Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

DeLoach Biodynamic Wines (and Fresh Eggs)

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Just down the road from Inman, we made our way in DeLoach, a far larger operation then any of the small vineyards that we visited. However, large doesn’t mean that they don’t have sustainability in mind. DeLoach garnered organic status in 2008 and has upped the ante to biodynamic since 2009.

Like a true biodynamic vineyard, they grow and raise other crops, which they either donate to local food banks or during harvest season they feed the entire harvest crew three times a week.  Nice to see their social justice spreads to their workers and the community.

We could feel a buzz around the many acres. Normally, bees and the biodynamic honey symbolize two reasons why this vineyard appears so alive. However, the bees took a sojourn during our visit but the chickens made up for it. They use chickens to fertilize, and we got lucky enough to sample the über fresh pastured eggs (no cages for these chickens), which made the most delish poached eggs.

While most people relaxed in the tasting room, we got excited to see their biomass tank which acts like a giant bug jug where dirty water passes through a massive membrane then the water gets transported and irrigated into the fields. The biomass system cost about $1.2 million saves thousands of gallons of water each year but it will take many years for that system to pay for itself. In other words, DeLoach took the cost to be part of their long-term vision. Maybe not the most cost effective vision but a more sustainable one, which gets high marks from us.

Speaking of marks, we did sample some of the wines in their private tasting room that contains cabinets made from old wine vats and denim jeans insulation. But we didn’t just sit in the tasting room staring at the inside  insulation. We sampled a slew of wines with some of our faves being the  2006 Porter Bass Vineyard (Chardonnay), Pinot Noir 2007 Maboroshi Vineyard, and a tasty Zinfandel 2007 Forgotten Vines (which we didn’t easily forget).

The sustainability here doesn’t just come from the biodynamic cow horns and membrane that get stirred up in the preparations and the fervent vortex but the fact that DeLoach aims to create community, support workers and donate to organizations for others who may not be as fortunate.

The fact that DeLoach subscribes to the People, Planet, Profit mantra gets our vortex excited to visit again soon to see what other greenings they have going on but to sip some wine (and get a few eggs as well.)

Small Vines Wines – High Denisty and Sustainable Wine Thinking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Small Vines Wines vineyard

Small Vines Wines vineyard

We took a few days off to hit the wine country, no not Napa or Sonoma but rather the Russian River Valley. Keeping with our true nature, we explored and tasted our way through some of the more progressive thinking sustainable wineries in the region. We’ll start small and work our way up.

Small would mean Small Vines Wines. Like most others in the region vigneron Paul Sloan creates Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Small Vines grows on several small acre plots situated in Sebastopol and the vineyard that we visited takes up only about an acre but Sloan makes the most of his space. They use high density planting which seems to make sense but not many wineries use. Like high density Green building, doesn’t it seem logical to grow more grapes on less land? Why doesn’t everyone use this traditional technique used successfully for ages in Burgundy France? Because high density does not equal tractors, so mechanization doesn’t fit in the density style, thus the method (often like organic growing or biodynamic growing) remains labor intensive and more costly.

The high-density grapes need less compost because more nutrients can be found in the roots. More nutrients and less compost don’t just equal more sustainability but better wine quality as well. We sipped some pinot noir and chardonnay to be sure while Sloan mentioned how he views wine as a living entity and as an expression of place.

Unlike many wineries, we completely get how Sloan considers the whole picture when producing wines. Small Vines only produces a limited number of cases each year because if the operation gets too large Sloan said, “You lose your ability to be in tune with the whole system.” People often don’t understand or often abuse the term “sustainability” but considering the whole picture and caring about the Earth can’t be too far from what the meaning truly represents.

Photo by Valerie Summers

Better Place CEO Shai Agassi Creates Buzz at Churchill Club

Monday, July 19th, 2010
Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Sometimes when walking into a room you can just feel the buzz and in this case the buzz came from the talk of electric cars and batteries by Better Place CEO Shai Agassi. We actually heard about this guy sometime ago with his vision to make zero emission vehicles a worldwide standard. Seeing Agassi in person at the Churchill Club event on July 15, moderated by Mark Johnson of Innosight, offered insight into Agassi’s thinking and business model of his company and infrastructure that will allow the electric car to move from back of the bus status into a major transportation option.

