Social Accountability

How Inefficiency Hurts Your Business for Sustainability

Saturday, February 22, 2014 by

In today's technologically driven world, there are many ways a business can become more efficient. This efficiency translates to greater net income as well as promoting a stronger future for humanity. Let's face it, without focusing on the continuation of humankind, there will be no customers in the future. With all of the innovative developments at our disposal, there are still many people that prefer to perform archaic principles in business that are not conducive to growth. In what ways can this inefficiency hurt your business for sustainability?

1. Wasting Time - One of the most valued commodities of any business is time. By not investing in ways to increase efficiency in the workplace, your business is losing money through wasting the one thing that cannot be recuperated. Instead of the pencil and pen ledger, software exists to allow you to reduce the time spent on record keeping exponentially. This means less paper is used, less time is wasted and more money remains in your bank accounts instead of paying staff to do the work that only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

2. Wasting Electricity - By not examining the electronics that are turned on all the time that don't need to be, you are wasting electricity. Not all computers and monitors need to be left on day-in and day-out. The only real appliance that should be left on is the server. That staff member you may have that is only at his or her desk once per week doesn't need the computer left on. This waste of electricity is damaging to your energy bill as well as hurting the rest of the community by taking energy that could be used elsewhere.

3. Wasting Paper - Did you know that nearly every aspect of any given business can be done digitally? Even receipts for purchases can be emailed instead of printed. Since tablets and smartphones can open most office documents, there is no real reason to have hard copies. Digital documents can be stored and backed up far easier than the printed counterparts - and will take up less physical space. The only real forms that may be needed are those that require personal initials or signatures such as real estate documents or contracts. Memos, correspondences and many other forms of printed material are no longer needed if you have the right alternatives. The financial savings alone from ink and paper should be more than enough incentive to look into efficient alternatives. 

4. Wasting Water - Faucets and toilets within the facility may be wasting water, but what about outside the business? Everyone likes to see greenery surrounding the headquarters or business establishment. However, is the water being put into keeping it green used wisely? There are still organizations out there that have sprinkler systems that operate when it's raining outside. There are products available now that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering the grass and flowers by up to 50-percent. This means you are wasting less water on the ambiance of your business while keeping more money in your bank.

As a business owner, you should be setting an example of professionalism. In a world where so many resources are dwindling rapidly, you need to realize that the business establishment greatly contributes to the loss of these resources. Look around your location and develop a strategy to become more sustainable for the environment and your profitability.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

The Next Economy

Monday, February 10, 2014 by

Those who follow my blog might have noticed substantial inactivity. Yes, I stopped posting articles, mainly out of despair. So much to say, what first, and how? Even if I wrote every day, we would not cover all the complexities of the self-destructive system that humans have created out of greed.

As the speed of natural devastation picks up and the response to the natural rampage becomes short,  obsolete, and mostly non-systemic many, who strive to keep this precious Earth alive with all its beauties, become speechless. But as a famous quote whose author I do not recall states "there is no time to be a pessimist", we must now, more than ever, reflect on our actions and their consequences. We must now rethink our way forward.

If the way forward is based on understanding our need for biological sustainability, since without biological sustainability there is no other sustainability, I let you ponder on this way forward for the outbursting population of 7 billion. 

Video by Tompkins Conservation, The Next Economy

Words of a long time environmentalist and conservationist, Doug Tompkins who, together with his wife Kris and a large team of people dedicated to preserving our nature, have embarked on a challenging path. They have been able to succeed, so why can't we all?

 

Described as “a tireless advocate of an ecological lifestyle and an absolute defender of nature”, Hana takes any opportunity to engage in sustainable living as a sustainability strategist, citizen as well as a consumer. Her ambitions go beyond motivating others through Hana's green living blog. Professionally her aim is to look at today’s environmental issues in a holistic way, through a systemic lens and to strive for long-term improvements rather than short-term fixes. She established Earth Matters, a collaborative consultancy to help others advance on issues of sustainability. Tweet @earthmatters2me

 

 

Fire Your Manager. Hire A Leader.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 by
If you want to create a truly modern company, managers can no longer act like 'managers.'  The manager defined the leaden archaic corporate hierarchy of the past. In that construct, there was little room for self-correction and ownership on the individual level. Rather than taking the driver's seat by delivering customer value or improving products, the old corporate model trained one to do a job as a single cog in the machine. 
 
The issue is that technology is creating bean-counters that micromanage jobs at arms'-length.  Taylor introduced ‘scientific management’ back in the late nineteenth century as a way of getting the American worker to do as they were told. It aimed for efficiency by standardizing and routinizing the techniques for completing each task involved with a given job. The effect resulted in deskilling workers and dehumanizing the workplace.
 
The twenty-first century has given rise to 'digital Taylorism.' This involves translating knowledge work into working knowledge through the extraction, codification and digitalization of knowledge into software that can be transmitted and manipulated by others. Digital Taylorism has increased the role and power of a manager by using technology to monitor workers and make sure they are employing tools and techniques at a satisfactory level.
 
With task management software tools to break down every given task into multiple increments, workers get limited to doing exactly as they are told and filling whatever quota of tasks at hand.  Already, 80% of the corporations in America have their employees under regular surveillance and apparently this number is growing.* These practices, which intend to increase efficiency and, at least theoretically, enable more self-accountability, often end up disempowering and over-systematizing jobs to the point where individuals are expected to work with a 'machine mind.'
 
Without allowing employees to understand and participate in the entire business operation, managers are then stuck with the assigning singular jobs and limited responsibilities to others. Over-systematizing jobs through these new technologies often lead to an extreme domination of managers over employees. Without allowing work accountability and self-adjustment, managers must fix the problems of each internal mistake themselves and likely only when seen at the customer or end-product level.  They enjoy having to correct and possibly reprimand employees, or even worse, serve as referee in an escalation point when problems and mistakes are tossed back and forth. Fun, right. My advise?  Fire you managers and rehire a leader.
 
Don’t allow for processes to over-ride common sense!
 
Managers assign tasks, correct employees, and serve as an escalation point for a problem. Leaders don't do this. Leaders improve participation and increase autonomy and accountability in everyone's work. This leads to people doing something not because they are told, but because they want to produce the best possible product or service.
 
Get rid of micromanagement and processes that stifle creative thinking and productivity.
 
Allow the ideas, goals, and accomplishments of the company to become the main focus... as they should be.  This construct leads to the bottom up approach of modern businesses. Rather than management sitting at the top of the corporate model, the client and customer product takes the main seat in the company. Here, what matters is that the work gets done--and done right so it's delivering value to your clients.
 
References
* Parenti, C. (2001). Big brother’s corporate cousin: high-tech workplace surveillance is the hallmark of a new digital Taylorism. The Nation, 273(5), 26-30.
 
Laura Pretsch is a business advisor, innovator, entrepreneur and lifestyle aficionado. Laura has dedicated her life to developing the tools and understanding to help others innovate and create better lives. Laura is the Co-Founder ‘The Brilliant Leadership Company’.
 
 
  
 

Mindfulness Meditation Is The Direct Way To Happiness

Thursday, January 16, 2014 by

We often wonder what our lives would be like without meditation or mindfulness. We were talking with our partner, neuroscientist and yogi Brian Jones, about this recently who said, “With all the mass overstimulation and continuously heightened levels of stress it's easy to see why we’re all going crazy. The modern world demands so much of our attention that we forget who we truly are in our deepest sense.”

We’re sure you know what we mean: the demands and busyness of life can have a toll on anyone. So what to do? How to live in this world with sanity and ease? The wise yogis said that happiness is our birthright but where is this happiness found?

What, out of all the things we can get in this whole world, will give us the most happiness, joy, peace of mind, self-friendship, clarity, insight, presence, is totally free but invariably ignored? Yes, you got it, it’s meditation -- the most invaluable gift you could ever give yourself! We look everywhere for peace and spend a fortune thinking something will give us happiness while it is, and always will be, inside us. Not only that, but whatever we get we can lose, but what’s inside of us we have always! How outrageous!

Actor Ed Begley, Jr., from our award-winning book Be The Change, points out that: If stuff made you happy, there would be nothing but happy people living in Bel Air and unhappy people living in Fiji where they have nothing, but I have been to Fiji and there are plenty of happy people there. I have never seen a hearse with a luggage rack on top. We have got to get away from stuff and appreciate what is here.

Meditation is in the news. Any self-respecting business uses meditation and mindfulness to combat stress, major newspapers and magazines carry stories on the benefits of meditation with tips from famous film stars, and cross-legged yogis and Buddhist monks can be seen in adverts for everything from computers and credit cards to insurance.  

Respected Buddhist meditation teacher Mingyur Rinpoche asks: Who makes problems? We humans. And who is the controller of the human? The mind. And how to control the human mind? Through meditation. If you can control the pilot, then the pilot can control the plane.

Mindfulness is being aware of whatever arises in your mind and body, sensations, feelings and thoughts. It’s not about trying to change anything but non-judgmentally and gently accepting it as it is. However, anyone first coming to meditation can be met with a plethora of advice and techniques that may baffle or confuse: Where to go? What to do? Which is best? How to start? How to chose between TM, mantra recitation, kundalini, vipassana, insight, witness, breath awareness, shamata, visualization, MBSR, metta, and more?

The best way is to try them and see what works for you – we’re all different! It’s important to remember that a technique is only a way to something, it’s not the something itself. True meditation is spontaneous, natural, arising from within, while the technique is simply the learnt method that helps us have that experience. All techniques are designed to help calm the mind, bring our attention inward, and focus in just this present moment so that the experience of meditation occurs naturally.

