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Tuesday
Jun302009

Starbucks' New Design Strategy

We're very happy to read articles like this. It seems almost daily that a huge corporate initiative is being undertaken to be more sustainable.

Starbucks is planning to hire local contractors and use recycled materials in all new store build-outs in an effort to obtain LEED certification.

As company-operated stores are built and renovated, Starbucks will source materials and employ craftsmen on a localized basis, and will incorporate reused and recycled elements where possible. Starbucks says it aims to achieve LEED certification for all new company-operated stores beginning in 2010. Additionally, Starbucks will provide licensed stores and other business partners with design plans and guidance on construction.


Read More at the Source {www.fastcasual.com}
Friday
Jun262009

Pizza Fusion Founder Running for Autism Speaks

Well I made it out to Seattle in one piece.  I'm out here to run the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll with my teammates from The Fusion Extreme Team as part of our efforts to raise money and awareness for Autism Speaks.  The team has been training for the past 6 months to hit two goals... one is to actually be able to run 26.2 miles and cross the finish line, and the second and real reason is to hit our goal of raising $20,000 for an amazing charity!

We have a group of 20 runners here representing Pizza Fusion and The Fusion Extreme Team and while we are here doing our thing, we are still very short of our goal.  Please show your support by making ANY donation to our donation site at http://www.active.com/donate/teamfusion_seattle09

We can't thank everyone enough for their support and hope you will help us reach our goal.  You can follow my progress on race day, which is tomorrow Saturday June 27th by following me on Twitter. My Twitter name is @vaughanlazar . You can also visit https://www.competitorwireless.com/ to get live updates!  I'll be sure to keep everyone posted!  My race number is 24106

Remember... 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism... We run for that number to decrease significantly and can't do it without your help!

~ See you at the finish line!

Vaughan
Saturday
Jun202009

Economic and Ethical Conflicts Confront the Organic/Green Industry

With increasing popularity of organic/green products, there has been a rapid expansion in the number and variety of organic/green companies. In terms of consumer sales, the most appealing merchandise is produced from pesticide- free organic agriculture.

The organic farming industry must follow regulations established by the Organic Foods Production Act. Not only are there restrictions for synthetic pesticides but also synthetic fertilizers. With restricted use of these chemicals that control pests and promote plant growth, increasing crop production is limited to a variety of traditional farming practices.  These include crop rotation and the use of natural pesticides and fertilizers.  Many of us use these methods in our home gardens. But when organic farming becomes a business, crop yield is a critical economic factor.

In organic agriculture the farming system works well but net product yield has some limitations in comparison to inorganic agribusiness. Today, with rising costs including salaries and benefits to workers, profits are starting to drop in organic farming.

Of course, organic agriculture has provided the foundation for the emergent organic food and clothing industries. Organic food sales have been growing about 20% per year and organic fiber or clothing at about 15% per year (Organic Trade Association). However, limited crop yields are making it more expensive to produce organic food and fiber.  Some of these costs are being passed on to related organic companies that are now facing similar financial concerns. “Green compromises” are now being considered to reduce this economic burden.

The preceding discussion illustrates the difficult ethical and economic conflicts for organic companies who by definition have ethical goals. Lobbying congress to review the Organic Foods Production Act and redefine the chemical requirements of “organic” is an option for the organic agriculture industry. But lowering standards would deface the value of the organic label.  Similar economic and ethical conflicts are confounding the commerce of the organic food and clothing industries.

Organic apparel has no legislative restrictions as compared to organic agriculture or food. Essentially, everything is based on voluntary compliance with industry standards set by industry/consumer organizations.

Without legal guidelines, organic clothing companies have described their products as ethical fashion, conscientious clothing or simply eco-friendly. Many of these businesses call their apparel eco-friendly based on their use of low impact dyes and inks. They also have used the term “sweatshop free” guaranteeing safe working conditions and fair salaries for their workers. Sadly, these conditions are not always present overseas.

Profits are being reduced with more expensive organic cotton, hemp, bamboo etc.  In order to maintain eco-friendly standards these expenses might be passed on to the consumer.  However, higher retail prices in a slumping economy could still reduce sales and profits. In that case clothing companies could turn to organic agriculture overseas with uncertain working conditions and questionable product standards. Each clothing company must resolve their own ethical economic conflicts and select what they believe is the “best” course of action.

Even if organic clothing production is kept in the US, there are sad economic alternatives to consider along with their related ethical concerns. Some apparel corporations might consider less expensive dyeing and printing methods that may prevent the use of low impact dyes and inks.

