Inspiring evolution through eco design? What does that mean?
Last week, we finally selected a phrase that describes our Company; Inspiring evolution through eco design. Knowing that this type of phrase has the ability to excite as well as turn-off, I thought I’d take a moment to help define what we mean.
Of course, any phrase like this needs to be rooted in a philosophy. We have one: people, product, planet, and we wrestled with how to convert the practices we utilize in operating our business, into a different statement that describes what that process means for the Brand and for the consumer.
Our Brand lives in a world of products that we think up, produce and sell. Through that process, we’ve created a certain set of “new” considerations as to what we are willing to create and what we are willing to produce. That process is what constitutes our whole people, product, planet philosophy. Adding this layer to our already long design consideration of what is possible, reasonable, realistic and sellable, makes the process somewhat more cumbersome. It also becomes more exhilarating, knowing we’re working harder to create even more deeply thoughtful products. This is the essence of eco design – design with an awareness of the eco consequences, both social and environmental, of the decisions inherent in the design.
We see this as the evolution of the process of design. This process is most vividly seen in LEED certifications of buildings. Take the concept of landscaped roofs as seen on the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Putting pots with plants on a roof is a wonderful idea and has been done for centuries. Integrating a full landscape on a roof for all the energy and other possible advantages is a very different story. Just accommodating the added weight, ongoing maintenance, overall roof access, is a significant change to standard considerations for a roof.
And if the design is strong, and the execution is done well, that building will serve to inspire people who visit or even see it. Not that they go home and re-think their roof, that’s extreme. But, maybe they come away with a greater appreciation of what is possible. Maybe a solar panel, maybe a rain barrel, maybe they think differently about storm drain runoff. Who knows, but, the point is, by stretching the boundaries of design, the building acts as a longstanding symbol of changing norms.
Changing norms are what evolution is all about. We do the same thing with our bags. Twenty years ago, who would have thought we could grind up plastic, make it into fabric and make great looking products? Twenty years ago, I bet there weren’t even enough plastic bottles to matter. Now, the volume of bottles staggers the mind, not just in the U.S. either.
Twenty years ago, who would have said Google (what started as a search engine only) would turn out to be part of an online evolution (and a verb, no less). They accomplished that task through design, not just what we see, but, the code they wrote to make it happen. GreenSmart is writing that same type of code, in the work that we do, for bags. We’re applying different thought processes to how we source and create, how we execute and manufacture and finally, how we tell our story. We sincerely hope our work inspires others. It inspires us, and maybe that’s all that matters.
posted October 27, 2009 12:06 PM
What I Gained from CNR
When I first came to UC Berkeley I had no idea what I was doing. I was an out of state student from a suburb in Georgia and I had only visited the campus once before. Like many freshmen, I was enrolled in the College of Letters and Science, intended MCB. I didn’t know much about what classes to take and I just chose some of the pre-med requisite courses somewhat blindly. I was pretty disillusioned throughout my first semester. Constantly going in and out of huge classes of 500+ students made me feel like I was just “going through the motions.”
After getting settled in, I gradually took some more initiative in figuring out what I wanted. Fortunately, I learned about the College of Natural Resources (CNR) from a friend in the Molecular Environmental Biology (MEB) major. After spending time in Mulford Hall and the CNR side of campus, I realized that it offered a lot of the benefits I was looking for. Some of the features of CNR that I found particularly appealing were the smaller size, a greater focus on crafting a personalized major, and opportunities for independent research through the CNR Honors Program. I quickly transferred to CNR to become an MEB major and found new enthusiasm for my college experience.
One additional obligation for me as an out–of-state student was the cost of tuition. My CNR advisor helped me plan my class schedule around my part-time employment and condense my workload such that I was able to complete my degree with an honors thesis in three years. When it came time to find a job, I made use of the resources at the CNR and received a lot of guidance from my thesis mentor. I immediately found that there were many opportunities within my interests that I never knew about. For example, I had always been under the false impression that if I was interested in science then my only options were to either become a doctor or a professor. However, the resources at CNR opened my eyes to opportunities ranging from science policy, administration, conservation, ecology, public health, and medicine.
After graduating I knew I was broadly interested in biomedical research and public health, but I felt I needed professional experience before deciding if I wanted to pursue a graduate or professional degree. I found the perfect post-baccalaureate job in biomedical research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, formally called the Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) Fellowship. I was a competitive applicant to the program primarily because of the independent research experience I gained in the CNR honors program. My project, "The Labellum of Costus (Zingiberales) and the ABC Model of Floral Development," was supported by a grant from CNR's Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program, and I was able to work closely with a faculty mentor, Professor Chelsea Specht.
Over the past two years I have worked on a number of different projects, each of which contributes directly to global malaria control efforts. One of my projects entails the use of molecular epidemiology to track the prevalence and genetic history of drug resistant malaria-causing parasites in various parts of the world. As part of this project, I have had the privilege of learning powerful molecular techniques and have trained guest researchers from collaborating labs in Pakistan, India, Thailand, Tanzania, Ghana, Nicaragua, Peru, and Brazil.
Another one of my objectives in the lab is to improve low cost malaria diagnostics, since malaria tends to be a problem in economically distressed parts of the world. Last year, I helped develop an instrument for this purpose and traveled to a rural health clinic in India to personally work with local physicians and carry out its first field trial. The data gained from this trial and other techniques that I have optimized in the lab have lead to the development of a quality control system for malaria diagnostics, which we hope to implement throughout East Africa early next year.
Although I feel I have had many opportunities, the learning curve in a professional environment can be slow. It took me two years to really get off the ground and gain the sense of autonomy that I have always sought in my career. Looking back, I feel that my experience at CNR did not just help me get my foot in the door with my first post-baccalaureate job; it also helped me excel in a professional environment.
For example, CNR helped me cultivate principles of conservation and sustainability in whatever I do. In fact, one of the first major contributions that I made to my lab at the CDC was in optimizing a laboratory technique that I used during my honors thesis. That optimization cut the cost of the technique by over two-fold and will save our lab thousands of dollars in the long run that can go towards valuable research efforts.
Several CNR classes also helped me develop skills in written composition and oral presentation that I now find essential when conveying my work through lab meetings, grants, publications, and conferences. I recently helped write a grant proposal for a $20 million clinical trial in India using skills I first gained at CNR when I wrote a Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) grant proposal for my thesis project. On a more abstract level, the culturally and academically diverse environment at CNR prepared me to work with people from all around the world.
If you had asked me what I would have envisioned myself doing in 5 years, back when I started at CNR, I would have never guessed that this is where I would be. I also don’t think my experience at CNR necessarily dictated what I would be doing either. Rather, I feel that CNR gave me the fundamental skills to pursue my personal interests and appreciate the opportunities, instead of fearing the uncertainties, which come with a future that isn’t clearly written out. I look forward to continuing my career in research and my goal is to ultimately investigate host-pathogen interactions in infectious disease as a physician-scientist. I am currently applying to MD/PhD programs and I hope that my future professional training will be as formative as the experience I gained at CNR.
Genetics and Immunology Laboratory
posted October 27, 2009 9:31 AM
Vote Andaman Discoveries for the BBC World Challenge!
Hi CNR Students and Alums,
I started a non-profit in Thailand back in 2005, and it has gone on to do great things. Recently, we were chosen as a finalist for the BBC World Challenge. If you can, please take 30 seconds to vote for us at their website, so we can keep up the good work! The website is The BBC World Challenge.
Our connection to the villages comes from rebuilding our lives together, and our projects focus on the big picture, empowering people to define their own future. This means that, along with responsible tourism, we also support scholarships for 120 kids, reforestation, a community development network, and a lot more. Pardon the spiel if you've already heard it, but it's the real deal.
Winning the World Challenge would mean a lot: the award will underwrite our projects, and the publicity will help us spread our message, which is always a challenge with a miniscule PR budget :) If you are excited by all this, feel free to post this message on your facebook account, blog, or email lists.
With thousands of nominations annually, the World Challenge recognizes innovative business projects that increase investment into the local community and take a responsible approach to the environment in which they are operating. We were chosen by a jury of high-level executives from Shell, BBC World, the World Bank, IUCN, and Newsweek.
So, if you could be so kind as to follow the link and vote for us, it would be of great service to our projects and the people they serve.
Press Release (PDF)
posted October 14, 2009 8:27 AM
Shoutout from Utah!
Thanks to all of you who have posted your thoughts and comments on this blog. Your enthusiasm for your chosen fields is contagious! I'm particularly impressed by those of you who have such clear focus about your direction. I never had such clarity, but my life has become a series of miraculous and wonderful experiences nonetheless.
On my final day of work at Golden Gate fields (my first post-graduation job -- hey, the economy was tough back in '92 too!) I took a mental snapshot of the postcard outside my window -- boats on the bay, golden gate, etc, and said goodbye. It feels like yesterday, but this week marks the 15 year anniversary of my departure from living the good life in California--something I swore would never sacrifice. The next day I bought a rusty pickup truck and moved to Utah, where I worked as a biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for a few years.
posted August 3, 2009 9:37 PM
Environmental Law via CRS
After graduation (CRS, '99), I worked for Governor Davis for a year doing environmental legislation and land use work. Realizing that I enjoyed working with environmental issues at the state government level but that I was too far from my own native state, I returned to New York for law school at Pace Law School. Pace has one of the best environmental law programs in the country, and it was a great fit for me. Surprisingly, I was the first Cal grad to come through the school.
I've been with the New York State Attorney General's office for four years now, in the Environmental Protection Bureau. My job pulls on my science background, as I work with hazardous waste remediation issues, and also the policy background which was part of my curriculum in CRS. If anyone out there is considering a career in environmental law, I'd be happy to chat about it!
posted June 13, 2009 8:33 PM
From ES to Oxford
Hello interested blog readers. I was asked to give a quick profile of what I've done since graduating.
- Environmental Sciences, graduated 2001.
- Absolutely loved the major, especially the combination of different sciences to tackle interesting questions of societal relevance.
- Active member (and President) in ESSA. Designed the first ESSA shirt.
- Favorite class: Jim Kirchner's stats class.
posted June 9, 2009 11:46 AM
37 years at Cal and Still Chasing Bugs
Most of my youth was spent is Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, I also have roots in California; my mother was born in Los Angeles. I remember those long train rides back and forth during summer to visit grand parents. Yes, I spent many summers in Fresno, and winters in Minneapolis. Now you can appreciate why I live in the Bay Area, great weather!
In 1968, a high school counselor in Minneapolis told me I was not good enough to go to college. Never being one to blindly accept a single opinion, I asked what was the best university in the country. I was told Berkeley! I had no idea where Berkeley was, but defiantly said, “I will go there.”
posted October 22, 2008 3:25 PM