Archive for the Sustainability Category

Dreaming of Frisco and Drunkards

So in this dream I was in a car with some coworkers, looking for some restaurant in North Beach. At first it was a right-hand drive car, but then I realized the driver was drunk, as he was slurring and driving like an idiot. I told him I should drive, and he said OK, and we didn’t have to stop and change seats, the controls just became functional on my side. But the brakes didn’t work, which was scary. Luckily we were on a flat stretch, rare in SF. After much pumping, the brakes started working again, and I continued driving.

Damn, I forgot the rest. If I remember it tonight I’ll record it. Anyway, all is right with the world now, Rossi is leading the championship and won Mugello for the 7th time in a row. Oh, and I had a blast at a track day in Savannah, GA this weekend. Awesome track, adorable city.

Oh wait, it’s back. This is the good part. We were out of the car and walking, about to cross a very steep street with a green median. This punk guy was doing a rolling stoppie BACKWARDS up the hill. I was so impressed with his ability to defy physics and modern motorcycle technology, I simply had to stop and talk to him. Plus he was cute. Similar tall/curly blond hair type to the South Africa dream. Hmmm. So while I was asking him how he did it, he told me his name. Jerm.

This was a real blast from the past (shift to reality for a minute here), as Jerm was this skinhead I’d hung out with at this abandoned school that we used to squat in the Haight. So it’s someone I hadn’t seen since 1985. Back to the dream: I asked to see his arm, to see if the time he carved my name in it had left a scar. Turns out he’d not only carved it bigger than all the other girl’s names, but gone ahead and inked it too, so it became a tattoo. Strange behavior for a man who never called or revisited the usual haunts.

Well, while we were talking, my brain had too much trouble accepting the whole “defying physics/mechanics” thing, and morphed his bike into a skateboard. Pfft. anyone can coast a skateboard uphill and launch it off their buddy’s back. OK, maybe in my dreams that’s easy. That was boring, so I morphed it back into a bike, and said goodbye, as my coworkers were anxious to get to the restaurant. Jerm teased me a little for looking so corporate, and I tried to make some joke about how punk rock it is to be a sustainability consultant. But then I remembered it’s more of a hippie thing, which is even worse than being corporate, really.

Dude. I’ve sold out.

and speaking of gems…

this is a really really good use of lawyers!

Finally, someone is sticking it to DeBeers. After all those years of exploiting miners and overcharging customers, people are at least realizing what Putzes they were to pay so much for diamonds. The really cool thing would be if all the people who win settlements decide to give their money to miners in Africa.

We didn’t visit any mining companies while we were there, but I was really curious to learn about diamond mining today, to see if it’s gotten any better. One source told me they have a strong union and earn at least minimum wage. But then, labor rights are strong all over South Africa now, not just in mining. The problem is, there aren’t enough jobs, because unions and BBBEE scare off all the MNC’s that normally come along and build factories in developing countries. South Africa has much higher minimum wages than most developing countries. Partly because it’s really quite developed, but also because they might not have been thinking about global competitiveness when apartheid ended and these laws were written.

The most heartbreaking thing I heard about mining was the prices the prostitutes charge, because there are so many women with few alternatives. 25cents with a condom, $2 without. And we’re not talking about some massive exchange rate like in Zimbabwe. Garment workers earn about $2 per hour in SA, so I’m sure miners earn more than that. How many times have any of us spent an hour’s wages, or less, on coffee? lunch? It kills me that these women are forced to devalue themselves so much, having to go for high volume to compensate for such horrendously low margins.

more gems from Fast Company….

“The power of population,” he wrote, “is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”


I may hate his slimy underage models, but he’s got a point here.

“…ask most people whether they care about the environment, and it’s not particularly surprising that many would say yes. Ask whether they would back that up by “buying green” if they had the chance, and again, it’s likely that very few would admit to being hypocrites by saying no. What we do in the marketplace is another matter.”

“There were 7,000 cut-and-sew factories in the Los Angeles area, he fumed; none were unionized, and American Apparel paid the best wages of any of them.”

“”That’s the problem with the anti-sweatshop movement. You’re not going to get customers walking into stores by asking for mercy and gratitude.” If you want to sell something, ethical or otherwise, he said, snapping the book closed, “appeal to people’s self-interest.””

Even better, buy the book by the article’s author: “Buying In” by Rob Walker. I am.

Nau should read it too…

Company Visits

Our first company visit was Pik n Pay, which is about as popular here as Wal MArt is in the states, and much nicer. We had a presentation from the founders’ daughter, who drove their recent re-branding, and told us all about the great things they’re doing for the community and the environment. If only Wal-Mart would help disadvantaged entrepreneurs build their businesses and therefore create more ownership and employment, then they’d be as cool as Pik n Pay. Afterwards, Ariyah, Chanel, Tom and I went to the one in the mall nearby and were really impressed. Here’s Ariyah greeting the manager.

The next day, after another morning of classes, and a fun brainstorming session with some up-and-coming entrepreneurs, we visited Investec, a swanky investment bank. I liked it because they don’t orchestrate mergers & acquisitions, which means they’re not evil, like so many other i-banks. Also their patio has a great view of the highway to nowhere.


This is from NYT:

The poorest 1/5th of US people spend double what they earn. And the richest 1/5th don’t spend nearly as much more on apparel as they do on other things. I remember visiting a friend of a friend in Nashville who was the epitome of conspicuous consumption, and being kinda shocked as she bragged about he $12 sweater from TJ Maxx or some shit. If rich people won’t buy expensive clothes, who does? Besides me, that is. 😉

grrr. they wont let me post their awesome graph, so you have to go to the link to see it. I don’t feel like copying it onto flickr.

Mergers and Acquisitions I actually care about..

I rail against monopolies and lose sleep imagining a world where all my consumer products are frmo Proctor and Gamble, and all my news comes from Newscorp. But there is a possibility that these green guys being gobbled up by big guys have the power to affect change from within. After all, if they weren’t good at rakin’ in the greenbacks, the big guys wouldn’t have bought them. And it’s hard to grow a green company from nothing to a lot without knowing how to do it right, which is a transferable skill.

Article here:

interesting graphs here:

OK, now I simply must get off my ass and go watch the Tarheels decimate the dorks from dook!

But first, a moment of silence for all the poor, underprivileged Americans who don’t live anywhere near a Whole Foods or a Wild Oats. I kinda doubt that the vast expanse of emptiness between stores is populated by a billion mom & pop health food stores. No wonder so many Americans are dying of obesity.

holy shit!

Rob Brezny pinned it again. And it’s a great motivator. Just tonight I sketched the very first outline for my big plan that’s going to revolutionize the world. The garment manufacturing world, that is. And then I come home and Rob tells me to stay on topic. Kinda scary though, because commitment to one path means what am I missing on the other paths??? I like having options, being able to wander off in the direction of the next shiny object. Since he’s talking about my half-baked notions, I’ll limit this to business. I have zero notions about my other driving desires. Even though I learned a shocking fact in Ethics class today. Something like 60% of couples met/ started dating at work?!? Where have I been? Oh, that’s right. In an industry predominantly comprised of straight women and gay men. Not exactly a romance incubator.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I urge you to spend 2008 turning all of your
pretty good but half-developed notions into a few brilliant, fully formed
ideas. While you’re at it, melt down your hundreds of wishy-washy wishes
and recast them into three driving desires. This is the Year of Pinpoint
Aim, Aries, also known as the Year of Lasering Your Focus and the Year of
Seeing with Fierce Clarity. Psyche yourself up for a major campaign to cut
the crap so the essence can shine.

Three driving desires:

1. stop exploitation of humans and other resources in manufacturing consumer products
2. create economically and ecologically sustainable jobs in Africa that fit with the local culture
3. have fun doing it

Fortunately, I have one idea that might be able to cover all three. But who knows. At least I don’t expect too much. If I even convince one company to fix one thing, that will be exciting.