Archive for December, 2010

12 Months and 475,000 Trees Later: There is, in Fact, Hope in Haiti

As we near the end of 2010 we face the plethora of impending “year in review” news stories and there’s no doubt that the January 12 earthquake, the October cholera outbreak and November failed presidential elections in Haiti will be focal points of those reports. As they should be. But my fear is that those reports will be frosted with the negative aspects of the condition of Haiti as a developing country in a world of hurt that is hopeless and full of hopelessness. I pray my fear isn’t realized because there exist many examples of progress and hope and success in helping to build back Haiti and those need to be shared and reported. And, while January 12 is a month away and that date in and of itself will spawn many earthquake anniversary stories, there’s no reason to wait until then to share the story of Yéle Vert, an incredible success story in the making in Gonaives, Haiti.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Yéle Vert project in Gonaives, Haiti. Yéle Vert is collaboration between Timberland, the Yéle Haiti Foundation and Trees for the Future. There are six nurseries that make up Yéle Vert in Gonaives – one central nursery on the outskirts of the city and five smaller nurseries in nearby farming communities. At the central nursery there is a training center that has recently been completed – and in this simple building, farmers gather to discuss the ongoing operation of the Yéle Vert program and receive training to improve their techniques so that they can, in turn, increase crop yields.

Farmers taking part in the Yéle Vert program gather in the newly completed Training Center.

In December 2009, Timberland, Yéle Haiti and Trees for the Future started to break ground on the first of the six nurseries in Gonaives with the goal of having all of the nurseries up and running at full capacity by May 2010. One month after beginning work on the first nursery, the earthquake hit and we were immediately faced with some very difficult decisions. Do we cancel plans to build out Yéle Vert in Gonaives and focus solely on earthquake recovery? Do we move Yéle Vert from Gonaives, an area that wasn’t immediately impacted by the actual quake but an area in need of support nonetheless, to an area closer to Port au Prince in an effort to support a long term recovery effort there? Or, do we carry on as planned with Yéle Vert and also do as much as we can to support earthquake relief and recovery?

Within a week of the quake striking we had made the decision with Yéle Haiti and Trees for the Future to carry on with our work in Gonaives because the work there, we knew, was far too important to walk away from or delay. Also, we figured if we could build a successful model in Gonaives, we could expand Yéle Vert to other areas throughout Haiti. To stay in Gonaives meant we could likely build success and derive key learnings much faster than if we established the program in an area hit hard by the quake.

Haiti’s status as the more environmentally degraded and poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has been widely documented. Less than 2% of the country’s original forests remain due to a long history of unsustainable land-use practices and a continuing dependence on trees for fuel wood and charcoal for cooking and heating.

Just as well documented is the reluctant and cautious nature of the Haitian people to accept help from NGOs and private sector companies. As we started to build the six nurseries, each in a different village, we learned straight away the importance of engaging the local farmers and other citizens in the villages in a dialogue about what is important to them when it comes to planting trees on and around their land.  Thanks to Timote George, a native of Gonaives and the Yéle Vert project manager and country manager for Trees for the Future, the message of Yéle Vert was delivered to the local farming community in a very diplomatic and engaging manner. While skepticism among the locals was evident, they were willing to give Yéle Vert a try by volunteering to help run the local nurseries. In return they would receive agroforestry training, non genetically-modified seeds for their crops, and trees planted on their lands that would help increase crop yield by restoring essential nutrients to the soil and helping to bring back natural habitats for insects, birds and other animals crucial to productive agriculture.

Yéle Vert administration building nearing completion,
with Trees for the Future’s Timote George on the right.

In May 2010, within four months of breaking ground on the first three nurseries, the farmers were planting seedlings from the nurseries in to their land and on adjacent deforested hillsides. In June and July, more than 100,000 trees were planted and the final three nurseries were constructed.

Trees at the Yéle Vert central nursery ready to be transplanted by farmers to their fields.

Looking back is important … but a true retrospect needs to acknowledge the good that’s been achieved, along with all the hardships and challenges Haiti and its people have suffered.  Stay tuned for a follow-up post on the current state of the Yéle Vert project, how our farmers are coping with the widespread cholera outbreak, and what our vision is for this program and partnership in the future.

Coffee Cup Confessions

I have a confession to make.  I became a coffee drinker a few years ago, after my kids were born and I couldn’t string together full sentences after a short night.  Coffee quickly became a necessity in an attempt to reverse the blinding affects of full time work and new parenthood.  Despite the fact that I spend my professional time carefully telling the story of a company committed to environmental stewardship, I couldn’t make a simple transition in my personal life: I was using a paper coffee cup almost every morning.

Now, there are practical reasons, of course.  I needed the coffee on the way in to the building (because I was a harried mess having just dropped off the kids and probably wasn’t early for anything) so couldn’t go to my office for the ceramic cup (a drawer full of them!).  And the Gorge (Timberland’s outdoorsy-named company cafeteria) provided a reusable mug, but it was smaller than the paper cup – and lacked a top.  I did try.  On several occasions I’d announce, “This is the day I’m going green, all the way”!  (Lest you think me a complete slacker, I recycle everything, use organic lawn care, am a member of a CSA, etc.).  But I’d have a shot of coffee left by the time I made it up the stairs to my office, clearly undermining the purpose of getting the caffeine in the first place.  Never mind that I’d use 10 paper napkins to clean up my spills along the way….

I’ve tried the traditional travel mug – the one that always seems to smell like old coffee and has that plastic flip top thing that always drips or drops on my nose.  And, I’m not actually traveling anywhere so I don’t need it to be so …  well … durable and plastic feeling.

I’ve intentionally left this daily paper cup outside of meeting rooms if I knew I’d be in the company of one of our more vocal environmental champions (our CEO banned bottled water here, so picture how he’d react if he saw the paper cup covered with that paper sleeve that keeps your hand from burning; he’s a madman and he probably signs my checks!).  So clearly, I understand I’m making a bad choice … but I keep on doing it anyway.

What is it about human beings that allows us to continue to do something we feel guilty about?  In this case, could it be as simple as I didn’t like the way the other cups looked or felt?  I’m lazy?

It seemed a no-win — until now.  I’m in love.  I was in Walgreen’s looking for holiday decorations when I came across a ceramic cup with a rubber lid.  It looks just like its paper peers!  It’s got some heft to it, is dishwasher safe, and isn’t so big that it looks like one of those Big Gulp things from 7-Eleven or a child’s sippy cup.  It’s possible that I’m arriving late to this game and everyone has already discovered this amazing invention, but I’m not shopping for holiday garland that often, so it’s new to me.  Did I mention that it was less than $10?

Bottom line, I guess, is that most people are doing the best they can – little by little.  We make baby steps every day and I don’t think we should feel guilty for that (but I know I should have gotten to this cup thing much sooner).  We should feel good about the changes we do make, and some of them are darn big.  Imagine if someone reads this and stops using a paper cup every day.  If you’re that person, let me know and I’ll buy you one of these great cups.

More confessions coming soon….

The Timberland/Munster Rugby 3 Peaks Challenge

On August 29th Timberland and Munster Rugby completed the Timberland/Munster Rugby 3 Peaks Challenge in aid of Enable Ireland. The challenge for the 14 Timberland and 12 Munster Rugby representatives was climbing to the summit of the 3 highest peaks in Ireland: Carrantuohill, Galteemore and Knockboy in under 24 hours.

Timberland franchise partner, Tim Deasy gives his account of the challenge:

We met at 1am on Saturday morning at the Munster Rugby offices. There were serious athletes like Shaun Payne and Fergal O’ Callaghan from Munster Rugby and indeed our own Mark Shine and Richard Deasy.

