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The Base Project

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The Base Project, run by twin brothers Chris and Doug Akin, is an endeavor to create opportunities for new social entrepreneurs within the Kunene region of Namibia. There they have partnered with two artisan cooperatives to produce a collection of beautifully unique upcycled hand-carved bracelets. These bracelets, a fair-trade product, support additional income to these tribes to cover traditional expenses such as school fees and health care.

But how does such a project begin? Chris shared with us on the inspiration behind TBP:

“The inspiration was to find more meaning in our work while maintaining the things we loved about our work, such as product development and the for-profit marketplace.”

The bracelets themselves, currently available in 14 distinct designs, are carved from discarded water pipes, and colored by a combination of exposure to sunlight and ochre-rich soils. Resembling the look of born or horn, though TBP is clear that no animals are involved or harmed, these flexible bracelets can be worn by men and women.

Describing this endeavor as containing a “deep well of inspiration,” Chris also shared on the positives and challenges of the work they do: “… from working with your twin brother, to travel, to working with incredibly resourceful and creative artisans, to community development, to marketing a product that is so well received.”

To check out their online shop, and to wear your impact, go here.

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Murad & Nataly: Around The World

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By now, you may have the seen the thread: a line of about 50 or so pictures of a woman walking with her hand outstretched backwards as if she is “leading” the photographer to various aesthetic sceneries all over the world.

The thread is that of photographer Murad Osmann. As he and his girlfriend Nataly Zakharova travel the world, Murad take pictures holding Nataly’s hand and posts them to Instagram, with the thread becoming an internet sensation a little over a month ago.

You can check out Murad’s Instagram here and his professional website here.

The Making of Making by Nike

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The imagery and narration in the video inspire not just creativity but creation itself. At Holstee, as we continue to dive deeper into the development of physical hard goods, I see the beauty and art in the production process and I think this video does an amazing job capturing that energy.

“Giving the power back to makers of things instead of makers of decisions.”

This quote is one of many incredible sound bits from from the video, check it out!

Thanks for the link Mary!

Whole Foods founder John Mackey

Whole Foods for GMO Labeling by 2018

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If you frequent Whole Foods as much as I do (weekly, and that’s only because I’m holding myself back), then you know you can expect high-quality foods, including a wide variety of healthy staples, organic options and fresh, local produce. While I couldn’t check off my entire shopping list in this foodie-friendly Mecca (unless I feel like emptying my pockets, that is), there are several things I know I can count on the second I sail through the sliding doors: good choices and GMO-free products.

I keep my Fooducate  app handy on most grocery runs. This trusty freebie let’s you scan barcodes to find out an item’s basic food DNA: whether or not it contains GMOs and a letter score based on nutritional info–you’d be shocked to find out what barely ekes by with a C minus! And while I’ve yet to scan any Whole Foods product that flashes the danger-red GMO probability (which Fooducates ranges from none to very high), recent news that all stores will openly label GMO-containing food brands by 2018 has me thinking twice.

If these labels have 5 years before this change occurs, what really needs to happen? While many consumers live either comfortably unaware of GMOs in their diets or play the know-but-don’t-care game, what can these food brands do before 2018 is here? Rather than bear the label of shame (I can’t help but think of the big red A from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter), would it be too much to ask that either a. Whole Foods discontinues these products within their stores or b. that these brands find a way to produce these items using GMO-free ingredients?

For more information on this coming shift, check out the LA Times article.

Photo: John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of WFM. Credit: Jay Janner, 2013.

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Apprenticeships for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

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This week’s #passion post is about something very near and dear to my heart: education. It’s what brought me to New York City and to Holstee in the first place.

With tuitionstudent loan debt and drop-out rates all rising, many are considering alternative options to traditional higher education.

Enstitute is a new way to think about post-secondary learning. The two year on-ramp to the tech sector could occur before, after, during, or instead of a traditional college experience. The program combines the learn-by-doing benefits of an apprenticeship with individual and cohort learning experiences: an applied MBA.”

With a new class beginning in the fall, applicants will have a choice between working in Tech, Digital Media & Advertising, or Non-profit/Social Good.

Applications are open until 4/30/13.

runa loose leaf tea

Clean Energy from Runa

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Growing up in a Persian family, I was appreciating tea at a uniquely young age. Whether in the morning, after a big meal or before bed, it was always readily available. I’ve since opened my palate considerably (to other non-black teas) and one of my favorites to date, is technically not from the tea leaf family at all: it’s called Guayusa and is predominately found in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Runa, a Brooklyn based company, is the reason I and many others outside of Ecuador have gained such a strong appreciation for Guayusa. From the start, they built their company to help grow and best support the indigenous farmers within the rainforest. The locals, known as Kichwan, see farming as a process that takes place in harmony with the rainforest, and the diversity of their gardens reflects this attitude toward the natural world.

The Guayusa itself is always shade grown. It needs the shade of other trees to fully develop its rich leaves, and is perfectly designed to be grown in robust and diverse agroforestry systems.

