The Responsible Company — Book Review

The Responsible Company Book CoverThe book Let My People Go Surfing led me to read The Responsible Company, by Yvon Chouinard, founder, and owner of Patagonia, and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of Patagonia The Footprint Chronicles®.

In The Responsible Company, Chouinard and Stanley have distilled their 40 years’ experience building and operating a world-class business that is profitable as well as people and planet friendly.

Book Review

The Responsible Company focuses on what makes a company responsible: making a profit for shareholders, providing for the well-being of employees, making excellent products, being a good force in the community, and protecting nature. The authors share what they have learned via stories of their successes and failures, and provide a set of checklists at the end of the book (also available online).

One tale tells how employee headaches in a Boston store led to Patagonia converting all 66 products that used cotton to organic cotton within 18 months. No easy feat.

In another story, Patagonia puts their own spin on corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting by initiating The Footprint Chronicles® which traces Patagonia products geographically from design through receipt of finished goods at their warehouse.

Another segment describes Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative based on the 4 Rs (reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle). It includes encouraging customers to not buy what they don’t need or won’t last (an interesting sales strategy), repairing and recycling products, as well as helping customers resell clothes they no longer need. A fifth R was added, “… to reimagine a world in which we take from nature only what it can replace.”

A large portion of the book deals with the elements of business responsibility.

  1. Responsibility to the Health of the Business – in order to be a socially and environmentally responsible company, it has to make a profit and stay in business.
  2. Responsibility to the Workers – care for, reward, and engage workers which include everyone in the supply chain who helps make or sell its product.
  3. Responsibility to Your Customers – provide a quality service or product that lasts, be truthful, provide customers with information on environmental and social choices embodied in the product or service from the time of purchase forward.
  4. Responsibility to the Community – be mindful of impacts on neighborhoods and cities where the company operates, communities of interest, and the virtual community of social media.
  5. Responsibility to Nature – our economy depends on nature. Keep in mind 90% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during the design stage. Energy, water, travel, toxic materials, construction, and office operations impact nature.

The Bottom Line

The Responsible Company is a short, easy-to-read book that is for everyone businesses, employees, and customers.

Business leaders and managers receive practical information and ideas on how to jump-start their own responsible company efforts.

Employees have an opportunity to reflect on their own work, support their own company’s responsible actions or even instigate their own.

As customers, we learn what types of questions we should ask before buying products. Sometimes, it’s as easy as asking oneself if we need it and then realizing we don’t.

I was heartened to read about Patagonia’s willingness to share information and engage with competitors and companies not typically known for their environmental records. Maybe we can all work together towards a better business and economic model after all.

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7 Ways to Stay Warm Indoors in the Winter and Be Green

U.S. Winter Heating Degree Days - U.S. EIAStay warm indoors during the winter, be green, and save money. Being mindful of what we wear and do inside can help keep us warm while reducing heating costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects temperatures to be colder this winter than last year with home heating costs as high as $2,494.

It’s Winter

What constitutes winter varies widely in the U.S., but most people experience a drop in the inside temperature of their home (some a huge drop) and utilize supplemental heating to keep the inside warm. Warm being a relative term.

Winter heating requires resources like oil, natural gas, and electricity which generate greenhouse gases and pollution. Using less is good for our planet and our wallets.

A good starting point is to accept that it is cold and we probably need to dress differently in the winter, yes even when we’re inside. Instead of heating our homes and offices to be warm enough in the winter to walk around wearing a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt, we can turn the thermostat down and put on a sweater.

Hats On

Although there isn’t a consensus on how much body heat is lost through our heads, covering it up, even inside helps one stay warm. Most everyone probably has a camping beanie hidden in the back of a drawer. Sometimes I just put on a baseball cap and that helps too.

Turtles, Gaiters and Scarves

If my neck is warm I feel warmer in general. Turtleneck shirts and sweaters keep one’s neck warm but to me they feel claustrophobic. One of my solutions is to wear a neck gaiter which is a fabric tube you pull over your head. An alternate solution that doesn’t mess up one’s hair is to wrap a scarf around one’s neck.

Layers are Good

In the old days, people wore long underwear to stay warm during winter months. Now we have base layers. Although the one-piece union suit style is still available, two pieces are more flexible. Base layers are made of cotton, wool, silk, or polyester and come in a wide variety of styles including those that work under business attire.

Layering clothes is an effective and flexible technique for staying warm outdoors and in. Put on or take off a sweater, flannel shirt, fleece jacket, or shawl as needed.

