Author Archive

Bamboozled? Getting the facts on Bamboo Textiles

June 11, 2012

We’ve re-posted this from 2010 because it’s still a good primer on bamboo & it’s still a material that people have lots of questions about.

At Fairware we’ve had plenty of interest in apparel with bamboo content. In addition to being easy to care for, soft and silky, bamboo fibers have been loudly touted as the newest and greatest in eco-apparel.

But there are conflicting facts about the environmental attributes of bamboo textiles so we’ve taken a closer look. The following is based on our online research and we welcome your comments, input and suggestions.

Bamboo: The Plant

The premise that bamboo textiles are eco-friendly is largely based on the sustainability merits of the plant. Part of the grass family, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth (giant kelp is second). Instead of taking centuries to mature, like hardwood, bamboo can be harvested after only 3 to 5 years.

Bamboo is also self-sustaining with an extensive root system that sends up new shoots each year. This substantially reduces the need for intense cultivation practices. The large root system also helps prevent soil erosion and improves the water-holding capacity of the watershed. With sufficient rainfall, bamboo crops don’t require irrigation. (more…)

“B” is for Benefit: Fairware joins the BCorp Community

April 24, 2012

Fairware recently became a member of the B Corporation Community. Certified B Corporations are recognized as using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems and are unlike traditional businesses because they meet specific criteria, including:

  • Meeting comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards;
  • Meeting higher legal accountability standards;
  • Building a business constituency of good businesses.

To become a B Corporation, Fairware had to achieve 3 things:

  1. Take and pass the B Impact Rating System which sets a benchmark for the social and environmental impact of good companies.
  2. Adopt the B Corporation Legal Framework to incorporate the mission of Fairware into our legal structure.
  3. Sign a Term Sheet that makes our certification official.

By successfully completing these steps we have joined the ranks of Patagonia, Aspen and other partners of the B Corporation Community recognized for CSR leadership. The media has been shining a light on this little known corporate structure of late with recent articles in FORBES, Christian Science Monitor, and GOOD.

For Fairware, becoming a B-Corp was driven by a few factors. First and foremost, we view the changes to our incorporation documents and shareholder agreement as an act of advocacy, of walking our talk and of sending a signal to the world that there is a different way to do things.

The B Corp rating system and questionnaire process was also a good internal ‘gut-check’ or audit – it highlighted some gaps in our own systems (e.g. while we do corporate giving in practice, it’s not guided by any policy or framework).

And finally, it serves to send a signal to our customers, vendors and peers that we’re committed to a business model that reflects community and environmental priorities. In an increasingly crowded space of ‘green’ or ethical companies, it provides us with a 3rd party stamp of approval that we’re the real deal.

We’re proud to be a B-Corp and we’re happy to announce we will be offering a 15% discount to other B Corporations on orders over $1000. We are thrilled to be working with the BCorp community!

Hope for calendar sales in the rain

November 24, 2011

Re-posted from the Hope in Shadows Blog with permission from Project Director Paul Ryan.

Over the next few months you might see Hope in Shadows vendors sporting new rain-proof bags, warm toques and large blue umbrellas.

The rain is more than annoying for many Vancouverites, but for the Hope in Shadows vendors, it’s more than an inconvenience – it really does affect sales. Vendors don’t have a choice if they want to sell the 2012 calendars as they are almost all sold on the street.

We’ve suspected for years that the rain affects calendar sales. In an effort to understand what was happening, we looked at the calendar sales results over several years and noticed a trend: when the “pineapple express” rain hits Vancouver in November and December (usually several fronts coming in from the Pacific Ocean, one after another causing many days of unrelenting rain), sales of the calendar dip. If the rains come in November, but we have a dryer December, November will be the slow month. If November is mostly dry, but December wet, sales will be slow in December.

The bags were made locally by Common Thread, a non-profit operated by the Kettle Friendship Society, also a location of one of our calendar vendor training workshops. Common Thread creates employment for groups such as newcomers to Canada and Aboriginal communities, and is also based in the Downtown Eastside.

