We’ve already applauded Patagonia’s fantastic Black Friday ad on this blog: “It’s a classy reminder: Sometimes, the best Stuff is the stuff you already have. Which is why we have dozens of Stuff-related actions at Practically Green…” — and we loved the comments from readers:
….my plan this year for Black Friday was to sit out the retail game altogether. That was before I saw the ad… ”Don’t Buy This Jacket.” … It went on to encourage readers not to buy what they didn’t need and to sell their used Patagonia products on eBay…. So while I had promised myself I wouldn’t buy anything other than a quart of milk (we’d run out) on Black Friday, I made the transition effortlessly into über-cyber-saleswoman, posting every one of the fleeces my 20-something sons had outgrown on the retail site, along with all those shirts they’d really never liked in the first place.
Oh, it felt good. So good, in fact, that I ended up cleaning out three whole closets. What I couldn’t sell through the Patagonia initiative, I bundled up for the nearby thrift shop.
And, from Jeffrey Hollender’s blog, “Don’t Buy This: The Truth About Sustainability”:
Having not broken my obsession with the print version of The New York Times, I was thrilled to greet Black Friday by opening to a full-page ad from Patagonia that urged readers “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”
To the best of my knowledge, Patagonia has never purchased a full-page ad in the Times, and for this, the first time that they did, they are urging consumers to buy less stuff. This exhibits both true leadership and untarnished truth about what it means to be sustainable.
The copy reads: Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.
Click here for Jeff’s complete post.
Thanks again to Chelsea stringer and Patagonia enthusiast Nick Rockwell, who told us about the ad before anyone else had mentioned it, and who caught a Cyber-Monday sequel in his email:
Sometimes when we want the advice of a chic, worldly, bossy big sister, and we mean that in the best possible way, we turn to blogs like Dominique Browning’s Slow Love Life, Zem Joaquin’s EcoFabulous, and Ronnie Citron-Fink’s EcoNesting, … and, Priscilla Woolworth’s Almanac.
These women are stylishly green, intelligently and brilliantly green: they’re strict about ingredients, family, and process; they seem to travel everywhere and know everyone; they always have fresh flowers; and they are ready with sharp poison daggers to stab greenwashers. Also, they almost always have a French grandmother.
We recently caught up with Priscilla for a Q & A. (The first in a series, if you like the idea!)
Q. How did you get started?
A. I started developing the concept for my store 6 years ago, when I couldn’t find the non-toxic cleaning products I needed when I was at my house in Maine in the summer. I started shipping them from Los Angeles to Maine a week before I was leaving! Just nuts! Also, my friends were always asking me where I bought things or asked for advice about my lifestyle. I never imagined having my own store, let alone online and I discovered it was the most natural thing for me to do. Maybe it’s in my genes…
(Ahh, yes… that Woolworth!)
Q. What makes you bounce out of bed in the morning?
A. How did you know that I bounce out of bed in the morning?! I can’t wait to get to work, especially if I’ve just read something fantastic in the newspaper. I must share it right away. I am a compulsive sharer of good, inspiring, exciting information and all of it is connected to my mission of educating and inspiring the public to make changes they can feel good about.
Q. What’s your mission?
A. My mission is twofold: to provide my favorite practical non-toxic, organic, energy-saving, water-saving products in my store; and to be a trusted resource for information about living a more sustainable lifestyle. I am my own best customer and use most of the products I sell. The market bags, reusable produce bags, stainless steel compost pail, African kettle, olive soap, glass water bottles and Valentina outdoor composter are a few of my products I use every single day.
Here’s the “delightful Kettle”: “I keep it by my kitchen sink, where I pour water from unfinished glasses, or saved water from washing lettuce, etc. Do not put any soap in it, only water! When it’s filled up, I use it to water my potted plants outside my kitchen.”
Q. I’m interested in your big thoughts on why sustainable living is important. Why bother?
A. Sustainable living is the way we all need to live if we are going to have a chance at leaving our world a livable and hopefully better place for our children. People need to know that they don’t have to sacrifice their lifestyle but instead can transition easily to something as easy as using reusable market bags or water bottles. I have heard people say that anything we do won’t make a difference, and I strongly disagree. We all have the power to change the world by what we buy… if we all support, for example, the companies that make non-toxic cleaning products or the ones that use recycled paper for paper products, the more those products will become the norm rather than the exception. The awesome United States is a consumer society, so we as the consumers have a lot of power we don’t even realize. Everything we buy is tracked, and when more people spend their money buying non-toxic cleaning products rather than the traditional brands, those environmentally products will become more available and more affordable.
I am inspired so much by my French grandmother, who at 93 years old, has explained to me the way everyone used to live, decades ago: people bought local and produce in season, using market baskets or cloth bags. Very little was wasted and people lived more simply and were content with less. I feel there is a movement to aspire to this kind of lifestyle.
Q. We would love your personal recommendations for products and services that make the process easy and terrific.
A. The easiest recommendations are for things we do on a regular basis, such as shopping for food and personal care. Bring your own market bags with you, buy organic food whenever you can, and buy paper goods made with recycled paper. If you live in an area where water is getting scarcer, get in the habit of keeping a bucket in your shower to catch as much wasted water as possible and use it on your plants instead. EWG.org is a great resource when it comes to checking the safety of beauty products and suntan lotions. Check with your local DWP (Department of Water and Power) and find out what energy saving programs they are offering, and learn ways you can reduce the energy and water wasted in your home, and save money. Add indoor plants like a Spider plant, which acts as natural air cleaners, busting indoor air pollutants in your home or office.
