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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Positive Change Category

The Uncommoners: Meet the Ambassador of Food

Posted by leighann | March 12th, 2014 | Filed under Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are

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Last month, we asked for nominations for our next Uncommoner. Submissions poured in: tool makers, bike builders, community organizers, milliners, compost cultivators. The choice was difficult. But after careful consideration, we’d like to introduce you to our newest Uncommoner. She’s an entrepreneur, teacher, food advocate, and Board member of Slow Food USA working at the crossroads of policy, education, and food sovereignty to change the way we eat. And she makes one mean cabbage dish. Meet Katherine Deumling, the Ambassador of Food and brainchild behind Cook With What You Have

OTG: Describing you as a chef doesn’t fully encompass what you do. Tell me about Cook With What You Have. Sure, it’s intuitive, but what is it all about?
Katherine: It’s about eliminating this fear that food must be fancy, that you must have expensive tools, and lots of expensive ingredients. It’s about eliminating the common perception that cooking and eating is a complicated process only for those with time and money. Because it isn’t. It’s a right, not a privilege. But it’s become this huge divider.

My whole love and joy is to teach people that food can simplify and enrich your life. It can help you feel good— socially, physically, and mentally— and get rid of all the noise. And it’s a great equalizer. Whether I’m working with my Early Head Start families who have rich cultural traditions, but little resources—little time or little money—the joy of simple food is something that can be part of daily life. It’s a way of cooking that enables you to eat with the seasons and support your local farmers. In the words of Michael Pollan, “This is one of the most radical acts we can do, to cook and to garden.” It’s nourishing, relevant, communal, culturally interesting and it ties us all together.

It’s one thing to learn recipes and it’s another thing to shift perspective on how people use ingredients in the kitchen—to spend less at the grocery store and waste less food, yet be inventive, creative and fun.
It’s true. My one-liner is often, Why Not? Because when the recipe says ½ tsp of oregano, people are scared to deviate. Have a leek, but don’t have an onion? Why not? It might not be something you serve to the queen, but why not? And you saved the money and stress of going to the grocery store.

How does your philosophy around food intersect with sustainability, food security, and climate change?
It’s best summed up by the concept of food sovereignty. Unlike food security, which typically references calories but does not go deeper—as in where or how or by whom and under what conditions the food was grown, processed or even prepared—food sovereignty brings all of those elements together.  It includes culture and agricultural/agroecological practices that dominated the world’s agriculture until just 60 years ago. Working towards or regaining food sovereignty means farmers having access to seeds in the public domain (rather than patented terminator seeds), access to land, infrastructure for local or regional distribution and hope for a fair price and fair working conditions. All of these things are under pretty serious threat in many parts of the world.

Is this why you’re involved in organizations like Slow Food?
Yeah, I lived in Italy for years, but I didn’t learn about Slow Food until after I came back to the US. The Slow Food philosophy reflects so much of what I care about and it has quite radical beginnings. When Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, his first two initiatives were longer lunch breaks and fair wages for famers so that they could actually have the time to eat and enjoy the food they grow.

Besides being part of Oxfam USAs’ Sisters on the Planet program where you work as an ambassador of food justice at a policy level, you’re also a teacher. And you mentioned something about a secret project you’re working on?
Yes. I work with companies, government agencies, and hospitals in their wellness programs. For example, I teach at Good Samaritan Hospital in their Diabetes and Weight Management program. I also train Early Head Start in-home staff. I also write recipes every week for multiple local CSAs. I get a list of what is in each farm’s CSA box, and I have 48 hours to write six or seven recipes for each CSA. It’s an inefficient process. So I’m transitioning from creating hyper-customized content for each farm to creating a tightly curated, well-designed, subscriber-based website that archives over 600 recipes. That way, I can market it to far more farms and individuals in the area for less, and it’s a more sustainable economic model.

You have a lot on your plate. So where are you going with all of this?
I want to elevate storage crops. Locally grown beans and grains are unbelievably nutritious. And they’re great for eating economically, eating lower on the economic food chain and creating less of an environmental footprint. There are some great farmers who are taking some big risks at growing them in the valley with huge investments in the equipment and the machinery. I want to help those farmers who are making that investment by introducing consumers to these delicious, affordable and nutritious products.

To learn more about Katherine, visit her website at cookwithwhatyouhave.com.

The Cultivators: Farming with a Social Purpose

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photo by Giles Clement

In our next installment of The Uncommoners: Exploring the Other Side of Ordinary, Lindsey heads to Long Beach, Washington to get her hands dirty and learn what it means to farm with a Social Purpose.

When I accepted an invitation from Starvation Alley Farms to join their cranberry harvest last month, I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps, an idyllic Ocean Spray commercial or another episode of Dirty Jobs. (Yes. Mike Rowe visited a cranberry farm.). But what I found was hard work, laughter, great cocktails and a deep sense of community with people who were passionate about food, family and local farming.

After a few cranberry cocktails, I sat down with farmers, Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes, to learn how this small family-run experiment expanded into a corporation with a unique uncommon product and an even more uncommon purpose.

Read More »

The Growing Global Pelaton

Posted by leighann | June 11th, 2013 | Filed under Bikes, Positive Change, Who We Are

We got a nice chuckle out of last week’s The New Yorker cover by artist Marcellus Hall depicting the much-anticipated (and much-hyped) launch of New York City’s new bike sharing program, Citibike. Even though it joins hundreds of bike-sharing programs already in existence, you’d think the media darling was the first of its kind.

Read More »

Sustainable Chemistry: Changing the Alchemy of Apparel

Posted by leighann | April 10th, 2013 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are

Here’s a sobering stat: 80,000 chemicals are currently used around the world today. Most of these chemicals are untested and a surprising portion are used to make your clothes. From dying and finishing to spinning, ginning and even laundering, chemicals are used in every step of the textile process making even natural fibers unsustainable. But the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)—along with Jamie Bainbridge, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability—is spearheading an initiative that hopes to change all of that. How? By adopting a mission of continuous improvement and establishing a carefully cultivated list of preferred chemicals. Sounds simple, sure. But first the OIA has to convince an entire disparate and often complex global manufacturing industry that sustainable chemistry is good for business.

Read More »

On the Border of Syria: A Dispatch from Mercy Corps

Posted by Guest | January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

This week in the Thought Kitchen, Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, one of our longstanding Partners for Change, travels to Jordan to give us a first hand account of the Syrian refugee crisis and what we can do to help.

Mafraq, Jordan — I am sitting on the floor of a cold, crumbling single room dwelling just on the Jordan side of the Syria-Jordan border.  I’m sipping Turkish coffee, surrounded by a family of Syrian refugees.  The coffee isn’t warming me up much: it is December and it is freezing.

My host is a lady named Hasna Erhael.  She’s a 36 year old mother of seven, six of whom are girls and are sitting with us.  Her oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, is out collecting recyclables to make some money.  Hasna and her family fled Syria a few months ago when their town came under attack by the Syrian army.  Her husband is back in Syria fighting the regime and says he won’t stop until they have taken Damascus.

They came over the border with nothing, and nothing is pretty much what they still have.  They rent this room with help from relatives.  No work.  No school.  No toys or art supplies.  No furniture. No electricity or heat.  No running water.

I don’t want to make Hasna sound like a victim — that’s certainly not how she sees herself.  She tells me she and her family just need to be able to eat a little bit and they’ll be able to hold out until the fighting ends and they can return to Syria. But she is nervous for her girls: “They have nothing to do.  They miss school and they are totally bored.”  They are clearly struggling, and that’s where Mercy Corps comes in.

We are working with a local religious leader to identify Syrian refugees — more than 15,000 of them are hunkered down among the 60,000 permanent resident — and help meet some of their basic needs.  Right now, we have the money to help about 1000 refugee families in Mafraq get prepared for winter: that means we’ve giving them winter coats, blankets, kitchen supplies, food packages, gas heaters and gas.  In general, we are a “hand-up not a hand-out” kind of operation, but in times like this we do our best to bring struggling people some measure of material comfort.  Mercy Corps is providing similar support to Syrian refugees throughout the region.

