Ole Miss Changemaker Cecilia Trotter Says “Yes” to Risks and New Life Experiences

Risk-taking doesn’t come easily to most of us, but University of Mississippi student Cecilia Trotter believes we can’t live full, rich lives without braving the unknown now and then. Her recent experience with the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, held Oct. 18-20 in Black Mountain, N.C., drove that lesson home for Trotter in a significant way.

“You never really know where life will take you, and this retreat helped me want to say yes to more things in my life and take more risks,” said Trotter, a senior majoring in Public Policy Leadership and minoring in business, journalism and entrepreneurship at Ole Miss, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. “Risks are big for me, too—sometimes I really like to play it safe.”

Related: College students can get hands-on experience with social innovation in Selma, Alabama

Trotter, who hails from Greenville, Miss., was voted Miss Ole Miss by her fellow students this year, so she knows a thing or two about putting herself out there. She designed her campaign platform, called Rebel Heart, “to empower students and create a culture of positivity” while promoting mental health and wellness. Among her many activities on campus, Trotter serves on the Associated Student Body Cabinet and is a past co-director of the ASB’s First Year Experience program. She has also been an Ole Miss orientation leader and a team leader for the Ole Miss Big Event, the largest community service project in the university’s history.

Trotter has attended two Ignite Retreats and traveled to Prague this past summer for a Sullivan-sponsored study-abroad program that focused on leadership and social entrepreneurship. She will also serve as a Sullivan intern at the foundation’s Summer 2020 program, Leading for Social Innovation: Study Abroad in Scotland, which takes place June 4-July 4 in Edinburgh.

The Scotland program, developed in partnership with Arcadia University, features two courses—Leadership by Design and Social Change in Action. The first course emphasizes the practice and tools of leadership, while the second one introduces students to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation, empowering them to develop their own capacities for solving social problems while learning effective communications and storytelling skills. Students will take part in field trips across Scotland, meeting with social entrepreneurs and helping develop new initiatives to strengthen their ventures.

Related: Sullivan Ambassador Lori Babb aims to use social entrepreneurship and bioethics to change the world

Trotter, who loves to travel, said she “thoroughly enjoyed” her study-abroad adventure in Prague. “I was really excited to travel there as I had never seen any part of Eastern Europe,” she recalled. “I found Prague to be a sweet, little hidden gem. It had its own sense of charm that I have never experienced anywhere else, and I just found myself wanting to explore more every day.”

this photo shows Cecilia Trotter at Ole Miss prior to the Study Abroad in Scotland program

Cecilia Trotter is the current Miss Ole Miss and an intern for the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland program.

“The history of the Czech Republic and the old architecture and buildings made it feel as if you were living in the midst of so many different periods of time while still living your own experience,” Trotter added. “It felt really surreal as I began to see and consider all the different perspectives of both my fellow travelers and the natives around the city.”

Always ready for another overseas adventure, Trotter looks forward to working with the Sullivan study-abroad cohort in Edinburgh next summer. “The great thing about the courses offered through the Sullivan Foundation is that any student can benefit from them,” she noted. “We will all be called or challenged at some point in our lives to be a leader and have opportunities to serve or stand up as a leader. That is why I think it is important to take the [study-abroad] leadership course—so you may have the opportunity to dive deeper into learning about yourself and how you may lead others.”

Related: Sullivan Field Trip students discover the power of creative placemaking to help communities spur economic growth

The Scotland program’s course in social entrepreneurship is also important, she said, “because it focuses on innovative thinking. I found, in my own experience, that the ability to think creatively and innovatively fits any interest. Whether a student is interested in politics, medicine, art, or engineering, this course allows them to take the things they are passionate about and form ideas on how to move their interest forward. I really enjoyed the entrepreneurship course [in Prague] as it has given me insight on how to create and dream in systems, and I already feel like I have a strong system in place. Some students are already really great at that, but being able to challenge yourself while also seeking [innovative ideas] through a new lens abroad is something I find invaluable to education.”

Trotter is still mulling over her career options, but she will most likely earn her law degree next. Over the long term, in true Sullivan changemaker fashion, she hopes to live a life of service to others. “I really do see myself starting in a career with a law degree,” she said, “but also working in projects that will focus more through an entrepreneurial lens that targets the well-being of others and the education of young people.”

Experienced changemakers at the Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat included (from left): Crystal Dreisbach of Don’t Waste Durham and GreenToGo; Alexis Taylor of 3 Day Startup; Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga Studio; Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET Education; and Abhinav Khanal of Bean Voyage.

In that regard, Trotter took some inspiration from facilitators and guest speakers at the Fall Ignite Retreat. Many of them are successful social entrepreneurs who use the principles of business to improve their communities. Crystal Dreisbach, for example, founded both a nonprofit, Don’t Waste Durham, and a social enterprise, GreenToGo, that focus on sustainability and reducing waste in Durham, N.C. Dreisbach related her changemaking experiences in an Ignite Retreat session attended by Trotter. “It was probably one of the best stories I have heard in my life,” Trotter said. “All of the women who spoke had the most amazing stories.”

