Posted by: Green Knight | August 1, 2011

Smoking and the Environment

Many of my enviro-friends are wild-eyed zealots when it comes to things like smoking, or vegan diets, and they think I’m incomplete, if not just plain evil, because I do the former and not the latter.  Yet many of the same people are starry-eyed romanticists when it comes to American Indians, especially the Plains tribes.  Europeans already smoked other plants in pipes before coming to the Americas, but it was the natives that taught us to use tobacco, and the Lakota and Cheyenne ate an estimated six bison per person per year (Dan L. Flores, “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy: The Southern Plains from 1800 to 1850,” Journal of American History, Sept. 1991).  To be sure, they ate berries and tubers and other plant matter, but they had as close to an all-meat diet as anyone ever has.

I worked with the American Indian Movement when I did archaeology, and it was cool, and I taught lead paint abatement to representatives from a couple of Sioux reservations, but they’re people like everybody else.  It’s true that warfare to them was more a stylized test of personal courage than the European goal of attempted subjugation and/or genocide (my ancestors the Celts excepted, who viewed it more as did the Native Americans), and they thanked and apologized to the spirits of the buffalo, elk, deer, and the rest, and we certainly can learn a few lessons from that attitude towards nature.  I even spoke by phone with a couple of Black Elk’s great-granddaughters when I was getting an exhibit together for Earth Day 1990.  Hokahe!

As I’ve said before, you can’t have it both ways, and nothing is black & white.  People have been smoking for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  I don’t need the pesticides, fertilizers, and additives (they make me hack), so I smoke Dunhills or Natural American Spirits; the former doesn’t use additives and the latter uses only natural tobacco and nothing else, and some is organically grown.  I have a choice in the matter, whereas the stuff coming out of smokestacks or chemical plants doesn’t give me a buzz, and I can’t control it except by trying to keep Congress from slashing the EPA’s budget. I don’t light up around those who object, and I make sure my butts go out with the trash, not onto the sidewalk.

That’s why it’s cool that Natural American Spirit has the “Smoking Lounge,” that travels around the country and sets up at music festivals; it’ll be here on August 27th for the Loufest in Forest Park in St. Louis, and I plan to check it out.  It’s built from recycled materials, uses solar panels, and all sorts of sustainable stuff.  Here’s their description:

“Our love of music, our commitment to sustainability, and the satisfaction we get from creating a welcoming environment for smokers have all come together in our new Smoking Lounge. It was built from the ground up to be environmentally friendly. The wood is from an old Kansas tobacco factory. In fact, the floors, walls, furniture and artwork –all the materials – are reclaimed or recycled.

But, its main function is to be a haven for smokers – a place where you can hang out and spend some time chatting with us and other smokers in air-conditioned comfort.

There’s so much we can say about the Smoking Lounge, but the only way to really appreciate it is to visit it yourself. Look at our events schedule to see where we’ll be next.

If you’ve seen it already, tell us what you think of it. Drop us a line at

Here are some of its features:

Reclaimed wood: All of the wood used in the Smoking Lounge comes from an early 1950s Kansas tobacco factory.

Sisal grass and carpeting: The indoor carpeting is made from Sisal, a natural fiber derived from a cactus plant grown in semi-arid regions like Brazil and Africa. The ground outside the Smoking Lounge is also covered with Sisal grass, which has been woven to look like grass.

Wire tables: We love these wire tables. All the metal used to create the wire tables comes from a range of products, including vehicles and building supplies. Recycling scrap metal diverts 145 million tons of material from the landfills every year.

Cork message walls: Cork is a renewable and recyclable resource that can be harvested every 7-10 years without harming the cork tree. While the tree continues producing cork, it helps revitalize their environment like any tree.

The Smoking Lounge Living walls: Bringing even more life into the Smoking Lounge, our living walls feature plants from local farmers and nurseries. We donate them to local organizations after each event.

Hemp fabric: All of the fabric in the Smoking Lounge is made from hemp. It was an easy choice, when you look at hemp’s impressive list of accomplishments. Not only is it a versatile, durable material, but it’s easy on the Earth as well. Hemp can be grown with little to no chemicals, and it also replenishes and detoxifies soil. In some states it’s illegal to grow hemp, which is a shame, because hemp is such a versatile and useful material.

