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Jul 082010
 

by Kayla Fioravanti, reprinted with permission.

With every stand that you take there are those that will stand with you, those that will digest the information and think about it and others who will take a stand against you.  I know that is a risk that I took when I chose to publicly stand against the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Database.

Cash

I debated posting what I found after I followed the money trail, since just my mention on social media that I was doing the research lost me a customer.  I’d prefer to remain neutral, but I fear that neutrality would result in continued damage to small businesses around the country by an organization that sadly lacks the science to back up their claims.  Being outspoken against the EWG may continue to cost me some customers, but I believe education is the key to fact based decisions and safe cosmetics.

In the past few months I have been terribly disturbed to see the Environmental Working Group send repeated emails requesting just another $10 donation.  Each letter sounds more dire than the next as if the world would literally end if the EWG didn’t meet their budget. 

This inspired me to do a little digging to see just what Mr. Cook himself makes annually since he was making the earth shattering pleas for donations.  The only 990 I could get a hold of for the EWG was 2008

According to BA Carrington with Empowerment Enterprises, LTD, "They (EWG) have not filed a tax return on the 501 c 3 since 2008, according to the 990 database Exempt World, which is a subscription service to track 990’s.  Even though EWG is categorized as a charitable organization, it is still required to file a return under IRS codes and submit their “list of activities” to the IRS on an annual basis, even if they file an extension."  It could be that they have filed an extension and the deadline for the information has not yet passed based on their calendar fiscal year.  For more details on this possibility click here

The EWG has stepped up it’s fundraising to now include promoting the purchase of the very same sunscreens that they claim are bad for you through Amazon to raise money for the EWG.  Read more about that topic click here.

According to 2008 IRS Tax Filings

In 2008 Ken Cook was paid $219.401.00 plus another $21,295.00 estimated amount of other compensation from organization and related organizations. 

Richard Wiles $179,218.00 plus $20,998.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations. 

Jane Houlihan $150,226.00 plus $19,448.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations. 

William Walker made $136,448.00 plus 19,743.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Susan Comfort $115,752.00 plus $7932.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Sandra Schubert $127,229.00 plus $4884.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Alexander Formuzis $120.592.00 plus $10,920.00.  Christopher Campbell $136,909.00 plus $11,988.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Breaking it all Down

In case you got sick of reading the pay that is a total of $1,185,775.00 being paid to the top 8 employees of the Environmental Working Group just in 2008.  The total estimated amount of other compensation from the organization or related organizations for the top 8 at EWG was $117,248.00.  The total reported 2008 salaries for EWG was $3,203,747.00 in 2008.  The 2008 total revenue at EWG was $6,242,570.00.  Over half of their total revenue went into paying the employees of EWG. 

I am not opposed to making a profit.  I believe in Capitalism.  I also appreciate that it takes time, money and resources to pursue any public policy position. But still, more than half of the operating budget is a lot.  I am troubled when a non-profit that asks for $10 via email and $5 most of the time you click on their Skin Deep website as if they are on the verge of going out of business is spending so much of your money on their executives. 

In 2006 Ken Cook was reported to have been paid $192,000.00.  If Ken Cook continued at the same rate of pay increase over the past two years as he did from 2006 to 2008 he may be making as much as $245,000.00 (only an estimate based on the pay rate of increase from 2006 to 2008).

No wonder I get so many requests for another $5 or $10 donation from the EWG. At 2008 pay rates they need at least 118,578 people to donate $10 just to cover their top 8 executives pay…who knows how much is needed to cover it in 2009 and 2010?!

You have to wonder if the EWG is really hurting for money or if they just like to keep their budget at a certain number.  In 2008 the net assets or fund balances were $5,171,374.00 at the end of the year.  They were given gifts, grants, contributions and memberships fees in 2004 of $4,975,899.00, 2005 of $3,539,214.00, 2006 of $3,478,044.00, 2007 of $4,004,846.00 and 2008 another $5,963,800.00. 

