Social Justice Issues

Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink....

Saturday, July 12, 2014 by

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Californians hope to avoid a desolate future with the development of desalination systems across the state. Photo by Bruce Rolff.

SANTA BARBARA, CA -- And so goes the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, the iconic tome by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Of course, it refers to a seaman who is adrift with no supplies. How fitting, then, that we apply this life lesson to the current situation in Santa Barbara, if not the entire Southwestern U.S.

The media has finally awakened to what many of us have been banging the drum about for months - to borrow from the 1972 Albert Hammond pop tune, "It Never Rains In Southern California." In essence, this has caused a drought we have not seen in decades, as detailed in my previous articles, Red, White, and Waterless andSqueezing Water From a Rock. So let's look at Santa Barbara as a microcosm of what could happen in many cities throughout the country if we don't do something about it, and quickly.

From a variety of research and interviews I conducted with experts on weather patterns and climate trends, one central theme emerges: we as a society need to prepare now for the possibility that this drought will continue indefinitely. While not probable, at least we hope not, it is most definitely a possibility. Life must go on, and to sustain it we need clean water for everyone. Regardless of whether it rains.

"I have been here since 1964, and the climate today is very different than it was in those days," explained Tom Mosby, General Manager of the Montecito Water District. "The succession used to be two weeks of fog, then four or five days of warm, sunny conditions. Now, it seems that the inverse is true. No rain is a huge problem for us." Montecito is the tiny, toney town that lies adjacent to Santa Barbara, populated mostly by wealthy retirees and those escaping L.A. in search of solitude and open space. Oprah's famous $50 million estate lies within the Montecito city limits. "Our water conservation plan now includes water rationing which has been very successful. We believe the majority of our customers are checking their water meters daily to track allocation," Mosby said.

Montecito has very limited groundwater, equivalent to less than 7% of its annual water supply which has compounded its water shortage problem. The District's reliance on surface water reservoirs, coupled with below average rainfall led to the declaration of a water shortage emergency on February 11. If it doesn't rain during fall/winter 2014-15, a stage 4 (they are currently in stage 3) state of emergency could be declared which would mean little to no water for outdoor landscaping.

The Santa Barbara area has been a leader in water conservation, as its residents have been very responsible about decreasing water consumption in recent years. So much so, in fact, that in an ironic twist, the local water districts may have to raise their rates again -- this time by 100 percent -- because revenues are down dramatically. A vicious cycle? Perhaps yes, and one that could be repeated in any geographic area that is short on water but successful in persuading homeowners to cut usage. Thus, we face yet another quandary in going green which only frustrates the consumer trying to do the right thing.

The City of Santa Barbara did have the foresight to plan, design and break ground on a desalination plant back in 1991. Fortunately or unfortunately, plans to complete the plant were scrapped as the 1986-91 drought came to a dramatic end. Just recently, the City Council initiated reactivation proceedings to get the plant construction going once again. This will cost just under $30 million, and will provide enough clean water for about half of the Santa Barbara Water District's customers.

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The Carlsbad Desalination Project, seen here, is set to deliver clean drinking water to 300,000 San Diego county residents by 2016.

While the City of Santa Barbara wants to cooperate with Montecito to allow its residents to purchase water produced by the plant, a complicated situation related to approval and permitting process due to the infamous Coastal Commission may well prevent this. "We have to get desal now," declared Darlene Bierig, President of the Montecito Water Board. Recycling wastewater is also an option but realistically, this is more suited for agricultural, landscape, golf course and cemetery water than for drinking. The conventional wisdom seems to be moving toward desal and rapidly. This, in my opinion, is one of the better arrows in our quiver if we no longer enjoy the benefits of consistent, bountiful rainfall.

With the challenges Santa Barbara's original desalination plant faces, setting up a small-scale desalination plant is an alternative possibility in Montecito. I consulted an Israeli expert in water management, Clive Lipchin, to see if it is possible to enable Montecito to provide water for its citizens in a stand alone, self-sufficient manner. As with all new desal development, Lipchin notes, "There are infrastructure questions such as the state of the water grid and the possibility of easily inserting the desalination plant into the grid. Other issues include the best site for such a plant and its proximity to the coast, the location of the brine outfall, the current cost of water and electricity, and environmental regulations." Considering the factors, Lipchin suggests a small-scale desalination plant could be built faster and cheaper than waiting for City of Santa Barbara. "There are options to build a desal plant in a modular configuration with construction costs ranging from $5-10 million. Israel has done this successfully for small communities in Cyprus and Malta."

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The Carlsbad, CA desalination plant will closely resemble Ashkelon, Israel's 3rd generation desalination plant, seen here.

"Water banking" is another idea that Santa Barbara has cooked up to deal with the current shortages, according to Santa Barbara Acting Water Resources Manager, Joshua Haggmark. "Water banking is the practice of foregoing water deliveries during certain periods, and banking either the right to use the unused water in the future, or saving it for someone else to use in exchange for a fee or delivery in-kind," explains Jasper Womach, Agricultural Policy Specialist for the Congressional Research Service. "It is best used where there is significant storage capacity to facilitate such transfers of water."

In my view, that could be helpful but will not solve the water shortage. A massive, ongoing source of clean water to replace Mother Nature's downpours is desperately needed. Just last month, the L.A. Times and USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences conducted a poll of 1,500 registered voters. Results showed that 89 percent of respondents agree that the drought is a major problem or even a crisis. An encouraging 75 percent believe the state should invest in desalination of ocean water for household use. This support was consistent across demographic groups, with 48 percent strongly in favor and 26 percent somewhat in favor.

Let's head about 200 miles south, to the beach town of Carlsbad which is located in North County San Diego. As we speak, SoCal's only large desal plant is being constructed. The plant will create enough fresh water to serve 300,000 area residents. "We are developers and owners of the project," said Peter MacLaggan, Senior VP of Poseidon Water, the contractor who is building the plant which is projected to come online in 2016. "The project has been in development for 12 years, as the approval process began in 2003 and ended in 2009. Six long years. After the permits, we worked with the San Diego County Water Authority to get the contracts in place, and then we raised $734 million through a bond issue, along with $167 million in private equity," explained MacLaggan. This is probably typical of what a large desal plant would require -- about a billion dollars, and about 10 years if not longer.

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The Carlsbad desalination plant will be able to produce 1 gallon of freshwater for every 2 gallons of seawater it intakes.

Key environmental issues associated with desal plants are first and foremost, the intake portion of the process and its effect upon larval fish eggs, and secondly, expulsion of the brine or salt back into the ocean. While larger fish will be able to swim away from the intake ducts, microscopic fish and plankton that are vital to the underwater food chain can be damaged by the desal process. In addition, a tremendous amount of power is required to run the plant, thus use of fossil fuels vs. renewable energy is a critical discussion. Oceana's California Campaign Director, Dr. Geoff Shester, stresses, "Turning seawater into drinking water requires massive amounts of energy and poses risks to an already stressed ocean ecosystem, as the salty brine byproducts fundamentally disrupt the ocean's delicate chemical balance. Relying on desalination as an alternative water source fails to solve the underlying problem that California's inefficient use of water is outstripping our water supply, while creating a wide suite of new risks to our ocean which we don't yet fully comprehend."

Desal plants cannot be built offshore because the efficiency of production becomes significantly lower. Another issue is this: land, extremely valuable coastal land at that, will be needed to build more desal plants. Thus years of lawsuits and ultimately, use of eminent domain by the state may be required to secure key sites for a network of desal plants that can produce enough water to support highly populated Southern California. "The next desalination project will be easier because decisions and precedents are already set," added MacLaggan. Hopefully he is right about this.

