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Archive for August, 2012

Midway: Message From The Gyre

Posted by Alex | August 24th, 2012 | Filed under Art, Positive Change, Sustainability

“Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time?” – Chris Jordan

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two thousand miles from the nearest continent, the skeletons of baby albatrosses reveal a sobering reality. Small mounds of feather and bone, their grey remains curl around unexpected piles of color: bottle caps, fish nets and cigaret lighters where their stomachs used to be.

These birds are the latest victims of a plastic plague borne to the shores of Midway Island by the currents of the Pacific Gyre. Caught in the circular currents of the North Pacific, generations of our garbage have accumulated into a soup of plastic covering thousands of square miles. Suspended below the surface, the waste is invisible from above, but is often mistaken for food by sea creatures of all sizes. In the tragic case of the albatross, it’s then fed from mother to hatchling, dooming the baby birds to a premature death.

deadbirdWe’ve often covered the Pacific Gyre garbage patch on The Thought Kitchen, it’s impact on the Oregon Coast, and other efforts to draw attention to the unfolding ecological disaster. But few of those efforts compare to MIDWAY, the latest project from photographer Chris Jordan, which documents the tragedy in unflinching detail.

Back when Nau was first starting out, one of our founders was fond of asking a simple question: “How do we ignore what we know to be true?” As an artist and photgrapher, Jordan has been asking much the same question through works that open people’s eyes to the true impacts of our consumption. Back in 2007, we covered his project “Running The Numbers,” which sought to give scale to statistics that catalog our waste—numbers like two million: the number of plastic beverage bottles used in the US every five minutes. Now he’s turned his lens to the Pacific Gyre, and with the help of Kickstarter Funds is filming a feature documentary on the unfolding horror resulting from that consumption.

Check out the trailer above, and learn more about Chris’ project on his blog. You can make a donation to support the project here.

Postcard From Amsterdam

Posted by Alex | August 21st, 2012 | Filed under Bikes, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

postcard[Editors Note: Our friend and copywriter Alex left Portland in 2010 to start a new life in Europe. This month, he’s returned as a Guest Editor of The Thought Kitchen to share some of his experiences.]

Right now I’m sitting in the shoebox-sized office of my apartment in Amsterdam, listening to the street through window blinds drawn against the sun. The electric whirr and rumble of the number thirteen Tram mixes with the squeaks and rattles of rusted-out second-hand bicycles. As waves of cars stop and go through the traffic light, snippets of Indian pop, Tupac, Turkish dance music and Goyte drifting up by turns to my window. A car horn, a shout in Dutch, a lull. Another Tuesday afternoon.

It’s the third day of the first heat wave of the summer—a season that the locals, with characteristic stoicism, had suggested might not make it to this corner of Europe. It seemed an apt prediction to my wife and me as we piled on sweaters in May, rode through the rain in June, and woke to the thundering of our downspout in July. The Netherlands has a reputation for bad weather, one we’re thinking is pretty well deserved.

windmillBut the Netherlands has other reputations as well. Depending on whom you ask, it’s a country of bike lanes, a haven of  diversity and tolerance, or a playground for drugs. It’s a land reclaimed from the sea, where global warming and rising sea levels make “sustainability” more than just a liberal buzz-word. It’s a nation of tall women and even taller men drinking small beers and (occasionally) wearing wooden shoes.  A place for cheese and windmills and international law. A place that once had an economic collapse because of the price of tulips.

But part of living in a country is sorting out what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s simply been lost in translation. So six months ago, my wife and I—inspired by family heritage and an overdeveloped sense of wanderlust—moved here, to work and sort it out for ourselves. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of those impressions, from what “bike culture” really means in a place with more bikes than people, to how one restaurant is designing vegetarian dishes with help from landscape architecture.

As we’re learning, moving isn’t always easy. But the rewards of movement—across space and through cultures—is that it can change your perspective on everything: even what’s just outside your window.

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Postcard from the Arctic Circle

Posted by Guest | August 16th, 2012 | Filed under Personal Reflection

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By Bree Kessler

There are small rural towns and then there is bush Alaska.  These “bush” communities located throughout Alaska are hard-to-reach places usually only accessible by plane or, in the winter by snowmobile, dogsled, or an ice road that forms for a short while each year (also the inspiration for the TV show Ice Road Truckers). I live in one of these places: Bettles, Alaska, a town 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle near to Gates of the Arctic National Park, the largest continuous wilderness park in the United States.

