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The World Around Us - Archives

When we first posted our landing page, while we were putting this all together, we decided to include a page called "The World Around Us" that we could use as a sort of blog. Like many of you, we saw that the news was filled largely with negative information that could overwhelm us if we focused too long on it. Instead, we decided there was plenty of good news to go around and we decided that the page would be a good landing place for that.

We launched this live site on May 8, 2008 and wanted to continue what we'd started. Included here are the archives of what was posted on the site and we'll keep updating it as we add entries. For the latest, click here to visit The World Around Us.


 posted 05.14.08

A study came out a while back that suggested that obesity was "contagious." The premise was that people who have less-than-healthy diet and exercise routines are likely to hang out with one another - or at least that's what I took from it. That is probably true since we learn our eating habits and our social behaviors from our families and friends. Eating a healthier diet or adding more exercise to our daily lives requires a consistent commitment to small changes and it's tough to do that when everyone around you is channel surfing 697 cable channels and eating a bag of chips. Still, I discovered that it's not so much the behavior that's contagious as the attitude - and that all attitudes are contagious - for good or for bad. I've dubbed the not-so-good-for-you attitudes "flabitudes" since they're sort of out of shape and just lazing around our minds (or wherever attitudes live).

Have you ever noticed that when you wake up in the morning with a great feeling about the day that it spreads to everyone around you? It's like the guy in traffic who's usually a jerk let's you cut across five lanes of traffic to get into your favorite coffee shop - or the clerk at the store who rarely ever makes eye contact is jovial and wishes you a great day. We often see those experiences as outside of ourselves, as good things happening to us...and sometimes they are. But sometimes, I think it's our attitude drawing those experiences to us, not the other way around. When we're cranky, we see cranky around us; when we're happy, we see happy around us. We really do project our emotions out onto just about everything that crosses our path.

Having just launched this company and this website, there were several extremely stressful days when we worried about whether we'd ever get all the parts to work together properly. Sleepless nights led to tired days which led to...well, cranky moments and some bad flabitudes (speaking strictly for myself, of course). I'm happy to report we've survived all of those bumps in the road, but it was a great lesson for me to understand how my attitude spreads like seeds on the wind. And while cranky may not be fattening, it may be more detrimental to our health than a few extra pounds.

The Color Purple

posted 04.05.08

We got the keys to our building on Monday and began by cleaning the place a bit. The previous tenant had been in there 18 years and they left it reasonably clean, but we wanted it really clean. The team grabbed mops and buckets and spackle and started in. I was chatting with the property manager, a very nice, competent woman named Judy Green (I'm not making this up). I thought I'd mention that we were going to paint. Though it was specifically allowed in the lease, I wanted to create a positive relationship right off the bat and thought I'd mention it. Judy said "Sure, you can paint, as long as it's not a wild color like purple." Ooops. That was exactly the color I'd purchased that morning (low VOC paint does come in deep colors!). I said "Well, interesting you should mention purple, that's exactly the color I had in mind. But, I will certainly paint over it if we ever move out, though I expect we'll be here a long time."

I find it fascinating that many businesses are afraid to use color in their space. I've worked in places with miles of off-white walls and it's like eating white food all the time - it won't kill you but it certainly doesn't do much to sustain life.

ShopOrganic's new office - Gerry paints purple

ShopOrganic's co-founder Lisa and the green wall

Gerry paints purple

Lisa grapples with green

We don't have a huge office, our place is mostly warehouse - but what little office space we do have is already infused with an energy that makes us all just want to be there. We'll let you know how Judy Green likes purple....

Update 5.12.08 Judy came by and said she loves what we've done with the place. I'm glad - since it will take about 97 coats of paint to cover over that purple...if the need ever arises.

Nobody's Perfect...The Perfect Example

posted 03.15.08

A study was recently released showing that some cleaning and personal care products labeled as 'natural' and 'organic' may contain harmful substances resulting from the manufacturing process. Before you sign off and say "Well, I'm done with organics, then" - please read on. In every industry, there are 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. The good guys do their best to create a good (or great) product at a fair price with honesty and integrity. The bad guys we all know enough about.

This recent report doesn't discuss intent - we don't (yet) know if these manufacturers willfully ignored evidence (unlikely) or whether they didn't use adequate care and diligence (also unlikely) or if they simply did not know (most likely).

Let's face it, the organics market is relatively new and growing. It will have missteps like anything else. Some problems happen simply because there's a natural learning curve involved. It's true in every single industry that ever grew. In fact, we can't grow without a few mistakes - it's how we learn. There are few humans who decide to learn something new and do it perfectly the first time and every time thereafter. We learn by making mistakes and fixing them (and yes, that's key - fixing them quickly, honestly and effectively).

Still, it begs the question - if these folks aren't looking at their own products and analyzing them, who is? Well, the good news is that someone is (numerous someones, in fact). The even better news is that though we don't do testing and we won't be performing chemical analyses of the products we'll be offering, we will keep an eye on the industry and the news and respond quickly and effectively.

What are we doing today? Looking for a list of those products mentioned in the report so we can scrub our product list, remove any products we don't have confidence in, and keep our product offerings as clean as possible. Nobody's perfect, but we will do our best to be your eyes and ears in the marketplace so you don't have to. We know you care deeply about the quality of the products you use, but we also know you have much better things to do with your time. We'll keep an eye on things here. So, go out, enjoy the day and know that this is a natural evolution of the organic marketplace and you gotta love it, warts and all.

See The Good You Want To Be In The World

posted 02.21.08

OK, that's not a very good paraphrase of the famous "Be the change you want to see in the world" but I think there's something to be said for being able to see the good that is in the world. That can be just as life changing if we just take time to notice.

A friend of mine was recently in New York City working on the music for a new off-Broadway show. She's a seasoned traveler and she's no stranger to cities, but like many NYC visitors I'm sure, she was in a hurry and left her bag in the seat of a NYC cab. It was evening, she was rushing to meet an old high school friend for dinner, it was pouring down rain. She rushed into the restaurant, hugged her friend hello and suddenly realized her bag was in the cab. She rushed out but, of course, the cab driver had immediately pulled away from the curb looking for his next fare. She decided not to worry about it, that somehow it would be fine or if not, there was absolutely nothing she could do at the moment but enjoy the company of an old friend (that, in itself is a pretty positive response and one I would hope I would choose but am fairly certain I would struggle with)....

Now, if this were on YouTube, we'd cut to a scene in the desert Southwest. Same day, same time (though two hours earlier in the SW). I'm sitting at my desk working (or gazing at the cactus and sage brush out the window as the day's light begins to fade) a bit late on a Friday night. The phone rings, caller ID shows it's a call from a NY number that I don't recognize, the name says "Yasser." Out of pure curiosity, I answer the phone. He calls me by name and asks me if I know someone named "Lisa Couch". I ask who's calling and he says his name is Yasser and he's a NYC cab driver and Lisa Couch just left her bag in his cab. He looked in the bag, found a little address book. (Gasp) - Do people really still use paper address books? Apparently so, my friend does (along with billions of others), and I'm in it. Yasser recites details of my personal contact information, convincing me he's got the right person but I'm still confused by this name. I finally tell him I have no clue who the person is, I apologize and we hang up. Out of curiosity, I open my electronic contact list and do a quick search on "Lisa." All the usual suspects pop up and as I'm perusing the list, I realize that I do have a friend Lisa whose last name could be pronounced "Couch" by someone who's first language is not English. I quickly realize Lisa was in NYC for work and I belatedly realize Yasser probably had HER bag. I quickly pulled up the caller ID and dialed Yasser back (in this case, technology trumped paper....). Yasser answered and I explained I knew whose bag it was. He dialed his phone as I gave him Lisa's cell phone number and suddenly we were on a conference call - me, a performer having dinner with an old high school friend on a rainy NY evening and a cab driver somewhere in Manhattan. After brief intro's, I rang off and let them coordinate the return of the bag. Several hours later, my friend called to tell me she'd retrieved her bag and thanked me for my assistance. When I relayed the whole story to her, she was amazed. Amazed that Yasser had bothered to try to find the owner of the bag, amazed that I'd been at my desk and answering my business phone after hours on a Friday night, and amazed that I'd called Yasser back when I figured out the puzzle.

The moral of this story? Answer your phone when you don't know who it is. It might be a pleasant surprise or an opportunity to help someone out. Don't leave your bag in a NYC cab but if you do, make sure you have a paper in it with you own cell phone number (don't rely on people to be sitting at their desks answering their business phones after hours on a Friday night). Finally, be sure to recognize that good things happen every day and when we pay attention, we can see layers and layers of goodness that more often than not offset the grime of daily negativity the media tosses as us (and which we too often and too willingly accept).

