Archive for August, 2009

Taking Care of Community

When he’s not working as an analyst in our Ecommerce department, Donald Stickney trades his computer skills for power tools to participate in our community service projects.  Here, he shares his most recent service experience … and reminds us that being an Earthkeeper isn’t just about planting trees or reducing carbon emissions; creating a positive impact for our planet includes taking care of the people who live here.  

One of the reasons I work at Timberland is the opportunity it affords to get out and help the local community. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of many service initiatives, but the most recent one shines a particular light on the power of the Timberland community, so I wanted to share the story.

It was seven years ago when Cheryl first heard of Timberland service when we installed a handicap accessible ramp at the house of her close friend Ella. Six years later, it was Cheryl and her family that would need a similar support system.

Cheryl’s time of need started when a tree partially crushed her parent’s house last December. It continued in April, when her father passed away. And it culminated last month when her mother lost her leg to diabetes complications.

Some of the same members of the team that helped out her friend Ella seven years ago stepped up once again, recruited a larger team, and coordinated the building of a wheelchair ramp for Cheryl’s mother, to be ready and waiting for her when she arrived home from the hospital.

The ramp, a 25 foot long beauty that included a landing at the door, was completed in one day, and meets all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.  And thanks to another huge effort by a Timberland service team, Cheryl’s mother has a home suited to her needs.

Donald Stickney
Timberland Ecomm Analyst and Earthkeeper

  Before and after, Timberland service project:

 

 

 

Creative Compassion: Impact Designers

The “Impact Designers” are a dynamic duo of Earthkeeper heroes using their design skills to battle social and environmental problems.  Sami Nerenberg and Nate Bastien first met at the Rhode Island School of Design where Nate was Sami’s star student, and now both are committed to sharing their professional passion and expertise to create positive impact.

While Sami has been managing a 6-week eco-design boot camp, Nate has been busy with his own project — designing environmentally-responsible products for marginalized communities and the organizations that serve them.  First up, a low-cost, durable backpack designed for people experiencing homelessness.  The need behind the design, in Nate’s own words:

“Because the shelters are only open at night, you are forced out on the streets between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm every day.  And don’t expect the shelter to provide any storage for your belongings, the conditions can be so poor and degrading that some individuals actually prefer to sleep on the streets or in a tent.  In both cases, homeless individuals, and all of their belongings, are exposed to the weather every day.  Through these conversations I recognized a design opportunity – displaced individuals need a means to carry their belongings that is affordable, durable, and waterproof.  And why tap into virgin materials when there are heaps of quality materials heading to the landfill right now.”

The result is a waterproof, durable, adjustable Street Pack, made from discarded materials and featuring a multi-functional emergency shelter / solar blanket.  Nate field-tested the pack himself during his 3-day Boston street retreat, and now he’s looking for other volunteers.  If you (or a friend) are currently living on the streets and are interested in testing one of the first production Street Packs, please let Nate know.  Testers will receive a free prototype of the Street Pack, along with a disposable camera … in return, they’ll be asked to use it and provide feedback (via photos and testimonials) on the pack’s functionality and durability. 

Stay tuned as Nate and Sami share their observations and experiences in designing for positive impact both here on Earthkeepers and on their pages at Changents.com.

Possibility in the Pumpkin Patch

I know I should be pondering strategy or making another tough CEO choice, but at the moment, it is summer in NH (short season up here) and out my window, the Timberland victory gardens are bursting out of the ground.

About 3 years ago, a group of employees who happen by coincidence to be residents of New Hampshire and citizens, besides being marketing executives or customer service operators, decided to tear up a big patch of the corporate lawn.

They didn’t ask for much; just permission to desecrate the green lawn arranged in best ugly office-park style around the building that we lease as our corporate headquarters.  Things at Timberland work in mysterious ways — I’m not sure who said it was okay to tear up the lawn, but the next thing you know, we’ve got hammered-together raised beds of vegetables arranged in neat array on the lawn next to our day care center.  And during the winter, the beds sit there, forlorn and shivering.  But come summer, if you are at the window early enough, you can see the action flowing.  Seeds being sown.  Citizen servants from sales and finance, puttering about.  And then, boom — vegetables.  There’s a cart in the front where the employee entrance is, where the volunteers hawk the fresh produce — zucchini as long as my arm, Swiss chard by the basket, and just this week the first ripe tomatoes.  Every penny goes to the local food pantry; given all the downsizing and pain in the economy — some of which has rippled in our building — the food pantries are struggling to keep pace.  And so our team tends the raised beds.

