Edible Bowls and Plates Could Take a Bite out of Plastic Waste

When the bowl tastes as good as the Cap’n Crunch (or the soup, salad or fruit) it contains, the world has moved one step closer to reducing plastic waste. And a startup in South Africa has made that a real possibility.

Munch Bowls, founded in 2014 by artist/entrepreneur Georgina de Kock, offers edible, biodegradable, single-use bowls and saucers made from wheat. The bowls have a shelf life of 15 months or longer and can hold any foods, including hot soups, for more than five hours, the company’s website states.

Related: This bioplastics entrepreneur is helping save the world from plastic waste.

According to CNN, the edible bowls were originally made by hand but can now be mass-produced. “I was looking around and just noticing all the rubble that is created by us humans, and it really started irritating me,” de Kock told CNN. “Whatever you can put on a plate, you can put in the bowl. It’s the perfect size to hold in your hand.”

this photo shows a young woman eating food from an edible bowl

Edible bowls and plates from companies like Munch Bowls could help reduce single-use plastic waste created by restaurants that offer carryout foods.

Munch Bowls sells its edible bowls to hotels and companies in the hospitality industry in South Africa, Belgium, Singapore and Dubai. They sell at a wholesale price of 33 cents apiece, which is a little more expensive than plastic food containers, but, unlike the latter, the dinnerware can be eaten as part of the meal.

The Burn-In reports that de Kock recently took on a new partner and hopes to open six new production lines in 2020. Other items to be offered include coffee cups, spoons and in-flight meal containers.

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

Munch Bowls isn’t the first company to provide edible dinnerware. Polish entrepreneur Jerzy Wysocki, founder of Biotrem, invented a process to manufacture edible plates, bowls and cutlery out of wheat bran more than 15 years ago. Biotrem now makes about 15 million edible, biobased plates each year, along with cutlery made from fully biodegradable PLA bioplastic and wheat bran. In an interview with Phys.org earlier this year, Wysocki said edible dinnerware can also be made out of corn, barley, oats, cassava and algae.

Biotrem has even gotten a boost in exposure from the new Netflix series, “The Witcher.” According to Biotrem’s Instagram page, the series, which is filmed in Poland, has featured the company’s edible plates and bowls in scenes that depict the series’ “witcher schools.”

Meanwhile, Phys.org reports that researchers at Gdansk University of Technology has developed edible cutlery made with potato starch. One of those researchers, Professor Helena Janik, noted that these forks, spoons and knives can be safely eaten by sea creatures as well. “We are the only ones so far to have tested the biodegradability of our products on living aquatic organisms, and it looks like this cutlery is safe for the environment,” she said.

The demand for edible plates and bowls should rise dramatically when the European Union’s ban on plastic plates and cutlery goes into effect in 2021. And as production ramps up to meet the growing demand, pricing is expected to come down.

Forget Willy Wonka: ChocoSol Traders Is a Different Kind of Chocolate Factory

ChocoSol Traders isn’t your run-of-the-mill chocolate factory, and founder Michael Sacco is no Willy Wonka. But he does offer life lessons about living harmoniously with the environment through chocolate—except that it’s not your typical chocolate either.

Located in Toronto, ChocoSol Traders is a social enterprise that challenges the sweet tooth with bars made of artisanal dark chocolate that’s roasted, winnowed and stone-ground in-house. ChocoSol’s low-sugar chocolate bars and beverages feature sustainably grown and ethically sourced cacao as well as coffee, vanilla, coconut and other products from indigenous communities in southern Mexico’s Lacondon Jungle and Oaxacan mountains, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guatemala.

“We are dedicated to offering a socially just, ecological and dignified alternative to the conventional approach to trade, food production and sharing,” according to the company’s mission statement. “This means an ongoing, reflective practice of working in partnership, collaboration and cooperation with growers and communities in the Americas.”

According to The Star, ChocoSol Traders chocolates “might seem unchocolatey to many—a healthful, spiritual, dark and bitter-tasting food and drink hailing from Mexico Profundo, the ancient Indigenous Mayan culture of Mexico.”

this photo depicts one of the ChocosSol Traders bikes used to transport and grind chocolate

ChocoSol Traders uses bicycles both to transport its display products to farmers markets and to grind its artisanal chocolate made from ethically sourced ingredients.

