Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Go Walgreens - An In-Depth Look at the Nations First Green Drugstore

Why Waste A Ribbon When You Can Plant A Tree...

San Diego, CA- Walgreens celebrated the opening of the nations first green drugstore yesterday not with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony but with the planting of a native tree.

"We felt that planting a tree was much more appropriate then cutting a ribbon and then throwing it away" said Jamie J. Meyers, The LEED AP Project architect who was there for the celebrations.

Walgreens, the nations largest drug store chain is once again changing the landscape for the American consumer, this time for the greener. The store in question was designed from the ground up around the dual mission of efficiency and sustainability. Not only is it the first drug store in the U.S. to meet the USGBCs stringent LEED design standards but the 24-hour store also sells a host of environmentally friendly products.

By exceeding LEED requirements and integrating eco-friendly product lines into their inventory they have taken steps that cannot simply be attributed to the common corporate "greenwashing"

A Serious Commitment...

With this project and future plans for many more like it, Walgreens has made a serious commitment to sustainability. Here are just a few of the things they have built into this store on the architectural side;

-Take for instance the landscaping- They used all native plants which will require no watering whatsoever once they have adjusted to transplanting. Here in San Diego that's a pretty big deal as we are in the midst of a level two drought emergency...

-They took great pains to reduce lighting energy waste by utilizing 75% natural sunlight during daytime hours. This was achieved with the installation of solar tubes and skylights that shine down from the ceiling. This combined with LEDs in their signs and coolers reduces lighting related energy use by 50%

-They are mitigating storm water pollution from the surrounding buildings by collecting and filtering water as it flows onto their lot.

-Water use is estimated at 50% below LEED standard levels.

-75% of materials were architectural salvage from the previous structure that existed on the lot.

-A white roof was included to reduce cooling related energy use as well as to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

-There are many other green details as well, such as hybrid car parking spaces, a bike rack, and a site chosen in part for it's close proximity to public transportation.

While other companies such as Wal-Mart and Target have made token gestures to the green movement Walgreens really seems to get it. While there is still room for further improvement, the significant steps they have taken to "go green" far surpass the typical dog and pony show that passes for environmentalism these days in many companies.

At some point the question was seriously posed- "How can we make ourselves more efficient and sustainable?" And someone took the time to find some awnsers. Yet here we find the question that all modern companies will be faced with as energy prices soar and the public becomes more aware of their own effect on the planet. Whether it's the product they produce, the service they provide, or the goods that they sell companies large and small cannot escape the changes that are occurring in our environment. Those who don't respond to these changes will end up like Walgreens competitors such as Eckerd; just struggling to keep up with the pack.

A History of Steady Progress

"Walgreens is making great progress on our environmental initiatives in stores chain-wide. Were cutting our electricity and water usage, recycling tons of cardboard and shrink wrap each year and upgrading equipment for maximum efficiency" Said Walgreens Market Vice President Matt Sesto

Walgreens has never been a trendy/flashy company. Quite the opposite, they are a family run All-American company with a long history of steady progress. In many cases they have been among the first to implement innovative strategies like the switch to bar-code scanning technology, and the expansion into film development in the 1970's. They also were at the forefront of adapting a more convenient, customer friendly format in a time when drugstores were rather limited in scope. Through all these changes however they have always kept true to their identity as, "Americas corner drugstore".

So when a company like Walgreens outlines a wide ranging environmentally friendly strategy it really means something in terms of their future intentions. As mentioned by Jim Collins (Author of 'Built to Last' and 'Good to Great') in an article titled Best Beats First;

"they (Walgreens) may be slow- following a crawl, walk, run, trajectory, but when they run, they will run right over companies that believe being first is all that matters."

So when Walgreens tells me that they plan to build many more new green locations, as well as do additional environmentally friendly modifications to their 6,857 existing locations- I believe them. This store alone is saving enough energy to power 19+ homes a year- imagine what the combined effect will be!

Bringing Green Products "To Every Corner Drugstore In America"

Walgreens unique position as an a nationwide leader in their industry gives them the opportunity to offer and support green eco-friendly products in their vast network of 24 hour store locations. It also puts them in a position to persuade their competitors to do the same. That says nothing as to the opportunities available to them in terms of offering holistic, eco-friendly and organic health products. Again, in interest of fairness this is an area where steps have been taken...but there is still room for improvement. While certain green products have been highlighted and given prominent display positioning- much of their inventory is the same old landfill clogging..."stuff" that plagues America today.

This brings to mind the reason I decided to write this article.  Walgreens, like many other long standing companies today is in an awkward position. While they are struggling to wrap their strategy around the idea of sustainability they are still plagued with a long legacy of conventional, pollutant, unsustainable business practices. Unfortunately that is something which no company can change overnight. This problem can only be addressed through consistent long term efforts. No sweeping initiative or "change program" is going to make meaningful differences in behaviors that have developed over the course of many generations.

The good news however is that with pressure from retail giants like Walgreens, mainstream manufacturers (such as Walgreens own current suppliers) will naturally "follow their leed" and begin offering more green product alternatives. Here are a few of the product lines currently available in their Mira Mesa (SD) Location;

Healthy Times- Organic Baby Food- Definitely a worthwhile green product- especially if your sick of paying for water and starch! Organic babyfood should be in every grocery/drug store in America. I would recommend this product to any parent trying to get their baby off to a green healthy start. They have many options, all organic, all formulated to nurture children's skin, hair, growth and general well-being. This baby food contains no refined sugars, preservatives or artificial additives.

Biofusion- This is Walgreens own brand of hair care products that incorporates natural ingredients into the formulas. No word yet as to the sustainability or social responsibility of the manufacturing process however the formulas do rely less on chemicals with too many syllables to pronounce.

Burt's Bees- Here's an excellent example of a mom and pop cottage industry manufacturer that grew into a nation-wide success...and is now using that success to leverage environmental progress. Not only are their personal care products naturally based (beeswax) their whole business philosophy centers around supporting "the greater good" from their charitable contributions to the encouragement of their employees personal growth opportunities.

Clorox Greenworks- This is Clorox's brand of green cleaning products which use- in their words 'environmentally preferable chemistry' to achieve cleaning results similar to Clorox's toxic/harmful flagship products. Clorox also contributes to the Sierra Club in the name of this product line. (Get Coupons Here)

Natures Source- SC Johnsons green plant based cleaning products are environmentally friendly and versatile in selection. Check out their website to find out more about these products and what SC Johnson is doing to help the environment.

WaterU- Is another Walgreens made product. A reusable BPA Free water jug that comes in a variety of different sizes. It is reusable and recyclable and it doesn't contain the harmful BPA traces in typical bottled water containers.

So while green products have been made available in this location there is a distinct emphasis on the architectural end of sustainability.  I can imagine it is tough shifting away from long time distributor relationships however there is really no good reason why Walgreens can't offer more environmentally friendly product alternatives for some of their top selling items.

A Green Drugstore Is A Healthy Drugstore

An often overlooked (yet very important) part of going green are the healthy decisions we can make every

day like eating right, exercising, and picking the right over the counter health products. Consider that the medical industry a major landfill and toxic waste polluter. Just look around next time your in a hospital and it's not difficult to see why. If Walgreens can take their commitment to the next level by promoting natural and environmentally friendly health products in their stores then that would be a pretty amazing accomplishment by any environmental standard.

Going green is just as much about the lifestyle you live as the house you live it in. By extension, it is just as much about the products you sell as the building you sell them in. Sometimes that is forgotten in the world of business and industry. I hope that Walgreens is able to employ the same wise judgement in this area as they are currently practicing in the design and energy policy of their new buildings. To see pictures of the grand opening check out the my Go Walgreens article in it's entirety!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Putting The Boomers Out To Pasture

"The Baby Boomers will be more remembered for the problems they left behind as opposed to anything they accomplished during their tenure."

- Bryce's Law

As we all know, the Baby Boomers are regarded as those people born following World War II, I believe it is from 1945 to 1960. This generation has seen a lot: the space race, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR, and eleven U.S. Presidents, just to mention a few. In the area of Information Technology, they actively participated in the transition from mainframes to client/server computing, the Internet, and an unprecedented number of technological developments, including cell phones, cable, video enhancements, etc. They were there during the MIS movement of the 1960's and 1970's, they helped invent the packaged software industry, and spearheaded e-commerce.

As they are entering their 60's, the Boomers are now approaching retirement, and we are already seeing them rapidly fade from view in I.T. departments. For example, I.T. is now considered a young person's game dominated by workers in their 20's and the manager (the "old man") in his early to mid 30's. In contrast, Boomers are now generally regarded as dinosaurs who are slowly being put out to pasture. They haven't completely left yet as they still possess valuable knowledge about legacy systems and are blessed with certain skills required to maintain such systems, e.g., Systems Analysis, Technical Writing, COBOL, ISPF, CICS, TSO, IMS, ROSCOE, MVS, etc. They are hardened veterans who still enjoy their work but are growing weary of the changes in the corporate landscape, such as short-term planning, outsourcing, and the development of disjointed systems by the spirited younger workers. Inevitably, the Boomers are often asked to clean up the mess left behind by such projects.

The transition from the "Greatest Generation" to the Baby Boomers in I.T. was relatively smooth, with the veterans mentoring the Boomers and guiding them on their path towards succession. However, the transition from the Boomers to Generation X (those born between 1965-1976), Generation Y (1977-1994), and Generation Z (those thereafter) has been much more turbulent. I attribute this to three reasons:

1. The change from mainframe to PC based computing - the technologies were perceived as dramatically different and, as such, companies left one set of workers behind to tend to the mainframes, and hired a new generation oriented to the PC's. Regrettably, there was little common ground between the two. Whereas the two groups should have been working together all along, a polarization of the two groups ensued instead.

2. Changing socioeconomic conditions which affected family dynamics, such as having both husband and wife working full-time jobs and letting family responsibilities slip through the cracks. This led to changes in our morality and other cultural differences whereby the younger generation doesn't have the same set of interests or priorities as the Boomers.

3. An increasingly competitive global economy which has forced a change in the pace and priorities of business.

This has all resulted in several changes in orientation and perspective. For example, instead of long-term planning, quick and dirty solutions are now considered the norm; e.g., if something cannot be done in 30 - 90 days, its not worth doing. This emphasis on speed versus craftsmanship has led to questionable quality, poor service, and repetition in work effort (which is why systems and software produced today are considered "disposable"). These changes in orientation also created a spirit of competition as opposed to cooperation, independence as opposed to teamwork, and a decline in corporate loyalty. Such attitudes are not limited to I.T., and can be found throughout a business as well as our society in general.

So what will be the Boomers' legacy? A rise or fall in our standard of living? Viet Nam or the war on terror? Our growing dependency on foreign oil? Our fascination with gadgets? What?

Frankly, I believe their legacy will be the generation gap they helped create. I consider this rather ironic since they liked to grouse about the gap between their fathers and themselves. But the "Greatest Generation" did a better job of transferring the reigns of power than the Boomers ever did. The divisiveness between the Boomers and Generation X/Y/Z is so substantial, that even if the Boomers tried to coach or mentor, Gen X/Y/Z probably wouldn't heed their advice. This has led to a major hiccup in the transference of management and systems knowledge. Consequently, Gen X/Y/Z is much more reactive as opposed to proactive in their management style, which will be felt for years to come. How many 9-11's or Hurricane Katrina's do we need to suffer through before we learn how to plan and adapt to changing times? For example, the patchwork systems being implemented by companies today will inevitably lead them to lose their competitive edge tomorrow. Executives are only now beginning to realize how weak their corporate systems are and how ineffective their companies will be in the years ahead. This is what has triggered the latest attempts to reinvent systems theory, but I fear it is too little, too late.

So, as the Boomers begin to ride off into the sunset, do we thank them for their efforts or do we open an express lane for them?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Constable's Haywain

Haywain by John Constable is one of the most important landscape oil paintings in history and marks the pinnacle of the career of this famous British artist who left a great legacy within British art. John Constable helped turn landscape painting into a respected art form when previously it had been derided by academics who preferred portraits and religious depictions that have now become to appear dated in the modern day. This article examines Constable's The Haywain oil painting and also considers where it fits into the artist's overall career.

