a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘business’

X-Games on a Vision Quest

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

(Seeing the BMX ramp yesterday reminded me of my friend, Michael May, who I posted about (below) in 2007. Though he’s since weathered a broken wrist, elbow, and nose, he’s still following his riding bliss.)

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I have a love/hate relationship with sports – you could call me a reformed sports addict. Although strictly amateur, I pushed and pulled myself through many athletic endeavors since puberty. In fact, discovering sports as a teenager is definitely why I survived puberty! I ran, played softball, basketball, tennis, did high jump, some gymnastics, skied and ran some more. Later, I discovered the more extreme sports like windsurfing, water skiing, mountain biking and triathlons. I found and committed to yoga just in time to save my body from injury and overuse and my mind from imploding into a ego-centric mess. We all have our journey, eh?

I’m relieved and satisfied that I moved on, staying active and outdoors-loving but finding a balance I missed earlier. I still have an ongoing admiration for the ambitious passion of most athletes (though I question the purity of professional sports) and I’m especially enamored with the people who play and/or compete with an unadulterated mind/body/nature connection. Windsurfing still mesmerizes me, as does surfing and snowboarding. Not too long ago, I connected with an especially impressive skateboard and BMX enthusiast. A quiet and focussed intensity surrounds him and he continually expresses an inspiring blend of road warrior, artist and buddha. That’s him above.

It’s not a surprise to me that the leaders in the Green movement in sports comes from the professional skateboarding and BMX community. Pierre Andre Senizergues segued from pro-skateboarder to owner of Sole Tech, an athletic shoe company with buildings powered by solar panels, including an extensive recycling progam and waterless urinals that save at least 250,000 gallons of water per year (or 2 1/2 million bottles of beer). Sole Tech is currently launching a line of sustainable footwear and apparel. This guy practices what he preaches, living in an eco-house and becoming a primary backer for Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental film, The 11th Hour.

Skateboard Professional turned guru, Frank Scura, once immersed in the traditional mainstream culture of the action sports, journeyed out (you gotta check out his wolf story!) and back in with a different perspective on himself and the world. Returning to the sport scene with a new set of ideals, he founded AESC (Action Sports Environmental Coalition) in 2001, an organization set on educating its young athletes about how they can contribute to environmental efforts and sustainability through conscious consumption. Read more about Scura’s corporate marketing strategies – “a three-prong attack on business as usual” at Grist.

He’s into “seed-planting”, not preaching, but found young people really want to hear from their heroes – people who embrace their lifestyles yet show them a way to contribute outside themselves. Scura confirms my observation that the yogic nature of what X-athletes do – the ability to be fully present – is a formula for commitment on many levels. He says, “The beauty of it is – it’s exactly what action sports needs. The ultimate punk rock rebellious act to fuck the Man and fuck the system is to be environmentally and socially conscious. That’s exactly what they don’t want you to do.”

Cyber-Shopping Decreases Energy Use

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’m finally coming into holiday spirit this year and thinking about the consumables and thrift finds for friends and family – it’s more fun than ever to holiday shop when the giving is local and light on the planet.

I don’t buy much new stuff, but when I do, I’ve always liked online shopping. It’s fast and easy. However, I’ve been nagged by the thought that my new stuff has to travel many miles to find me and I can’t say, “I don’t need a bag” when checking out, like I would at a local store. I need to know, by the bottom line, is online shopping more eco-responsible than shopping at retail stores?

Much to my relief and surprise, I’ve heard some good news through Ideal Bite and Cool-Companies. A report by the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, a non-profit organization that helps companies and public institutions reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, show that internet shopping has significantly decreased energy demand since 1998 and could have an even larger impact on energy and resource savings into the future.

Despite their size, e-commerce warehouses use 1/16th of the energy used to operate retail stores. More e-commerce equals less need for retail space and the resources used to build and maintain it. This, of course, means saving open space and trees through both less construction and the decrease in paper use – a savings of as much as 2.7 million tons of paper per year. What about the environmental costs of shipping? More good news: ground shipping uses 1/10 the energy of driving yourself to the mall and even shipping 10 pounds of packages by air, uses 40% less fuel than the same purchase made by car.
Of course, all these energy savings means less power plants and less greenhouse gas pollution. And less driving and shopping means more free time for us. It’s becoming obvious that the balance of our future depends on our willingness to change our habits and perspective. It can be a win-win for our lives, our environment and the economy. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Don’t Be A Turkey This Season

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe you only purchase turkey once/year. If you live in the U.S., it’s usually in November and/or December. So, if I only buy turkey this one time, how important is it that I buy organic and local? From a turkey’s point of view? Plenty!

