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 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.

Trek Across Maine

 

There’s a reason our tagline is “Keep Good Company.” Everything is a little bit better when you’ve got someone to share it with. Or hundreds of people. That’s how our gal Courtney Edmands felt when she completed Trek Across Maine, a 180 mile bike ride to benefit the American Lung Association. Courtney is one of the Toads at our Freeport, ME store. She’s equal parts heart and spunk, and someone whom we feel pretty darn lucky to keep company with. Here’s a snapshot into her Trek Across Maine. Ride on, Courtney!

 
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180 miles wound through rural towns of Downeast Maine, amongst stunning golden meadows and mountain views, over bridges and alongside rivers. From Sunday River in Bethel, ME to the Atlantic coast in Belfast, sleepy vistas jolted awake as 2,000 cyclists put petal to pavement for the Trek Across Maine event over Father’s Day weekend. With clear, sunny skies and a steady stream of like minded folks by my side, the road was my ultimate happy place (even during mile 101).

In it’s 32nd year, Trek Across Maine is a 3 day ride from mountains to the sea that benefits the American Lung Association. It’s an event that we Mainers look forward to every year. Participants from outdoor sporting companies, bike vendors, local hospitals and individuals from across the state come together to bike for a cause. view

Taking a leap out of my comfort zone, I signed up for the life changing experience. It was inspiring to see the collaboration efforts amongst all the different communities. Dedicated staff and volunteers created a stunning, well laid out course with all the necessities we needed along the way. Crowds came out to cheer us on as we rode through little towns. And friends and family heard our call to donate, no matter how much, to the cause that we were supporting. It really does take a village. That and some well-greased gears.

Over the 3 days I pushed my physical and mental limits. When the horn was blown at Sunday River on Day 1, all 2,000 of us started down the path together. Motivating music and encouraging cheers faded into sounds of wild wind, clicking gears and calls of “On your left!” Hours of road signs, kitschy local advertising and wide open spaces gave way to mind games of endurance. And every so often I was confronted with the true danger of the road: holding a long breath while zipping past a hefty cow farm!

But boy, did we celebrate at the end of the day! After 60 or so miles each day, we’d roll into the final stop with sore feet and happy hearts. Exhausted but never too tired for a cold beer, we would find our way to the local live bar. At the end of Day 1, we made our way to The Dugout in Farmington, ME where we enjCourtneyEoyed perhaps the most refreshing beer to date (but after 60 miles on a bike, just about all refreshments have new meaning). Over local Allagash White and Frye’s Leap IPA from Sebago Brewing, we reminisced on the great landscapes we’d just rolled through. Folks swam in the river, cheersed in the beer tent and spent some time tuning up their trusty steeds. It wasn’t completely rugged, but there’s certainty in remembering 60 miles are ahead the next morning…

So we woke up, legs bound to bicycle, and the only option was to keep cranking chain. Ten miles turned into child’s play, being “just around the corner” from the next check point. We’d hear hoots and hollers up ahead when riders at the top of the hill had made it, encouraging us to keep on keepin’ on. After hours on the road, you realize you might be on the same path as everyone else, but the adventure has become your own.

Three days later, the aches and pains gave way to gratitude. I was proud of myself and proud of everyone for making the trek across Maine, and I was proud to support such a great cause. Knowing that we made an impact on The American Lung Association made that last ride across the finish line that much sweeter.

And in case you were curious, why yes I DID bike in a skirt! I will say the Toad&Co Whirlwind Skirt was, and continues to be, one of the best “bike to beer” pieces I’ve ever owned. To be able to wear it over cycling shorts and transition comfortably to a more dressy dinner piece in one swift motion… incredible! I receive compliments to this day when I wear it (which is embarrassingly often). If it’s good enough for the bike path, it’s good enough for me!

