Archive for the ‘Green Marketing’ Category

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!

GREEN AMENDMENTS: A Look at the Long-Awaited Revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide

December 2, 2012

 

 Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

 

Green? Eco-friendly? Earth smart?

Marketers have been throwing these terms around freely for the past decade as consumers have taken more notice of the environmental impact their purchases can make. Until recently, these terms have had little restrictions placed on them—and advertisers have gotten away with misleading buyers through a scheme called “greenwashing.”

After five long years of deliberations, the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide has been revised for the first time since 1998 to ensure that marketers’ green claims are truthful and accurate.

We talked a little bit about greenwashing a few weeks ago in our post exploring the proper disposal of sustainable alternatives to plastic. Put simply, greenwashing is exactly what it sounds like: stretching the truth about how sustainable or environmentally friendly a product really is.  Sometimes, the truth hasn’t only been stretched—but fully manufactured.

The Green Guide sets the rules on how marketers can promote the eco benefits of their products. As demand for these products continues to boom, these new revisions couldn’t have come sooner. After all, the Green Guide was written in 1992 at a time when “green” and “eco-friendly” weren’t exactly on buyers’ radar.

The most striking of the revisions made to the guide is the cautioning of marketers against the use of these terms in general, as they are “broad and unqualified.” To consumers, terms like “green” and “eco-friendly” suggest that the product has specific or far-reaching environmental benefits. According to the FTC: “Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from these claims.” Up until now, any slight changes made to a product that could be construed as beneficial for the environment has given marketers just cause to label a product “green.”

The newly updated Green Guide also requires that claims of a product’s degradability be backed up by evidence that the entire product does actually break down naturally and return to nature over the course of one year.

And we are happy to report that the guide calls for clearer labelling of how products can be disposed of—whether they are compostable, recyclable, or safe for landfills.

You can read more about the revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide here. We are stoked about these revisions not only because of what they mean for our industry, but also because it really shows a strong push towards growing the market for products that are accurately labeled.

Fairware Holiday Better Gift Guide

November 1, 2012

With a little effort, you can avoid holiday gifting pitfalls.

The holiday season is fast approaching—and along with the cheer comes that annual shopping stress. For business owners, this can also mean finding the perfect way to thank clients and employees for their support and hard work. We think it’s important to give fun and unique gifts that align with a company’s values. All of Fairware’s products come with an option to personalize—but we know that not everyone is keen on logos. That’s why we’ve got lots of options for great gifts (another option is to use the standard imprint area of a product to send a non-branded message like ‘thanks’ . We’ve complied a handy list of some of our favourite gifts to give, and gifts to get.

When buying for clients, we like to focus on enjoyable gifts that tread a little more on the side of enjoyment, rather than work. These gifts are all beautifully crafted by sustainable manufacturers, making them good for the giving, and good for the planet.

Holiday purchasing doesn’t have to feel or look like a rushed job. Planning early and setting aside time for gift distribution is a great way to start—and we’re here to help you along the way. Contact us with any questions regarding gift giving or to discuss the many more options we have to offer. We’ll be happy to help you fill your office with cheer!

Fairware Innovators Ranked Among Top Women Canadian Entrepreneurs

October 23, 2012

Denise Taschereau and Sarah White in their Vancouver office.

The co-founders of Fairware – a growing BC company based in Vancouver – are being recognized as two of Canada’s most successful, creative and business-savvy women entrepreneurs.

On October 1, Fairware’s Chief Executive Officer Denise Taschereau and Chief Operating Officer Sarah White were named 81st on PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 Ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs. The 14th annual W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs is produced by PROFIT Magazine and Chatelaine. The ranking profiles the country’s most successful women business owners, and is based on a composite score based on the size, growth and rate of profitability of business. Fairware’s ranking will be published in the November issues of PROFIT and Chatelaine Magazines and online at www.PROFITguide.com.

“The women of the W100 offer 100 shining examples of Canadian entrepreneurship,” said Ian Portsmouth, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of PROFIT. “They have achieved their elite status by creating valued products and services, applying deft management skills and exercising the determination required to succeed in today’s business environment.”

The duo were also named finalists today for a 2012 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award (CWEA), which recognizes women entrepreneurs from across Canada who make impressive contributions to local, Canadian or global economies. Fairware is being considered in the TPH Sustainability Award category, which honours women-led businesses dedicated to incorporating environmentally conscious initiatives and leading social change. Winners of the RBC award will be announced in Toronto November 28.

The company is also a finalist in the Better Business Bureau of Mainland BC Torch Awards Green Award category, which recognizes forward-thinking, sustainable business practices or contributions toward positive social change. Winners will be announced October 25 in Vancouver. “When we made the decision back in 2005 to found our company, Fairware operated out of my garage, and wasn’t much more than a phone and a computer,” said Sarah White. “Fast forward seven years: we now have a team of 10, a healthy annual profit, and national recognition alongside some of Canada’s most successful women entrepreneurs. It’s gratifying to know that all of our hard work and vision to change the world for the better is paying off.”