Mercy Corps is proud to be a partner of Nau.  Support from Nau and its customers allows us to meet the needs of people like Hasna and her family.  For more on our response with Syrian refugees, click here.  

Jeremy Barnicle at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Mercy Corps drilled the well, which will serve all 40-plus thousand Syrian refugees in the camp, plus tens of thousands who live in neighboring communities.

Partners For Change: Unlimited and Unrestricted

Posted by Josie | December 2nd, 2012 | Filed under Environmental Change, Partners for Change, Positive Change

As the Managing Director of our Partners for Change program, I get the honor of handing over a hefty check to each of our five partners. Twice a year, I gather all of our final revenue numbers, calculate our final donations, and put a check in the mail with a card, signed by everyone in the office. Over the years, I’ve watched the running tally of our donations climb to several hundred thousand dollars.

I understand, first hand, the reality of our impact when I watch the presentations given by Mercy Corps field staff about the work they’re doing to solve the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa or when I hear Obama reference Breakthrough Institute’s research into the history of American clean energy innovation.  Every person at Nau and our sister company Horny Toad would agree with me when I say: We whole heartedly believe that it’s our responsibility as a for-profit company to support the NGO’s that are creating positive change in the world.

Yet every time we make a donation, I am reminded that all donations are not alike. Every time I talk to our partners, they all say the same thing; “receiving unrestricted funds is critical to the success of our organization.” Our Partners for Change rely heavily on donations from companies like us and people like you to reach their milestones. Unfortunately, a large portion of the money they receive is restricted, meaning it can only be spent on specific projects, and it can not be used for every need of an organization–like electric bills or new technology. As Dan Pallota, non-profit advocate and author of Charity Case, said, “Low overhead is not the path to transformation of society.”

So this holiday season, when you donate, I encourage you to give unrestricted and empower the NGO’s that are truly creating positive change in this world.

The Naked Truth about Nudie Jeans

Posted by leighann | October 9th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability

 Here’s to Nudie Jeans, our new Collective partner, going 100% organic. Check out their instragram contest and win a trip to Italy to see how premium organic denim is made.

Here’s a sobering statistic: it takes 2/3 pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Apply that fact to the over 450 million pairs of jeans that are sold in the US every year, and well, you get a few more zeros and a much more sobering statistic

That’s why, six years ago, Nudie Jeans—our new Collective partner— set a goal: to make their entire line of premium, high-quality denim using only 100% organic cotton by 2012. It was an ambitious goal. Entire supply chains have to be reevaluated, new fabrics developed, and old business practices reexamined.

We get it. We make these decisions every day. But for the Swedish-based company, they had to rethink everything—from design to manufacturing—in order to create premium, well-fitting denim that wouldn’t compromise their style or ethics.

Here’s what Maria Erixon Levin, Nudie Jean’s Founder, had to say about the company’s journey to organic:

“Sure, it has taken time, but we have maintained the courage of our convictions during a period that has seen a number of eco-trends come and go. For us, this is a question of lifestyle, and one of our core values. Since starting up back in 2001, we have remained focused on issues around sustainability and the environment regardless of the demands of the market or our customers, in a time when price has been a key factor. Prices have often been so low that quality, as well as organic and CSR-aware production have been sacrificed as a result.

We have chosen to work with organic cotton regardless of the trends of the day. We are often asked if our values are a marketing tool, or something requested by our customers. The answer is no. It’s a choice we make in the boardroom, and a choice we make during product development. We believe our commitment to organic production should be part of our pricing and quality profile.

In 2006, we invited all our material suppliers and laundry operators to join us in a discussion on sustainable development in the industry. And today, we are especially proud to say we offer 100% organic cotton across our entire range of rigid, stretch and selvage denim. This is a vital stage in the evolution of the Nudie Jeans philosophy. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been with us along the way.”

This season, we’re proud to partner with Nudie Jeans to bring you their first collection of premium denim crafted entirely from fine Italian and Turkish organic cotton. Clean, minimalist construction, classic European style, and none of the bad stuff.