Q. What are you doing posted on the side of that huge building?!
A. Just hanging around…
You can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ecowoolworth.
When we heard that one of the largest corporations in the world named all of its employees Head of Sustainability, we had to find out more. We spoke with Emma Peacock of Unilever Australasia, and she explained what’s going on down under:
Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is an ambitious set of targets, ongoing globally. Here in Australia and New Zealand, we wanted to define our story and our contribution to the Unilever plan. The plan is a clear vision, and we wanted to put ourselves out there. We needed to unveil the Australia/New Zealand roadmap, and we wanted to do it in a way that would be noticed, and get people on board. It’s such an important part of our business, it’s truly part of everybody’s job! We frankly can’t do it unless everyone is involved. People in finance, people on the factory floor, in nutrition, in product development, all across the company. Everyone plays a role. So we decided that everybody is Head of Sustainability! We printed up 5 business cards for each of the 1800 employees – some of them had never had a business card before! It’s not a whole stack, it’s just 5, to show symbolically that You have a new exciting role.
We gave everyone a new job manual, a fun piece, saying Here’s why YOU have been selected as Head of Sustainability. It’s really the only way we can achieve the growth we envision over the next ten, twenty, thirty years.
We made posters featuring 6 different employees and put them up overnight. Each one describes the role of that employee in making a sustainable idea or change happen and why they are therefore the ‘Head of Sustainability.’ This goes with our “small actions, big difference” theme. People do simple things at home, at work here, and as part of a team — it might not feel like a big deal, but they all add up and can have massive impact…. We developed this campaign with the help of an agency Republic of Everyone. Clever people.
We’re guessing that other teams at Unilever will come up with fabulous ideas as well, and we look forward to hearing all about them — and being inspired by them! In fact, we’ve already noticed a handy Unilever sing-along shower app on Unilever’s Facebook page, which supports Practically Green’s shorter-shower actions. The app lets you choose length of shower to be timed (2 to 7 minutes) and choose from music that Wakes me up or Chills me out.
We call them UniCLEVER. Be part of it on Twitter with hashtag #SustLiving.
Tailgate to heaven: grill, beer, food! There’s two months of football to go on the schedule, and SoCal Jocelyn Anne has some fantastic ideas on how to green up your tailgate festivities!
GREEN TAILGATE, by guest blogger Jocelyn Anne
We’re particularly excited about the opportunities for going even greener than years prior! It may mean digging a little deeper, stretching our brains, and perhaps investing a little more time than normal, but it also means bigger pay off than ever before, and I think, even more delicious samplings and drinks to be had! So here’s to the greenest tailgates yet. Whatever team colors you’re rooting for, we’re all rooting for green around here.
First Things First: The BBQ
What tailgate, really, is complete without a barbecue? So, let’s get the real answer when it comes to what’s green and what’s just not. If you have the budget for it, a hydrogen grill is about the very best because it produces zero emissions. Solar is probably a close second, but let’s face it, sun is a pre-requisite and it’s pretty time consuming (neither points good for tailgates). My fave is the corn grill: 100% efficient and burns a 100% renewable resource. Plus, no gases, creosotes, hydrocarbons or chemicals. And, bonus: it’ll never explode! But, okay: benefit of the doubt, college student without the budget for a new-fangled green grill. What you do need to know is that propane beats out charcoal. In fact, charcoal has a footprint about three times greater than propane. I’m also a very big fan of the FlameDisk by uGO. You get 40 minutes of burning per recyclable disk, and it produces 90% fewer pollutants than a charcoal grill. And, if you already have a charcoal burning grill, you can easily make it a greener bbq by replacing the charcoal with eco-friendlier briquettes.
Even Before First things First? The Beer
Let me preface, I’m not a beer drinker. But, I hear from the “crowd” that any real tail-gater gets started on the beer first. If you’re going to go green here, your very best option is to brew your own. I’ll let you research that on your own if you feel so inclined. Following brewing your own, the next best thing is to drink organic and locally brewed beer. We just so happen to live in a time when we can not only find beer made in an eco-friendly process, with locally grown organic and chemical/pesticide free hops and barley; but also, the buildings themselves are becoming more eco-friendly. Plus, for you beer drinkers, the good news is that the bigger the container, the better; in this case, we are keg approvers! Kegs eliminate glass bottles that don’t always get recycled and they can be re-used over and over. Even better, they require less energy to keep cool and can often be found locally distributed. If you need a list of green-approved bottled beers, try these: New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Full Sail Brewing, Alaskan Brewing, and Great Lakes Brewing. (And don’t forget to submit your favorites on Practically Green!)
Truly Most Important: The Food
This is basically why I go to tailgates. To go greener, consider ditching the burgers and dogs, at least traditionally speaking, and try some Boca burgers or Tofu dogs. Personally, I think the soy versions taste better, not to mention they should be better for you nutritionally speaking. Mix things up and do veggie shish ka bobs. Make some killer guacamole. Veggie tacos, anyone? Or, a personal favorite: vegetarian chili. Some chips and super hearty chili, and I’m set. My favorite idea of all? Shop at the local farmer’s market before the game! Nothing like some warm, freshly baked pitas to go with that local hummus!
