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Sustainability in 5 Words

Posted by ed.wilmot on November 28, 2009 at 10:21 AM Comments comments (2)

Here are 5 words to describe sustainability:


"In the aggregate, resource integration."


Every place, every time exists within its own set of standards and complexity. In order for sustainability to exist, every place, every time must be carefully studied and evaluated for potential systems that will help in the decision making process. True sustainability can never exist. Systems evolve. So anyone attempting to standardize sustainability risks unbalancing the system, which happens in nature all the time (and for good reason). For us (humans), we must create "actions and constructs" that will have adaptability.


Resources are not static. Most of the time we don't ask ourselves what resources to acknowledge when attempting to create sustainable "actions and constructs". More often than not, most sustainability professionals only talk about three resources: people, planet and profits. The triple bottom line is simply "too simplistic". But it is an excellent way to initiate people into the discussion and get them to realize the importance of removing themselves from linear thinking to circular thinking. Most people are familiar with recycle, reduce, and reuse. The new R is Rethink. We must continually think about how resources change and how we should adapt with those resources.


Let's list resources (still rather general): natural (both renewable and non-renewable), environmental, economical, cultural, social, civic, political, educational, spiritual, etc. Sustainable models will address each of these resources on a case to case basis and remember that we should not only look forward, but backward. By recognizing trends we can then create adaptable sustainable models.


Hoping to sound not too trite: sustainability is thus holistic.


Holistic implies a moral imperative. And with a moral imperative we must ask questions about why we do what we do and should we do it, rather than just asking how. Sustainability is a process in which we ask how, why, what, where, when and should.


What are your 5 words to describe sustainability?

 

 


How Sustainable Is Our Use of Time?

Posted by ed.wilmot on October 30, 2009 at 4:11 PM Comments comments (1)

It didn’t take too long after arising that I felt a little under the weather. Within an hour, I felt absolutely horrible. Why? I thought about it and came up with several potential culprits. But probably the biggest culprit was excessive work hours the preceding days. Yesterday was about an eleven hour day. That started me thinking about how unsustainable my use of time has been.


 

The one comment I hear most about time: ‘I wish there were more hours in the day’.  

Many of us have said it and will continue to say it, even with that extra hour we will get tomorrow evening. When it comes to time, most of the emphasis is placed on how productive we are in both our personal and professional lives. However, is productivity really higher when we place more time on whatever it is that we are trying to produce?


 

Yesterday, I was trying to “save time” by eating in the vehicle for lunch. The last two minutes of eating was done while pumping gas. Is that productive? Studies show that 19% of American meals are eaten in our vehicles. How have we gotten to this point? How have we become such masters of consumerism? Well that’s too long of an issue to get into at this point. But one thing that history has shown is at various times individuals have revolted against the excessives of time.


 

The most modern of revolts started in 1986 when Carlo Petrini launched the Slow Food movement in response to a McDonalds opening a branch beside the Spanish Steps in Rome. That revolution started a whole number of other revolutionary slow groups: Slow Home, Slow Cities, Slow Design, Slow Fashion, and a whole host of other groups. Here in the Upstate, we do have a Slow Food chapter. They represent the need to have a saner lifestyle, something that provides peace, calmness and clarity.


 

Due to this trend to slow down, books and articles abound on the subject. A few of the more memorable books include “Slowness” by Milan Kundera, “The Discovery of Slowness” by Sten Nadolney, “In Praise of Idleness” by Bertrand Russell, “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser and “In Praise of Slowness” by Carl Honore.


 

Carl Honore, in his book, asks three self imposed questions that are relevant to each of us.

‘Why are we always in such a rush?’

‘What is the cure for time-sickness?’

‘Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down?’

See Carl speak at TED.com

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/carl_honore_praises_slowness.html


 

Religions, spiritual leaders, mystics and the like have been asking these questions since the beginning of human time. To ask these questions means we want to improve our spiritual lives, to move from materialism to spiritualism, to escape from mental agony. No wonder there are so many self help groups and rehabilitation centers. For most of them, the spiritual life is the answer. They all end up asking the inflicted individual take a closer examination of their over extended lives. As a result, some of the spiritual slogans you hear in everyday life include “easy does it”, “one day at a time”, “first things first” and “keep it simple stupid”.


 

Simplicity is the root of time freedom. For many people the idea of sustainability has to include a proper perspective of time. To have a sustainable life, one must have “time management”. How else can we submit ourselves to a life filled with family, friends, work, church and play? To give too much of ourselves results in a lower quality of life, leading to stress, anxiety, fear and depression. So we must find balance in our lives. That is why many people turn to prayer, meditation, exercise and self help books. Like so many parts of the country, our community is filled with activities like yoga, tai chi, and church groups.


 

One such activity here in the Upstate is the upcoming Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue on November 12. I participated in the Upstate’s first dialogue last year. The experience of people from various faiths coming together for an evening of shared food and an open discussion of spiritual ideas lead me to a place of easy comfort where time slipped away.


