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On the Horizon: Virtual Reality Therapy That Treats Chronic Pain

This post by Esther Hsieh was originally published in Scientific American on 6/11/15

Strap on a headset, immerse yourself in an alternate reality and cure your pain—that’s the idea of a recent study in Psychological Science.Most people think of pain as something that happens in the body—I twist my head too far, and my neck sends a “pain signal” to the brain to indicate that the twisting hurts. In reality, pain is simply the brain telling us we are in danger. Although certain nerve endings throughout the body can indeed detect bodily harm, their signals are only one factor that the brain uses to determine if we should experience pain. Many cases of chronic pain are thought to be the result of obsolete brain associations between movement and pain.

To explore the mind’s influence over pain, Daniel Harvie, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Australia, and his colleagues asked 24 participants who suffer from chronic neck pain to sit in a chair while wearing virtual-reality glasses and turn their head. The displays were manipulated to make the participants think that they were turning their head more or less than they actually were.

Subjects could swivel their head 6 percent more than usual if the virtual reality made them think they were turning less, and they could rotate 7 percent less than usual when they thought they were turning more.

The findings suggest that virtual-reality therapy has the potential to retrain the brain to understand that once painful movements are now safe, extinguishing the association with danger. Harvie believes that such therapy has the potential to restore full pain-free range of motion to people recovering from injuries and could perhaps help individuals with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

‘Instagram for doctors’ lets medics share photos to solve mystery cases

This post by Meera Senthilingam originally appeared on CNN on 2/10/15.

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The idea is at the foundation of social media channels: Seen something strange? Post it online. The desire to share the unknown, or complex, is a human urge, and no-one knows this better than doctors.

“I’m a very visual learner. Most doctors are … and we like to talk to each other,” explains third-year medical resident Sheryll Shipes of Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, in Texas.

Last year Shipes began using Figure-1, a photo-sharing app through which healthcare professionals can share photographs and information about their patients for both learning and diagnosis purposes. “It’s now my medical guilty pleasure,” she adds.

It may ring alarm bells regarding patient confidentiality but founder Josh Landy, an intensive care specialist at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada, vows that anonymity, ethics and patient approval are at the core of the technology. He says his objective is the sharing of knowledge.

“People (already) share cases through text and email,” he says.

As a medic himself Landy understands the need to seek external opinions when treating a variety of patients. One day, when looking around his hospital unit, Landy realized how commonplace this virtual sharing was among his students as their hands were occupied not with stethoscopes, but smartphones. They were in search of a second opinion — and now they can get third, fourth and fifth opinions in a single click, with his photo-sharing app.

“We looked at how people are using their smart phones,” he explains, having seen many cases being shared between doctors using this medium. “I wanted a way to present all those cases … to create a global knowledge notebook.”

Feedback from the community

Launched in May 2013, Figure-1 enables users to take an image, remove any identifying information, and upload the image for feedback from the community of healthcare users accessing the app. Those not uploading use the app as a learning tool to expose them to conditions and symptoms they may not otherwise see. “It’s medical education,” says Landy.

In developing the app, Landy ensured anonymity would become standard through the removal of any identifying features, names, numbers or case information when images are uploaded. All images undergo additional verification before becoming publicly available and patients must also give their permission for their photos to be shared.

Whilst the general public may have interest in medical images, Landy stresses the importance of targeting mainly those working in healthcare. New users are asked for occupational information upon registering and only healthcare professionals can comment or add pictures.

The app is now available in 19 countries and as of summer 2014 there were 150,000 users, according to Figure-1. The number is expected to be higher today with images in the library being viewed on average 1.5 million times a day. The greatest popularity lies in the continent of origin, with Figure-1 now being used by 30% of U.S. medical students, including Shipes.

“It’s classic medicine, digitized,” says Shipes. Having used Figure-1 religiously over the past year, Shipes readily sings its praises after the app helped her diagnose a patient with an unusual skin disorder causing blisters on certain parts of her body. “I uploaded it to Figure-1 and someone told us exactly what it was,” she says. The condition turned out to be common to Latin America and Asia but rare in the United States. “We would never have known that one.”

