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Hi, this is John Shegerian. I never could have imagined when we started the Green is Good radio show back in 2006. That it would grow into a big podcast called the Green is Good podcast. And now we’ve evolved that podcast to the Impact podcast which is more inclusive and more diverse than ever before. But we did look back recently at some of our timeless green is good interviews, and decided to share some of them with you now. So enjoy. One of our great Green is Good episodes from our archives. And next week, I’ll be back with a fresh and new episode of the impact podcast. Thanks again for listening. I’m grateful to all of you. This is John Shegerian.
Announcer: Welcome to Green is Good, raising awareness of each individual’s impact on the environment and helping to create a more beautiful and sustainable world. Now, here’s John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International. And Mike Brady.
John: Welcome to Green is Good. And Mike, it’s so great to be in the studio with you here today.
Mike Brady: Always a pleasure, John, and springtime in the valley boy just doesn’t get any better than this does it?
John: This is a great time of year to be alive in the Central Valley of California.
Mike: You know, I just wonder if springtime makes us a whole lot more appreciative of the world around us. We’ve been through a winter and of course, our winters here are nothing like other parts of the country or other parts of the world. But just to see nature in a whole new way. I mean, the greening of everything around us makes us really think what a beautiful planet.
John: It is really. It is. And this is such a green time of year here, which is, it’s so much fun. We still are the ag belt of the United States, if not the world. And most people don’t even realize that this is the number one place in the world for raisins. And for garlic. And for so many other agricultural products. I think cotton and tomatoes too. We’re right in the top one, two, or three.
Mike: You’re absolutely correct here in the Central Valley, we got plenty of sunshine only means the water.
John: Yeah, and actually caught and I’m sure it’s going to come up in some of our discussions today. Because Mike, part of our discussions today is going to be around clothing and shoes. And I don’t know much about organic clothing. I don’t know much about the shoe and the shoe movement when it comes to the greening and sustainability movement. But we’re going to learn a lot today and I have worn once or twice organic quote-unquote organic t-shirt. And I’ll tell you it is a lot better feeling than just a regular old T which I’m just used to just wonderful old t-shirts.
Mike: Well, I never even thought about that think about organic and we go grocery shopping and all of them were using pesticides or whatever try and be as is earth-friendly as possible. But I never really thought about an organic t-shirt.
John: So a lot of what we’re doing today is we’re going to be talking about those issues which go back to here in the valley, there is a lot of organic food being planted now and a lot of organic products being grown here. I ran into a guy recently and he told me he was growing he just planted thousands of acres of organic olives and he said that’s the next big thing.
Mike: Hmm, interesting.
John: So, I mean the valleys are not only the ag belt of the world but I think has a bunch of new ager new cutting sustainability products on the way here.
Mike: Well, you know what? I’m thinking just a weird visual. A dad and the mom just driving with the kids in the backseat heading down 99 points do cotton fields, you know what they’re grown over their kids? T-shirts. We don’t think in those terms.
John: We don’t, but I think soon to be and that’s the fun part about what we do because we’re yet to share that word a little bit.
Mike: Well, very good. So let’s line out the show today. Who we got for guest number one.
John: Yeah, guess number one we have Marci Zaroff and Marci is going to be talking about what she’s doing in the Eco-fashion world with regards to organic sustainable clothing and on the backside of our show today. We have an amazing brand. We have Timberland today, Timberland shoes on the show with us. So it’s gonna be another one of these great shows that talking about things that do not necessarily usually cross our desk.
John: Okay, so fashionistas you have been alerted to stick around. It’s gonna be a great hour. Come on back for more green is good.
Announcer: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now back to Green is Good with John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to Green is Good. And we’re so excited to have Marci Zaroff up on the show today she’s calling in from Florida. And Marci is… We kill the whole show if we just spoke about her biography Marci is the founder and former CEO, president of under the canopy and she’s currently launching FASE, F-A-S-E, could go see that on Facebook, Fashion, Art, Soul, and Earth, and she coined the term and Pioneer the market for eco-fashion.
Mike: How cool is that? Marci, welcome to the show.
Marci Zaroff: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
John: So we’ve never had someone like you as Mike said in our intro earlier, a fashion Easter in the Green Revolution, who fuse style and sustainability. Marci, what is this? What’s going on? And what are you doing?
Marci: Well, eco fashion, when I started this, this whole concept and building this market, it was somewhat paradoxical, and people you still give me like, I was insane. Because those concepts of ecology and fashion are quite the opposite, historically. But my goal was to fuse those worlds together and to show people who live consciously and mindfully that you can be fashion-forward and also be responsible to the planet and to show people that are in the fashion world that they can actually buy product that is stylish and high quality and fits well and the right colors and on-trend. But be mindful. So it’s a new market that I believe is really the future of fashion now.
John: Okay, so wait for a second, you had this idea, but what changed? I mean, what was your inspiration Where was your epiphany?
