Friday, September 16, 2016

The Informed Consumer

These days I've had the opportunity to take a really interesting course at school: Sustainable Business Practices.  Now, this may seem like a very normal course for someone to take - but for me it's something special because as a hospitality student we don't have much opportunity to study things beyond specifically hotels.  After working on a very interesting project of analysing the corporate responsibility efforts of different brands from Disney to Patagonia all the way to South West Airlines, it made me think of how many businesses are actually participating in CSR movements.

This entire blog is based off of corporate social responsibility - used in a personal manner, yet I have never thought that the solutions to the problems we are facing is using this personal power in conjunction with companies CSR programs.  Let me explain my train of thought, basically I believe if people and businesses could both work together to improve corporate social responsibilty many of the problems of polluting and social injustices in the world would start to alleviate - not neccesarily go away but at least improve.  However, my mistake was in understanding the role of the business and the role of the person.  Personally we can all make efforts to lower our carbon footprint and treat others the way we would like to be treated.  However, this makes a very small impact (but it is still important - so continue doing what you're doing to better the world).  What businesses are doing though, is making CSR changes to their business based on the markets demands.  They are not making 100% of the difference they could if they solely reduced their carbon footprint out of sheer good will; and that makes sense because corporations act in accordance to the market and what makes business sense.

This is where I had been going wrong.  I thought that my efforts were mine alone and that the small actions would add up sooner or later.  While this might be true, a bigger affect I might have had was being lost through all of my irrisponsible purchases.  Of course when I went to the store I was choosing the cheapest item - who wouldn't?  The project made me realize something though, not all businesses were made the same.  If you were to compare Patagonia with any other type of cheap clothing manufacturer there is a huge difference between social policies protecting workers to environmental policies trying to use sustainable resources.  Its hard to imagine that just one purchase at a responsible store versus a cheap vendor would make a large difference, just as using less shower water might not make an extremely large difference in water consumption.  However, this is not true.

When you support a responsible business, these businesses are being supported by your money to continue doing the right thing.  This can affect many many people all the way to secondary suppliers of these businesses.  Of course, one purchase is small but it has two effects built into one.  First, it is giving money to those businesses that are acting responsibly, but secondly, it takes away money that would have gone to potentially irrisponsible businesses.  This positively impacts the market two fold because it allows responsibilty to flourish all the while encouraging those who are irrisponsible to change to be responsible making it a market demand.

So, I am trying to find ways to find which businesses are responsible and which are not.  I would like to (as much as possible) find a way to be an informed consumer.  At the moment the best way I have found is to see which companies are being transparent.  A good method of rating this is by looking at a businesses G4 report lead by the Global Reporting Initiative.  It will detail everything from their human rights support all the way to their environmental policies hiding nothing in between such as supply chain forced labor and child labor practicies and numbers.  Although these are quite bulky reports, they are quite useful when trying to make a decision on who to use as a supplier, who to invest in, and now who to spend your money on.

I know its a long shot to evaluate every single purchase made, so thats why I'm proposing a sort of comprimise.  Anytime we are going to make a rather large purchase, look first, be informed, and choose the more responsible company to support with your money.  The impact can make a bigger difference than our other efforts, and its rather simple in comparison.  No one is perfect and can monitor each and every transaction, but that one could make the difference between a company deciding to implement a more comprehensive CSR stragey - which can affect thousands upon thousands of people down the line.

Let me know what you think about being an informed consumer? Do you think it has such a large effect, and if so which are your favorite responsible businesses?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cheating - The Moral Dilemma

As I have been getting back into the swing of school, I've noticed a huge upturn in the amount students are cheating.  Not only do I find that students are cheating, but that teachers don't consider it such a moral dilemma but instead brush it off as irrelevant.  Has it become the norm these days to quickly bring your phone out during a test?  Have the ideas of cheating stopped spanning to asking for past students what the test questions are?  Have teachers just stopped caring that cheating is typically considered wrong? It seems so.

Of course, I am not just talking about my own school, you can find cheating anywhere in the world.  If you look online you can find the vast amount of ways students have tried to cheat on the Gao Kao, or any other standardised testing.  They go through measures that are sometimes absolutely crazy such as painting their nails with the answers, using 3D glasses, printing on the back of soda labels and much more.  I'm sure that it's not just me that has been noticing it, and I am not here to argue if it is right or wrong. I would like to assume that most people find that it is morally wrong.  What I would like to investigate here on the Responsibility Catalyst is what someone in my position should do as this could be considered more of the "grey area" of this topic.

In my case, I have been on both sides of the coin - someone who reports and also someone who stays quiet.  If I notice someone cheating in class during a test via telephone, it's very inconvenient for me to stop the entire test tell a proctor and take my attention away from my own test just to get someone in trouble.  Although schools oblige students to report any misconduct I find that it puts me in a very bad place.  If I were to report something like that in public - so that the cheating could be proven, I would become the outcast of the class.   This could cause many other repercussions than just being ousted socially but it could also make those who report to not want to speak up in the future.

On the other hand, if I were to report outside the class it would be nearly impossible to prove and thus be irrelevant as well.  Should we even call upon students to be the "rats" of their class?  Even in modern day society whistle-blowers are not those who are deemed successful and many times face serious consequences.  Hasn't your mother ever told you not to be a tattle-tale?  The same principle, in theory, applies here.  So what are you to do?

Finally, to explain my situation. There was one time that I found some people had an advanced version of the test and were using it to cheat on the test the next day.  Unfortunately, this copy happened to end up in my possession - unbeknownst to me until I read what it was.  This, I finally reported to the teacher because it clearly was involving myself and I didn't want to be accused of doing anything of the sort.  So, in response, I reported the cheating - leaving out the names of the students as I did not want my classmates to face consequences.  The teacher promptly replied back to me and said he knew people were cheating, and that he couldn't do anything about it so he would let it carry on.  He sent me a message explaining that in life sometimes the cheaters win - and this is what really opened my eyes to the thought that maybe times have changed and it is not the right thing to do, reporting cheating.

So, based off of these experiences and thoughts I have yet to come up with an acceptable answer to these dilemmas.  What do you think is the right thing to do?  What is the best way to be responsible - let things slide or say something?  If you have an opinion please let me know in the comments below.  Stay responsible! :D

P.S. Thank you all for your patience in waiting for my blog post.  I know it has been a month and a half that I haven't written, but I have just been getting back into school.  Now that I'm settled in for my final semester I will be posting more frequently again.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lawns, the ultimate waste...

Driving down the street you will see lot after lot sporting a gorgeous green lawn - in the middle of summer.  Maybe you'll even get to see the majestic sprinkler system rise from the ground and start over watering a lawn at mid-day in 100 degree heat.  This is not unusual in the United States and plenty of other countries, but how has this become the norm?  The land that is now used as residential suburbs used to be forests and farms and played a practical role in the environment.  However, these green patches of lawn are just a facade to belonging to nature.  They provide nothing truly beneficial to the homeowner besides curb appeal.  Sometimes not even that, if you look at Arizona - their creative rock and cactus designs are much more appealing than a strip of fake green grass.

I am not just here to complain about the problems that we face, but instead to provide creative solutions.  How about instead of having a front and a back lawn, you limit yourself to just one?  If its necessary in your neighborhood to have a useless green patch in the front; why not design something amazing in the back?  From flowers to vegetables to trees, anything would be a welcome addition.

 Flowers are beneficial because it gives birds and bees and other insects food to eat.  If you live in an area with butterflies or honeybees this could even be helping grow their population and thus saving the world from losing their main pollinators.  

Vegetables are much more practical than flowers as you can do much more than just look at them.  You can create garden fresh meals for many seasons on end if you take the time to cultivate a small garden.  The beauty is that you can plant whatever you'd like, and if you really want to stay small - go for a herb garden that you can keep in a small planter outside before you decide to rip out your lawn entirely.

Lastly, trees are a final solution as it gives a natural habitat to other animals and it can shade your house from the sun instead of just letting the air conditioner do all the work.  Depending on your area you could have bird-nests, places for deer and foxes to hide, rabbit holes, and masses of squirrels and raccoons all living in a habitat your trees provide.  If you're worried about critters getting into your trash either secure it, or focus on one or two of the previous ideas I have suggested.

There are of course other ways to benefit the environment rather than just creating a garden, but its a small step that will actually add value to your back yard.  Practicality doesn't mean it can't be beautiful, and I'm convinced it would be a welcome addition over boring grass.

What do you think about the trend of putting in lawns at every house down the block?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Meat or Veggies - That is the Question!

This article was kindly written by a guest blogger Michelle Lindqvist.  I'd like to say thank you for such an eye opening article - especially for someone like me who eats both meat and veggies.


