12 girls and solar energy empowering displaced people

THE IDEA

  • Inventing a tent made of insulating, durable material with integrated solar powered devices and lighting that can collapse into a backpack.

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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Increase in homelessness

  • Backpack tent will benefit their needs

  • To improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness in their community

  • Empowering teen girls to pursue the fields of math, technology, and engineering

WHATS NEXT

DIY Girls InvenTeam is a group of 12 girls from San Fernando High School. Their goal through this invention is to provide a portable and sanitary shelter that is passively temperature controlled and allows for access to modern necessities. 

"We followed the engineering design process to complete our invention. We started by identifying a problem we wanted to solve and did a lot of research on homelessness in Los Angeles. We have read many articles, listened to podcasts, and interviewed various service providers that know the struggles of the homeless population intimately; these conversations have influenced the design of the tent greatly."

The girls presented their idea at MIT as part of a young inventors conference and won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop their invention. 

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They featured by local TV stations and Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show. The team wants their accomplishment to encourage other girls to pursue STEM careers.

They quickly started doing everything on their own with Google, Youtube, and a can-do attitude.

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After a year of trial and error – during which they taught themselves the basics of 3D printing, sewing, and coding – the team has produced a solar-powered tent that is portable and can easily roll up into a backpack. Made from insulated fabric, the tents feature button-powered lights, USB ports, a sanitizing UVC light, as well as a safety locking system.

DIG DEEPER
Women You Should Know

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Technology for Trading Plastics to Protect the Planet

THE IDEA

  • Bridging the gap between plastic scrap buyers and sellers

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WHY IT MATTERS

  • More than 90% of the plastic products are not recycled, and almost 75% end up in landfills.
  • It takes more than 400 years for most plastics to decompose completely.
  • If current trends continue, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills. That amount is approximately 35,000 times the weight Empire State Building.

WHATS NEXT

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Silicon Valley startup, Scrapo Inc, is doing their part to reduce plastic waste in landfills by making it easier for buyers and sellers of recyclable plastic scraps to search, negotiate and close deals.

The Scrapo mobile app allows sellers to list their materials in seconds and receive bids from interested buyers all over the world. No more checking emails or placing pricey international calls. Trading made simple! 

To ensure trust and security Scrapo also offers an on-demand service called ScrapoSure. Under this service, a team member will personally visit the seller’s site, verify their identity, inspect materials, supervise the loading process and assist with logistics. 

“Even if our efforts lead to a single percentage increase in the amount of plastics recycled or reused globally, we would be happy that we contributed towards making the world a better place” says Founder and CEO, Rashad Abbasov- and we agree. Every little bit counts! 

DIG DEEPER
www.scrapo.co

Download the app from the App Store or Google Play
 

How Denim is Keeping Homes Warm and on-trend

THE IDEA

  • Turning old, unwanted denim into insulation

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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Reduces waste in landfills

  • Helps those in need

  • Encourages eco-friendly construction

  • Encourages DIY projects

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U.S company Cotton Inc. launched the recycling program Blue Jeans Go Green in 2006. Their initiative takes old denim jeans, skirts, shirts, jackets – so pretty much anything denim – and upcycles them into UltraTouch Denim Insulation. The program partnered with several retailers to set up collection sites countrywide, launched a mail-in program, and encourages communities to host their own denim drives. This approach is proving to be successful because in just 11 years they've recycled over 600 tons of waste that would've otherwise ended up in landfills. That is a significant impact, but it doesn’t stop there!

Blue Jeans Go Green is also helping those in need and encouraging green development projects. They supply their UltraTouch Denim insulation to Habitat for Humanity projects and they’ve even created a Denim Grant program for licensed architects, contractors and builders developing green projects.

But it’s 14-year-old Erik Hansen’s story that really caught our eye. Erik, also known as EcoErik, has always had a passion for helping the planet, so it’s no surprise that when he started his own denim drives, they were a huge success! Since 2009 EcoErik has collected over 33 thousand denim items and in 2011 he setup a drive for shoes, collecting over 29 thousand pairs for recycling. He’s a local legend in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio through his organization Go Green Ohio.