 

And I think that is the crux of our lives: the irrelevance of time, despite what we may think. So we should embrace simplicity. But it isn’t always easy. I think it is best said by Dr. David Shi, President of Furman University, in his book “The Simple Life”:


 

If the decision to live a simple life is fundamentally a personal matter, then so, too, is the nature and degree of simplification. There is no cosmic guidebook to follow.


 

So it becomes a personal journey, determined by our past lives and our current environment. Whether  I choose to follow a particular path based upon religion, personal experience or the help of others, there is no more time than what is given to me right here, right now.

 

 


How Do We Get to Where We Are Going and Still Be Green?

Posted by ed.wilmot on October 19, 2009 at 11:44 AM Comments comments (2)

I noticed yesterday that my ride was leaking oil, and badly at that. It needs fixing quickly because the idea that oil is landing on the ground, and thus adding to our already polluted waterways, makes me realize we still have a long ways to go in greening our transportation.


Living on the outskirts of the city makes it difficult to catch the bus. The nearest bus stop is about a mile away and yet I complain that I would have to walk that far. Well how about a bike? Don't own one and it may rain (which it has been doing alot of lately) or be too cold. How have I become so comfortable, that these options don't seem realistic to me? If I AM so sustainable, why don't I do these things? I think many of us like to complain that we need better green transportation in the Upstate, yet don't ever do anything about it. There's always an excuse hidden in the dark recesses of my mind. It's time to come out into the light.


In fact, the Upstate is doing a lot better. There are options. And, yes, we still have a long way to go on improving our transportation infrastructure.


Our urban bus system has made great strides in creating a more sustainable transportation infrastructure. Back in April of 2008, Greenlink implemented a new fuel system by switching over to biofuels. This change has helped to reduce our air pollution in Greenville and surrounding areas. The research has shown that particulate matter is reduced 31 percent, carbon monoxide by 21 percent and total hydrocarbons by 47 percent. One of the newest editions to the bus system is the advent of bike racks on some of the busses.


Our bikeways are growing. If you do own a bike, it is now easier to get around Greenville. With the new Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail, individuals can commute up and down the Reedy River Corridor between Travelers Rest and Downtown Greenville. We no longer have to worry about the possibilty of running afoul of close encounters with motor vehicles (well most of the time - you still have to cross roadways in places). Eventually the corridor will stretch from Travelers Rest to Conestee Park. If you live near the Reedy River, it certainly is a greener way to get around. And there are visions of creating bikeways well beyond the confines of the Reedy River. Both the city and county have Greenway Directors who are working hard on creating a stronger bikeway system.To learn more visit http://www.greenvillehd.com/going-green/greenways-master-plan/


Probably our greenest way to get around is walking. Pedestrianism has been our primary form of transportation since the dawn of time. What is encouraging is the urban centers of Greenville and surrounding towns have all under went a revitalization and have brought people back out, strolling down landscaped walkways. Whether people are using their two feet for exercise, enjoyment or commuting, the resurgence of walking is upon us. Go downtown almost any night and there are people everywhere. When I moved here in 1995, downtown Greenville was a ghost town most nights. Now, even small towns like Greer and Simpsonville have people out and about enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of life.


Yes, we still have a long ways to go. There are some of us that would like to see a resurgence in rail use and a better cab system. Or how about more trolley use in the summer? And I didn't even go into all the green cars and trucks out there. A lot of options there. Just about every large auto maker now has hybrids available. We could probably come up with even more green transportation options if we all would sit down and let the creative juices flow.


Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

"Food, Inc." and HR2749: Time For Change?

Posted by ed.wilmot on August 13, 2009 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (2)

I just saw "Food, Inc." this past Sunday with some friends. The film has been highly lauded among those involved with the sustainable agriculture community, and I heartily agree with everything I have heard after seeing the film. The film is at once entertaining, informative and shocking. Even someone like me who tries to keep up with the issues was surprised by some of the investigative content on how problematic and deadly our current food system is. Yet most people know very little about the system and its potential ramifications.

 

A good deal of the film focused on food safety. With the passing of HR2749 (the media and industry termed Food Safety Bill) in the House of Representatives two weeks ago, all sides of the issue are crying Victory or Fowl (pun intended). There are few unbiased viewpoints being raised. That is one of the problems: too many people are highly biased, and comments from within most of the sustainable agriculture community lean toward anger and panic. Yes, the bill could ultimately be devastating to small farmers, organic farmers, home growers and consumers alike. It could literally make "Food, Inc" look like either an enemy or a savior to our future.

 

What really needs to be done is to create a bill on the senate floor that rewords the bill to be more lenient and supportive of those within the sustainable agriculture sector. Once the bill is fully passed in the senate as it is currently worded, the larger powers to be (USDA, FDA and large agribusiness corporations and processors) will use their lobbyists, watchhounds and scientists to back those measures that will support a system which increases profits and visibility for large scale agribusiness, while slowly degrading the growing sustainable food system. It will become obvious over a period of time that sustainable agriculture will face more challenges to get wholesome food to the market. Some of the smaller operations will not be able to handle these challenges and ultimately they will succumb to the pressures of an overly regulated system. Many will disappear, creating a missing component to the diet of many health conscious Americans.