Shop select women’s and men’s Nudie Jeans’ styles on nau.com, or find out more about Nudie Jeans on their website.

 

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.

Dealer Dispatch: The Wild Trails of Rock Creek

Posted by Bryanna | June 12th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Partnerships, Positive Change

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Located in the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rock/Creek Outfitters has been named one of the “Top 25 Outdoor Retailers” year over year. They’ve also been a long time brand ambassador and retailer of Nau Clothing. This week in the Thought Kitchen, we caught up with the adventure retailer to find out more about their Rock/Creek Trail Series: an eight-race event benefiting Wild Trails, an organization dedicated to the use, expansion and promotions of trails in Tennessee.

Ten years ago, Matt Simms—a Rock/Creek employee at the time—decided it was time for the general public to discover the wilderness in Chattanooga. So he, and a few others, started a trail race called the Rock/Creek River Gorge, one of the eight races still in the series today.

Needless to say, the races were a hit. So in 2007 Matt, along with a few others who shared his vision, founded the Wilderness Trail Running Association  Their mission? To promote the sport of trail running and the preservation of trails not just for runners but for everyone with a passion for the outdoors.

In the months following, the board went through a process of refining its mission and evaluating what would be required to build a sustainable organization committed to promoting outdoor recreation and preserving trails in the region. One of the founder of Wild Trails says, “Trail running will always be our first love, but we realized that the work we were doing on trails was benefiting not just the trail running community but all users of trails. We also realized that to gain the momentum we needed to affect positive change and create a culture of commitment to preservation we needed the support of more than just the trail running community. “

While some of the races are strictly for experienced marathoners, the appeal of the Trail Series is to have everyone enjoy running on trails.  As Jeff Bartlett, organizer for the series, says, “Some will start out running 10k races and end up running 50k races, and some won’t, and we think that’s just fine!”

Jeff’s attitude is the epitome of Wild Trails mission, to get the people out and active on these trails while preserving them for generations to come.

To donate, participate or just learn more, check out Wild Trails and the Salmon Rock/Creek Trail Series.

A View From In Here

Posted by Leigh | May 17th, 2012 | Filed under Here/Nau/NYC, Positive Change
TEDXEAST

Matthias Hollwich, co-founder of Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), a NYC-based architecture and concept design firm—at TEDXEast.

“Creativity is exhaustion, and one idea beyond that;” this is how globally renowned architect Matthias Hollwich closed his 2012 TedXEast (TED NYC) talk.  Matthias’ speech was focused on sharing his team’s exhaustive creative process in coming up with the perfect architectural concept for the Moma PS1 Young Architectural International Program. At Nau, we understand this. Taking an unconventional and unexpected approach to business and product design can be exhausting, but always worth it.

TEDxEast is one of the 800+ independently organized TED events. Ranked as one of the top five independent events globally, NYC Ted 2012 did not disappoint. At Nau, we’ve always admired the innovative thinking and influential speakers that these top tier events attract. And this past year we were given the opportunity to began supporting TED Long Beach and now TEDxEast through creative sponsorships.

The event theme of this year’s TedXEast was “A View from In Here,” and through four sessions (the Right Brain, the Left Brian, From the Inside Out, and Reframe), 30 speakers were given 18 minutes to give the most important talk of their life. Our lovely host, Julianne Wurm, referred to the day as being “an emotional journey.” And she was right. One of Nau’s fundamental beliefs has been to use business as a force for positive change – it was inspiring to see how many of these speakers are also using business, science, medicine or theatre to make this type of impact.

NYC has the power to draw fantastic individuals, with speakers coming from around the world.  Some standouts included Maya Lin (artist and architect), Dr. Pasi Sahlberg (global school improvement activist), Dr. Colin Campbell (40+ years of being on the forefront of nutrition research and links to cancer), Matthias Hollwich (architect), and Cassandra Lin (13 year old entrepreneur who founded project TGIF – turning grease into fuel), among many many others.

TedXEast talks can be viewed here. We hope you enjoy as much as we did.