Biomimicry and teaching business the ‘secrets of life’


Ray Anderson often asked a rhetorical question: does business exist to make a profit, or does business make a profit to exist? With this line of questioning, Ray called upon us to understand that while making a profit is the lifeblood of a company’s survival, it shouldn’t be the only reason for a company to exist.

With his talent for translating lofty vision into everyday reality, Ray would ask: what you would rather get out of bed to do each day: make carpet, or make history?

Making history by making carpet is a unifying sentiment for the people of Interface. How, exactly, are we making history? By proving the business model for sustainability, while taking on Ray’s challenge to eliminate our negative environmental footprint.

Ray believed there must be a better way for business to thrive on our planet, without the assumed ecological and social impacts that our current industrial take-make-waste system creates. With such ambitious goals, where do we look for inspiration in redesigning a system as pervasive and complex as business?

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Inmates pay their debt by caring for our planet

It’s springtime in the northwest. The endangered frog eggs are now tadpoles, and the butterflies are beginning to pupate. But the people tending to these ecological projects aren’t grad students or forest-loving yuppies. They’re prisoners in the care of the Washington State Department of Corrections, where the Sustainable Prisons Project is in its seventh year.

Back in 2004, the Washington State Department of Corrections started a partnership with the Evergreen State College. A forest ecologist, Nalini Nadkarni, brought together staff and incarcerated men from a nearby corrections center to start the Moss-in-Prison Project. Using prison facilities as a controlled environment, the project explored how to “farm” mosses for the horticulture trade.

In that pilot project, participants had to figure out which species of moss could be cultivated to alleviate pressures of unsustainable moss harvesting in old-growth forests. Nadkarni also intended to provide intellectual and emotional stimulation for the inmates, who typically have little or no access to nature but could provide fresh perspectives for ecological research. The project was a huge success, and one inmate even coauthored a peer-reviewed paper for an international sustainability journal with Nadkarni.

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Happy Earth Day!

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Garden Activists: Bringing green thumbs to urban blight

From Washington Post

by Emily Wax

“Let’s throw some bombs,” a young woman calls out, waterproof floral purse swinging on her shoulder and Laura Ingalls braids flying behind her as a band of 25 followers cheer, “Cool!”

They rush toward a drab vacant lot in Shaw. Some climb up onto the back of a truck to get better aim at their target. But these bombers aren’t likely to appear on any terrorist list or even get arrested. They’re throwing “seed bombs,” golf-ball-size lumps of mud packed with wildflower seeds, clay and a little bit of compost and water, which they just learned to make at a free seed-bombing workshop for Washington’s guerrilla gardeners.

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UN Intersessional Report: How will the Green Economy affect women?

From Global Forest Coalition

Keith Brunner from Gears of Change Youth Media Project reports back from the side event “Women’s critical perspectives on the green economy” carried out during the UN Rio+20 intercessional (March 25-27) at the UN headquarters in New York.

The “green economy” will be a shot in the arm for ailing global markets- a rush of new commodities and investment frontiers, packaged neatly within a UN mandate for “sustainable development.” But how will it affect those who are already the most marginalized?

This afternoon I attended an event entitled “Women’s critical perspectives on the ‘green economy.” Participants painted a picture of a future far different from the heady visions on display at the corporate side events. The “green economy,” according to the panelists, will exacerbate already growing gender violence, urban migration and loss of traditional skills and knowledge amongst women, with women in the Global South being hit the hardest.

Isis Alvarez, with Global Forest Coalition, began the panel by noting that: “Biodiversity and the environment turned into marketable goods seems to be the current approach to conservation. And markets necessarily need privatization. But what are the consequences for women, if a resource which used to be accessible is now privatized?”

She continued: “Women usually provide their families with key resources for their livelihoods, such as fuel wood, medicinal plants, fodder, food, nuts, they collect seeds, so biodiversity means everything to them, as they depend on the non-monetary benefits of biodiversity.”

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