Related: Crystal Dreisbach’s GreenToGo makes it easier for restaurants to kick the styrofoam habit

But Trotter was just as inspired by the student changemakers she encountered at the Sullivan event. “We have some really passionate, dedicated and extremely creative and intelligent young adults who, I believe, will do some really great things for our world in the future,” she said. “It is super-empowering to put all of these college students in one small place together for a weekend. People are exchanging ideas and working together to help one another, and it is so genuine … I think that students who are seeking to better themselves and make new and future connections would greatly enjoy this retreat. Even trying it won’t hurt or be a waste of time because I think you will leave with a piece of something that will better you.”

After all, trying is what changemaking is all about, as facilitators like Spud Marshall and Chad Littlefield made clear in their Ignite Retreat sessions. “Spud and Chad really have a way of making the risk seem like a small bump in the road,” Trotter said. “Quite honestly, it probably is, but when you are a young college student with no money and have a lot of ideas in your head with little direction, it seems huge. I think that my experience with the Sullivan Foundation has really helped me stop glorifying the risk and start glorifying the action of moving forward, knowing I could really, really fail in some aspect of life, big or small. I have also gotten to meet some really positive and intelligent people along the way whom I look up to. Sometimes, I feel like college students hear things like, ‘Do not join the real world—it’s a trap.’ But I’m excited to move forward, and meeting people through the Sullivan Foundation has solidified that for me.”


Scottish Social Venture Leads World’s Big Sleep Out Fundraiser for the Homeless

For the homeless, sleeping under the stars isn’t a choice—they’ve got nowhere else to go. Now one of Scotland’s best-known social enterprises has a plan to show more privileged people—including wealthy celebrities—how that feels, while trying to raise $50 million for homelessness and refugee causes around the world.

Social Bite Café, which provides free food to the homeless and the hungry at its five restaurants in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, has organized The World’s Big Sleep Out in at least 50 towns and cities around the globe. Actors Will Smith and Helen Mirren and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin have committed to participate. To better understand the homelessness experience, at least 50,000 people will sleep outside on the night of Dec. 7, 2019, in places like Times Square in New York and Trafalgar Square in London as well as Chicago, Madrid, Belfast, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Manila and many other cities.

For college-age students with an interest in social enterprises like Social Bite, Scotland will be the destination for the Sullivan Foundation’s next study-abroad program in the summer of 2020. Running from June 4-July 4, the program will focus on leadership and social entrepreneurship. Click here for more information.


Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite’s co-founder, said anyone is welcome to join the sleep-out. “Whether you’re sleeping out at an official event or you’re hosting your own sleep-out in your back garden, for one night let’s walk in the shoes of people that we would normally walk past,” he said in a recent video promoting the event.

Founded in 2012 by Littlejohn and his partner, Alice Thompson, Social Bite Café is a chain of five sandwich shops that gave away more than 140,000 free, high-quality food and drink items last year to people in need. As part of the chain’s “pay it forward” model, other customers pay for their own meals and donate money to provide food to less fortunate guests.

Related: Get hands-on experience with social innovation in the Sullivan Foundation’s Selma Community Innovation Immersion Program in Selma, Alabama.

More than a social venture, Social Bite quickly evolved into a popular and highly competitive brand with a reputation that has spread across the UK—not to mention the Atlantic Ocean. The company has drawn attention—and donations—from actors Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Chris Evans. In February 2018, the UK’s Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, visited one of Social Bite’s Edinburgh locations, met the staff and toured the kitchen.

this photo shows success of Social Bite Cafe in promoting the World's Big Sleep Out to celebrities

The UK’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, toured the Social Bite Cafe kitchen and met with staff in February 2018.

Thompson and Littlejohn were inspired by Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Professor Muhammad Yunus to launch the eatery. “Since the beginning, we had that attitude that it was not going to be a small, one-off café,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made sure the branding looked very corporate. We wanted Social Bite to look like a shop that could be opened somewhere else.”

From the start, Thompson and Littlejohn used their profits to operate projects that benefit the homeless—and made sure everyone knew it. “We communicated on our social mission,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made clear that we were giving profits away and that by coming to us, customers could contribute to something better. Our mission attracted the local press and then the national press. I think the branding and the way we dealt with the press helped us (in) competing with high-end brands.”

this photo shows popularity of Social Bite Cafe with celebrities

George Clooney visited Social Bite Cafe in 2015 and posed for photos with the staff.

After opening their first Social Bite Cafe location, Thomas and Littlejohn befriended a homeless man and often gave him food and drinks. They eventually hired him as a dishwasher. “Then, one day he said he had a brother that was also homeless and would like to work for us,” Thompson recalled. “We employed him as well, and then they had friends who also wanted to work … And we thought that employing homeless people should be part of our business model. From that day forward, we decided that at least ¼ of all our employees should come from a homeless background.”

Related: This social enterprise trains blind women in early detection of breast cancer.

With Chef Dean Gassabi of Maison Bleue, Social Bite also operates Vesta Bar & Kitchen in the west end of Edinburgh. It serves Scottish and French cuisine, donating 50 percent of its profits to charities and causes selected by staff members while the other half goes back to Social Bite. Another shrewdly branded social business, Vesta is known for slogans like “Feel Good Food, Feel Good Actions,” “Eat One, Treat One” and “Get Lunch, Give Lunch.”

this photo shows what the founders of Social Bite Cafe and the World's Big Sleep Out look like

Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn are the brains behind both Social Bite Cafe and its homeless program, the World’s Big Sleep Out.