I don’t miss the sound of the lawn mowers from the maintenance crew.  I don’t miss the carbon emissions from those engines nor the cost of operating them.  And some mornings, when it is hard to feel okay in this economy and this world, the sight of Timberland folks weeding and harvesting is the strength I need to do my bit to make things work again.

But more than our small example — I wonder.  What would keep victory gardens, run by employee volunteers on company time, from filling food pantry larders all over our office park … all over our state?  How much civic energy could be channeled, painlessly, from civic purpose and corporate pride and joy, just by raising up victory gardens in office parks across the country?  Stop mowing, start growing.  Don’t need the Congress, even the UN can’t mess this up – it doesn’t require mad skills or deep strategy — just a little bit of employee pitch in, and who knows?  During World War II, victory gardens produced 40 percent of the vegetables consumed in America – 40 percent! – and 20 million gardens helped to empower and reward people in a time when they desperately needed it.  America is hungry again — figuratively and physically.  For just a tiny bit of oomph, good for the company, good for the community … stop mowing and start growing.

I’d be hard pressed to find a better view.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Portraits of Pollution and Preservation

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Earthkeeper hero Andrea Bakacs has got a lot to say about environmental issues – and solutions – she’s witnessing in New York City.  Photographer and photo editor by trade and Earthkeeper at heart, Andrea has spent the past several years putting her personal and professional passions together to raise environmental awareness.

According to one of Andrea’s latest blog entries, summer in the city is hot, wet and garbage-laden:

“Walk around New York City after some torrential downpours, like the ones we’ve been having more and more recently, and you’ll struggle to find clear swatches of concrete near sidewalks that aren’t drowning in water and floating debris. 1/4 inch of rain and runoff starts pouring into the Hudson via pipes underground. 2 inches of rain and the subways start flooding. Sewers are now totally backed up. Sewage, runoff, and the street garbage that floats in it is carried into the Hudson and the Atlantic. Beach anyone?”

Rest assured that Andrea’s photo adventures take her to cleaner, greener spots of New York as well, including community gardens and salt marshes – busting any myths that the great outdoors can’t be found within city limits.

You can find more of Andrea’s updates and photos on Changents.com – and we’ll continue to share her stories here on Earthkeepers, too.

Heroes Among Us

Step off, G.I. Joe – the heroes have arrived.

We’ve already introduced you to a few of the 2009 Earthkeeper heroes … environmental educator and activist Christopher Swain, swimming 1,000 miles down the east coast in the name of cleaner water; eco-trendspotter Cate Trotter, inspiring others to live and work more sustainably by showcasing all that’s good and green in London; and Project Dirt, connecting eco-conscious Londoners with local greening projects via their website.  By land, by sea and by internet, our heroes are working hard to raise environmental awareness and create Earthkeeping impact.

We’re excited to add to that roster:

Sami Nerenberg and Nate Bastien (a.k.a. the “Impact Designers”) — creating break-through, environmentally friendly design solutions for impoverished and low-income communities.  As part of their Earthkeeping adventures, Nate is creating a ‘Street Pack’ for the homeless made entirely of scrap material, and Sami (one of the youngest teachers to run a program at the Rhode Island School of Design), is busy designing green “makeovers” for environmentally-challenged homes.

 

Eco-photographer Andrea Bakacs is harnessing the power of photography to deliver eco-messages, capturing on film amazing pockets of nature and a host of green projects across New York City.  Ever seen Manhattan’s composting nuns?  How about a farm (complete with goats and chickens) located on an east village rooftop? Andrea is creating a visual story of green NYC, one photo at a time.

Passionate, powerful, environmentally-committed individuals excited about sharing their talent for the good of the planet?  We feel safer already.

You can follow the Earthkeeper heroes and read / hear / watch their adventures in real time on Changents.com.

Water Chronicles, Chapter 3

As we continue to plug away in our effort to remove bottled water from our headquarters buildings, the team at Timberland’s distribution center in Ontario, CA kindly and quietly shared the following experience they had in executing a similar effort … two years ago.  A note from center maintenance supervisor Willie Williams to operations manager Dwayne Davis reads:

 I received a flyer advertising water coolers that didn’t require water bottles.  From a maintenance standpoint I was intrigued because the coolers with bottles require periodic cleaning of the inside of the cooler and this one did not, because of an internal activated oxygen system.  Better yet, the company offered to match or beat the price per gallon we were paying for the bottled water.  At that point I made a list of Pros and Cons:

Pros:
  1. No more pallets of water bottles by the coolers in the distribution center, which would give us more floor space and look much tidier.
  2. We wouldn’t lose production time from workers of each department transporting bottles.
  3. No more cleaning the coolers to prevent any algae buildup. (My favorite!)
  4. We wouldn’t worry about running out of water if our consumption increased during a hot spell.
  5. I always hated the idea of a truck that gets about 4 MPG delivering all those 5 gallon bottles of filtered water when the technology was here to just filter it ourselves.

