2017 African Women’s Entrepreneurial Program (AWEP) Showcase

In July 2017, WorldChicago (www.worldchicago.org) and Meridian (www.meridian.org) hosted 30 African Women Entrepreneurs, who were visiting the U.S. as part of the U.S. Department of State “International Visitor Leadership Program” (https://eca.state.gov/ivlp).

According to Meridian’s website the “30 international visitors representing 27 nations from across Africa converged on Chicago to open their program and examine the principles of successful entrepreneurship. Launched in 2010 in conjunction with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), AWEP addresses topics such as U.S. business practices and African access to U.S. markets; integrating African women into the global economy; and funding access for commercial expansion in Africa.” Click on the following link for more details: http://www.meridian.org/project/african-womens-entrepreneurship-program-to-showcase-their-products-at-meridian/

I was happy to have met with many of these women. Below are photos of a few of the women that I met and their handmade products.  Some of the products also qualify as Fair Trade.

Meet Takudzwa Chitsike from Zimbabwe: http://deekawzee.com/

Meet Farida Temraz from Egypt: http://www.temraza.com/

She specializes in handmade one of a kind pieces.  Some of her designs have been worn by celebrities including Carrie Underwood.

Meet Rama Diaw from Senegal: http://ramadiawfashion.com/


Written by Dr. Shireen Musa









Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York

ITM’s 2nd Biennial Sustainable Global Sourcing Forum – 2017

On March 21, 2017, the Department of International Trade & Marketing (ITM), Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, in partnership with faculty from the Departments of Cosmetics Fragrance Marketing (CFM), Fashion Business Management (FBM), Home Products (HP) & Textile Development Marketing (TDM) hosted its 2nd Biennial Sustainable Global Sourcing Forum.

Over 150 attendees participated to hear and meet dozens of speakers, including Fashion Designers, CEOs, Brand Executives, Global Managers, and FIT Professors who discussed current sustainable global sourcing trends, challenges and opportunities along organizations’ supply chains and product life cycles.

Below are some photos of speakers and panel members.

9:15 am – Welcoming Remarks: Dean Steven Frumkin, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business & Technology, Fashion Institute of Technology

9:30 am – 10:30 am – Transparency in the Supply Chain

Description: Panelists discussed the importance of informing and educating stakeholders about sustainability issues that affect the Supply Chain.

Moderator: Kate Black, Founder of EcoSessions


Dana Davis, Director of Design and Production at Mara Hoffman

Marissa Pagnani, Group Vice President, Corporate Responsibility at PVH Corp.

Amina Razvi, Vice President- Membership, Growth, and Impact, Sustainable Apparel Coalition


10: 45 am- 11:45 am– Sensory Sustainability

Description: Panelists discussed how the beauty sector focuses on sustainability and Fair Trade.

Moderator: Professor Virginia Bonofiglio, Chairperson, FIT’s Department of Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing


Nicole Corona, Finance and Sustainability Coordinator, Esteee Lauder Companies

Roger Schmid, US Innovation Hub, Natura

Jennifer Donahue, Marketing Manager, Croda, Inc.

Deniz Ataman, Editor -Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine


12 – 1pm – NYC Fair Trade Coalition Panel

Description: Panelists introduced the audience to the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and discussed what the organization is doing to promote Fair Trade and why that is important.

Moderator: Andrea Reyes, Chair of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and ITM Alumna


Andrea Reyes, A. Bernadette, & Chair NYC Fair Trade Coalition

Joseph Pino, Same Sky

Daphna Lewinshtein, Craft Talk

Chrissy Kim, Global Goods Partners

Stephanie Benedetto, Queen of Raw (Co-Founder & CEO), 2016 NASA/NIKE/U.S. Dept. of State LAUNCH.org Innovator, Material Is Your Business (Co-Host), NYC Fair Trade Coalition (Board of Advisors)

1 – 2pm – The Future of Sustainability in the Home Products Industry

Description: A presentation and discussion of how the Home Products Industry is addressing sustainability from raw materials to retail. Speakers from the Sustainable Furnishings Council and Leninz AG provided insight into the home furnishings and home textile sectors across the supply chain.