First of all, I am not going to tell you to go vegetarian or vegan right now. It’s actually quite a big commitment and change in the beginning. With this little blogpost I’ve had the honor to write I would like to create awareness. One does not need to eat meat, fish, poultry etc. every single day.
I have been trying and wanting to write this post for so long, because honestly, this is a subject that I have grown to be extremely passionate about. And I’m guessing all of you know what happens when you become really passionate about something? You wanna shout it from the roof tops, and you wanna get all your opinions, thoughts and information out there in one go. The problem is, this post will have no references, nor will it have anything I can back up. This is just me, and my thoughts on why you should try to eat and use less animal products.

In March 2014 I became a vegetarian, and honestly; I have never looked back. I had previously been told by my doctor that I had to cut out red meat as I had just had kidney failure on both my kidneys and it would help me recover quicker. So instead of cutting out just the red meat I decided to become a vegetarian. For me, having lived in the US, by myself, for almost 3 months at this point and eating mostly vegetarian, the transition wasn’t as hard as I previously imagined. These days I don’t like to label myself, as labeling means restricting yourself. I try to stick to a mostly vegan diet, but I do enjoy cheese and things that contain eggs. Many people are scared that by cutting out animal products they will not get all the nutrients you need, but this is wrong. I get enough protein, and calcium and anything else you can think of!

There is also the ethical side of things; many people will cut out animal products from an ethical stand point. The way animals are produced and grown only to be killed off to be eaten or worn is wrong. There is nothing you can say about that. The argument that we are born meat eaters I believe to be incorrect. We are shaped to believe we should eat meat and drink cow milk. Back in the day we had to go out and hunt our on food, because there was no Safeway or Walmart. Now we should be smarter! There are many people out there who are lactose intolerant, and that is because we are not supposed to drink the milk of cows.  Red meat is hard to digest for our bodies, which is why I “joined the dark side” (aka. The world of vegetarians and vegans). Then of course there is a whole other aspect I haven’t even written about yet. Clothes. Fur. Leather. We do not need to wear the skin of animals! That fur coat, will not necessarily keep you warm, the fur should be on the inside! Today the quality of fake leather and fur can actually be quite good. Therefore, if you really want to wear something that looks like a poor animal had to die for it, go ahead: but please buy faux products (fakes).

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but come on, we all know that can feel like an eternity! Therefore, I would like to challenge you:

One week. 7 days. Try it.

For one week I want you to try and eat as vegetarian as possible. Not vegan, but vegetarian. That means no meat, no fish, no pork, no poultry and no seafood. Don’t worry though; there are still plenty of things out there you can eat!

If this is too much, please try to have at least one meat free day. That, most of you should be able to do. But the longer you go without meat, the better you will (usually!) feel. My energy levels went through the roof when I first became a vegetarian.

We all have different reasons for cutting out animal products, but in the end your reasons for doing so don't matter to me - it's all up to you. We are all helping to not only pro long our own lives, and of course the animals’ life but we are also helping the planet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Eating from my home garden

Spring has finally arrived here in Switzerland!  Although the snow persisted into May I can say that today it seems as if the cold isn't gonna come back (at least not in snow form) for a very long time!  In celebration of the spring I wanted to share will all of you my garden update.  You all saw my garden as it was starting off - with simple seeds.  I am proud to say that I have raised it to grow amazing herbs!  The cilantro is finally fully ready to start harvesting.

Today was the first day that I was able to eat the cilantro.  It is amazing to be able to grow the very things you eat.  It really makes you realize how much water goes into everything we eat.  Even this simple cilantro plant had to be watered constantly before it could become green enough and tall enough to be edible.

I made some nice lime and cilantro rice as a fitting first meal with my newly snipped cilantro pieces - and it was amazing!

I suggest growing simple plants in your own apartment not only for the benefit of providing food but it is actually quite nice to have something green and alive in your own home.  On top of that it makes you realize all the energy that goes into producing the food that we eat.  It really made me understand the quantity needed to produce to supply the whole world with food when a simple potted plant would only be able to supply me with cilantro - a mere garnish to my larger dish of rice.

Of course if would be great for the environment if everyone would be able to pitch into this growing demand of food supply by growing their own little plants.  However, I know that this is far from the solution.  Possibly this can be the start of a bigger community practice.  I did "donate" a tomato plant or two to a few friends as they became interested in the idea.  If a community could put together something small like this - it could at least put a dent in the production demand.

Overall, it is a great welcome to spring - I am glad to see that the plants are able to start growing and it was a tasty treat for all of the gardening time spent with my little cilantro plant.  Happy spring everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Too young? Think again...

This phrase gets passed around over and over and over - with little to no meaning: you're just too young.  What exactly does a person's age have to do with what they are able or not able to do?  Being young does not necessarily mean that you are immature.  There are actually quite a few young people that I would say are more mature than their older counterparts.

The issue with this phrase is not that I want younger people to do stuff that is meant for more mature people, but it is denying a large group of people the opportunity to prove their worthiness.  This comes in the way of denying young people key responsibility roles, all the way to rejecting them for jobs simply because they are "too young".  If they were given this chance and failed - then yes, it's fair to say they were not suitable for the position, but this has nothing to do with their age.

This doesn't just affect the youth of today but it affects the generation below them as well.  Young kids are coddled more than ever before, less trusted, and overall shut off from opportunities that they might have been able to take in earlier days.  This is working against them, not for them - the more protected they are when they are young means the more unprepared they will be when they have to enter the real world.  Mistakes are what help you learn, if they are never able to have these opportunities; they would be severely lacking in life experience by the time they reach adulthood.

What is my suggestion?  I suggest that we should start taking more chances on young people.  What's the worst that happens? They make a mistake or they fail?  Failure is an important part of learning - and if it is really that bad you can fire them/ take away the opportunity.  However, no one ever thinks about WHAT IF they SUCCEED!  Think about how much you could be adding to their life by giving them this simple chance.

This idea wasn't sparked by just one situation of someone saying "you're too young" to me or someone else I know - it is about a continuous trend I've observed these past few years.  Some of these "adults" are going so far as to suggest that young people (above 18 but under 25) should not have rights as an adult, but instead as a child.  Let's stand against this lack of trust in our youth and give them a chance instead.

Let me know what you think about this situation below!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Maya Boutique Hotel - Going Green in Style

Positioned in the snow covered mountains of Switzerland, overlooking a gorgeous valley, and next to a world class skii resort - how much better could it get?  The Maya Boutique Hotel in Nax, Switzerland out did themselves!  Not only are they located in one of the most beautiful spots in the world but they are protecting the environment by doing what they refer to as "what simply makes sense".  Made out of straw bales and using as little energy as possible, they created a hotel that is unique in all aspects and cannot be found anywhere else.

Their sheer humbleness is what astonished me the most.  They have won many awards in sustainability as well as innovation in major conferences from London to Paris.  Not just that, they are only 3 years old!  The family ran hotel is nothing short of spectacular due to the owners passion for hospitality and "doing the right thing".

It is amazing to find out that the hotel is made completely of straw bales compacted together to make nearly unbreakable and insulating walls.  They are about 3 feet thick and are used everywhere within the hotel from the dining room to the guest bedrooms.  The outer part is covered in plaster, and some places wood.  The wood is mainly there to keep with the traditional swiss chalet theme.  Then the inside is covered with natural clay.  This was a very intelligent choice by the owner as the clay allows the rooms to go without ventilation as the clay absorbs excess moisture and heat.  This is the first hotel ever to be built completely out of straw bales!

In the technical aspects, they have quite a bit of environmentally-friendly energy saving equipment.  To heat hot water they use solar tubes which are extremely efficient, especially in Valais due to the sheer amount of sunshine.  Not just that, they have a clay oven that not only cooks dinner but also heats the whole lodging because it captures excess cooking heat through copper tubing that winds through the entire closed circuit system.  By relying on these two sources of heat along with the straw bale insulation, this hotel barely needs to spend to heat the hotel during the cold swiss winter.  The straw bales work wonders to keep the heat trapped in the hotel during the winter and keep the heat out during the summer.  On top of the interesting heating systems they use, they even have their own personal energy management system.  It is a top of the line personally designed management system that can change the heating elements due to their uses or preferences with the touch of a finger.  It is truly something you need to see in person to understand.

In regards to the design, they decided to keep it eco-swiss.  They try to use as many sustainable materials as possible all the while keeping with the traditional swiss theme to preserve the local culture.  Their worst nightmare would to become a modern looking eyesore on the top of a mountain clashing with the traditional swiss architecture.  To be even more culturally correct, the dividers used to separate each room are made out of clippings from the grape vines that grow all around the valley.  It looks just as amazing as it is sustainable.  Each room has its own look and feel which makes all 8 of their rooms truly unique.

 Finally, in my personal opinion the coolest part of their hotel is their mini sauna chalet.  It is a cute little circular cabin that they made into a sauna - with a view.  On the other side of the sauna they have a window that looks directly over the valley all the way to the other sets of mountains.

