Baristas with developmental disabilities making brilliant coffee

Employees at the Coffee Shed's Surrey Place Centre location, from back left to front right: Mimi Yickman Yiu, Rachel Boardman, Paul Wong, Alexander Saab, Andrew Mathew.

At a local Toronto coffee shop, a group of baristas as tight-knit as you’ll ever find, brew up delicious coffee.  But more than that, the staff here are given purpose, life-skills, and a chance to make genuine connections with their peers.

 At the Coffee Shed, all of the baristas have developmental disabilities. And, thanks to an ingenious social enterprise model, they also run the place.

The Coffee Shed is part of the Common Ground Co-operative, which operates three such coffee kiosks in Toronto, a bakery called Lemon and Allspice that supplies the Coffee Sheds with their sweet treats, and a newly added toy-sanitization company, which sanitizes toys used in children’s behavioural therapy programs. The goal is for adults with developmental disabilities to call the shots and create their own workplace community: after training and apprenticing, staff members can get voted in as a “partner.” They draw an income and run the place as a business partnership.

And for the record — the coffee’s great.

Jennifer Warren, CBC

Check out this radio piece and article for more information, and how to support the Common Grounds Co-operative at their three Coffee Shed locations, and their upcoming bowl-a-thon fundraiser.

There’s Profit in Reusing Office Furniture

Office room

When opening an office a key thing to take into consideration is where people are going to work. In these modern times just letting employees sit on the floor won’t cut it. Buying furniture can be expensive and add a lot to startup costs, so an enterprising company has taken to selling used furniture.

When companies upgrade their offices they just throw out their old furniture -8.5 million tonnes of it went into the trash last year! There’s money to be had in saving that furniture from landfills, and that’s where reusing office furniture becomes profitable.

“In Canada and the United States, the purchase of new office furniture is in the realm of a $10-billion-a-year industry, so the amount of churn is exceptional, and for the most part it’s always been considered a waste stream,” said Richard Beaumont, vice-president of strategic accounts at Green Standards. “Through resale, metal recycling and charitable donations we, on average, divert just under 99 per cent from landfills by weight.”

Read more.

Uruguay Defeated Big Tobacco

Large tobacco companies that operation multinationally and earn billions of dollars a year off of an unhealthy addictive drug often fight poor nations. They fight poor nations in the courts and the markets when those poor nations try to increase the well being of their citizens by managing tobacco sales. Recently Uruguay won a legal battle agains Phillip Morris (part of Altria) through the International Centre for Investment Disputes – it’s a massive victory too!

First, the Uruguay case will embolden other governments who have the political will to fight the tobacco epidemic but have been understandably circumspect about the possibility of multi-million dollar litigation. But the fact that Uruguay won is not the only positive lesson from the case. PMI and other tobacco multinationals have nearly limitless resources – they can launch cases even when they are sure they will lose.

Second, Uruguay did not stand alone. Philanthropists (especially former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg), civil society and academics lined up to support the government, committing both funding and in-kind help. PMI’s vast resources and the power that unfortunately often seems to flow from immorality were trumped by solidarity and a confidence of being on the right side of history. David had only his sling and stone. Uruguay had a volunteer army. Mayor Bloomberg, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already set up an emergency fund to support other countries who fall into Big Tobacco’s cross-hairs. Those governments can count on the same army of volunteers.

Read more.
Thanks to Delaney!

Underwater Art Gallery

Art galleries are great cultural institutions and seeing one underwater is magnificent. With each installation to the underwater gallery it gets better to explore and better for life. One of the key aspects of this gallery is that it is home to a whole ecosystem.

For sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the ocean is more than a muse — it’s an exhibition space and museum. Taylor creates sculptures of human forms and mundane life on land and sinks them to the ocean floor, where they are subsumed by the sea and transformed from lifeless stone into vibrant habitats for corals, crustaceans and other creatures. The result: Enigmatic, haunting and colorful commentaries about our transient existence, the sacredness of the ocean and its breathtaking power of regeneration.

Grow Diamonds Instead of Buying Blood Diamonds

Blood diamonds are a problem for a multitude of reasons and they really shouldn’t be since we can create diamonds from scratch. A company called Pure Grown Diamonds sell diamonds that are grown in a a lab for all your diamond needs. The market for diamonds is largely a social construct based off of good marketing, so you may as well play it safe and go for lab-grown diamonds instead of buying diamonds from sketchy sources.

How are Pure Grown Diamonds made?

Pure Grown Diamonds are produced by utilizing two gem-quality diamond creation processes: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). In both processes, a small diamond seed is placed in an environment that contains carbon. Under suitably controlled conditions, the diamond grows, atom-by-atom, layer-by-layer, recreating nature’s process.

Grown Diamonds—Eco Advantages

In a recent environmental impact analysis, Frost & Sullivan (F&S) concludes the impact of the Pure Grown Process is seven times lower than Diamond Mining.

Mined diamonds disturb more land, produce more mineral waste, use more water, create more air emissions (carbon, NOx and SOx), use more energy, have more environmental incidents, result in more lost time injury (both in terms of frequency and severity) and have a higher occupational disease rate. Based on their calculations, F&S further concludes that mined diamonds represent more than 7 times the level of impact as compared to grown diamonds.

Check it out