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Go Eco Shopping
by Edna Nelson
2009-04-01 09:55:30
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Like most Edenin Puutarha customers I stumbled in while wandering around Uudenmaankatu looking for something to do. Its owner Merja Suhonen speaks French Finnish, English some Swedish, German, Italian and is pretty good with reading gestures and hand signals for those using languages outside her range. I don’t know if it’s because she has lived in France and Africa, or been translating for years in Finland, or if it’s just her personality, but, no matter what, Merja will figure out a way to communicate with and make comfortable anyone who walks into her shop.

headerx_400 The store front itself is a reincarnation of a space that once housed a book store owned by a talkative older woman whom Merja knew personally. The idea for the shop came out of a simple willingness to live ones life and have a place of ones own. After a divorce and the death of both her parents Merja decided to use her inheritance to start a business based on the things she loves. The space was offered at a reasonable price and Merja jumped on the opportunity, cleaning, fixing, painting, reorganizing and stocking the place to be reopened as Edenin Puutarha (Garden of Eden in English). Although the shop had been open since April 2007 the awning read the name of the old bookshop until recently when it was replaces by a bright green and orange one reading its proper name.

Part of the policy at Edenin Puutarha is that Merja only stocks the shop with things she likes, or at least liked when she ordered, and if there is anything she doesn’t like she will most likely tell you its worthless once you lay your hands on or ask about it. The interior is down mostly by intuition, there is no professional interiors of graphics involved here, even the shops website is done of Merjas liking in order to convey the earthy values her store stands for.  Each product is selected either based on Merja’s taste, the recommendation of someone she trusts, or a customer request.  With a high value for ethically produced, biodegradable products and containers Merja tries hard to stock product in glass, metal or cardboard containers when possible, and never fails to comment on her preference for these packaging materials. She takes it on herself to inform interested customers in the chemical contents of well known products and was one of the first shops to stock the Chemical Make Handbook when it was translated into Finnish, as she had already read it a few times in French.

When anyone walks in the small shop they can expect to receive a quick and welcoming “Hei!” or “Can I help you?” in whatever language works. After the initial introduction or inquiry Merja will probably give you a sample of wash nuts (One of the best, and least expensive products in the shop) that can be used to clean clothing, hair and dishes, and tell you the story behind them, where they come from (India) who they are made by ( women’s collective there) and how they are not only environmentally friendly (the nuts, which are not processed leave much less residue than soaps if any) but socially fair as well (all of the workers children go to school for free, and that is part of the company’s policy), in fact, she is willing to tell the story behind any and all the products in her shop. Even things she doesn’t know everything about.

It’s hilarious to watch Merja in action when talking about the make up and skin care products she sells. If you ask her about the ingredients and their intended effects she will answer in length as if she has memorized their labels. But if you ask her about application and result she will usually look at you and say something a long the lines of “I don’t use that stuff, but! I have heard from people that it’s like this or this.” Being a sold make-up by a woman who doesn’t wear it interestingly creates an air of playfulness and experimentation where customer feed back is valued and solicited. Merja wants to know how her products worked for you and why, which is refreshing. For once a business women who actually wants you to pay attention to how well and if her products actually work!

It is ironic though that a shop which it like a paradise for any green woman, and carries great soaps, shampoo bars, washable menstrual pads, Lunette menstrual cups, top of the line Argital green clay based skin and hair care products, purses, Colour Carmel organic makeup, perfumes, organic Pashmina scarves and crystal jewellery could be run by such a no-frills clean faced tomboy like Merja Suhonen.

Don’t worry there are stuff for the guys too! Last holiday season started selling a cute shaving kit, and more recently “Isä on vaapa iltä” (Dad has a free night) 100% natural and biodegradable washing towels. The shop also carries books on spirituality, postcards, gift cards, candles, tee, coffee, musical instruments, crayons, colour pencils, incense, shea butter, organic printer paper, diapers, and the list goes on. Above all things stocked at Edenin Puutarha there is one thing that remains at the foundation of the ordering process and that is environmental, ethical and spiritual awareness which is always striving to be not only fair but progressive.

Walking into this small eco-shop in the Helsinki, between a spiritual centre and a Thai restaurant is like going back in time in some ways. Edenin Puutarha is a place where you get personal service, someone who cares enough to remember your name and where your feedback is valued. Being ethical and being green are more than trends at Edenin Puutarha, they are the core values of the place and this is expressed not only through the products on offer but the attitude of the owner herself and the quality of the service provided. The organic and fair-trade aspects of the business are simply a reflection of owner’s values herself, but the service and air of respect is universal. Edenin Puutarha is not only a place to buy things you can feel good about, but also a feel good place to go.

* * * * * *

Edenin Puutarha Celebrates it's 2nd Birthday April 1st 2009 at Uudenmaankatu 33 from 15:00 to 18:00. Everyone is welcome to join Merja and discover the shop yourself!

uuden ajan ekokauppa

Uudenmaankatu 33, Helsinki
Opening hours: mon - fri 11—18

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