Harvesting Prosperity

On March 2, 2019, I attended the National Fair Trade Campaigns Conference in Chicago.  Paul Rice, who is the Founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, presented a Keynote session where he discussed his recent trip to Rwanda.

Providing an example of how he views the “market as a powerful force for lifting people out of poverty through trade not aid,” he described meeting Jean-Marie, a Rwandan coffee farmer, and his wife Dorothy.  They were successful in organizing a Fair Trade co-operative within their farming community.

Photo of Paul presenting his Keynote.

 

Jean-Marie, who was educated through the 3rd grade, possess a one acre coffee farm, which he relies on for his livelihood. Prior to forming a Fair Trade co-operative, they used to receive only pennies (from a middle man) for each pound of raw coffee cherries that they produced.  The middle man dictated the price and would take the coffee cherries for further processing.

After forming the Fair Trade co-op with his community and securing loans to help him further process the product into coffee (which added more value per pound), Jean-Marie was able to sell direct to an exporter (not a middle man) and increased the price he received from a few cents to $3 per pound.

He was able to put his 6 kids in High School and they all graduated.  As in many countries, although High School education is free, students have to wear shoes to attend and many families cannot afford the cost of shoes.  So with his increased salary, Jean-Marie was able to buy shoes/clothing for his kids so they could attend and graduate High School.

His community also benefited from the Fair Trade Co-op in many ways including buying health insurance for all families in the co-op and ensuring community access to local clean water to improve the health of its residents.

Paul met Jean-Marie a couple of weeks prior to the conference and told him that he would be speaking in Chicago and if he had a message for the audience.

Photo of Paul meeting Jean-Marie.

 

Jean-Marie had the following messages:

“I am happy and proud to make good coffee for you.”

“I hope to meet you one day.  Please visit Rwanda… you are welcome.”

“Please pay a few cents more for our coffee.  It makes a difference.”

“Please tell others to join our Fair Trade movement.”

Paul concluded his session stating “you too can make a difference everyday….with bars of chocolate, bananas, articles of clothing, etc.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the consumer.  If it stays on the shelf, there is no impact.  If it sells, we win.  If it doesn’t sell, we lose.  Consumers have to join the cause…they are the sleeping giant. Let’s wake them up!  The public has the power.  The consumer has the power…to be a force for good in the world.”

 

Written by Dr. Shireen Musa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIT, State University of New York

 

Children’s Rights are Human Rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often times when addressing international trade and sustainability issues, various U.N. initiatives and policies, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ are discussed.

As we witness global immigration challenges currently reported in the following NYT articles:

“It’s Horrendous: The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken From His Father” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/us/children-immigration-borders-family-separation.html,

“Taking Immigrant Children From Parents is Illegal, U.N. Tells U.S.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/world/americas/us-un-migrant-children-families.html, and

“Scorned Migrant Boat Exposes Raw Feelings Among Allies,” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/world/europe/migrant-boat-italy-france.html,

reviewing the U.N. “Convention on the Rights of a Child” https://www.unicef.org.au/Upload/UNICEF/Media/Our%20work/childfriendlycrc.pdf is timely.

During her speech to the U.N. Conference on Women in 1995, Hillary Clinton declared that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”  It is also fitting to state that “human rights are children’s rights, and children’s rights are human rights.”

Written by Dr. Shireen Musa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIT, State University of New York

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

Panelists:

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

Panelists:

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

Panelists:

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

Panelists:

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

Panelists:

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

fit_un_guest_speaker2

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.

un_fit_guest_speaker_flyer_sept_2016

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

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

 

ITM’s Sustainable Global Sourcing Forum

On March 24, 2015, over 150 attendees participated in the Department of International Trade and Marketing’s Sustainable Global Sourcing Forum!

We hosted over 25 speakers, including Fashion Designers, Magazine Editors, CEOs, Brand Presidents, Sustainability Vice Presidents, Global Managers, FIT Professors and FIT Alumni 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.

Panel_19 – 10 am – Strategic Sustainable Vendor Partnerships: Creating Successful Sourcing Relationships throughout the Value Chain
Exploring real world case studies and best practices focusing on creating the strategic sustainable vendor partner relationships that are forging the new ways to bring sustainability into the forefront product design and development.
Panelists:
Jeff Honerkamp, Head of Decospan
Stefanie Zeldin, Co-Founder, In2green
Libby Bernick, Senior Vice President, North America, TruCost
Moderator:
Lisa Hendrickson, President, Spark City

 

Panel_210 – 11 am – Sustainability Programs, A Key to Unlocking Employee Engagement
Discussion of the ways companies integrate sustainability programs to catalyze employee engagement, productivity, well-being, and profitability. The session will feature a mix of business leaders who will share their successes as well as their challenges in engaging employees.
Panelists:
Kyle Thomas, Sustainability Manager, Le Pain Quotidien
Niki King, Senior Manager of CSR Program, Campbell Soup Company
Naomi Mirsky, Vice President of Sustainability and Innovation, Denihan Hotel Group
Moderator:
Shoko Sekiguchi, Founder/CEO, Ampleen LLC

 