It’s apparent that reducing chemical standards in organic agriculture, purchasing and manufacturing organic apparel overseas, or using less expensive toxic dyes and inks can destroy everything the organic label stands for in the organic food and clothing industry.

When economic pressures confront responsible ethical commitments, how do green companies resolve or compromise their goals in such conflicts? How do they choose between alternatives that have negative consequences no matter what they decide?

Should the federal government intervene and support the popular green industry when Congress already has many higher priorities? Today, these priorities range from energy independence, to health care, to social security, to defense spending, to bailing out financial institutions and major corporations. In comparison, the organic industry seems small and not a high priority.

However, depending on how you define organic/green, green commerce in the US is very substantial, quite diversified and growing rapidly despite economic concerns. The industry still addresses a common goal and federal priorities.

The definition of a “green” product doesn’t require it to be organic. There are many companies that provide inorganic products but are still considered green. These businesses are green because they all support a common goal of preserving organics and our environment by diminishing energy demands and carbon consumption. In general they help reduce our “carbon footprint” (consumption of carbon based or organic resources).

For example, the alternative energy industry provides us with environmentally sound alternatives to using organic fossil fuels. Consumption of carbon based fossil fuels results in environmental degradation, release of greenhouse carbon dioxide affecting climate and a huge increase in our carbon footprint. The alternative energy industry includes wind, geothermal, and solar energy. Certainly they address two of the highest priorities for the United States ...protecting the environment and achieving energy independence.

Resolving economic and ethical conflicts for any corporation is a challenging task. This is especially true for the organic industry due to their ethical commitment to the environment and the public. The long term prognosis for resolving this problem and maintaining the integrity of the organic label is unclear and depends in part on the course of our economy.

However, some organic apparel companies have set a new standard for initiative by searching for an additional no cost approach to promote rather than compromise their ethical standards. Working separately they actually came up with the same innovative method to sustain their missions.  They use their organic clothing to address ethical principles and environmental responsibility.

Live Life Organics, a Baltimore organic company, is an online retailer of organic cotton apparel. They provide an easy example of how this method is implemented by their design and production team and some of their peers.  Unrelated to the cost of organic fiber or low impact dyes, they simply display inspirational messages on all their clothing styles. They trust their positive messages of courage, hope and compassion will encourage positive thinking and an ethical lifestyle of responsibility to our planet and fellow man.

When confronted with economic or political problems we can’t control, we all need to think about alternative approaches to achieve our goals. All of us can do more to reduce our carbon footprint. We can also encourage our elected representatives to follow an ethical path toward just legislation in the face of economic and political pressure.
Friday
Jun192009

Buddha would approve of this kind of judging!

Hey Everyone! I never thought I'd fall in love with Chicago, but somehow we went from flirting to falling in love.  Chicago, as you know from my previous post, played host to this year's "All Things Organic™" Conference & Tradeshow.   It's the industry's leading organic show and was filled with some great new and innovative products as well as some informative educational seminars and keynote speakers.  I make it a point to attend this show each year and I was fortunate enough to be invited to moderate a pnael discussion this year on "Culinary Trends of 2009".  It was a great discussion with 3 awesome panelists.  I was joined by Chris Moyer from the National Restaurant Association, Chris Koetke, Dean of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts and last but certainly not least my esteemed colleague Ashley Rathgeber who is Pizza Fusion’s head “foodie” and R&D Secret Agent.  We had a great 90 minute discussion about everything from "micro food trends" to "Philosophy Driven Trends".  We even discussed "Foodie 2.0" which briefly touched on Social Media's impact on the food world.  We had a great session and had some great questions from the audience. I am always impressed by the 2 Chris's knowledge of EVERYTHING and was honored to soak up some of that knowledge and share the floor with all 3 of them.  Keep your eyes open for Chris Koetke... in addition to being a dean at one of the top culinary schools in the country, is now hosting a new show on ABC called "Let's Dish". Expect big things from this chef over the next year!


The highlight of the week was being asked to judge the first All Things Organic™ New Product Competition which recognized the best new organic products of 2009 during a ceremony held this past Wednesday June 17 at the All Things Organic™ Conference & Trade Show at McCormick Place. The 2009 Panel of Judges included: Scott P. Silverman, category director (Natural & Organic), Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.; Steve Schoultz, director contract manufacturing, Sara Lee Corporation; and me! (Vaughan Lazar, president/founder, Pizza Fusion in case you don't know who ME is).  We had about thee hours to sample everything from Organic baby food to Organic Tequila... yeah, it was a tough job.