Americans simply don’t want to give up their $20,000 pollution emitting cars due to convenience. Americans don’t consider the $40 of black gold that they fork out each week to fill their tanks. Add that amount up versus the price of a rechargeable electric battery and the car expense seems less prohibitive. In terms of car expense, Agassi mentions that when the electric car is priced like a 3-year old gas car, then we will hit a tipping point. The cost to recharge batteries is based on “cheap electricity” like charging a battery in the middle of the night, so the costs are less. Even before the BP disaster, the cost to extract oil keeps rising and costs 20 times more to get than any other energy source.

Agassi made an interesting technology analogy where in the past we used snail mail, then moved to faxes, then to email and similarly we went from gas cars to hybrids and now we won’t move back to gas cars but forward to more technology driven electric cars. Agassi claims that each year batteries have improved eight percent so eventually we wont need (battery) switch stations.

Of course, the US and the moribund US automakers will take a wait and see attitude. Renault has put forth 15 percent of its R&D budget to work on the electric cars. The last company chief who put 15% of the R &D to a non-existing product was Steve Jobs (Ipod, Ipad). Agassi whose switch stations now dot Israel and Denmark said that the electric car versus the end of using oil would be a huge factor that determines the survival of the US dollar and US economy. If we can get crawl out form the oil wells and at least offer the same oil type incentives (subsidies) to people like Agassi and the electric car industry, then America and other counties will definitely find themselves in a Better Place.

The Green Side of Paperless Technology at Real Estate Connect 2010

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Exhibit Hall Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010

Exhibit Hall Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010

While wondering the exhibit hall of Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010 style at the Pre-Conference Day, amongst all of the technology we figured that no one would go out of there way to promote Green but then we spied some of the “go paperless” inspired companies. In the race to go paperless, a few innovative companies have stepped up to create a paperless universe (at least in terms of contracts).

In the real estate world, agents often use ridiculous amounts of paper in which to disclose, offer and negotiate which in old school terms means that many trees get the saw for that counter offer.  We passed the DocuSign booth and discussed with the folks the Green benefits of using their technology, which allows people to sign contracts with an electronic signature. No more printing contracts. Just sign on-line. We can see the sustainable value in an item that eliminates paper use and general waste. But we discussed how much energy it takes to run the servers that run the DocuSign program. It would take a third party study to determine the paper, ink, transport carbon footprint savings versus the energy used to run something like DocuSign.

We brought this conundrum to another paperless company that not surprisingly goes by the name Go Paperless. Similar to DocuSign this technology allows people to sign and mark up documents using a stylus and tablet PC. Again, saving paper versus using more energy.

We all know that the cost of people runs high in terms of its impact with deforestation, transportation, recycling, shredding, printing, etc. so even at the cost of added energy use, companies that reduce (one of the three Rs) paper consumption can only improve things. We just hope that these companies use this Green philosophy inside their corporate offices as well.

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

Monday, June 28th, 2010
BP Oil Spill Poster Art

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

During this past weekend, while practically everyone in San Francisco roamed the streets, we spotted some timely art. No it didn’t have anything to do with Pride Week or the upcoming 4th of July festivities. Instead, these posters cleverly highlighted the disastrous BP oil spill while taking a shots and the often-ridiculous alcohol advertising.

These posters plastered in the Castro district not only make people think about the continuing devastation in the Gulf of Mexico but to what vodka you might be drinking.

Choose your oil and vodka responsibly.

No Reusuable Bag Credit at Safeway

Monday, March 29th, 2010

safewayEvery once in awhile we get desperate enough to enter Safeway (mostly late night) for items that the not so green corner store doesn’t have. Just the other night we made one of those late night expeditions to the Safeway on Market Street with our reusable bag in hand.

After selecting a few items we ended up choosing the self-service line. We only selected the self-serve line because the human based checkout lines (the few that they opened) had monstrous lines. We certainly don’t support the notion of self-service as it simply eliminates jobs and makes things worse for the local economy (but of course it helps Safeway’s bottom line). Ever hear of the 3 Ps? People, planet, profit.

Before doing our own self-service scanning, we asked for customary bag credit (not that 3 cents will significantly  cut our bill down but just to make a statement). The two people overseeing the self-serve robot lines said that they don’t offer the bag credit any more. We asked what they were now doing to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags (e.g. the weekly raffle that Trader Joe’s offers). The smugly replied, “Nothing.”

They honestly didn’t seem to care if customers bring their own reusable bags or they distribute plastic or paper bags. It doesn’t seem that sustainability can be found in Safeway’s culture or philosophy. If this store wasn’t in San Francisco, we might have thought that we clicked our heels together and ended up in Kansas.

Fancy Food Show – A Grocery Bag of Tasty Treats

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Who doesn’t like food? Especially fancy food. Lot’s of people do as judged by the crowds filling the aisles and booths of the Moscone Center for the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. With so many munchies, nibbles and treats to delve though we had to restrict our nibbling, tasting and inquires to the ever expanding Natural and Organic section.

Food like anything else can be about expectation. We set the organic chocolaty bar fairly high and weren’t disappointed by the plethora of organic chocolates but we actually went in search of more interesting items. Zhena’s Gypsy teas marked our first discovery. Even though they’ve been around for about 10 year they more recently created five biodynamic teas and we felt much better after sampling the Caramelized Pear flavor. On top of the tea itself we had to like containers made from 70% recycled steel (and the cans are 100% recyclable because they contain no paper stuck with glue. They make their tea bags from non-GMO corn silk and can be composted as they biodegradable after 60 days. Having this teas makes us feel good better come 4 pm tea time.

We know that several natural partially organic (organic flour) bog bones exist but we could help from talking (no sampling for us) with the owners of Bare Bones dog bones. If they hailed from Cali then we might not of stopped but seeing that these guys make their all natural bones in Dallas caused us to discuss how people in Big D see these dog bones of all things. They mentioned that the people in Texas don’t exactly “get” the whole dog bone thing but they know that organic is some buzz word so they continue to go along for the ride. Go get ‘em Fido!

Field Roast impressed us not just by feeding us tons of samples of their various fake meats but by showing us their factory in  a renovated 1920s former dairy building in Seattle. These commitment to re-using an existing building cost them more than moving into some new factory but it showed that along with their commitment to use local veggies and minimal packing that their heart or rather their “meat” is in the right place.

We weren’t so happy to see all the companies pushing organic this and that in horrific plastic packaging. We saw enough gluten free, natural, corn syrup based products in the section (we don’t want to call anyone out at this point) that must have had various green marketing gurus earning their bonuses. We wish that they would spend less money on marketing about how good their product is and just make their product better.

Fifth Green and Gorgeous Gala San Francisco Style

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Sometimes San Francisco feels a little Los Angeles or New York especially considering the tall, smartly dressed model-esque crowd that packed the W hotel for the 5th annual Gorgeous & Green fashion show. New York and LA may have a slender leg up on SF as far as model runway shows but SF keeps the other cities and a well dressed arms length with the overall greenness of the event.

Upon entering the festivities, my friend and I couldn’t help but notice the tall talent circulating through the upstairs rooms. Some huddled around the bars sipping organic vodka, beer and wine drinks while others just strolled along looking fab. We took a prime spot with cocktails in hand right next to the living wall. We don’t know how many others noticed the Design Ecology produced wall but we did breathe deeper standing next to it.

The festivities mostly surrounded the fashion. Later in the evening, we joined the crowd around the catwalk for the show itself. The eco-chic fashion lineup offered up an interesting array of attractive models modeling everything from underwear to bizarre dresses. The combination of DJ Donavan beats, green vibe and model attitude got most of the crowd in a buzz. We had one quibble with the actual show as we would have liked to know what each piece represented in terms of “eco” or “sustainability”. It would have been nice to know what made that skimpy underwear so sustainable.

Besides the actual threads, the event brought like-minded people from all professions together to raise awareness (and money) for Global Green.  We attempted to talk with a few people about fashion but as we aren’t fashionistas that didn’t go so well. We did chitchat with several big hitters in the business world and left feeling impressed that events like this (even if we don’t buy $500 green underwear) will only continue to bring awareness to solid sustainable causes.

New Documentary “Tapped” Makes Bottled Water Look All Wet

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

While watching the new documentary “Tapped” with some of my other Greenies, we glanced at each other when one of the water rights experts used a notable quote courtesy of Mark Twain, “Whiskey is for sipping and water is for fighting.” So true, and the fighting will only get worse at least if you believe the water wars that will soon steal the headlines from the oil wars. Twain’s words echo much of the sentiment for this interesting, informative and thought provoking new docu flick.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, the film deconstructs the various aspects of the bottled water industry. Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. Unlike oil which people think of as a commodity, water hasn’t truly hasn’t been considered a commodity until recently. Although water wars and rights have become big news in various countries, Tapped jumps into the fray and pulls no punches right here in the U.S. The film targets (among others) the big three bottled water companies (Nestle, Coke and Pepsi who declined to be interviewed for the film), the International Bottled Water Association, and the FDA.

