Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

Guest post: Farmer Haley’s Take on GMO Labeling

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post for farmer Mike Haley on what GMO labeling looked like from a consumer’s point of view — well, mine, specifically. He agreed to return the favor and talk about how labeling would affect his farming practices. It’s a perspective I haven’t seen elsewhere and that I think adds to the conversation on this complex and emotional issue.

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Farmer Haley’s corn fields

Before I get into the post itself, I would like to thank Jennifer Mo for getting me thinking more about the topic of labeling foods that are derived from genetically engineered (GE) crops and the effects that proposition 37 in California will have on farmers like myself.

As a farmer who grows both GE corn and GE free corn, I often am asked how I feel about this labeling question.  I must admit while I lean towards no labeling, I also have mixed feelings as to whether or not this is the correct stance to take on the issue.  Rather than give my opinions, I want to share how this proposition would affect my farm.

There are several reasons why we plant genetically engineered crops on our farm.  In corn, we choose to plant a variety that was developed to resist insects naturally rather than having to use insecticides that are not as effective and can be very harmful to the handler (me) if a mistake is made when applying it.  Depending on the type of soil, history and current weather trends, we often decide that insects will not be a major issue in a field and plant a non GE variety allowing us to save money, if the trend holds true and we don’t have any issues with insects in that field.

Currently, when it is time to harvest, no measures are taken to completely segregate corn varieties that are GE as there is no premium to do so; we get paid the same price for both GE corn and non GE corn.  It’s hard to tell what would happen if Proposition 37 passed, but I am assuming that my mill would want me to find a way to separate my corn into batches of non GE as well as that that contains GE corn. In other words I would be expected to follow procedures of identity preservation (IP) of all the seed on my farm.

Sounds simple right?

Not really, as I would have to start this process early in the spring.  While planting my fields, I would have to completely clean my planter out when switching from GE varieties as just one seed could completely contaminate the rest of the field.  Then in the fall I would have to do a thorough cleaning of my combine, trucks and wagons when switching between the same fields. Furthermore, it would also be necessary to shut the combine down for about 24 hours while the corn dryer had a chance to catch up so I could clean it out and switch it to the proper grain bin to maintain the identity of the seed.  All of this is possible, but requires valuable time to accomplish and could mean the difference between getting our crop harvested before it snows or not.

It doesn’t stop there, as the real tasks occur after my grain leaves the farm.  Each truckload will have to be tested to determine if the genetic makeup of the grain has been engineered before the farmer would be allowed to dump it into its specified bin, making the lines and time spent at grain terminals longer, as testing delays the process. For the grain terminals, it would also mean having to build more infrastructures that can handle both types of grain without contamination of the non GE varieties.  From this point on, the grain would have to remain segregated.  From railcars to processors and packers and finally the grocery store where it can be labeled as containing GMOs, each step is important and a level of quality control will need to be added.

All of this adds up in cost that will get passed on to the consumer.  On my farm it would be an added cost of about $.50 per bushel on a normal year, or 10 percent, and I could only imagine the increased costs would be similar through each step, adding a huge cost to the amount of food individuals spend on food each year.

All that said, I truly believe that if individuals want labeling, it should be provided, and it is in several ways already on a voluntary basis.  If one wishes to avoid GE foods, it’s simple to purchase organic foods or even look for non organic foods that have the Non-GMO Projects label on them.  These choices may cost more, but that is because it costs more to raise food and preserve the identity of foods by those standards.  This is where I have mixed feelings. Is it right to force everyone to pay more for food just so those who are concerned can have more choices?

The USDA, EPA , FDA and hundreds of other experts say it is as safe as other plants found in nature as other food and from my experience on my farm, I know it has a favorable environmental profile. I’m completely comfortable with it. But I understand others may not be and I’m glad to know the market provides clear choices for them.

