sustainable sean

sslog - sustainable sean's web log

spring 07 highlights

Turin, Grenoble, Native research and scholars, Soweto Gospel Choir, NPR, Hazel Wolf Film Festival, UW Powwow, Rovers, Paula Poundstone, Skyblend Closets...

3/30 - 4/2...Hazel Wolf Film Festival
4/20-22...Synergy Conference

sean is in...
los angeles
new york

current reading
Native Seattle
Coll Thrush's take on the role of Native people and places in Seattle's history.
Powell's | Amazon

recent reviews
Te Ata
Book: Te Ata: Chickasaw Storyteller, American Treasure
It is hard to describe how much I loved this book. I must admit, it was Te Ata's image on the front cover that originally caught my eye in a used book store. But once I started the book, every time I sat down to read it I felt like I was listening to one of my Grandma Rosie's stories about 'the old days'. Te Ata's elegance, grace, talent, and perseverance are truly inspiring and Richard Green's book captures it all very well.
Powell's | Amazon

... ... ... ... ...

What We Believe But Cannot Prove
Book: What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
This was a fun read, always a good time when scientists and other leading thinkers let their minds go a little crazy. But I must say I wasn't really 'wowed' by any of the many, many short essays. This was the 2006 edition of John Brockman's annual question to the members of The Edge website, an online thinktank/blog or sorts. Some funny essays, some boring essays, and quite a few that were well worth their read if for no other reason that they were by famous scientists.
Powell's | Amazon



old sslog
2007: winter, spring, summer, fall
2006: winter, spring, summer, fall
2005: winter, spring, summer, fall
2004: winter, spring, summer, fall
2003: winter, spring, summer, fall

Fabulously Green
the green room
kristen anderson
science blogs
sightline's 'the daily score'
summer rayne oakes
thoughts from julia [butterfly hill]

sslog in [poor] translation
Sunday, April 22, 2007 - Earth Day Everyone!

pile of blackberry bushes My big Earth Day project this year was hooking up with the UW Restoration Ecology crowd to do a restoration project on Snoqualmie Indian Tribe land near Snoqualmie. It was just a small corner of their property that had been logged long ago, but it was covered with blackberry bush. The group had previously cleared one of the hillsides so today's group just had one hillside to go. My job was to pitchfork the piles of tems and roots up to the top of the hill. As you can see from the picture, we did quite a number on the hill. The crew will follow up later this week and plant the 2nd hillside with seedlings. It will be fun to check back in now and then to see how it looks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007 - Student Synergy

Synergy at Evergreen I started my Earth Day weekend at Evergreen State College as a panelist in the sustainable business session for their annual Synergy conference. My co-panelists were Karen Nelson and Stanley Stahl of the renound Fertile Ground Guesthouse in Olympia, Karin Kraft who works for the Washington State Department of Ecology in environmentally preferable purchasing and green building in the Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program and is chair with the Sustainable Communities Roundtable of South Puget Sound, and Marie Poland from Womenrock Productions who also served as moderator (check out the Your Money Matters Coupon Book they put together). It was a great group with a lot of audience participation. And I must say, I was totally diggin the Evergreen campus. It changed a lot since I last visited probably over ten years ago. Lots of big, modern cement buildings and several buildings that were uber modern and totally green. Very nice indeed.

I also got a chance to catch up with an old friend, Health Smith. I'd met Heath ten years ago at a Wildlife Society conference in New Mexico. Back then we were both students trying to figure out where our interests in wildlife would take us. Today, ten years later, we got to see just where that was. Health is now working at the UW Center for Conservation Biology on several projects that use dogs to track scat (yes, that's poop) that aids genetic research utilized for wildlife management and conservation efforts. The Center was started and continues to be run by Dr. Sam Wasser one of the cooles, most amazing people I know. Very cool stuff. Makes me miss my fieldwork days. Hopefully, I'll get back to fieldwork myself someday soon.

Friday, April 20 - A Green Dream Come True

Oprah's Green 101That's right folks. When I co-founded SSF four years ago I boldly said that we couldn't say we've succeeded until Oprah had a green giveaway show. Well today my friends, it happened. To top it all off, my friend Josh Dorfman was on the Martha Stewart Show. Yee haw!!!

