The Pig Idea

I’m thrilled that Tristram Stuart was in Nat. Geo. today. See the link at the bottom of my article.

Diane Walters - Writer

Wiki Commons Bagel Dumpster

A slide appeared, on the screen on, of a dumpster full 13,000 bread crusts as social entrepreneur Tristram Stuart mused about never being able to get a sandwich from a retail shop that was made from bread crusts. Where do all the bread crusts go? From this single bread factory (shown on the slide), 13,000 bread crusts are dumped into the trash every day.

This food waste expert explained that in America, and other well-developed nations, grocery stores usually carried double the inventory it expected to sell. And, if you add in the food that is fed to livestock, there is up to quadruple the amount that is needed to feed the masses. In his further investigation of food waste, Stuart visited a farmer who was letting 16,000 pounds of spinach die because there were some blades of grass growing here and there. It was not suitable for…

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We Care Solar

We Care SolarIn 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel visited northern Nigeria on a research trip to study maternal mortality in a state hospital. She found that the conditions in northern Nigeria were challenging to say the least. Women were 70 times more likely to die than in the U.S. from complications due to health problems and lack of adequate supplies and equipment.

One of the most attention-grabbing situations, in the hospital she was visiting, was the lack of reliable lighting due to sporadic electricity. Electricity in the main hospital was available no more than 12 hours a day, and there was no guarantee that it would stay on that long. If a woman was giving birth at night, many times there was little to no light at all to deliver the babies. A cesarean section would have to wait until morning or be performed by flashlight; deliveries were performed . . . (Read Full Article)

One Man’s Fight to Save Little Girls

There is a place in Southeast Asia where three countries join their borders to make a very scary place — especially to little girls. The Golden Triangle joins Thailand,Wikipedia Prostitution of Children Laos and Burma — an area once renown for the world’s production of opium. In the past 30 years, the drug trade has dwindled, but crime in the area has not. With 367,000 square miles, large sections have zero law enforcement making this a perfect haven for criminal activity. In Thailand, it is estimated that 25 percent of the economy is based on child prostitution. With that much money at stake, the child sex trade is lively, full of dangerous people trying to get their share of the take.

Families living in the small towns and villages are often surviving in extreme poverty. Loan sharks are readily available to lend a hand in tight circumstances. This financial arrangement can go awry very easily, so much so that even the thought of selling off the daughters closest to puberty is done on a regular basis in order to keep trouble at bay. The social stigma is that children are born to work. Working in retail, a factory or a brothel is equated … (Read the Full Story)

The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan 3

A woman came out of the shelter that I was in, and she was yelling at me — she was full-on screaming, ‘We don’t need coats! Coats are pointless! We need jobs!’”

This is how social entrepreneur Veronika Scott’s dream job was born. It started in a class she was taking in college. The project was to design something that would fulfill a need. Scott did her research at homeless shelters, and came up with a unique coat design that would turn into a fully utilized sleeping bag. It looks like a regular coat. The bThe Empowerment Plan 2ack of the coat unfolds to open up the bottom half of the sleeping bag through Velcro enclosures. When the coat isn’t in use, it folds up into a bag. For the 20,000 Detroit homeless, she thought this was a great idea.

“Really, she was completely right,” Scott posits about the angry woman at the shelter, “because a coat is just a Band-Aid for a systemic issue. And, what really would make a difference is hiring a population that would need them in the first place.”

That’s was Scott did. She hired homeless single mothers. In her startup phase, there were plenty of naysayers with discouraging The Empowerment Planstatements that homeless people will never be able to work a normal job. Scott found that to be so untrue. The women they’ve hired at The Empowerment Plan have proven to be excellent employees and many have managed to … (Read the Full Story)

Catching Water in Sand

A simple technology that can save millions of gallons of water in areas that are parched and barren for most of the year is what captured Simon Maddrell’s hWikipedia Buidling Sand Damseart. He left the corporate world in search of a way to help people — who sometimes had to walk 12 hours a day to find enough water to make one meal. Meanwhile, the younger children would be left at home without schooling, and the livestock were uncared for during these absences. The land area would be almost useless for agricultural purposes because of the arid conditions.

