Green Environment

How Inefficiency Hurts Your Business for Sustainability

Saturday, February 22, 2014 by

In today's technologically driven world, there are many ways a business can become more efficient. This efficiency translates to greater net income as well as promoting a stronger future for humanity. Let's face it, without focusing on the continuation of humankind, there will be no customers in the future. With all of the innovative developments at our disposal, there are still many people that prefer to perform archaic principles in business that are not conducive to growth. In what ways can this inefficiency hurt your business for sustainability?

1. Wasting Time - One of the most valued commodities of any business is time. By not investing in ways to increase efficiency in the workplace, your business is losing money through wasting the one thing that cannot be recuperated. Instead of the pencil and pen ledger, software exists to allow you to reduce the time spent on record keeping exponentially. This means less paper is used, less time is wasted and more money remains in your bank accounts instead of paying staff to do the work that only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

2. Wasting Electricity - By not examining the electronics that are turned on all the time that don't need to be, you are wasting electricity. Not all computers and monitors need to be left on day-in and day-out. The only real appliance that should be left on is the server. That staff member you may have that is only at his or her desk once per week doesn't need the computer left on. This waste of electricity is damaging to your energy bill as well as hurting the rest of the community by taking energy that could be used elsewhere.

3. Wasting Paper - Did you know that nearly every aspect of any given business can be done digitally? Even receipts for purchases can be emailed instead of printed. Since tablets and smartphones can open most office documents, there is no real reason to have hard copies. Digital documents can be stored and backed up far easier than the printed counterparts - and will take up less physical space. The only real forms that may be needed are those that require personal initials or signatures such as real estate documents or contracts. Memos, correspondences and many other forms of printed material are no longer needed if you have the right alternatives. The financial savings alone from ink and paper should be more than enough incentive to look into efficient alternatives. 

4. Wasting Water - Faucets and toilets within the facility may be wasting water, but what about outside the business? Everyone likes to see greenery surrounding the headquarters or business establishment. However, is the water being put into keeping it green used wisely? There are still organizations out there that have sprinkler systems that operate when it's raining outside. There are products available now that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering the grass and flowers by up to 50-percent. This means you are wasting less water on the ambiance of your business while keeping more money in your bank.

As a business owner, you should be setting an example of professionalism. In a world where so many resources are dwindling rapidly, you need to realize that the business establishment greatly contributes to the loss of these resources. Look around your location and develop a strategy to become more sustainable for the environment and your profitability.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

The Next Economy

Monday, February 10, 2014 by

Those who follow my blog might have noticed substantial inactivity. Yes, I stopped posting articles, mainly out of despair. So much to say, what first, and how? Even if I wrote every day, we would not cover all the complexities of the self-destructive system that humans have created out of greed.

As the speed of natural devastation picks up and the response to the natural rampage becomes short,  obsolete, and mostly non-systemic many, who strive to keep this precious Earth alive with all its beauties, become speechless. But as a famous quote whose author I do not recall states "there is no time to be a pessimist", we must now, more than ever, reflect on our actions and their consequences. We must now rethink our way forward.

If the way forward is based on understanding our need for biological sustainability, since without biological sustainability there is no other sustainability, I let you ponder on this way forward for the outbursting population of 7 billion. 

Video by Tompkins Conservation, The Next Economy

Words of a long time environmentalist and conservationist, Doug Tompkins who, together with his wife Kris and a large team of people dedicated to preserving our nature, have embarked on a challenging path. They have been able to succeed, so why can't we all?

 

Described as “a tireless advocate of an ecological lifestyle and an absolute defender of nature”, Hana takes any opportunity to engage in sustainable living as a sustainability strategist, citizen as well as a consumer. Her ambitions go beyond motivating others through Hana's green living blog. Professionally her aim is to look at today’s environmental issues in a holistic way, through a systemic lens and to strive for long-term improvements rather than short-term fixes. She established Earth Matters, a collaborative consultancy to help others advance on issues of sustainability. Tweet @earthmatters2me

 

 

Transforming the Financial System: Perspectives and Ideas

Monday, December 16, 2013 by

By Don Shaffer, RSF Social Finance

When you are looking for the new or emergent, you usually have to look off-the-grid. In many ways as RSF Social Finance has grown, we too have had to go off-the-grid to develop our unique approach to finance.

In 1984, a school burned down in New Hampshire. RSF organized a group of investors to rebuild it. Since then, we have made over $275 million in direct loans to social enterprises. Our track record has been excellent, with just 2 percent in cumulative loan losses over 29 years, and a 100 percent repayment rate to investors.

The key: bringing investors and borrowers closer together. We have found that if the individual investors who are providing capital and the social entrepreneurs who are borrowing capital can be more visible to each other – if they can understand each others’ needs and intentions, and sustain a personal connection whenever possible – then risk decreases and fulfillment increases.

Participants in a transaction become participants in a relationship. We believe this is nothing less than the antidote to modern finance, and can be applied on a substantial scale. It is the opposite of high frequency trading.

Specifically, four years ago RSF adopted a new approach to loan pricing for our $100 million flagship senior-debt fund. Each quarter, we convene representatives from our staff, our investors, and our borrowers to decide what annualized return rate investors will receive the following quarter, and what interest rate borrowers will pay – a radical form of transparency.

We call it community-based pricing. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – and our interest rate, referred to as RSF Prime, has been very stable. We are now off-the-grid of the global financial interest rate system and no longer directly affected by the vagaries of Wall Street.

But of course the vast majority of all 401(k) programs, pension funds, and endowments are tethered to Wall Street, so it is naïve to believe we are fully off-the-grid.

This circumstance leads to questions many of us in the social finance field think about:

•  What is it going to take for the number of socially and environmentally-focused investors to grow substantially?

•  Can it happen fast enough for those of us who acknowledge the urgency of climate change and natural resource depletion?

•  Are there enough sound investment opportunities for investors who want to go off-the-grid?

•  How will we address the perennial issues of risk, return, and liquidity when there are so few established intermediaries in which to place funds?

•  What are the long-term implications for those of us who anticipate needing funds for retirement and who want to embrace off-the-grid investing?

A Generational Voice

I believe the very definition of wealth will change in my lifetime (I’m 44), where measures like GDP evolve to measures of well-being. These indicators will put spiritual, community, and ecological health at the center of the human experience and pull us toward an economy and supporting financial system that are direct, transparent, and personal, based on long-term relationships.

This article continues on Green Money Journal.

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

Green FestivalWhen the organizers of the Washington, DC Green Festival approached me this past spring about becoming their regional director,  I wondered if an event like this still resonated with consumers. Even though the event is widely recognized as the nation’s premier sustainability event, I asked myself if there was enough demand for an actual event in today’s age of virtual this, "there’s an app for that” and hash tags becoming part of our ever day lexicon.  Especially in a sector where green events have come and gone. Well, I found out that the resounding answer is YES! If my experience in September is any indication, while technology may have taken on a prominent place in our daily lives, there is absolutely a place in consumers’ lives for good, old fashioned face-to-face events.  We crave community and in-person interaction now more than ever. Technology hasn’t lessened the demand for this type of interaction. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It has increased.  People want to talk with others, gather information and look someone in the eye while doing it.  They want to touch and try out products, taste samples and see for themselves what resources are available to them.  Most importantly they want to be part of a like-minded community and participate in that community.

As my colleagues working on the San Francisco Green Festival gear up for the last event of the year November 9 & 10 at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, it seems like a good time to  reflect on some of my favorite elements of the Green Festival.

1.       At its core the Green Festival message is about celebrating what is working in the community and providing consumers easy-to-use, actionable solutions they can take home with them and implement right away. Whether it be delicious vegetarian recipes from  Washington Post Food Editor Joe Yonan’s new book ‘Eat Your Vegetables’  to DIY ways to repurpose furniture courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, to tips on bike commuting, composting, gardening, energy efficiency and so much more, there truly is something for everyone.  Kids too.

