Green Environmental

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.

The Spa Industry Looks Well and Good

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by

ispaAfter attending the 2013 International Spa Association (ISPA) annual conference, it certainly was apparent to me that all is well and good in the wellness industry.  From my observations, the $14+ billion U.S. market looks to be growing at a steady and healthy pace. “Things certainly are looking up.” Said Roberto Arjona, General Manager of the legendary Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa. “We have not seen reservation bookings for our resort like this since before 2008 and we are now over one hundred percent capacity going into next year.”  Rancho La Puerta is not the exception. According to ISPA’s 2013 research, people visiting day spas, hotel and resort spas, and destination spas are all on the rise from 156 million in 2012 to 160 million in 2013 and spending has increased to an average of $87 per visit ; almost a two percent increase over the previous year. ISPA organizers said conference attendance was also back to pre-2008 numbers with packed educations sessions, and a busy expo floor showcasing interesting new products and services. I have been coming to this show for several years and here are some of the major observations I see trending in the wellness space:

Going deeper

It appears that spa product companies are becoming more intelligent and in touch with ingredients that promote healthy-aging rather than anti-aging. In previous years it was sometimes difficult to find truly natural and organic brands that were not greenwashing.  Labeling is a tricky thing and not many brands carry certifications such as USDA organic, Ecocert, or Natrue to verify their claims of being organic. This is because many are small boutique brands and find certification expensive. I did see a lot of companies claiming to be eco-friendly or natural and when questioned further most had intelligent responses and provided a deeper back story on sourcing and manufacturing.  

Evidence and Earth Based

I saw a lot of brands promoting benefits of natural ingredients such as seaweed, oils, stem cells and anti-oxidants. Although these ingredients have been used in spas for years if not decades, it seemed that there are more or perhaps I am just now beginning to recognize them. The science and evidence based elements of research as it relates to natural and organic based skincare regimes is more apparent and bringing about a new products that are very interesting including brands like OSEA, Dr. Hauschka, and Pino. However, with the FTC green guidelines recently released it is important that brands be aware that any eco claims that cannot be backed are subject to fines.

Bathing popularity

Kniepp claimed their sales of salt bath products have doubled in the past year due to the growing awareness of the ability to re-mineralizing the body through salt mineral bathing.  Salt products harvested from salt mines of the Himalayas or from European seas such as Kerstin Florian seemed to be more prevalent. I love salt baths and think they are a great component of a healthy regiment. But hearing that salt demand is on the rise globally is concerning. I hope the purity is maintained while the mining of this is also environmentally conscious.

Oil overflowing

It seemed like every other vendor was promoting essential oils which I think is a good thing.  For years many aromatherapists have claimed the healing benefits of essential oils.  I ran into an old friend Michelle Roark, the founder of Phia Lab, who was a professional skier, engineer, and now perfumer. She is doing energetic measurements of essential oils in kilojoules. She claims she has scientific proof of the calming or energizing qualities of oil frequencies. Here reports should be public soon and will demonstrate scientific proof of health benefits in using essential oils which is quite exciting and I am sure will be welcomed by the aroma therapy community.

Wellness Tourism on the Rise

My favorite session was on the growth and expansion of Wellness tourism presented by Suzie Ellis of SpaFinder. She spoke on “Why You Should Care About Wellness Tourism: Latest Research on the Global Wellness Tourism Market - And How Spas Can Benefit.” She covered the distinctions of medical tourism vs. wellness tourism. Susie said medial tourism focuses on reactive, symptom based medicine that people travel to another state or country to fix and heal. This includes cosmetic surgery, cancer treatments and organ transplants. Wellness tourism promotes a more proactive and less invasive approach that promotes a healthy lifestyle focusing on physical activity, diet and personal development or mind body experiences.  This has become a $439 billion dollar global market with major potential. It encompasses not only spa but alternative medicine, active lifestyles, yoga and mind body fitness which are all overlap the LOHAS market.

