Jordan Brewster_1's blog

3 Earth Day Resolutions for 2016

Just as January 1st provides an excuse to examine yourself and make a few New Year’s resolutions, Earth Day on April 22 provides the perfect time to check in with your greenness and decide where to make some changes.  We’re assuming you recycle and maybe even compost; you might have even gone energy-efficient in your light bulbs, appliances and car. That's great! But as usual, there’s almost always more you could do.  Cheer up, though! We created a three-point plan for you.

1. Learn and Take Action

Last fall, the New York Times began compiling this resource addressing that vastly huge, enormously confusing topic: Climate Change. The piece proves that despite its daunting dimensions, all that information can actually be broken down into bite-sized pieces. In fact, you can read it in one sitting.

Of course, educating yourself is only the first step. Each of us has to start making some of the changes the article suggests: take fewer airplane trips or consume less (or no) meat. We also have to believe that we’re making a difference-- for better and for worse. To address the latter, Earth Day Network offers a footprint quiz that takes about 10 minutes to complete and tells you in cold, hard numbers how many global acres are supporting your lifestyle on this planet, as well as how many Planet Earths would be needed if everyone lived the way you do.

2. Localize your life

You know the phrase: think globally, act locally. Start with your shopping habits. Support your local farmer’s market. If you don’t have one, check whether your nearest supermarket offers produce that’s been sourced closer to home, as Safeway started doing several years back and as Whole Foods has been doing for even longer. If your store doesn’t offer that, ask the manager why not.

Even if you don't feel like you can stop climate change, as a Net Impact member, you know you can make a local impact. You can do shoreline cleanups and park beautification projects one Saturday a month. If you have more energy to commit to a cause, research the needs central to your community. Food banks, homeless shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centers, refugee-transition networks-- the opportunities are vast. One of them is just waiting to hear from you.

3. Hold yourself and others accountable

Vote. And not just every four years; midterm elections are arguably more important than the more publicized presidential ones. Just look at history to see that big federal changes have often trickled up from state-level politics. You can attend a city council meeting or tune in to the local broadcast. Speak to your representatives directly through social media, email, or an online contact form and let them know what’s important to you. It might just change history.

Heed the advice of the NY Times article that we told you to read earlier and tell 50 people about all of this. Start a conversation about what you all will do to make a difference. Go a step further: tell us here in the comments section what your plan is to be a better Earthling. Because as the late Jim Rohn said: “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.” But you do love trees, right? So do something to save them and to save us and to save the future of all living things.

Net Impact employees volunteering at a beautification project in San Francisco
Net Impact employees volunteering at a beautification project in San Francisco

Liz Maw talks career advice, values and #NI16

This week, Net Impact CEO, Liz Maw spoke with Angela Copeland on her Copeland Coaching Podcast.  Angela was a founding member of both the Pepperdine University Graduate Net Impact Chapter and Memphis's Professional Net Impact Chapter and is currently a career coach.

You can listen to their conversation over on Angela's website.

If you have questions for Liz, you can reach out to her via twitter at @LizMaw.

Liz Maw with some of Net Impact's 2015 Diversity Scholars
Liz Maw with some of Net Impact's 2015 Diversity Scholars

What's your plan for Earth Day?

Last year, we asked you to think about Earth Day every day. Over the coming two weeks, we will continue that conversation by suggesting ways that both you and your company can make a difference-- not just on April 22 but on all 365 (or 366) days of the year. 

But first, what are you doing for #EarthDay2016? It will be the 46th Annual Earth Day since the event was founded in 1970 and the theme this year is #Trees4Earth. Earth Day Network set a worldwide goal to plant 7.8 billion trees over the next four years; yet with a current tally of about 3 million trees planted in 32 countries, a lot of work remains to be done. One quick way to make a difference is to donate directly to their Canopy Project. If you prefer the sweat equity method, however, gather some friends and start digging! 

If planting trees isn't your thing, that’s okay. The map below has loads of other options for events happening around the world during #EarthWeek. We've pulled a few favorites to highlight, including our own in-house upcycling challenge, so you really have no excuse but to act.

