Clotaire on “Environmental Activism”

Hello all, happy weekend! And thank you for taking the time to read this. Today I have some reflections for you on word choice:

A few months ago, a chance encounter with a fancy man named Dr. Clotaire Rapaille had my mind a bit blown.

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Dr. Clotaire Rapaiile -Author and Speaker https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5770294.Clotaire_Rapaille

The situation:

After applying to work for a landscape design company and making friends with the adjoining gallery’s manager, I was invited to attend a luncheon featuring Dr. Rapaille and a few other folks associated with the gardening company. Not quite sure what I was getting into, I jumped right in–just like Goosey here…

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Original Drawing by Former neighbor and Ukranian-American superstar: Bob Civil

With a striking presence and refined air about him, I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. Rapaille began the meeting by asking all of us to introduce ourselves. I was surprised he would even bother to get to know any of us ancillary people personally.

After introdcing myself as an “environmental activist,” he immediately stopped and asked why I would use those words to introduce myself. Didn’t I think that was a rather negative way to characterize myself?

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Holy balls. He was right. Activist does have somewhat of a feather ruffling air about it (think: eco-terrorist)…BUT its what I learned to call myself in school and thought was an appropriate title for what I do…I’d never thought to question the label before.

In any case, he had a point, and for a few moments we brainstormed other lablels. I came up with Environmental Spokesperson, Environmenal Advocate, and “Lorax” after he turned down Conservationist and something related to sustainability. Who wants to merely conserve when we could flourish and grow? This was the Doc’s point.

All in all, I found the whole converstaion quite interesting and mind boggling after so many years of thinking a certain way. If this type of thinking could be applied to Environmental Studies coursework, I think it would make the discipline easier to swallow and produce less anxiety for everyone…oh my nerves:

Beyond the activist label, Dr. Rapaille went on to discuss word choice as a tool in marketing, specifically for the landscaping company. He highlighted words such as growth, and advised us to shy away from words such as sustainability and conservation, since these terms suggest limits. Very interesting.

So, after all this, I wonder, what can I say about myself now? WHAT AM I?

…musical interlude…

 

I suppose now I’ll consider myself an environmental advocate.

I’m still searching for a replacement work for sustainability….any ideas??

Think about it as the word pops up in your life.

I hope this article in some way leads you to re-think the words you use to label yourself and encourages you to swap out any stale or limiting words. Just a fun exercize.

Happy Weekend!

xo

KB

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Sustainable Business Review: Hand-made Shoes in Austin, Tx and the Triple Bottom Line

“Howdy y’all”
I hope this note finds you well. I started writing you this message during a visit to sunny Austin, Texas a few weeks ago, where I was delighted by songbirds, artsy storefronts, and a new food concept: the breakfast taco (not pictured because I ate mine too fast).

One business I was particularly impressed with is a store called Fortress of Inca which sells sustainably produced shoes, handmade in Peru.

The “S” word

“S” for “Sustainability” and “S” for “SHOES!”

These words together pulled me into the store like I was caught in a lasso.

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Admittedly my first thought upon seeing the shoes on display, a variety of funky oxfords with cut-outs, was to wonder if they could be converted into tap shoes. The answer is probably, since these well-constructed shoes all have nice leather soles, but as I perused the store and chatted with the owner and a few employees, I learned a bit about the business itself, which left me inspired and eager to spread the word about another creative, sustainably-minded business.

Here are those cut-out oxfords, potential tap shoes:

And a bit about the shop:

Fortress of Inca was born 10 years after Evan Streusand, founder of the business, went on a wonderlust adventure throughout Peru and bought a pair of handmade boots along the way. Upon his return to the States and as time went on, he noticed the shoes lasted forever and realized he wanted to make those shoes available in the US.

Evan wanted to create a sustainable, ethical business, so took strides to do his research, connect with like-minded people in Peru, and create a business that benefits the triple bottom line*: people, the planet, and pocketbooks, rather than simply generating profits.

Triple Bottom Line
The Triple Bottom Line is a way to measure a company’s success in terms of sustainability. Wheras the conventional bottom line measures economic profits, the triple bottom line takes into account social and environmental factors as well to create a more rounded assessment of a businesses “bottom line.” https://www.tools4management.com/article/the-triple-bottom-line-a-study/

Fortres of Inca, a small retail shop located in South Austin, works with several small shoemaker companies in Peru who use sustainably sourced materials (rubber, leather, and wood) to make their shoes. Workers enjoy excellend working conditions and are paid fairly, with benefits like social security and health care.

