Will and Jaden Smith Partner With Footwear Brand to Save the Amazon Rainforest

A new collaboration between footwear brand Allbirds and Jaden Smith’s JUST Water isn’t just for kicks—the proceeds will go to help protect the endangered Amazon rainforests.

The two social enterprises have joined forces to design new limited-edition sneakers inspired by JUST’s infused water flavors. The result: stylish new designs for Allbirds’ Tree Topper high-top sneakers and Tree Runner sneakers. The sneakers feature JUST’s signature aqua blue in various elements of the shoe, such as the laces, eyelets and soles.

Allbirds and JUST are both committed to sustainability and creating products out of natural materials. JUST’s responsibly sourced spring water comes in plant-based cartons, while Allbirds makes its sneakers with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees. The latter also manufactures its SweetFoam soles using Brazilian sugar cane.

this shows jaden smith in action

Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith, is an activist and social entrepreneur.

The two companies have said they will donate 100 percent of the sneakers’ proceeds to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance Amazon Forest Fund. DiCaprio is also an Allbirds investor.

“There is only one Mother Earth, and it’s on us to protect her,” Will Smith, JUST cofounder and Jaden Smith’s father, told People.com in early September. Referring to the wildfires that have ravaged the Amazon rainforests, Smith noted, “We source JUST sugarcane caps from Brazil, so this hits especially close to home. Collaborating with businesses who are creating innovative, sustainable solutions are the key to our future, and it’s important that we support these brands who give back more than they take.”

Scientists describe the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest, as “the planet’s lungs” because it produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen. Preserving the Amazon rainforest is key to combating climate change.

this photo illustrates the attractiveness of the shoes

Allbirds’ shoes are made with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees.

Allbirds and JUST are both certified B corporations. A certified B corporation is a for-profit corporation that has been certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that measures a company’s social and environmental performance against the rigorous standards in the online B Impact Assessment. B Lap uses a triple bottom line framework in assessing B corporations. Triple bottom line refers to a company’s standard of social, environmental and corporate responsibility—that is, the corporation not only turns a profit but it also provides benefits to society and the environment.

“We are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our team, customers, suppliers, community and the environment,” Allbirds stated in a Facebook post last month. “We’ve been a B corp since the beginning, and we are proud to be a part of the global movement of people using business as a force for good.”

This 12-Year-Old Social Entrepreneur Uses Bowties to Help Shelter Animals Get Adopted

Puppies are cute, but a puppy in a bowtie? That’s irresistible, and no one understands that better than 12-year-old Darius Brown, founder of Beaux and Paws in Newark, New Jersey.

According to Points of Light, the young entrepreneur hit upon the idea for his social enterprise in 2017, as he watched TV coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the devastation they wrought in Texas and Florida. Among the victims were countless dogs, cats and other animals left homeless and in dire need of adoption. As overcrowded shelters struggled to find new forever homes for the animals—and were forced to consider euthanasia—Darius turned to his trusty sewing machine for the solution. He started making handcrafted bowties specifically for shelter animals to make them more appealing in the adoption process.

this picture shows the cuteness of a dog in a bowtie

A dapper bowtie can make a homeless pet more appealing to potential adoptive families.

“My hope was that I would help the animals get noticed and be fashionable so that I could help them get adopted faster and find their safe, loving forever homes,” Darius told Points of Light.

Darius has since sewn hundreds of bowties for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens awaiting adoption in shelters—and the national media has taken notice of his hard work. He was featured on NBC’s Today Show in July. He has also appeared on CNN, the Rachael Ray Show and ABC World News Now as well as in People Magazine and the New York Post, among other media accolades.

Not many kids his age even know how to work a sewing machine, much less design and create stylish accoutrements. For Darius, learning to sew was a necessity. When he was two years old, he was diagnosed with speech delay, comprehension delay and fine motor skills delay. With help from his mother and older sister, Dazhai, he improved his fine motor skills by sewing and, over time, overcame the issues with comprehension and speech as well.

illustrates the appeal of a cat wearing a bowtie

This shelter cat got a fashion makeover from bowtie designer Darius Brown.