I was very impressed at how far the industry has not only grown but also how LOHAS values on wellness have become more integrated.  It appears that spa goers have become more conscious of how they surround themselves in spa settings and what type of ingredients they are putting on their skin and the spa companies are responding.  The recession has made brands and properties smarter in their decisions as it relates to communicating their mission to consumers and property greening as it relates to dollars and cents.  Although work still needs to be done, I look forward to what the industry has in store in the coming years.

 

Green Bonds Have an Impact

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 by

Green Mutual FundsHow Mutual Funds is helping change the climate of fixed income - By Madalyn Metzger, Everence Financial and Praxis Mutual Funds

The goal of most investors is to achieve a positive return – with success typically measured in annualized percentages. And while this is an important measure, a growing number of investors are looking for more. Specifically, they’re looking for ways their investments can make a difference, and improve the quality of life in their communities and around the world.

That’s where green bonds come in. First introduced by the World Bank in 2008, green bonds (also known as qualified green building and sustainable design project bonds) are designed to help investors make a positive impact on environmental projects through their investment portfolios.

The market for green bonds has picked up steam over the years. Since their introduction, the World Bank has issued approximately $3.5 billion in green bonds. And while they’re somewhat new to the scene, green bonds make complete sense to Praxis Mutual Funds, a faith- and values-based fund family advised by Everence Capital Management.

Praxis approaches its investment strategy through stewardship investing, a philosophy of financial decision making that balances social and financial considerations and is motivated and informed by the fund family’s faith convictions. This focus is driven by the company’s core values, which include the need to respect the dignity and value of all people, demonstrate a concern for justice in a global society and work toward environmental sustainability.

“At Praxis, we want to do our part to transform our world,” said David C. Gautsche, President of Praxis Mutual Funds. “Our investment philosophy consists of company selection, shareholder advocacy and community development investment. Our core values embrace a wide range of environmental, social and governance concerns, as well as traditional, prudent financial considerations.”

Praxis applies this strategy to all of its five mutual funds – but it is especially notable in the Praxis Intermediate Income portfolio, which includes more than 10 percent of green bonds and other high social impact bonds. In addition, the Praxis Genesis Portfolios (three diversified funds-of-funds celebrating their third anniversary this year) include the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund in their portfolio mix.

Making a High Social Impact Through Bonds

When it comes to stocks, it’s easy for investors to see how they can have a positive social impact by including progressive companies in their portfolios and/or utilizing shareholder advocacy to help goad companies to better social and environmental performance.

Fixed-income investors, on the other hand, can’t make a positive impact in the same way, because they don’t have company ownership. And because many of those same progressive companies are young and small, they likely aren’t borrowing from the public investment grade bond market yet. However, bondholders can help organizations and companies bring down the cost of borrowing at the margin – effectively making an impact in places where a stock portfolio couldn’t. Also, some of these organizations don’t have public stock, and companies borrow for specific energy projects that would not issue equity in the public market.

To continue reading this article visit 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!

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.

Inter-Generational-Chocolate

Monday, September 2, 2013 by

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate. The buying mobility of ‘middle-classes’ now mean more people know about and want chocolate. NOW. When you consider a product that has been commoditised down to the gram, and that it is a diminishing resource, and most people LOVE it and eat it a lot, it seems impossible to work out the math of how to think about a sustainable future. That, in my opinion, is abstract mathematics.

‘ Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, removing any dependence on real world objects with which it might originally have been connected, and generalizing it so that it has wider applications or matching among other abstract descriptions of equivalent phenomena.’ Wikipedia 2013.

It makes me think of this:

 

 

Chocolate is running out. And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

The industrialisation process took more than it gave back in the last 100 years of chocolate.  There is no way that the ever-increasing appetite for chocolate and the ability for plantations 20 degrees north and south of the equator can meet every chocoholic’s needs.  We have more people in the world, and everyone seems to love chocolate.  We yield less cacao every crop naturally. More chocoholics, less cacao.  What’s gonna give?

 

The background:

Deforestation is pumping out carbon from Brazil to Columbia and with our little cacao pods growing north-west of South America in Ecuador, the great forests who protected our favourite treat are no longer able to grow like they used to. We’ve noticed this. We’ve noticed this on our 100 year-old rubber plantations in Papua New Guinea that our family worked on for two generations, and now we notice it in Ecuador in cacao farms that are producing 30% less cacao than they did five years ago when we first investigated the area.

