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He’s the Ben & Jerry’s of Greek Yogurt

Photo: Johannes Arlt

Brands and products are not created equal, and few companies put an emphasis on doing good, while making great products. Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia are two companies that demonstrate a deep sense of altruism while making great products. I’d add Hamdi Ulukaya to the list of altruistic entrepreneurs. Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant who settled in New York State in the 1990s to pursue a college education, is also the founder of Chobani yogurt. Ulukaya employs hundreds of people in his two US facilities, many of whom are refugees from settlement camps in Greece. Ulukaya—with the help of his employees—has grown this Greek yogurt business from nothing to $1.5 billion in annual sales. Not only is he the owner of Chobani, he is also the founder of the Tent Foundation. Tent was established in 2015 with the mission to help corporations that are interested in providing employment and resettlement to the displaced. At a speaking engagement last year he said “The minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.” This is a very powerful humanistic statement from a very successful and caring entrepreneur. Last year, Ulukaya signed a giving pledge to give away a majority of his fortune to assist refugees, proving that he is the Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of active cultures and fermented milk.

Mr. Ulukaya’s mission has not been without risk. Read David Geller’s New York Times article from October, 2016 for more on Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani, and refugee resettlement.

There’s One Way and It’s the Right Way

As a little girl and before I could drive, I tagged along with my mother as she ran errand after errand in her Oldsmobile station wagon. My mother’s navigation was borderline pathological—no left turns! As I grew into a teen, this drove me crazy. No impulse stops EVER, unless they required a right turn. She would lecture me on the virtue of her “no left turn” strategy. In her view, it was more efficient and safer. I did not agree.

Well, as a mother myself, I now know that mothers are always right. Last week, I discovered that my mother was in fact a ”Route Optimizer.” And, she was not alone. UPS delivery trucks, for example only turn left when it is absolutely necessary. This practice saves 10 million gallons of fuel per year, not to mention a significant reduction in traffic accidents. This practice is nothing new for UPS—they have been doing it for years—even before GPS and proprietary routing software. I suppose at one time, UPS had a department full of “Route Optimizers” working around the clock to design the perfect delivery route. But I don’t need further evidence that my mother was always right to turn right.


The Biggest and Greatest Wall

Photo: Abby Lowell

Twenty-four years in the making, skier and plank-collector Pat Harmon has created the biggest and greatest wall ever—made from skis! And, it cost me and Mexico nothing.

The Harmon Ski Wall in Juneau, Alaska, began as a fence made of 20 pairs of retired skis left over from a local ski swap. Harmon’s intent was never to create a barrier. Quite the contrary—it was designed as a welcoming symbol. The wall, as it stands today, is made up of 230 pairs of skis three-stories in the air lining the highway approach to the local Juneau ski area.

In an interview with Powder magazine, Harmon was asked “Does anyone have a problem with the wall?” He admitted that some people felt that it violated the zoning restrictions for fences. Fortunately, a blogger recognized the artistic value of the ski wall and responded by saying “Yeah, well, that’s not a fence, that’s a work of art and there’s no height restriction on that.” For the locals, the ski wall provides Juneau a unique point of interest. There is nothing else like it and people from all over the world recognize this and have paid a visit. Happy couples have even documented their special day while standing with their wedding parties at the ski wall.

To find out more about this wonderful work of art, please take a minute to read this article.

Art Theorist or Physicist?

Autumn Rhythm, Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock’s paintings mirror nature’s patterns, like branching trees, snowflakes, waves—and the structure of the human eye, says University of Oregon physicist Michael Taylor. Taylor, a self-proclaimed multidisciplinary thinker and problem solver, is a physicist/painter/photographer. It is through his unusual combination of talents he has been able to view Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist paintings from an “ordered chaos” perspective.

As a profession, Taylor studies the movement of electrical currents. While studying nanoelectronics, where currents create fractal patterns—an ordered chaos—Taylor made an astounding connection between Pollack’s splattered paintings and the flow of electrical currents. After closer study, Taylor determined that Pollack’s paintings are fractal and may explain why people find them so pleasing. As a man of science, Taylor conducted a study on human responses to fractal patterns. As he suspected, humans showed a positive response to images which contained a mathematical fractal dimension. Hence, our attraction to the soothing qualities of Pollock’s paintings and nature’s beauty. Since our exposure to Pollock’s paintings cannot be a daily ritual, Taylor’s remarks and advice seem very reasonable and healthy. “We need these natural patterns to look at and we’re not getting enough of them,” said Taylor. “As we increasingly surround ourselves with straight Euclidean built environments, we risk losing our connection to the natural stress-reducer that is visual fluency. It all adds up to yet another reason to bring greenery back to cities and get outside more often.”

