REI and Sub Pop…….

"Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional." –bumper sticker

Sub Pop

Starbucks may be the most famous, but REI and Sub Pop are two companies which also reflect the Seattle mind-set.  Founded in 1938, REI is a consumer cooperative which sells high quality outdoor equipment, clothing, and footwear.  Seattlites are know to have a certain style of casual dress–if you flip through an REI catalog you would get a good idea of what that might look like.

Back in 1989, Sub Pop was a scrappy little independent record label that released Bleach by some punks from Aberdeen who called themselves Nirvana.  Today, Sub Pop is home to The Shins and Postal Service.  All of which goes to show that styles may change but substance always has staying power.  If you are are music lover, you owe it to yourself to explore the Sub Pop catalog.

Now, REI and Sub Pop have stepped up to prove creativity  and a can do attitude are powerful tools in the fight against global warming.  It’s a smart approach. 

According to the book Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, innovation is process driven and can be broken down into five steps.  First, a project should start by trying to tackle an important problem.  Interesting is not enough.  Second, after each step in the development process the end product should be evaluated in terms of actual value provided to the consumer.  Third, every project needs a champion, a true believer who will fight to the death to make the best product possible.  How to form the best development team round out the last two steps.  Essentially, project teams should be created that are up to the task.  Talent should be chosen based on the project needs not dictated by department distinctions.  These teams should be flexible and able to generate new ideas on the fly.

Starting in January, REI Adventures will purchase renewable energy credits to offset the greenhouse gas generated by the air, water and ground travel associated with all of its travel adventure packages.  In order to become carbon neutral, REI Adventures expects to purchase more than 52,000 green tags in the coming year, offsetting more than 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide.  REI Adventures offers vacation packages to every corner of the globe.  You can experience a wildlife safari in Tanzania, hike and cycle through Laos and Cambodia, or explore Antarctica on a small ship adventure.  Now travelers can explore the wonders around the world without the environmental guilt.

Sub Pop Records has also taken the plunge and purchased enough green tags to offset all of the company’s energy use. The Seattle label was the first Green-e certified record company in the United States.

REI and Sub Pop are both innovators who are tackling a huge problem and in the process giving the people what they want.  Thank you for championing such an important cause.  This type of forward-thinking corporate leadership will reinforce Seattle’s authority as a leader in the struggle against climate change.

Starbucks was the first to create a recycled paper cup that met the stringent guidelines for food service by the FDA.  Now, let’s see what Starbucks can do to keep up the momentum and turn itself into a carbon neutral corporation.

Here is track twelve for the playlist: One Chance by  Modest Mouse.

Seattle can do this, and so can the world…….

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a good article on Mayor Nickel’s efforts to keep Seattle positioned as an innovator and leader in the fight against global warming.  The article provides a valuable overview of the mayor’s plan and then breaks these steps into actions that can be taken by citizens, business, and government.  The article can be found here.

Cool Cities

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.U.S. Department of Agriculture


Seattle’s urban forests are in trouble.  In 1972, trees covered 40 percent of the city’s land area.  Today, thirty-four years later, 18 percent of those trees remain. 

Trees are an important first line of defense against a host of environmental problems.  In fact, Jared Diamond lists deforestation as one of the twelve environmental factor which ignored can leave to societal collapse.  Trees provide nature with the tools to help manage storm water run-off, reduce erosion, trap the green house gas CO2, and produce oxygen.

In an ambitious effort to renew Seattle’s forests, Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickles announced a plan to address the loss of the city’s trees.   The press release from the mayor’s office states:

The mayor set a goal of increasing Seattle’s tree coverage by two-thirds over the next 30 years – or by about 650,000 new trees. To help launch the effort, the mayor announced the city will give away 2,000 coupons for free trees this fall.

The plan aims to reverse the trend by establishing aggressive goals, such as:

  • Adding nearly 650,000 trees over 30 years on property in all land use categories.
  • Increasing pruning frequency of city-maintained trees from every 19 years to a cycle of every 13 years.
  • Creating a long-term program to educate residents about the ecological and economic importance of trees. Residential trees today account for 42 percent of the city’s total canopy.
  • Devising incentives and regulations that encourage tree preservation and planting.
  • Coordinating tree management across multiple city departments with tree maintenance responsibility (Parks, Transportation, City Light, Seattle Public Utilities), including a comprehensive inventory and analysis of the urban forest.
  • Creating citizen-government-business partnerships to bring additional financial, volunteer labor and management resources to the tree-restoration fight.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “There are about 60-to 200- million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs."

Local leaders like Mayor Nickels are stepping up to fill the void created by the federal government’s lack of leadership in the fight against global warming.  In 2005, Mr. Nickels initiated the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which asked mayors from around the country to pledge to reduce their city’s production of carbon dioxide to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.  So far, 295 mayors have taken the pledge with the combined impact of representing over 49.4 million Americans.  Check to see if your city is on the list.

Tipping Green…….

"Sometimes, the political system is like the climate system, in that it’s non-linear.  It can seem to change at a snail’s pace and then suddenly cross a tipping point beyond which it shifts into a shockingly fast gear.  All of a sudden, change that everybody thought was impossible becomes matter of fact.  In 1941, it was absurd to think the U.S. could build a thousand airplanes a month to fight the Second World War.  By 1943 that was a real number." –Al Gore, RS #1004/1005:713-274/06

Grass Car

Like it or not, California sets the trends that the rest of the country follows.  The state is nothing short of a cultural powerhouse.  From the Lords of Dogtown to Proposition 9, California was there before the rest of us had any idea there existed.  Now, California is taking on global warming and it just might be the kick in the pants which gets the rest of the country back in the game.

Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) recently became law in California.  This legislative act is a gigantic step forward in the fight against global warning.  California is the twelfth largest generator of greenhouse gases in the world.  According to a press release from Environmental Defense,

AB 32 would limit the state’s global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and institute a mandatory emissions reporting system to monitor compliance. It also would allow for market mechanisms to provide incentives to businesses to reduce emissions while safeguarding local communities.
Momentum and support from clean companies, venture capitalists, faith-based leaders and the public have been strong. The bill’s opponents – representing old, polluting industries – have been sidelined by the steady drumbeat of scientific consensus that global warming is the world’s most pressing environmental problem and that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution is a feasible, cost-effective solution.

Using California’s historic 2002 clean car standards as a blue print, the Washington State Legislature enacted similar legislation in 2005.  Motor vehicles produce more than half of all the greenhouse gas emission in Washington State.  Washington’s clean car standards are patterned after the ground breaking California model which authorized the California Air Resources Board to set limits on passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

The Washington State clean car standards will apply to cars, light trucks, SUV’s, and passenger vans starting in 2009 with full compliance by 2016.  Based on estimates by the state of California, these new standards will cut emissions in cars and light trucks by 25 percent and 18 percent for SUV’s and larger trucks.

Nine other states have adopted clean car standards.  These states are Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.  Together with California and Washington, this group accounts for over a third of the new car sales in the United States. 

If the past is any predictor of the future, in a few years hipsters will be calculating their carbon load and bragging about the cool gadgets they are using to become carbon neutral.  Stranger things have happened.

UPDATEHere is an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the historic signing of the California legislation to limit green house gases.

Book Lust…….

Book Lust

Nancy Pearl is a bit of a cult figure in Seattle.  For a city known for its love of coffee, movies, and books, it would make sense to have one of its librarians celebrated with an action figure.  Seattlelites can be a slightly wonky bunch.

The nationally recognized program, "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book" was her idea.  Nancy also reviews books for Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW and interviews authors on Seattle’s cable television network.  In addition, she has written two reader guides which tap her rich experience as a librarian and a life long lover of books.

Nancy Pearl is the rare person who has turned a passion into a career.  If the economy of the future is based on knowledge and imagination,  I think she is one person to watch.