As you can probably tell, I am a huge proponent of desalination as part of the answer to our water problems. As I sit here in my hotel room in Tel Aviv, I quaff a tasty glass of desal water. Not to mention, I washed my hair this morning and noticed the sheen and texture is actually better than washing my hair with Nevada or SoCal water. While admittedly there are environmental issues to deal with, this reminds me of the debate about wind power generated by turbines located in the desert. Some of our leading environmental watchdog NGOs are constantly banging the drum about the need for renewable energy, but then they question wind farms because they are visually unattractive and might affect the mating patterns of the snail darter. Similarly, ocean preservation advocates need to get real about the need for desal plants as a partial fix for inadequate rainfall. Fortunately, we're quickly witnessing an advancement of technology to minimize environmental impacts, as showcased in Damian Palin's TED Talk, Mining Minerals From Seawater. Palin proposes an innovative solution using bacteria to extract heavy metals from the toxic brine, thus minimizing pollutants that reenter the seawater and creating what Palin describes as "a new mining industry that is in harmony with nature."

Given the lead time required to plan, approve, design and build these plants, we are already way behind and crisis may occur before enough of them come on stream - not only in Southern California but anywhere with a coastline that is short of fresh water. Let's take a cue from Israel, which has developed a network of desal plants that produce enough water to keep the admittedly tiny desert nation supplied indefinitely with zero rainfall. It is time right now to move past the conversation, debates and wishful thinking. Oceans make up 71 percent of the earth's surface, so we know there IS enough salt water to meet our desal needs. We need to be building desal plants yesterday, throughout the world, to ensure fresh drinking water for all. Please help the cause by explaining this to your family, friends, legislators, and the media.

As always, thanks for reading and considering My Inner Green viewpoint.

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCGreen_Home

5 Ways Meditation Makes You Kinder

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. The Dalai Lama

When we were on our honeymoon we had the joy to sit with the Dalai Lama at his residence in McLeod Ganj, India. He held our hands and spoke about how his religion is kindness. It made us wonder how the world would be a better place if we all were just a little bit kinder. Luckily, he shows us the way to such an ideal through his daily practice of meditation.     

Meditation connects us to our innate kindness, like that of a mother watching her new born and making sure all is well. This kindness is within us all, though we may be out of touch with it. Meditation is paying attention to what is happening within and around us, and it changes us because through it we widen our perspective from being me-centered to other-centered; we go from being only able to see ourselves and our own viewpoints to seeing a much bigger picture that contains everything through compassionate and kind eyes.

We open our heart to ourselves with tenderness, seeing ourselves just as we are, maybe for the first time, opening with a heart as big as the Universe. In the same way we open to all others, seeing them just as they are, without likes or dislikes prejudicing our view. Which immediately shows us that, fundamentally, there is no difference between us. Out of this arises a natural, impartial kindness.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. The Dalai Lama

1 Become a friend to yourself

It’s inevitable when we sit quietly with meditation as a companion that we will discover a new level of self-acknowledgment and self-friendship. We are kinder and more accepting of who we are, less concerned with superficial appearances or image.

2 Think of others equally

As we open to ourselves we become more aware that we are not alone here, that there is an intricate inter-dependence between all beings: we all want to be happy, and we are all doing our best to fulfill that. We see that no one is more important than another.

3 Be forgiving

As we see that all beings are striving to find happiness so we can be more tolerant, accepting, caring and forgiving of each other. We all make mistakes – if we didn’t then we would be like robots rather than humans. As we can forgive ourselves for mistakes, we can forgive others. Perfection is our ability to see our (or their) imperfections!

4 Do random acts

Kindness doesn’t need to be applauded. In fact, often the greatest act of kindness is that which goes unseen. A simple smile can sometimes be the greatest gift of all. Practice kindness wherever and however you can.

5 Pick yourself up every time you fall

Giving kindness includes giving it to ourselves. We are often hard on ourselves, finding fault, criticizing, or feeling embarrassed of perceived mistakes. Meditation creates an inner strength and confidence that enables us to get up over and over again. And if we get up just one time more than we fall then we can’t fail!

