Revisting Our Visit With Eva-Marie

So Eva-Marie is our scent guru, our emissary to the unseen world of olfactory mystery that surrounds us. In October, we first introduced her in a post that also came with a story. Except that when we posted it all, the story itself somehow got lost in the luminous ether. During some talk yesterday about this and that, Eva-Marie mentioned the missing story, and we went looking for it. Wasn’t there. Don’t know why. Just know it went elsewhere when we engaged the apparatus. Normally, we’d overlook this oversight and move on. But a tale such as this deserves its telling. So it is that we reprint the original post from Gregor–this time with the story it was meant to share.

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Eva-Marie Lind, CEO of EM Studios, AROME, was at 7th Gen today helping us think through new designs in organic and bio-dynamic scents for our product line. Eva-Marie is a specialist in aromatic and medicinal plants. The focus of her work is the science, aesthetic and formulation of cutting edge and authentic whole scent designs. It was an amazing experience to sit in the midst of subtle and very organic scents. There was a very profound story behind each scent – a story of the nature that the scent held and revealed – a story that we want people to see and hear when they use our products…

Telling stories that live alive in the moment and in the imagination is a gift…I think we all lived alive all day. Eva-Marie sent me the following story of a point in her life:

When I did one of my summer apprenticeships in teaching middle school I created a classroom in the russian style of story telling – whereby children would have but one picture to relate to as the story was told. In those days I used to do alot of pen and ink sketching and took upon the challenge of sketching one of the primary components of the story.It sounds easy – however actually it was a bit difficult – one had to think on the full of their audience, for to each member the “central” theme could be quite different – and that picture had to have an impact to integrate the audience to the performance, which was the “telling”.

Storytelling has always been fascinating to me, infused at an early age by Welsh and Irish family members who innately had the gene – I think it was one of the draws for me, beyond others of the Waldorf teaching methods – and I have been unusually fortunate to have friends and teachers like Krishna who brought their own stories of life and culture into my world!

We move so quickly as a culture these days – perhaps a story now and then forces us to slow down a little? You are now the keeper of a new story Gregor – and I think the best always is to pass it on 🙂 for it will touch who it is meant to – some who would expect it to and others it will surprise!

Nature and Life
High on a mountain top, a little spring of water began to issue forth from the ground and started it’s journey downward. As she flowed, the land she touched became nourished and lushness of vegetation prevailed. Soon her pathway became vibrant with the colors of flowers and foliage. The diversity of life forms flourished because of the presence of this magnificent stream. Humans, animals, birds, insects… all sung songs of gratitude while the stream continued her journey.

Suddenly gigantic boulders crashed down upon the pathway of the stream. With firm politeness she caresses the newcomers and continued her flow with renewed amplitude over and around the rocks, nurturing and nourishing the pathway. The ground opened and suddenly the stream disappeared until, lo and behold, it emerged at another part of the mountain. Her journey continued caressing and bestowing her lush embrace all along her path Finally, the stream approaches the base of the mountain surrounded by a vast desert, the grand vestiges of billions of years of history, where very few live to tell the tale!!!!

At this moment a voice whispers to the stream “My friend, transform, or you will cease to be.!!!” The stream pays no heed and continues her journey. As she begins to enter the fringes of the desert and she finds that the force of her flow is being impaired. Again, she hears the voice whisper a bit louder, “My friend, TRANSFORM, or you will CEASE TO BE!”

Immediately the stream shot back indignantly, “Why, should I transform? I, who nourished the mountain and provided for the myriad life forms that have flourished in my pathway – the joy and beauty and happiness I gave to all. Me TRANSFORM! NEVER!”

The flow of the stream became less and less until soon it became nothing more than a trickle absorbed by the hot sand like a blotter. Finally in a moment of great anxiety and shear desperation she cried out, “Transform? BUT HOW?”

Then softly the voice said, “Just let go!”

With no other choice, the stream l let go and began transforming immediately. She evaporated into the atmosphere, caught up by the winds and formed into glorious nimbus and cumulus clouds. Electrical charges cracked through the atmosphere releasing her once again in the form of rain over another mountaintop. There she began her journey all over again!

 

Day 2 – the vibe from ExpoWest by Sara A.

Day 2 started at 1 am. Eva-Marie was downstairs relaxing after a long day. She heard some folks behind her chatting aay about something at the show they had seen that was so cool, They chatted and chatted, and she tried to figure out what they were talking about. They finished with, “Seventh Generation really gets it – they rock.”

These folks were talking–at 1am at the bar–about our new scents.

While day 1 was slammed, day 2 was a little quieter. Slower start to the day as everyone sleeps in a little after a long night out. The traffic picked up, and the vibe in the booth – all day – was so positive. People who came in perusing really engaged, really respond to the stories we have to tell them, be it about brand, training pants, living home, scents, the booth.