Moderator: Professor Shannon Maher, Chairperson, FIT’s Department of Home Products and/or Student Club Representative


Susan Inglis, Executive Director, Sustainable Furnishings Council

The SFC is a coalition of industry stakeholders working to promote sustainability among industry and consumers by providing education, certification and functioning as a clearing-house on sustainability.

Nina Nadash, Home & Interiors Marketing Manager for North Americas, Lenzing AG

Lenzing Group is a world leader in the global textile and nonwovens industry committed to sustainable development. As fiber producers, Lenzing is at the beginning of a long value creation chain in the textile industry that works to differentiate themselves through sustainability.

2 – 3pm – Empowering customers to make responsible purchases

Keynote Speaker: Enrique Villa, CEO, Founder of Povigy +

Description: Discussion about how to connect with retail customers in an age of transparency. The focus of this discussion centered around interests associated with purchasing goods that align with the customer’s values. Given the need to present goods that address social and environmental concerns, what is the best way to let your customers know about your corporate responsibility efforts?

3 – 4pm – A Conversation with Natalie Flournoy Grillon from Project JUST

Description: A Conversation with Natalie Flournoy Grillon about Project JUST & their work to use transparency to create accountability in fashion supply chains.

Interviewer: Professor Ann Cantrell, Fashion Business Management Department

4 – 5pm – Sustainable Sourcing and Textile Technology

Description: Sustainable and responsible sourcing is the current holy grail in the global textile industry. Advances in textile materials and technology hold the key in the march towards sustainability. This session discussed the latest technological advancements in bio-based materials, ecologically benign textile processing, and requirements for evaluation, testing and certification of sustainably sourced textiles.

Moderator: Professor Ajoy Sarkar, Ph.D and Professor Min Zhu, Ph.D. Textile Development Marketing Department


MeiLin Wan, Vice President, Textile Sales, Applied DNA Sciences

Shashi Sirsi, Technical Products Manager, Wolf Gordon

Sean Cormier, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair, Textile Development and Marketing

Margaret Bishop, Adjunct Faculty – Textile Development and Marketing, Advisory Board Member – Global Sourcing Council

This year’s forum was organized by Professor Shireen Musa, with the assistance of Stacey Sedereas, and is a collaborative effort between International Trade and Marketing, Cosmetics Fragrance Marketing, Fashion Business Management, Home Products, and Textile Development Marketing.

A Big “Thank You!” to our Student Volunteers: Cara Brennan, Elizabeth Brik, Christina Gemerek, Rhea Harless, Maria Cecilia Celis Hermida, Ann Eun Im, Jaclyn Keller, Nicole Naim Dib, William Rossi, Donnita Shaw, Ariana Sneed, Juan Fernandez (Photography), and Takhirah Williams.



Written by Professor Shireen Musa,









Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York

UN Ambassador for the Republic of Korea Hahn Choong-hee Speaks at FIT

On September 26, 2016, UN Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York & Chairperson of the 47th Session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) visited FIT and discussed “How Sustainable Development Goals are Affecting Us and our World.”

In Photo: Suzanne Sullivan McGillicuddy, Professor Shireen Musa, Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, and Judy Greco

In Photo: Suzanne Sullivan McGillicuddy, Professor Shireen Musa, Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, and Judy Greco


Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee discussing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals


Click below links to read Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee’s Bio and learn more about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.



Students and faculty attending the event.

Students and faculty attending the event


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York


Cultivating Paths


Cultivating Paths

If you could have a bird’s eye view of Manhattan, you’d probably notice streams of yellow taxis flowing up and down the avenues, crowds of people walking along the streets, countless old and new buildings sandwiched together and of course the bright lights of Times Square.  In addition, if you look closely past the intoxicating energy of the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle, you’ll find something else entering your scope of vision — a one acre farm.




