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The latest news, food for thought, recipes you’ll love, great advice on everything from raising kids to nurturing bees, plus videos designed to entertain, educate and enlighten. If you’d like to find out what’s on our mind – or let us know what’s on yours -- this is place to be.

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Shopocalypse

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Author: the Inkslinger

Talk about giving thanks…Thankfully, I can’t see it from here, but today is Black Friday, that deeply spooky day-after-Thanksgiving, when Americans who scare me flock to stores and malls well before the sun has even risen for what’s become a thoroughly bizarre national tradition: An institutionalized day of mass overconsumption on a grand scale.

I guarantee you that before the day is out I will have seen film footage of someone getting seriously injured in a 4:00 am Florida Wal-Mart stampede for poor quality LCD TVs priced like Pop Tarts. I will have seen video of my fellow citizens locked in fisticuffs over the last remaining box of the season’s hottest must-have toy. And I will have watched a mall parking lot interview in which Mom, Dad, and the kids stand beside a carload of freshly acquired stuff and declare how much fun it is to come together as a family like this.

I have nothing against against the holidays. I like to share a nice Thanksgiving turkey like anyone else, and Christmas is a magical time of myth and imagination for my daughter. But elsewhere in the country a strange madness seems to have taken hold, a frightening disease that makes people want more and more and more until now the holidays have been transformed into a celebration of needless acquisition that, disturbingly, is happening earlier and earlier each year. Those quiet days of peace and family I remember growing up have become all about eating too much and buying too much and spending too much, and the earth is groaning under the insane weight of it all. I think it's time to ask ourselves: Do we really need to go out and stuff our shopping carts less than 12 hours after we’ve finished stuffing our faces like it was our last supper? (Someone told me yesterday that Americans consume between 5,000 and 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That’s like 3 days worth of eating! What’s up with that?) Do we really need a "shopping season"? Where does it all end?

For my family, it ends before it starts. We’re celebrating Buy Nothing Day today. We’re staying home and eating leftovers. Curling up by the fire and reading a good book. And then we’re going to spend some quality time with our good pastor, Reverend Billy. Here’s hoping more of our fellow country men and women see the wisdom of his sage advice soon and that weird symptoms of unsustainability like Black Friday and the binge era of overconsumption it so perfectly encapsulates go the way of the dinosaur.

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Of Gratitude and Grains

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Author: the Inkslinger

It’s Thanksgiving, the day set aside for celebratory feasting with friends and family, and that national moment when we all pause to consider just how sweet life is and just how lucky we are. That’s a good thing. It’s certainly something my family will be doing today, and here’s something else we’re going to do: visit Free Rice for a while and help feed some global neighbors who aren’t as blessed with plenty as we have surely been. The Free Rice concept is simple, fun, and good for your brain and the world it lives in. The web site gives you a word and if you can define it correctly you donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program. That may not sound like much, but since going live in October, the site has generated donations of 3.2 billion grains. That’s tons of rice for hungry people around our planet and proof that when we each do a little, we can all do a lot. And on that note…

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all wherever you are!

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Desk Dump

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Author: the Inkslinger

Continuing the round-up of round-ups here. Clearing the table for the holidays, so to speak. Here’s what spilled onto my virtual desk when I upended my digital box of electronic news and related clippings.

I Am An Activist has a nice slide show from the October 23rd tribute to Anita Roddick. Not quite sure where this site is from or what it’s all about, but it’s got some worthwhile features in addition to the photos. It’s a nice tribute to Anita and, more importantly, it keeps her flame burning by helping us all continue her work on those causes she believed in so strongly.

Another interesting site recently stumbled upon is Playgreen, which purports to be a green wiki. The wiki thing can be a bit dangerous depending on how responsible it’s users choose (or not) to be, but in general I would have to say it’s a great idea that’s proving it’s worth. This wiki seeks to create the “biggest book on green living.” Opening that process to a nation of both formal and informal green experts could yield a powerful tool. Stay tuned…

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Life at the Speed of Light

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About a week ago, I was in Boston participating in a conference that I had helped to organize with Peter Senge. For two days, the Summit on the Future of the Corporation explored how to redesign the corporation to maximize its positive effect on society. The conference was one of the most stimulating and exciting that I have been to in a long time – and I go to way too many of them.

There were many wonderful speakers that I had never before met including author and organizational behavior specialist Charles Handy; Business Strategist Arie de Geus; Michael Marx , Executive Director of Corporate Ethics International; Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter; and corporate governance expert Robert Monks.

The following day I spoke to the entrepreneurs club at New York University’s Stern Business school, followed by a talk at the
Ad Age idea Conference at the Nokia Theatre, where I felt compelled to challenge the industry to exercise some more control over the recent spate of deceptive “green” advertising. (Inkslinger’s post yesterday has a link to a brief video clip of my presentation.)

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Correction

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A brief correction… In my October 11 post about the Wal-Mart Sustainability Summit, I mistakenly said that the SC Johnson company had withdrawn one of its products from the marketplace due to environmental concerns. The product in question is actually made by another manufacturer with no relationship to SC Johnson.

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Find the Founder

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Author: the Inkslinger

We’re heading down into Thanksgiving here. Folks are departing for distant shores and points well known. There’s a quiet descending upon the scene and a calm that doesn’t come often enough if you ask me. It’s a good time to tie up loose ends, one of which is this round-up of Jeffrey’s recent media appearances…

Jeffrey got a double shot of love from Ad Age magazine recently. A video segment featured a clip of his speech at last week’s Idea Conference in New York City. And he made the mag’s Marketing 50, a look at “fifty sharp ideas and the visionaries who saw them through.” (We’re on page 5.)

An excerpt from the recent book Marketing That Matters featuring Jeffrey and Seventh Gen’s transparency efforts appeared on Article Dashboard last week.

Wrapping things up is this great Wall Street Journal podcast in which Jeffrey talks about daily life at Seventh Generation and all the things that make us a company that’s a bit different than most.

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Power Shifting

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Author: the Inkslinger

Recently Capital Hill was taken over by students from around the country who don’t want to inherit a world crippled by climate change. Change-It ’06 alumni Jackie Sargent was there and she’s sent us this dispatch from the front lines…

From Nov 2-5, nearly 6,000 students from every state in the nation attended Powershift, the largest national youth summit on global warming, which was held at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students attended workshops and panels and learned all about environmental initiatives and how to make their campus/city/state/nation a more sustainable one.

There were speakers such as Ralph Nader and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. On the last day, students went to the Capitol for a rally and more than eleven hundred students visited their local state representatives to talk about what matters most to them – the environment, social justice, and a better world for all.

Alright, that's the background. Now for my story…

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Energy for Dummies, Part II: Special Congressional Edition

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Author: the Inkslinger

I’ve been sitting here fuming all afternoon about the information that Congress is actually considering taking renewable energy tax credits and utility mandates out of the 2007 energy bill. (And boy is my dog sick of listening to me....) But I’ve realized I should have capped my previous post with some information about what we can do to convince our elected representatives that this is a remarkably, shall we politely say, foolhardy course of sad inaction. So go here and help. Deliver a letter. Make a call. Send an e-mail. Put the pressure on. Because in 2007 it would be the absolute height of unmitigated insanity to have an energy bill that doesn’t include renewables let alone focus on them.

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Energy for Dummies

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Author: the Inkslinger

Here’s a question: Why do we even talk about fossil fuels anymore? Why do we care? Seriously. Why do we wring our hands over the price of oil? Why do we destroy entire mountain ecosystems in a fool’s errand for coal? For that matter, why do we keep irradiating ourselves with fissionable materials? Why do we give even so much as the time of day to any source of energy that involves splitting atoms or carbon-loading the atmosphere when the entire country and most of the rest of the world could do everything it needs to without depositing so much as a single thimble of anything into the air?

I have to ask because I absolutely do not get it. At all. I am utterly baffled. Truly. I’m constantly reading about incredible and incredibly workable ideas to generate power without pollution. Big, here-now, ready-to-go, here-you-are solutions that could do it all. Like Concentrated Solar Power, which could power 90% of the entire world, provide all the drinking water it could want, and here at home keep the U.S. lit up like a Christmas tree on steroids from now until the end of time using a patch of desert scrub just 92 miles square. Right here. Right now. Today. No more oil. No more OPEC. No more emissions. No more carbon. No more apocalypse. End of story.

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Big Green Myth

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I was extremely disappointed to read Ben Elgin’s cover story in the October 29th issue of BusinessWeek magazine. The article, “Little Green Lies,” wrongly suggests that profits and environmental initiatives don’t mix and that companies cannot hope to be both successful and sustainable.

This myth has long been discredited, and my dismay at finding it still being given credence was so great that I fired off a letter to the editor, a portion of which has just been published on the Opinion page in the magazine’s November 12th issue. Here’s the complete version:

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