Sustainability

April 21, 2011

Two Guys, a Herd of Goats and a Llama walk into a…

beekman1It may sound like the punchline to a joke but it was anything but funny when partners Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell originally purchased Beekman Farm at the height of the real estate boom in 2007. One year later the market crashed, both had lost their jobs, and coming up with a monthly farm mortgage payment was no easy task. Enter sustainable TV network Planet Green who approached the boys to create a reality program based on their experiences on the farm raising a herd of goats and one unruly llama. One year later, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” aired on Planet Green Network and two new icons for the sustainable set were created.

Josh and Brent traveled to San Francisco April 9 to appear at the SF Green Festival to talk about their farm and their lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802. (1802 was the year their farmhouse was originally built.) The guys try to embrace seasonal, natural living wherever they can. With a little help from an appearance on the Martha Stewart show, the Beekman Boys introduced their first product: goat milk soap. Many more goat milk products were to follow including the newly released “Cajera” caramel sauce. With the launch of these products and the success of the reality program, the boys have now been approached by Williams-Sonoma to release packages of their favorite heirloom seed varieties grown on the farm.

beekman2It was great fun listening to these guys discuss the in’s and out’s of life on the farm during the festival. But the main takeaway for me was their exhortation to plant something. Josh and Brent believe the only way humans are going to get back to our food roots is to learn how to grow our own food; on farms, in our yards, our roofs, our kitchens, even at our offices. In fact, their goal is to make their website the largest online farming community in the world. I would say they are well on their way.

My friends at Dharma have encouraged me to accept the challenge of Brent and Josh. So, I have decided to try my hand at farming. Like the Beekman Boys, I have little farm experience but a lot of passion. I will keep you posted on my progress in the days and months ahead. And if you have tips I encourage you to post them in the comments section. I assure you, I will need all the help I can get!

Photo: Brent Ridge, Trace Wendell and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The Fabulous Beekman Boys and a fabulous Dharma Boy!

April 13, 2011

Interview with Malama Kaua’i

malama-kauaiI recently had the very good fortune of being interviewed on the KKCR Kaua’i Community Radio Malama Kaua’i Radio Show by Keone Kealoha, co-founder of Malama Kaua’i.

The interview was conducted to feature the Green Chamber of Commerce, and share the work the Green Chamber is doing to promote sustainability, support member businesses and campaign for climate change legislation at the local, state and national levels.

It was an honor to be connected to Malama Kaua’i, an organization that seeks to merge the traditional Hawaiian values of aloha and malama (take care of)`aina (the environment) with contemporary principles of sustainability. Founded in 2006 by Keone Kealoha and Chris Jaeb, Malama Kaua’i has grown to include a significant number of projects and initiatives designed to increase the production and consumption of local agricultural products, advance towards energy independence with renewable sources, promote sustainable watershed management and foster a strong local economy.

With an environment that contains many species that only exist on the Hawaiian islands, and a location that makes importing and exporting cost and carbon footprint-prohibitive, we’re grateful for the incredible work the folks at Malama Kaua’i are doing. Mahalo nui loa!

April 13, 2011

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman Rallies SF GreenFest Attendees

breaking-the-sound-barrier“And when you trust your television, what you get is what you got, cause when they own the information, oh, they can bend it all they want.”

So sings John Mayer in his song “Waiting for the World to Change.” Democracy Now! broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter and author Amy Goodman drove his point home in a stirring speech at the San Francisco Green Festivalthis past weekend and Dharma was thrilled to be in attendance. Amy Goodman is an award-winning investigative journalist and host of “Democracy Now!” which airs on more than 800 public television and radio stations. She is the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Peace Prize” for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.”

Amy has often found herself directly in the middle of news-worthy protests, covering the news from the ground level. She says the only way a reporter can get a true picture of what is going on is by directly talking to the women and men in the streets. This brave ( and dangerous) commitment to her craft has often placed Amy in harm’s way. Amy was arrested while trying to locate two ”Democracy Now!” producers on the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota during the 2008 Republican National Convention. You can see a video of her arrest here.

amy goodman book signingAmy urged Green Festival attendees to actively support independent news and independent journalists whenever possible. Her message: “How can we expect for-profit news channels to report accurate information about the environment, healthcare and the financial meltdown when their ad revenue may depend on them doing the exact opposite. How can we expect to hear accurate information about healthcare when the healthcare industry is paying millions for advertising. How can we expect to hear accurate information about the banking industry when they are paying millions for advertising to the very news networks who are supposed to be telling us the truth about them.”

Amy will rerurn to San Francisco to speak at the New Living Expo on May 1. If you care about independent voices in our news media you wont want to miss this opportunity to hear Amy and to get a signed copy of her new book “Breaking The Sound Barrier.” (We did!) To find out where Democracy Now! is broadcast in your area, click here.

Photo: Dharma employees Yebuny Johnson, Office Manager, and Trace Wendell, Accounts Manager, with Amy Goodman at the April 2011 SF Green Festival.

April 04, 2011

Co-founder Alexia Marcous interviewed by 2degrees

2degreesWhat a pleasure it was being interviewed by Ben Carmichael of 2degrees on my work with the Green Chamber of Commerce.