A very revealing, carefully documented and thoroughly research of the history of and who is behind the EWG can be found on the Personal Care Truth website (click here to read.)

The EWG, Skin Deep and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have made many claims that cosmetic companies are financially driven to claim that ingredients are safe, I am simply wondering if EWG has a financial interest in saying that they are not safe.  I don’t know many small business cosmetic owners who are making as much money as the top 8 at EWG. 

I’m just saying…in this economy do they really need your $10?  What do you think?  Does knowing the money trail color your impression of the EWG as a non-profit?

Kayla Fioravanti and her husband Dennis own and operate Essential Wholesale

Ed. note: After reading Kayla’s excellent report and the comprehensive history at Personal Care Truth, as well as examination of available information  on the EWG website and other sources, several red flags wave.  These include, but may not be limited to, proportional ratio of administrative salaries vs. actual program funding; lack of transparency of donors as well as staffing and operations; unclear financial and staffing relationship between EWG and EWG Action Fund.  In 2002 an IRS complaint was filed against EWG asking for an investigation and revocation of their nonprofit status.  Further research is needed to establish the determination of that action.

 Posted by at 9:06 pm
Mar 032010
 

I’ve blogged before about this great organization, spearheaded by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger and now joined by the dedicated Geraldine Zelinsky.  I’ve known both of these remarkable ladies for over 15 years now.  How time flies when you’re working hard and having fun.

Flag_SBProds_2010_280 For those of you who aren’t familiar with UAE, here is their mission, “The United Aromatherapy Effort, (UAE) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Charitable organization born out of the September 11th tragedy. The mission of UAE is to provide stress relief and aromatherapy to relief workers, and troops during emergency work and afterwards. We collect and disseminate donated aromatherapy products to those affected by disaster or war  in conjunction with chair massage and other natural therapies. Historically we have responded to the World Trade Center Disaster, NY (2001), Florida Hurricanes (2004), the Gulf Coast affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005-6), and in 2007-8 the California wildfires and the Gulf Coast Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Recently in 2009 we shifted our focus to the Military, both abroad and at home and are now supplying 4 Soldiers on the Ground (Afghanistan and Korea) with donated aromatherapy supplies they then disseminate to other soldiers.”

Since the beginning, Samara Botane has been happy to be donating diffusers, essential oils and aromatherapy products to bring stress relief,  help with minor skin problems and aromatic uplifting to those brave persons who serve so valiantly in times of emergency and disaster through this heartfelt organization.  Starting last year, UAE began working with troops in the field in Afghanistan and N. Korea.  A lovely thank you from troops outside Kabul at Camp Phoenix was the flying of the American flag on the base in honor of UAE last December 21. The flag was carefully removed, folded and sent to Sylla along with a letter from Brigadier General, Lawrence E. Dudney, Jr. expressing the gratitude of the troops.  The flag has now been travelling across the country from company to company while we all take pictures of it in our shops and warehouses.  Ultimately, Sylla and Geraldine will make a collage of the photos to send back to Brigadier General Dudney, Jr. to share with the troops. 

Mar_Rob_Flag_2010_325 As we did this, from opening the package with the flag to carefully replacing it securely to ship on to the next UAE company supporter, it has been an emotional time. We feel pride well up in our throats, as well as apprehension for the safety of our troops in our hearts.  We hope that we are doing some small thing for those who do so much, and it’s nice to know their appreciation.  We certainly appreciate them.

Rob and I took these casual pictures on the fly over the weekend, while squeezing a short break from taking inventory working with a temporary professional crew. I wanted to have our great staff in the pictures, but the timing didn’t work out and they weren’t here.  We are in our ‘blending room’ where staff fills thousands of those little bottles of essential oils and I work to formulate new blends for products when I’m not in the office on the computer or planting and tending the gardens.  The sign in the window is from our first store in Seattle, with the original Samara Botane logo and hand wrought copper samaras; a nice reminder, a glimpse of the evolution of our journey every time we look out that particular window.

