Bay Area Boutique is Seeing Green

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - Adult retail boutique Pleasures of the Heart has been certified as a "green" business, but it didn't need many changes to comply with the requirements of the Bay Area Green Business Program.


Owner Jennifer Islas tells AVN Novelty Business that she lives as "greenly" as possible, including walking to work, hanging her laundry to dry, recycling and carpooling. It only makes sense that her environmentally friendly habits would carry over into her business.


"As a business owner, one of my priorities was to reduce some of the wasteful habits that the original ownership had," she says. "I reuse the packing peanuts and boxes my vendors use when shipping, I request vendors not send garments on plastic hangers or-if possible-in plastic bags, and the bags that do come in, I reuse by tying a knot in one end and using them as garbage bags."


Cutting down on the store's waste has been a priority, as well. Before she owned the boutique, Islas says, two large overflowing garbage containers were picked up each week. Now, the store's weekly trash fits in less than half of a smaller garbage bin.


In December 2005, Islas met a customer who told her about a program that certified green businesses and referred her to Dana Armanino, Marin County's energy specialist and green-business coordinator.


"I called her, and she came and did an assessment," Islas says. "There was only one thing I needed to change, and that was the lighting. There's even a program to assist businesses with that cost."


In addition to lighting modifications, Islas says, the store had gone green in many other ways.


"We found lingerie made of soy, modal, bamboo and organic cottons," she says. "We found vibrators that are rechargeable and don't use up batteries. Many toys are made of stainless steel, onyx, marble, granite or glass. We found organic lubes. And the toys that are plastic don't off-gas elastomer."


While the store's inventory isn't 100 percent green, Islas says, the percentage of greener products continues to grow.


She, along with her daughter and partner Chloe Islas and Assistant Manager Erika Gutierrez, strive to use as little paper as possible. They rely on email for correspondence, including invoices, orders and the company's mailing list. The store's fax machine is kept unplugged to prevent waste from inbound junk faxes. The business associates contact all companies who send unsolicited mail or catalogs, asking to have the store removed from their mailing lists.


"I have always lived a very green lifestyle," Jennifer Islas says. "So when I bought the business, I wanted to effect change here that was in line with my ideals and lifestyle, environmentally. I carry Dana Armanio's card everywhere and encourage people to contact her about becoming certified."


In addition to the peace of mind that comes with knowing she is reducing her ecological footprint, she says, there are many other benefits to being green.


"Most people are unmotivated by altruism or concern for social or environmental welfare," she says. "So I tell them they should go green because they save money and get free advertising, which is a goldmine for any business.


"When you're a certified green business, you get listed in the main directory of green businesses. Your website gets linked to the green-businesses site, and many people choose to do business with other green businesses or like-minded people. If you are facing competition in your field, this will give you that edge up!"


Ceil Scandone, regional coordinator of the Bay Area Green Business Program, agrees.

"There are things any business can do to go green," Scandone says. "After an initial small investment, it will end up saving you a lot of money in the long run."


In addition to businesses in the nine Bay Area counties covered by the government-funded program, businesses in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Santa Monica also are eligible.