5 min read

How Spore-Infused Canola Oil Supports the Forest Ecosystem

By Christopher Pepe on Nov 2, 2021 10:00:00 AM

2021-blogpost-How Spore-Infused Canola Oil Supports the Forest Ecosystem

Last year I switched to grocery store canola oil to lubricate my chainsaw bar. I add Oyster mushroom spores into the oil so that they are dispersed while I cut. This method was developed by Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti and discussed in his book Mycelium Running. There doesn’t appear to be a commercially available product; however, by making it myself at close to the cost of conventional petroleum-based bar oil (~$15/gal), I improve my forest and should have some convenient forage this fall. I am still refining the process of infusing spores into canola oil, but if you are curious to try it, I’d be happy to swap notes.

Why vegetable oil?

Available since the mid-1980s, vegetable-based bar oil usage has grown more rapidly in Europe and is gaining adoption in the US. Workers’ occupational safety and health, and environmental protection are the biggest concerns caused by the thousands of gallons of petroleum-based bar oil that is left in our forests each year.

“Petroleum-based oils are known carcinogens and medical records show that they cause discomforting eczema and oil acne. In addition, prolonged exposure to petroleum-based-oil mist can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Environmental damage caused by petroleum-based oil spills has had extensive attention from the media.[1]”

Whereas, canola oil “has excellent lubricating properties and some studies have shown up to 40 percent reduction in consumption without sacrificing bar-and-chain life.[1]” Again looking to Europe, we see that there are 80+ brands of vegetable-based bar oil in Germany alone. Austria has gone so far as to outlaw petroleum-based bar oil. Europe has even developed a standard (CEC-L-33-T-82) that measures the amount of oil that biodegrades over a 21-day period. Within that standard, products can contain some mineral oil additives. A popular choice in the US, STIHL BioPlus, degrades 93.8% in 21 days. Commercial vegetable-based bar oils cost about twice as much as petroleum products, which has hurt adoption. But with long-term environmental concerns and sustainability driving today's business decisions more than ever before, that additional cost will be more easily justified.

Canola oil is also a renewable product. It is worth considering that conventional agriculture relies on fossil fuels, and accounts for 10% of the US greenhouse gas emissions [2]. Canola-based bar oil is still seen as a net positive as it keeps the toxins in petroleum-based bar oil out of the forests, and we have the potential to change our agricultural footprint into the future.

Why mushrooms?

Saprobic mushrooms, the decomposers, are the cornerstone of returning nutrients back to the forest. Common native fungi include oysters and Turkey tail. As tree limbs and litter fall to the forest floor, saprobes reach up and consume them. Mycelium, the vegetative part of the mushroom, invades the tree litter, brings along water, and attracts insects that feed on the mycelium. Those insects attract birds and forest creatures to tear apart the rotting wood. The mushrooms start the process, decompose the most difficult tissues (lignin and cellulose), and invite the others to continue the job. This process converts wood back into the soil.

There are many functions that mushrooms serve in our world. Oyster mushrooms are known to feed on nematodes[4] and are effective water filters. They’re used by humans and other animals as food and medicine. Turkey tail mushrooms contain anti-cancer medicines, are aggressive decomposers, and protect against parasitic fungi. Many of our best medicines have come from mushrooms and many more are expected to be discovered, especially in the few remaining sections of old-growth forests. There are dozens of powerful mushrooms that humans have partnered with and countless more that we don't even know the value of yet. Perhaps they will share their stories someday.

Why use spore-infused canola oil?

Mushroom spores are everywhere. In fact, you have inhaled dozens since you started reading this article. Kathleen Stutzman, VFF’s Conservation Forester, gave me the sage advice that “the forest does not need you to be healthy.” Similarly, the mushrooms do not need me to find their way into deadwood. However, the choices that I make can help steer our forest in the direction I want it to go. By preferring some species, I can speed up decomposition and quickly build the thin soil on my rocky hillside. New research suggests that species like the Turkey tail will also ward off potentially destructive species like the honey mushroom[3], one of which is the largest organism to ever live on earth. While honey mushrooms likely serve a function in the forest, they also cause a lot of financial hardship for timber companies. The jury is still out on honey mushrooms in my opinion, but Turkey tail and Oysters mushrooms help decompose everything 3” and smaller that I leave behind, provide us food and medicine, and support the entire forest ecosystem.

In Conclusion

At Praecipio Consulting, our team consists of experts in the field to help and aid your team in meeting your goals efficiently and succinctly. To learn more about how we can partner with your team, visit our Consulting Services page to explore just some of the Solutions we can help implement. 

Not sure what exactly your team needs? Contact us today and we can talk with strategy would work best.

References

  1. https://www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/html/98511316/98511316.html
  2. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/climate-change/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeBYnGwo4Y
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBWzrlCBhCM
Topics: blog culture global-climate-crisis carbon-footprint green-team carbon-neutral social-responsibility
3 min read

Microaggressions in the Workplace

By Rebecca Schwartz on Jan 22, 2021 3:42:46 PM

Blog- Microaggressions in the workplace

Throughout the course of this year, we've discussed implicit bias on our internal Social Justice team at Praecipio Consulting. Implicit biases are sub-conscious thoughts or stereotypes we have about a specific group of people based on their race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, appearance, etc. The feelings and thoughts we form based on these biases are ones we may not intentionally form or are aware of, but everyone has them. The team looked further into how these implicit biases affect the workplace and discovered they correlate directly to microaggressions. As we begin a new year, the Praecipio Consulting team is looking for ways to better our company culture, as well as ourselves personally, so addressing microaggressions and their effects on the workplace seemed like a great way to do this as a group, as well as individuals.

What are microaggressions?

According to Derald Wing Sue, microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs, and insults that members of marginalized groups experience in their day-to-day interactions with individuals who are often unaware that they have engaged in an offensive or demeaning way. The perpetrator of the aggression typically does not realize what they said or did toward the victim is offensive, which makes microaggressions even harder to call out or recognize. There are three types of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.

Three types of microaggressions

First, we have microsassaults. Microassaults are more obvious and are usually purposeful. They are often violent and directly target a victim. In the workplace, an example would be if a male coworker gropes a female coworker and plays it off as a joke.

Next are microinsults. Microinsults are the most common type of microaggressions. They are a bit more subtle and unconscious, especially compared to microassaults. They disrespect or demean another person, even if the perpetrator "meant it as a compliment." In the workplace, an example would be if a non-white co-worker was giving a presentation and an employee commented on how articulate the presenter is. 

Microinvalidations are very similar to gaslighting another person. They are often subtle and unconscious. Microinvalidations cancel the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of marginalized individuals. In the workplace, an example is when an LGBTQ+ employee confides in a straight employee about a microaggression they received, and the straight employee tells them they're overreacting. 

Microaggressions and the workplace

Although at the moment, a microaggression may feel like a joke or a harmless action to the person committing them, they have a large impact on the receiver, especially if the microaggressions occur repeatedly over a long period of time. Psychologists often compare them to death by a thousand cuts. Because of the manner of microaggressions, they are often not reported by employees. It’s important to understand what they are and how they affect others to ensure a safe and inclusive company culture. The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending. Think about your actions and your words: you may have positive intentions with your behaviors, but think about the impact they have on others. 

At Praecipio Consulting, the Social Justice team has compiled a Resource Library that the company can use to learn about a range of topics, a few geared toward microaggressions and how we can work to eliminate them from our environments. Below is a list of helpful resources around microaggressions that we have in our library. 

If you have read, watched, or listened to any of these resources, we'd love to hear your thoughts, and if you have any recommendations for other resources we should add to our library to learn more about microaggressions, let us know!

Topics: blog do-good social-justice social-responsibility
3 min read

Community-driven Pollinator Garden at Bristol Elementary School

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 15, 2020 4:33:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Pollinator Garden for Elementary school

It took a village to create this natural space for children to explore.

