Archive for June, 2008

Insight on Offsets

Carbon offsets have gained notoriety as a bit of a “miracle drug” within the context of climate change; with the number of carbon offset providers and options growing daily, it’s relatively easy – and increasingly common — for individuals and companies alike to purchase offsets as a means of mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions. 

But no miracle is without controversy, as this recent SNEWS® Live podcast  demonstrates.  With a variety of sources for offsets (renewable energy, reforestation and methane combustion among them), are all offsets created equal?  How can offset purchasers be sure they’re not buying “worthless” credits?  And what about the argument that offsets are nothing more than a way for environmental despoilers to pay for their sins, rather than changing their behavior?

As Earthkeepers, we believe in making conscious choices about our behavior to improve the environment, first and foremost – and that there’s always room to raise the bar.  We also believe there’s space on the environmental agenda for any initiative that contributes, credibly and meaningfully, to a lighter footprint and a greener planet.  This is one conversation we’ll continue to follow. 

Our thanks to the SNEWS® Live team and podcaster James Mills for shedding good light on this murky topic, and for allowing us to share it.

The Power of 350

The Power of 350

A few weeks back we introduced you to the Earthkeeper Heroes – five “change agents” we believe are doing exciting and compelling work to make the world a greener place. 

Agent 350 is one of those heroes – actually, a whole team of heroes – working around the clock and around the world to spread a global climate movement to make 350 the most well-known, most talked about number on the planet.

Agent 350 doesn’t have a lot going for them in the traditional sense; they’re not heavily bank-rolled, they’re not an elite group of environmental scientists, they’re not even terribly experienced (median age of the team is 23 years old).  That’s precisely why we love them.  They’re resourceful, creative, ambitious … wise beyond their years and great collaborators and conveners.  We believe in their endeavor – to unite voices around the globe in an unprecedented call to action on the climate crisis – and we believe they’re just the group to pull it off.

Agent 350 and his team have just reached the first milestone in mounting their global movement – launching 350’s home on the internet.  Our favorite website feature?  This “350 animation” video that summarizes, in 90 seconds flat and using not a single spoken word, the climate crisis and 350’s critical role in stemming it.  We think it’s powerful – dare we say earth-changing – stuff.

 

Transparency Takes Center Stage

As stakeholders and businesses alike become more comfortable with the idea of environmental consciousness and all its translations, another notion has entered the conversation: transparency.  It’s no longer enough for an organization to claim to be green or environmentally-friendly; savvy consumers – and shareholders — are demanding that businesses today go a step further and substantiate their claims.

Here, three recent discussions around the issue of transparency that have caught our attention, and might pique yours as well:

Triplepundit highlights Creative Citizen, an “action-based green wiki” that provides companies a forum to back their green product claims – and gives consumers the opportunity to weigh in with their own opinions and experiences.

o On Leading Green, Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen share their views on the new standard of transparency, including pros (transparency builds trust like no other) and cons (if your transparency efforts reveal a flaw, you’d better be prepared to fix it).

Marc Gunther explores transparency in the context of relationships between big green environmental groups and corporate America, and reviews “Green Inc.” – a forthcoming book suggesting NGOs and business may be cultivating questionable ties.

Indonesia and Instant Noodles: An Artist’s Perspective on Climate Change

Taking action to create a positive impact on the environment doesn’t have to include tree planting or recycling or driving a hybrid car. The act of raising awareness around the issue of global warming – in a compelling and provocative way – can be just as powerful.

Michael Sheridan is a documentary filmmaker and experimental videosonic artist whose recent work Instant Noodles addresses the crisis of deforestation and the palm oil industry in Indonesia. His work reminds us that there are as many avenues for expressing environmental consciousness as there are individuals in the world – and that the inspirational nature of art is boundless.

Below, Michael shares his thoughts about the creation of Instant Noodles as a means of instigating fresh perspectives on everyday life, and encouraging personal behavior change.

When I arrived in Indonesia in August of 2007, I was already committed to producing new artwork for two exhibitions in the United States. In December I finished a new installation sound piece, This is Foreign for the Axiom Gallery and in January a new videosonic work Instant Noodles.

Instant Noodles was part of the exhibition Greed, Guilt and Grappling-Six Artists Respond to Global Warming at the Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts. Mags Harries and Clara Wainwright, the artist-curators of the exhibition, asked me last year if I would be interested in participating. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to ground my new explorations in Indonesia – a country I frankly knew very little about. Read the rest of this entry »

To LEED or not to LEED? That is the question.

New shades of green are popping up everywhere these days, and the retail industry is no exception. Retailers have a unique opportunity in lightening their environmental footprint – they can make environmentally-conscious choices and changes both in the products they sell, and in the retail setting where they sell.

Timberland recently completed the process to achieve LEED certification in two of its New England retail stores. The achievement is notable and the intent noble … but at what expense? Below, Timberland’s Greg Rainforth shares his observation of the certification process:

Why would any sane retail company voluntarily go through a long, laborious, time-consuming, detailed, and expensive process just to be able to hang a plaque in its stores certifying that they were built to certain “green” standards? Especially when green practices already played a significant role in its demolition, construction, and operational processes? Is the output worth the input? The answer is really “yes,” and “no.” Read the rest of this entry »

Green on the Music Scene

Do you remember your first live music concert?

This was the topic of conversation in our office this morning – nostalgia inspired by the new video Reverb posted on their story board at Changents.com.

The answers to the question ranged from Dire Straits (1979, Providence, RI) to the Charlie Daniels Band (1982, Oxford, Ohio) to Boyz II Men (1994, Philadelphia). Regardless of the band, the venue or the date, our team of concert-goers agreed that their first concert was a rite of passage into the wonderful world of live music. And that on one hand, the experience of going to a concert hasn’t changed much over the years; on the other hand, it can be and often is a much more enriching experience that transcends the music.

Reverb is one of the driving forces behind the trend to educate and engage both the musicians and their fans to promote environmental sustainability. This summer, at concerts featuring John Mayer, Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band, the bands are using bio-diesel to fuel their buses and generators. The on-site caterers are using biodegradable products and among many other things, there’s a commitment to both waste reduction and recycling.

As for the fans, if they carpool to a DMB or John Mayer concert this summer they could win DMB and John Mayer prizes. Through a partnership with PickupPal, Reverb supports this program in a fierce acknowledgement of the fact that 80% of the carbon footprint of a concert is from fans driving to and from the show. Once they arrive at the show, fans are greeted with a festival-like atmosphere in the Reverb Eco-Village where they can learn about green technologies, local and national non-profit groups dedicated to environmental sustainability, and carbon offset programs. Fans can also register to vote, participate in Eco-Trivia contests and sample eco-friendly consumer goods.

Whether you cut your concert-going teeth on hard rock, a little bit of country or something in between, there’s something uniquely powerful about a live music concert. Hats off to Reverb for realizing the opportunity to add environmental sustainability to the playlist — yet another wonderful addition to the 21st century music experience.

Earthkeepers DNA – Amazing and Then Some

I’m not sure, but there must be an ingredient that is specific to the DNA of an Earthkeeper. I think it’s an inherent element that represents a combination of drive, creativity and some level of entrepreneurialism or risk taking, all enveloped in a passion for the environment. And, it’s those very special people, who recognize that they possess the Earthkeeping gene, who truly amaze me. They have that, “ah ha!” moment and then put it into meaningful action. When I hear stories about these types of people, an inspirational admiration for the individual and their ideas always permeates my psyche.

Take 23-year old Elizabeth Redmond (www.changents.com/powerleaper) as an example of someone who definitely has the Earthkeepers DNA. Elizabeth is a self-described, “designtrepreneur” who is inspired by the fusion of human energy transfer and renewable energy. Now, on it’s own, that inspiration is amazing but when you consider how  Elizabeth translated her inspiration into a phenomenal idea and is now dedicated to putting that idea into action, amazing becomes somewhat of an understatement. 

Feeding her inspiration, Elizabeth set out to design interfaces that generate electricity from the human body as part of her undergraduate thesis work at the University of Michigan. That work led to her brainchild called the POWERleap. It was her “Ah ha” moment. It happened two and a half years ago, and it’s been the driving force behind everything she’s done since.

POWERleap is a flooring system that generates electricity from human movement through high foot-traffic areas. It’s also a concept that is meant to engage people to take responsibility for generating some of the electricity they use every day. Imagine the next time you take a jog through your local park in the evening. You’re running around a looped jogging path that is installed with the POWERleap technology. Every step you take creates energy that is repurposed to the nearby lights that illuminate your path around the track. Now that’s Earthkeeping! It’s engaging, inspiring and provocative.

Elizabeth has a busy summer planned in an effort to bring POWERleap to life in a powerful and meaningful way. She’s already met with the 2016 Olympic committee that’s vying to get Chicago named as the host city (http://www.changents.com/change-agents/powerleaper/field-reports/7829). Tomorrow night, June 17, she’s going to be on the Sundance Channel’s, “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” and later this summer she’s participating in a renewable energy think tank in San Francisco. You can follow Elizabeth, armed with her Earthkeepers DNA, in her efforts to bring POWERleap to life in a powerful, meaningful way at www.changents.com/powerleaper. In the spirit of Earthkeepers, I think you’ll agree…Elizabeth’s is an amazing story, and then some.

Margaret Morey-Reuner
Senior Manager
Values Marketing
The Timberland Company

CEOs Getting Serious About Sustainability

From the recent 2008 Ceres conference, here’s a candid (and we think compelling) conversation between Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg about the environmental, social and financial benefits of sustainability on their respective companies. Our thanks to the folks at Ceres for making this video available.

Click here to see more video: http://www.ceres.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=901&srcid=661

Introducing EarthKeeper Heroes

Some people follow celebrity gossip in tabloids.  Some people look to hang with jet-setters, the taste-makers, the athletes, the musicians. That’s all cool…  But I’ve always sought out those amazing individuals who take a stand to solve the world’s “unsolvable” problems — be it bringing clean water to Africa, taking on dictatorships in hostile countries most people could care less about (accept those living there, of course), getting their hands and boots dirty to clean-up after a natural disaster, or bringing a cool approach to solving the climate crisis.

I never knew what to call these people until one day I met the most extraordinary “Change Agent” hanging out in a bar I was in and toting around his Mac to show pics of his recent trip aboard a “surgery ship” in West Africa.  We built Changents for him and the thousands like him around the world who are magnets for “fans” like me who want to jump on their team and change the world.  Yes, I know it sounds a bit wonky, but it’s true.

Changents is not about “go hug a tree” or “chain yourself to a bulldozer” – unless, of course, you have the time and inclination do that.  We don’t.  Actually, there are plenty of places for people to gripe about things or talk about things. Instead, we are the place where ordinary people can team up with extraordinary Change Agents from around the world to advance the change revolution together. We’re all about entertainment and attitude where real people take real action.  You can check the kumbaya at the door, please!

We met Timberland about six months ago and they had us at hello. Their commitment to walking the talk is what we’re all about and so we’ve partnered to bring you Earthkeepers.  You’ll have a chance to follow and interact with five extraordinary Change Agents, dubbed, “Earthkeeper Heroes.” They include: The Big Green Bus (12 Dartmouth University students crisscrossing the country this summer in a tricked-out Harvester school bus converted to run on waste vegetable oil); The Canary Project (an artist couple conveying the story of human-induced climate change and potential solutions through visual media, events and artwork); Agent 350 (a recent college grad and his scrappy team in a mad-dash sprint to build a global, online/offline climate action movement from scratch); Reverb (a group of rock and roll road warriors greening the summer concert tours of the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and Maroon 5/Counting Crows while engaging fans around environmental sustainability); and POWERleaper (digests from a 23-year old designtrepeneur who has created the blue print for urban flooring systems that generate electricity from human foot traffic).  In addition, you can participate in the Earthkeeper Heroes contest by nominating yourself or someone else to compete for a chance to join the ranks of this amazing group.

If you got what it takes, join us at changents.com/earthkeepers!

Deron Triff

CEO & Co-Founder

Changents

The Big Green Bus
If you’re on the road and hear the sounds of a ukulele gently wafting out the windows of a tricked-out, green Harvester school bus, close behind you’ll see us – a group of 12 college students rocking and rolling across the country this summer out to educate the world about alternative fuels. Read More

Reverb
How Green is Your Guitar? I’m Adam Gardner and as a co-founder of Reverb and member of the band Guster, I can say mine is pretty green.

