Archive for October, 2008

In Good Company

Over the next few days, nearly 30 employees from a handful of companies (including Timberland) will descend on New Orleans for a weeklong, hands-on community building experience.

In Good Company is a multi-company venture organized by Clif Bar & Company and an evolution of Clif Bar’s “Project 2080,” its employee community service program (the company pledges to donate at least 2,080 hours of service annually – the amount one full-time employee works in a year).  The week-long community building experience is designed to unite individuals around a common purpose and passion, providing them with an opportunity to share best practices while putting their positive energy to work for the city of New Orleans.

While in New Orleans, the team will work directly with three local organizations: Rebuilding Together, New Orleans Food and Farm Network, and Bayou Rebirth.  The week’s projects will focus primarily on Hollygrove, a neighborhood particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.  In Good Company volunteers will help to restore the community by creating backyard gardens, helping to construct an urban food and farming center and working on habitat restoration.

Timberland’s own community engagement coordinator Brianne Wood is fortunate to be among the In Good Company volunteers, and will be sharing her observations and experiences with us here on Earthkeepers.  Until then, you can follow the group’s progress on the In Good Company blog.

The Downside of Development

This recent essay on CNN.com by Elizabeth Economy highlights the parallel paths of economic development and environmental crisis in China.  Every day, 14,000 new cars are added to China’s roads and every 7 to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens to help fuel the country’s economic growth.  Although a success story in its rapid development, China also serves as a warning as the environmental costs of that development unfold.

The essay is accompanied by this slideshow of dramatic images from China’s Huai River Basin, a rural area heavily impacted by water pollution, taken by photojournalist Stephen Voss.  The essay and photos also appear in the book “What Matters” by David Elliot Cohen.

Treehugger’s Matthew McDermott blogged about the topic earlier this week, suggesting that in light of the environmental damage that sometimes results from economic development, “we need a new meaning for ‘developed,’ a new measurement of wealth.”  It’s an interesting notion: wealth is so often measured, not just in China but throughout the world, by the amount of material goods you have, the size of your home, the number of cars in your garage … the degree to which you’re able to live excessively.  At present, we don’t live in a world that values conservation as much as consumerism.

We look forward to the day when wealth is measured by the weight of your recyclables … or how small your electric bill is … or the number of miles you log on your feet or a bike instead of in a car.  Until then, our thanks to Treehugger for inspiring us to think about it.

Rock the Bike!

Last week we mentioned the fact that Timberland’s Dig It event in San Francisco would be powered, in part, by human energy via a bicycle-powered generator.  Stone Gossard was so inspired by seeing the bikes in use during the daytime service event that he then used them to power his live concert at the Grand Ballroom that night.  You can view the bikes (and Stone) in action here.

One act of innovative environmental consciousness inspiring a second similar act of consciousness – that’s Earthkeeping at its best.  Our thanks to the folks at Rock the Bike for helping us make Dig It San Francisco a powerful event, in more ways than one.

 

Bottles and Boots

If you walk by one of our store windows in the near future, you might see an image of a larger-than-life Timberland boot make entirely of recycled plastic bottles.  The actual boot lives in the lobby of our headquarters building, serving as a visual reminder of the potential for Earthkeeping through the design of our products.

There’s no shortage of information out there about the ramifications of not recycling plastics – and we’re excited about the ways in which we’re turning that recycling effort into better material choices.  We currently use recycled PET made from post-consumer plastic bottles in the linings, laces and uppers of some of our footwear, and are always looking for new ways to increase our use of this and other recycled and renewable materials in our products.

This video documents the actual construction of the giant plastic bottle boot by eco-artist Tim Gaudreau.  Please note that no plastic bottles were harmed in the making of this film – in fact, the 3,000 that were used were spared an unfortunate demise in the landfill.

Eat Fresh

Those of you in the greater Boston area, take note: Now through Sunday, October 19 select restaurants in the area are participating in Fresh From the Family Farm Week.  Click here for a list of participating restaurants, all offering menu items with fresh ingredients from area family farms and donating a portion of the proceeds to Farm Aid and Chefs Collaborative – two nonprofit organizations that support the family farming industry and healthy, sustainable food businesses.

Fresh From the Family Farm Week is a win-win: you get to enjoy healthy, local, good-for-you food … and farmers get a much-needed boost in their effort to provide high-quality, locally-grown food for our tables.

Food for thought.

Digging It in Outer Sunset

This Saturday, October 18 marks Timberland’s fourth and final Dig It event of the year, taking place in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood.  An environmentally-underserved community, Outer Sunset suffers from a lack of trees which exacerbates the city’s water drainage issue with serious consequences; water runs over the concrete jungle of the neighborhood, picks up a variety of chemical pollutants and runs untreated into storm water drains that take the water straight to San Francisco bay. 

To reduce the runoff issues and improve the environmental quality of life in the community, local nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest will lead volunteers in planting nearly 200 trees this weekend.  Friends of the Urban Forest helps communities plant over 1,000 trees each year, while also engaging local residents in the ongoing maintenance of existing trees through its Tree Care program. 

Friends of the Urban Forest bringing green to the streets of San Francisco

Further increasing the positive environmental impact of Saturday’s Dig It event:  A bicycle-powered generator will help provide clean power to the effort, and volunteers will be shuttled around the service area in a bus fueled by 75% biodiesel.

Stone Gossard fans, this is your last chance this year to see him live in exchange for a few hours of Earthkeeping labor!  To register for Saturday’s Dig It event, click here … and stay tuned for photos, clips and results from all four Dig It events.

The Power of YES

The rigorous training program (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) teaches students the disciplines of landscape design, arboriculture, hydrology and urban forestry.  They learn proper techniques for pruning shrubs and trees, monitoring water quality and removing exotic species.  It sounds like a college-level course, but in fact it’s the Youth Environmental Steward (YES) program managed by North East Trees – a Los Angeles, CA nonprofit organization helping at-risk youth become environmental stewards.

North East Trees has several important initiatives aimed at restoring nature’s services in resource-challenged communities; to date, the organization has planted over 20,000 trees, created over 35 parks and facilitated other landscape improvements, including habitat restoration along the Los Angeles River and across Los Angeles County.  The YES program offers environmental and community support in a slightly different manner, combining education and training to help develop community work force, build individual character and ensure their restoration projects will be maintained into the future.  To date, thousands of local youth have completed the YES program, with many going on to find employment within the green industry.

Hands-on education in North East Trees’ YES program

North East Trees and many of its youth stewards will be on hand tomorrow, October 11, for Timberland’s third Dig It event taking place at the William Mead housing facility – one of Los Angeles’ largest housing public housing communities and home to some 1,400 residents.  In addition to planting 250 trees and creating a community garden, volunteers will learn how to select, plant and care for trees appropriate for their living environment. 

Click here to register for the LA Dig It event and for more information about the evening celebration at Avalon featuring musicians like Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard.  To learn more about North East Trees and their efforts to cultivate youth stewards and preserve local communities, visit their website.

Creating Community

Odonata is an ecovillage in the making, comprised of a core group of families in the Newburyport, Massachusetts area who are looking to live more simply and sustainably.  While still in the early stages of development, Odonata’s founders have concrete ideas about how to create less burden on our environmental resources in their intentional community — including using green building techniques, clustering homes to conserve land, creating common gardens and purchasing food and other necessities cooperatively, to share resources and reduce consumerism.

We recently caught up with Mark Schultz, one of Odonata’s cofounders, who shared his thoughts with us about living more simply in an age of over-abundance:

The biggest addition ecovillage projects add to the conversation about sustainability is a lens into the social elements of sustainability. The power of technology has really made us an incredibly independent nation – independent of each other – while usually the greatest gains are made in collective action. I have studied numerous alternative technologies with an eye to implementing in our village, or servicing or selling as a side-business. You know what every expert said? The #1 technology for the environment was not a technology: it was conservation. Stop using stuff!

The only way I know how to tame the inner child that wants that extra helping of everything is to be with others who believe the same thing. So ecovillage is built through technology, but it is not about technology, it is about people on the planet. While we are all understandably focused on these incredible, new techniques just within our grasp, saying “it’s not just science” is kind of revolutionary in an evolutionary sort of way.

The next Odonata Exploring Membership Meeting will take place Oct. 19th from 2 to 5 p.m. Contact voice@odonataVillage.org or visit odonatavillage.org for more information.

Counting Carbs

Today’s Wall Street Journal features an article by Jeffrey Ball about carbon footprinting … an increasingly popular topic in the Earthkeeping space.  The logic is simple enough – if you can calculate the amount of carbon emissions it takes to produce and / or use something – be it a pair of shoes, a new car or a carton of milk – you then have a means of assessing its environmental impact, which can help you decide how badly you want it and whether there’s a less impactful alternative.

Pretty useful information, in some cases.  When you consider that 86% of the carbon emissions from the average car over its lifetime comes from the car’s fuel use, then fuel efficiency is worth examining closely when you buy your next vehicle.  And when you know that the per-family carbon footprint from doing laundry is 10 pounds per week — and that line drying instead of using your clothes dryer can cut that footprint almost in half —  you might just go string up a clothesline.

Where carbon footprinting falls short in today’s marketplace is in providing a meaningful comparison between similar products – because there’s currently no standard for calculating the data (preventing an easy apples-to-apples comparison) and although the market is growing, there are still relatively few products bearing carbon data (tough to compare two products if one has a carbon “score” and the other does not). 

Like so many issues related to climate change and environmental impact, the good news here is that the conversation is starting and interest is building.  And, there are cross-brand initiatives underway to develop standard means of assessing environmental impact – so that one day, the carbon footprint data you find in stores and on shelves will be as universal and comparable as the nutrition labels you see on your groceries.

What if cutting carbon became as popular as cutting carbohydrates has been in recent years?  That’s one diet trend we’d like to see.

No Sleep Till (we’re done greening) Brooklyn

The population of New York City is expected to increase by a million new residents in the next twenty-five years. That’s a lot more people living in an already crowded city … and an additional challenge to the effort underway to maintain and create parks and open space. Thankfully, organizations like the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) are up for the challenge. 

NYRP was founded in 1995 by entertainer Bette Midler to be the “conservancy of forgotten places” – to reclaim, restore and develop under-resourced parks, community gardens and other open spaces in New York City.  To date, NYRP and its partner agencies and community groups have reclaimed more than 400 acres of under-resourced and rundown parkland, removed over 875 tons of garbage from project sites and served over 10,000 at-risk urban youth with free environmental education programs.

NYRP volunteers revitalizing a community garden

This Saturday, October 4, Timberland and NYRP will work to improve the “green” quality of life for more than 4,000 residents of the Van Dyke and Tilden Houses in Brooklyn by planting 450 new trees and building community gardens.  This will be the second of Timberland’s Dig It events taking place this month, and volunteers who participate in the daytime service event will be rewarded with an evening celebration at the Warsaw Theater, featuring Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard among other environmental artists and activists. 

To learn more about NYRP’s environmental initiatives, visit their website.  And to experience Earthkeeping in action, join us in Brooklyn this weekend (click here to register).