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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for April, 2010

G4C 2009: A Seat at the Table

Posted by Alex | April 30th, 2010 | Filed under Grant for Change

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series of updates from our 2009 Grant for Change grantees, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele. The Seattle-based documentary team will be sending us monthly updates from the field, as they work to build eight new stories for their long-term project, Facing Climate Change.

Earlier this week, Benj and I attended the Coast Salish Climate Change Summit in Tulalip, Washington. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the impacts of climate change on tribal lifeways in the Salish Sea ecosystem. Over two days, tribal leaders, scientists, legal experts and other participants explored topics ranging from regional impacts to legal rights and the role of traditional knowledge in climate change policy and science.

A small section from the 40-foot graphic recording by Timothy Corey, who documented the Coast Salish Summit in real time.

A small section from the 40-foot graphic recording by Timothy Corey, who documented the Coast Salish Summit in real time.

We were at this gathering because we’re collaborating with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community for one of our eight stories. The Swinomish, who helped to organize the event, recently completed a climate change impact assessment for their reservation and are currently working on a community action plan. The story we build together will explore what sea level rise means to people that have lived on the coast since time immemorial. How will it impact this small island nation culturally, economically and environmentally?

One of my favorite presentations from the first day of the Summit drew connections between climate change and diet. While the Umatilla Tribe of northeastern Oregon isn’t Coast Salish, they face many similar challenges. Their First Foods initiative uses the order in which traditional foods are brought to the table – water, fish, game, roots and berries – to guide the way natural resources are protected, restored and managed.

On the second day, conversations about being at the table expanded to the global level. The discussion turned to social justice, trans-boundary collaboration, and the importance of having a voice in local, national and international negotiations. These ideas echoed the intent behind the People’s World Conference on Climate Change last week in Bolivia, where more than 15,000 people from 120 countries gathered to respond to the failed talks in Copenhagen. “We need to talk about what is affecting our people,” said Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation. “There is nobody who can tell our story like we can.”

—Sara Joy Steele

Photoset: Red

Posted by Alex | April 29th, 2010 | Filed under Art, Design Eye

A propos of nothing (except, perhaps Nau’s new Cinder colorway in men’s and women’s shirts for spring), visit Sissyfish and check out the great Red Photoset. From surfboards to Star Trek, Stumptown Coffee to Olle Lundberg:


See the entire photoset on Sissyfish.

The Positive Change Filter

Posted by admin | April 28th, 2010 | Filed under Grant for Change
Borrowed from wooster collective; thanks Banksy.

Borrowed from wooster collective; thanks Banksy.

We talk about design a lot ‘round these parts. Or rather, we design a lot ‘round these parts and find ourselves talking about it, naturally. We are surrounded. Design is everywhere. The garden on the corner lot. The phone in my pocket. The bike lane across the Broadway Bridge. The microbrew in my hand. We influence it, use it, critique it and experience it every day.

As I stroll through my creative city I look for the design elements that make it great. This is ‘good,’ this is ‘bad,’ this is ‘pretty, but impractical’- I measure what I like, what I do not like, and why. Through a designers lens I think a lot about the things I buy, before I buy them. I think a lot about the balance between function and form. I think about what could be improved upon, what is perfect, and who else can tell the difference.

Moving beyond the quick critique, this year, through the Grant for Change, we have the opportunity to look at design’s ability to act as a catalyst for positive change. Evaluating practical, essential, whimsical and industrial design applications we will poke and prod and critique, looking for that handful of designs that can be used, like tools, to improve the lives of others.

Ten thousand dollars of incentive. A subject loaded with opinions. A month of nominations and another of voting. It all begins on May 10th and is open to public participation. Until then I encourage you to slow down and look at design – your city, your consumer products, your choices- through a filter of positive change. We would love to hear what you find.

Plastic in Paradise

Posted by admin | April 28th, 2010 | Filed under Environmental Change, Outdoor Sport


A week ago on Sunday, the weather was forecast to be sunny and warm, with highs in the 70s. My surfing buddy and I decided it was time to transition from snow boards to surfboards. We left town early to hit the windless morning session at Short Sands. Bingo!! It felt so good to be back in the water again, just as it does on that first powder day in the fall.