In 1984, Maddrell met Joshua Mukusya whose passion and desire to find a way to have access to clean water for himself and his neighbors, started an investigation into techniques used during the colonial period, which slowed down water flow. Noticing how much green vegetation those areas had, he started working on plans to enlarge … (Read The Full Story).

The Pig Idea

Wiki Commons Bagel Dumpster

A slide appeared, on the screen on, of a dumpster full 13,000 bread crusts as social entrepreneur Tristram Stuart mused about never being able to get a sandwich from a retail shop that was made from bread crusts. Where do all the bread crusts go? From this single bread factory (shown on the slide), 13,000 bread crusts are dumped into the trash every day.

This food waste expert explained that in America, and other well-developed nations, grocery stores usually carried double the inventory it expected to sell. And, if you add in the food that is fed to livestock, there is up to quadruple the amount that is needed to feed the masses. In his further investigation of food waste, Stuart visited a farmer who was letting 16,000 pounds of spinach die because there were some blades of grass growing here and there. It was not suitable for market.  It is quite common for farmers to throw out 1/3 to 1/2 half of their crops due to imperfect sizes, shapes or color that would be turned away at market.

In Europe, in 2001, feeding regular unprocessed food to livestock became illegal because of the foot and mouth disease epidemic. Because of the ban, soy has since become a major crop in South America.  Due to the expansion of this commodity, forests are being cut down in places like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to grow soy. From 1965 to 2004 soy production rose from 29 to 200 million tons, most of which is used for livestock feed after the oil is extracted. For 9,000 years, pigs had been fed with the surplus food products and refuse that people did not eat. Presently, people throw away this human grade food by the ton every single day — and pay to have it hauled away to rot in landfills. Then, they buy pig food.

The Pig Idea was born from what Stuart had learned from the overwhelming food waste problem. He joined forces with other Londoners to create public awareness of food waste around the world with the hope that the animal food ban will be lifted. The idea is ecologically sound. Eliminating so much processed feed would save the planet about 20 times more carbon dioxide emissions. More of the rainforest in the Amazon would be saved, as not as much farmland would be needed. More farmers in Europe would be able to stay in business by saving the cost of the expensive grain they are forced to buy. The problem of the foot and mouth disease can be eliminated by cooking the food given to the pigs and chickens.

To bring awareness to this issue, Stuart and his colleagues — the hambassadors, seven of London’s best restaurants, and thousands of Londoners gathered in Trafalgar Square to enjoy over 5,000 portions of free food, including pork that had been raised on food that would have otherwise been wasted at The Pig Ideas’ Feast of 2013.

Stuart started studying food waste at the age of 15 when he raised pigs to supplement his income. He is a renowned author for his book “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal,” and has won numerous and prestigious awards for his dedication to preserving the planet as well as the pigs.

UPDATE: Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tristram Stuart was featured in the National Geographic Web edition in an article by Elizabeth Royte “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger.”

Check it out –

One Who Teaches with Experience

Wikipedia 375px-Computer_RecyclingTechnology changes at a rapid rate. It’s important for successful businesses to stay up-to-date with new technology. The site eWeek reports that a study done by Techaisle, an analyst and market research foundation, found companies that hold on to their computers for longer than three years, end up spending between $326 to $401 on maintenance of those computers with an extended warranty. For those companies without a warranty that figure jumps up to about $526 for repaired and upgraded computers. They also found that computers malfunction more often after a period of three years, and they suggest replacing them for the most efficient and cost saving measures.

A staggering figure of 355.2 million computers were sold globally in 2011. In 2010, the number was a bit lower at 346.2 million computers that were sold around the world. That means, about every three to five years a large number of those computers are being tossed out, in one way or another.