I spoke to Common Thread’s vice-president and co-founder Jenette MacArthur who says the people making the bags were women who, like Hope in Shadows vendors, thrive in a flexible work environment. Melanie Conn, who coordinated the making of the bags says that they were made by people who, for a variety of reasons, wouldn’t fit into a formal manufacturing setting. Like Hope in Shadows, Common Thread has an overriding social purpose. “We don’t usually have a customer (such as Hope in Shadows) where we’re so in sync.”

Fairware, who sourced and branded the toques and umbrellas with the Hope in Shadows logo, is a local company dedicated to high standards both environmentally and socially.

The uniform purchase was a team effort. We were very happy to have the financial support of the City of Vancouver and the Betty Averbach Foundation.

Embarking on a path to climate neutrality – Fairware takes first step with the Climate Smart Program

July 26, 2011

Fairware recently completed the Climate Smart Program. Delivered by Climate Smart, a social enterprise based in Vancouver, the Program helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) measure and reduce their carbon emissions.

It’s a unique and valuable program because SMEs generally aren’t a focus for emission reduction initiatives. All current regulation and major federal programs focus on large businesses.

An example of this is the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a pending cap and trade system that will affect western states and the majority of Canadian provinces. The WCI requires reporting by businesses with more than 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (C02e) in direct emissions. Business with more than 25,000 tonnes C02e in direct emissions will be required to participate in a cap and trade system.

WCI Partners and Observers

By comparison, data from Climate Smart suggests emissions reported by SMEs are on average less than 1000 tonnes CO2e, with most businesses reporting emissions closer to 200 tonnes of CO2e.

An art installation from the 2009 UN climate talks was created to help people visualize what a ton of CO2 “looks like”.

Climate Smart grew out of the recognition that SMEs, the largest part of the economy and 98% of Canadian businesses, are largely overlooked by climate change policy and that this dynamic sector can play a key role in addressing climate change.

Here’s a quick overview of our experience with the program, which consisted of 3 half day sessions spread over 3 months, broken down into the following 3-step process:

Step 1: Measuring our emissions

The first session gave a succinct overview of climate change – the basics of greenhouse gases, sources and implications – and an introduction to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used international accounting tool for quantifying and managing greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Protocol, companies undertake a greenhouse gas inventory that covers scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (see image below) over a one-year period.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emission sources under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol

While consideration of scope 3 sources isn’t required, it’s recommended that companies include them as they can represent a relatively large source of emissions and by extension may represent a significant contribution to a company’s GHG risk exposure.

This inventory process is repeated annually to track progress against the baseline year.

Below is a first draft of Fairware’s operations and emission sources (color coded for the 3 scopes) completed in session 1:

With this visual of our greenhouse gas emissions in hand, it was just a matter of identifying data sources for gathering the required details for each source.

The session ended with a tour of Climate Smart’s slick online app and tools for compiling and calculating emissions by source. With an invitation to contact the Carbon Hotline (604-CLIMATE…love it!) with any questions, session 1 came to a close.

Session 2: Reducing emissions

The second session was the most motivational and began with a visioning exercise that asked participants to “think big” and imagine the headline they’d like to see their company recognized for in 10 years.

We were also presented with impressive case studies from prior Climate Smart participants including Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and YWCA Vancouver.

Perhaps best of all was the discussion with fellow participants. We shared ideas for reducing one another’s emissions, talked about potential challenges and geeked out on the research, news and innovative strategies people had come across in their day-to-day.

We left the session feeling a lot more knowledgeable and inspired to create a plan for reducing the emissions of our own businesses.

Session 3: Offsets

This session was info-packed! The main message – offsets shouldn’t be considered an easy-out or sole strategy to achieve carbon neutrality.

Companies should first be avoiding carbon intensive activities where possible, next reducing the emissions they do create, replacing carbon intensive activities/processes where possible, and finally, considering offsets for the emissions they’re not currently able to address through these 3 steps of avoidance, reduction and replacement.

Carbon Management Hierarchy

We looked at the concept of cap and trade and discussed existing voluntary and compliance markets.

Graphic describing cap & trade from the Washington Post

Another key message was that not all offsets are created equal.

There are 4 main types of offset markets – energy efficiency, renewable energy, methane capture and biological sequestration – each with advantages and challenges to consider.

Beyond the type of offset, there are considerations to be made regarding location, strategic alignment, price and more. While these details may seem confusing, overwhelming even, there are widely accepted criteria and standards that can help companies find high quality, verified offsets.

Some of these standards include the Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve among others.

We were also directed to some great resources to assist us with offset decisions, including Purchasing Carbon Offsets: A Guide for Canadian Consumers, Businesses and Organizations by the David Suzuki Foundation, which has done considerable research in the carbon market field.

The session concluded with a discussion of internal and external communication strategies for gaining employee support and public recognition.


We thoroughly enjoyed all the Climate Smart sessions and, while we realize there will be challenges, are psyched to embark down a path to climate neutrality.

Beyond a better understanding of our carbon footprint, the data collection we undertook to complete our inventory provided some valuable insights on our shipping and travel patterns, and useful data for both carbon and cost reduction steps.

An additional benefit to completing the Climate Smart Program is becoming a part of the Climate Smart Alumni and gaining access to the regular learning and networking events organized by Climate Smart.

We’ll be documenting some of our reduction initiatives here. We’re keen to hear your ideas and feedback!

New Fairware brochure – nice pics, even nicer words

June 21, 2011

Fairware brochure fan

We recently printed a number of Fairware brochures highlighting a few of our recent projects.

View an electronic copy online HERE.

first page Fairware brochure

The brochure is filled with nice pics and even nicer words from our clients including Patagonia, Aveda, Vancity and Nature’s Path Organics.

We’d love to hear what you think of it.

last page Fairware brochure

We just want you to like us

June 7, 2011

Facebook Like

Fairware recently joined Facebook. Check out our shiny new page HERE.

About time? Behind the times? Maybe. But while we’re late arrivals to the Facebook scene we’re psyched to finally be connecting with our customers and supporters through the fun that is Facebook.

Check out our new online digs for updates from the Fairware Team (we’re talking small responsible business in a big promo product world), the latest and greatest in ethical and sustainable custom products, pictures from some of our favourite projects, the Fairware office, outings and more. Ask questions, provide feedback, or simply say ‘hello’.

If you like what you see, click the ‘like’ button (yeah!) and become a fan of ours. We promise not to inundate your Facebook stream with updates (we dislike it when companies do that too).

New Report Reveals Trends & Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing and Ethical Sourcing

May 12, 2011

The following article has been re-posted with permission from our friends at Reeve Consulting and originally appeared on the Reeve Consulting blog.

Read on to learn about the current status of sustainable purchasing among Canadian municipalities. There’s also an introduction to an innovative project called the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing, a group of municipalities from across the country that are leveraging their collective experiences and resources to improve their sustainable purchasing practices.

Reeve Consulting and the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing recently released the first annual Trends and Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report, the most comprehensive discussion of municipal sustainable purchasing and ethical sourcing in Canada to date.

Beyond revealing key trends across the country and valuable best practices, the report offers a national snapshot of how Canadian municipalities are implementing sustainable purchasing programs.

Complete with a listing of common program barriers and recommended solutions, the report is a valuable resource for municipal decision-makers looking to implement impactful sustainable purchasing programming.

>> Download the Summary Report.

The full report is available from Reeve Consulting by request at or 604-763-6829.

Status of municipal sustainable purchasing in Canada

Sustainable purchasing has become a hot topic in the municipal sector. Few other internal sustainability initiatives can directly contribute to multiple civic agendas around zero waste, climate leadership, economic development, staff engagement, risk mitigation, improved operational efficiencies and cost reductions.

While comprehensive sustainable purchasing is still a relatively new field for local governments, municipalities are finding the support they require through the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP). Formed in 2010 as a pilot project, the MCSP is comprised of a group of Canadian municipalities that are leveraging their collective experiences, knowledge and resources to strengthen their respective sustainable purchasing programs.

The Trends and Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report documents the great wealth of expertise shared by these and other local governments, pulling from them practical insights for municipalities looking to advance their sustainable purchasing practices.

Emerging Trends in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing

Key findings of the study show that municipalities continue to give priority to environmental issues over social or ethical considerations. The study also found that achieving some noteworthy early returns on investment, particularly a strong financial return, is key for generating momentum and further senior support for the advancement of sustainable purchasing practices. Municipalities say that their efforts are focused on developing realistic annual action plans, implementing policies or guidelines and collaborating with others to share experiences and resources.

Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing

Readers wanting to fast track their efforts will find great value in the report’s identification and description of the 10 Program Success Factors required to maximize the impacts and benefits of sustainable purchasing.

Among these elements are following a written action plan, defining a clear sustainable purchasing policy and product guidelines, developing supplier scorecards and Codes of Conduct that outline fair labour standards, providing adequate training for purchasing and staff and engaging directly with suppliers in sustainability conversations.

These and more best practices are discussed in detail in the summary and full report.

Municipalities team up to overcome the challenges

The release of the report also marks the first year of full-fledged programming for the MCSP, which through its collaboration and resource sharing programs will help participating municipalities address challenges and priorities raised in the 2010 Trends & Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report. This includes seeking goods and services that conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize waste, as well as increasingly using scorecards and eco-labels to evaluate suppliers based on multiple social and environmental measures.

Key activities and tangible deliverables for the MCSP in 2011 include:

  • 4 best practices peer exchange teleconferences
  • 2 technical training webinars on focusing specific best practices
  • The 2011 Trends & Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report
  • Individual customized action planning sessions for each municipality
  • Access to a helpful resource library

Fast Track your Municipal Sustainable Purchasing Program – join the MCSP

Local governments of all sizes are invited to participate in the MCSP. If you’re interested in joining the project, or would like more information, please contact Tim Reeve at or Kevin McCarty at or by phone at 604-763-6829.

The MCSP project is led by a steering committee comprised of the cities of Edmonton, Ottawa, London, Whitehorse and Victoria and is being facilitated by Reeve Consulting.

Welcoming SWAG Sally to the Fairware Team

April 25, 2011

This week we’re welcoming SWAG Sally, our new advice columnist, to the Fairware blog – S.W.A.G being the ‘stuff we all get’. She’s going to be taking on a regular “Dear SWAG Sally” series where she’ll be answering your inquiries related to the role of promotional products in marketing campaigns (and maybe providing some dating advice? …maybe)

So send us your questions, your quandaries, your “what does it all mean?” issues and we’ll pass them on.

This week we have a question about t-shirts

Dear SWAG Sally,

We have an exciting new campaign launching this spring. It seems like people have so many t-shirts these days, are they still an effective promo product?

Sincerely, Considering T-Shirts in Vancouver

Excellent question CTIV, and excellent timing since Fairware is clearing some quality organic cotton t-shirts at the moment (but more about that later).

It’s true, the issue of t-shirt as promo piece raises some concerns and I’d say when done incorrectly is as useful as writing a cheque to your local Value Village! But, when implemented well, nothing gets your message across as effectively as a t-shirt.

What you want is a conversation-starter. A “hey, that’s a cool shirt” piece that prompts people to talk about the issue or brand at hand. That’s a true win!

Awesome tees recently sourced by Fairware

To help you on your way to victory, here are a few t-shirt DOs:

  1. Spend some time coming up with a fun graphic or pithy statement that people will be interested in wearing. Consider new and different placement positions for your artwork (e.g. lower left front of the shirt) as well as fashionable colors for both the print and shirt.
  2. Consider the best size and fit options for your target audience and leave some time to order samples. When choosing a more fitted fashion-style tee ensure the fit is in line with your expectations. T-shirt cuts vary widely across brands and styles.
  3. Be sure the shirts are in line with your organization’s values. For example, if you’re promoting an eco-message, order shirts made from organic cotton and printed with water-based inks. If you’re a strong supporter of unions, source union made tees. This detail may seem obvious, but I’ve seen it missed before.
  4. Avoid brand risk by sourcing shirts that meet ethical sourcing and fair labour standards.

The t-shirts DON’Ts are essentially a reverse of the DOs, so we’ll leave it at that for now.

If you do decide to proceed with t-shirts for your promo campaign, consider the clearance Fairware currently has on organic cotton tees, it’s a nice deal. Stock is limited so I recommend contacting them sooner rather than later.

Until next time,

SWAG Sally

February Bike Battle

February 24, 2011

We could call it the “February Bike Commute Challenge” but lately the Fairware contest to see who will bike to work the most days in February has taken on battle undertones. With only two days to go Stefan and I are locked in a race to victory, separated by a mere half point!

Here’s how it works: Staff receive a point each day they bike to and from work. If you bike only one way (say it starts raining mid-day and you take the bus home) you get a 1/2 point. If it rains, and you get significantly wet during your ride, it becomes a double point day. We record points daily on a calendar in the lunch room (pictured below).

Sarah (SW) enthusiastically enters the race

The race was tight at the beginning but a hit of the flu for Nicole and week-long business trip for Denise took them out of the running. Sarah looked like she would be a serious contender, entering the race mid-month with great enthusiasm, but fell behind shortly after.

I won’t go into details of the battle between Stefan and I, which has been crazy exciting, but the next two days will define winner and loser. Tomorrow has a forecast of -15 so it’s not going to be a pretty finish.

Stay tuned as the winner will be announced Monday. The prize? Honour, prestige, bragging rights, the opportunity to rub victory in the face of your colleagues…and beer of course.

Insights on Carbon Neutrality for Organizations

February 17, 2011

Flickr / cariliv

Carbon Nuetral – it’s a statement we’re hearing more from clients, suppliers and colleagues. But what does it really mean?

We were recently forwarded a short report titled Greener Horizons – Insights on going carbon neutral by our friends at Bullfrog Power. The document summarizes the key points presented at a panel discussion on carbon neutrality (for which Fairware provided speakers gifts).

As the report outlines, net neutrality means achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing carbon released with an equivalent amount eliminated or offset.  One of biggest criticisms of this approach is the risk that organizations buy offsets without changing energy consumptions behaviors first.

Environmental groups recommend organizations first eliminate emissions through conservation, then switch to environmental benign or lower-impact products and services.  Only once these efforts have been maximized should unavoidable emissions be offset by purchasing credits from a reputable source. It’s stressed that offsets shouldn’t be considered a substitute for conservation efforts or green products – whenever possible, emissions should be prevented in the first place.

At Fairware we’ve undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce our carbon emissions. Our most recent project has been switching over our office lighting to new LED technology which features extremely energy efficient and long-lasting bulbs.

LED’s are a great technology that in many cases are leap-frogging compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), LEDs can reduce energy consumption by 80-90% and last around 100,000 hours (compared to reductions of approximately 75% and lifetime of 10,000 hours with CFLs). On the downside, the bulbs are expensive, but we’re making the switch over time as our current bulbs burn out.  We believe we’ll see longer term savings through reduced energy and replacement costs (we’ve been joking that we’ll take the bulbs with us if we move offices). Once the switch is complete we’ll be doing some analysis of of our previous energy bills to determine the difference.

But back to the report. It takes just a few minutes to read and is a great briefing for anyone considering carbon neutrality (or just reducing carbon emissions) in their organization.

Read the full report HERE.

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