A small garden next to a sandbox with Bristol Elementary School in the background

Parents discussed the joy of the Bristol Elementary School's (BES) Forest Fridays and how our kids thrived outdoors (the year before one student formed a petition, gathered signatures, and lobbied the administration for more outdoor recess time). Parents and school administration began meeting to remove hurdles to students being outdoors. The focus of the effort became:

  1. Outdoor classroom space to facilitate classroom based learning outdoors
  2. Natural playscape to encourage engaging with and observing the natural world
  3. Water management during the spring thaw and freeze cycles

During a training session, Four Winds, a community-based natural science education organization, announced a mini-grant program to improve area schools. We felt a pollinator garden was the most achievable project to increase the diversity of the playground landscape without adding much maintenance overhead. Four Winds agreed and BES was awarded the grant.

Four Winds Nature Institute is a non-profit organization advancing the understanding, appreciation, and protection of the environment through community-based natural science education and research. 

While the beloved playground boasts a vast flat area with many play structures there is not much natural diversity. Our goal has been to rewild the playground and celebrate seasonality with an ever-changing display of flowers and foliage made of native plants. This project would establish a naturalized island that will promote native plants and pollinators, as well as cultivate creative play. The students can watch the garden evolve, watch the insects, birds, and other life that thrives there, and to be a part of it themselves.

I would like to thank our vendors, who were easy to work with, generous with their time, gave us favorable pricing, and donations. All of our plants came from Full Circle Gardens. Sarah helped build our plant list, added in several plants as donations, and delivered them for free. Great communication and coordination made working through the pandemic a non-issue. Our mulch and top soil came from Livingston Farm, nearly half of which was donated to this project. Without the generosity of our vendors we could not have built the garden that we had envisioned. Thank you.

I would also like to thank the school administration for their support and commitment to our community. This effort began with principal Kevin Robinson who was an enthusiastic supporter of our parent driven efforts. That was handed off to Thomas Buzzell who is a strong advocate for outdoor play and its many benefits on behavior and development of children. With the community, he is building a collective vision of the future of play at BES. No job too small, Tom has even offered to hand water the fledgling garden. Joel Fitzgerald has also been a strong advocate for this project and playground improvements including a student driven project to build an outdoor classroom. Sheila Gebo was kind and patient while shepherding me through vendor management and financial operations. And of course thank you to Four Winds for funding this project and encouraging us along the way. I would also like to thank the other parents that have given their time and energy at every phase of this project. Finally, a special thank you to the Urban girls for their hard work in installing the garden on a sweltering summer day. Thank you all, and those that were not named. Without your help we would not have completed this project.

Little boy dressed in red planting plants with a 5 gallon bucket in front of him.

There were a lot of hot dry days between delivery and installation. Sam was a big help in keeping the plants happy.

Two little kids help plant a garden with an adult in the background holding an orange wheelbarrow.

The Urbans came out in force for installation day!

Topics: blog environment do-good green-team social-responsibility education
5 min read

Be Notorious Like RBG: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Shannon Fabert on Oct 12, 2020 9:15:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Social Justice- Be Notorious like RBG

The employees of Praecipio Consulting were devastated by the news of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). To me, and to so many of us here, she was a role model and a major inspiration. I felt a deep and profound loss upon hearing the news. 

Many people don't know this about me, but the first time I remember somebody asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said a Supreme Court Justice. I was only in 1st grade. While I don't remember anybody telling me that was a silly dream, I do remember people saying, "you should be xx instead." It almost always had nothing to do with being smart – it just wasn't what little girls grew up to do. Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to the court as its first female justice when I was three years old. She was the only woman to serve until RBG was nominated when I was 15. There have been 113 Supreme Court Justices in the history of the United States, yet only four have been women. In 2015, RBG was asked when will there be enough women on the bench, and she said, "When there are nine." 

Regardless of one's political position, RBG's presence on the Supreme Court left an undeniable legacy for women and men across the world. In her memory, we encourage you to read through her 'dissents' during her time on the Supreme Court. While these are highly technical writings, her ability to intellectually challenge the majority voice using the written word absolutely astounds me, making them very worth the read. You don't have to look very far into any of these documents to pick up on the level of intentionality and acuteness she brought to the highest court in the land. 

