Meet Us at The Mother Earth News Fair this Weekend!

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

This weekend, Herban Lifestyle will be exhibiting at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania.

This fun-filled family festival is a three-day event held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort starting at 12:00 pm on Friday and going until 6:00 pm on Sunday. The event is like a state fair, but better, because it’s all about rocking the sustainable lifestyle. So it’s like a Sustainability State Fair (as this Rogers and Hammerstein geek starts to sing, “Our State Fair, is a great State fair, don’t miss it don’t even be late!”)

Back to the fair… When you go, you’ll find a slew of activities to partake in to boost your sustainable expertise. First off, there are the workshops (with very entertaining titles), featuring hands-on experiences on topics ranging from modern homesteading to composting to DIY solar panels. Then there are the animal husbandry workshops with a variety of animal workshops on chicks, and ducks and sheep (oh wait, that’s another R&H musical) and llamas, alpacas, horses, and so on. I am torn between whether I would get a bigger kick out of “Hare-Raising Possibilities with Heritage Rabbits” or “Everybody Duck! The basics of raising ducks.” For those who are not as amused with word play as I am, there are also classes like “Pastured Pork Basics” and “Incubation 101.”

So where does Herban Lifestyle come into this mix? Well, we will be exhibiting in good company with an array of vendors including Affordable Barn Co., The Apothecary’s Daughter, Featherman Equipment, Flying Fibers, Gita Naguri Yoga Farm and Grandma Whimsy’s Cupboard. And I really like the name, Love at First Sit, which happens to be “portable, fair trade, ergonomic back support systems made of organic cotton and hemp.”

Tickets are $35 at the gate for a three-day pass or $20 for one day. By using this coupon, you can get $10 off those prices. Sounds like we are going to have a blast. I hope you can join us this weekend to get your State-Fair-Fix-with-a-twist. Mmmm pass the raw cultured veggies and vegan goodies this way!

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Food, Fun and Funk: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Its 46th Year!

I have attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival every year since moving to the DC area. And I am a big fan of this event on the National Mall that features art, dance, food, storytelling and other exhibits that highlight various American and international cultures. So when I was asked to supply huge amounts of my soaps and such for sale at the Folklife Marketplace, I was thrilled!

At the end of last week, I dropped off a rented SUV-full of boxes of products for the Marketplace volunteers to do their magic. And yesterday a friend called to tell me that my products were prominently displayed in the Marketplace tent, so I headed down to take some photos. When I entered the Marketplace, I found that the first three tables were filled with my soaps, men’s products, and Herban Crafts kits!

And the Marketplace is just one of the many features of the Festival. This year’s themes are Campus and Community, Citified, and Creativity and Crisis. I took some photos while I was there, and look forward to really exploring the exhibits when I have more time.

The Festival kicked off last night with a free concert on the Mall featuring George Clinton and other funk legends. The was the first of many free concerts being offered during the course of the Festival.

Citified celebrates the art, music, food and community of the area of DC that sits east of the Anacostia river. As the Folklife Festival website explains, “Citified alludes to the fact that many African American residents living east of the Anacostia River have parents or grandparents who migrated from the rural South, particularly North and South Carolina, and who continue to maintain connections with their southern (although often no longer rural) heritage.”

image copyright Washington Post

Campus and Community features exhibits from several land grant colleges and the USDA, both of which are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Several of the colleges have exhibits focusing on the theme of sustainability, such as UC Davis’ exhibit on the ubiquitous problem of plastic bags and the University of Tennessee’s Solar House.

And Creativity and Crisis features the AIDS Quilt, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation offered hands-on quilt panel-making sessions that allowed individuals and communities to commemorate loved ones, find support and engage in dialogues about how to address the crisis. Today, The Quilt contains nearly 48,000 panels, a portion of which are on display on the Mall.

For those visitors who want to have a hand in adding to The Quilt, participants of all ages will have the opportunity to learn quilting techniques, make panels, and share stories from their own experiences.

The Festival is being held from June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, and is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm.

Back to the Start

In her blog today, EcoKaren wrote about a very cool Chipotle ad, “Back to the Start,” that was shown during the Grammy Awards last night.  As Karen put it, “This short film depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future.” The soundtrack is Willie Nelson’s moving cover of Cold Play’s “The Scientist.”

I was so moved by the video that I wanted to share it with you. I downloaded the song on iTunes for 99 cents. For each sale, 60 cents will be donated to Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation, whose mission is to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming, and culinary education.

I have been impressed by Chipotle’s sustainability efforts. It’s a good place to get a quick, relatively healthy vegetarian meal. Plus, some of the Virginia Chipotle’s use pork from Polyface Farms, a sustainable farm that was featured in Food, Inc.