“All along, we’ve committed to being change-makers by thinking outside of the box, and being recognized on a national level is a reflection of that commitment,” said Denise Taschereau. “We believe that we can all change the world with the simple act of buying and clearly, supporting sustainability can be good for our environment and a great way to do business.”Fairware is a Vancouver-based company that creates a wide variety of unique, ethically sourced custom products made with environmentally preferred materials.

Fairware sources custom promotional items that say something about who the client is and what they believe in, successfully marrying sustainability and style with creative vision and profitability. Fairware’s clients include Vancity, Nature’s Path Foods, Mountain Equipment Co-op, AVEDA, Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, Aspen Skiing Company, Canadian Federation of Students and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Taschereau and White said that building their business, founded in 2005, wasn’t easy, as they navigated their way through the worst global recession in over 20 years, managed rapid growth and the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff. Fairware has emerged as one of the fastest growing distributors in the promotional products industry, with growth of 117 per cent in the last three years and revenues of over $2 million in 2011. Earlier this year, Fairware was named one of the top ten fastest growing promotional products companies in North America, and the fastest growing in Canada, by ASI Counselor Magazine.

 

FLAWSOME: Humanizing Businesses

October 10, 2012

Flawsome. It’s a seemingly silly word that paints a bigger picture of the changing face of customer-business relationships—and it’s a concept we think is pretty downright awesome.

Coined by Trendwatching.com as one of their 12 Crucial Customer Trends of 2012, “flawsome” is built on the idea that customers don’t want companies to be perfect—but rather they’d prefer companies to admit and even embrace their flaws.

Tired of the same old stories of unethical business practices and corporate greed, customers are drawn to stories of businesses doing good. Companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia have shown customers and the competition alike that corporations can grow and profit, while being honest, compassionate and fair. Being flawsome goes one step beyond—it’s the concept that businesses should not only show their good side, but their human side as well.

Take for instance Miracle Whip’s new campaign slogan: “We’re not for everyone.” Or Domino’s bold effort at creating an open dialogue with customers by live-streaming positive and negative customer feedback on a Times Square ticker. Lululemon, meanwhile, took a jab at their image by uploading a YouTube parody of the popular “Sh*t Girls Say” videos: “Sh*t Yogis Say.”

For decades, advertisers had it easy. The one-way flow of communication through television, print and radio allowed for brands to be presented to the public as perfect and flawless. And even if customers were unsatisfied with the truthfulness of the ads or the quality of the products, there was no real way for them to convey it to others.

But with the Internet, that all began to change. Today’s social media boom has refined the way businesses communicate with customers. Customers can now “friend” brands on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter, and critique them openly on Yelp to an audience of millions.

It’s made it nearly impossible for companies to hide behind even the most expensive and carefully crafted reputations. McDonald’s, for example, experienced a major advertising blunder last year when a Twitter campaign aimed at getting customers to share their feel-good dining memories at fast food giant backfired—and a tirade of bad reviews hit their feed instead.

What we love about this trend towards being flawsome is that it promotes transparency—something we think is really important when running a business. From how sustainable and efficient a business runs, to how workers are being treated, and down to the actual quality of the products being produced—we think customers should have a right to know it all, and share their thoughts.

So, while the word sounds a little cheesy, the message is anything but. Technology has created an open forum between customers and businesses, and customers are demanding companies to be good, to be honest, and above all, to be real.

Customer feedback has helped us grow into the company we want to be—one that resonates with customers and stays true to our mission. We hope this trend continues to push more companies to embrace their flawed awesomeness!

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.

BRAND BUY-BACK: A Look at Eco-Cycology

July 10, 2012

Photo from Creative Commons; Lydia_Shiningbrightly

In a culture of consumerism, the lifespan of a product tends to be short and linear. It is made, sold, bought and then very unceremoniously tossed in the trash when it has been determined unusable or simply unnecessary. That is why we are thrilled by a growing trend towards eco-cycology.

Trendwatcher.com has listed eco-cycology as the 4th biggest trend of 2012. While the concept isn’t necessarily new, its rise in a time of economic woes reveals that consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of the financial value of their goods beyond their typical lifespan. Brands are taking this sentiment to heart.

So, what is eco-cycology anyway? It is best described as the recycling and repurposing of old products by its original manufacturers. Way back in 1990, Nike broke ground on this scheme (somewhat literally) through its Reuse-A-Shoe Program. To date, Nike has collected over 25 million pairs of run-down shoes, which have then been ground up to create a material that is used to make athletic and playground surfaces, as well as fresh, new shoes.

One of our clients, outdoor goods brand, Patagonia, has reclaimed 45 tons of old clothing to make 35 tons of new products through its amazing Common Threads Initiative. Their commitment to this philosophy is also evident in their general business purchasing as well. Fairware developed custom USB drives for Patagonia out of recycled wood pallets to help the company cut down on its paper usage and share video product knowledge with its dealers.