Author and meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein emphasizes that: The point of meditation is to keep the mind free of confusion. Meditation, past calming our nerves, past being good for our blood pressure, past allowing us to work out our own internal psychological dramas, which it does, past helping us to get along with our kin and our community, is a way of really deeply seeing the truth that the only way to ameliorate our own suffering and the suffering of the world is to keep our minds clear.

The equation, therefore, is simple: The more meditation becomes a part of your life, the more you change and evolve; the more you change and evolve, the more society is transformed and the world moves into a wiser and more loving place to be. And all you have to do for this chain of events to occur is to sit still!

 

Practice:

Start right now, where you are sitting as you read this. Do this for just 3-5 minutes.

Become aware of your body. Scan your body from head to toes, acknowledging how it feels, and where there is tension or ease.

Become aware of your feelings, thoughts, and any sensations.

Become aware of your breathing, and just watch your breath as it enters and leaves for a few moments.

Now take a deep breath and let it go.

 

**********

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com

Getting the Top One Percent to Chip In

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by

Greed. What is the purpose of collecting all the money you can if you can't take it with you when you pass away? I can understand wanting to live comfortably without having to stress over bills and debts. When you have so much money in the bank accounts that you could never realistically spend it in your lifetime, doesn't that make you a hoarder? It is said that the top 1-percent of the population now controls 39-percent of the world's wealth. All I can do is wonder, "Why?" Can't these people separate themselves from even a small portion of this money?

The "trickle-down effect" really didn't trickle down at all. Since most of these 1-percent have no interest in spending it, there is nothing to trickle down. Why not implement a few ideas to merely help those who have spent their money raising some of you 1-percent people to where you are? In fact, you might even make more money if you did. Investing in the future of humanity is probably the best investment you'll ever make.

1. Small Businesses - By investing $1.5 million in a small business and sticking the money into a savings account at 0.05-percent, the small business could pay its bills plus a single person making $25,000 per year while sustaining itself for 36.6 years. This is also considering that the small business doesn't make a single dime in revenue. If the small business makes money, then all the better. In fact, adding another person to the business making the same amount as the first would only decrease the business sustainability to 22.7 years. If the business manages to succeed and make money on it is own, then there is more money in your pocket as the investor.

2. Donations - Some don't like to give donations because they don't really know where the money is going and would rather not trust a stranger's word that it will get to those who are in need. If that's the case, then why not donate tangible goods? Aside from the fact that donations are tax-deductible, you can help others survive in order to keep your business running. No matter how you slice it up, it's the other 99-percent of the population that is keeping you rich. If they are unable to sustain themselves, they won't be able to sustain you.

3. Education - If you'd rather invest in something that will be beneficial to those who are in need, why not put it towards education? Although our school-system is sub-par in the United States, you could still put money towards teaching others how to sustain themselves. Grant it, there are many people in the world who are simply looking for a free ride and won't do anything to improve their situation. These people are a drain on society, but that isn't everyone that lives below the poverty line. Many of us are at this level through bad decisions and have been unable to climb out of the hole. Could you put your expertise and knowledge to help these people figure out a way to rise above that level? That is, without charging the $49.99 that you see on "get-rich-quick" websites?

It doesn't take a lot of money to change lives. When you control as much money as the 1-percent does, $25,000 can be nothing more than pocket change. Is it really that difficult to feed some of the money back into the populace? After all, most of these people are probably paying your way through life. It doesn't take much, just compassion for humanity.

Author Bio

Nancy Parker is a regular contributor to www.enannysource.com and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com

Giving not Getting in 2014! A New Approach to your New Years Resolutions.

Friday, January 10, 2014 by

whatcanIgive_pptx With the onset of the New Year we are constantly being bombarded with requests (emails, newsletters, articles, etc.,) to make our New Year’s Resolutions and set our intentions to receive what we wish for in 2014.

New Year’s Resolutions have been part of society since pre-Christian times beginning with the Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Later on this ritual was modified by the Romans who made promises to the god Janus, to be good to others. In the Medieval era, knights took the “Peacock Vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry (Slate Magazines article: ‘Bring back the Peacock Vow”). The idea was a call for self-improvement.

According to a recent study by The University of Scranton, 49% of Americans make New Years Resolutions. Here are the most common ones:

New Years Resolutions:
47% – Self Improvement or education related resolutions
38% – Weight related resolutions
34% – Money related resolutions
31% – Relationship related resolutions

I support new years resolutions, but I would like to challenge the status quo that focuses on personal fulfillment and benefit.

Could we not change the question from: “What do I Want in 2014?” to “What am I able to Give in 2014?”. Why don’t we take a different approach this year, decide what we can give to others and ourselves, and come from a mindset of surplus rather than focusing on deficit. Some might argue that they can’t give what they don’t have. My response would be, “What comes first, the ckicken or the egg?”. By doing that we put ourselves in a more powerful postion of richness. Since most of my readers are in leadership positions this exercise becomes more effective as we share our intentions with our team and others around us.

Make a list of what you can give and contribute to. With giving, I don’t necessarily mean what we can give monetarily or materially. I mean what can we give from ourselves like attention, advice, time, support, and energy.

Here are some questions that will help:

What do you want to give to yourself ? (Yes, don’t forget that giving starts with giving to oneself.)

What do you want to give to your family and friends?

What do you want to contribute to your business?

What do you want to give to your clients?

What do you want to give to your employees or team members?

What do you want to give to the society or greater good?

We can use this opportunity to become better leaders by focusing on how we can benefit and improve the lives of others rather than just fulfilling our own needs. When applied diligently, it will be a recipe for happiness and fulfillment!

Happy New Year!

Sascha Bosio

Sascha Bosio is an expert for innovation and leadership, Sascha is also an entrepreneur and meditation/awareness trainer. As Founder of The Brilliant Leadership Company a firm for strategic innovation for the lifestyle industry, Sascha has made it his vision to help business owners to create a flow of sustainable innovation and business growth. http://www.brilliantleadership.net

 

Creativity ≠ Innovation: Building Your System for Reliable Innovation

Friday, January 3, 2014 by

Buyers beware: Creativity alone does not ensure innovation. 

The World Database of Innovation initiative shows that more than half of the world’s 7,000+ innovation consultancies provide a creative process or “Invention Methodology”.  Because of this and some very good PR for processes like Design Thinking, the world has begun to equate the creative process with Innovation Management.  And while the creative process is very important, the initiative has found that it is only one piece of the puzzle; only one part of what it takes for a company to innovate.   

To make innovation or “future top-line growth” repeatable and reliable large companies must build a complete Innovation Management System that supports bringing new things through their organization and to the world. 

Before we get into this, let’s make sure we are on the same page with our preferred definitions:

  • Innovation: a thing that has already changed human behavior on a wide scale.  Usually, an innovation has added to a company’s top line, or has changed a societies belief.  It is distinct from and “Invention”.
  • Innovation Management: a complete system that builds a path through a human organization so that it can repeatedly create innovations and do so more reliably.
  • Why we care about innovation:  Companies care about innovation management for two reasons:  1) Survival – it should allow you to simply keep up with competition 2) The more inspiring goal: it creates an ability to create one’s future and reliably grow.

The World Database of Innovation (the "initiative") began 7 years ago with the mission to uncover an evidence base (statistics) to support or disprove the world’s many innovation practices.  The initiative studied thousands of the highest performing companies and found that they share a handful of processes, structures, people management approaches, belief systems, and cultures.  For companies that are facing growth/innovation problems, or for public organizations that want to more reliably create societal change, below is a overview of five pieces of the Innovation Management puzzle you will need to address to achieve repeatable market successes.  

Structure

The initiative found the highest correlations in this category: companies that had good innovation management structures had some of the highest top line growth.

First, the innovation function reported to the CEO directly and the CEO was found to truly own innovation, not just simply to be on board or bought in. 

Second, the innovation had dedicated (untouchable) funding.  Just as one invests money in funds and typically waits for the investments to mature, a company must invest in longer-term things and wait for maturity or pay the penalty (in several ways).  This is a hard one for public companies who give and rip away budgets sometimes on a quarterly basis.  The vast majority of an average company’s overhead goes into supporting old products, so the most important thing here is to choose what portion of revenue you’re going to invest to create your company’s future.    

Third, the most reliable innovators also treat innovation as a risk management exercise.  These firms tend to build regimented portfolio and pipeline structures than spanned from the birth to the death of market offerings.  The pipeline usually included some sort of stage gate approach with distinct on and off ramps for new and expiring products.  Fourth, we observed that when high performers consider new market opportunities, the first asked whether acquiring or building the solution was the best approach.

Fifth, few firms have a system to at indirect competition but 84% of history’s market upsets came from industry outsiders.  This related closely to arrogance that we talk about below but can be taken care of with a team or service that has a smart way of combing the world for indirect competitors.

Belief Systems

Belief Systems are perhaps the most interesting part of the puzzle and the correlations found were quite strong. 

Amongst fast growing companies, a high percentage shared the believe that the future is not something set in stone; that is something that can be shaped.  Society primarily things the opposite is true.  Companies like General Electric, and Google who actively work on describing the future scenario they want to exist, and then set in place a plan and structure to create it are actually the most successful.      

There is also a surprising commonality amongst growth leaders in their definition of innovation.  Their definitions all shared three things:  1) something about changing human behavior on a wide scale,  2) innovation was defined as transformative,  and 3)  it was stated that innovation does not include incremental improvement.  The study also found that many companies had a higher purpose stated in their innovation definition as well as their mission.