I have a custom-made, eco-friendly First Act guitar made of salvaged hardware and electronics, using a finish and glue with lower toxic emissions and wood harvested from environmentally certified lumber firms. Yep, pretty green. Read More

POWERleap
I’m Elizabeth Redmond- your designtrepreneur (a term my friend and colleague Joe coined meaning designer, entrepreneur, and allow me to add, inventor). Back in 2005 during my BFA thesis work at the University of Michigan, I set out to design interfaces that generate electricity from the human body. Now, two and a half years later, I’m working around the clock to turn the alternative energy paradigm on its head through my brainchild I call POWERleap — a flooring system destined for high foot- traffic urban areas that generates electricity via human footfall. Think 5th Avenue powered by the stampede of shoppers! Read More

The Canary Project
First of all there is a rule and all sensible people follow it:  don’t work with your spouse.  We are not very sensible.

I am Ed Morris, and I used to be a partner in a private investigative firm.  No, I did not carry a gun.  In fact, for the past two years I worked hard on litigation aimed at stemming the flow of illegal guns into our cities.  My client was Mayor Bloomberg’s office here in New York.  I have worked on other investigations such as the impeachment hearings of former Connecticut Governor John Rowland, anti-trust lawsuits and an arson and cover up involving millions of dollars of false inventory. Now I produce artworks about climate change with my wife.  Strange how life is. Read More

Agent 350
Three hundred and fifty is something we all eat, sleep, live and literally breathe.  You may not know it yet, but 350 is going to become the most important, talked about number on the planet.  At least that’s the plan. Read More

Welcome to Earthkeepers

Truth is, the debate about global warming isn’t very interesting to us.  Either the earth we share as a common platform for our daily living is right on the edge of climate extinction, or the physical environment we live in is merely being taxed hard by pollution and consumption and carbon emissions. Either way the scientists and policy makers argue it, it seems to us that there is very little downside in behaving responsibly in an environmental sense.  As a for-profit business, switching from high-energy consumption light bulbs to low-energy light bulbs seems painfully obvious.  Let the elites argue–in the meanwhile, we changed our light bulbs.  Lower carbon emissions, lower energy costs.  Hmm.

Same simple logic when it comes to manufacturing our products; using recycled rubber from automobile tires to make soles for our boots appeals to common sense and consumers simultaneously.  Car tires make for landfill disasters; turning waste into resource appeals to the New England ethic in us.  We save money (seen the cost of petroleum-based ingredients recently?) and make durable, beautiful boots.  Hmm.

Listening to the “experts” on both sides of the debate invited us to imagine another kind of discourse–instead of a debate, imagine a community of Earthkeepers, normal citizens who want to preserve the physical beauty of our world, not by spiking trees or parading naked in Times Square, but simply by doing small, accessible, day-to-day acts of common sense and common goodness.  What if we could invite a community to share information and inspiration around the practical notion of preserving the environment?  Earthkeeping–not radical, not political, not competing theories–just a belief that nothing is more powerful than an engaged citizen.

Earthkeepers was borne out of some passionate product designers here who set out to build a beautiful boot, using recyclable and renewable materials and thoughtful choices in the manufacturing process.  Not a “green boot;” they set out to build a beautiful, useful, commercial product, thoughtfully and responsibly.  And as imperfect as the outcome was and is, the response we got from consumers around the world was very powerful.  People liked the product, and they told us they appreciated the environmentally-conscious intent behind it.  They challenged us to go further, and they had suggestions.

It is this engaged conversation with citizens that inspires us to imagine developing an Earthkeepers community.  Imagine a forum where citizens can share information and inspiration around “earthkeeping.”  Imagine a group of diverse people who share energy and interest in the notion of protecting our planet, in the ordinary course of living their daily lives.

So, here goes– Earthkeepers.  That you have come this far to visit is in itself encouraging.  Write a post–share your question, push your agenda, teach us about earthkeeping from your corner of this precious world.  Could be a very cool conversation, and more–could be a way to translate lots of passionate talk into practical action, to benefit the world we all share in common.

We’ll see.

Welcome to Earthkeepers.

Jeff Swartz,

President and CEO, Timberland