Forward Osmosis


Forward Osmosis

A vital lesson that resurfaced during the past two sustainability conferences, which I recently attended (Opportunity Green 2011 in Los Angeles and the 2011 LOHAS Forum in Boulder, Colorado) is the importance of nurturing one’s ability to sense, interpret and absorb essential knowledge from multiple layers of interaction.


Mything Links

During the LOHAS opening Keynote presentation “Changing Yourself, Changing the World: The Path of Purpose and Destiny”, Dr. Jean Houston, Founder, Human Potential Movement ( declared “We are present at the birth of opportunity that exceeds your expectations!”  She inspired the audience with words of wisdom, demonstrating how we can increase our potential for higher development, to make positive changes, using some examples of psychological, spiritual and mythic-symbolic evolutionary accelerators.  For instance, Jean advised “The world mind is taking a walk with itself” and we need to “use all of common humanity to re-scale for planetary propositions; a planetary society.”  Humanity should realize that “economics should be the satellite of the soul of culture instead of the soul of culture being the satellite of economics.”   If we are going to thrive, society needs to develop a “culture of kindness” and alter its “serial monotony”, which she defines as “the progressive diming of people’s passion for life.”   Encouraging the audience to think deeply, Jean added “We are coded with potentials; few of which we ever use.”   She concluded, “We are at the great either/or in history…facing issues that evoke our higher humanity; during this time of our great heroic journey, we are all mything links.”


Seeking Existence

Chris Kilham, Founder, Medicine Hunter ( travels around the world exploring how indigenous cultures live and heal themselves.  During his session titled “Tales from the Medicine Trail”, he stated “All business is personal all the time….if you hear someone say ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business’, go work with someone else!”

He dazzled the LOHAS audience with photos and stories from his global journeys to discovery plants and roots that treat various ailments in a natural sustainable manner.  For example, Chris discussed how he escaped pirates, navigated through South Pacific fire walks and participated in shamanic ceremonies, while uncovering many plants and roots, such as Kava from the South Pacific, which treats anxiety; Maca from Peru that’s used for increased energy; and, Cat’s Claw from the Amazon, which works as an anti-inflammatory.  He shared his experiences testing some of these plants, explained how indigenous tribes benefit from cultivating and distributing them and talked about the natural health benefits of consuming these products, advising that we should care (if society is to survive) because many people suffer from side effects and sometimes death from the pharmaceutical medications on the market.

Infusing the audience with his enthusiasm, he stated that we should exert “boldness as we throw ourselves into this time of humanity.”  Along the years, Chris developed strong relationships with various indigenous peoples.  The tribes he’s worked with have what he calls a “deep sense of community”; they are not segmented as westerners, who as Chris said “go spend time in their boxes.”  He showed a photo of one tribe, who excitedly grouped together to take their first ever photo.  They were thrilled to be photographed for the entire world to see, stating “We want people to know that we exist.”


Sincere Communication

Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia displayed much leadership as he gave the closing LOHAS presentation titled “Conscious Leadership is an Inside Job”.  He discussed how Patagonia functions in a socially responsible manner, creating positive change in apparel manufacturing.  For example, the company boasts a transparent supply chain.  When determining which style to buy, their customers can see every step in a product’s development: from raw materials procurement, through manufacturing, to packaging and distribution (   In addition, Patagonia is mindful when selecting factories (   Furthermore, the company donates 1% of all sales to groups that are working to preserve the environment.  Casey concluded his presentation with the following insight “Global transformation starts with personal transformation.  We are all born with special gifts to share.  Deliberate with your intentions; operate with your true self.”


Intentional Design

During the L.A. Opportunity Green Conference (, Gaylon White, Director of Design Programs at Eastman gave a Keynote presentation titled “Social Innovation Case Study: HydroPack & Bringing Water Back to Life”.

He explained how his company produces cellulose triacetate, a key part of a semi-permeable membrane that is used in the production of the HydroPack, water purifying pouch, (see below photo) and discussed the joint demonstration project in Western Kenya conducted earlier this year by Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) and the Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO).


The HydroPack pouch can be placed in contaminated water and over the course of approximately 10 hours it absorbs the contaminated water and converts it into drinkable water.  This is accomplished through Forward Osmosis, which is a method by which trees/plants extract and absorb water and nutrients from the earth.  Similar to a plant’s biology, the HydroPack’s semi-permeable membrane allows certain molecules and ions to pass through it by diffusion.

In the following video Keith Lampi, Executive VP & Chief Operating Officer at HTI and Nathan Jones, VP of Government & Institutional Sales at HTI, among others, further discuss how the process works.  Nathan talks about the benefits and intended use of the HydroPack, stating that it should be “pre-positioned as a global tool for early intervention in disaster relief… waterborne disease is an acute danger in any disaster.  The HydroPack works in any water; it’s guaranteed purity; has high acceptance rates and is easier and less expensive to transport than water.”  Keith provides additional insight into the process, stating “Forward Osmosis starts with a semi-permeable membrane that’s twofold: 1) it’s Hydrophilic — it absorbs water and 2) it has great rejection properties — allowing water to pass through but all contaminants in the water such as viruses and bacteria get blocked; they can’t pass the membrane.”  See attached video: (


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York


18 thoughts on “Forward Osmosis

  1. Professor, I really liked two topics in this article. First one is the website of Patagonia, which we saw earlier this year. It was very impressive that they show on their website entire supply chain they are using for each product and all the facilities in the chain.
    Second thing is the idea of discovering the ways the indigenous people use the roots in their environment. These plants have so unique functions that would be considered magical in western medicine.

  2. Seeking Existence
    I am not sure if you believe in God, however, I do and will say when He was creating the earth for mankind to live, He provided us with food in the form of plants, trees, fish of the sea, etc. I am impressed with this article of Chris Kilham, Founder, Medicine Hunter knowing that he is able to travel around the world exploring to see how these indigenous people live and are able to use what nature provided them with to be able to live and healthy life or should they need to be heal from illnesses or pain, they are able to find some type of roots or plant which they will use as medicine to heal them.
    When I was growing up in Jamaica, my older brothers would purchase “roots” of trees (I am not sure the names of the trees) but they would prepare these roots by boiling, cooling and bottling for the purpose of drinking for health reasons. I usually admire medical doctors who are able to incorporate medicine with the things which nature has provided for use to heal of bodies. I usually like to try my home remedies before taking traditional medicine. This decision comes from my upbringing in the Caribbean, where our parents was able to find a “bush” for any ailment which affected us as children: from the common cold to awful stomach pain. We were hardly sick, growing up and only saw the doctor occasionally.

  3. Although Jean Houston’s message does not say directly to do x, y and z, in order to contribute to the environment or sustainability, her philosophy is an essential component of the green movement because its purpose is to encourage the “cultural evolution of psychology.” In order for our society to care about the future of the environment, climate change and being more socially responsible; the biggest change has to come from within us as individuals. Ms. Houston’s teachings are the tools that should help motivate and foster growth in each person who is exposed to it; the goal is to make people feel better about themselves by realizing their full potential and purpose in life. If people feel inspired and better about their lives, it should lead them to want the same for others and this is where the shift would occur towards more conscious living.

  4. Thank you for your comments, Laurel and Emir! Laurel — thanks for sharing the examples and stories from your childhood in the Caribbean.

  5. I really love Chris Kilham’s findings. As a former premed major at Columbia University and also a former research assistant for Ann-Marie Schmidt at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, I believe our country is being killed by the pharmaceutical industry. There are so many illness and diseases that can be easily cured by plants and other natural herbs. What your body does whenever you take pills, or any medication for that matter, is that your immune system tends to depend on the chemicals. That is not how it was designed, your immune system is supposed to fight diseases by itself. Look at how many common cold medications are around us, we don’t need them. Pharmaceuticals advertise these to make money, not because they care. Do you know how many symptoms you can get from each pill? It’s disgusting; and they are being supported by the government. We need to do better

  6. Wow, these conferences sound like they were very interesting! As a vegan, I am 110% about bettering the world & our standards of living through environmentally-(and animal)-friendly ways! The Mything Links excerpt reminded me of a globalization documentary I saw a few months ago. One point that has managed to stay with me is something to the effect of if we don’t start changing our ways/processes; the only thing we are going to kill off is the population. Everyone says “we’re destroying the world,” but truthfully, the world won’t go anywhere.. Just we will. I think that’s possibly what Jean was getting at with the statement that “Humanity should realize that “economics should be the satellite of the soul of culture instead of the soul of culture being the satellite of economics.” But plain and simple: change is a must for us right now.

