Category: Good Company
Kate Larramendy is the mother of all things sustainable at Toad. In the early 2000s, Kate took over as Director of Design back when we were still called “Horny Toad” and e-commerce wasn’t really a thing (so the name wasn’t really a problem…but we digress…) For almost two decades, Kate was the force behind our sustainability achievements: our switch to only organic or recycled cotton, ending our use of Angora and using non-mulesed merino wool, pushing suppliers for more recycled options, and even demanding we have an office compost bin (to name just a few). Kate and her teams established a sustainability criteria that we’d measure everything against. First it started as “50% of the line had to be made with eco-friendly materials and practices.” Then it was 70%. Then 85%. Now, 100% of our line has to be sustainably made. In the words of Kate, “If it’s not worthy of the resources to make it, we won’t make it at all.”
Kate retired from Toad in 2018, but sustainable stewardship is a habit that never fades. Now, Kate serves as a board member for the Conservation Alliance, and of course, pops in to Toad HQ to drop off a bottle of of signature salad dressing (this stuff is seriously GOOD) and give us the latest sustainability news.
1. What does the Conservation Alliance do?
KL: The Conservation Alliance is the leading coalition of businesses that fund and partner with grassroots conservation groups working to protect North America’s wild places. The Conservation Alliance has the ability to bring together voices and actions that support thriving outdoor businesses, thriving outdoor communities and the possibility of a thriving planet into the future by protecting wild places and wildlife.
2. What do you love about the Conservation Alliance?
When I was ready to transition from a career of making clothing and gear (even though it was beautiful, useful and mostly sustainably optimized), I was happy to swap commerce for conservation. I had been active with the Conservation Alliance for many years so joining the Board was exactly what I wanted next.
3. What’s the most gratifying part of your work with the CA?
I especially love the advocacy aspect of our work that includes regular trips to Washington, D.C to lobby representatives on behalf of our public lands. Most people do not realize that the outdoor recreation economy generated $887M in revenues, provided 7.6 million jobs and accounted for 2.2% of the national GDP (2017 stats). There is a lot of power in those numbers –– and they’re growing. By last stats, the outdoor recreation economy is actually growing faster than the overall U.S. economy!
4. What is your favorite quote regarding conservation?
“I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them. Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization.” – Mardie Murie
5. What’s your #1 sustainability tip?
Don’t buy, take or use anything that is disposable or can’t be reused many times, if not indefinitely.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and it’s a cause that is near and dear to our hearts (and our triple bottom line business). Since 1997, we’ve partnered with Search, Inc – a Chicago-based non-profit – to support and inspire people with disabilities to live their fullest lives. Here’s a brief history on our long and fruitful friendship.
1968 – Search, Inc. opens its first program for 8 kids with developmental disabilities in a Chicago suburb. It’s a grassroots movement started by parents advocating for the inclusion of their children into the public school system. Their vision is of a world where all people live, learn, work and play alongside one another, bringing their unique abilities to the community.
1972 – The Earth Child Emporium is established, Search’s first adult learning program for individuals at its school who are aging out of services.
1988 –Search opens it first supported Living Program, a home for residents in Chicago.
1995 – Horny Toad, now Toad&Co, opens its first store in downtown Telluride. Our HQ is Chicago where Gordon Seabury, Toad&Co CEO, meets John Lipscomb, Search President. They start hatching a plan.
1996 – Search buys, renovates, furnishes and staffs 9 new homes for 56 individuals – all in a span of 6 months.
1997 – Toad&Co and Search link up to co-found Planet Access Company, a third-party logistics warehouse in Chicago that trains and employs adults with disabilities. The original concept was for Search clients to make camping pillows using fleece scraps from Toad’s production. This idea ultimately gives way to the Planet Access Company (PAC) warehouse. Toad becomes their first client.
2000 – Visibility Arts established, a comprehensive visual arts program is launched to provide Search clients opportunities for self-expression, creativity and achievement.
2004 – Toad&Co and Search partner to launch Search for Adventure, a program to take individuals with developmental disabilities on their first outdoor adventure experiences. Trips are fully paid for and fully inclusive. The first trip is to Graceland in Memphis, TN.
2008 – Visibility Arts moves into its flagship gallery and studio space in Mt. Prospect, Chicago.
2010 – The Planet Access Co. Store opens in Lincoln Square in Chicago. It’s a retail store with a mission: 100% of the proceeds from purchases help over 500 people with disabilities live more independent lives. The store only carries brands that make sustainable and socially responsible clothing, jewelry and décor.
2012 – Search’s Hop on the Bus to Independence hosts their first free workshops to help people with disabilities build skills to independently and safely use public transportation.
2013 – Search successfully merges with JJ’s List, a smaller grassroots organization. This expands Search’s opportunities for self-advocacy and disability awareness training. The plucky acting-turned-teaching troupe, the Disability Awareness Players, is formed.
2015 – PAC Warehouse upgrades into a new 63,000 sq. ft. space to house its growing enterprise. More brands, more units, more employees, more good. Each year the company generates over 20,000 hours of paid, train-to-work opportunities, allowing individuals with disabilities to earn a wage while they gain valuable work experience.
