Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Partnerships, from Land to Sea

It is far less distracting to work when the rain falls upon us ceaselessly. We are all hunkering down to do our work... we took note of a recently released report by CERES on stormy weather and its implications for the insurance industry. This is a deal breaker as communities plan for climate change adaptation (or what you do to avoid sinking one's own ship).

On a related note, we found an interesting, more globally focused report on sustainable fisheries. This is a topic that impassions Barton Seaver who I had the pleasure of hearing at this year's Chefs Collaborative Conference in Seattle. Because I think about food 24-7, of course I was thrilled to attend the national Chefs Collaborative conference which featured some very interesting discussions on local financing and the responsibility of chefs to address social issues and sustainability.

This latter issue was raised when the iconic chef Thomas Keller ruffled a few human feathers with his response. Personally I think everyone has a responsibility to take positive action to make their own neighborhood and the lives of others better, safer and more beautiful.

Food: the segue. This summer we were pleased to forge two new partnerships: one with the Washington State Parks Foundation, to provide a contextual assessment of a variety of parks to identify new partners,  revenue potential and ways to evaluate park assets; and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, to help cultivate a framework for an Orca Friendly Communities Project.

Washington is a stunning place and some of the best places to visit are our parks. They are places to explore, learn something new, kiss, compete in a bbq competition, learn to unicycle. As the state's budget worsens over time, it will be critical to find creative and innovative ways to keep our parks open. You can rah rah rah your way to helping by purchasing a Discover Pass.

It was a female killer Orca that died in 2002 on the North Olympic Peninsula named "Hope," that galvanized the Port Townsend and larger community to action. This beautiful and iconic creature was full of toxins. By honoring her memory and life and building support for connecting healthy communities and residents with healthy Orca populations, Anne and her colleagues will make a huge contribution to the quality of our lives.

We welcome these warm, intelligent partners into an evolving universe and wish you all a *boo!* All Hallows' Eve.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Get Outside, Come Rain or Shine... news from the policy world and client updates

In early June I attended the Western Governors Association meeting in Cle Elum. It felt like the only day in all of June where the sun came out for a visit and the property was redolent with the scent of Ponderosa Pine and enticements for outdoor play. I was itching to get outside. As the Governor nears the end of her term,  it was delightful to watch the repartee between she and Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana,  a spitfire of a human.

The focus at this particular gathering was the recently unveiled Get Out West campaign. Interestingly, there were many medical, insurance and energy companies,  but very few outdoor recreation companies in attendance. Tom Spaletto, President of North Face, spoke about how if we don't get younger people interested in the out of doors, he and other outdoor recreation lines of business will shutter their doors sooner than we might imagine possible. Addressing that concern were a number of youth ambassadors that are tasked with finding innovative ways to get younger people outside using hand held technology and updated forms of using the front country (parks and more suburban and urban green areas) as a pathway to the backcountry.

The outdoor recreation economy in Washington is sizable and includes a wide variety of active and passive recreation.  Tourism is promoted and based on Washington’s stunning natural resources and there is a growing recognition that this is tied directly to economic development. In Washington State, researchers anticipate a 37% increase in nature-based tourism through 2023 (RCO). Active outdoor recreation in Washington generates over $11.7 billion annually to our economy.
36.41% of the state is publicly owned lands which, if approached as an experiential opportunity, can lead to job development associated with experiencing public land from a variety of perspectives. This thinking is underscored by a recent federal report regarding the economic value of the outdoors. 

At a national scale, a late 2011 report indicates that the total economic activity associated with outdoor recreation, nature conservation and historic preservation generates a staggering $1.6 trillion dollars annually. Spending on hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing on National Forest Land generated $9.5 billion in retail sales, supported 189,400 jobs and $1.1 billion in federal taxes (The Economics Associated with Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resources Conservation and Historic Preservation in the United States. National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, 2011).

