Archive for November, 2009

Every Crawler Counts

This month, our friends at Seventh Generation launched the Million Baby Crawl , a new initiative to engage consumers in support of reforming the nation’s toxic chemical laws.

Million Baby Crawl is a virtual rally in which cyber babies descend on Washington, D.C. to make a stink (get it?) about all the toxic chemicals invading their bodies. At www.millionbabycrawl.com , you can create your very own crawler, watch videos of babies pontificating atop soap-boxes (like the one below), and spread the word. Every crawler represents a virtual signature on a petition which will be delivered to Washington, D.C. in January, 2010.

The federal law that should protect us from health-harming chemicals just doesn’t work: Since 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has required safety testing on only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals on the market. We need a stronger chemical law to keep our families (and our environment) safe and healthy.

Seventh Generation has partnered with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families , a growing and diverse coalition that includes nurses, parents, scientists, environmentalists and citizens from across the country who are united by their concern about toxic chemicals in our homes, workplaces and products we use every day.

Create your own crawler and support the effort for stronger chemical laws at www.millionbabycrawl.com .

Prime Time Earthkeeping

“We’re not policy makers, we’re not scientists, we’re not government. But we’re active participants in trying to build a solution so there’s an outdoors for your kids and for mine.”

- Timberland President & CEO Jeff Swartz talks climate change, consumer engagement and the role of business in changing the world on FOX Business:

Thanksgiving

We’re thankful for the leadership, vision and commitment of Bill Shore — Timberland board member and founder and executive director of Share Our Strength , the nation’s leading organization endeavoring to end childhood hunger:

I’ve always been an early riser. One of the things I love most about Maine in summer is that the dawn breaks as early as 4:30 a.m.  I’m usually waiting at the window to catch it. My writing or whatever I’m working on brightens with the new day.  This weekend before Thanksgiving in late November I am still up early. But the wait for daybreak is much longer. It is nearly 6:30 before I get to feel anything other than alone in the darkness.  Finally, a thin line of light appears on the horizon.

This long wait for darkness to lift must be what millions of our fellow Americans feel, trapped by recession, many for the first time in their lives, without jobs and increasingly without food, waiting … waiting… for the dawn to break. Two reports released this month evoke the words of poet William Stafford that “the darkness around us is deep.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its annual report, which showed a record 49 million Americans in 2008 struggling with whether they would have enough to eat. The number of children who experienced the most severe hunger increased from 700,000 to more than 1 million.

And just this morning, Share Our Strength released a survey, prepared by Lake Research Partners showing that this year, 62% of public school teachers are seeing children who regularly come to school hungry because they don’t get enough to eat at home.  The problem is serious enough that 63% of teachers use funds from their own relatively low salaries to buy food for hungry kids in their classroom.

In the darkness it is easy to misdiagnose a problem. When one does, the prescription for treating it is likely to be wrong.  That often happens with hunger in America. Children in our country are not hungry because we lack food, or because we lack food and nutrition programs.  We are blessed with abundance of both, and for more than 25 years there has been bipartisan support for effective food programs like school lunch, school breakfast and food stamps.

Children in America who are hungry are hungry because they aren’t enrolled in these programs.  Even in a weak economy, that is a solvable problem. But it requires more than the federal expansion of food and nutrition programs (which we also support). It requires working at the state and local levels to close the gap in the number of children who are already eligible for such programs but not enrolled or participating.

Maybe families don’t know the programs exist. Maybe kids can’t get to them. Our work is sometimes as simple as staffing a hotline to connect children with summer feeding sites in their neighborhood, or as complicated as lobbying for universal breakfast in the classroom, which tackles the challenge of kids not getting to school early enough for free breakfast, and the stigma that often prevents them from participating.

The barriers that keep children from programs that can prevent hunger are varied – and our strategy is tackling every one – state by state. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Denver with Colorado Governor Ritter to announce the launch of just such an effort, much as we’ve done with Governor O’Malley in Maryland and will be doing with others around the U.S. Our strategy is working, our network is growing in size and influence and we’re more certain than ever that we can end childhood hunger by 2015, but we need your continued support .

As governors with shrinking state budgets find themselves cutting social programs they’d prefer to grow, Share Our Strength’s strategy offers a ray of hope by bringing badly needed and already authorized federal dollars into their states to help feed children. Given projections that unemployment will remain at 10% or above through 2010, that states will continue to struggle with budget crises, as will food banks with shortages, Share Our Strength’s state-based strategy is the fastest, most realistic way to ensure that children get fed.