It is an overwhelming topic to ponder. How to save chocolate? And even more funky to ask, what is killing chocolate exactly. Because if we know what is REALLY making the big difference, then theoretically, we could stop it. Later in this series, we will discuss this more in depth. For now, come for a walk on the wild side with me:

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate.

The need for more chocolate drives environmental damage even further – mono-crop farming and genetic modifications are the two biggest predators in a formally peaceful forest.  Can you imagine increasing population (and subsequent chocoholics) while reducing supply (cacao trees are dying). That’s just the cacao trees.

What about the other things you find stuffed into modern chocolate – sugar, milk and other animal fats (go on, check the ingredients list on the backside of your nearest chocolate). Remember the details of what you read on the packet guidelines of your favourite chocolate? This is where it starts to become relevant.

And we start hearing this green-washed word a lot. Sustainability.

 

Inter-GENERATION-al Equality

Sustainability is not an adjective, it’s a verb.

It is about equity. It is a very unemotional and clear concept. It means that the decisions I make today, with my cacao farming standards, our impact will not influence the opportunities that my children, or our farmer families’ children will have. It is called intergenerational equity, where we can meet our needs without damaging future generations. And this equity is measured via social, environmental, health and economic means.

It’s not a new idea, and it’s not my idea. Wikipedia well explains:

‘Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice in relationships between children, youth, adults and seniors, particularly in terms of treatment and interactions. It has been studied in environmental and sociological settings.’ 2013.

Now comes the big question. If I told you that chocolate is running out where we are lucky to harvest out cacao because the temperatures are increasing, there is more unstable earth activity, there is more rain – would you consider your grocery list sustainable?

 

How did we get into this mess anyways?

Chocolate is running out.

And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

Chocolate came from the wild. Google the word theobroma cacao and you can quickly inform yourself about the tree. It has a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing.

It grows wild and chaotic in a forest with a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing. Wild living, be it plucking cacao fruits from the tree through foraging or hunting for our meat was a normal way of living. But then, we got lazy and our ‘food’ became domesticated. Became hybridised and cacao, is one of the most manipulated species in the world. Cheap chocolate called an end to wild cacao. Pests, domestication, disease and the constant push to feed hungry chocoholics stopped the foraging for food. Then we added ‘things’ to our chocolate, it was no longer about finding a healthy theobroma cacao tree and plucking a few pods, but growing vast fields of cane for sugar and diary cows for milk to dumb down the essential aromas and flavours of natural cacao paste. In the end, the simple elements of cacao became a mess of carbohydrates, fats, and protein with extras being added all over the place in the name of faster, cheaper and sweeter.

How and where chocolate as an industry came from, and what that means to the bigger picture of food is the most important question to ask.

Domestication is a process (which is not necessarily new) and was the first modification that our ancestors made to natural balance.

 

Domestication: Which apple was chosen from the tree impacted the species propagation through natural selection, with us being the Darwinian predator.

How our food and chocolate sources can be better selected from natural wild species to re-expand the base of what we can eat and enjoy. And this is what we need to keep an eye out for.

By understanding the process of domestication we can learn the importance of maintaining genetic diversity, even within a certain set of  plant (and animal) species that currently dominate our global food system; like chocolate with cacao, cane and diary products. What the early 1500s of cacao development in South America can absolutely teach us is, the genetic diversity found in the many varieties of is the key to un-tapping opportunities to overcome disease, pests, and possibly even weather conditions like flood and drought.

‘Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process whereby a population of living organisms is changed at the genetic level, through generations of selective breeding, to accentuate traits that ultimately benefit humans.’ Description of domestication from Wikipedia.

Have a think about the role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures. A great example of diverse farming is from Pye-Smith in his article ‘Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication’ – see the pdf here.