 

It is important that a united front from the sustainable food community galvanize around a phone, mail and email campaign to their senators. Films, like the new "Food, Inc.", are showing people where the current food system is falling way short. This independent film has had little mainstream media exposure (both New York Times and Times magazine have published articles on the film), but has been selling out around the country. People are "hungry" for a new food system. So what has media been showing? They have been pushing HR2749 as a food safety bill without mentioning the outcry from the sustainable community about the impact this bill could have on small farmers, home growers, consumers and the environment.

 

So, in the end, individuals need not only call and write their senators, but also call local media and demand fair and comprehensive reporting on HR2749. And probably one of the most powerful tools we have at hand is "letters to the editor", one of the most read sections of the paper.

Organic Foods On A Budget

Posted by ed.wilmot on February 12, 2009 at 10:06 AM Comments comments (10)

Over the last few years the organic food sector has been growing at a steady pace of 20%. You would think that with the economic downturn, that rate would be slowing.

 

 

Well, only a little. Organic food purchases continue to grow at a substantial pace: 12.7%. And yet, I hear people say they just can not afford to buy organic or have to cut back on their organic purchases due to their constrained income and savings, especially hit hard by the economic downturn. Many have been surprised by my suggestions on how to shop for and where to buy organic comestibles. I have even been asked to offer a class on the subject. The fact remains, even those of us who are financially strapped, CAN eat organic on a tight budget.

 

 

So here goes. I am going to reveal some of my shortcuts on how to buy (and where to buy) organic.

 

 

First though, let's start out by defining what organic is and is not. The USDA Organic Definition is as follows:

An ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.

The USDA system also maintains strict controls on the growth, production and processing of organics by the exclusion of genetically modified organisms, irradiation and sewage sludge (there are many exceptions to the rule we will not get into). The organic standards and labels were established to allow the general public access to growers and producers that are willing to uphold the system, established in 2002. There are three basic USDA organic labels. The "100% Organic" label is available to products that contain only certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). The "Organic" label is where 95% of the ingredients must be certified organic; the remaining 5% must be non-organic ingredients approved by the National Organic Standards Board or non-organically produced agricultural products not commercially available in organic form. The "Made With Organic Ingredients" label can be used (but the organic logo can not be used) when at least 70% of the ingredients are organic.

 

 

The organic seal does give you a solid assurance about how your food was grown, greatly reduces your exposure to synthetic chemicals, helps protect the environment, protects the health of farmers and farm workers, means that animals are raised more humanely than on industrial farms and helps farmers on the land. The organic seal doesn't mean food was grown without any pesticides, doesn't guarantee you're exposed to no chemical residues, doesn't guarantee land stewardship, doesn't guarantee social justice, doesn't guarantee that animals were raised humanely, and doesn't tell us about the size (or type) of the farm or company. (Sourced from Grub: Ideas For An Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry).

 

 

For many people the Organic Seal is symbolic only. It tells them what may have been done on the farm. These people prefer the growing trend of buying and eating locally. The best place to buy quality organic food is at farmers markets, food coops or directly from the farmer. Quality assurance lies in the hands of the farmer and/or vendor. The closer you are to the source, the more likely the organic products are what they are: sustainably grown. Again, it's about asking questions. The other factor involved with these markets is price; typically higher, due to intensive hands on production. There is a benefit to these higher priced organics: healthlier foods, and in the long run it will save you money.

 

 

But this is about saving you money now.

 

 

So what foods should we really eat organically? When we are on a really tight budget, the first consideration is whether we need to eat exclusively organic. One choice is to buy organic produce that is on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen list (visit www.ewg.org). The not-for-profit Environmental Working Group developed a produce ranking by analysts based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004. In descending order the dirty dozen include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes. These items should be bought organically. Starting with the produce with the lowest load of pesticides is onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, papaya and then blueberries.

 

 

One of the least expensive ways to eat organically on a budget is to mostly buy fresh produce and other whole foods. Buying processed and packaged foods is always more expensive. Instead of buying that box of cereal, consider making your own from fresh whole foods. For example, buy oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit in the bulk section and mix together to make your own cereal. The next time you are in the store look at the center aisles for products you could make for yourself. The options are endless. The Center for Informed Food Choices ( http://www.informedeating.org ) is a great place to learn about whole foods.

 

 

Consider soups, chilies, and salsas; they are easy to make on the stove or in a slow cooker and it's easy to make in large quantities. You can then freeze the dishes for future use (make sure to freeze in single or double serving sizes, you will save on wasted food). Most soups and chilies are good for up to six months in the freezer. Maybe you can make several meals at the start of the week or month and then freeze or refrigerate for quick meals; thaw and heat. I even like to eat cold soups and chilies, no heating required.