During the holiday season’s predictable media coverage of food banks and families in need of emergency assistance, it is worth noting that the USDA reports that just one in five families enrolled in programs like food stamps and school meals has actually visited a food pantry.  Standing in a line at a food pantry in crisis is the last place a family should be. If instead, they are taking advantage of programs that stretch their food budget, teach them how to shop for and cook nutritious foods, and ensure that their children have free school and summer meals, they will never need to be there. This is the work that Share Our Strength is doing, and we need your continued support.

Please make the most generous gift possible this year, and help ensure that our work continues.

As I finish writing this, the sun has climbed high in the sky. I’m reminded that increasingly Share Our Strength’s role is to help bring light where there has been darkness, to educate hungry families and local government officials about untapped existing resources for feeding kids.

Thanks for all you are doing to help. Our early successes leave us confident of achieving our ambitious goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.  Once we do, there will be at least one less reason for families to wait anxiously for the dawn.

- Billy Shore

Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done

In December, 192 nations from around the world will come together in Copenhagen to attempt to ratify a new global climate change treaty, designed to replace the soon-to-expire Kyoto protocol .

COP15 represents a significant opportunity to take action on climate change … an opportunity we’re strongly supporting through Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done , a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to positively affect the process by challenging government leaders to set standards for emissions.

Make your voice heard by signing our online petition which asks world leaders to come to an agreement on fair and binding climate legislation in Copenhagen.  And, stay tuned for daily updates and exclusive interviews here on the Earthkeepers blog as our on-the-ground correspondent reports from the climate conference in Copenhagen.

Painting, Progress and Puppies

This is the final update from Timberland Earthkeeper Lynn Woodrum, who spent last week lending her time and energy to rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.  Our thanks to Lynn, and fellow Earthkeeper MacKenzie Mosca, for sharing their experience with us .

Friday, November 13

The day started well with our team getting a lot of our house project completed. With the inside mostly finished, it was time to give the outside a new coat of sea green paint. The house really came a long way from Monday, with only one room we didn’t finish – the handicap-accessible bathroom which professionals need to do.

All week a little puppy had visited us at the house site, she was so cute. The owner came over on Friday and offered to give the puppy to an electrician (Steve) who worked with all of us and the Rebuilding Together group. Needless to say it was a tearful moment… he named his new puppy Holly, as the house is located on Hollygrove St.

About 12:30 we wrapped up the day and said our goodbyes to the Rebuilding Together employees and to Ms. Alice (the new home owner) and her family. Another tearful moment.  Then we went back to the garden project and what a sight it was!  The last time I was there was on Monday, and it looked so different. A walkway had been added, more fruit trees, a trench dug, and the privacy fence started. It was just beautiful!

I feel like I walked away with many new lifelong friends and helped to rebuild a community. I think that In Good Company gave back hope to many families by just being there; showing people that there are others out there willing to get dirty, and help others. My week in New Orleans showed me how much I have, and how important family is to me. If there is ever a chance to help again, I hope that more people will get involved and experience this opportunity!

- Lynn Woodrum

Bayou Rebirth

Let me start by saying I am very afraid of water.

Today, we joined a wetlands restoration organization — Bayou Rebirth — and were able to go canoeing in a swamp to view the different types of marsh, trees, and wildlife (birds). So, MacKenzie and I pulled on our boots and were a canoe team. She had done it before … for myself, refer back to the first sentence of this blog post. Thank goodness for MacKenzie for getting me out of there alive!

The canoe ride lasted about 2 hours, and then we all loaded up to go plant some marsh and other brush for the water to build up and restore some of the habitats. We actually saw an alligator today, but it was far away — don’t worry! We also went to the spillway to view the levee, large ships, and barges. It was another wonderful day … but just so everyone knows I will probably not do the canoeing thing again.

- Lynn Woodrum

Congratulations to Timberland Earthkeeper Lynn for making it safely back to dry land … and our thanks to her for continuing to share updates from her week-long service sabbatical in New Orleans .

Moving Pictures

Thanks to Timberland Earthkeepers Lynn and MacKenzie for the following update from their week-long service sabbatical in New Orleans :

Today was a fantastic day! The day started @ 7 am with breakfast, then everyone loaded into 5 vans and off for a day of working. We have 2 projects for the week, The garden project, and the house project. I went to the garden project today, where we shoveled and sifted dirt to be used for fruit trees and vegetables and removed weeds and debris to make way for a privacy fence still to be built.

