Archive for June, 2009

Room with a View … and a Schwinn

We haven’t been this excited about free hotel amenities since high-speed internet access:  hotels across the country are now getting on the bicycle bandwagon and offering free bike use to hotel guests. 

Photo courtesy of Hotel Occidental

We’ve shared stories before about the benefits of bike sharing; the Green Bike Share program at UC Berkeley, for example, rents bicycles out as an environmentally and traffic-friendly alternative to students … and last summer, Earthkeeper Heroes The Canary Project reported on similar free or low-cost bike rental programs they discovered in places like Seville and Barcelona.

How exciting to learn we don’t have to fly to Spain to get the same experience of sight seeing on two wheels.  Courtesy of our friends over at TreeHugger, here are just a few US destinations willing to give you a bike with your bed:

Boston’s Liberty Hotel
The Bowery Hotel, New York
The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs
San Diego’s Hotel Occidental

Now if we could just do something about those pesky mini-bar charges …

Mr. Swartz Goes to Washington

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself in an unusual place for a Thursday afternoon–at the White House, in a suit.  Not sure I shouldn’t have dressed in Timberland jeans and boots; would have been a whole lot more comfortable.  The setting was a small group of CEOs–principally, utility and power company execs, big hitters all of them, a total of 7 “business leaders” meeting with heavyweights in the Administration, at their request, to discuss ways to advance climate and clean energy legislation.  No, not joking–power company execs and the Administration, talking cap and trade.  Despite the fact I was wearing a suit, you could tell the difference between the big boys and the bootmakers; their DC lobbying staffs seemed as big as our sales force is–nationally.  But a certain amount of “gee whiz, what are we doing in the room with these big guys” aside, I was proud to be at the table.  For 20 years, we’ve been working at building a business model that says we can earn real profit for shareholders, while living a passion for preserving the place where we and our consumers love to recreate.  Sustainability is the current language–we called it, “running a responsible business that serves the outdoors.”  Call it what you will–it was good to be at the table.  While the numerous and serious utilities represented around the table might have money to lose in this environmental battle, what we have at stake is our entire livelihood.

It was an impressive group and an important opportunity … and served as an interesting case study of the chaos of democracy.  We spent too much time on discussion about The Bill before the House, and how to get it passed, and then how to get it through the Senate.  A fascinating civics lesson, a wild opportunity to see how government really works–I listened to one power exec explain that while they were sure glad to be working to get this bill passed, they wanted to make dead sure the Administration knew that what they wanted in return was the government’s support for new nuclear plants.  Hmn.  Horse trading in a fancy room at the White House.  For what it is worth, while they talked “deal,” and I listened intently, I also spent some time staring at the fancy chandelier.  Full of incandescent light bulbs.  At the White House.  Do we need nuclear plants? Maybe, maybe not–I’m a bootmaker, not a policy maker–but I know with certainty, if the White House would change the light bulbs, and install low flush urinals in the men’s rooms (I visited–antique plumbing, and paper towels to dry your hand!), they would model a more real world kind of leadership.  The very best solution to energy policy is…use less.  Conserve more.  Change the darned light bulbs in the chandelier.  If everyone would do what they can do, then–maybe less horse-trading legislative support for a complicated law that may or may not work, in return for nuclear plants that may or may not be good for the world…

I made no friends with the powerful power folks when I got to speak for a moment; when the political leaders asked what we thought of the legislation, I told the truth–that the law got watered down big time by horse trading, to a 17% reduction in carbon emissions, and now involves giving away a ton of “get out of jail free cards” to the worst polluters.  I pointed out the inconvenient truth–that over the last 2 years, compelled not by policy but by common sense, led not by theory but by a desire to run a more profitable and sustainable business, Timberland has cut our carbon emissions by 27%.  Hmn.  They keep talking, and we keep cutting, saving money, building more sustainable products.  Our approach wasn’t mandated or designed by committee, it was the result of a sound business model coupled with passion for the outdoors and desire to preserve our business.  It’s not nuclear power plant science, it’s just good bootmaking business.

In the end, I went home optimistic sort of, and resolute for sure.  The good news is, the imperfect process of democracy is the greatest form of vibrant political discourse known.  And it works.  We are going to get climate change legislation, which is imperfect as heck but hey–we know that perfect is the enemy of the good, and we also know, you have to be in the game if you want to compete.  So–this law is better than nothing.  And the law is really just a clarion call to say–time to get to work.  We have to make backroom legislative deal-making Washington-born policy consumer relevant.


Consumers /citizens want to do the right thing.  They count on their elected representatives to make good policy, and they expect brands and businesses to play fair and do right.  And then they can live the lives we all want.  And when it comes to climate change, that is what they want–simple and clear ways to buy the goods and services they desire, in a fashion that won’t destroy their planet.  Legislation putting the real price of carbon into the economy is a step in that direction.  But only a step.  Now, brands have to get into the game–to help consumers make the easy and good choices they want and expect.

Bootmaker goes to Washington, learns a lot, leaves with the optimistic sense that the government is trying to do its bit, leaves also with a renewed and reinforced understanding that government is necessary, but not sufficient.

Calling all CEOs.  You can reduce your costs, increase your profits, delight your consumers and your shareholders.  And, help preserve our environment.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Good Green Reading: Wildebeest in a Rainstorm

When Jon Bowermaster isn’t writing for us here on Earthkeepers, he’s documenting his travels for other publications and in his own films and books.  His latest book, Wildebeest in a Rainstorm is a fascinating compilation of stories and observations from some of Jon’s greatest adventures with such notable companions as Wangari Maathai, Richard Branson and Bobby Kennedy, Jr.

The following excerpt is from his essay “Endangered Species,” in which he and preeminent field biologist George Schaller discussed the environmental importance – and inherent danger – of ecotourism:

“I’ve never been interested in anything but the outdoors,” he confesses.  Today he insists his primary goal is to help alert the public’s attention to a global “century of destruction” in which he believes that humans are destroying natural resources, particularly plants and animals, at such a rate that mankind will ultimately be threatened.  Though hardly a typical tourist, Schaller believes the current boom in ecotourism – if done properly, by skilled and committed companies – is one avenue for preserving both wilds and wildlife.

“For many areas of the world good tourism – which means limited numbers of strictly controlled people that are aware of the environment, that are knowledgeable about what they are up to, that don’t litter, that don’t disturb the animals, that treat the local people with respect – can have a real benefit.  Otherwise such regions might just disappear.  In an area has foreigners coming and looking and the money from their visit stays there, local people will be more likely to protect it.  If nobody ever visits, say the rainforest, the more likely it will be logged.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Green Stuff We Love for Dad

In honor of Father’s Day … or for any special Earthkeeping guy in your life … check out these green goods to make the most of his day in the sun:

The TING “sling” is a handwoven hammock  made of reclaimed and repurposed seatbelt webbing that otherwise would wind up in the waste stream.






Our Earthkeepers™ X-Band sandals feature organic canvas in the uppers and recycled rubber in the outsole and midsole.  Burnished nubuck leather comes from a silver-rated tannery (one that has received a silver rating for its reduced energy use, reduced waste and quality water treatment).



Burt’s Bees chemical-free sunscreen provides UVA/UVB protection and helps keep skin hydrated without using chemical sunscreen actives like octinoxate and oxybenzone. Instead, titanium dioxide (a naturally-occurring mineral) creates a micro-fine barrier to reflect the sun’s harmful rays from Dad’s most sensitive spots.





When Father’s Day turns into night, Ikea’s Solig solar-powered lanterns keep the celebration going.  These lights run on solar cells that transform sunlight into electricity, requiring no electrical connections and saving energy. 




Timberland’s Quarterly Corporate Responsibility Results Released

Timberland’s Q1 2009 corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance report is now available online at  Results are organized according to our 4 CSR pillars (energy, product, workplace and service) and choice highlights include:

  • We achieved continued greenhouse gas emissions reductions due to less air travel and a conversion of our Danville distribution center to renewable electricity.
  • We continue to report supply chain emissions in our effort to address the largest part of our carbon footprint. We’re refining our data collection from factories and will report emissions related to Timberland-only products later in 2009. Establishing a baseline for Timberland-related emissions will allow us to work more effectively with our partner factories on carbon management.
  • The growth in our Earthkeepers product line has resulted in our apparel team and licensees greatly exceeding our organic cotton procurement target. This reduces our dependence on conventional cotton, which is grown with harmful pesticides and herbicides.
  • We are now reporting our consumption of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is a more holistic measure of hazardous chemical consumption than our previous water-based adhesive metric. Tracking this metric will allow us to better manage the chemicals in our footwear supply chain.

To see our detailed disclosure, click on the reports at  Here, you’ll find quarterly comparisons to annual data and forward-looking targets, description of our metrics and data collection processes, and analysis of this quarter’s results.  For more information, contact

Back on the Bus

We’re excited to have a repeat performer in the ranks of Earthkeeper Heroes this year: the Big Green Bus is back and better than ever!

The bus itself is new and improved.  The specially-modified 1989 MCI coach boasts wireless internet and surround sound, solar panels and bamboo hardwood flooring … and runs on waste vegetable oil. 

Most exciting, the Big Green Bus contains 14 Dartmouth College students bound and determined to spend their summer changing the world.  Over the next few months they’ll travel through 30 states coast to coast, making more than 40 educational stops along the way to show off their green mobile classroom and spread the good word about alternative energy and sustainable living practices. 

The Bussers kick off their cross-country tour this week, and may well be rolling through a city near you; check out their tour schedule at  And, to follow their travels and travails anytime, you can find them on

The Filthy Campaign for Clean Oceans

Our Earthkeeper Hero Christopher Swain is gathering an unusually passionate fan base … in solidarity with his own swim journey through dirty water, check out how others are pledging to “get dirty for Swain:”

You can follow Christopher’s progress in his 1,000 swim for clean water on  And, stay tuned for regular updates on Christopher – and news about our other Earthkeeper heroes – here on the EK blog.