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About Mike Haley

Farming’s n my blood! Love raising crops & Simmental Cows! N my spare time I enjoy writing, find me on Twitter @justfarmers & @farmerhaley email: farmerhaley(at)gmail.com

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Non-Violent Communication, parts 3 & 4: Empathy and Asking for What We Want

This is the final part of Ian Peatey’s guest post on non-violent communication. I apologize for the irregular posting, as my cumulative bio final was yesterday and many things got put on hold while I studied. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and will consider applying it to how you communicate. If you missed them, please check out part 1 and part 2 in the series!

Empathy and asking for what we want. Image credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Empathy

Empathy is a fashionable concept at the moment and I celebrate this. Learning to listen with empathy is, I believe, the most important step towards a more peaceful and sustainable world.

Applying the NVC approach to empathy means listening to what someone is expressing beyond the words they use. Most people have been educated to express mainly their judgements and analysis. So being able to hear their unexpressed feelings and needs is a great gift to them – it’s reaching out to what is really alive in them and not only staying in the relatively narrow realm of the mind. If their judgements are directed towards me then empathy is also an essential act of self-protection!

Quick Exercise

Guess the reaction you might get if you did say what you wrote down in part 2 above.

  • What would they say to you
  • What might they be feeling?
  • What needs of theirs might be at play?

The reaction I might get to the litter situation could be, “Who the f*** are you telling me what to do. Mind your own business, asshole!”

My guess, which I might verbalise if I thought it would help: They’re feeling irritated and need freedom and autonomy. They might also be feeling embarrassed as they didn’t meet their need for care and consideration of others when they dropped the trash.

Jennifer: I think my neighbors would be likely to react this way. They would probably be embarrassed and angry to be approached about something like recycling. They might need to be able to finish chores quickly to get back to taking care of their families.

Asking for What we Want

If I view people as basically generous and compassionate and if I’m equally interested in getting my needs and your needs met, then asking for what I want ought to be straightforward.

NVC suggest treating a request as a suggestion about what current action would meet my needs. If my suggestion also works for you and then we’re good to go! If not, it’s the start of a dialogue where we can get clearer about both our needs and come up with a solution together.

Contrast this with some of these common approaches we learned as children:

  • Punishment (“clean your room or no TV for a week”/ “Come home now or I’ll leave you here on your own”)
  • Reward (“Get good grades and I’ll buy you a new ball/iPad/bicycle/keg of beer”)
  • Denial of choice (“You must do your share of the chores … so you have to wash the dishes!”)
  • Exclusion from the rest of society (“Nobody talks to their parents like that”)
  • Emotional blackmail (“If you tell me the truth I won’t get mad”/”If you lie to me I won’t love you as much”)

All these methods rely on fear of some kind to get children to act. And children grow into adults who learn either to use fear themselves or continue to act out of fear.

The NVC way might take a little time, and for me it’s a small price to pay for reducing the amount of fear we bring into our lives.

Quick Exercise

Continuing the example from the previous sections. What do you want to hear or see right now that would meet your needs?

Ideally I would like this person to never throw litter again and join me on a crusade to convince everyone they know to keep trash off the streets. Somehow I guess I might be wanting more than they are ready to commit to right now.

More realistically I might ask: “Would you agree to throw your next piece of trash in one of these bins?” and I’d also go over and pick up the litter they dropped and throw it away.

Going off on a bit of a tangent – I can’t remember actually meeting a litter-dropper, so I tend to do a lot of picking up of other peoples’ trash. It’s not ideal as I would love to have a dialogue with them – human to human – and see where it led, but I’m not prepared to loiter around the park, pouncing on people as they discard their rubbish.

Picking up other peoples’ litter might sound like a dumb thing to do – but I’ve tried complaining, feeling resentful and disgusted or hoping for some wave of awareness to come over the neighbourhood. None of those things made me feel good so cleaning up myself is a the best choice I’ve found.

You know what, I was in the park the other day and I saw someone else doing exactly the same thing, which brought a smile to my face.