 

 

Fruits, breads and sturdy herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram can easily be frozen. Frozen fruits are great for smoothies or quick snacks (one of the best snacks around is frozen grapes - just pop in your mouth and enjoy). The benefit of whole grains, beans and nuts is they will last for a considerably longer time if refrigerated and even longer if frozen. So buy these organic items in bulk. You can order larger quantities for much less from most grocery stores. These can be bought in larger containers or by the case or carton. Most people don't realize they can buy by the case at Whole Foods. Just visit the counter and ask to purchase by the case. They will be more than happy to help you.

 

 

Many people say they just don't have enough room to store large quantities of foods in bulk. Well, find a couple of friends that would like to buy in bulk as well.  Decide among yourselves what foods you all buy regularly and then head to the grocery store. If you have enough people you can create your own buying club and then proceed to contact organic wholesalers. Jump online and do a search for a regional organic wholesaler and set up a weekly or monthly shipment of produce, packaged goods and/or bulk items. There are specialty companies you can contact and set up bulk buys. You can even contact companies like Lundberg, Nature's Path, Barbara's Bakery, or Woodstock Farms directly. Many times the grower or producer of the packaged or bulk foods has an online store. They often offer large bulk purchases.

 

 

Visit your favorite companies online and you will be surprised what you find available at reduced prices. Occasionally you will find great coupons or specials available that you can then take to the store. One of the best online tools for finding organic coupons, savings and contests is Ecobunga ( http://www.ecobunga.com ). The website scours the internet for everything organic and healthy. When they find super deals they add it to their website. Get on their mailing list and you can get weekly updates so you won't miss anything. I entered a contest online through Ecobunga and won a Whole Food's $25 gift certificate.

 

 

Some of the most expensive items are snacks. We all love them, but our wallets hate them. Items like fruit juices, sodas, candy bars, cookies, potato chips, tortilla chips and microwave popcorn are the expensive choice. Instead, choose fresh fruits, homemade trail mix and granola, or homemade popcorn. But if you plan on buying the more expensive snacks or just can't afford them organically, consider other places where the prices are lower or delve into coupons.

 

 

Surprisingly, some discount and dollar stores have organic on their shelves. Some offer more selection, while others offer better pricing. Dollar Mart and Big Lots are the best for selection at large chain stores. However, ?The Better World Shopping Guide? ( http://www.betterworldshopper.org ) gives Big Lots a D- on environmental sustainability and social justice. Sometimes we must choose whether the budget comes first or ethical concerns. Of course, Wal-Mart gets an F on their list and yet they are the biggest seller of organic food on the planet and are typically the cheapest. How much are we willing to compromise?

 

 

Locally, the best place to buy organic processed foods is at Amazing Savings on White Horse Road at the White Horse Flea Market. Amazing Savings, just like the dollar stores, buys grocery items from liquidators who purchase discontinued, outdated and damaged products from main stream groceries. When items reach the expiration date, groceries need to pull them from their shelves. What most people don't realize is that any product that has been bottled, canned or packaged has a much longer shelf life than what is recorded on the package. Some items can last few a few weeks after the date, while others could last for years. Most bottled and canned items have been pasteurized and irradiated to extend the shelf life (but reduce their nutritional quality). The best canned items are tomatoes (cooked tomatoes have higher levels of lycopene) and beans like pinto, black and kidney.

 

 

Places like Amazing Savings offer these products at considerably lower prices. Amazing Savings has a very low overhead since they are only open on Saturdays and thus sell the products at the lowest prices anywhere in the upstate. There are many of the same items from week to week, but you never know what you will find. You can find organic ketchup, cereal, pasta, oil, cookies, coffee, sodas, snacks, rice, jams, milk, paper towels, body products, and even locally grass-fed beef. I once bought a 25 lb bag of Lundberg's Organic White Jasmine Rice for only $10. Now that's AMAZING!

 

 

Now let?s get back to coupons. Coupons are available at checkout or in healthy lifestyle magazines or even online. Online coupons can be individually selected and then print only what you want. Coupons out of magazines can have an expiration date that extends up to a year and half from date of publication. Store coupons and circular coupons have limited expiration dates. It's always good to sort coupons according to their dates. Both Whole Foods Market and Earth Fare have quarterly coupon books. "The Whole Deal" from Whole Foods is a large guide with several pages of coupons along with ideas and suggestions on how to save in their store. Earth Fare publishes their Healthy Clippings filled with coupons. Or sign up on their mailing list and get their online circular for the coming month?s coupons and bargains. It can help you plan your shopping strategy for the coming week or month.

 

 

This of course leads us into the realm of budget planning. Budgeting yourself and your family, makes you look at what you eat and where you eat. Try writing down all your purchases over the next few months and see how much is actually going towards food. How often are we eating out? Where are we eating out? What are we buying at that restaurant? You will discover where you could be cutting back on more luxury purchases and choose to replace with organic home made meals. Sometimes that discovery will set in motion a new shift in how you eat and live healthier. It will usually result in you saving money on your budget.

 

 

Another consideration when buying organic is the type of foods. Purchase more whole foods that are nutrient dense and filling. Highly processed and sugary foods leave you wanting more. Hence, your pantry empties faster. If you are hungry, sometimes the best choice is to drink a big glass of water. It will shut off the hunger response. Or choose to eat fresh inexpensive fruits like bananas, which will keep you feeling full for up to four hours. Choosing nutrient dense foods allows you to use less and yet still get as much flavor and health benefits as conventional foods. Use half the organic fruit in a smoothie made with ice and still get all the flavor. Again, you are saving money.

 

 

When you start to cook more at home, you will discover a shift in your food choices and where you choose to buy organic. Many people choose to start growing their own organic foods. It?s quite easy to grow herbs on a window sill or growing a few vegetables in a small container. Or take the full plunge into an organic garden. There are tons of organic gardening books, magazines and websites. And you don't have to buy the books, just visit the library and check out a book. Again, it's all about saving money.

 

 

The more organic vegetables and fruits you eat will also save you money. Vegetarians tend to save more money, since meat prices are so high, especially organic meats. Of course, we don't need to switch to becoming vegetarian. Just cutting back on meat consumption throughout the week can save you considerable money. The average American eats 209 pounds of meat a year (about 4 pounds a week or 16 servings!) There are plenty of meat free options and menus that are filling and flavorful. Try adding a couple of all raw meals for the week. Maybe make a dinner of fruits and greens.

 

 

If you just don't have a green thumb and need to purchase organic, consider keeping your driving to a minimum and buy organic as close to home. Organic selections are getting easier to find near your home. Most regular grocery stores now have a wide selection of organics available. Even the fast-marts and gas stations occasionally have organics. But there are specialty stores found around the area. East Greenville has Market For Life on Wade Hampton Blvd with all types of organics along with a strong knowledgeable staff to help you eat and live healthier. On the North side of Greenville you can find organic foodstuffs at Pott's Natural Foods across from the Cherrydale Plaza. The South side of Greenville now has the Pickwick Pharmacy Organic Grocery on Augusta Road. They even have vegan and vegetarian ready to eat meals and items available on the lunch menu. The far South area down off of Woodruff Road has The Wild Radish. They sell some local farmer's products and plan on having a juice bar featuring all organic fruits and vegetables. So when you're in these areas remember to stop by and see where you could save a few dollars. Even if you spend a few extra dollars, you can rest assure you are helping to support the local economy.

 

 

Another way to support the local economy is to patronize the growing café establishments offering organic products. Pott?s Natural Foods will have a new café in the back of the store called Everyday Organics. They will feature soups, sandwiches and salads made only with organic products. Over on Pendleton Street in the Art's District, a café called Shortyz will be opening in the near future. Their motto: Where  Vegans, Vegetarians and Meat Lovers Come Together. Around the corner on Lois Street will be a bakery, called Coffee To A Tea, featuring all organic, fresh milled breads and pastries, along with sprouted grain breads. They also will be opening shortly. As time goes by we will see more restaurants offering organic. Several of the nicer restaurants are already purchasing sustainably grown produce from local farms. American Grocery Restaurant and Devereaux's have been doing this for awhile.

 

 

Some of these local farmers are also offering ways for local consumers to purchase organic or sustainably grown foods. One avenue is the Upstate Locally Grown SC buying club. You can purchase on line and then pick up your items at either West End Coffee or Whole Foods. Many of these farmers are also participating in more of the farmer's markets around the area. The downtown market on South Main Street from Spring to Fall has several sustainable farmers. You just need to ask who is selling sustainably grown or raised foods. The newest farmer's market to open up this year will be at Whole Foods on Tuesday afternoons. The more we support local farmers, the more people will get into sustainable farming. The demand is growing. Let's be a part of that demand.

 

 

Most of us purchase most of our organic at local stores. And the number one way to save on organic at any store is to shop on a full stomach. Don't ever shop when hungry! Dollars can disappear quickly when hungry.

 

 

Remember to keep your eyes and ears open for deals. They can sometimes come in ways you would least expect them. Your neighbors may have organic fruit trees where they can not eat everything on the limb. Ask if you can pick some. Or maybe your neighbors have extra organic vegetables in their garden. You never know where your next organic meal might come from.

Beyond Greenville?s Bottom Line ? A Green Economy is Growing

Posted by ed.wilmot on December 6, 2008 at 12:53 PM Comments comments (1)

Just days ago the nation discovered that over 500000 jobs were lost in November. For many Upstate South Carolina residents, these statistics only exacerbate the already withered strands of emotional lifelines. We look for ways to stretch our funds and time, conserve energy and resources, and hope for the economic white knight to ride in on a gilded stallion.  

 

Despite these fragile economic times, some of the best news Greenville has recently received is our ranking for weathering the economic downturn. We were recently ranked 4th in a recent study as to our ability to withstand these tumultuous times. Woohoo!

 

Well maybe I should be a little more conservative in my woohoos. We continue to hear of companies either closing or laying off employees. What is an employee but a number; replaceable or even a burden to the bottom line. We all know employers that care only for the bottom line. But now the backlash is showing its beautiful behind. Americans are standing up and making it clear that the bullish and greedy owners and CEOs are not welcome to continue their traditional ways. Both Republicans and Democrats are saying enough is enough. Many of the people I have recently spoken to are in agreement, most big businesses are dinosaurs and the hearts of those dinosaurs are blackened and hardened with age. Most of us want a better business model, but are uncertain as to what that model should look or feel like.

 

And yet there dozens of models out there that respect the lives and economic burden of employees, suppliers, customers and owners. These models follow the concept of a triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. More and more businesses are embracing sustainability in its many forms where socially responsible enterprise is the next generation of global economic modeling. From parallel currencies to fair trade to green banks to B-Corps, the market is expanding to include a variety of ways to establish a new way of doing business. By including people and the planet in a company?s mission and vision, they are venturing into slightly tested waters with the intention of placing value on more than just money. Yet the pioneers are mostly in agreement, you still need to grow and make profits. In other words, a new kind of social capitalism.

 

So where are these businesses here in the Upstate? Is this area ready to ride that wave of new and challenging economic swells? What happens when it breaks? Do we ride in smoothly and then paddle out into deeper waters? Or do we watch from the shore, making sure the waves are neither too large nor dangerous to ride?

 

Well there are companies here in the Upstate that have already been testing the waters for a while and not really knowing what to call their business model. They knew only that to not address the social and environmental issues was a crime to humanity, our community and their own business. These small businesses are scattered across our fractured landscape. There are, as well, the large well known companies taking on these issues as a recourse to traditional models for many reasons. Some recognize the importance of conducting business in a way that takes in account the social, economic and environmental factors where the ends do justify the means. It?s a matter of developing circular systems that mean more than just growth and decay.

 

Then there are the large companies who are only using the models to hoodwink the general public into believing they are doing good for goodness sakes. But it is sometimes difficult to identify the ?greenwashers? and ?socialwashers?. To some degree all large companies greenwash. Since more people want to incorporate green-living principles and products into their lives, these large companies recognize the marketing potential. They may already be adding better ways to conduct business, but are now pushing harder for the potential buck from that demanding public. Yes, I am glad the companies are promoting the new principles and products. I only wish there was more heart behind it.

 

Earlier today I ventured into a local Ingles and found a table in the book and magazine area covered in green-living books. There had to have been about 20 to 30 titles. I was excited for a couple of minutes before that recognition hit: more customers want to live green. Hence, they put out the most popular titles, which of course mention products. Those products are now slowly beginning to show up on the shelves. More and more organic food is available. Safer cleaning products. Greener packaging. And yet it accounts for less than 2% of what is available in the store. And what about the employees? Are they better off now than in the past? Most of them couldn?t tell you what organic is or what the store?s environmental or social policy is. We still have a long way to go.

 

The best signs of newer economic and social models in the Upstate can be found here on this website and on bulletin boards at local health food stores and wellness centers. They embrace the principles but struggle to market themselves. Many of these owners are altruistic, driven by the need to help others. Yet some of them lack the skills to be successful business owners. They rely on word of mouth and/or online viral marketing, only to skip sometimes critical advertising and marketing models. It is my intention to help connect people to some of these businesses.

 

Recently, businesses have been opening with no fanfare. And yet they are growing. For example I should talk about a couple of new businesses and a business to open shortly. The Raspberry Frog is a new eatery in the West End that focuses exclusively on yogurt, using strictly organic yogurt. The Wild Radish on Verdin Road is a natural wellness and food store that focuses on supplements, vitamins and a limited menu. Their juice bar exclusively uses organic fruits and vegetables and the store has a very casual seating area with literature to browse. You quickly find out that the customer comes first. Then there is a new healthy fast-food joint coming to the Woodruff Road insanity: Chipotle?s. The Southwestern style restaurant serves all natural foods and all the meats are hormone and antibiotic free.

 

While many other traditional style businesses are holding off on building and expanding, the green and socially responsible businesses are opening. It is a sign of both public demand and business sector growth. Green and social jobs are on the rise, but are not being marketed as such. A lot of people want to find work in these areas and don?t know how to find them. Hopefully, we will see a green and social employment agency in the near future. In the meantime, search out and support these companies. They need your support. And we need them.

 

The future of a strong economy lies with Americans building American businesses. LOCAL has been the new mantra for the last couple of years. It?s time for local to become mainstream. Customers must demand it. Americans are looking for change. Well I say change is not what we need. What we really need is a battle cry. Here?s mine:

           

USA

made by businesses in the

USA

 

So what is your battle cry? Let me know. Maybe we can find one we can put into action. It?s time for our voices to be heard.

 

Hear my Interview on this topic of new economic structures on the "U Need 2 Know" radio program on WOIC 1230am out of Columbia, SC.

Part 1 

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   Part 2

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Sustainable Agriculture is Blooming in the Upstate! Or is it?!

Posted by ed.wilmot on October 19, 2008 at 5:32 PM Comments comments (4)

Yesterday I heard some troubling news that demanded a call to action. The Clemson University Student Organic Farm is under the chopping block as a direct result of the current economic downspin.