We have a photograph at home of Bishop Tutu with his hands held in prayer position. Underneath it are his words, Please make it fashionable to be compassionate. That photograph is many years old yet his words are even more relevant today. Is it not time to make compassion fashionable, to make kindness cool, to make consideration and care hot topics?

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them. The Dalai Lama

 

Anytime Kindness

Whenever we get stressed we tend to close our hearts toward others. We get a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude—nothing matters but our own issues. By developing a more loving and caring attitude, we find more joy and certainly less stress.

            Every time you feel rushed, irritated, annoyed or upset, sit quietly and silently repeat: May I be happy or May I be filled with loving kindness.

            If you can do this for one day then follow it the next day with: May you be well or May you be happy to each person you see or meet. It’s important not to tell them—just feel it in your heart. You can do this to people in an elevator, at work, in the street or at home.

            Silently repeat May you be filled with loving kindness when your partner or boss is upset or angry with you, or when someone is criticizing you. The more you do this, the more you’ll release the hook inside yourself so that anger cannot land.

            If a day feels easy, try a whole week. Let friendliness and kindness grow within you. Make it your goal to become a more loving and kinder person.                              

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Award-Winning Authors Ed and Deb of Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World, are mindfulness, meditation and yoga experts. Deb’s new novel: Merging: Women in Love  -- what happens when you fall in love with the least likely person of the least likely gender? – and she is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at EdandDebShapiro.com

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.

 

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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

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.

Inter-Generational-Chocolate

Monday, September 2, 2013 by

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate. The buying mobility of ‘middle-classes’ now mean more people know about and want chocolate. NOW. When you consider a product that has been commoditised down to the gram, and that it is a diminishing resource, and most people LOVE it and eat it a lot, it seems impossible to work out the math of how to think about a sustainable future. That, in my opinion, is abstract mathematics.

‘ Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, removing any dependence on real world objects with which it might originally have been connected, and generalizing it so that it has wider applications or matching among other abstract descriptions of equivalent phenomena.’ Wikipedia 2013.

It makes me think of this:

 

 

Chocolate is running out. And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

The industrialisation process took more than it gave back in the last 100 years of chocolate.  There is no way that the ever-increasing appetite for chocolate and the ability for plantations 20 degrees north and south of the equator can meet every chocoholic’s needs.  We have more people in the world, and everyone seems to love chocolate.  We yield less cacao every crop naturally. More chocoholics, less cacao.  What’s gonna give?

 

The background:

Deforestation is pumping out carbon from Brazil to Columbia and with our little cacao pods growing north-west of South America in Ecuador, the great forests who protected our favourite treat are no longer able to grow like they used to. We’ve noticed this. We’ve noticed this on our 100 year-old rubber plantations in Papua New Guinea that our family worked on for two generations, and now we notice it in Ecuador in cacao farms that are producing 30% less cacao than they did five years ago when we first investigated the area.

It is an overwhelming topic to ponder. How to save chocolate? And even more funky to ask, what is killing chocolate exactly. Because if we know what is REALLY making the big difference, then theoretically, we could stop it. Later in this series, we will discuss this more in depth. For now, come for a walk on the wild side with me:

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate.

The need for more chocolate drives environmental damage even further – mono-crop farming and genetic modifications are the two biggest predators in a formally peaceful forest.  Can you imagine increasing population (and subsequent chocoholics) while reducing supply (cacao trees are dying). That’s just the cacao trees.

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.

And we start hearing this green-washed word a lot. Sustainability.

 

Inter-GENERATION-al Equality

Sustainability is not an adjective, it’s a verb.

It is about equity. It is a very unemotional and clear concept. It means that the decisions I make today, with my cacao farming standards, our impact will not influence the opportunities that my children, or our farmer families’ children will have. It is called intergenerational equity, where we can meet our needs without damaging future generations. And this equity is measured via social, environmental, health and economic means.