DIG DEEPER

Blue Jeans Go Green EcoErik –Go Green Ohio

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With Christmas just around the corner, why not make your own denim wreath?


Or perhaps a new pillow cover?


WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We’re Dreaming of a Green Christmas

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THE IDEA

  • Reduce waste at Christmas using creative, eco-friendly alternatives
  • Spend and consume less while enjoying more quality time with friends and family

 
WHY IT MATTERS

  • Tons and tons of waste is produced over the holidays. From Thanksgiving to Christmas household waste increases by 25%. Don’t our landfills deserve a little Christmas cheer too? We think so!

The season of giving is here. That means holiday cards, giftwrap, gift bags, ribbons, bows, tissue paper, gift tags, stickers, party crackers, packaging, packaging, and more packaging, oh my! And it’s not Christmas without a tree, right? Well, the tree gets lights, ornaments, garland, more ribbon, a tree stand and tree skirt. Unfortunately, most of these items are never recycled, leaving Christmas the most un-wonderfully wasteful time of the year.

WHAT’S NEXT

We have some helpful ideas for your Future friendly Christmas.
HOLIDAY CARD
CHRISTMAS TREE, 
DECORATIONS
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS,
and GIFTS.

FuturePlanet wishes you an environmentally friendly holiday season!

Power to (and for) the people

THE IDEA

  • Scottish farmer says “no” to developer and instead goes into the power business himself
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Money from the power project helps keep a local farmer on the land
  • Investment from the community helps support local infrastructure projects
  • Less diesel = less pollution 

WHAT’S NEXT

  • The project is being replicated across Scotland, and serves as a template for other community-based green power projects.
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Imagine you’re a farmer. Being outdoors, working the land—you love it. But the business side is tough. You’re hanging on, paying the mortgage, keeping the lights on. But not by much. And getting ahead? That seems like a long, long way away.

One day, a guy in a suit knocks on your door. He looks around and tells you he wants to drill for oil. Or maybe it’s gold. Or maybe it’s buried pirate treasure. Doesn’t matter. He offers you a bunch of money in rent every month so he can do it. You can’t believe your luck. So you shake hands, suit guy cuts you a cheque, and puts in a pump.

Fast forward a few years, and things are looking up. The rent you’ve collected has helped out. It’s allowed you to get your head above water, pay down debt, and flush a lot of the financial stress you used to feel. This is a tough business, and every little bit helps.

But over there on the back field, suit guy has been digging and pumping day and night. He’s made a gajillion dollars.

You wonder to yourself: did you make the right decision?

That was the question facing Scottish farmer Andrew Stewart a little over four years ago. A developer approached him with an offer to put a wind turbine on his 700-acre barley and livestock farm. But instead of accepting the poor lease rates being offered by the developer, Stewart went into the power business.

It’s not a small project: three windmills with an estimated output of 8,600 MWh—enough to energize perhaps 4,000-5,000 homes for a year depending on your assumptions. From a financial perspective, total expenditure is around 8-million pounds ($15-million CAD). The community kicked in 1.6-million of that, with STewart securing financing for the rest. Payback is expected to be about eight years—not bad.

Here at FuturePlanet, we believe wind power is the future—we’re all in. But this story is about something bigger. And that is individual empowerment (pardon the pun). It’s a story about the proverbial little guy—and the local community—taking back financial independence from larger-scale power utilities.

It also makes smaller-scale farming a lot more economically viable. To get the same return from three wind turbines, the Stewart farm would have to triple their number of dairy cows, plant 4,000 additional acres of wheat, or sell 23,000 lambs every year. Obviously, that’d take a whole lot more land than the 3 acres the turbines take up.

That’s a big deal. With a little support from his wind turbines, Mr. Stewart can invest more in his farm. Which helps out the earth in a lot of ways.

Don’t get us wrong here: in the fight to build a better future, corporations, private-public partnerships, utilities, and other financial arrangements all have a role to play. And economic scale will be vitally important for wind and other green energy projects, just as it is in any other business. In this respect, we support it however it happens.

