Archive for September, 2008

Talking About a Revolution

Tim Sanders (best-selling author, public speaker and former Chief Solutions Officer for Yahoo!) has just published his third book, entitled, “Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference.”  In it, Sanders discusses the Responsibility Revolution currently underway – as evidenced by increasing demand by consumers and employees alike that the companies they buy from and work for offer social value in addition to economic value.

Huffington Post’s John Tepper Marlin spoke with Sanders recently about his book and the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) moving beyond being a “luxury good” to a more mainstream commodity.  Sanders also shares his thoughts on how to make such a revolution sustainable, what defines pioneers in the space of corporate responsibility and why companies embracing CSR as yet another way to make a buck won’t survive.   You can read the entire interview here

We’ve long believed in the premise that making a profit and making a positive social impact can and should live together in the world of business … we’re putting “Saving the World at Work” on our reading list.  If any of you have read it, we’d love your review.

Where the Wild Things Are

Boston boasts 39 city-owned natural areas, or “urban wilds,” totaling 250 acres.  These urban wilds host hundreds of species of birds, animals, insects, and plants.  Oak forests, open meadows and cattail marshes can also be found in these wild places, but as you might imagine, they have long been plagued by a range of urban problems – vandalism, illegal dumping, fires – in addition to larger regional issues, such as invasive plant and animal species, insect infestations and soil erosion.

Back of the Hill Urban Wild, Mission Hill

EarthWorks, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to creating a healthier and more sustainable Boston, is working to restore the city’s urban wilds and, in the process, provide city residents the opportunity to experience nature close to home.  Through several major programs, including its Urban Orchards Program, Outdoor Classroom Program and Urban Wilds Restoration Program, EarthWorks is actively engaging Boston neighborhoods in its effort to reclaim neglected urban space, and providing hands-on environmental education to city residents of all ages.

On Wednesday, October 1, EarthWorks will help host the first of Timberland’s Dig It events, as we descend on the site of the Boston Nature Center – the last remaining “green oasis” in the neighborhood of Mattapan.  What was once over 200 acres of open space has diminished over time to a mere 67 acres; our challenge for the day is to mitigate the impacts of invasive plant species by planting over 300 trees , which will also increase the area’s tree canopy and ensure the sustainability of its habitat for years to come.

To learn more about EarthWorks’ commitment to strengthening local communities through environmental service, be sure to visit their website.  And if you live in the greater Boston area, please consider joining your fellow Earthkeepers at next Wednesday’s Dig It event (more details and sign-up information can be found here).  We’d love to meet you.

Take a Seat

“Cars have been marketed as a person’s pathway to a life of luxury, freedom, excitement, and exploration … cars are a symbol of status, whereas public transportation (buses and trains) are a symbol of an individual’s limits. Every single time someone rides a bus (that is, if they are riding it out of necessity and not by choice), they are reminded of their social and economic class.”

The above insight about one of the pitfalls of public transportation, from an environmental perspective, is from environmental artist Catherine Blackwell-Pena’s blog, Riding Green.  Her point is an important one: while some “green” behaviors have developed a degree of social cachet over time (think of all those celebrities driving hybrids and shopping at their local farmer’s markets), other actions – like riding a bus – have somehow not garnered the same desirable environmental status. 

Blackwell-Pena is working to change the image of public transportation and help raise its green status by designing these Duv-Tal seats – environmentally-conscious, inexpensive and unobtrusive public chairs, installed on light posts commonly found at public bus stops.  The Duv-Tal seats serve to add a level of “visual respect” to the Memphis, TN  area where they’ve been installed (many bus stops here lack adequate seating, leaving passengers to stand or sit on the ground) and messaging on each seat reminds passengers that by utilizing public transportation, they’re serving as positive environmental role models.

To impact real positive environmental change, we’re going to have to move beyond actions that are convenient, inexpensive or popular to tackle those more complex, requiring more effort and perhaps less socially-desirable.  Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Catherine Blackwell-Pena, such actions are getting overdue attention and respect.

Click here to read more about Catherine Blackwell-Pena and the Duv-Tal seats … and thanks to our friends the Canaries for turning us on to her work.

Taking It to the Extreme

The Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) was established in 2006 by internationally acclaimed nature photojournalist James Balog.  Comprised of 26 time-lapse cameras positioned at 15 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, the Alps and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, EIS aims to provide a startling photographic record of melting glaciers – one of the most visually dramatic indicators of climate change.

These icebergs were calved from Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier, which sends 11 cubic miles of ice into the ocean each year.  Photo courtesy of

The cameras will shoot once an hour for every hour of daylight until the project’s completion in fall 2009, when EIS plans to publish a book, followed by a feature documentary film.  In the interim, EIS team members return to the field periodically to download images – like those shown here — which can be viewed on the EIS website.

James Balog is widely considered a visionary in the art of photographing nature and wildlife.  True to form, the images he and the EIS team are capturing of the real-time impact of global warming are both breathtaking and thought–provoking.

An iceberg drifts in Columbia Bay near Valdez, Alaska. The source of this iceberg, the Columbia Glacier, has lost more than 10 miles of ice since 1984.  Photo courtesy of

Balog will be speaking about his work next month during Timberland’s Dig It event – a four-city tour that combines community service (in the form of urban greening) and the celebration of environmental activism, all in one day.  Dig It debuts in Boston on October 1, followed by events in New York (October 4), Los Angeles (October 11), and San Francisco (October 18).

To learn more about the Extreme Ice Survey, visit the EIS website (don’t miss the video clip of one of the largest glacial calvings ever documented on video – truly remarkable).  And, while we’ll be sharing more information about Dig It in the coming weeks, you can learn more and sign up to participate in one of the events by clicking here.

Earthkeeping Around the Globe

Next Thursday, Timberland employees around the globe will participate in the company’s 10th annual “Serv-a-palooza” – a company-wide celebration uniting employees, vendors, community partners, and youth in a day of community service. Many of this year’s 140 Serv-a-palooza projects are focused on environmental stewardship – from cleaning up trash near Mount Fuji to removing invasive plant species in England.

The goal of Serv-a-palooza – beyond enjoying a day out of the office and a unique teambuilding opportunity with colleagues – is to create a positive, sustainable impact on the community in which you’re serving. As a visual example of the kind of impact that can be created by a group of energetic volunteers in one day, consider these photos from another recent Timberland service day — Earth Day 2008, when approximately 100 volunteers spent the day planting native vegetation in Taipei’s Peace Park in Taiwan.

Before the Earthkeeping started:

On Earth Day:

The positive impact — still growing three months later:

Next week’s Serv-a-palooza projects promise to yield equally rewarding transformations … some of which we hope to document and share here on Earthkeepers. Stay tuned.

Inside the World of Sustainable Business

Timberland’s President and CEO Jeff Swartz was recently interviewed for the LifeTips radio program about Timberland’s connection with and commitment to the environment. In the interview, Jeff discusses the challenges of operating a sustainable business – from making environmental consciousness a relevant and powerful proposition for consumers to marrying the brand’s vision (in Timberland’s case, becoming carbon neutral by 2010) with business realities (the fact that our boots aren’t currently biodegradable, for example).

Hear more about Timberland’s approach to practical problem solving and why Jeff believes the best is yet to come us by clicking below. Our thanks to the LifeTips radio team for sharing with us.

Greening the Planet, One Race At A Time

Here’s an idea we love: tap into the athletes among us – by nature a passionate, dedicated group – and use their events and venues to advance environmental awareness. 

Athletes for a Fit Planet is working to do just that — providing environmentally-responsible solutions for race and event organizers looking to reduce their event waste and emissions.   Below, Chief Green Officer Bruce Rayner shares his experience, inspiration and vision for the future of environmental awareness in the athletic world:

I launched Athletes for a Fit Planet early in 2008. I had an epiphany at a race last year – after the race I was carrying around an empty water bottle and looking for a recycling bin, but there were none. All they had were trash cans piled full of plastic water bottles, paper and food waste. It occurred to me then that there was a need for someone to offer a service to help race organizers re-think their events so the environment would not have to suffer. I’m an avid triathlete and runner, and so my focus with Athletes for a Fit Planet is on these events for now — but I’m also branching out to include charity walks and student groups. When you think about it, whenever people gather together for an activity – be it a school, a race or a concert – there’s the opportunity to integrate environmentally responsible practices.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Green Long March

How did you spend your summer vacation?  In China, more than 5,000 students spent it on their feet, participating in the Green Long March – the country’s largest student conservation movement – traveling a cumulative 2008 kilometers and engaging thousands in environmental dialogue along the way.  (We think it sounds a lot like the summer our friends on the Big Green Bus have had … only without the bus.)

Our Earthkeeper Hero Agent 350 shared his experiences with the Green Long March in a recent blog post and also in the following video.  You don’t need to understand Chinese to be able to see and hear the enthusiasm in the students participating on the march; they’re optimistic, energetic, and clearly committed to their effort to preserve the environment.

We live in a marvelous, modern age of technology – technology that has its place and plays a critical role in countless initiatives underway to help stem global warming.  But campaigns like the Green Long March remind us that positive, powerful change can also come, more simply, from putting one foot in front of another.

Congratulations to the Green Long Marchers on a successful journey … and for making the most of their summer break.