Ask and Receive

Eight local students from Millennium High School’s Environmental Club inspired the creation of the Battery Urban Farm when they visited the Battery Conservatory, located in downtown NYC, in November of 2010 and asked if they could grow a vegetable garden in the park.  Now, the farm produces approximately 100 types of organic fruits, vegetables, grains and flowers; serves and educates almost 2000 students from 30 schools and organizations; and, has recruited over 600 community volunteers.

The farm organizers’ goals are to “Empower NYC children and the community to make healthier eating choices through garden education; inspire and encourage the creation of edible gardens in communities throughout NYC and globally; and, cultivate a broader awareness of sustainability through responsible waste management and gardening practices” www.thebattery.org/projects/battery-urban-farm.

For example, many of the garden’s produce go to two downtown school cafeterias.  Organizers believe “In a world where obesity and other diet-related illnesses run rampant and many children cannot identify common vegetables in their whole, natural state, there is a growing and pressing need for garden education.”




Sowing the Seeds

From the east coast to the west coast, urban gardens are sprouting in local communities.

Ron Finley, Founder of The Ron Finley Project, wants kids “to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples.”  During his Keynote presentation titled “Food in the City: Designing a Healthy Food Future” at this year’s South by Southwest Eco Conference www.SXSWECO.com he declared “People have other opportunities than the ones that were designed for them by someone else!”

Describing how he was compelled to start a movement of urban gardening and education in his South Central L.A. food desert community, he advised “We’ve gotten too far away from the food system….we need to take our food system back into our hands; there are over 25 million Americans living in ‘Food Deserts’, which means they lack access to healthy foods (i.e., fresh fruits and vegetables) in their communities…it’s time for Americans to learn to transform food deserts into food forests.”   To view the changes he’s inspired around his community, click here www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w.

In addition to his accomplishments thus far and according to his website, Ron is planning to build an urban garden called “HQ” in South Central L.A. “that will serve as an example of a well-balanced, fruit-and-veggie oasis.  Inspired by the idea of turning unused space such as parkways and vacant lots into fruitful endeavors, this garden and gathering place will be a community hub, where people learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work and unwind.  HQ will create a myriad of jobs for local residents, and this plot of land will be a self-sufficient ecosystem of gardening, education, cooking, business learning and management.  The community will get their hands dirty together, shovel together, work together and be healthy together” www.ronfinley.com.

Questioning society’s current priority of investment in technology instead of nutrition, he stated “All technology is useless, unless there are healthy kids eating nutritious food and developing minds/brains that can function well enough to use the technology.”  Accordingly, Ron travels around the country to educate students, “Kids need to know the difference between ‘food’ and ‘un-food products’…children are being poisoned with products presented as edible, while containing many chemicals that are unhealthy.”   He educates students on the importance of gardening, telling them “Gardening is the gateway….we need to get back to the soil because power is in the soil; we are all nature…we are soil…we are all connected.”

Concluding his presentation, he advised “We have to heal the planet, heal ourselves…we can design our own lives; we are all artists…we are all gardeners.”


Food goes to Waste

When society is faced with the challenge of millions of Americans living in food desert communities, one may wonder how high percentages of food could be treated as disposable.

“Over 40% of food produced in the US goes directly to waste facilities” explained Hana Dansky, during her Keynote presentation titled “The Food We Waste” at the Lifestyles of Heath and Sustainability (LOHAS) 2013 Forum www.lohas.com.  To assist in solving this imbalance, her group, Boulder Food Rescue, created a movement to transfer local excess food, which would have been sent to landfills, to people in the community.  To view her presentation, click here www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS1Pf5YHjXE.