While their shoes are not the cheapest on the market, Fortress of Inca shoes fairly reflect the actual cost of their products in terms of the triple bottom line. Consumers pay more, but at least that is not at the expense of the people who make the shoes and our environment. This is a fair and sustainable pricing structure and business model that I hope more business will come to adopt.

Check out the Fortress of Inca website for more information about the company and its products, or stop by the store if you’re in the area!

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Ta ta for now,

Kelly B

 

 

 

Organics – What to buy and what you can let slide

Hello readers!

Happy Monday and day after Earth Day, 2018.

I’d like to make a special shout out to all the new people and/or robots who have begun to follow this blog and to acknowledge those who have been following from the get go. Thank you for joining and welcome aboard!

In other news, today I wanted to share some information presented this weekend on The Food Chain Radio Program about grocery shopping and organics. Ultimately, the show provided a list of fruits and veggies that are more and less important to buy organic. Meaning, there are some fruits and veggies we can save money on by buying the non-organic option without worrying too much about ingesting chemicals. Phew and woo hoo!

Here are the lists, courtesy of The Environmental Working Group:

The Dirty Dozen (bakers dozen, that is)

–Produce containing high levels of pesticide residues, even after being rinsed and peeled. Good idea to buy the organic versions of these fruits and veggies.

Notice most of these items have thin skins, aka more permeable to pesticides. And note that the pesticides found on non-organic versions of these are linked to brain damage and cancer, are outlawed in many European countries, and yet are approved by the US Government*. Wonderful.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Hot peppers

The Clean 15

–Produce containing minimal levels of pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Aka, we can buy these products non-organic without worrying too much.

Notice most of these have thick skins or shells which protect the part you eat from contact with the pesticides.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn**
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas**
  8. Asperagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydews
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantalopes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

**Sweet corn, papayas, and summer squash are often genetically modified crops, so if you want to avoid being part of the “greatest global experiment known to mankind” (quote from acupuncturist Jenny Johnston of Santa Cruz), best to go organic with these crops. Note I did acupuncture as a groupon deal just to try it out. It was ok.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, I was very relieved to come across these lists, espeicially the Clean 15, since I’ve been busting my own balls paying pretty much double for organic avocadoes, broccoli, onions, etc. over the years. Recently canned from my latest job, I’m now watching my spending a bit more. Que conundrum:

In general, I like to buy only organic products on principle, to “vote with my dollar” as they say, to support farmers who have gone out of their way to certify themselves and adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices. Yes, its more expensive, but I figure I’d rather feed myself good food and maintain my health than spend money on anything else.

Cool Like Ghandi
https://www.zazzle.com/ghandi_be_the_change_classic_round_sticker-217041640643772530

Anyway, I cant help but wonder: if we all buy non-organic, Clean 15 produce, how will this impact the agricultural market?

Conventional farmers will continue as is, while farmers who grow organic produce will be out of luck, unable to compete with the low prices of non-organic produce.

By selecting non-organic options, we as consumers are telling farmers that we value cheap food and that it is ok to use harmful chemicals on our food. Thats what “voting with your dollar” means to me, by the way. When you buy something, you are supporting someone and encouraging them to keep on keepin’ on.

It is important to note that produce on the Clean 15 list still did test positive for pesticide residues, just not at the high levels of the Dirty Dozen. Pesticides do have environmental and health impacts which someone is going to pay for down the line, either through medical bills or contaminated water or another Dust Bowl, something like that.

By buying organic, we are telling farmers that we value organic farming and the extra efforts they are taking to build a sustainble food system. Buying organic today, even though it is more expensive, will encourage all farmers to adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices and prices will eventually even out. I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure thats how supply and demand works.

I’ve seen it happen with organic strawberries in Santa Cruz. I was surprised and a bit delighted last year to see the organic and non-organic strawberries pretty much the same price.

All that being said, we can only do what we can do. I’m probably going to start going non-organic for the Clean 15, but definitely going to opt for organics when it comes to the dirty dozen. Our health is all we’ve got, some say.

