Archive for February, 2011

The Green Scene at Sundance

During the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, I cruised around Park City — easily one of the coolest, most star-studded ski towns I’ve ever been to. Where else can I almost brush shoulders America Ferrera? (I say almost because I didn’t know it was her until a colleague told me so. I guess a future as a member of the paparazzi is out of the question).

When I wasn’t on celebrity alert and scrutinizing every sunglass-wearing person I passed on the street, I couldn’t help but notice all of the festival’s eco-undertones. Around every corner were subtle and easy ways to lighten your festival footprint. I present to you a little Sundance green scene show-and-tell:

What does Sundance do with last year’s festival banners? Repurpose them into script bags, of course! Fellow Bootmakers Blogger Adriana is modeling one (right). I even saw someone purchasing a bag with an old Timberland banner as one of the panels.

Giveaways at Sundance are great, but eco-conscious ones are even better! The Timberland team happily handed out 85% recycled cotton totes.

Timberland recycling bins were on the scene around Park City reminding nature’s heroes to help protect the outdoors.

As an employee of the brand that banned the bottle, I was thrilled to see that Brita was encouraging Sundance goers to do the same. Getting your hands on one of their reusable water bottles was as easy as making a pledge to reduce bottled water waste. Sign me up!

Is Park City serious about recycling? I think the answer is as clear as a bluebird powder day:

And if you were thirsty and hadn’t made it to the Brita tent yet to pick up a free reusable water bottle, drinking from these 100% compostable cups made from corn was the next best thing!

“Not a Lot of Bang, But a Lot of Buzz”

Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz was in Washington last week as part of the GreenBiz State of Green Business Forum.  In an interview with journalist Marc Gunther, Jeff shared his thoughts about the challenge of engaging on environmental issues with consumers who simply want to buy a pair of good-looking shoes!

“Nobody’s coming in saying, ‘Could I please save the planet?’ … I think people come in saying, ‘I need a shoe.’”

City Year Service, London Style

Adele, a manager at Timberland’s International Design Center in London, shares the following story about a day of service with City Year London:

What an excellent day at the Peel Institute!

On Wednesday 9th February, City Year joined forces with volunteers from Timberland, Burberry and Wilton and Bain to transform the gardens of the Institute, a community centre which serves the diverse communities of Islington providing opportunities and facilities for education, recreation and the advancement of social, economic and mental wellbeing.

We were welcomed by young leaders, in their bright red, easily distinguished gear ( supplied by TBL), who have worked for City Year from September 2010 so far.  What an inspiration it is, to see young confident people leading and being fully engaged in community service!

City Year service days are a unique opportunity to transform a community site while working with other dedicated volunteers in an enjoyable atmosphere. The ARAMARK civic engagement team are young devoted and energetic corps members whose focus is on staging these events, organising and preparing all projects so volunteers can simply step in and make a difference.

City Year strives to make their service projects inspirational, transformational and sustainable. As such, they work closely with the local community to find what areas need physical change and how to use volunteer muscle to make that a reality.

As a result of recent government cuts, non-essential maintenance of the Peel Institute has had to be stopped, and as a result the gardens had become overgrown and uninviting to the community.  During our day of service, we worked on improving the garden and outdoor space, and prepared an area to be used as a playground in the future.  City Year hopes to continue working with Peel, engaging volunteers to utilise and maintain the general upkeep of the outside space.

Timberland volunteers all enjoyed the experience, and we look forward to working with City Year again!

The Ultimate Roadtrip

We receive a lot of emails and letters from our customers, either thanking us or berating us for the quality and performance of our products.  Several weeks back, we received this one:

Hi there,

Just wanted to send a quick note to thank you for the good quality of the shoes you are selling. I am almost finished with my 15-month around the world trip, have been camping almost every day, from the mountain tops in Peru to the Ethiopian desert, through Africa, the Americas, Asia and the middle east, and the shoes are still holding up great.

Thanks.
Nick

“Around the world” was a little different … as was the web address included at the bottom of the email – so we checked it out and discovered Nicholas Rapp, a former Associated Press art director who just traveled around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser (and, apparently, Timberland shoes).

