Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Green Team

Here is a picture of our Green Team. These wonderful women come from all areas of our company – Customer Service, Marketing, Warehouse, Administration and my assistant. They are looking into all corners of our business to see where we can improve our environmental consciousness.

Here are some of the things they’ve accomplished so far:

Sourced compact fluorescent light bulbs at .75c – the company is offering these to its employees for home use at 50% discount
Eliminated plastic cups, plates and utensils
Installed timers in bathrooms and kitchen that automatically switch off the lights
Instituted a policy to turn off all computers at night
Sourced 100% recycled paper for our fax and copying machines
Instituted a policy of double-sided copies
Switched to “green” cleaning products
Placed recycling bins at every desk

They are now looking at ways to encourage car-pooling, eliminate plastic wrap from our warehouse, installing a water filter to take care of the whole building, and putting pressure on our CFO to replace our boiler so we have efficient heat. (I think they’re winning.)

What all this shows me is that small things add up to big things. We’re going to do a study to show what our savings have been but more important than that is the good feeling it’s giving us all. We’re making a contribution not just in the products we produce but how we conduct ourselves. It isn’t that we haven’t thought of these things in the past but time is always the enemy.

It took the formation of the Green Team to put energy behind the idea and get it done. Sitting around the table with these young women as they explore ideas and make decisions (not always convenient or comfortable ones), inspires me do more and more.

We’re in the process of designing a new office building. It’s going to be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building with roofs that don’t have shingles but grow plants instead. I’M EXCITED!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vitamin D

Have you ever wondered why we have such a range of skin colors in the world? Our African ancestors had dark skins because the melanin helped to protect them from ultraviolet light – up to an SPF 15. This UV protection, however, meant that it slowed down vitamin D synthesis. Not a problem when you live in an area that has so much sunshine.

But, as humans migrated northwards, exposure to the sun diminished. Skins became lighter because protection wasn’t as important as being able to synthesize vitamin D. (The lighter the skin the more efficient is the chemical reaction between the skin and UVB.) White skin synthesizes vitamin D six times faster than dark skin. This is why I found my sun-phobic dermatologist the other day standing in the parking lot wearing his ski jacket and holding his face to the sun.

How important is vitamin D? For years, we have known about its role in bone building and how it acts in the kidneys, intestines and the skeleton to help control the flow of calcium into and out of bones from the bloodstream. However, in an article entitled Sunshine Vitamin by Luz E. Tavera-Mendoza and John H. Shite for Scientific American, they point out that studies of vitamin D’s function have broadened, revealing that the so-called sunshine vitamin does far more than build bones. Extensive evidence now shows that D has potent anticancer actions and also serves as an important regulator of immune system responses. Moreover, many of D’s newly recognized benefits are maximized when it is present in the bloodstream at levels considerably higher than those found in many populations. These findings, together with epidemiological data linking low vitamin D levels to disease, support the possibility that widespread vitamin D deficiency is contributing to a number of serious illnesses.

The other source of vitamin D is through food, but food provides relatively small doses of D compared with amounts made by the skin. For example, one of the higher sources, cod-liver oil provides 1,360 IU in one tablespoon, whereas full-body exposure to UVB for 15 to 20 minutes at midday in summer provides 10,000 IU.

So, where are we with all this? Clearly some sun exposure is necessary. No more than 20 minutes though because UVB light will end up degrading vitamin D to prevent too much of it from building up in the skin. (Don’t get confused with exposure in tanning beds. This does not synthesize vitamin D. Tanning beds emit UVA rays which go deeper into the skin and destroy our collagen and elastin. No one has yet found anything good to say about UVA!)

If you don’t see the sun for weeks, then make sure you incorporate food sources of vitamin D such as cod-liver oil, cooked tuna, sardines, mackerel or salmon, shiitake mushrooms and organic eggs.

I’ve always noticed that my nails grow longer and stronger when I’m in the sun for a while, so I know there must be something to this!