are “green.” I am not crazy about the word since it reminds me of Kermit the Frog singing about the hardship of being different. Environmentally-friendly. Specialty: eco-tourism. There, that’s better. Actually, I would be happy if more local innkeepers adopted similar policies. Apparently eco-tourism is gaining in popularity. The New York Times recently called it “buzzword of the year”.

From that article you will learn the state of Wisconsin is taking measures to promote green lodging. While this is a wonderful initiative, it comes too late for a green pioneer on Sturgeon Bay. Sheri Gibbs has decided to sell her beautiful bed & breakfast. Over the past year, Sheri gave me much encouragement and advice. If anyone out there is looking for a great turn-key inn, check out White Pines Victorian Lodge.

The decision to go green came to us quite naturally. It just seemed like the sensible thing to do, especially here on this fragile sandbar that is Cape Cod, where shellfishing is a major industry. One of the neighbors used to maintain a neon green lawn. Every time I drove past, I would cringe at the idea of all that fertilizer washing into the water table and bay. Fertilizer causes algae to grow. When I was at town hall last week, I picked up a new leaflet with the headline, “When you’re fertilizing the lawn, remember you’re not just fertilizing the lawn.” Here at Chez Sven, we use no chemical fertilizer. All that goes into the garden is compost and well-rotted manure.

We used to be the only green bed & breakfast on the Outer Cape. I’m delighted to say there is a second now, in Eastham. Night Heron Bed & Breakfast. Let’s hope the two of us can inspire other innkeepers in the region to change their ways and go green!