In 2005, social entrepreneur, Cormac Lynch from Dublin, Ireland, had a plan to do something with all those computers that were being thrown out into the landfills. He wanted to refurbish them for the children around the world, so that they could gain an education. The company he started was named Camara, which is West African for “one who teaches with experience.” In June 2007, 70 volunteers set off with 1,000 computers, and the initiative . . . (Read Full Article)

Mike Devlin’s Oasis in the Camden Food Desert



The Camden Children’s Garden’s display at the Philadelphia Flower Show Photo Credit: South Jersey Magazine

A food desert is a place where there is no access to fresh, healthy produce or other foods. There are two types of food deserts in the U.S.  Urban food deserts are low-income areas located in the city that have no access to a grocery store, which sells fresh food within a mile of where someone lives.  In rural food deserts, the area expands to a ten-mile low-access area, which has no retail store with fresh food available. These figures are determined by census tracts.

The USDA states that 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts.  More than half of those are low-income, which also means they may not have readily available transportation to travel to where there is fresh, healthy food. An additional problem lies in the availability of fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which are more readily available, and could be contributing to the obesity and health problems of our country.

To see where these food deserts are located, go to the USDA Food Access Research Atlas.

One of these places is Camden, New Jersey — noted at various times to be the poorest city in the country and/or the most dangerous. It is also noted as being one of the nine worst food deserts in the U.S. There’s one social entrepreneur who has been trying to change that. It’s been a 30-year quest that Mike Devlin has been on to provide Camden residents with fresh produce. And, it looks like things are starting to turn around.


2014 Philadelphia Flower Show Camden Children’s Garden – Photo Credit: Dyogi

Devlin, executive director of Camden City Garden Club, founded the organization in 1985 with his wife Valerie. He has worked tirelessly, turning empty city lots into community gardens so that people can have fresh vegetables.  So far, there are 130 of these gardens throughout the city, and a study by the state of Pennsylvania found that  having produced the equivalent of $2.3 million in food for 2013.

Many offshoots of the Garden Club were born including Camden Children’s Garden, Community Gardening and Greening, Grow Lab, the Community Youth Employment Program, and the mobile market — a truck filled with locally grown fresh produce offered to Camden residents at reasonable prices.


There’s More Growing in Toledo than just Lettuce: Sustainable Local Foods

Bloom's Employees

It’s hard to imagine that a country, a little smaller than twice the size of New Jersey, could be the third largest exporter of fruits and vegetables. The Netherlands, United States and France rank as the top three in the agricultural global market. This small but mighty country depends on competing in the world trade marketplace for much of its income; however, the excessive agricultural production was weighing heavily on the side of soil depletion. They had to do something to stay in the game.

These days, research and development of agri-business sustainability are the Dutch government’s main focus. Over half their land mass is used for farmland, plus they are a leader in greenhouse horticulture. Experimentation with greenhouse design has proven favorable for a now-neutral use of energy consumption. Gardening under glass gives more control to the growing environment, saves water and lessens the need for chemical use. This type of food production is important for the Dutch to keep researching because they understand if their citizens eat well, there will be a reduced cost in providing government healthcare.

This food development model is what social entrepreneur Jim Bloom was after in Toledo, Ohio. Working as an employment recruiter, in a previous position, he was able to see a huge niche market in the area that was sorely being missed. With only 179 days of sunshine, Ohio ranks four spots above Anchorage, Alaska with only 150 days a year of sunshine — the least amount for the continental U.S. Because half the year is spent in cloudy weather, 98% of Toledo’s produce is shipped in from as far as 1,800 miles away. At the same time, area unemployment was at 5.7 percent.

After much research of the European greenhouse models, Bloom started his company, Sustainable Local Foods, with a system of hydroponics. There is no need for sun or soil in this methodBloom's Place, and less water is used than in traditional farming. LED lights cut back on energy use and provide enough light for photosynthesis. The vegetable rows are planted weekly in flat, slightly tilted trays filled with the hydroponic solution. This system will provide year-round lettuce production with between 3,000 – 5,000 heads of organic lettuce per week. Besides a selection of lettuces, the company grows greens, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Since 2012, expansion for the company has been steady with three current locations: Toledo, Columbus, and Detroit, Michigan. Bloom is currently waiting for an answer from Toledo’s commissioner of economic development to move into the abandoneBloom's Lettuced Erie Street Market, located in the warehouse district. In revitalizing the new facility, the community will be able to come in for garden tours. Bloom commented, “In January and February, I’m hoping that people will be able to come in here and enjoy the plants that are growing. There is a mental health benefit to being around growing living things in the dead of winter.” The idea behind this is to strengthen community bonds, revitalize the downtown warehouse area, and people will be able to see where the salad came from that they had last night. The produce is being distributed in area markets and local restaurants. If the company keeps blossoming, there is hope to expand across the Midwest.

When asked if he had gone to college before he started this venture, Bloom said, “Sure, I did. But, there was nothing in college that I took pertaining to agriculture. I knew nothing about agriculture. My background is in education and vocational rehabilitation. I wanted to start this business because of the economy here. I wanted to bring some life into the area and provide jobs for the people here. And, it is taking off exponentially. I wasn’t expecting that. Just about every week someone calls to ask me when I can come to set up in their neighborhood.”

Besides growing healthful local produce year-round in a sustainable environment, bringing community together in a revitalized downtown area, and providing grocery stores and restaurants with thriving organic produce, Bloom hopes this expansion will provide many more jobs for more of the out-of-work Toledo residents.

You can check out the company at their Facebook site.

At-Risk Youths

images year up


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections report for 2012 – 2022, “Occupations that typically require post-secondary education for entry are expected, on average, to grow faster than occupations that require a high school diploma or less.” About 20.4 million new jobs will be available over this period. The report goes on to say that wages are higher for those with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees — averaging about $60,000 a year. Yet, it is estimated that 14 million of these higher-level positions will go unfilled due to the post-secondary educational requirements.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a large part of the population that is being neglected and ignored in our society.  It is common knowledge that low-income, urban young adults will never have the chance that their middle- to upper-class peers do when they graduate high school. Problems dealing with violence in school, problems at home, money issues, hunger, suicide, gang-related killings and substance abuse all weigh in heavily on these children in America. Sometimes just surviving day to day is all they can manage. Possibly one in three of these youths could end up with hood disease — a moniker given to inner-city kids with PTSD. If they do survive school and graduate, the employment prospects are pretty grim. According to Huffington Post, “Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working.”

It’s almost ironic that so many jobs will be available, but many young people remain unemployed for lack of qualification and/or training. So many are hungry for a chance, eager to make a place for themselves in the world, yet there is so little opportunity afforded them.

However, there is a chance for some through the social entrepreneurial company Year Up.  This organization understood that these young people could rise to higher expectations if the right situation presented itself. Flyers were sent out, inviting at-risk youths to apply.  The offer was this: Have a high school diploma or GED, show up for one year, learn skills in the financial field or in IT, get up to 23 college credits, and a stipend for expenses, work one-on-one with a mentor, and possibly hold an internship with a major company.

Social workers are on staff to help with private issues that may be insurmountable for someone so young; social skills in the workplace are taught so that the students will be able to function in a business social environment with grace and diplomacy.

The company has had spectacular results since it opened in 2000. They have served 8,500 young adults, and have provided interns for 250 corporate partners. Eighty-five percent of graduates are employed or attending college within four months of completing the program. Employed Year Up graduates earn an average of $15 per hour — the equivalent of $30,000 per year, and go up to $50,000 a year or more.

Companies like JP Morgan, which were once reluctant to take on these newly trained interns, are now eager to have them on board, and pay up to $23,000 for each intern at their company. Other corporate partners include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Boston Children’s Hospital, American Express, The Huffington Post, Twitter and many others.