Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

06 OCTOBER, 2010

PICKED: Hello Rewind


Social enterprise Hello Rewind is the beautiful marriage of sustainability and human rights activism, addressing two eco-social challenges — the 16,000 tons of textiles thrown away each day in the U.S. and the 100,000 women being sex-trafficked — with one brilliant proposition: Recycle your old t-shirts into custom laptop sleeves, supporting sex-trafficking survivors.

Starting a self-sustaining business supporting sex trafficking survivors is almost unheard of in the United States. In fact, many people don’t even understand the extent of sex trafficking taking place.” ~ co-founder Jess Lin

Here’s how it works: You order a laptop sleeve in your desired size and they mail you a prepaid-postage envelope in which to send your used t-shirt. Hello Rewind then sews your custom sleeve and ships it back to you in 2-4 weeks.

What’s not to love?

via TBD

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05 OCTOBER, 2010

BBC’s 60-Second Ideas to Improve the World


From BBC World Service comes 60 Second Idea to Improve the World — a wonderful podcast inviting global thought leaders to propose simple, radical ideas for the betterment of humanity, followed by a short discussion in a forum of equally esteemed guests.

Part microincubator for innovation, part peek inside the minds of mavericks, the series is a lovely reminder that big ideas can indeed come in small packages.

From Clay Shirky‘s call for nudity as an environmental measure to philosopher Roman Frigg‘s push for a national Break The Routine day, the 60-second ideas burst onto your mental space as cheeky pranksters, only to peel away the layers and reveal the thoughtfulness of post-modern pragmatist-philosophers.

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24 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Through the Eyes of the Vikings: The Aerial Arctic


From fjords to humpbacks, or what 11th-century nostalgia has to do with polar bears.

We’re big fans of aerial photography and it hardly gets any better than that of National Geographic photographer Robert B. Haas.

After stunning the world with Through the Eyes of the Gods: An Aerial Vision of Africa in 2005 and Through The Eyes Of The Condor: An Aerial Vision of Latin America in 2007, Haas is now back with his coolest project yet, literally: Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Arctic Lands — an ambitious and visually gripping exploration of the Arctic.

Bay of Bothnia, Sweden

Recycling pools beside a lumber facility near the port city of Karlsborg pock the landscape like shots through tempered glass.

Langøya Island, Norway

Industrial byproducts form a swirling palette at a waste-treatment facility on this island south of Oslo.

Manitoba, Canada

A polar bear pauses on a bed of kelp on Cape Churchill.

Lynn Canal, Alaska

Tributaries of the spectacularly deep fjord wind across a muddy plain to empty into a blue-green bay.

Whether in myth or in fact, the Vikings call to mind a hardy and adventurous spirit of exploration and enterprise. The cool stare of a Viking in the slit beneath fur-lined headgear and above a craggy length of beard betrayed a willingness to face risk, eyeball-to-eyeball, to witness sights that others had not seen before and capture bounty that might one day become the stuff of legend.” ~ Robert Haas in the book’s introduction

Clam Gulch, Alaska

A clam digger pokes around Cook Inlet.

Kiruna, Sweden

Snowmobile tracks crisscross the surface of a melting pond.

Red Glacier, Alaska

Bergs and boulders form islands of ice and rock in the basin of the glacier.

What makes the book particularly captivating is the subtle bittersweet undertone of reconciling the breathtaking romance of the Arctic with our lurking awareness of its slow demise in the grip of climate change, with a breath of irony as we come to realize these magnificent landscapes are already dramatically different from what the Vikings saw centuries ago.

Iniskin Bay, Alaska

The Iniskin River resembles a reflective ribbon of glass as it flows into its namesake bay.

Disko Bay, Greenland

Mother and calf humpback whales breach the electric-blue surface on the west coast of Greenland.

Like an ephemeral memento, Through the Eyes of the Vikings hangs in our collective conscience with equal parts retrograde nostalgia and alive appreciation, encapsulating a moment in time and space slowly severed from existence by the axe of an invisible Viking.

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15 SEPTEMBER, 2010

The Bag Monster


Activism meets comedy, or what Texas has to do with Velcro.

In 1977, at the height of the 70’s environmental movement, an unlikely invention took hold: The first plastic bag (no, not that plastic bag) was introduced as an alternative to paper bags. Today, according to the EPA, it accounts for 4 out of every 5 bags handed out in grocery stores and, scarier yet, only about 1% of the 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags consumed annually around the world are ever recycled. The rest end up in landfills and, most tragically, in the world’s oceans, where they wreak devastating havoc on marine life — from entangling seabirds and marine animals to ending up in their guts upon being eaten by mistake, with gruesome consequences. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch near Hawaii, a Texas-sized gyre of marine litter, would take a week to cross by boat, and plastic bags account for much of its composition.

Long story short, while most of us know plastic bags are dreadful, we don’t necessarily realize how dreadful. And while dry stats have their place, they’re no way to move people to change behavior. Enter The Bag Monster — the ingenious creation of activist and entrepreneur Andy Keller. Keller, who masterminded the popular reusable ChicoBag, had been going around farmers markets for years, carrying around 500-700 plastic bags to tangibly raise awareness about the number of plastic bags the average American uses yearly. Then, one day, he decided to attach the bags to a jumpsuit with Velcro and wear them. The Bag Monster was born.

This summer, to support the California Bill, AB 1998 for the ban of all plastic bags in California, The Bag Monster went on a monthlong tour across the US, starting in San Francisco and ending in Fairfield, Connecticut.

What makes The Bag Monster work is that it takes a serious environmental problem but doesn’t make it grave, bends it through a prism of satire, and delivers palpable awareness in an organic, non-preachy way.

So what can you do? It’s simple, really. Pledge to eliminate plastic bags and — why stop there? — other single-use items from your life. A good place to start may be our roundup of 7 ways to have more by owning less, as well as this recent HuffPo piece on kicking the plastic habit.

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