Products were judged based on a set of criteria specific to each category including taste, appearance, efficacy, convenience and practicality, packaging and merchandising, as well as its originality and marketability.  It is the one time that Buddha would approve of me "judging"!

The 2009 winners are: The Organic Smokehouse’s Elderflower Cured Gravadlax (Best Overall Organic Retail), Cloud Top Organic Functional Frozen Yogurt (Best Overall Organic Foodservice), SK Food International’s Crimson Red Corn (Best Overall Organic Ingredient) and Bethel Organics Inc. Real Organic Real Easy Seed Starting Kit (Best Overall Organic Non-Food).

One New Organic Product Grand Award was given to the product with the highest overall score. With an overall score of 296 points out of a possible 300, the prize was awarded to Bethel Organics Inc. Real Organic Real Easy Seed Starting Kit.  This one really impressed all three of us for it's innovation and all around "cool" product.  It's basically an starter-kit for growing organic veggies at home. It's innovative because basically no one has done anything like it in the organic sector yet and it's one of the easiest to use, most educational product you can imagine. At a $9.99 SRP, it's makes for an awesome gift for a child or an adult.. .and it's the gift that keeps on givin'... as long you keep on waterin'!

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Friday
Jun192009

Is Something Missing From the Organic Movement?

Earth Day, 2009 has passed. The popularity of the organic lifestyle or green living has traveled far and has reached international proportions.  However, are we missing a major organic/green component?

The organic lifestyle has become a new way of life for politicians, celebrities and consumers. In fact, support for protecting our climate and environment has become an international bandwagon that continues traveling throughout the US and the world.

As a result of increased organic/green product sales and strong media support, the organic bandwagon continues to tour our planet. However, the definition of organic living has been revised for several years by organic/green industry organizations to include social responsibility. Many of us are unaware that organic living is connected to social responsibility, yet the organic bandwagon continues its journey past Earth Day 2009 with much of the public uninformed.

Where did this concept of social responsibility come from? How do we define and describe it? How do we apply it in the course of our daily lives?  What is the real connection between social responsibility and our environment in the first place?  As we answer these questions and remove the familiar organic wrapping, we’ll find the spiritual soul of the organic movement.

The concept of social responsibility evolved from organizations that support the organic industry and the public.  They include the Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com), Green America (www.coopamerica.org) and several others. These organizations provide a great deal of consumer information through online resources  such as the “Organic Pages Online” the “O’Mama Report” (OTA), “The National Green Pages” and “The Green American” (Green America).

Every organic/green company that submits a membership application to Green America must provide evidence of meeting standards of environmental and social responsibility. If they pass this screening process, they become a member of the “Green Business Network” and receive the prestigious Green America “Seal of Approval for People and Planet”. This level of commitment for “people and planet” is recognized by the organic industry and by knowledgeable green consumers searching for a reliable organic company.

Social responsibility can apply to social justice, including fair wages and working conditions.  However, it is best defined as our willingness to “assume responsibility for others”. In addition to supporting workers, this phrase frequently refers to “charitable giving”.  Charity implies deeds of compassion such as volunteering in a soup kitchen, donating financial support  for environmental preservation or simply providing a few words of encouragement to someone in need.

Why are many people and the media unaware that organic/green speaks to social responsibility?  Despite the efforts to inform consumers by the organizations mentioned earlier, it appears the message is not being received. Perhaps part of the problem is that many hear the message but don’t see the connection between the protecting the environment and social justice.

So what is the connection between the two concepts?  The answer relates to who we are and how we set our priorities. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal needs for the sake of helping the environment or others in need?  This is the essence of an organic lifestyle. Green/organic living connects with social responsibility because they both develop from the same source regarding right and wrong.

An organic lifestyle is based on actions or deeds of compassion towards our planet and its inhabitants. Our thoughts and feelings govern our deeds and actions.  When our thoughts are positive it leads to feelings of compassion, hope, and courage.  What we think of ourselves and others are linked together by our spirit.  When we remove all the wrapping we find a positive spirit is the soul of the organic movement. It generates our conscience about right and wrong and drives us to make personal sacrifices for what we believe is right. It is the source of our concern about the environment and others in need. When we have self esteem and compassion, it provides us with the positive energy to care for our planet and to assume responsibility for other “passengers on Spaceship Earth”.