Panel_311 am – Noon – Sustainable Sourcing in the Cosmetics and Fragrance Industry
Panelists:
Graham Byra, Planning Director, Batallure Beauty
Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor in Chief, Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine
Georgia Kalivas, Consultant for EcoCert and Adjunct Professor, Textile Development and Marketing, FIT
Moderator:
Virginia Bonofiglio, Chairperson, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, FIT

 

Photo to be uploaded shortly

 1 – 2 pm – Sustainable Sourcing in the Fashion Industry
Panelists:
Maxine Bédat, Co-founder, Zady.com
Benita Singh, Founder and CEO, SOURCE4STYLE
Marci Zaroff, Founder, Under the Canopy and President, Portico Brands
Moderator:
Kate Black, Founder, Magnifeco.com and EcoSessions

 

 

Panel_5

2 – 3 pm – 360 Degrees: From Ethical Supply Chains to Indigenous Culture
Panelists:
Bob Bland, CEO & Founder, Manufacture NY
Andrew Savini, Manager, Supplier Management, Intertek Group
Stephanie Joy Benedetto, Co-Founder, Business Director, Paper No. 9 and CEO and Founder, Queen of Raw; Cess Oliva and Jennifer Garay, Co-Founders, BGG Knits

Moderator:
Valerie K. Parker, Founder and CEO, Second World

 

Panel_6_updated

 3 – 4 pm – FIT Alumni Weigh in on Sustainable Global Sourcing
Panelists:
Elizabeth Pulos, ITM ’14
Andrea Reyes, Co-Founder, A. Bernadette
Sabrina Caruso, Henry Daussi Jewelry
Joanne Krakowski, Founder and Director, Mu-Aat LLC
Moderator:
Sophie Miyashiro (ITM ’14), U.S. Customs broker and Founder, Global Citizen Customs Brokerage

 

Panel_7_updated

 4 – 5 pm – FIT Professor’s Global Impact Project
Carmita Sanchez-Fong, Assistant Chair, Interior Design, FIT

 

The forum is organized by Professor Shireen Musa and is a collaborative effort between International Trade and Marketing, Cosmetics Fragrance Marketing, and the Enterprise Center.

 

Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York

 

FIT Students Visit 2014 NYC Green Festival

FIT Students Visit 2014 NYC Green Festival

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting and educating 15 High School students who registered to take a 4-day “Global Fashion Business” Saturday Workshop at the Fashion Institute of Technology.   The workshop covered the topics of: international marketing, management, career options and sustainability. Fortunately, one of our class meetings fell on Saturday, April 26, 2014 while the NYC Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org) was in town so we decided to leave the classroom and head to Peir 94 — the event site. After all, what better way for students to learn about sustainability than by attending this event and meeting with the businesses and organizations leading the effort.

FITGFNYC1

 

Students enjoyed meeting with numerous exhibitors and sampling their products. A variety of industries were represented, from fashion (e.g. Green Eileen www.greeneileen.org) to body care (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap www.drbronner.com) to food products (e.g. Halo chips www.oceanshalo.com) and many more.

Eco-fashion was a hot topic for our group and students had particular interest in Green Eileen. As described on their website, “GREEN EILEEN is a recycled clothing program committed to reducing environmental impact and generating income to support programs that improve the lives of women and girls. By selling gently worn EILEEN FISHER clothing, we extend the life of timeless garments and are able to support the non-profit programs in which we so strongly believe. Sustainability is about having a long-term orientation to the way we use the Earth’s natural resources. In recent years, corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability have received mainstream attention, and the global consciousness has taken up the charge to reduce our human impact. However, the garment industry is still one of the largest sources of waste and pollution. Did you know? • The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothes per year. • Over 4% of global landfills are filled with clothing and textiles. • Almost 100% of used clothing is recyclable.” http://www.greeneileen.org/our-story

After meeting with the Green Eileen representatives, students expressed the following reactions to the program: “I’m totally cool with reusing garments as long as it’s not undergarments”; “I like that they are giving the product multiple lifecycles — by having the same item used by more than one person!”

In addition to meeting exhibitors, students were also able to listen to the speaker panel sessions. For example, they attended the “Greening your Closet with Style” panel led by Kate Black, Founder of Magnifeco (www.magnifeco.com). Her panel featured a wonderful, smart and diverse group that highlighted some inspiring work happening across the globe. Topics covered vintage clothing, eco-fashion, Fair Trade and promoting the skills of indigenous artisans. Panelists included Carolina Cantor (www.ShopEthica.com), Monisha Raja (www.LoveIsMighty.com), Ariana Boussard Reifel (www.modemarteau.com), and Swati Argade (www.bhoomki.com).