But there’s something to be said for community, too. Local business, local investment, local decision-making, local power generation. All these things count for something. And in the push for green energy, it’s good to see there’s a way to bring power (and profits) to the people at the local level, not just shareholders.

GO DEEPER:

Learn more about renewable development initiative
And on the Marshill farm itself (includes two PDF reports)


WHAT DO YOU THINK

Straws Suck

THE IDEA

  • Reducing single-use plastic straws from pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes.
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Straws are one the top ten pieces of trash gathered from beaches around the world.
  • 500 million straws are used everyday in the US and approximately 20 billion kilograms of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, threatening marine life.

The small surf town of Tofino, BC is making a big impact when it comes to ocean pollution by encouraging its local businesses to go straw free. #StopSucking

The straw-free movement began in January of 2016 when Tofino’s upscale restaurant, the Wolf in the Fog, signed a pledge with the campaign, “Straws Suck,” to stop supplying plastic straws. The Surfrider Foundation's “Straws Suck” campaign works with local businesses to reduce plastic waste and protect our oceans. Co-chair of the Pacific Rim chapter, Michelle Hall said that when it came to straws she “just wanted to start with something that was way more achievable.” And she was right! Shortly after the Wolf in the Fog made its pledge, so did The Long Beach Lodge, eliminating its use of 12,000 straws per year. Executive chef, Ian Riddick said the decision was a “no-brainer” and that “it was simple. And change isn’t always simple in business”.

As of December 2016, 25 businesses in the small town of Tofino have gone straw free. Now that’s a big impact!

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Yet another reason to enjoy Costa Rican coffee!

THE IDEA

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  • Produce carbon neutral coffee

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Reduces carbon dioxide emissions

Billions of people worldwide rely on their cup of Joe every day to get them going in the morning.  In Costa Rica, coffee is the third largest agricultural export, behind pineapple and bananas, but it accounts for nearly 10% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Yikes!
 
The Coffee Cooperative of Dota (Coopedota) located in the Los Santos Zone is doing its part to cut back emissions. In 2011 this cooperative of 800 coffee farmers became the world's first certified carbon neutral coffee producer. 
Wondering how one becomes carbon neutral certified? At Coopedota, they conduct soil surveys to reduce fertilizers, grow in shaded areas to prevent disease and when fertilizer is needed, they use as much coffee debris as possible. Seems simple, right? They also use coffee bean husks for drying and have reduced their water use by 90% and electricity by 40%. 
 
It should also be noted that Costa Rica has started producing carbon neutral bananas as well.

WHAT’S NEXT

In 2009 Costa Rica announced they would be become a carbon neutral country by 2021

DIG DEEPER

Read the full story here.
 

Big DREAMS with Winning Innovations

THE IDEA

  • The DREAMS partnership is launching a $385-million USD effort to combat the AIDS crisis among sub-Saharan young women
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Instead of simply handing out condoms, the partnership is addressing some of the “root causes” of the epidemic
  • An investment in young women could make an immediate and significant impact
  • An impact that will be felt for generations

WHAT’S NEXT

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  • The project is moving ahead with several education and health-related projects around the region 7,000: the number of young women in Eastern and Southern Africa newly infected with AIDS every week. Whoa.

Imagine that were happening in the developed world. There’d be protests. Riots. Social upheaval on a massive scale. It’d completely change our society. 

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But because it’s happening in a far-off, impoverished part of the world, the issue isn’t considered quite as urgent.

Enter the DREAMS partnership, an organization doing some powerful, important, world-changing work, helping girls and young women across the region become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe.

The partnership has started a two-year effort to reduce HIV infection among girls and women by 40%. The effort involves totals $385-million USD, and involves health-care firms such as Johnson & Johnson, charities such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and NGOs such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

What’s great about the partnership is how it goes beyond simply handing out a bunch of condoms and  antiretrovirals, and saying “good luck.” The organization working hard to get at the “root causes” of vulnerability: helping out families economically, providing educational subsidies to keep girls in school, investing in school-based sex education, and educating both men and women about intimate partner violence. All these things should do more than simply help young women live with disease—it should attack some of the foundations of vulnerability.

