Green Tech: Unlocking the Power of Play

Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman are on a mission to show the world that the value of play can not only be measured in smiles but in very real economic and social terms.  Both Harvard students had volunteered traveled extensively in Africa and also shared a passion for soccer: the continent’s (and the world’s) most popular game.  In an engineering class they got the chance to marry these two passions, capitalizing on an opportunity to improve living conditions in African through the continent’s love of soccer.
What does such an ambitious project look like?  A sOccket, a small generator cleverly disguised as a soccer ball that charges as you play with it!  Three hours of LED illumination is stored in the sOccket per every half hour of playtime.  It can also charge small electronic devices like a cell phone.

This ingenious solution isn’t just making an economic impact by delivering renewable light energy to many rural areas.  There are important health benefits as well because most of the developing world still relies on on kerosene lamps that pose huge safety hazards: the fumes inhaled by children in kerosene-light homes is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The sOccett vs. huge public health threats is been a game that’s garnered the attention of an international audience.
Today there are more than 6,000 sOcckets “kicking around”, literally, from Africa to Mexico to Brazil.  Uncharted Play, the organization founded by Matthews and Silverman to distribute their product received overwhelming support from corporate sponsors principally because of how easily and effectively the tool integrates into daily life.  As Matthews explained, “Why don’t we give you something that you already like to do and get what you need.”

And sOccket has yet another a new fan, President Obama.  During his recent trip to Africa his team set to work distributing the item to many African nations and on a tour of a facility that manufacturers the ball he even showed off some of his soccer skills! A huge goal for the two Harvard girls who knew just how powerful play could be.

Sustainable Living: The Dirt on Footwear

sustainable living - OAT

When we talk about our carbon footprint maybe its time to get a little more literal, or, as OAT Shoes would argue, a lot more literal.  OAT Shoes is the force that is taking earth-friendly footwear to a whole new level: the soil.  Their shoes are made from 100% biodegradable materials which means that when you are done with your pair you compost them or even bury them in your garden!  But they don’t just hit the mark when it comes to sustainable living and materials, these shoes are hot.

OAT shoes

sustainable living

The simple, elegant and yet playful design is a departure from many style-sacrificing eco brands. Not here. Their fashion shows have even featured scantily clad models maneuvering wheelbarrows down the catwalk.  The centerpiece? A plant sprouting out of blooming shoe, pretty impressive. OAT is so fashionable in fact that the company walked away with the second prize at the Green Fashion Awards at Amsterdam International Fashion Week and have now branched out into bags and totes.

Blooming shoe - sustainable living

If, like most of us, you are just discovering the world of biodegradable shoes chances are you might have some footwear kicking around that just simply isn’t plantable but that doesn’t mean that you can’t recycle it.  For your fancy lady shoes you might consider transforming the prom experience of a girl in need by donating a pair to the Cinderella Project.  This non-profit aims to let girls in undeserved communities know “that they are not bound by personal or financial circumstances, and that the possibilities are endless for them.”

Cinderella project - sustainable living

For more practical, everyday shoes you might consider Soles 4 Souls.  The Nashville-based charity that has delivered over 19 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes to people in over 125 countries including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. The non-profit also has a very strong disaster-relief force and coordinated efforts for the Asian Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love the idea of eco-equality for all which is why we admire organizations like the Cinderella Project and Soles 4 Souls and also why we make it our personal mission to provide free cell phone recycling for everyone!  At ExchangeMyPhone recycling is a right, plain and simple, and we are always humbled to find ourselves in such great company in the world of reuse.

Sustainable Living – small homes making a world of difference

The compact housing movement has been a buzz phrase dominating both design and sustainable living literature for years now. There are small house awards, organizations, a documentary, coffee table books and thousands of blog posts. But believe it or not, there is still something different to be said for minimalist structures that doesn’t have to do with hip urbanites on a space diets! Small homes have now moved into the forefront to community rebuilding efforts, most recently in disaster-stricken Haiti.

The types of homes making a mark are known as Earthbags, a name derived from the building blocks of the structures: earth, manure or concrete-filled sandbags that stack securely, essentially like Lego, to make construction an cinch. Though Earthbags have taken on many shapes the original prototype, developed by Iranian-American architect Nader Khalili, has a distinct beehive shape. The houses have become infamous also for their surprising strength. Earthbags are fire, flood and earthquake resistant, they also stand up to violent surroundings (a sad reality common among disaster zones where many struggle to procure bare necessities long after the event itself) and are blast and bullet resistant.