I hope this post helps you make up your mind as well.

Thank you for reading and wishing you all the best this week and beyond,

Kelly B

Santa Cruz
Try frolicking this week, will ya? Photo taken at Santa Cruz Harbor.

 

The Birds, the Bees…and the Bats: Rooftop Meadow Restores NYC Nature

http://www.kingslandwildflowers.com
Kingsland Wildflowers – Rooftop Meadow/Habitat Restoration Project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…

Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:

Site for a Valentine's Day Date
Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
View of Kingsland Wildflower native plants restoration Project
Rooftop Meadow View

I was very happy to learn about this project through this giant list of things to do in Brooklyn, which a friend shared with me on Facebook.

Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.

I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.

According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:

150 years ago, these buidlings were not here
View from Kingsland Wildflowers overlooking Newton Creek and Cityscape

I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.

Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.

Anyway…

Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.

Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!

Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.

Lots of Love,

Kelly B

Rockaway view 9/11 tributary park
Friggin’ plastic bag

Ecosia – Troll the internet, plant trees

Want a super easy way to do something good for the world while you surf the web? Aka effortlessly?

Switch from Google to Ecosia!

Ecosia.org is like Google.com, but instead of supporting who-knows who or what like google, each time you search something though the Ecosia search engine, a tree is planted.

The idea was started by someone in Germany named Joshi, and I think the whole idea is just oh so cool. You can set up the Ecosia search engine on your computer by going to ecosia.org. Check it out! Takes less than 5 minutes and will make a great impact starting the moment you make the switch. So far, Ecosia has planted more than 20 million trees in several different countries facing deforestation problems, all made possible through internet searches. Pretty cool, huh?

Planting trees helps restore ecosystems, helps people make their land productive and grow food, rise out of poverty, send their kids to school…plus, now Ecosia has partnered with my fav, the Jane Gooddall Institute, to plant trees in Chimpanzee habitat in Uganda. This will promote species health and hopefully help the chimpanzee population stabilize into the future. Here is a nice video of Jane Gooddall talking to the founder of Ecosia about their new partnership.

 

And another video to help you understand the impact your searches can have if you decide to switch to Ecosia.

 

Thats all folks, be well!

KB

Cell Phones = Ape Killing Machines?

Hello hello,

I just wanted to write a little something about apes today, since I have time and that is what my blog is ultimately all about.

What I am concerned about is how electronics impact chimpanzees and gorillas.

We all have our causes, right?

Well, I love monkeys, and I have since the 4th grade when I read an autobiography about Jane Gooddall and her time with the chimps in Africa.

I’m going to use the term “monkey” loosely here, but for all you sticklers out there, lets just clarify that monkeys have tails and apes do not, thus chimps and gorillas are not monkeys. Those are the ones I really am interested in, but its just more fun to call them monkeys right now, so I’m gonna.

Anyway, I also love garbage. The whole subject. How we think about it, how we handle it, where it comes from, where it goes, etc. I studied environmental topics for  4 years at a university, which is where my interest in garbage began.

Over the years, I have gotten into recycling…see photo of me working as a can collector back at UCSB…

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and compost…see article I wrote about a bicycle-powered compost company in Santa Cruz, and photo of compost bike set-up, just cuz…

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and most recently, I’ve started focusing on electronic waste.

I have to do more research, but the gist of my concern is that electronics are basically APE KILLING MACHINES.

Ok, that is a bit extreme, I know, but really, some of the materials that go into electronic devices come from gorilla and chimpanzee habitat; see coltan. Its like deforestation and palm oil, see horrible orangutan PSA here.

With all the electronics out there, and the tendency to upgrade cell phones and other devices just because the next version is available or whatever, there is a lot of room for conservation and behavioral adjustments on the part of humans like you and me. I’m not suggesting we stop using electronics, but how bout dialing it back a little bit and definitely recycling. Remember that upgrading your perfectly good Iphone 6 for the Iphone 6.2 has real effects on people, plants, and critters in other parts of the world.

Not only are apes being affected in their natural habitats in Africa, but also people in China and India are receiving tons of electronic waste and dealing with the environmental and human health impacts we just never see here in the US.

 

Thoughts? Knowledge to share?

Comment below.

 

Thank you and all the best,

Kelly