    I love the idea of experimenting with plants with natural health benefits so we can stop depending so much on these harmful chemically infused pharmaceutical medications, which make up a large majority of the market. And in terms of apparel industry, Patagonia has definitely set the precedent for completely green sustainable clothing; proving it can be done and can be successful.

    Lastly, the Hydropack blew my mind! How monumental this is for the world.

  7. I’m surprised to see that there are so many green events and conferences all over the country. The speakers put an interesting spin on how to approach the green movement. It’s more than just business, it’s an internal change within each person that needs to take place. It’s a strong point to make, that I’m sure will resonate throughout many people.

  8. Hi Professor: I found reading your blog quite interesting. My two favorite posts were about the HydroPack and the Medicine Hunter. As we discussed earlier this semester about factory standards I did notice that clean sanitary water was not a requirement, which I think it should be. The idea that these biodegradable packs can sanitize water over the course of ten hours is huge! For workers that are getting sick from dirty water or dehydrated from lack of clean water this is revolutionary. It should be required to provide clean water and these packs could be the solution to that. As for the medicine man. The idea that they are finding cures to sickness from the plants around them is incredible. This is creating affordable cures for people which currently isn’t possible. These are two very amazing articles which hopefully will result in saving lives and improving working standards.

  9. Hi professor,
    I really like reading these blogs that show interesting and new ideas for all the business’ environment. In class we have seen a lot of topics and issues regarding with making business and corporations. And by reading this I realize if I am going to be part of all this business environment I need to develop a sensitive and responsible side in order to act in positive ways. As I can see everyone is going into this direction. So, I need to keep up and inform myself more on how I can help the environment around me.

  10. Great articles! I particularly enjoy these two: “Mything Links” and “Sincere Communication”. First of all, it is amazing how innovative companies can be in order to be eco-friendly and how companies are integrating every single process of the company into these “green movement”.

    Like Jean advised humanity should realize that “economics should be the satellite of the soul of culture instead of the soul of culture being the satellite of economics.” I totally agree with this statement, because only by finding how businesses and economics could work together in favor for a better society; a country and its culture could stay at its best.

    In the second article I totally agree with the concept of being transparent in the supply chain of a green company. The reason why I support this is because many companies ensure their clients that they are eco friendly, but the truth is that they are far from been green. The worst part of these is that some companies are only using this movement to capture more clients or because is trendy and not because of the real purpose.

    As my classmates commented before, it is important that we start to develop a responsible side towards this movement, because it is not only a trendy direction that companies are looking for but also is the right one and the best for humanity.

  11. Thank you so much Professor Musa for sharing such inspiring synopses of your experience at the fascinating-sounding sustainability conferences you recently attended. A topic very dear to my heart, sustainability is a concept that it will become vital for corporations of all sizes to embraces, because the very survival of our planet and the health of every living being depend on it.
    “Mything Links” reminds me of our need to educate ourselves so that we can gently educate others, as well as the truism that “attitude is everything”: Positiveness breeds positiveness, or at least makes sunshine around you! I love to respond to an angry person with a genuine smile & genuine “Have a great day!” It effectively stops their grumpiness and might help turning their emotional day around.
    “Seeking existence” prompts me share knowledge garnered from personal experience while in the care of naturopaths-minded physicians: Vitamin C is a blood-thinner just as effective as any headache-alleviating chemical; echinacea is a powerful natural antibiotic against infections; plain yogurt is highly efficient applied topically against fungal infections.
    Patagonia’s business model of social & environmental responsibility sounds like it fits into McDonough & Braungart’s “Cradle-to-Cradle” concept, which advocates the design & manufacture of goods that are completely biodegradable and “return to the earth” when discarded, to become nutrients for other life forms in a sustaining cycle. They have set up a compliance program to offer certification to companies that wish to follow the concept:

  12. I think that there is a growing number of companies in America that see ways to do business ethically. In the past couple of years there has been a growing trend of ethical, eco-friendly and natural movements within the business. At FIT there are even non-credit classes that are concentrated on these kind of trends. If there are these new courses at FIT then it supports the fact that these trends only grow stronger, because more and more people are interested in these causes professionally. Producers too are seeking ways to implement ethical and eco-friendly strategies in their business: from using sustainable energy to using natural materials in the products that they produce. Many businesses see that this growing can not only benefit them but also the world. More and more designers also promote these causes because they know that there is a growing share of consumers that buy these products because even if they cost a little bit more, the outcome is greater and in a way more contagious because other people get interested and buy into these causes as well.

