Opportunities Hidden in Plain View

August 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Baby Eco Trends @ 9:11 am

There is no shortage of gloomy economic news & tear jerking accounts of personal financial turmoil.  These stories have to be told, but occasionally hearing an upbeat story can be refreshing and inspiring.  Accounts of people finding ways to counter the effects of an economic downturn may be in short supply but they are out there.

Some people have started businesses directly in response to the foreclosure crisis, some have started money making projects in an attempt to learn about money basics, others found ways to recover from hurricane Katrina & some are working at home doing jobs that would otherwise be outsourced overseas.  These stories feature creative money making ventures (big & small) but they also serve as a reminder that there are non conventional answers to common problems.

The story of the Cornbread Millionaire had us cheering Beverly Davis on in her attempt to repurchase her foreclosed house.  Earlier this year her house went into foreclosure & she decided to raise money to buy it back at an auction.  She took her grandmother’s cornbread recipe & made a business out of it, one that will hopefully put her back in her home.  I can’t think of a better reason to start a business.

Mike Lane wanted his daughters Megan & Emma, 10 & 12 respectively, to learn the value of money & the basics of money management.  So the two girls decided to rent out their 106sf tree house for a few months during the summer to seasonal employees working in and around California’s Sequoia National Forest.  Check out their story at Marketplace Money and see the slide show of their tree house.  Who says money doesn’t grow on trees?

Before hurricane Katrina, Jerome Boykin had plans to go to graduate school but the storm changed all that.  One night after the storm, his father took him to a mall parking lot & showed him a sweeper truck and asked if he would be interested in a lot sweeping business.  With no previous experience, Jerome learned to operated the sweeper truck & is now running a successful business that has provided jobs and helped numerous businesses in 8 parishes in Southeastern Louisiana.  No telling how many people drove past that same parking lot & sweeper truck without seeing what Jerome and his father saw.

Although not a new small business, there are some customer service call centers that are bringing jobs back to the US.  Calls that were for many years answered overseas are increasingly being taken by Americans working from home.  This new arrangement is good for businesses that are seeing the costs of operating overseas skyrocketing.  It’s also good for Americans that due to illness or family responsibilities prefer to work from home.  One of the best known companies offering such “home sourcing” opportunities is Alpine Access & there are an estimated 60,000 Americans taking customer service calls at home.

One of this country’s greatest strengths is the abundance of opportunities available to all of us to create our own success stories. We are surrounded by exciting possibilities waiting to be recognized.

Vote With Every Bite

August 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Baby Eco Trends @ 2:14 pm

The latest food recall got us thinking about the frequency of food recalls.  This time it’s 220 million eggs, but we all remember recent recalls on tons of ground beef, chicken products, spinach, pre-mixed salads, peanut butter, pet foods….  But did you know that food recalls occur far more often than what makes it to the evening news?

Did you know that just in this year there have been recalls on canned meatball products, canned soups, frozen chicken nugget products, canned tuna, popular breakfast cereals, potato chips, salami, granola bars, chocolate products, dried dates, tortillas, as well as at least 177 products containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) because of “potential salmonella exposure”.  HVP is a flavor enhancer & found in many processed food products and it’s not always easy to find it on the ingredients label.

Since the 1970’s, the number of inspectors & therefore inspections has decreased drastically while the production & importation have increased.  The Centers for Disease Control records 76 million cases of food borne illness per year!  It seems fair to say that our food safety system is broken & in need of serious repair.

While we as individuals may not be able to repair our food safety systems, we can (and do every day, even if we don’t realize it) send a message to food manufacturers & suppliers.  Every dollar we spend sends the market a message, a “vote” if you will.  When making purchasing decisions, it’s important to vote for the right products because manufacturers pay attention to our buying habits & position themselves to best compete for our dollars/votes.

With family farms disappearing at an alarming rate (Farm Aid reports that 330 farmers leave their lands every week), we have inadvertently sent the message that we want more factory farming, where the bottom line is the principal consideration.  Factory farms are highly subsidized & negatively impact our health, the health of our environment as well as the economic health of our communities.  They pollute our waters and create “dead zones” like the one in the Gulf of Mexico which measures 8,543 square miles – the size of New Jersey.  The agribusiness nutrient rich runoff depletes the oxygen in the water & robs sea life of its spawning grounds.

Fortunately, the popularity of farmer’s markets & eating locally grown foods is growing and an increasing number of consumers are voting for organically grown foods.  As more Americans become aware of the benefits of eating responsibly, we can take control of our communities and support our neighbors.  If the Black Sea (formerly the largest dead zone in the world) can be used as a case study, we know we can reverse the effects of agribusiness in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you have enough space & time, growing your own garden can be a very rewarding exercise.  Children love to help in the garden & it’s a great way to teach them about growing cycles and the importance of living in harmony with our surroundings.  Some communities allow chicken coups in residential areas and New York city is a great example of roof top farming & bee keeping. If your child’s school doesn’t already have a vegetable or herb garden, you may consider suggesting it and helping create this unique learning opportunity.

We are lucky to live in a city that has a farmer’s market during our growing season as well as a year round open air market in a neighboring city that makes eating locally/organically & seasonally a bit easier.  We have also seen the opening of a handful of restaurants that feature local/organic or raw foods.  There is also a Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA) in our county.  To find farmer’s markets, organic farmers, local beekeepers, healthy restaurants & CSA’s in your area, visit these sites for more information:

Local Harvest
The Ethicurean
Food Routes
Heritage Turkey Foundation
Sustainable Table
Backyard Beekeeping
Bee Culture
You Grow Girl
America The Beautiful Fund’s Operation Green Plant
Seed Savers Exchange
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

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