Fishackathon 2016

The UN is using the all-night, hyper-caffeinated, code-frenzy hackathon formula to solve issues surrounding the refugee crisis and, in similar fashion, the U.S State Department will soon host its third hackathon in hopes of revolutionizing the fishing industry. Originally launched in 2014 through Sec. John Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference, this year’s event is taking place over Earth Day weekend, April 22-24. The goal is to find innovative ways to collect and analyze data, as well as find solutions for unsustainable fishing practices. In 43 cities across the world, volunteers will #codeforfish for three straight days as they try to hack problems presented by international fish industry experts; however anyone anywhere with an internet connection can opt into the virtual participation mode. Each host site will select a winning team and an expert panel of judges will pick a global winner to be announced on World Oceans Day on June 8, 2016.

You can view last year’s Fishackathon submissions here, including the two winners-- one for the Grand Prize and the other for the People’s Choice Award. Or even better: register for the event yourself!

The big, green apple

If you’re in or around NYC, go to one (or all) of these conferences at the New School’s series of Earth Week programming. Starting Monday at 9am, they’ll be talking about green jobs, sustainability, environmental and social justice, and urban resiliency. They’ll be grieving what’s happening to our planet and promising solidarity to stop it from getting worse. It’s going to be informative, life-changing and it’s going to be free! 

Solving all the world’s problems in two days

If you’re in or around DC, go to Planet Forward's Summit on Sustainable Cities, a two-day conference that will discuss, then tackle, issues surrounding the sustainability of our cities. Community leaders, journalists, members of academia, students and entrepreneurs will come together to look at problems, discuss obstacles to solving those problems and ultimately, figure out ways to get around those obstacles and make big changes for the future. It’s free! Just make sure you register on the website. 

One man’s trash…

Did you hear about the Net Impact Earth Day Challenge? We’re calling on all chapters to compete against Team Net Impact Central in the upcycling arena. Take those old cans, corks, coffee cups and wire whisks, and turn them into something beautiful or useful, or both! We’ve given you a few ideas on our Pinterest board. Email your submissions (in photo and/or video format) to, and if you post anything to your own Pinterest page, make sure to tag it with #earthdayNI. Winners will be crowned Earth Day Challenge Champions, and we’ll brag about you across all of our social media channels, too, of course.

Start your own event!

You’ve almost reached the end of this post. If you still haven’t seen anything to sign up to do on April 22, maybe you should just start your own event. No, really; it’s not too late to organize a tree-planting committee in your neighborhood or a trash-collecting team on a nearby shoreline. The Earth Day Network created this online toolkit to make it pretty easy to plan something. Once you have the details arranged, you can register with them and they’ll give you a pin on the map at the top of this page! Because let’s be honest: you know you’ve always wanted to be world famous.

So go on. Do it! Do something! And tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Happy Earth Day!
Happy Earth Day!

The Power of Business to Nourish Lives

My South African students giggle as I walk by the sleeping student. I gently touch the student’s arm until he slowly lifts his frail frame, struggles to open his eyes, and gradually falls back asleep. My student, whose parents work sugar cane fields, is starving.

For years, I had purchased inexpensive sugar to make my favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. My South African students taught me the implications of my sugar purchasing decisions. We are inextricably connected. I want to help them reach their potential, but they will not come close to their potential if they are trapped in an unjust system that my communities in the US are unintentionally perpetuating. The same South Africans that are food insecure taught me about fulfilling living through their Ubuntu philosophy—I am because we are. We must change unjust food systems that prevent children, such as my students, from living into their potential.

Food will continue to unite—through our common need—and differentiate—through cultural norms. Global food supply chains are a critical issue now and will be, exponentially, in 30 years when 9 billion people seek food to survive and thrive. In sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s next bread basket, outside businesses, governments, and non-profits invest at a rapid pace to feed people and reap profits. Over the next 30 years, multi-national businesses will have the most concentrated power to change sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the local people have power. How can farmers, businesses, and consumers partner to create holistic value that leads to fair wages for farmers (potential future consumers), profits for businesses, and nourishment for consumers?

Feeding 9 Billion People by 2050

Thankfully, I had the opportunity to collaborate with 80 students and food industry experts to push the boundaries of our current food system to achieve the vision of feeding 9 billion people, facilitated by Net Impact and CollaborateUp on February 26 at UC Berkeley. Specifically, at the Nourishing 9 Billion SolutionLab, we answered the question: How might we ensure people can get food at a price they can afford in the face of climate change and water scarcity?

Participants chose teams based on which area they thought had the largest role to play in answering the challenge; key solution drivers were: Business and markets, information science and big data, public policy, food production, and food distribution. In these small groups we followed CollaborateUp’s methodology:

  • Brainstorm: What are the major issues around the above theme?
  • Discover: What have nutrition and food experts been working on in the field?
  • Focus: Which issues should be prioritized?
  • Learn: How can a lean startup approach to social innovations help co-create high-impact partnerships?
  • Innovate: Develop real solutions for a more sustainable future
  • Pitch: Share your ideas with our dynamic group
  • Network & Celebrate: Enjoy a reception with peers

Together, we developed solutions that nourish people from the beginning to the end of global food supply chains. Solutions involved information agents for rural farmers, efficiently ripening produce, connecting consumers to farmers through QPC codes, and local farmer-school cafeteria partnerships. The experts even recommended that one team look into a patent for its idea. Overall, this ½ day SolutionLab manifested in countless ideas and personal connections that will help UC Berkeley’s community contribute towards answering our generation’s challenge of how to feed 9 billion people.

UC Berkeley has a significant role to play in our generation’s challenge. Berkeley is a values-driven business school where people gather to foster new ideas, organizations, and systems. Business is a powerful vehicle through which to drive change; business should create value by uniting people to develop innovative solutions in this interconnected world. Business can nourish lives and deliver profit sustainably by eliminating non-value adding steps and investing in the people, land, and technology creating value. We must unite to foster new, holistic systems that nourish farmers, workers, and consumers.

SolutionLabs are opportunities to work side-by-side with experts in the food industry to generate and discuss new ideas to address the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. The last SolutionLab for the Spring 2016 took place April 1 at Washington University in St. Louis.

The original version of this blog was posted on University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business Blog: Redefining Business.

Students and Industry Leaders come together figure out how to nourish 9 billion by 2050
Students and Industry Leaders come together figure out how to nourish 9 billion by 2050

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Students make a Local Impact with the help of NIx

This year we’re bridging the gap between our annual conference and the many independent events hosted by our chapters.  We’re calling it NIx and providing our chapters with the tools and skills they need to put on bigger and better regional events.  The first NIx, Local Impact NW, took place February 26th and 27th. (Photo credits: Hunter Frerich and Sarah O'Sell)

Local Impact NW

“The millennial generation has been labeled lazy, selfish and glued to technology,” Local Impact NW's website quotes conference coordinator Hannah Bouscher-falseGage. “We have formed Local Impact Northwest to prove those claims wrong and show the world that WE are the generation that’s going to step up and create a better future for the generations to come!”

The two-day event was held at the end of last month on the Western Washington University (WWU) campus in Bellingham, Wash. The collaborative effort between the WWU chapter of Net Impact, the nonprofit Spark Clean Energy WA, and Net Impact Central resulted in students, businesses and other local organizations coming together to learn about and discuss ways to make a difference. 

Networking, Action-Oriented Workshops, and more

As part of this mission, #ItStartsWithUs was the slogan for the weekend. The event kicked off on Friday night with a networking dinner in downtown Bellingham. The following day attendees chose from a variety of panels and workshops, all of which revolved around four central themes: engineering and design; social entrepreneurship and marketing; energy and the environment; and climate and social justice. Leaders in the industry discussed topics such as the water cycle and how to manage your own water footprint; ways that airlines could be more green; rights for farm workers; and how to incorporate the strategies of purpose-driven companies into your own life.