Now Landy hopes word will spread even further. “It’s overdue for a tool like this,” he concludes. “I’d like to see it everywhere.”

10 Productive Lifestyle Hacks from the World’s Most Successful People

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This post by Eric Ebert  was originally published in tech.co on July 7, 2015.

When we think of how high income earners became so successful, we often think about their work philosophies inside of the office, but what they do outside of the office is equally important. Their philosophies regarding their free time enable them to actuate their full potential when they return to the office. The simplicity of these philosophies is astonishing and adopting them into our lives will translate to better professional development.

1. Stimulate your creativity

Successful people are able to innovate creative solutions to problems. 75% of high income earners believe that creativity is critical to financial success and say that being intellectually gifted is not as important as being creative. The 1% train their minds to be creative. Creativity, contrary to popular belief, is not something that only comes naturally; it can be honed and trained like anything else. A young Steve Jobs said “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does or else you’re going to make the same connections [as everybody else], and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award.”

What you can do

Mind-expanding enjoyable free time activities are all around you, they add color to your life and make you a better problem solver. Learning an instrument or a new language are the most commonly cited examples of what to do if you want to get creative in your free time.

There are many less-thought-of ways to be creative and people of all different backgrounds and interests can find something they enjoy. You could start a small, aesthetically pleasing garden, take a cooking class and come up with your own recipes, learn origami, or just do your hair differently for the day.

2. Keep centered

Successful people are usually described as cool, calm, and collected. They are very difficult to disconcert and are generally not fazed by the fresh problem of the day. We can attribute some of this to a center that most of them find within themselves through some sort of mindfulness practice. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices are in style among wealthy people in part because they are so beneficial to our wellbeing. Warren Buffet subscribes to this centered approach to leisure activities, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions, than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” Finding time to just sit and collect ourselves gives our brain a rest, something it never gets, even while we sleep.

What you can do

Adopting some of these practices can make you a calmer more collected person and can mitigate some of the emotional ups and downs of the day, making you steadier and more reliable. These practices are generally free and only require around ten minutes a day for you to see results. You do not need to belong to a gym that offers yoga classes or go to a meditation circle, most mindfulness can be done inside of your house. You could try sitting in a room, steadily breathing, and focusing only on the present, not thinking about the past or future. You will leave more focused and relaxed and your performance at work should improve.

3. Learn how to think critically

Critical thinking, something taught in most university programs, is another great tool the 1% utilizes. Critical thinking is about challenging popular thinking and finding ways to rethink problems. It is a unique way of thinking about any subject, problem or challenge and improves the quality of our thinking by aptly analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is a personal activity because most times when we critically think it challenges our way of approaching problems. We need to figure out what assumptions we bring to a problem before we start solving it.

What you can do

A great way to start thinking critically is to find activities in your free time that train your mind to approach problems in a critical manner. The easiest thing to do is read something that you know challenges popular beliefs or your current knowledge. Sometimes we are surprised to find information we have always assumed to be true is actually false when we take the time to research it.

This is about education, finding resources that teach us to see there are other possibilities. Malcom S. Forbes once said that “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with and open one.” Questioning your assumptions through targeted learning will encourage you to look at issues from different angles and see solutions where others cannot.

4. Use your off time to actually relax

You might think that top income earners work day and night, poring over the business of tomorrow to get a head start. Surprisingly, top income earners usually prepare for important meetings and presentations at the office and not at home. Successful people are at their best when it counts and that time is usually during regular business hours. While extra hours are sometimes necessary for success, most top income earners use their leisure time for leisure.