Jennifer: I’ll think about asking for what I want the next time I meet a non-recycler at the trash bins. Maybe offering to help them sort their trash or addressing why they don’t recycle could open up a conversation. And until then…sigh, I guess I’ll keep fishing recyclables out of the trash.

About the Author

Ian Peatey is a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) living in Romania where he runs and writes for NVC World and does a bit of business training. Together with his wife, he runs the Romanian Association for NVC delivering workshops and training courses aimed at supporting parents and couples as well as organisations involved with children. His main contributions to the environment are refusing to eat meat, walking a lot (and not owning a car) and buying local, natural foods wherever possible. On the other hand he does have 3 kids but he’s not willing to give any of them up.

He can be contacted here.

Non-Violent Communication, Part 2: Honesty

This guest post series on non-violent communication by Ian Peatey continues. If you missed part 1 on needs, please take a look!

NVC part 2: Honesty. Image credit: laszlo-photo

NVC suggested an approach to honesty that, while not easy to master, was worth the effort because it gives a way of expressing myself that doesn’t make people hate me as much.

This ‘connecting honesty’ is the art of expressing what’s alive in me. Alive as in what am I noticing in the world around me, how am I reacting to it (thoughts AND feelings) and what’s going on with my needs.

This is a broader view of honesty than the narrow one I grew up with.

Like many kids, I was taught to tell the truth. I was also taught how to analyse, interpret and judge and then defend my views and argue against different positions than my own. I could say the main aim of the education system I was exposed to was to develop my logical, rational brain. There were some attempts to develop my creative, sporting and musical talents but they were largely half-hearted and mainly ineffective.

It’s not surprising, perhaps, that I grew up to equate truth with thinking and the highest form of honesty, therefore, was to tell people what I thought of them. Just to complicate things, this was often in conflict with another piece of my education – how to be polite. As is the case with many of us British, politeness usually won – which is probably for the best, as a lot of what I think is garbage and probably best left as random, irrelevant clouds passing through my brain.

Intuitively I knew uncensored expression of my thoughts was more likely to result in heated exchanges than productive, meaningful relationships. The best I could usually hope for was a triumphant, ‘I’m someone who speaks my mind – if you can’t take my honesty then that’s your problem’. After all few people enjoy being judged and not many like being educated when they haven’t asked for it. So I learned to keep my mouth shut in the interests of harmony and maintaining at least a few relationships.

Quick Exercise

Imagine you say something to the person doing the thing you wish they wouldn’t do (from part 1). Try formulating in no more than 2 sentences:

  • What you observe they do (just the facts, none of your interpretations or judgements)
  • What you feel when they do that
  • Which needs of yours are not getting met.

If I bumped into one of these people throwing litter in the playground and honestly told them what I think about them, I can be pretty sure it’s not going to end well. I doubt there’s a person alive who responds well to: “You selfish, low-life, moronic litter lout”. I want a different kind of honesty.

I might start with something like, “I saw you drop that empty soda bottle and I’m feeling concerned and also nervous, right now, about opening my mouth. My daughter is playing over there and I need her to be safe and grow up caring for the world around her.” I hope it would be easier to hear (even if a bit awkward), though I still predict I’ll get an aggressive, defensive reaction. At least I’m more grounded in myself, less confrontational and genuinely interested in reaching a solution that works for both of us.

One thing I should just add here.

Before opening my mouth I would make an assessment about how safe the situation is. If I  guessed I might get into some physical harm then I would leave it alone. I want to make the world a better place, and getting beaten up in front of my 2 year old daughter is not going to help that.

Jennifer: So, going back to my neighbors who throw recyclables in the trash and drive their pick-up truck 50 feet to the laundry room. If I said what I was actually thinking, it would come out something like this: “For f***’s sake, people. You can’t even be bothered to recycle your plastic water bottles? Hope your kids like it on a dead planet.” To put it in more NVC terms, maybe I could say something like, “I noticed that you throw out recyclable items like bottles and cans. I feel upset when I see recyclables in the trash because I need my community to respect the environment we all live in.”