2.       The opportunity to connect with and learn from inspirational businesses, organizations, nonprofits and other like-minded individuals who believe in making a difference, leaving our planet in better shape then we inherited and finding ways to live an eco-friendly life.  The Festival routinely features well-known, national change agents like Ralph Nader or Amy Goodman, as well as locally-based leaders like Bernadine Prince, co-founder and co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, yoga teacher Faith Hunter of Embrace DC, who lead free yoga classes all weekend long in the Yoga Pavilion  and Fashion Fights Poverty, which curated a green fashion show .

3.       The event talks the talk and walks the walk.  Organizers actively encourage attendees to bike or take alternative transportation to reach the Green Festival. Anyone who bikes to the Festival receives free admittance.  Over 90% of waste generated by the Festival is diverted from landfills. There is even have a dedicated team of volunteers who sort through the trash making sure nothing is missed.

4.       As consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from, who prepared it and how it was made, that evolution has been reflected in the programming at the Festival. Food as a topic was addressed from every angle imaginable from the control of food production by a handful of large companies, to vegan baking tips from ‘Cupcake Wars’ veteran Doron Petersan, to growing gardens and food in small spaces, to leading area farmers markets and nonprofits showcasing how they are making it easier for consumers to have access to fresh, healthy and local foods.  Exhibitors offered healthful options for mom’s and mom’s to be, fair trade chocolates, juicing and smoothies, raw foods, and organic products just to name a few.  There were panels on how food creates opportunities for conversation about the environment and more.  Food is such an integral part in allowing us to live full lives, and there is so much going on behind the scenes that the average consumer has no idea about, so it’s important to provide opportunities to entertain, educate and inspire change all under one roof.

5.       The creativity and diversity of the exhibitors and sponsors.  They ranged from larger companies like Ford Motor Company test driving their fuel efficient vehicles and Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates sampling and selling their tasty chocolates to small mom and pops like Karmlades selling environmental friendly cleaning products that smell wonderful and clean naturally without chemicals. I fell in love with one-of-kind scarves from a local clothing designer that were designed in the DC area and made with bamboo, an eco-friendly and super soft material.  Other exhibitors whose creativity caught my eye included a woman who used old scarves, jackets and other materials to make home goods, including a pillow made out of a World War II Army uniform, as well as the exhibitor who made bags, wallets and iPad covers out of old football and basketballs. Talk about reusing and recycling!

6.       Organizers are committed to reaching out to the community and making the event accessible to everyone. Complimentary tickets to the event are handed out at events throughout the area, can often be found online and through special social media promotions.

I think the most powerful take away for me was that there continues to be a thriving community, whether they be consumers, speakers, businesses or nonprofit organizations, who are devoted and committed to creating change.  To steal an oft quoted phrase from Ghandi, the Green Festival gives me hope that we will be the change we want to see in the world.

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

St Julien Hotel & Spa offers a LOHAS experience and notable sustainable initiatives

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 by

Boulder is definitely a distinctive place with an abundance of green-minded individuals and businesses — the perfect spot for the amazing Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) conference I attended for the first time this year. After shopping at the irresistible eco-conscious stores on Pearl Street, I headed over to St Julien Hotel & Spa to check out the spa. As a spa industry educator, I always feel compelled to do my on-location research — especially after writing a book on Green Spas and Salons: How to Make Your Business Truly Sustainable.

The LOHAS frame of mind is central to the spa and wellness industry as it shifts into a more natural and organic world.  I have tried at least 50 product lines over 25 years through my esthetics practice, teaching, and research.  At the Spa at St Julien I received an excellent customized facial and definitely noticed a difference in my skin with Naturopathica and Luzurn products. 

The most notable part of the spa experience was that the entire spa staff gave exceptional customer service. They were present and mindful of their guests so one did not feel like they were just a “tourist.” Spa at St Julien carries thoughtfully chosen products, including clothing, gifts, and aromatherapy candles. Skin care products include Naturopathica, Luzern, Organic Male, Zents, Farm House Fresh, Body Bliss, and Soleil Organique. The makeup lines are Jane Iredale and La Bella Donna.

Boulder’s natural environment inspires the hand-made spa treatments that incorporate indigenous ingredients of plants, seeds, stones and extracts. Fresh herbs (organic mint and rosemary) for treatments such as the Mountain Mojito Scrub are harvested from the on-site herb garden.

St Julien Hotel & Spa works closely with Boulder-based UHG Consulting to reduce the Hotel's footprint on the community. Impressively, the property has decreased energy use by 17% from 2009-2012; reduced natural gas use by 30%; and water use decreased 11% (all decreases are per occupied room). The facility has also reduced waste by 85% since 2007.

Some specific green practices include carrying local products in the gift shop, switching from paper towels to washable hand towels, composting food waste, using an Ozone laundry system, and using compostable disposable cups. St Julien Hotel & Spa also donates opened amenities, linens, and supports other charities. Sustainable events and education are part of their culture and business practices.

Check out the St Julien Spa next time you are in Boulder. To grow the LOHAS mindset, let businesses know you appreciate their eco-conscious efforts and practices. Find more on spa sustainability from Shelley Lotz at www.greenspasandsalons.com.  

 

Developing a Lexicon for Ocean Preservation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
Almost a year ago to the day, I found myself diving in the Cook Islands with Conservation International’s Sylvia Earle, Greg Stone and Peter Seligmann.  Perhaps you recall my article “Diving with the Dream Team”?  This was my first immersion, literally and figuratively, into the recently raised – and critically important – issues surrounding ocean conservation.   A lot has happened in the last year to make this a topline agenda item for NGOs, members of the business elite, and conservation societies alike.   To use an appropriate metaphor, ocean policy and preservation is the next big wave of environmental consideration and concern.
 
Think back to Teddy Roosevelt’s initiatives to promote nature and encourage land conservation in the 1920s – we are at that same point in time with regard to the oceans.  As in, the first inning.  No, make that top of the first inning.  It is an exciting field to study but one that resembles the Wild Wild West.  I hope to shed some light on what important new and existing preservation projects mean to the public, the fish, the coral reefs, and our future.  We are past the point of prevention but rather, we must undo some of the damage we have done – caused mainly by ocean acidification, overfishing, and bottom trawling.  There are many new and vague terms that leave the average swimmer, diver, and/or surfer, palms up.  This will serve as an introduction to the vernacular being used to describe these projects.
 
Let’s start with ocean acidification.  Basically, this refers to the increased carbon dioxide that is now in our atmosphere.  Thus there is more carbon, and less oxygen, directly contacting the oceans at sea level than in the past.  This is negatively affecting the health of coral reefs and other flora and fauna underwater.
 
Now about overfishing.  Think about this in a different way: On terra firma, vehicles are generally limited to paved roads.  And we have a huge infrastructure of local, state and federal police who patrol our roadways.  Now think of the skies, which are carefully supervised by the FAA, designated airspace, and a large network of control towers in major cities throughout the globe.  Both on land and in the air, penalties for not following the rules of the road can be quite punitive.  Simple enough.
 
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
 
Now, think about the oceans.  Water covers more than 71% of the earth’s surface.  Yet we have no international ocean police, no “ocean FAA” if you will…only a relatively infinitesimal handful of Coast Guard and related non-military vessels, worldwide, to guard the seas.  So what’s a mother to do about less-than-trustworthy fishing boats – mostly carrying the flags of European and Asian nations – that are overfishing, bottom-trawling, shark-fin-hunting and other extremely damaging activities?
 