To find out more about nature’s patterns, fractals, and Pollock’s paintings please visit Florence William’s article in The Atlantic.

The Only Nice Thing About Russia These Days

Image: Anna Pozharskaya

The beaches of Ussuri Bay, Russia were once off limits to bathers. Located in the northeastern part of Peter the Great Gulf, it was formerly known as a Soviet-era industrial hub for glass making. During Soviet times, shards of glass and porcelain littered the beach from years of careless dumping and litter-filled river run-off. Today “Glass Beach,” is one of the most uniquely beautiful in the world. Nature has kindly taken care of the danger through tidal action, leaving behind nothing but tumbled glass—pieces of bright blues, greens, reds, and all shades in between. Photographers from the Siberian Times have documented the unique beauty of “Glass Beach.” Please take a look.

100 Artists on What Makes America Great

The Creative Action Network has commissioned 100 artists to visually depict “What Makes America Great.” Starting this past January 20th, a poster a day will be released for the next 100 days. Browse the collection as it grows. Posters can be downloaded or purchased. Sale proceeds will go to the artists and Dream Corps, CNN commentator Van Jones’ charitable organization.

Plurality Makes America Great” by Juana Medina – January 25th, 2017
Freedom of Speech Makes America Great” by Jennifer Brigham – January 28th, 2017


Compassion and Commerce IKEA-Style

By 2019, consumers will be able to support Syrian refugees by shopping at IKEA (in select markets). Sweden-based IKEA plans to employ 200 Syrian women refugees in Jordan. To get this initiative going, IKEA is working with organizations focused on women’s issues. Employing 200 refugees of the 655,000 men, women, and children currently displaced in Jordan is just a drop in an enormous bucket. But, it’s a start. Here in the US, the chances are slim that we will ever be able to buy a Syrian refugee-made rug. Our only hope would be for compassionate trade exemptions to be made on current international trade agreements.

This is not IKEA’s only expression of corporate compassion, IKEA has also donated $33.3 million for lighting and renewable energy projects in refugee camps in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Wow, thank you IKEA!


Thanks IKEA

Congratulations to the 2016 Design of the Year recipient: Better Shelter, designed by the IKEA Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency. The Design Museum in London awarded the 2016 Beazley Design Award in architecture to Better Shelter: a flat-pack, 68 component, modular refugee shelter, which can be assembled in a few hours. Unrest has forced thousands of men, women, and children to flee their homes. As refugees, they are stranded awaiting peace or a new life. Better Shelter provides a crisis shelter for these displaced families, while preserving their dignity and meeting a very basic need: the security of having a roof over their head. While so many are turning their backs or casting a blind eye to a humanitarian crisis, IKEA has put to use their flat-pack technology to help relieve human suffering. Thanks IKEA.

As designers, we can find meaningful inspiration through comments made by Jana Scholze, a Beazley Award juror: “Providing not only a design, but secure manufacture, as well as distribution, makes this project relevant and even optimistic. It shows the power of design to respond to the conditions we are in and transform them.”

For a closer look, please visit: bettershelter.org

The Definition of Painstaking

Valerie Lueth and Paul Roden of Tugboat Printshop have spent 3 years perfecting a single woodblock print. The pair have devoted thousands of hours to “Overlook,” a 30″ x 46″ richly detailed, colorful print which depicts a woodland scene of mountains, rolling hills, and foliage. The painstaking and impressive process is well documented at thisiscolossal.com.
I wish that one of my loved ones had rolled up a print of “Overlook” and slipped it in my Christmas stocking. It can be pre-ordered (hint) here on Tugboat’s official website.

Mix It Up!

Bring out the holly, mistletoe, and disco balls! ’Tis the season of spreading holiday cheer and celebrating the coming year. A proper New Year’s Eve celebration must include party hats, noise makers, a dance floor, and a shimmering disco ball. Is a construction site an acceptable place to welcome 2017? Mais, oui! The lucky people of Lyon, France can ring in the new year with artist Benedetto Bufalino and his Disco Ball Cement Truck. Bufalino is known for creating public art installations and his Disco Ball Cement Truck is his latest creation. Oh, those French know how to celebrate. Happy New Year!

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