We finished our session just as the crowds arrived and resolved to call it a day. As our wetsuits dried on the rocks, we decided to walk to the waterfall at the north end of the beach, while along the way fulfilling our usual garbage pick up ritual. At first glance, we noticed an unusual amount of trash, most particularly plastic. We both agreed we had never seen so much before. Upon closer inspection, we realized what we were seeing. Intermingled in the organic debris at the high water mark were millions of tiny plastic bits. The Gyre!

My elation was quickly replaced with hopelessness. It was impossible to pick up all this plastic on the beach. I took some comfort in knowing that as other beach-goers realized what we were doing, they too joined in the endeavor.
blog-whaleBefore leaving the beach we stopped along the high-point of the coastal highway, just north of Manzanita, in hopes of observing whales. We were rewarded with many sightings of migrating Grey whales. I worried about them, knowing that they were baleen whales and they would most certainly encounter the debris we just found.

Just today there is a news report of garbage found in stomach of dead whale washed up on West Seattle Beach. Not two days prior, a baby Grey Whale washed up on the beach in Oregon, the same day we watched whales from high above the cliffs.

My first surfing day of the season was filled with so many highs and so many lows. I am inspired to act. I’ll be at the beach again this weekend, picking up my favorite beach. This week I will bring extra bags to hand out too.

Whether your passion is on land or at the sea, join me in my quest to help clean up. Carry out more than you bring in. Contact your local chapter of Surfrider Foundation or check out any of the many National Environmental Organizations to find out how you can help.

Happy 103rd, Rachel Carson

Posted by admin | April 27th, 2010 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 10.16.12 AMToday is the birthday of a person I find inspirational on an epic scale: Rachel Carson.  A marine biologist by training, she was a gifted writer and steadfast defender of ecological health and long-term responsibility over chemical company interests and short-term profit. Her 1962 book Silent Spring (along with her other works) set the stage for wide-spread public awareness of and concern about the effects human behaviors have on our environment.

Carson described how the deleterious effects of indiscriminate pesticide spraying ruined the reproductive cycle of birds, and would eventually lead to a Spring without bird-songs. Her beautiful and lucid writing drove home the powerful and insightful scientific arguments she made. She was attacked by those who stood to gain from the ecological damage she decried, but she persevered because her message was scientific fact in the form of inspirational, poetic prose.

She died too young, but her scholarship, wisdom and courage live on. So today, take a minute to enjoy the songs of the birds on the Spring air, think of Rachel Carson, and decide what you are going to do to help sustain our world.

On Repeat: Mumford & Sons

Posted by Alex | April 23rd, 2010 | Filed under Music

[An occasional update on what some of us are listening to now. - Ed]

Since giving these guys a listen last month on a recommendation from a friend (thanks, Jamie), they’ve been in constant rotation in my apartment. A sort of folk/rock/bluegrass hybrid, they combine the British Isles brogue of Glen Hansard at his full-throated best with the building crescendos of Sigur Ros’s popier tracks like Inní mér syngur vitleysingur and the earnest energy of a Kings Of Leon.

Then, just yesterday, came across a series of films they put together during an acoustic recording session in Treadwell’s Bookshop in London. Love the videography, love the setting, love the music. Check it out.

Return of the Willing Wall

Posted by Alex | April 22nd, 2010 | Filed under Positive Change

Happy Earth Day!

A year ago, we posted a short note about The Willing Wall, an experiment we did during our that year’s Earth Day celebrations. The idea was simple: hang a blackboard and ask people to put down up what they were willing to do to create positive change in 2009. Lubricated with a few bottles of organic vodka, our results quickly passed PG-13, including everything from “I will always use biodegradable doggie bags” to “I will stop showering alone.”


At the time, Josie wrote: “While these aren’t necessarily new mind blowing ideas, I like having the Willing Wall here in the office. It’s a nice visual connection between our small changes and the bigger community of people working toward the same goal and having fun along the way.”

Opening it up to the larger Thought Kitchen community, we asked you what you were willing to do to make change in the year ahead. Erika M. promised to volunteer with the PDX Fruit Tree Project. Steve H. decided to only wear second hand clothing. Brighton planned to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store. Now, a year later, it’s time to look back—how did you do with your promise?

