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Plastics of the Sea

80 to 120 tons of plastic are fished out of the sea surrounding the Maldives by various organizations every month. That seems like a lot of garbage, but this initiative is tiny when compared to scientists’ calculations which estimates that 4.8 to 12.7 metric tons of plastic enter our seas annually. It sends a powerful message of hope and commitment.

Parley, a New York based environmental protection organization working with the government of the Maldives, is focused on balancing human economic activity with the fragile beauty of our oceans. Their mission is to inspire art and business leaders to design, develop, and produce ecologically minded goods made from fibers derived from reclaimed ocean plastic. Adidas signed on and introduced Adidas X Parley, a line of shoes and active wear made with ocean plastic fibers. Their meaningful tag lines cement a purposeful message: “From Threat to Thread” or “Spinning the Problem into a Solution.”

Most recently, fashion designer Stella McCartney, well known for her low impact stance on production, also entered into a partnership with Parley. When asked how these fibers would complement her luxury brand, she replied by saying “To take something that is destructive and turn it into something that’s sexy and cool, how can that not be luxury?”

For us not to acknowledge the example set by Parley or companies such as Adidas and Stella McCartney would be irresponsible and destructive for our future—now more than ever.

Source: The New York Times, June 6, 2017

The Tops of Toppings!

Click the photo to view the video

“Nutrient free and delicious” was probably the main reason why Fluffernutters were not in my elementary school lunch box. Fluff was, however, available at my friend’s house. There, I could slather a slice of white bread with Fluff in a nutritional value free zone. More than the gooey sweetness of Fluff, I loved the shape of the jar, the simple label design, the kitschy animated ads, and the peppy jingle.

Fluff is much more than a mid-century modern American icon—Fluff turned 100 this year. This means Fluff has withstood numerous societal changes since its introduction in 1917. “New” or “improved” has never appeared on its label. Inventor Archibald Query made $500.00 when he sold his recipe to two Massachusetts WWI veterans, Allen Durkee and Fred Mower. Upon their purchase, Durkee Mower made one genius change to “Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff,” which was to simplify the name to “Fluff.” The marketing of Fluff was also Durkee Mower’s genius. Fluff has become a legacy brand which has successfully withstood the test of time and taste.

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.

Source

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

Source

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!

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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
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