I think I need to work on that some more. What eco-oblivious actions make you want to start pulling out the asterisks and ampersands? And can you think of NVC ways to rephrase how you feel?

Guest Post: Non-Violent Communication (part 1)

This is a guest post from Ian Peatey, a Non-Violent Communication Trainer, on a system of communication based on empathy rather than competition. I’m not qualified to write on this topic myself, though I have seen that it works and fosters real conversations instead of shouting matches. Environmental issues are complex, and many of us are deeply emotionally invested in our perspectives on them. Listening and responding empathetically are not instinctive, but they can be taught. I hope that non-violent communication will help us to listen better and find solutions.

Is there a better way to communicate? Image credit: Akuppa

I turn 50 next year (gulp!) and I can point to maybe a small handful of events so far that triggered really huge changes. One of those transforming moments was coming across Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in 2001.

On the face of it NVC is simple and obvious – deceptively so. Scratching away its layers and patiently learning how to integrate it revealed a rich, practical approach to myself, relationships and social structures. It also turned upside down some of the things I’d taken for granted all my life about basic concepts such as honesty and co-operation.

At its core is a positive and compassionate view of the human race. Yes, of course, there are plenty of people I could label selfish, aggressive, violent or mean – in fact, I might even use those words to describe myself from time to time.

NVC takes the view we are all doing the best we can to meet our needs and we all enjoy giving when we are free to do so. It maintains that how we’ve been educated to think, communicate and act sometimes interferes with this positive, compassionate orientation. And by re-learning some of this education we can choose modes of living that help us connect with others, resolve our differences constructively and seek peaceful ways of living.

Me and NVC (or NVC and I)

My introduction to NVC was pure chance combined with laziness.

I was sitting in the main hall at a very large conference, trying to decide which workshop to go to next. A guy came and sat on the edge of the stage, talked a bit, pulled out a guitar and started singing in a rather tuneless voice. I can relate to ‘tuneless’ but didn’t want to listen to 2 hours of it. I glanced at the programme and saw it was the beginning of ‘Nonviolent Communication’ presented by Marshall Rosenberg. It didn’t sound really appealing but I was just too lazy to move and by way of justification, told myself there might be more to it than crap songs.

So I stayed.

Fast forward and today my life pretty much revolves around NVC. I run workshops on it, write about it and do my very best to integrate it into how I relate to myself and those around me. I’m even married to it – my wife is also an NVC trainer. There are many different aspects of NVC that changed how I live and I’d like to touch on 4 elements that had the biggest impact on me.

1. Needs

Needs are central to NVC – not as a consumer driven or egotistical concept but as the very real things enabling us to survive and thrive.

Needs are what underpins everything we do and include basic physical needs (like protection, food and water) and more complex needs (such as belonging, meaning, understanding, beauty, emotional safety). They are also one way we can bridge the differences between us and find that  place where we meet as human beings. By finding the needs we’re trying to meet (my needs and your needs) we’re much more likely to find sustainable solutions than if we stick only with ideas and opinions.

This was quite a different way of looking at needs than the one I grew up with. I believe needs are often misrepresented. I mean, who wants to be seen as ‘needy’ or ‘selfish’ (only looking after their own needs).

I was brought up to put my own needs to one side and do things for other people out of duty and obligation – in other words, to be obedient. Obedience was promoted as a virtue – to parents, teachers, bosses and any other authority figure. I’d also bought into the notion of needs promoted by the mass media which got me to think I ‘need’ certain products, brands or services in order to fit in, be successful or get the girl!

From a certain perspective it’s not so hard to see why needs get misrepresented. People who are clear and assertive about their own needs tend to be quite difficult to control and don’t make compliant consumers!

Quick Exercise – think of something someone does that drives you crazy.

  • Which needs of yours are not met when they do this?
  • Which needs of theirs might they be trying to meet by doing this?
  • Are there other ways they could meet their needs while also valuing yours?

For me it’s people throwing litter in the playground where my kids play. My needs are for care, safety and health and I guess the needs of those throwing the trash are about ease and (possibly) being noticed/getting attention. Just getting to this step I find helpful and I feel calmer. I no longer see these (usually faceless) people as moronic louts who don’t care about anybody. I start to get a tiny glimmer of them as people, just like me, doing the best they can – albeit, it in a way I really don’t like.

Overflowing bin with doomed recyclables. Image credit: Ecstatic Mark

Jennifer: I get so angry when I see recyclables in the trash. Despite the fact that we have super-easy single-stream recycling, people still throw away their trash without sorting it, and their big white trash bags contain highly recyclable glass, aluminum, and plastic. I think it makes me even angrier that it often comes from families — Enfamil containers, other kiddie items — because surely they have the highest stake in the future? If their recyclables are easy to reach, I fish them out, but it’s really gross and gets my back up.

My needs that are not being met: the need to respect limited resources, for thoughtful behavior, and a planet-centered worldview. Their needs: convenience or to save time (I’m sure they are busy and sleep deprived). I don’t know what a compromise would look like — I can’t talk to them because I don’t know who they are, and I never see them doing it. Thoughts, Ian?

I’d love for you to try this thought experiment, even if, like me, the solutions aren’t immediately obvious. When it comes to environmental issues, what makes you angry, and what needs of yours aren’t being met?

Go on to part 2: Honesty

About the Author

Ian Peatey is a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) living in Romania where he runs and writes for NVC World and does a bit of business training. Together with his wife, he runs
the Romanian Association for NVC delivering workshops and training courses aimed at supporting parents and couples as well as organisations involved with children. His main contributions to the environment are refusing to eat meat, walking a lot (and not owning a car) and buying local, natural wherever possible. On the other hand he does have 3 kids but he’s not willing to give any of them up.

He can be contacted here.

Thoughts on the California GMO labeling initiative

I’m guest blogging over at the Just Farmers blog today about California’s GMO labeling initiative. It’s an issue that I’m solidly on the fence about, and I’ve tried to present both sides fairly. I hope you’ll take a look and let me know what you think! I’ll be featuring farmer Mike Haley’s perspective on the issue next week. Here’s a teaser from the post:

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California’s GMO Labeling Initiative – A Consumer’s Perspective

At an Earth Day festival in the San Francisco Bay Area this year, a GMO labeling activist grabbed my arm and told me that labeling GMOs was ‘a matter of life and death.’  A few months and a lot of signatures later, the initiative met the requirements to be voted on this November.

As a Californian and an environmentally concerned citizen, I’ve been following the developing dialogue on GMOs with interest. I’ve seen a growing divide between public’s perception of genetic engineering and the scientific community’s. And while I share concerns over the long term effects of genetic engineering, I really don’t like the reactionary rhetoric being used to promote labeling. In other words, I’m a fence-sitter.  Instead of taking a stance, I’ve been talking to people: scientists, farmers, environmentalists, parents, science teachers. I’m no closer to making a decision, but I’ve been able to look at the major arguments of each side.

As far as I can tell, the argument in favor of labeling is based on:

  • Desire to make and promote transparent, educated choices. As consumers, we want more information about our food so we can make responsible choices for our own health and that of the environment.
  • Concern about the long term effects of GMOs on human and environmental safety.  The safety testing and information on GMOs is not readily accessible to consumers, and the info that is available tends to be from activists who emphasize risks.

Keep reading at Just Farmers

Photo credit: MillionsAgainstMonsanto

Guest post: Integrated Pest Management 101

This is a guest post by Kelly Tooker, a Master Gardener and environmental educator. I had never heard of Integrated Pest Management before, but it addresses a lot of my concerns with both conventional and organic farming. Kel explains the principles of this system below and how to apply them. I love the way IPM uses just enough force — and the right type of it — to address pests intelligently and sustainably. 

Integrated Pest Management, often just called IPM, is a pest management technique used in the garden and greenhouse to manage insects, rodents and weeds. While IPM is a highly successful pest management practice, it is unfortunately not that popular in the main stream because it does not involve the purchase of gallons of commercial pesticides and herbicides a year, and it also involves a little research and knowledge. But I think you can do this, I think you are up for the challenge.

Chemical-based pesticides emerged in the post World War II 1940s as chemical companies diversified their technology and moved away from products like mustard gas. Like much of our technology, these chemical agents were originally derived for other purposes and were hailed as the answer to increasing productivity and feeding the world. This ushered in a long era of pest control through eradication.

We now know that this approach has been harmful to a wide range of “non-target organisms,” including humans, animals, fish, birds and beneficial insects. We now recognize that gardens are complex and interdependent systems, ecosystems. When you plant your garden you need to not only plan a design that is aesthetically pleasing, but also a system that supports the health of each plant and a balanced interaction among the inhabitants. Integrated Pest Management builds upon this knowledge and chemicals are employed as a last resort.

So, how do you go about this balanced, safety-conscious approach? You learn the tenants of IPM to prevent problems from arising, and when they do arise, you integrate several techniques to reduce the chemical impact to tolerable levels.

Now I will pause here for the reader who does not think that this applies to them because they only use ORGANIC pesticides. Whether synthetic or organic, all pesticides interact with the targeted ecosystem. Many organic pesticides can be more harmful than synthetic options, especially if the user is not trained to understand proper application rates. As an agricultural teacher there were many organic options that I did not use because my classes included young females of childbearing years and teenagers with sensitive endocrine systems. A chemical is a chemical. The term organic simply means that it is or once was living. If you learn to properly use IPM you will reduce your chemical use, hopefully to none.

IPM begins with CULTURAL controls. Start by choosing good healthy plants that are native or adapted to your climate and garden. Select varieties that are resistant to disease and pests in your area. Properly care for the plants and practice good garden hygiene. Regularly monitor your garden and check trouble spots, an ounce or preventative care will minimize damages. Your goal is to create a healthy interdependent ecosystem.

Keep in mind that a truly pest free garden does not exist. You must learn to accept some damage to fruit, flower or foliage and know that sometimes it is better to remove a diseased plant. Learn to identify which insects are harmful and which are beneficial. Understand that birds eat insects and provide shelter for these willing garden helpers. This is where it takes a little bit of research and knowledge, but I have never known a gardener or passionate eco-type to shy away from knowledge. For weed control consider dense planting and ground covers.

Next, you will use PHYSICAL controls. These are nontoxic techniques such as handpicking slugs, snails, caterpillars and other pests. Soft bodied insects can be sprayed with water to knock them from plants and kill them. Prune diseased parts from a plant and properly dispose of the cuttings. Protect early season fruits and vegetables using screens, frames or row covers so that insects cannot lay eggs. Use traps such as blue and yellow sticky traps. Pheromone traps are also available. This is where we all become armchair entomologists. For weed control consider a cover or mulch vegetable beds over the winter.

BIOLOGICAL controls will be familiar to many of you. These are controls that rely on living organisms such as beneficial insects. A popular biological control is the purchase of ladybugs. However, I will encourage you to plant flowers and plants that are source foods for these insects and draw them into your habitat. If you create a balanced habitat you will find that within 3 years you will have an army of beneficial insects assisting you. Please remember that spiders and ground beetles are beneficial insects.

And finally, should you ever need to resort to this step, CHEMICAL controls. Always select the least toxic option first. Natural, or organic, pesticides are products whose ingredients originate in a plant, animal or mineral. The term natural or organic does not mean “harmless.” When using any pesticide read the label carefully. I do not use Neem oil, a popular “organic” pesticide because it is harmful to non-target insects including bees and lady beetles and is toxic to fish. It also should not be used if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Integrated Pest Management is a BIG topic and there is a lot more to be said than can be explained in just this one short article. I invite you to follow along as I discuss these practices further, through my own trials and experiments, in Kelsgardenjournal.com.

