Yes, Virginia

Bill Walsh | December 16, 2009 | Optimizing Recycling

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

We won’t soon forget 2009, a year of tremendous challenges, accomplishments, and fun. In fact, our April 1st newsletter "Introducing Organic Vinyl" was so much fun we had to issue a retraction to stem the tide of angry emails and subscription cancellations! Most importantly (and fun in its own way!) we achieved our number one goal: launching the Pharos Project. But like many not-for-profit organizations, this year the Healthy Building Network faced the toughest financial challenges in our history. Yes, Virginia, this is an appeal for your tax-deductible donation that is vital to maintaining HBN as a independent, unbiased, and reliable source of information, 364 days a year.

The key to all that you value in HBN is the financial independence that allows us to call things as we see them, stand up to greenwash and take on the industry bullies, as we did this year when the Formaldehyde Council published a disingenuous attack on our research. But in 2009, philanthropic giving was down, as many of our foundation supporters saw both a reduction in available funds and an increase in need. June was a low point for HBN. Staff took an across-the-board salary and benefits cut in order to make ends meet. We wondered whether, with reduced resources, we would be able to meet our goal of launching the Pharos Project. But we hung tight, and you hung with us, and together we accomplished what we set out to do: launch the Pharos Project and create a new paradigm of transparency for building products.

We received a huge boost in spirit when 18 architecture, design, health care and construction firms -- representing more than 1 billion dollars in annual revenues and 40 million square feet of projects annually -- agreed to participate in the Pharos Pilot Project. These partners helped us evaluate and test the on-line system while it was still in development. Their enthusiasm gave our staff a new burst of energy. Together, we were able to improve and refine the project, and ultimately achieve our goal of a Greenbuild launch.

One reason we are so excited about the Pharos Project is because it provides greater accessibility to the leading edge environmental health information we have historically provided through fact sheets, white papers and the Healthy Building News. This year, for example, while New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, was putting phthalates and BPA on the radar of mainstream consumers, HBN researchers were making the link to where these chemicals are found in building materials.[1]

Now, when Pharos subscribers hear new information about a chemical health risk, they can close the loop themselves by using the Pharos Building Product Library to screen products for those chemicals, or quickly get authoritative information from multiple sources in the Pharos searchable Chemical and Material Library. Pharos represents an unprecedented leap in both the availability and transparency of information you need to know.

Thank you so much for your support this year – and for giving us hell when you thought we went off the deep end with organic vinyl! We are now planning an exciting and ambitious agenda for 2010, and there are two ways you can help us get off on the right foot. First, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Healthy Building Network to provide general support for all of our efforts, including this newsletter. And, second, you can subscribe to Pharos, and become part of the network of product manufacturers and green building professionals committed to transparency as a core value on the path to sustainability.

Thank you for your consideration, Santa. We Believe! Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season and a prosperous New Year for all.


[1] See e.g. phthalates discussed in, BPA discussed in See also