Bettles was never a bustling town, but at one time there were nearly 60 people who lived here including residents of the adjoining native village.  Presently, there are probably only 20 full year residents and the population swells to closer to 35 residents during the summer months when the National Park Service staff moves in to town.

Life in the bush can feel isolating to some, but to others, this wilderness escape is what they’ve been searching for their entire lives.  For me, I try to pass time by watching daily life unfold – like I am Margaret Mead completing fieldwork in some distant land. With 24 hours of sunlight during the summer to inevitably be followed by almost 24 hours of darkness in the winter, regardless of how quickly I sometimes want time to move here (especially when I am awaiting my Netflix to be flown in), it always seems to move slowly.  And that’s not always a bad thing, even when you don’t have cell phone service.

Bree Kessler fears the continental United States and thus splits her time between Hawaii and northern Alaska.  She is the author of the recently published guidebook Moon Big Island of Hawaii and you can read stories about her life in the Arctic Circle at www.parkdispatches.com.

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The Higg Index Debuts

Posted by Guest | August 9th, 2012 | Filed under Environmental Change, Partnerships, Sustainability, Who We Are

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Remember the Eco Index? Last year, we profiled the evolution of this industry-wide, sustainable business tool in our three-part blog series and how Jamie—our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability—has been an integral part of its development. Fast-forward a year, and here we are, staring down the launch of the much-anticipated index (now known as the Higg Index). This week in the Thought Kitchen, Avery Stonich, Communications Manager for OIA, gives us an insider’s perspective on the tool that promises to change the way an industry does business.

You might think that the outdoor industry is a bunch of tree huggers, and to some extent that’s true. After all, we’re in this business because we love being outdoors, and protecting natural resources and quality places to play goes hand-in-hand with that. But what if I told you that this collective concern for the environment has translated into an industry-wide movement toward sustainability that is changing the way the world does business?

That’s right. Hundreds of outdoor industry companies have been collaborating for years on identifying and implementing best practices in sustainability—specifically, ensuring that the gear we use in the outdoors is made in a more responsible way. And this work is now reverberating to other industries. Pretty cool.

How did it all start? Nearly six years ago, several leading outdoor industry companies recognized that they could make more meaningful progress toward sustainable business practices by working together. So these competitors sat down together and started hammering out quantifiable, measurable ways to create more sustainable products, starting with apparel.

As this effort gained momentum, these companies and Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) formed the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG) to put even more muscle behind the work. In 2010, the industry finalized and piloted the OIA Eco Index, a standardized way to assess product sustainability. It went so well that another group—the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)—adopted the open-source index last year, blended it with a tool Nike developed, and created a more robust indexing tool.

This is a big deal because the SAC encompasses about a third of the global apparel and footwear market and includes a lot of big names—like  Walmart, Target, Nike, and H&M. So having the SAC on board opens the door to this sustainability tool being adopted on a very broad scale.

And now… drumroll, please… this tool—now called the Higg Index—launched on July 26th. Companies can use the Higg Index to get a clear view of where to make improvements in their supply chains to reduce the environmental (and eventually, social) impacts of their products. It also provides a consistent framework and language that companies can use to assess and compare product sustainability.

Just how big of a deal is this? Consider this: The White House recognized the OIA Sustainability Working Group as a Champion of Change for Corporate Responsibility earlier this year. They don’t hand this sort of recognition out freely. You have to earn it.

While we are celebrating, our work is far from complete. This is just the beginning. The OIA Sustainability Working Group will continue to contribute to the evolution of the Higg Index for apparel. And we are continuing work in other areas—developing indexing tools for footwear and equipment, identifying how to manage chemicals in the supply chain, tackling materials traceability, and creating best practices in social responsibility and fair labor.

To learn more, check out the OIA website, and support the companies that are involved in our Sustainability Working Group. They are contributing passion, money and sweat equity to a cause that is bigger than themselves. Together, as an industry, we are developing new practices that can fundamentally change the way we do business and make the world a better place to live, work and play.

Reprinted with permission from the Outdoor Industry Association and National Geographic.

Fall 2012: Sneak Peek

Posted by leighann | August 1st, 2012 | Filed under Design, Nau Events, Who We Are

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Years of inspiration and hard work have transformed our new Fall line into one of our most beautiful collections yet. With the return of many coveted favorites and the debut of some much-anticipated styles, our new 2012 Fall Collection—debuting the middle of August— features luxurious fabrics, bright break beats, and distinct design cues that continue our tradition of beauty, performance and sustainability.

Here’s a first look at what’s to come….
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