Oprah's show was Green 101. It featured Simran Sehti (of Treehugger and Sundance Channel's The Green fame) showing all sorts of ways to go a little more green in our lives. Oprah had some great 'real life' stories and guests and several celeb camios too...Laurie David and Sheryl Crow for example. And of course...the giveaways, from Oprah's organic canvas grocery bag to a Shaklee basket of cleaning goodies.

Martha Stewart and Josh DorfmanIt was also really great seeing friend Josh Dorfman of Lazy Environmentalist fame on the Martha Stewart Show. Josh did a great job demonstrating eco-products to the domestic goddess. Aaaannnndddd...Oprah, Martha, Laurie...that brings the total number of SSF 2007 Best Dressed Environmentalists I saw on television today to three! Man, we can pick 'em.

Friday, April 14 - Closets, Culture, and Cuisine

Another full day of sustainability. I started off by paying a visit to the California Closets showroom in Bellevue since we're still trying to find a good closet system for our remodel. I was somewhat dreading it because I figured we'ed never find an affordable option for closets. Sure, you can get a cabinetmaker to do an amazing closet in sustainable wood but it would cost a fortune. Given the salience of the price topic during my KUOW Weekday discussion on Thursday, I figured I had to make a valient effort on this one. To my pleasant surprise, California Closets now has a green option!!! How awesome is that. Well, at least a greenER option. They've partnered with Roseburg Particle Board to use Skyblend. Skyblend is made from 100% pre-consumer recycled material and doesn't contain urea formaldehyde which, as y ou might guess, is nasty stuff. Pretty darn cool actually.

Drummers at UW PowwowI then spent most of the day at the 36th annual First Nations Powwow at UW. A lot more food for the soul. The drummers and dancers were amazing and the crafts set up around the pavillion were equally as impressive. I've gone to this powwow since I attended UW in the 90s and will continue going foward. Black Lodge singers, who I had just seen/heard on Wednesday drummed here as well...with their full family of 12 in the house, it was even MORE incredible than Wednesday's performance.

I ended the night by having dinner with Paul and good friend Kristen at Rovers, a very high-end French restaurant that specializes in sustainable, local, and seasonal food. Um...WOW! Absolutely amazing food, incredible service, and the fact that it was sustainable...priceless :-) which is good as the meal was on the expensive side, but very much worth every penny.

Friday, April 13 - From Rock Man, to Funny Woman

The Stone DancerAt long last, I finally stopped in Fremont on the way home to meet and chat with Fawzi Benhariz, or "Benny" as most of us know him. He's also called "The Rock Balancer" and "The Stone Dancer" by many. A rock sculptor, Benny has been around for a long time on one of the main drags in Fremont building and balancing rock sculptures for the locals to enjoy, from school children to city planners (who sometimes aren't so charmed by the unliscenced use of the street parking strip). I had a great chat with Benny. Besides having someont to chat with, he said he especially liked my warm hands. When I came back with a few dollars to pay my "gravity bill" his wouldn't shake my hands sinds they were dirty so instead suggested a peck on the cheek European style. I was happy to oblige. He was one of the most authentic people I've met in a long time...right up there with Julie Butterfly Hill.

Paula PoundtoneThe plan for the evening was Paula Poundstone. Went by the new downtown Whole Foods. Had some tasty organic grub and picked up the May issue of Vanity Fair, their latest green issue. I just did a quick read, but was pretty impressed, they went a lot deeper into the issues this time around. Right before the show, I ran in to Chantal Stevens, Executive Director of Sustainable Seattle. We had a great chat and conspired a little on possible future projects for our little sustainable corner of the world. The show itself...flawless! Paula was halarious, no surprise there. She actually brought up several sustainability topics so I was pretty warming, overconsumption, urban sprawl, and several more key topics. Unfortunately, I was laughing so hard through most of it I can't remember any of the good lines.

