Archive for the ‘Environmental Issues’ Category

From the floor: PPAI 2013

January 27, 2013

 

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

The 2013 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo took place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas from 14-18 January. Fairware was there, sharing ideas with colleagues, scoping out new products, and noting trends.

What really struck us as we walked the floor of this vast trade show? It was the way that the concept of product responsibility has leapt onto the radar. Historically, the promotional product industry has viewed product responsibility through a compliance-based lens and paid attention strictly to the letter of the law. But in the Product Safety 201 session held at PPAI, Rick Brenner, CEO of Primeline, was quick to point out that product “safety” needs to expand to a product “responsibility” framework that includes social compliance, product quality and environmental standards.

When we walked the trade show floor, we made a conscious decision to ask vendors if they could supply compliance testing reports for their products to see where random suppliers stood on the safety aspect of the conversation. We were surprised at how many could supply those reports, and were clearly up-to-date on the issues. Our preferred organic lip balm supplier even had a poster of their testing and labelling standards in their booth.

The two sessions on product responsibility that we attended were full, and there were lively discussions regarding whose responsibility it is to manage product safety in an industry in which products travel through many hands before they reach the end user.

Also noted was the profile and attention PPAI has given to this important issue. They have a well-developed internal resource centre for members, featuring a dozen educational and capacity-building guides (from “How to Read a Compliance Document” to a guide on product, social and environmental best practices) as well as the Turbo Test, an intuitive online roadmap that will help distributors ascertain which rules, regulations and tests apply to which products.

We think that staying ahead of the curve on matters of safety and responsibility is good business, good citizenship, and good sense. It was great to see that so many of our industry peers think so, too.

 

 

A corking idea!

January 23, 2013
A stylish kit - not your average promo product.

A stylish kit – not your average promo product.

It seems that every day we get more bad news about how our species is ransacking the planet — encroaching on more wildlife habitat by clearing more land; overfishing the oceans; depleting the sources of some wonderful or miraculous material until there threatens to be none left for anyone or anything. You may have seen, for instance, the recent Guardian article on the supposed problems with the quinoa craze, and the passionate responses to that article.

These days, conscientious people are pretty much primed to believe the worst about these things, and that’s understandable. But at Fairware, we believe two things: we believe that humans actually do play a role here — it’s not hopeless, and we’re not helpless — and that’s why we’re in the business we’re in; and we also believe that it’s still really important to get the facts. Because sometimes, despite everything, things actually aren’t as bad as they seem.

Take the issue of cork. The general consensus in recent years has been that cork sources are critically endangered, and it’s unethical to use them. Synthetic corks are now widely used in the wine industry, from which the prime demand for the substance comes, and that’s seen as a good alternative. The truth, however, is a bit more complex and nuanced than it looks at first glance (isn’t that always the way?). In fact, cork isn’t endangered. (That story may have started when wine producers stopped using cork — some for economic reasons, some to avoid cork mold.) Unlike other trees, which must be cut down during harvesting, cork oaks are harvested simply by peeling bark off the tree; the tree itself is left to regenerate and thrive. As well, a tree that is harvested on the usual nine-year cycle will absorb three to five times more CO2 than one that is not. Harvesting cork is an ancient, sustainable practice and supports the livelihoods of many people in parts of Europe, in particular Portugal and Spain.

Sami Grover at Treehugger has a really fine article on the truth about cork, with links to other pieces discussing both the pros and cons of harvesting and using it. At Triple Pundit, Leon Kaye has an interesting look at the wine industry’s move away from cork and its possible environmental impact.

Fairware features some very handsome and practical cork products sourced sustainably from Portugal, such as the distinctive toiletries bag above. Take a look. Because it’s nice to enjoy some good news.

Hidden dangers we can actually fight

January 16, 2013
Rubber duckies of DEATH!

Rubber duckies of DEATH!

We all remember the nightmare reports — melamine in milk, lead paint on Fisher-Price toys, yet another Toyota recall. Here in North America, we often take product safety for granted, until we’re reminded by scandals like these ones of how fragile it can be. Increasing awareness of product safety and how it can be secured continues to influence Fairware’s own industry in what we think are some positive ways.

The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 now requires American manufacturers and importers of consumer products to show proof of compliance with CPSIA standards by way of third-party testing for lead content and phthalate limits in children’s products. This increased vigilance meant that just last month, US Customs and Border Protection authorities seized a shipment of Christmas-themed rubber ducks deemed to contain too much of the chemical phthalate to be safe for children.

This sort of thing encourages an increase in transparency within the industry supply chain, and it helps us at Fairware do our jobs better. Many manufacturers now include third-party testing results on their websites — making it easier for distributors like Fairware to share product information with our clients. We like this trend, and we expect it to continue in 2013.

Expo West 2013 is coming!

December 12, 2012
Nature's Path at Expo West 2012.

Nature’s Path at Expo West 2012.

Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest natural and organic products tradeshow. In 2013, it will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, from March 8th to 10th, with education and events beginning on the 7th.

A number of Fairware clients — Stonyfield FarmNature’s PathDaiya Foods — are in the natural food and products business, so planning for Expo West has become a big part of our own seasonal calendar. Leanne Stasiuk, Fairware’s Natural Product Category Account Manager, worked with Nature’s Path for six years, and is a five-time veteran of Expo West. She’s shared this list of tips and ideas that should prove invaluable to anyone planning to exhibit at the show.

General Planning Tips

  • Hold a pre-show booth audit and meeting. If you haven’t pulled out or reviewed your booth since your last trip to Expo West, make sure you give it the once-over to ensure that it’s in good working order and that you have what you need; also, confirm that it has any new brand elements you’ll need for this year. Meet with the team you’ll be bringing to the show, and make sure that everyone is briefed on the expectations for the team and the goals for the booth.
  • Get sizes for all team members working the show. This will speed things up when you order apparel.
  • Pre-make kits for sampling areas. Make kits that contain all you’ll need to offer a range of samples of your product in one box, and send them to each location ahead of time. Here’s a sample kit we put together for Nature’s Path.
  • Find out the last advance-shipping date for the show. You’ll need to have everything ready to go on that day; if you miss that date, you’ll have to ship to your hotel or bring things in your own luggage!
  • Keep your giveaways small. Pretty much everyone is travelling to this show, and they’ll all be picking up samples along the way. So if you’re giving something away, make sure it will fit in carry-on luggage.
  • Do a post-show audit. Get together with your team to review what worked, what they liked, what didn’t fly. Keep the list handy for future booth design, apparel, handouts, etc.
Merchandise and Promotional Product Tips

  • Call Fairware at 1.866.606.3247. We’ll talk you through the process of selecting promotional products. A great way to supplement your catalogue, for instance, is with USB memory drives. Did you know that the Expo West media centre is paper-free? If you want to leave a media kit, it’s best done on a USB drive. As well, you can use different colours of USB drives to provide information to different target audiences – marketing, sales, etc. Instead of the usual trade memos, put videos of product use or supply chain stories on these drives.
  • If you feature a bag, make sure it’s THE bag. If you go this route, it’ll be worth your while to invest in doing a truly great bag, as there will be a lot of competition on this front at the show. You need to offer the bag everyone wants – one that’s large, with great graphics, and long straps for over-the-shoulder carrying.
  • Consider table runners. If you can’t afford table cloths or want to change things up, try runners instead.
  • Give thought to staff apparel. Create a mix of apparel — button-downs, polos or tees —and let team members know if you want them to wear certain items on certain days. Have fun with your staff apparel.  Wear apparel that your consumers want to wear (hint: the typical left-chest logo is SO 1986). Make sure that your team members are comfortable — consider bamboo shawls or an organic scarf. If you prefer, you can avoid custom shirts by doing custom aprons, and just specifying a colour or style of shirt for staff to wear.
  • If you’re going with sample cups or spoons, make sure to order well ahead of time. This is especially so if you’re customizing; that requires a pretty long lead time.
  • Try water bottles on which you can write your name. All staff in your booth can have the same bottle, with each team member writing his or her name on it.
  • You’re sure to be popular with portable chargers. Someone’s gadget is always running out of power — a laptop, a phone, an iPad, etc. If you do a pre-show sales and marketing meeting, for example, gift each team member with a solar charger.
  • We still use paper, so consider padfolios or notebooks for everyone.These will offer a hard, stable surface on which to write, and they can easily be carried around the booth for taking notes.  Get one for each staff member, for the outdoor sampling stations, the main booth, and the Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace.
  • You’ll never go wrong with everyday items. There is a reason why pens, Post-It notes, magnets, notebooks, and stickers are the top-selling catagories of product. We use these items every day – and they thus make a HUGE logo impression. You might want to create an FSC-paper grocery-list notepad; feature your product on the first line of each page, or include a coupon with the top sheet.
  • Thought of cutting boards? These make a great brand impression as people pick up samples. Keep them light and easy-to-clean with Chop Chop boards, or light and antimicrobial with cork boards.
  • Got a limited budget?  Give less-expensive items away to the general public, and make up 50 specially branded items or gift packages for those “special” folks – buyers, media, etc.
  • Use a press-show teaser. Send a postcard with, say, some organic herb seeds attached to it to prompt people to visit your booth; let them know in advance that they should book a time for a visit, or that there is an incentive or gift if they visit.


Keep this list handy, and have a smooth and fruitful Expo 2013!

LABOR WARS: Samsung Joins Apple in the Latest Labor Controversy

October 18, 2012

A Steady Hand: Photo by Robert S. Donovan

As Samsung and Apple wind up for a legal dual in courts over digital tablet cell phone patents, the technology giants find themselves tangled in another, messier PR battle.

No matter how big and how seemingly well-run a company is, there remains a serious risk when outsourcing production abroad. Last month, Samsung joined the recently targeted Apple in the long list of companies that have been accused of violating workers’ rights in their international factories.

Just as we talked last week about companies embracing a trend towards being “flawsome,” Apple and Samsung have recently been forced to admit their mistakes amid a public controversy regarding labor conditions at their Chinese suppliers—though there is certainly nothing awesome about having to admit these flaws.

In late August, New York-based activist group China Labor Watch released a lengthy report bringing into question the working conditions at 8 Samsung factories in China—6 of which are owned by the company itself. Samsung was accused of a myriad of violations, including hiring underage workers, not compensating employees overtime pay totalling nearly 100 hours a month, oral and physical abuse of workers, and failing to provide proper safety equipment.

The findings mirror a similar report released by the CLW earlier in the year that brought charges of labor abuse towards Apple. The report came after undercover CLW workers staged an investigation into conditions at factories run by Apple’s supplier, Foxconn. Amid the controversy, Apple agreed to allow the Fair Labor Association to perform audits, while Foxconn underwent a serious reform of its internal systems.

At a news conference following the release of the report, a Chinese government official blasted certain companies for lacking “human care.” Following Apple’s lead, Samsung pledged to conduct on-site investigations of all 105 of their Chinese suppliers, while China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has promised to continue to monitor conditions at their factories. The Fair Labor Association has since released a report indicating that measures taken by Samsung suggest that the company is on the right track towards addressing these serious findings.

What all this really brings to light is a continued need for businesses to be more aware of the risks inherent in their supply chains.

In the 80’s and 90’s, major apparel and footwear suppliers found themselves tangled in the now-notorious sweatshop controversy. That brought about major changes in management systems and methods for social compliance reporting (and improved working conditions on the factory floor). These changes have been crucial in redefining the way companies are expected to conduct their businesses, both at home and abroad.