The WWU chapter of Net Impact is only about a year old and so this was the group’s first big event. By all accounts from the team coordinators, it went well.

“It was truly a beautiful thing to see students and community members walk out of a session shining bright with new perspectives and action-inspiring conversations,” said WWU Chapter President Kate Thompson, comparing the effect to her own feeling, after she attended a Net Impact national conference. “I'd do it all again in a heartbeat to share that kind of empowerment."

Added WWU Chapter Vice President Callum Dickerson: “The conference gifted me with the opportunity to share my excitement about sustainability’s existence not only in business development, but as a driver for creating a quality life.”

You, too, could host a NIx conference in your town! Look for more information on the blog next winter, when the application process opens back up.

Local Impact NW attendee asks question

Today is the U.N.'s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Take Part!

On March 21, 1960, Afrikaner police in Sharpeville, South Africa opened fire on a crowd that was peacefully demonstrating against apartheid “pass laws”, killing 69 people. Six years later, the General Assembly of the United Nations established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, thereby calling on the world to “redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.” Another 13 years later and the day-long call to action was expanded into a week of solidarity with people struggling against racism and racial discrimination.


Progress has been made since then, yet the story is far from finished. Look at U.S. History, for example.  In the 1960s, landmark pieces of legislation were passed, meant to eliminate discrimination “in all places of public accommodation”. But you don’t have to look hard to find examples of racism existing in this country today. It’s clear that the problem is deep and pervasive, and that so much is left to do.


On this day which commemorates and reminds us of the goal to end racial discrimination, we wanted to take a moment not just to recognize that we all need to play a bigger role in this effort but also to ask you: do you know the issues being discussed? Below is a glossary of the words and phrases you should know in order to talk about racial discrimination. It is in no way an exhaustive resource but it’s a start to getting everyone on the same page:


  • Racial equity: This term looks forward to a reality in which a person is no more or less likely to experience society’s benefits or burdens just because of the color of their skin. In other words, achieving racial equity means a person of color would no longer be statistically more likely to be incarcerated, unemployed, in a state of poverty, and so on.


  • White privilege: You can’t really talk about the disadvantages that people of color face without also talking about the advantages that come from being white. Net Impact CEO Liz Maw reflected upon this privilege in a post last year using this analogy gleaned from a Racial Equity Institute workshop she’d just attended: imagine you’re joining a game of Monopoly two hours after everyone else began playing. “The icons would be gone; the properties and hotels purchased. It is almost impossible to win.” Now carry that metaphor to real life; add in things like affordable mortgage rates, union support, access to elite universities, and full-time salaried jobs, and you’ve begun to understand white privilege. If you’re white and reading this, however, don’t just crumple and fall to the floor in helpless agony; that doesn’t really help anyone. As Net Impact’s Dwight Smith blogged here last year: “Privilege should not be a constant source of guilt. Rather, it should fuel action against the inequality that it breeds and sustains.”


  • Structural racism: The Aspen Institute defines structural racism as a series of public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other societal norms that basically perpetuate racial inequity. “It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time,” says the institute’s website. Structural racism is a natural segue from discussing white privilege, because while you yourself might be an open-minded individual who would never, ever intentionally discriminate against someone because of their racial background (that is, you’re not explicitly a racist), it doesn’t mean that such a thing isn’t built into all of society. Within structural racism is the category of institutional racism: the ways in which people of color are unfairly treated, from school policies to practices in policing. Studies have been proving this for years, coming up with pages and pages of numbers, such as: black students make up nearly 40 percent of all school expulsions; a black man at a traffic stop is three times more likely to be searched and six times more likely to be sent to jail than a white person; a black person serving time will stay behind bars about 20 percent longer than a white person who committed a similar crime. On and on the statistics go, and so the question is not whether or not structural racism exists; it’s how we’re going to eradicate it.