In relation to this last point, there is also strong data to show that companies with a noble mission and those that know themselves very well are the highest performers.  See our piece on Patagonia and look at Medtronic’s performance through the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

And finally, Arrogance: we found loose but very interesting correlations between arrogance of leadership and company failure.  This is hard to identify objectively but there are many many documented cases of publicly displayed arrogance of leadership leading to blindness leading to partial or complete failure of companies.

Process

As we stated at the beginning:  the creative process is an important part of the puzzle.  It is not everything and with out the support structures mentioned throughout, runs the risk of being a pointless investment.  But the things that have been invented have come to be by some surprising common steps and “Invention Methods” as the initiative calls the 152 distinct processes discovered to date.  There are also countless brands of each of these 152 processes that help create market successes more often that unstructured brainstorming. 

Talent and People

There are many aspects of recruiting, managing, resourcing, training, and enabling people that we found at high growth companies but they all seemed to boil down to one thing:  get out of people’s way.  And the opposite side of this same coin: enable people.  Study upon study has shown that people are inherently innovative.  Sometimes we just need a teachable skill, money, time, or the right reward/recognition to express it.

Culture

The initiative found that culture is an important enabler or deterrent for innovation.  But, there was no common culture amongst high growth companies.  This piece of the puzzle is truly a menu ranging from tough cut throat cultures that force innovators towards excellence, to kind, accepting, well resourced innovation teams that cultivate and help inventors throughout the company.   The most interesting commonality is the level of connectedness of employees and division, and knowledge management or we could say “connectedness to the past”.

In conclusion, reliable innovation takes an entire system.  Companies must select and adapt the pieces above to create an Innovation Management System that helps them discover opportunities, invest in a set of potential solutions, test and improve and filter these solutions, socialize the chosen solution, bring it to market, and kill the old solution. 

And to repeatedly control the market you're already in, to invent new markets, and to change human behavior on a wide scale also requires choosing how to tie theses pieces together into an aligned system:  an innovation engine that hums.  

The best of innovation engines do a few things for companies: mitigate risk on of a company’s investments in new things, greatly decrease the cost of innovation, increase the speed, and increase the success rate.  But most importantly for all of the LOHAS brands, they secure and help you shape your future so that you can continue to be there to improve our world.  

Know What Chemicals Are Safe

Saturday, December 28, 2013 by

UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. To create this debut documentary, one man and his camera traveled extensively to find and interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law.  Weaving their testimonies into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we’re not vigilant, it may take us.

Over 80,000 chemicals flow through our system of commerce, and many are going straight into our bodies. Even our unborn children are affected. Due to this constant exposure, we have approximately 200 synthetic industrial chemicals interacting with our cells every single day. Until recently, modern science really didn’t understand what that could mean for all of us in the long run, but that is changing.

Globally, disease rates are on the rise. Theories about the causes abound, yet the issues are complex and often muddied by the maneuvering of political and corporate interests. To explore different facets of common chemical exposure, Unacceptable Levels, was made in consultation with experts in multiple fields and is guided by a father on a personal journey as he attempts to bring these issues to light for everyone. Its primary goal? To determine whether we can prevent disease before it strikes us.

Unacceptable Levels opens the door to conversations about the chemical burden our bodies carry so that we can make informed decisions now and in the future.  The film poses challenges to our companies, our government, and our society to do something about a nearly-unseen threat with the inspired knowledge that small changes can generate a massive impact.

If you're interested in hosting a screening, please contact Susan Cann.

"Unacceptable Levels" is a no-nonsense documentary that will challenge everything you think you know about health, safety, and environmental protection."  - Beth Buczynski, ecosalon

Time Out for Peace is a Great Sentiment

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 by

Can you imagine how advanced we would be as a species if everyone on the planet respected each other? Beliefs, life-styles, skin color, and more are always driving a wedge between neighbors to the point of conflicts. Countries are constantly in conflict because there is a lack of respect on a global scale. Resources are exhausted during these conflicts that could have been spent towards a remedy to the situation prior to violence. But that's not how we do things on this planet. Although a Time Out for Peace has potential, it has an uphill battle for a variety of reasons.

1. Personal Beliefs - The views of a single individual in power will always play a role in the outcome of politics. We see it every day when we turn on the news. The belief one person has doesn't conform to the masses. People will try very hard to force a specific life-style on others for they believe it's in the best interest of the whole. Whether it is from a political standpoint, religious zealots, or health concerns for the common man, there will always be underlying personal opinions that take over the reins of rational thought.

2. Inner Focus - Instead of worrying about what our neighbors are doing, why not focus effort on what we're doing? This isn't a stab at the United States government, but more of a judgment of most so-called super powers in general. Grant it, we don't want to be "nuked" by the other guy. But if everyone conformed to focusing inward for sociological improvement, there would be no need for worry anyway. In the U.S., people are freezing and starving in the streets while we invade countries on the other side of the globe under the pretense that we're "fighting for our freedoms." If freedom includes starving to death on the streets, then the mission has been accomplished. North Korea regularly threatens war on South Korea while the people of this country are turning to cannibalism in order to survive.

3. Corruption of Power - As the saying goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Although we should focus more on the internal workings of our own respective countries, there should be a line as to how one attains power in others. Should we sit back and allow countrymen of other areas to eat each other in order to stave off starvation? If a leader is determined to ignore advice from others while mistreating his or her subjects, should we stand back and allow the carnage to continue? Although these questions seem more towards pro-war, it gives you something to think about. Are we humane to allow the citizens of another country to suffer if we can prevent it? If the leader is unwilling to improve the situation within his or her borders, then what else do we do other than let those people suffer? All leaders should be conscientious of those within the borders and do what needs to be done to create a livable situation. Ruling through terror and fear is not earning respect and admiration.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, we should be praising the positives. There is so much hate in the world, it may be next to impossible to benefit from the fruits of peace. All we can really do is change the things we have control over. If we set a positive example, others could follow which could eventually lead to an understanding. Understanding a culture goes a long way to understanding the people. And understanding each other could help us realize that we are humans on this planet and can benefit from the wisdom of each other.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Reed is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at Liveinnanny.org. She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.

Ethical Economist Hazel Henderson Interview

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by

I spoke with Dr. Hazel Henderson, a true icon and visionary in the world of corporate responsibility and ethical economies. Dr. Henderson is a world-renowned futurist, evolutionary economist, a worldwide syndicated columnist, as well as a consultant on sustainable development, and author of 10 books including the award-winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy. Also she was one of the co-editors of The UN: Policy and Financing Alternatives. Hazel is the founder and editor-in-chief of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and the creator and co-executive producer of its TV series. Her editorials appear in 27 languages and in 200 newspapers around the world, and she has received many honorary doctorates and awards.

Hazel has recently released a publication entitled “Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age: From Economism to Earth Systems Science” from the UK’s Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and Tomorrow’s Company. It will appear soon in the US from Cosimo Publications, NY.

I am in full agreement with Wisdom Network's Pamela Davis who stated “Hazel Henderson has her finger on the pulse of the economic transformation that can and must happen if we are to move forward together in prosperity in the 21st century. Her down-to-earth solutions are at once brilliant and simple enough for all of us to understand and implement.”

From the first time Hazel and I met many years ago, I have counted her as a friend. She has been a mentor to me and a consistent supporter in the growth of GreenMoney over the last 20 years. I am pleased to share this extensive interview with the still very active Dr. Henderson who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. 

CLIFF:  Will you share some of the highlights from your career with us. How are things in the business world different than you thought they would be by 2013? Are we on the way to creating a responsible economy that is not dependent on exponential growth and that works for more people?

HAZEL:   First of all, Cliff, I want to remind us all that 80 is the new 60! My physician tells me that my biological age is 60 – so I’m going with this! I work out and swim every day, eat mostly raw vegetables and fruits, local and organic from our farmers market here in St. Augustine, where I’m standing (in the accompanying photo) by our Champion Tree donated to our Ethical Markets Library during our Spring retreat in May 2013 by Terry Mock, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International and the Sustainable Land Development Initiative. 

As to highlights, I would say my most intensive learning experience was serving in Washington, DC as a science policy wonk from 1974 until 1980 on the Technology Assessment Advisory Council for the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), on the National Science Foundation’s RANN Committee (Research Applied to National Needs) and on the National Academy of Engineering’s Committee on Public Engineering Policy (COPEP). It was an all-male world, and I recall being asked by my fellow advisors to OTA at the first meeting in Room 100 under the dome of the Capitol if I would please go and get coffee for us! Yet, the intellectual challenge was exhilarating. I remember riding the private train under the Capitol with many members of Congress and Senators who served on Science and Technology committees; testifying before the Joint Economic Committee on the need to set up what became the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Back then, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would bring the President’s budget over in a truck and dump these documents at Congress, where we had no staff assigned to digest the budget and offer our own review of its priorities! Today, CBO has become almost too powerful an arbiter – scoring all legislative proposals as well as those of the President.

I then wrote my second book, The Politics of the Solar Age, published by Doubleday in 1981, downloading all I had learned about the contesting special interests, lobbying and forces shaping our national policies on energy, transportation, agriculture, trade, taxation, military and foreign policy. I saw the fight begin as the fossil fuel and nuclear power sectors pushed to preserve their subsidies, how US auto companies had also colonized congressional committees with perks, campaign donations and populated scientific panels with their intellectual mercenaries. I realized how hard it would be for the “Solar Age” economy I envisioned to emerge. Indeed, as we now know, renewable energy companies still face an uphill battle with fossil fuels and their annual global subsidies of over $500 billion, the coddling of the inherently unsustainable nuclear industry, protection of favored agribusiness, etc. I remember at one of our OTA meetings in the late 1970s, James Fletcher, who became head of NASA told us that if similar subsidies had been given to solar, wind, energy efficiency, geothermal and other technologies, we in the USA would have already been powered 100% by renewables! This set me on my future path.

A recent highlight was receiving the blessings of Verena Schumacher, widow of my late friend and mentor E. F. Schumacher, to name our over 6000-volume Henderson-Kay-Schumacher Library. This helps keep Schumacher’s flag flying in the USA. He wrote the Foreword to my first book, Creating Alternative Futures (1978), and I still teach occasionally at UK-based Schumacher College.

Click here to continue reading this interview on Green Money Journal.

 

Hazel Henderson on the design revolution from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

Green Bonds Have an Impact

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 by

Green Mutual FundsHow Mutual Funds is helping change the climate of fixed income - By Madalyn Metzger, Everence Financial and Praxis Mutual Funds

The goal of most investors is to achieve a positive return – with success typically measured in annualized percentages. And while this is an important measure, a growing number of investors are looking for more. Specifically, they’re looking for ways their investments can make a difference, and improve the quality of life in their communities and around the world.

That’s where green bonds come in. First introduced by the World Bank in 2008, green bonds (also known as qualified green building and sustainable design project bonds) are designed to help investors make a positive impact on environmental projects through their investment portfolios.

The market for green bonds has picked up steam over the years. Since their introduction, the World Bank has issued approximately $3.5 billion in green bonds. And while they’re somewhat new to the scene, green bonds make complete sense to Praxis Mutual Funds, a faith- and values-based fund family advised by Everence Capital Management.

Praxis approaches its investment strategy through stewardship investing, a philosophy of financial decision making that balances social and financial considerations and is motivated and informed by the fund family’s faith convictions. This focus is driven by the company’s core values, which include the need to respect the dignity and value of all people, demonstrate a concern for justice in a global society and work toward environmental sustainability.

“At Praxis, we want to do our part to transform our world,” said David C. Gautsche, President of Praxis Mutual Funds. “Our investment philosophy consists of company selection, shareholder advocacy and community development investment. Our core values embrace a wide range of environmental, social and governance concerns, as well as traditional, prudent financial considerations.”

Praxis applies this strategy to all of its five mutual funds – but it is especially notable in the Praxis Intermediate Income portfolio, which includes more than 10 percent of green bonds and other high social impact bonds. In addition, the Praxis Genesis Portfolios (three diversified funds-of-funds celebrating their third anniversary this year) include the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund in their portfolio mix.

Making a High Social Impact Through Bonds

When it comes to stocks, it’s easy for investors to see how they can have a positive social impact by including progressive companies in their portfolios and/or utilizing shareholder advocacy to help goad companies to better social and environmental performance.

Fixed-income investors, on the other hand, can’t make a positive impact in the same way, because they don’t have company ownership. And because many of those same progressive companies are young and small, they likely aren’t borrowing from the public investment grade bond market yet. However, bondholders can help organizations and companies bring down the cost of borrowing at the margin – effectively making an impact in places where a stock portfolio couldn’t. Also, some of these organizations don’t have public stock, and companies borrow for specific energy projects that would not issue equity in the public market.

To continue reading this article visit Green Money Journal

Developing a Lexicon for Ocean Preservation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
Almost a year ago to the day, I found myself diving in the Cook Islands with Conservation International’s Sylvia Earle, Greg Stone and Peter Seligmann.  Perhaps you recall my article “Diving with the Dream Team”?  This was my first immersion, literally and figuratively, into the recently raised – and critically important – issues surrounding ocean conservation.   A lot has happened in the last year to make this a topline agenda item for NGOs, members of the business elite, and conservation societies alike.   To use an appropriate metaphor, ocean policy and preservation is the next big wave of environmental consideration and concern.
 
Think back to Teddy Roosevelt’s initiatives to promote nature and encourage land conservation in the 1920s – we are at that same point in time with regard to the oceans.  As in, the first inning.  No, make that top of the first inning.  It is an exciting field to study but one that resembles the Wild Wild West.  I hope to shed some light on what important new and existing preservation projects mean to the public, the fish, the coral reefs, and our future.  We are past the point of prevention but rather, we must undo some of the damage we have done – caused mainly by ocean acidification, overfishing, and bottom trawling.  There are many new and vague terms that leave the average swimmer, diver, and/or surfer, palms up.  This will serve as an introduction to the vernacular being used to describe these projects.
 
Let’s start with ocean acidification.  Basically, this refers to the increased carbon dioxide that is now in our atmosphere.  Thus there is more carbon, and less oxygen, directly contacting the oceans at sea level than in the past.  This is negatively affecting the health of coral reefs and other flora and fauna underwater.
 
Now about overfishing.  Think about this in a different way: On terra firma, vehicles are generally limited to paved roads.  And we have a huge infrastructure of local, state and federal police who patrol our roadways.  Now think of the skies, which are carefully supervised by the FAA, designated airspace, and a large network of control towers in major cities throughout the globe.  Both on land and in the air, penalties for not following the rules of the road can be quite punitive.  Simple enough.
 
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
 
Now, think about the oceans.  Water covers more than 71% of the earth’s surface.  Yet we have no international ocean police, no “ocean FAA” if you will…only a relatively infinitesimal handful of Coast Guard and related non-military vessels, worldwide, to guard the seas.  So what’s a mother to do about less-than-trustworthy fishing boats – mostly carrying the flags of European and Asian nations – that are overfishing, bottom-trawling, shark-fin-hunting and other extremely damaging activities?
 
Over 100 million sharks are killed every year -- mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup. Unconscionable. (Photo, fastcompany)
 
For this answer, I sought out a few of the world’s leading experts, including none other than Sir Richard Branson.  He is a member of a group called the OceanElders, which consists of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans and the wildlife therein.  Other members include Queen Noor, Ted Turner, Neil Young, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jackson Browne, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, among other luminaries.  Anyway, I asked Branson if by using technology, is there any way to successfully monitor the oceans for commercial fishing vessels, polluters and other maritime villains?  His comments:
 
OceanElders, a group of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world's oceans and the wildlife therein. (Photo, oneworldocean)
 
“Remote sensing of shipping from satellites is already a reality. Vessels that carry the required transponders can be tracked and identified in real time. The flaws in the present systems are that vessels can turn off the transponders and that they are not mandatory for all vessels. International agreements and treaties can fix that. The UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the best agency to organize and execute an improved ship location program.”
 
Out of the UN’s 193 member states, 170 are currently members of the IMO – including both large and small players alike, such as China, Japan, US, UK, Thailand, Madagascar, and Mozambique.  “This means that once an action is approved by the [IMO], that action has force of domestic law in the member states. So a more vigorous ship tracking program can have teeth,” Branson explained.  But what about enforcement?
 
“One option that is technically feasible today is unmanned vehicles (AUVs) that are constantly on patrol and prepared to call for assistance when needed. Another enforcement idea that really appeals to me is to develop a global directory of fishing vessels which habitually fish in distant waters from their home ports.  As trespassers are identified, they go into the database and are flagged.  A similar scheme is used by many of the major maritime nations to identify problem vessels. Those in the database that have poor safety and/or operating records can be denied entrance to seaports or will not be allowed to depart unless certain remedial steps are taken.”
 
Map of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in the Galapagos.
 
Branson provides a realistic and honest appraisal here of where we are on this pressing issue.  And clearly, we are indeed in the first inning.  What happens when a less-than-honest fishing vessel enters a protected zone and dredges the area for sharks, killing everything else in the net’s wake and disturbing the coral to boot?  If the ship’s transponder is turned off before committing the crime…nothing.  And currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop this activity.  Which is why 100 million sharks are killed every year – mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup.  Unconscionable.
 
So are there any parts of the ocean that are being protected?  There are a number of marine protected areas (MPA) throughout the world.  One small but significant example lies in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, called PIPA for (Phoenix Island Protected Area).   PIPA is located in the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-BAS), an ocean nation in the central Pacific approximately midway between Australia and Hawaii. PIPA constitutes 11.34 percent of Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and with a size of over 150,000 square miles, it is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.  (For more info on PIPA, listen to this TED Talk.)
 
Conservation International’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist, Gregory Stone, was the driving force in conception and creation of PIPA.  Kiribati has declared that three percent of this EEZ is a “no catch zone” and fishing is strictly prohibited.  Three percent may not sound like much, but this is still a large area – 4,500 square miles – and it is home to high value reefs, bird nesting islands, and tuna fishing grounds.  There is a sensitivity here because poor countries such as Kiribati derive significant income from taxing the fishing vessels. Thus they must be compensated from other sources to make up for the lost revenue in return for their cooperation.
 
Covering over 150,000 square miles, PIPA is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo, Conservation International)
 
I had an opportunity to catch up with Dr. Stone on how Conservation International (CI) is trying to craft a way to monitor the PIPA area, among other protected waters. “We are talking to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) about how we can use satellites to monitor the waters.  Extremely sophisticated aerial cameras are available, and these could be used for ocean surveillance and enforcement.  If we can create a way to document the presence of a vessel and, through licensing and electronic observation, obtain the name and home base of the boat, we would then be able to track and ultimately enforce severe fines and other penalties,” he explained.
 