Here are FuturePlanet, we see a lot of stuff that could potentially change the world. But it’s rare that we see an impact as dramatic, as immediate, and ultimately as long-lasting as what DREAMS is doing.

It’s not a stretch to say AIDS has changed the course of African society forever. If DREAMS can prevent even a small percentage of AIDS-related deaths in the region, it has had a tremendous impact. These women are literally the future of their countries. And their lives are being cut short, in no small part because of indifference.

Winning Innovations

One winner is implementing a tool in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to gather real-time feedback from the young women they support on aspects of their health and well-being. The solution is enabling programmers to quickly determine what is working, where, and why, and, in turn, allow for agile changes to implementation activities for improved results.

Another winner is deploying a multi-channel HIV/AIDS surveillance platform in Tanzania that uses mobile technologies and GIS mapping to provide a centralized location for two-way interactive communication and crowdsourcing data from DREAMS districts. This platform assists the Ministry of Health in monitoring and reacting to information in real-time to inform the mobilization of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment resources.

Think about how much better the planet would be if these lives—and every possibility that goes along with them—were extended.

GO DEEPER:

Learn more about the partnership here


WHAT DO YOU THINK

I Challenged Myself To Go Trash-Free For A Month

THE IDEA

  • To use one trash bag for the entire month
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • One of the biggest benefits of the month was knowing exactly where my trash habits currently stand. After all, you have to diagnose the problem before you can start finding solutions.

WHAT’S NEXT

My partner and I live in a small rental apartment in New York City without a backyard and with a dog who must poop on the sidewalk. There was only so much I was willing to do in the name of no waste.

Instead, our goal was to use one trash bag for the entire month. It was a far cry from one mason jar, but it was certainly a baby step from what we’ve produced in the past. And more importantly, it was a goal we could (and did!) succeed at.

1. Look before you toss.
As a lesson in awareness, No Waste Month proved to be incredibly successful. I overthought my choices every time I approached a trash can. I did more research on tea bag packets than I’ve ever been motivated to do. And I proved through my own example that we’d all probably create less waste if we simply took the time to learn what we could and couldn’t recycle.

Some things required a quick Google search, but most of the time the information was written right on the back of the package. You just need to take the time to look.

2. Embrace inconvenience.
I vowed to get my mail-order shipping addiction under control during No Waste Month. But alas, I can’t quit you, Amazon Prime.

As much as those packaged food wrappers added up, they paled in comparison to the quantity of waste created from retail purchases and the extravagance of having them delivered to my door.

Living greener means buying less stuff and returning to the days when it was harder to do so at the click of a button. Unfortunately, when you shop online, you never know what kind of packaging your purchase will come in, so there’s no way to avoid bubble mailers and packing peanuts. Where we do have agency over is not using those materials ourselves. Choose envelopes made from recycled paper at the FedEx store, and avoid those bubbles at all costs.

But more importantly, put that Amazon Prime membership on hold for a month and try to remember what it was actually like to walk or drive to the store when you want something. A tall order for the holiday season, I know. So start getting those gifts out of the way now!

GO DEEPER

Read the full story here
 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Feast more, waste less this Thanksgiving.

THE IDEA

  • Nothing ruins Thanksgiving pumpkin/pecan/apple/sweet potato pie like a big of pile of garbage sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be cleaned up.
  • Here are some FuturePlanet-endorsed ideas for making your family meal a little easier on the planet.
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Americans throw out $165-billion in food every year. A little less turkey and mashed potatoes can make a dent in that number.
  • Even if you're not cooking this year, you can spread the eco-mentality by being a mindful guest.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tell us your waste-reducing ideas for Thanksgiving.
  • Let's share them and change the way we do the holiday.

So you’ve called up the family, set aside the date, and hauled out the roasting pan from the back of the cupboard. Yup, you’re ready for a world-class Thanksgiving dinner. There’s only one problem: the waste.

As problems go, it’s a big one. In fact, Harvard University and the Natural Resources Defense Council (a U.S. government agency) estimated that Americans threw out $165-billion in food every year. The NRDC expects us to throw out 200 million pounds of turkey over the holiday.

At a time when millions of people around the globe are going hungry—and the planet is strained for resources—this kind of waste strikes us as . . . well, obscene.