Marci: I was always been a fashion consumer, I kind of joke that my background is that I got Best Dressed in high school. So it’s one of those things that just naturally, I was wanting everyone to take shopping growing up, but when I got a business degree actually started a school in New York, that today is called the Institute for integrative nutrition. So my background is that I started on the food and beauty side. And it dawned on me after a decade in that world of organic and natural food and beauty that there was a missing link in that whole wellness equation, and that you couldn’t really support food without supporting fiber, because the whole premise of organic agriculture is the interconnection and nature and building soil and crop rotation, and all these different ways to actually protect and build soil to build a stronger plant. And so, therefore, when I started to learn about that, and I started to marry that with my passion for fashion, I saw that there was a market opportunity that that consumer who is buying and thinking more consciously would eventually be evolved into.
John: Well, so, I understand Fashion, Art, Soul and Earth, FASE, which is on Facebook for our listeners out there. So explain what happened in 96, that you started under the canopy. And what did that mean then?
Marci: Well, my original goal was to revolutionize the fashion world and to demonstrate that again, style and color, and quality are not mutually exclusive with social and environmental responsibility. But when you look back on the history of organic clothing, from a simplistic standpoint, it was once that kind of frumpy boxy, boring Bayes overpriced temps, potato sack type of stigma that when people would think of organic clothing, that’s what they would think. And what I really wanted to do was drive the market from hippie to hip and to make fashion or clothing that people wanted to wear that people wanted to buy. And that ultimately made them not only look good but feel good inside.
John: Okay, keep going. I’m sorry.
Marci: No, no. So under the canopy, the whole premise is that we all live under the canopy of the planet’s ecosystem together. The brand was launched in 1996, after I coined the term eco-fashion, to become the pioneering brand to start telling that story and educating the consumer. And then simultaneously working with farmers and factories worldwide, getting in the trenches, and helping connect those dots to create and develop products that people would buy simply because there it’s a great product. And oh, by the way, it’s also organic and sort of shocks people to recognize that it’s not about “Why would I buy organic?” It’s “Why wouldn’t you buy organic?”
Mike: That’s really brilliant Marci because you do it exactly right. And it’s kind of like working backward a little bit. When the goal is really all about better ecological living but no, like you said early people think about Eco-fashion, the first thing you think is, “Okay, if it’s ecologically sound, it’s probably hippie and doesn’t look that good.” But to get something that really catches somebody’s eye, especially somebody with a real sense of fashion, which you obviously have, you’re in the right place and doing exactly the right thing. to just be able to hook them on the back end is “Oh, yeah, by the way, you’re doing something really good, not only for the planet but for your kids and grandkids.” That’s brilliant.
Marci: Well, it’s an important industry. And I think a lot of people don’t realize how important it really is. Because the apparel and textile industry is one of the most toxic industries in the world. And conventional cotton as an example, most people think is natural, or they even think it’s organic because that’s what they’ve been told. But when you pull the curtain back on just regular cotton, regular cotton that’s not organic, is actually one of the world’s leading causes of air and water pollution. And it is the most heavily sprayed industry in the world. So cotton represents as an example, less than 3% of the world’s agriculture, but uses over 25% of the most harmful insecticides and the most toxic pesticides that are out there.
John: So when you started this movement, obviously, you’re a pioneer in this whole eco-fashion world. Back in 96, this was before anyone knew that the Green Revolution was here to stay. Obviously, you did, you pioneer this, how is that evolution explain to our listeners into Mike and I, 96 to 2010. I know we crossed over you won many awards along the way. But we’ve crossed over somewhere in this whole climate change issue and the political will is there now. And Al Gore is our green rock star. So the Green Revolution now people know is here to stay. But how was that climb up the hill, Marci, from 96 to now?
Marci: Well, it wasn’t easy. So anytime anybody tells me I got lucky, I get to bat them in the face a few times. It’s been a very exciting journey. And a lot of it has been grounded in education and getting out there and talking about the solution to the negative ramifications of the textile world and to demonstrate that currently that industry, contributes to the destruction of soil and, and the destruction of ecosystems and pollutes the water that we depend on the air that we breathe. And so it’s a matter of shifting the paradigm and, and again, giving people products that they actually want to buy and wear. And that ultimately, the kind of product people want to support, simply because it’s a great product and what was happening, what was that we’re finding is that when you plant the seed of saying consciousness into a consumer, who might be now shopping at Whole Foods and buying organic food, or, looking into eco-travel or being mindful about climate change issues are for whatever way, however, the consumer is, is learning about, how their choices can actually make a difference in the world, that seed gets cultivated with that person typically says, “Well, what else? What’s next? What more?” It’s that evolution. And so what I found back in the 90s, was in the early years of the organic food and beauty movement was that people were asking that question, and when you look at the two basic necessities that everybody has to buy out there today, it’s apparel and food, right? We all wear clothing. And it made sense that, especially with the interconnection in nature, and a lot of people don’t realize this either. But 60% of a cotton plant ends up in our food stream. So in the form of cottonseed and cotton oil for feed for dairy for snack foods. So actually, cotton is going into our food in addition to being on our bodies. And when you think about how much cotton is in everybody’s wardrobe, between the clothing you’re wearing, and the sheets you’re sleeping on, and the towels and robes you’re using in the bathroom, you have it against your skin, pretty much all day long, and all night long. And our skin is the largest organ in our body and our primary organ for absorption. So it’s not just about what you eat, it’s about what you wear.