Indeed, enforcement is easier when there is a government that has rights to the water space in question.  What happens when this is not the case, for example, in the Sargasso Sea?  The Sargasso Sea is the earth’s only sea or ocean without a land boundary. This extraordinary open-ocean ecosystem is bounded by currents circulating around the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.  The Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse ecosystem, including a number of endangered yet commercially important species.  Dr. Earle has called it “the golden rainforest of the ocean.”
 
I consulted Sargasso Sea expert David Shaw, a respected business and social entrepreneur who is also a National Park Trustee. Shaw put into proper perspective the challenges the environmental world faces when trying to educate the public on the threats to ocean health. “A big issue is trying to create a consciousness about the world’s largest habitat.  Unlike the terrestrial world, ocean health is often not part of our daily thoughts in the same way that unhealthy air, rivers or land may be. We need to understand that world oceans are not infinitely forgiving…we cannot see all the damage. And we are best served if debate about ocean health and other environmental issues is based on fact-based science versus emotional arguments,” Shaw explained.
 
Shaw is founding chair of an alliance formed to study the ecology of the Sargasso Sea and to create a range of stewardship measures to conserve its health.  The Sargasso Sea Alliance is led by the government of Bermuda, working with other nations as well as NGOs.  So far, among other results, the Alliance has developed a robust “Summary Science and Evidence Case for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea” with over 74 collaborators.  Under executive director Dr David Freestone, the Alliance is planning to bring the governments of the countries around the Sargasso Sea – including the US, Dominican Republic and Portugal – together with the European Union Commission to Bermuda in 2014 to sign an international declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea and to establish a permanent Sargasso Sea Commission, based in Bermuda, to oversee the health of this unique high seas ecosystem.
 
Dr. Sylvia Earle has called the Saragasso Sea "the golden rainforest of the ocean." (Photo, sylviaearlealliance.org)
 
The urgency to protect ocean wildlife is not strictly the fantasy of environmentalists and watermen.  We are talking about a far more serious question: How will we feed the world 20 years from now? Indeed, if we do not stop the systematic destruction of our ocean resources, we could have a serious seafood shortfall; this is on a collision course with simultaneous population growth.  It would seem the key is to create a way to monitor overfishing, and soon.  The concepts that Branson and Stone talk of, using GPS and related technology for this purpose, would seem to be our best chance for monitoring the oceans successfully.  Question is, who will organize the nations of the world in this effort, and how do we effectively police two thirds of the earth’s surface?  If we don’t collectively address and solve this pressing issue, the phrase “plenty of fish in the sea” may turn into a deadly falsehood.
 
Read more by Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

BOOK REVIEW: Chocolate Nations

Thursday, August 29, 2013 by

Chocolate NationsOrla Ryan is a well-travelled financial and investigative journalist who lived in Africa for four years (Uganda and Ghana). Currently writing for the Financial Times in London, during the time of this book she was commissioned to Reuters and this project came out of a special grant for investigative reporting.  During her time in Ghana, she was specifically focused on the cacao industry.

The fundament of her book is about exposing the realities of the daily work program and calling on better education and a less corrupt government, and she really writes this for conscious consumers. The book is a good eye opener for those who love chocolate and want to inform themselves more about the complexity of the environment of cacao farming in West Africa. Given that there are almost two million small producers in West Africa, who farm and produce about two thirds of the total world cacao crop these are highly significant stories to tell. Not just from the economics, but the human aspect.

For perspective fifty percent of the world's cacao beans come from Ghana, the world's second-biggest producer, and its neighbour Ivory Coast, the world's biggest.

You want to read her work because she’s not emotional, but rather factual about the description. Giving a fair say to everyone involved. You might find it difficult to read as it looks at the causes of farmer poverty, and you’ll see an almost helpless role within the context of global commodity trading and the simple farmer’s daily battle to just live from his crops. Economic and geopolitical analysis with the human touch, it gives you a clear view of what is going on with the majority of chocolate.

It is a quick read, eight chapters in 160 pages. Weekend reading, where you will probably clean your cupboards out thereafter and look up more about sustainability reporting in chocolate.

You’ll read that for every £1 chocolate bar, just 7p is spent on cocoa ingredients, while 43p goes to the manufacturer. You’ll look for justice. And hopefully, start within yourself. What gifts you give, what snacks you enjoy, and just start looking at the back of pack a little more.

Typical cacao farmers receive just 4 per cent of the final price of an average bar of milk chocolate in Europe.

Ryan’s book gives you a background on Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire cacao farming histories, and then highlight where and how child labour is used on cocoa farms (specifically child and slave labour). Stories of government and cacao board corruption, the role of international traders who come to town to try and help. She shows how unfair Fair Trade is and that in current economics, there is dwindling futures for chocolate, by simply no-one wanting to go into the business anymore.

  ‘Orla's Chocolate Nations is a captivating read, painting a lively picture of the West African cocoa trade from a variety of perspectives. It casts a critical eye over the role played by governments and multinationals, while also putting fair trade and child slavery campaigns in perspective. It gives us all a good deal more to think about when we eat 'the food of the gods'." - Daniel Balint Kurti at Global Witness

"A courageous and thoughtful account of a murky industry." - Times Literary Supplement

"Chocolate Nations is a fascinating account of the struggles of cocoa producers in West Africa, almost all of them smallholders, and what it takes to turn a crop of cocoa into a warehouse full of Ferrero Rocher." - Jeremy Harding, The Guardian

"Paints a disturbing and subtle picture of an industry few chocolate consumers think about." - Sydney Morning Herald

Read an excerpt from the book: http://bit.ly/ChocNations

Buy the book here in Amazon

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa (African Arguments) [Paperback]

 http://bit.ly/BuyChocNations

 

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Happy Birthday to Julia Child

Thursday, August 15, 2013 by

Today we celebrate Julia Child’s birthday!

Julia Carolyn Child was born on August 15, in 1912. She was an American chef who was made famous as she made French cooking do-able with her most famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.

Julia often says her first taste of amazing gastronomy was in Rouen and has been noted to say the simple meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to be "an opening up of the soul and spirit for me." Clearly her time in France was well inspired, as she was a student at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school (and later studied privately with Max Bugnard). As the wife of a foreign military man, she kept her engagement in her new society up with her love of French cooking and joined the women's cooking club, Cercle des Gourmettes, where she met Simone Beck (who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle). Over afternoon teas, the ladies baked up a plan to teach cooking to American women in Child's Paris kitchen, and even gave their informal school a name,  L'école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers).  From there, she published books alone, and with her friends, and enjoyed a fabulous writing and media career thereafter. At Conch, we love her style. We love how she took what life circumstances were around her, and made the best of it. With food, we often find it brings people together and that is why we celebrate Julia Child, she used gastronomy to fit into her new country, and bought home tips to share with her friends too.

 

http://bit.ly/JuliaCroissants Julia’s classic French croissant recipe on her television program, The French Chef

 

Julia Child‘s Chocolate Mousse

She has many recipes for mousse and we decided to feature this one because it is with butter instead of cream and totally extravagant in the way it is made. You will get covered in mousse and the only way to make it is to turn on her cooking show in you tube, listen to her gorgeous voice and pour yourself a sherry to sip on.

You need this …

4  eggs, separated

¾ cup plus

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

¼ cup orange liqueur

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¼ cup strong liquid coffee

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Pinch of salt

Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”

1. Have on hand 10 ramekins or custard cups ( ⅓ cup each) or 6 small bowls (¾ cup each).

2. In a bowl combine the egg yolks and ¾ cup granulated sugar. Beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow and leaves a ribbon trail on itself when the beaters are lifted.

3. Beat in the orange liqueur and continue mixing until blended.

4. Place the bowl over not quite simmering water and beat for an additional 3 minutes until the mixture forms tiny bubbles and is too hot for your finger.

5. Transfer the bowl to a cold-water bath and continue beating for an additional 3 minutes until the mixture is cool and again forms a ribbon. The consistency will be similar to mayonnaise.

6. Set another bowl over not quite simmering

water. Add the chocolate and coffee and let the mixture sit until the chocolate melts.

7. Remove the chocolate from the heat and beat in the butter a little at a time to form a smooth cream.

8. Beat the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

9. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

10. Gently stir one-quarter of the whites into

the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites.

11. Spoon the mousse into the dishes. Set on

a tray, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

GARNISH

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Grated chocolate or a few springs fresh mint (for garnish)

1. Chill the bowl and beaters for the cream. With an electric mixer, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks.

2. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until the cream holds stiff peaks; do not overbeat.

3. Garnish the cups with whipped cream and chocolate or mint.

 

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Pink Bank Accounts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by

rural bank for womenA pink bank account could be a tipping factor in reducing gender equality in developing countries. It is also one of the most fascinating potentially-emerging trends for women’s rights that I’ve seen in a long time.

The whole topic started with my resistance to go to Western Union and transfer cash to some ladies who were helping me on a research project in Ecuador (where our cacao is farmed and ground). As a third generation social entrepreneur, you don’t need to tell me how questionable ‘holding accounts’ are, regardless of the institution, and I have experienced first-hand the exploitation of my gender in developing countries, so the chances that my dear helpers can even access 100% of the cash I send is unlikely, without a bribe, a note, a kiss, a whatever.

A bank account is difficult to set up sometimes, especially if you’re from a rural area, inconsistent with finances and don’t have a clear local ‘backer’. I watched many times, the large lines in Guayaquil of agri-financing at a local government institution and the ‘uncles’ that would accompany some of the ladies who came in from the mountains to pick up their cash, only able to get the cash if someone ‘credible’ came with them.

