Monday, May 25, 2009

EPIC CHANGE: Make Loans. Tell Stories. Change the World!

It is quite rare that a program comes along out of the blue that makes me want to sit-up, take notice and take action.  Today, I came across a cause that needs my support, your support and your vote to move forward.  The beauty of the organization is they are truly designed to be a hand-up, not a hand-out, in the lives of those they touch.

Epic Change is a non-profit organization that utilizes donations to make a change for an organization.  As the loan is repaid, the funds are then diverted to the next cause, creating a perpetual flow of financial support to improve countless lives the world over.  Currently, Epic Change is a finalist in the IdeaBlob $10K contest to raise money to improve the lives of someone in the world.  Epic Change is proposing the construction of a computer lab, library and boarding facility at a Tanzania school that has already benefited from their work.

Why am I interested in this?  Is this really something that is green?  Absolutely!  First, the school is currently utilizing solar power for electricity.  The school provides education in a part of the world that needs education to help move its people forward in life.  Also, as a college student, over 10 years ago, I planned to go to Zimbabwe to help facilitate construction on a school.  However, funding for the improvements fell through and I never made the trip.  There is a great deal of need in areas like Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and we can help. 

While your donations would be welcome, the need today is support and votes for their cause on IdeaBlob.  Click on this link, review their idea and vote to support them as they bring better education to children in need. 

Their mission: "We help hopeful people in need share their stories to acquire resources that will improve their lives."

This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Teenage Years of Sustainable Business

I had one of those experiences this week that causes reflection.  While driving to church with my 3 children in the car, I got distracted and did not slow down while merging onto a state highway from the freeway.  The result was a pleasant conversation with local law enforcement about my driving and lack of attention to the local speed limit.  As I continued on my way to church, now on the verge of being late, but not wanting to push my luck in making up time, I realized how much our perspective changes with experience.

As a teenager, I lived in a small town.  My friends and I had the city figured out.  The police station sat in the middle of town and the town had exactly 6 police cruisers.  Quickly, we all learned that if we paid attention while driving, we could easily exceed the speed limit without fear of a ticket.  Most trips through town required that you pass the station, and, on average, there were no less than 4 cruisers at the station.  By counting cars, the risk of being caught dropped to manageable levels and speeding became a part of the drive through town, once the count  of cruisers reached 6.

Fast forward to today.  While I have moved far beyond counting cars and attempts to evade the law, sustainable business practices are still in their teenage years; attempting to get away with doing as little as possible, for maximum impact.  Companies today see dollar signs when they associate and assimilate green/environmental marketing into the overall strategy.  Companies participate in green with varying levels of commitment.  Some do just enough to add a green leaf to their logo, others make firm commitments to improve, while a select few actually act responsibly and improve environmental performance.

Several months ago, I shared my thoughts on transparency in business.  In order to truly adopt sustainable practices, companies need to speak openly with customers about these changes and share successes and failures.  Unfortunately, businesses continue to hide behind a guise of proprietary business practices to avoid showing the gap between what they say and what they do. 

Many organizations are popping up to help hold us responsible for our claims.  They set standards and monitor progress, but much of the reporting is still subject to human error and even intentional inaccuracy.  When no one is watching, many organizations slip back into the old ways of operation.  Some even “count the cars” to know when it is ok to return to “business as usual”. 

While my situation turned out favorable (apparently local law enforcement has a soft spot for a father of 3 on his way to church) and only a warning was issued, can we afford a warning in business?  Can sustainable efforts thrive if business continues to take the path that leads to minimal action?  Do businesses really live up to their marketing message, advertising sustainable practices?

Help your business grow up and mature past the teenage years of evading discovery.  Recognize your shortcomings.  Plan, Communicate, Act and Report.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exploring the Food We Eat…

As a student of Sustainability, I am quickly learning there are many opportunities to learn more about the world around us and efforts to improve our lives.  Last night was such an occasion as I attend a pre-screening of a new documentary about our food production industry, Food, Inc. (By Filmmaker Robert Kenner).

Food, Inc. explores the different aspects of mass produced foods we see on the shelves at the grocery store each week.  Avoiding the sentiment and feeling of an expose, Kenner shares the truth of the current food industry and the evolution we have followed as a nation to come to a point in history where the entire food system should be explored and questioned.  Whether studying the many pesticides and chemicals used in today’s production processes or the subsidies offered

 by the government to keep the cost of food to a minimum, Kenner simply tells the story as it is, without reservation.  The film does not batter the companies behind the products, but tells the viewer what they learned in the process of making this film.

The film also shares the success of companies like Stonyfield Farms and founder Gary Hirshberg.  Most notable in the film was Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm.  Joel is a voice of reason and shared many insights into the missteps of industry as they abandoned old methods of farming for a blend of “science and technology”.  I found it interesting that the industry left life, an essential ingredient for healthy food, out of the equation.

In the end, Food, Inc. offers a list of steps each of us can take to move our food industry to a more sustainable platform.  The list did not focus on protests, marches or other political actions, but rather it encouraged each of us to get involved locally.

  • Buying products at the supermarket that are healthy casts a vote for a healthier society.  Even Wal-Mart understands that if customers don’t want milk with hormones, then they will only stock milk free of hormones.  They did it because of the feedback, through purchases, made by their consumers. 
  • Buy locally at your farmers market and local farm.  If your local grocery store buys from local farms, than buy there as well.  Support your local economy by buying what is made in your community.
  • Make more meals at home rather than out.  With a few exceptions, you know as much about your local restaurant as you do about pre-made cuisine at the store.  Making at home with fresh, local ingredients provides a more healthy meal for your family.

Thanks to Lipscomb University for hosting the event, Food Security Partners and Tayst for providing the reception following the screening. 

The film will be released at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville in late June.  I hope to see you there. Check the Food, Inc website for viewings in other parts of the country.

Links of Interest: