The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley
When Joe and I began writing this blog late in 2008, we were soon introduced to Patagonia as a leader in sustainable business practices — or, as founder Yvon Chouinard prefers to call them—responsible business practices. We found Patagonia.com’s Footprint Chronicles to be an especially intriguing—and daring—step toward a company’s taking responsibility for its impact on the environment. So, when I was offered an opportunity to review The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, I eagerly agreed.
If you’re familiar with Patagonia, you’ll understand how Chouinard and Stanley are qualified to write such a book. Patagonia is known for its commitment to the environment, for its celebration of the natural world, and for providing its employees with a rewarding and well-balanced work life (see Chouinard’s 2002 book, Let My People Go Surfing)….
There’s no self-congratulatory back-slapping in this book. The authors tell the story of their painful realization of the harm their businesses (Patagonia is “an offshoot of the Chouinard Equipment Company, which made excellent mountain-climbing gear”) were doing to the environment and the financial risks they took when they committed to improvement….Read Full Article
Rain happens. Apart from blessing it for watering our plants — or cursing it for keeping us indoors — many homeowners don’t think much about where all of that water goes once it hits our property. However, as our neighborhoods become increasingly covered with impervious surfaces (roofs, patios, roads and driveways), that needs to change.
Roofs and other impervious surfaces change the way rainwater behaves, increasing the volume of runoff and accelerating the rate at which it flows through our local watersheds. This ultimately leads to erosion of stream banks, degraded wildlife habitats and the introduction of pollutants picked up along the way.
If you want to make your home more Earth-friendly, one of the most significant things you can do is incorporate storm-water management techniques into your landscape. By combining some of these methods, you can help diffuse the runoff from your home in order to minimize its impact on the environment. Or, as eco-conscious cities such as Santa Cruz, Calif., put it: “Slow it. Spread it. Sink it.” …Read Full Article
It’s mighty easy to throw away a plastic bag or plastic cup-lid, and then think nothing of it. Into the wastebasket it goes — out of sight, out of mind — and then into the trash bin, and then into the waste truck, then to the landfill. Plastic indefinitely clogging our terrestrial landfills constitutes its own problem, but an alarming amount of this detritus ends up in our drainage systems. It may take years, but these scraps may eventually find themselves adrift in the ocean — ultimate receiver of the continents’ freshwater output — thousands of miles from their factory origin, let alone the site of their discarding.
In recent years, firsthand observation has borne out the predictions of oceanographers: Much of this marine litter, as it’s called, ultimately turns up contained in and by the loops of rotating currents called gyres that mark each ocean basin. The spin of the earth and the heat-driven coasting of winds help create these prevailing current configurations. Ocean-borne debris is drawn into the encircling “highways” of the gyre, then edged into the calm waters of its center — where they remain….Read Full Article
Don’t we all want a livable future? Why would I target grandmothers? Why not everyone working in every way possible to make the necessary changes to our way of living now so that the children of the future will have a life that is full of the goodness of creation?
The answer to this is that we have to start somewhere, and I am a granny who happens to think that action is needed now. I believe there are others who think so, too.
Grannies have some advantages. We have lived long enough to have seen changes in our climate and our society and not like what we see. We are often retired and have time and underpinnings to be able to devote a considerable portion of our energy to the effort of reducing human impact on the environment, especially the atmosphere.
We know that “older means bolder.” What do we have to lose compared to what our grandchildren may not have?
I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where there is clean water and air, healthy food, and where nature is usually friendly and beautiful. I do not want them to live in a world with frequent flooding, drought, heat that kills, and strong storms that require immense financial and emotional resources to recover from.
I live in Iowa and went through the floods in 2008. I know that this scenario will be repeated all over this country and the rest of the world if we do not do everything in our power to reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
Two women friends—also grandmothers—Beth Robbins and Ann Christenson, and I read James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren. We trust NASA’s top climate scientist of many years to be honest about what lies ahead if we do not curb our carbon addiction and if we continue to extract oil from dirty tar sands and natural gas by fracking. “Game Over,” is his conclusion….Read Full Article
As a small business owner, I’m well aware of the many expenses involved in meeting my company’s technology needs: an Internet connection, a telephone network, mobile phones, smart phones, voicemail, and probably a lot of other time-saving devices coming in the future. It all costs money. And that’s a critical factor for a small business, especially one that’s just getting started.
