leadership dot #3417: palm oil

What’s the link between Halloween and orangutans? Palm oil.

Palm oil is the most widely used edible oil, grown in tropical forests that are also home to the orangutans. As the demand for palm oil grows, deforestation is having an impact on greenhouse gasses and the habitat of the orangutans, tigers, and rhinos.

To counteract this for Halloween buy your candy from companies that are members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (who knew there was such a group?). These goodies are made with oils that are harvested in sustainable ways — treating both your visitors and the planets well.

As you stock up for next weekend’s festivities, don’t get tricked into buying goodies that look sweet but have a sour impact on the forest.

Learn more about sustainable purchasing from the Cheyenne Zoo’s Sustainable Shopping Guide.

leadership dot #3334: gold medal

The nature of the Olympics necessitates that many facilities are built for temporary use but this year’s Olympic Committee earns a gold medal for being environmentally conscious in the process.

The 2500 Olympic medals are made from recycled parts of 6 million phones that were collected throughout Japan in a special drive from 2017-2019. It was a great way to not only keep the electronics out of the landfill but to build support and increase ownership by locals.

Podiums at the Games are made from recycled plastic, the base of the beds in the Olympic Village are made from sturdy cardboard that can be recycled later, and mattresses are also made from material that will be repurposed after the Games.

Such initiatives take more forethought and planning but are great ways to model environmental stewardship. Before you place your next order for anything, think about how your organization can creatively use recycled materials. It may be a great way to be kind to the planet as well as to engage others in your efforts.

leadership dot #3326: repurpose

A local university is partnering with the waste authority to create a new position charged with reducing waste at the area colleges. One of the key areas they are targeting is when students move out of the residence halls. Everything from furniture to food is just tossed into the Dumpster, and the hope is to coordinate a “Donate Don’t Dump” event on each of the campuses to repurpose the castaways.

I thought of this when I read about Eleanor Love who works with brides and wedding planners to share leftover reception flowers with those in hospice or the hospital. She now has a core of 200 volunteers to help deliver bouquets to patients in Virginia Commonwealth Medical Center, bringing joy and new life to blossoms that would otherwise be discarded.

My Mom used to tell us that “someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure.” How true it is. Whether for environmental or humanitarian reasons, consider whether there is a new life you can give to that which you would otherwise toss. Or better yet, see if you can’t be like the Sustainable College Coalition or Dr. Love and create a system that repurposes things on an ongoing basis. Others beyond Mother Nature will be delighted with your donations.

leadership dot #3099: shop small

‘Twas just over two weeks before Christmas and I had my shopping complete but what excites me most is that I’m having an Amazon-free Christmas. This year, I intentionally shopped local, with only two of my dozens of presents ordered online from the direct retailer.

I enlisted other’s talents to create a few gifts rather than buy them. I’ll be gifting homemade, handmade, and heirlooms as well as a few non-traditional ways to share some cash. I went to a small-town shopping area and let myself be inspired by what was in the stores rather than setting out to look for something specific. I could see the delight in the eyes of the business owners when I made purchases there – making me feel as if I was giving them a gift instead of just buying one.

But in addition to helping the economy, I feel good about helping the environment. This year an estimated three billion packages will be shipped – 800 million more than last year. I think about the sheer volume of three billion boxes, never mind the plastic bubble inserts or the gas that trucks use to transport them from warehouses to homes. I’m glad I didn’t require daily deliveries of my treasures.

It has been said that where you shop for the holidays this year will determine where you will be able to shop next year – meaning that if small businesses don’t make up some of their pandemic losses during this season, they may not be around in 2021. So, do your economy, environment, and recipients a favor and use these remaining shopping days to visit those local places. I guarantee the owners will be far more excited than Jeff Bezos that you are shopping with them.

leadership dot #2948: billy

For the past week or so, a herd of goats has been cleaning the countryside along a road I travel. It is fascinating to watch them performing “sustainable vegetation management” as they munch away on weeds, thistle, grass, ragweed, poison ivy, honeysuckle and more. The “Goats on the Go” business moves their herd to different locations throughout town as an eco-friendly way to clear growth. I love this idea!

Goats have really come into their own lately. What used to be seen as a lowly farm animal is now used for brush-clearing as well as goat yoga classes where the animals help people to de-stress while they stretch. The products from goats – milk and cheese – are in-demand food items, and their coats yield cashmere fiber that can be spun into yarn for knitting. They are so much more than the head-butting animals in the petting zoo trying to nudge their way into your food supply!

Is there an equivalent “goat” in your organization – something that has been underutilized for years but can provide value when applied in new ways? The voracious appetite of the animal has proved to be a lucrative business model instead of a liability. Their desire to climb all over everything has endeared them to a new market of yoga participants. Consider the downside of your resources and reframe them in a way that converts it into an asset.


leadership dot #2868: earth

If COVID taught us nothing else, its lesson clearly demonstrated how interconnected the world is. Despite attempts to limit immigration or close off supply chains, there no longer is an “us” and “them.” We are all inhabitants of the same Earth.


So, today, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it’s an appropriate moment to consider our actions and how they impact global climate issues. You may already be taking small steps to lessen your personal impact, but if you’re inspired to do more, you can take the Earth Day 22-day Challenge.


We primarily tend to think of environmental issues on a personal level, but when is the last time you added the topic to a staff meeting agenda? Have you reviewed your organization’s practices lately to see where there is energy waste, unnecessary packaging, single-item purchasing, or unnecessary travel? (You can find other tips here and here.) Your initiatives can provide financial as well as environmental benefits for your organization and create an avenue for you to play a leadership role outside your defined job.

On this Earth Day, commit to raising your environmental consciousness in your organization as well as at home, starting with taking one sustainable action. What new practice can you begin today that will improve our interconnected community tomorrow?

leadership dot #2843: new life

I am (was?!) a frequent garage sale and flea market shopper and am always amazed at the number of items that were staples in my family home – things we ultimately gave away without a second thought – that now fetch premium prices. I have purchased items myself that I had previously owned and then pay to own them again. Does something become desirable just because it is old?

There is an invisible line out there and when something crosses it, old somehow becomes an asset. Things that are vintage, antique, or “velveteen” seem to have a resurgence in popularity, and if the item is an heirloom it can even become a more valuable addition to your home. Items that once seemed ragged – like this 1908 auction poster from a family sale – can have a new life by being framed a century later.

This spring refresh your home by resurrecting items from the past instead of purchasing items that are new. Display some of your childhood possessions instead of leaving them in boxes. Dig heirlooms out of the attic or garage. You’ll get memories and décor in the present – and who knows — maybe accumulate some value for resale in the future as well.

leadership dot #2801: new life

You can incentivize people to do certain behaviors on one end of the process by showing them the ultimate benefit that results. This happens in fundraising, where the agency shows donors the impact their gift will have or in-home décor with the use of before and after photos. But recently, I’ve seen it more prominently with recycled products, presumably to encourage people to actually toss those plastics in the proper bin.

Petco has a whole line of recycled dog toys and accessories, all prominently labeled as “I started as a plastic bottle.” Walmart employees are wearing vests that say “6 bottles recycled to make this vest.” And then I found shoelaces that proclaimed they were previously beverage containers.

Post-consumer content has always been there, but it seems to be featured more visibly than before. If your organization is doing its part environmentally, maybe you can enhance your message and explicitly show that your publications, furniture or even apparel are from recycled material. You can be good for the planet and simultaneously generate goodwill!

leadership dot #2780: print this

Many emails come with a notice in the signature that includes “Don’t print this email.” or “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”

Thus, it was a surprise when I read the email from my printer who takes the opposite view:

Notice!  It’s OK to print this email.  Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees.  Growing and harvesting trees provide jobs for millions of Americans.  Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air & water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage.  Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.

 It’s a perspective that you don’t hear very often but one that caused me to pause.

Your point of view is shaped by the information that you have and how it intersects with you personally, so for a printer, printing is good, even if it is an email. The signature is very on-brand, even if it is environmentally controversial.

To print or not to print — Don’t overlook the role that your emails play in conveying your values and message.

leadership dot #2759: fine print

Think about the amount of ink that is wasted on printing that is never read or used. The fine print of contracts. The lines on the back side of notebook pages. Legal notices in newspaper classifieds. The reverse side of page-a-day calendars. Instruction sheets and owner’s manuals. Ingredient lists. Prescription information with potential side effects. The list could go on and on.

Printing requires time to prepare, ink to implement it and it adds to the weight and cost of products. If you’re serious about organizational cost-cutting and environmental stewardship, one place to start is to print only that which is necessary.

Many cities are required to print their legal notices in the paper; instead, be like towns in Connecticut that changed their ordinance to allow notices to be published online. Minimize your email signature so it doesn’t require several lines every time someone prints your messages. Revisit your forms to consolidate them and eliminate the need for clients to repeat their name and address multiple times.

Pay attention for a few days of all the unread printing that surrounds you – and then commit to producing just a bit less of it yourself.