Image Source: Librado Romero for The New York Times

Many different organizations have pulled together lists of her achievements as well, from co-founding the ACLU Women's Rights Project to winning cases before the Supreme Court, long before becoming a Justice.

There are several ways to reflect upon and honor her legacy:

Learn more about what she fought for

Many resources are readily available to learn about RBG and her legacy – here are a few you can start with!

Donate to organizations with the same values as RBG

Reach out to your senators and reps directly

Forget not that democracy is by and for the people. As constituents, there are several ways that we can provide feedback to our senators and representatives.

If you have feedback, here are some options for contacting your senators and representatives:

It is worth noting that if you want to reach somebody who is not your senator or representative, you will likely not get a response back, as they are not obligated to respond if they don't represent you. If looking to put pressure on or to support these people, signing petitions can be a great way to show support through sheer volume.

Reading this post is only one small thing we can do to remember the legacy that Ruth Bader Ginsburg left. So while you're learning more about her life, don't forget that you too can be Notorious like RBG

 

*At the time of publishing, the Center for Reproductive Rights is currently matching donations in Justice Ginsburg's name.

 

 

Topics: blog culture do-good social-justice social-responsibility
4 min read

Accessibility With Atlassian Products

By Amanda Babb on Dec 10, 2019 10:30:00 AM

Student Diversity is Key for Learning

Over the last two years, I've had the pleasure of partnering with Atlassian University to provide a wide range of training, including in-person courses, virtual courses, and even being the voice of Planning with Portfolio for Jira. If I had to count, I've likely delivered training to close to 1000 students since 2017 as an Atlassian Certified Instructor, but this week was a first – one of my students was blind. 

When teaching an Atlassian University course, we provide students with access to a virtual environment to practice the concepts presented. Each student is also provided soft copies of the slides as well as a lab workbook to guide them step-by-step through the environment. This particular course, Confluence Server Essentials, provides new users the opportunity to learn about the basics of Confluence. Navigation, page creation, blueprint usage, and collaboration features such as @ mentions, comments, and blogs are all covered in the full-day course. 

My blind student had a laptop with accessibility features and used the Jaws Screen Reader to help navigate the different UIs of the applications. He also had a colleague to assist him if needed. As I started the course, he was attentive and eagerly participated in the discussions. However, when it was time for everyone to log in to their environments and start the first set of exercises, I noticed that he was starting to fall behind. 

During the exercises, his assistant had a technical issue with her own laptop and asked if I would step in while she talked to tech support. I sat down and watched as he tried to navigate his screen reader through the Confluence System Dashboard and eventually to the correct Space to continue through the lab. This was my first time working with a screen reader, and I spent quite a bit of time wondering how it chose which parts of the screen to read. However, once we got into a rhythm, I was able to help him navigate to the correct menu. By the end of the time box, we managed to complete two of the four exercises. 

Accessibility in Atlassian Products

Atlassian supports or partially supports accessibility requirements for Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket Server and Data Center products, in compliance with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 (AA). At Praecipio Consulting, we developed a custom accessibility app for Jira, at a client's request, to accommodate sighted and non-sighted users. While support and partial support of accessibility are steps in the right direction, I still needed to find a better way to help this student. 

Enter the Atlassian Marketplace. If the functionality doesn't exist in the products themselves, we search the Marketplace for apps to add on to the instance. There are over 2000 apps available for Server, almost 1000 for Cloud, and nearly 700 for Data Center instances of the Atlassian applications, and these apps are generally tagged with additional information to further help you make the right choice. Through a quick search of all compatible apps tagged as Supported, I found two that looked promising: Accessibility for Confluence and Unstoppable for Confluence. Not knowing which one would work best, I tossed a coin. 

Because the Atlassian University lab environments work like a mini Server environment, they function the same as the customer instances of Confluence we work in every day. Following best practices, I wanted to test the installation of the app in a separate environment before installing it for the student. In my Instructor Environment, I found the user with the most administrative rights (as per the lab workbook) and installed the app. A quick check of the documentation told me the additional installation steps needed to activate it. As testing is important as well, I validated functionality myself first, and I was confident this app would provide the student with a better learning experience. 