As a non-profit organization, which started in Boulder, Colorado and has quickly branched out across the U.S., Boulder Food Rescue’s mission is to support in the re-routing of excess food so it can be delivered to organizations that serve the homeless and the hungry.  Many volunteers around the country are joining the effort and there are local chapters mushrooming in many cities from New York to California.  As outlined on their website, the group is “focused on direct rescue and redistribution of fresh and healthy food that would be discarded otherwise. The flexibility of our model, and the direct ‘just in time’ delivery mechanism, allows us to focus on small gaps left behind by larger food rescue organizations and food banks.  We work hard to accomplish our task with minimal environmental impact and right now more than 80% of our food transportation is accomplished via human-powered means (bicycles and trailers)” www.BoulderFoodRescue.org.

Hana advised “What we need to realize, as a society, is that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right.”  Successfully designing new paths for excess food, to date, her organization has delivered almost 500,000 pounds of food to people in need.


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York




Thinking Sustainably


Thinking Sustainably

At this year’s Sustainable Brands and South by Southwest Eco Conferences, speakers shared their words of wisdom on how society can begin to think sustainably.


Imitable Leadership  

“Start with what’s sacred,” is the advice from Raphael Bemporad, Principal and Chief Strategy Officer of BBMG (www.bbmg.com).  During his keynote presentation at the 2012 Sustainable Brands Conference (www.sustainablebrands.com), he defined the sacred as “the hopes, needs and aspirations of our shared humanity” and believes that leaders can use it to inspire people to “work together to function better as a team.”  Raphael suggests that society is “yearning for a new way to do business and people are looking for new opportunities for engaging life to connect with one another and heal together.”  He believes that “decisions should be led by integrity and humanity; we change behaviors by following the sacredness and by sharing our stories.”


Stories about Stuff

Attendees at this past South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference (www.sxsweco.com) heard many stories from Annie Leonard, Co-Director of The Story of Stuff Project.   Annie started her keynote presentation by sharing her personal story, describing how she investigated global environmental health and justice issues for almost two decades.  She traveled to dozens of countries, visiting countless factories and trash dumps, learning what was happening at the beginning and end of various product lifecycles.  “As Annie witnessed first-hand the horrendous impacts of both over- and under- consumption around the world, she became fiercely dedicated to reclaiming and transforming our industrial and economic systems, so they serve, rather than destroy, ecological sustainability and social equity” (www.storyofstuff.com).  These experiences motivated her to create and share a series of stories, starting with “The Story of Stuff” and then producing other videos including, “The Story of Cosmetics,” “The Story of Bottled Water” and “The Story of Electronics” (www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all).

Annie clearly conveyed her underlining message that happiness does not come from how much stuff one has but from how one participates in society, stating “Engaging our social connections and working together with a sense of purpose and meaning in life feeds our souls.”


Altruistic Designs

“We have altruism in our souls,” advised Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD, during the SXSW Eco Conference.  While speaking about the importance of being mindful of how we treat the workers that manufacture our products, he described entering a factory, which his company utilized, and noticing that most of the employees were between 17 to 22 years old.  “Those young people put their education on hold in order to work,” he stated.  As a result, his company setup classrooms in the factory so the workers could continue their education.  When Tim returned to visit the factory, he was greeted by 30 to 40 employees who had completed some classes; they ran to him, hugged him and said “Thank you!”  Tim professed, “That was the most rewarding experience in my life!”


You’ve got Power

“Society is facing a deep moral challenge,” declared Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.Org (www.350.org) at the SXSW Eco Conference.  Discussing energy consumption and climate change, he cautioned, “The decisions we make now will determine what life is like for 10 billion people, the next 30 and 40 billion to follow and all of creation.”  Bill went on to state that we should think of alternative currencies, such as “the currency of compassion, the currency of science and the currency of reason.”  Similarly, attendees at the 2012 NYC Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org) heard how they could make a change through their purchasing power.  “The marketplace is a democracy,” stated John Perkins, author, activist and economist (www.johnperkins.org), “Every time you purchase or not purchase something, you vote, you cast a ballot; I don’t know what your passions are but you have talents to create a sustainable, just and peaceful world…you have the power.”

