In Episode 72 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 11, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Arlene Blum, environmental health activist, mountaineer and author of Annapurna and Breaking Trail.

Arlene Blum

Environmental health activist Arlene Blum

Blum works tirelessly to ban flame retardants from electronics, furniture and baby products.  Flame retardants, which only provide a two- to three-second delay if ignited, are similar to PCBs and DDTs, toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago.  They pose serious, long-term health concerns because they alter hormone levels, damaging reproductive organs, impairing thyroids and changing DNA.  These chemicals continuously migrate out of products.  In the case of couches, for example, they emit toxic dust even when no one is sitting on the couch. 

California State Senator Mark Leno introduced several bills that would have both eliminated flame retardant chemicals and increased fire safety.  Though they were sponsored by health organizations, firefighters and even the furniture industry, the manufacturing lobby successfully defeated those bills.  Meanwhile, only food, drugs and pesticides are regulated by EPA.  No other chemicals – not even asbestos – are regulated, even if they’re highly toxic and enter our bodies other than by mouth.

Blum is also the founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, which provides unbiased scientific data to government, industry and non-governmental organizations to facilitate informed decision-making about chemicals in consumer products. Through the organization, Blum taught a class at UC Berkeley about chemistry and policy.

How concerned are you about toxic chemicals used in furniture?

Post Links:

 Listen to the interview with Arlene Blum: Episode 72 of The Wendel Forum (27:50 mins; mp3)

 Arlene Blum’s website: http://www.arleneblum.com/

 Green Science Policy Institute website: http://greensciencepolicy.org/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rylons

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In Episode 70 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on July 21, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Mark Dwight, founder of San Francisco-based Rickshaw Bagworks.

Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks visits The Wendel Forum Studio

Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks visits The Wendel Forum Studio

After leaving his Silicon Valley tech roots, Dwight joined Timbuck2, where he fell in love with the bag business.  When he moved to Rickshaw, he committed to making bags in a sustainable way, including minimizing waste and overstock. 

Rickshaw bags are made with polyester recycled from beverage bottles and industrial plastic, and the company avoids materials that are noxious in their manufacture, use and disposal.  Every Rickshaw bag features a gem tag with the letters PCQ, which stands for “passion, craft and quality,” and a five-pointed star, which represents Rickshaw’s five constituencies: employees, customers, business partners, shareholders and the community.

Bill and Dwight discuss how no business can be 100 percent impact-free and that sustainability starts at the bottom line.  That is, businesses must be sustainable financially in addition to committing to environmental and social justice goals.

Dwight is also the founder of SF Made, a nonprofit organization that promotes local manufacturing. Since its founding two years ago, 350 San Francisco manufacturers, including Anchor Brewing, have become members of SF Made. Dwight established the organization as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (as opposed to a 501(c)(6) trade organization for for-profit companies) so it can receive tax-deductible donations. The City of San Francisco even awarded a grant to SF Made to promote local economic development. SF Made has served as a model for other communities launching similar geographic branding programs.

Does it matter to you to buy local?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bags: Episode 70 of The Wendel Forum (27:34 mins; mp3)

Rickshaw Bags Website: http://www.rickshawbags.com/

SF Made Website: http://www.sfmade.org/

960 KNEW AM Radio Website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s Online Profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo