Changing Culture Norms through Storytellling

Cultural norms help to shape who we are. The stories that we hear every day. Those going against those norms are often outcast, but they are brave and being true to themselves in their actions.

What if this was all about gaining equality. Equality in the races, in gender, in identity. We are all people after all. Men had been forced to hide their feminine side and women their masculine. Many behaviors seek to overly espouse the opposite. Business women with short hair in suits. Women smoking. Or driven to over expression through hiding their true nature. Men who become over powering and violent in action. Culturally we seek to numb and hide in our actions. Drinking, drugs, over-consumption. We are obviously sick and getting sicker. While some of this can be attributed to our diets, those have been controlled by the cultural norms and so we must look deeper at the root. Continue reading “Changing Culture Norms through Storytellling”

Games for Didactic Use

One of the things that is important to me is creating positive change in the world.  While I loved teaching, I felt that there had to be a better way to connect with people.  After watching the failures of schools to produce responsible students and that of the environmental movement increasing changes for the survival of the species it seemed clear that there is a better way.  So I researched and read and looked at what appeared to be successful.  What I’ve come to is that games area fun and engaging way to connect with and communicate a message.  While the message can be communicated through both the theme and the mechanics either should provide a better way for information to be retained as behavior change.

The use of games for education is a growing field, although it has been in practice for decades in experiential education.  Using games in education, in a didactic purpose, is linked with greater understanding and better assimilation of the information by players.  I may not be a scientist, but I can observe that there is movement on the games front as this understanding percolates through society and more play pops up. Continue reading “Games for Didactic Use”

A Living Game

Waste Not is a living game, meaning that it will be updated as conditions change. Much of what we play with is static, but our lives and behaviors shift as discoveries happen. In the early 90’s all of a sudden someone is making biodegradable packing peanuts where there were none before.

Upcycled Light bulbFor many years incandescent light bulbs just had to be thrown away. With a little creativity and intention, I’ve seen those light bulbs upcycled into vases, oil lamps, and more. While I’m not sure we can really use every light bulb that will no longer cast light, removing as many as possible from the waste stream turns them into resources.

What will creativity and innovation bring tomorrow? I certainly don’t know. That’s the best part of having a game that can be updated to reflect change. The text descriptions can be added to as players write back with their ideas, and as science makes progress.

Progress towards zero waste may one day mean that the understanding of our cycling process is simply understood and products are designed with this in mind. But until we get to that point we need to build and play with the understandings that are a part of the cycle. For example, there is no away. The food system is not a pyramid and more of a circle, or really many circles.

Supporting Waste Not on Indiegogo from now until March helps to raise awareness and help move society towards zero waste. That’s pretty awesome of you!


PS The Earth said to say ‘Thanks a bunch!’
PSS In the next update: Film bags and technovomit…

Creating the New

Very often those of us who are trying to break into a new field or localize a globally based industry struggle because we are competing with established norms.  Whether it is an organization or societal structure there is a real need for dynamic change over time in order to establish a balance that meets the needs of a healthy system.

Planting the seeds of change
Planting the seeds of change

What we are faced with right now is a very unhealthy Earth system.  There is obviously need for drastic change.  One of the first things that we can do as a culture is is part of what keeps the system healthy.  We need to develop new systems that are in line with the Earth’s processes. While it wouldn’t do to look at all the reasons that what we’ve done hasn’t worked we CAN seek to make decisions based on sustainability.  Logically, any principle not based on how the Earth’s systems function seems doomed to failure.  Based on the Permaculture Design Certificate I completed this summer I know that the principles of permaculture provide a solid foundation to working with the Earth and can be adapted to society as well as business. Continue reading “Creating the New”

Why You Should Pay Your Child To Garden

How I learned to care for living things, make money, and eat healthy

Gardening, especially for food, was one of the things I remember most about my childhood. I had a small space near the house that was mine to tend and nurture. I loved marigolds and how when you deadheaded them the bushes grew stronger and produced more flowers so they were always along the border.

One of the others gardens I tended was the family vegetable garden. This is did with the help of my sister and, of course, the mastermind, our father. He took care of most of the main planting and work. He planted everything you could imagine. Bok Choi before it became popular was one of his experiments as were peanuts and loofah.

Its funny because when I mention to people that we had a vegetable garden they are typically respond with ‘That’s nice’ Then if I mention the peanuts they get confused… wait didn’t you grow up in NY? Can peanuts even grow there? The answer is yes. Continue reading “Why You Should Pay Your Child To Garden”

Making Education a Pull not a Push

This TED talk by Charles Leadbeater is great.  He bring into the conversation third world examples of education.  Some of the great points and innovations that I think he hits on include:

1) Project based learning which has to be productive.

2) The inclusion of creativity and using games to teach.

3) Using the Chinese restaurant model – it spreads, looks different depending on where you are, but is recognizable for what it is.