With this newest debacle, the message is clear: big or small, companies must take measures to ensure that their suppliers abide by ethical and fair standards of workers’ rights. We hope that this latest outing sparks a wake-up call for the electronics industry and leads to the development of programs to protect worker rights in their factories.

While this is a serious topic, the brilliant minds at Saturday Night Live recently took our need for faster, lighter, thinner phones to task…

FAIRWARE CRUSH: EVERGREEN A Mission Towards Urban Sustainability

October 2, 2012

Evergreen > Bringing Nature to our Cities Since 1991.

This month, we want to give a big shout-out to a charity that hits close to home—our cities. Evergreen Canada is a national charity that has been at the forefront of making our cities more liveable for almost 20 years!

Evergreen’s mission is simple: to inspire and engage Canadians to take action towards urban sustainability. Let’s face it: as our cities grow, developers are buying up land to meet residential and commercial needs. We are losing integral green space, and it’s taking a toll on the environment, the air we breathe and our well-being. Evergreen is making moves to change that.

From planting trees to expanding park space, over the years Evergreen has gathered a diverse group of Canadians to take part in projects aimed at bringing nature back into our cities. But that’s not all—the charity is also committed to promoting green building practices, so our cities can grow sustainably. Evergreen convenes city builders, researchers and environmental innovators to encourage a environmentally responsible and resource efficient structure during a building’s life-cycle.

Since their launch in 1991, Evergreen has helped fund over 3,000 School Ground Greening Projects and more than 2,000 Community Greening Projects in parks and recreation spaces. One of their most innovative projects is Evergreen Brick Works. Named one of the top 10 geotourism destinations in the world by National Geographic, Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley offering interactive workshops and community festivals aimed at inspiring visitors to live, work and play sustainably.

For the past two years, Evergreen has been a part of a great event that we love—the Molson Red Leaf Project. Evergreen teamed up with brewing giant Molson Canadian to throw the event, which this summer inspired nearly 2,600 Canadians to roll up their sleeves and clean up our parks.

Following its launch in 2011, the program has expanded from 10 to 100 events across Canada. Volunteers from communities across the country came out to give back to land—and their efforts made an amazing impact! 3,241 trees were planted and 277 bags of litter were collected. Volunteers not only got to make a difference in their cities, but they were also rewarded with passes to music festivals like the Craven County Jamboree in Saskatchewan and LIVE at Squamish in BC—which is fittingly held at the beautiful Logger Sports Grounds and Hendrickson fields, surrounded by forests and mountains.

We’re especially stoked about this event, because this year we got to get our hands a little dirty for this campaign too—or rather, kept our hands clean! We provided all the gloves used by volunteers for this event. Product with purpose is a concept we are totally committed to at Fairware, and it was great to see our gloves put to work by so many awesome volunteers.

It’s not only a passionate commitment to urban sustainability that makes Evergreen so crushable in our eyes—it’s how the charity has brought together so many great Canadians to take back our cities and take action towards a green future.

To learn more about Evergreen and it’s remarkable achievements or to take part in their programs, check out their website.

EXPLORING SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES PART 2: DEGRADABLE VS. BIODEGRADABLE VS. COMPOSTABLE

September 26, 2012

From Flickr Common Creatives via @cobdogblog

Last week, we posted a piece on bioplastics and the problems that arise from improper disposal of bioplastic and plastic products. Primarily, we touched on the misconceptions regarding labelling. Labels are sometimes misleading and the terminology used is often confusing. We love that so many clients and customers are coming to us looking for sustainable alternatives to common materials like plastic. That’s why we want to further explore the differences between degradable, biodegradable and compostable to better manage waste and to make the most of these eco-friendly options.

The Environment and Plastic Industry Council states that the term “degradable” broadly implies that the product will break down into smaller pieces naturally, over a (vague) period of time. “Biodegradable” is the process that takes place after degradation, when the particles are consumed by micro-organisms, resulting in water, carbon dioxide or organic matter.

