Commentaries, Interviews & Profiles

Transporting Water
In his recent feature, “Defeating Drought,” Eric Herman sought to provoke an important conversation about the future of water supplies in areas prone to shortages. As the reservoir levels continue to drop in the wester U.S., one builder offers his view on a path, or more accurately a pipeline, that he believes we should follow. ...
Seeds of Integrity
Effective branding and marketing start with who you are, says Kurt Kraisinger, and as he points out in this incisive diatribe on success, there are no short cuts to integrity.   “Integrity is the seed for achievement. It is the principle that never fails.” -- Earl Nightingale You can follow many paths in pursuit of effective marketing and branding. In today’s multi-faceted communication landscape, you’ll find volumes of resources on the technical specifics, the “how-to’s” of SEM, SEO or your social media presence, with just a few keystrokes. The possible channels you can use are vast. Yet, I can’t help but think that no matter the media or sophisticated application thereof, it all starts with whether or not the message displays integrity. It’s presence or absence will always become apparent in ways you don’t always anticipate.      Integrity is something that you simply have or you don’t, although people can always grow and change, and you can cultivate it over time with focused effort and intention. It’s a way of being, the way we operate in all spheres of our lives:, the way we serve our customers, treat our employees, interact with colleagues and everyone else. Integrity shows through in all aspects of our lives and, I believe, it is the most important ingredient to success. It is truly the principle that never fails. LIARS & THEIVES Unfortunately, there are those that don’t have a lick of integrity, and that too becomes obvious. Chalk it up to ignorance, laziness, dishonesty, or a tragic shortage of moral certitude, lacking integrity is no way to go through life. Case in point, over the past few years, I’ve discovered multiple companies “borrowing” our images from our website to use in their marketing campaigns, misrepresenting our works as their own. I know many others who have experienced the same, and it’s always wrong. While these companies tout their high-end services and design, one has to wonder, if they lie about their portfolio, what else do they lie about? It takes integrity, time and dedication to excellence to build a great portfolio. People who don’t possess those qualities don’t create great design because they’re always seeking the quickest path from A to Z. That thoughtless expediency is at direct odds with developing quality design, because doing so takes an investment and focus over the long haul. It is a lot of work! The design process is challenging it is rarely a straight path but typically a meandering journey filled with unexpected challenges. It’s tough to master and it can be frustrating. There’s a reason so few of us do it. GARDENS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT That’s why an awe-inspiring portfolio doesn’t spring up overnight. It is nurtured and harvested from a series of projects that each present their own victories and hurdles. The same applies to positive client reviews. They are the product of long hours spent in client meetings, in phone conversations and problem-solving. Those all-important referrals so many of us rely on stem from a good rapport and most of all, positive results. In other words, it is impossible to conjure success. It must be grown.   In order to have a brand worthy of branding, we need to put in time to establish amazing designs that populate a breath-taking portfolio. It commands a tremendous amount of wittingly plodded and energetic effort over the course of many years. But if you love what you do, you’re only investing in yourself and I dare say, your happiness. Purely in terms of marketing, patience is a virtue. I believe only once these efforts are made can an individual really translate their integrity into the branding arena, meaning it only works if you truly have it in the first place. Remember, integrity crosses all spheres of life, so it’s important to market and brand yourself authentically. Returning to my previous example, when you misrepresent someone else’s work as your own, or take countless other shortcuts, you’re really only devaluing your greatest asset, yourself. So don’t do it! Do you have to wait ten years to build your portfolio before you can make a name for yourself? Of course not!  You can always put energy into marketing and branding as long as what you’re projecting to the public is congruent with your actual skill level and experience. Truthful marketing and branding are worth your time to ensure potential clients can find you, even if your portfolio isn’t as impressive than you’d like it to be. GROW WITH THE CHANGES My marketing strategies have evolved over the years because I have evolved, as has our business. In many ways, it’s been a deliberate process. Over the years, I have run my own personal experiments testing new approaches and ideas. I’ve learned that marketing and branding is dependent upon what you’re trying to accomplish, who you’re trying to reach, trends and your budget. Starting out, I didn’t even have photos. Our original website was mostly drawings of our designs because we didn’t have a portfolio of built work. We relied on those drawings, great customer service and word of mouth referrals to keep our company moving forward.   Every aspect of your business and branding relies on real work and integrity. And here’s the bottom line – while there are no shortcuts, when you do endeavor to cultivate your work with the seeds of integrity, your success with only grow! Quoted above: Earl Nightingale (March 12, 1921 – March 25, 1989) was a prominent and beloved American radio speaker and author, dealing mostly with the subjects of human character development, motivation, and meaningful existence. Kurt Kraisinger is co-founder of Tributary Revelations, a network of innovative industry leaders including architects, designers, and contractors, collaborating to create the world’s premier landscapes, luxury pools, and outdoor living spaces. He is also president of Lorax Design, a watershaping and landscape design firm located based in Overland Park, Kansas.
In Service of Sacrifice
In a colossal effort to support a wounded veteran, Paolo Benedetti worked a series of small miracles pulling donations of material, equipment and labor to build a pool for Sgt. Brian Jergens. The result is a place where the still young man can heal from his physical and psychological injuries. ...
Defeating Drought
Dry times are inevitable, writes Eric Herman; and, at present, all indications are that much of the Western U.S. is in the early stages of what looks to be a severe drought. That’s why, he says, the sooner we face the reality of ever-increasing demand for freshwater and dwindling supply, the sooner society can push back against the potential horror and disaster of water shortages. ...
Building Educational Bridges
Watershape University is ready to meet the increasing need for industry education, both online and in person, across a spectrum of mission-critical topic areas. Co-founder, Dave Peterson, recently appeared on an episode of Ask the Master’s podcast showcasing the range of programs WU is delivering in the post-pandemic era. ...
A Million Blue Marbles
As part of Wallace “J” Nichols Year of Blue Mind, he recently offered a reading from his seminal book of the same name. Here is Chapter 9: A Million Blue Marbles, a treatise that broadens perspectives by focusing on something simple and small. ...
A Plastic Pollution Solution
There’s an enormous garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – comprised mostly of floating plastic trash.  Known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” it’s twice the size of Texas and getting bigger. Plastic pollution has become a gigantic problem requiring big thinking combined with commonsense. One town in Australia has joined the battle with a wonderfully simple pollution solution.  Since 1907 -- when Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the first real synthetic, mass-produced plastic -- humankind has produced approximately 7.8 billion tons of the stuff. Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually and 8 million tons of it wind up in the ocean, every year, and the numbers are increasing. It's a problem that impacts marine wildlife up and down the food chain and human health, as well. This is why it’s exciting to see a simple initiative aimed at preventing such waste that realistically could be copied worldwide. The Australian city of Kwinana has designed a simple and cost-effective way to deal with the discharge of waste from drainage systems, the primary source of plastic pollution. The concept couldn't be more straightforward. The town has installed mesh filter nets on drainage-pipe outlets, where nets stop waste and pollutants from leaving the sewers, preventing waste transported by rain waters from entering the town's local stream system, ultimately preventing the waste from making its way into river systems and ultimately to the ocean. The city reported that in just six months, it collected 370 kilograms (815 pounds) of garbage from two locations where the nets are installed. The collected debris is then separated and all recyclable materials are taken to a recycling center. The nets were installed on 750mm and 450mm-diameter concrete drainage pipe outlets. In six months, they have been cleaned a total of three times and at no point have any animal been found trapped inside or injured in any way by the presence of the nets. Carol Adams, the city mayor, revealed to SurferToday magazine, that the initiative only cost around $20,000. "After seeing the nets in action in other local government areas, the City determined the net to be the most cost-effective and safest option over other methods, which can be up to four times the cost per unit and are sealed and submerged structures," Adams explained. Although statistically miniscule, should Kwinana’s netting concept become widespread it could prevent significant quantities of plastic waste from entering waterways and reaching the ocean. A GROWING PROBLEM The scientific and environmental communities have, by broad consensus, identified plastic pollution as one of, if not the most pervasive problem affecting aquatic environments. Plastic jeopardizes ocean health, and as a result food safety and quality. It also negatively impacts coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change.  