I was in the ‘not very serious’ athlete’s camp. Twenty of us and 6 drivers headed for ‘Galteemore’ – the tallest mountain in Limerick/Tipperary but the easiest of the three we had to climb.

The climb started at 2am with everyone in high spirits wearing our waterproof gear and headlamps etc. It took us 3 hours to get to the top – driving cold rain, force 9 winds and pitch dark. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was. Luckily we had a great guide who kept us away from the cliffs!!

It was so cold, windy and wet at the top so we didn’t hang around and headed straight back down and into our cars. Next we headed for ‘Knockboy’ – the tallest mountain in Cork and the second tallest of the three. There were some shocked faces realising now that this was not going to be easy.

Luckily ‘Knockboy’ was easy and we got up and down in 2 hours. Then it was time for the biggest challenge- ‘Carrantowhill’, Ireland’s tallest mountain. I was very tired and felt like if couldn’t complete ‘Carrantowhill’ then at least I would have tried.

We got to the bottom of the ‘devils ladder’ on ‘Carrantowhill’ and the rain started to come down freezing cold sheets. At this stage my vertigo was beginning to kick in and I was getting a little freaked out.  Ultan O’ Callaghan was sharing my pain. The serious athletes had now pulled ahead and were almost running up the mountain – Shaun Payne, Mark Shine, Brian Cheasty, Richard Deasy, Glyn Billinghurst – followed closely by Emer Melody, Claire Cook etc.

At this stage I decided I was turning back but one of the guides insisted that I had to continue up the mountain. I got to the top of the devils ladder and then after another hour with my lungs burning I made it to the top of the mountain. The top of ‘Carrantowhill’ was covered in fog. It cleared for a couple of seconds and the view was frightening – sheer cliffs on nearly every side.

I didn’t stay at the top for long and headed down. I needed the assistance of John (the guide) on the way down the devils ladder as my nerves were a bit frayed from the vertigo. After 6 hours of starting the climb I got to the bottom of the mountain. I managed to cover the three mountains in 18hours and it was my most satisfying physical achievement ever!

Shaun Payne did the climb in something like 2 hours 30 minutes with Mark and Brian not far behind – incredible going for people who had never climbed a mountain before.

We are looking forward to next year!

Through the 3 Peaks Challenge, Timberland raised €17,400 to benefit  Enable Ireland — an organization that provides free services to children and adults with disabilities and their families from 40 locations in 14 counties.

We’re Going to Sundance … Who Wants In?

Timberland is excited to be heading back to Park City, UT next month as the Official Footwear and Outerwear Sponsor of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival for the 3rd straight year.  We love Park City, we love the festival … and we want to share the love with one lucky winner!

Want to get in on the action?

Submit a photo of your Timberland boots in the outdoors through the Timberland Facebook page (photos should be JPG, 3MB or less).  Include a short story or description — the more thoughtful and creative, the better your chance to win.

Tell all your friends to vote, vote, vote!  We’ve got a leaderboard on the page so you can see which pics are leading the pack.

Photo entries must be received by 11:59pm ET on Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  The winner will be selected by super-official Timberland judges and announced in late December.  And as a special incentive, we will give a pair of Timberland® Earthkeepers™ boots to the top 10 vote recipients on the contest leaderboard at the end of the contest.

What’s up for grabs?

The winner will receive round trip airfare for two (2); a 5-night stay at the Park City Marriott (one room, double occupancy) Jan. 21-Jan. 26, 2011; 2 pairs of Timberland® Earthkeepers™ boots and $400 in Gift Cards for Timberland® gear; $1,000 in spending money; a Flip camera to capture all the excitement; tickets for 8 film screenings at the festival; and 2 lift tickets to Park City Mountain Resort.

Send in your pic and pack your bags!  More info and all the fine print on the Sundance Sweeps can be found here on our Facebook page.  And stay tuned for photos, videos, news and occasional gossip from the Timberland Sundance team here on the Bootmakers Blog.