Thursday, April 12 - From NPR to Native Research Celebration

KUOW logoWow, I had a busy day today...but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I started out by sitting down with KUOW's Weekday host, Steve Scher, to discuss sustainable style...can you be stylish and sustainable at the same time. It was my first time on radio so I was pretty nervous leading up to the show. Once I was in the booth though, it went great. I've been a fan of Weekday and Steve Scher for a long time so was pretty familiar with the format, a quick back and forth with Steve and then listener questions. Steve was right on it as far a touch questions. And the listeners were right on as well with great examples or suggestions themselves. Afterwards, I got lots of text messages, emails, and voicemails from all sorts of folks, friends, family, and I guess I'd have to say brand new friends. In the end, I just hope I did well by SSFand everyone out there trying to live a bit more on the sustainable side.

UlaliSo that was the start of my day. The end of my day was spent at the launch of a new institute at UW called the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). It is an incredible new effort that will do incredible things and produce incredible results. But speaking of incredible. The evening blew me away. The ceremonies and lectures were inspiring and the performances were out of this world. Two performers in particular really left me breathless. Pura Fe completely amazed me. This woman should have shelves full of Grammies. Not that you can really describe her voice or style, but if you crossed Janice Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Bonnie'd be close. The other great surprise was Kinnie Star, a young female performing artist from Vancouver. She started with some awesome poetry, did a couple more Top 40 type songs, and then ended with some Rap/Hip Hop that ROCKED!!! Now Don't get me wrong, the Black Lodge Singers and Keith Knight (a six string guitar player) were outstanding too, but the women really stole the show I must say. One of the final acts was Ulali, a trio of Native women (including Pura Fe) that I think could have easily, literally set the house on fire. They combine some traditional native sounds with etherial melodies that were food for the soul. Wow, what an amazing day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - It's a green, GreenWorld

GreenWorldI'm fresh back from the local IIDA Chapter's GreenWorld event. A lot of local interior designers getting the latest info on sustainable products and services to take back to their clients. Ray Anderson of Interface and InterfaceFlor fame was the keynote. Gobs of people, great food, and good work all around.

In other news...I've decided it's time to take up another language. I've always tried to learn a bit of the local language when I travel - and have gone pretty far with Russian, Spanish, German, and French - so I figured it's time to learn a local language here in Seattle, one that goes way back...Lushootseed, the language of the Duwamish tribe whose land Seattle was founded on, as well as other Puget Sound tribes. I've purchased several books, a dictionary, and have found several great online resources so here goes. The alphabet and grammar are quite different so I have a lot of work ahead. I've started with ten phrases, "hello, how are you" and such so I'm looking forward to slowly growing my vocabulary.

Saturday, April 7, 2007 - NASAA Native Scholars

Dr. Taiaiake Alfred I attended the 2nd day of the annual Native American Students in Advanced Academia (NASAA) Symposium today. The audience was educated, informed, and inspired throughout and it made me decide I wanted to quit working and just attend conferences for the rest of my life. I wish! The students that presented were doing incredible work and the keynote speakers, Dr. Robert Warrior and Dr. Taiaiake Alfred were amazing as well. Best of all, I got to hear my friend Deborah Guerrero sing one of the opening blessings.

Friday, April 6, 2007 - Cheers for Chaya

Cocktails for a Cause Another successful SSF Cocktails for a Cause event tonight. This evening the partner nonprofit was Chaya, established in 1996 to serve South Asian women in times of crisis and need, and to raise awareness of domestic violence issues. The venue was Amanda Rosenthal's La Rousse near 4th and Virginia in Seattle. The event also featured organic wines provided by a new natural wine club here in Seattle called Way of the Vine and Del Forte Denim jeans by designer Tierra Del Forte. Tierra actually attended the event so it was really great to get to chat with her for a bit. A great night all around.