Our New Brick and Mortar Friend: CARBON, DC

image copyright Examiner

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate. We are kicking off a new blog series that focuses on the cool, sustainable shops that carry the Herban Lifestyle line.

CARBON, located locally in Washington DC across from the Woodley Park-Zoo/ Adams Morgan metro, starts off the series after our line debuted there with a day of demos on August 6th. I first visited CARBON in April for an SBNOW event. I was so impressed that I later mentioned it in our Mother’s Day blog post featuring places to buy cool sustainable gifts for mom.

CARBON opened its doors in 2004, offering comfortable and chic shoes. In March 2011, CARBON expanded its offerings to include eco-chic clothing, jewelry, handbags and more thanks to the new owner Katherine Limon. Apart from being a fashionista’s paradise, what excites me the most about CARBON is its environmental commitment, especially the fact that it is 100% wind powered.

Recycled silver cherry blossom necklace by Melissa Lew. Image copyright Melissa Lew.

Other sustainable aspects of the store include a commitment to showcasing the work of local artists and artisans. Recently, the photography of Max Landerman adorned the walls of CARBON, an exhibition that will continue through this month. And the jewelry of Melissa Lew really caught my eye with her Asian influence and spectacular cherry blossom designs. Katherine is gearing up for the fall so there was a huge sale for her spring and summer items including a 40% off sale on the shoes with the exception of the new inventory. There are many temptations in the store such as their handbags, jewelry, and restyled vintage clothing.

image copyright The Fashion Brewery

Be sure to stop by CARBON for local and sustainable fashion offerings and be sure to check out the Herban Lifestyle products when you are there! CARBON is located at 2643 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington DC 20008.

B-Corp Puts Companies in the Green

The following post was written by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

On Friday July 1st, B-Corp legislation will go into effect in Virginia. Virginia became the fourth state to pass B-Corp legislation back in March following the lead from my home state of Maryland, who was the first, followed by New Jersey and Vermont. I am really excited about this sustainable policy and business movement especially when other states such as Hawaii, Michigan and New York are joining the party. Soon it will be a national phenomenon!

After doing some research on B-Corp, I found myself lost in legal and economic jargon and had to phone a lifeline before attempting to write about it. It’s quite handy to have a friend getting his law degree at George Washington University. Let’s start with what I understood before my friend, David, stepped in with his legal expertise.

To start out, B-Corp is short for Benefit Corporation. B-Corp legislation has basically two parts. First, B-Corp legislation establishes a certification system, which will allow consumers to recognize socially and environmentally responsible companies, much like LEED certification (the rating system used for sustainable architecture), but for businesses. Any company from any state can apply to be certified B-Corps through a third party based on the rating system developed by B Lab, a non-profit which established this whole concept. I love this idea because it seems to be a great solution to green washing, as it provides some solid guidelines for companies to be designated as a sustainable business.

Ok….so this is where I got lost and chose my phone-a-friend lifeline to get me out of the hot seat. Having no concept of corporate law or corporations in general, I learned from David that the head of a corporation can be sued by their shareholders if the shareholders believe that the head person is mismanaging the company in a way that is causing loss of profits. Apparently, this is what is referred to as fiduciary duty of financial interests. In the minds of those trained in classic business theory, this action poses a challenge for companies who want to be socially and environmentally responsible since these actions can at times work in opposition to profit-making. However, the truth is that building sustainability into one’s business model can actually increase profitability over the long term.

In a 2010 study, three economists examined 120 U.S. corporations that were members of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which assesses companies’ minimization of economic, environmental, and social risks and maximization of long-term shareholder value. The authors compared the financial performance of these companies against that of 120 companies who were not members of the DJSI. They found that firms that had embraced corporate social responsibility had higher gross profit margins and higher returns on assets than those that didn’t. And, according to Inc., “over half of the B Corps have grown jobs by more than 5 percent over the past 24 months in the midst of a recession.”

The mission of a B-Corp is to create a public benefit in addition to shareholder value. So B-Corp legislation is designed to protect these responsible companies and provide an incentive for more companies to convert to a more green and good means of business. The B-Corp legislation creates a second option for a corporation, by redefining fiduciary duty in terms of interests above and beyond purely financial ones, such as “create(ing) a material positive impact on society and the environment.” This new definition not only protects the corporation from being sued for taking steps that emphasize environmental and social concerns, but also switches things up a bit by allowing shareholders to sue the corporation for not being socially and environmentally responsible enough. Here is where the certification system comes in.

As I said earlier, the B Corp rating system is set up like LEED certification with different levels of certification that correspond to how many points were received in the different categories of social and environmental responsibility. A third party rates the businesses similar to the practice used for organic certification. There is also an audit clause found in the legislature to make sure the businesses are compliant with their ratings and promises.

So that’s my summary in laymen’s terms. For those of you who, like David, enjoy reading legal documents, here are the state summaries for Virginia and New Jersey. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of Benefit Corporations, I suggest you read this Inc. article or visit the B-Corp website.

And now to poll the audience members: Do you think B-Corp legislation will be an effective tool to combat green washing and to promote sustainable business?

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Sprint Unveils New Green ID App Pack

On Friday, Sprint announced its newest smartphone feature, Green ID Pack, which is available on select Android devices for their customers. The platform provides customers with apps and mobile content that gives them easy access to information on sustainable living, including content from Team Eco Etsy and Green America.

Using the Green ID pack, customers can customize their smartphones with eco-focused apps and widgets in a single download. The Green ID pack offers mobile content from Green America (who certified Herban Lifestyle as a sustainable business), EcoEtsy (of which Herban Lifestyle is a member), TreeHugger.com, the National Audubon Society and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Green ID pack is free to download with Sprint’s Everything Data plan. For more details, including a full description of the Green ID pack’s contents, see Sprint’s press release.

In celebration of the release of the Green ID pack, and my membership in two of the organizations featured in it (EcoEtsy and Green America), I am offering a Sprint Special Sale –a 20% discount in my Etsy shop or Herban Lifestyle online store! Just email a screen shot of your phone with either the EcoEtsy or Green America logo on it to: sales [at] herbanlifestyle [dot] com I will email you the discount code enter code SPRINTGREENID at checkout [Please note these revised instructions]. This offer is good for online purchases of merchandise (shipping and tax are not included in the discount) through May 31, 2011.

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Thoughts on Palm Oil

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

I am enjoying the Florida sun, having flown away from the frigid winter weather of the Mid-Atlantic. Donning my sunglasses and sundress I sway in a hammock overlooking the ocean with a cool breeze on my face. Between myself and the aqua water are several palm trees of different heights and what seems to be different species. In the last few days, palm products have come to my attention: from a friend sending me an article on the “best” new sweetener palm sugar, to Ask Umbra’s column on sustainable candles, to the palm oil found in Herban Lifestyle’s products. As the Herban Lifestyle disclaimer points out, the palm oil used in HL products comes from organic and fair trade sources which “adhere to strict environmentally sustainability programs” Well the more I read about palm oil, the more I wanted to know what all this talk about unsustainable palm oil production was about.

Palm oil is found in food products, beauty products, detergents, and shampoos. Palm oil is a healthier alternative to other oils and due to the bans on trans fat, the demand for palm oil has been growing. In fact, palm oil is the number one source of vegetable oil and can be found in half of the world’s packaged goods. Then, of course, palm oil is used as biodiesel, which is how I originally heard of the deforestation problem.

Palm oil is created from squeezing the red fruit from the palm oil tree that primarily grows in Malaysia and Indonesia. Since I am surrounded by palms in Florida, I thought I could check out a palm oil plantation to see what’s going on. After doing some research, I found nothing to suggest that there are any palm oil plantations in Florida (bummer, I was really looking forward to the field trip). Anyway, in Asia palm oil plantations are planted on former rainforest land, which often times is the result of deforestation. In Indonesia, 30,000 square kilometers of former rainforest now serve as palm oil plantations, that’s 30,000 square kilometers that could be serving as natural habitat and as a carbon sink. Each palm oil plantation destroys and displaces thousands of plant and wildlife species including endangered rhinos, orangutans, elephants, tigers, and many others.

Deforestation is not the only ecological nightmare in this scenario because in Indonesia and more recently Malaysia, they drain and burn peatlands. Peatlands are mostly water (90%) and act like a sponge soaking up large amounts of carbon; however, when they are drained these gases escape right back into the atmosphere. It gets worse; after the peat is dried it is burned to clear the ground for the palm oil plantations. In Indonesia, the draining of peatlands contributes to 660 million tons of carbon released into the atmosphere annually with an additional 1.5 billion tons of carbon released from the fires, making Indonesia the third largest CO2 producer in the world. Wetlands International just released a report that digs deeper into the peat swamp forests’ destruction in Malaysia; you can read more about it here.

Is sustainability possible? Well on an optimistic note, Brazil has introduced a novel program that requires new palm plantations must be planted on land that has already been deforested and abandoned (typically used short term for lumber or sugarcane). Thankfully this program will not only lead to economic development and new jobs but also new trees as the palm oil plantations create reforestation thanks to not needing to cut the trees down to make palm oil. Another pioneer in the sustainable palm oil effort is the non-profit organization, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which as the name suggests, oversees sustainable palm oil production through their RSPO Certification process. You can learn more here about RSPO, sustainable palm practices, certification, and a bit more on the history of palm oil.

Be sure to keep yours eyes peeled for this relatively new certification. As for me, I’m going to get back to watching the palms sway in the ocean breeze.