I recently read a paper that made my heart click. And I thought, albeit it totally cliché, of pink bank cards. E-Cash payments can actually help bring girls out of poverty, and back-influence core gender inequality topics of schooling, disease prevention and reproductive health programs. The idea, is to target adolescent girls (because they are in the time / place to best learn and use new ways going forward).

The terms is called ‘financially-inclusive e-payments’, and it is a double-header, meaning to improve an adolescent girls’ access to financial services and to teach her about asset-building opportunities.

Adolescence is the time of exploration and learning, the prime opportunity to not only help a girl get work but know how to access her cash and what to do with it. I realise that the problem of over overall poverty, and even equal access to working opportunities is already highly unbalanced.

The UN has a massive program targeting this,  The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 3, to “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women,” as well as Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation etc.

My personal approach in social entrepreneurship is to contribute small, do-able, meaningful actions that are closely related to something I can understand. It is not my skill-set, nor ability to affect HIV, but this idea of helping girls understand the fundaments of finance, is a very small but meaningful idea we could get behind.

Girl-centered asset-building strategies is what it’s called.

Over the past decades, we have seen e-payments for savings but there is still the big gap for specific invest, grow and leverage elements. Micro-credit has been a huge contribution in this area, but there is another level that can be achieved.

Overall, the idea is that it could provide adolescent girls with access to formal financial systems, help them get their formal identity and rights, help funds that support major girl-focused programs to achieve a better return on investment (and see where their schemes go), and of course, let’s not forget the banks, it helps them expand their customer base. I know, the last one sounds totally banal, but if there is one thing I have learned about ‘sustainability’, it is that every idea and program must be, end-to-end, a win-win for everyone in the chain. If that means a bank. Then so well be it. Another benefit is that social protection payments can go directly where it needs to be, and not filtered through a third (or seventh) party. This means that actions of great needs, like education and health can actually produce better results as the cash will be used with skill, and also directly sent where it is needed.

What about the other things you find stuffed into modern chocolate – sugar, milk and other animal fats (go on, check the ingredients list on the backside of your nearest chocolate). Remember the details of what you read on the packet guidelines of your favourite chocolate? This is where it starts to become relevant.

The multiplier effect is the core of any effect, from tipping point to purple cow.

The ideas range from in-school banking (via e-payments) to using the information of the bank account to target adolescent girls to be and feel independent, show to savings habits can be developed and what personal and community investment can mean. In over a dozen countries across the world, more than 50 percent of girls—and in some nations as much as 87 percent—do not complete primary school.

Globally, approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school at all. In Ecuador, thankfully that rate is higher, so we DO have a chance to access them in a systemised way.

Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable population on the planet. Between the ages of 10-19, there are over 580 million girls. At least 90 million of these beloveds are in low-income countries where the income is less than USD 1,005 per year per person.

They can either join the economy, or go to the kitchen or the fields.

Over 100 million girls aged 5-17 are involved in child labor, with the most of them doing dangerous work. Studies show they also do a lot of ‘informal work’ where girls are particularly isolated and vulnerable. The sooner they can be counted, and use methods to ensure that the benefits they work for come directly to them, the better they can influence other major topics such as health improvement.

Teenage girls are not only the answer to social improvement, but the World Bank has a study indicating that they are also the key to economic growth and stability. My family are all social entrepreneurs, and hardly did charity.

The difference, between charity and helping someone help themselves, in my mother’s words is dignity; in the end, it is empowerment. 

Adolescent girls are apparently the biggest contributing factor that can influence intergenerational poverty than programs targeting children generally. 

“Measuring the Economic Effects of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend,” the World Bank’s Jad Chaaban and Wendy Cunningham wrote that if young women in Brazil were employed at the same levels as men, the annual national GDP would rise USD 23 billion. In lifetime income by that logic, they calculate that India would add almost USD 400 billion to its GDP.

Big steps, big goals, but something that is a little smaller and helped by technology could be e-payments targeting teenagers.

Making pink bank accounts and teaching fun finance school.. I am going to try this. Usually when I travel, I hold events about nutrition, and often reach out to areas of a society who are not well informed about processed food vs fresh food. I am often in areas of not desperate poverty, but where industrialisation spread it’s toxicity and supplies cheap candy and processed foods, and I teach about making chocolate fun and healthy. There is a chance in this, to slip in a few finance lessons.  That is a very do-able idea. Which can start now.  And will. On my next event.

For perspective, I looked around for some models, and in the developed world found that the Girl Scouts movement has a program for girl-focused finance development. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/girlscoutaccount

The barriers that exist for AGYW to access cash (what the academics call adolescent girls and young women) range from regulatory to physical, to cultural:

 

The Adolescent Girls Initiative at the World Bank

Launched on October 10, 2008, as part of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan, the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) aims to help adolescent girls and young women make a successful transition from school to work.

The program is being piloted in 8 low-income countries–including some of the toughest environments for girls. Each program is tailored to the country context, with a common goal of discovering what works best in programming to help adolescent girls and young women succeed in the labor market. Each pilot includes a rigorous impact evaluation. With new knowledge of what works, successful approaches can be replicated and brought to scale. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender

 

 

The Growth of Online Yoga and Fitness

Friday, July 26, 2013 by

Online yogaUnless you have been living in a cave you already know that yoga has hit the masses. According to a 2012 study by Yoga Journal the U.S. 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from 2008 and is an increase of 29 percent. Fitness clubs, studios and yoga practitioners have increased spending on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media to $10.3 billion a year. This is up from $5.7 billion in 2008.

Will it continue to grow? In my mind there is no doubt. I see 3 main elements contributing to yoga and fitness going online.

1.  Technology - More and more people are connected via mobile phones, tablets, and computers that provide faster and easier communications and accessibility at an accelerated rate.
2.  Proven Business Model - The progression of various new subscription commerce business models is growing rapidly and ranges from razor blade sample services to fitness memberships.
3.  Behavior Adaptation - The growth of self monitored fitness and fitting time around an individual’s personal schedule compared to the individual arranging their schedule to participate in a fitness class.

These three elements have created a growth and innovative ways to engage with individuals relating to fitness never seen before. There are several LOHAS fitness companies that have successfully used these key elements. I have been fortunate to meet a few online yoga companies and their founders and here are some that I think are doing it right:

My Yoga Online logoMyYogaOnline- www.myyogaonline.com
MyYogaOnline is $9.95 per month and claims to be the #1 yoga website in the world. Their site provides a selection of over 1000 yoga, Pilates and fitness videos filmed in studios around the country such as Laughing Lotus in New York City and 8 Limbs in Seattle.

MyYogaOnline started in 2005 and by Jason Jacobson and his wife Michelle Trantia. Prior to starting MyYogaOnline Jason was in fitness and was a boxing coach. He hung up the gloves for business and film school. His wife was a yoga instructor. And they came up with the idea that combined their passions for film, business and fitness.  When it started streaming media was barely available. "The technology wasn’t there.” says Jacobson, “When we started out I thought things would go a lot faster. I thought that in 5 years everyone would be streaming to TV's.”
Although their projected growth was slower than expected, they are still growing at a rapid pace. Today, they have over 20 employees and are expanding their Vancouver offices for more space to include their own yoga studio.

MyYogaOnline has a very engaged yoga community of 300,000 yogis that are quite vocal and wants to share experiences they have.  They interact with their community with online giveaways and newsletters and also have good relations with many yoga festivals such as Wanderlust.  MyYogaOnline establishes relationships with yoga festival management teams to film the events, and share the festival experience with their community online. They also edit highlight promotions for future festivals. Filming at festivals provides them a unique connection with the yoga community.  Their website is nicely organized and intuitive to navigate.

Yoga Vibes logoYogaVibeswww.yogavibes.com
Yogavibes is $20 per month and features videos filmed in real yoga studios and offer a variety of vinyasa-style classes from renowned teachers like Ana Forrest, Dana Flynn, Faith Hunter, and Sadie Nardini, plus a full primary Ashtanga session with Kino MacGregor. By partnering with Exhale yoga studio and the Wanderlust Festival, YogaVibes keeps their content fresh and timely. You can choose classes based on their style, length, difficulty, anatomical focus, or teacher.

Founder Brian Ratte created YogaVibes after experiencing his own life transformation through yoga in overcoming personal trauma and wanted to share this insight and experience with others.  Extensive work-related travel had him doing yoga classes in studios around the world. Although he was away from home and familiarity, Brian became very drawn to the deep sense of unity he experienced in the yoga-sphere. He saw how people really connected in yoga classes and opened up to new things.

Ratte is also an executive at IBM and began to see the growth of consciousness in society and in business.  He began researching all kinds of things ranging from quantum physics to conscious business practices. He wanted to bridge his two world of yoga and technology and felt compelled to do so. In 2005-06’ he started creating business on his personal time between raising family and work. He started filming yoga classes and launched YogaVibes with 20 classes.  

YogaVibes classes have all kinds of types of people in classes representing all types of viewers.  “People like to see people like them in classes and we have many feedback comments to support this.” says Ratte. It  has a model that focuses on meeting people where they are at by not having famous teachers and attractive settings for yoga . It seems to be working as the YogaVibes has doubled its growth rate every 6 months for the last 4 years.

GaiamTV logoGaiamTV.com www.GaiamTV.com
GaiamTV is $9.95 per month and an extension of Gaiam, one of the country¹s largest producers and distributors of yoga and fitness DVDs, has joined the online video market with the launch of its streaming service, GaiamTV.com. This strategic move has positioned Gaiam to become a leading hub of yoga and wellness on demand. One can access almost every DVD produced by Gaiam in the last 15 years from your computer or mobile device.