Factory-style turkey farms do a huge business this time of year and to meet the “consumer” demand, they have been allowed and encouraged to raise and slaughter these animals in outrageous conditions. Turkeys have long been genetically modified with hormones for better eating (not theirs), causing them to grow flesh twice as big, twice as fast. Most unfortunately, their skeletons are unable to support the excessive weight, leaving them unable to walk and in pain. More messing with their genetics for the preferred breast meat leaves them with absurdly-sized chests, further limiting their mobility. This diabolical science also causes many painful respiratory, heart and skeletal diseases, despite heavy doses of antibiotics.

Turkeys raised in factory farms live in crowded warehouses – government standards require only 2.5 feet square of space for each hen and 3.5 feet square of space for each tom turkey – as many as 17,000 turkeys crowded together. For months, they are left to stand in the bacteria and amonia from their own waste. These unnatural conditions force them to literally fight for their lives, so they are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia. (FYI – You can apply these facts in various forms to all factory-raised animals. For more information (and happy rescue stories), visit Farm Sanctuary.)

I know I probably ruined your appetite, but before you stop reading, understand two things. One – we, as consumers, have allowed these practices to continue (we keep buying) and two, we, as consumers, can put an end to the horror, both for the animals and the environment that is also being abused in factory farming.

I used to believe the entire world could be vegetarians. Then I woke up. I understand now that it is important to change the hows and the whys of our food sources rather than perpetuate a “them and us” standoff. We used to know how to do this right and we can once again bring compassion and common sense back to all farming practices. But to do this, we need to make it impossible for factory farms to sell their products and- make it economically feasible for small (and sane) farming to survive. I support veganism and vegetarianism, but I’ve come to believe that my being vegan was less an “activist” model of change than my now unfailing support of local farms. And I’m not alone.

Humane Farm Animal Care is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives and welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly-monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that certified products meet these standards.

The impressive and extensive staff brings in knowledge and experience, including animal science, philosophy, systematic ecology, and government and international relations. Executive Director, Adele Douglass, launched the Free Farmed Program and was awarded the ASPCA’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Their site can tell you more about this process and give you information about where to buy “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” animal products.

Keep in mind that very small family farms, possibly not yet certified, have almost always practiced compassionate treatment of animals and environmental stewardship – it’s tradition. Get to know your local farmers or read about them online at Local Harvest.

Vermont Is Not Flat

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Brattleboro, VT

Brattleboro has a dominant number of thriving local businesses, many of which thoroughly but subtly display their green creds. Thrift and vintage places – my personal eye candy – were especially irresistible, and practical, as it turned out. I suddenly needed a nail clipper/file and I found both, hidden amongst hundreds of antique collectibles of every category at a store called “Twice Upon A Time”. Proving, once again, that they don’t make things like they used to. These stores can be full of surprises – I have managed to stay out of mainstream drugstores for years by using thrift/vintage for basics like this – low cost and no packaging is a bonus.

I went back several times to Boomerang – a vintage and vintage-inspired clothing and accessories shop owned and operated by Loretta, who replanted her creative roots from LA. Here I found some fun and stylish used clothing – some are cleverly marked by era – Jerry was drawn to the 50’s while I found out I’m a 60’s – 70’s kind of girl. Boomerang also supports Rise Up International, a group of artists, ideallists and social entrepreneurs using the fashion industry to empower children out of poverty. Rise Up International doesn’t mess around when it comes to giving – they donate all profits to support free education centers, drug rehabilitation and art vocational schools in India, Central America and China.

As happened in a few different cases, I was readily engaged in conversation by the locals and felt welcomed, even as I accepted my designated title as a “flatlander”.
A haven for art, music, alternative health and recreation, “Brat” – as I brazenly use the local term – has not seen the last of me!

Loving The Latchis and greening up my stay

Monday, April 28th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Brattleboro, VT

We stayed at the historic Latchis Hotel, circa 1938, now a preserved memorial building on Main Street in Brattleboro. The original lead-paned windows still open – something now rare in most hotels – there is no A/C and the heat still comes from radiators. The stairwells are welcoming, with natural light and I noticed most guests used the stairs to the 3 floors of rooms. There is no parking garage or large, new lot, or luxuriously furnished lobby, just a straightforward comfort and friendliness.