The journey to pulling off December’s international sleep-out began in 2016. The Social Bite owners wanted to help Scottish business executives better empathize with homeless individuals. They organized the CEO Sleepout, in which 350 business leaders slept outside on a cold November night. The event raised more than £550,000 and led to another fundraiser, Sleep in the Park, in 2017. For that campaign, billed as “the world’s largest-ever sleepout,” 8,000 people slept outside at Princes Street Garden and helped raise more than £4 million. They repeated the event in 2018 with 10,000 people in four Scottish cities and brought in nearly £8 million for their quest to end homelessness.

The success of those sleep-outs led to this year’s global event. Social Bite has also developed a similar event for schoolchildren called the Wee Sleep Out. Fifty percent of the funds raised will support local charities in participating cities, while the other half will go to global charities, including the Malala Fund, UNICEF USA and the Institute of Global Homelessness. The ultimate goal is to help 1 million homeless and displaced people worldwide.

Related: The world’s top plastic polluters say they will join the fight to reduce plastic waste.

How to Throw a Zero-Waste Sustainable Holiday Party

So you like playing Martha Stewart for the holidays? There’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as it doesn’t lead to a lot of unnecessary waste—paper plates, single-use plastic cutlery, extra food that will never get eaten. You can throw an unforgettable bash without creating more garbage for the local landfill if you follow these seven simple tips for a sustainable holiday party:

Send invitations digitally. Sure, printed invitations lend a touch of formality and elegance to any occasion, but let’s face it: No matter how pretty they are, most of them will eventually end up in a trash can. Paperless invitations get the message across in an eco-friendly way, and digital companies and apps like Canva and Punchbowl let you get wildly creative, incorporating animation, music, video and photos into your invites while allowing guests to RSVP online.

Related: The Sullivan Foundation’s Study-Abroad in Scotland 2020 program promises a life-changing experience!

Say no to plastics. If you’re serving food and drinks, plastic appears to be the cheap and easy option, but plastic’s cost to the environment is incalculable. If you don’t have enough real dishes, silverware, glassware, tablecloths and cloth napkins for your sustainable holiday party, consider renting or borrowing these essentials rather than resorting to disposable items. Better yet, serve finger foods so guests don’t even need those plastic forks and spoons and buy plates or bowls made from bamboo or palm leaf—they can be reused several times and then composted.

Play Sustainable Santa. Instead of the usual Secret Santa gift exchange, which merely encourages consumption and more waste, throw a Sustainable Santa party. Ask all of your guests to bring a recycled or upcycled gift or homemade items like sauces and sweets.

this photo shows a type of tree decoration for a sustainable holiday party

For your sustainable holiday party or just for your seasonal decorations, handmade keepsake ornaments are both better for the environment – because they’ll be reused again and again – and have lasting sentimental value.

Avoid processed, packaged food. Yes, we all love Doritos – dang, they taste good. But piling guests’ plates with chips and crackers and cookies from the grocery store means a trash can loaded with plastic packaging. For a truly sustainable holiday party, serve real food made in your own kitchen (or a co-host’s or willing friend’s), including homemade dips, platters of fresh veggies and fruits, soups, etc. If you know cookies will be craved, bake them yourself from scratch!

Have a plan for the leftovers. The best plan is to make sure you don’t prepare more foods than you need, but that’s easier said than done. Let your guests take home some of the excess food, preferably in glass jars or beeswax wrapping.

Related: How did one of America’s greenest college campuses get so green?

Make your own decorations. Again, you’re aiming for zero waste here, so that means you want to avoid the party section at Walmart. If you’ve got a talent for crafts, make your own decorations using materials you already have around the house. If you have no such talent, ask a friend or purchase high-quality decorations that can be reused again and again rather than thrown away once the party’s over.

7. Don’t forget the recycling and compost bins. Place them in obvious areas and make sure they’re clearly marked. Set them up in advance—you don’t want to have to sort through all that garbage at the end of the night. You can even provide multiple recycling bins for plastics, cans and bottles, wet food leftovers and dry compostables.


Is Insect Agriculture Key to the Future of Sustainable Farming?

In a warehouse nicknamed “the Love Shack,” somewhere near Vancouver, black soldier flies are buzzing busily about, mating and making baby bugs and more baby bugs—up to 600 eggs at a time. Left alone, the larvae will quickly mature into grown-up flies, but most will never make it that far. They’re destined for something much greater—helping to solve the problems of sustainable farming, according to Reasons to be Cheerful, the digital news publication founded by rock star/artist David Byrne.

Easy to grow and packed with protein, fat and calcium, black soldier fly (BSF) larvae actually feed on food and agricultural waste—think stale bread, rotting mangoes and squishy veggies. And the larvae, in turn, make a perfectly good meal for livestock, including pigs, chicken and aquaculture-grown fish. After they’re fattened up, the larvae’s bodies can be pressed into a fat-rich oil, while BSF bodies can be ground into a high-fat, high-protein powder meal. Even their molted skins and feces serve a good purpose—they can be processed to make fertilizer.

Feeding the world’s livestock populations is a monumental task that puts considerable strain on the environment. As Technology Networks reports, livestock gobbled down more than 1 billion metric tons of feed in 2016 worldwide. Forty-four percent of the feed was produced for poultry, 27 percent for pigs, 22 percent for cattle and 4 percent for animals grown in aquaculture.

Grains, soy and fishmeal comprise most of the diets for poultry and pigs, while cattle also get small amounts of grain and soy in their diet. Even fish, which mostly eat pellets of fishmeal, consume some soy, grains and legumes.

this infographic illustrates how insects can boost sustainable farming efforts

Black soldier flies require a fraction of the space needed to grow soybeans. (Infographic by EnviroFlight)

Technology Networks notes that 80 percent of the world’s soybean production currently goes to producing animal feed. But growing soybeans requires large tracts of land, harsh chemicals and tremendous amounts of water, resulting in vast deforestation, decreased soil fertility and serious damage to the environment and biodiversity. In other words, feeding the world’s massive populations of livestock pose a vexing problem to companies committed to sustainable farming practices.

Enter the lowly insect. Most livestock species eat bugs anyway. And bug farming requires a tiny fraction of the space needed for soy cultivation. Even better, BSFs feed on waste, thus easing the pressure on landfills. Since wild fish are used to make fishmeal, bug farming could also reduce over-fishing. And unlike most crop plants used for animal feed, insects can be cultivated year-round.

High-level cultivation of BSF larvae can produce between 1 million and 2 million pounds of protein per acre, compared to 1,500 pounds per acre by soybean growers.

As Reasons to be Cheerful reports, Bruce Jowett, director of marketing for Enterra, a Canadian operation that sells farmed fly larvae products to commercial feed companies, said, “This is the future of food. We are diverting food waste from the landfill, and black soldier fly larvae convert it into protein.”

Chickens consume 44 percent of livestock feed.

Enterra is one of a number of early-stage insect agriculture companies, most of which raise BSFs. European companies include AgriGrub in England and Protix, which operates farms in the Netherlands and China. France’s InnovaFeed has built the world’s largest insect production facility to date and produces 300 tons of insect meal per year, with plans to scale up to 10,000 tons annually.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is exploring the use of insect agriculture for chicken feed to cut back on the need for soy protein. “That pioneering work is currently at the proof-of-concept stage,” Nicola Robinson, the sustainable supply chain manager for McDonald’s Corp., told Reuters last year. “We are encouraged by initial results and are committed to continuing to support further research.”

Reuters also notes that insect agriculture must still pass muster with government regulators, who need to make sure ground-up bugs won’t introduce new toxins into the food supply. Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, said the method of using insects as animal feed must be thoroughly tested before consumers will accept it. “If there was a big change in how animals are being fed, I’d want to see some extra scrutiny of whether the animals were accumulating any kinds of toxins from the insects,” he told Reuters.

The World’s Top Plastic Polluters Say They Will Join Fight to Reduce Waste

Coca-Cola is a leading contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis, but now the company says it wants to help solve the plastic-waste problem.

Branded the world’s “most prolific polluter” by Greenpeace last year, Coca-Cola has promised to reduce its contribution to plastic waste, but it won’t give up its addiction to plastic entirely.

After admitting to generating 3.3 million tons of plastic in 2017 alone, the soft drink/water bottler announced in August that it will unveil new packaging, including aluminum cans and bottles, for its Dasani brand of water, according to CNN. Coca-Cola said it will continue to sell Dasani in plastic bottles, too, but the amount of plastic will be reduced through a process called lightweighting.

Coca-Cola says it will also introduce a new type of hybrid bottle consisting of 50 percent recycled plastic and renewable plant materials.

During beach cleanups in 42 countries, Greenpeace conducted “brand audits” to identify companies that contributed to plastic pollution. Leading the list was Coca-Cola, followed by PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated and Colgate-Palmolive. The top three companies alone accounted for 14 percent of the “branded plastic pollution” around the world, according to Greenpeace’s “Break Free From Plastic” report.

Greenpeace notes that recycling “is not a feasible solution to the plastic pollution crisis.” Many of the recovered pieces of plastic collected in the cleanups were plastics “that are very difficult or impossible to recycle in most places around the world.” These include polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), single-layer plastic film (SL) and multilayer plastic bonded materials. Other collected materials, such as cigarette butts, textiles, diapers and sanitary napkins, can’t be recycled at all.

“Multilayer materials—a mixture of plastic and other materials bonded together in layers—are especially pernicious,” the Greenpeace report notes. “These packaging types are common in the form of snack and potato chip bags, shelf-stable packaging and juice pouches.”

“We cannot recycle our way out of this plastic pollution crisis,” the report stated. “We must recognize the responsibilities of corporations and plastic producers to innovate and implement whole-system redesign to make the use of plastic packaging unnecessary.”

this photo shows the rising popularity of refillable water bottles in response to the plastic pollution crisis

In response to the plastic pollution crisis, more people are choosing to use refillable water bottles, prompting a change in policy at major bottled-water brands like Dasani. (Photo from Plastic Pollution Coalition)

The report noted that even when companies use recyclable plastic in their packaging, most of the plastic never actually gets recycled. Bottles made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) may be recyclable, but most of them end up in the trash anyway. One analysis found that “we are producing more than 1 million PET bottles per minute worldwide.” That amounts to more than 525 billion bottles per year, although those estimates are three years old and the number has likely grown since then.

Coca-Cola says it’s “ready to do our part” to reduce plastic waste. As CNN reports, it has promised to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030. It has also committed to making its bottles and cans out of at least 50 percent recycled material by that same year.

PepsiCo, meanwhile, also seems to be getting the message. The No. 2 soft-drink company said it will start selling its Aquafina water in aluminum cans at fast food and restaurant chains by 2020. It’s also reportedly testing a broader rollout of the aluminum packaging to retail stores.

In another promising move, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced earlier this year that they were withdrawing from the Plastics Industry Association, a major plastics lobbying group. Both companies, along with Nestle, Unilever and Mars, Incorporated, have also signed on to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, meant to address plastic waste and pollution at its source.

For brands like Dasani, a move to more sustainable packaging might be a necessity, especially as many environmentally conscious consumers make the move to refillable water containers instead of buying water in plastic bottles. “We really think about the future of this brand differentiating on sustainability credentials,” Dasani’s brand director, Lauren King, told CNN.


How Did One of America’s Greenest Campuses Get So Green?

It’s not easy being green, but Colorado State University (CSU), labeled by some as the greenest university in the U.S., does it better than most.

CSU was the first American college campus to achieve platinum status under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Established in 2005, AASHE helps colleges and universities strengthen their sustainability efforts and recognizes those campuses that lead the country in green initiatives and practices.

Related: Green is the new black at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College.

So how did CSU earn its platinum status? Here are a few of the ways Colorado State has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability:

  • More than 960 of CSU’s 2,633 for-credit courses are related to sustainability, while an additional 532 non-credit continuing-education courses feature sustainability content. The course offers sustainability-related majors and minors in all eight colleges, spanning across programs in engineering, forestry, public policy, environmental ethics, global and sustainable businesses, soil and crop sciences, and many others.
  • Nearly all (90%) of Colorado State’s academic departments conduct sustainability-related research.
  • In 2014, CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources became the first institution in the nation to offer a Master of Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting degree, one of several graduate-level degrees with an environmental focus.
  • CSU’s scientists and engineers built the world’s first solar-heated/air-conditioned building.
this photo illustrates the beauty of the Colorado State campus and the success of its sustainability programs

Colorado State achieved platinum status under AASHE’s STARS program rating sustainability efforts on college campuses.

  • The campus has 25 charging stations for electric cars.
  • Colorado State’s Sustainability Leadership Fellows program gives early-career academics the tools and techniques they need to work on the grand challenges of sustainability.
  • Despite a growing student population and an ever-expanding campus, CSU has cut its water use by 24% over the past 10 years.
  • CSU’s 5.3 megawatt solar energy plant stretches across 30 acres and is one of the largest at a U.S. college or university.

Related: Sullivan Foundation partner school Berea College leads the nation in on-campus sustainability

  • The university’s scientists partnered with NASA to create the world’s most sensitive cloud-profiling radar, CloudSat. Orbiting hundreds of miles above the earth, CloudSat monitors climate change and global warming activity from outer space.
  • Colorado State’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability offers more than a half-dozen undergraduate and graduate-level courses in subjects ranging from sustainable energy to sustainability and the law.
  • CSU’s Housing & Dining Services provides trayless dining, reducing plate waste at its dining centers by 40 percent, and offers compostable to-go containers, which eliminate 350,000-plus Styrofoam containers from landfills each year. Three of those dining centers have pulpers that collect food and paper waste for composting.

Zero-Waste for Beginners: 15 No-Hassle Tips to Get You Started

Kamikatsu, a tiny village of 1,500 souls in western Japan, has set a big goal for itself: Going zero-waste by 2020. And although residents have gotten close—they recycled about 80 percent of the 286 tons of waste they produced in 2017, according to Phys.org—it hasn’t been easy.

The villagers have to divide their rubbish into 45 different categories and wash and dry all plastic bags and bottles before they can be recycled. A discarded cabinet or shelf has to be broken up to divide the wood from the metal. And the local government provides no garbage collection for the waste that can’t be recycled—the residents have to transport it themselves to a local facility.

Could other towns follow Kamikatsu’s example? Maybe, but, then again, maybe not. As one resident told Phys.org, “It works because we’re only 1,500 people here. It would be difficult in a big town with a larger population.”

Still, environmentally minded individuals worldwide are striving to live a zero-waste lifestyle, and there are steps that anyone can take to get there. Here are a few of them:

1. Bid Adieu to Dish Sponges. Sponges collect germs quickly and have to be replaced often. And they’re not compostable or biodegradable, either, so to heck with ’em. Swap sponges out for plastic-free dish-washing brushes with plant-based bristles and compostable brush heads. They work just as well, and they’re not a curse on future generations.

this photo illustrates the need for zero waste for beginners

Zero waste for beginners starts with reducing plastic waste.

2. Pass on Plastic. And we’re not just talking plastic straws, although, yes, definitely say no to plastic straws. According to the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, the average American family takes home 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year! Worldwide, consumers use an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags. Egads! And the vast majority of these bags will never be recycled, so there’s that to be depressed about. But the remedy is simple and quite practical: Switch to reusable grocery bags for your shopping, including washable, reusable mesh bags for your produce, and purchase a refillable water bottle. For storing food, use glass and stainless-steel containers instead of plastic. (More about that later.)

3. Reuse Those Ziploc Bags. You say you’ve already got a pantry full of plastic baggies, and you’re so embarrassed? It’s OK. You can at least reuse them rather than toss them in the trash. Simply fill a used bag with warm, soapy water, clean it out and hang it up to dry. It’s not ideal, but at least you’re getting multiple uses out of a single-use plastic product.

4. Quit Wasting Food. Yes, people are starving in Africa, like your mom always told you. So quit throwing away perfectly good food! You can start by cooking and eating only what you and your family need, including produce with a limited shelf life. Stick to your shopping list at the grocery store and avoid impulse purchases on food you might never actually eat. Compost everything you can, including coffee grounds, fruits and veggies that have gone bad, eggshells and tea bags. If you can’t compost it yourself, freeze it and take it a local farmers market or to a friend who has a garden.

5. Buy in Bulk. Why buy a dozen tiny boxes of raisins (wrapped together in plastic) if you can buy them in bulk and cut back on packaging that needs to be thrown out? Check out your supermarket’s bulk bins for everything from pasta and rice to nuts, flour and dried fruit. Some stores will even let you bring in your own container. And if your store doesn’t have bulk bins, talk to the manager or owner.

this photo illustrates the availability of reusable food containers

Crystal Dreisbach and her team at GreenToGo in Durham, North Carolina, offer a reusable food container service for area restaurants and customers.

6. Invest in a lunchbox. Restaurants tempt us with the convenience of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads with plastic forks and spoons, but disposable lunches generate 100 pounds of trash per person each year. Wrap that ham-on-rye in a cloth sandwich bag and bring your own lunch in a reusable lunchbox instead. Bring your own non-plastic cutlery, too. And if you’re still craving that Caesar salad from your local eatery, talk to the manager/owner and urge them to invest in reusable carryout containers.

Related: This reusable food container service makes it easier for restaurants to kick the Styrofoam habit.

7. Cut Out the Fast Food! Cook at home as much as you can. Fast food means all kinds of wasteful wrapping and containers, from tiny little ketchup packets to beverage cups and burger wrappers. And you know fast food is bad for you anyway. So your belly and thighs will thank you, and Mother Nature will thank you.

Glass jars can be reused for both practical and decorative purposes.

8. Don’t Throw Out Glass Jars. Save them for re-use; as long as you’re not fumble-fingered and prone to dropping them, they’ll last forever. You can use them for food storage (including packing your own lunch for work or school), as cookie/candy jars, or to store non-food items like toothbrushes, pens or spare change. You can also use the smaller ones as water glasses!

9. Speaking of Toothbrushes…Most of us go through several plastic toothbrushes a year. Trade that cheapo toothbrush for one made of bamboo—it might cost a little more, but you’ll get your money’s worth and a lot more.

10. Go Vintage Va-Va-Voom. So you always want to look your best, but you know that “fast fashion” is soooo 2018? Many zero-wasters now buy only second-hand and vintage clothing. You can always find a second-hand clothing store in your area, and some of them are actually social enterprises that serve a good cause while making money. Additionally, many retailers, both online and maybe in your hometown, specialize in sustainable fashion, and a lot of their stuff is pretty amazing. Otherwise, at least buy new clothing made from materials—such as cotton, cashmere, wool and silk—that will naturally decompose.

Related: From Kalkota to Manhattan, Brown Boy leads a sustainable fashion revolution.

11. Do You Really Need That Book? Here’s another tip for sustainability that you might not have thought about. No offense to all you bookworms, but you don’t have to buy every book you want to read. There is still such a thing as a public library, and they still let you borrow books for free. If you’re taking a course, try to find a digital version of the textbook.

12. Look for Eco-Friendly Cosmetics. You can look gorgeous and still protect the environment. There are some zero-waste cosmetic brands on the market, and their number is, thankfully, growing. But in the meantime, remove your makeup with reusable cotton pads instead of disposable makeup wipes. The pads can be thrown in the wash with the rest of your laundry.

this photo illustrates how plastic shampoo bottles can be replaced by shampoo bars in your zero-waste efforts

Based in Canada, EarthSuds is a zero-waste-friendly company that aims to eliminate the 5.7 billion plastic toiletry bottles used by hotels in Canada and the U.S. every year.

13. Switch to Shampoo and Conditioner Bars. They look like bars of soap, but they work like any shampoo or conditioner. Just get the bar wet in the shower, rub it in your wet hair, and it will produce a great lather. And now you can say so long to those big plastic bottles. And while we’re on the subject, quit buying those fru-fru plastic bottles of hand soap! No mas, no mas! They don’t clean any better than regular soap bars, and they’re just one more plastic problem for future generations to deal with.

Related: This student entrepreneur has developed shampoo tablets that could replace single-use plastic bottles used by hotels

14. Discover the Wonders of Baking Soda. You might never actually bake with it, but that’s OK because baking soda has a myriad of other uses that align perfectly with a zero-waste lifestyle. You can use it as toothpaste, detergent for your laundry and kitchen utensils, even as a deodorant.

15. Turn Old Clothes into Cleaning Rags. Old worn-out T-shirts, towels, work shirts—even your underwear—can be repurposed as cleaning rags, especially those made of natural fibers. Cut your worn-out shirts into squares or strips or turn them into handkerchiefs. These old rags even make great baby wipes—just cut them into 5”x5” squares and use them to wipe your toddler’s spaghetti-splattered face (or your husband’s, as the case may be).

5 Examples of Earned Revenue Strategies for Nonprofits

By Katie Russell, Content Strategist, Charity Charge

Traditionally, the idea of charging money (for almost anything) at a nonprofit has been a point of contention. In addition to serving communities and fighting for important causes, this is one of the core elements differentiating for-profits and nonprofits. Nonprofit = not in the pursuit of revenue. 

If you’re in the nonprofit world today, you know this is changing and that the term “earned revenue” is picking up steam in the NGO world. As today’s consumers and donors are evolving, so must nonprofits. The time has come for CFOs and Development Directors to search for ways to generate sustainable, dependable revenue and go beyond large galas and year-end fundraising pushes. Today I’m going to dive into some of my favorite earned revenue strategies and initiatives!

1: College Forward

College Forward is an Austin-based nonprofit

Photo via: College Forward

College Forward is an Austin-based nonprofit that coaches underserved, motivated students to achieve the benefits of higher education and a college degree. They do this not only through programs but through their own technology platform, CoPilot. This technology platform is a cloud-based student information system built on the Salesforce.com platform, which they sell to partner organizations. From academic info, financial aid, and crucial student data, this earned revenue initiative brings cutting-edge technology to schools and organizations focused on helping kids get into and succeed in college. The Copilot Program now has over 40 partners (or customers) who’ve purchased the product and helped over 300,000 kids. 

The Copilot Program is an excellent example of taking something you already use, realizing its worth, and selling it to spread impact and bring wealth back into your organization.

2: Old Skool Cafe


Photo via: Old School Cafe

The Old Skool Cafe is a nonprofit based out of San Francisco, CA, founded with the goal of serving at-risk youth. On the front end, it’s an upscale comfort food restaurant with live entertainment, but on the back end, it is much more. Behind the scenes, youth in the community are getting industry training and real work experience at Old Skool Cafe. The nonprofit teaches and trains kids and young adults from the ages of 16-22 to run all forms of the restaurant business, from hosting to serving, cooking, and even performing. In addition to support from donors and community partners, the money generated from the restaurant venue is a substantial revenue stream for the nonprofit. 

To me, what is so incredible about this earned revenue initiative is how intertwined it is with the work. Old Skool’s earned revenue initiative ties the business and mission together so tightly that, arguably, one wouldn’t exist without the other! 

3: Emancipet

Emancipet Nonprofit

Photo via: Emancipet

Emancipet is a nonprofit working to provide veterinarian care to all dog owners in Houston, Austin, Philadelphia and more. Their self-supporting earned revenue stream comes from their discounted spay and neuter services. According to their website, Emanicapet generates more than $12 million a year—which gives them enough money to offer free spay and neuter services to 60 percent of clients. This revenue structure has enabled them to spay or neuter over 350,000 dogs and cats since their formation in 1999.

The thing that stands out to me about this structure is leadership’s acknowledgment and faith in their expertise. An earned revenue model like this enables you to charge those who can afford their services while providing it free to those who can’t. 

4: Welcoming America

Welcoming America

Photo via: Welcoming America

With locations nationwide, Welcoming America’s Business Line is one of the most diverse revenue streams I’ve seen yet. As an organization, Welcoming America is on a mission to lead a movement of inclusion in communities and foster the belief that all people, including immigrants, are vital to society’s success. This mission led them to establish a huge network of partners in over 500 communities, and their earned revenue models simply leverage access to this network. They’ve got several sources of revenue, including direct mail marketing, sponsored content, customized trainings, sponsor certifications, and access to their business council. All of these simply enable businesses to connect and engage in immigrant inclusion. 

What I find so great about their approach is their replication of a classic for-profit sector strategy, leveraging your connections to bring in income. This practice is commonly seen with people selling access to their database through targeted emails or sponsored content. 

Welcoming America knows their strength is connecting people of all backgrounds, and now they’re helping businesses bridge that gap (for a fee). What is your nonprofit’s strength that businesses might pay for? 

5: Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune is a nonprofit media outlet

Photo via: Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune is a nonprofit media outlet in Texas focused on engaging Texans on public policy, government, and state-wide issues. While they are largely supported by donors and corporate sponsors, they’ve established several other revenue streams to support the expansion of their media outlets. 

Similar to some of the other revenue streams we’ve discussed above, Texas Tribune charges for their expertise in political reporting, through a subscription to their newsletter. But they’ve also branched out beyond this by creating and renting out their space for events and creating their own festival.

Texas Tribune is a great example of an NGO expanding and growing with today’s culture. To ensure success, media outlets now have to go far beyond just newspapers and online journals in order to truly engage with their members. How could you actively engage your donors or supporters further and make a profit from it?

If you’re a nonprofit leader, building a scalable earned revenue stream is something to look into. This can provide stability and freedom to expand your nonprofit.

If all this sounds a little daunting, here’s a small step you can take: look into a nonprofit credit card. You can start bringing in cash-back and benefits with every purchase your organization makes!

This post, 5 Examples of Nonprofit Earned Revenue Strategies, appeared first on Charity Charge.

Katie Russell is the Demand Generation Manager at The SAFE Alliance, Content Strategist at Charity Charge, and a freelance marketing consultant. Katie is an innovative problem solver. Whether it’s campaign management, event planning, digital content strategy, or copywriting, she’s quick to find the right marketing mix. Her social and communications skills have led her to love working directly with clients, media, and creative teams. In her spare time she enjoys volleyball, guitar, hiking, and exploring new restaurants in Austin, TX! To learn more about her work or submit a marketing inquiry, please visit her website.

Furman University Professor Develops Life-Saving Humanitarian Drones

Drones often make the news as weapons of war, terrorism and assassination, but they can save lives, too. Using drones for humanitarian missions is a major goal for Suresh Muthukrishnan, a professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University.

Muthukrishnan is also the director of the GIS and Remote Sensing Center. He studies geospatial technologies—including geographic information systems (GIS), satellite images and drones—to learn how they can be used to address social issues. He spoke about drone technology’s potential to meet global challenges at the Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship/i4Series networking event on Oct. 1.

As a Fulbright U.S. Scholar from 2017 to 2018 in Malawi, Africa, Muthukrishnan worked on bringing drones and GIS together to identify hotspots for cholera outbreaks. Malawi also has a humanitarian drone testing corridor, which is exploring how drone technologies can benefit the public.

this photo shows a humanitarian drone in action at Furman University

A drone hovers during the Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship/i4Series networking event on October 1 at Paladin Stadium.

Muthukrishnan is currently partnering with UNICEF and Virginia Tech to design and implement the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi. The goal of the academy is to teach local students and professionals to build low-cost humanitarian drones and train them with data analysis skills to use the drones for a variety of applications that assist the government and local communities.

In January 2018, a drone designed at Virginia Tech and built by Malawian students passed a key test—a simulated drug delivery flight over a distance of 19 kilometers. According to a blog penned by Dr. Michael Scheibenrief for UNICEF, scientists and engineers involved in the test hope to use drones for delivery of emergency medical supplies, vaccines and sample deliveries for diagnosis.

The research conducted at the drone testing corridor can also help boost the Malawian economy, according to Scheibenrief. “Global companies that participate … will also be required to spend time training and working with local students, engineers and entrepreneurs and sharing the skills and opportunities that this emerging industry provides,” he wrote. “This skill-sharing will ensure that not only are technologies tested in Malawi, but that those tests develop a workforce that can pilot, service and utilize this technology in the future.”

During his Oct. 1 presentation at Furman, Muthukrishnan encouraged local business leaders and drone enthusiasts to use their expertise and drone licenses to make a positive social impact. According to a Furman University press release, he outlined several global priorities in drone services and business opportunities:

  • Using drones for global health and supply-chain management, such as supplying medicine, vaccines, blood samples for testing or blood for transfusions from urban centers and labs to remote villages that lack proper transportation or medical analytical facilities.
  • Employing drones for emergency response, disaster response and disaster recovery to reach areas that are totally disconnected from the rest of the world due to damaged transportation networks. Drones can help carry out on-demand surveys and locate people who need help, provide critical supplies for stranded people, and help map the terrain in 3D for logistics teams to use.
  • Creating a drone ecosystem that integrates teaching, training, local capacity building, applications and sustainability. This will create a professional network of companies, donors, non-governmental organizations, communities, workers and government entities making best use of the technologies available and enhancing business opportunities.

This story was adapted from the original article by Katherine Boda on the Furman University website.

Sullivan Foundation Announces Study Abroad in Scotland Program for Summer 2020

Renowned for its ancient castles, murky lochs and windswept moors, Scotland is also a buzzing hive of social entrepreneurship—and a natural destination for the Sullivan Foundation’s next study-abroad program, taking place June 4-July 4, 2020, in historic Edinburgh.

Applications for the Study Abroad in Scotland program must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2020. Selected candidates will be notified on Feb. 7, and a $500 deposit is due by Feb. 15.

The program is a partnership between the Sullivan Foundation and Philadelphia-based Arcadia University. Participating students will earn six academic credits that can be applied to their home universities.

this photo illustrates the stunning beauty of Scotland

Participants in the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland program will enjoy tours of the country and view breathtaking sites, including the Vennel in Edinburgh. (photo from instagram.com/themodernleper

Students will have the opportunity to meet and learn from successful European social entrepreneurs through field trips across the country, perfect their leadership skills and develop unique initiatives that will strengthen the social ventures they encounter throughout the month.

They will also explore concepts critical to driving social impact and innovation, including:

  • Leadership in practice
  • Effective community engagement and assessment
  • Principles of social entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Storytelling and communicating for change

Two courses will be offered during the program:

Course 1: Leadership by Design—This course provides a basic introduction to leadership, focusing on the practice of leadership and what it means to be a good leader. Students will also learn how to execute technical and conceptual skills in changing organizational, community, political, social and global settings.

Course 2: Social Change in Action—In this course, students will learn about the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation and begin to develop their own capacities to innovate and implement impactful, sustainable and scalable solutions to social problems. Additionally, each student will develop an original blueprint for social innovation and change while working with local partners and enterprises. Participants also will learn how to use storytelling and communications techniques for presenting their plans to key stakeholders.

Students will live in co-ed shared flats at the University of Edinburgh during the month-long program. Classes will be held from 9 a.m.-12 noon Mondays through Thursdays.

To learn more about the Study Abroad in Scotland program or to apply, click here.