Over 100 million sharks are killed every year -- mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup. Unconscionable. (Photo, fastcompany)
 
For this answer, I sought out a few of the world’s leading experts, including none other than Sir Richard Branson.  He is a member of a group called the OceanElders, which consists of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans and the wildlife therein.  Other members include Queen Noor, Ted Turner, Neil Young, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jackson Browne, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, among other luminaries.  Anyway, I asked Branson if by using technology, is there any way to successfully monitor the oceans for commercial fishing vessels, polluters and other maritime villains?  His comments:
 
OceanElders, a group of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world's oceans and the wildlife therein. (Photo, oneworldocean)
 
“Remote sensing of shipping from satellites is already a reality. Vessels that carry the required transponders can be tracked and identified in real time. The flaws in the present systems are that vessels can turn off the transponders and that they are not mandatory for all vessels. International agreements and treaties can fix that. The UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the best agency to organize and execute an improved ship location program.”
 
Out of the UN’s 193 member states, 170 are currently members of the IMO – including both large and small players alike, such as China, Japan, US, UK, Thailand, Madagascar, and Mozambique.  “This means that once an action is approved by the [IMO], that action has force of domestic law in the member states. So a more vigorous ship tracking program can have teeth,” Branson explained.  But what about enforcement?
 
“One option that is technically feasible today is unmanned vehicles (AUVs) that are constantly on patrol and prepared to call for assistance when needed. Another enforcement idea that really appeals to me is to develop a global directory of fishing vessels which habitually fish in distant waters from their home ports.  As trespassers are identified, they go into the database and are flagged.  A similar scheme is used by many of the major maritime nations to identify problem vessels. Those in the database that have poor safety and/or operating records can be denied entrance to seaports or will not be allowed to depart unless certain remedial steps are taken.”
 
Map of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in the Galapagos.
 
Branson provides a realistic and honest appraisal here of where we are on this pressing issue.  And clearly, we are indeed in the first inning.  What happens when a less-than-honest fishing vessel enters a protected zone and dredges the area for sharks, killing everything else in the net’s wake and disturbing the coral to boot?  If the ship’s transponder is turned off before committing the crime…nothing.  And currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop this activity.  Which is why 100 million sharks are killed every year – mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup.  Unconscionable.
 
So are there any parts of the ocean that are being protected?  There are a number of marine protected areas (MPA) throughout the world.  One small but significant example lies in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, called PIPA for (Phoenix Island Protected Area).   PIPA is located in the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-BAS), an ocean nation in the central Pacific approximately midway between Australia and Hawaii. PIPA constitutes 11.34 percent of Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and with a size of over 150,000 square miles, it is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.  (For more info on PIPA, listen to this TED Talk.)
 
Conservation International’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist, Gregory Stone, was the driving force in conception and creation of PIPA.  Kiribati has declared that three percent of this EEZ is a “no catch zone” and fishing is strictly prohibited.  Three percent may not sound like much, but this is still a large area – 4,500 square miles – and it is home to high value reefs, bird nesting islands, and tuna fishing grounds.  There is a sensitivity here because poor countries such as Kiribati derive significant income from taxing the fishing vessels. Thus they must be compensated from other sources to make up for the lost revenue in return for their cooperation.
 
Covering over 150,000 square miles, PIPA is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo, Conservation International)
 
I had an opportunity to catch up with Dr. Stone on how Conservation International (CI) is trying to craft a way to monitor the PIPA area, among other protected waters. “We are talking to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) about how we can use satellites to monitor the waters.  Extremely sophisticated aerial cameras are available, and these could be used for ocean surveillance and enforcement.  If we can create a way to document the presence of a vessel and, through licensing and electronic observation, obtain the name and home base of the boat, we would then be able to track and ultimately enforce severe fines and other penalties,” he explained.
 
Indeed, enforcement is easier when there is a government that has rights to the water space in question.  What happens when this is not the case, for example, in the Sargasso Sea?  The Sargasso Sea is the earth’s only sea or ocean without a land boundary. This extraordinary open-ocean ecosystem is bounded by currents circulating around the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.  The Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse ecosystem, including a number of endangered yet commercially important species.  Dr. Earle has called it “the golden rainforest of the ocean.”
 
I consulted Sargasso Sea expert David Shaw, a respected business and social entrepreneur who is also a National Park Trustee. Shaw put into proper perspective the challenges the environmental world faces when trying to educate the public on the threats to ocean health. “A big issue is trying to create a consciousness about the world’s largest habitat.  Unlike the terrestrial world, ocean health is often not part of our daily thoughts in the same way that unhealthy air, rivers or land may be. We need to understand that world oceans are not infinitely forgiving…we cannot see all the damage. And we are best served if debate about ocean health and other environmental issues is based on fact-based science versus emotional arguments,” Shaw explained.
 
Shaw is founding chair of an alliance formed to study the ecology of the Sargasso Sea and to create a range of stewardship measures to conserve its health.  The Sargasso Sea Alliance is led by the government of Bermuda, working with other nations as well as NGOs.  So far, among other results, the Alliance has developed a robust “Summary Science and Evidence Case for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea” with over 74 collaborators.  Under executive director Dr David Freestone, the Alliance is planning to bring the governments of the countries around the Sargasso Sea – including the US, Dominican Republic and Portugal – together with the European Union Commission to Bermuda in 2014 to sign an international declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea and to establish a permanent Sargasso Sea Commission, based in Bermuda, to oversee the health of this unique high seas ecosystem.
 
Dr. Sylvia Earle has called the Saragasso Sea "the golden rainforest of the ocean." (Photo, sylviaearlealliance.org)
 
The urgency to protect ocean wildlife is not strictly the fantasy of environmentalists and watermen.  We are talking about a far more serious question: How will we feed the world 20 years from now? Indeed, if we do not stop the systematic destruction of our ocean resources, we could have a serious seafood shortfall; this is on a collision course with simultaneous population growth.  It would seem the key is to create a way to monitor overfishing, and soon.  The concepts that Branson and Stone talk of, using GPS and related technology for this purpose, would seem to be our best chance for monitoring the oceans successfully.  Question is, who will organize the nations of the world in this effort, and how do we effectively police two thirds of the earth’s surface?  If we don’t collectively address and solve this pressing issue, the phrase “plenty of fish in the sea” may turn into a deadly falsehood.
 
Read more by Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

BOOK REVIEW: Chocolate Nations

Thursday, August 29, 2013 by

Chocolate NationsOrla Ryan is a well-travelled financial and investigative journalist who lived in Africa for four years (Uganda and Ghana). Currently writing for the Financial Times in London, during the time of this book she was commissioned to Reuters and this project came out of a special grant for investigative reporting.  During her time in Ghana, she was specifically focused on the cacao industry.

The fundament of her book is about exposing the realities of the daily work program and calling on better education and a less corrupt government, and she really writes this for conscious consumers. The book is a good eye opener for those who love chocolate and want to inform themselves more about the complexity of the environment of cacao farming in West Africa. Given that there are almost two million small producers in West Africa, who farm and produce about two thirds of the total world cacao crop these are highly significant stories to tell. Not just from the economics, but the human aspect.

For perspective fifty percent of the world's cacao beans come from Ghana, the world's second-biggest producer, and its neighbour Ivory Coast, the world's biggest.

You want to read her work because she’s not emotional, but rather factual about the description. Giving a fair say to everyone involved. You might find it difficult to read as it looks at the causes of farmer poverty, and you’ll see an almost helpless role within the context of global commodity trading and the simple farmer’s daily battle to just live from his crops. Economic and geopolitical analysis with the human touch, it gives you a clear view of what is going on with the majority of chocolate.

It is a quick read, eight chapters in 160 pages. Weekend reading, where you will probably clean your cupboards out thereafter and look up more about sustainability reporting in chocolate.

You’ll read that for every £1 chocolate bar, just 7p is spent on cocoa ingredients, while 43p goes to the manufacturer. You’ll look for justice. And hopefully, start within yourself. What gifts you give, what snacks you enjoy, and just start looking at the back of pack a little more.

Typical cacao farmers receive just 4 per cent of the final price of an average bar of milk chocolate in Europe.