In fact, we’ve been happy to work with numerous brands that are moving towards reusing old products. To promote its Environment Foundation, Aspen Snowmass had us use pre-loved employee ski uniforms to make fun ‘up-cycled’ totes and messenger bags. And for Aveda, we used bicycle inner tubes to make durable, recycled (and cool) makeup bags.

It is our hope that eco-cycology becomes the norm rather than a fleeting fad. The possibilities for repurposing old products are endless, and it’s a movement that really makes sense from every angle. Brands can cut down on their environmental impact and material costs when developing new products that are designed to be re-purposed. Customers can really feel good about what they are buying, knowing that their purchase has given new life.

SILICONE WARS: Is Silicone Rubber Safe?

June 26, 2012

Silicone Pint Glasses

Brightly coloured silicone has been trending for years as a safer and more aesthetically pleasing alternative to Teflon or plastic products. Being curious types, it’s prompted us at Fairware to question: Just how safe is it, really?

Silicone is heat-resistant synthetic compound made from naturally occurring resources including carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in combination with silicon atoms. http://grist.org/living/2011-12-19-ask-umbra-is-silicone-cookware-safe/ The rubbery material has been popping up rapidly on store shelves, particularly in the form of cookware, water bottle nozzles, and a variety of other products that come in direct contact with food and drink. Manufacturers maintain that is it safe, and Health Canada backs the material as having no reaction with food and beverages. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/toxics/is-silicone-bakeware-eco-friendly-and-safe/

There are plenty of bright sides to this versatile material, including its low toxicity, low chemical reactivity, and low thermal conductivity. It also emits no hazardous fumes and it is non-biodegradable, making it technically recyclable—though many recycling centres unfortunately still refuse to accept it. The leading manufacturers of silicone-based products belong to four non-profit organizations that deal exclusively with promoting the safety of silicone from a health, safety, and environmental perspective. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicone

Despite the green light from Health Canada and its four non-commercial organizations, there are still concerns. The use of silicone in cookware is a relatively recent, and there remains very little research to debunk worries of possible long-term side-effects on health and on the environment. And the stamp of approval from Health Canada is, frankly, a little dubious. Non-stick Teflon cookware, for instance, has been deemed safe for humans by the government agency, despite causing cancer in test rats.

So, there is really no concrete answer to the question of safety surrounding silicone – while it is clearly a less toxic material than many on the market, questions remain. It is our hope that the increasing use of silicone in products will prompt further and more stringent testing—and that consumers will continue to demand more insight into the products they buy.

 

FAIRWARE CRUSH: Nature’s Path Foods

June 20, 2012

This month, we’d like to raise a toast—or in this case, a bowl of cereal—to Nature’s Path, a leading manufacturer of organic cereal and granola bars.

In addition to providing consumers with healthy, organic products, Nature’s Path is committed to changing the way we choose our food. They are at the forefront of the Right2Know movement calling for mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.

The US and Canada have no law enforcing food manufacturers to label products with ingredients that are genetically engineered. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are found in 80% of packaged food in the US, and have serious effects on health, the environment, and farmers’ livelihoods.

We love Nature’s Path – because they don’t take their commitment to change lightly. Not only did they put their money where their mouth is by donating $500,000 to the Centre for Food Safety’s campaign for mandatory GMO labeling, but they have also leveraged their brand for the cause.

At the recent EXPO WEST trade show (the world’s largest and premier tradeshow for the natural, organic and healthy products industry), Nature’s Path gave up valuable brand real estate by draping their counter with a tablecloth that featured not their logo, but a call for action on GMO labeling.

Gathering signatures at the Nature’s Path booth at Expo West.

We work with brands every day and not many companies will give up advertising space to raise awareness for a cause, but Nature’s Path has done this time and time again. At last year’s Right2Know rally, Nature’s Path called on Fairware to produce lime-coloured, mutant-like three-sleeved T-shirts for marchers to wear. The shirts put a fun and fresh spin on a serious question: Shouldn’t genetically modified foods be as easy to spot on grocery shelves?

Mutant 3-Sleeved T-Shirts: If only GMO’s in food were this easy to spot.

It is especially timely to recognize Nature’s Path’s mission statement following the controversy surrounding GMOs found in products made by cereal giant, Kashi. The Kellogg’s-owned brand has come under fire after a small Rhode Island health food store pulled Kashi from their shelves, and subsequently outed the brand on social media for falsely claiming to be all-natural. This stirred a debate on the difference between foods labelled “organic” and “all-natural.” Critics pointed out that Kashi had been getting away with using genetically-engineered ingredients in their foods, because its labeling as “natural” was more open to interpretation than “organic.”

Nature’s Path wants this to change. They believe consumers have a right to know what is in their food, and we agree. A clear label indicating GMOs in foods will allow customers to make an informed decision of what they eat—and hopefully encourage more food manufacturers to produce organically and GMO free.

Nature’s Path’s dedication to its mission statement, its unique take on getting its message to the public, and its continued commitment to providing consumers with organic and GMO Free makes this company deliciously crushworthy in our eyes!

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…)


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