  • Implicit bias: Also called unconscious bias, the Kirwan Institute defines it as “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” Beyond the issue of race, humans show bias towards one another in the context of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on, and we do so by drawing on our early life experiences, coupled with our exposure to various forms of media, including news coverage. It’s not really a question of who does this, because we all do; it’s a question of where in your life you’ve made some sort of assumption about someone, for better or for worse, based on nothing but the ideas in your head. Don’t believe it? Then take this test.

Source: Phil Roeder / CC BY
Source: Phil Roeder / CC BY

First Bay Area Impact Design event unites regional schools

Two weeks ago, California College of the Arts' Net Impact Chapter had the honor of hosting the our first event as a new chapter, an Impact Design night for the fledgling Bay Area Impact Design (BAID) group.  BAID is a student-led initiative to unite students from schools all over the Bay Area behind Design and Business for Social Impact.  

Collaborative Magic

It was quite a night:  MBA students from the University of San Francisco, Presidio Graduate School, the Hult International School and California College of the Arts represented their respective schools. The event kicked off with introductions and quick reviews of each school's past successful projects, including CCA's own Juabar, which won the CCA Center for Art and Public Life scholarship last year.

The four Bay Area business schools — each with their own specialties, skills and focus —  compared notes, worked through problems, and planned for the future of the BAID group. A short design sprint followed.  Teams made up of students from at least three of the schools united around designing a solution for a Bay Area-specific challenge, like water access or affordable housing, and the needs of a specific community. The teams generated dozens of creative ideas, making sure to focus on the needs of their chosen communities, and brainstorming what their next steps would be if they took their idea into the "real world." 

Key Note Speaker Ties It All Together

The night finished with an amazing guest speaker, Jonny Price. Jonny shared his experiences as the head of San Francisco-based non-profit Kiva Zip, which offers 0% interest loans to financially excluded entrepreneurs in the United States. He tied the night together by explaining how the combination of business and design can be an amazing means for social impact. He highlighted the business challenges he's faced— as well as the opportunities he's made the most of— during his own time in the social impact space. Most of all, he showed attendees that keeping the people you're working to serve at the center of your problem-solving process really sets the stage for meaningful, effective and socially impactful work. 

Everyone left inspired and hungry for more— though not actually hungry, thanks to the generous supply of cookies from local start-up Dough and Co. Stay tuned for more events from Bay Area Impact Design, and connect with the growing group on Facebook for updates on events, local volunteering and project opportunities through Net Impact, and more. 

This year, Net Impact is bringing more design thinking and interdisciplinary programming to our existing chapters and launching new chapters in design/STEM communities.  You can join our growing group of multi-disciplinary leaders using design to create a better world here.
Scenes from the first BAID event
Scenes from the first BAID event

Forget Table Manners: Hacking Food with the Newman's Own Foundation Challenge

Marketing is not just left to the suits behind closed doors and hackathons are not just for software developers and computer programmers looking to fund the next great startup. At least, that’s the take-away that led UC Berkeley students, Cindy Ma, Victoria Jing, Agnes Zhu and Hailey Zhou to join the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge and start their campus-based club FoodInno. As the group’s mission says: “We provide students with the opportunity to 

work alongside food companies to solve their challenges by tapping into the minds of young millennials.”

Food Innovation Hackathons

The club members’ passion for food and innovation was showcased during their first event, a hackathon with the Berkeley-based chocolatier, TCHO. Thirty students toured the company's headquarters then broke into teams and got to work. They had three hours to come up with a new flavor for the company’s Limited Edition Line; describe their new product, as well as how it would fill a hole in the chocolate market; write a “flavor-forward marketing description” for this product and finally, draft a design for packaging. When they were finished, a 10-person panel of mentors judged their work.

Student-Led Classes

FoodInno isn’t just committed to helping students in their careers, but to educating them about food issues around the globe.  The group offers student-run courses called DeCals, which tackle topics from food labor practices to food labeling to food waste. They even invited local business leaders and educators classes to talk about possible solutions.  The most recent DeCal class was all about fermentation: a how-to on making yogurt, cheese, and coffee and discussions about why fermentation is nutritionally important for the body and culturally important in the world.