Spearheading the proliferation and production efforts in Barriere Jeudi, Haiti is Konbit Shelter. “A group of artists, builders, architects, and engineers, who, after the January 2010 earthquake, asked ‘how we could use our skills and resources to directly assist another community in a time of crisis?’ Konbit Shelter is a sustainable building project with the objective of sharing knowledge and resources through the creation of homes and community spaces in post earthquake Haiti.”

One of the huge advantages of the project is that it is ongoing and provides secure employment for many locals (as much as a third of the budget goes towards the salaries of the workers) while also equipping them with the construction knowledge to build their own homes at a very low cost yet with quality materials. Thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign (raising over $30,000!) the organization will be back on the ground this spring to break ground another community building. Keep tabs on the progress at Konbit Shelter’s site and blog.

Sustainable Living: @Twitter4Good pesky pigeon or patron saint?

Contrary to popular belief, social media platforms don’t just appeal to the petty side of humanity. They can sometimes be a humanitarian’s greatest tool.  Twitter seems to have taken the lead when it comes to harnessing its powers for good in arenas from public health to wildlife conservation by speaking up, or tweeting up, for those without voices or opposable thumbs.

Twitter MD
Over-sharing on Twitter is definitely annoying, but over-sharing of a certain variety might actually be lifesaving; or at least help you dodge a major bullet the next time a nasty cold wages war in your neighborhood. At the University of Rochester, Adam Sadilek and his team of computer scientists have been working tirelessly to develop Al, a program that uses tweets to predict when people will get sick before they do. In fact, a whole eight days before they get sick and with 90% accuracy.

The algorithm developed by Sadilek’s computer wizards, sifts though 44 million GPS-tagged tweets from more than 630, 000 New York City Tweeters over a month in order to distinguish when someone is really sick, or just “sick of my roommate’s boyfriend.” And unlike some similar attempts that have preceded it (like Google Flu Trends), Sadilek’s explains that his website, “Shows emergent aggregate patterns in real-time, with second-by-second resolution. By contrast, previous state-of-the-art methods entail time lags from days to years.”

@redcross
We all may be Twitter-addicts but none of us have a more legitimate reason to be on it 24/7 than The Red Cross. The life-saving organization first used the social platform in 2007 to direct people towards shelter during California wildfires. The head of Social Strategy at the American Red Cross explains, “It was a watershed moment for us, we realized that Twitter was a great way to provide valuable real-time tips in times of crises where every second counts. Twitter users also helped us share that information by re-tweeting shelter locations online and then extending that information offline by telling their neighbors.” In more recent natural disasters, like the Japan earthquake, the Japanese Red Cross’ Twitter presence has been instrumental not just in raising funds but in the immediate aftermath, building drug-supply chains in hard to navigate areas.

Twitter <3 Trees
The National Parks Conservation Association harnessed their Twitter skills to spread the word about wilderness protection and pressure politicians to take a firmer stand in the face to deforestation. NPCA piggy-backed on Promoted Tweets #IfGovernmentShutsDown, a topic that was trending organically at the time, to gather e-signatures for their petitions. The result was over 5,000 Tweets to members of Congress urging them to support America’s national park funding, after which it was selected as a “Top Tweet” by Twitter and broadcast to more than 1 million more users. #IfGovernmentShutsDown became one of the most political mobilization campaigns to be broadcast via twitter.

The Refreshing Side of Pepsi
Nothing is more refreshing than hearing about social media platforms that are not only created to take the user’s money, but to do the reverse and get money into the hands of users. Pepsi has done this on a large-scale since 2010, with a campaign that was organized, executed and proliferated via Twitter. Over the course of the year, Pepsi awarded a whopping 20 million dollars in grants to “individuals, businesses and non-profits that promote a new idea that has a positive impact on their community, state, or the nation.” Pepsi Refresh’s pro-social approach has been touted as“game changing” in terms of how multinational cooperations connect with and engage their consumers on a one-to-one level.

Twitter4Good
If you’d like to know more about how companies large and small, for and non-profit are using Twitter in positive ways check out Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s very comprehensive book Twitter4Good. She also gives great tips on how to create Twitter strategy with staying power that works for your company.

Killer cooking

Sometimes the most important tech advances are the most simplistic.

When you think of the dangers facing the current population of Haiti, the consequences of charcoal and wood burning cooking probably wouldn’t make the top, or bottom, of your list. However, this is a serious health threat that kills nearly two million people a year worldwide through upper respiratory infections and other dangers of open-flame cooking. The victims are almost entirely women and children. All over the world millions of people rely on such food preparation techniques, the sum of which has both global health and environmental consequences. Deforestation in Haiti has become so out of control that only small parts of the once densely forested country remain.