Response from some of the sales folks too is that their meetings have kept that vibe, the talks have been productive, forward-looking. Customers are excited, they’re ready to go. Ready to bring in t-pants, or excited for the flow-through of the scents.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on meetings with two of our Internet customers, and it was perfect that Tabi was there to sit in. Discussions that have been ongoing between customer service and sales about managing the transition came to life. One of the challenges our Internet customers have is timing the online shopping experience with their inventory. In other words, how do they make sure that the shopper gets exactly what they order, and not the new scent or the old scent when the other is displayed? Any ideas?

What else…I haven’t had a chance to walk the show yet, but the little bit I’ve seen has been a bit underwhelming. Haven’t seen anything really innovative, awe-inspiring in terms of product, packaging, design, positioning. Would love to see some comments on what people who have walked the show have seen? That’s a question – what innovation have you seen in the natural products industry in general over the last year? What companies would you identify as strongly branded? Where have you noted design?

Rules to Design By: Green Chemistry Principles

While researching an article on Green Chemistry for the upcoming Non-Toxic Times (which, keep your fingers crossed, will come out next week), I stumbled across an entry on the same subject in the ever amazing Wikipedia that contained something I didn’t know existed: a set of principles to guide chemists in greening their labs and the things those labs create.

Principles, of course, are always a good thing because they set certain benchmarks and establish concrete guidelines for whatever it is we’re trying to do. Whenever a decision comes up as we proceed, we can compare all our possible choices to the principles at hand. When we do, we often find that there’s no decision to be made at all. The principles make it for us. They may even suggest that we drop the current operation entirely and try something else.

In the case of green chemistry, the 12 principles were created to steer chemists away from toxic substances and processes, and encourage healthier alternatives. I can’t for a moment pretend to know what some of these are about. (“Stoichiometric reagents, for example, is a pretty scary term. I think I had a beaker or two of that at a really ugly frat party once…), but than again why should I? They’re not for me. They’re for the people who are actually out there mixing up the molecules. The people who need to stop messing with nature and start working with it instead. They’re only for you and I in the sense that as they ripple through the chemical community, they’ll eventually trickle down to us in the form of safer, healthier, non-toxic alternatives to today’s hazardous products and processes. You’ll never use them yourself, but you will someday end up using the stuff they lead to, and we’ll all be a lot healthier for it.

When it comes to chemistry and all the substances it’s constantly unleashing on the world (The EPA gets approval applications for roughly 2,000 new chemicals every year–more than five new materials every day), it’s obvious that some guidance has definitely needed but clearly been lacking. The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry provide this missing ingredient. If even just one chemist takes them to heart and decides to design differently, they’re working. If they spread and inspire a whole new generation of researchers, which they appear to be doing (see the upcoming article in the newsletter), then we’re really getting somewhere we desperately need to go. Either way, I was glad to see the ideas behind green chemistry codified in a practical way that scientists can actually use. It’s a sign that the good guys are gaining ground.

Here are the 12 Principles:

  1. Prevent waste: Design chemical syntheses to prevent waste, leaving no waste to treat or clean up.
  2. Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products to be fully effective, yet have little or no toxicity.
  3. Design less hazardous chemical syntheses: Design syntheses to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to humans and the environment.
  4. Use renewable feedstock: Use raw materials and feedstock that are renewable rather than depleting. Renewable feedstock are often made from agricultural products or are the wastes of other processes; depleting feedstock are made from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or are mined.
  5. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions. Catalysts are used in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric reagents, which are used in excess and work only once.
  6. Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste.
  7. Maximize atom economy: Design syntheses so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials. There should be few, if any, wasted atoms.
  8. Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals. If these chemicals are necessary, use innocuous chemicals. If a solvent is necessary, water is a good medium as well as certain eco-friendly solvents that do not contribute to smog formation or destroy the ozone.
  9. Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.
  10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment.
  11. Analyze in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of byproducts.
  12. Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment.

Dear Packaging Development Team

So, I was sent a link about an organism that happens to like maple syrup, and one of the by-products of this ‘sweet’ encounter is a family of natural polymers that could help ween us off petro.

Some of you might know that I make maple syrup this time of year, and I’m intrigued about this, that’s for sure!

I did a little research on alcaligenes latus and was surprised and disturbed at the same time. First, I was surprised in the fact that an organism in Nature can do this. They are eating sugar and a by-product is a biodegradable polymer! Then I was disturbed to find out that this particular organism is being cloned by scientists that are skilled at gene sequencing. It reminded me of a Vonnegut book – Ice Nine, in which a special allotrope of ice is created that, when it comes into contact with water, acts as a crystal ‘seed’ and freezes all normal water at ambient temperatures and ruins the planet. They are not going to make an organism that changes the world as we know it, are they?