John: So now, now that the world is really catching up with your vision, I mean, really. I mean, the Green Revolution is here to stay. We’ve passed that tipping point. What’s next for you? Like how are you going to now take everything you’ve learned and done the last 14 years and make it into that your next great thing? What’s happening, what’s in the pipeline for you and the whole apparel, fashion sustainability movement?
Marci: What’s really exciting is that what was once a very niche idea has now shifted gears in the apparel world where I work with a lot of major retailers. I’ve launched organic programs for a lot of the major major retailers out there. And it’s no longer about staying ahead. It’s about not being left behind. And so I’m seeing factories and worldwide and retailers jumping on this bandwagon where there’s now a platform to get a product out into the market. And my focus has been on building a retail store chain that is called face that’s going to be vertically integrated. And where I believe we’re going to be very groundbreaking in the market for this whole concept of eco-fashion, is we’re going to be bringing the first wearable and affordable, sustainable fashion to the marketplace. So we’re going to break the stigma that you have to pay more for organic clothing, we’re going to break the stigma that it’s not stylish. And we’re going to give people a product that looks great, feels great. And oh, by the way, it’s organic. And it’s less expensive than the conventional counterparts because we’re vertically integrated, working with farmers, because all these years that I’ve built the market, I’ve built farm projects, and I’ve worked on such a ground floor level that we can pass that value now to the consumer. And again and give the consumer now that choice that is kind of a win-win for all the players.
John: So for our listeners who want to buy now or getting excited and want to buy the affordable eco-fashion that you’re going to be creating, where the store is going to open, where can they buy these products? And explain what’s when and where.
Marci: Okay, so FASE two is going to be launching this fall, we’re going to be opening our flagship retail location in Santa Monica, California, we’re gonna have a lifestyle lounge in the stores, we’re going to have mostly women’s wear a little bit of men’s wear that we’re calling What’s his face a little bit of maybe he wears his face some products called home face. And then some sort of underwear that’s called interface can be a really fun, brand, very engaging, and we’re gonna open our second store in New York City in October. And then we’re going to roll out nationwide from there. And in addition, for all those who don’t live in those cities, we’re going to have a state-of-the-art e-commerce website that will be launched in September. Between now and then, as you said earlier, people go on our Facebook page and sign up to be on the FASE, F-A-S-E fan page, then we’ll keep them abreast of all these openings and launches.
John: That is just amazing. So you’ve worked you’re saying from from from the beginning, from growing all the way to working with the retailer. So you really know the whole cycle, and you understand every element and every step along the way?
Marci: Exactly. I mean, the goal for me has been to offer farm to finished fashion, that we can pass that value to the consumer were at the end of the day buying great apparel, they’re getting value and values.
John: And are you going to be working with any specific designers? Or do you have your own design team? Or how does that work when we’ve never had as a guest someone from the apparel industry talking about these issues? Explain, where your product? Is the product going to be domestically grown? Or are the best farms in different parts of the world? How does this work?
Marci: Well, most of our cotton is coming out of India, where a lot of people don’t realize this, but every half an hour a conventional cotton farmer is committing suicide, because of the whole what we call the pesticide treadmill, where there’s a paradigm that’s just not working and the farmers are ending up leveraging their farms to the pesticide companies and the banks in order to afford the pesticides which ultimately are weakening their soil and their plants and ultimately creating a model that doesn’t work. And so we’re really excited to help the farmers, we’re excited. And that’s probably one of my favorite things that they do is when I go over to India and I’m working in the farms. But we’re really excited about giving people a product that’s not only made from organic cotton but it’s also made from other innovative fabrics like ecolyptus is a new fiber we’re going to be bringing to the market with the face brand and ecolyptus is made from Eucalyptus.
John: Where’s that come from?
Marci: The Eucalyptus has actually grown on managed tree farms in South Africa and is manufactured and broken down using a non-toxic recycled detergent. It’s completely chemical-free and it’s manufactured in a closed-loop system. And of course, the eucalyptus has grown without any pesticides or chemicals and minimal water because you blip this grows very quickly. So it’s another really great eco-friendly fiber. We’re going to be offering in our line organic cashmere, organic denim, organic leather, organic silk as well as organic cotton. All different types of fabrics from boil to French Terry to Jersey, just so there’s a very deep and wide array of fabrications and designs for people to enjoy, and it’s gonna be a really exciting collection.
Mike: Marci, we are just totally blown away. And we’re sitting here with our jaws really on this studio console. But when you mentioned organic leather, what’s the story behind organic leather?
