Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Go green beyond the greens

Scotland's eco-friendly side

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From the outside, Organic Pleasures looks much like any other shop along Edinburgh's sober streets, with its stone facade, black trim and a small sign adorned with a crimson quill in the shape of a question mark. But stepping across the threshold, I feel as though I've fallen down a rabbit hole into burlesque artist Dita Von Teese's closet.

Corsets and frilly knickers dangle from padded black hangers. Showgirl-style feathers, old-fashioned hat boxes and leather-strapped trunks teeter atop an elegant burled wood cabinet. But, cor blimey! What are those erect rainbow-coloured members doing there, perkily saluting me from a distant shelf?

Organic Pleasures, it turns out, is the world's first "eco-erotic boudoir boutique," according to Lucy Tanat-Jones, who opened its doors in 2007.

"It's all about feminine pleasure, the ethical way," says Tanat-Jones, who has launched her own range of products, which are manufactured in Great Britain, incorporate organic ingredients whenever possible, use recycled or recyclable packaging and are not tested on animals -- no doubt to said animals' everlasting relief. It's also probably the only place on the planet where you'll find titles such as Green is the New Black and The Lazy Girl's Guide to Green Living alongside The Marquis de Sade's Philosophy of the Boudoir.

Significantly, Organic Pleasures promises "safe sex" in every sense of the word. Tanat-Jones has banned "intimate toys" containing phthalates or PVC, which can be toxic, and instead stocks only toys made of medical-grade silicone, borosilicate glass (dishwasher-safe), ceramics and wood.

Are, um, splinters not an issue? "Oh no," insists Tanat-Jones, stroking an improbably knobby item made of reclaimed Scottish fruitwood. "It's a very fine grade of sanding, made to the same standard that Rolls-Royce uses for their interiors," she says, and my eyes gloss over as I ponder the customized extras you might request in such a royal ride.

While Organic Pleasures may be Scotland's sexiest eco-offering, it's part of a much bigger trend toward healthy living and responsible consumption.

In Edinburgh, you can purchase Fair Trade, guilt-free gifts such as handmade Peruvian dolls, rubber wood puzzles made in Sri Lanka and books about reducing reliance on fossil fuels (printed on recycled paper using vegetable dyes, of course) at the One World Shop. At Arran Aromatics, stock up on bath and body products made from herbs, fruit, flowers and sea salt, all produced on Scotland's Isle of Arran. At restaurants such as Iglu, you can dine on local, organic, free-range fare.

"Our owner, Charlie Cornelius, wanted to offer food that was conscientious of the planet," explains Mairi Black, Iglu's raven-haired barmaid. "We try to use sustainable fish and buy meat from people who really take care of their animals. They know the animals that they kill."

Well, I'm happy to hear they didn't die in a drive-by shooting. But however they met their maker, I can vouch for the deliciousness of those who laid down their lives for my starter of black pudding with Queenie scallops, served with crispy pig's ear.

For a chance to commune with critters off the plate, I head to Aberfeldy, Perthshire for a Highland safari. Guide Colin Knox, who used to sell exotic smoked meats, now makes his living from animals on the hoof.

As we pile into a dark green Land Rover, Knox explains we'll be going on a "stalking safari," with a chance to see roe deer, otters, red squirrels and pine martens. "But we don't kill them; we just shoot them."

"With cameras," his fellow guide, Andy Reed, adds with a grin.

We ascend Drummond Hill via a winding, bumpy dirt track. Leaving the valley below us, the trees give way to moorlands. Knox abruptly pulls off the road when Reed spots deer far off in the distance. To me, they are as invisible as ants from outer space, but peering through a telescope, I finally locate a small herd picking their way through a patchwork of ferns and heather.

"You don't look for deer," Knox explains. "You look for colour and movement."

Of course, Scotland's most famous -- and elusive -- wee beastie is said to live in Loch Ness, which forms part of the Caledonian Canal, a 100-kilometre-long aquatic corridor linking east and west. If you're keen to encounter the wildlife, and you're fit and more than a little bit mad, there's no greener way to travel than kayaking the length (although you'll probably have to carry your craft around its 29 locks) and camping alongside the canal.

Jim Rollie, who has paddled with two friends from Fort William in the west, is savouring the experience.

"It's the Great Glen," he enthuses. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Not even the thought of an encounter with Nessie dampens his enthusiasm, which, he insists, is fuelled by nothing stronger than tea in his flask. "I'm more of a monster than Nessie," he snorts. Then, with a rallying cry of "C'mon, ugly boys," he and his mates venture forth into the glassy loch.

The weather, alas, is not quite so accommodating in Elie, a small village on the east coast of Scotland. A storm has rolled in across the steel grey sea, producing a vibrant rainbow over the whitewashed homes lining the shore. I'm hunched against the driving rain as I regard a barren-looking beach, seemingly devoid of life save myself and my moistened companions.

Yet Fiona Houston -- who founded the Forage Rangers with her friend Xa Milne in 2010 -- treats it as though it were a buffet, scraping the rocks with her Swiss Army knife to reap a handful of seaweed. She pockets several damp, papery-looking strands of laver -- also known as nori, which is used for sushi -- and dulse, which she incorporates into just about everything else, tossing it in soups, tapenade, salads and bread. Houston has even flash-fried it to make crispy snacks that might not give Doritos a run for their money, but which do deliver a salty zing to the tastebuds.

In warmer weather, Houston and Milne, who have written a book Seaweed and Eat It: A Family Foraging and Cooking Adventure, will also take clients out to catch crabs, pluck sea urchins and hunt for mushrooms and other fruits of the forest. They find value in -- and can provide handy recipe tips for -- even the lowliest of weeds, from wild garlic to stinging nettle.

"I grew up in the country," Houston says, "and I wanted to pass some knowledge on to my kids about what's growing and what you can do with it. We're not a bunch of survivalist hippies," she hastens to add.

"We're just two women who love food and nature and thought, how do we connect them?"

The message, she says, is "you can do this, too."

-- Postmedia News

IF YOU GO

Where to stay:

* Apex Waterloo Place, Edinburgh: This four-star hotel features 187 contemporary rooms behind a Georgian facade, near Edinburgh Waverley train station. From 89 pounds ($125). Call 011-44-131-441-0440 or see www.apexhotels.co.uk.

* The Lovat, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire: This 28-room 1860s farmhouse has undergone an eco-conscious renovation. From 90 pounds ($128). With minimum three-night stay, 35 pounds ($49) off bill for guests who arrive via public transport and 45 pounds ($63) off total for those who arrive by foot or bicycle. Call 011-44-1456-459250 or see www.thelovat.com.

* Monachyle MHOR, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire: Tucked between the hills and Lake Voil in the Trossachs National Park, this 18th-century farmhouse and courtyard encompass 14 stylish rooms.

Chef-owner Tom Lewis constructs spectacular meals, drawing from his family's 800-hectare farm fish. Visitors have included Prince William and actors Ewan McGregor and Gerard Butler. From 128 pounds ($180), bed and breakfast. Call 011-44-1877-384-622 or see http://mhor.net/mhor/going-green.

What to do:

* Highland Safaris: www.highlandsafaris.net

* Caledonian Canal: www.waterscape.com

* Forage Rangers: www.foragerangers.com

More:

www.cometoscotland.ca

www.green-business.co.uk

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2012 D1

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