John Constable was an artist who remained fully committed to landscape painting and was never interested in attempting other avenues of creativity, other than the occasional pencil-sketch self-portrait which have recently been attributed to him. To find an artist so behind an art genre which at the time was not viewed with respect shows someone with a huge amount of self-confidence and innovation and these types of artists have been crucial in the overall development of European art since the middle ages.

The Haywain has long since been accepted by academics and the art public alike as John Constable's finest work. This alone makes the painting an extremely important title within British and European art. The scene found within Haywain is classically English both in the natural green scenery and also the farming components to be found in the foreground. The English countryside has become regarded as a fantastic opportunity for landscape artists and it is people such as Constable who helped promote this reputation.

Constable and Turner

John Constable and fellow landscape artist JMW Turner are arguably the most influential painters in the history of British art where European art has normally been centred in other countries such as Italy, Germany and Netherlands with France also proving important within the last 150 years.

Despite having careers of exceptional depth and quality, Constable and Turner have become best known for one painting each, as is the case for so many other influential artists. Whilst JMW Turner is remembered for his Fighting Temeraire seascape classic painting, Constable is always linked most to his Haywain painting above all others from his long and prestigious career which actually lasted from 1776 to 1837.

Famous John Constable Paintings

Although the Haywain dominates the media coverage of Constable's career in the modern era he did produce many other exceptional paintings such as Dedham Vale, Landscape: Ploughing Scene in Suffolk, Boat-building near Flatford Mill, Golding Constable's Kitchen Garden, Wivenhoe Park, Essex, Flatford Mill, Weymouth Bay, Hampstead Heath and Stratford Mill.

John Constable never truly experienced financial wealth from his career despite the qualities of his oil paintings and it was only in later generations that the importance and brilliance of his art was truly recognised by both the art public and academics alike.

In conclusion, The Haywain is a classically British oil painting set against the beautiful natural landscape of the Suffolk countryside where skilled artist John Constable was so passionate with his work that he would never differ from this passion to the native surroundings that were so close to his heart.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

National Park Service and it's Legacy

Artist George Catlin has been credited with presenting the notion of a governmental organization to protect our wilderness and wildlife. His essays reflected anxiety toward the continuing development and its effects of the westward expansion over the natural wonderland. George Catlin expressed the theory of creating a policy or agency to protect the wilderness. The lands of Yellowstone and Yosemite received protection under specific preservation laws in the mid 1800's. Later the National Park service had begun to be established.

The potential for a booming tourism market inspired many keen investors to band together and lobby for the creation of a National Park service. Most importantly supportive conservationist lobbying began for the preservation of wildlife and natural resources. President Woodrow Wilson officially signed legislation for the creation of the National Park Service on August 25th 1916.

Congress created the national park service as a chapter o the United States department of the Interior. The national park service has since grown to employ over 100,000 people and boast many thousands of volunteers. As a cabinet office to the executive branch of government the National Park service is run by a secretary elected by the president. The national Park service receives a yearly budget of over 2 billion dollars.

The national park service has been actively involved in caring for American monuments, historical properties and parks since 1916. National parks are a place of beautiful picnic spots equally dedicated to the conservation of local wildlife. National parks are available to the public providing spectacular natural scenery and a place to enjoy healthy family entertainment for a lazy afternoon or the whole summer long. The chief duty of the national park service is a commitment to the conservation of historical properties, scenery, wildlife and properties contained within a national park. The national park service promotes public education in reflection of the American landscape. Receiving millions of visitors to over 391 units per year the national park service is a flourishing society.

Yellowstone national park became the world's very first national park under the National Park Service. Yellowstone was previously privately managed with sometimes uncertain success. Yosemite received some protection as a state park originally but was soon to join in under the protection of the National park Service with others soon to follow. Mount Rainier, Glacier, Crater Lake, and naturally, the beautiful Sequoia, all thankfully receiving protection and conservation under the care of the National Park Service.

It was soon recognized that parks not in the western states should also benefit from the care of the National park Service and Acadia National Park in Maine was also included. Philanthropist John Rockefeller Jr. was among others who assisted in the gradual acquisition of eastern lands. In 1926 the Great Smokey Mountains, Shenandoah and Mammoth cave were all to be included for protection from the National Park Service. In fact later the eastern states with their many historic sites such as battlefields and war memorials became an even larger area under protection from the National Park service.