I know these are tough economic times for many of our clients and customers.  UAE can always use money for postage and shipping, even in small amounts if you can spare it.  I’m sure they would appreciate hearing from you. 

 Posted by at 4:20 pm
Jan 152010
 

I put my arms around him yes
and drew him down to me so he could
feel my breasts all perfume yes
and his heart was going like mad
and yes I said yes I will Yes.
James Joyce

According to the New Advent Encyclopedia Section, there were at least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs. One is described as a priest, another as a bishop and the third suffered in Africa with a number of companions, although nothing further is known. The popular, and now modern, customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day have their origins in conventional belief in the geographical regions of England and France during the Middle Ages. This belief stems from the observation that half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair.
Thus, in Chaucer’s Parliment of Foules,
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s Day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

For this reason, the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and the proper occasion for writing love letters and sending tokens to one’s object of affection. The French and English literatures are rife with allusions to the practice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Those who chose each other under these circumstances called each other their Valentines.

One romantic legend, according to History.com contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II believed that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius after realizing the injustice of the decree and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

The oldest valentine in existence is thought to be a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the tower of London in 1415. Valentine greetings and tokens of affection were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, although written valentines didn’t appear until after 1400. The first commercial valentine in the United States is attributed to Esther A. Howland who made elaborate creations with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures, known as ‘scrap’.  The scanned image at right is one of several elaborate, lacy valentines belonging to my long deceased great grandmother.
A typical verse:
I send you this, with hope and fear
With hope that you will tender be;
Yet all the while, I tremble dear,
Lest you should not be fancy-free
I could not bear the hopeless fate
To hear the cruel words – too late.

Would that we could have such tender Romeos today to bare these fragile inner feelings and show such deep emotional love. Certainly not in this age of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Resident Evil 4.

In Roman mythology, Cupid (meaning ‘desire’) is the god of erotic love and beauty, aka Amor, and son of goddess Venus and god Mercury. We have exploited this young deity in art, literature, confection, adornment and perfume at this time of year, some would say to excess. And, while we moderns are probably not going to participate in the elaborate ancient celebration of Lupercalia, which occurred in ancient Rome on February 15, and when some of the weirdest customs were indulged, it is perhaps another precursor to our modern celebratory immersion in romance and fertility.

Those of us who garden in the northern climes can’t ignore the fact that February 14 is also the approximate time for the beginning of the Spring thaw, another significant allusion to fertility.

While we may never know all of the facts of the history that lies behind Valentines Day; most of us are smitten with the idea of heartfelt expression and indulgence to bestow favor and admiration on those we care deeply about or wish to have a romantic relationship with.

Any expression of universal love in light of the overwhelming humanitarian disaster in Haiti must include our commitment to the brave and beautiful people of that impoverished country.  During the first quarter of 2010, Samara Botane will donate 10% of all all sales (not just web sales) to Partners in Health.  PIH works to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world. Their work has three goals: to care for patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world. Partners in Health has been in Haiti for over 20 years and its hospitals are untouched by the recent earthquake. They have been the first medical response to the disaster and their doctors and medical personnel are primarily Haitian citizens. Based in Boston, PIH employs more than 11,000 people worldwide, including doctors, nurses and community health workers. The vast majority of PIH staff are local nationals based in the communities we serve.

Valentine Gift Suggestions

Amoretto™ Parfum Mist, 7.5 ml in brushed silver atomizer

Soft florals of Rose Otto and Ylang Ylang with hints of zesty Citrus, grounded with Vetiver & Sandalwood and a mere whisper of Black Pepper, Clary Sage and Juniper make this a lovely fragrant poem of innocent love. This fine perfume is a 30% perfume composition in certified organic perfumers alcohol, with moderate silage and a uniquely soft, sweet scent for young and old alike. Festively packaged in chic acetate pillow with sizzle fill.