Marci: Well, if you think about free-range, chicken, free-range beef, it’s a similar concept. The animals are being treated humanely they’re grazing on natural feeds or grass, they’re not being injected with hormones and antibiotics, and steroids. And there’s actually be… I happen to be a vegetarian, but there are people that want free-range meat, and by all means, when you look at leather as a byproduct of the meat industry, for those who are eating organic meat, it’s a question of, again, about the environment, is that going to go back into the environment, or used as a byproduct for another industry now, for those people who are vegan and don’t want, in our line to see organic, leather, silk, or wool, or cashmere, we have plenty of options like e-gullet, this and all the different blends of organic cotton fabrics that we’re going to be working with.
Mike: So there’s plenty of choice for everyone, which sure seems to make a whole lot of sense, because really, it is coming full circle, and that there is no waste because obviously, not everybody is going to become a vegetarian before life on this planet is through. So for those who choose to eat meat, or continue eating meat, this makes an awful lot of sense. This is one of the most sane propositions I’ve ever heard in my life. This just makes so much sense, Marci.
Marci: Plus the leather that we use is formaldehyde-free, it’s vegetable-tanned. So, we go beyond the fibers themselves. And that’s the case in all of our fabrics, and our cotton’s and everything, we use only low impact dyes. So there are no heavy metals, there’s no formaldehyde. There are no bleaches. So, we look at not just the fibers, we look at the manufacturing processes, we’re supporting fair trade I’m helping transfer right now actually launched the first USA certified Fair Trade textile program for the United States. And that’s going to be coming out later this year, as well. So I’m really excited about that, where we’re going to be making sure that farmers and factory workers, cotton farmers and factory workers in India specifically but ultimately worldwide, are being paid fair prices and being treated with fair working conditions. And it’s a really exciting program.
John: This reminds Mike and I. Mike and I had the head of the Rainforest Alliance on he called in from Costa Rica and what you’re doing in eco-fashion, he obviously Rainforest Alliance does that in the food industry. So it’s fascinating what you’re doing now, this is a massive match venture, though, are you back for it? Do you have a lot of partners that you’re allowed to talk about? I mean, how are you putting this all together? This sounds like Wow.
Marci: Well, I have a phenomenal management team. They’re all rock stars out of the apparel world and e-commerce world. I’ve got investor groups that have come on board that are just really wonderful strategic partners. We’ve got a lot of celebrities involved. We have many of them you’re allowed to talk about? Well, we’ve got pretty strong friendships with a number of celebrities. So one of our advisors is resent our tat a very dear friend. We have people like Alicia Silverstone and Amy Smarts and Anna Getty that are fans of our products. We have been starting to plant the seed and introduce the product into the market very slowly from the sample lines that we have. And we’re seeing just an exciting response from women of all ages, really from teenagers to women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. To the moms of the teenagers in their 40s and 50s. And everybody is really responding extremely well to the product. I’m also working with James Cameron’s wife, Susie Cameron, on a whole initiative. We’re calling ourselves the Eco-chic warriors. And the goal is to green the fashion industry and I’m on a board that Suzy actually founded.
John: Wait for a second though. You just mentioned all beautiful women. I mean, where are the guys in this whole? What’s going on, Marci?
Marci: Well, that’s the fun of the brand that you got to have some what’s his face for what’s his face, right?
Mike: There you go for regular guys, right?
Marci: Yes, there will be some wonderful men’s men’s wear in the line as well. Just coming out of the gate. It’s going to be more limited but over time we will grow that part of the man.
John: So you really are true when the people say up in the air, you’re up in the air because you’re down in India, I assume you’re also in it since you’re doing the Ecolyptus, you’re in theory, you go to Africa. So you’re on the road a lot.
Marci: I do a lot of traveling. And, again, it’s been a very long journey. But an exciting one, I’m very passionate about this marketplace. And I think we’re at the tipping point right now and seeing this whole market really take off. There are all kinds of efforts going on beyond even the Eco-chic warrior group, there’s the NRDC has launched a whole initiative called cleaner by design, which is going after the whole fashion world, on the very, very big level of the Nikes of the world and, and looking at how they can be more engaged in shifting paradigms. And we’re just seeing a lot of players globally that are now getting involved. And I’ve definitely been in the trenches. And I’ve had a great time working with just such a wide array of people from the supply chain, as well as on the retail side.
John: Marci, we’re down to the last minute or so. But do you have any last words of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs or other visionaries out there that sometimes the mountain looks too high? Obviously, what’s your… I mean, do you have any last words you want to share with our listeners?
Marci: Well, I’ve always sort of subscribed to the vision is the art of seeing things invisible. It’s one of my favorite quotes by Jonathan Swift, and to stay true to what you believe and to follow your heart and visualize the future to be proactive and not reactive, and to be authentic, and transparent, because I think those are all key parts of the whole green movement as well and to look at how to take one step at a time because it can be kind of daunting entering this arena. But the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.