A Retrospective on the Accessible Experience

Once installed and configured, my student was able to continue forward with the next two labs, including all exercises. Through exercises like creating a blog post, editing a page, and adding attachments, he was starting to understand how Confluence could help him with his daily tasks.

What did we do well?

  • Found an accessibility app and installed it
  • Walked the student through how to use it
  • Provided 1:1 instruction during labs to ensure understanding

What could we have done better? 

  • Communicated about the student before class
  • Researched screen readers to understand the best one
  • Asked the students for a solution

Going forward, I want to identify students with accessibility needs beforehand, so that I can prepare accommodations as needed. While I have thought about this as an instructor before, now that I've had the experience and have learned from it, I am better prepared to provide a better learning experience for all of my students moving forward.

We can all do great things if we communicate ahead of time. If you or your organization have accessibility needs, let us know! We can bring solutions and custom solutions as needed. 

Topics: blog confluence culture government corporate-responsibility accessibility atlassian-products social-responsibility
3 min read

Green Team: Praecipio Consulting's Global Climate Crisis Response Plan

By Christian Lane on Oct 25, 2019 9:45:00 AM

Global-Climate-Crisis-Response-Plan

Next April will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but we just couldn't wait six more months to share our company’s exciting news—starting November 1, 2019, Praecipio Consulting's Work from Home policy is changing. Beginning October 14, "Work From Work" is optional with the exception of two important days of the month. In addition, our workspace is transforming into a much smaller, more intentional workspace emphasizing climate responsibility and a more fulfilling and sustainable workstyle. The company will facilitate, enable and encourage more meaningful interactions; going for quality over quantity of face time; reducing the cost to the environment and cost of our team members' time and money. These are major changes due to our choice to operate in a way that supports our Global Climate Crisis Response Plan - all in an effort to reduce our company’s overall carbon footprint. Our Global Climate Crisis Response Plan was shared internally at Praecipio Consulting at the end of October and will be shared more widely shortly thereafter.

Benefits of Teleworking

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 50 percent of the American workforce currently holds telecommute-compatible jobs. If those people worked from home half the time, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road. It would also reduce annual oil consumption by 640 million barrels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. uses approximately 19 million barrels of oil every day. If people worked from home part-time, 1.75 million of those barrels--almost 10 percent--could be eliminated. In addition to reducing oil consumption, other benefits teleworking can gift to the environment are the reduction of air pollution and water pollution (from chemicals spilled into our waterways, rivers, and other water sources).

Our Global Climate Response Plan

As a business and as citizens, we recommitted to our responsibility to not just hear these facts, but to quickly pivot into action and lean-in as much as possible in consensus with the scientific community. While the positive impacts our exclusive teleworking policy will have on the environment are a step in the right direction, and a major part of our Global Climate Crisis Response Plan, we will do more to fulfill our responsibility to our community through exemplary leadership. These facts are all that all of us need to know to “do good.”

Praecipio Consulting has been a member of the Pledge 1% initiative since 2015, and we take our philanthropic commitments seriously. We will continue to make contributions and donations with a tighter focus towards reforestation and restoration of grasslands to sequester more co2 going forward.

Earth Day and the millions of conversations that are on-going about environmental challenges we face, serve as constant reminders of the things we are currently doing and how much more we can do to benefit the future generations that will inhabit the Earth. As members of communities, businesses are in a unique position to help their individual employees make larger, more significant positive impacts.

Commitment to Make an Impact

Teleworking, a smaller office, reduction of corporate travel, encouraging and incentivizing personal impacts, and continued contributions in spirit of Pledge 1% are all commitments Praecipio Consulting is making as part of our Global Climate Crisis Response Plan. It's our sincerest desire and passion to lead the way and reduce our company’s (and our employees’) carbon footprint to zero. Join us. At this very moment, what steps will you take to ensure Earth can sustain humanity?

Topics: blog digital-transformation corporate-responsibility global-climate-crisis green-team social-responsibility remote-work

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