Sold online and in farmers markets around Toronto, ChocoSol’s products are, in fact, marketed as foods rather than candy. And in keeping with the company’s environmentally friendly mission, its “chocolistas” use bicycles to grind their chocolate and to power the blenders that mix their chocolate drinks.

As world music website Uma Nota reports, Sacco came up with the idea for ChocoSol Traders while installing a solar concentrator in an indigenous village in southern Mexico. There, a village elder and medicine woman introduced him to her traditional handmade chocolate and locally grown cacao beans. “Upon tasting this ancient form of rustic chocolate with its strong flavors and medicinal bitter kick, Michael, like most northerners, had his expectations blown out of the water, expecting the chocolate to be smooth like a Hershey bar,” said ChocoSol Traders co-owner Mathieu McFadden. “But what he did was scrape the surface of an ancient, beautiful and sacred tradition.”

Before relocating to Toronto, Sacco launched his own chocolate business in Mexico, selling his products in farmers markets around the region. He started out grinding the chocolate by hand but later switched to bicycle-powered grinders. “Bicycles are one of the few human-scale tools that are present and can be repaired everywhere on the planet,” McFadden told Uma Nota. “ChocoSol works with artisanal scale tools as opposed to machines, which displace the workers and disconnect them from the process.”

this photo shows a child learning how to use a ChocoSol Traders bike.

A young visitor learns how to grind ChocoSol Traders chocolate with a bicycle.

Uma Nota describes ChocoSol Traders as “a model in social enterprise and in fusing traditional food production approaches with modern applications. They still work directly with various indigenous farmers who specialize in Mayan forest garden techniques, which means organic agriculture drawing on ancient varieties of fruit trees, edible plants and sustainable goods like cacao, coffee, vanilla and cinnamon, which can be traded with ChocoSol and neighboring communities.”

But is the rest of the world ready for healthy chocolate that tastes nothing like your classic Dove bar? Apparently so. ChocoSol’s Jaguar Pure bar, featuring 75 percent albino cacao from the ancient forest gardens of Mexico, won a gold and bronze medal in the International Chocolate Awards Americas Competition last summer, while its Swirl and Crunch bars claimed the bronze.

IKEA Says Goodbye to Single-Use Plastics on Jan. 1, 2020

Single-use plastic will be a relic of the past for IKEA by Jan. 1, 2020, as part of a pledge the home furnishings giant made more than two years ago.

The Swedish retailer vowed in June 2018 to eliminate single-use plastics from its line of home furnishings and from its restaurants, cafes and bistros worldwide by the start of 2020. It also pledged that all plastics used in its home furnishings will be based on renewable or recycled materials by 2030. It’s all part of the company’s sustainability strategy, dubbed People and Planet Positive.

In addition to getting rid of all single-use plastic by 2020, IKEA has also pledged to use only plastics made from recyclable and renewable materials in its home furnishings by 2030.

“We need to make … all of our disposables better for both people and the planet,” the company said in a video that introduced its more sustainable and disposable food containers. These products are “much more in tune with Mother Nature,” including carryout food containers made out of paper from sustainably managed forests and cane sugar.

Related: This bioplastics entrepreneur is saving the world from plastic waste.

Plastic forks, spoons and knives will be made from responsibly sourced wood, while plastic straws will be replaced by sustainable straws featuring paper from sustainably managed forests.

IKEA will also stop selling single-use plastic and plastic-coated products such as straws, plates, cups, freezer bags and garbage bags. Additionally, according to CNN, IKEA is aiming to purchase 100% renewable energy by 2020 and to make offer zero-emission home delivery by 2025. The company has invested $2 billion in renewable-energy projects that will include 416 wind turbines. And as of 2018, it had already installed about 750,000 solar panels on IKEA buildings.

As the BBC reported, IKEA also plans to offer more non-meat meals and snacks in its restaurants.

“Through our size and reach, we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than 1 billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet,” Torbjorn Loof, the CEO of Inter IKEA Group, said. “We are committed to taking the lead, working together with everyone—from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners.”

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


“Dream Like a Kid”: The Inspiring Story Behind Me & The Bees Lemonade

Nearly every kid gets stung by a bee at some point, but for Mikaila Ulmer, founder of Austin, Texas-based Me & the Bees Lemonade, it was a life-changing experience.

Mikaila was four years old when a bee delivered that first fateful sting, followed by another bee and another sting later that same week. The experiences scared her, as she explains on her website, but also piqued her interest in honeybees. Fascinated, she set out to learn more about the insects and their importance to the world’s ecosystem. At the same time, the entrepreneurial-minded child was mulling over ideas for a business competition for an upcoming Acton Children’s Business Fair and Austin Lemonade Day.

this photo shows how young Mikaila Ulmer was when she founded Me & the Bees Lemonade

Mikaila Ulmer was four years old when she started the lemonade stand that would lead to her social enterprise, Me & the Bees Lemonade.

Mikaila’s plan began to come together when her great-grandmother sent her family an old cookbook with a recipe for flaxseed lemonade. Blown away by the flavor, Mikaila set up a lemonade stand in front of her family’s home, with a rather modest goal in mind: “The first time I sold it,” she told CNBC in 2017, “I thought, ‘This is only going to be a one-time thing. I am going to do it once, get the money, donate some and then save some and then use the rest to buy this awesome toy that I wanted.’”

Related: Scottish social enterprise leads World’s Big Sleep Out to raise funds for the homeless

Now bit by the business bug, though, she was back in action six months later, making and selling more lemonade. Then, when she was seven, a local pizzeria began offering the beverage to its customers.

here we see the founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade when she was a little older

Mikaila hit upon the idea for her tasty Me & the Bees lemonade after trying out a recipe from her great-grandmother.

“That’s how Me & the Bees Lemonade was born,” Mikaila explains on her website. “It comes from my Great Granny Helen’s flaxseed recipe and my new love for bees. So that’s why we sweeten it with local honey. And today my little idea continues to grow.”

A dedicated social entrepreneur, Mikaila has sold Me & the Bees Lemonade and given speeches at youth entrepreneurial events around the country. Ten percent of her profits goes to local and international organizations, such as the Healthy Hive Foundation, that are working to save the world’s dwindling honeybee populations.

Related: Social enterprise trains blind women to detect early signs of breast cancer

Me & the Bees Lemonade products come in five flavors: Original Mint, Ginger, Iced Tea, Prickly Pear and Classic. They contain no high-fructose corn syrup, just natural sweeteners like honey, cane sugar and monk fruit.

As of July 2018, Mikaila’s beverages were available in 500 stores nationwide, according to the BBC, with sales of 360,000 bottles a year.

Whole Foods Market started carrying the Me & the Bees Lemonade brand in 2015. “Mikaila and her company caught our attention on a number of fronts,” Whole Food Market’s Jenna Gelgand told the BBC. “She had a unique product that tasted great, along with a strong passionate founder and social mission. We were immediately impressed with Mikaila as a young entrepreneur and with her vision to create awareness around the importance of pollinators.”

this photo shows Mikaila Ulmer with her Me & the Bees Lemonade bottles on supermarket shelves

Mikaila Ulmer’s lemonades can now be found in hundreds of stores around the country.

And make no mistake: Mikaila is a lot more than a cute face on a bottle. She has co-managed the mission-driven business from its inception, along with her parents, both of whom have degrees in business. “We’re considered co-CEOs because I make decisions that my parents wouldn’t make and my parents make decisions that I wouldn’t make,” she told the BBC. “Also, I am young … I know I don’t know everything, and so I am definitely going to take their advice and opinions into consideration.”

Related: This 12-year-old social entrepreneur uses bowties to help shelter animals get adopted

Mikaila’s profile rose dramatically when she appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2015, where she persuaded Daymond John of FUBU to invest $60,000. According to CNBC, the exposure sent her sales soaring by 231 percent in the next year. Meanwhile, President Obama invited her to the White House, and a consortium of former and current NFL football players kicked in for $800,000 two years later.

One of those players was former Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. “We look for companies that match our main focus of developing a good product but [that] are also good people and do it for the right reasons,” Foster told the Houston Chronicle in 2017. “It’s more than about money to us. We believe that investing in small black businesses is extremely important.”

this photo shows the kid-friendly appeal of the brand

Smart branding with a dose of cuteness has helped Me & the Bees Lemonade grow to more than 20 states.

“[Mikaila] is super smart,” Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin, another investor, said in the Chronicle interview. “She’s very special. Obviously, she has a bright future. Hopefully, I can be a part of it and nourish it and watch her grow. The sky is the limit. I’m very impressed with her.”

In a CNBC interview, Mikaila advised other aspiring entrepreneurs to focus on a business idea that they’re genuinely passionate about and that helps “solve a problem in the world that needs to be solved.”

“Dream big, and not only dream big, but also dream like a kid,” she added. “When a kid has a dream and they want it to come true, they will do whatever it takes to do so. They don’t see the obstacles in the way—they will just fight hard to make it come true. Sometimes you have to get into that mindset and dream like a kid.”

Related: Grade schoolers’ social enterprise turns a profit in 10 weeks

Study: How Restaurants Can Help Reduce Food Waste

Restaurants can help reduce food waste in landfills by offering compostable plates, cups and utensils, according to a new study by Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit zero-waste organization.

“Restaurants play a critical role in reducing and recovering food scraps, and composting is one of the fastest, most cost-effective solutions for reducing carbon pollution and reducing waste,” said Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle’s policy and research director and one of the study’s authors along with Dale Ekart.

Offering compostable serviceware would make it easier for restaurant customers to help reduce food waste by composting their scraps and sorting it into the right bins, the study found. It noted that restaurants are recovering some food waste, but far too much still gets thrown out.

Related: This social enterprise makes it easier for restaurants to reduce plastic waste and Styrofoam

“Less than 15% of restaurant food waste is collected for composting, and these efforts have primarily focused on collecting food scraps from the kitchen,” the study said. “However, on average, diners leave 17% of their meal uneaten, and more than half of these potential leftovers are not taken home. This means there is a large, untapped potential to recover food waste generated by diners through front-of-house composting programs that collect food scraps from customers.”

One of the keys to composting success, the study found, is for restaurants to simplify their serviceware by using durable plates, glasses and utensils or using all compostable serviceware. Nationwide, 85% of customers say they are willing to sort their waste after eating out if bins are provided.

However, for recycling and composting to succeed, the sorting has to be done properly. The study found that consumers struggled with how to sort materials when there were several different types of food serviceware. By contrast, those restaurants that used one primary type of serviceware — either durable, reusable plates and utensils or a fully compostable system — had higher rates of success. The result: more of what composters love (food scraps) and less of what composters hate (materials like non-compostable plastic that contaminates the compost).

Related: This bioplastics entrepreneur is helping save the world from plastic waste.

The quick-service restaurant with all compostable food serviceware performed well — meaning they captured most of their food scraps with very little contamination — as did the quick-service restaurant using all durable food serviceware, suggesting both of these approaches can be used successfully to capture food scraps for composting, the study found.

“This report is the first of its kind to demonstrate this can be done well and is worth doing,” Bailey said. “Food establishments are capable of very high diversion rates, making them a key partner in moving toward Zero Waste, reducing our carbon emissions and building healthy soils through composting.”

Shepherd Hotel to Employ Adults With Intellectual Disabilities from Clemson LIFE Program in 2021

The Shepherd Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Clemson, South Carolina, will hire special-needs adults for more than half of its positions when it opens in 2021, according to the Greenville News.

Developers of the five-story, 65-room Shepherd Hotel have partnered with ClemsonLIFE, a program for students with intellectual disabilities at Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University. ClemsonLIFE students will fill 60 percent of the hotel’s jobs. A group of ClemsonLIFE students took part in the hotel’s ceremonial groundbreaking on November 14. Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s head football coach and a longtime supporter of ClemsonLIFE, spoke in a panel discussion at the event. “Football is important, but we want to prepare [players] for life after football,” Swinney said. “It’s the exact same responsibility with ClemsonLIFE.”

Related: Winthrop University to collaborate on Miracle Park for South Carolinians of all abilities.

Rick Hayduk, one of the Shepherd Hotel investors, has worked in and managed hotels for 30-plus years. His youngest daughter, Jamison, wants to work in the business, too. While her father hoped she’d eventually join him in the managerial ranks, Jamison, who has Down syndrome, would prefer a job in the housekeeping department. “She loves to clean,” Hayduk told the Greenville News last year. “She’s an organizer, a planner. As much as I would like her to be the general manager one day, she aspires to be the cleaner.”

this photo shows the beauty of the Shepherd Hotel

This rendering shows what the Shepherd Hotel will look like when it opens in 2021.

Finding jobs is seldom easy for people with special needs. Only a little more than 19 percent of people with disabilities are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s compared to almost 66 percent of Americans without disabilities.

ClemsonLIFE has figured out how to beat those daunting odds. Nearly 100 percent of its graduates currently have jobs, the Greenville Times says. The organization partners with 31 local businesses as well as a number of departments within the university to provide internships and jobs for ClemsonLIFE’s 40 students.

The Shepherd Hotel will likely employ between 25 and 30 ClemsonLIFE students. “The opportunity to partner with a hotel opens up so many doors for us,” said Dr. Joe Ryan, ClemsonLIFE’s director.

Swinney is famously close to a young man with Down syndrome: David Saville, the Tigers’ equipment manager. Swinney applauded the Shepherd Hotel developers for investing in the differently abled community. “When you come to this hotel, you’re going to feel what makes Clemson special, and that’s the spirit of Clemson,” he said at Thursday’s event. “And no one represents the spirit of Clemson better than these ClemsonLIFE students.”

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.

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.

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.

Social Enterprise Trains Blind Women to Detect Early Signs of Cancer

An innovative social enterprise in Germany uses visually impaired women to detect early signs of cancer through their enhanced sense of touch. Founded by gynecologist Frank Hoffman, Discovering Hands provides jobs for blind and visually impaired people and helps them turn their disability into a marketable skill that also saves lives.

Hoffman’s team trains Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs) to carry out physical breast examinations for early detection of tumors. According to the company’s website, MTEs can “feel about 30 percent more tissue changes than doctors,” identifying tiny tumors and improving breast cancer patients’ survival rates substantially.

“Blind and partially sighted women have a special gift: a superior sense of touch,” the website states. After a nine-month training program, these MTEs “use their outstanding abilities to discover even very small changes in the breast tissue at an early stage.” The MTEs do not take the place of physicians and don’t diagnose directly; rather, they assist the doctors by lending their enhanced tactile sensitivity to the examination process.

this photo shows a medical tactile examiner learning to use braille strips to identify spots where tumors are found

Medical tactile examiners often work with braille strips to help pinpoint the location of breast cancer tumors.

According to the Global Journal, one study found that these examiners (also called Clinical Breast Examiners) “have an approximately 50 percent better rate of overall detection than doctors and an improvement of approximately 30 percent when it comes to [detecting] smaller tissue alterations in the breast.”

Use of the technique has expanded to health centers in Colombia and Mexico. In a May 2019 story, The Guardian reported on an MTE, Francia Papamija, who conducts breast examinations at the La Rivera health clinic in Cali, Columbia. Papamija started progressively losing her vision as a child due to a detached retina. Now she conducts about 10 breast examinations a day at La Rivera. “Using her fingertips, Papamija explores a woman’s breasts, underarms and neck during a 45-minute examination,” the article explains. “She is guided by five adhesive strips marked in Braille, so wherever she finds a lump she can report to the doctor its exact location. No centimeter will be ignored.” Papamija passes her findings on to the doctor, who arranges more tests.

“They [the MTEs] have this gift in their fingers,” Dr. Luis Alberto Olave, who runs the program at La Rivera, told The Guardian. “If they are trained, their disability can become a talent, a strength, and can be used for helping other people. Nodules are the first cancer symptom. The faster we find them, the faster we will have an impact on the projection of the illness, and that may mean saving lives.”

this photo shows the training process for a medical tactile examiner

A tactile examination performed by a highly trained blind or visually impaired person can better detect possible tumors.

The technique is especially useful in Colombia. The county has a lower breast cancer rate than many developed countries, “but we have a huge disadvantage,” Olave said. “We are failing on early detection.”

Leidy Garcia, a visually impaired MTE at another Cali clinic, has examined more than 2,500 patients, according to The Guardian. After the trauma of losing her sight, her job as an MTE has been empowering, she said. “This job gives me huge self-confidence,” she said. “Now I feel free, independent and useful. I can contribute to the community.”

“For people with disabilities, it’s so hard to find a job because of bias and boundaries inside companies, so this is a great opportunity based on our talent,” she added. “It’s also a good way to change the mindset of society, which usually patronizes blind people, thinking we are not able to do many things.”