Five For Friday: Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Corporate Social Responsibility.” “Creating Shared Value.” “Triple Bottom Line.” While these terms vary slightly in meaning, they all describe philosophies of market-based business aiming to be… good. Good to people, good to the planet, good to their shareholders. The goal of this article is to introduce you to some examples of social entrepreneurship, and demonstrate why it’s important, geographically speaking.
 
First though, I would caution everybody that we have to think critically about companies that claim interest in the common good. Philanthropy and token environmentalism (greenwashing) are constantly being exaggerated by companies that want the added social value of being seen as “green” and “socially responsible.” The best educators in this department have been the Yes Men, a group of social satirists who expose corporate hypocrisy by imitating companies. One hilarious example is this presentation about recycling human waste into McDonald’s hamburgers (great video for mature kids and adults who aren’t currently eating a meal).
 
Our first two examples are about real initiatives to recycle human waste. Unlike the Yes Men’s satire, these programs present real solutions to social and environmental problems. I grew up with composting toilets and outhouses, so for me it’s normal to talk about human waste. But, if it grosses you out too much, go ahead and skip to number three.
 
1.   Sub-Saharan Africa: In Kumasi, Ghana, Ashley Murray and her company Waste Enterprisers turn wastewater treatment ponds into fish farms. The waste is full of nutrients, so the fish don’t need any additional food. They filter the water and grow bigger until employees harvest them to sell in local fish markets. Murray’s company is currently piloting many more ideas of how to re-use waste. Right now, it relies on grants, but it’s not a non-profit. Someday, it hopes to be not only self-sufficient, but also profitable.
 

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Peru On My Mind

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A Quechua woman weaves near Cusco, Peru. Photo: Aubrey Ryan
In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Peru a lot. In a partnership with the Peruvian Embassy, National Geographic is hosting an exhibition to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Hiram Bingham expedition that rediscovered Macchu Pichu. The exhibition features original photographs that popularized the Inca among American readers. The free photo exhibition, housed at the National Geographic headquarters in D.C., started In June and runs until September 11th. You can see the photographs on the Nat Geo website, and also learn more about the expedition here
But I have a personal connection to Peru as well. In the early 1990s, my family took a vacation to Peru for 6 weeks. Two small wars simmered at the time–a border dispute with Ecuador, and a civil war between Alberto Fujimori’s regime and the Shining Path guerrillas based in Ayacucho. These conflicts were largely hidden from our eyes, and if my 6-year-old senses picked up any tension, it was only for a few fleeting moments. 
What I really remember are packed busses,  bottle caps of Peruvian sodas, and haggling with taxicab drivers. Even today a sip of Inca Kola–the yellow, bubble-gum flavored soda–brings me back the busy streets of Lima: White-gloved policemen direct traffic across hills of grey cobblestone. Three-wheeled taxis bump along in a mosaic of blue, white, and rust. Little boys sit on black wooden boxes, waiting to shine shoes. Similarly, any photograph of a piranha reminds me of the Quistococha zoo, near Iquitos in the Amazon, where I first watched the creature’s beady red eyes through the glass of a fish tank. 

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Inca Trail Runner

Subscribe to this blog’s feed I’m compelled to share this video for a few reasons: 1) its direct relevance to geography, 2) perhaps relatedly—its capacity to evoke fond memories of a former National Geographic education coworker (and, incidentally, housemate) 3) its application to emergent web 2.0 technologies, and 4) its value as an entertainment and inspirational piece. 1. The video is one in a series … Continue reading Inca Trail Runner