For eco-store owner, its easy being green

People looking for eco-friendly products should check out an eclectic new shop off Logan Circle hawking everything from organic cotton underwear to cost-efficient water heaters.

Environmentally conscious customers at Future Green can fill their wardrobes with $112 organic-cotton bathrobes and $78 hemp shirts, their kitchens with Forest Stewardship Council-certified bamboo flooring and their bedrooms with all-natural buckwheat pillows.

Owner Keith Ware celebrated the grand opening last weekend as a one-stop outlet for environmentally responsible products.

“We’re like an eco-friendly W-store,” said Ware, who can’t bring himself to say the name “Wal-Mart.”

Ware, 48, is a purist. He’s critical of people who shop for organic food only to return to a house full of synthetic products made by Third World employees subsisting on slave wages.

He says “being green” is a comprehensive lifestyle, not something you do when it’s convenient. “Being green and eco-friendly should be an all-encompassing thing,” Ware said. “Not being green equates to being selfish. You cannot be green and think of yourself in the process.”

The store’s stock is pricey, but customers don’t seem to mind.

“I’m willing to spend the money,” said Emily Gasoi, a University of Pennsylvania student who bought organic socks and stuffed animals made by fair-wage workers in Nepal.

Ware goes through a careful screening process to select his merchandise. He relies on advice from groups such as the Fair Trade Federation that monitor labor practices and wages of companies in Third World countries.

“There’s a story behind everything, and I want to try and impart that to others,” Ware said.

He sells shirts at $120 a pop from Tarsian & Blinkley, a clothing line embroidered by Afghani widows receiving a fair wage. Ware also has Bioshield toilet-bowl cleaner, alpaca-fur jackets and flooring made from recycled tires. Future Green even has an arrangement with a contracting company to install eco-friendly products for customers in their homes.

A fourth-generation D.C. resident, Ware wasn’t raised to be green. He studied math at the Naval Academy and worked as a computer database contractor before managing the Capitol Hill gym Results for four years.

Along the way, he became an avid mountain climber and learned to despise what he saw as pollution hurting pristine environments. That fueled his enthusiasm for the green movement.

Ware practices what he preaches. His home is filled with the eco-friendly products he touts, from all-natural countertops to water-based floor varnish.

He is critical of goods from China, where he said companies are notorious for using torture to produce cheap goods.

“I’m not perfect. I’ve got things made in China in my house,” Ware said. “It’s unavoidable.”

Nonetheless, Ware has fought the good fight. He said he was beaten and arrested in China for his connections with Falun Gong, a controversial meditation practice banned there by communist leaders fearing a political uprising.

“We have no political aspirations,” said Ware, who plans to hold Falun Gong classes at the shop once renovations are complete.

Because of friends and clientele involved in the meditation, Ware does not keep records of customers who buy Future Green products online for fear of a contact list falling into the hands of Chinese officials.

Future Green is holding its grand opening Feb. 11 with promotional help from Whole Foods, a block north on P Street.

Ware dreams of a society in which eco-friendly products are mainstream. “Now that I’ve opened up this shop, I see the necessity of it,” Ware said. “I’ve had so many people come in and say, ‘I am so glad you are doing what you’re doing.’”