If you do want to be impressed by style, however, visit the original Latchis “theatre” next store – now a movie house. Detmetrius Latchis had the walls painted with the images and scenes of the Greek gods, like Jupiter welcoming Psyche, the temple of Zeus and Colona with her children, Apollo and Diana. There are also statues – one of Thalia, the Muse of Comedy and Cleo, the muse of History. The ceiling is sky blue with stars and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Staying in the heart of a city allows you to sightsee car-free and I chose this place because it’s one way to support local business (and history!) while traveling. The rooms are simple – just a few pieces of maple furniture, including a wooden bed frame. The rooms also feature consigned art by local artists.

The Latchis is participating in the Project Green, which asks guests to save resources by reusing linens. This is not so impressive, however, when you consider all the other ways we can consume less during hotel stays. Here’s my list – feel free to add on.

1. Bring your own toiletries, rather than using the small bottles and tubes provided, which will be thrown away and replaced after each use. I travel with a small shampoo/body bar, which is wrapped only in paper and can be carried with you while flying.
2. Use one towel for everything, rather than using bath mats/handtowels.
3. Skip room service during your stay, eliminating more water, energy, detergent use.
4. Use your own drinking mug and water bottle.
5. Use the stairs instead of elevator.
6. Use one trash can – rather than the two usually provided – and you will keep more plastic out of landfill.
7. Open windows instead of A/C. Turn heat off when you leave your room.

8. Ask your host where you can recycle items. If it’s not available, bring home any paper, newspaper to recycle at home.

Life’s Work

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

There is hope for the future of commerce. The workforce is beginning to take matters into their own hands – working on terms that fulfill not just a livelihood, but a “right livelihood” that nourishes the soul, the planet and communities. At yesterday’s event (see below) for sustainable entrepreneurs and businesses, it became obvious that we are willing to take risks, to revisit expectations, to shift the idea of “work” to a place that is more healthy and satisfying and hopeful.

There is Green Planet Catering green catering company, Green , who serves only local and organic food, provides biodegradable utensils, composts all job waste and even delivers in a vehicle powered by vegetable diesel – that he makes with his own waste oil. He says his long days don’t feel like work.

Scott Blackwell started the Immaculate Baking Company in his garage with big dreams and a few simple goals: To create top-quality baked goods with fun and unique combinations, to celebrate the creativity of folk art, and to somehow give back. So, he created “Cookies With a Cause”.

Filling an important niche is Southern Energy Management, a husband and wife team, who help businesses and home owners plan energy systems that will minimize energy costs and footprint. They become “team” leaders who provide solutions to commercial and residential energy use.

Trinity Design/Build specializes in historic preservation, renovation and green retrofitting of existing buildings. They work with homeowners, contractors, and architects and their services include everything from conceptual sketches to turn-key design/build.

There’s more of course, and I’ll be highlighting and sharing what I’m learning from these inspired and committed people. For now, remember, we’re shifting, tipping, pushing the iceberg – don’t give up. Change is a’foot.

Join the Party – Sustainable Branding

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Today we Changers will be participating in an event with UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Jerry will be moderating a discussion panel of motivated businesses, including the director of U.S. marketing from Burt’s Bees. We will conclude with a workshop on branding for good, where Jerry will explain, “Branding is not rocket science. It’s a cocktail party.”

BASE and The Change present:
Branding for Good
A Panel Discussion on Successful Branding Strategies for Sustainable Entrepreneurs

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE) at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School was established to help executives and future business leaders understand how social and environmental considerations are changing the competitive landscape of business.

The CSE provides education, research, and outreach to business students, executives, and organizations to help them benefit from the opportunities inherent in sustainable enterprise. Kenan-Flagler Business School is ranked one of the top business schools in the world for education in this arena.

We are looking forward to meeting many inspiring people!

Change is Cool

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Two years ago, Jerry contributed to a sustainable industries’ online forum asking branding agencies “how to make sustainability cool.”

Here’s what he told them~

“Sustainability IS cool. From Bo Diddley to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jack Kerouac, the young Elvis, Jimi Hendrick’s, punk DIY culture, the Merry Pranksters, Marlon Brando, and Burning Man – the essence of cool is personified by communities and sub-cultures driven by individuality and self expression. The essence of being cool is being your own damn self. The opposite of cool is forming yourself based on social influence and conformity. (No one buys a Ford Explorer or a McMansion because they’re following their heart).

And in an organic, local, ethically hip, off-the-grid world, individuality and self- expression are rampant.

THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

brought to you by The Change, a strategy and design agency with an agenda to change the world