Ryan’s book gives you a background on Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire cacao farming histories, and then highlight where and how child labour is used on cocoa farms (specifically child and slave labour). Stories of government and cacao board corruption, the role of international traders who come to town to try and help. She shows how unfair Fair Trade is and that in current economics, there is dwindling futures for chocolate, by simply no-one wanting to go into the business anymore.

  ‘Orla's Chocolate Nations is a captivating read, painting a lively picture of the West African cocoa trade from a variety of perspectives. It casts a critical eye over the role played by governments and multinationals, while also putting fair trade and child slavery campaigns in perspective. It gives us all a good deal more to think about when we eat 'the food of the gods'." - Daniel Balint Kurti at Global Witness

"A courageous and thoughtful account of a murky industry." - Times Literary Supplement

"Chocolate Nations is a fascinating account of the struggles of cocoa producers in West Africa, almost all of them smallholders, and what it takes to turn a crop of cocoa into a warehouse full of Ferrero Rocher." - Jeremy Harding, The Guardian

"Paints a disturbing and subtle picture of an industry few chocolate consumers think about." - Sydney Morning Herald

Read an excerpt from the book: http://bit.ly/ChocNations

Buy the book here in Amazon

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa (African Arguments) [Paperback]

 http://bit.ly/BuyChocNations

 

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The Outer Bank Brewing Station: How Wind Saves this Restaurant More than $1800 per year

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by

Located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the Outer Bank Brewing Station benefits from a renewable energy source that sits 80 feet from the ground. A three-bladed BWC Excel motor generates enough power to offset the restaurant's needs saving the location between $150 and $250 per month. Of course locations such as this utilize far more power than the average home, but a unit like the BWC Excel could come close to reducing your energy bills to nothing.

Compared to Solar - Wind power is one of the fastest growing trends in the United States. Coincidentally, it is also one of the cheapest methods of renewable energy. Depending on the area you live in, a solar equivalent to how much power is produced by the Outer Bank Brewing Station's turbine could cost twenty to thirty thousand dollars more than the $50,000 construction this business implemented.

Sustainable Practices - The owners of the establishment, Aubrey Davis and Eric Reece, spent a great deal of time in the Peace Corp and did a lot of work in Thailand. Given their background, the two wanted the brewery to be as green as possible. Purchasing used copper to be used in the brewery and using recycled bricks, the building began to take shape. Sticking with their theme for a "green" production in 2002, Davis and Reece applied to develop the windmill as solar power alternatives were still far more expensive in comparison. Technologies for solar arrays didn't begin decreasing in cost significantly until 2012. However, wind turbines still remain to be somewhat cheaper for the power generated. The Board of Commissioners were less than impressed with the idea and locals commented on how the turbine would kill a great deal of birds during its operation.

Resistance of the Future - Davis and Reece fought an uphill battle in order to convince the Board of Commissioners to allow construction of the 80-foot tall wind turbine. Five exhaustive years later, and political changes for the board members, the owners of the Outer Bank Brewing Station were allowed the opportunity to erect the tower. At that moment, this restaurant became the first brewery to be powered by wind and has been featured in National Geographic magazine. To this date, not a single bird has been killed by the spinning blades of the windmill.

Green efforts like this one can help to make the world a more sustainable place, one small step at a time. It takes effort to overcome obstacles but it does pay off in the end. How many more sustainable practices could be put into place to reduce our impact on the environment and increase the sustainability of our homes and businesses?

Paul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.

 

What's On For Serious Global Foodies In The Next Weeks?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 by

food festivalThese are the key foodie events that conscious consumers should keep an eye out for in August/September. You'll find the range of aroma and flavour experiences from local and regional foods, as well as a focus on seasonal cooking, within the field of healthy lifestyles and full-flavour living. See you there my dear LOHAS blog readers!

August 10, 2013  Cardigan River and Food Festival - Cardigan, Ceredigion, Wales

August 17, 2013  Franschhoek Winter Wines 2013 - Franschhoek, South Africa

August 19-23, 2013 International Conference - Ecological Organic Agriculture Yaounde, Cameroon

  • Encourage Agriculture/Livestock
  • Encourage Income Generating Activities
  • LCDEC Mobilising Savings and Delivering Micro-Credit
  • Local Development Planning
  • Encourage Gender Equality
  •  Women Training and Empowerment Project (WTEP)
  • Encourage Adult literacy
  • Working With Communities In HIV/AIDS Prevention And Care
  • Encourage Skills Development
  • Encourage Institution Building

August 23-26, 2013  Real Street Food Quarterly Festival - London, England

The Real Food Festival is also about creating a level playing field upon which even the smallest producers can offer their fabulous, lovingly nurtured food and drink to a huge number of potential customers. What drives them to do this is the desire to show everyone the importance and enjoyment of eating food that has been produced cleanly and sustainably, where the producer gets a fair price for their goods.

August 29-30, 2013  Whisky Live - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

September 2-4, 2013  Food and Hospitality Oman - Muscat, Oman



September 5-7, 2013  Chocolate Salon - Mexico City, Mexico



September 5-7, 2013  Expo Café - Mexico City, Mexico


September 6-8, 2013  Niagara Food Festival 2013 - Welland, Ontario, Canada

September 7-8, 2013  Franschhoek Uncorked 2013 - Franschhoek, South Africa

September 8-10, 2013  Specialty Chocolate Fair - London, England: Hosted by award winning Patisserie Will Torrent and featuring demonstrations showcasing the latest techniques and trends from the Academy of Chocolate, Damian Wawrzyniak, Valrhona, Alistair Birt, Cocoa Bond. (industry only, good for food writers!)

September 9-12, 2013  Fine Food Australia - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 (industry event only & great if you’re a food writer.)

September 11-14, 2013  26th Paisley Beer Festival - Paisley, England



September 12-15, 2013  Mondial de la Biere - Mulhouse, France

Thinking Outside the Bottle

Thursday, July 18, 2013 by

In the fall of 2012, green cleaning company Ecover purchased Method to become the largest green cleaning company in the world. For the first time since the acquisition Adam Lowy, Co-Founder of Ecover and Tom Domen, Head of Innovation for Ecover shared details on why this occurred and what they see in the future for the cleaning industry at the LOHAS conference.

Ecover was the first green cleaning brand that was created in Belgium in 1979 to eliminate phosphate pollution. Since then they have continued to pioneer innovations and demonstrate ecological benefits while providing a quality product. They grew to be the largest green cleaning company in Europe. Method was developed 1999 because the founders were frustrated with the way business was being done and there was an opportunity to create change in cleaning. The category of cleaning was untapped in the 90's and there was a trend with LOHAS consumers with a demand for better products. They became successful by bringing together style and substance and sustainability is built into the design of the product. The product is about making sustainability desirable and grew into a 100 million dollar company in 8 years.

Green cleaning is 4% of the cleaning category. Although Ecover and Method have a dominant position they feel that this is a failure. Their goals with the merger are to radically change the at a scale that can have greater impact. They feel there is no such thing as a green consumer. “You need breadth to cater to many needs and wants. With 2 brands focusing on 1 mission we can bring green to mainstream rather than pull consumers to think green.” Says Lowry.

Adam shared that the average person does 300 loads of laundry a year. Method created a concentrate to replace large jugs commonly used. They were able to change behavior of the consumer to adopt these smaller concentrates which are now common in stores today. This is an example of bringing green to mainstream.
Ecover and Method created an innovation roadmap to go beyond what is possible today to explore solutions for tomorrow. The roadmap dreams include growing cleaning products in the garden, washing machines that incubate cleaning products. They looked at these dreams and are building a roadmap to reality.

Key areas they plan to focus on together are:
•    Eliminating fossil fuels. Ecover is using bio plastic derived from sugar cane.
•    Provide sustainable sourcing. Ensuring sources are not competing with food, and farming is environmental.
•    Natural formed products how can we grow a product instead of manufacture one. Ecover grows surfactants from yeast and other materials that are radically low in environmental impact.
•    Be resourceful in user space and teach people proper usage behaviors.
•    Create cleaning products that make your home more healthy.
•    Partnering with cleaning appliance manufacturers to improve washing processes and be more efficient.
•    Change from selling cleaning product volume to new business models.
•    Create micro location manufacturing.
•    Improve manufacturing facility waste management.
•    Ultimately be a company that works symbiotically with both society and nature.

