Swag Bags are a Drag

things

Professional conferences which suffer from being described as boring try to appeal to people using consumerism in the form of a “swag bag”. A swag bag handed out to conference attendees usually contains useless gizmos like stress balls to appeal to a basic human tendency: acquiring stuff. Going to one conference and getting a single swag bag might not seem like much, but when you realize the scope of the swag industry the numbers grow exponentially. This is why people are pushing back and rejecting bags of useless marketing trash.

Ensuring an ethical supply chain and materials with the smallest carbon footprint, of course, tends to increase costs. We see a parallel here with the fast fashion industry, which also focuses on making things as inexpensively as possible, so you can buy a T-shirt for a few bucks at H&M or Forever21. But over the last few years, reporting on these practices has drawn attention to their enormously damaging environmental footprint, which includes producing water pollution, toxic chemicals, and terrible waste. The human impact is just as terrifying: Workers at low-cost factories that make fast fashion products often labor under inhumane conditions, and many have died because of a lack of workplace safety standards.

We could get rid of cheap swag altogether. What if you left your next conference or trade show without heaps of notepads, pens, and USB drives stuffed in a cheap tote bag, all of which will eventually end up in the trash?

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Oysters Are Saving New York’s Waters

ocean shore

There are many fans of oysters who eat them for their failure; however, I’m a fan of oysters because of what they eat. Back in 2011 we looked at the idea of using oysters to clean waters while harbouring other species – with the bonus impact that the oysters then get served at local restaurants. Since 2011 the concept has grown around New York City so much so that the oysters have basically saved the city from some effects of climate change. Go oysters!

Then, the oysters begin doing what oysters do — which, it turns out, is quite a lot. Oysters are natural water filters; each one cleans 30 to 50 gallons of water a day. They also provide food and shelter for all sorts of marine creatures, supporting biodiversity. “Oyster reefs provide great marine habitat, similar to coral reefs, with nooks and crannies to protect juvenile fish, and are active food for some species. They help to create a thriving ecosystem,” Wachtel says.

But the biggest draw for many coastal states such as New York, especially in an era of rising sea temperatures and eviscerating hurricanes, is that oysters can provide natural breakwaters. Oyster reefs can protect against a hurricane’s wave velocity, which can destroy a city’s infrastructure. The New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has partnered with Billion Oyster Project to install oysters on its $74 million Living Breakwaters Project, which aims to reduce and reverse erosion and damage from storm waves, improve the ecosystem health of Raritan Bay and encourage environmentally conscious stewardship of nearshore waters.

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India is Crafting 21st Century Jugaad


The Hindi term jugaad roughly translates to “a type of frugal innovation or creative hack” and can be found throughout India. It’s not so much one thing as it is a conceptual approach to problem solving which stems from years of poverty and maltreatment of the lower classes (and castes) in the country. With that in mind, it hasn’t stopped wealthy corporations from seeing the benefits to such creative thinking and quick, iterative, approaches to addressing everyday problems. It’s proof that even those stuck on the fringes of society can contribute valuable knowledge (so let’s educate them more so their genius can further flourish)!

Travel through rural India and jugaad is everywhere. It’s the rickety truck powering an entire village’s electricity, or the makeshift TV aerials fashioned from coat hangers. It’s seen in the country’s garishly painted trikes, also called ‘jugaads’, that sometimes carry 20 people despite often being powered by a noisy water-pump motor and patched together from spare parts like old motorbike pieces and wooden planks.
The can-do approach is also personified by the thousands of white-capped dabbawallahs who somehow wheel precarious stacks of stainless-steel tiffin boxes safely through the chaos of Mumbai’s streets each day to deliver hot lunches and afternoon tea to the city’s 200,000 office-workers. Their estimated error rate is one delivery in 16 million, so it is little wonder FedEx has visited them to discover the secrets of their phenomenal reliability.

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How Road Diets Improve Traffic Flow

Urban planners know adding streets won’t make traffic any better, indeed adding capacity for more cars does the opposite: it makes traffic worse. The problem is that the average person (and politicians) don’t know this little quirk of urban planning. As a result we still build sub-urban areas to cater to old notions of traffic design instead of letting urban planners implement smarter, better solutions.

So what’s a solution to bad traffic? Road diets.

Today, we now know that bigger roads and extra traffic lanes do nothing to solve congestion. In fact, it tends to induce even more traffic. So we didn’t fix the congestion issues, and on top of that, we built wide roads that are relatively unsafe.

Transportation planners in the 21st century recognized that many of the roads that were overbuilt could be redesigned to calm speeding and add space for newer multimodal transportation options. And thus, the road diet was born.

The Last Great Generational War

economic chart

Baby boomers ensured that the economy, the planet, and their children are now all in a worse condition than when the boomers were born. This is common knowledge if you’re not a baby boomer and may come as a shock for those who of you born before 1964. All the talk these past few years of avocado toast and the generational anger towards millennials might just be projection. Regardless, the facts about the boomer’s destructive behaviour is evident and now the global population needs to address it.

How can we explain this calamitous, pathological selfishness at the root of the sustained crisis of Boomer mismanagement? Leaning heavily on the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Gibney insists that Boomers, as a whole, are self-evident sociopaths “characterized by self-interested actions unburdened by conscience and unresponsive to consequence, mostly arising from non-genetic, contextual causes.” Boomers have repeatedly put the gratification of their own immediate, generationally specific desires above consideration for the long-term consequences doing so would have for them, the country, and their children. Their manifest sociopathy distinguishes them as a singularly antisocial group, devoid of the lowest-common-denominator feelings of collective responsibility for maintaining a livable society for all.

What’s so good about all of this? Well, it means we can finally stop playing the blame game and get on with focusing on what matters. Plus, knowing the problem means we’re on our way to a solution. And in the end, maybe what we’ll experience as a society is a return to thinking of others and not how we exploit them.

Perhaps then a generation will come to mean something less arbitrary, less focused on a descriptive category superimposed onto one group of people or another, telling them who they are based on what they own and how they earn a paycheck. Perhaps then to be part of a “generation” will mean just that—to feel a collective, affirmative duty to cultivate the as-yet-unwritten force of possibility to make the world anew that comes with being born, the generative potential to shake loose the grip of what has been on what the people could be.

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