To put a stop to this, Colorado-based non-profit Trees Water & People has designed a safe, efficient cookstove and put it in the hands of thousands of Haitians. Which, on its own is wonderful, but the reason why ExchangeMyPhone thinks this organization goes above and beyond is their mission statement. TWP has taken a community-based approach to sustainable development, they really mean it. All the cookstoves was developed and constructed in Haiti (creating jobs and decreasing transit pollution). Furthermore, the cookstoves developed by TWP are cheaper than purchasing charcoal, or maintaining a traditional wood-burning stove. The final product of the Haitian program is aptly called Zanmi Pye Bwa, Friend of the Trees, in Haitian creole.

But TWP isn’t’ stopping with Haiti, in fact they have already developed country-specific stoves for Uganda, Nicaragua, and Honduras. All these stoves are developed and manufactured using the same process and practices with an essential focus on local growth. The stoves themselves reflect the resources, environments, values, innovation and culture of the countries from which they come, and thus, the three stoves are markedly different: as different as the dishes they are used to prepare.

By MAGGIE MURPHY

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Raising the Bar on What it Means to be Clean

What happens to hotel soap? Chances are you have never considered the question. In a world with so much waste small, half-used soap bars heading to landfills are at the bottom of most of our lists for concern.  But when you really think about it, landfills are so overwhelming, not because there is an immense amount of trash from a single source, but because millions of little products add up very quickly.  So, maybe soap bars do matter.

Well Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, the founders of Orlando start-up Clean the World certinally belive they do.  It was during a hotel stay that the fate of the half-used soap bar caught Seipler’s attention and he called down to the front office to ask what would happen to it.  The answer was that it would be thrown away. In large hotel chains that results in “a huge amount of trash,” Seipler said. “But what could we do with it?”

The two partners found their answer in a two pronged, non-profit approach which aims to a) divert soap from landfills and b) provide soap to those that need it.  As a result of this innovative thinking, each day thousands of used soap bars are collected by hotel staff, sent to processing centers, sterolized and reshaped into new bars: greatly decreasing the waste produced in soap production. Clean the world is currently partnered with hotels like Walt Disney Hotels and Starwood, and just established a parnetship with InterContinental Hotels Group.  Now that’s a ton of soap.

And it really is making a difference. Through the distribution of recycled soaps, as well as other donated hygiene products, Clean the World is working to prevent the  millions of deaths caused by proventiable, hygiene-related diseases occurring every day.  In April, several representatives of the comany headed to Guatemala where they distributed nearly 13,000 bars of recycled soap to many of the 20,000 individuals living on the edge of city dumps who are at high risk for contracting hygine-related illnesses, as they depend on what they find in the dumps for their survival.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love how Clean the World is rolling up their sleeves to save the environment and improve the quality of life for many.  We love to see other small companies find their niche in the recycling world!

The new look at ExchangeMyPhone

If you have cruised by ExchangeMyPhone.com this week then you’ve already noticed the huge changes that have been taking shape.  Not only have we been sprucing up the appearances of things but we’ve also been hard at work making the site even easier to use and enhancing the capabilities of cell phone recycling.

Here’s how:

1) Easier checkout: You can now check out from any page on our site.  So, whether you are viewing our recycling credentials, or catching up with the world of reuse on our blog, you are only ever one click away from check-out, and that much closer to being paid!

2) Double The Good: We are now your one-stop-site for charitable donations. It is now possible to give the entire value of a phone exchange to any US registered charity of your choice.  That means access to more than 765,000 chances to support the causes that matter to you.

3) Sell your old iPads: We are also now accepting iPads so you can sell you old iPad or iPad2 before the iPad3 comes out and you are struck by iPad envy.

We would love to know what you think of the updates, so don’t hesitate to send your comments to hello@exchangemyphone.com.

And just incase all the change is worrying you, never fear: some things never change like our free shipping for any phone, regardless of value!

Recycle-A-Bicycle

Last year the wheels really started turning for New York’s sustainable cycling movement, with 51,000 New Yorkers making the switch to bicycling which means it is now the fastest growing method of transport.  At the front lines of this wave is the non-profit Recycle-A-Bicycle a youth-centric, community-minded non-profit with storefronts in Dumbo, Brooklyn as well as Manhattan. “This is an incredibly exciting moment in our city when it comes to biking and more options for viable, affordable, sustainable transportation,” says Pasqualina Azzarello, director of RAB.  On average, every year the program salvages 1,200 bicycles from the city’s waste stream, thus diverting of 36,000 pounds of waste from NYC landfills.

Recycle-A-Bicycle has an acutely local focus.  Their job-training program instructs more than 100 teens each year in bicycle maintenance and repair through internships, workshops and school partnerships.  These trainees refurbish approximately 500 bikes a year, and receive a practical, tangible skill that they can use throughout their lives.  RAB’s Kids Ride Club cultivates healthy exercise habits among children and collectively pedal 10,000 miles per season.  Recycle-A-Bicycle also equips 300 children annually with refurbished bikes who would not otherwise have access to a bicycle at their Bike Bonanzas.

Though New York is behind most other metropolises (such as San Francisco, London, Barcelona, Paris, Toronto) when it comes to providing a public bike share service for residents, Recycle-A-Bicycle is charging forward regardless of bureaucratic hang-ups.  The organization plans to launch a share of over 10,000 bikes at 600 locations this summer, which will provide refurbished bikes to New Yorkers 24/7 and continue to make Brooklyn, and beyond a better, more livable place.

Collective Conscience

Saturday night a wonderful group gathered at The Wooster Street Social Club (yes, also known as TLC’s New York Inc tattoo parlor) in support of Sophia Sunwoo and Josh Braunstein’s start-up/non-profit Water Collective. Water Collective is dedicated to picking up where many charities leave off when it comes to bringing fresh water sources to those without.  Growing light is being shed on the flaws in the existing water-aid system in that while various non-profits establish potable water sources they have neither the funds, nor the manpower to oversee long-term maintenance: without which, the solutions quickly dry up.  Water Collective wants to change this by making a lifetime guarantee to every community with which they partner to ensure access to drinking water is both reliable and permanent.

Sunwoo first conceived of the idea while working on her senior thesis at Parsons that focused on building a disaster-prevention program on a micro and macro scale for developing communities.  This is where she was confronted with the inefficiencies of many water charities and the extent to which global water technologies have been abandoned and broken.  Rather than starting from scratch Water Collective’s approach involves improving and repairing what is already there.  This means that each case is different and each community receives the specific and special attention they require to make a lasting, sustainable change.  Saturday’s fundraiser was the columniations of a two-month long Call to Action Campaign (the collective’s debut project) to raise $40,000 dollars for their efforts in Uganda and marked the realization of that goal.

ExchangeMyPhone was a proud sponsor of the event and very much agrees with Water Collective’s approach to reuse and refurbishment, physically in the restoration of water systems that already exist but also ideologically in their aim to redefine the scope of what a charity does.  We also admire the creativity of vision both co-founders share though they could not have come from more different backgrounds: Sunwoo has created and sold a successful clothing label while Braunstein focused on non-profit fundraising. This duo has a chemistry that defines Water Collective and was palpable on Wooster Street where friends, family, new supporters and other entrepreneurs exchanged ideas and offered support to a cause upon whose worth and urgency we can all agree.

The New Life of Leftovers

It’s a week after thanksgiving and probably time to part with those leftovers and reclaim some fridge space.  But before you go scraping the feast’s remains into the garbage can take a moment to consider the alternatives.  If you live in San Francisco, Seattle or Toronto then chances are you have already been introduced to the joys of at-home compost collection because in these cities there is, just like for recycling, a curb-side compost disposable program.  But for those of us living in places like New York without this convenient service the idea of starting an ecosystem in your, lets face it, already cramped apartment is a bit daunting.

However, this hasn’t stopped many New Yorkers who are taking matters into their own hands, homes, kitchen counters and even under their beds.  Lower East Side Ecology Center is one of many organizations popping up all over the city to offer tutorials about how to get your personal compost system off the ground (and then, back into it). And if the idea of erecting a worm habitat at home makes you too squeamish than you can add to the more than 500 million pounds of food waste collected by the Lower East Side Ecology Center every Sunday at the Union Square Greenmarket.

We have already witnessed a recycling revolution in America in the past 30 years so why could we not do the same for compost?  Keeping food scraps out of landfills can be even more beneficial to the environment than paper products because when buried under non-decomposable material, food debris cannot undergo its natural decomposition and thus releases methane, a very harmful greenhouse gas.

At ExchangeMyPhone not only are we all about rethinking the landfill but we love the idea of reusing what we commonly think of as “waste.”  Creating your own fresh soil for houseplants is pretty original and could even be a great Christmas gift to any gardeners in your family.  It takes only three weeks to harvest a cup of home grown soil so if you get started now you’ll be just in time for the holidays!