What do you think of Integrated Pest Management? Would you (or do you already) use it in your garden?

About the Author:

Kel is a Master Gardener, Master Composter/ Recycler, and Naturally Beautiful Backyards Host Gardener. She has lived in USDA Zone 8 (Western Garden Zone 6) for most of her life and just recently relocated to Zone 5!

Kel began gardening in 2004. Her first gardening project was to establish a butterfly habitat garden and multi-use space for a young family. Her next project was the development of an urban pollinator habitat and a 10 month edible garden. Future entries will chronicle a 7,000 sq ft lot in a historical district.

Kel continues to pursue educational opportunities and holds an Organic Gardening certificate from OSU Extension. She has worked as an environmental educator in a range of positions including curriculum development and career & technical training at the high school level. She writes about a wide range of environmental topics.

Kel posts regularly as MonkeyDragon on Kelsgardenjournal.com and Tweets @Kelsgarden.

Photo by Steve Wilson

Journey to a Sustainable Economy: The Triple Bottom Line

(Hey there. I’m in Hawaii and am officially disconnecting for about a week and a half. In the meantime, here’s a great post from Lynn Fang at Upcycled Love. Thanks so much, Lynn! If you haven’t checked out Lynn’s blog, you totally should.)

How will we really create a sustainable society? It’s a question that most people would prefer to hide from. But why is that? Is it because we feel we have little power to change things?

What if we could see a way forward? Would it seem less daunting? Most of us can see that business and government are the ones to blame for this mess, so we feel powerless in their control. Businesses exist to make money – profit is their bottom line, and as one policy student explained to me, governments exist to take power and control over its people. It seems like the average person can do very little to change this state of affairs, when the very definition of business and government do not operate in our favor.

But what if we changed the operating definition of business and government? What if the purpose of business was to create better livelihoods, to support our basic needs and fulfill our personal dreams? What if the purpose of government wasn’t to take power, and was instead to support and nurture its people?

Of course, it would be difficult to change any mind deeply entrenched in the antequated establishment. It is up to a new generation of businesspeople and policymakers to create a new system.

What if businesses supported the health of people and planet with equal fervor as its goal to maximize profits? This is the triple bottom line: businesses supporting people, planet, and profit. There are many companies who now support this view, as evidenced by a burgeoning market for sustainably sourced products.

Interface is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet tiles and is also a leader in sustainable industry. Its founder and former CEO, Ray Anderson, read Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, and felt so guilty for extracting natural resources, that he changed the course of his business. Now, Interface embraces the triple bottom line, using sustainably sourced materials whenever possible, and respecting workers’ rights at the same time. They have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, their waste by 66%, and are on track towards zero waste. They call this Mission Zero, a journey towards zero ecological footprint. They have consulted with biomimicry experts and studied geckos‘ feet for a more eco-friendly glue. They even want to become petroleum-independent, a daunting feat for a carpet company that depends on synthetic nylon for yarn.

Ray Anderson now speaks to people all over the world about sustainable industry, and has inspired many companies to begin considering their social and environmental impact. Interface also has a consulting arm, InterfaceRAISE, that works with other corporations to improve their efforts in sustainability while enhancing their competitiveness.

Business gives us energy, computers, food, clothing, homes, transportation, and everything else we need to live comfortable lives. They are the greatest source of social and environmental damage, and so it seems they should also be the solution. Businesses that choose to faithfully embrace the triple bottom line are the ones that can lead us to the sustainable society of our future.

Inspiration: Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, by Ray Anderson

What do you think? Do you believe businesses could possibly embrace the triple bottom line? Do you believe this is enough to move us forward?

Lynn_thumb.jpgAuthor bio: Lynn Fang is an eco-conscious writer who likes to wonder about how we can really create the sustainable society of the future. She writes about conscious living, sustainability, and social change at Upcycled Love. Follow her on Twitter at @UpcycledLove

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