 Diamond, J. (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature 418: 700-707. If you want to know about the process and history of domestication, a good article by Jared Diamond looks at species domestication as calls it "the most important development in the past 13,000 years of human history."

http://bit.ly/domesticationbook

After reading this article, what do you think about what role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures?

 

Related Content!

LOHAS Trends for 2011 - Food GMO Crops Threaten Biodiversity Leading Universities for Sustainable Studies Leading Grocers Act to Reduce Food Waste

 

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

 

Related Content!

  Ecological Thinking in Economics

Is Fair Trade Part of the LOHAS Movement?  10 Easy Ways to Celebrate Fair Trade Month

When it comes to LOHAS brands & marketing; the ocean is an expansive as creativity.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by

 

I just returned from several sun and sea-soaked days in the LA area and realized once again how a change of scene can quite literally change you. As a creative director and brand strategist, I make my living with words. Ideas. Concepts. And perspective.

Since my agency is virtual, I can (and do) work from any and everywhere on the planet. And I've found that nothing recharges creativity and leads to more expansive thinking than travel. It's impossible not to be profoundly opened and altered by new experiences, people—and especially the dazzling sun as it reflects light on the Pacific Ocean.

My green and wellness-centric marketing agency specializes in social and environmental change. My clients are mostly sustainable businesses and organizations that are passionate about creating a better world  through organic food, yoga, alternative medicine, holistic practices, inner transformation and more.

As a leader in wellness marketing and sustainable advertising, I've found that the best way to continue offering high impact, memorable and jaw-dropping creative is to stay open to the jaw-dropping, perspective-changing experiences that happen all around us every day. Like the egg I found nestled among native plants as I walked to my office this morning— or a sparkling day amidst the boats, sea and sand of Corona Del Mar.

 

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.

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

A New Printer and a Greener World

Monday, July 22, 2013 by

My business needed a new desktop printer recently. My old HP color laser jet still worked, but had run out of 1 of its 4 inks. It refused to print without a new cartridge.

Normally, this requires a trip to Staples and parting with $150. This time, I thought about it. 

From a triple bottom line perspective, a printer has significant impacts. Like any business person, I look for the best lifecycle cost. I buy reliable equipment (thank you, Consumer Reports) and use it as long as possible. However, a green business considers additional factors, including ways to:

  • reduce energy cost and pollution. My old printer was an energy hog. My new one carries the Energy Star label. My electric bill will shrink a bit and I do a happy dance every time it does.
  • reduce paper cost and pollution - Minimizing paper use has both business and environmental benefits. I'd rather keep trees around to absorb carbon dioxide (and provide shade in this hot Florida summer!) than cut them down to make paper. Especially since the paper manufacturing process is one of the most toxic out there.  I also print double-sided, use recycled paper, and recycle all paper that passes through my business.
  • reduce ink cost and pollution. When I bought the color Laser jet, I didn't know about the $150 cost per ink cartridge. Shame on me for not asking. This time around, the cost per cartridge will be $10 - $15. They'll need to be replaced more often, but the cost per page will still be about half what it was. 
    I'll continue to recycle my ink cartridges. They don't degrade well, and recycling them keeps plastics and heavy metals out of landfills.
  • enhance productivity. Much as I'd love to go paperless, I'm not quite there yet. As a writer and editor - who writes and edits EVERYWHERE - paper is sometimes more practical than lugging my laptop. Scribbling ideas in the car while waiting outside my daughter's school or marking up copy at a teeny table over lunch - these places don't lend themselves to laptops. The new printer lets me work "my way," while moving my business in a greener direction.
  • reduce equipment needs. The new printer also has fax, copier, and scanner capabilities. This was an unexpected bonus that just made sense. Why have multiple machines - in my case, a printer and fax - when one will do? I will donate my old fax machine - 29 years old and still working - to someone who needs it. And where the fax machine once sat, I'll add a nice, big plant to improve both the scenery and the air quality in my office.

Why spill so much "digital ink" about a new printer? Because it's just one example of how you can turn a seemingly mundane business decision into a strategic one, with both immediate and long-term busines benefits. The next time you are in the market for business equipment - stop and assess the greener alternatives!

 

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Editing. She creates content for green businesses and enterprises in the health, education and nonprofit arenas. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in 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.

 

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:




 

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”

 

Band Cloud Cult Showers World with Love

Thursday, May 9, 2013 by

I'm not necessarily a follower. But  I'm proud to announce that I've joined a cult. Cloud Cult, the indie band, originally from Minneapolis, that now lives on an organic, geothermal- powered Wisconsin farm.

At First Avenue a few nights ago, the venue where rock star Prince first came onto the scene—Cloud Cult played to two sold-out shows and put on a show that was pure magic.

Their new album Love, is beautiful, insightful, mystical, wise and takes listeners on an inner odyssey that is guaranteed to rock your world.

The band's label, Earthology, is committed to greening the music industry, offsets carbon from tours and developed the first 100% post-consumer recycled CD packaging in the U.S. 

As a leader in the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability) space, and president of firefly180 marketing, I know the power of music as a vehicle for change.

Working with green artists that include John Denver, Kenny Loggins, Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band,  I know that music speaks to the soul and touches the heart in ways that words alone can't.  Music and lyrics are the ultimate integrated marketing campaign. Songs become doors that open the mind to action. And for environmental artists, music can be a platform that becomes a springboard for change.

Cloud Cult doesn't just write and perform music. They literally shower the world with love.  Just like all of us in  conscious businesses. Although not all of us can sing and compose music, our voices are heard just the same.

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

 

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?

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable, a new book for the Spa/Salon/Hospitality Industry by Shelley Lotz, helps owners and managers develop smart, sustainable practices for long-term business success.

This unique guidebook summarizes business practices, sustainability principles, and green building  all in one. The book sifts through the “green hype” to focus on best practices. This guidebook goes beyond the spa industry and most  of the principles are applicable to any business or lifestyle. 

  Planning guides with personalized action plans, how-to steps, and worksheets are included. Tools are given for evaluating services, products, supplies, operations, and building elements. Ideas for staff engagement, client needs, and marketing are incorporated, along with the science and the economics of sustainability. Guidelines for purchasing, water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and indoor environmental quality are all covered. 

  The book is described by Mary Bemis (Founder of Insider's Guide to Spas, and Founding Editor of  Organic Spa Magazine) as “an invaluable resource for spa and salon owners.”  Kristi Konieczny,   Founder of The Spa Buzz, says “The most powerful and practical resource for sustainability of spa and salon operations I have ever seen.”

Visit www.greenspasandsalons.com  for more information.

Inspiring spa case studies include: Agave Spa, Aji Spa and Salon, Atlanta School of Massage, Be Cherished Salon and Day Spa, Complexions Spa, Crystal Spa, Elaia Spa, Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Natural Body Spa and Shop, Naturopathica, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, Spa Anjali, Spa at Club Northwest, Spa Moana, Sundara Inn and Spa, The New Well, Vdara Spa and Salon, and Waterstone Spa.

Shelley Lotz has over 25 years of experience in the spa/wellness/beauty industry as an esthetician, educator, and business owner. She is a major contributing author of Milady’s Standard Esthetics Fundamentals, a core textbook for esthetician students. She started an institute of aesthetics and is also a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. Contact her at lotz.shelley@gmail.com.

The book will be featured at LOHAS and Ted Ning is one of the book contributors, as the LOHAS philosophy is a key part of the green business movement. 

 

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.

 

Green Jobs: Resources for Careers in Natural, Organic and Sustainable Products

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

Here at Compass Natural Marketing, a lot of folks ask us about resources for finding jobs and career opportunities in the $300 billion LOHAS market, i.e., the “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” market for natural, organic, eco-friendly, and socially and environmentally responsible products and services.

There are a lot of great companies and NGOs in the LOHAS market, from organic food to renewable energy and from yoga to green building. In fact, with significant growth in demand for natural, organic and sustainable products, according to the Organic Trade Association, the organic food industry is creating jobs at a much higher rate than the conventional food industry.

Here are some good resources below for finding jobs in the natural and organic foods and sustainable products industry, and for social and environmental mission based organizations.

