5 Questions for Kate Larramendy

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 worth 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 seriouslyGOOD) 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 wild life.

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 GPD. (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.

A History of Empowering People with Disabilities

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 livelearnwork 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 two start hatching a plan.  

1996 – Search buys, renovates, furnishes and staffs 9 new homes for 56 individuals – all in a span of 6 months.

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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.

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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.

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2020 – As of today…

180 individuals live at 30 independent and supported residences throughout the Chicagoland area.

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.

Half a million units are shipped out of PAC warehouse each year (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!

The Benefits of Dogs in the Office

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. 

 

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

The Ultimate Aprés Guide

Who says the aprés life is only for skiing? Sure there’s skiing and snowboarding and cross country, but snow bocce, curling, and Winter ‘Minton deserve their rightful place at the aprés counter. Here’s our guide to winter’s aprés alternatives. 

Ski Ballet & Champagne on Ice 

A favorite sport from the 1970s, ski ballet is everything you love about ballet (the jumps, the drama, the sophistication), just on skis. Get your interpretive dance on then pop some bottles. 

Polar Bear Plunge & Hot Toddies

Seems self exlpantory. Take the plunge, then warm up as fast as you can. 

Yukigassen & Shotskis

The Japanese art of epic snowball fights. Two teams, seven players each, 90 snow balls, one flag on each side. It’s capture the flag meets dodgeball meets snowballs – better wear your helmets. Shake hands and share a shotski when you’re done. 

Bandy & Brandy

Though it never officially made it into the Olympics, Bandy is a hugely popular winter sport because it’s just like ice hockey but instead of a puck, it’s a ball. Brandy, is a hugely popular winter spirit. The two seem to go hand in hand. 

Wok Races & Sake Bombs

Like sledding, but with greased up woks. (The pros swear by it). Follow it up with a round of sake bombs. Ichi, ni, san! 

Kite Skiing & Eggnog Coladas

Trade the surfboards for skis and you’ve got kite skiing. Same goes for the seasonal change-up in the eggnog colada. Bonus points for following-up with karaoke…. “If you like eggnog coladas, and getting caught in the rain…” 

Winter Minton & Whiskey Smash 

Like summer badminton, but, you guessed it, in snow. A match consists of the best of 3 games of 21 points. After every match, recoup with a Whiskey Smash (Like a Whiskey Sour but with clementine and cinnamon. YUM). 

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Need leisure sport wear? Shop our Men’s and Women’s winter styles. 

Meet Sarah: Toad’s Master of Giving

When you count Jane Goodall as one of your high school mentors, you know you’re destined for a life of goodness. Lucky for us that’s Sarah Palladino, our Office Culture Queen and Master of Giving. Since she embodies the spirit of giving year round, we sat down to talk about how giving actually makes businesses stronger, what’s on her book list, and what Dr. Jane Goodall is like in real life (yes, we feel starstruck just talking about it).

Toad: Ok, Sarah – you do a lot of things at Toad. Give us a rundown on your favorite thing: 

SP: The best part of my job is getting Toads connected to our social and environmental missions in hands-on ways. Whether it’s planting trees or volunteering at Earth Day or hosting a Friendsgiving with members of Search, Inc, I love seeing Toads really feel the impact of “business for good.”

Toad: Feel it?

SP: Ya. It’s one thing to hear “we’re a sustainable company,” but when employees are planting trees to offset carbon emissions, they’re really feeling what it takes to offset one shirt or one factory or one cargo ship. That impact has a massive ripple effect well beyond 9-5.

Toad: Do you think it also has an effect on the business?

SP: Absolutely! I can tell you it makes a huge difference on the HR side – being a business that prioritizes volunteer days and community outreach attracts like-minded people. Those like-minded people become Toads and in turn make us better.

Toad: What about our customers?

SP: Doing right by people and planet is the heart of the Toad ethos, and our customers are right there with us. I think they’re looking for companies that are doing good (like giving 1% back or making sustainable products) because THEY are doing good.  

Toad: It sounds like a movement…

SP: It totally is! The Do-Gooder Movement!

Toad: So where did this love of philanthropy come from?

SP: I think it started in middle school. I was always that kid with thousands of hours of community service. I just loved feeling like I was contributing to the greater good. My first experience working with at-risk youth made me realize that giving back needed to be ingrained in my life. After that I joined pretty much every club to help organize more people to give back.

Toad: Every club seems like a lot. Any favorites?

SP: I loved working with Dr. Jane Goodall as California’s chapter leader for her non-profit, Roots and Shoots.

Toad: Did you just say you worked with Jane Goodall?

SP: Yes, and she’s amazing. So inspiring. Her motivation behind everything she does is to foster a better understanding of nature, and thereby create a deeper connection between people and planet.

Toad: Wow. That sounds amazing.