John: Well, Marci, Mike, and I are so thrilled that what you’re doing and we’re so honored to have you on today, and we’re going to have you back after your stores start to open in your online shop is up online. For all our listeners out there, you could go to Marci’s FASE Facebook page, F-A-S-E. It’s amazing and wonderful. And Marci, we wish you all the luck opening up in Santa Monica, New York City, and getting your online retail store going. And for all the amazing work you’ve done, and everything you’ve dreamed up since 1996. And we wish you all the luck in the world. And Marci Zaroff, you are truly living proof that green is good.
Marci: Thank you, guys. Thanks for having me today.
Announcer: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now back to green is good. With John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to green is good. Mike, who knew that you and I could be walking around in our Fonzi-s leather jackets that are made out of organic leather.
Mike: How about that? Organic leather I still like that, that whole concept just kind of boggles the mind. But I really liked when we were talking to Marci just about the confluence of fashion and the environment altogether.
John: And what did you call her?
Mike: Well, she is a fashionista.
John: I love that.
Mike: She’s an environista.
John: Environista. I love it. That’s even better. So that was great so a whole show on clothing and the sustainability movement with regards to clothing and organic clothing. But not only she also took us through the whole product chain, the whole how where it’s even grown and how it’s grown and the importance of where it’s grown, how it’s grown in the people how they’re being treated. who’s growing it so, it’s much more deep than just pulling something off the rack.
Mike: Yeah. And the other takeaway for too, John, I thought when she made such a great point Marcy did when she’s talking about the biggest organ on our body is our skin and how much of our body touches clothing.
John: Great call, Mike. That’s right.
Mike: So it really makes so much sense. So that really was a fascinating first half hour. And if you’d like that, boy, are you gonna love the second half.
John: Well, we got Betsy Blaisdell on who’s the senior manager in charge of environmental stewardship for the great Timberland company, which we’re going from clothing to shoes, and Timberland has been a very green company for a long time. But Betsy is another green rock star, just like Marci. And it’s a perfect bookend to this hour today, Mike, because Betsy is going to talk our talk to us about all the great things Timberlands doing in the climate change area, but also with our own products, and also with our own stores. So I think everyone should come on back and hear Betsy talk about Timberland at Green is Good.
Announcer: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now back to green is good with John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to Green is Good. And we’re so honored and excited today to have Betsy Blaisdell on. She’s the senior manager of environmental stewardship for the great Timberland company, which is in New Hampshire. And Betsy, your focus is on environmental stewardship. What does that mean and welcome to Green is Good, by the way.
Betsy Blaisdell: Thanks very much. My title on environmental stewardship means I oversee our company’s environmental footprint around the globe. So I measure what our environmental impact is as a company, and I worked to reduce it.
John: Okay. So around the globe, you’re sitting in New Hampshire, what is around the globe meet for Timberland, where how many places do you have around the world that you have to tie together?
Betsy: We have operations and more than 20 countries, our product around the world. So we’re in Europe, we’re in Asia, and we have factories that are based all over the world too so I’m looking at both our facilities and all those countries, communicating with consumers and all those countries. And then also the countries where our factory sources were actively engaged in and working with our factories on improving environmental standards.
John: So wait for a second, you’re really I mean, talk about a huge position in such a critical position, you’re helping in terms of the product control and how it’s manufactured, then you’re also internally the stewardship issues in terms of getting the employees on board with this and motivating them to be part of this. And then also messaging to the consumers?
John: Wow. Okay, so tell us a little bit about, like, let’s go through all three of those. Let’s talk about the manufacturing side and reducing waste and the process of making Timberland a more sustainable company from a manufacturing and design perspective.
Betsy: Sure. So I think on the manufacturing, and where we have the most impact, yep, is making better decisions at the front end. So where we design and develop our products, work with those teams to give them good environmental information, so they can make better choices, it’s a lot easier to design a product and assign materials to it that have a smaller environmental impact, than to go to our factories and unfairly say, Hey, you guys need to figure out you need to figure out how to make your emissions less, you need to figure out how to use less water, it’s far more effective if we work on the front end. So that’s really the focus of our initiatives, provide good information to the folks designing and developing.
John: And then your employees, how do you get them to enjoy and make the green DNA of Timberland part of what they do inside the company and also outside of the company?
Betsy: Like I say, it’s not a very hard job. And if you were in the Timberland building right now you kind of get it, we’ve got this great outdoor culture, because we’re in the outdoor industry. So I think the connection for our employees is somewhat explicit. You work in the outdoor industry, you care about the outdoors, we recreate outdoors, we’re designing products for consumers, who love the outdoors. So it’s fairly implicit.
John: Great, and then when you’re tying together, what sounds like a daunting position of tying together 20 or so operations around the world, do you have point people or point teams that are sharing best practices and inspiring one another in terms of things they’re discovering, or things that are coming up with among all your facilities around the world?
Betsy: We do, we have global stewards. And those are employees that apply to have two years of time where they get written into their expectations, specific corporate social responsibility, responsibilities.
Betsy: Those employees really act as ambassadors for all of our corporate social responsibility initiatives, which include both environmental and community service initiatives.
John: Wow. So then, you’re the glue that brings all of them together and gets the information shared among all of them and throughout all the upper management of the company than I take it.
Betsy: Yeah, we have a great team here in New Hampshire, that helps manage it. So it’s not just me, but a group of really enthusiastic people.
John: So now, we come up into the big question of, of your consumers, then how do you know that that your wonderful consumers who love your great products can understand all that you’re doing to ensure that your products are designed, manufactured, and that green is really part of the real DNA of Timberland? How do you message that to the consumers?
Betsy: We’re a little cookie, we’re sort of inspired by nutrition labels that are on cereal boxes. So our way of communicating is providing the information about the impacts of the good and the bad associated with our product right on our product in on a label that looks just like a nutrition label on your cereal box. And so consumers can see when they check out a Timberland shoe at a store, what some of the environmental impacts are associated with both our business and product. Or if they’re shopping in our store, they can see the changes we’ve made to our storefronts that make them LEED-certified, which is a green building certification, or they can go on our website and see at earthkeeper.com, how individuals can become earth keepers through small individual actions, or by joining us and raising our voice more politically on important issues like climate change.
Mike: You know, it’s amazing too, Betsy, because as you and John are having a conversation right now, I’ve gone to the earth keepers section of your main website of Timberland calm and would really urge our listeners, if you’re listening to this morning, lingering over a cup of coffee, perhaps at your computer you have a laptop with you really need to check this site out and pay particular attention to the earth keepers portion of the site or go to earthkeepers.com. But this is really amazing, showing just the whole process of birth to rebirth, if you will, of different materials being repurposed and put into these beautiful new footwear products.
Betsy: Cool, thanks. I definitely encourage folks to check it out. And you mentioned the products, which of course, is another important way we can communicate to consumers what we’re doing, we can give them these great environmental guests with purchase shoes that are great performance shoes that look cool, but also have contained recycled and organic materials as well as renewable materials as well.
John: So I walk into one of your new LEED-certified stores, and I’m looking at the different shoes I want to buy. And so I can compare and contrast, which of the shoes are even greener, which ones made out of more recycled material than the others or had less of a carbon footprint.
Betsy: You can and in fact, you’re going to increasingly be able to do that with more and more data because well, we have product-specific impacts only on some of our shoes. Now, beginning next year, you’ll be able to see that on all of our shoes. So in the meantime, you can compare attributes of things like recycled content and renewable materials next year for those data geeks that are out there, you’ll be able to see all the nitty-gritty on our shoes that that excites me. Hopefully, I’ll excite others as well.
John: The nitty-gritty. Well, I saw a commercial a beautiful Timberland commercial on television not so far back that showed X amount of that great-looking shoe was made out of recycled material. I got all excited.
Betsy: Yeah, well, I’m glad to hear you’re excited. I think something even cooler that we’ve come out with are shoes that can be pulled apart disassembled for recycling by Timberland. We can recycle the components into new shoes.
John: That is so awesome. So wait a second. Now, Betsy. So now you’re messaging these messaging this to the consumers? How much do the consumers care? And when they’re comparing your products versus other products, that your shoes are greener and your stores are greener? Explain that. And is there any apathy out there that you have to overcome?
Betsy: Yeah, I think in a tough economy, like the one that we’ve been in, consumers are more careful about how they spend their money. And so when they make a purchasing decision, they’re going to look at all the criteria they typically do. This is a good looking too Is this too high-performing? I think they’re also increasingly purchasing with our values. So they want everything equal. If a company and a product bring their environmental values to action, they’re more likely to purchase that product or purchase from that company. And I think that’s what we’re seeing, figuring out how to communicate that clearly to consumers. So the choice is easy is continues to be a challenge.
John: Got you. And now Timberland, really from its makings from its inception was a green company anyway. And so, is this a great time to be at Timberland doing what you do there because the world is in the world in the marketplace has caught up to sort of what your DNA is, anyway?
Betsy: Thanks for saying that. I think it’s a great time because there’s so much collaboration within our industry that has really moved the needle on environmental improvement. So it’s not just one or a couple of companies working in the space. It’s an entire industry working in a really collaborative way to say, “Okay, what resources do we need? How can we better communicate to consumers so that we can drive real improvements?”
John: Betsy, behind the scenes, do your competitors share best practices? And obviously, to the consumers? You all are competing, but to yourselves, are you sharing best practices and pushing, pushing each other to more greats to environmental stewardship?
Betsy: We absolutely are.
John: Great, great. Great. So So what are some of the things that are coming up that are important to Timberland? Like you said, shoes that can be taken apart? When does that come out?
Betsy: So those shoes, those Timberland shoes are actually already available in our stores. They’re part of our earth keepers line.
John: Okay. And what’s in the pipeline that you said, that’s coming, the more labeling and more than nitty-gritty on the labeling?
Betsy: Yeah, for Timberland, we will continue to do more product-specific labeling of environmental impacts on our products. But what’s more exciting to me is that we’re working with the outdoor industry association and outdoor industry brands on developing a common set of metrics, the idea being that we all work with our suppliers and measure them in a common way so that we can drive real progress. And this summer, the outdoor industry group that we work with, it’s called the Eco working group will be launching its first phase of metrics for outdoor industry products. And what’s awesome about that is we’ll all be able to understand the environmental attributes of our product in a common way.