The Bottom Line
Going green at a tailgate is really actually just as easy and simple as you want it to be. Remember to go local and organic as much as possible. Forget the disposables and bring your own dishes. Recycle when you’re done and clean it up like you were never there. If you can do that, Team Green will win every time!
Note on the author:
Jocelyn is a native Montana ranch girl who recently made the move to California, where she’s found it especially important to incorporate her green roots into her new city life. She now works as a writer for Air & Water, an appliance e-retailer, where her research has greatly awakened her to just how much energy a single house drains in a day and how imperative it is to cut back and start conserving. She’s vowed to skip central heating this year and opt for small, eco-friendly infra red heaters when she needs extra warmth this winter. But, if she does have to use central, you can bet she’ll be turning it down two degrees lower than standard room temperature. And if she isn’t convincing friends to unplug appliances and use low-flow faucets, she’s probably dragging them out to the farmer’s market to teach them about real food!
A Solidly Green PG-er from Chelsea called to point out this full-page ad in The New York Times on Black Friday; thank you, Nick Rockwell! Leave it to Patagonia to explain why Black Friday Shopping deserves a second thought.
The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2 Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.
It’s a classy reminder: Sometimes, the best Stuff is the stuff you already have. Which is why we have dozens of Stuff-related actions at Practically Green, including:
Give experiential holiday gifts (worth 10 points at Practically Green)
Attend a swap event or use a swap site (5 points)
See all of them right here – and please suggest yours: http://practicallygreen.com/actions/stuff
If you’d still like to get a Patagonia jacket, you might check the listings on eBay. We saw 205 pages of apparel there when we last checked 5 minutes ago.
Buy something used on eBay or Craigslist (5 points)
I’ve recently been on a whirlwind tour of major cities in the US for Practically Green. Which, I know, is not very green. As half of this travel was on the West Coast (and we’re headquartered in Boston), eliminating the flying burden wasn’t really an option. But I somewhat haphazardly decided that instead of jumping into a cab or renting a car, perhaps I could commit to trying out every other form of green ground transportation in the process. Yes, even in Los Angeles, that last city on this tour.
Knowing my Type A personality that could get a little over-zealous on this challenge, I did commit to three principles:
1. I would not risk missing a flight or being embarrassingly late to a speaking engagement or client meeting for the sake of this green traveling challenge. If time was unexpectedly tight, just suck it up and take a cab.
2. If it was dark and I was alone, in an unfamiliar town/place, I would use good judgment about transportation choices and safety.
3. Boston didn’t count. I live here. I know the options. Some work well (awesome ability to call for a hybrid taxi out of the line at Logan). Some not so great: public transportation from Newton to the airport at 4:30am.
With that, my first stop was Seattle, Washington. My birthplace. And a town not known historically for being super friendly to green transportation choices. Except that now it’s one of the greenest cities in the country and with that has come what might be my FAVORITE new train line in this country–the Central Link Light Rail, which opened in 2009. It’s a bit of a walk from the terminal, but it whisks you right downtown and is extremely clean and light. Had all my meetings and hotel been downtown, I would have been set. Except I was having lunch on Capitol Hill, dinner in Mercer Lake and had meetings in Redmond the next day. Could I get to all of these–and back–on public transportation? This is when I discovered that Google Transit is a green traveler’s best friend–and that Seattle’s bus system is really pretty good. I got to every destination with one transfer or less, the trips were on-time and I felt safe at all times. One city down, five to go!
Next stop was New York City and this is where I had to break the cab habit first. In 10 years of living in New York City, I had never taken public transportation back and forth from LaGuardia or JFK. Which is, in hindsight, totally embarrassing. Fortunately, I was flying into JFK which has the awesome airtrain that connects you into one of two subway lines–the A or the E. It also connects you to the Long Island Rail Road, which runs every 5-15 minutes during peak times. The first trip, I tried the E. It worked very well taking about 45 minutes from airport into the city. The second flight in was on a Saturday and I tried the A. That took forever—probably 1.5 hours–at least 20 of which was waiting for the A. The third trip I tried the LIRR and that’s by far the fastest and easiest. Will definitely choose that option from now on for the times I have to fly in. Once in Manhattan, the subway system is extensive and easy to navigate, if not extremely crowded at times.
Next stop: Austin, TX. This stop prompted one of the funnier responses to my attempts to navigate public transportation. I arrived extremely late and was staying near the airport so had the shared hotel shuttle to use that night. However, the next day, I needed to get downtown. I asked the desk clerk whether I could get a train or bus into town and got back a completely blank stare. ”A what?” she said. ”A bus,” I said. ”Oh–we don’t have those.” Well, according to Google transit, yes they did. So I ended up taking the shuttle back to the airport and sure enough, for $1 I could take an Airport Flyer bus to a stop one block from my hotel. (For the record, Austin also has a train, but it doesn’t go to the airport).
Next stop: San Francisco. Now this city has not just one, but TWO train systems. BART, which goes to the airports in Oakland and SF and the Metro, which goes around San Francisco. And if the trains aren’t enough, there are also lots of Metro buses to get to and fro. However, San Francisco was also the scene of the first bailing due to being late. One $30 cab ride later, I was kicking myself for not planning better. Not only was green transportation better for the environment, but it was a ton better on my wallet!
