Archive for the ‘History Channel’ Category
We’ve talked before about synthetic dyes and food coloring, and today we wanted to look at the other side of this colorful issue and chat a little about the history of natural dyes. You know that the power of nature is key to us at Ecover – and we’re always impressed when people harness nature to create products. Check out what we have learned out about natural dyes.
From the earliest days, dyes were made from purely natural sources; red garments found in the tomb of King Tut showed the presence of alizarin, a pigment made from madder root. And the purple on the robes of Alexander the Great were dyed using pigments from a mollusk! And dyes like henna were even used in hair and on the skin. Natural dyes continued to be developed, and many plants were found to be excellent sources of color.
In the 18th Century those in the textile industry in colonial America were still using natural dyes. Sources included walnuts for brown and turmeric for yellow. The dyes were so natural that they were even safe enough to drink!
Then the first synthetic dye, mauve, was commercialized 1857 by a young English chemist, Sir William Henry Perkin. Today, the majority of fabrics use synthetic dyes, but if you want to create and use natural dyes, it can still be done! Much to our delight, we’ve learned that gardeners and craftspeople still make and use natural dyes as well as top fashion designers like Tara St. James (see Monday’s blog entry) and Auralis who you will hear from in the near future as they talk about their experience with the same.
While it’s hard to avoid synthetic dyes in today’s world, it’s nice to know that some people are preserving the traditions of old and finding ways to use natural dye. It’s that power of nature coming through, it’s just another element of a Green Closet!
Image by Dennis Mojado via photography.mojado.com
In our research at Ecover we are always pleased to see examples of the sustainable relationship between humans and nature. Like in our ability to coexist with plants: it’s fascinating that we breathe inoxygen and exhale CO2 – and plants do the opposite. It’s the perfect marriage, except perhaps for excesses of the industrial age, driving our constant pursuit of bigger, better and faster, separating us from nature. We build better bubbles to insulate ourselves, but in the process we’ve trapped ourselves in some rather unhealthy environments, thanks to gasses from building materials, poor ventilation and lack of sunlight.
Ironically, it was in the pursuit of an even bigger environment – the expanses of space travel – that yielded a simple solution to our compromised lifestyles. NASA’s work on human–plant cohabitation is led by renowned environmental scientist B.C. “Bill” Wolverton. They’ve found that houseplants were actually capable of healing so-called “sick buildings,” by transforming the airborne irritants of sealed spaces into nutrients. And they say that the placement of plants around any room starts the process.
Sustainable Ecosystem, designed by Wolverton Environmental Services: the building’s rooftop garden works to help clean indoor air
During B.C. “Bill” Wolverton’s 30-year career with the U.S. Military and NASA, he has pioneered bio-hazard remediation using plant life. He continues to work in the field and is continually developing new “living” buildings – use plants – to filter HVAC air flows.
Of course at Ecover we have been resourcing plants as raw materials for our highly effective products, and mitigating the environmental impact, for over 30 years. Even our factory has a turf roof, giving new meaning to “returning to your roots!” Break out the Peace Lilies, Bamboo Palms, Gerber Daisies and potted Mums, the cache of “bio-remediation” will now trump even feng shui for our living spaces and lifestyles!
First image via Wikimedia Commons: The Peace Lily, studies show, can be highly effective in removing
indoor air pollutants a NASA study shows.
Second image image via www.sti.nasa.gov
It’s hard to imagine modern life without all the packaging we rely on. All those boxes, bags and bottles ensure a steady flow of things we love (like Ecover products)! Yet as history shows, packaging is a relatively new invention that continues to evolve in amazing ways. Ecover takes a look at the origins of packaging materials and the latest drive to develop safer and more sustainable solutions.
Consider that the earliest villagers caught or made most of what they needed…there really wasn’t much demand for containers beyond those found in nature. Then the discovery of ores and the development of metals, pottery and glass proved ideal for packaging and protecting all kinds of food and materials. Some key packaging milestones:
- The Chinese get credit for developing and refining papermaking techniques over several centuries. By 1310, papermaking was introduced in England and made its way to America in 1690.
- The first cardboard box was introduced in England in 1817.
- Plastics were discovered in the 19th century but did not come into widespread use until well into the 20thcentury. From World War II on, plastics – developed in scientific labs – were a cheap alternative to expensive metals like aluminum and brass.
Of course, the proliferation of plastic has raised serious concerns about its environmental impact, from waste disposal to production processes that are heavily reliant on the burning of fossil fuels. Ecover is at the forefront of efforts to create more planet-friendly packaging – packaging that is just as durable and convenient as petroleum-based plastic. Now, most Ecover products will be packaged in PlantPlastic, our 100 percent recyclable, renewable and reusable containers made from sugarcane!
With this type of innovation, the future looks bright for packaging – and for the planet!
Ecover asks you to imagine the earliest nomadic tribes preparing to pull up stakes before heading to their next place…what to do with the waste left behind? This may have been the beginnings of human efforts to recycle, because it turns out that people all over the world have been engaged in various efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle for centuries! For Americans, recycling history is most closely associated with the environmental movement of the 1970s and the familiar symbol with the three green arrows. The first Earth Day celebration took place in 1970, amid a looming energy crisis and growing concerns about litter, smog and the problems caused by massive generation and disposal of solid waste. However, efforts go as far back as 1776 when America declared its independence from England, and rebels turned to recycling in order to provide material to fight the War of Independence!
Looking farther back into the fascinating story of recycling, and we see that reusing materials was a well-established practice during many difficult times in human struggles when resources were scarce. It seems that people have long understood that indiscriminately tossing things away is not only wasteful, but also bad for human health. For instance in 500 BC, Athens created the first municipal dumps in the Western World and decreed that waste must be disposed of at least one mile from the city’s edge. And during World War I, with major shortages in raw materials, the federal government created the Waste Reclamation Service with the motto “Don’t Waste Waste – Save it.”
Ecover is encouraged by the progress that has been made with recycling – and eager to do our part with innovations like our PlantPlastic packaging. Consider that in 1980, recycling kept 15 million tons of waste out of landfills; a few years ago that figure reached 82 million tons! That’s real progress. Meanwhile, creative programs like RecycleBank, which provides financial incentives to recycle, are making a big difference for our environment.
Of course, there is still more to do, but we can say that history is on our side, showing that recycling is part of the solution and is here to stay!
The breakfast dishes are in the dishwasher, the last load of laundry is running and the kids are in school … now’s the time to take a moment to relax. Yes, even super-busy moms (and dads!) deserve a rest every once in a while. If you need a break, Ecover recommends treating yourself to one of the world’s oldest forms of relaxation: a massage!
As many historians, holistic practitioners and massage therapists have noted, massage may be the world’s oldest form of medical therapy. People in Eastern cultures such as the Chinese have practiced massage since ancient times. Likewise, the ancient Greeks and Romans found massage to be beneficial for relieving pain. And Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, wrote the following in the 5th Century B.C.: “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing … for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”
Today, massage therapy is widely available and is practiced with a variety of methods. Some people prefer the traditional Swedish massage, which involves long smooth strokes, on superficial layers of muscle using massage lotion or oil, and others enjoy Shiatsu (Ecover HQ offers a 15 minute shiatsu massage to employees once a month), a form of Japanese bodywork that uses localized finger pressure in a rhythmic sequence on acupuncture meridians. Other types of massage include Thai massage, reflexology and deep tissue massage.
Whichever you choose, after a relaxing or invigorating massage, it’s much easier to get on with your day. So close your eyes, relax, don’t worry about the family (or the environment) for just a few minutes … and enjoy! You deserve it.
Image via Wikimedia.org
Soap has been around for thousands of years, but cleanliness hasn’t always been in fashion. In Medieval Europe, it was actually believed that bathing was unhealthy, and throughout human history filth has had the upper hand. Soap was very scarce and too expensive – Yikes! We shudder at the thought here at Ecover! So we thought we’d take a couple minutes to look at some moments in the history of cleanliness and cleaning innovation.
Even though soap-making was a well established craft by the Middle Ages, the times were notorious for unsanitary living conditions, contributing to the terrible plagues that afflicted Europe in those times. High soap taxes also helped make soap unaffordable for all but the wealthiest people. However, society became more aware and concerned about cleanliness in the 19th century, once theories by Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister and others helped shed light on the role dirt plays in infections and disease.
Then in the 20th century scientists started developing synthetic detergents to replace traditional soaps. During World War I and World War II, there were shortages of animal and vegetable fats used to make soap, prompting a shift to experimenting with petrochemicals. Today, detergents – technically not soap – are typically used for washing clothes, dishes and household surfaces. But many detergents have contained dangerous phosphates, which are damaging to our environment.
That takes us to Ecover and the scientific innovation that has changed the way we clean, with sustainable alternatives to those harsh petrochemical-based detergents. For more than 30 years, we’ve been at the forefront of this effort – developing highly effective plant and mineral-based cleaning products that are phosphate free and have minimal effect on our natural resources! Yes, phosphate free: and now as other detergent companies are working to catch up, Ecover customers have been ahead of the curve for over 30 years, with a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. So bring Ecover home and count on us and our passionate pursuit of harnessing the power of nature to develop more effective, better-for-the-environment “soaps” to help clean up your world!
Photo by Horia Varlan, via Flickr.com
Ecover has been around for more than three decades, helping us manage our busy homes with powerful and ecological cleaning solutions. Ecover’s success can be attributed to the inventive people behind the products – including our new CEO, Philip Malmberg. It’s true; Ecover has an outstanding history of helping care for our daily living needs while minimizing the impact on our environment, and Philip Malmberg brings new vitality to the task! Ecover’s Mick Bremans is still on the job too, as Chairman of Ecover International he’ll be able to be engaged in a more active role now, at speaking and panel events.
Mr. Malmberg joined Ecover as CEO in May, 2011. He’s an Ecover “alum,” having worked from 1993 to 2000 as our Finance Director before embarking on other business and financial frontiers. Now with his return to Ecover, he brings 20 years of international experience with a great track record in successful delivery of business objectives – and linking strategy development with implementation. In addition, Mr. Malmberg has impressive credentials in managing complex business processes, business integrations, emerging markets start-ups and mergers & acquisitions.
When not moving Ecover forward and advancing its mission, the father of three daughters enjoys a nice round of golf or a game of tennis (when he can find a free minute)! His dedication to Ecover’s growth and guiding principles helps keep us focused on our mission as we move ahead. So wewelcome Mr. Malmberg back to the Ecover family, and look forward to many successful years together!
There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society,
where bigger is not necessarily better,
where slower can be faster,
and where less can be more.
Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day
Ecover continues to be a proud champion of the values Gaylord Nelson spoke of more than 40 years ago with the founding of Earth Day. Earth Day is also an opportune moment for us to reflect on the parallel trajectories of the environmental movement and Ecover’s own 31-year history of leading the development of ecological cleaning products. What a journey it has been – both for Ecover and the advancement of the Earth Day recognition!
Earth Day was born after a long struggle by many people, not just Nelson, to bring attention to environmental issues. One breakthrough came in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson’s haunting book Silent Spring, which chronicled the dangers of the pesticide DDT. And going back even further, preservationist John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892.
It’s fantastic how the Earth Day celebration has grown since its first commemoration in 1970, when 20 million environmentally minded demonstrators across the United States took part. This year, more than 77 million people around the globe will participate in Earth Day activities, which take place April 22. This year’s theme is organized around “A Billion Acts of Green” — a pledge that recognizes the power of millions of individuals to live and act sustainably. Ecover, of course, will keep doing our part by helping you do your part – with our plant-based cleaners that work effectively in your busy lifestyle!
Ecover is proud of everyone who participates in this year’s Earth Day events. Let’s work together to fulfill Gaylord Nelson’s vision of a world where “less can be more.” A toast to our Mother Earth on Earth Day 2011!
Photo by LaMenta3, via Flickr.com
Photo by swanskalot via Flickr.com
It was way back in the 1960s when Openlands, a mid-western group of environmentalists whose mission was and is to protect the natural and open spaces of Chicago, northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region, was founded. In 1980 (the same year Ecover was founded) Gerald (Jerry) W. Adelmann joined Openlands. In 1988, Adelmann was appointed to the role of Executive Director and soon after launched the 21st Century Open Space Plan, calling for expanded parklands, greenways, and trails.
Jerry’s vision and leadership, along with his many other conservation and preservation accomplishments, have earned him numerous honors and awards. Most recently, he received Chicago Magazine’s 2010 Green Award (along with Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, founder of a green-focused charter school; Terra Brockman, who works with farmers and ecology; Angela Hurlock, director of a sustainable housing group; and Dan McGowan, who is “greening” a restaurant chain). Chicago magazine recognized Jerry for saving “large swaths of the local landscape for future generations.” They even compared him to one of America ’s first great conservationists of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. Adelmann looks outside the typical spaces for green opportunities, not content to just focus on forests and nature preserves. He was quoted by Chicago Magazine as saying, “Cities are not usually thought of as a nature preservation area …Openlands is interested in all the dimensions of green space: urban gardens, prairies, ball fields.”
Ecover would like to add its name to the list of those who recognize and respect Mr. Adelmann’s important work. We thank him for all he’s doing to help in the Midwest and, more significantly, all he is doing to inspire others to preserve land and conserve our natural resources. Way to go, Jerry!
Nearly 40 years ago, the United States implemented its most significant piece of surface water protectionwith the passing of the Clean Water Act (CWA). At Ecover we view this as a watershed moment in America’s ecological awakening.
Once endangered waterways now provide habitat and recreation thanks to the Clean Water Act.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
In its original form, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was revolutionary too: but that first major water pollution law turned out to be no match for the impact of the go-go industrial growth and urban sprawl of the 1950s and 60s.
Tumultuous times in the mid ‘60s and early ‘70s brought about many social and political changes, as did the growth of the ecology movement, helping Senator Edmund Muskie to introduce the sweeping changes of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to Congress. In October 1972 it became law, and survived a Presidential veto. (In 1977 there were further amendments and name change to the Clean Water Act.)
CWA Sponsor Edmund Muskie.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
As Ecover was soon poised to do, the country was recognizing the impact of industrial and municipal wastewater. With this regulatory mandate, the EPA and state agencies could investigate and regulate toxic discharges into public waterways. The CWA required uniform, technology-based standards that continued to evolve; urban and agricultural storm water runoff was originally exempted, but science outlined its environmental impact, bringing court challenges and further amendments to the CWA in the 1980s.
Ultimately, the CWA was a serious wake-up call for our nation, as well as a platform for environmentalists to continue broadening their educational reach. Like Ecover’s ongoing research and product development model, clean water standards and have changed the way we live, improving the quality of life we enjoy while leading a generation to a more sustainable existence now – and in the future.
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