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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for January, 2009

A Sustainable Ski?

Posted by admin | January 30th, 2009 | Filed under Uncategorized

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While trolling around the Outdoor Retailer Show last week I stumbled across a little booth that housed the Swiss based ski company Movement . I’d heard about them before, including some of the accolades they’ve received, like Outside Magazines recent Gear Of The Year Award for backcountry skis. When I stopped to talk to them they reminded me of Nau in the sense that they, like us, have thought about the intersection of beauty, performance and sustainability from a product design perspective. That’s what intrigues me about Movement. I’ll leave the “beauty” ingredient out of this conversation as you may or may not like their graphics, but they definitely seem to be pursuing the intersection of performance and sustainability as it relates to the design and production of skis.

They say their skis are for “passionate connoisseurs.” For Movement, the construction of the ski is paramount and they insist on the highest level of construction using proprietary wood cores. They’ve definitely chosen a non-conventional manufacturing path. Unlike most ski companies, they own their own factory in Tunisia. This gives them total control over the production process. Their “Ecologic System” results in 50% less glues being used to join the different wood core parts or the power rail. They also use white glues based on water without chemical dissolvers. On top of that, the wood they use originates from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified forests.

Movement skis may cost more then major brands, but they seem to be committed to quality, durability and internalizing some of the environmental costs that are typically externalized when it comes to the cost of products we buy. I also liked the fact that when they told me the story, they prefaced it by saying their skis are not sustainable. That’s truth in advertising.

So, What’s A Gort Cloud?

Posted by admin | January 27th, 2009 | Filed under Uncategorized

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According to Richard Seireeni , a Gort Cloud is a tangible green network with a mission and a collective membership comprised of like minded people. Its not a single community or a movement. It defies easy description so it needed its own name. Hence, the Gort Cloud. His inspiration came from Oort Cloud, named after the astronomer John Hendrik Oort , who guessed at its existence. The Oort Cloud is a vast field or stellar debris that orbits the solar system. Given it’s distance from earth we can’t see it but we can detect it electronically and view its effects. It’s mass is huge, greater then the mass of the earth but its invisible to us. He suggests this describes the Gort Cloud, a vast green network made up of untidy bits that is mostly detected through electronic means (think the internet and social media) and that has a huge effect on the evolution of green business.

The Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Green Brands is the title of Richard’s new book. Richard and his writing partner Scott Fields have chronicled the marketing and brand building efforts of what they consider to be the nations leading ecopreneurs. Together they plot the intersection and emerging potential of two contemporary forces – the green movement and social media. They argue that sustainable companies benefit from a community built on truth, transparency and the free exchange of information.

The book includes compelling stories and insights garnered from some of the iconic green brands including Ben and Jerry’s, Interface, Seventh Generation, Tesla Motors and Stonyfield Farms. It also includes a chapter titled Creating Green Street dedicated to Portland based entities including Ecotrust (one of our Partners For Change organizations), Portfolio 21 Investments and Shorebank Pacific. We had the pleasure of meeting Richard and Scott last year when the book was in the early birthing stages, We’re particularly honored, and humbled, that they’ve chosen to include Nau in Chapter 3 of the book. Its titled Unfuckers United: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Nau Clothing.

Of course, you can pre-order a signed copy of the book via one of Portland’s landmark institutions Powell’s Books . And, if you happen to be in Portland on February 26 please join us to hear Richard speak. The talk will take place at 7.30 pm at Powell’s.

The New Value Equation

Posted by hal | January 22nd, 2009 | Filed under Uncategorized

image001.jpgLike most retailers, we find ourselves in the business of seeing our business through the lean months after the first of the year. Scrambling to make sales, and trying to convince people to buy our stuff after the feeding frenzy of the Holiday season has abated.
It’s particularly true this year, when it seems that with the wheels coming off the economy and everyone holding their collective breath, we retailers find ourselves trying just about anything to capture reluctant customers, who are caught in the headlights of an oncoming recession, and unwilling to spend.

Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and take a look at this from a different perspective. A little consideration when it comes to consuming, and profiting from that consumption is maybe just what we need right now.
About 8 months ago, Nau was living beyond its means. We had to re-examine our actions, scale back our operations and get a grip on our fiscal ambitions.
Though quite painful, it was the only thing we could do to survive. To be sustainable.

This economic climate is going to require just such an examination in businesses all across the country. We’re hoping that our actions earlier this year will allow us to operate efficiently enough to survive the coming attrition in the retail marketplace, but we won’t survive on efficiency alone. We need to provide product and service that is substantively better. Because now that people are buying less, they’re going to expect more. They’re going to be sure that what they do buy is going to serve their needs and last them a long time, and they’re going to buy from companies they trust and believe in.

It’s the new value equation- Products with the combination of aesthetic appeal, suitability to task, longevity in style and function with the lowest environmental impact. Businesses that act with transparency and honesty, valuing the relationship over the transaction.
Those companies that live by these criteria will be the ones to survive. And we’ll all be better off for it.

Maybe now, more than ever, it’s time to spread the word- about simplifying your life, about living within your means, and about the act of making considered choices over conspicuous consumption.
It’s time for a new value equation.

A New Day.

Posted by admin | January 20th, 2009 | Filed under Uncategorized

Wow. What a morning. I can hear America singing.

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Way To Go Toms!

Posted by admin | January 6th, 2009 | Filed under Uncategorized

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Inspiration comes in many forms. In this instance it presented itself via a recent hour and a half long conversation I had with Blake Mycoskie who is the founder of Toms Shoes. What a guy and what a story. Blake founded Toms following a trip to Argentina where he was inspired by the traditional rope soled “alpargata.” He was struck by the poverty in the country and set out to reinvent the alpargata for the US market, with the intent of accomplishing one goal: making life more comfortable for those without shoes.

The basic idea behind Toms Shoes is that for every pair you purchase, Toms gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. “One for one” as they like to call it. The beauty of the idea is found in its simplicity and the tangible result that stems directly from your purchasing decision. Since it’s beginning in 2006, Toms has given over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs in South Africa. Their 2008 goal was to give away 200,000 pairs of shoes.

Along the way they’ve generated amazing notoriety. In 2007, Toms was honored with the prestigious People’s Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Blake and Toms have also been featured in People, Time, GQ, Vogue and O Magazine.

The “one for one” idea has inspired a movement, literally. They have internship programs in their head office and on high school and college campuses. You can also volunteer to participate in one of their shoe drops in Argentina. Then of course, there’s the Toms Vagabond Tour. The result? People are talking about Toms, everywhere.

It seems their story has struck a resonant chord. They’ve been able to imbed meaning in their product and in the cultural constructions that come from conversation and dialogue. Their story is authentic and contributes to changing the larger set of stories by which we live. In doing so, Toms is growing a community of congruence that helps change our dominant cultural stories for the better.

We take our hats off to Blake and his colleagues at Toms.