But perhaps more importantly, it’s also time to look forward. The first step to making change is deciding to do it. So this Earth Day, we want to hear from you: what will YOU do this year to create positive change?

Hopensourcing Earth Day

Posted by Alex | April 22nd, 2010 | Filed under Positive Change


Looking for some good news this Earth Day? Check out Hopensource.org, a new project from our friends at Grist. An environmental news and commentary site known for bringing a little levity to the gloom and doom of climate change and environmental crisis, Grist is open-sourcing the collection of real-life examples of progress toward a cleaner, greener world.

Anyone can contribute to Hopensource; it’s as easy as using twitter to post an idea, news item, promising technology, innovation or DIY solution. Just include the hash tag #hopen in your tweet, and your contribution will appear automatically on the Hopensource homepage. Or, if your thoughts exceed that pesky 140-character limit, click here to email a more complete blog post to Grist for consideration.

So far, the Surfrider Foundation has gotten in on the action, posting their video “The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water”. There’s a story on the small town of Fernie, B.C. that’s hosting their annual Flashy But Trashy fashion show today, featuring garments made from coffee filters, bubble wrap and other waste.  And there’s encouraging news from Copenhagen where a hotel is offering to pay guests to generate electricity. Read More »

A Sustainable PAD

Posted by Alex | April 21st, 2010 | Filed under Design, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

A few years ago, we made a little film about a friend of ours named Dee. Wondering whether the cost of owning and maintaining a house was really worth it, Dee had decided to change her life, and downsize her home to something with a smaller footprint. A much smaller footprint. Her little home, built on a trailer and little bigger than an area rug, was small enough to tow behind her biodiesel truck and cute enough to turn heads around the nation. Remarkably, something about living simply, unencumbered by stuff, struck a chord with people. They watched the film and posted comments. Some thought she was crazy, most admired her creativity. Oprah called. And slowly but surely, people began asking her for plans for how to make little houses of their own.Screen shot 2010-04-20 at 3.07.24 PM

Out of that little seed, Dee and her partner Katy grew Portland Alternative Dwellings, providing design, construction and hands-on workshops for folks who want to make “little houses” of their own. They built a second little house, the Don Vardo—and an accompanying dog house. And recently, they launched their website, http://portlandalternativedwellings.com.

If you’re tired of making small changes and are ready to take a bigger step this Earth Day, PAD is a great place to start. Featuring plans, photos and lots of positive encouragement, it’s an inspiring example of how thinking differently and taking action can create positive change.


(hat tip to Eric @ ShiftAdvantage; that’s his puppy in the doghouse)

5 Questions for Method

Posted by Alex | April 20th, 2010 | Filed under Sustainability


Do you know what part of a garment’s lifecycle has the greatest environmental impact? Cleaning. More than making, shipping, or disposing of a Nau garment, how you wash it leaves behind the biggest footprint. So we were excited when our friends at Method announced a new, plant-based laundry detergent that requires only ¼ the dose of most soaps. Our resident fabric guru Jamie Bainbridge has been testing it out, and, wanting to know more, pestered them for a few more details on the science behind the label. Drummond Lawson, who bears the title “Green Giant” in their “Greenskeeping” department, was kind enough to share the following answers.

[Read through to the end for a special offer for readers of The Thought Kitchen from Method. - Ed]

Jamie: We love that you posted the energy reductions, materials reductions and ingredients for your new detergent online.  How far back in this supply chain are you attempting to influence the feedstock for the ingredients used in your product?

Drummond: To design the greenest products and to find the most sustainable ways of manufacturing them, we’ve found that the majority of the total footprint in making the products comes far upstream in production: in making and harvesting the plant oils, in converting them to effective cleaning agents, in manufacturing bottles, in shipping the materials and finished product around, and so on. So to achieve major efficiencies and improvements, we work with suppliers several steps up our supply chain – the company that makes the recycled resin for our bottles, or the people who work to source more sustainable plant-oil feedstocks for surfactants, as examples.

Focusing only on the design decisions that method is responsible for would not allow for the major innovations (like the new laundry detergent) and for the type of systemic step-changes that we think our categories need if the products will ever become fully sustainable. Read More »