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The quest to find natural products in Grand Rapids

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Organic lettuce from Mud Lake Farm, available at the West Michigan Co-op all year long

Organic lettuce from Mud Lake Farm, available at the West Michigan Co-op all year long /stevendepolo

I recently ordered natural goat’s milk body lotion online from a place in Texas. After thinking it over, I realized I really need to start exploring the options available in Grand Rapids, saving on the carbon foot print of shipping across the country, but also supporting our local economy. Initially, it was a challenge to find natural local companies in our community that provide products I actually want to buy. The quest for natural or “green” products is a year in the making for me, and I have encountered many stumbling blocks along the way. Some companies portray their products as “natural” when in reality, after a cursory glance over the ingredients you can see that they are really just the same old chemical laden products that everyone else uses, but with a higher price tag. (A good way to see what ingredients really are is to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, which is good for most body products.

So where do you find truly natural, green and local products in West Michigan? I can’t give you a direct answer, but there are a few new things happening that may fill in some blanks.

On February 13th, the First Annual West Michigan Holistic Expo is set to take place in Comstock Park. This is an exciting new opportunity for local holistic, green and natural based companies to get out there and show their stuff. There will be dozens of vendors from all over the state and region, and products to sample or purchase. The admission is $6 and they are still accepting vendors.
Natural Awakenings Magazine is coming out with a new publication that is long overdue: The 1st Annual Natural Living Directory for West Michigan. It will be a free guide available in print and online for natural, healthy and sustainable living products and services in West Michigan. They will have copies available at their booth at the Women’s Expo in March, and after will be available in the locations where the publication is distributed, as well as online all year long.
If you live in the city, you have opportunities to participate in a co-op, check one out, they don’t just carry food. The West Michigan Co-op has a variety of producers who also offer natural soaps and lotions, as well as essential oils. There are other local co-ops that may carry natural products for your skin and home. If you live in the country, pay attention when someone else is driving and you may notice an abundance of signs for local businesses selling natural products, organic food and the like.
There are also many local brick and mortar stores out there with natural, green products available, but unless you are “in” with Grand Rapids (which I’m not), they can be tough to find. I know East Town is a good bet to wander around, and I have been discovering little treasures in communities like Lowell, Rockford and other suburbs of the Grand Rapids area.
If anyone has any more suggestions for finding local, healthy products, please feel free to post in the comment section below. Go Green!

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I'm so glad somebody wrote a piece about this! I've been trying to make sense of the resources on sustainable living in GR, and this is a great starting point.

If it could be called a pet peeve, one of my greatest pet peeves is that terms like "natural," "organic," and "free-range" don't actually mean much. It's a bit ridiculous that in response to the market's desires--more sustainable and responsible products--factory farms and corporations have co-opted (or "cooptated," as Rumsey and I like to say) the terms rather than initiate any real and deep changes to the manufacturing process.

Yes, i was a bit peeved when I saw that Silk changed their organic formula to "natural" and keeping the text, size, color etc the same, most people didn't notice the change. They didn't lower the price either. But after proclaiming my dismay, someone pointed out to me, what can you expect from Dean Foods, the largest (?) food producer. Point taken. It is misleading and dishonest though...,

Try Green Life Market, on East Fulton near Diamond.

 Nice article!

My wife was just telling me how it shouldnt be that hard to be green, even in michigan in the winter(as far as food goes)... i think the problem is convenience... when you see how easy it is to grab any random thing off the shelf at the big box store without thinking about where it came from  compared to finding that specific GREEN item you want/need, it gets overwhelming...

that's why it is important to vote with your dollars (the only actual vote us americans have that counts!) by buying green products...  sustainable, ethical and LOCAL  should be priority for our money.

you can see the effects of it already in the products and marketing in the stores now...eventually all products will have to msintain some level of "eco cred" just to able to compete with everything else on the  shelves if our dollars continue to go to the right issues

I agree with you to a certain extent, Scott. Part of it is convenience, but it's also about doing what you can. I carpool to Meijer because most of the bikable grocery stores are:

  1. Too expensive
  2. Don't have a diverse selection
  3. I can only carry so much weight

Karen brought up Green Life. They don't accept food stamps yet, and neither does Martha's Vineyard. It's important to vote with your dollars where you can, but tradeoffs are everywhere. Selection and eating out of season = trucking in food from long distances. Some products are local but not organic or organic but not local.

We all have limitations due to circumstance and capacity. Once someone has decided to be mindful, it's about doing what you can within your means.

Bummers! I followed the link to the Holisitc Expo, and unfortunately I found that is has been cancelled due to lack of vendor participation.