What can we do about it? Here are some quick ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving dinner a little easier on the planet.


Groceries

  • Use reusable. If you’re a regular FuturePlanet reader, you’re probably not surprised at how many of those plastic grocery bags end up in the landfill (spoiler alert: a lot). Grab some reusable bags to hold your haul and the planet will be better off.
  • Avoid plastic packaging. Not always possible, we know. But when you can, look for loose or bulk items—or ones in glass jars that can be reused.
  • Think local. Buy from your local turkey farmer. Visit the farmer’s market for ideas on sides and veggies.
  • Don’t have a farmer’s market in town? Check out grocery delivery services that give food waste a second life. Companies like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest deliver "ugly" produce that would have otherwise been tossed from the grocery stores because it doesn’t look good.


Table decor

  • Go natural. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate autumn—in all its cheap, renewable, planet-loving glory. Think dried leaves, ornamental squash and corn, and other items.
  • Ask for decorations or dishware. Challenge yourself: I will not buy anything new for the big day. Instead, I will ask my guests to lend anything I might be missing. They will be happy to help out. I know they will.  
     

Cooking

  • Use an online portion estimator. Take a rough guess of how much food you’ll actually need by checking out this online tool. Doing this one thing can go a long way to ensuring less of it ends up in the garbage. 
  • Think about a smaller bird. We all love turkey. But do we really love it *that* much? Can you cut down the bird by a pound or two, and add a veggie instead?
  • Be strategic with asking for contributions. We get it: everyone wants to help out and bring something over. But do you really need 6 or 7 side dishes? Be strategic, do some planning, and ask for what everybody can actually finish off.  


After dinner

  • Ask guests to bring over their reusable containers to take home some leftovers. The less you have to eat, the more likely the food won’t go to waste.
  • It’s time to brush off those leftover recipes. There are literally tons of websites for turkey casseroles. Check ‘em out—your taste buds will thank you. And so with the earth.
  • You say turkey bones, we say turkey stock. Just add water to those bones, boil them off for a few hours, and freeze the proceeds. Even better, toss in some of those leftover Thanksgiving veggies too.
  • Compost, compost, compost. C’mon people, it’s the right thing to do. Putting your leftovers into the compost results in a massive reduction of methane emissions from landfills. It helps the soil generate beneficial flora (fungi) and fauna (bacteria). Win for the earth.


GO DEEPER

Here are some gourmet-quality leftover ideas
A list of bloggers writing about the zero-waste movement


WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Kids Take Over

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To celebrate this year's Universal Children’s Day, UNICEF has invited children from around the world taking over key roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to voice their support for millions of their peers who are unschooled, unprotected and uprooted on 20th November.

Remarks by Secretary-General António Guterres at a special event to mark the 2017 World Children’s Day

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"Every day, all of us at the United Nations ask ourselves: how can we work together to best support and protect you -- the children of the world?
What kind of world do you want?  
I want to hear your ideas and dreams for the future!
The future of the world is in children’s hands.
But we can never forget that children’s futures are in our hands."

#KidsTakeover the United Nations in New York!

Renewable Energy on a Subscription Model

THE IDEA

The startup Inspire is working to power the whole world with clean energy. They offer renewable energy on a subscription model, similar to music, TV, and movies streaming services.

WHY IT MATTERS

Inspire provides you with access to clean power that is good for your home and the environment.

What happens when I switch to clean energy with Inspire?

We purchase renewable energy certificates from local, regional and/or national wind farms on your behalf to offset the energy that you consume every month.

Your utility company will still deliver the energy to your house, read your meters, and send you your bill. We are listed as the supplier and there is nothing else you have to do.

Your home or business will actively support more clean power getting into the grid without needing to change your lifestyle. It’s as simple as that!

What's a REC?

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are tradable, non-tangible energy commodities that demonstrate 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy was produced from a wind farm.

The more RECs that are purchased, the more valuable clean energy generation becomes, leading to more production and more renewable energy on the grid.

 

GO DEEPER
 

Learn about Inspire here.
Learn more about small businesses that made the switch to wind power.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?