April 3, 2007 - John and Teresa Heinz Kerry

John and Teresa Heinz KerryTonight I attended Lecture at the Seattle Town Hall by John and Teresa Heinz Kerry promoting their new book together "This Moment on Earth". The lecture was quite good, John Kerry's component was a bit too political for me but he did make some good points. Teresa Heinz Kerry on the other hand had several interesting contributions, particularly regarding her chapter of the book on toxins in the enviornment. I can't wait to read the book. Also, during the Q&A section, I got up the gumption to ask them a question. I started by congratulating Mrs. Heinz Kerry on being on the SSF Best Dressed Environmental List for the 2nd year in a row and then asked if felt that all the attention global warming is getting, along with all the magazine issues these days has moved environmental issues out of the margin and into the mainstram, or if she feels we still need to do more. She had a great response, basically saying a lot has happened for the better but there are still things to be done. I continue to be really impressed with these two. More when I finish the book.

April 1, 2007 - Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir This afternoon I had the out-of-this-world pleasure of attending the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel choir. This is another situation in which words cannot describe the incrediblel experience. The music and voices of the group are ethereal, the costumes, dance, and performance - thrilling, a kaleidoscope of color for the eyes and soul. Add to all this they are goodwill ambassadors for South Africa and Mandele's AIDS Foundation. In fact, much of their tour is devoted to raising money for children with AIDS. What blew me away the most was the celebration in their voices...of life, of freedom, of hope, and of global unity.

March 31, 2007 - Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival

Leigh Badgley shooting Greenpeace: Making a StandI had the honor of serving on a discussion panel during the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival this evening. The topic, 'Communicating about climate change', was moderated by KUOW's Steve Scher and the other panelists included Earth Ministry's LeeAnne Beres, Climate Solution's KC Golden, and Grist's David Roberts. Prior to the panel, we joined festival-goers in viewing four films: Climate: A Crisis Averted, a humorous short film looking back at climate change from 2056; Gone, a music video style short produced by Bill Madden; Out of Balance: ExxonMobil's Impact on Climate Change, a guided documentary on Exxon's many mishaps during the Valdez spill; and Greenpeace: Making a Stand, a documentary on the origins and continued spirit of Greenpeace by Leigh Badgley. Climate: Crisis Averted busted me up with lots of comic relief (including a magazine cover with Martha Stewart showcasing pastel solar panels), Gone was incredible asthetically,Out of Balance appealed to the conservation biologist in me, and Greenpeace: Making a Stand completely inspired me. All are worth seeing, but Greenpeace: Making a Stand especially should be seen by as many people as possible. In particular, I think it goes a long way in defining what a hero truly is and can be. Although we sometimes slipped into broader issues than climate change, the panel discussion was great and the audience questions were right on task. Mark your calendars for the next Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival next March. Even better, keep an eye on their website for ongoing events.

March 24, 2007 - Torino Sostenibile - Green Grenoble

Paul and I were off to Grenoble for the weekend today to visit Paul's friend Susan from college. The road to Grenoble from Turin was filled with many tunnels and even more toll gates to pay for the tunnels and other road access. I actually think that is kind of a good idea...charging for road use and such. Needless to say, the drive was beautiful. The French side of the trip was especially beautiful with many castles and sweeping vistas along the way with the Alps as a background.

green tram in Grenoble recycling mural in Grenoble Prius in Grenoble hydropower sign in France

Besides a lot of wonderful time with Susan's family in Voreppe, a village just outside of Grenoble that included lots of incredible food, cheeses, and coffee we did get a little sight seeing in too. The big trip was to the tram in Grenoble up to the old fort. My first green discovery was that the tram was powered with green power and the sign hanging right by 'les boulles' little cabins made sure everyone knew it. The view from atop the fort, La Bastille, was incredible and I even discovered a little mural celebrating recycling.

Later, in Grenoble, we stopped by the local Sunday market which had quite a few local and organic options. I noticed all the organics were labelled "bio" so not sure if they were organic, or even better...biodynamic. Best of all, while sipping a bit of espresso outside a street cafe, a Prius drove right up and parked in front of us. How picturesque, Non? The last evening we had dinner at Chateau de la Commanderie, a former "maladrery de la Levade” or "leper-house" of Templiers up until the 1300s. The castle of course has an amazing history that stretches back into the 1200s. Chateau de al Cmmanderie is where is staged my own little mini protest, what I call my last action in France, my sustainable style stand...I refused to order any foie gras! on the grounds of it being animal cruelty, so should you. Now I grew up on a farm in Nebraska eating lots of meat (including a few chickens that I had become best friends with as they were growing) so I don't have too many issues with eating meat (must be organic, I prefer to personally know the farmer/butcher, and I always take a moment to honor the animal) but the modern day practive of stuffing food down the troats of geese and ducks is just sad all around.