Warm Hands

Even when the house is relatively warm, my hands will often feel cold. I’ve thought about wearing mittens or gloves but they are not functional for indoor activities.

Author's Indoor Warm Clothing Collection - hat, neck gaiter, scarf, base layer, fingerless mittens, fleece throwMaybe it’s the season or that I am a Charles Dickens fan, but recently I thought of  fingerless gloves. Bob Cratchit, a character in a Christmas Carol,  wore fingerless gloves while sitting on his stool and toiling away as a clerk in the freezing office of Mr. Scrooge. As luck would have it, I found a pair of fingerless mittens (fingerless gloves have individual finger holes) in a local shop made by a local artisan.

Once the palms of my hands warm up so do my fingers, and I can still type and do other things around the house. I just wish I had thought of this back in the days when I used to work in freezing office buildings.

Toasty Toes

When my feet are warm, I am more apt to feel warm all over. Although my kids seem to be able to go barefoot in the house year round, I utilize footwear (heavy socks, slippers, or shoes).

Throw It On

When we are sedentary our circulation slows down and we may feel cold. Instead of turning up the heat, keep a fleece or wool throw or blanket handy at home and  / or the office. Sometimes I put a throw over my lap while sitting at my desk or toss one on my bed at night as an extra layer. Beats turning the heat up.

Get Moving

Periodically getting up and walking around ramps up circulation which warms the whole body. 5 or 10 minutes make a big difference. At work, walk around while listening to a conference call on a cell phone or walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email or text message. At home, walk around during TV commercials, back and forth tidying up, or read the news on an e-reader, smartphone, or tablet.

Challenge yourself to see how creative you can be to stay warm and turn your thermostat down or even off.

Resources: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Thrift Store Clothes Shopping is Green

Thrift StoreThrift store clothes shopping is “green” in more ways than one. First, wearing second-hand clothes saves the resources and energy that would be used to make, transport, and distribute new clothes. Second it saves some green in one’s wallet.

Friends and family will say that I am picky about clothes and many other things (I say I’m discerning). Like my maternal grandmother, Helen, I tend to select quality over quantity. I admire the style and creativity of fashionistas, but am definitely not one.

As the oldest girl in the family, there were no hand-me-down clothes for me when I was a kid. I am 5 inches taller than my mother (and have been since about 6th grade) so even if we had the same taste in clothes, sharing was not possible.

With winter approaching I was in need of an additional layer to wear indoors over a t-shirt. Instead of turning to my favorite mail order catalog companies or brick and mortar stores to buy something new, I decided to see what I could find by shopping at thrift stores.

Thrift Store Clothes Shopping

To me, it makes sense to follow the same shopping process regardless of whether one is buying new or second-hand clothes.

  • Buy clothes only when you need them. Don’t buy just because it’s cheap, on sale, or a great deal.
  • On any given shopping expedition, be prepared to sort through a lot of merchandise and not find anything.
  • Try on clothes before buying to make sure they fit. If it’s not possible to try on an item, think about skipping it.
  • Make sure the clothes are clean and don’t have any stains, tears, pulled seams, snags, broken zippers, missing buttons, etc.
  • Only buy clothes you like, even if you can return or exchange them. Why buy something you don’t really like that much in the first place?
  • Although I buy clothes online, I would be leery of purchasing second-hand clothes online because it is seems like it would be difficult to judge condition from a picture.
  • Some thrift stores are run by charitable or non-profit organizations. Shop green and support a favorite cause at the same time.

New Versus Thrift Store Cost Comparison

I was fortunate to find what I was looking for at the first thrift store I visited. An Eddie Bauer women’s long sleeve flannel shirt fit the bill perfectly. I can wear it over a t-shirt, in the house or outdoors, it is in great condition, and even better it is green literally and environmentally.

I decided to do a cost comparison of what it would have cost to buy a similar new shirt online at Eddie Bauer.

Author's Green Eddie Bauer Flannel Shirt from Thrift StoreEddie Bauer Women’s Long Sleeve Flannel Shirt

  • New: $49.95 (shirt) + $3.87 (7.75% sales tax) + $7.99 (shipping) = $61.81
  • Second-hand: $8.95 (shirt) + $0.69 (7.75% sales tax) + $0.0 (shipping) = $9.64
  • Savings: $52.17 or about 84%. I walked to the thrift store so saved on gas and greenhouse emissions.

Since I found what I was looking for on the first try, I didn’t get much thrift store clothes shopping practice this time around. Nevertheless, it was a green experience.