Gaiam TV offers over 1,000 yoga and fitness titles with the brand¹s mainstays like Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman and Mari Winsor, along with newer names like Kathryn Budig, Shiva Rea and Seane Corn. In the fitness realm, Jillian Michaels is their marquee name.  Gaiam TV's original digital titles include top talent like Kia Miller, Tommy Rosen, Amy Ippoliti, Chrissy Carter and dozens more covering every yoga style and level.

But what makes Gaiam TV different from other online yoga services is the wealth of additional transformational content offered. Subscribers can learn valuable life lessons from top spiritual leaders like Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and the Dalai Lama; venture to the edges of reality with exclusive programming with hosts like George Noory and David Wilcock; get a first-hand look at cultural narratives from around the world; or discover the latest in green technology. This positions Gaiam TV well, since other online yoga services don¹t venture beyond yoga content.

These are only a few online fitness options currently available and more will show up as well as new concepts as it evolves. If you are into yoga and general fitness I recommend you try one as this may be the new norm for many gym goers or travelers.


 

Thinking Outside the Bottle

Thursday, July 18, 2013 by

In the fall of 2012, green cleaning company Ecover purchased Method to become the largest green cleaning company in the world. For the first time since the acquisition Adam Lowy, Co-Founder of Ecover and Tom Domen, Head of Innovation for Ecover shared details on why this occurred and what they see in the future for the cleaning industry at the LOHAS conference.

Ecover was the first green cleaning brand that was created in Belgium in 1979 to eliminate phosphate pollution. Since then they have continued to pioneer innovations and demonstrate ecological benefits while providing a quality product. They grew to be the largest green cleaning company in Europe. Method was developed 1999 because the founders were frustrated with the way business was being done and there was an opportunity to create change in cleaning. The category of cleaning was untapped in the 90's and there was a trend with LOHAS consumers with a demand for better products. They became successful by bringing together style and substance and sustainability is built into the design of the product. The product is about making sustainability desirable and grew into a 100 million dollar company in 8 years.

Green cleaning is 4% of the cleaning category. Although Ecover and Method have a dominant position they feel that this is a failure. Their goals with the merger are to radically change the at a scale that can have greater impact. They feel there is no such thing as a green consumer. “You need breadth to cater to many needs and wants. With 2 brands focusing on 1 mission we can bring green to mainstream rather than pull consumers to think green.” Says Lowry.

Adam shared that the average person does 300 loads of laundry a year. Method created a concentrate to replace large jugs commonly used. They were able to change behavior of the consumer to adopt these smaller concentrates which are now common in stores today. This is an example of bringing green to mainstream.
Ecover and Method created an innovation roadmap to go beyond what is possible today to explore solutions for tomorrow. The roadmap dreams include growing cleaning products in the garden, washing machines that incubate cleaning products. They looked at these dreams and are building a roadmap to reality.

Key areas they plan to focus on together are:
•    Eliminating fossil fuels. Ecover is using bio plastic derived from sugar cane.
•    Provide sustainable sourcing. Ensuring sources are not competing with food, and farming is environmental.
•    Natural formed products how can we grow a product instead of manufacture one. Ecover grows surfactants from yeast and other materials that are radically low in environmental impact.
•    Be resourceful in user space and teach people proper usage behaviors.
•    Create cleaning products that make your home more healthy.
•    Partnering with cleaning appliance manufacturers to improve washing processes and be more efficient.
•    Change from selling cleaning product volume to new business models.
•    Create micro location manufacturing.
•    Improve manufacturing facility waste management.
•    Ultimately be a company that works symbiotically with both society and nature.

This model is capable of evolution and behaves like an organism rather than an organization. This has an opportunity to lead to a better world but needs business to change how they play the game. Market leaders breed a bias against progress and more of a focus on position maintenance. This It is easy to focus on incremental change rather than create a business to become a force of change. The hard truth is that business committed to sustainability must be committed to uncertainty which runs against common business practice and shareholder value. Ecover and Method both believe that this is biomimicry at an organizational level and is what is needed to make the world a better place and are committed to breaking business as usual.


You can watch their full presentation here:




 

Why individual actions matter: the power of a belief

Thursday, June 27, 2013 by

Often I am asked if, given today’s scale of destructed habitat and the need for broad collective restoration, our individual actions count. “Does it mater that I bring my own carrier bag to store daily, that I walk to work, that I compost and flush natural rather than harsh toxic chemicals down the toilet after my home cleaning?

Many people get into the “green” habits because it matters to them, which is the best motivator. Others get desperate and discouraged as they feel their green actions are a clean drop in a polluted ocean. Yet another feel they will join the efforts when others do it as well. Understandable.

Here I second those that call for more than individual actions. However, that is not to say that such actions do not matter quite as much, if not more. Here a small reflection on what individual actions can entail:

-break the bad habit

If you are unhappy about the way we are doing things, complaining and feeling frustrated will only create negative energy and not get you far. So taking your individual action might be more rewarding.

-manifest your discontent with the “business-as-usual” way of doing

We are what we do and we do what we believe in.

-be willing to “risk”, innovate and go out of your comfort zone

Stretch your limits. The more you are willing to “give up” the more you will gain when you reach your goal. Change is not about comfort.

-show that you care

This is not about the good against the bad guys; no need to show the world that you are “better”, but to prove to yourself that you can do things differently.

-see that individual damaging or doing nothing are the same thing

Understand that “only by trying” there can be a better way. There is only sure way to fail: that of being passive.

-walk your talk: practice your beliefs and values

Whatever you do, just do what resonates with you. If avoiding recycling feels good to you because you justified to yourself that it makes no sense, then that it is what it is. Yet if you believe in doing things the better way, than you have it clear.

-join the collective consciousness

If individual actions do not matter so much than how did we get to this collective mess? Might it be that each and everyone contributed? Lets twist it around then.

-be an inspiration to others

There is need to wait for others to change things you don’t like. You can be the inspiration to others; you can provoke a collective change.

-discover a life of possibilities (there is not only one way of doing things) each and everyone is the creator

As Nick Vujicic says “attitude is an altitude” and I add that our imagination is the only limit to our possibilities.

-be the Einstein in your world

We all admire those who achieved something so achieve something (regardless of its scale and reach) and admire yourself.

The most important reason of all is that we only can do what we deem/believe is possible. So lets start shifting our unsustainable paradigms and imagining the possibility of creating a whole new world. (Law of attraction)

 

______

Described as “a tireless advocate of an ecological lifestyle and a fierce defender of nature”, Hana takes any opportunity to engage in sustainable living as a sustainability strategist, citizen and as well as a consumer. With over a decade long international career in various settings, her ambitions go beyond motivating others through Hana's greenliving blog. Professionally her aim is to look at today’s environmental issues in a holistic way, through a systemic lens and to strive for long-term improvements rather than short-term fixes. She established EarthMatters, a collaborative consultancy to help others advance on issues of sustainability.

 

GMOs in the News: Washington State Labeling Campaign in Full Swing

Sunday, June 16, 2013 by

The debate over genetically engineered foods continues to heat up in the U.S. Here's a summary of recent headlines. For those attending the 2013 LOHAS Business Conference, a seminar on GMOs and Labeling will be held on Thursday, June 20 featuring Ken Cook of Environmental Working Group, Robyn O'Brien of Allergy Kids, T.J. McIntyre of Boulder Brands, Lennon Bronsema of Yes on 522, and Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing.

Washington State Yes on 522 Launches GMO Labeling Campaign into Full Gear
With a new website, www.yeson522.com, the recent hiring of professional campaign management staff, and $1.1 million in contributions received, the Yes on 522 campaign to label GMO foods in Washington State is swinging into full gear and is appealing to natural and organic products business leaders to help fund what many experts say is the best opportunity to achieve mandatory GMO labeling in 2013. At a recent press conference, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), co-sponsor of the Boxer-DeFazio federal GMO labeling bill, said it is critically important to support the Washington State initiative to give greater weight to the Washington, DC, federal GMO labeling efforts, given biotech’s strong lobbying presence in the nation’s capitol. In a letter to donors, Yes on 522 finance chair David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s reported that the campaign has launched an ambitious grassroots outreach program called “Kitchen Conversations,” in which advocates can receive a kit containing information to host informal gatherings among voters, and is rolling out a “Dining Out for 522” chef’s fundraising campaign. The campaign scheduled its first stakeholder meeting for May 31 in Seattle. Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence is among the leading supporters of the Yes on 522 GMO labeling bill. Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing is helping lead fundraising efforts and outreach to natural and organic products industry leaders. For information and to contribute, visit www.yeson522.com.

Whole Foods Market Endorses Washington State’s Yes on 522 GMO Labeling Bill
Joining a coalition of leading Washington State-based retailers including PCC Natural Markets and Marlene’s Natural Foods Market and Delis, among others, Whole Foods Market on April 25 announced its support for the Yes on 522 (www.yeson522.com) campaign to label genetically engineered, or GMO, foods. In support of Yes on 522, Whole Foods Market launched a grassroots effort, Will Vote for Food (www.willvoteforfood.com) to engage consumers and build support for the ballot initiative. “This issue is about transparency and the consumer’s right to make informed decisions,” said Joe Rogoff, president of Whole Foods Market’s Pacific Northwest region. “We believe that growers using genetically modified seed, and producers using the products grown from those seeds, have an obligation to share that information with their public. And the price paid by the food industry for relabeling is a pittance compared to the distrust that increasingly results from their concealment. We support Yes on 522. At Whole Foods Market, we will vote for food.”