On the way back home, we ran across a road sign identifying the local hydro power plant. Kind of neat that that they brought attention to it.

March 23, 2007 - Torino Sostenibile - Oasi Zegna

Oasi ZegnaToday my friend Paul and I set out to visit Oasi Zegna, a conservation area in the Biellese Alps established by the Itialian men's clothing company Ermenegildo Zegna. I first came across Zegna while working at Nordstrom several year's back. I discovered that the company had been working on environmental, particularly conservation, efforts in Italy for over 70 years. They also sponsored the Environmental Media Association (EMA) Awards in Hollywood for several years during the 1990s. I later discovered that their environmental interests were taking hold in their products as well and two years ago purchased a beautiful sportcoat made of bamboo.

So, when my friend Paul said he would be staying in Turin for a month and invited me to stay for a week, I confirmed that one of my tourist stops would be Oasi Zegna. And, as a conservation biologist and fashionisto, I must say it was well worth it.

One has to be determined to find Oasi Zegna. It is located about an hour northeast of Turin. There are a pretty good sprinkling of signs to Oasi Zegna along the way, but you certainly wouldn't find the Oasi by accident. Luckily, we had a GPS to help out on certain sections along the way. The Zegna Panoramic Road leading to the Oasi was quite beautiful, and once on the route, you're certain to find the Oasi.

Oasi Zegna2Unfortunately, it was off season in Oasi Zegna, they hadn't had much snow fall over the winter so a lot of the winter sport areas and attractions were closed. It wasn't spring yet either so a lot of the spring sport areas and attractions weren't open either. Regardless, the countryside and panoramic views along the way were breathtaking. I did see a few birds and small mammals along the way as well. We drove through Bielmonte, the ski resort area, but it was closed down for the season. I was pleased to see lots of interpretive signs along the way describing the area and various conservation efforts. We had hoped to find the offices and load up on lots of brochures and such but didn't discover that we had missed it until we had made it through the whole park to the other side. The office and the Zegna factory were located in Trivero, the town from which we started our drive. We came out of Oasi Zegna into several small hillside villages and then into Bielle for lunch. I tracked down a phone number for Oasi Zegna and gave them a call. I spoke to a very enthusiastic woman named Laura who, although she wouldn't be able to meet that day, did give me information on the Oasi and where I could find tourist info on the park in Bielle. She was very pleased to hear I was a biologist and felt bad that she couldn't give me a tour since Oasi Zegna has such incredible conservation efforts underway. I told here that I would be coming back for the World Design Symposium in 2008 and so we made plans to meet up to tour the park then. She also suggested that we stop by the Zegna outlet store in Bielle and said she would arrange a discount. A Zegna outlet store! On top of that a DISCOUNT at a Zegna outlet store! Being a conservation biologist and huge Zegna fan I must admit I was in heaven. When we found the tourist office in Bielle, we gathered lots of brochures (including several copies in Italian to bring back to the hotels and friends) and had a great chat with the women in the office. They then told us that we had spoke to Laura Zegna herself. Whoa! Very cool indeed. Needless to say, we had a great time shopping at the outlet store as well. Lucky for me, the size and cut of their clothing doesn't really work for me. I did get a knit polo shirt, a Zegna Sport baseball cap and a very cool military inspired, casual sportcoat that is a hemp/cotton mix. I am really looking forward to my next trip when I can spend some quality time at Oasi Zegna learning about their efforts, meeting their staff, and touring the factory.

March 22, 2007 - Torino Sostenibile - Turin Polytech

Department of Architecture and Industrial Design at the Turin Polytechnical InstituteLast night my friend Paul and I had an incredible five course meal at a nearby restaurant that offered several items from the local area. It's amazing that five courses made up of very small portions can fill you up, but it did. And did I say that the food was incredible? Just goes to show that local and fresh is the best way to go. With Italy being the home of the slow food movement, I figure I might as well make the most of it. After dinner, Paul and I spent a couple hours walking around central Turin visiting some of the sites, but more importantly trying to walk off the very filling meal. As often happens to Americans, we were blown away by the amazing architecture and bountiful history in the city. For example, we visited a small piece of the original wall protecting Turin during Roman times, dating back over 2000 years.

This morning, I had the honor of meeting Luigi (Gino) Bistagnino and Pier Paulo Peruccio in the Department of Architecture and Industrial Design at the Turin Polytechnical Institute. The department is located in the breathtaking Valentino Castle along the river PO in Turn. I can't even imagine trying to do work in the building, it is so beautiful. Gino and Pier Paolo are very involved with sustainable design work in Italy and internationally and are part of a sytems design Masters program that focuses on sustainable systems in industrial design. After some great discussion on their efforts and state of sustainable design in Italy, Pier Paolo gave a copy of his book on design in the Piemonte area that included a sustainable design project in Korea and a copy of Gino's book "Design con un Futuro". Apparently, I just missed Janine Benyus, founder of the biomimicry movement, who had lectured the previous Sunday. Pier Paolo also pointed me to a great company based in Novara, Novamont. Novamont has been working with bioplastics since 1990.

Natural Style MagLater, I came across a great children's museum on environmental issues, Museo A come Ambiente, and on my way back to the hotel from the days events, I picked up the latest issue of Natural Style, an Italian magazine for "the woman who has chosen a new lifestyle: that natural one".

Supper was filled with another five course meal that would have made the slow food movement folks quite proud of me. We dined (I can truly call it that) at the famous Il Cambio, a restaurant that has been serving Turin's citizens and tourists since the 1700s. As usual, I tried to keep all my slections local. Not being a food critic, I cannot put worthy words forth about how wonderful everything was. The service was even better though. And eating in a restaurant that has existed for two hundred years...priceless.

March 21, 2007 - Torino Sostenibile - Slow Food Central

TurinI'm one day in to my trip to Turin, Italy and am pretty impressed with the sustainability efforts I've run across so far. As usual, the trip starts with purchasing carbon offsets for my flight via Native Energy Next on the list is usually what magazines I find for reading on the plane that have sustainability in them. This time Fast Company, Dwell, and Outside. Interestingly, Arnold Schwartzenagger is on the cover of two of the three. Fast Company's "Fast 50" includes people and companies working to improve the planet while making money. Arnie is #1 on the list with his "Green Ultimatum" effort to promote green markets in California. Arnie is also on the cover of Outside's Green Issue. Dwell's headline is "Renovate!, Reuse!, Recycle!"

My next brush with sustainabilty was in the Frankfurt Airport where recycle bins could be found everywhere. They had a very cool look to them and they accepted many different materials. I was also impressed to see recycled content paper towels in the bathrooms. They were a green and probably the most effective paper towels I've ever used, including conventional.

Upon arriving in Turin, I met my friend Paul (who is working in Turin for a month) and then taxied in to the Hotel, the Golden Palace. Can't quite tell how eco the hotel is, but a few things pleased me: 1. they use cloth napkins in their restaurant and bar, 2. water, yogurt, and such come in glass containters (I'm not a fan of plastics), 3. the room has an automatic power shutoff when you leave (shows they're interested in conserving energy), and 4. their toilets have small and large flush options to conserve water.

I took a short nap and then we took off to explore Lingotto, a former Fiat factory with a rooftop test track. Several of the design compenents are quite impressive, including the car helical ramp leading up to the track. Next to Lingotto was a great find by my friend Paul, a huge food store called Eataly. It is an AMAZING store, a cross between Ikea and Whole Foods if you will. Paul had found a lot of bamboo plates and such and we then found some biodegradable plastic items called 'Bioplat' made by Scatolificio Del Garda (SDG). Very cool! Italy is also home of the slow food movement and you could certainly feel the spirit of the movement alive in well in Eataly. We tried to buy an issue of the Slow Food magazine but discovered they were only for display when we were checking out. Doh!