Of course, if you identify companies you’d like to work for, check their websites. Often, the larger companies, such as Whole Foods Market, UNFI, Pacific Natural Foods, Earthbound Farm, and other brand leaders will have job postings on their own websites. Do some research of your favorite brands.

We welcome your comments and suggestions to add to the list.

Green Job Resources

Green Dream Jobs. You can search by level and region. Awesome resource presented by our friends at SustainableBusiness.com.
www.sustainablebusiness.com/jobs/

Here’s a great resource for sales, marketing, management and executive level jobs in the Denver/Boulder region, created by our friend and colleague Luke Vernon.
www.lukescircle.com

Also, GreenBiz has a great sustainable jobs board.
http://jobs.greenbiz.com

TreeHugger has green job listings.
http://jobs.treehugger.com

Sustainable Industries posts green jobs across the country.
http://sustainableindustries.com/jobs

Just Means job listings have a social mission and NGO focus.
http://www.justmeans.com/alljobs

Natural and Organic Industry Resources. A good compendium of industry resources.
http://naturalindustryjobs.com/natural-organic-foods.asp

Naturally Boulder is another resource for job listings in the Boulder/Denver region.
http://www.naturallyboulderproducts.com/news/#jobs

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wanting a Peace Corps-like volunteer experience, but on an organic farm somewhere around the world where you can learn about organic agriculture? Feeling young and adventurous? Check out WWOOF.
http://www.wwoof.org

Green Career Guide job thread.
http://greencareerguide.jobthread.com

California Certified Organic Farmers, an excellent organization for organic producers, posts job listings.
http://www.ccof.org/classifieds.php#emp

ReWork:  Founded in 2011 by alumni of the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, ReWork helps people find careers in values-based, socially responsible and sustainable businesses.
http://rework.jobs/talent

Hope this helps get you started. Happy green job hunting!

________________________________________________

Steven Hoffman 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 Co-founder of the LOHAS Forum annual market trends conference, former Editorial Director of New Hope Natural Media’s natural and organic products trade publication division, and former Program Director of Natural Products Expo East and West. A former Peace Corps volunteer and agricultural extension agent, Hoffman holds a M.S. in Agriculture from Penn State University. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.

Do You Know What Hispanics Want from Sustainable Products? You should.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 by

Hispanic sustainability We all know that the Hispanic population in the US is growing, and that they are changing every market they touch – from politics to grocery to banking – and everything in between.  But, have you considered how this growing demographic affects the LOHAS market, and your brand?

According to NMI’s most recent LOHAS Consumer Trends Database®, Hispanics* share a number of green-minded attitudes and behaviors.  For instance, they are more likely to be active in a number of areas:

  • Consumer Packaged Goods: More likely to report using natural products, such as natural home care products and natural personal care products
  • Energy:  More likely to state willingness to pay for renewable power, currently use renewable power, and to own an energy meter
  • Habits: More likely to take reusable bags to the grocery store, remind others to be environmentally-friendly, and contact their politicians regarding environmental issues

Aside from their above-average engagement, it is notable that these attitudes and behaviors span the gamut of sustainability – a range of product categories and behaviors spike for them.  In other words, they aren’t cherry-picking their involvement, it is more broad-based. 

There are implications for both Hispanic-focused and “green” brands.  Brands targeting Hispanics should be addressing their target consumers’ sustainable interests.  For instance, Dove has worked hard at attracting Latinas.  Unilever also has a very strong sustainability platform.  However, the two efforts seem to work independently, rather than synergistically. 

The flip-side is that “green” brands should ensure their marketing communications resonate with Hispanics.  Expect to tailor your communications to this audience in both copy and creative (not just drop your existing ads in Hispanic media outlets), but if executed well, this demographic could significantly expand your brand’s reach.

Both the Hispanic and sustainability markets are changing rapidly, and this appears to be an opportunistic time to understand how these two cultural forces interact.  NMI will be further exploring this market in collaboration with The Shelton Group in a joint study later this year.  For more information, please contact Gwynne.Villota@nmisolutions.com.

 

*English-speaking Hispanics only