Tapped leaps right into water rights war between Swiss owned Nestle (who owns various bottle water brands including Poland Springs and Arrowhead) and the town of Fryeburg, ME. The film shows compelling footage and as well as local interviews which show that Nestle stealthy bought the rights to land in an effort to suck all of the water supply from the ground that it can without the consent or payment to the public. The film captures footage of tanker trucks quietly rolling into town but instead of loading up with black gold, they fill up with blue gold (H2O). Soechtig creates more drama as she displays the protests and grassroots movement demonstrations while showing and discussing the Nestle tactics.

They say that oil and water don’t mix, but nothing could be further from the truth when considering the plastic water bottles. The film flows with information about the hazardous materials found in the petroleum based plastic water bottles. Most companies produce water bottles using BPA which as the film claims can causes cancer, brain disorders and diabetes among other diseases. Even though the FDA claims that small levels of BPA to be safe that approval is based upon two chemical company studies. We loved the footage of Senator John Kerry grilling an FDA employee about the lack of third party, independent studies that the FDA uses to determine the safety of various plastic water bottle ingredients.

Speaking of the FDA, the bottled water does not fall under FDA jurisdiction as far as water quality, and it’s horrifying to watch the FDA spokespeople (as well as the spokespeople from the International Bottled Water Association) refuse to answer or simple gloss over questions about various studies and quotes about the quality of the water and the containers. It’s pretty much a self regulated industry so caveat emptor to all bottled water drinkers.

The film also pulls a few heart strings when Soechtig interviews local residents in Corpus Christi who live next to the largest private manufacturer of plastic water bottles. The documentary makes a strong case that the manufacturer looms as a sort of plastic Three Mile Island for the local residents who deal with various diseases and defects because of their proximity.

Tapped surprises with info about the worldwide effects of plastic water bottles (i.e. the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five ocean plastic zones in the oceans) as well and lots of insider info from various experts and even an ex-FDA employee.  At some points the film becomes a bit repetitive as it encircles the same points but overall the film offers keen insight into the bottle water industry and leaves the companies making the bottles, sucking the water from the ground, and regulating the industry looking all wet.

The Green Festival 2009 – San Francisco

Monday, November 16th, 2009

As some of my colleagues and I wondered Friday (with less people) then Saturday (bobbed and weaved through the packed crowds) through the San Francisco Green Festival 2009 and we put aside any thoughts of the outside the green world bubble with the economic woes, with so many downtrodden uncreative businesses sticking to the old game plan. Here we viewed, tasted and discussed fresh innovative and mostly sustainable ideas.

We have to give the festival credit, maybe it seemed as though more authentic green businesses showed up at this year’s version. We didn’t see much corporate greenwashing like the not as Green as it used to be Burt’s Bees. Also, Coke owned Honest Tea sold its not so green corporate drink but that would be a minor quibble. Aside from checking out some of the various discussion groups (state of small Green business) and even some cooking demos (how to make organic stew) most of the time we spent wandering the trade floor.

Without spending too much time or words (we’ll post some more ramblings soon) here’s some of the cool stuff we found. Zen Honeycutt’s mother roped us in (or rather grabbed) us to introduce us to her daughter who is busy creating her own lavender empire with her practically lavish lotions, eyeshades and creams. Just down the long aisle, we spotted the reusable sandwich bag the Fresh Snack Pack. Great idea in place of the sandwich bags that get tossed. These packs contain no PVCs but we’d like to find out what these bad boys consist of. We had no doubt about what the Organic Essence lip balm consisted of. But we licked our lips for more than just the organic ingredients. The 100% FSC compostable non-plastic tube really wowed us. Why hadn’t someone thought of this before? Like us? We also ignored the wishes of our dentists and sampled the multitudes of chocolates, and we sampled them all but we liked Alter Eco bar (especially the dark) not only for the best and richest creamy favor but also for the organic ingredients and the fair trade philosophy that the relatively small company abides by.

As for 2010….bring it on!