SP: She’s my idol. It’s not just about animals and humans – it’s about equality. In Jane’s eyes, everyone and everything is equal. We’re all equal and we can all do good and impact the world.

Toad: What else do you draw inspiration from these days?

SP: I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and she’s just a good human. I’m also really into this local lecture series right now where cross-disciplinarians talk about creative ways to think about problems and solutions, like an artist depicting climate change. Then there are always the classics like Silent Spring and The Lorax

Toad: Switching gears. Let’s say Toad wins the lotto and we (YOU) get to finally execute your giving pipe dream. What do you do?

SP: Commit 99% for the planet! I would love to start a whole education branch of Toad with the sole goal to inspire people to pursue environmentally friendly practices – the Toad Academy! I think we could have the biggest impact by investing in teaching future generations about sustainable lifestyles and communities and cultures… it would be amazing.

Toad: Okay, back to reality. What do you want your Toad legacy to be?

SP: My goal is to inspire Toads (whether it’s employees or customers) to look at how they can contribute to their communities and give back in areas that THEY love. I want to create a perpetuating cycle of giving back.

The Only Wishlist We Want

We’re making our wishlists and checking them twice… Here’s what tops the Toads’ lists of holiday hopes and desires. 

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“To be able to roll my ‘Rs’! My boyfriend speaks Spanish with his family and I’m always so jealous because I just can’t roll my ‘Rs’!” – Mollie, Customer Service 

Mollie’s winter favorites: The Chelsea Turtleneck Dress and Huxley Jacket

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“I want the whole world to be more granola-y… is that a word? I want that to be a word.” – Dr. Drew, Customer Service 

Drew’s winter favorites: Cruiser Cord Shirt and Flannagan Long Sleeve

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“No more single-use plastics!” – Natalie, Sustainability & Materials 

Natalie’s winter favorites: Primo Henley Long Sleeve and Bianca Sweater

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“Fresh snow until April” – Jo, Supply Chain 

Jo’s winter favorites: Audrey T-Neck Sweater and Flextime Skinny Pant

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“Sleep…” – Ian, E-Commerce (and new father) 

Ian’s winter favorites: Mission Ridge Lean Pant and Airsmyth Long Sleeve Shirt

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 “A good buzz and tasty waves”  – Neil, Operations 

Neil’s winter favorites: Primo Long Sleeve Henley and Ziggy Hoodie

Happy holidays! If you need any sustainable gift ideas for guys and gals, we’ve got you covered. 

 

The Health Benefits of Dogs

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that dogs and people have a special, symbiotic relationship. They need us for food and belly scratches, we need them (and all pets—we’re equal opportunity) to stoke our deep, ingrained connection to the wild. Plus, they’re damn cute. From office health to emotional health to physical health, our canine companions really are the top dogs.

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They get you moving

This might seem obvious, but there’s actually a pretty big difference between dog owners and non-owners when it comes to how active they are. In one large study, researchers from University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Cambridge found that the people who didn’t own a dog were sedentary for an average of 30 more minutes a day than dog owners—and even during days with bad weather, dog walkers were more active than non-dog walkers were on the nicest days!

They’re great for bad days

Not exclusive to dogs, people who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk than those who don’t. It might be the aforementioned exercise, but research suggests that when children who struggle with reading can read aloud to a trained dog, they show fewer anxiety symptoms. Every dog is a therapy dog (some just have more training than others).

They’re excellent wingmen

You know how vintage car people will always strike up conversations with each other to talk shop? Same goes with dogs. In the most precious survey of all time, British researchers found that 4 in 5 dog owners speak with other dog owners during walks (shocking), and about 40% of them reported they made meaningful friendships more easily. Coincidence, or corgi?

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They’re like having a doctor with you at all times

This is kind of nuts, but when you think of those Law & Order K-9 units, it starts to make sense: dogs are very good at detecting, treating, and managing a variety of health issues. According to one study, some dogs have been trained to sniff out skin, kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer. Of course, service dogs benefit people with everything from brain injury to autism to rheumatoid arthritis, increasing mobility and promoting independence. And in the category of “Best news we’ve heard all week,” Alzheimer’s patients are reportedly so soothed by therapy dogs, their companionship seems to mitigate emotional flare-ups and aggression.

They reduce stress and improve office productivity.

Coworkers come in all shapes and forms. In a study published by by Virginia Commonwealth University that looked at cortisol (stress hormone) levels in saliva, people experience less stress when a dog is around. Less stress = clearer decision making and more productivity. And we can speak from experience—taking a few minutes to play tug-of-war or go on a walk around the block puts any stressful day into perspective.

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So give your pup a squeeze today or stop by a local shelter. You know someone there will be very happy to see you.

And because dogs deserve to be nice and comfy too, shop our eco-friendly dog beds.