Laurel is the Corporable Social Responsibility Manager at American Licorice, out of Bend, Oregon.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
We’re working with ClifBar, United Natural Foods, Eileen Fisher, States Logistics, Quality Bicycle Products, Klean Kanteen, and New Belgium Brewing, as part of the In Good Company initiative, to help the Red Feather Development organization build a house for a family of the Hopi Nation, during week three of a five week build. Our build site is right below the first mesa (of three mesas) in the Hopi Nation, in North Central Arizona. According to Judy Nichols of the Arizona Republic, 300,000 families on tribal reservations are homeless or living in life-threatening conditions. Median income in the Hopi nation is at about half of the statewide average.
Red Feather uses straw-bale construction for the homes they build on the Hopi and Cheyenne nations. Straw-bale construction is sustainable: it has a very high insulation value and reduces energy consumption in the home. Straw-bale also reuses an agricultural waste product. Read more about straw-bale construction here.
On Saturday, we arrived at the build site near the town of Polacca, Arizona in the afternoon and set up our tents.
Sunday-Tuesday, September 4-6, 2011
Staining rafters in the hot sun, sanding boards, getting the interior of the home ready for stuccoing, and then, stuccoing. Stuccoing involves picking up globs of something that looks like mud and plastering it on the straw bales that make up the walls of the home. According to Red Feather, this is actually a building method that is well suited for volunteers whom may have limited skills in home building. The actual stuccoing was hard work, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Susan from LaPorte spent the entire day in the sun shoveling cement to create the stucco mix. Here are more pictures of our group working on the house.
After a long day of work, we could look forward to solar showers and sleeping in a tent (it can be windy out there). On Monday morning, I did have the amazing opportunity to go running in the morning by the beautiful first mesa with a view of the ancient village on top.
On Tuesday, we visited the old section of village of Hotevilla on the third mesa. The village was established in 1905 when a group called the Traditionalists broke off from the Progressives. The village looks much older than 100 years old. There are dirt paths between houses that are close together. Some houses are made of stone. The old section of the village does not have electricity but many homes had a few solar panels and satellite dishes. Below the village, which is on a cliff of the mesa, there’s a beautiful, lush terraced garden that looks like an oasis in the desert. Women are in charge of the garden—one plot per family—growing peppers, corn, and squash interspersed with fruit trees. Above the terrace is a spring which waters the gardens and which we were offered a taste of. The Hopi are a matriarchal society—the women are in charge.
Wednesday-Friday, September 7-9, 2011
Another run on Wednesday morning to the top of the mesa where we found a great view and lots and lots of small pieces of beautiful pottery. The theory is that villagers destroy them when they move. I discovered that running is very popular in the Hopi nation–some members of the group suggested that I participate in a couple of races when I was there. The races are reported to be quite an experience, with lots of positive support from the community for the runners. Timing did not work out, but there is always next year…
In addition to work on the house, we had the opportunity to see a basket weaving demonstration. The baskets that the Hopis create are works of art, made of dried yucca leaves. The ring support of the basket is made with natural materials such as rose hips.
We also toured the ancient village of Walpi on top of the first mesa, established in 900 A.D. The village of Walpi is like an ancient fortress with very old stone or adobe homes, kivas, the sacred places where the katsinas live, and no electricity or running water. Katsinas are supernatural beings who serve as divine messengers and play an important role in making sure growing seasons are successful.
The guide tells us only one person lives in the village year round; however, many families stay in the village during the summer. There are two villages that are inhabited year round right next to it, which do have electricity and water. We ended a wonderful day with another unique experience: on our last evening at the build site, we had the great fortune to see three Hopi children perform a very well choreographed, enchanting dance.
On our last day together, our entire group was asked to share our most challenging and rewarding experiences with each other.
By the end of the week, I’d adapted to living in a tent–even overcoming some claustrophobia, and I saw this as both challenging and rewarding. Also in both categories were days of hard, physical labor, and the solar showers that I looked forward to at the end of the day (this takes careful attention to use of time). I enjoyed the daily camaraderie and teamwork of a group, had no cell phone service, and could not check email. The experience took me very much out of my everyday life. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work on a house for the family and the appreciation expressed by people we met in the Hopi nation. As if all that is not enough, we had the amazing opportunity of seeing places that not many see, including a village that is more than a century old.
In Good Company is unique as a community effort as it involves collaboration not only with a non-profit but with other businesses to provide service to a community in need.
Corporate social responsibility is often defined to include taking a stakeholder perspective—business stakeholders are impacted by business activities and include employees, communities, and the environment. Businesses that decide to embrace social responsibility often go through different stages of development starting with an internal focus and broadening as it develops to an external focus. In Good Company is a great example of an initiative that involves truly integrating social responsibility into a business so that it becomes the model of how a business operates. We look forward to working with this group in the future and are inspired to expand our own community efforts at American Licorice.