In a bygone era, frontier pioneers got most everything they needed from flour to dresses to buggywhips from a general store.
Today's "green pioneers" those committed to minimize their own impact on the Earth now have another place to shop in downtown Lawrence.
The Simple Goods General Store, 735 Mass., which opened about three weeks ago, has a rustic atmosphere with wooden barrels filled with bulk goods and simple wooden shelving.
The store offers customers hard-to-find products, such as "100 percent post-consumer" recycled paper, "earth lights" and transparent cellulose food bags.
In the back of the store, there's a resource center, where customers can sit in a rocking chair and read about environmental issues or "how to" books on many topics.
Simple Goods General Store is the second environmental products store that has opened in downtown Lawrence in the last two months.
BRYAN HAYMAN, a recent Kansas University graduate, opened EarthTones, 1025A Mass., in November. Hayman says business is better than he had expected.
And Hayman said he thought Simple Goods General Store would not hurt his business but would help to build awareness that environmentally safe products do exist.
"Both of the businesses are there to let the customers know the products are out there," Hayman said. "You're not carrying the exact same goods, but you are carrying the same philosophy that you're not going to destroy the environment."
Like Hayman, the partners in Simple Goods said a national environmental awareness day on April 22, 1990, provided an impetus for their business.
"It all came about on Earth Day," said Sue Dalton, one of the partners who participated in the local Earth Day programs in South Park.
MEANWHILE, Michael Almon, another of the partners, announced on Earth Day that his business, Bluestem Energy Co-op Assn. Inc., which sold insulated window treatments and "on-demand" water heaters, would expand and diversify, and he called for others to join him.
"Shortly after that we both got the idea that it would be good to have these kinds of products available locally and what a wonderful idea it would be to open the store," Dalton said.
The other two partners in the business are Brian Schwegmann, a Kansas University student, and Carine Ullom.
Ullom, who was in Germany as a Fulbright scholar last year, said Germans are much more aware of using environmentally safe products, which are readily available to them.
"One hundred percent post-consumer waste products are available in dime stores and discount stores and are not a specialty item at all," Ullom said.
She said she became frustrated that such products were hard to find in the United States, and through friends learned about the idea for a general store to sell such goods.
ULLOM SAID that although there are hundreds of recycled and environmentally safe products on the market, most of those products were available only through catalogues.
"People are reluctant to order products by mail because you can't hold them in your hand and tell exactly what it is," Ullom said. "We felt like if people had a retail outlet to go to and learn about them, it would be a great opportunity to educate them."
For example, many people don't understand the concept of 100 percent consumer recycled paper, as opposed to industrial recycled paper, she said. She said 100 percent recycled paper is paper that has been used and recylced by the consumer. Industrial recycled paper is leftover from the end of a large roll and has yet to reach a consumer.
"That's part of the education that we enjoy doing, having people know that this paper is unbleached and is 100 percent post-consumer material," Dalton said.
ULLOM AND Dalton said that since the store opened Dec. 1, many downtown shoppers have come in to buy products made out of recycled paper, such as stationery, legal pads, computer paper and toilet paper.
One of the hottest selling items has been the solar-powered battery charger, Ullom said. "It's fun to use."
Batteries are inserted into the unit and rather than plugging it into the wall socket, it is placed in sunlight. The unit's photo-voltaic cells generate the electricity to recharge the batteries.
The store also sells "earth lights," which are energy-saving light bulbs that last longer than regular bulbs and use less electricity.
Other products include transparent cellulose food bags, which can be used in place of plastic freezer storage bags, and, since they are made of plant fiber, are 100 percent biodegradable; cotton shower curtains; re-refined motor oil; window coverings; and reflector shades, they said.
THE OWNERS also try to offer as many items as they can in bulk, to avoid as much unnecessary packaging as possible, Ullom said.
"We also want to sell as many things as we can that are produced locally," Ullom said. For example, they sell rugs made by Lawrence residents from rags and cotton lunch bags.