Relax in the tub and treat your skin to nourishment and renewal

Renew Milk & Honey Bath Ensemble

The additive dissolves in your bath to create a beautiful skin softening therapy – a few drops of the essential oil blend make it aromatically restful while adding additional skin healing, and the aromatherapy body lotion completes the experience of skin rejuvenation and renewal. Packaged in a charming little reuseable suitcase. Delightful luxury for the love of your life.

Please explore our website for lovely naturally fragrant gifts and indulgences for your loved ones. If you have difficulty finding what you are looking for, or need some ideas or explanations, or want to put together a custom gift, you can always email or call me.

Free shipping to you or your recipient on orders placed before February 8th, with an additional bonus gift for the purchaser of one of our recipe booklets for refreshing skin, hair and body treatments and aromatherapy ideas for health and beauty.

Sending fragrant thoughts your way for this beautiful Valentine’s Day! Share your love abundantly with all you touch.

Marcia and the Samara Botane crew

 Posted by at 6:56 pm
Dec 022009
 

We operate on a calendar year, so the month of December is filled with inventory, reorganization and analysis to assess what changes should be made in the upcoming year that allow us to serve you better.   This in-depth scrutiny includes taking what I refer to as our ‘heart and soul’ imagetemperature.  It is a time to review whether or not we are effective in our tithing to pay it forward. It is a time to make sure that our gratitude for so many wonderful clients and customers is being adequately and honestly shared with those who need it.  A favorite project is our involvement with Trees for the Future, a worthy endeavor started by Dave and Grace Deppner and incorporated as a 501(c) 3 public charity in 1989.  Here’s how it works.  We pledge 50 cents to TREES for every order we ship which insures that one new tree will be planted somewhere it is needed.  This effort has now assisted thousands of communities across the globe in planting millions of trees, which, in turn, has restored life to land previously degraded by fires and floods or abandoned.  The trees provide food, fodder, fuel, fertilizer and medicine for farmers as well as biodiversity for the landscape.  It is an awesome endeavor, magnificent in its simplicity.  It insures that our (and your) 50 cents take root and grow to exponentially serve as only Nature can.  Read the Trees for the Future 2010 Plan to learn more.

We are also long-time supporters and contributors to United Aromatherapy Effort, spearheaded by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger and assisted by Geraldine Zelinsky.  We provide aromatherapy supplies and products that UAE then distributes to our troops in Afghanistan and first responders to emergencies around the globe. For the latter, they partner with volunteer body workers who provide on-the-spot aromatherapy massage for the brave first responders during sometimes endless hours assisting in disasters.  UAE has recently been approved as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, retro to 2006. As the war in Afghanistan continues to escalate, our troops need all the support we can provide them to help combat colds and flu naturally, lighten their moods with environmental fragrance and generally ease stress and tension with aromatherapy.  The holidays are especially tough.  Any monetary contributions you can make are more than welcome.  UAE could use help updating their website and is looking for someone to help out.

Another of our longtime favorite nonprofit efforts is Midwives on MOMSchris-dressed-in-elder-clothers_215 Missions of Service.  This wonderful humanitarian organization teaches maternity care and safe birthing skills to women in Africa (primarily Sierra Leone where their services are very much needed).  Valid statistics and clinical evidence show that there is an impressive improvement in maternal and infant health as a result.  Samara Botane provides essential oils and aromatherapy products to support their efforts.  You will see when exploring their website that there is a great need for more volunteers (and of course money) to keep this awesome effort thriving. 

We would enjoy learning about what you do during this season of giving.   What are some of your favorite organizations or charitable activities?

ONE MORE THING
The Samara Botane Treasure Hunt has now concluded.  It has been a huge success and we have some very happy winners.  Those who agreed to be publicly acknowledged are listed on the store landing page (through the store door).   We’ve extended 15% off on discountable items through Friday, December 18 which is still in time for delivery before Christmas.  We’ve decided it’s a good idea to have an annual treasure hunt . . . what are your thoughts?

 Posted by at 8:03 pm