John: So that’s a macro collaboration to create to effectuate even bigger change, you’re saying.
Betsy: Exactly, yeah.
John: Wow. So talking about bigger change, we know the Copenhagen Climate Conference came and went and if you were a lot of people just said big whoopee doo. I mean, not, not a lot really came out of that. We know your company has been a thought leader and a change provoker on climate issues. What are the next steps with regard to climate change? And what do you foresee happening that your company’s doing?
Betsy: So I think that there are two things that that we’re focused on now post Copenhagen. One is making sure that aggressive climate legislation is passed in the US, we think that that would be an important signal for real movement on an international deal. I think the other focus area for us is really raising the consumer voice on this issue showing that consumers care to buy low carbon products, they care for governments to take action on this issue on their behalf. So raising that consumer’s voice is another important part of our platform. And that’s where we really rely on social media and social engagement through earthkeeper.com.
John: Okay, so earthkeeper.com and social and consumer voice, great, great, great points to bring up. How do you listen to your consumers? How is information fed back to you and to your colleagues at Timberland? So you could respond to them into their needs?
Betsy: Sure, there are a bunch of different ways, I think the coolest way that we have is, Jeff, our CEO leads a quarterly call. So in the business world, we do a quarterly call for our financial release, that’s very standard for a publicly-traded company. I think what’s really unique about our company, and Jeff is that we also have a quarterly call related to corporate social responsibility. And each call has a different focus. We just had a climate focus on our last quarterly call it consumers and NGOs and anybody with a real interest in these issues can get on the call with our CEO, and ask questions. So that’s, that’s one way that the highest level of my company, plus the CSR team, myself included, get good feedback. Another way is this earth keeper comm site if folks go on there, they can see we have a section called voices of challenge where we ask very specific questions of our consumers and stakeholders around thorny issues, things that we haven’t figured out things that we really need help with. We’re looking to have a very active dialogue on that site. And consumers can get on there and ask questions, and we respond to them directly.
John: Okay, Betsy. So now the million-dollar question which we ask all great people like you that are in these kinds of important positions that run great brands, Twitter, Facebook, is this part of the initiatives that Timberland is part of?
Betsy: Timberland is definitely on Twitter and Facebook. And my CEO is the most active tweeter I’ve ever seen in my life. So it’s actually hard for me to tweet because he and I like to tweet about the same thing. So I almost [crosstalk]
John: I got you. So but you aren’t doing it. So a couple of you and your colleagues and your CEO are the ones really tweeting at Timberland.
Betsy: Yeah, we really are tweeting, Jeff is particularly active. We’re also on Facebook regularly as well.
John: So what’s the greatest piece of inspiration that’s come back to you, the value of social media, people want to still brands still need to understand the value of social media, as do consumers or people out there that just shrug their shoulders at it, what has what’s been the greatest nugget that has come back to you, Visa V, Facebook, or the social media networks that you’ve been able to integrate into your company or take as a form of inspiration?
Betsy: I think all critical feedback we get on the site is definitely been an inspiration for me, it lets me know that there are consumers out there and stakeholders out there that are really paying attention to these issues. And that and that they do care. So any critical feedback we’ve gotten off the site has been particularly valuable for me during our agenda and initiatives.
John: Got you. And so Are you hopeful and is Timberland hopeful that climate policy and climate change will start changing in the near future, or you’ll be able to influence some of that change?
Betsy: We are hopeful we were really engaged in the house debate over climate. And now that the Senate is heating up again, we look forward to participating in that dialogue and showing that there is a strong business case a strong economic case for seeing climate legislation passed.
John: You talked about LEED certification, and it’s an acronym. And so for our listeners out there, the fact that you’re making your stores LEED-certified, I don’t want that just to get easily passed over what does that mean in terms of actual tangible things that our listeners will understand that you’re doing to make your stores greener and leaner and better?
Betsy: Well, I encourage them to go in because we actually display how we do this on our wall.
Betsy: Yeah, for us, it’s mainly using reusable materials that we source locally. So if you go into a Timberland store, pretty much everything that you look at, except for the clothing and footwear, which is beautiful, and new, is reclaimed materials, and we’ve simply repurposed them, not reprocess them, but just repurpose them to become a store fixture, that the fact that we have incredibly energy-efficient lighting, I’d say look up better lighting, but it was kind of blind, it’s very bright. But believe it or not, they’re LED bulbs that use about five watts of energy, which is way less about half the amount of compact fluorescent if you can believe it, and they last about 50,000 hours, which is awesome, it means we don’t have to really ever change these things out. So very energy-efficient lighting and reclaimed materials are the big ones. The things that you might not see as close up is we work with the malls that we occupy to establish bike parking, public transportation routes, greater access for smaller vehicles, so preferred parking for hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Those are the conversations we’re having because that creates improvements for other tenants in the building.
