George, Bess, and I were so excited when we won an amazing vacation at an eco-resort in Costa Rica. Fun, sun, surf -- all in the name of ecology and helping to keep our planet clean. But, as always, dirty business seems to follow me wherever I go, and this resort isn't as spic 'n' span as we originally thought.
After a string of increasingly dangerous "accidents," it seems that there is a jealous predator staying at the resort, making trouble for the management and the guests. Against the urging of my friends, I know that I need to take this case and get to the bottom of it before our entire week at Casa Verde is ruined -- or worse. Can I uncover who is sabotaging the press tour before it's too late? Or will our vacation come to an unhappy end?
GREEN-EYED MONSTER #39 I ? THE EARTH So what exactly is a green fair?” I asked my friends Bess and George as we walked across the River Heights High School parking lot to the gymnasium entrance. “I’ve heard of a state fair. A science fair. Even a health fair. What’s a green fair?”
Bess chuckled. “Well, it’s basically like a health fair or a science fair, but with exhibits about how you can live more greenly.”
George, Bess’s cousin, wrinkled her nose. “Is that a word? Greenly?”
Bess sighed. “It is now. And you know what I mean.” We reached the gymnasium doors, and Bess pulled them open and waited for us to go in. “Ecologically responsible? Environmentally friendly? However you want to say it.”
Inside, I gasped at the sheer size of the fair. The entire gymnasium was filled to the brim with exhibits—from companies advertising green products, departments from the River Heights government, even kids from the local school district. Huge posters encouraged us to live green. But I could see that we were looking at only a tiny fraction of what the fair had to offer. The exhibits stretched all the way to the far end of the gymnasium, and then even farther, down the hallway.
Bess grabbed a sheet from a table to our right. “This says there are sixty more exhibitors in the cafeteria!” she cried. “Oh! And there’s a cooking class for locally grown food going on right now! And you can learn how to greenify your cleaning routine! And how to convert your car to run on old cooking grease!”
George made a face. “Yeeecch.”
I nodded. “That sounds like a good idea,” I allowed, “but wouldn’t you always be craving french fries?”
Bess kept reading the program. “Oh, it looks like you can only do it to a car that runs on diesel,” she murmured, sounding seriously disappointed. “I guess you’ll just have to stick with your hybrid, Nance.”
I sighed dramatically. “Bummer.”
George looked around impatiently. “Well, let’s get started,” she suggested, gesturing to the first aisle. “At this rate, it will take us three hours to see everything, and I wanted to get some things done this afternoon.”
Bess scoffed. “Get things done? What could be more important than saving the planet?”
George shrugged. “Cleaning up my room?” she suggested. “It’s becoming a biohazard.”
We paused in front of the first exhibit, where a pungent smell hit my nose.
“Ugh. What’s that smell?” Bess asked quietly, suddenly looking less than enchanted by the green way of life.
“It smells like . . . garbage,” complained George, placing her hand over her nose.
I shook my head. “No, it’s more like . . . a farm?” I suggested, taking another sniff. I couldn’t say it was pleasant, but it wasn’t totally gross, either.
Suddenly the woman staffing the exhibit finished her conversation with an older couple and turned to the three of us. “Hello there,” she said cheerfully. “Are you here to learn about composting in your backyard?”
Bess laughed. “Oh, composting!” she cried, seeming to place the smell. “We’re old pros at composting, right, girls? Remember in third grade?”
Back when we were all in third grade, our teacher had taught a section on the environment and we all learned how to compost. George laughed. “Oh, yeah. See, I’ve supported the environmental cause before!”
The woman, whose name tag read SANDY, smiled patiently, then opened a tall ceramic pot to show us the compost she was collecting inside. “You just save all your natural waste—vegetable peels, coffee grounds, even eggshells. Get yourself a nice composting box or pail for the winter, and let it break down naturally. Composting takes natural waste out of landfills and provides a powerful fertilizer. Do you garden?”
I nodded my head. “We do keep a small garden in the backyard.”
Sandy smiled. “Great, then! Let me show you a few of the basics.”
“All right, guys,” George said with a sigh, glancing at her watch. “Let’s keep it moving. We only have about six hundred more exhibits to check out.”
“Okay, okay,” I agreed, thanking the woman again and tucking the pamphlets she’d given me into my pocket. I must not have been paying much attention to where I was going, because the next thing I knew I slammed into a girl who was trying to get past the compost exhibit. As I began to stammer an apology, she sighed loudly.
“I’m sorry, I must not have been paying attention,” I apologized.
“Nancy?” A familiar, not-entirely-welcome voice hit my ears, and I glanced up to see, sure enough: Deirdre.
“Deirdre,” I greeted her, forcing a warm smile onto my face. “I’m surprised to see you here!” Deirdre Shannon has her good points, but I never would have pegged her as a girl who would care about saving the earth—especially if it meant she couldn’t buy her favorite brand of mascara.
Deirdre glared at me as though I had slapped her. “I could say the same about you, Nancy.”
I tried to soften my tone. “Have you been in the cafeteria yet? I hear there are tons more exhibits there.”
Deirdre shook her head. “I just got here. I just had to get away from that stanky compost exhibit. I mean really, who wants garbage rotting in their kitchen?”
Bess, who seemed to have noticed I’d been held up, suddenly swept over. “You know, composting reduces the waste going into landfills and creates a great natural fertilizer that makes it easier for you to grow your own food,” she told Deirdre. I was pretty sure she was quoting verbatim the front of one of the brochures the woman had given me, but I didn’t say anything.
“Hello, Bess,” Deirdre said coolly, looking about as happy to see Bess as I’d been to see Deirdre.
“Hello,” George added, joining our circle. “Deirdre, I didn’t know you were a budding environmentalist.”
Bess giggled. “That’s cute!” she said. “Get it? Budding environmentalist?”
George groaned, but I couldn’t help but chuckle. Deirdre looked at us like we were speaking Chinese.
“Everybody who’s anybody is embracing environmentalism these days,” she told us, standing up a little straighter. “Did you know Julia Roberts built an entirely green home in Malibu, complete with solar panels on the roof and sustainable low-maintenance landscaping?”
“I did not know that,” George replied simply.
“I did,” Bess admitted with a little grin.
“It’s all here in Stylish Living magazine: The Green Issue!”
“I have that,” Bess said.
“Isn’t it great?” asked Deirdre. “I mean, with so many prominent people getting involved, I figured I would be crazy not to jump on the bandwagon. Especially when you can get so many cute green products these days.” She held up her bag. “Like this!”
I got a good look at Deirdre’s tote bag for the first time: it was huge, made out of some kind of shiny, plasticky substance, with a fuzzy, smiling koala bear stitched onto the front. I ? THE EARTH! was printed across the front.
“Cute,” observed Bess, glancing at the two of us with an unsure expression.
“Yeah, cute,” I agreed, although something about Deirdre’s budding environmentalism was rubbing me the wrong way.
George sighed. “Um, Deirdre,” she began, as though she knew this was going to be a tough argument, “did you notice your bag is made out of polyurethane, which is not biodegradable?”
Deirdre made a face. “Polyurawhat?”
“It’s also,” George went on, reaching out to grab a tag from the inside of the bag and squinting at it, “made in Bangladesh. Do you know how far away that is, and how much fuel was probably consumed getting this bag to a store where you could buy it?”
Deirdre looked annoyed. “But look at it,” she insisted. “It’s got a koala on it. Everyone knows koalas care about the earth!”
“First of all,” said George, “I don’t think we can really know what koalas think. Second, I think your bag is the result of some bad designer figuring out that environmentalism is trendy and slapping a cute slogan on a totally ungreen product.”
Deirdre pushed out her lower lip. “You’re saying that my cute bag isn’t green?”
George drew closer. “It’s so not green, it’s practically orange,” she replied.
Deirdre looked shocked. She shoved her Stylish Living back into her bag, then pulled the bag close to her, protectively stroking the fuzzy koala bear. “Your problem, George,” she whispered fiercely, “is that you just don’t understand the environmental spirit.”
With that, she turned on her heel and stalked away from us—keeping a good distance from the compost exhibit.
“Well, that was interesting,” I said, pulling out my map of the fair.
“That,” said George, shaking her head, “is exactly what’s wrong with environmentalism being trendy.”
Bess sighed. “Okay, I see your point.” She glanced over my shoulder. “But let’s hurry! There’s a lecture on the hottest organic cosmetics in fifteen minutes.”
Two hours later I felt thoroughly educated on everything I could do to help save the planet—but also exhausted! We’d seen almost all of the exhibits, gotten estimates of our “carbon footprints,” and taken applications for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that would supply us with fresh produce from a local farm every week during growing season.
“Ooh, look, they have honey,” Bess cried happily, reading the CSA pamphlet.
“And it looks like honey is going to become harder and harder to get!” I added, thinking of an exhibit we’d just visited about the mysterious disappearance of America’s honeybees. We’d reached the entrance to the gym, and I started fishing in my pocket for my car keys. “All right, kiddos,” I said, “I feel green enough to head home.”
“Oh, no!” Bess protested, at the same time George moaned, “Not yet!”
I turned to my friends, a puzzled look on my face. “What?”
Bess gave me a beseeching look. “We can’t go yet,” she coaxed. “In five minutes they’re announcing the raffle winners!”
“Raffle winners?” I asked. I’d bought a couple of raffle tickets to support the high school’s Environmental Club, but I really didn’t care whether I won or not. I wasn’t even sure what the prizes were—baskets of organic vegetables? A low-flow showerhead?
George nodded. “And I’m dying to win one of those laptops,” she said. “You know—the Xo laptop. It’s a tiny, awesome little device that was created for kids to use. It’s the centerpiece of the One Laptop Per Child program—a program that aims to get every child in the world a laptop!”
Bess nodded. “That sounds pretty cool,” she agreed.
“Best of all,” George added, “the computers cost only a hundred ninety-nine dollars each, so people can easily sponsor a child in a developing country. But if I win the raffle . . .” She smiled. “Then I get one for the twenty dollars I spent on tickets. And the program gets a ton of money from everyone who bought raffle tickets.”
“Okay,” I said. “That sounds worth sticking around for.”
Just then a voice came over the intercom: “Raffle winners are about to be announced. Anyone holding raffle tickets, please make your way to the auditorium!”
“That’s us,” said George quickly, grabbing Bess’s arm and mine and herding us toward the gymnasium doors.
“We’re coming, we’re coming!” Bess said with an exasperated sigh. “No need to rip our arms off!”
“Sorry,” George said, biting her lip. “But—um—could you move a little faster?”
With George prodding us the whole way, we made our way into the crowd heading for the auditorium. There we took a seat in the third row, “nice and close to the stage for when I win my laptop,” George explained.
Looking around at all the filled seats, I was impressed. It looked like the town of River Heights really had come out en masse to the fair today. Hundreds of people fished out their raffle tickets, eagerly looking up at the stage.
After a few minutes, a blond, middle-aged woman who introduced herself as Julie, the owner of River Heights’s organic food co-op, stepped up to begin announcing the prize winners and the prizes—everything from organic cosmetics to bamboo sheets to dinner for two at a local vegan restaurant. But as the announcements wore on, the prizes seemed to get bigger. And George, sitting next to me, began to positively bounce with excitement.
“Ooh, Nance, I haven’t won anything yet!” she cried excitedly. “You know what that means! It means my name is still in there!”
Just then the woman at the podium called out, “And now, the winner of the Xo laptop, from the One Laptop Per Child program . . .”
George squeezed my hand and Bess’s at the same time.
Bess shot her a stunned look. “George,” she observed, “I’ve never seen you like this! You’re acting like me.”
“I know,” George whispered, unable to take her eyes off the stage, “and believe me, I’m just as worried about it as you are.”
“Kendra Jung!” the woman announced, and polite applause filled the auditorium as a young girl moved forward to accept her prize.
Immediately George’s hands went slack, and she leaned back in the chair, looking exhausted. “Ugh,” she muttered.
“Sorry, George,” Bess said encouragingly, squeezing her cousin’s shoulder. “You’ll get one some other way.”
I nodded, patting George’s other shoulder. “And just think—your twenty dollars will go to help save the planet.”
George closed her eyes and sat up, rubbing her temples. “I know,” she admitted. “I know, I know. It’s all good.”
“And now!” the announcer continued, pulling my attention back to the stage. “The winners of our two grand prize packages!”
“What’s the grand prize?” I whispered to George.
She shrugged. “I dunno. A trip to some spa or something? I was only interested in the laptop.”
The announcer went on, “An all-expenses-paid eco-tour of Costa Rica!”
“Oh, wow!” Bess whispered, poking her cousin’s arm. “That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Costa Rica is supposed to be so beautiful. I think Charlize Theron went there last year!”
George shrugged. “Well, Charlize would know,” she deadpanned. “I’m sure it would be beautiful, if I were having any luck today.”
The announcer plucked a raffle ticket out of the huge basket she’d been using and announced cheerfully, “GEORGE FAYNE!”
Bess’s mouth dropped open. We both turned to George, who was frozen, her head still in her hands.
“Did she just say . . . me?” she asked.
I nodded. “George, get up there! You just won a trip to Costa Rica!”
George shook her head as if to clear it, and a slow smile appeared across her face. “I just won a trip to Costa Rica!” she gasped.
“That’s right!” cried Bess, trying to prod her out of her seat. “And when you’re deciding who to bring, just remember who made you come to this green fair in the first place!”
Bess and I both chuckled as George made her shell-shocked way up onto the stage. The announcer reached into the basket again and plucked out another ticket, then moved toward the microphone to announce, “And the other winner is . . . Deirdre Shannon!”
“AAHHHHHHHHH!” A sharp-pitched scream rose from the back of the auditorium, and I could see Deirdre leaping out of her seat and trampling over the people in her row to get to the aisle, which she promptly ran down. “Oh my gosh! AAAAH! I WON!”
George, who had just taken a folder from the announcer that contained all her trip details, looked back at us with an uh-oh expression. A vacation to Costa Rica with Deirdre? Probably not what she had in mind.
“Oh, no,” breathed Bess, clearly thinking the same thing.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Just think, Bess,” I said encouragingly. “Vacationing with Deirdre will make the trip seem even longer!”