This model is capable of evolution and behaves like an organism rather than an organization. This has an opportunity to lead to a better world but needs business to change how they play the game. Market leaders breed a bias against progress and more of a focus on position maintenance. This It is easy to focus on incremental change rather than create a business to become a force of change. The hard truth is that business committed to sustainability must be committed to uncertainty which runs against common business practice and shareholder value. Ecover and Method both believe that this is biomimicry at an organizational level and is what is needed to make the world a better place and are committed to breaking business as usual.


You can watch their full presentation here:




 

Red, White, & Waterless

Monday, July 15, 2013 by

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Over July 4th, I was hiking in the breathtaking mountains of Park City, clipping along at a steady pace at 8,000-plus feet with the Blind Melon song "No Rain" providing musical backup. I came upon a near-empty snowmaking reservoir that is usually full at this time of year. Realizing I never paid much attention to the lyrics since the song's hook is so unique, I suddenly thought, "No rain, indeed." The small puddle in the center of this receptacle won't provide much fuel for snowmaking unless the rains come a lot more frequently, and for long showers.

2013-07-09-driedreservoirparkcity.JPG

Not much fuel for snowmaking in Park City.  

I had a very disturbing thought at that instant: Throughout the Southwestern U.S., for several years ongoing, we continue to suffer through a prolonged drought. In addition to Park City, my recent experiences in Las Vegas and Southern California, which I'll get to shortly, bear this out. No matter what strides we make with solar power, natural gas, electric vehicles, cleaner vehicle emissions and the like, if it just stops raining, we are all in trouble -- and sooner than later. According to a June Yale Environment 360 article by Caroline Fraser, climatologists are studying this phenomenon, mega-forest fires are now the norm, and New Mexico is even worse off than SoCal and Nevada. Fraser writes:

Looking back in time through the tree rings, [climatologist Park] Williams determined that the current Southwest drought, beginning in 2000, is the fifth most severe since AD 1000, set against similarly devastating mega-droughts that have occurred regularly in the region. One struck during the latter 1200s (probably driving people from the region) and another in 1572-1587, a drought that stretched across the continent to Virginia and the Carolinas. Few conifers abundant in the Southwest -- including piñon, ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir -- survived that latter event, despite lifespans approaching 800 years; those species have since regrown. Critics and climate-change deniers can read data like this and say, well, look, the human race is still here, and so are the conifers... these are normal cyclical weather patterns and not reason to think carbon can cause these problems. I for one am not buying this. Our lack of rain since 2000 has become more of a dirty little secret than Aaron Hernandez's alleged habit of handgun discipline. Just drive down Interstate 15 north of San Diego, where glimpses of used-to-be-full Lake Hodges now reveal what looks more like a dry riverbed in some spots than a reservoir that supports the water needs of thousands of families. Or how about a small, admittedly anecdotal but nevertheless devastating, example of the increasing dryness. Look at the photo of the ground at what used to be a small lake adjoining a development called "Skylake Estates" in Fallbrook, also located in North County San Diego. This looks more like the Mojave Desert in the middle of a scorching summer than temperate San Diego. As a friend recently commented, "Pretty soon we will be like the animals in the Serengeti sucking the last ounce of water from mud puddles.

2013-07-09-5858008782_0863c9bf46_bAgriLifeTodayflikr.jpg

As for Las Vegas, our home in still-beautiful but increasingly hot and dry Lake Las Vegas sits at the water's edge... and that edge continues to be lower and lower. Indeed, a number of studies show that Lake Mead, the source of water for the Lake, has lost more than half of its volume over the past three decades.

2013-07-09-LakeMeadwaterlevelswww.globalwarmingforecasts.com.jpg

So what do we do about this? Traditional Native American rain dances perhaps? Cloud seeding? Praying to the rain gods? Importation of glaciers via Airbus? The answer is, there is not a whole lot we can do to make it rain, and the horrific results of this situation are already starting to accumulate. As in thousands and thousands of dead forests and the ramifications thereof in loss of oxygen, food and shelter for animals, this wreaks havoc on the food chain and Mother Nature in general.

Here is what you can do. These things may seem small, but when they are multiplied by millions of people worldwide, the savings of millions of gallons of water per year can and will affect the shortage that we are headed for. I ask you to begin practicing these simple but cost-saving and valuable water conservation tips:

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Simply wet your brush, turn off the tap, brush (your dentist would like you to brush for at least a full minute, preferably longer) and then turn the water back on to rinse. This will save you hundreds of gallons per year, especially if all of your family members join in. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets throughout your home and office.

Research your diet on the web, you can learn about how much water is required to process and deliver certain foods to your table. For example, meat requires unusually high water consumption because of the cattle feeding and drinking prior to slaughter. Eating less meat will cut your indirect water consumption by a lot.

Give up taking baths; short showers only. Admittedly a sacrifice, but a great way to save water. Turn your sprinklers down as low as possible during the hot summer. Yes, your lawn won't look its best, but you will save hundreds or depending upon the size of your yard, thousands of gallons annually. Not to mention, hundreds of dollars worth of water bills.

Thank you all for taking time to think about this critical issue. Talk it up with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Again, if we all do our part, we can assist Mother Nature in the daunting task ahead. Join me in cutting water consumption and praying to the rain gods!

Read more from Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: 

7 Organic Cleaning Products You Can Make at Home

Monday, July 8, 2013 by

Home Made CleanersNot only can cleaning products run up your grocery bill, but most commercial brands are made with harmful chemicals. These products may contain neurotoxins, carcinogens, depressants and heavy metals. Some of the health issues associated with these toxins include respiratory problems, allergies, headaches, dizziness and even cancer. As a result, many people are beginning to seek out green, organic products to clean their homes. However, buying products made organically can often cost you even more than their chemical counterparts. Luckily, you don’t have to buy the expensive brands at the store; you can make most organic cleaning products yourself at home. This will save you money and protect your family’s health! Most of these homemade, natural products use the same ingredients in different combinations. You will want to stock up on borax, white vinegar, essential oils (of your choice), baking soda, tea tree oil and an all-natural bar soap. Liquid castile soap, citric acid and rubbing alcohol also come in handy. Don’t let this list scare you away from making your own cleaning products, though. These items are all fairly inexpensive and will last quite a long time. You’ll find that your grocery bills will lessen and you will more than make your money back after only a couple of shopping trips!

  • Laundry Detergent - Grate a third of a bar of natural soap into a pot containing six cups of water. Boil the water to melt the soap. Add a bit of baking soda and borax, then mix until they are dissolved. You’ll now add this to a bucket that has four cups of hot water in it and mix it again. Then, add another gallon of water and stir one more time. Allow it to sit for 24 hours. You only need a half cup of this mixture for every load of laundry. It smells great, is all natural and saves you money!
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner - The first thing you will want to do is sprinkle the inside of the bowl with baking soda. Its abrasiveness and cleaning power will give it a good scrub. Then you will want to add 10 drops of tea tree oil because of its antibacterial properties. Finally, pour on some white vinegar. The ingredients will fizz, doing most of the cleaning for you. Swish with the toilet brush, flush and your toilet is clean!
  • Window Cleaner - Mix up three cups of water with two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, a quarter cup of white vinegar, half of a tablespoon of liquid castile soap and, if you wish, about five drops of essential oil for scent. Put it in a spray bottle and use it to wash windows and mirrors.
  • Dishwasher Soap - Mix up a cup of borax with a cup of baking soda. Add to this a half cup of citric acid and a half cup of kosher salt. Use one tablespoon per load of dishes.
  • Wall Eraser - To remove pen, crayon and marker from walls, use a half teaspoon of borax, a teaspoon of baking soda and a half cup of warm water. If you wish, you can also add some grapefruit essential oil. Spray on the wall and wipe with a sponge to simulate the scrubbing power of those pricey wall erasers.
  • Hardwood Floor Cleaner - Mop your hardwood floors with black tea. Simply boil water as you would for tea intended for drinking by adding three tea bags. When it’s cooled, pour it into a bucket and use your mop or a rag to clean your floors. The room will smell fresh and the wood will shine!
  • Air Freshener - This one is very simple, yet extremely effective. Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add to it several drops of the essential oil of your choice. If you’d like to pack an even more powerful punch into your room deodorizer, try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of lemon juice, several drops of any essential oil and hot water. This one will tackle stronger odors and it is safe for people and pets.

