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Vanity Thy Name is Green

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Author: the Inkslinger

The new (May) issue of Vanity Fair has just hit newstands from coast to coast. It’s the annual green issue (which ironically must have required a small forest to produce, but let’s not go there. Treehugger did last year and it wasn’t pretty). This year, Leo is on the cover. And Seventh Generation is inside. In a full-page pictorial feature that has Jeffrey and our friends at Method standing on a rooftop in San Francisco amidst shiny piles of safer cleaners. Nice shirt…

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The Annals of Spin

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This week’s New Yorker magazine (4/2/07) features a long negative story about Wal-Mart’s effort to “co-opt liberals.” This is another in the series of good news/bad news stories that both helps and plagues the company. After nearly a year of this endless seesaw, one wonders when they will get the message that systemic change is the answer. As I have often said about many other companies, without a systemic approach that engages the whole culture, the good work done by the right hand is almost immediately undone by the left hand. Compartmentalized initiatives do not work when it comes to managing risk, reputation and moving towards sustainability.

A few of the article’s highlights:

  • According to one source, Wal-Mart has been paying Edelman Communications roughly ten million dollars annually to renovate its reputation. Edelman specalizes in helping industries with image problems; another important client is the American Petroleum Institute
  • Ron Galloway, the maker of a recent pro-Wal-Mart documentary, "Why Wal-Mart Works and Why That Makes Some People Crazy," has turned against the company. Galloway told me that he now considers Wal-Mart to be a "heartless" employer.
  • The chief spokeswoman for the company, a former A.T.&T. executive named Mona Williams, keeps on a shelf a filmed cover of a 2003 issue of Business Week featuring a story titled "Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?" The story asked tough questions about Wal-Mart's influence on the American economy. "I keep that there to remind me never to trust reporters," she said, without smiling.
  • Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's president and C.E.O., who last year earned $15.7 million in salary and bonuses. Early this month, the company announced that it was granting him an additional twenty-two million dollars in stock. In the past year, Scott earned roughly two thousand times the salary of the average Wal-Mart worker.
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Mainstream Media Catches On To Cleaner Issues

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The wave of change continues to accelerate. For almost 20 years stories about whether or not household cleaning products are safe appeared only in relatively obscure environmental magazines if at all! At last these challenges are being raised in the mainstream media, specifically, in this case, in a big article in today's New York Times.

That’s cause for celebration. We’ve come a long way, but in many respects we have also only just begun. Household cleaning products are still exempt from having to disclose their ingredients (which of course Seventh Generation does), independent third party safety testing or government supervision of warning labels. There's more work to do! But it starts with getting the word out, which, given the New York Times' large national circulation, this coverage of the issue does on a promising scale.

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Precaution is Not Toxic

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Author: the Inkslinger

Chrystie in our marketing department just forwarded an interesting article from the January 22nd issue of New York Magazine entitled Indulge Your Paranoia in which writer Susan Burton discusses her parental struggle to banish toxins from her Brooklyn family’s life. Coming from someone without a background in this stuff, it’s an enlightening take on the subject not so much for the information it provides but for what it tells us about what’s going on in other people’s minds as they think on the issue of playing chemical roulette in daily life.

Her main point is that in today’s chemically intensive world it’s hard to keep track of all the potential toxins around us and even harder to take preventative action on on each and every one. That’s pretty true. But I don’t agree with the throw-up-your-hands-and-surrender attitude that seems to creep in at the edges of the piece. And there are several places in the article where Burton lets myth and misinformation stand.

Bisphenol-A, for example, may not yet have been studied by the National Institutes of Health, but the jury is hardly out. In fact, the vast preponderance of the evidence that exists very strongly suggests that it mimics estrogen to dangerous effect in the body, and the case against it is “still being argued” mostly only by industry spokespeople. Elsewhere she comments on a mother’s worries about a (most likely totally safe) recycled fleece blanket even as she blithely watches her own child dubiously jamming (very probably toxic) “low-VOC” carpet samples into her mouth.

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Good Magazine

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As a subscriber to far to many magazines already, I approach the decision to add something else to my mailbox with great caution. Caution for the environmental impact as well as the emotional distress that comes with not be able to keep up with everything I already get. Even so, I have to say that the second issue of Good magazine was impressive.

While I get most of my “green” news & lifestyle information electronically from great sources like Treehugger and Environmental Health News, I was very impressed with Good. It was filled with important information that quite often I hadn’t seen anywhere else! 100% of the subscription price of $20 is donated to a non-profit organization?a financial decision that I can’t figure out how they can afford but is nonetheless an exceptionally bold move.

I do have one beef: They should tell their advertiser SVEDKA vodka (the so-called “future of adult entertainment?”) that using more ice when they drink may be safer (which they don’t say) but will not help you do your part to end global warming (which they do say) because it takes energy and thus CO2 production to make ice! Unless, of course, you live in Vermont and can make it on your doorstep…

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Making (Air) Waves

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This is just a quick note to let everyone know about an upcoming radio appearance I've got on the docket this week.

Tomorrow I'll be appearing live on the Louis Free Show on WASN in Youngstown, Ohio. You can listen via streaming audio at the above link. I'm scheduled to be on at 9:00 am, give or take a few minutes. I can't promise I'll say anything profound at that early hour, but I'll try!

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Inspire Everyone On Earth To Chill Out!

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Author: the Inkslinger

Psssst. Over here…



Look at this! Check it out…


What do you see in the magic left hand column? It’s a new blinky button! For our new contest with Treehugger. Go ahead. Click it. (You know you want to.) It won’t bite.

Then grab your video camera. Harness your creative muse. Wake up your inner Spielberg. Make a short mini-movie about the practical, easy, and inspired ways you’ve found to reduce your carbon emissions and make the planet a cooler place.

Then follow the directions for submitting your film. Bingo! You’re a contestant.You could win! Except that by the mere act of entering you’ve already won the grandest prize of all: You’ve inspired everyone to follow your lead and save the world.

How cool is that?

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See Film. Get Inspired. Help Kids.

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Author: the Inkslinger

If you plan to while away any of your upcoming winter hours staring at the flickering flames of your video box, you should make sure you watch this when you do.

Nobelity is a new film from writer and actor Turk Pipkin. (You’d recognize him if you saw him–he had a featured role in the Sopranos among other things). It’s a travelogue of sorts filmed as Turk traveled the continents seeking answers to the problems the world faces from a cross section of Nobel prize winners and looking at these issues through the eyes of the people who will be most affected by the decisions we make today: the children of the world.

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“Today Show” Organic Product Segment Is So Yesterday

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Author: the Inkslinger

Special thanks to friend and customer Jack, who alerted us last night to a segment on yesterday’s Today Show about organic foods. As Jack noted in his e-mail to us, the 6-minute piece contained plenty of debatable points. I watched it last night and agree. I’d add that it also just about completely missed the boat on many of the most important aspects of organic food. In general, the segment felt more like sloppy fluffy filler than a serious news report seeking to actually inform the public.

But here’s the kicker… Jack writes:

“At the end, the reporter referred to a 7th Gen package on the counter and said, "Do we really need organic toilet paper?" followed by laughs in the studio.

You can watch the segment here. (The Seventh mention comes in the last few seconds.) Afterwards, if you feel so inspired, you can head over to the discussion thread for this segment on the MSNBC forums and drop off your opinions. Jack’s spot-on comment there drew a big round of virtual applause here in Vermont:

“Ha Ha Ha - Funny joke at the end about "organic" toilet paper. The toilet paper on the counter, Seventh Generation, is not Organic. This shows how ignorant most people, including those that are supposed to actually study and report on these issues, are regarding natural and organic products. The issues discussed in the story are important, but are not the only ones germane to natural products. For example, many toilet papers come from virgin trees harvested from the Boreal Forest/Circle which is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. Without these trees, no amount of toilet paper in the world will clean up the do-do we'll be in as a planet. Nice "reporting" Today.”
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Hunting for Clues On the Chem Trail

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Author: the Inkslinger

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Oakland Tribune about the little known effects that chemicals can have on human health. It's well worth checking out. Everybody knows that a big chemical exposure (or smaller exposures over time) can make cells go wiggy and turn cancerous. But there’s also a host of other things that chemicals do, and these don’t get much press even though I think they're as important as the carcinogenicity factor.

For example, there’s what happens when chemicals mix and mysteriously magnify each other’s effects. Or what happens when you’re exposed to something inthe womb vs. being exposed later in life. Not to mention the fact the tiny doses of certain substances seem more insidious than big ones.

Then there’s the issue of epigenetics, which I’m convinced is going to be the next big story where chemical toxins are concerned, much in the same way hormone disruption went from wacky fringe science to mainstream acceptance. Epigenetics theories say that chemicals our ancestors encountered can affect us without mutating our inherited genes. Instead, they work by altering the way those genes are expressed.

The Oakland Tribune article touches on all this and more, and while I think they could have done a better and/or more detailed job of explaining some of the ideas they present and offered a little more in the way of evidence, the article is still the first time I’ve seen most if not all of the hugely under-reported aspects of chemical contamination reported in one place.

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