  13. It is encouraging as well as enlightening to learn of the efforts being made by the Green movement to impact business.

    In “Myth Links”, Dr. Houston encourages individuals to develop a “culture of kindness” to create a higher humanity that focuses on a planetary society. Hardly a new concept, but one that needs to be applied to business ethics if mankind intends to survive. Through our growing knowledge of the living earth we must learn to resolve the conflict between industry and the environment.

    Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia goes on to state “global transformation starts with personal transformation” as applied to leadership. As future leaders in the apparel industry we are being asked to live by this ethos as our commitment to social responsibility. It is fascinating to see the supply chain of this company and how it was able to “lighten” its carbon footprint.
    At times it is necessary to be reminded how we as individuals impact the earth through our choices.

  14. It is a scary reality that there are parts of the world that don’t have access to clean water. Those working at Hydration Technology Innovations, such as Nathan Jones are hardworking people that genuinely want to help out. I never knew that such an item as the HydroPack could be possible. The benefits of the HydroPack are so numerous I just can’t believe that this hasn’t been more publicized. The fact that it is cheaper than NASA or military technology but works just as well is astounding. While watching the video, to see the look on the children’s faces when they realized they could have, not only clean drinking water, but it was also flavored; was priceless. The technology behind the HydroPack seems so simple yet it required extensive knowledge on how forward osmosis works in a plant. The fact that they replicated this by creating an artificial semi-permeable membrane, cellulose and hydrophilic properties is absolutely amazing. I hope that in years to come the HydroPack will be more widely available in low technology locations such as Africa. It requires such minimal effort that it would create a huge impact on third world countries and the fate of the world’s children.

  15. Forward Osmosis: Sustainability is so crucial for our society. It should always maintain the position in bettering our planet, economy, and eco system. After reading about the LOHAS Forum, I found it so pleasing that people are trying to make such positive changes for higher development. I think that after these accomplishments, we will have more resources and a better sustainable democracy. I found it inspiring that the Medicine Hunter, Chris Kilham had such a profound admiration for the way indigenous cultures live. He was able to travel and see things that not a lot of people get to witness. I think it is incredible that the experience he had in the Amazon with the tribes was so life changing and that he wanted to try and create products that will help better our society in the market of pharmaceuticals and medication.
    After watching the documentary of the Hydro Pack and “Bringing water back to life,” it was so inspiring. This really is the future and a way to save lives. It is astounding how it takes infected bacterial water and makes it clean and purified to drink and hydrate our bodies. It combines nutrients from the polluted water as a filter and it is also portable! This will definitely help those in need like the ones in the video who don’t have the sufficient nutrients that they need for survival. They mention in the documentary how 4 million children die each year because of this contaminated and polluted water. This is such a positive way to think of our future and what lies ahead in these children. We want to protect them to better our expectations because they ARE our future.

    Rhythmic Diffusion: This was an interesting article considering that I have read The Alchemist and absolutely believe in the universe working to help you on what you want to achieve in life. We as the people do have such an impact on our planet. It is our actions that affect our eco system and it is best to protect it. Since many of us live in urban communities, it is our duty to defend our living environment. Places just like the Galapagos Islands are receiving great support in order to achieve a more dynamic sustainable community… through these efforts the rainforests, animals, and of course people are being protected.

  16. Sustainability is about having a long-term orientation to the way we use the Earth’s natural resources. This is such a great way to define sustainability, like the earth’s natural ability to recycle is own goods or use wasted materials to benefit other sources of the environment it the same way we should look at the long-term use of clothing in the fashion industry. Countless amount of people disposes of untarnished goods that sill have much of a life cycle left, however, may not meet current trends. Having a fashion design background, I am able to live out this idea of reusing garments in a slightly different sense. I have designed a few projects that take ordinary clothing, that I either previously owned or just purchased from a thrift store, and deconstruct the in order to create a new look without having wastage. “I like that they are giving the product multiple lifecycles — by having the same item used by more than one person!” As students expressed after meeting with Green Eileen Representatives, many other people are pretty fond of the idea of thrift shopping and reusing goods in a different light, in most cases garments have more personality with age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *