When Kate Heber met John Byfield in 1978, he was living off-grid in a small A-frame cabin built entirely by hand outside of Eugene, Oregon.John's commitment to eco-friendly living was inspired both by the back to the land movement of the late 60's and early 70's as well as by alternative building pioneers like Buckminster Fuller.Using a wood-fired stove for heat and cooking, kerosene lamps for light, and living without most of the other modern conveniences most of us take for granted, John's lifestyle was simple and clean.Kate, who had been traveling the country looking for adventure, fell in love with his lifestyle, and they fell in love with each other.
Thirty years and many life changes later, they still believe in the same core values they did back then, but like many of us from that era, their careers had taken them down some paths that led them away from living a simple life.John's involvement in the bicycle industry, beginning as a simple bicycle mechanic, had grown into a serious career as a Western Regional Sales Manager for a large bicycle distribution company. In the meantime Kate was working for an International tour operator giving them an opportunity to travel the world extensively.Life, as it has a habit of doing, had sucked them in, and they were living a fairly middle class existence as the 1990's came to a close. By 1999 both of them were growing tired of the rat race, and left their comfortable jobs for a new lifestyle on the central coast of California. Once again however, John's career intervened in their plans for a simpler lifestyle and by 2004 he was Vice -President of a large sports video distribution company. Determine again to de-stress their lives, they returned to Oregon whee they bought a small custom furniture company and spent a great deal more time camping, hiking and fishing than they had in many years. Concerned by the unsustainable nature of many of the materials they were using to construct their furniture, they began developing a new line of products based on sustainable practices. At that time, there were almost no furniture manufacturers or suppliers focused on sustainable materials and they spent nearly a year researching and developing new ways to build their product.
The result was ZOLA ( www.zolafurnishings.com ), an eco-friendly furniture line that incorporated FSC Certified woods, organic cotton and wool battings, zero-VOC stains, glues and finishes, and natural, organic, or recycled fabrics.By 2008, the company was one of only six companies worldwide to have received Silver Exemplary Status with the Sustainable Furnishings Council (a certification comparable to LEED certifications in the building industry) and was a recognized leader in the field.By then however, the country was in full blown economic crises and the demand for high-end custom furniture was severely impacted.At the same time, the "big-boys" in the furniture industry had decided that "green" furniture was a good idea for their PR machine.They began to introduce furniture at a much lower price point then the ZOLA line by using "green" materials like "soy-based" foam.Many of these so called "green" materials they were using, like the foam, are nothing more than conventional petroleum based materials with a small percentage of soy incorporated in them.However, with their huge budgets, their marketing departments were able to spin the product to the consumer in a way that made it increasingly difficult for a small manufacturer like ZOLA to compete.John and Kate decided to look for a new direction for their lives and the idea for the Eco-Discovery Tour was born..
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