With help from Newman's Own Foundation and Net Impact

The FoodInno team joined the Newman's Own Foundation Challenge because of the connection it provides with industry experts.  Cindy says, "The Challenge is a great way for us to get an outside opinion on our work and gain insight from more experienced innovators."  The team sees the Challenge as an opportunity to bring their club to a wider audience and to inspire more and more people along the way.  Cindy and Victoria pointed out the benefits for students who join the club are many: make an impact on the food system; connect with local food businesses; learn more about the design and business process; gain leadership skills; meet other like-minded individuals; and, oh yeah, “Eat lots and lots of YUMMY food.”


Meeting the challenges of our food systems will require innovative and sustainable solutions. That’s why Net Impact together with Newman’s Own Foundation has launched the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge, where our goal is to educate and support young leaders to impact nutrition outcomes on campus and in their communities in the short-term, and equip and inspire them to be nutrition advocates over their longer-term careers. Watch our interviews with food and nutrition experts here.

FoodInno students at the TCHO Hackathon
FoodInno students at the TCHO Hackathon

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6 Women You Should Know About

It is International Women’s Day, a time to reflect on progress made and to call for change.  But it’s also a time to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.  In the spirit of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women, we present 6 women you might not have heard of, but should know more about.


Reportedly the first female gynecologist, Agnodice lived in the Greek city state of Athens in the 4th Century BCE.  She practiced medicine in Greece even though women faced the death penalty for doing so.  While she was eventually caught, her patients came to her defense and she was allowed to continue her work.

Did you know? Despite the medical advances since 400 B.C. more than 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.* 

Raichō Hiratsuka 

As a pioneering Japanese editor, writer and political activist, Raichō Hiratsuka co-founded her country’s first all-women run literary journal, Seitō in 1911.  While her career as a political activist covered many decades, she is remembered as the leading light of the women’s movement in early 20th century Japan.

Did you know? Globally, women are paid less than men.  Women in most countries earn on average only 60 to 75% of men’s wages.*

Rigoberta Menchú 

The first indigenous person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Rigoberta Menchú campaigned for social justice and indidenous peoples’ rights during and after Guatamala’s Civil War (1960-1996).  To magnify women’s work on peace, justice and equality, she founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative in 2006.

Did you know? According to the U.N., there is a 35% greater chance of peace agreements lasting 15 years when a woman participates.*

Unity Dow

Unity Dow is a judge, human rights activist and writer.  In 1992, as a plaintiff, she won a historic case enabling women married to non-citizens the rights to confer nationality to their children.  As Botswana’s first female High Court judge, she gained international acclaim when she won a case that allowed the San people to return to their ancestral home.

Did you know? In more than 60 countries, women are denied the right to acquire, change or retain their nationality.*

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi

Former child brides, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi made history in 2016 when Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled in their favor stating that nobody in the country may enter into marriage before the age of 18. 

Did you know? More than 700 million women alive today were married before the age of 18.*

*All facts and figures are from UN Women.

Reducing Energy Consumption with PG&E

Tackling climate change, one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, can seem like a daunting task. Addressing this crucial issue requires actions both large and small, from changing public policy to revising everyday habits. That’s why we teamed up with the Pacific Gas and Energy Company (PG&E).  Together, we created a program through which anyone could make an impact in their local community’s energy consumption, even without an advanced degree. The Energy Ambassador Program trained 28 ambassadors who conducted 466 audits in the northern California area to help small and medium-sized businesses become more energy efficient.

One of our ambassadors, Valerie Mojeiko, honed her entrepreneurial skills by designing her own staffing plan, which helped her complete an impressive 172 audits. After completing the program, she was hired to edit an $1 million California state energy grant on behalf of a local startup and was recruited as an auditor for a local energy efficiency company. 

We’re excited to see how else our members will take advantage of our expanded programming and get more deeply involved with the pressing issues of our generation! 

Feeling inspired? Learn more about how you can make a difference on our Impact Climate page.