Remember when you are using these homemade cleaners that you are not only protecting your family and saving money, you are also helping the environment. Commercial cleaning products can seep into the public water supply by way of your drains. Water treatment plants have to work harder to get these chemicals out of the water. Over time, these chemicals will build up and may effect wildlife and the planet itself. Also, making the items yourself allows you to use the same containers over and over, eliminating the need for new plastic containers to be made and the waste of discarded containers in landfills. In short, when you make your own cleaning products, everyone wins!

This post was originally featured on www.Housekeeping.org

Why individual actions matter: the power of a belief

Thursday, June 27, 2013 by

Often I am asked if, given today’s scale of destructed habitat and the need for broad collective restoration, our individual actions count. “Does it mater that I bring my own carrier bag to store daily, that I walk to work, that I compost and flush natural rather than harsh toxic chemicals down the toilet after my home cleaning?

Many people get into the “green” habits because it matters to them, which is the best motivator. Others get desperate and discouraged as they feel their green actions are a clean drop in a polluted ocean. Yet another feel they will join the efforts when others do it as well. Understandable.

Here I second those that call for more than individual actions. However, that is not to say that such actions do not matter quite as much, if not more. Here a small reflection on what individual actions can entail:

-break the bad habit

If you are unhappy about the way we are doing things, complaining and feeling frustrated will only create negative energy and not get you far. So taking your individual action might be more rewarding.

-manifest your discontent with the “business-as-usual” way of doing

We are what we do and we do what we believe in.

-be willing to “risk”, innovate and go out of your comfort zone

Stretch your limits. The more you are willing to “give up” the more you will gain when you reach your goal. Change is not about comfort.

-show that you care

This is not about the good against the bad guys; no need to show the world that you are “better”, but to prove to yourself that you can do things differently.

-see that individual damaging or doing nothing are the same thing

Understand that “only by trying” there can be a better way. There is only sure way to fail: that of being passive.

-walk your talk: practice your beliefs and values

Whatever you do, just do what resonates with you. If avoiding recycling feels good to you because you justified to yourself that it makes no sense, then that it is what it is. Yet if you believe in doing things the better way, than you have it clear.

-join the collective consciousness

If individual actions do not matter so much than how did we get to this collective mess? Might it be that each and everyone contributed? Lets twist it around then.

-be an inspiration to others

There is need to wait for others to change things you don’t like. You can be the inspiration to others; you can provoke a collective change.

-discover a life of possibilities (there is not only one way of doing things) each and everyone is the creator

As Nick Vujicic says “attitude is an altitude” and I add that our imagination is the only limit to our possibilities.

-be the Einstein in your world

We all admire those who achieved something so achieve something (regardless of its scale and reach) and admire yourself.

The most important reason of all is that we only can do what we deem/believe is possible. So lets start shifting our unsustainable paradigms and imagining the possibility of creating a whole new world. (Law of attraction)

 

______

Described as “a tireless advocate of an ecological lifestyle and a fierce defender of nature”, Hana takes any opportunity to engage in sustainable living as a sustainability strategist, citizen and as well as a consumer. With over a decade long international career in various settings, her ambitions go beyond motivating others through Hana's greenliving blog. Professionally her aim is to look at today’s environmental issues in a holistic way, through a systemic lens and to strive for long-term improvements rather than short-term fixes. She established EarthMatters, a collaborative consultancy to help others advance on issues of sustainability.

 

Beyond Our Own Lifetime

Monday, June 3, 2013 by

Posted by Brent Giles on May 14, 2013 for Powdr Corp's "Carbon Copy" Blog

I believe we can visualize beyond our own lifetime.

My rant on this post is caused by “Americans Global Warming Beliefs in April 2013”

I’m surprised that individual and local weather events are still the basis for some to argue against climate change.  When I look at extreme weather events worldwide combined with empirical temperature records I have to believe something is going on.  Extreme weather events such as in 2011  and in 2012!  Are you excited to see what 2013 brings?

What will it take to convince us?  Global temperatures have increased.  The latest “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States” isn’t good news either.  Shouldn’t we, at the very least, consider this is a possibility and do something?

Most people have a goal or vision for their future.  Does that vision go beyond their lifetime or the lifetime of their immediate family, really?  Probably not, truth be told.

Many of us are too short sighted and selfish.  We choose to believe things that fit nicely in our comfort zone and individual boxes.  We expect immediate gratification and results, if I do this today then I’ll see thistomorrow.

In 1712 Thomas Newcomen built the first commercially successful steam engine which was the first significant power source other than wind and water.  The industrial revolution began 300 years ago and so did increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, environmental damage and many other pollutants.  These are now some of the rotten fruits of our success.  It has taken 300 years to get where we are today.  What makes me think I can recycle this plastic bottle today and see results tomorrow?

I spend a lot of time wondering how to connect to people.  What can I say that will help someone believe the issue and then have the initiative to help solve the problem?  What is the key to understanding that I am part of the problem, that I am responsible and accountable?  How to reduce our impact on the environment?  It’s a hard problem but there is a solution, me and you.

Well, since I’m talking about responsibility and accountability this might be a good time to mention politics! Beginning on day one after election and for the rest of the term it seems there is only one goal and that is to get re-elected.  I’ve already mentioned short sighted and selfish, right?  Party lines trump moral values, human values, and logical decisions.  Career politics should be abandoned.  “The greater good” will not be the result of policy and regulation enacted by self-serving career driven politicians (big revelation).

Speaking of politics, I’ve been thinking about the images of five Presidents, Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson and Grant.  Surely they are the answer………………..but

Money, money, money, money, all the money in the world can’t buy me a drink of clean water if there isn’t any.  All the money in the world can’t make the air fresh or control the temperature.  Thank goodness the answer isn’t ‘all the money in the world’.   Each and every one of us has the ability to do what’s necessary to cause change.  It’s all about choices, choose wisely.

So we go to work every day and spend countless hours trying to collect more of those five Presidents images.  And when we’re at work we probably spend countless hours dreaming about being out in nature doing what we really want to do!  Lucky me because I get to spend time thinking about our environment and not feel guilty.  So should you.

Reality check; in nature the outcome will be as it always has been, survival of the fittest.  As of today, that ain’t us?

“If we don’t change the direction we’re going, we’ll end up where we’re headed”

 

LOHAS Health Trends

Sunday, April 28, 2013 by

wellness trendsI am in a unique position to view various market verticals and get some ideas on what are trends for various elements of LOHAS. Here are a few I think to be on the lookout for in the health and wellness space.

Happiness and Health

More of us will see happiness as key to achieving good health and vice versa. We will increasingly understand that happiness and health go hand in hand. There have been several studies indicating the connection between these two vital factors.

Mindful Living

Just think about the last time you ate your meal in peace. Mindful eating involves savouring every bite without distraction from electronics, whether phones or TVs. But this type of mindful living will also follow us through our everyday errands — mindful shopping, for example, means not overspending and buying only what’s needed to feel fulfilled at that moment.  Mindful Stress Reduction research has shown to be highly effective in teaching responsible in the health management, vitality and healing.