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Canoemobile Update: Berkeley, CA

As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year.  The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, is currently touring the country to connect folks to their local national parks by getting them into canoes and paddling through the great American waterways. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Canoemobile had a beautiful afternoon of paddling at an adaptive canoe day in Berkeley. We were thrilled to be working with the enthusiastic Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) crew to help introduce the Berkeley disability community to Voyageur canoeing along the shores of Berkeley Aquatic Park.

Over 50 people of the Berkeley community came out to paddle in canoes, many of whom were first time paddlers. Throughout the day, we could hear many laughs from shore, clear evidence that many paddlers were having a good time on the water.

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A very special thank you to BORP staff for recruitment of participants and use of their variety of adaptive gear, lifts, and ADA accessible docks. Canoemobile has proven to be accessible to even more people and be able to support Wilderness Inquiry’s mission.

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Canoemobile Update: Dallas, TX

As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year.  The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, is currently touring the country to connect folks to their local national parks by getting them into canoes and paddling through the great American waterways. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Young, old and even a few canines paddled the lake on a sunny, 70 degree day in Dallas, TX. About 40 adults with disabilities from MetroCare and Project Search learned about water safety in small groups, practicing communication and problem-solving skills. After learning the ropes (and oars), we loaded up the canoes and hit the open waterways! 

I always love that part. Even though I’ve been on the canoe hundreds of times, seeing it through the eyes of first-timers makes me feel like it’s my first time too. Smiles abound, splashes happen and glimpsing a fish or a diving bird is always a treat. After getting back to port, a sixty-year-old man, who paddled again for the first time in decades, said it was the most fun he had in years. He was beaming from ear to ear. 

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Ambassador Profile: Adreon and the Canoemobile

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There’s nothing like your first time hitting the water, and we think everyone should have that experience. So as part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year. In celebration of the National Park Service centennial, the Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, will connect folks to the national parks by getting them into canoes and out onto America’s great rivers and lakes. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, will be taking over the Toad blog to relay tales from the trail…err, waterway! Take it away Adreon…

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Introducing people to the joy of the great outdoors is my work and my passion. I believe people of all backgrounds and abilities should have access to the natural world. With Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile, I have been able to introduce people with disabilities and underserved students to their local waterways in over 20 cities coast-to-coast.

Canoemobile visits some of the busiest cities and industrial waterways in the United States. Most of the people riding in these canoes have never explored the great National Parks and state parks within their communities. Paddling in a 24-foot Voyageur canoe helps many overcome fears of water, experience the importance of teamwork, and reclaim these beautiful urban waterways.

This spring tour will be my fourth Canoemobile tour. Each boat ride has been special. We load up into canoes, learn to paddle together, create epic boat names to unite us as a team, and then explore local ecosystems from a new perspective.

My favorite part is watching the participants step out of their comfort zones and become empowered. I love watching nerves disappear with each paddle stroke. Soon after we launch from the dock, crying transforms into laughter and team chanting. It’s a beautiful transformation to watch. I am honored to be apart of this life-changing experience for so many people. Time to hit the road!

– Adreon

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Field Notes: The Temple

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This is the third in our series of Field Notes from our Toad Warriors – the folks who hit the road and spread the Toad&Co ethos: Live well, do good and keep good company. They’re the people we’ve met over the years who embody the Toad lifestyle and practice what they preach. Jeff and Jen live in Santa Barbara, CA and are bonafide weekend warriors. Here are their Field Notes….

2007_Sakura_of_Fukushima-e_007_rotatedKyoto is covered in sakura trees, or cherry trees. In late March the cherry trees blossom and people flock to see the pink and white flowers explode across the city. It’s a big deal in Japan. In fact, the national weather service tracks the movement of the “sakura front,” a wave that travels south-to-north every season and heralds the blooming of the sakura and the coming of Spring across Japan.

We were in Kyoto when the sakura front hit. Kyoto is the historical capital of Japan, where traditional Japanese culture coexists perfectly alongside modernity. Shrines were full of worshipers in kimonos, businessmen and women bustled in downtown intersections and tourists flooded the monkey forest. Naturally, we had to sample everything Kyoto had to offer.