When I learned about Alteva’s approach to Unified Communications, I was struck not only by the lower cost, but also by the lower impact on the environment. I spoke with Louis Hayner, Alteva’s Chief Sales Officer, by phone from his Philadelphia office. I wanted to learn why his company’s services might be a good idea for small — and large — businesses to consider.Read Full Article
Kathyrn Cummings walks along a wooded nature trail in Hickory Hill Park near Iowa City, with her patient a few steps ahead of her. She stops every so often to examine the colors in a leaf or point out the number of rings in a tree stump. It’s the third time this week that she has visited a park to walk the trails, but not because she enjoys the sunshine.
Cummings, an assisted-living counselor, works with a nonverbal, disabled woman, who suffers from severe anxiety and aggression issues. When the woman begins to show signs of an impending panic attack or begins to clench her fists out of frustration, Cummings knows it’s time to go for a walk. Taking a hike is often the only way to relieve the woman’s symptoms.
This is just one example of how interest in the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors is starting to gain attention in the medical mainstream….Read Full Article
Taproot Nature Experience was founded on the simple idea that kids need to have time outdoors.
Launched in September 2007 by Zac Wedemeyer and his wife, Elesa, this Iowa City-based company has several different programs that connect children with nature: an after-school program; a summer camp; and Sprouts, a program for pre-school-aged children.
Wedemeyer says that kids used to be allowed to go outside more, but now parents are afraid to let their children out of the house alone. As a former elementary-school teacher, he saw firsthand how little time kids spend in nature and how much time they spend watching television and playing video games….Read Full Article
“Hand someone a jar of Karmic B.S.™ sanitized bovine excrement, and their first reaction is likely to be confusion,” says ecopreneur Joe Hennager. “They see the bull and the yin-yang in our logo — and the pile of bull poop — and they usually look up with a question in their eyes.
“But the second they tip the jar to read the punch line on top, they burst out laughing. They get it. The person giving them the jar is saying, ‘This is full of B.S. & so are you!’
“The idea of karma is that you get what you give,” says Hennager, who also happens to be my husband and the co-owner of Blue Planet Green Living. “The yin-yang symbol in our logo represents the idea of ‘what goes around comes around,’ which is another of the punch lines we use. After all, this is real, sanitized B.S. (and you know what that means). When someone gives you B.S., you can give it back — literally — with our adult novelty gift.” …Read Full Article
Ripley is a name long associated with uniqueness and — let’s be honest — oddity. The latest book in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! series is no exception. Flip to any page in this attractive, hard cover book, and you’ll find bizarre stories about all sorts of topics that will keep you reading and turning page after page:
* training pigeons to evaluate art by rewarding them with food, page 77
* a Russian man with a tree growing inside his lungs, page 111
* hair scissors that fit on the tips of a stylist’s fingers, similar to Edward Scissorhands, page 144
* and so much more.
The idea of reusing discarded items in new ways is hardly unique these days, and you might wonder how reuse and repurposing would fit Ripley’s definition of “odd.” Yet several of the entries in this book show highly unusual ways to reuse discarded items….Read Full Article
ChasingGreen is a young website with great content and a lot of promise. I was completely taken aback by the site’s ease of navigation and the solid information it provides. “Going green” is a topic that has been discussed for years and has consumed much of our time and energy. But the process is actually comprised of many small steps. And, as ChasingGreen clearly shows readers, most of those steps are relatively easy, such as choosing one brand of coffee over another or mowing your lawn with a mower that consumes less gas….Read Full Article
“Why do you care about drying clothes outside?” Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Gary Sutterlin, President and CEO of Breeze Dryer. “Do you have a passion for this, or is it just a business?
“For us, it goes beyond that,” Sutterlin said. “It really was a life lesson for our children. I’m a pharmacist by training, my wife’s a Ph.D. by training. I was doing very well in the pharmaceutical industry as an executive and pretty much walked away overnight. Our passion was to make a difference in this world. We found that medium through clotheslines.”
The clotheslines that Sutterlin and his wife, Gayle, sell are made by Hills, an Australian manufacturer known for quality and reliability. We interviewed Sutterlin by phone from his home in Pennsylvania….Read Full Article
“A big part of what we’re doing — and what gives me great passion — are the personal success stories about individuals,” says Susan Neisloss. “I can’t tell you how important it is for me to be able to share these stories and to have people give us good ideas. That is the key to building this community.”
Neisloss is speaking about the community of people who visit Working for Green, the website she has published for about a year. A seasoned broadcaster and reporter, she interviews ecopreneurs who are making a living by starting and running environmentally friendly businesses….Read Full Article
Going green can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started. For beginners, the steps involved may seem too complex to digest and act upon.
This can cause a large amount of anxiety, resulting in impaired physical and mental health, such as high-blood pressure (a leading cause of heart attacks) and paralyzing guilt. Bag Green Guilt: 5 Easy Steps: Turn Eco-Anxiety Into Constructive Energy by Jen Pleasants explores options to reduce such needless stress….Read Full Article
In many ways, Fox Elipsus reminds me of a wandering minstrel from the days of yore. He travels alone from town to town, singing and playing his music to delight the local folk. He is also a messenger, sharing serious thoughts about the environment, peace, education, and so much more, mixed in with light-hearted fun, engaging banter, and an awesome musical performance. And he does it all for free.
Joe and I were privileged Monday night to attend one of Fox’s 250 concerts on his 2010 Momentum tour — his third annual tour, with many more to come. His shows are all held in coffeehouses, bookstores (we saw him at Borders in Davenport, Iowa), and other congenial meeting places that allow him to set up and play without charging him for the space.
Born and raised in Oxford, England, 29-year-old Fox Elipsus (born Fox Salehi [SAL-uh-hee]) was caught by two fevers as a very young boy — music and the state of the planet.
“When I was about three or four,” he told me in a phone interview on his way to his next gig today, “I was extremely concerned with what is going on in the world. And I was crazy about a musician who concentrated on environmental themes. So I started writing my little four-year-old songs about the environment. I was also really into the Live Aid Concert for Africa.
“Throughout my education, I was motivated to try to fix the world. I found so much that was depressing, and I wanted to do something about it. As long as I can remember, it has been an innate need. And, now, I want to inspire other people to help, too, through my music.” …Read Full Article
June 23, 2010 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Blog, Books, Chemicals, Climate Change, Conservation, Contamination, Ecology, Environment, Events, Front Page, Global Warming, Hazardous Waste, India, Japan, Mercury, Pesticides, Slideshow, Sustainability, U.S., VOCs
As the Gulf of Mexico continues to fill with oil due to BP’s negligence and our own government agencies’ lack of oversight, we are experiencing an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. Tragically, this isn’t the first human-caused environmental disaster — and given our track record as stewards of this planet, it’s futile to fool ourselves that it will be the last. In his book, This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the 15 Worst Environmental Disasters Around the World, Robert Emmet Hernan describes in detail 15 environmental disasters we must remember so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
In the book’s Introduction — penned merely months before BP’s so-called “spill,” Hernan wrote, “If we forget how and why these disasters happened and what horrible consequences emerged from them, we will not avert future disasters.” As a society, we seem to have done just what Hernan feared: We’ve forgotten. And so another disaster is upon us.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes in the book’s Foreword, “In an age where we’re once again ideologically committed to ‘loosening the reins’ on private enterprise, it’s sobering to remember what has happened in the past. In an age when new technologies are barely tested before they’re put into widespread use—genetically engineered crops, for instance—it’s even more sobering to contemplate a seemingly iron-clad rule: every new machine or system seems to fail catastrophically at least once.” …Read Full Article
June 21, 2010 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Architects, Architecture, Blog, Books, Community, Construction, Ecopreneurs, Entrepreneurs, Environment, Front Page, Green Living, Homes, Reviews, Slideshow, Solar, Virginia
When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.
The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.
Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.Read Full Article
I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.
An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine. The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately….Read Full Article
The “3 Rs” of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic have been replaced by the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Reduce.
For the past two years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Washington, D.C., has been teaching children these lessons through its musical puppet show, Junkyard Pirates.
“We thought, what can 3, 4, 5 year-olds understand?” says Mimi Flaherty Willis, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. The organization commissioned some of their artists to create a show for children to teach the importance of recycling. All puppets are made out of recycled materials and pirates are the “good guys.” Their leader, Captain Spare Tire, is up against his nemesis, Land Fill….
“The arts are very powerful for children and adults,” says Flaherty Willis, speaking about why it’s so beneficial to teach lessons through musical performances. “As children, important messages are taught through games and songs — like the alphabet. We did the same thing to teach recycling.” …Read Full Article
There are some fantastic films on the environment, but it can often be difficult to find the truly great ones. To make your life a little bit easier, here is a list of ten fantastic, eye-opening movies for any individual passionate about saving our planet. 10. Tapped, 2009 Director Stephanie Soechtig’s examination of the bottled […]Read Full Article
May 18, 2010 by Julia Wasson
Filed under 2010, Blog, Children, Classes, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Events, Front Page, Iowa, Natural Resources, River, Schools, Slideshow, Students, Sustainability
How do you teach a child to love a river?
It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.
For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.
You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”Read Full Article