Overall this was a great trip!  I really appreciate the Maya Boutique Hotel letting us take this field trip!  I can't wait until I get to stay here as a guest!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Don't go green, grow green!

Have you been having a hard time finding ways to be sustainable?  The triple bottom line is difficult in the area you live?  Why not go green by growing green?

Recently I've been struggling finding ways to be sustainable here in Switzerland as the government already imposes a lot of rules and regulations which help already keep the area green.  However, I wanted to make an extra impact on the environment.  I decided to start my own herb garden.  This reduces the need to buy groceries from the store which are imported and aren't necessarily organic.  Although this is a small effort, it can make a large difference on the environment if many people join in - plus it's better for your health!  Its super simple and I want to show you how my garden is doing!

First, all you need is a good herb soil.  Something that can drain water well is the best.  Then you need a pot to plant the seeds in.  Be careful if you are starting with seeds outside because it makes a large difference what month you plant them in.  Indoors as it stays warm and is much more controlled it is less important, but make sure the plants get a lot of sun.  Also, make sure to water frequently.  You don't want your plants soggy, but just enough water to keep the soil constantly moist is the best for rapid plant growth.

For a watering can, I repurposed my empty soda bottle and put holes in the cap so that when I water the plant there isn't too much pressure coming down and its just drops.  After about 5 days my chives are already sprouting and my cherry tomatoes are well on their way!  After they start growing, you will have part of nature just for yourself.

I will keep you updated on my small apartment garden, and let me see yours!  Happy growing!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Truthful Social Media

Ding.... Ding... Bzzzzz.  Ring Ring Ring RING RING RING!  Social media is here to stay - its been prying its way into our lives, gluing students to their phones, but also has given us a platform to spread our messages.  We are constantly connected, searching for immediate gratification, knowing that everything we could possibly need is at our fingertips.  In some ways it can be like an addiction.

However, social media has the ability to be used for good.  Social media itself isn't making these ethical choices - its up to the owners of the accounts of what to post.  Many post their lives on Facebook... or what we think is their lives.  In reality, when you scroll through someones page all you see is happy photos, or their latest adventure, and the last meal they ate.  This positivity is great - except when it is taken too far.

Many people compare their lives to the ones on Facebook - but they aren't really getting the true picture.  It may look like someone is really livin' it up, but in reality they are holed up at home on the computer all day taking photos specifically to enhance their profile.  When they compare lives though, they aren't comparing a friends Facebook directly to their Facebook page which also has many nice photos of good moments, but instead compare their friends Facebook to their real life.

The question then arises, is it our responsibility to show these people that Facebook isn't our true life?  Should there be a disclaimer explaining that what you see on social media is only the very delicately hand picked moments of people's lives?

If we were actually posting our real life on social media, it wouldn't be as popular.  People would become bored - even with the most amazing people in the world.  Could you imagine:

  • 6 AM - Just woke up... way too early!
  • 7 AM - Breakfast with the cat, mmmm we love porridge
  • 8 AM - Stuck in traffic on the way to work... typical.
  • 9 AM - Gotta love that water cooler chit chat
  • 10 AM - Good time for a smoking break and a selfie
That is one of the reasons that people are embellishing their profiles.  I have nothing against someone who doesn't want to post every detail of their life.  I just feel that it might be a consideration to show people that social media is not real life.  In theory we all know that, but when you scroll through the feed you can't help but feel that you are the only one not taking amazing vacations every other week.  

Social media is a great tool to connect with others, it really gives them a window into your life - but be careful what you post.  The tiny embellishments are making a big impact on your social circle - just as your friend's profiles make an impact on you.  Humans can't be amazing 100% of the time - and that is OK.  Hopefully this will lead to a more positive social media experience, with a tad of reality mixed in.

Tell me what you guys think: is it our responsibility to ensure people understand our profiles are just played up pieces of our lives?  Have you ever felt badly because of others seemingly perfect lives on social media? I would love to see your comments below!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What Living in Switzerland has Taught me about Waste

You buy a can of soup, you get a plastic bag to take it home, the receipt dangles inside.  Once you get home you take the lid off and throw away the label.  After you are finished cooking the soup you either recycle the can or toss it out all together.  What if I told you that this everyday process is the key to sustainability?  Switzerland has mastered it so far - can we?

Montreux, Switzerland in the Fog
I have been living in Switzerland for the past few years for university - and it has completely changed my ideas of what being sustainable means.  I used to think sustainability was all about recycling and repurposing old materials.  However, here in Switzerland, I realized that the key to sustainability isn't how to reuse products; but instead,  how to reduce the amount of things we consume.  The key method Switzerland uses to impose this restriction is through their trash collection system, and the laws governing it.

Depending on which canton you live in there are many different regulations on trash that you create.  I live in one of the more relaxed cantons, Valais, however certain cantons like Zurich have such high taxes on trash that people actively try to reduce waste before it even comes into their homes.  There have been stories of people unpacking products in stores so that they don't have to pay for the waste that the packaging creates.  This in turn influences the stores to sell products with less packaging which goes back to suppliers who also reconsider the amount of packaging they use for all of their products - and the cycle continues.

Dragon recycling bin in Montreux, Switzerland
Honestly, after seeing how much a trash bag costs in Nyon, Switzerland - I ONLY want to recycle and find a way to make each and every piece of trash fit those standards just so I'm not breaking my bank.  This seems slightly harsh by mandating it by law - but it is effective.  If people weren't motivating themselves, this is the one of the best ways to wake people up to the realities of how much we waste on a daily basis.  The great thing is that they aren't imposing limits on the trash - they are just making waste a financial burden.  Which, in my opinion it rightly should be a financial burden because what are we doing when we throw stuff into landfills?  We are damaging the environment... so wouldn't it be nice if this extra money to pay for trash bags went to clean up the mess we made? It only seems fair.

Trash isn't the only way that Switzerland has made an impact on sustainability practices, but this is one of the most well regulated systems I've seen so far.  I hope to see it expand so that more people are reducing not just recycling.  If you would like to read more in detail about this trash system or what we in Switzerland call the trash police this is a very good article detailing the system - in a very satirical way:

Don't forget, it's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  There is a reason reduce comes first!  Lets use Switzerland as an example and see how much we really waste this month.  What do you think about the laws? Would the amount you waste per month break your bank?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On Speaking Up!

You are just sitting there, minding your own business when you hear it.  You feel uneasy inside but at the same time the adrenaline is rushing to keep you pinned to your seat.  The pain won't stop, yet you want to show it who's boss.  You finally get up the courage to stand up for yourself when - it's over...

This was me for most of my life.  Letting things slide by because I rather endure the pain instead of to break the peace.  This might seem shocking to those of you that know me as I am a quite outspoken person.  However, when it comes to things that truly bother me to the core - in person I rather just keep my mouth shut.

This all changed yesterday in the funiculaire to school.  I was sitting down minding my own business trying to mentally prepare myself for class at 8am.  Typically the ride down is pretty calm and quiet since most people are in need of coffee just as much as I was.  Yesterday was different though.  Yesterday there was a group of girls spouting off racist comments, not just jokes but flat out insults to people.  I won't repeat them here just due to how rude they were.  Unfortunately the two girls sitting right next to me were of the same race they were targeting.  They just looked at me - as if it was my duty to stand up to them.  I was getting flushed and angry and I didn't want to yell at them or else I'd be sinking to their level.

Finally, the funiculaire got to the school and I got off first.  I walked a little thinking - nah, it's ok it's none of my business.  Then I saw the girl who was sitting next to me... just looking at me.  I slowed down my pace and made sure the girls walked up to me.  I had no idea what to say - I didn't even know who they were.  It reminded me of the show "what would you do"; this time I really had to do something!  So, I said "Hi, you girls might not know me but I just wanted to tell you that what you were saying back there might have been offensive to some people". 

I was cool and collected, making sure not to let my emotions get the best of me.  They looked confused and then they realized what I was talking about.  They said in a shocked tone, "no no, you don't get it - it was just a joke just chill out". 

 I nodded my head and agreed, not that it was a joke but that maybe they thought it was a joke.  I assured them however that it was indeed offensive and that they were being very loud.  I explained about the two girls sitting next two me, and they started to look embarrassed.  They hopefully started to realize that certain things should never be said - no matter how "funny" you think it is.

I wished them a good day and walked off.  I will never know if the message sank in or not, but hopefully they will remember my demeanor.  I wasn't yelling so they could get angry, I was just calmly asking them to rethink their choices.  Isn't that our duty to society?  We all have free speech but don't we also have the right to stand up for what we believe in?  

Tell me what you guys think - what would you do?  Speak up or stay quiet?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Are you Hard Core?

What do you think of as hard core?  Bruce Willis?  The Borne Ultimatum?  007?  Not in my books!  If you want to be hard core you have the chance to do so today! No need for motorcycles, guns, or spy devices! Just an apple, a camera, and a simple Facebook post.

This simple action can make a huge difference in a starving child's life and spreads awareness throughout your community about the reality of food waste.  In the new Hard Core Challenge that I have created one must eat an entire apple - including the core, on camera and then nominate 3 friends to do the same.  If they are able to eat the whole core they become part of the Hard Core Club and can nominate 3 more friends - if not they must donate to the Hard Core Club's Action Against Hunger Page which uses the money to send food to starving children.  If you are constantly wasting food like this its the least you could do.

About 1/3 of the apple goes wasted when you toss out the core - that's the same amount of food that is edible that gets thrown out before anyone has a chance to eat it.  Most of this food is just deemed "ugly" or "unusual" so it never even makes it to the supermarket shelves - which is a shame.  Its the same with the simple apple core; there is no reason not to eat it - so why do we throw it out? It looks weird?

If we can spread this awareness to our communities and help those who are starving from lack of food - we will be making a huge change.  So, I want to challenge you to be HARD CORE!  I want to see what you can do to make a difference in your community.  Film yourself, nominate some friends, and see how far your reach can expand.  If you decide to take me up on the challenge please post this note on the bottom of your video so people will know where to donate:

"You have been nominated for the Hard Core Club Challenge! To fight food waste and hunger you have 24 hours to film yourself eating an apple core.  If you fail you must donate to Action Against Hunger here:  Thank you very much for your participation!  --The Hard Core Club (Les Roches Green Club)"

I look forward to seeing all of your videos - and take a look at mine! Lets see how Hard Core this Earth can be!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

When Responsibility is EXPECTED!

Many companies are making efforts to be environmental stewards and generally responsible through their business decisions.  However, can they afford to do anything less?  I've spoken to a few large companies CSR representatives and recently they have explained that helping the community isn't something they do as an extra to boost their reputation.  These days if anything not helping would deteriorate their reputations.  Communities now EXPECT these big companies to help schools, volunteer, donate and the list goes on.  Although I believe that businesses should do as much as they can to help the community (so long as it doesn't take away from their product) - I am interested in why communities are looking to big business to solve their problems.

We belong to a society that demands constant growth and can't tolerate slow down or decline - thus when problems do arise the first solution is to fix the problem immediately without really finding out what the problem was to begin with.  There are no gradual solutions anymore, people don't put back the puzzle piece by piece - many look to buy a whole new puzzle.  In my opinion this is why people look to businesses to help the community.  It is because companies are the only ones with such big numbers, so much money, so much capacity that they can solve these problems in one go - with no reflection on the problem.  They can alleviate the issues without doing much but writing out a large check. However, is that really what we need as a community?

Developing a stronger more resilient community to fight your own problems.

Instead of demanding that one large player gives up a lot to solve a problem "or else" why not bond together as a community and build ourselves again from the ground up?  This type of structure is much stronger because all the links together makes it harder for something to take the community down again.  A quickly and cheaply built building would come tumbling down after an earthquake.  The new community which is more tied together and closer through problem solving would act as the steel bracing within the building keeping it sturdy in the face of disaster.

Again, I am not saying these companies shouldn't help out - I just think communities need to find a way to balance out their demands.  Most small problems can be worked out internally if you really work hard.  However, you would want these companies to help out when you need incomprehensible amount of support such as a natural disaster.  If we stop demanding something for nothing and threatening to stop being customers due to simple problems - bigger businesses would be more willing to help when something truly important comes up.

Nothing should be EXPECTED if you don't expect it from yourself.  If you don't expect yourself to help when every little thing comes up why do you expect it of a business?  Responsibility is something that we should all WANT to do because its the right thing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Knitting with Plastic Bags - the Final Product

As you might have read in my previous posts about plastic bags, I took on a mission to knit a mat for the homeless out of plastic bags.  Clearly I didn't think of how many hours it would take me to create a 3 foot by 6 foot piece of knitted plastic fabric, but it definitely took me longer than I thought.  I must have knitted for a good 12 or 13 hours and only got one foot done.  Not to mention how difficult it was to knit something so long - the stitches were truly forced onto my needles not leaving an inch to spare.

In hind sight I really should have woven this material or crocheted (if I knew how) because of how time consuming it is.  None the less the product is finished... well not so much finished as re-purposed. In the end I managed to get three feet across and two and a half feet down - before I had to leave to go off to school.  Unfortunately I couldn't continue knitting at school since there really isn't much of a problem with homelessness there as there is here in California.