We explored the city by following the cherry blossoms from temple to temple. Some were crowded with tourists and locals marveling and taking selfies with nature’s spectacle. And other temples were virtually empty. Tipped off by a local, we escaped up a hillside trail to sit in silence and bathe in the mountain light at one final temple.

For almost an hour we were the only people there – or so we thought. We strolled the grounds and were surprised to see a smiling monk and his dog sitting quietly at the dragon fountain. There wasn’t much shared language between us, save for some laughter and light in our eyes. But we didn’t need to say much to fully understand each other. It was calm and silent – a full exchange. We stayed with the monk and his companion for an hour or so, then departed just as sweetly as we’d arrived. Arigato. Sayonara. Thank you for the talks.

Field Notes: Coffee With A View

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This is the third in our series of Field Notes from our Toad Warriors – the folks who hit the road and spread the Toad&Co ethos: Live well, do good and keep good company. They’re the people we’ve met over the years who embody the Toad lifestyle and practice what they preach. Jeff and Jen live in Santa Barbara, CA and are bonafide weekend warriors. Here are their Field Notes….

“For me, there is no other place like Jackson in the world. I haven’t found anything better. Except maybe a corner of Switzerland.” Such were the words of Stefan Grainda, the quirky, Jack-of-all-trades owner of Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters in Jackson, WY.

You can tell what kind of people run JH Coffee from the second you walk into the shop – it’s warm and inviting, smells incredible, and the slight din of a whirring machine lulls you into pure contentment. Metal tableaus of cowboy life line the walls and a mix of locals and tourists trade tips on which roads are snowed in and which runs are primo for an epic day on the slopes.

Stefan is a chatty man and more than happy to talk all things coffee with anyone who asks. He told us how he came to the U.S. eleven years ago from a long line of coffee brewers in the Czech Republic. He began his search for an American home in California, but soon decided that beach towns were too “full of laziness.” Instead, he followed his best friend to the mountains and moved his coffee business to Jackson.

Precision is key to good coffee. Stefan hand-roasts, hand-brews and custom-builds all the machines that line the shop. And he only uses the best organic coffee beans – strictly 100% organic. He’s proud of the fact that JH Coffee Roasters was the first coffee joint in town to go all-organic. He hand-roasts the beans in small batches, without a computer, the old school way: Everything by eye and smell. Everything by hand.

When Stefan isn’t brewing, he’s out playing in the Tetons. “It is wonderful. You work 3-4 hours until the snow builds up, and then you pack up and go.” He says the first time he saw Jackson, he knew it was his home. And after a simple yet perfect cup of coffee, watching the sun rise higher over the mountain range, we understood exactly what he meant.

Field Notes: The Whale Boat

This is the second in our series of Field Notes from our Toad Warriors – the folks who hit the road and spread the Toad&Co ethos: Live well, do good and keep good company. They’re the people we’ve met over the years who embody the Toad lifestyle and practice what they preach. Jeff and Jen live in Santa Barbara, CA and are bonafide weekend warriors. Here are their Field Notes….

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It was July in Reykjavik, Iceland and though the sun had been up since 4am, it was colder than Southern California in January. It was early, a crisp harbor morning, and the harbor docks were full of excited passengers in orange jumpsuits preparing for the high seas. We, like many tourists in Iceland, had succumbed to the whale watching tour brochure, beckoned with images of fierce breaching orcas and majestic humpbacks dancing. Touristy or not, it seemed like an experience we shouldn’t pass up.

An hour into the tour, we spotted a minke whale – a small, common ocean dweller. We ran to the edge in great anticipation, because where there’s minke there’s orcas. But two hours passed and only one more minke sighting. By hour three, the same two minke were still on the horizon. The captain tried to lift our spirits as he fawned over the beauty of the minke. But after hours shivering in plastic jumpsuits, the minke lost it’s luster.