New Leaf Markets Require GMO Labeling; Terra Organica Labeling GMO Products In-Store
Following in the footsteps of Whole Foods Market, Santa Cruz, CA-based natural retailer New Leaf Community Markets announced it would require labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients in its seven stores by 2018. New Leaf was an early retail member of the Non-GMO Project and a strong supporter of California’s Prop 37 2012 GMO labeling measure, which was defeated by a narrow margin. New Leaf co-owner Scott Roseman commended Whole Foods for taking the lead on the labeling issue and said the five-year deadline gives manufacturers time to update packaging or research alternative ingredients. In related news, Stephen Trinkaus, owner of Terra Organica in Bellingham, WA, asked his customers what they wanted in terms of GMO labeling. The choices were: do nothing, label products that contain GMO ingredients, or get rid of the items altogether. Customers overwhelmingly chose labels, so Trinkaus began labeling products in the store that are likely to contain GMO ingredients. “I thought it would be simpler than it is,” Trinkaus told the Seattle Times. He wants customers to know if a manufacturer is working to replace GMO ingredients with non-GMO alternatives – many are after Whole Foods Market’s announcement to require GMO labeling in 2018, he said – and is revamping labels in his store to display more complex information.

Vermont, Maine Advance GMO Labeling Legislation
On May 14, despite concerns over lawsuit threats from the biotech industry, Maine’s House Agriculture Committee passed a GMO labeling measure on an 8-3 vote. The bill, LD 718, offered by Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington) wouldn’t go into full effect until 2018, and only after four of the nine northeastern states approve similar laws. However, they may be one step closer to realizing that goal: on May 10, the Vermont House passed a mandatory GMO labeling bill by an overwhelming 107-37 vote, again, despite massive lobbying efforts by the GMO biotech industry and threats to sue the state. If approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the bill, H 112, could make Vermont the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified foods. But the measure likely wouldn’t go into effect for two years, and it would not affect meat, milk or eggs from animals that were fed or treated with genetically engineered substances, including GMO corn and the rBGH cattle hormone. While GMO labeling is not required in the U.S., according to the Center for Food Safety, 64 countries, including China, Russia and all EU nations currently have GMO labeling laws in place.

Monsanto CEO Blames Social Media for “Elitist” Anti-GMO Sentiments
Citizens who are against genetically modified foods or are calling for mandatory labeling of GMO foods are guilty of “elitism” that is fanned by social media, and they fail to consider the needs of the rest of the world, said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a May 15 interview with Bloomberg Press. “This place is getting busier and more crowded,” Grant said. “As long as you’ve got money in your back pocket and you drive your station wagon to the supermarket on weekends, then it’s out of sight, out of mind, so far.” The advent of social media helps explain why many people in the U.S. have come to oppose genetically engineered crops in recent years, Grant told Bloomberg. Grant feels that GMOs are the answer to feeding the world’s growing population, while opponents point to increased use of toxic synthetic pesticides associated with GMO agriculture, the fact the farmers can no longer save seed if they are practicing GMO farming, the potential contribution of GMO farming to global climate change, and peer-reviewed studies that warn of risks to human, animal and environmental health. In related news, executives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical – among the world’s largest producers of GMO crops and pesticides, and owners of a significant majority of the world’s seed companies – told Reuters that they are developing a national promotional campaign aimed at turning the tide on growing public sentiment against GMO crops. With GMO labeling measures before the federal government and more than 20 states, the biotech firms seek to limit the spread of such initiatives, which the companies say would only confuse consumers and upset the food manufacturing industry, according to Reuters. The biotech industry is still working out details of their marketing campaign, but it will likely have a large social media component, the company executives said.

Supreme Court Rules for Monsanto in Seed Case
Rejecting an Indiana farmer’s argument that his planting of seeds he had bought second-hand did not violate Monsanto’s GMO seed patent, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 12 ruled unanimously that farmers must pay Monsanto each time they plant the company’s genetically engineered soybeans. Farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman asserted that because the company’s herbicide-resistant, Roundup Ready soybeans replicate themselves, he was not violating the company’s patent by planting progeny seeds he had purchased elsewhere. However, the justices unanimously rejected that claim, with Justice Elena Kagan writing there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law. But Kagan warned that the Monsanto decision was a limited one and did not address every issue involving a self-replicating product. The court ordered Bowman, a conventional farmer, to pay nearly $85,000 in damages to Monsanto. The Supreme Court’s decision implies that Monsanto has the legal right to stop farmers from saving seeds from patented genetically modified crops one season, and plant them the next season.

More than 2 Million People Rally in 52 Countries to Protest GMO Giant Monsanto
From a single Facebook page started in February, the March Against Monsanto held on May 25 drew more than 2 million people in 52 countries and 436 cities to protest chemical giant Monsanto and the genetically engineered seeds it produces. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” protest organizer Tami Canal told USA Today. “It was empowering and inspiring to see so many people, from different walks of life, put aside their differences and come together,” she said. The group plans to harness the success of the event to continue its anti-GMO cause. “We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?” Protests were held in Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and elsewhere around the globe. “As a single company, Monsanto is the tip of the iceberg representing the threat that unchecked corporate power has in corrupting our democratic institutions, driving family farmers off the land, threatening human health and contaminating our environment,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, in a May 28 commentary in the Huffington Post.

After Being Rejected by Consumers, Will GMO Spuds Make a Comeback?
While the FDA weighs approval of GMO salmon, a dozen years after Monsanto ditched its GMO potato after disappointing sales, an Idaho company, J.R. Simplot, asked FDA in mid-May to approve five varieties of GMO potatoes. The varieties have been genetically engineered to avoid black spots and designed to have less acrylamide, a naturally occurring but potentially toxic chemical. Simplot, according to MSN News, sells potatoes to McDonald’s for its French fries, and McDonald’s rejects potatoes with black spots. The FDA is also reviewing the “Arctic” apple, genetically engineered by Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits to resist turning brown when cut. While Simplot said 20 field trials demonstrate that GMO potatoes are virtually identical to their unmodified cousins, Bill Freese, senior policy analyst with Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety, said that genetic engineering is a “noisy, unpredictable process,” where the best-intentioned genome tinkering could be accompanied by unforeseen effects on human health and the environment. “The biotech approach is to change the food on a genetic level in quite frankly risky ways with inadequate regulation to adapt a crop to an industrial food system that’s really unhealthy in so many ways,” he said.

Roundup Pesticide, Used in GMO Agriculture, Linked to Increase in Autism, Diabetes, Cancer
In a study published April 10, 2013, in the scientific publication Entropy, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology linked the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, the most widely used herbicide in the world and the one most closely associated with genetically engineered agriculture, to increases in the incidence of diabetes, autism, infertility and cancer in humans. Through the inhibition of a crucial enzyme, Cytochrome P450, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body, report the researchers, leading to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Entropy 2013, Vol. 15, April 10, 2013. For a complete executive summary of peer-reviewed research demonstrating the human, animal and environmental health risks associated with GMOs in food and agriculture, click here.

 

Simple Ways You Can Help Non-Profit Organizations

Thursday, June 13, 2013 by

There are many organizations out there who help people and the planet on a daily basis expecting nothing in return. Volunteers are how these organizations can continue to function as they do in order to help those in need. I believe that in order to survive as a species, we need to help our brethren when we can. In today's world, reaching out to the masses requires a website that is functional, informative, and attractive in order to keep visitors coming back. As I have talent as a web-designer, what better way to help non-profit organizations than to volunteer my time in order to improve the Internet presence they need?


For several years now, I have donated much of my free time to the benefit of organizations that either don't have the money to pay a professional or didn't realize the potential of the Internet. How have my skills been put to use for these selfless organizations?

1. Online Donations - Some organizations will create sales and drives in order to accumulate donations. The people I've helped are now benefiting from the donation button placed on their website with the help of PayPal. I set up the bank and PayPal accounts to accept donations automatically through the website. Now, donations can be made using debit or credit cards from anyone in the world when before it was strictly cash based in a local setting.

2. Content Management - Using Joomla, I helped set up the organization's website and created a "How-to" pamphlet on the ease of creating content to spread the message. As Joomla is incredibly easy to learn, the organization now benefits from adding its own content on a regular basis to share messages, prayer requests, and more.

3. Image Galleries - As this particular organization helps those in other countries, they inquired about an image gallery to show visitors who has been helped by them. Using Joomla, I installed an image gallery to serve the purpose and it works exceptionally well. Images of success stories and children in need are easily viewable on their website.

4. SEO Practices - In order to spread the organizations message to as many people as possible, I created search engine optimization methods within Joomla and the content in order to help in the search rankings. Keywords, phrases, sitemaps, and more have been created to benefit every aspect of this organization. As I develop new methods of development, the organization is one of the first to benefit from the knowledge.

5. YouTube Assistance - I demonstrated how easy it is to create message-spreading sermons to the masses using YouTube. Not only does this give an opportunity to the organization to show videos on YouTube itself, but it increases the value of the website by embedding these sermons and videos directly into pages. My spouse and I have gone so far as to demonstrate the effects of a green screen to create inspirational effects during these videos.

You don't need to donate money in order to help the planet. Many of us possess skills that can be used to the benefit of anyone who is in need of them. A lot of these organizations realize that the time donated by a volunteer reduces the money they would have to pay in order to complete a specific task. Find out how you can put your skills to use today by visiting any local charitable organization.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.