John: Right, right. So all are all the new stores that you’re building from here on in all LEED certified, is that what’s happening?
Betsy: We’re in the process of certifying our third store, our third new store, and all of our future stores are going to meet the LEED standard, the LEED silver standard is our target. And we’re not gonna necessarily fill out the paperwork to get all the stores certified. But at least we’ve gone through the process for our standard design and know that standard needs the certification.
John: Got you. Hey, let’s talk about let’s go back now, which in turn the conversation a little away from the consumer for a second talk about employees. So what are the things internally you have such you sit in New Hampshire, which is historically a great green environmental state also? And now, what other things do you do internally, for the employees to show your green DNA that allows them to show their green DNA and further inspires them and motivates them?
Betsy: Well, I like that we’re doing this call the day before. Because tomorrow over 7000, folks will be serving with us on Earth Day. So we, as a company, go out and serve in our communities on community greening type projects, so trail restoration, tree planting, removal of invasive species, beach cleanup, etc. We do that around the world and, and enjoy this amazing benefit that we have paid community service time we get 40 hours of paid community service. So that’s one example. Next month, we’ve got Bike to Work Month, where we will create a fun little challenge for our employees to bike commute. And in New Hampshire, we do some fun things like courses on how to maintain your bike we even bring in the local puppy wheelies bike shop to help our employees tune up their bikes for commuting to work by bike over the summer. And so it continues every month, we try to find some cool way to keep the engagement going.
John: So every employee gets 40 hours of paid community service. That’s amazing. And it’s also inspirational. And that’s great. And you also incentivize employees for being entrepreneurial and coming up with the concepts that confer the green the company or green your mission?
Betsy: We do. In fact, every year we have an award, called the Carbon Walsh environmental award for excellence. And it’s given to an employee or a team of employees that come up with a very innovative and sustainable way to reduce Timberlands environmental footprint. And this past year, we gave it to one of our folks in retail construction, he helped develop all the lead lighting that is now going into our stores around the world.
John: Wow, so let’s go back around the world. Now you are the senior manager in terms of environmental stewardship, and it is a worldwide position do you have to travel a lot to go visit other Timberland locations around the world?
Betsy: I do. Absolutely. And increasingly, I’m getting better out to limit that. I think it’s not so much traveled to visit Timberland facilities, it’s more travel, to meet with other brands for the type of collaborative work that we do to ford our agenda. So, that’s the rub. It’s those are the most effective meetings that I have had. But we haven’t completely figured out how to do that yet at a distance. So I do a lot of travel, I tend to call it a trip chain, I figure out how to get everything on the way out and everything on the way back sort of like going to the grocery store and figuring out how to fit 15 more errands. And while you’re there. So I’ve gotten really good at that. But I haven’t eliminated all travel yet.
John: But it also, I’m sure it gives you then a unique and important perspective as you travel to different continents around the world and see different cultures in the green DNA of those cultures. And it allows you to even be better at what you do by having that travel, you get a great perspective, I’m sure, for sure. It allows me to be more realistic, and also much more creative and how I create tangible resources for factories that are under a lot of constraints. Betsy, we’re down to the last three or so minutes. And there’s a lot of people out there that listen to our show, we get a lot of feedback and emails that are young people that are either in college or just getting out of college, and they want to be you they want to be part of the Green Revolution. And they want to earn their way up to your position is there are some pearls of wisdom that you could share with our listeners, our young listeners are entrepreneurial or are green motivated by our green agers out there that want to become the next Betsy Blaisdell.
Betsy: I love that term that you just use, I’m gonna have to copy that from you. That’s great. My advice would be when they get to college or an MBA program, look up an organization called net impact. It’s an organization that works with business students, business students in particular, that have a real passion for CSR. It links them up with other students interested in working on CSR-related projects, as well as companies that are trying to push forward a commerce and justice agenda. And I think, my advice for people that want my specific job is to take your skills to a company who a company that shares their environmental values, and start off in another business discipline like it or supply chain or even marketing and develop your skillset there. I think that bill makes you a credible business person, and slowly began to add more and more sustainability-related projects to your job description. Build that over time, get your experience and then essentially prove yourself so you can make it into a CSR role. It’s really hard to go straight into corporate social responsibility. Because our teams are very small we act as internal consultants. So when we do look to hire we look within we look at those passionate employees who have proved themselves in the business have demonstrated their passion over time and we take from that pool versus necessarily going external.
John: Well, Betsy, Mike, and I just want to say thank you for your time we know how busy you are and what a big position you have. We’re both honored and humbled. By your time today and all the information you’re able to share with our listeners. It’s truly inspirational. We ask all our listeners out there to not only purchase Timberland products to support such a great company but go to their website to learn more about what they’re doing. Timberland comm or earthkeeper.com. Also, as Betsy said, net impact for all our green agers out there. Go learn more about the net impact so you can become the next Betsy Blaisdell. Betsy Blaisdell, you are living proof that green is good.
Betsy: You’re way too sweet. Thank you so much.
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