The National park Service has sustained continual growth and expansion over the past few decades. Presidents agreed to the importance of protecting the American heritage and supported laws even including additional laws and clauses. The National Park service protects living history and educational opportunities as a legacy and shall continue to care and protect the environment for many decades to come by order of their mission statement. To "Conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The History of Landscaping - Quite a Story

Up until about a hundred years ago, the average person didn't have a lawn to worry about. They were too busy going to work, putting food on the table, and trying to educate their children. It was only when people started leaving the farming life for the life of the cities and suburbs that single-family houses sprang up in droves, and people had the money to spend on such luxuries as landscaping.

Which is not to say that landscaping is a brand new profession. As early as the 1800s, the wealthy of practically any country were able to employ professional artisans to build gardens and landscape their homes. Of course, they weren't average people, but nevertheless it's fun to learn about the forerunners of today's landscape designer.

The most famous is the British landscape designer, "Capability" Brown. His real name was Lancelot Brown, but it was his habit to look at a piece of real estate and say, "It has capabilities," and t hat is how he got his nickname. Brown has been called England's "most famous gardener." He was born in 1716 and died in 1783, and yet over a hundred years later his legacy lives on. Over 44 of his gardens are still in existence today (he designed over 170). Of course that's because he designed these gardens for the "landed families", or nobility, who were not about to sell their mansion every ten years and move up to a bigger one.

Prior to Capability Brown, the landed families had huge "formal gardens." Brown changed all that, encouraging his clients to make use of a more naturalistic design, with compositions of grass, clumps of trees, and pools and lakes.

England has Capability Brown, the United States has Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was born in 1822 and died in 1903. He went to Yale and studied agricultural science and engineering.

In 1853, the New York legislature decided that they'd have to create a park in the middle of the city, for their many inhabitants. They held a contest to decide who would design it, and Frederick Olmsted and his partner, English architect Calvert Vaux, were awarded the contract, to create a "greensward," as Olmsted termed it. " The park was not created on barren land, however - many poor people and free blacks were evicted from their homes under eminent domain so that the park could be placed there. (Not that that was Olmsted's fault - that's where the legislature wanted the park, and that's where they were going to put it regardless.)

Olmsted went on to make a career out of creating city parks - indeed he conceived the system of parks and interconnecting parkways. Two of the best examples are the park system he designed for Buffalo, New York, and the system for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Olmsted and his partners also designed over 355 school and college campuses.

So as you walk through your city and see all the greenspaces and landscaping, spare a thought for the landscape architects who brought all this beauty to you. Studying the history of landscape architecture is fun and informative.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Constable Prints

John Constable in a very important British painter who helped bring landscape painting into the forefront art the art world, when previously it had lagged behind portrait and religious painting in terms of popularity of critical acceptance. This article examines Constable prints and considers why the artist's prints and paintings are so popular with art buyers today, at a time when so many other works are available of this type.

Constable paintings are best as art prints, particularly framed ones which give the original a classic look which is suitable for his style of work. Some consumers prefer canvases stretched and unframed, but this would be better on paintings by more contemporary artists, such as Kandinsky, Picasso or Malevich. As well as these tapestries and giclee prints are also available and also are well worth considering.

Constable and Turner spearhead the achievements of British artists up to the last century thanks to the legacy of their careers in inspiring further art movements which themselves now dominate the art world, including impressionism most notably. The emotional styles and love of landscape painting was new at the time of Constable, and was only later to become the norm thanks to the qualities of his paintings. Their romanticist techniques encourages further development by artists in light and colour, leading to the French artists that later developed this onwards.

A clear conclusion to draw is that Constable prints are an ideal choice for those looking to add countryside landscape paintings of Britain to their own homes, as this was the artist's true passion and his only real subject from an extensive career which firmly refused to bow to traditions. Other great artists that stand alongside Turner and Constable in British art are few and far between, but would probably include Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, Joshua Reynolds and Edwin Landseer in terms of influence, ability and popularity today.