2016 – Visibility Arts expands again with the opening of a second studio space and gallery.
2017 – Toad&Co sends the inclusive Canoemobile around the US to connect 1000 adults with disabilities to various National Parks across the US for their first time.
2020 – As of today…
180 individuals live at 30 independent and supported residences throughout the Chicagoland area.
385 individuals have participated in training and paid work opportunities through PAC since 2003.
500 individuals with developmental disabilities are thriving as members of Search, Inc.
700 people have gone on 104 Search for Adventure trips that have included hiking the historic Appalachian Trail, experiencing the majesty of the Grand Canyon, and riding the range at the Powderhorn Dude Ranch in Colorado.
4,500 students and adults with disabilities have built their public transportation skills.
11,000 people at more than 150 organizations have received a Disability Awareness Training for disability-aware customer service.
Millions of units shipped out of PAC warehouse (including 100% of Toad&Co’s inventory!).
Every Toad&Co purchase contributes to a bright future for adults with disabilities. Thank you for being part of this movement – more to come in 2020 and beyond!
For the last 10 years, Paige (our head designer) has come to work every day with Norman, a scruffy salt and pepper pup, no bigger than a gallon of milk. He’s present at all design meetings, fit sessions, and final approvals. He’s made his way into photoshoots, been used as design inspiration, and even had his portrait painted at a giant tradeshow.
Norman is just one of many great dogs take up residence at the Toad offices. Over the years we’ve had Lucy the lunch lady, Leo the cuddle bug, Lincoln the scaredy cat, Sunny the tornado, Lana the starlet, Grom the snaggletooth, Bea the sleepy puggle, Truffle the Big Bird, and her little sister, Sophie.
Creating a dog-friendly work environment is part of our culture. Sure, sometimes they sleep on the job, but our canine colleagues make us better employees and happier people. Here are some of the benefits of having dogs in the office:
Creates a positive, flexible, uplifting setting
Promotes a work-life balance (hey there, afternoon walk!)
Less stress = happier employees = more productivity
Dogs can create camaraderie and trigger interactions that may not have happened without them (remember your class hamster in 1st grade? Same thing).
They clean the kitchen floors
They make the workplace fun (and awesome people want to work at fun places!)
They make excellent Instagram models
And it’s even good for the pups – they learn to socialize with other humans and animals (and mail carriers)
So here’s to letting this place to go the dogs. We think we’ll keep it that way.
By: Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert
In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms – some people sit and clear their minds, others go for a hike in nature, and others even cook or do chores. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.
I started meditating about 15 years ago when I stopped skipping out on Savasana (aka: corpse pose) at the end of my yoga classes. I realized that those 3 minutes of post-yoga quietness made me feel calmer, happier, and helped integrate all the physical activity into my body and mind.
It took another 10 more years of dabbling before I committed to a morning sitting meditation practice. At the time, I was caretaking for my grandpa at the end of his life and needed a way to keep myself centered and grounded so that I could show up for him and the rest of my family. I needed something for me and meditation became the solution.
For me, the goal of meditation isn’t to clear my mind or count my breath. It’s about consciously focusing and redirecting my mind to the positive. Instead of noticing how tight my hips feel, I focused my attention on how lucky I am that all of my organs are healthy and my muscles strong. I focus on how lucky I am to be able to run and surf and rock climb. Or even just how fortunate I am just to breathe. Focusing on gratitude for my physical body rather than the parts I struggle with brings about a sense of deep inner peace. Once I figured out how to tap into it, I can access that inner peace any time I need it. Here are a few of my suggestions on how to get started:
1. Start off with quick guided meditations from a mindfulness app like Headspace or Daily Shine. You can select topics to focus on that you want to work on – like increasing gratitude or celebrating positivity.
2. Shoot for a consistent routine. I like first thing in the morning, but a lot of people find right before bed works better for them. It doesn’t matter when you choose, the important thing is to establish a routine that you can stick to.
3. Explore different types of meditation (yes, there are different types). I like loving kindness meditation, breathing meditations, moving meditations like Tai Chi or walking or hiking, daily task meditation, Yoga Nidra, guided body scan relaxation meditation, and reiki meditation. There are so many options. Find the one that feels right for you. And know that what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life now depending on what I need for that day.
4. Build slowly over time. Yes, some amazing people like Oprah meditate for 30 minutes twice a day, but the reality is that you can gain benefits of meditation with as little as 3 minutes a day and it takes time to train your mind. You wouldn’t try to summit Everest if you’ve never hiked before… small steps will lead to the greatest success. Start with just 1 minute a day to build the habit. You’ll be successful (and you can do anything for 60 seconds!). Notice the impact one minute can have on you for the next 5-10 minutes. This is what increases your motivation to meditate for longer!
5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s ok if you hear your meditation timer go off and you realize you just spent the last 5 minutes thinking about breakfast…it happens. Just come back and try again tomorrow. Like anything in life, learning to focus your mind takes time.
Now go forth and conquer your own mind, body and soul connections! Remember: There is no “right” way to meditate. There is no perfection you are striving for. One version is no better or worse than any other version. Just be yourself and use your mindfulness practice (whatever that looks like) to show up for your life as the best version of you.