It’s not a new idea, and it’s not my idea. Wikipedia well explains:

‘Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice in relationships between children, youth, adults and seniors, particularly in terms of treatment and interactions. It has been studied in environmental and sociological settings.’ 2013.

Now comes the big question. If I told you that chocolate is running out where we are lucky to harvest out cacao because the temperatures are increasing, there is more unstable earth activity, there is more rain – would you consider your grocery list sustainable?

 

How did we get into this mess anyways?

Chocolate is running out.

And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

Chocolate came from the wild. Google the word theobroma cacao and you can quickly inform yourself about the tree. It has a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing.

It grows wild and chaotic in a forest with a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing. Wild living, be it plucking cacao fruits from the tree through foraging or hunting for our meat was a normal way of living. But then, we got lazy and our ‘food’ became domesticated. Became hybridised and cacao, is one of the most manipulated species in the world. Cheap chocolate called an end to wild cacao. Pests, domestication, disease and the constant push to feed hungry chocoholics stopped the foraging for food. Then we added ‘things’ to our chocolate, it was no longer about finding a healthy theobroma cacao tree and plucking a few pods, but growing vast fields of cane for sugar and diary cows for milk to dumb down the essential aromas and flavours of natural cacao paste. In the end, the simple elements of cacao became a mess of carbohydrates, fats, and protein with extras being added all over the place in the name of faster, cheaper and sweeter.

How and where chocolate as an industry came from, and what that means to the bigger picture of food is the most important question to ask.

Domestication is a process (which is not necessarily new) and was the first modification that our ancestors made to natural balance.

 

Domestication: Which apple was chosen from the tree impacted the species propagation through natural selection, with us being the Darwinian predator.

How our food and chocolate sources can be better selected from natural wild species to re-expand the base of what we can eat and enjoy. And this is what we need to keep an eye out for.

By understanding the process of domestication we can learn the importance of maintaining genetic diversity, even within a certain set of  plant (and animal) species that currently dominate our global food system; like chocolate with cacao, cane and diary products. What the early 1500s of cacao development in South America can absolutely teach us is, the genetic diversity found in the many varieties of is the key to un-tapping opportunities to overcome disease, pests, and possibly even weather conditions like flood and drought.

‘Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process whereby a population of living organisms is changed at the genetic level, through generations of selective breeding, to accentuate traits that ultimately benefit humans.’ Description of domestication from Wikipedia.

Have a think about the role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures. A great example of diverse farming is from Pye-Smith in his article ‘Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication’ – see the pdf here.

 Diamond, J. (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature 418: 700-707. If you want to know about the process and history of domestication, a good article by Jared Diamond looks at species domestication as calls it "the most important development in the past 13,000 years of human history."

http://bit.ly/domesticationbook

After reading this article, what do you think about what role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures?

 

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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:




 

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.

 

How Eco Friendly Fashion Will Help You Perform Better

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

theives bamboo topEveryday I watch people wriggle about due to poor quality clothing and improper shoes, and I think to myself why aren't more people wearing bamboo? In case you're not aware bamboo is a highly renewable source that can have the feel and look of high quality jersey and once you've worn jersey you don't want to go back. I think when eco friendly clothing started to emerge it looked, well, awful, but the growing market of eco friendly fashion, designers like Nicole Bridger and Thieves are producing beautiful bamboo clothing that can become staple pieces all year round. I love to wear it when I travel because it breaths, it's quite light, soft, and feels silky on the skin.

If you're like me these days, the idea of parting with my hard earned cash for utter rubbish is not appealing. I have a few bamboo pieces that I love to wear in the summer, I stay cool, my body feels more comfortable in turn I feel less tired.  Bamboo clothing is also hypoallergenic and naturally smooth, it never feels heavy and designers who are working with bamboo tend to also use natural dyes making it healthier for the wearer.

But is it enough to want an eco friendly wardrobe, will consumers want to purchase? The growing marketplace is now making it a lot easier to make choices when buying eco friendly fashion, and designers aren't afraid to experiment with fabric so the variety is larger and it's still growing. Wearing an ecofriendly wardrobe was seen as unfashionable and well odd for quite awhile but  in todays increasing market companies like Nike started producing organic products in 2002 and have been dedicated to creating sustainable organic cotton since 2002. 

Jacqueline Carlisle is the editor-in-chief of Think magazine

Is Fair Trade Part of the LOHAS Movement?

Monday, June 10, 2013 by

fair tradeLOHAS shoppers powerfully and naturally embrace the values of health and sustainability. But those life-affirming values are the only ones that inspire them. They also care deeply about social justice, the defining ideal of the expanding Fair Trade movement.

Fair Trade (FT) challenges one of the most basic assumptions of free enterprise--that buyers will always seek the lowest, or “free trade” price. “No, thanks,” reply FT advocates. “We choose instead to pay a ‘fair’ price so that producers receive a living wage.”

FT shoppers refuse to support a system where farmers with no bargaining power cannot negotiate the prices they need to survive and to invest in their businesses or communities. Fair Trader might also consider that farmers faced with such an untenable system may turn to growing drug crops for needed revenue, thus destabilizing communities from the poppy fields in Asia to cities all across the Americas to the streets of Amsterdam.

“The roots of Fair Trade are in coffee, but the model can be applied to many more categories, and in recent years the list of certified products has expanded dramatically,” says Paul Rice, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA, one of the world’s two largest certifiers of FT products. “Fair Trade empowers consumers to make a difference. With every cup of coffee, every bar of chocolate and every banana, we can actually lift people out of poverty and help preserve the land.”

Carolyn Long of Chevy Chase, Maryland, starts her day with a ritual of mindful reflection, global responsibility, and the aromatic scent of FT-sourced Ethiopian light-roast coffee. “It means a lot to know my choice is making a difference in the lives of farmers,” says Carolyn, who also enjoys Chocolove organic FT chocolate bars.

Carolyn would buy more FT products if she knew where to find them. A recent survey revealed that 62 percent of consumers feel the same way. Today, Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Finder” mobile applications for iPhone and Android deliver a national directory of FT-certified products. Fair Trade fans can tag their favorite products and share their locations with others.

Today millions of FT fans promote the self-sufficiency of 1.2 million farmers and workers in 70 countries throughout Asia, Latin America, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Africa. Fair Trade shoppers have translated the value of social justice into a $4.5 billion global movement. In 2012, Fair Trade USA estimated total US Fair Trade sales alone at $1.2 billion.  

The efforts of FT shoppers are transforming the marketplace. More than 60,000 U.S. locations sell some 10,000 FT products, such as tea, sugar, fruit, chocolate, and soccer balls. And new FT products regularly appear on the shelves. Today, South Africa exports FT wine and the Palestinian West Bank exports FT olive oil. You can find FT vodka and FT-mined gold.

Look for the FT label whenever you shop:

• Buy FT bananas, rice, and body care at Whole Foods.
• Find FT flowers at the local Giant supermarket.
• Pick up Ben & Jerry’s diverse array of FT ice-cream flavors anywhere.

• Dagoba chocolate, made with FT-certified cacao, is widely available.

• Get your Kirkland Signature FT coffee at Costco.
• Buy FT wine at Sam’s Club, Target, or Whole Foods.

• You’ll also find FT products at Wal-Mart, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, and Kroger.

 

The FT Java Trade  

The most ubiquitous FT product, however, is coffee. Fair Trade USA certifies more than 100 million pounds of FT coffee each year. More than half of FT coffee is also organic. At least 30 percent of the beans purchased by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are FT-certified. Starbucks began buying FT coffee in 2000 and played a critical role in building the U.S. FT coffee market.  Dunkin’ Donuts was the first national brand to sell espresso drinks made exclusively of FT beans. Peet’s Coffee, Allegro, Sumptown Coffee, Sustainable Harvest, and Crop to Cup are respected for their high standards and direct relationships with coffee growers. “The choices we make at the supermarket and café impact millions of people around the world,” says Dean Cycon, founder of Dean’s Beans, which sells 500,000 pounds of FT organic coffee each year.

