The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

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When Joe and I began writing this blog late in 2008, we were soon introduced to Patagonia as a leader in sustainable business practices — or, as founder Yvon Chouinard prefers to call them—responsible business practices. We found Patagonia.com’s Footprint Chronicles to be an especially intriguing—and daring—step toward a company’s taking responsibility for its impact on the environment. So, when I was offered an opportunity to review The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, I eagerly agreed.

If you’re familiar with Patagonia, you’ll understand how Chouinard and Stanley are qualified to write such a book. Patagonia is known for its commitment to the environment, for its celebration of the natural world, and for providing its employees with a rewarding and well-balanced work life (see Chouinard’s 2002 book, Let My People Go Surfing)….

There’s no self-congratulatory back-slapping in this book. The authors tell the story of their painful realization of the harm their businesses (Patagonia is “an offshoot of the Chouinard Equipment Company, which made excellent mountain-climbing gear”) were doing to the environment and the financial risks they took when they committed to improvement….

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Tab for a Cause — An Easy Way to Raise Funds for Charity

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If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

My answer to this question is always the same: Pay my tuition. Most college students don’t have money to spare, and if you manage to earn a few bucks, it goes towards books or school supplies. So, when someone asks you to donate to charity, it’s hard to contribute.

Four college students – Kevin Jennison, Alex Groth, Joel Detweiler, and Sam Ward-Packard tackled this problem. On August 4th they launched Tab for a Cause (TFAC), a browser extension that allows the user to donate to charity simply by opening a new tab….

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Little Princes by Conor Grennan

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In 2004, Conor Grennan began an around-the-world journey with a two-month stint volunteering in Little Princes, a Nepalese orphanage near Kathmandu. He took on the work less as a humanitarian effort than as a way to justify spending the next ten months indulging his urge to travel, he says. He had no intention of making the orphanage or the children of Nepal his life’s work. “Volunteering in an orphanage was a one-off,” Grennan writes in Little Princes, “an experience that you would never forget and never repeat.” He wasn’t callous, just uninvolved.

But what he could not know then was how deeply these children would affect him, compelling him to return again and again to do all that he could to help them. What he also did not learn at first was that most of the children were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking….

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Iowa Rivers Revival Invites You to Rivers Rock! September 11

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Whether you’re a paddler, a lover of rivers, or someone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about, Iowa Rivers Revival invites you to fall in love with Iowa’s rivers at Rivers Rock! Float and Music Fest on Saturday, September 11….

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Take the Itch Away with Motherlove Green Salve

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Last week, I was sitting at my computer alternately scratching my first mosquito bite of the season and trying to page through my emails. No stranger to itching, I had remnants of poison ivy dotting my left knee. My second case of poison ivy so far this summer, darn it all.

And even though symptoms of my annual battle with the toxic vine are lessening each year thanks to a concoction my pharmacist sells, the itching is enough to drive me somewhat mad.

So, when the following email came up on my screen, it immediately caught my attention:

“I’m writing on behalf of summer and all things itchy and scratchy. Figuring Iowa is full of mosquitoes after all the 4th of July rain, I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in reviewing the Green Salve from Motherlove Herbal Company. It’s saving our skin over in Wisconsin. Thanks!

Julie — the new Blog Review Mother for Motherlove Herbal Company”

No way I’d turn down that offer. I immediately wrote back….

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Volunteering Made Easy – Action Now + Network

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If you’re like pretty much everyone else I know, you want to do “something” to help causes that are important to you. But your time is limited, and your demands are already huge. How do you find out what organizations support the issues that concern you and where you should expend your limited energy? Action Now + Network is a resource that will help you sort through the options available and choose one (or more) that is right for you.

Launched just two months ago, Action Now + Network is a new website that focuses on organizations that are doing real good for the world. Here’s how founder Sheila Wasserman described Action Now + Network to Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) in an interview from her California office….

WASSERMAN: In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and instant RSS feeds, it’s really impossible to claim ignorance of the world around us. We are all constantly bombarded at warp speed with information on the life-threatening issues we face every day — perilous geopolitical tensions, global warming, and the destruction of our environment, flagrant and egregious acts of cruelty inflicted by humans upon both humans and animals, not to mention hunger, poverty, homelessness, absent or woefully inadequate health care — it’s hard to know where to stop. For most of us, it is mind-numbing to think of what needs to be done to make even a small impact, let alone to solve the overwhelming problems of the world….

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Jon Hutson Says, “Enough!” to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

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Jonathan Hutson serves as the director of communications for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. Enough is a part of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Not long ago, a director of communications would have been confined to print, television, and radio to spread an organization’s message. Today, it’s a whole new game, with social media gaining in prominence as the medium of choice.

Fittingly, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) first became aware of Hutson through Twitter, where WeFollow.com ranks Hutson (@JonHutson) as among the most influential Tweeters on human rights and justice. We asked Hutson to tell us about the Enough Project and how they use social media to further the organization’s critically important international work….

HUTSON: The Enough Project was launched three years ago, and is helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. We are calling the U.S. and the international community to action — to witness horrible human rights violations and to take measurable, meaningful action that stops ongoing atrocities and prevents their recurrence.

Here’s the latest example of our work: a witty video by actor/director Brooke Smith and cinematographer Steven Lubensky, called “I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret.” It’s about Congo conflict minerals; it spoofs an iconic Apple ad. Since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof launched the video in a column called “Death by Gadget” in the Sunday, June 27, 2010 edition of The New York Times, this video has gone viral. It’s been covered by Gizmodo, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Planet Green, Elephant Journal, TreeHugger, and CNN International. Please take a look and share it with friends….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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Beauty Night Heals Mind, Body, and Spirit for Marginalized Women

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Survival sex-workers, drug addicts, and homeless women rarely have an opportunity to feel that someone truly cares about them or to experience human touch in a healthy way. But the volunteers at Beauty Night Society in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) are striving to change that.

Caroline MacGillivray is the National Executive Director and Founder of Beauty Night Society. A 1995 graduate of Gastown Actors Studio in Vancouver, her interest in helping marginalized women arose while volunteering at WISH (Women Information Safe House) to conduct research for an upcoming role.

She explains, “My best friend from theater school married a gentleman who was going to school to become a preacher. They were ‘house parents’ at a transition home for sex workers who were trying to get off the street.

“When she would tell what she did, people sometimes seemed judgmental. She’d get questions like, ‘Why are you helping sex workers?’ ‘Why are you helping people with addiction issues? They have no discipline; they have no control,’ and those types of things….

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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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Light the Way for Clean Water – But Hurry!

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One of every seven people in developing countries around the world does not have access to clean water.* It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who take daily showers and use flush toilets with no thought at all. Women and girls, in particular, may walk miles to carry water back to their families. Try moving up on the economic scale when so much of your time is consumed with providing the basic necessities to your family. Not likely.

But organizations around the world are doing ambitious projects to change that. Global Greengrants Fund oversees many of these projects, with serious funding support from Aveda — a company best known for creating organic hair and beauty care products that are sourced from around the world. For the past three years in April, Aveda has been raising funds for Global Greengrants water-related projects by selling their Light the Way candles.

In addition to Global Greengrants, Aveda is supporting 21 regional partners through their Earth Month activities. According to the Aveda website, the projects this year include: “training 3,500 people in sustainable and organic agriculture methods [which keeps pesticides and herbicides out of waterways]; helping 20 communities implement local water resource management plans; enabling 100 communities to take action against toxic industrial pollution and hundreds of other projects that have helped protect water rights and water access around the world.” …

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Full-Circle Learning – Global Partnerships Unlock Potential

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After the 1992 civil unrest in South Central Los Angeles, a small grassroots group began an after-school program to show the children living in the area that diverse members of their community cared about them. Teresa Henkle Langness, who later founded Full-Circle Learning, was among them.

“Over time,” Langness says, “we began to see that what these children needed was to be a part of a community, to be a part of the solution, instead of feeling like victims of society’s ills.”

Langness adds, “When we began to incorporate character themes linked to local and global service within each lesson plan, the students’ scores suddenly began to leap. They became much better students, much better people. They began to teach their parents conflict resolution. Outside organizations in the community began to benefit from their work. Families wanted to replicate the model and began asking us for help in doing so.”