“Compostable”, meanwhile, refers to degradable materials that—under proper commercial or home composting conditions—turn into usable compost or humus that enriches the soil and returns nutrients to the earth. These products leave no toxic waste behind and the process takes between 90 to 180 days.

So, how do you actually dispose of these products properly?

As we mentioned in last week’s post, most municipalities in Canada and the US still lack the proper means to compost and recycle. Between that and misleading terms, well-intentioned customers are becoming frustrated.

With the help of some wonderful sources, including the Green Office, we’d like to clear some things up:

 

  • Compostable products must be disposed of in a proper industrial composting facility. If such facility is not available, these products can be disposed of in the backyard or in a home composter, though it will take longer for the products to fully disintegrate. Improper disposal of compostable products in the recycling bin will actually contaminate the recycling process.
  • Biodegradable products are most often thrown in the garbage. While this should theoretically be okay as these materials are thought to just “break down”, it’s really not. Landfills are basically built to entomb waste and therefore lack the microorganisms and oxygen to break down these materials in a timely manner. Until there are proper processing facilities for biodegradable materials—like in California and Washington—these materials should be disposed of through a composting facility. But again, with the green bin program only just taking off in major cities, most municipalities make it next to impossible to properly and efficiently dispose of biodegradable products.
  • Recyclables should always be disposed of through the municipal curbside garbage program—those blue bins that are handily available almost everywhere. If there is no access to these programs or blue bins, services like Earth911.org help locate drop-off locations.

 

As customers are becoming more inclined to choose products that are environmentally-friendly, eco-conscious consumerism has become a hot button for advertisers. While the Federal Trades Commission’s Green Guide regulates how companies can use the terms “degradable,” “biodegradable” and “compostable,” customers are still advised to beware of “greenwashing.” This is when companies deliberately lead consumers to think their brand is “green”, without actually being so. The next generation of green products can also be labelled oxo-biodegradable, hydro-biodegradable, photo-biodegradable or water soluble. With more and more terms being thrown into the game, companies are getting away with branding their products improperly—or even just making up terms that sound eco-friendly.

Recent amends to the Federal Trades Commission’s Green Guide and the Canadian Standards Association and Competition Bureau have tightened regulations on companies using these terms and require that environmental claims be made clear, specific and verified. Any claims made must now be backed up with evidence.

But, as with everything, it is up to the customer to use discretion when buying—and to always read labels correctly and to use and dispose properly. And let’s not forget that waste—any waste—should be reduced. Cutting back the purchase of one-time-use products and reusing or repurposing is always the best choice when thinking green.

EXPLORING SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES: A LOOK AT BIOPLASTICS (Pt. 1)

September 18, 2012

We talk a lot about sustainable alternatives to commonly used products here at Fairware—from re-purposed and recycled items to organic textiles. It’s actually quite amazing how many options there are when making a conscious choice to buy better products.

Take plastic for instance. From plastic containers and packaging to utensils and bottles—so much of what we come across in everyday life  is made from plastics and they can have a devastating impact on the environment, human health, species maintenance, and the ocean.

First, let’s talk about what makes common plastics so damaging. Common plastics are obtained from petroleum, which significantly increases the production of greenhouse gases and makes the plastics reliant on fossil fuels. Aside from what these plastics take from the environment during manufacturing, there is the major issue of what they leave behind. Some common plastics such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polystyrene are notable for the hazards throughout their life-cyle.  The production and disposal of some plastics can threaten the life of ocean species and animals, but also humans.

So, in short: the production common plastics is threatening our environment and health. Yet, their uses are vast and the need for plastic is unavoidable.