 

FT Handicrafts

“Social change consumers” spend $45 billion a year, says eBay’s Robert Chatwani, who helped build the website of Good World Solutions (GWS), which works with 30,000 artisans globally. GWS’s web-based Fair Wage Guide, consulted by 900 companies in 81 countries, calculates the wages craftspeople need to support themselves and their communities. “Our technology gives workers a voice,” says GWS director Heather Franzese.

Ten Thousand Villages supports tens of thousands of artisans; its 256 stores sell “eclectic village wares” from more than 30 countries. Every FT purchase is a values statement. Fair Trade handicrafts remind us that each object is filled with the craftsperson’s soul and character.

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As Buckminster Fuller, the great American engineer, inventor, and futurist, said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality . . . [instead] build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” That’s exactly what the Fair Trade movement—from farmers and certifiers to consumers—is well along the way toward achieving.

 

Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the New York Times number one bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism (Link for Megatrends 2010: http://www.amazon.com/Megatrends-2010-Rise-Conscious-Capitalism/dp/1571745394/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353425143&sr=1-2 ), launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, was a finalist in the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money at http://www.beyondword.com/consciousmoney/index.html Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is www.patriciaaburdene.com<http://www.patriciaaburdene.com>.

LOHAS Health Trends

Sunday, April 28, 2013 by

wellness trendsI am in a unique position to view various market verticals and get some ideas on what are trends for various elements of LOHAS. Here are a few I think to be on the lookout for in the health and wellness space.

Happiness and Health

More of us will see happiness as key to achieving good health and vice versa. We will increasingly understand that happiness and health go hand in hand. There have been several studies indicating the connection between these two vital factors.

Mindful Living

Just think about the last time you ate your meal in peace. Mindful eating involves savouring every bite without distraction from electronics, whether phones or TVs. But this type of mindful living will also follow us through our everyday errands — mindful shopping, for example, means not overspending and buying only what’s needed to feel fulfilled at that moment.  Mindful Stress Reduction research has shown to be highly effective in teaching responsible in the health management, vitality and healing.

Nature As An Antidote

More people are looking at nature as an escape from noise, pollution and traffic and overall brain fatigue from the numerous stimuli we face daily that lead to stress. A recent study from Scotland claims that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park. The premise is that “grounding” the body to the earth’s surface stabilizes natural electrical rhythms and reduces disease-causing inflammation. Footwear companies such as Juil are using this concept for thier products and providing copper pressure points on your feet and ground you to the electromagnetic field of the earth. Its all about remembering to connect with the relaxing and energizing qualities Mother Nature has always provided.

Detoxing the home

For most, a new year means cleansing our bodies and getting rid of junk from our diets and kitchen cupboards. But detoxing in 2013 will also be about detoxing our homes and the environment around us. Consumers and brands are both turning to chemical-free and toxin-free products to use everyday. This means opportunities for green cleaning companies such as Method, Ecover and Seventh Generation.

Fitness Self-monitoring

In the past data was commonly equated with tech nerds. Today data is king and will go mainstream thanks to an increasing number of smartphone apps that help you easily store data on your own behavior via collection of wearable devices, from Nike Fuel to LarkLife, that do all the work for you.

Your Favorite Class Will Go Mobile

Mobile, portable classes are the wave of the future — thanks to the rise of beloved celebrity teachers who can’t be everywhere at once. Set up your iPad for a yoga class with the simulated feeling of individualized attention. Open up your laptop and decide what kind of class you’ll do that day — on your own time.  Providers include MyYogaOnline, GaiamTV and YogaVibes, Hotels, for example, are designing guest rooms to accommodate people doing yoga or cardio, or providing workout videos, while some airports, like San Francisco International Airport, even offer yoga rooms.

Healthy Hotels

In 2013 and beyond, what constitutes a true “vacation” will be redefined and “hospitality” will be rewritten. We’ll see an explosion of new “wellness everywhere” hotel chains and environments becoming more mainstream. In the past, gyms and spas have been positioned as mere amenities, but now these walls are being conceptually (and literally) broken down. Established hotel chains are re-branding around wellness and it’s not just about fitness. Customized food and beverage offerings (gluten-free and vegan menus) are becoming standard fare, and hotels are jumping into the juice-themed vacation frenzy.

Adult Playgrounds

Cities worldwide are trying to tackle obesity and overall inactivity by designing playgrounds for adults. These workout spaces are meant to eliminate cost and accessibility limitations and help adults get more active. In 2012, New York City opened its first adult playground and plans to create two dozen more.

Yoga Continues to Grow

Yoga booming – The latest “Yoga in America” study, released by Yoga Journal shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study*, an increase of 29 percent. In addition, practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.

Standing Desks

If research has shown us anything in 2012, it’s that sitting at our desks with poor posture is slowly killing us. As we head into the new year, experts at JWT predict more upright desk features for offices across the country. Companies like Ergotron have already created standing workstations with cart-like features.

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

Sustainable Business Profile: Burgerville

Friday, April 26, 2013 by

burgervilleInterested in reading a great case study on a triple bottom-line company? Read my company's blog on Burgerville, where we profile a company that is doing it right.  Their focus on people,  profit and planet has led to the creation of a full-time Chief Cultural Officer.  

Here's the article we posted recently on my website.

I've never been a fan of the fast food restaurant, but after abandoning being a vegetarian in my mid-20's, I just couldn't resist my childhood favorite: an old fashioned hamburger. Today, I find myself regularly buying those gourmet hamburgers from Whole Foods and throwing them on the BBQ for a fast dinner.  But instead of putting them on a bun, I tend to serve them on a bed of wild greens, mache or arugula lettuce. Yum.

On my company's website blog this week, we covered a profile about another restaurant that you've probably never hear of called Burgerville.  It certainly doesn’t have the name recognition or ubiquity of McDonald’s, Burger King, or any other well known fast food joint. But it has something that all the recognition and ubiquity in the world can’t give it: sustainability.

Burgerville got its start  in 1961 in Vancouver, Washington and has since spread to  39 restaurants in the Washington and Oregon area. Their objective isn’t just to expand –  they want to make the world a better place by selling burgers.

They use a number of green practices to do this:

1)      Source food locally. Nearly all of their ingredients are grown nearby and have that local flavor—like Walla Walla onions and Yukon Gold potatoes.

2)      Use seasonal offerings. Depending on the time of year,Burgerville mixes up their menu with seasonal offerings like strawberry milkshakes (from local strawberries) or hazelnut ice cream (from locally grown hazelnuts).

3)      Use alternative energy. In what can only be called a coup against conventional energy thinking, all Burgerville restaurants and their headquarters are completely powered by wind energy. They even let bicyclists use their drive-thru windows.

4)      Support sustainable farming. In 2004 Burgerville made the choice to only use range-fed beef raised without antibiotics.

5)      Support sustainable waste practices. In 2007 Burgerville made another green choice by implementing a composting program at all of their restaurants.

6)      Embrace green menu options. Burgerville makes great hamburgers, but they also have a lot of food offerings that focus on more earth-friendly options. Chicken burgers, fresh fish offerings,  veggie burgers, salads, and even sweet potato and asparagus are all menu items that offer alternative to the traditional beef-heavy fast food menus.

As a result of their conscientious practices, Burgerville continues to grow and expand, and is an asset to every community that has a restaurant.

Henry Ford said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Burgerville isn’t just making money: they are making jobs, strengthening local economies, creating new business models, and keeping the future intact. With a simple company policy of “fresh, local, sustainable” they are making the world a better place, one burger at a time.

For more info on the business case for having a sustainable business read this page of their website: http://www.burgerville.com/sustainable-business/the-business-case/