Written by Professor Shireen Musa

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York


Trail Guides


Trail Guides

While visiting Nevada to attend this year’s MAGIC Marketplace tradeshow and conference, I had the privilege of touring the Valley of Fire State Park.  Navigating through the Mojave Desert’s majestic labyrinth of red, yellow, purple and orange colored mountains, hills and rock formations, we spotted petroglyphs, ancient Native American rock art.



Deciphering the Desert

As we focused our attention on the petroglyphs, everyone began asking questions about the mystical images and guessing their meanings.  Our tour conductor, Cliff, shared his belief that the symbols depict a map — to find water.

During our drive to the valley, Cliff discussed the linkage between the scarcity of water in this desert and the evolution of local roads, stating “As ancient Native American tribes crossed the deserts in search of water, they mapped out the trails that led to springs.”  Passing down this information from generation to generation, for hundreds of years, allowed their members to follow the same routes and guide others to water.  As the trails became more and more visible, less instruction was needed and people could see the paths for themselves.  The local villages and cities that emerged were connected by those routes.  Thus, many modern roads developed from ancient trails because people helped each other to find water.


Peaceful Paths  

We left the desert and entered a conference room to meet a modern day trail guide, Sean Carasso.   Sean, Founder of Falling Whistles, inspired the audience with his passionate campaign to help end the war in the Congo, during Magic’s Seminar Impact your Fashion World: Action = Creativity.  He described how he visited the Congo a few years ago, wrote a journal of what he witnessed, spread the information to thousands of people and leveraged support to start, as he stated, “Turning tools of war into tools of peace.”  Sean’s organization brings attention to this conflict through the creative marketing/sales of whistles and uses the funds to support groups working for peace in the Congo (http://www.fallingwhistles.com/).  He selected whistles, as a symbol of protest, because kids in the Congo are forced to become child soldiers; too young to carry arms, they enter battles with only whistles.  Sean said “Their sole duty is to make enough noise to scare the enemy and then receive – with their bodies – the first round of bullets.  Lines of boys fell as nothing more than a temporary barricade.”

The audience was very encouraged by his leadership and discussed the need for more people to get involved and help end conflicts in other areas of the world.  One young woman expressed her concern about the possible negative reaction that a company may receive if it’s associated with specific causes/organizations, which may not be popular with the general public.  Sean responded to her by advising that one has to weigh the risks of one’s fears with not doing anything at all.  He concluded his presentation, stating “Be a whistleblower for peace; now, in the present, the Individual has more power than any other time in history!”


Paving the Way

Corporations also have great power.  Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market shared his belief that companies and individuals “can change the force of business in the world,” as he discussed the four elements of Conscious Capitalism: Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership, Higher Purpose and Conscious Culture, during this year’s National Retail Federation Conference’s Conscious Capitalism panel.  He advised that great companies not only make a profit but also “deliver happiness; they have a greater purpose/deeper aspirations.”  While providing examples of the Whole Planet Foundation’s global projects, Walter stressed the importance of a company’s mission and values, adding “Core values represent stakes on the ground, a deeper purpose; it gives customers and employees a way forward as one navigates a turbulent world.”  Employees and customers support the Whole Planet Foundation’s work in over 50 countries; the ventures helped over one million people by empowering global entrepreneurs through microcredit projects (http://www.wholeplanetfoundation.org/).

“Helping each other is only limited by our imaginations!” declared Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, as he spoke with Walter on the Conscious Capitalism panel.  Kip talked about the importance of building sustainable relationships through the mutual respect and trust of employees, vendors and customers, adding “People value relationships and people do business with people they trust.”   He also stressed the importance of developing a mindful corporate culture, advising “Happy employees are productive employees; the true essence of the human spirit is to go to work with great people and accomplish wonderful things and one can feel it in the culture.”  Kip provided many examples of how The Container Store achieved and maintains its corporate culture (http://standfor.containerstore.com/).   He concluded with the following insight “A thoughtful approach to stakeholders in the business gives you a competitive advantage…the Universe conspires to assist you when a company functions this way.”


Global Streams

During the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Talking Trade @ FIT Guest Lecture Creating Sustainable Futures: Women’s Empowerment through the International Fashion Industry, students and guests heard stories from more leaders that are using their power and influence to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.  Panelists included Richa Agarwal, Design Management Consultant and Project Manager with BRAC USA; Ben Stone, President and CEO, Indego Africa; Craig Leavitt, CEO, Kate Spade New York and Deborah Lloyd, President and Chief Creative Officer, Kate Spade New York.  All of these speakers are serving as trail guides by improving the lives of women from Africa to Bangladesh, from Europe to Afghanistan.

For example, Craig Leavitt talked about Kate Spade’s partnership with Women for Women International, stating “It fits with our firm’s DNA and resonates with our customers and staff.” His company’s Hand-in-Hand program offers a sustainable form of employment for hundreds of victims of global wars and conflicts in countries such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Afghanistan, utilizing the women’s indigenous skills and local materials to produce exclusive products.  The program also provides health and educational benefits to the women and their children (http://www.womenforwomen.org/help-women/kate-spade-hand-in-hand.php).  Craig advised that his business is guiding these women by “creating self-sufficiency through economic power.”

Likewise, Indego Africa empowers women through fashion.  Ben Stone explained how his organization assisted in the significant improvements of the lives of hundreds of Rwandan women artisans and their families by connecting them to export markets and education.  Indego Africa maps out a path for artisans to produce and market fair trade products through co-design collaboration with major fashion brands, such as Nicole Miller and Anthropology.  Ben’s ultimate goal is to create empowered independent businesswomen who can work directly with fashion brands (http://www.indegoafrica.org/).  He described his operations as having extreme transparency, stating “All financial documents are online and the public can visit our website to learn about the artisans and verify social impact.”

In addition, Richa Agarwal explained how her organization, BRAC, contributes to poverty alleviation by creating job opportunities for rural women in Bangladesh.  BRAC supports over 65,000 rural artisans, most are women working in the apparel industry, in over two thousand villages across the country; the services offered include microfinancing, legal support, educational opportunities, community empowerment and water/sanitation assistance (http://www.brac.net/).   During her presentation, she shared photos and many success stories of these women.  Richa concluded by addressing the students with the following plea “Think about the people that make our clothing…keep these women in mind when you get jobs because each one of you can make a difference; you will be in decision making roles that could affect the lives workers all over the world.”


Spring for Hydration

While returning to NYC from Nevada, I had an amazing view of our Southwest topography.  Flying over 30,000 feet, I observed the curves of current flowing rivers and dried-up riverbeds and recalled a story that Cliff told us about the common occurrence of people getting lost in the desert, never finding water or the way out and dehydrating.  Viewing life from different levels, it’s clear to see that world society lives in both physical and nonphysical deserts, is in need of and deserves water and has infinite potential to imagine, inspire and create countless trail guides.




Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York



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 (www.jeanhouston.org) 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 (www.medicinehunter.com) 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 (www.patagonia.com/us/footprint/index.jsp).   In addition, Patagonia is mindful when selecting factories (www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQOcchD6x0Q&feature=relmfu).   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 (www.opportunitygreen.com), 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: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j5aijg5vns&feature=fvsr)


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York


Rhythmic Diffusion


Rhythmic Diffusion

Recently, Green America and Global Exchange hosted the Chicago 2011 Green Festival and thousands of attendees turned out to meet hundreds of innovative exhibitors and dozens of inspiring speakers.  It was the fourth Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org) that I attended and what set it apart from the others was the increasing sense of urgency in the speakers’ tones as they asked the audience to engage and act.


Tucum Tree


Rooted in Opportunity

“Take a risk and the world would support it!” exclaimed Colin Beavan (aka No Impact Man http://noimpactproject.org) during his session titled “How to Live: Help the World by Becoming Yourself”.  As he introduced himself, he said “The most important thing about me is that I’m a dad.”

