Shabda began over 30 years ago as a small ‘business in a backpack’, to enable us to travel in the Himalayas and explore the richness of the spiritual traditions of that area. The business has grown over the years to its present capacity to support many families, both here and overseas.
Commitment to the environment and social justice issues have always been paramount.
Shabda & the Environment
Shabda is committed to conducting business in an environmentally responsible manner. Specifically:
- we do not import any wood objects due to concern about deforestation
- our bells are partially made of recycled bronze
- our resin statues are made in the U.S. of low VOC resin, and are as small as possible while preserving detail
- we ship by sea to reduce transportation costs, financial and environmental
Our warehouse/office/living quarters, located in rural Mendocino County, California, is run as sustainably as possible. Specifically we:
- walk to work
- use natural lighting through dual-pane windows
- use recycled packing material
- have an entirely web-based catalog, saving paper
- are close to 100% recycling of all business and personal waste
- have a compost pile and garden
- use solar hot water heating
- use carbon-neutral heating (downed wood from our forest)
- own and manage a 75 acre redwood forest
Shabda's Carbon Footprint
With global warming a major concern these days, it is important for a company to be aware of its carbon footprint. Since Shabda has owned a 75 acre redwood forest for over 20 years, we figured we were in good shape, but thought it would be interesting to try and quantify things a bit. It is difficult to generalize, and this area of calculating carbon credits is fairly new, so what follows is a rough estimate and first attempt.
Redwood forests, which produce the largest individual tree sizes, support the greatest concentration of above-ground carbon storage of any California forest. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that permanent inventory plots on private land in the redwood region, store about 100 tons of CO2/acre. Forester Steve Mader (Climate Project: Carbon Sequestration and storage by California Forests and Forest Products, http://www.foresthealth.org/pdf/CH2M Hill Forest Carbon Study.pdf), estimates a redwood forest sequesters about 150 tons/CO2/acre, including understory, soil and soil litter. That would mean our 75 acres is currently storing 7500-11,250 tons of carbon.
In addition, each year, depending on the standing volume of timber/acre, a redwood forest will sequester an additional 2-6 tons of CO2/acre/year. Using an average of 4 tons, our forest is conservatively sequestering 300 tons of CO2/acre/year.
Our forest is part of a Forest Stewardship Council Resource Manager Certification pool, managed by Craig Blencoe, a Certified Resource Manager. It is being managed in a sustainable fashion for long-term growth, and under current management practices, will carry twice the volume of timber in 30-40 years that it currently carries. This will enable our forest to sequester increasing amounts of CO2/acre going into the future.
So, what does that mean in relation to Shabda's carbon usage? Using the information on www.carbonfootprint.com/calculators enabled us to roughly calculate our carbon footprint. We included the cost of our house/warehouse/office, one roundtrip flight/year to Asia, two shipments from Asia/year, automobile, and secondary footprint (food choices, recycling...), and calculated a footprint of 12 tons/year. According to this site, the U.S. average is 20.40, the average for other industrial nations is 11, and the worldwide average is 4.
It appears that even with the conservative calculation of 300 tons of CO2/year of CO2 sequstration by our forest, Shabda is not only covering its U.S. operations, but also that of many of its suppliers and craftspeople!
Shabda & Social Justice
Shabda has been working to promote fair trade for 30 years. Relationships with our major producer groups go back to these beginnings, and are in some cases now 2nd generation. We fully support the following nine principles of the Fair Trade Federation:
- create opportunities for economically, socially marginalized producers
- develop accountable relationships
- build capacity (to the extent the producer group desires)
- promote fair trade
- pay promptly (often in advance)
- support safe working conditions
- ensure the rights of children
- cultivate environmental stewardship
- respect cultural identity
We have visited the homes and workplaces of all of our major producers, and continue to do so on a yearly basis. We can personally verify the safety and well-being of our craftspeople. Our producer groups, whether they are a co-op or small family group, set the prices for their products and thus their wages.
Currently, membership in the World Fair Trade Organization (www.wfto.org) and its partners such as the Fair Trade Federation (www.fairtradefederation.org) is limited to companies dealing 100% with products imported from developing countries. Since some of Shabda's products are not available in developing countries and are produced by small family groups in the U.S.A., Shabda is not eligible for formal membership in FTF. As soon as FTF allows membership to companies that also source some of their products locally, you can be assured Shabda will apply. In the meantime, we remain committed to fair trade principles.
Shabda & the Community
Living in a small rural community offers endless opportunities to volunteer and contribute, from the volunteer fire department to the food bank, from the PTA to the Mendocino Music Festival.
Favorite national and international charities which we support include:
- World Wildlfe Fund - www.wwf.org
- Amnesty International - www.amnesty.org
- Finca - www.villagebanking.org
- Audubon Society - www.audubon.org
- UNICEF - www.unicef.org
- Nepal Youth Opportunities - www.nyof.org
- Chagdud Gonpa Foundation - www.snowcrest.net
- Central Asia Institute
For the last several years, Shabda has been able to donate all of its net profit to charitable causes. We wish it were more!