 

As Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Greenville Organic Foods Organization I am well aware of the growing presence and support for sustainable agriculture here in the Upstate of South Carolina. I am also highly aware of financial constraints within the current economy that is also hitting our educational system.

 

However, there are certain things we need to strongly oppose when cuts are wanted. I was sent a petition to preserve and strengthen this treasure of the Upstate; one that demands more than our attention, a true necessity for future generations.

 

It is now globally accepted except for a radical minority that we need to find alternative sources of energy. Oil and its byproducts will eventually disappear. This we know for a fact. What is in debate is how quickly this will happen and to what degree we as human despoilers can alter the climate. Oil is a limited resource. Middle East countries already know this and are positioning themselves for the day when their global oil exports dry up.

 

You may be asking what this has to do with organic farming? Well let?s take a look at what we use oil for. Oil of course is used in the production energy, but it is also used for producing plastics (another whole blog topic), pesticides and herbicides. All of these products of production are necessary for large scale agribusiness. Even large scale organic farming use energy and plastics. Farming requires technology to run on energy to prepare the soil, grow the food, pick the food, package the food, transport the food and sell the food.

 

Let?s look at the unseen ways in which oil plays a role in this linear system. We will focus on one particular area of interest: selling produce.

 

Most food can be categorized into three areas: processed, packaged and produce. (I wanted to replace produce with whole foods, but meats, dairy and eggs are all whole foods that are all processed and packaged.) Processed and packaged food items encompass the great majority of what is found throughout the grocery store. The inputs for these foods are immense and the profit margins become extremely small as a result. The demand for marketing and advertising is high to offset the costs. Stores want people to buy packaged and processed foods over whole foods. (Avoid the center of the store if you want to save money.)

 

Selling foods require advertising. The number one source for advertising is circulars, which require massive amounts of paper and ink. Most paper is produced using power from coal burning plants (another blog topic). However, most ink is still derived from petroleum products. The sheer volume of circulars and general advertising in papers make up most of the content. Shipping these papers made up of mostly advertising requires a large amount of petroleum. Hence, these two oil inputs for the linear system to get agribusiness (and some organic) products to your plate is incremental to the success of the system.

 

The byproducts of consumerism demand a shift in our approach to producing, picking, packaging, shipping and selling food stuff. The linear system of the old ?green agriculture revolution? must be replaced with a circular system within the new ?sustainable revolution? of organic/sustainable agriculture. We are learning to avoid all petroleum based pesticides and herbicides with organic farming. We are learning a ?local food system? shifts us away from intensive, long distance shipping using large amounts of petroleum to locally grown and sold organic/sustainable foods at local markets, fairs, groceries and farm stands. Advertising is being replaced with word of mouth and sustainable networks. People are reconnecting food with place. And nothing tastes better than organic produce grown on small farms near your home.

 

The needs of our future will include sustainability (and more than likely be the driving force). The salvation of our economy will require a responsibility to future generations with jobs and education revolved around sustainability. The Clemson University Student Organic Farm and related programs will need to be a part of this paradigm shift. The farm is one of the only USDA supported organic farms located on a university property. The support and resulting research and technology is singular and unique to Clemson University and the Upstate.

 

The impact of the program has led to a blossoming of sustainable agriculture here in the Upstate. Sustainable and organic farms have been on the rise with the help of the program. The support of these farms and to those wanting to become sustainable farmers by the public is also on the rise, resulting in organizations and programs and events revolved around sustainable agriculture. Some of these entities include the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association which is holding the annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference ( http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/sac08/index.html ), the Greenville Organic Foods Organization ( http://www.gofohealthandeducation.org/ ), the Upstate School for Sustainable Agriculture ( http://www.scsustainableag.org/ ) and the Upstate SC Locally Grown Market that functions like a co-op.( http://www.upstatesc.locallygrown.net/

 

This is not the time to cut expenses or terminate the Clemson University Student Organic Farm and related programs. If the economy was not where it currently is, it would be the time to infuse funds into the program. What needs to be done is ensure its future and success by support far and wide. It is one of the Upstate's sustainability treasures. Let us not fail it in its potential to move our citizen's health and reconnection to food sources and food security. Let us save quality food over cheap food.

 

To make your voice heard visit the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-clemson-sustainable-agriculture

OH, GREAT PUMPKIN, WHERE ARE YOU?!

Posted by ed.wilmot on September 30, 2008 at 10:28 AM Comments comments (3)

You may not have to search as hard as Linus to find The Great Pumpkin, but your search still is not easy. Sustainably grown pumpkins are a rarity. It is probably the one vegetable we think about the least when considering how it was grown.

 

Halloween is one of our great consumerist holidays, filled with pumpkins, lot ands lots of  overly sweet goodies, autumn decorations and of course disposable costumes. Most of what we buy (and see across the Upstate landscape) ends up in our landfills fairly quickly. We will spend a couple of billion dollars on all of this STUFF. This Halloween let?s make a contribution by having a green Halloween.

 

Yikes! Who ever heard of a green Halloween!

 

The bright orange pumpkins we buy for Halloween as jack-o'-lanterns are one of many types of pumpkins. The sugar, green and white lumina pumpkins are available in many stores and markets and are great for food dishes. However, a sustainably grown pumpkin is more difficult to find. There are a few pumpkin patches around that offer healthy, clean pumpkins. Mini-Miracles Farm in Taylors and Rose Hill Plantation in Easley are two of them. If you go to any other farm or the market, ask about the pumpkins. Find out how they were grown. Izzys at The Saturday Market in downtown Greenville has several types of sustainably grown pumpkins for the next few weeks.

 

Except for pumpkin pies (which usually are made from squash), most people have never eaten pumpkins. Pumpkins are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, iron and they are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. Pumpkins are actually a fruit and are classified as a type of squash related to cucumbers and melons. Pumpkins are native to our continent and have been domestically grown here for several thousand years. In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the Saint Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding "gros melons". The name was translated into English as "pompions," which eventually evolved into the modern "pumpkin."

 

If you want to hunt for or pick your own pumpkin, start your search at http://www.pickyourown.org/SC.htm . After Halloween, instead of throwing away the jack-o'-lantern, here are a couple of environmentally friendly things to do with it: put it in the compost heap - it will make good fertilizer, bury it in the garden - it will decay quickly and enrich the soil, and last and probably best, wash, dry and save the seeds to plant next year (they will grow!) What not to do: eat it! Unless you want to get sick.

 

And of course every trick or treater has gotten sick from eating way too much candy. The amazing thing is how toxic much of the candy landscape is, with ingredients too difficult to pronounce to the abundance of saturated fats. Organic and all natural sweets are on the rise. Not only are natural food stores offering organic candy bars, even the average grocery is carrying the healthy sweets. An awesome small chocolate bar is Green & Black's. Even Nestle has gotten into the organic fray. Other ideas? Pick up some fruit leather or honey sticks at grocery stores, health food stores or tea shops. Another suggestion is to hand out individual microwave popcorn packs. Newman's Own Organic makes wonderful microwave popcorn. You can even give away nonfood items like coins, gift certificates, organic seed packets or endangered animal stickers.

 

What about all of those decorations? Corn stalks stalk our lawns assuredly. Yet there are a lot of fake plastic decorations running amok. Can we not refrain from the consumer urge to festoon our homes with gaudy decorations? Switching to all natural locally grown pumpkins, gourds, corn and the ever approaching falling leaves offer up a green solution and also provides attractive appeal up through Thanksgiving. Keeping in mind of course the need to find sustainable farms that are willing to give up some sustainably grown corn stalks, is the best way to go. Want to find some of those farms? Do a search at http://www.localharvest.org  or check out the listing at http://www.gofohealthandeducation.org/farmers.html

 

Another plastic maelstrom endemic to Halloween is costumes. And the worst part is most of those costumes are quickly sucked to the trash can and then to our landfills. How long will that plastic last in our Upstate landfills? Too long, slowly leaching petrocarbons into our watersheds. Are there other options for the over plasticized trick or treater? Yes, Charlie Brown, there is!

 

Halloween can be a blast for the creative individual, offering up the opportunity to set the imagination free and search the home, thrift shops, dollar stores and Goodwill for items to be turned into costumes that everyone would talk about. Searching the budget clothing stores is a good way to create the retro look. How about being a Woodstock hippie or a 30?s gangster? Just don?t carry that 45! Goodwill has an online store locator with a section that offers up some fun and creative costume ideas made from their second-hand garb. Some people may make fun of you dressed as mother earth, covered in leaves, twigs, feathers and the like, but at least you can say you are truly recycling nature.

 

For the creatively challenged individual there are several great websites that give you ideas on making your own costumes. For the green minded try Suite 101's website for costumes at http://greenliving.suite101.com/article.cfm/spooked_by_halloween_waste_junk For those on a tight budget check out http://www.budget101.com/budget102_boo.htm for great costume ideas. And another green afficionado is Mable's Unique Shopping Blog. She has a ton of great ideas featuring sustainable clothing, makeup, reusable trick or treat bags and conventional costumes for sale. Check out the site at http://www.mables.com/blog/

 

If you neither have the time nor the desire to create your own costume there are options that cost next to nothing. You can go to the online sites Freecycle and Craigslist and post a ?looking for a Halloween Costume?. Doing so may be a little dicey. The costumes may be a little old and worn with creases, cuts, and holes. But what the heck, all you have to do is pay for the ride to pick up a free costume.

 

Let?s remember Halloween can be as green as you want it. Some people even try to get together and have green Halloween trick or treat events or parties. More and more churches and neighborhoods hold trunk or treats. Bring your hybrid filled with some of our suggestions and you are well on your way to the greenest Halloween in history. Or even better, coordinate among your green friends to have a green trick or treat event. That way you are assured your friends will be green with Halloween envy.

 

Go greeen for Halloween!!!


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