This post is also viewable on through this link.

Sustainable Village Life

A two hour drive from Wote in the Makueni district of Kenya lies the village of Ngomano.  The last 9 miles of the trip to the village center takes a four-wheel drive vehicle and nerves of steel.  Not only are you sharing the single lane road with goats, sheep, cattle and people heading to get water, but what is used as a road is often deeply rutted and washed out.  Hold on to your stomach for this bumpy ride.

Just before you arrive at the village center of Ngomano a small side road to the left takes you a hundred yards to The Clay International School.  This school was developed by PEI Kenya as an innovative way to teach, and in order to create a sustainable community. Continue reading “Sustainable Village Life”

Diversity for Sustainability Sake

Evan Shapiro, president of IFC tv and the Sundance Channel, kicked off the Fall 2009 Social Ventures Network Conference with an entertaining, insightful and frequently funny talk on the challenges and necessity of building a diverse business.

Evan likened the strengths of a diverse culture and workforce to the importance of planting a diversity of crops in agriculture. By encouraging diversity within our ranks and rows we will be able to reap a far richer crop. Throughout his talk, Evan wove statistics and anecdotes together to illustrate the concept of how diversity is necessary in order to achieve success.

Evan stressed that in order to find that “qualified, diverse candidate” we need to start looking long before we post a job opening. Business must provide opportunities to access so that both the employer and potential employee gain exposure. These opportunities can simply be inviting students in to see how an office environment operates or setting up an internship program. Success in piercing the glass ceiling hinges upon such interactions.

Evan is working with educational institutions in order to reach a more diverse population before that population is out of the running. Building that “pipeline” early is critical for both the future job seeker and the business. Returning to his farming analogy, Evan said “when you are hungry you can’t go plant a seed.” The key is to make the connection before a job is needed.

Evan points out that although “we are a more diverse culture every single day” we are still likely to look within our own social circles to fill positions. We’ve got to break these walls down when we endeavor to create and encourage diversity within the sustainability movement.

**Check out Brick City on Sundance, the five part documentary trailer Evan mentioned

***One resource suggested by a participant regarding diversity and providing the necessary education to break through the glass ceiling was the The Providence Effect

What’s Peak Oil?

Out to dinner with my friend the other night I casually referred to Peak Oil in a discussion. We were talking about topics that might be potential articles on Earth Thrives. As it turns out he didn’t know what Peak Oil was. Hadn’t heard about it and didn’t mention the fact until I had rolled on to another topic.

This friend had spent at least the past two years running a company whose focus sales demographic was the triple bottom line business, and so I assumed that he of all people would know what peak oil was. Turns out I was wrong.

Over the next week I asked another ten colleagues and friends if they knew what Peak oil was. I expected that they would know when I asked and was not prepared to find that all but one of them didn’t.

I shouldn’t have assumed that my friend or anyone else, for that matter, has the same knowledge that I have. This is not to say that I am amazing, but more to show that my foci are unique to my interests. We all have our own interests which lead to what we read, look up and study in depth. The topics that I have spent more time with include (but are certainly not limited to):
Urban gardens, Peak Oil, sustainable communities, organization development; leadership development, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), socially responsible business, alternative economies, and local living economies.

While I have spent that last two years immersed in the world of green and sustainable while working on my Masters degree from Goddard College in Socially Responsible Business and Sustainable Communities, not everyone else has gone as in depth in the same topics, even industry professionals.

Let’s face it, many people still think of sustainability as a topic that stands on its own, when it is really a lens through which you see the world.

So, don’t assume that if you bring up something like the Andersonville Study in a conversation about why buying local is important that the person you are talking to has a clue to what you just referred. Ask if they have heard about terms, studies, and topics that you otherwise might take for granted that they know. It will help you to educate yourself as well as others and that is what we need to have happen in order to build the breadth and depth of our information.

Big Yellow Taxi

What a great opportunity we have in our everyday lives to educate others about ‘going green.’ Teachable moments are often given to us several times per day.

I think that sometimes they pass not because we have not taken the opportunity, but because we do not know that there is an opportunity there.

Big Yellow TaxiIn the words of Joni Mitchell…
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till its gone”

Let’s not make that mistake. Let’s work to have discussions with those around us. You can educate without pontificating (instructions to follow.)

I know that I feel totally immersed in the green movement and sometimes when someone asks me ‘what’s new?’ I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. This also happens when asked ‘what can I do?’ There is just so much and so many way to answer that. I think that the main difficulty is because it is hard from an open statement like that to judge a person’s level of knowledge and understanding.

My suggestion is instead of waiting to be asked, begin a conversation and listen – really listen – to where a persons interests lie. Ask them questions. Eventually you will find the intersection of your knowledge and their interests and will have a natural opportunity for discussion that is not forced.