La Jolla businesses find ways to go green

By Jesus Castillo

Going green has become a mission for several La Jolla businesses. From clothes retailers to spas, owners are finding creative approaches to promote environmental awareness while boosting profits.

Since taking over JEP Boutique, new owner Kristina Bodal has turned the store into an eco-friendly business by adding environmentally conscious designers to JEP’s lineup.

Bodal grew up in Washington state, where she said she first became involved in the green effort.

“The new designer brands that we carry exclusively use biodegradable materials,” Bodal said. “The materials are made without a lot of the harmful chemicals that other brands usually have, which means that they have no effect on the environment.”

Some of these new designer brands, like Quiet Hero and Sustainable Collective, donate some of their profits to charitable foundations.

Quiet Hero even has its own charity organization called Operation Quiet Hero, which, among other efforts, works to raise money to help out people living in war zones around the world.

“Some of the other things we’ve done to go green are really simple,” she explained, “like writing the prices with marker on the actual clothing tags instead of using stickers. It’s a really simple solution that helps conserve a lot of paper.”

Bodal said that transitioning to green has not really affected her customer base negatively.

“The reason we chose these green brands to sell here is because our customers can’t tell that they’re green,” she said.

Bodal also added that much of what makes JEP green are things the costumers can’t really see.

“All the toilet paper and the paper towels that the employees use are biodegradable and eco-friendly.”

Several blocks south of JEP, along La Jolla Blvd, Pangaea Travel agency has set a goal to offset the damage done to the environment by carbon emissions created while traveling. It does so by offering what it calls “carbon free” travel to all customers at no charge.

Jessica Finley and Chris Tharp, owners of Pangaea, work together with Carbon Fund, a company that calculates the amount of carbon emitted during a trip.

“Traveling is one of the main causes of carbon emissions,” said Finley. “And carbon emission is one of the main causes of global warming. What Carbon Fund does is come up with equations that estimate the dollar amount that it would take to offset the carbon emissions caused by a given trip.”

“And they calculate it for the entire trip,” said Tharp. “The taxi cab to the airport, the plane ride, the hotel, everything.”

Pangaea then pays this dollar amount to Carbon Fund, who spends it, according to the customer’s wishes, on one of three carbon-reducing projects: reforestation, renewable energy or energy efficiency.

“It’s really a no-brainer,” said Tharp, “because the customer doesn’t pay extra. We pay for the carbon offset and they get to travel guilt free. Other companies, like Travelocity, offer the option, but the customer has to pay. And some companies only pay to offset the hotel but not the flight, which accounts for 90 percent of the carbon emissions.”

Finley and Tharp, long-time friends and avid travelers, launched their business in April of 2007 and said that from the start, they looked for a way to raise environmental awareness through their agency.

“We believe that in order to become a better citizen, you have to travel,” said Finley. “The more you explore and learn about other places, the more you can contribute to your own community. The only problem is that there are some detrimental effects to traveling.”

It took Pangaea six months to put together a system to offset these detrimental effects, but the owners said they are satisfied with the result.

Another La Jolla business that has ramped up its efforts to go green, Gaia Day Spa, sells and uses all organic products. All of the disposables used by the spa, such as the water cups and bags, are produced from biodegradable, eco-friendly materials such as corn or sugar cane instead of plastic.

“These are very dynamic times,” said spa director Rhana Pytell. “There are so many creative people every day coming up with new ways to conserve energy and help the environment, while still providing all the comforts we’re used to.”

Gaia Spa accomplishes this in several ways.

Most of the lighting at Gaia comes from LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which use 80 percent less energy than regular bulbs.

The sheets and bedding used on the massage tables come from The Comphy Company, which produces bedding materials made up of recyclable microfiber instead of cotton.

“Cotton is expensive and takes up a lot of water to produce,” Pytell explained. “And if damaged, cotton sheets are simply tossed away and they can’t be recycled.”

A long-time resident of La Jolla, Pytell ran a florist business for 13 years before starting Gaia Spa. She said one of the challenges of being an eco-friendly business in La Jolla is that recycling trucks do not provide services in the commercial district.