I think there’s danger in tweaking Nature for a specific short term goal without deeply considering the consequences. What will plastics look like a hundred years from now? Will most containers, packaging, biopolymers, etc. be made by genetically transformed microorganism by-product? I was truly hoping for a more elegant and sustainable solution that already occurs in Nature.

I agreed with Martin about the food for fuel (or packaging) dilemma, but think that there can be a way to use ‘not fit for human consumption’ material to try our hand at weaning ourselves off of old carbon. Some of the ‘B’ grade syrup I make at the end of the season would certainly fit that category! I would take this a step further by observing that it’s not just the food itself we should be concerned with. The acres available for planting are finite, and what is grown on that land portrays the values of that society. Are we a society that will begin to use natural systems agriculture, or stay an ADM/Cargill mono-corn culture?

But why aren’t we looking outside the box for a solution? Why are we trying to make a ‘gallon’ of something to drive our vehicles? Isn’t it really a transportation issue? How do we elevate our thinking about transportation? And more importantly at Seventh Generation, how do we elevate our thinking about packaging?

I’ve been interested in farming lately and the evolution of farm machinery in particular. It’s interesting to see the evolution of drying hay for instance. Dozens of workers used to pitch fork hay onto loose piles to dry for a couple of days. So along came an inventor that welded several pitch fork heads onto a counter rotating wheel. Although this was a great invention and saved hours of labor, it wasn’t really innovative in an out of the box elevation of hay drying techniques. What we have now are harvesting machines that roll the hay flat to make it dry faster and is ejected out the back in fluffy windrows to be collected later in the same day.

I think that what’s needed are less people welding pitchforks together, and more people thinking about the basic system improvements. Maybe it’s not an improvement, but an innovation. Or maybe we are already there and just need an improvement on the innovation.

I’m sure I’m just singing to the choir!

Anyway, back to the syrup…

This year has been average, and the trend is bleak for the maple industry. I’ll keep doing this as long as the sap flows, but in seven generations, we could see the maples become a very small part of the landscape up here. Other species that find our environment harsh now, might thrive well later and compete in the woods with the maple trees. We are in a transition zone, as Janine puts it. Three hundred mile north of us there is a boreal zone up to the artic tree line. Three hundred miles south, and you’ll find a deciduous forest full of hickory, black walnut, etc. and not much in the way of sugar maples. Vermont could become a ‘Virginia’ in a couple of generations.

Who needs a clock anyway?

I always am amazed at the origins of words. I wonder if the ‘hands’ of a clock came from this ancient way of telling approximate time of day. This works particularly well around the Autumnal and Vernal equinoxes. This is when the Sun casts a more even glow on our part of the world.

For the morning approximation, use your left hand, and for the afternoon, use your right. Hold a pencil, or short straight stick between your thumb and palm, with the stick making a 45 degree angle with the palm of your hand. The stick is now your ‘gnomon’, the part of a sundial that casts a shadow on the time marker at that particular time of day. The angle should be the angle of your given latitude, and ours in Vermont is about 45 degrees. This aligns the gnomon along the N-S axis of the earth, and will always point at the pole star, or Polaris. The sun should always be behind you when determining the relative time of day. Observe the shadow of the gnomon on the tips of your four fingers and the ‘joint-creases’ on your little finger. The numbering goes as five, six, seven, and eight am on the tips of your fingers, and then nine, ten, eleven on your little finger. So if it was eleven am, then the shadow is cast at the base of the little finger. If it was close to noon, then the line on your palm that appears just below your little finger would have the gnomon shadow there. In the afternoon, using your right hand, the noon line is the same line below the little finger. Now, one, two, and three pm are on your little finger joint lines, and four, five, six, and seven pm are the tips of the right fingers.

At night, with a clear sky, you can also use the stars to tell time. Imagine the caravans across the desert, watching the stars. These travelers were the ones to name most of our stars, and the names have not changed for eons. You can tell the time and also navigate by the stars – celestial navigation has been used by travelers on sea and land way before the compass was invented.

We have had some amazingly clear nights this week and I just started to notice the Milky Way, and how brilliant the night sky really is. As a sign of the approaching Fall, I can get a glimpse of Orion on the eastern morning sky before the sun rises.

So, if someone dropped you off in the middle of nowhere, could you tell what time it is without a watch? Could you tell what season it is without a calendar? In this age of GPS, atomic clocks, and the Weather Channel, can we imagine a life without gadgets? Hopefully there are enough of us that still find wonder in the natural world around us. Dan