Enter bioplastics or biopolymers, promising to be a safer, environmentally responsible alternative. While there are other types of “biodegradable plastics” on the market, for the purpose of this post, we’re looking at bioplastics such as PLA are plastics that are derived from renewable living sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, potatoes, and rice. And as with most innovations, they’re bring opportunity and have risks. We explore both below:

But the biggest draw towards bioplastics is in its lifecycle. Most—though not all—bio-materials disintegrate rapidly in commercially managed composting processed. In theory, this means there are less harmful waste left in our ecosystems. Bioplastics that are not biodegradable are used to make non-disposable items such as cell phone casings or car interiors. The objective of these bioplastic applications is the use of sustainable, renewable resources in production rather than the end of life biodegradability.

According to some studies, bioplastics account for a whopping 42% reduction in carbon footprint. However, that’s not say these studies haven’t had their fair share of disputes. For example, Environmental data from NatureWorks, the only commercial manufacturer of PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic, says that making its plastic material delivers a fossil fuel saving of between 25 and 68 per cent compared with polyethylene, in part due to its purchasing of renewable energy certificates for its manufacturing plant.

There remain critical changes that need to be made in the bio-plastics game. Powering farming machinery and irrigating crops rely heavily on petroleum as an energy source. There are also concerns around the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural feedstock production and using a food based crop for fuel.  Finally, there is a major lack in composting and recycling infrastructure. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco have successfully implemented proper composting and recycling infrastructures. Without this infrastructure, most bioproducts end up as trash in a landfill. The emergence of a third party certification agency (BPI in the US) tasked with certifying a manufacturers claims regarding compostability to international standards will help to standardize what is and isn’t suitable for municipal composting.

Getting consumers on board is the first step towards implementing the proper production and composting infrastructure needed to make the best of bioplastic technologies. The first step comes in helping consumers understand the environmental, human and economic impacts made by their purchases (no small task, we know). But confusing labels often mislead consumers. Take “bio-based,” for example, sounds like a product branded like this would be biodegradable, right? Actually, this is not necessarily the case.

“Biodegradable,” meanwhile, does not always mean compostable, but rather that the product will eventually disintegrate. Bewildering labeling is actually a major factor of improper recycling and composting – it’s confusing to say the least. We are going to further into the FTC Guidelines on compostable vs. biodegradable vs. degradable in our post next week, so stay tuned for that!

Like all new, sustainable technologies and initiatives, there is good and bad. The development of bioplastics shows a promising push towards renewability and compostability. But there needs to be continued consumer education of how these products are properly used as well as adequate means to compost and recycle these bioplastics before this technology reaches its full potential.

LENDING TOWARDS SUSTAINABILTY: LANYARD LIBRARY

September 10, 2012

Lanyards from our lending library.

 

This month marks one year since we launched a unique project aimed at expanding the lifespan of lanyards. We sell a lot of lanyards at Fairware—those fabric necklaces that are handed out at conventions or conferences, usually bearing the wearer’s name at the bottom. They circulate all day and are usually tossed in the trash (or the junk drawer) at night.

We thought it would be a cool concept to lend out lanyards with both the purpose of reducing the amount being produced and discarded, and to document the events they have traveled to and the people that have worn them. This idea inspired the Lanyard Library.

It works like a lending library: we send out lanyards to be used for an event or conference and they are returned to us along with snapshots of the lanyards in use. Our lanyards are made from recycled plastic bottles by a supplier in Ontario that meets Fairware’s Supplier Code of Conduct.

Event organizers that use our lanyards not only save money and get to promote their event on our website, but they also demonstrate to delegates a commitment to sustainability.

Our lanyards have made their way to many fantastic events over the past few years—all documented on our website. From the Power the Vision event supporting Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson’s mayoral candidacy, to the Social Change Institute’s conference aimed at personal betterment in the midst of change, to the LOCO event hosted by Fairware at our Vancouver office. It’s great to see how our lanyards have connected us to so many great events and people. The wonderful reception of our concept reminds all of us that even small changes towards reducing your environmental footprint can have a big impact.