Nature As An Antidote

More people are looking at nature as an escape from noise, pollution and traffic and overall brain fatigue from the numerous stimuli we face daily that lead to stress. A recent study from Scotland claims that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park. The premise is that “grounding” the body to the earth’s surface stabilizes natural electrical rhythms and reduces disease-causing inflammation. Footwear companies such as Juil are using this concept for thier products and providing copper pressure points on your feet and ground you to the electromagnetic field of the earth. Its all about remembering to connect with the relaxing and energizing qualities Mother Nature has always provided.

Detoxing the home

For most, a new year means cleansing our bodies and getting rid of junk from our diets and kitchen cupboards. But detoxing in 2013 will also be about detoxing our homes and the environment around us. Consumers and brands are both turning to chemical-free and toxin-free products to use everyday. This means opportunities for green cleaning companies such as Method, Ecover and Seventh Generation.

Fitness Self-monitoring

In the past data was commonly equated with tech nerds. Today data is king and will go mainstream thanks to an increasing number of smartphone apps that help you easily store data on your own behavior via collection of wearable devices, from Nike Fuel to LarkLife, that do all the work for you.

Your Favorite Class Will Go Mobile

Mobile, portable classes are the wave of the future — thanks to the rise of beloved celebrity teachers who can’t be everywhere at once. Set up your iPad for a yoga class with the simulated feeling of individualized attention. Open up your laptop and decide what kind of class you’ll do that day — on your own time.  Providers include MyYogaOnline, GaiamTV and YogaVibes, Hotels, for example, are designing guest rooms to accommodate people doing yoga or cardio, or providing workout videos, while some airports, like San Francisco International Airport, even offer yoga rooms.

Healthy Hotels

In 2013 and beyond, what constitutes a true “vacation” will be redefined and “hospitality” will be rewritten. We’ll see an explosion of new “wellness everywhere” hotel chains and environments becoming more mainstream. In the past, gyms and spas have been positioned as mere amenities, but now these walls are being conceptually (and literally) broken down. Established hotel chains are re-branding around wellness and it’s not just about fitness. Customized food and beverage offerings (gluten-free and vegan menus) are becoming standard fare, and hotels are jumping into the juice-themed vacation frenzy.

Adult Playgrounds

Cities worldwide are trying to tackle obesity and overall inactivity by designing playgrounds for adults. These workout spaces are meant to eliminate cost and accessibility limitations and help adults get more active. In 2012, New York City opened its first adult playground and plans to create two dozen more.

Yoga Continues to Grow

Yoga booming – The latest “Yoga in America” study, released by Yoga Journal shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study*, an increase of 29 percent. In addition, practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.

Standing Desks

If research has shown us anything in 2012, it’s that sitting at our desks with poor posture is slowly killing us. As we head into the new year, experts at JWT predict more upright desk features for offices across the country. Companies like Ergotron have already created standing workstations with cart-like features.

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

4 signs that your target market should include Conscious Consumers

Thursday, April 25, 2013 by

Conscious Consumer

Image from BBMG

Conscious Consumers are an active and growing purchasing segment in the U.S. and worldwide. All you have to do is look at why LOHAS exists to see the potential economic impact of this group (and that doesn't even take into account the social impact). The term “conscious” is three-fold, applying to consumers who consider more than price and convenience when making a purchase decision – they also consider impact on their health, the environment and the greater good.

If you are one of the 73% of companies who has “sustainability” listed as a strategic priority and you are not already thinking about the 70 million Conscious Consumers in the U.S. as a market segment, here are four signs that you should be:

  1. Your product or service is more environmentally friendly than your competitors’. Conscious Consumers are sensitive to being green. They do not always make the most green choice available, but they at least consider environmental impact. Whether your product or service is green because it has less packaging, uses less energy or is made more locally than alternatives, they care.
  2. You offer a product that makes a healthy difference. With obesity storming on the scene as a public health concern, millions of Americans seek ways to incorporate physical activity and healthy eating into their busy days. Foods are being fortified in new ways (protein in your water, anyone?), treadmill desks are on employee wish lists and even apartment window boxes no longer function as ashtrays, but sprout mini urban gardens. If you make it easy for people to live healthier, Conscious Consumers need you.
  3. You aim to “do well by doing good.” Corporate social responsibility programs are now part of most large companies’ strategic plans. Your program may engage all your customers like Target’s multi-pronged “here for good” campaign, or as a smaller company, perhaps you strive for 100 percent participation in an annual United Way campaign or spend a day building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Whatever your effort may be, if Conscious Consumers know about it, they’ll be more likely to spend a few more cents on your product or recommend it to others.
  4. You want to reach influencers. At one point, environmentalism and health advocacy were fringe issues for hippies and extremists. The mainstreaming of these ideas has all but eliminated political differentiation – Republicans and Democrats alike turn off the water while they brush their teeth and take reusable bags to the grocery store. Conscious Consumers come from all different backgrounds, but are consistently early adopters who make conscientious purchasing decisions that they share with friends, family and co-workers. If you want people who are likely to increase your word-of-mouth marketing, you want Conscious Consumers.

Conscious Consumers certainly aren’t going anywhere. They’re going to keep making decisions based on what really matters. Are you in a position to help them make a difference?

Get Grounded on Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by

While most of us are celebrating Earth Day and Earth Week in offices, I invite you to join me in stepping outside.

Plant your feet. Get grounded. Scatter new seeds of intention. And action.

While Earth Day is celebrated just once a year—it is in fact a 365-day holiday.

In 1990, I became one of the first marketers in the U.S. to specialize in green branding and advertising. Then my clients included recycling companies, green lawn care services, green retail stores, organic food companies, non-toxic cleaning products—even musician and icon John Denver, who was a passionate environmentalist.

Today, it seems that not much has changed. And yet everything has. Much that has become mainstream; recycling, buying recycled, organic food, plant-based cleaning supplies and more were once new ideas. This I experienced first-hand, since as a green marketer, my job has been to educate consumers about their power to effect change.

Today will be marked by tree plantings, parades, speeches, news reports and actions big and small. Much will be said about how much more is needed.  I am celebrating Earth Day by looking back. And looking forward.

Looking back, I see that as consumers we have created the demand for hybrid cars, new wind farms, double-digit growth in organic food and energy-saving light bulbs of all kinds—where once these products didn't exist.  And looking forward, I see a galvanizing force of open-hearted, committed people who are passionate about doing all they can to walk lightly on our Earth.

So as you take off your shoes and plant your feet on sand, soil, concrete or snow, remember that today we stand together. It is our collective actions that will continue to create the change we seek. And it is our willingness to pick up our feet, and move one step at a time forward, that is forging a new path for our planet and for generations to come.

 

Lisa Proctor is the president and creative director of firefly180 marketinga Minneapolis-based branding and advertising agency that specializes in LOHAS marketing, wellness marketing, green marketing and renewable energy marketing.

 

LOHAS: You Had Me at Hello

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

This is my first blog post for LOHAS and I’m happy to be here. I’ve been reading LOHAS newsletters for over a year now. I nodded in agreement so often that I jumped at the chance to join the conversation.

A focus on green business

While LOHAS covers many topics, my posts will focus mostly on green business. I am an MBA and spent many years in corporate America before leaving to start my own green business in 2011.

I believe that business can and should play a key role in the transition to a greener economy. Traditional big businesses have enormous financial and people resources at their disposal.  When they decide to move in a particular direction, they can do so with an impact that a small business can’t match.

Unfortunately, in my experience, big business's singular focus on quarterly profits conflicts with the vision, courage and patience necessary to reinvent themselves as truly sustainable enterprises.

So while I celebrate all businesses that move in a greener direction, I see smaller (and privately owned) businesses as leading the way for now. They have a nimbleness and a willingness to embrace change that larger businesses often lack. I suspect that until government mandates the changes necessary to move sustainable practices from optional to mandatory, certain business players will remain in the old, unsustainable model. In the meantime the rest of us need to charge ahead.