Washington DC (Reagan National) came next and they win for “most convenient Metro stop to the airport terminal.” One thing I’d learned about all these public transportation options is that there is a trifecta for making it work as a business traveler: advance planning, flat shoes, and a light bag. I can’t figure out why it’s so hard to build these new stations closer to the terminals, but in many cases they are a 1/4 to 1/3 mile walk. So you do need to be prepared to log some serious mileage. Except at National. Heels allowed.
So now, I’m five cities down and the last stop is the doozy–Los Angeles–the car capital of America–for Opportunity Green. As our team was preparing a mobile application for the event, we asked several friends in LA about public transportation choices and the advice wasn’t particularly encouraging. Concerns were expressed about convenience and safety to the point where we questioned whether we should recommend it to attendees (we did), and I set out to see for myself. Google Transit directed me to the trains, but also said it would take close to 1.5 hours versus 16 minutes for driving. OK–that’s crazy. Landing in LA, the information-counter guy warned me off the trains too. But he explained that there was a non-stop, public bus called the FlyAway that would go to Union Station and from there, I could catch the LA Metro train to my hotel. Simple enough.
But now I needed to get to a meeting in Culver City and time was ticking—OK–resolution #1: don’t be late. So I asked the hotel for a taxi, preferably a hybrid. I didn’t get a strange look at all and a few later, was whisked away in a hybrid. On the way home, I did take the bus back from Culver City to downtown. It was relatively easy to navigate, fast and efficient, but as darkness started to fall, I will admit that it came the closest to feeling risky.
Six cities later, I am very encouraged about the improvements in public transportation in the major cities of America, at least for tourists and business travelers. Admittedly, it’s not Norway or China with rapid transit right into the terminal. And if it were not for Google Transit and nice people at airport information counters, it would be extremely challenging to figure it out. But armed with a smartphone and flat shoes, it is totally doable. It’s also fabulous on expenses. I estimate that I saved at least $500 in taxi and rental car costs for these six trips alone. Just think how much money an entire big company could save if their people were encouraged and motivated to use public transportation for conferences and other business travel! And for those people and companies tracking their footprints, the environmental impact quickly adds up.
If you are a member of Practically Green and want to green your business or personal travel, we’ve added a ton of new actions this fall to get you started:
And now, for the record, I’m signing up for this action for the rest of the year: reduce unnecessary air travel with phone and video conferences. Happy Travels!
SmallBizSaturday falls on November 26, and we can think of at least 12 great reasons to participate:
1) Pump your precious bucks into the indigenous economy: the cash register rings where you throw down; and it rings throughout the entire network behind the proprietor – think about the bookkeeper, the recycling service, shop employees, employees’ babysitters, coffee shops where you go to refuel while you buzz through your gift list….
2) Get to know your local retailers: the dogged and inspired people who work hard to make their establishments better than the ones you find at the big-box mall or online.
3) Save on shipping and transport expenses — yours and the merchandise’s!
4) See, touch, feel, sniff instead of going online and clicking.
5) Avoid the stress (and time-wasting, gas-guzzling jams) of snarling crowds focused on Black Friday.
6) It’s a party! Many local outfits have chocolatey goodies, music, and other fun enticements – at least, the ones we know do…
7) Uniqueness: if it’s one-of-a-kind you crave, your chances are improved by shopping a stand-alone, one-of-a-kind shop.
8) Three gifts for them, one gift for me…. Enjoy a tasty local lunch or mani-pedi as a reward during your errands.
9) Get outside!
10) Save money: many SmallBizSaturday participants offer coupons, deals and other incentives.
11) Enjoy ancillary activities that your ingenious local retailers dream up. For example, KaightNYC is hosting a Wool and the Gang Knitting Party: “The holidays are just around the corner, what better gift to give than to knit that someone special, something special!”
For more info, including a ZIP-directory, visit the Small Business Saturday Facebook page. And please post your stories and recommendations for Small Business Saturday!
Most of these points hold true for the other 364 days of the year: Shop local businesses regularly!
6 easy ways to avoid BPA at the Thanksgiving table, by Founder/CEO Susan Hunt Stevens
Is anyone else in Thanksgiving planning mode? While Googling stuffing recipes this week, I read a report from the Breast Cancer Fund. I want to share it with you because I have several VIPs in my life battling breast cancer—and I bet you do, too.
They were curious about how much bisphenol A (BPA) might be in an average Thanksgiving meal. BPA is in can linings because it acts as a protective barrier between the metal and the can’s contents. But it actually gets into the food, acts as a synthetic hormone, and has been linked to breast cancer as well as many other health issues. So they tested the canned foods that are typically found at a Thanksgiving meal—things like cream of mushroom soup, creamed corn, green beans, and cranberry sauce by big brands including Campbell’s, Carnation, Del Monte, Nestle, Ocean Spray, and General Mills. Here’s what they found: “Single servings of almost half of the products tested had levels of BPA comparable to levels that laboratory studies have linked to adverse health effects.”
Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the amount of BPA in any meal—holiday or otherwise. The first step is to stop using canned food, or to reduce the amount you use, and to buy fresh produce instead. These 6 actions from Practically Green will help you ditch the BPA for Thanksgiving and still have a truly tasty meal:
1. Shop at farmers’ markets, where cans are extremely rare (many end shortly after Thanksgiving, but there are also winter markets)
3. While you’re at it, buy organic when you can–if not fresh, frozen is preferable to canned organic veggies
5. When reheating or defrosting in a microwave, use glass or lead-free ceramic instead of plastic; heating plastic speeds the release of its chemical components into food
6. BPA can be found in soda cans, too, so why not replace them with fizzy natural juices in glass bottles?
Which brings me to this week’s PG Holiday Tip, a friendly reminder: Take your reusable shopping bags while out gathering all of your holiday meal goods!
We’re loving this four piece insulated kit from our partner BlueAvocado and are thrilled that they are offering you, PG members, 25% off your holiday orders! Just use the code balovespg25 at checkout. The bags are made from recycled fibers containing plastic bottles, and hold up to a total of 70 pounds—that’s at least several holiday roasts! If you have too many bags already, these would also make a great gift for someone who is still trying to break the bag habit.
10 Rules for Conscious Eating, by Chris Keenan
- 1) Eat the colors of the rainbow. Not only is this good for your health, the more fresh fruits and vegetables you eat, the less meat and processed foods you eat, which are not as sustainable or environmentally friendly.
- 2) Plant a garden. You just can’t beat the taste of homegrown, garden fresh vegetables, but did you know having a garden is also environmentally friendly? A healthy garden is good for the soil, and it creates an environment for bees and other insects that play a huge role in our ecosystem.
- 3) Buy local. Organic is appealing to conscious consumers, but remember that the bulk of organic produce is grown thousands of miles away and must be flown in. Instead of buying organic, buy local, which traveled a much shorter distance.
- 4) Cook more. Preparing meals yourself is not only a great way to save money and eat healthier, it’s a great way to reduce waste. Plastic utensils, metal or paper containers, plastic bags and paper napkins can all be eliminated when you cook at home.
- 5) Pack an eco-friendly lunch. Most brown bag lunches generate a lot of trash. The brown bag itself, plastic baggies that hold food, and the food containers themselves (i.e., yogurt). Use Tupperware containers instead of plastic bags and buy in bulk rather than buying individualized items. You can store your bulk items in the garage, just keep them away from the garage door and closer to the home. Also, keep everything sealed or you will attract bugs and rodents.
- 6) Kick your soda and bottled water habit. Recycling is good, but not having to recycle at all is even better. Say “no” to beverages that come in cans or bottles.
- 7) Participate in Meatless Mondays and eat more vegetarian meals. The less meat we eat, the greener we’ll be.
- 8) Buy green products. Whenever you have the option, chose brands that use recycled paper or are otherwise committed to environmentally safe practices. Support eco-friendly companies whenever possible.
- 9) Bake your own cookies. Instead of buying a bag of cookies, bake some. Processed foods, like cookies, are mass produced on equipment that uses a lot of energy. Then they are packaged in materials that you ultimately throw away and are then distributed all over the United States. Be green and bake.
- 10) Buy free range, grass fed, and humane animal products. Factory farming is cruel and wreaks havoc on the environment.
Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.
About the Author: Chris lives in New Jersey with his wife Rachel and their baby boy. He works at a Mom & Pop operation.… He says “being middle middle class, living green and healthy can be difficult but we do our best. We mostly concentrate efforts on the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle; avoiding wastefulness; and keeping our energy consumption to a minimum — even if it means getting an earful from parents every time it’s cold out on why we won’t raise the thermostat higher. We run a food blog, thekeenancookbook.com.” Chris also writes for Precision Garage Door, and he maintains a personal house and garden blog.
Say you want to buy a new pair of jeans, and you’d like to be thoughtful about it. Consult the Good Guide, and you’ll find ratings for dozens of brands, from Tommy Bahama to H&M.
Top rank goes to Levi’s, so we called to find out more.
“Levi’s did its first lifecycle assessment in 2007,” Brianna Wolf told us. “We took two of our iconic products, 501 denim jeans and Dockers original khakis. Here’s what we learned: the greatest opportunity for improvement was at the beginning of the cycle – the raw materials stage — and at the end of the cycle, relating to consumer use.”
In the lifecycle of a pair of Levi’s® 501® jeans, we’ve found that the largest water impact comes from the cotton growing process and through the laundry habits of consumers, after they leave our stores. But we can’t ask our suppliers and consumers to change their behaviors unless we’re also willing to make some changes ourselves.
Levi’s came up with this consumer care tag, which points to four (ok, five) actions you’ll find on Practically Green:
Wash only full loads of laundry (20 points)
Wash laundry in cold water (50 points)
Donate clothes to a charity (20 points)
Line-dry laundry seasonally (25 points)
Line-dry laundry all year (50 points)
“We identified another big opportunity area in the cotton field. We joined the Better Cotton Initiative, which makes positive change happen across the supply chain. Our goal is to get better cotton into 20% of our products by 2015. So far we’ve got it in 2 million pairs of jeans!”
This infographic illustrates the process:
Another great reason to wear Levi’s: the water-reducing strategies developed for the Water<Less collection.
Last year, we announced the Levi’s® Water<Less™ collection – denim finished in a way that uses significantly less water. Up to 96 percent less for some products.
As a result of this innovative process, we produced nearly 1.5 million pairs of jeans for this year’s spring line while saving 16 million liters of water.
But we knew we could do more. So we’ve been working with our suppliers around the globe to spread these water-saving techniques.
And we’re proud to say that the Levi’s® global collection now includes nearly 12 million jeans in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Since we introduced the Water<Less collection, we have saved 156 million liters of water around the world. That’s 60 million days of drinking water for communities in need.
Here’s something else you can do with old jeans: insulate your walls! (Levi’s estimates it has 25,000 jeans in the walls of its new San Francisco headquarters.)
Add insulation to your walls (100 points)
What do you think? Will you look for Levi’s the next time you buy a pair of jeans?
*** We’ll update this Corporate Gift Guide in the weeks ahead and hope you’ll continue to contribute your ideas – here, on Facebook, and via Twitter @practicallygrn. ***
From last week’s inbox:
Q: Quick question, what is an appropriate green sustainable corporate holiday gift? It is complicated. We don’t want to purchase sustainable goodies that have to make their way here from Australia. Additionally, we want to be sensitive to the state of the economy and our friends who have lost their jobs. Thank you, Robin Freedman, Waste Management, Inc.
Thanks for asking, Robin! Here are a few ideas to start the conversation.
- Restaurant meal: Especially in economically volatile times, who wouldn’t appreciate a nice meal out? Arrange a gift certificate to a local, sustainable restaurant! Metro New Yorkers will love a certificate to dell’Anima; got a favorite client in LA? Our sources say TrueFood in Santa Monica is the best. Mmm, in Kirkland, Washington, where Robin works, Café Juanita looks like a very good choice.
- Wine. Find a local wine shop who knows their organic, biodynamic, and natural wines. Ask if they ship or offer local delivery. Our personal vintner, the Wine Bottega in Boston’s North End, has a Farm to Glass case-of-the-month program that’s sure to thrill your recipients! You can request a mixed case to be delivered within metro-Boston or sent via FedEx. Owner Kerri Platt, a Yale-educated biologist, writes an informative brief to accompany each hand-picked selection, which can be delivered via Metro Pedal Power or shipped FedEx. If you can’t locate an inspired sommelier near you, contact the Wine Bottega team: email@example.com.
- Sparkling water maker. Speaking of beverages, we don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love to see a Sodastream Penguin in the office kitchen to make fizzy water from tap:
- Leafy Office Plant. What’s greener than this?! A local nurseryman can fill your order, or consider a super-legit source like White Flower Farm. There’s no more gorgeous (and foolproof) selection than an Amaryllis from White Flower Farm. One it’s bloomed, these can be set outside (once it’s frost-free) and practically neglected; they’ll set up a new blooming display next year. If the Amaryllis doesn’t grab you, review this gift section. Perennial = Sustainable!
- Old school: We called Tiffany & Co. to see if they have anything greenish to offer business accounts, and here’s what they said:
Tiffany IS vintage, Tiffany is durable, nobody throws out a Tiffany gift, nobody even throws out a Tiffany BOX!
- Cards and Invitations: Paperless Post is our favorite online resource. Check out their designs – and don’t forget the envelope linings!
P.S. Our friends at The Family Dinner gave this plug on our Facebook wall – and we have to say, the book is amazing and should be in everyone’s kitchen… perfect for anyone on your list who has ever complained about having a decent dinner conversation with their teenagers.
P.S. As you make your selections, please consider these PG gift-giving actions:
And finally, don’t miss Lisa Borden’s tips for gift giving:
Susan Mazur-Stommen is a cultural anthropologist focusing on how people adopt sustainable, green behaviors. She conducts her research from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy as the Director of Behavior and Human Dimensions, renowned for their States’ Scorecard for Energy Efficiency (see image ahead).
Susan argues that “in order to achieve true, lasting, behavior change in the area of sustainability, we have to use a multi-layered approach, tackling the problem with various tools and media. It’s important to think about the ‘whole person’ when we discuss behavior change, and that includes things like emotions, physical well-being, and how our environment may be affecting us on any given day.”
“For example,” she told us, “some popular ideas for going ‘green’ aren’t always very practical in terms of people’s real lives. Take line-drying, for example. Proponents fail to figure in the cost of the person who has to stand outside for an hour putting all those clothes on the line and then taking them back inside. When you consider the cost of that person’s labor, standing in the heat or cold, line-drying is not the ‘free’ energy saving solution it is often touted as, at least in terms of the individual and their limited time and physical energy.”
Susan gave us a few further insights from the social and behavioral sciences to share with you.
1) Social norms:
Robert Cialdini tested messages about saving water on the cards you see propped up in the bathroom of a hotel. He found that the most successful was one that read, “Two-thirds of our hotel guests decide not to get fresh towels during their stay in order to save water, won’t you join them?”
Reason: People like to ‘stay in line’ or ‘tribe’ with their peers and neighbors, it is a powerful incentive.
Note: Practically Green’s leaderboards encourage you to choose more green actions!
2) Foot in the Door:
Robert Cialdini also tested the ‘foot in the door’ concept, which says that people are much more likely to agree to make a big change if they are first asked to make a very small change. It works like this: if you ask someone for a nickel, and then later go back and ask for a dollar, the people you asked for a nickel will be much more likely to give later (which of course widens the gap between givers and non-givers even more!)
Note: That’s why PG offers so many ’small’ actions, worth just 5 points but still very important! A handful from the Recycling section:
Offering someone something begins a relationship of give and take that people find extremely hard to resist. This is one of the reasons charities include those address labels in their appeals: they have already given you something, and now you are enmeshed in an obligation to return their ‘gift’ even if you don’t like it, want it, and did not ask for it!
