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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

It Starts With a Question

Posted by admin | January 8th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

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I’ve often thought that being able to formulate the right question is the first step towards taking concrete action.

22 Responses to “It Starts With a Question”

  • January 8, 2007 at 2:56 pm | Joe Payne says

    I really hope you guys succeed in this beyond your wildest dreams.

    The biggest problem I know of is the corporate worlds attitude of only having a responsibility to their shareholders. Thank you for looking further.

    OK, I have to reduce my footprint too.


  • January 8, 2007 at 8:15 pm | Ian says


    Thanks a ton for your words of support and encouragement. All of us really appreciate hearing from you. We’re trying to be as intentional as we can with our decisions. In that regard I’ve viewed our entire venture as an exercise in design. By that I mean we’ve had the rare opportunity to design the entire company from scratch, and we’ve engaged in our design exercise with the idea that we do indeed have a broader responsibility then simply the rabid pursuit of profit. Having said that, its still our intention to be profitable because without that we won’t really prove anything. What also interests me about your comment is the personal dimension. Work is one thing but I try, as much as possible, to align my personal values and decisions with my work related decisions.

  • January 9, 2007 at 9:03 pm | John says

    Despite all of the posturing on this blog about your brand, –marketing is marketing. Even via the purist intentions, sales are sales, regardless if you are selling weapons grade plutonium or 100% recycled polyester groovy yoga shorts–dollars are dollars and the dollars you guys make, whatever your facade, still perpetuate our consumer-driven world economy. Your lights burn energy and your cars burn gas. Don’t let your own marketing messages fool you into believing you live lives more examined.

  • January 9, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Ian says


    I don’t think that I’m living a more examined life. I’m just trying to live a considered life. But hey, that’s just me trying to live my life. As far as sales are concerned, I think there’s a demonstrable difference between selling weapons grade plutonium and 100% recycled polyester groovy yoga shorts. Is there no morality in what you choose to sell? Would it be cool to sell young girls into a life of prostitution? Or how about selling crack cocaine to feed an insatiable addiction? I mean after all, sales are sales regardless of what you’re selling.

  • January 10, 2007 at 8:59 pm | Owen says

    If I have a choice between supporting a company that exists with a conscience and a company with no disregard for it’s actions, I will choose the one with the conscience. And it seems that you guys aren’t just marketing… You’re for real.

    I look forward to seeing how you guys do and hope to see some products on shelves soon.

  • January 13, 2007 at 10:52 am | Rick says

    I’d be interested to know what John does to earn his daily bread, because, unless he lives in a completely self-sustaining manner – presumably on land handed down from (?) generations, growing his organic food and weaving his own cloth, etc., he’s part of the chain of consumption on this good earth. Since he’s blogging, I assume there’s a computer in his life – rather than spontaneous internet mind-melding.
    By the way, John, I hold your questions as some of my own, yet we can’t be above what and who we are, especially on this continent. (N.A.) I happen to be an artist/woodworker – I don’t know what I’d do if no-one bought my work….

    Well, Nau – the general concept is a sound one for the times, and sorely needed as an exemplar of values over share dividends – so let’s see you really inhabit the philosophy when and if success makes for “interesting times”. Don’t forget the people while you help the company and planet.
    Personally, I wish you luck and lots of discovery through the process of becoming whatever you’ll wind up being, collectively.

  • January 16, 2007 at 9:34 am | Ian says


    I like the idea of “holding john’s qusetions as some of your own.” That’s an enlightened pov. Thanks too for your heartfelt support!

  • January 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm | John says

    A considered life?
    Consider that there is morality to what you sell, but NAU is just like any one else trying to make money and part of the way they make money is marketing themselves (including this blog) as apart from many things, that, when boiled down, they are not. I condone the cause, I’m just saying don’t get so caught up in your marketing messages that you begin believeing them.

  • January 23, 2007 at 8:45 pm | David says


    Heartening in its way: turning our sooty carbon footprints into art.

  • January 29, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Emmett says

    First of all, let me applaud you at NAU for striving to be a more earth- and worker-friendly business. I think that you may embody the idea that it is more important to understand the question than to have the answer. Without understanding the question (How can we provide a product/service that supports us and our beliefs while increasing shareholder value and minimizing negative consequences to stakeholders–community, employees, environment?), the answer is irrelevent. And often the answer is contained in the question, if you dig deeply enough. The last part of this question is as important as the first part–in this case, it helps shape the business plan as well as the marketing strategy. Keep up the good work–I look forward to seeing your products real-world. Drop me a line if you will be visiting Bend again anytime soon. Love to meet people who walk the walk–or the slackline!

  • January 29, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Emmett says

    Oh and John~
    Your POV may need examination and consideration–yes NAU is participating in a consumer-driven economy, and therefore perpetuating it. Tell me what other economy there is where a small group of dedicated individuals can make a difference on a large scale–creating sustainable jobs and products while utilizing a business model to affect change in the very economy it is participating in. The more companies out there who mate words to action in this realm, the more chance for individual consumers to contribute to that change. When I buy a product from a company like NAU or No Sweat Apparel, I feel that I am supporting my values, rather than buying products from The Gap or Nike–who may market a form of sustainability, but not live up to the hype. As long as they maintain their sense of purpose and continue with their sustainability efforts and outside reporting of those efforts and challenges, consumers can make an educated choice.
    As for your comment “don’t get so caught up in your marketing messages that you begin believeing them.” That is a very cynical thought–I think they have to believe it for their marketing concept to work. Perhaps not every person on the board believes every aspect of it, but there has to be a basis in reality, or the product will fail for lack of sincerity. It is one thing for a company to adopt a marketing ideal and another for a company to be founded on a principle. I say give them a chance to prove themselves as a company and evaluate them on the merits of their actions. Perhaps they will fail due to a lack of sincerity, but I suspect not. What I have seen so far does not reek of opportunism or greed, but of service. Only time will tell, though.

  • February 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm | fred says

    This is a post in regards to the recent article about Nau in Outside magazine. I fully support the goals and objectives regarding sustainibility and giving back, it is admirable. What has me wondering, and I know this has been thought through by the leadership team, is the idea of shipping garments free and online shopping. Having worked in this part of the shipping industry for 20 years I can say unequivically that the amount of fossil fuel burned is astounding, mostly diesel, with little regard for the environment as performed by the “big 3″ in this delivery end of the industry. Don’t be hoodwinked by the occasional use of “semi-green” vehicles,it is not the case and will not be for years to come. Their trucks belch black smoke, period. Is it not wasteful and redundant for 30 percent of your consumers to visit a store then turnaround and shop online? Just a thought, keep up the good work.

  • February 2, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Eric Brody says

    Fred. You make a good point. We don’t claim to be perfect at Nau, but we’re trying to find ways to decrease our impact. We are committed to supporting and helping expand the options for energy efficient and environmentally friendly shipping and transportation options, not just for our use but for everyone.

    Offering customers the option to ship their purchase to their home directly and encouraging them to utilize free ground shipping from our centralized distribution center alleviates the need for shipping mass amounts of product and storing extensive back stock in our Webfront retail stores. This enables us to have smaller retail stores and rely on warehouses. The Center for Energy & Climate Solutions has concluded that warehouses are much more efficient than retail stores – they store more product per square foot, and use as little as 1/16th of the energy to operate. Furthermore, with our model, at season’s end, less stock will be shipped back to our distribution center reducing fossil fuel consumption, solid waste from packaging and emissions required to move that product around. Also, online sales have very high return rates. Giving customers the opportunity to try on the clothing will decrease the number of return shipments because our customers will be able to see, touch and try on the product before they order it.

    The same study also concluded that shipping products by overnight air, which is the most energy-intensive delivery method, uses 40 percent less fuel than driving roundtrip to the store. Deliveries by truck saves 90 percent. That being said, we are encouraging customers to combine orders and avoid expediting their order unless they really need to, since truck deliveries are much more fuel efficient than overnight air.

    We hope customers will also pitch in to reduce their impact by combining trips and visiting our store when they are already in the area, will bike or take public transportation to our stores (customers will not have to carry big bags home with them since they can have it shipped home), or once they are familiar with our product they can feel comfortable ordering on-line without visiting our store.

  • February 13, 2007 at 6:45 pm | Allan says

    I’m very excited about your products.

  • February 13, 2007 at 7:29 pm | chris says

    Are you guys going to donate 1 percent for the planet? It seems like a it is a good cause, and does help environmental organizations worldwide.

  • February 13, 2007 at 8:17 pm | baz says

    If it all begins with formulating the right question, I think it all ends with a question, too. :-) It’s the middle that’s most interesting. Catch the wind. Much success.

  • February 13, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Ian says


    We’re not going to donate 1% for the planet. We’re going to donate 5%. Through our Partners For Change program we’ll donate 5% of every sale to a select group of non-profits. Customers will get choose from a pre-selected list which organization they’d like to direct the donation to. What I find particularly interesting about this particapatory model is the merging of consumerism with civic engagement.

  • February 13, 2007 at 10:43 pm | chris says

    Ian wow that’s great I feel that is a powerful message to consumers to give back. And by people supporting nau it facilitates and encourages the donations. I’m very impressed by this partnership. Do you have a particular focus to help promote other green companies? You guys should be at the next green festival. I can’t wait to check nau out more in the future.

  • February 14, 2007 at 8:10 am | boda says

    if formulating the right question is what alternative is there to a consumer economy as some mention then how are the needs met for those that have nothing — I am not convinced that any society supports all of its members. It may be that economy and social action behave much like biological systems — that is survival of the individual and then survival of the species by competition of the fittest.

  • February 14, 2007 at 10:57 am | Allan W says

    Society often judges us based upon what they know of us, what we give them to see, how much we let them in and to what extent we decide to sensor our own life an style, I suppose some of that is self preservation, some preference of privacy and some leverage; eitherway it defines us to our surroundings. Going beyond that, offering more than the norm puts us in a decidable vulnerable position, and it’s in this position that our integrity comes to show. One could find this in many areas of personal life be it family or fun activities and even within our own religous preferences; but rarley is it a credential in business and part of ones business acumen and practices. That requires a decision and a commitment and by results puts your philosophy on your sleeve for all to evaluate; but it’s where we sould be in mission and service. Back office should stay back office but the fuel we select to run our system, our core values, operating structures and beliefs should be more than available they should be front and center.

    For nau….well done

  • February 14, 2007 at 11:02 am | rick williams says

    could it be the wherewithal to stop and act upon our responsibilities within the framework of humanity, the senistivities of others and respect for our host planet. our lives are led by the seasons which also influence our behavior as well as our instinct which interchange as as leaves on a common tree branch. we rise in the mornings and sway calmly in the winds of change all the while sharing life, love and passion. a great place to be, our earth is for giving to others our passion is to make it better for them

  • June 18, 2007 at 4:05 am | vanilla bean says

    vanilla bean…

    shit-happens 2757379 Value source for vanilla bean….

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