Archive for May, 2009

The Anatomy of a Human Crisis

We all understand climate change to be a critical concern and an issue worth attention and effort; a comprehensive study issued by the Global Humanitarian Forum(GHF) today supports the notion in no uncertain terms:

  • Climate change today accounts for over 300,000 deaths throughout the world each year.  By 2030, the annual death toll from climate change will reach half a million people a year.
  • Economic losses due to climate change are estimated to be more than $125 billion per year – expected to reach almost $340 billion annually by 2030.
  • A majority of the world’s population doesn’t have the capacity to cope with climate change without suffering a potentially irreversible loss of wellbeing and risk of loss of life.  The populations most gravely at risk are over half a billion people in some of the world’s poorest and under-developed areas.

Is there any light at the end of this grim tunnel?  The call to action issued along with the GHF study is for world leaders at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to take notice and take action, swiftly and collectively.

“Climate change … is a gross injustice – poor people in developing countries bear over 90% of the burden … yet are least responsible for creating the problem. Despite this, funding from rich countries to help the poor and vulnerable adapt to climate change is not even 1% of what is needed. This glaring injustice must be addressed at Copenhagen in December.”

Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam GB
and Global Humanitarian Forum Board Member.

Thoughts about the report?  Share them here.


Writer, filmmaker, adventurer and contributing Earthkeeper blogger Jon Bowermaster rounds out his recent visit to the Maldives:

Saffah Faroog sips a mango juice and continues explaining the history of the Maldives oldest environmental group, Bluepeace, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. He is its communications director, a volunteer like the rest of its staff, and has a great story to share – the organization has a great web presence and a long history of doing the right thing in the Maldives by keeping environmental stories in the news. There’s no lack of subject matter with beach erosion, species loss, the impact of climate change and rising sea levels and the still lingering after-effects of the 2004-tsunami still daily stories.

“Perhaps the most impressive thing for us here in the Maldives,” he says, “is that just two years ago I would never had a conversation in public with you like this, not about these subjects. We had to be very careful about everything we wrote, anything we said in public or private, because almost anything could be construed as a potential criticism of the government, thus possibly resulting in recrimination.

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Good Green Reading: Conversations with Green Gurus

Conversations with Green Gurus: The Collective Wisdom of Environmental Movers and Shakers brings together in one place the collected wisdom of some of the most influential environmental leaders of our time. Interviews in this book will help readers figure out what is presently going on in terms of the environment and what they should be doing about what one of the Gurus calls ‘a planetary emergency.’

The Conversations cover a broad range of environmental issues as they apply to society and business, as well as provide cutting edge thinking as a basis for shaping the future for individuals and companies in markets round the world.

With a foreword by Jim Haywood, environment director of the UK’s Business in the Community, the book boasts an impressive roster of ‘thinkers’ – those who have set the agenda – and ‘doers’ – those business people, particularly running large companies, who have made this their mission long before it ever became fashionable.

“What shines through all these conversations is the humanity of every one of this disparate group of people.  Looking at what set them on the paths they chose throws up some interesting and at times moving answers.  Each, in his or her own way, is trying to make this world a better place to live.”

- From Conversations with Green Gurus, by Laura Mazur and Louella Miles

The Conversations range widely and contain a rich variety of perspectives along with the Gurus’ thoughts on where countries, religion, individuals and particular companies have taken the right – or wrong – way in their search for environmental sustainability. It questions the economic viability of present and possible future solutions and, indeed, what are the likely societal costs and benefits.

Conversations with Green Gurus is available on and now.

Green Energy in Coal Country

95% of the power produced in the state of Kentucky comes from coal – one of the most widely-used fuels for electrical generation, and one of the largest fixed-source producers of CO2.  It’s no small feat, then, that deep in the heart of coal country Kentucky Utilities Company (KU) is working hard to make their energy green.

By enrolling in KU’s Green Energy program, customers can offset the carbon impact of their electricity use, one “block” at a time.  Every $5 purchase of Green Energy ensures that 300 kWh of renewable energy is delivered onto the Kentucky transmission grid (currently sourced from the Mother Ann Lee hydroelectric plant, with more renewable energy sources under consideration) – supporting the development of renewable energy in the region, and helping to improve the environment for all of us.

Through KU’s Green Energy program, Timberland recently began offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions from our Danville, KY distribution center – to the tune of roughly 1,894 tons of CO2 emissions each year.  We’re proud to be the first Green Business to join KU’s program at the 100% level.

KU customers can calculate their carbon footprint and enroll in the Green Energy program on the company’s website.  Not a Kentucky resident?  Call your local utility company and inquire about renewable energy options – many now offer green energy programs similar to KU’s.

Safe Haven for Dead Gadgets

When he’s not logging swim hours in the Atlantic Ocean, Earthkeeper Hero Christopher Swain takes to dry land to educate the public about pollution and the need for cleaner waterways.  In Philadelphia last week, Christopher staged an Ethical Electronics Recycling Event where more than 11,000 pounds of discarded and outdated consumer electronics (commonly known as “e-waste”) were collected for recycling and, when possible, reuse.

What’s the link between your old computer and the clean ocean Christopher Swain is advocating for?  In his own words:

If these devices get tipped into a landfill, or dumped on the ground in Asia or Africa, they vomit their toxic contents–mercury, lead, arsenic, barium, hexavalent chromium, and other nasty compounds–into the environment.  This pollutes nearby lands and waterways, and eventually, the ocean.

Dead dolphins and porpoises have been found with high levels of manmade toxics like brominated fire retardants in their blubber.  Have dolphins been fighting fires?  Maybe.  But a more likely explanation is that they have eaten fish from oceans contaminated with the same chemical powders that grace the insides of our cell phones and laptops.

That’s scary enough to make any Earthkeeper give up his or her electronic gadget habit … or at least find a safe home for those dead iPods and laptops.

You can read more about Christopher’s work to clean up our e-waste in his blog post on  And if you’re interested in organizing an electronics recycling event for your community, visit Christopher’s website.

No Harleys Allowed

According to the Clean Air Council, auto emissions represent 31% of total carbon dioxide, 81% of carbon monoxide, and 49% of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S.  60% of the pollution resulting from auto emissions is released during the first few minutes of operation of a vehicle.

And the Federal Highway Administration tells us that 65% of all trips are made within two miles of the home, and that 50% of the working population commutes five miles or less to work.

You see where we’re going with this?

May is National Bike Month, this is Bike to Work Week and tomorrow is Bike to Work Day (that’s a lot of biking).  If you’re fortunate enough to be connected with a local or national bicycling advocacy group, or to work for a Bicycle Friendly Business, you’ve probably already got your bike tuned up and route map in hand … those of you still looking for resources and cycling events in your area, check here.

Timberland ‘s Bike Week celebration includes bicycle commuting clinics, a bike tune-up day and bike-to-work group rides from local communities.  And since cycling burns some 400 calories an hour, we’re also hosting a commuter breakfast to refuel any bike-riding Earthkeepers at the end of their commute.

Consider joining the movement this Bike to Work Day / Week / Month … and if you do, please tell us how long your bike commute is!  (Longest commute earns bragging rights for a year.)

Earthkeeping in Espulges

In Espulges del Llobregat, Spain (just outside of Barcelona), 37 Timberland employees, partners and community volunteers gathered on Earth Day to green the land surrounding Fundació Finestrelles, a care facility for mentally disabled adults. 

By day’s end, nearly 9,000 shrubs and other plants dotted the landscape, giving Fundació Finestrelles residents a greener view of the world. 

Timberland Earth Day volunteers have committed to taking care of the new plantings until they are well-established, ensuring this patch of land in Espulges is “Earthkept” into the future.

Going Carbon Neutral in the Maldives

Bird’s eye view of the Maldives, courtesy of Jon Bowermaster

The call to Friday prayers on Eydhafushi are spread island-wide by plastic loudspeakers affixed to poles and buildings scattered around the Maldivian sand-spit, home to three thousand. When it comes I’m floating a quarter mile offshore and it wakes me from a heat (90 degrees F) and calm-sea reverie; a reminder that here, near where the Arabian Sea melds into the Indian Ocean, we are in an all-Muslim nation. (I was reminded last night too, with a chuckle, when the man in matching linen who brought me a bottle of chilled rose and bragged about it’s ‘fruity’ taste admitted his lips had never touched alcohol.)

Earlier in the morning, before the day’s heat arrived, I’d walked a nearby jungled island, crows and rails darting among the pandanas and palms, camouflaged lizards and introduced rabbits scooting across the sandy paths. The foliage was dense and green, the island far more substantial than most in the Maldives, which are typically little more than sand and sea rubble piled up on coral. Given that even a substantial island here rises just six feet above sea level, as much as anywhere in the world the Maldives are threatened by rising sea levels.

The first democratically-elected president in the nation’s history has quickly turned into a vocal leader.  One of his first pronouncements was that he was going to start setting aside money for and start looking at land to buy to move his people, to get them out of harm’s way if sea levels rise as expected.

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Earthkeeping in the Ukraine

3 cities in the eastern European country of Ukraine got a little greener last month as part of Timberland’s global Earth Day service.  Over three days, our partners, employees and consumers – more than 500 volunteers total — planted 50 trees in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, another 50 in Zaporizia, and 184 in the capital city of Kiev.

During the past year, all consumers who purchased an “environmentally-messaged” Timberland shopping bag at one of the Timberland Ukraine stores were invited to join us in the tree-planting project.  Those who showed up for the event with their Timberland shopping bag in hand received a sapling to be planted.  (Bright, sunny day and cheerful fellow Earthkeepers were supplied at no extra charge).

It’s been estimated that one tree can remove as much as 50 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year … which means thanks to the Ukraine Earthkeepers, the air will be more than 14,000 pounds of CO2 cleaner and lighter, per year.  Not bad for a day (or three) worth of good work.

Green Stuff We Love for Mother’s Day

Earthkeepers love their moms and Mother Earth … here are a few gift ideas sure to please them both:

With the Sabertec Blade attached to her car’s tailpipe, Mom can cut 12 percent of the vehicle’s carbon emissions – and get six more miles per gallon.


While dish detergent wouldn’t normally top our gift list, Method‘s Smarty Dish tablets smell good (pink grapefruit) and are good for the environment (containing no phosphates or bleach).




Reclaimed glass from old car windshields come back to life in the form of this beautiful multi-purpose bowl from Uncommon Goods (beer and wine glasses, too). 


Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest one of our own 100% organic cotton t-shirts, printed with water-based inks. 




 Have another green gift idea you love?  Share it with us.