“Place” as the Path to Wholistic Business Certification: Integrating Fair Trade and Sustainable Purchasing and Contracting.

“Place” as the Path to Wholistic Business Certification: Integrating Fair Trade and Sustainable Purchasing and Contracting.

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I love chocolate. My favorite is the seventy percent cocoa kind. I always read the package for source information and buy Fair Trade Certified. Because of that certification, I am trusting that the contract manufacturers’ workers and the indigenous craftspeople and field harvesters are paid fairly. I trust that they work under safe conditions and under global standards of health protection. I am so thankful that someone is doing that checking for me. I also know that I am only achieving part of the goal that I have as a conscious consumer. It is necessary but not….well you know. When I buy household products, I want non-toxic products so when they go down the drain, or into the air, they are not harming the very sources of life (or humans). I want the materials that make it up to not destroy habitats with their by-products. I want raw materials to

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Knowledge Versus Understanding

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The regenerative approach to education makes an important distinction between knowledge and understanding. Regenerative education focuses on understanding what is being taught, while conventional education emphasizes knowing bits of information. Some bits of information are very useful, such as people’s names, directions to a place you go frequently, etc. Information can also be necessary in order to achieve understanding. However, without understanding how these bits of information are connected, knowledge can never be applied to systems—and systems are the underpinnings of life.  The renowned Egyptologist Isha Schwaller de Lubicz gave a concise summary of the difference between these two modes of learning:  “Science is not the same as Understanding. To know means to record in one’s memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it oneself, as the bread you eat is assimilated by your body.”

Artists of Place

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According to cultural geographer Joël Bonnemaison, “(A)ll geographical environments are anthropomorphized to a smaller or greater extent.”  As humans, we inherently impress a cultural landscape upon the places that we live.  In other words, we subjectively imbue any space we live within with meaning.  As cultural geographer Tuan states, “What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value.” Through this impressing of a cultural landscape, we begin to restructure the very places we live by the actions we make and the artifacts we create.  Every artifact we create in place helps to inform the place and its structuring of relationships.  In this sense, we, as humans, are all co-participants in the creation and recreation of place.

Many Sustainability Performance Indicators are False Leads

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Most managers, public or private, have a tendency to look for performance indicators that they can measure. This seems logical–you want to know how you are doing, so you look for acceptable ways to quantify your performance such as LEED building ratings, or how a supply chain is rated in terms of fair trade, or how much carbon you have as a footprint. Indicators gives a sense of security because you feel like they can tell you how much of a difference you’re making, or that they can predict, like an early warning system, when things might go wrong. Unfortunately, most of the time this does not happen. Indicators are often so off-base that they can cause disaster for the company or the environment. That is because most managers reduce performance indicators to what they can measure easily and directly. It seems so obvious that we cannot even conceive of

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Redefining “Highest and Best Use”

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Highest and best use is a concept in real estate appraisals. It states that the tax or sale value of a property is directly related to the use of that property; the “highest and best use” is the reasonably probable use that produces the highest property value. This use, the Highest and Best Use, may or may not be the current use of the property. But there is an attempt to recover that potential value in a sale or tax valuation as if it were. So even a landlord who is renting below the potential rent, she is stilled taxed at the most probably rent given the available information. Or a farmer is taxed for the “highest and best” value, which is the zoned value for typically something like commercial buildings.

Voting with Colored Dots

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Have you ever been in a group exercise at a design charrette where participants are asked to suggest a range of issues they feel are important for the project? The list goes on the wall, perhaps communicated by a bunch of post-its. The list contains individual wants, needs, visions, aspirations, environmental imperatives, LEED points, budget concerns, building or project programming issues, and so on. Then each person is given a selection of colored dots and asked to ‘vote’ on what they feel is most important. Pretty heavy responsibility for a colored dot. What’s wrong with this process? It sounds like a reasonably fair way of making decisions. In fact, it’s an OK process if you want to get a read on what people are thinking. But it is not a way to achieve long-term agreement and integration – there will always be perspectives left unaddressed or unreconciled by a majority

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Guest Post: Paula Baker-LaPorte on CFLs

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The following is by Architect Paula Baker-LaPorte, a recognized authority on healthy homes.  She addresses the unanticipated consequences of the rapid and widespread adoption of CFLs.  It, along with the rush to corn-based ethanol, are perfect examples of the fallout–both the hazards and the loss of potential from failure to pursue more systemic solutions, of narrowly focusing on single target variables like fossil fuel consumption. Confessions of a CFL detractor To declare that I am against the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and still call myself an environmentalist seems, in today’s green world, to be an oxymoron. More than any other consumer item, the CFL has come to represent the green movement. The arguments in their favor are compelling. They use 1/3 to 1/5 the electricity of incandescent bulbs. Because they last from 6,000 to 15,000 hours, compared to the incandescent bulb’s 750 to 1,000 hours, the initial

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Getting Climate Change Programs Right…we’re not there yet.

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Climate Change is beginning to look like a real movement—front page news instead of weekend science columns; multiple new conferences and publications; new and newly converted organizations getting on the bandwagon. Stimulus programs have made it a resource magnet, sending local governments scurrying to find projects under its umbrella. Even the companies we loved to hate are putting out ads assuring us they too are on the job fighting climate change. This is finally beginning to look like an unstoppable train—which means it is even more important to make sure we’re on the right track. But early signs are raising some serious concerns that old patterns are pulling us in the wrong direction.