Floating plastic debris is currently the most abundant item of marine litter. It's found from surface waters all the way down to deep-sea sediment. Plastic in oceans exists in a variety of familiar forms including shopping bags, fast food containers, beverage bottles, straws, toothbrushes, toys, packing material and much more. It has been found on the shores of all the continents; and, not surprisingly, it exists in greater quantities near densely populated areas. The main sources of marine plastic are land-based and enter the earth’s hydrosphere from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping. Leading polluters include the fishing industry, industrial and recreational nautical activities and aquaculture. Plastic breaks down into small fragments as a result of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors. The resulting particles are defined as microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nano-plastics (particles smaller than 100 nm). When plastic breaks down to such small sizes, it is easily ingested by sea life of all types, where permanently becomes part of the food chain. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT The most visible and disturbing impact of marine plastics is the threat it poses to marine animals. Wildlife including seabirds, whales, fish and turtles, often mistake plastic waste for prey, and when they eat it many die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris instead of food. Plastics inflict lacerations, cause infections, reduce the ability to swim, and lead to internal injuries among other maladies. Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which further disrupt ecosystems. On land, our human world is impacted as microplastic is found in tap water, beer, salt and other food substances. Several of the chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic. Some can interfere with several of the body’s key functions, including the endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders, in both humans and wildlife. Those contaminants are eventually transferred from marine species and humans through the consumption of seafood, a process that now has been classified as a health hazard by the World Health Organization. The good news in all of this is that global concern and public awareness regarding the impact of plastic on the marine environment are increasing. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) lists plastic marine debris --and its ability to transport harmful contaminants-- as one of the most impactful issues negatively affecting the environment. Legal efforts have been made at the international and national levels to address marine pollution. These efforts are not new and include many constituents. While those efforts represent hope and progress, compliance is still relatively dismal, which is largely due to limited financial resources devoted to enforcement. In some places, governments, research institutions and industries are in the early stages of redesigning products and rethinking their usage and disposal. In the prospective sense, this will require solutions that will go beyond waste management, taking into account the entire lifecycle of plastic products, from product design to infrastructure and household use, to disposal and re-use. LOOKING AHEAD Scientists are sounding the alarms, pointing out that by dispensing so much plastic into the environment, future archaeologists will identify this era by the synthetic waste that was left behind, begging the question, are we already living in the “Plastic Age?” Maybe there is still time to reverse this destructive process trend; and, encouragingly, the technology and methodologies to make that happen already exist. Some of the solutions are simple, while others, such as harvesting floating plastic efforts that have already begun, are far more complex. Perhaps small measures like those in Kwinana can be a big part of the solution to plastic pollution. ...
Naming a Legacy
Coining a term intended to define anything truly new is no small task, even for the most skilled of wordsmiths. But that is exactly what Jim McCloskey did 23 years ago, when he came up with a way to describe an emerging industry – an epiphany that, by the way, materialized during a nice, long soak. ...
WaterShapes Returns
WaterShapes has been going through some big changes, some readily apparent, others are more behind the scenes. As Editor Eric Herman explains, after a set of much-needed upgrades, the publication is set to deliver the content readers have come to expect. ...
The True Value of Sea Turtles
In his campaign to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of an aquatic lifestyle, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols has declared 2021 "A Year of Blue Mind." Each day he publishes a different Blue Mind-related item on his Patreon page. This wonderful essay was published on day 23.