River rock wall fountain: It was built using all-natural black river rocks, most from the Niagara Falls area. The water is circulated in a 360-degree recyclable system, so no additional water is consumed while the fountain is operating.

Energy Star LCD screens: We use only flat screens that are Energy Star certified. If all displays sold in the U.S. met Energy Star specifications, the energy savings would equal about $1 billion each year and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from nearly 1.5 million vehicles.

License plate art: We can’t get enough of Aaron Foster’s artwork. Not only is it eco-friendly – he uses old license plates and reclaimed wood – it’s a fascinating use of mundane materials. We commissioned him to recreate our Chief and our Thunderbird, and we were blown away by how ingenious and eye-catching they are. We’re delighted to work with an artist like Aaron, especially since it gives us a chance to support great artists.

Solar powered charging stations: Our solar panel-powered charging stations will help keep you connected. Solar panels power 100% of the cell phone charging stations, and contribute additional power to lighting, air conditioning and other elements in the Smoking Lounge.

Recycled glass countertops: Our countertops may look shiny and new, but they’re actually made from post-consumer glass containers that had been sent to landfills throughout the country.

Bathtub couches: We couldn’t resist the bathtub couches when we first saw them. Made from real bathtubs by the good folk at Ruffhouseart in Lawrence, KS, these couches are decorated with low VOC (volatile organic compound) eco-friendly paints.

“Walk/Don’t Walk” chair: It comes from New York artist John Carter, who uses real New York City street signs, shapes them into an amazing new form, and touches them up with low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. It’s a potent example of how mundane, forgotten objects can be repurposed into something distinctive and useful.

Peace signs and recycle signs: Made in Haiti, the peace and recycle sign wall hangings are made from the lids of used tomato paste drums. They’re a small reminder that the more we can reuse things, the better it is for the earth.”

I think that’s a pretty cool thing to have put together for those of us who choose to indulge.  Can’t wait to check it out!



  1. Hey Bob, good point about smoking. It’s the stuff they spray on the leaves to keep them burning whether or not you’re inhaling that makes them lethal, not to mention the pesticides they spray on the plants to make them grow faster. People shouldn’t try to judge you based on a single habit, but rather understand the entire, holistic picture of the way of life you choose to live.

    We were just in Europe for two weeks, and smoking is legal in the restaurants, right outside restaurants…in fact, they are practically legal everywhere. I’m not judging smokers, mind you, I just find the smoke such a clinging, nasty smell that pervades the atmosphere, their clothes, their hair, etc. that it makes me sick to my stomach, at times.

    Also, when I saw the people grinding out their cigarettes into the street, I understood why you can’t drink the tap water there, you have to buy it in these tiny little (very expensive) bottles. Besides them dumping toxins from factories directly into their rivers, you also see trash, cigarette butts and other stuff I don’t even wanna mention floating in the river. I appreciate the US states that have “no smoking in public places” policies because, while I don’t care if a person chooses to smoke (it’s a personal decision), I do care about having to smell and/or inhale their nasty smokes and vapors!

  2. Right on all points, Diane! 🙂 Euros smoke like chimneys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff in hospitals smoked on the job, even in the neonatal wards! Anything can be taken too far, lol.

    Also, the plant the Indians used (always for sacred purposes as well as pleasure) was a small-leafed potent beastie that didn’t have you reaching for it every ten minutes to get to the unreachable plateau. They got the buzz and were fine for quite a while. WE bred the plant to have huge leaves and to be addictive by making that plateau buzz be always just out of reach. Somewhere you can still order seeds for the original plant as it existed before the Euro-Americans messed with it.

  3. I can tell you one thing, it’s GOOD to be home again!!

    have a happy………

  4. Yep. I have to go out a few times today, and it’s gonna be 103°F out there. I do not tolerate heat and humidity well. Just coming back to air-conditioning after a short hike to the store is sheer bliss.

    I was remembering that the filters on Gitane and Gauloises are made of cotton, hence biodegradable. Lucky, since the French smoke like fiends. Regular filters are made of plasticized cellulose, so are semi-biodegradable, it just takes longer. In the 1950s, the Kent Micronite filter was made of crocidolite, one of the nastiest forms of asbestos, so you had your synergistic lung-cancer ingredients all in one package. Count me out!

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