The sustainable business view from here

I also want to share the view from my current home in Tampa, Florida. Despite its moniker as the “Sunshine State,” Florida lags on policies ranging from renewable power standards to mass transit. One reason I read LOHAS is to keep up with developments in places like California and Colorado that are – ahem – ahead of Florida in this regard.

We have astonishingly beautiful natural resources in Florida. (That's a roseate spoonbill in the picture above.) From the Everglades to the Gulf beaches, there is “natural capital” here that needs to be protected. Not just because it’s pretty – although you’d think a state whose largest industry is tourism would understand its value. But because when the natural environment is healthy, so are the people – physically and economically.

Here are 3 challenges I’ve encountered as a green business owner. Which ones resonate with you?

Lack of awareness – when I say “green”, many people think I am referring to the color, or that I am describing myself as a newbie. (I’m not.) The topic of greener business is generally not on people’s radar here.

The schools educate kids about sustainability issues better than the mainstream media does for adults. Case in point: I asked a local publisher several years ago why his Florida business-focused magazine did not have a regular feature on green business. He replied that his readers (of whom I am one) weren’t interested in that. I find that stories about green business, green jobs and green learning programs are generally under-reported.

Fragmentation of effort – there is tremendous fragmentation and lack of coordination across green businesses, nonprofits and government agencies when it comes to efforts to go green. When I go to EcoFests, green business networking events and climate change conferences,  I am struck at how many well-intentioned people are struggling to do basically the same things. Imagine if all this effort and resource were consolidated and coordinated in an organized fashion. The whole impact could be greater than the sum of the parts.

Under-funding – too many businesses still see sustainable business practices as optional or a PR move. It’s long past time to invest in something more than recycling bins. To me, green business is a money-making venture for everyone.  Did you know that green jobs are the fastest growing sector in the economy?

The Good News

There is a lot going on under the radar. Last week I attended the 5th Annual Sustainable Business Awards at the University of Tampa. 13 winners collected awards and applause for their “triple bottom line” approach to business. Their businesses ranged from LED lighting to community-supported agricultural farms to recycled air filters. With one or two exceptions, you probably wouldn’t recognize any of their names. But these are the business that will shape the future.

Opportunities in green business are limitless. As a business person, I see the need to reinvent our economy in a more sustainable fashion not just as a daunting challenge, but as a huge opportunity.  To make a good living while helping to save the planet  - what’s not to love?

What do YOU want to hear about?

So that’s LOHAS blog post #1 for me. Let me know your thoughts and tell me what you’d like to hear about in future posts.

About the Author

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal oGreat Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to green businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She ensures that their content and communications – their business face to the world – are correct, clear and compelling. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.

She can be reached at info@greatgreenediting.com and at 813-968-1292.

Sweden green rocks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by

One of my dreams has been to live in a sustainable self-sufficient house buried in pristine nature. A house with low energy consumption, low service costs, simple maintenance, no connection to municipal drains or district heating, gray water and human waste recycling. Simply, a house with a minimal impact on the environment - in its construction, running and end-life. Does that sound surreal?

Well, it is not. Sweden is where green dreams come true. When I saw their houses, I immediately fell in love with its simple design and complex environmental consciousness. 

EcoCycleDesign, however, goes beyond building new housing. They take the challenge of greening your current construction.

In Sweden, sustainability has a long history. Although dependent on heavy industry like forestry and metals, especially aluminum, Sweden was one of the first countries in the world to develop solutions that were environmentally friendly. Somewhere back in the fifties and sixties.

Lars Ling, the Chief Executive of CleanTech Region, who represents those progressive companies, would tell you that “since the early nineties, the nation has run an aggressive campaign to reduce the damage caused by climate change, and its adoption of green technologies is considered exemplary. Among others, Sweden can claim one of the largest ethanol-powered bus fleets in the world. It’s a world- leader in the conversion of waste into power – dozens of municipalities now produce biogas from sewage. And rather than wringing their hands over pollution from road vehicles, successive governments have set an example to ordinary motorists by mandating that nearly all publicly-owned vehicles are ‘flexible-fuelled’ and insisting that petrol stations offer at least one type of biofuel.”

If you look for some inspirations yourself, don't miss this crispy green online magazine - Green Solutions from Sweden

Ah, have I mentioned you can touch and feel the Swedish sustainable designs? There are trips organized to the CleanTech Region, so you may want to check those too.

 

Leading Grocers Act to Reduce Food Waste

Thursday, March 21, 2013 by

“We educate team members and consumers to sort their trash and not just ‘throw it away,’ because there is no ‘away.’”   - Tristam Coffin, Whole Foods Market

Abundance and waste. They are two sides of the same coin in America, and that goes for our food system, too.

According to Jonathan Bloom, author of Wasted Food, nearly 40% of all food produced in the United States gets thrown away before it is consumed, and the vast majority of that (97%) ends up in a landfill, where organic food waste is one of the main culprits in methane gas production – a major contributor to global warming.

Each year, 160 billion pounds of food – the equivalent of $250 billion per year – is wasted, enough to fill the equivalent of two Rose Bowls every day, said Bloom, who spoke at the Sustainable Foods Summit held recently in San Francisco, and produced by leading market research firm Organic Monitor.

With the planet’s population set to increase from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050, it isn’t just a matter of increasing food production, but decreasing food waste as well as redistributing food to food banks. A number of grocers are taking steps to address this issue, including SuperValu, the third largest retailer in the U.S., which has achieved “zero waste,” or 90% diversion from the landfill, in 150 of its stores, said Michael Hewett, Director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs for Publix and a member of the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Sustainability Executive Committee.

“As retailers pull cardboard, plastic, cans, etc., out of the waste stream, they are left with food,” said Hewett. “We must find ways to capture food before it goes bad and get it to food banks. From Ahold USA to Winn Dixie, grocers need to share best practices in a ‘pre-competitive’ way. That’s radical collaboration,” he said.

“Globally, one third of all food produced is wasted in processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation and cooking and serving of food,” said Amy Kirtland, Executive Director of Unified Grocers. Kirtland is working with grocers through the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, comprising members of FMI, Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association, to divert and reduce food waste. Kroger is diverting organic waste to energy production, she said, while Hannaford educates children about food waste through a pilot composting project.

At Whole Foods Market, “We’re looking not for a ‘silver bullet,’ said Tristam Coffin, Whole Foods’ Energy and Maintenance Project Manager, so much as ‘silver buckshot,’ in that stores deal with food waste in region-appropriate ways.” For example, Whole Foods stores in St. Paul, MN, are working with a local farmer to divert food waste for hog feed; other stores work with farmers to supply food waste for compost. In Chicago, stores donate local produce waste to the Lincoln Park Zoo. “We educate team members and consumers to sort their trash and not just ‘throw it away,’ because there is no ‘away,’” he said.

With regard to donating food to food banks, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996, helps reduce liability for grocers seeking to distribute food to food banks and the poor, said Claire Cummings, West Coast Fellow at Bon Appetit Management Co., a leading food service company working with universities and other institutions. “Our goal is to find ways to distribute 1 billion pounds of produce per year by 2015, and that includes making sure that food banks are prepared to take on additional capacity for donated foods ,” added Devi Raja, Director of Food Produce for Feeding America.

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Steven Hoffman, Co-founder of LOHAS Journal and the LOHAS Forum annual market trends conference, and former director of The Organic Center, has been involved in sustainable food and agriculture and the LOHAS market for more than 30 years. He is Managing Director of Compass Natural LLC, a full service marketing communications, public relations and business development agency serving natural, organic and sustainable business. Hoffman is former Editorial Director of New Hope Natural Media’s natural and organic products trade publications and former Program Director of Natural Products Expo East and West, the world’s largest natural and organic products trade exhibitions. A former Peace Corps volunteer and agricultural extension agent, Hoffman holds a M.S. in Agriculture from Penn State University.