His website is worth a read, as is this very recent article he wrote, summarizing his journey.  A few notable callouts:

“Having driven 37,000 miles on four continents, I can also say that in my experience, the worst drivers’ trophy should be awarded to Bangladesh, where rules of the road are nonexistent and cars bump each other like it’s a carnival game.”

“I was also struck by how high-tech Seoul is … what a contrast with other places I had been through. It occurred to me that while half the planet’s population lives in a virtual reality, the other half can’t get enough to eat.”

And at the end of his journey:

“Finally I got through customs in Los Angeles, flashed my colorful passport to the officers and expected to see friends who’d promised to meet me — but no one was there.  After asking someone what day it was, I realized my mistake. It was Saturday. I’d told them I was arriving Sunday. I’d forgotten I would cross the international dateline somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and go back in time a day.”

Our thanks to Nick for taking Timberland with him on his adventure … and our best wishes as he starts the next one (job hunting!).

Heritage Meets High Fashion in a Bright Blue Bomber

Last fall, Timberland joined forces with London-based menswear designer Martine Rose and Wallpaper* magazine to create an exclusive partnership celebrating design, innovation and Timberland’s heritage.

Hear for yourself about Martine’s work, her design inspirations, and how she’s helped to reinterpret Timberland’s DNA in the form of a limited edition bomber jacket(We think it’s brilliant!)

Still Living the Corporate Dream: A First-Timer’s Take on OR

What do you get when you put a ton of high-tech outdoor gear, dogs, beer, fashion shows, bicycle-powered blenders and outdoor-loving people from all over together? Some call it Outdoor Retailer, I call it utopia.

So I got my wish. After going on my first business trip to New York, I got the opportunity to go out West when the timing of my Utah ski vacation collided with the Sundance Film Festival. Since I’ve never been, I made a point to stop by Outdoor Retailer before heading to the Timberland Retreat in Park City.

While on vacation, I was able to ski the challenging, powdery terrain that Utah has to offer.  Wearing my Mount Holly Earthkeepers on the way to Snowbird – wouldn’t head to the mountain without them!

I had heard about the size of the OR show and the beauty of Utah’s snow-covered mountains, but seeing both for the first time blew me away. Three things shocked me from the moment I stepped off the plane:

1. The Mountains: My jaw hit the cab floor when I laid my eyes on the most amazing, majestic looking mountains I’d ever seen surrounding Salt Lake City. The taxi driver must have thought I was crazy as I babbled on about how beautiful they were and how fantastic the skiing must be while practically bouncing out of my seat with excitement.  What he didn’t know was that I was a first-time visitor from New Hampshire who arrived in Utah with visions of the Green and White Mountain ranges as a reference point.

View of the mountains from Salt Lake City

2. The Booths at the OR Show: While feeling like a kid in a candy store (brand new ski tech around every corner), I couldn’t get over the number of brands present and the sheer size of the booths. Some booths, including Timberland’s, had enormous columns and panels climbing to the convention center ceiling.

3. The Business of the Outdoor Industry: OR was very different from the consumer shows and expos I’ve been to where vendors show and sell their products directly to consumers. At OR, there were private meeting rooms in most of the booths where buyers and merchandisers from outdoor stores were reviewing the new products and placing orders for the fall 2011 season. There were also a lot editors from media outlets checking out the new products and trends for next fall.

While walking around the convention center, one of the coolest things I noticed was the abundance of recycled and eco-conscious elements on the show floor. The Timberland booth featured bike-powered blenders to make smoothies. One brand showcased their footwear on reused cardboard cylinders and another vendor constructed their entire booth from cardboard tubes and other packing waste left over from the initial setup day.  In addition to displaying their sweet new gear, some brands even had signage about environmental causes to which they donate a percentage of their profits. It was clear (and relieving) to see that like Timberland, lots of outdoor companies are into protecting the outdoors. How eco-awesome is that?