Cons:
I couldn’t think of any … so we went ahead and switched.

A couple of Earthkeeping lessons from this story:

  • There’s no shortage of good ideas and actions happening all around us, every day (even within our own company!) – all we have to do is listen and learn to make our own efforts that much better.
  • Saving the planet doesn’t have to be the sole motivation for making a positive environmental change – and often isn’t.  As Willie points out, switching to bottle-less water coolers didn’t cost more, saved both floor space and production time … and also took a few CO2-emitting trucks off the road.

Thanks to Willie, Dwayne and our Ontario crew for sharing their success story … and a few happy photos of their bottle-less water coolers:

Countdown to Climate Action

“The clock is ticking and we’ve got a planet to save.”
- Jamie Henn, 350.org

Last year, we introduced Jamie Henn as “Agent 350” – one of our original Earthkeeper heroes and lead member of the 350.org team, working to create a global movement to solve the climate crisis by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (that’s the number leading scientists say is the safe “upper limit” if we’re to avoid critical climate destruction).

Jamie and 350.org are back and better than ever, calling for conscious, creative involvement from Earthkeepers everywhere on the International Day of Climate Action, October 24th.  Think Earth Day with an edge … this is your opportunity to be part of thousands of simultaneous actions around the world, leveraging local effort for global change.

Here’s Jamie’s call to action, in his own words:

For more details and to register your event as part of the International Day of Climate Action, visit 350.org.  Got a great action event planned?  Share it with us here!

Earthkeeping in Japan

Our Earthkeeping colleagues in Japan shared the following video montage of their good work this past Earth Day. From weeding and planting in one of Tokyo’s largest city parks (Yoyogi Koen) to a beach clean-up in Fukuoka, 173 volunteers (including Timberland employees, friends and family, community and business partners) spent a total of 873 hours making many of Japan’s streets, parks and public areas greener and cleaner.

Thank you, Team Timberland Japan!

Front-Lawn Food

Most kids are relishing these last few weeks of summer, not quite ready to get back into the grind of the school year … but for some, returning to school will be a welcome relief. 

Many children who have access to a federally-funded free lunch program during the school year don’t have the same support during school breaks – leaving them without adequate, nutritious food.  Summer meal programs, offered by many schools and communities, help to bridge the gap – but they’re not universally available, and most programs don’t have the funding or resources right now to grow.

All the more reason to support local food banks that work to get critically-needed food items and services to the families who need them.  The wet, hot weather we’ve enjoyed here in New Hampshire has done wonders for our front-lawn Victory Garden, producing nearly 250 pounds of fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables so far this summer … which, when purchased by the Timberland community at our in-house “farm stand” translates into more than $600 for the NH Food Bank – enough money to buy 2,436 meals for people living with hunger in our state.

We think the Timberland tomatoes are to die for … but not nearly as satisfying as knowing our home-grown bounty is also helping to feed others in our community.  Back to the harvesting …

Wee Do!

Timberland’s brand-across-the-pond howies has taken the notion of commerce and justice a step further, launching “Wee Do” – a regular lecture series hosted in howies stores in London and Bristol.  Wee Do brings compelling stories — from community, social, environmental and cultural leaders who are driving real and positive change — right to the retail floor, in hopes of inspiring and connecting people who are looking to make an impact. 

And it’s working – the series has become a serious hit among howies consumers.  No surprise when you consider recent topics like urban farming, fashion in the cycling industry and “the science of the perfect pint” (this is England, after all).

If you’re traveling in the greater London area over the next several weeks, consider dropping in on one of these Wee Do lectures at howies in Carnaby (and, of course, check out their extensive line of incredible clothes):

11th AugustThe Hungry Cyclist: Five years ago, this guy decided to quit his job in advertising and cycle from New York City to Rio de Janeiro collecting recipes along the way.  He wrote a book about his experience by the same name.

25th AugustCooler Magazine: Mostly women’s magazine focused on the skate, surf, bike, action-sports with a conscience community.  

8th SeptemberPrick Your Finger: Welshwoman Rachael Matthews promotes making (mostly knitting) and mending your own clothes using local / ethical / natural materials.

22nd SeptemberShared Interest: a micro-lending organization which provides financial services towards improving the livelihoods of the poorest communities in developing countries.

And to check out the entire 2009 Wee Do lineup, visit howies online.