Today, Full-Circle Learning provides a full preschool-through-high school curriculum in 13 nations. Langness told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), “The mission of Full-Circle Learning is to help young people embrace their role as humanitarians and change agents. We do this through educational programs that integrate and expand students’ character strength, academic excellence, creative capacities, and conflict resolution skills.” …

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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Help Rock Stars Save the Planet!

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Perhaps you’re wondering how rock stars can save the planet. It’s a pretty far-fetched notion — unless you know that 1% for the Planet has released an album of “40 rare and exclusive songs donated by leading artists to produce the first album dedicated to supporting the environment.” All proceeds from 1% for the Planet: The Music, Vol. 1 will be contributed to environmental organizations across the globe. You don’t hear those words — “all proceeds … will be contributed” — very often.

You might notice that we have a new badge on the upper right-hand corner of our website. It’s a link to purchase the album. Go ahead. Click on it. And get yourself a rockin’ good album that will put a smile on your face without leaving a big dent in your bank account….

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What Are You Waiting For? So Act, Already!

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When Stella and Greg Halpern say, “We’re on a mission to build a better world,” they have the credentials to prove it. As the founders of So Act, a new social action network that’s connecting people around the globe, the Halperns are putting their goals into action.

We wanted to know what motivated the couple to create this ambitious network. So Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the Halperns while they were traveling in California with their daughters, three talented musicians who go by the name Truth on Earth…

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Brooklyn Free School Plans Service Learning Project in Tanzania

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Imagine you’re attending a public school where you can determine what you will study based on your interests. Imagine planning a trip that you will take with your classmates, teachers, and parent volunteers half a world away. Now imagine that you are only six years old.

Students at the Brooklyn Free School in Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), New York, are experiencing a very different kind of education — one that teaches independence and responsibility, as well as academics, art, and all other subjects. In a few weeks, 11 students, ages 6 to 17, and 13 adults will be traveling to Tanzania on a remarkable service learning field trip — one that the students helped to plan and fund….

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Haiti on Our Minds

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching three days of news reports streaming from MSN.com and CNN.com. As I sit here in the comfort of a sturdy Midwestern home, I grieve for people I have never known. I watch in frustration as the planes land with supplies, yet reports from the streets are that aid is not reaching those who are most affected and most vulnerable.

What amazes me is the overall calm that has prevailed so far in this desperately poor country, even in the face of a disaster of massive proportions. Men, women, and children alike wait for help that is far too long in coming — in a relatively orderly manner for the most part. Yes, there are outbreaks of violence and looting. But the astonishing thing is how long peace reigned before any trouble began — and that it still reigns still over most of the capital city.

Speaking to an MSN.com camera crew, one young man with a clear American accent said, “I don’t expect you to get it to us immediately. But at least give us something, so we can have courage.” …

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Dispatches from Copenhagen – Wednesday, Two Days Remaining

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COPENHAGEN — The anxiety and anticipation rising in the conference center are palpable as the fault lines become more distinct and several entities attempt to resurrect negotiations. It’s Wednesday morning in Copenhagen, there are far fewer NGOs, a lot more press, and sightings of presidents and prime ministers scuttling to meetings. It’s difficult to make sense of everything that is taking place at these talks. But one thing is clear, the sense of urgency has heightened, and time is running out for nations to strike a deal….

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Travel for Change Brings Fair-Trade Cultural Tourism to Tanzania

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Soon after University of Iowa senior Stephanie Enloe graduates in December, she will be on a plane to Tanzania. Enloe, 22, is the director of sustainable projects for Travel for Change International, a small group of committed volunteers who are building an eco-lodge near Njombe, Tanzania. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) met with Enloe to find out what makes Travel for Change different from other travel venues serving visitors to Tanzania. — Publisher

ENLOE: The term for what we’re doing at Travel for Change is “fair-trade cultural tourism.” In East Africa, quite often, tourist initiatives are foreign-owned — the hotels, resorts, safari companies, and climbing companies. This is the case in a lot of developing countries. Travel venues and services are foreign-owned and really expensive. People go over there thinking that they’re getting an “African experience.” They pay huge amounts of money, which goes to foreign bank accounts and is not even remotely beneficial to the people in the area.

The first goal of our organization is to create a community-owned travel initiative, where, once the business model is intact and sustaining itself, it passes into community hands….

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