The WGA meeting was an interesting contrast to the Washington Economic Development Commission meeting in Seattle just a week before the WGA meeting. We have been collaborating with Teresa Lemmons from the Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA)  to develop greater support for microenterprise and Small to Medium Enterprises, in the lexicon known as SMEs. As a Pacific rim state, of course you would expect robust support for export. As a state marked by giants such as Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft among many others, you would expect a high degree of attention on high tech and IT. What threw me however, was the complete absence- in both discussion and in the current  strategy from the WEDC- attention on microenterprise, SMEs, tourism, small scale agriculture or outdoor recreation.

In a public world of dwindling resources, we might expect less attention on these lines of business.  Broadly speaking, tourism is not identified as a high salary field and it's possible this is related to why the industry was not called out for attention. As a result, WSMA and Calyx are looking into developing a small business alliance, an organizational form that will be vital to tourism in Washington. If you are interested in participating down the road, please contact Heidi  at We also recently received some interesting papers from professor Chas Tolbert at Baylor University.

" Counties and parishes with a greater concentration of small, locally-owned businesses have healthier populations -- with lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes -- than do those that rely on large companies with "absentee" owners, according to a national study by sociologists at Baylor University and LSU."  We thought the link  between health and independent business is as interesting as the link between communities with high degrees of social capital and prosperity.

Client Partnership Round Up
Technically challenged, we are moving to a Wordpress format for our site soon which will give us content management control. In the meantime,  here's some news about client partnerships:
In 2011, Calyx became a joint venture of the Institute for Washington's Future (IWF). IWF works on sustainable community development with a focus on agriculture, biofuels, sustainable energy, Latino farm development and related social justice issues. Last year we produced a comprehensive farmland acquisition strategy for IWF and, in the process,  learned a great deal regarding the wide array of tools to help keep farmers in farming. As you might know, the median age of farmers is 57, many don't do estate planning and as a result, their land gets converted to development when other options have not been evaluated in time to plan for continued farming. IWF is now working under a sizable USDA grant with its partners to service Latino farmers outside Yakima and Tieton as new farmers.  We partnered with IWF on several USDA grants for Harrington and Tieton but unfortunately were unsuccessful. Undeterred, we will look at other options this year for the business feasibility planning we are interested in pursuing in eastern Washington.

Moving east to the sunny part of the State, we partnered with Ken Cohen at Central Washington University to evaluate a sustainable tourism institute at the University. Professor Cohen teaches sustainable tourism and has taken his students on trips overseas to Ecuador and most recently, Vietnam, to explore how sustainable tourism is planned and implemented at a community scale. For our analysis,  we addressed economic development in Washington, inroads for agriculinary tourism, links to outdoor recreation and novel lodging and are happy to see the work being used in Ellensburg and as a basis for program development. Provost Marilyn Levine and Ken Cohen are taking  a very inclusive community approach to integrating the University into community level issues and they have been wonderful to work with.

What happened to last summer besides the no-show sun in July? We spent a good part of that summer writing a grant which led to a major score-- a highly competitive working lands grant from EPA's National Estuary program. Calyx is working with the King Conservation District, Cascade Harvest Coalition and Northwest Natural Resource Group  in the iconic Snoqualmie Valley called When Cows Meet Clams (or when Moo Meets Goo).  The program is designed to be a replicable model for integrating an economic development and working lands stewardship approach to keep working lands working and build connections between these lands and the health of Puget Sound. We have already completed an asset inventory and maps that show assets, farm restoration, the distribution of small forest landowners and sensitive ecological areas. The team and its partners will provide stewardship, land tenure and marketing/tourism training,  build greater market demand for local farm and forest products and hold tours in 2013- watch out for both serious (ecology, restoration, links with Puget Sound) and the bizarre (veggie fashion shows and  much loved zombies).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring Reflections on the Good

Tourism and Nature

I’ve been in “the business” officially for around 23 years. My chemistry teacher from high school would have been mortified that my first foray into the environmental field was in industrial chemical policy and regulation. But then again, my colleagues were very gracious in filling in on that steep learning curve and all of a sudden that goofy science made sense in a real world application. And so, I found my nerdyness later in life.

I started out in food.  From an early age, I worked in restaurants and hotels, and then branched out into farms and then a wonderful experience with cooking school where we were verbally assaulted by a Frenchman suitably ill-willed towards American culture. 

I loved the orchestration of bringing a meal to a table, the banter and the good will of a well machined team. But I was also troubled. I was mortified at the amount of edible food we threw out… and not just any food, but prime rib, lobster, and stock bases that had simmered for what seemed like years.

After taking a b-line out to Seattle, I thought I’d give merging those two loves —food and environment—into one business and that’s where I started with my old business partner and friend Missy. It was a tough sell at first. Restaurants and hotels didn’t seem that inured to what we were trying to do but after a while, it made sense to some. Restaurants have the highest per square foot energy costs in the U.S. commercial sector. That’s pretty significant given not only rising energy costs but where that energy comes from- dirty coal sources that lead to acid rain and lung cancer, or dead fish from hydropower.

Paying attention to certain issues also really resonated with the staff- not wasting food, recycling, trying to convince our manager that women should be allowed to wait staff dinners—and it gave us a higher purpose and in a good way, gave us a moon to hang our stars on.

The second story of sorts is about an enormous African American man and the National Seashore in Maryland. When I worked at EPA, I had this complex, wonderful friend who had grown up in the ghettos of Cleveland. One weekend, a group of us camped at the national seashore in Maryland at Assateague and Chincoteague--you know where the wild Spanish ponies and mule deer actually run around free on the dunes and the beach—and practically run you over too. The rest of us had experienced a lifetime of the beach so although the experience was delightful on that sunny, hot Maryland weekend, there was nothing particularly telling about the day.

 I saw James standing at the edge of the water for some time and I walked over to him, wondering if he was just taking it all in or whether he was just sick of our incessant chatter about food. When I came closer, I realized he was crying. Upon asking him what was wrong, he remarked, in broken sentences, that this was the first time in his life that he had swum in the ocean. I didn’t know what to feel- I was at once elated- almost proud that we had brought him to this experience --but also profoundly embarrassed about my life long privileges… at having access to the sea, to have snorkeled, to have breathed the emerald forest and its greens, and to have skied wintry breaths in pristine places.

These are probably common experiences for many of us- clean air, sunlight dancing off the water- - in many cases, Puget Sound.  There are many things we can and do take for granted- clean and available drinking water, clean air, the ability to swim, fish, kayak or collect shells at low tide.

Are we talking about becoming better communities and humans? Indeed.

 It’s about creating opportunity and not taking things for granted. Because the things we take for granted are the very things we rob from the people we love- our parents, our kids and grandkids, our younger friends.

The other issue I wanted to briefly touch on is the underlying subtext that is undeniable in this line of work. Just listen to the news and you will hear it immediately… “Businesses said blah blah blah… environmentalists said blah blah blah. We are counterpoised in black and white.

In the meantime, we’re checking the back of each other’s heads for sixes and as a result, we have been exquisitely positioned to fail because in almost every conversation I hear, it’s about us and them. It’s about businesses that want to destroy the earth and environmentalists that are out of touch and would rather have you out of work to save a seal or an owl.

It’s all very artful, but it’s all very wrong. Think about it for a moment- when you are stressed and seek solitude, what do you look for? The last time I checked no one was seeking out a parking lot, or an industrial complex or grey strip malls. I don’t think anyone is clutching their DVD players close to their chest in time of need.

We sit in our gardens, sipping our favorite libation or play with our kids and friends in the woods or along the shoreline. We all have sacred places and the conditions that our elders told us about- a florabundance of nature that jumped out at us bigger than life itself. Everyone wants safe drinking water and the solace that the outdoors brings to us. We care about our kids where we see skyrocketing rates of asthma. We care about the women in our lives where we are also seeing a dramatic increase in breast cancer.
Protecting the things we love- now that’s something anyone can connect with.

So, then why do we turn to plants, pets and a serene setting anyhow? As it turns out, we have very old genes. Not the kind you wear on your body but the genetic blueprint that makes us … well, us. We co-evolved with nature, all the wild green things, the creatures that give us both elation as pets or frighten us in corners or the wild. Nonetheless, our physical and emotional health is tied inextricably to the natural world of which we are an important part.

This is so much the case that we heal faster when we see natural images- even if they are fake- and our blood pressure lowers when we hold our pets—and our retail sales go up when we plant trees and flowers near our stores.

So when we hurt all the things we love- streams, the ocean, the critters that depend on those systems- we only hurt ourselves and our kids. This environment isn’t just something “out there,” like some parallel universe, but it’s us.

If nature were a company, it would be a design firm. 

Everything in natural systems is lock and key… like a well designed love.  There is absolutely no waste and every single little organism up to the most massive creature- has an implicit signal to do something. Nature gives us oxygen, medicine, food, water for drinking and commerce and industry—it cleanses dirty soil and air and slows the flow of pollutants to water.

It also provides fodder for prose, love and art.

We have reached a point where our manipulation of natural systems and the pollutants we have shoveled into them has reached a point where some declines may not be reversible.

But you know something? We are reversible. We can change our minds, our attitudes, the way we come to the table to address challenges.

So this is a call to bring your vision, the knowledge and feel of the things you love, to bring innovation and change to make the future we want to be. It’s about finding common ground and joy in a different path- it does not mean sacrifice but it does require a willingness to look up and out towards the horizon.

And it may mean holding hands- either literally or figuratively-- with someone you never thought you would.

Heidi Siegelbaum

Friday, February 17, 2012

Patagonia Charges Ahead with Bold Moves

Our home closets and drawers contain ancient Patagonia clothing and luggage. They have been bundled, dragged, scraped, twisted and lugged across countless airports, cars, camping areas and hallways. The stuff never dies. On the infamous Black Friday following Thanksgiving, when Americans gorge on retail therapy post Romanesque meals, Patagonia unveiled a brilliant campaign: Don't Buy This Jacket.

Patagonia, a privately held company, long at the vanguard of sustainable business practices, was advising its loyal customers not to buy new Patagonia products it didn't need. Through its Common Threads Initiative, the company asks consumers to take a pledge to buy and use less "stuff," but also makes available a new service via eBay where consumers can purchase used Patagonia goods. This act led to expected derision by traditional writers at Forbes and The Economist, but we thought it was brilliant (I am a huge aficionado of consignment myself).

The life cycle impacts of product development, including outdoor clothing, is fairly astounding when you dig deeper. If you peruse Patagonia's Footprint Chronicles you will find transparent information on how and where Patagonia products are made. The outdoor industry writ large is making admirable (beyond admirable) headway in improving its environmental and community impacts. Both the Outdoor Industry Association and its European counterpart have been involved with reducing the impacts of outdoor equipment and clothing through its design initiative the EcoIndex. The trends in transparency and design changes harkens back to Interface Corporation's first corporate sustainability report, resplendent in its shocking (gasp!)Take-Make-Waste mantra.

517 Companies. 60 Industries. California Most Recently. Will Washington State Be Next?

In early 2012, ushering in the new year with zest and promise, Patagonia again got high water marks by standing in line to become California's first B (Benefit) corporation. For all you legal scholars out there you can read this tome about why there needed to be a national movement to create legislation that promotes (and functionally enables) good corporate citizenship. Yves Chouinard, the wiry and peripatetic founder of Patagonia said "I learned at an early age that it's better to invent your own game; then you can always be a winner." Patagonia is a game changer and so is the story of B Corporations.

Here is the skinny from a non-legal perspective: most corporations, by law, have a fiduciary duty to shareholders to maximum their return on investment. That's it. If the company reduces that value through its sustainability and community level initiatives, it becomes vulnerable to shareholder litigation.

To successfully address sustainability issues, corporations must be able to fulfill commitments to communities, employees, other stakeholders and the voiceless "environment" which permits us to live and do business. This cannot occur unless changes are made to state law, in consort with a longer conversation about the role of business in community life.

In an effort to change the system reforms that would enable better corporate citizenship, B Lab, itself a non- profit corporation, started a new certification system to encourage recognition of businesses that wanted to address societal issues in addition to making a profit.

B Corps, unlike traditional businesses:

  1. Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards;

  1. Meet higher legal accountability standards;

  1. Build business constituency for public policies that support sustainable business.

Washington State is considering adopting B Corp legislation which would help the sustainable tourism industry prime the pump for future action. Support these efforts and continue with your good work. It pays off. Just ask Mr. Chouinard.

Heidi Siegelbaum

Calyx Sustainable Tourism

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For All The Chocolate Lovers Out There
By Steve Gersman

Have you ever been to France? Have you ever had “chocolat chaud” there? For chocolate lovers, it’s the nectar of the gods. It’s not like a bar of chocolate, or those sumptuous desserts with hot, thick chocolate oozing out of them. It’s not like “pot au chocolat” or even a dreamy mousse.

Chocolat chaud stands alone.

It’s a liquid, comes in a cup, but is almost too thick to drink. So you get a spoon. But I never use the spoon. For me, tiny sips give the most pleasure, like savoring the first sip of a superb vintage wine. Made from three different types of solid chocolate, melted, then blended with cream and sugar, this is not for the faint-hearted. The drink is so rich that I have sometimes, when I am not feeling totally self-focused, shared a single cup with a friend.

To call this potion a hot chocolate is to call Versailles a house. If I wax nostalgic, that is only partly true. I always order chocolat chaud when I’m in Paris. Put it down to my love of chocolate and some of the finer pleasures in life.

But it’s not just about Paris. It’s about pleasure. If you haven’t been near Pike Place Market in years, you now have a reason to make an exception. On First Ave, just one storefront down from the SW corner of Stewart, is a French bistro called Le Pichet. If you live in Seattle or are lucky enough to visit, Le Pichet or its sister restaurant, Cafe Presse make it as only the best in France do. Le Pichet or Cafe Presse

Oh, and if you like French cuisine, they make the best French onion soup too, but only in winter. Bon appetite!
London, One More Time
By Ellen J. Wallach

It is 6pm on a very hot August evening and I’m riding on the Underground.  Crowded?  No, packed solid!  August in London means tourists, heat, humidity and no air conditioning.  For the most part in public places, A/C has not crossed the pond. But, I have a seat.  For five weeks this summer, I almost always got a seat.  I’m of an age that mothers tell their children to stand or sit on their laps and give me their seat.  They give the child “the eye,” a small nod up and a quick look at me.  The kid understands.  All children understand their mother’s “eye.”  I was walking around London six or more hours each day. I didn’t need the seat, but I did want it. I’m not proud. I took it every time.

Five weeks in a free three bedroom flat (apartment) in central London.  It was our retirement dream come true.  My husband and I had for years talked of spending two months a year in a different city when we retired.  We love traveling, but staying in one place and really getting to know it was so appealing.  When Tom retired, so had the economy.  An apartment in London, Paris, Rome, or Barcelona was not in our financial future.  Too expensive! As luck would have it, the only person I know who lives in Europe called and made this proposition:  his fully furnished Art Deco flat in a fabulous area of London (Marylebone) in exchange for staying with Dolce.  Would we like to cat sit for five weeks? Would we!

I’ve been to London many times.  The first trip was on my honeymoon in 1965.  I’ve seen things change with each visit.  This trip would be slow London, giving me time to look around, watch and listen, pick up conversations with strangers and snoop down interesting mews (once a row of horse stables, now flats.)  (One Sunday morning we found Madonna directing a new movie about Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson.)  After 45 years of observation, some things have changed, some have stayed the same, some should have changed, but didn’t and some things I just don’t understand.

I changed.  And this time I went with a different husband.
Forty five years ago the food was lousy, the tea fantastic and the coffee instant Nescafe.  Now London is a gourmet paradise.  The restaurant and pub food is fabulous, the many street markets are selling fresh produce from the farmers, homemade cheeses, savory and fruit pies, and ready to eat prepared foods.  Forty five years ago women over 30 all dressed like the queen (frumpy but without a crown) and the men were wearing suits from the same bolt of cloth- dark gray or black wool with a white stripe.  Today, so many women are smartly and age appropriately dressed.  At least one third of the men are still wearing the same suit.

My first musical theater experience in the stalls (orchestra seats) in London featured pre-ordering drinks to be picked up in the bar at intermission and a heavy Fire Curtain that fell after the first act.  When the audience returned for the second act, everyone sang God Save the Queen and the curtain went up.  The drinks and the curtain are still operational, but no singing.

Some of my keenest observations happen in the loo (bathroom.)  Toilets are each in private rooms.  No looking under the door as in the US. Back, sides and door are floor (or nearly) to way above your head.  What privacy.  Toilets used to flush by pulling a chain from the ceiling as the water tank was usually on the wall well above your head.  Today, the tanks are near the seats, like ours.

Public restrooms in the US often sell a variety of supplies (tampons, contraceptives.) In London I found Chewable Toothbrushes.  These were capsules in vending machines containing what looked like a white toothbrush without a handle.  You chewed this and spit it out.  It claims to be a toothbrush and a breath freshener in one. No toothpaste or water required, just chew.

In England you can purchase all kinds of insurance in the supermarket!  The one that caught my eye was Wedding Insurance.  It is advertised as “taking care of things you can’t prepare for, such as the photographer cancelling or a close relative falling ill.” You can pay for coverage for “presents, flowers, cake, transport and wedding attire.”  It nowhere discusses what happens if one of the betrothed gets cold feet.

London is known for its wonderful public transportation.  The streets are packed with all sorts of transport, but I noticed two additional creative options. On July 30th London, following the lead of other large cities, began a Cycle Hire program.  There are bicycle docking stations all over the city.  You pick up the bike at one station, cycle to your destination, and leave it.  To use this scheme (service) you pay a  charge to activate a key that unlocks all of the bikes for a day, a week, or longer.  Once you are a member, the first 30 minutes of any trip are free.  For additional time, there is a fee depending upon how long you use the bike.  You can make unlimited journeys of under 30 minutes with no usage charge.

From bicycles to Bentleys, Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porches, join the Classic Car Club.  This private club has a selection of “coupes to convertibles, sports to saloons, classic and brand new.”  By joining you receive an allocation of points that can be exchanged for hours behind the wheel of the car(s) of your dreams.  No maintenance, storage or security hassles.  The Club takes care of everything. It also hosts special events at 3am so members can take the cars for a spin.  
Nice to see them using the streets during the “off hours.”

And, then there is the language.  Tom and I were waiting for a rural bus in the Kent county side when a large, red double decker bus passed by. Emblazed on the entire side was:  “Hold onto your balls boys, the wags are back in town. Footballers’ Wives .” What do you make of this? I couldn’t figure it out, either.  I’ve since learned that Footballers’ Wives, a British TV drama, had been off the air for a few years.  Wags is an acronym for “wives and girlfriends of high profile football players.”  Football in Britain means soccer in the US. So, the show is returning!  There you have it.

We are back on the tube and I’m sitting next to a young woman totally wrapped in black, only her face is showing.  She turns and asks, “Are you from the United States?”  I say, “Yes.” She is from Saudi Arabia and is thinking about doing her graduate work in the U.S. She wants to know about “R-Kansas.”  I finally figure out that she is asking about Arkansas.  We have an extended discussion of US cities.  We had a long way to go.  I finally get the nerve to ask a question that had been on my mind, “Are you hot under your robes?”  And, she replied, “Oh, no, it is much hotter at home in the desert.”

Life is all about perspective.  The challenge is to keep an open mind, seeing the familiar as new.