Inside Out

posted 02.01.08

We've been busy putting this business together and things are moving along really well - like pieces of a giant puzzle gently tumbling into place. The ease of progress has been fascinating to watch and experience. It's been a great lesson in finding that balance between taking action and allowing action. I'm reminded of a saying I once heard "Man plans, God laughs." Sometimes it seems that regardless of how much we plan things, things turn out the way they're going to turn out. Other times, it is only through our attention and thoughtful efforts that something comes into being. Knowing the difference, (to badly paraphrase a credit card commercial), is priceless...and not always easy. I don't know if intention has any bearing on all of this - the intersection of mystical beliefs and quantum physics suggests that attention and intention may indeed have some effect on the outcome. What is clear is that being fully present in the process, regardless of how (or if) we're impacting the outcome, is at the heart of it. We cannot influence our world until we see it as it is - maybe that's what determines the difference between influencing and being influenced by events. Whatever the case, I am thankful to be part of this process and to watch things unfold, to be part of the creation of this undertaking that we hope, in some small way, will change us as we change the world - all for the better.

Smart Choices...Small Changes

posted 01.14.08

A few years ago, I bought a shredder so I could shred annoying credit card offers and those "free checks" that come with my credit card statement. The rise in identity theft made this precaution a sensible one. However, I also wanted to recycle as much as I could. I ended up with piles of unwanted papers that were of unknown status. Should I shred the address section on catalogs then recycle the catalog? Do I need to shred the address or just pull it out and throw it away? It seemed in the cross-section of ecological concerns and data security concerns, I had created a bit of a vortex out of which no paper could escape. It overwhelmed me to the point where I was tempted to just heave the whole pile in the trash...but my conscience stopped me.

Fast forward to about a month ago. I was listening to NPR as I was running around town doing errands (and feeling guilty about my fossil fuel burning carbon footprint) and I heard the guest say that consumers were starting to feel a bit bullied about their "green" choices. (My apologies, I don't recall the program or the speaker). It struck a chord with me because that was exactly how I'd been feeling, especially with regard to this paper quandary I'd found myself in.

That got me to thinking about how we consumers behave. Here I was, overwhelmed by trying to make "greener" choices and getting completely bogged down in the process, ready to toss everything in the trash. I think many of us feel the same way - sometimes it's just too difficult or too overwhelming when other life demands are calling. Jobs, parents, children, spouses, partners, friends, communities - all make demands on our time and sometimes adding just one more "have to" is enough to make you want to scream or go hide in a quiet spot somewhere.

For me, the decision was to take a few small steps toward resolving this problem. First, I signed up to stop having junk mail sent to me in the first place (, are two organizations that can help). It hasn't completely solved the problem, but taking positive action toward resolution certainly feels better. And it helped me realize that each small step I take makes a difference. Every incandescent light bulb I replace with a compact florescent helps; every time I bring my own cloth bags to the grocery store; every time I turn off a light that's not needed, I make a difference.

We can't be perfect, but we can make smart choices to take small steps toward creating the future we want.

Giving Makes You Rich

Here's our first article, appropriate for the New Year.

Giving Makes You Rich
posted: 12.30.07

I heard this story on NPR when I was driving around town doing errands, so I only heard part of it but was intrigued by the concept that giving makes you rich. The guest on the show was not a spiritual leader or a guru of any sort - he was an economist. I just love when economic theory gets 'woo woo.' I came home and did a bit of research to find the study the guest was speaking about. Here's the gist of it (and a link to the article):

"The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, completed in 2000, is a survey of about 30,000 people in more than 40 communities across the U.S. and is the best single source of data available on the civic participation of Americans. The S.C.C.B.S., which takes into account differences in education, age, race, religion, and other personal characteristics, shows that people who give charitably make significantly more money than those who don't. While that seems like common sense, it turns out that the link in the data between giving and earning is not just one-way. People do give more when they become richer--research has shown that a 10 percent increase in income stimulates giving by about 7 percent--but people also grow wealthier when they give more.

"What is found in the S.C.C.B.S. data: More giving doesn't just correlate with higher income; it causes higher income. And not just a little. Imagine two families that are identical in size, age, race, education, religion, and politics. The only difference is that this year the first family gives away $100 more than the second. Based on my analysis of the S.C.C.B.S. survey, the first family will, on average, earn $375 more as a result of its generosity."

Pretty awesome way to get rich, don't you think? Give a bit of your time and money to those who can use some help. It just proves that when we do what's best for ourselves and best for others, we all end up better off.

Here's to a wonderful 2008 for everyone.

[For the full article, visit this link:]

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