Everyone’s help is needed at the house project, trying to get it ready for the family to move into it this week. The house needs a lot of TLC – painting, caulking, adding new trim, and the list goes on! I went over and helped with the caulking on the outside of the house, and hopefully if the rain goes away we’ll be able to do some outside painting tomorrow.

My new found friends make each project so much fun!

This is very short and sweet, as supper is ready – pasta night – and I can’t wait to lay down!

- Lynn Woodrum

Notes From New Orleans

We’re pleased to offer these first updates from Timberland’s own Lynn Woodrum, one of two employees spending the week in New Orleans to help rebuild a community in need:

Saturday, November 7

Lots of thoughts went through my head as I sat in airports today. What will the other people be like?  Will we all get along? What is New Orleans going to be like?

Well, I am able to answer the first question for now. Everyone has arrived and all are great! Every person is willing to jump in and help with anything, from cooking to decorating.

We had a wonderful dinner tonight to socialize with everyone.  It consisted of chicken tortillas, rice, and some great caramel ice cream. We all had a great time getting to know one another. Cleanup was fast as everyone was willing to pitch in and help.  Now to try to get some sleep (been up since 2 am) and see what tomorrow brings!

Sunday, November 8

Today was a very adventurous day! It started out with a fabulous breakfast, chore sign ups, a tour, and a wonderful dinner!

We toured the Hollygrove Market with our guide, Pam. The market was created last year by the In Good Company team and has really grown! It grows fruits and vegetables for the local community for $25 a week for 1 box — every family has a chance to receive some of the great food.

As we proceeded on the tour, it was just devastating to still see so many homes that were still boarded up, with dates painted on their front doors showing when someone checked the house for residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina . The hurricane hit on August 28, 2005 — and some of the dates we saw on houses were as far out at September 18! We also learned that many building contractors came in following Hurricane Katrina and attempted to refurbish homes, but didn’t always do the grandest job – and that when homeowners then tried to contact the contractors, they had packed up and left without finishing needed requirements. Apparently a large amount of people were overtaken by these contractors, and are now trying to do the best they can with what they have. Our tour was 4 hours long and it really makes you very thankful for what you have.

We arrived at Cafe Reconcile at 6:00 to have dinner, and the food was so great! This cafe is all about giving back to the community and teaching local students the etiquette of the restaurant atmosphere. All the fruits and vegetables served there are grown within the local community, and all the leftovers (if any) are composted back into the garden. Everyone is very big on the whole recycling process and it is so great!

It has been another great day of fellowship, food, and fun. Tomorrow I will be going to a garden to help build a fence around it, weather permitting …

Gearing Up for Good Company

A year ago, we chronicled the journey of Timberland’s community engagement coordinator Brianne Wood as she joined 25 fellow volunteers from other companies for a week of Earthkeeping and community building in New Orleans .   This year, we’re proud to be packing up two of our Timberland colleagues for the second annual In Good Company experience:

  • Lynn Woodrum works in the human resources department at Timberland’s Danville, Kentucky distribution center.  She is bravely leaving four children, ages 17 to 17 months, in the capable hands of her husband as she sets off for a week of restoration and revitalization in New Orleans.  Lynn’s biggest concerns heading into the service week: “Have I taken care of my responsibilities for next week at home, at work?  Am I taking enough supplies for my trip?  Have I remembered to buy all the needed necessities for home?”  A mom’s work is never done …
  • MacKenzie Mosca is an associate at Timberland’s factory outlet store in Long Island, New York.  An outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for hiking, the beach and her three dogs, MacKenzie is looking forward to personally contributing to post-Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.  In her own words, “People working together … are capable of limitless possibilities.”

Please stay tuned, as we’ll be featuring regular updates from Lynn and MacKenzie throughout their weeklong service experience here on the Earthkeeper blog … interested Earthkeepers can also follow MacKenzie on Twitter (Timberland_MacK).  We wish them both safe travels, and applaud their willingness to take time out from their personal and professional lives to devote hours and effort to creating a positive impact for a community in need.

Climate Change, Common Sense and Copenhagen

Channel 4 News in the UK featured the following clip yesterday focused on the flurry of activity taking place in advance of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference — including fevered lobbyists, costumed activists, public uncertainty and a divided business community.  Timberland’s President and CEO Jeff Swartz is featured — not as a lobbyist or activist, but as a voice calling for "common sense to prevail:"

Will you be watching at the plate glass window to see if COP15 gets the final question right?  Share your thoughts with us here .