Overall, post-Utah I can still say that I’m living the corporate dream. And with partial thanks to my first OR experience, it’s official – I work in most exciting industry on the planet!

Oh, and the skiing wasn’t so bad either…

View from the chairlift of one of the first runs I took at Snowbird. It was just as epic as it looks.

I Will Save the Forests – Just As Soon As I Update My Facebook Status

If you haven’t seen the headlines (or are focused more on Grammy-gossip than environmental news), the UN has declared 2011 the “International Year of Forests.”

I think it’s about time for this acknowledgement, actually, because trees get a bad rap.  It’s 2011 and a lot of people still associate “tree” with the word “hugger” and have visions of 70’s era hippies chaining themselves to redwoods in protest.  In fact, trees truly are a fundamental element of the ecosystem – for a lot of people in a lot of corners of the globe, they provide shelter, fuel and food, help to slow down and contain runoff from heavy rains and prevent mudslides, and bear the brunt of hurricane-force winds to protect villages from being blown off the map.  That’s not hippie tree-hugging stuff, that’s trees being critical to survival, for a pretty significant population of our world.

So great, then, that the UN has deemed this the Year of Forests – but what am I, or any other individual on the planet, supposed to do with that information?  The declaration isn’t enough – that alone isn’t going to save any trees or solve the problem.  If what we want is for people to think the cause is important enough to take action, how can we make that happen?

With all due respect, I think posting a lot of reforestation facts on a website and expecting people to go there and learn and get so fired up that they go out and plant a lot of trees probably isn’t realistic.  What we need isn’t pie-in-the-sky, save the world messaging with no ideas about how to execute – we need real action that’s easy and that everyone can be invited to take part in.

There are two ways to get people engaged in a cause: you either have to make it so overwhelmingly compelling and emotional and meaningful that people simply can’t help but get involved, or you have to integrate it into what people are already doing in their everyday lives.

The latter is a more promising strategy, because you never know exactly what will resonate or be relevant to any portion of the population … there’s something about the hippie treehugger mentality, for example, that most of the world fails to connect with.  Similarly, the idea of a group of international elitists sitting around talking about why trees are so important might compel some to get engaged, but probably isn’t all that appetizing for most.  To move on the issue of deforestation, even marginally, we’ve got to translate the cause into something that’s easy for busy consumers to act on.

Case in point: I have a debit card.  I buy stuff with it.  It has a built-in contribution to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  When I buy something using the card, apparently I also make a donation to Make-A-Wish.  Would I otherwise support Make-A-Wish?  Maybe not – not because I don’t like the organization or what it’s doing, because I think it’s super … but because I’m just too busy to think about doing it.  I can’t remember to charge my Blackberry or take out the garbage or buy my wife a Valentine’s Day card (actually, I did remember that one) – never mind remember to support an organization I think is important.  My debit card makes it ridiculously easy for me to do that — and in turn, makes me hate my bank just a little bit less.

And in this day of digital communication and connection, it shouldn’t be that hard to find opportunities for easy engagement.  Think about all the different kinds of groups that get molded together online – you go to a website, you type in your password, you’re connected to a whole network of people from around the globe who share your affinity for running, or photography or Kim Kardashian.  It’s that easy.  And when you combine easy with fun, people want to be a part of it.

We’re applying that formula – easy + fun = engaged consumers — to support Timberland’s reforestation efforts.  Working with a local NGO, we created Yele Vert – a program promoting sustainable agriculture and reforestation in Haiti.  Over the last 18 months, Yele Vert has established six community-based tree nurseries, operated by local farmers, and resulted in the planting of nearly 300,000 saplings from those nurseries in the local region.  It’s a good effort, and it makes good sense to us – Timberland is an outdoors company, and so our commitment to preserving the outdoors is a form of enlightened self-interest; no trees means no business, so we care about trees a lot.

What the program lacked was a consumer engagement element – how we could connect people in a fun, easy, meaningful way with a tree-planting initiative they couldn’t touch or see.  So we created the Timberland “Virtual Forest” on Facebook.  We’re using a platform many consumers are using already, created a program where they can build their own virtual forest – name it, plant it, watch it grow — and for every increment of virtual trees planted, we plant more trees in Haiti.  Our Facebook application isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it’s a start – we’re connecting our consumers to an issue they care about on their terms.

Declaring 2011 the Year of Forests is a good start, and we’re going to support it however we can … but in the end, actions are much more meaningful than declarations. If we could put more emphasis on creating consumer-relevant engagement programs that are easy to execute and appealing to the masses, we could really make some progress.

Dreaming of Spring

If you’ve just about had it with the cold and the snow and the ice … and did I mention the cold? … sit back and enjoy this video featuring Timberland Trend & Color Designer Layla sharing what’s new and decidedly Not Winter in color and style.

Between the refreshing colors and the strappy sandals, it’s almost like taking a mid-winter trip to the tropics.  Almost.

Cost Confusion

From our email archives, another frequently asked question about the cost of our products:

Dear Timberland,

How come your prices in (name a region of the world) are more expensive than they are in (name another region of the world)?  Why can’t I buy the same Timberland product for the same price anywhere?

Signed,
Price Conscious Customer

Fair question.  Here’s what we learned:

As a company that operates around the world, we have to respond to a wide range of external and internal factors that do create complexities in pricing our products.  In some countries, items such as VAT, transport costs and duty have to be factored in to our retail prices – all of which can contribute to a higher price in one location and a lower price in another.  Exchange rates also contribute to price variations from country to country.  Market demand is also a key factor in determining cost.  In addition, retailers are completely free to set their own prices to the consumer.

Taking all of these factors into account, it’s not uncommon to find that companies (like Timberland) offer products for different prices in different countries.

So a pair of Earthkeeper boots in New York might be more or less expensive than the same pair of boots in, say, Paris … which got us wondering:  What’s the biggest price difference you’ve seen on any given product from one region to another?

Boots on the Ground in NYC

Some might call this winter’s weather memorable … others might consider it challenging.  But imagine how difficult you might find cold, wet, snowy weather if you had no way to adequately protect yourself from it.

Timberland recently donated 200 pairs of boots to the Streetwork Project, a program committed to helping homeless youth in New York City.  In addition to offering its clients hot meals, emergency housing and clothing, the Streetwork Project also supports equally critical, longer-term needs with services like free legal and medical care, GED preparation and individual counseling.

Compared to all that Streetwork offers, a couple hundred pairs of boots didn’t feel like much … but in return for our donation, we received the following letter:

I wanted to let you know that in all this bad weather what a true gift the boots you donated have been. This couldn’t have been more timely as this has been one of the worst winters on record, and the homeless youth population we help is the largest we have experienced.

The boots really made a difference and especially came in handy on the day of the big snowstorm at the end of December.  We were open that Monday and had over 40 youth who visited the drop-in to get some respite from the storm’s aftermath.  Several young people arrived with their feet soaking wet because they did not have appropriate footwear for the weather. They were able to leave our program knowing that at the very least their feet would be dry and warm, thanks to Timberland.   One young man in particular was wearing boots whose soles were completely worn out but was very shy about asking for help.  One of our staff noticed the condition of his boots and offered him a pair of Timberland boots.  The young man was very grateful for the boots and ecstatic that all of you at Timberland cared enough to do this for him.

Another young woman came in that day with some thin canvas sneakers completely soaked through.  She is a young woman who was trafficked to the U.S. from another country and has not faced weather like this before.  We were able to provide her with a pair of Timberland boots and she too was very grateful and amazed that there are people who care and want to help.

Without these boots, the almost 200 youth you have helped would be exposed to the elements and facing serious health issues.  This has helped spread the word that not only does Timberland care, but that you believe in our program.  Thank you so very much from all of our staff at Streetwork and from the youth you have helped through this difficult winter.

We’re grateful to the staff at Streetwork for their dedication to helping homeless youth in New York … and honored to be able to support them and their clients.

To learn more or make a donation to Streetwork, please visit their website.