Every Day People

Gearhart woman utilizes recycling in all aspects of her life.

The Daily Astorian

SEASIDE - It could be said that recycling is in Denise Fairweather's DNA.

Growing up on a dairy farm in Clark County, Wash., where her family homesteaded in 1854, Fairweather hasn't known a time when nearly everything she touched didn't find another use.

Even in her Seaside business, fairweather house & gallery, Fairweather recycles so much that she discards only a handful of garbage every week.

She has educated her vendors, too. Instead of wrapping products in Styrofoam before shipping, they now use shredded paper. Furniture that used to arrive in shrink-wrap is just protected by larger cardboard. Freight pallets are taken back by the shippers; broken pallets are chopped into firewood. Shards from damaged glass accessories are given to a local artist who works in mosaics.

She credits her father and family history for her recycling habit. The oldest daughter of seven children on a farm where seven generations of the family had already lived, Fairweather said she had a strong connection to the earth.

"We grew our own food. There was a neighborhood grocery store, but it would be rare for us to buy anything except mayonnaise or silly things like that. We baked our own bread, canned our own fruit, canned our own vegetables, picked berries, picked corn, picked potatoes. Each of us had a crop we had to raise. We had acres of strawberries that I was the field boss of.

Fairweather and her husband also lived on a farm, where they continued to nurture the environment. She operated two flower shops and sold only regionally grown flowers. Even as chairwoman of the Portland Rose Festival float committee in Battle Ground, Wash., she avoided exotic flowers and used other natural products on the floats instead, such as a bed of straw or patches of lawn.

In her professional life, Fairweather continued to follow her philosophy. She worked for Drexel Heritage, which uses only American-made products. Her job with Ralph Lauren also was a "perfect fit" she said because the fashion designer works only with natural textiles.

Fairweather moved to Gearhart in 2002. She decided to take "all my passions" and open a storefront. Her Gearhart store was destroyed when the roof blew off in the "Great Coastal Gale” 2007. Fairweather opened her current store in the Historic Gilbert District on Broadway in February 2008.

But when she received her first heating bill, Fairweather was surprised at the cost. A heating expert told her the full, empty basement under her store was sucking up the heat. Fill it with inventory, the expert advised, and the basement would be warmer.

Not one to carry more merchandise than is needed, however, Fairweather had another idea that better reflected her philosophy of finding a use for everything. She asked the owner of the Natural Nook if she wanted to store her seasonal stock in the basement. It's all part of finding another way to cut waste, she said.

"It's saving me on my heating bill," Fairweather added. "It's insulating my basement."