A theme of the discussion was collaboration, where I shared how the GCC has partnered with Green America and B Lab to share expertise and best practices. We also talked about the Green Chamber’s membership in the American Sustainable Business Council to counter the anti-environmental lobbying voice of the National Chamber of Commerce on climate change legislation. I was glad to give a resounding yes when Ben asked if we also partnered with organizations like 350.org, which I see as necessary to keeping attention on climate change and having businesses be a driver in making sustainability an essential part of our economic recovery.

Collaboration happens to be what 2degrees is all about. An online community of over 12,000 sustainability professionals from over 90 countries, 2degrees connects like-minded businesses and public sector organizations from around the world to share expertise, connect with new partners and find new customers.

The community is built upon subject-specific Working Groups such as Greener Healthcare, Low Carbon Commercial Real Estate, Carbon Compliance Strategies and Water Risk and Strategy.

Their free membership level provides access to their latest news, blogs, non-legal documents and forums. Premium, paid-for services include access to certain live and recorded webinars and podcasts, access to legal briefings, and the ability to contact other members.

I see joining as a way to participate in a global community dedicated to sharing knowledge and fostering the collaboration that is critical to solving some of our world’s most difficult questions around how to best implement sustainable solutions. Thank you 2degrees for bringing us together!

Read the full article at 2degrees »

March 29, 2011

“Do One Green Thing” (Part 2)

“Taking action” is key to fundamental change in all aspects of our lives. However, taking action to effect positive changes to protect our bodies and our environment from toxic chemicals can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. Especially when trying to effect change on the federal level. San Francisco Department of the Environment Program Director Debbie Raphael offered the following inspiring story to prove that change can definitely happen, but it doesn’t have to begin at the top!

The city of San Francisco became the first city in the USA to ban phthalates in children’s toys in December 2006. The ban prohibits the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby products containing any level of bisphenol A and certain levels of phthalates. These toxic chemicals, which are used to harden or soften plastics, can leach out each time a baby sucks on a favorite doll or gnaws on a cool teething ring, scientists say. A small number of human studies, and a large number of animal tests, suggest that these chemicals interfere with the hormone system.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma from San Francisco took the same idea to the California State Assembly and on January 1, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a similar ban for the State of California. Also, California state senator Dianne Feinstein heard of the San Francisco ban and introduced a bill in congress that won approval by broad, bi-partisan approval and an official ban took effect on February 10, 2009!

Debbie’s point was that, although it may be frustrating waiting on the federal government to make broad changes regarding protecting us from toxic chemicals, creating change on the local level is much easier. “The world is changed by people who show up,” Debbie said. And it is much easier to show up to your local city hall then the US Capitol and you have more of a chance of actually meeting with a decision maker. Debbie encouraged us to join local environmental organizations that are working to create change locally.

Another huge piece of advice from Debbie: “Shop Locally!” Debbie and Mindy both urged us to spend our money locally whenever possible. It is much easier to change the buying habits of your local market when the owner of that market knows what you want and that you shop there often. Owners like to keep customers coming back and are open to suggestions on merchandise they should carry. Mindy advises “Every time you buy something, you are voting with your dollars. Buy something that contains toxic chemicals or has wasteful packaging and that store will continue to stock those items. Buying non-toxic, sustainable products ensures that you are sending a message to the store owner that you want more green products.” Great advice to incorporate into your everyday life! Thanks Mindy and Debbie for inspiring us to “Take Action” against toxic chemicals. We would love to hear what local environmental organizations inspire you. Please let us know in the comments section below.

March 16, 2011

Green Guru Mindy Pennybacker urges us to “Do One Green Thing” (Part 1)

Do One Good ThingDharma is always searching for additional ways to green our offices (and our lives!). Winning Green America’s “Green Business Leader of the Year” award in 2009 reinforced our mission of expanding the ways in which we reduce our footprint and of supporting our broader community. We had the opportunity to do both last month when the San Francisco office of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) invited us to attend a moderated conversation hosted by Whole Living magazine. The guests: Whole Living columnist, author and green guru Mindy Pennybacker and San Francisco Department of the EnvironmentProgram Director Debbie Raphael. The goal: To share ways to limit the amount of toxic chemicals we consume and to provide feedback on how we can all get involved in creating change in our communities.

Mindy writes the “Ask Mindy” column in Whole Living magazine and has just released a new book titled Do One Green Thing, Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices. Mindy came up with the title of the book during a conversation with a friend who was feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices she felt she had to make in order to reduce the influence of toxic chemicals in her families life. Mindy’s advice? “Do one green thing. Once you have made that change, then do another. Soon you are well on the road to detoxifying your life.” Most of Mindy’s tips should come as no surprise to any self-respecting eco-warrior.

Here they are in reverse order:

10. Say no to bottled water and non-recyclable plastics.
9. Use compost and organic fertilizers in your garden.
8. Use green cleaning and personal care products.
7. Use a nontoxic sunblock.
6. Reduce runoff when washing your car.
5. Drive alone less, use public transportation, carpool, bike & walk more.
4. Properly inflate your tires.
3. Use propane/gas or natural charcoal to fire up the grill.
2. Turn off lights and avoid air conditioning.
1. Most importantly, join others in your community to TAKE ACTION!

This is just a short list of some basics. We would love to hear your favorite eco-tips. Please share them below in our comments section. Also, check in for part 2 of our post when Debbie Raphael shares with us the inspiring story of the San Francisco phthalates ban.

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