A utility could utilize a combination of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘foot in the door’ in a message. Say at the beginning of summer you want to get people to raise their thermostats in general to reduce peak load, you would send an insert in the mail, or an email that would read:
“Dear John Q Customer, we here at utility X appreciate how you have worked to save energy in your home these past few years. To honor your commitment to energy savings, we have donated $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of America. All we ask in return is that you commit to turning your thermostat setting up by ONE degree this summer.”
Next summer….the follow-up…
“Dear Customer, we really appreciate how much energy you and your neighbors saved last summer, and to recognize that, this year we have DOUBLED our donation to Charity X in your name. All we ask in return is that you consider turning up your thermostat by FOUR degrees this summer. If you decide to take the pledge, please send in the enclosed BRC. Thank you for your support!”
Now, theoretically, the combination of social norming, reciprocity, foot in the door, and a pledge (whereby you can also evaluate level of intent) should result in some serious savings.
And this leads to the final insight,
4) Grant McCracken’s “Diderot Effect”:
Susan told us the story of the French philosopher Diderot’s new bathrobe:
“He received a lovely new bathrobe, cherry red silk, and he was sitting in his study one evening with it on, and feeling terrific but then he began to notice that the fabulous new robe made the rest of his surroundings seem shabby. ‘I need a better chair,’ he thought. ‘A nice desk…. New wallpaper. The bookcases are a mess!’ The idea is to introduce a disconnect between the consumers’ old selves and their new selves which can result in their wanting to bring all of these parts of their identity back into line, or what McCracken calls, ‘unities’. An example of this might be a new mom who carefully purchases Bisphenol-A free baby bottles, but at the same time drives a gas guzzler which pumps pollution into the air her baby breathes. The disconnect between her decisions begins to gnaw at her and pretty soon she considers replacing it. Thus a whole chain of actions goes into effect. Pretty soon this mom is evaluating her food choices, her indoor air quality, her household waste, inefficiencies at her job. The activity of bringing her lifestyle choices into ‘unity’ with one another is an example of the Diderot effect.
At Practically Green we see the Diderot effect every day: once people begin checking off actions on their dashboard, they begin to get addicted to the process, it takes on significance, they continue and eventually share their accomplishments with their friends and colleagues.
One more story from Susan, who says that simple social recognition can be a powerful driver for change:
“I once met an older gentleman named Frank, a retired maintenance worker. He likes to walk around town, and at the end of his block was a little pocket park that would have been a nice place to sit except that people were filling it up with discarded cigarette butts. He started cleaning it up every day. Eventually he won an award from the city council. They put a plaque up and named the park after him. It wasn’t that complicated, but it made Frank feel great so he got even more involved. He started working at the public library, going to city council meetings. So this social recognition was effective. It was very cheap for the city to recognize Frank’s good works, and at the same time, they reaped the reward of his intensified volunteer efforts!”
Bingo: Practically Green gives badges when you complete sets of actions. For example, here’s the new Conscious Consumer badge. How would you like to join the 12% of PG users who have already earned it!!
Check out the ACEEE 2011 State Energy Scorecard… where are you? Follow ACEEE ion Twitter @ACEEEdc and join them on Facebook.
Water: Got too much? Not enough? What are the coolest new products for conserving water? How do the experts view this precious resource?
** Please join our free webinar on November 16, 1-2pm ET to get expert advice and answers. **
Register here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/458003078
Practically Green has 51 Water-related actions, from Wash only full loads of laundry (99% of PG users have done this already; 20 points) to Install a shower timer (Only 1% of PG has done this one! Why is it the least favorite Water action?)
We’re hosting an online event for a deep dive on the subject.
• Molly Hislop: Program Director, Green Education Foundation
• Michele Hudec: VP of Product and BizDev, American Standard Brands
• Stephanie Thornton: Community Outreach, WaterSense, EPA
• Martin Wolf: Director of Product/Technology at Seventh Generation
• Peter Yost: Director of Residential Services, BuildingGreen
Moderated by Practically Green’s Founder & CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens.
As we all get pumped for the holidays, here’s a mantra to relieve stress: instead of buying new stuff that’ll go in the trash, why not shop on eBay, thredUp, Freecycle or your local thrift shop to get what you need? Alternatively, swap! And don’t forget Mom’s closet!
For inspiration, here’s a vintage mouse costume that’s 20 yrs old, perfect for Nutcracker duty. Thank you, Farrah Graham of Regina, Canada, who sent us this pic with the following story:
For Hallowe’en our daughter wore a mouse costume that has been handed down in our family for the past 20 years! (And she looked just as adorable as all the mice before her!)
Save money being green
In a skittish economy, money trumps all. Everyone wants to boost efficiency, reduce waste, and be healthy not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s miserable watching cash float away any more than we must. Practically Green has 70+ actions you can do that are either free or that will yield impressive financial results.
Check the list! You’re probably doing lots of these things already. You’ll see several to do starting, well… Now!
Here’s a sampling. The point value tells you the relative impact of each action:
Turn thermostat down by 4 degrees in the winter (50 Points)
Turn down hot water heater (20 points)
Turn off the heat dry feature on your dishwasher (20 points)
Switch to reusable towels or dish cloths at home (20 points)
Install one low-flow shower head (20 points)
Use reusable shopping bags regularly (10 points)
Turn off the lights when you leave a room (10 points)
Unplug chargers and appliances when not in use (20 points)
Buy a pre-owned home instead of building new (200 points)
Commit to 25 of these next steps, and you’ve earned the Frugalista badge. Who wouldn’t want this coy pig on their Practically Green dashboard?!
