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 (  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 (

“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 (   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 (  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 (  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 (   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 ( 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


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 ( 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 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” (  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 (  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 (  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