Lending libraries have historically been associated with books, but this trend towards borrowing other items is starting to take off. In Vancouver alone—where our office is located—there are a number of inspiring lending libraries that run with this concept. The Tool Library is a cooperative tool lending library that gives members access to a wide selection of tools for gardening, home repair, and bicycle maintenance. The Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre has a lending library which lends out equipment and tools for caregivers starting their own businesses.

We are hoping that more people will begin to rely on these lending libraries for their needs. It’s a great way to save money and cut back on the overproduction of products that are too often only used once.

As the 2012 event season heats up, we are excited to see our Lanyard Library grow. We are excited to see the journey our lanyards take this year!

The facts on borrowing:

  • Event coordinators are responsible for shipping and returning at least 60% of the lanyards (or they’re charged $0.50 a unit).
  • We take returned lanyards and wash and air dry them for the next user.
  • We expect to get a photo of the event (with the lanyards in action).

CYCLE OF LIFE: A LOOK AT GRANFONDO AND CYCLING CULTURE

August 30, 2012

 

We’re big fans of cycling at Fairware. As part of our commitment to healthy, active lifestyles and reducing our own daily environmental impact, we’ve tried to make our workplace cycling friendly. So, when RBC approached us to pitch on creating a product for the rider gift bags that are given to all riders participating in the RBC GranFondo KelownaRBC GranFondo Whistler, and some of the riders participating in the RBC GranFondo Banff – we were psyched.

As cyclists, we knew what we’d want to receive in our rider gift bags. In fact, our co-founder and CEO had already signed up for the 2012 RBC GranFondo Kelowna ride.  In collaboration with the RBC team we landed on a custom branded cycling multi-tool. It was functional, practical and on brand – a true ‘product with purpose’.

GranFondo—loosely translated from Italian means “big ride”—has been a major cycling event across Europe for decades. Participants of varying skill levels sign on for a 100 km-plus ride that tests their physical endurance and their love of the sport. This isn’t an everyday bicycle ride—the route is made up of steep hills, long distances and hordes of other bikers fueling a friendly competition. It is an epic showcase of the growing road biking trend in North America.

We have talked a lot over the past few months about the environmental impact of transporting goods. Making a switch to ocean shipping or local sourcing is one thing, but our obligation to the environment must run deeper than how we run our business. That is why we encourage our staff to implement our corporate mission in their everyday lives.

According to the WorldWatch Institute, a short six km bicycle ride keeps nearly fifteen pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. Greenhouse gas emissions from private motor vehicles have risen 35% over the last two decades in Canada. The population, meanwhile, has only grown 19%. Smaller cities such as Kingston, Ontario account for higher emissions than metropolitan cities like Montreal, which recorded the lowest per capita emissions of GHG.

This statistic may seem surprising, but Montreal has always been a trailblazer in encouraging its locals to keep their cars at home. It was one of the first cities to incorporate bicycle lanes in its downtown core. And to give everyone access to a bicycle, the fantastic BIXI Montreal —a bicycle rental service that runs like ZipCar with members being able to borrow a bike at their convenience—has dozens of stations across the city.

Vancouver, British Columbia—where our Fairware office is located—is also leading in its push towards a bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Bike lanes and a moderate climate make it easy for locals to ride to work instead of drive – and some workplaces are taking note. We have equipped our office with indoor bicycle storage and showers—additions that have further helped our staff make the smarter choice of how they get to work. Adding an ‘office lock’ for unexpected trips and a tire pump have helped as well (and there has been lobbying for an ‘office bike’).

Denise uses her RBC multi-tool to set her cleats on her fancy new bike shoes.

With the RBC GranFondo Whistler taking place on Saturday, September 8th, spots are still available if you want to ride! We hope to see these type of events grow (with more scheduled for 2013), and continue to show participants and observers alike that a commute by bike is not only better for your health and the environment—but also a quick, efficient and rewarding way to get to your destination.


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