Colin sees connections between society’s actions towards the environment and society’s increasing unhappiness; he believes there is a “tremendous opportunity” to fix both.  In response to the question “There are so many major world problems; what can one person do to make a difference?” Collin replied “The wise man never complains about the bad; he only adds to the good.”  He urged each member of the audience to figure out what their part of the solution is and “do something to fix it.”  He continued, “It feels better to do something than not do something” and if we all do something, no matter how “small” we perceive it to be, collectively, we leverage a “Network Solution.”

Colin added, “We are all connected by roots, when we change something about ourselves, the universe changes.”   An audience member told Colin that his comments were similar to a theme from The Alchemist, a novel by Paulo Coelho: when you want something, the universe conspires to bring it to you.  Colin agreed and concluded “Find your gift, your passion, to give to the world….become yourself to save the world.”


Passion into Power

The speakers from the “Urban Green Living” panel are doing just that.  Alexandra Gnoske started by stating “Power is with people…all choices and actions whether good, bad or neutral have an impact on the planet.”  Alexandra discussed how she combined her passion for wildlife, the outdoors and justice by becoming a scientist, studying environmental law and then creating the organic clothing company “Recycle Me”.  One of her passions is to educate society on the dangers of pesticides to people and the environment.  For example, Alexandra talked about the chemicals that go into producing non-organic cotton tee-shirts and the heavy metals in dyes and inks that runoff into the air, water, soil, cattle feed, etc.  “Of all the cotton grown in the world, only 2% is organic…thousands of cotton workers die each year from working with the fabric,” she added.  Alexandra is also empowering and educating the future by maintaining a blog for kids linked to the children’s book she authored “Loui Saves the Earth” (http://www.louisavestheearth.com/blog).  Her advice is “Start with your passions…as a consumer and an individual, you have the power.”



Drew Wanke is passionately helping our generation safeguard the future through his work at the Green Living Project.  During his “Global Sustainability: Central America to Maine” session, he explained how since 2009, this organization helped implement projects including eco-tourism, environmental pollution prevention, sustainability educational programs, forest preservation, etc. and showed two short videos.

One video documented the Equilibrio Azul project in Ecuador; its mission is to protect the marine resources and part of that focus is on combating overfishing through education (http://www.greenlivingproject.com/projects/ecuador/equilibrio-azul).  Although they have a limited number of volunteers, the project’s Director stated they “believe that they can make a difference with a small project.”   For example, the volunteers have created eco-clubs to reach fishermen’s kids aged 10-12 and educate them about the environmental consequences of overfishing. “These kids are set to grow up in the footsteps of their parents and overfish…if you don’t educate these kids, anything you do will not make a difference,” said another volunteer.  The volunteers are trying to get the community involved; the project Director motivates the locals to engage and take responsibility for their environment by advising that “It’s everyone’s problem right now…it’s not like somebody far away on a beach is going to save it for you.”

Another video featured the Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Brazil. The Lodge’s owners’ goal is to maintain the integrity of the natural environment through eco-tourism.  For example, many scientists and tourists visit the Amazon to observe nature and of the 1,800 species of birds, a third of them can be seen from this eco-lodge (http://www.greenlivingproject.com/projects/brazil/cristalino-jungle-lodge).  More locals understand that they can make income and live in harmony with nature by preserving their natural environments.  For instance, one guide who used to be a miner stated that he feels as though he “lost a few years of life” because he was working “to destroy nature.”

The eco-lodge also educates city children.  Volunteers invite kids from Rio de Janeiro to visit and get connected to the Amazon and engaged with their environments.   One tour guide said when he sees children experiencing the forest for the first time, he feels like he is also experiencing the forest for the first time.  While in the jungle, children also visit the Tucum tree (photo included above); indigenous tribes use its long bristles to create rhythms, as a method of communication.


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York