It helped that Dazhai was attending cosmetology school at the time and learning how to make hair ribbons for girls. “With his fine motor skills, (Darius) wasn’t able to really use his hands very well—tying a shoe was challenging,” Dazhai told Today. “My mother and I came up with the idea that if he helped us with things like prepping the ribbon or cutting it and sewing fabric together, it would help him. And it did. It worked!”

“I just feel like all this was God’s will,” his mother, Joy Brown, told Points of Light. “Him learning how to sew and his hands making the bowties, it developed his coordination, and it’s like there’s no problem, like nothing was ever wrong.”

Darius also started wearing the dapper bowties himself out in public, prompting people on the street to ask where they could buy them. He founded Beaux and Paws in 2017 and offers bowties for sale to people and their pets. Profits from those sales help him purchase materials to make more bowties for shelters, and he also donates a portion of every sale to the ASPCA. Meanwhile, his ongoing GoFundMe campaign, “Sir Darius’ PAW-some Mission,” started with a goal of $10,000 and has raised more than $19,000 so far, with donations still pouring in. Darius uses the money to visit other states and volunteer at shelters and adoption centers while outfitting homeless animals in snazzy bowties everywhere he goes.

Darius’ Instagram account has more than 52,000 followers, while his company’s Facebook page has 4,400 followers. He even received a letter from President Obama in 2018 commending him for “lifting up the lives of those around you.”

His next goal: He’d like to own a dog of his own, but pets aren’t allowed in the building where he lives. Over the long term, he wants to attend Stanford University and become a business attorney while continuing as a fashion innovator. “I want to have my own clothing line, such as blazers, vests, bowties, shirts, everything,” Darius told Points of Light. “I hope that I can expand my business into an empire.”

this photo illustrates why bowties make dogs cuter

Grade-Schoolers’ Social Enterprise Turns a Profit in 10 Weeks

A group of pint-sized social entrepreneurs in Brainerd, Minnesota, launched a sporting-goods business that turned a profit in just 10 weeks, with a local nonprofit reaping the benefit.

The kids, age 9-12, participated in a Junior Achievement program at the Brainerd Family YMCA. The 10-week program was modified to focus on social entrepreneurship, letting the kids launch a business that would fill a need or solve a problem in their community.

The result was Sports 4 Life, which rounded up new or gently used sporting equipment that had been outgrown by local kids and resold the items, reports the Brainerd Dispatch.

According to Shane Riffle, CEO of the YMCA, the kids decided to use any profit from the business to support a new sports-related community nonprofit called Instant Replay. “Their goal is to get sporting equipment into the hands of kids who can’t afford it, particularly kids just starting out in the sport,” Riffle told the Dispatch.

this photo shows excitement of the Sports 4 Life kids

Two members of the Sports 4 Life social entrepreneurship team show off the company’s first earned dollar.

To launch the social venture, the young entrepreneurs took out a loan from the Brainerd Economic Development Corp. Sports 4 Life was open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, in front of the YMCA. “They set up a tent and tables every day, so they had to figure out the logistics of actually taking the donations, storing them and setting up a storefront. They also did a lot of hands-on marketing out on the (street) corners and radio ads and a couple of newspaper ads as well,” Riffle said in the Dispatch interview.

As word spread, a local PBS station even ran a story on the company. “We wanted it to be just like a real business – there’s always the potential that it could fail, but we wanted them to experience the whole range of what it would go through,” Riffle told Lakeland PBS.

By the end of the 10-week period, the children had cleared a whopping $873.53 after paying off the startup loan and other expenses. “That’s more than a lot of our high school companies make, so you guys really did a fantastic job,” Amy Gray, a Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest manager, told the kids.

“To the best of my knowledge, nobody else in the country is doing this program with this age group of kids, so it’s been really fun, and it’s been a great partnership with the YMCA,” Gray told Lakeland PBS.


Ignite Retreat Speaker Leads Charge to Reduce Plastic Waste in Durham, N.C.

A speaker at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Fall Ignite Retreat is leading the charge to cut back on single-use plastic bags in Durham, North Carolina, and some city leaders are responding positively.

Crystal Dreisbach, the executive director of Don’t Waste Durham, convinced members of Durham’s Environmental Affairs Board to support her proposed city ordinance to reduce waste by charging shoppers 10 cents apiece for most single-use bags. The ordinance would apply to both plastic and paper bags. Instead, shoppers would be encouraged to bring their own (preferably reusable) bags. Some consumers would be exempt from the fee, including those who receive SNAP or WIC benefits.

Members of the Environmental Affairs Board voted unanimously to support to the ordinance, according to media reports. There are more hoops to jump, however, before the proposal makes it to the City Council for a final vote.

A post on Don’t Waste Durham’s Facebook page hailed the Environmental Affairs Board vote as “a small but significant victory for Planet Earth … There is still much work to be done, but this draft legislation has now passed through the first checkpoint on its journey to becoming a law.

A separate comment on the post noted that the organization has been working toward this goal for seven-and-a-half years.

NCPolicyWatch.com notes that the fee would be charged at the point of purchase in grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores and delivery services. Stores would also be allowed to sell or give away reusable bags. Pharmacies would be exempt, along with hospitals and food banks, and plastic bags for carrying fruits and vegetables would not be covered by the ordinance.

Crystal Dreisbach is also the founder of Green To-Go, a social enterprise that helps reduce waste in restaurant takeout food.

Starting August 1, the state of Connecticut now places a tax of 10 cents apiece on single-use plastic bags. A full ban on plastic bags will go into effect in July 2021. According to the Hartford Courant, the bag tax will raise an estimated $30.2 million in the current fiscal year and $26.8 million in 2020-21.

Boulder, Colorado, has a 10-cent fee for plastic and paper bags, with store owners keeping four cents and six cents going to the city, NC Policy Watch reports. Portland and South Portland, Maine, charge five cents per bag, and so does Washington, D.C.

A number of states have banned single-use plastics entirely, as National Geographic reports. Vermont has a new law going into effect in July 2020 that prohibits retailers and restaurants from handing out single-use carryout bags, plastic cups and stirrers, and food containers made from expanded polystyrene. Hawaii, California, Maine and New York have all banned disposable plastic bags.

Additionally, at least 95 bills related to plastic bags have been introduced at the state level in 2019. Most would ban the bags or place some kind of fee on them. However, some are aimed at preventing local governments from enacting any kind of bag-related ordinances on their own.

Dreisbach will speak about her organization’s efforts to reduce plastic waste at the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall Ignite Retreat, to be held October 18-20 in Asheville, N.C. She’s also the social entrepreneur behind Green To-Go, a reusable takeout food container service in Durham that helps reduce waste related to restaurants.

This Houston Organization Aims to Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Disadvantaged Youths

Keeping more young people in school will keep them out of prison and on track for better job opportunities, and that’s the goal of Eight Million Stories, launched by Marvin Pierre in Houston.

Eight Million Stories is an alternative education program that helps young ex-offenders re-enter society, complete their GEDs and find jobs. The four-month program, which serves youths age 16 to 18, is designed “to help students build meaningful relationships in their community, access a wide range of social services, develop critical life and job skills, complete their education (GED), and secure meaningful employment,” Pierre said in a Q&A for the TNTP blog.

A longtime educator who has also worked in the investment banking industry, Pierre developed Eight Million Stories while he was a TNTP Bridge Fellow. The program is voluntary, and students must opt in and first commit to a two-week onboarding session.

According to the organization’s website, students spend half of their time taking GED classes and preparing for the GED Test. About 40 percent of their time is spent in job training programs offered through YouthBuild Texas. Here, they take occupational skills classes and can earn a stipend working for local businesses. They can also work toward earning one of four credentials: the NCCER Core Credential; the Multi-Craft Core Credential; the Customer Service and Sales Credential; and the Office Essentials Credential.

They also participate in enrichment programming to develop their leadership skills and learn by performing community service.

Eight Million Stories founder Marvin Pierre (right) with a program participant

“We believe that there are a lot of commonalities in terms of why kids end up in the juvenile justice system, whether it’s broken homes or lack of support in the school system or other factors,” Pierre told TNTP. “If you interview every kid in the system, you’ll find there’s a common thread. That’s what we’re trying to undo. If we attack those commonalities, then we can aggressively work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The program can also help young people escape poverty and reduce the country’s prison population. Above all, it gives them a chance to redefine themselves. “For young people involved in the juvenile justice system, society has written their stories for them,” Pierre noted. “We want our students to learn from their past mistakes and be in a position to rewrite their own stories.”

Frisky Felines and Job Training Make Calico Cat Café the Purrfect Social Enterprise

They have cute names like Biscuits, Gravy and Bugsy, but the frisky felines at the Calico Cat Café aren’t just part of the scenery—they’re one of several elements that make this Zillah, Washington eatery a “purrfect” social-enterprise concept.

Scheduled to open in late August, Calico Cat Café will provide job training and employment for individuals with autism and other disabilities while also helping find forever homes for rescue cats. A project of Community SEEDS (Support, Education, Empowerment, Disability Solutions), a nonprofit that serves families with adult children who have disabilities, it’s a pilot project of the SEEDS Center’s social enterprise campus, which is the first of its kind in Washington state.

The Calico Cat Cafe is also a restaurant concept guaranteed to get media attention and attract cat-loving customers. While they wait on their burgers, sandwiches, soups and sweet treats, guests can sit back and watch the rescue cats frolic and tussle in indoor and outdoor areas separated by glass walls from the dining room. They can also donate to the cause for an opportunity to play with the cats in an indoor lounge outfitted with cat books, toys and a shaded “catio.”

Once the restaurant opens, customers will have the chance to adopt the kitties that capture their hearts.

At the same time, SEEDS Center clients get training in foodservice and culinary management in the cafe. Elsewhere on the SEEDS Center’s three-acre campus, they can also learn about event management, horticulture and pet services. According to the Yakima Herald, eight of the Calico Cat Café’s 13 current employees have disabilities.

Community Seeds launched the SEEDS Center with $75,000 from Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services about a year ago. The organization also had to raise $50,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the Calico Cat Café segment of the campus.


“Discover Your Power”: Once Homeless, Caterer Stephanie Terry Now Creates Living-Wage Jobs for the Disenfranchised

Stephanie Terry once saw herself as a failure – divorced, homeless, separated by trying circumstances from her extended family.

But whatever was missing from her life, she wasn’t lacking in talent, faith and determination. Now, as owner of a catering company that provides living-wage jobs for people who ordinarily can’t find employment at all, Terry is a successful social entrepreneur who helps others achieve the kind of success that, to her, once seemed so elusive.

Terry, co-owner of Sweeties Southern and Vegan Catering in Durham, N.C., grew up in a family that loved soul food but also knew its drawbacks. Her great-grandmother, nicknamed Sweetie, developed recipes that captured the flavorful essence of soul food without all the salt, pork and fat. “The women in my family were very conscious of the need for healthy food,” Terry writes on her company’s website. “I just could not let go of the vision of honoring our food traditions while integrating healthy, vegan and vegetarian alternatives. I started Sweeties to do just that, taking my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother’s commitment and awareness to the next level.”

Still, success in the foodservice business didn’t come easily. She had worked as a baker and chef in a number of foodservice operations in Tampa, including the famous Wrights Bakery. But in 2001, after her divorce from her first husband, Terry and her four kids found themselves in a poorly run homeless shelter in Tampa.

“I know what it feels like to feel like a failure, just being a failure,” Terry said in a video interview with the Alla Faccia blog. (Note that her maiden name is Perry, but she has remarried since this video was created.) “My divorce felt like a failure … and I could not take care of my kids financially, and I became homeless. It was really hard.”

Fortunately, cooking wasn’t her only talent – she also had a knack for sales and impressive people skills. She was still living in the shelter when she landed a job as a sales coordinator for Marriott Hotels. She was so good at it that, after a bleak year of homelessness, she scraped up enough in savings to rent her own small place and eventually was able to bring her family back to her home state of North Carolina.

There, she became a volunteer for Justice United, which advocates for living wages for hotel workers, and was soon hired as a paid organizer. In 2009, she moved on to Organizing Against Racism (OAR), where she helped coordinate workshops for activists, students and scholars. As an activist herself, she even met with then-president George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush to call attention to the often abysmal conditions in homeless shelters.

But things really took off when a caterer backed out of an OAR workshop at the last minute. Terry stepped in and did the job herself, and her food – not to mention her organizational skills – were such a hit that her services were soon in demand around the area.

Before long, Terry had launched Sweeties, serving up delicious soul-food dishes that include both meat and vegan options. As an L3C company, Sweeties makes a profit while also fulfilling a social mission, providing jobs for people with disabilities or criminal records. And it has earned extensive media coverage for its menu that includes everything from red beans and rice and mac and cheese to vegan fried chicken and vegan barbecue ribs.

“Everywhere I go, I tell people this: Vegan is the hottest trend in soul food,” she told IndyWeekly in an interview about her company.

She also makes sure to tell people that no dream is impossible – even when you feel like an utter failure.

“If I was talking to a child right now … I’ve achieved my dream, my visions, my goals, [so] I always say the one thing you must discover is your power,” Terry told Alla Faccia. “Along the way, with lots of help from wonderful people, I learned what power really is and how to be powerful. Believing in what you’re thinking, putting faith into whatever it is you’re dreaming about, and then acting from that place [of faith] will create whatever experience, anything you want.”

Jaden Smith Dispatches Food Truck to Serve Vegan Meals to L.A.’s Homeless

After creating a social enterprise called Just Water with his famous dad, actor/rapper Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, made a splash this week on the streets of L.A. with a pop-up restaurant that fed the homeless.

The food truck, called the I Love You Restaurant, served vegan meals in ready-made packages. The Hollywood Reporter said the packages contained bowls of carrots and kale. Smith said in an Instagram post that the truck’s appearance “is the first of many.”

“The @ILoveYouRestaurant Is A Movement That Is All About Giving People What They Deserve, Healthy, Vegan Food For Free,” Smith posted on his Instagram account.

According to USA Today, homelessness has increased by 16 percent in Los Angeles over the past year.


The food truck isn’t Smith’s first good deed for underserved communities. Just Water, the eco-conscious bottled-water company he founded with Will Smith, uses packaging created from almost entirely renewable resources, including sugar cane-derived “plastic.” Smith’s passion for environmentalism was sparked when he was 10 years old and found himself surfing in ocean water littered with plastic bottles, the Chicago Tribune has reported. When he later learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, he was determined to do something about it.

To help with the clean-water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Just Water collaborated with First Trinity Baptist Church to provide a mobile water filtration system earlier this year. Called the Water Box, the system filters out lead and other contaminants in water. It can produce up to 10 gallons of drinking water per minute. Residents were able to fill containers of their choice with the clean water, which was available at the church.

Social Venture Fund Invests in Second Location of Popular Deaf-Owned Pizzeria

The deaf couple behind Mozzeria, a celebrated San Francisco pizza restaurant that employs only people who are deaf, will open a second operation next year in Washington, D.C. with help from a venture fund that supports startups addressing social needs.

The new Mozzeria location will sit just seven blocks from the first deaf-run Starbucks signing store, which also provides jobs for the deaf and hard of hearing. Also nearby is Gallaudet University, a renowned school for the deaf and hard of hearing, where Mozzeria owners Melody and Russ Stein met.

The Steins opened the first Mozzeria in December 2011. The San Francisco location also operates two food trucks. When it came time to expand to a new market, the Steins secured an investment of “several million dollars” from the Communication Service for the Deaf Social Venture Fund (CSDSVF). The CSDSVF, according to its website, was created “to invest in deaf-owned businesses that will in turn reap more than financial profit.” Social enterprise businesses that receive the venture fund’s support make money while creating positive social change and providing employment for underserved populations like the deaf.

In April Mozzeria hosted a group of children from the California School for the Deaf/Fremont.

“It’s been a longtime dream to see a deaf-owned restaurant in Washington, D.C.,” Russ Stein signed in a joint interview with the Washington Post recently.

Diners at Mozzeria place their orders in sign language or by pointing or writing with pen and paper. Both of the Steins are accomplished pizzaioli. For Melody Stein in particular, success as a restaurateur feels especially sweet because she was rejected years ago when she applied to the California Culinary Academy. “[The Academy] called my mom and said we can’t accept her application because she’s deaf,” Stein, 45, signed to The Washington Post. “What if they were in the kitchen trying to yell, ‘Out of the way!’ with hot soup? They viewed me as a liability.”

People with impaired hearing often encounter such obstacles. As the Post reports, there are roughly 30 million Americans with severe hearing loss in both ears. Only 48 percent of deaf people have jobs, compared to 72 percent of the hearing population, at least in part because many employers subscribe to inaccurate stereotypes about deaf people.

“That’s why Mozzeria is so important,” Christopher Soukup, CEO of CSDSVF, told the Post. “The more we can put those success stories out there, brick by brick we can combat that perception.”

The Meatball Pizza at Mozzeria

Costa Rica Moves Closer to Plastic-Free and Carbon-Free Goals

It’s only about the size of West Virginia, but Costa Rica has become a big player in efforts to protect the global environment. The Central American country—known for its lush rainforests, cloud forests and tropical dry forests—is already a worldwide leader in renewable resources. Its next big goal: to be the first plastic-free and carbon-free nation by 2021.

Since 2014, Costa Rica has been deriving its energy from 99 percent renewable sources and has run on 100 percent renewable energy for over two months twice in the last two years, according to Intelligent Living. In June 2017, the nation of less than 5 million people set the goal of eradicating single-use plastic by 2021 and in the summer of 2018, it announced plans to become completely carbon-neutral by 2021.

Carlos Alvarado, Costa Rica’s president, announced the goals in April of this year. Outdoor Journal reports that Costa Rica has “one of the lowest ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to electrical consumption on the planet,” but adds, “The biggest challenge in the way of fully decarbonizing by 2021 is to eliminate fossil fuels from the transportation sector,” which “remains largely petrol-dependent.”

Although many consider Alvarado’s plan too ambitious, Costa Rica has made huge strides in other environmental efforts, such as doubling its forest density from 26 percent in 1984 to 52 percent in 2019. That could make going carbon-free a little easier, the Outdoor Journal says. “One goal of carbon neutrality aims to offset the use of coal, oil and gasoline combustion by a corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere, such as reforestation.”

Photo by Nick Dietrich

But Alvarado and Costa Rica’s political leaders will also have to “dramatically initiate policies to promote the use of renewables in transportation, both in public and private sectors, such as offering tax incentives for its private corporations and citizens to purchase electric vehicles.”

Going plastic-free will be another big challenge. As of 2018, Costa Rica was Central America’s largest plastic importer, and much of it ends up polluting the country’s rivers, lakes and beaches. “Transforming Costa Rica into a plastic-free zone is a national strategy that will rely on voluntary action across national industries as well as at the community level,” the Outdoor Journal points out. While public institutions and agencies can be required to stop buying single-use plastic, individual consumers will have to do so voluntarily.

“The country will also need alternative biodegradable products, incentives to comply with policies, and punishments for bad actors,” the publication adds.

Costa Rica isn’t alone in its determination to get rid of single-use plastic. Ten single-use plastic items will be banned in Ireland by 2021. These include plastic straws, plates and cutlery, cotton buds, balloon sticks and cigarette filters, according to the Irish Mirror. “There is a growing sense of urgency in European society to do whatever it takes to stop plastic pollution in our oceans,” said First Vice President Frans Timmermans of the European Parliament. “The new rules … will help us to protect the health of our people and safeguard our natural environment while promoting more sustainable production and consumption.”

A joint statement from several Costa Rican officials in 2017 showed equal resolve. “Single-use plastics are a problem not only for Costa Rica but also for the whole world,” read the statement from Environment and Energy Minister Edgar Gutierrez, Health Minister Maria Esther Anchia and UNDP Costa Rica Resident Representative Alice Shackelford. “It is estimated that if the current consumption pattern continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish—measured by weight. For this reason, we began our journey to turn Costa Rica into a single-use plastic-free zone. It’s a win-win for all: Costa Rica, the people and the planet.”