Jeff and I found ourselves wishing for some rehearsed pirate stories or even an Icelandic cover of “Copacabana”. But alas, nothing save for hours left at the sea with n’er a true whale in sight. So we did what any respectable tourists would do: We authored corny whale jokes and presented our material to the crew (formally, on napkins, of course). Perhaps they were as bored as we were, but one of the crew members actually handed us a microphone.

Jeff stood tall, took center stage – errr, ship – and posed the question: “Where do whales go for a fun Friday night?”  Nothing. “The orchestra!” Crickets. But like the whale watching tour, we forged ahead. Jokes about a porpoise’s purpose, how a humpbacks’ favorite band is “The Killers”… One by one, our jokes ebbed and flowed, some getting a chuckle here and there while others utterly tanked. But when all was said and done, and we’d finally docked without a single orca sighting to boast of, Jeff and I agreed – it’d been a whale of a good time!

Field Notes: The Stranger

This is the first in our series of Field Notes from our Toad Warriors – the folks who hit the road and spread the Toad&Co ethos: Live well, do good and keep good company. They’re the people we’ve met over the years who embody the Toad lifestyle and practice what they preach. We met Jeff a few years ago when one of the Toads brought him to a photo shoot. He was good company, so we hit it off right away. Jeff and his partner Jen live in Santa Barbara, CA and are bonafide weekend warriors. Here are their Field Notes….

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Sometimes it’s the vistas and the landscapes that stick with us. Sometimes it’s an unforgettable meal that stays in your mind for years. This time, it was the stranger we met at the diner counter in Arizona.

Jen and I had driven 6 hours south from Arches National Park to set up camp at Jacob Lake on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We rose early, before sunrise to tackle the 28-mile Grand Canyon loop and stopped in at the Jacob Lake Inn to fuel up. We found a seat at the counter next to another regular Joe.

We started chatting over a cup of coffee and egg casserole – we mentioned that we’d been to Bryce Canyon and were headed for The Loop that day, he said he was just passing through. We shared a bit more about where we were from and he told us how he’d been adopted from Austria by American ex-pats living in Venezuela. He explained that his father’s expertise in South American oil expeditions had led to his family’s relocation to Las Vegas. His father’s job was to drill holes deep into the earth’s core to test nuclear bombs miles under Sin City. He casually shared all of this over mediocre coffee, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of a landscape that screamed of infinite possibility. But was it all true?

We never got the guy’s name. He left as mysteriously as he came, off to his law enforcement job in Vegas – or so he said. We finished our coffee n’ casserole and set off on our own journey, deep into a hole in the earth. As I descended further into the paths and pools of the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t stop wondering if the stranger’s story had been real. If it was, then what’s the story with those holes now? Are they still there? Do they still operate? Who’s drilling the new holes? I’ll probably never know. But if I could find the answers to my questions, would I want to?

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria Recipe - Riunite Lambrusco Sweet Red Wine - Luci's Morsels -- LA Lifestyle Blog-5Everybody knows that hot toddy’s and mulled wine are essential to a cozy night in or walking around chilly outdoor holiday markets. But what about the times you’re sweating through your ugly Christmas sweater or singing carols in a very crowded living room? That’s when a nice cold sangria is just the ticket. Our gal Luci at Luci’s Morsels came up with a fizzy and festive sangria that’s easy to whip up and even easier to send down the hatch.

Pomegranate Ginger Sangria
(yields 6 servings)
1 1/2 Cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 Cups ginger beer
1/2 Cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 lemon, seeded and sliced
1 bottle sweet, sparkling red wine*
*Luci uses Riunite Lambrusco Wine – A general guideline is that the sweeter the fruit, the drier the wine you want to use. Because pomegranate and ginger are tart, Riunite Lambrusco is a sweet, sparkling Italian wine and perfect to mix in

Combine all ingredients in pitcher. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Stir before serving.