To date, Runa’s sustainable operations in Ecuador have led to over 600,000 trees planted since they started, purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars of Guayusa directly from local farmers and bring to the world a delicious, healthy beverage, while creating awareness of the importance of the Amazon Rainforest for everyone they meet.

Some more quick facts about Guayusa:

  1. Contains as much mental stimulation as cup of coffee, with out the jittery buzz or crash.
  2. Twice the antioxidants of green tea.
  3. Full of polyphenols, flavonoids, and saponins. These compounds offer a range of holistic health benefits from calming the nervous system to cardiovascular health.

So what’s next for Runa? I got to sample their latest creation, a true, clean energy drink that contains less than 5 ingredients: carbonated water, Amazon Guayusa, citric acid and natural flavors. This natural brew has 120 mg of caffeine (more than leading energy drinks) and 680 mg of polyphenol that serve as antioxidants. Pretty sweet timing, considering the recent backlash against traditional, chemically energy drinks.

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Iceland, the Thirst Quencher

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I like to dabble in nature whenever I am traveling, but few places offer such a unique opportunity to do so as does Iceland. Last week, I took a little family vacation to Reykjavik and the surrounding area. If you’ve seen all those ads on the NYC subway suggesting Iceland as the ultimate getaway and thought to yourself, “Uh, I’ve never really wanted to go there,” let me help change your mind. Here’s my Top 5 List of why you should make it one of your next destinations:

1) The best tap water I’ve ever tasted. Right out of the faucet, this glacial refreshment was my preference above alcohol, for the first time on a family trip.

2) Downtown Reykjavik. The totally walkable center included fantastic restaurants and tempting shopping opportunities. I stopped by Púkó & Smart, where the lovely Hera Björk has curated a fine collection of home goods. Maybe we’ll see the Manifesto there sometime soon. ;-)

3) The Northern Lights. It took us a couple nights to find them, but it was certainly a do-before-you-die activity.  I like to think of it as nature’s fireworks.

4) Icelandic lobster. I am a New England girl, so the idea that I could eat shrimp-size lobster tails at any restaurant, just made my life. Don’t tell the TSA I brought some back in my suitcase.

5) The beautiful sites. The Golden Circle included the most captivating waterfall, Gullfoss. I can’t explain the magical feeling we all got just looking at it. And the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal heated spring, was the perfect end to an amazing trip.

If you’ve never found the cold weather appealing, I suggest you hop a flight over to the volcanic island of Iceland and see for yourself how well fire and ice mix.

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Kentucky Kicks Butt

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Three proud Kentuckians took it upon themselves to rebrand the great commonwealth of Kentucky. A pretty big task, considering they had zero money and no one asked them to do it. One of the many things I love about good design is that when used in conjunction with social media, it can attract a lot of the right attention and spread like wildfire. And that’s exactly what the guys at Kentucky for Kentucky have done.

“Our mission is to engage and inform the world by promoting Kentucky people, places, and products. And to Kick Ass for the Commonwealth!”

Their campaign is designed well with accompanying social media pages and large followings. They got tons of press because of the buzz they’ve generated. They also held a kickstarter crowd-sourcing to raise money to create a Super Bowl commercial promoting Kentucky’s awesomeness!

It all goes to show that if you’re passionate about something and it can clearly be seen, don’t limit yourself: the possibilities are endless. So go out there and kick butt!

For the full campaign video in all it’s HD glory, head over here!

 

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The Real Food Challenge

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The word cafeteria doesn’t necessarily evoke very fond memories of wholesome, homestyle meals with fresh ingredients. Even though we’re a long way from grade school Frozen Pizza Fridays and lots of workplaces can boast some seriously good eats (for example, Clif Bar’s employee cafeteria serves all organic, sustainable foods AND they have their own brick pizza oven), students today are still not getting the nutrition they need on a day-to-day basis.

Pin that problem on the parents, low-income communities, or on people ditching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution for another side of fries, but the young people behind the Real Food Challenge would rather stop blaming and start changing, beginning with their common environment: schools.

“As part of the national Real Food Challenge, student campaigners are urging their college presidents to sign on to the Real Food Campus Commitment, a pledge that would ensure complete transparency in university food supply chains and shift at least 20% of a college’s food purchasing budget to ‘real food’ for their campus dining halls.”

Since the campaign’s start in 2011, 9 universities and their presidents have signed on to this commitment, paving the way for providing even more students with healthy, local, sustainable fare. Freshman fifteen? Not this year.

To find out how you can get involved and stay informed, go here.

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Recycled Objects to Animal Sculptures

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Barbara Franc has found a way to turn recycled objects into something beautiful: intricate animal sculptures made from pieces of plastics, metals and wire.

“I increasingly use recycled and discarded materials as I enjoy the challenge of transforming something with a past history into something new and exciting.”

The lifelike nature of Franc’s creations, ranging from all varieties of birds to fish to huge horses, brings new purpose to these otherwise discarded materials. Her ability to convey power through stronger pieces as well as her knack for crafting lifelike details is an amazing way to turn these old materials into true works of art.

To see more of Franc’s inspiring work, go here.

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