So, instead of chucking all of my hard work in the bin, I decided to turn it into a bag.  When I see homeless people around here it seems they are always looking for bags to carry their supplies and belongings around - so to make it easier for them this works to keep their stuff dry and is also extremely durable and flexible.

I decided to take the rectangle and fold it up and weave in some of the plastic yarn I made to tie it shut at the bottom and on the side.  Then I needed something to carry it with so I created a long strap about 6 stitches wide so it is durable.

To test it out I went to the grocery store with it so that I didn't have to take even more plastic bags home.  Everyone who saw it couldn't take their eyes off of it - they even asked if they could buy one off of me.  I was a bit shocked to see how many people liked it since it's just made out of plastic bags.  The store clerks really appreciated that they could even pick out which bags were from their store.

I still fully intend to give this to a homeless person to use as they have a lot to deal with this winter season here in California.  Especially while they suffer through El Nino.  However, I am thinking that when  I return if people are still not using reusable grocery bags I might as well start making these bags for people. That way they get something cute, fun, and ethical for their shopping trips.

If you are interested in the details of the knitting process watch my tutorial video here:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Getting Back to Basics - 3 R's

Recycling seems to be the buzz word these days within households, businesses, and communities - which is great!  I am so proud of the efforts people are making to try and improve the Earth by trying to recycle products they would normally just toss in the trash.  This is the way we are going to start to make the difference the world needs to continue surviving.  The other day I went to Kean coffee shop and saw what an amazing job they were doing being environmental stewards, not because they had recycling bins but because they took it one step further.  They took an average coffee sleeve and put an even larger impact on it than just making it out of recycled materials or asking people to recycle them when their coffee was finished.  No - they asked them to REUSE this simple product.

If you look back at the 3 R's its:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

Recycling has always come last because it's the slower of the 3 to make a difference.  Just by taking this 1 step up the ladder made such a difference in energy use and true impact they are making on the environment.  Although it might be a bit complicated for a company to implement a "reduction" program as they want their products to be bought - inspiring people to reuse parts of their product is a great deal more efficient.

These coffee sleeves aren't destroyed like a paper coffee cup after 1 use, there is no mold there is no bacteria really and it never touches the coffee so why not reuse it?  By reusing it you are either saving it from going to the landfill where it just adds to our growing trash problem as it struggles to decompose; or it goes to be recycled where it takes time and energy to turn the paper into something else.  I've never seen another company try and work their way up the ladder of the 3R's but Kean coffee shop is doing it right!

It really makes me think what else could be reused instead of simply recycled, are there more things that I am overlooking as I sort out my waste?  Its great food for thought, what do you think could be better reused than recycled?  Let me know in the comment section below!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year... Same Earth

New year, new me... the phrase we all say as we are trying to come up with an even better resolution than the last year.  One year its to loose weight, the next is about being organized, the list goes on and on.  Most of them you are only able to finish about one week until you run out of motivation.  That's fine - I've been there too.  This year however, I have made a different type of resolution.  I can't afford to give up on this one - because our future is at stake.  My resolution is to save our planet.
Earth in a Pristine State

Of course this isn't a new idea - one of the reasons I created my blog was to do just that.  However, I think that this new year shouldn't be about myself.  The world doesn't revolve around me, or you, or any human for that matter.  So, instead of losing that 10 pounds that no one will really notice anyways, why not focus my efforts on making the world a better place for others?  Finish the year with the reward of knowing you have done the right thing for yourself and for others.

I am not saying that new year's resolutions are worthless, I just feel that this year is yet another year we can't get back.  If we are to make a difference in how the world is being polluted, in how people are being treated, and how we care about the future of all animal species - THIS IS THE YEAR!  After 2016 its going to be even later and later, and soon enough it will be too late to turn back.

There are so Many Paths You Can Choose
There are so many paths you can take to improve yourself in the following years, but first you need a place to live if you want to make changes at all.  So lets pledge 2016 to the Earth, to give back, to renew something that we have forgotten about for so long.  There is a million different ways that we can change as humans, lets not make it the planet we live on.

If you are interested in specific ways to improve the Earth and to make a responsibility pledge, please read my article:  10 Topics You Must Cover on Your Responsibility Pledge I wish you all a happy new year! And don't worry if you have already given up on your new years resolution - its never to late to copy mine.  

Let's make 2016 - a year the Earth will remember.