FITGFNYC2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ariana Boussard Reifel, Founder of Mode Marteau (www.modemarteau.com), advised the audience that they have the power to make change and have “an amazing number of options to choose from.” “You have an option to take political action; you can choose to contribute to things you don’t believe in or you can choose to fight against them; shopping is like a political action”. “Eco fashion can be used as a weapon for social justice; it’s a revolution against the toxic chemical world that we are living in.” For example, Ariana’s “weapon of choice” is vintage clothing and that’s how she maintains her eco-fashion wardrobe. She believes that anybody can purchase vintage or used clothing because it’s easy and typically less expensive than new clothing. Ariana enjoys its uniqueness and high quality. Her business supports this effort and more: “As a value-lead business we proudly implement sustainable practices in all aspects of the business, from credit-union banking to recycled packaging, to the innately world-friendly act of sharing and reusing wonderful things. We believe that when you take creative license with your wardrobe you are expressing a little bit of your true self, and that is a good thing.” http://www.modemarteau.com/about

Carolina Cantor, Co-Founder and Fashion Director of Shop Ethica (www.ShopEthica.com), stated that “Fashion is the 2nd most polluting Industry after oil.” For example, “One can determine the color trends by looking at dye run-off in Chinese rivers.” She is focusing on empowering local communities to create long term change.   As outlined on her website, “Our goal is to connect consumers and companies that share a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Through this website, we hope to contextualize shopping within a larger global narrative, highlighting the very real impacts of our collective consumption choices. The designers featured on this site create beautiful products and responsible companies. They’ve invested time and resources in being as ‘planet and people friendly’ as possible. Some of the commitments they’ve made include: sourcing ecologically responsible materials, developing sustainable production processes, treating their workers well, and giving to charity.” They also believe in Trade Not Aid, “Whereas charity can provide immediate relief to people in need, the goal of commerce in the context of ethical fashion is more long-term: to create sustainable employment opportunities that can permanently lift people out of poverty. The brands listed under our Trade Not Aid category employ artisans and workers in developing countries in fair-practice settings, aiming to nurture a demand for their skills and empower their communities to prosper.” http://www.shopethica.com/ethical-practices/trade-not-aid

Students were also excited to meet Monisha Raja, Founder of Love Is Mighty (www.LoveIsMighty.com). During a discussion in class, they articulated the following: “Monisha created the company Love is Mighty to sustain India’s culture. She uses products that are typically thought of as garbage, such as candy wrappers to produce a line of vegan shoes and accessories. Monisha is trying to prevent the loss of Indian culture by creating sustainable work environments to allow her workers to support their families.” Additional reactions included: “Her shoes are beautiful….I love them!”; “I support her….I like what she is doing”; “She is trying to prevent the people from losing the craft”; “If people go on to work in other industries, they are likely to be exposed to cruelty and not treated fairly”; “Artisans work in their natural habitats, happy doing what they want to do and not being forced to do something just to survive.” As highlighted on Monisha’s website, “Construction dominates India’s big cities, more and more tribal artisans in rural villages are giving up their centuries-old craft to learn to hang drywall and mix cement. Talented hands are having to abandon what they know and love. Thousands of years of Indian traditions are about to vanish. Your shoes were born from a passion to preserve these indigenous crafts. To give artisans the respect they deserve and the means to provide for their families.” http://www.loveismighty.com/story.html

Swati Argade, Creative Director and CEO of Bhoomki, is a designer with a mission: “To make ethically fashioned, high-quality, low-quantity collections for my customers, not trend-driven clothes worn for a single season.” During the panel discussion, she described how cotton is one of the least sustainable fibers, due to the high levels of water and pesticides that are used in the manufacturing process. As stated on her website, her company is focused on “Ethically Fashioned Fabrics and Fair-trade Production. When you make a Bhoomki purchase, you help preserve the earth and support traditional artisans around the world. You shrink your carbon footprint, you help keep poison out of our rivers, you support endangered textile traditions, and ensure that factory workers receive a fair wage and thrive in humane working conditions. Bhoomki features brands that source organic, recycled and/or artisan fabrics. Our in-house line is cut and sewn clothes in child-free factories where workers receive a living wage under humane working conditions. Whenever possible, we manufacture in NYC, use low-impact dyes and offset shipping costs with carbon credits toward renewable energy initiatives. We do all of the above without sacrificing superb craftsmanship, quality and fit.” http://www.bhoomki.com/about-us

Answering a question from the audience about how to determine if a company is “green washing”, Kate stated “the best way for a consumer to know is by researching what the company stands for; what is the core of the business. It is also important for consumers to understand the origin of the product.”

Students overall reactions to attending the 2014 NYC Green Festival included the following: “I had a good time…I’m glad I went”; “I had fun, I learned a lot about food, body care, fashion…I really liked it!”; “I thought of myself as eco-friendly…now I want to take it to the next level”; “I want to research and learn about the working conditions and the production of clothing before I purchase”; “I will look for less fast fashion and more higher quality clothing”; “I will shop at used clothing stores”; “I will support smaller businesses because they tend to produce better quality than bigger mass production businesses”; and, “I am more aware.”

These students have not only made changes in their thinking and attitude about sustainability but also started to “walk to talk”. For example, one student was so inspired that for the first time ever he purchased a used piece of clothing. He visited the Buffalo Exchange (www.buffaloexchange.com) used clothing store during the lunch break of our last class meeting and found a beautiful blue Patagonia vest, which originally retails for over $100 dollars. He was able to purchase it for $22 and was happy to model it in the below photo.

FITGFNYC3

 

 

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