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Archive for July, 2007

Ideas Make a Difference. Do You Have One?

Posted by admin | July 30th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Environmental Change, Sustainability

PICNIC O7



I just received word from some friends of ours in The Netherlands about The Green Challenge. The Dutch Postcode Lottery and PICNIC initiated the Challenge. They’re awarding E 500.000 ($684,650 at the time of writing) for the best product or service that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As they say, “It’s time to break free from our traditional approaches to solving the environmental issue. Sweat your creative brain and use all your expertise to find a tangible, real means of introducing a new green movement in our society.” Submissions have to be received by August 30. Three to five finalists will be invited to Amsterdam to present their ideas publicly on September 29th at PICNIC’07, the leading European event for cross-media creativity and innovation.

This Is My Bike: #2 in a Series

Posted by hal | July 25th, 2007 | Filed under Who We Are

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It’s a pieced together cruiser; a hold over from my former life at the beach. It’s not much to look at, but it’s like riding a La-Z-Boy recliner. I put the fender on when I moved to Portland, ’cause it rains here sometimes.

It has become the go-to bike for the design studio. A collective bike for a collective of folks, getting pedal time whenever an errand must be run, or someone just needs to get out and glide around for awhile. Like right now….

Trunkin’ It

Posted by Rick | July 23rd, 2007 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection

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Nothing like trunkin’ it.
Just you, your board, a pair of shorts, the ocean.
After spending a whole year wearing rubber from head to toe,
A slimy, smelly, 20-pound petroleum barrier between you and nature,
There’s nothing like the feeling of wax against your belly,
Spray on your ankles,
The sun on your back,
A gust of wind rushing by
When you drop down the face.

Even the most bone-bending wipeouts feel better
When you can feel them completely.

- Somewhere in Nicaragua, July 19, 2007

Big Coverage for The Little House

Posted by admin | July 18th, 2007 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Positive Change, Who We Are

Our friend Dee Williams is an exceptional person. We first told the story of her “radical” choice to build and live in an 84 square foot house via a video (check it out above). We then put the video on Yahoo, where one of the editors liked Dee’s story enough to put it on Yahoo’s home page (for a mere six hours). Which was all it took for over 483,000 people to view it there.

But good stories have legs. Good stories are sustainable because they strike a deeper chord and carry meaning. So, one thing naturally led to the next. A few weeks ago The Olympian did a story on Dee. That led to a television piece on KOMO-TV Seattle and another on King 5-TV Seattle. Then, Good Morning America called. This morning Dee was interviewed on national TV about her commitment to her “dream house.”

This phenomenon reflects both the nature of media in the digital age, and the ability of authentic stories to challenge traditional paradigms in a provocatively constructive way. Nice work Dee! We all think you are exceptional, and we have huge respect for your integrity!

La Petraia: Where Theory Becomes Action

Posted by admin | July 17th, 2007 | Filed under Positive Change, Sustainability

Copy of IMG_0355[1].JPGIn an earlier post I wrote about Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement who has been an inspiration to many people worldwide. As I reflected on his thinking I thought it would be fun to talk with my friend Susan Grant who has put into practice much of what Petrini advocated at La Petraia, her agriturismo (the meeting ground of agriculture and tourism) located in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Susan is an entrepreneur, accomplished chef, author, wife of my friend Michael, organic farmer and a source of inspiration. What follows is a recent email exchange that I had with her:


Susan, it’s a long way from the life of a software entrepreneur in Toronto to your current life at La Petraia in Tuscany. What inspired that transition?

Copy of Susan in orto 6[3].jpgIt’s not so far away. Same guiding principles: To create a quality product, targeting a small, niche market. Using resources that are sustainable. In the case of Alias those resources were intellectual. With Petraia they are natural. The inspiration is the same: a desire to create something of quality. The life is not that different. We are very busy here, often stressed by the demands of running a property like this. It’s not a lark. We are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of what we have taken on, the responsibilities and the commitment it demands. Those are all familiar feelings. But it is also — like running a software business was — exciting because it feels like we are on the cutting edge.

Your question is one I think Carlo Petrini answered best, a quote of his I included in the Preface to “Piano“:

… Returning to agricultural activity is not a pipedream of nostalgic traditionalists and it doesn’t mean striving to restore a world which has disappeared. On the contrary, it is a very modern thing to do, since it produces wealth in a sustainable way …

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Is It Nature Or Nurture?

Posted by admin | July 13th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection

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Recently, I wrote about my friend and former Outward Bound colleague Paul Landry and his recent expedition to the Point Of Inaccessibility in Antarctica. We then featured a fuller story about Paul’s life as a polar explorer in The Collective section of our website. Paul has journeyed to the South Pole three times, the North Pole four times, traversed the Greenland Ice Cap and circumnavigated Baffin Island by dog team. Paul’s former partner Matty McNair was also a colleague at Outward Bound. She shares Paul’s passion for polar exploration having been to the North Pole twice, the South Pole twice, traversed Ellesmere Island and circumnavigated Baffin Island by dog team.

And then there are their two kids, Eric, 22, and Sarah, 21. In 2003 they participated in the Greenland Kites On Ice Expedition. In 2004 they completed a 2000 km kiting expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back. Shortly thereafter they returned to Greenland to set the world record for the fastest ice Cap crossing at seven days.

A few days ago they completed the Pittarak Expedition, an unsupported south to north crossing of the Greenland ice cap, a 2300 km journey using kites and skis. Their close friend Curtis Jones joined Eric and Sarah on the expedition. I spoke with them just as they completed the trip.

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Summer Reading: The Green Book

Posted by Rick | July 10th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

Green_book.jpgFor Father’s Day this year my wife bought me a little green book filled with very simple steps you can take in your everyday life to help save the planet. It’s a perfect example of how environmentalism can be made more relevant to people like my wife, who get lost reading depressing scientific discourses about global warming, but want to make a difference in the choices they make day-to-day.

Written by Elizabeth Rogers (creator of MTVs Trippin) and Thomas M. Kostigen (writer of the Dow Jones MarketWatch “Ethics Monitor”) the book incorporates just enough Hollywood star power among its myriad eco-tips to grab the attention of readers who prefer E! News to BBC News: Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Aniston, Will Farrell and Martha Stewart are among the names that contribute anecdotes to the list of suggestions, which are broken down into chapters addressing various aspects of living. A quote from the “Travel” section that inspired me on my current trip to Nicaragua:

Water Bottles
Use and refill a single water bottle, thermos or canteen when you travel. The average person in the United States drinks eight ounces of bottled water per day. Considering that plastic is derived from petroleum, it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil annually to satisfy America’s demand for bottled water. If this oil were converted to gasoline, the total could fuel five hundred thousand station wagons to take their families on coast-to-coast road trips.

One Up’d: Free Gas

Posted by Pierce | July 6th, 2007 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Positive Change, Sustainability

Veggie-Oil.gifA long-time friend recently returned from Asia and moved into our house. Prior to his departure he hocked many of his worldly goods, including his car. Upon returning, he needed some wheels and was eager to reduce his oil dependency. Listening to me spray about the new 44 mpg TDi, he was destined to one-up me. After pouring over craigslist he found a veggie oil-converted, 1981 rabbit. Then, having inquired at local restaurants, he found a golf course snack shop that will give him 14 gallons of grease a week as long as he picks it up. So, for as good as I was feeling about running biodiesel and getting 44 mpg, my buddy has up’d the ante and will be driving for free.

July 4th: Two Meanings

Posted by admin | July 5th, 2007 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Who We Are

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A couple years ago I took the leap: I decided to become an American citizen. I came here from Canada 12 years ago, and after weighing in on numerous conversations about the state of America’s political direction, I finally reached the conclusion that if I was going to live here, I wanted to be able to vote. The steps to become a citizen are rather daunting, but I treated it as just another bureaucratic process. That is, until my day came to be sworn in as an American citizen.

On the appointed day, at the appointed hour, I showed up at the local courthouse for the ceremony. I took my seat in the waiting room and quickly realized that of the twenty or so people that were becoming citizens that day, I was the only native English speaker in the group. I was also the only person who came on my own. All of my fellow citizens to be were accompanied by family members and friends who were there to witness the occasion. After being ushered from the waiting room to the official room we took our seats and one by one were asked to stand, say our name and indicate what country we were from. Vietnam, Cuba, Slovenia, Chad, Albania, Nicaragua. The list went on. It was like the United Nations.

Then the video played. It was George Bush himself, in a disembodied virtual form, welcoming us into this fine country. My stomach started to churn. Then, under oath, we had to renounce our relationship with our mother country and agree to bear arms to serve and protect the good old US of A if circumstance demanded it. Now my stomach was really churning. What I had framed as “just another bureaucratic process” was in fact turning into emotional turmoil. What was I doing?

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Encourage Congress to Support Organics

Posted by admin | July 3rd, 2007 | Filed under Sustainability, Who We Are

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Our friends at Culinate have a lot to say and share about what we eat, where it comes from and what it means to make good choices about our food. Below is a post from Kim Carlson, one of their editors, about why you should care about the 2007 Farm Bill. And, really, you should.

It’s easy to take for granted the importance of organic foods, and the ease of access we have to them in the NW. But that’s not the case everywhere, especially not in Washington, D.C.

At the end of July, the House will vote on a new farm bill ” a sweeping piece of legislation that will dictate farm policy for the next five years ” including subsidies. This bill is about far more than farmers. It’s about food, and the way we eat. This year’s farm bill could be the first to include fair funding for organics. The EWG Action Fund, the lobbying arm of the “Environmental Working Group“, has created a simple petition urging Congress to level the playing field for organic farmers and expand access to organic food.

We invite you to join us in signing on to this important petition. Organic produce accounts for a fraction of the fruits and vegetables we eat in this country (2-3 percent); we could do better. Why? The reasons to choose organic are many, but in short, organic food tastes better; organic food has less pesticide residue than conventionally grown food; and organic growing practices replenish the soil, rather than introducing toxins into it. Organic farming is not a magic bullet, but its practices offer a more sustainable solution than the industrial agriculture that predominates in the US.

Time is of the essence. EWG is hoping to get 30,000 signatures by July 15, so they can deliver the petition to the House on Tuesday, July 17. We who’ve signed the petition want to be sure our representatives hear from the thousands of supporters of organics before they vote on the Farm Bill.

Join us! Help give organics a fair shake.

–Kim Carlson

Need more info? This recent article might help answer your questions.