So go ahead, pick your 25 actions and get this savvy oinker on board your green program!
We’ve got a fabulous panel of experts coming to our Water webinar on November 16. Please mark your calendars for 1pm Eastern, full details coming soon!
* * *
Our water supply pipes and our drain pipes are connected. What goes out our drain pipes goes into a system, and is brought back into our homes and other buildings through our supply pipes. Knowing this, how should we change our thinking about what we put down our drains?
That got me thinking about my kitchen sink at home, and the drain in the sink that leads to a disposal, which grinds up all our food scraps into… pulp? mush? and then all of that glop goes … where?
To the rescue: Bootstrap Compost, a can-do composting entrepreneur who supplies households and businesses in metro Boston with a cool bin, lined with a biodegradable bag. It has a happy green lid and it looks just fine on the kitchen floor.
Who can resist this message from Bootstrap’s impresario, Andy Brooks?
Bootstrap Compost is Greater Boston’s only year-round kitchen scrap pickup service. We use bikes, trains, hand trucks, and the occasional vehicle to collect and transport compostable material from houses, apartments, dorms, co-ops, and condos. Additionally, we’ll happily collect scraps from farmer’s markets, cafes, restaurants, concerts, festivals, cult gatherings — you name it. And the coolest thing is this: all active Bootstrap customers receive a portion of super rich compost 10-15 weeks after their initial deposit to the Bootstrap Compost bank. The second coolest thing is this: We donate finished compost to urban gardens in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.
I was amazed at all the scraps we had accumulated after one simple dinner for two and a light breakfast the next morning – and this was before we scooped in our coffee grinds! There’s something a bit intimate, revealing, about showing you our compost, but here you are:
Turns out Andy is not alone: there are compost services in many other cities (go Philly Compost and New York Compost!), some of which are actually provided by the municipality (go San Francisco and Seattle!). And composting isn’t just for home: we know restaurants, companies, and even a major-league baseball team that composts 85% of its waste (go, Seattle Mariners!).
Find out why Compost kitchen food waste is worth a big fat 100 points!
Have you ever considered composting at your home, office, school? This might just be the way to ease into the practice…. Google “NAME OF YOUR CITY + compost pickup” and see what you get!
In a couple of months, the reward: they’ll deliver a bag of urban black gold – worm-processed soil that’s perfect for houseplants this winter.
Energize Phoenix is a partnership between a city, a local power utility, and a university.
“We can be just as sophisticated about getting you to reduce your energy consumption as somebody selling you a Hummer can be to get you to increase your energy consumption,” says Arizona State University social psychologist Susan Ledlow, as reported by Emily Badger on The Atlantic.com.
Ledlow wants to create the social norm that energy conservation is something everyone does. This is a distinctly different message from “energy conservation is something you should do.” She wants people to hear that many, many people care about this, and that those people are doing something about it. “The more people hear that,” Ledlow says, “the more it becomes a social reality.”
We caught up with Badger on how she became interested in the subject of environmental psychology:
“It’s a relatively new field, the idea of taking marketing best-practices on how to influence people to behave sustainably, increasing their energy efficiencies, for example, as opposed to consuming cars or building McMansions…. There was an existing model that said if you give people the right information about how to make efficient choices, stick it up on a web site, eventually they’ll change. But that’s not enough, and people realize it. Cities all over the country have posted information on how you can get your lawn clippings picked up, but it just sits there! And now there’s a new imperative: with the economic downturn it’s simply not practical for people to be wasteful any more. We’re all looking for ways to save money.”
Badger says that real-life energy efficiencies can go viral via the power of peer pressure: “it’s possible to envision a norm that catches on in one block, spreads up the street and eventually to the neighborhood level. Neighbors chat about their retrofits, their bill savings during a rough economy. Then they see a familiar face on a subway ad for happy insulation customers. The idea spreads along the rail line. The average consumption figures on the monthly electricity bill tick down, and the norm expands out regionally.”
“People are far more persuaded by what everybody actually does, even when they say that they’re not,” Ledlow says. “There’s just experiment after experiment where you can get people to change their behavior to match the behavior of the people around them. And then they will swear that that’s not why they did it. Yet we know that happens.”
We know that positive behavior change happens at Practically Green — we hear this all the time; we share user comments on our Facebook page and via Twitter @practicallygrn. And Groups is part of it: registered users automatically join 4 Groups, including their state and zip code Groups.
People love to compare their scores with their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Have a look at the Practically Green Staff Group here.
* * * * *
No wonder we felt a buzz in Boston when this state scorecard was released by the ACEEE last week; for the first time, Massachusetts ranks number 1.
“In a sour year for the economy, energy efficiency remains a growth sector that attracts investment and creates jobs,” lead author Michael Sciortino says. “It’s just plain smart to invest in energy efficiency, and that’s what the leading states are doing. There are so many things that can be done… energy efficiencies are abundant anywhere in the country. And yes, some states take this scorecard as a call to action.”
Note to States: why not sign up at Practically Green?! That way you can compare your energy-efficient progress with your peers and boost your rank next year!