What you can do

It is no surprise that Bill Gates rents out a $300 million yacht at $5 million a week to unwind. Now, you do not need $5 million a week to relax; sometimes the best relaxing is free. You could take a nap on the couch, go for a walk in nature, or watch your favorite TV program. Just make sure you are free of the office when you are away, turn off the work phone, do not pull up your work emails, and let your brain clock out. This enables you to be refreshed and ready to tackle the difficulties of the workday. This also prevents you from burning out, you cannot be successful at the office if you are too stressed to function at your full potential.

5. Be present for your family

Staying focused at work is often difficult and concerns about your family can intrude on your valuable work time. Sometimes these concerns are unavoidable but usually we are able to mitigate familial issues with a little bit of effort. Successful people focus on their families when they have free time, and this helps them concentrate at work and continually perform at their best. Statistics speak to this: the divorce rate for Chief Executive Officers is 9.81%, well under the nearly 50% average rate. That is because successful people often put their families first in their free time. Walt Disney once said “A man should never neglect his family for business,” something we should keep in mind as we approach our careers.

What you can do

Your family can be your stability and strength in a business environment that is too often unpredictable and trying. If you need to be at your best when things are at their worst then you need someone who is there for you when you are at your lowest point.

Instead of answering emails in your home office, use your valuable off time to work on the relationships that last a lifetime. Take time out of every day to spend quality time with members of your family.

6. Keep a healthy social network

Successful people have very large social circles and they utilize them when their career necessitates it. Most of us have heard the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” and this is accurate. More than often a position is found because of a direct or indirect contact. Statistically, the best way to find a job is through your social network, an astounding 80% of new jobs are found through social networks. Moving up through today’s corporate ladder requires moving from company to company in different, career enhancing positions. Your social network is a great resource for this.

What you can do

Building a large social network can have significant benefits for your career. In addition to securing new jobs, friends insulate you from hardships and criticisms, and people with more friends tend to be more confident. Also, friends can give you an outlet to vent your work frustrations and this a healthy way for you to deal with difficult issues. Be careful though, your social circle is important for your happiness and confidence, so continually bringing up new business proposals or asking about opportunities within friends’ companies will create distance between you and your social network.

Just be natural and do not try to push anything about your career to your friends, just show your genuine interest towards their careers and try to be there for them. As Dale Carnegie once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Sites like Linkedin help you walk that fine line between friend and business connection by allowing you access to your friends’ business contacts with minimal facilitation by your friends.

7. Enjoy business shopping

The top 1% of income earners look the part, their clothes and accessories reflect not only their current station but also their career ambitions. Most make it in the corporate world where appearances make a difference. Zig Ziglar claimed “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” When we dress a certain way, we make a strong statement about our motivations. Appropriate attire expresses respect for the companies for which we work and sends signals to our superiors and clients that we are serious in our ambitions. We have all heard the saying that you must “spend money to make money,” and successful people learn how to use their free time and money to invest in themselves.

What you can do

Enjoy shopping, but enjoy buying the things you need to succeed in your career. Buy the equipment that makes you look like you belong in the next position in the company, not the job you already occupy. This is really about choices, if you have the choice of upgrading your old TV to the sharp new 4k or buying 4 suits you need to look sharp, make the business choice. Shopping in this manner is no different from investing in stocks or bonds, you can see a return on your investment if you do it right. You may wonder how business shopping can be an enjoyable activity, and the truth is it will never be as enjoyable as shopping for things you really want. Once you have committed to the goal of progressing in your career, some of the things you enjoyed about personal shopping can be just as enjoyable in business shopping.

For instance, if you enjoy shopping for casual clothes then some of the same aspects that made it an enjoyable activity can be transferred to shopping for business clothes. The approach is relatively the same, you search for stores, try on clothes, look around for great deals, and eventually test out the items in public. Buying on a budget is no problem either, just make sure you dress in darker colors (it hides the quality) and find a great tailor to spruce up your mid-range suit. This process will be enjoyable if your priorities are in order and will help you progress in your career.

8. Methodically tackle chores and personal tasks

Yes, even successful people have to renew their driver’s licenses, organize their paperwork, go grocery shopping, change lightbulbs, etc. Some one-percenters even do normal household tasks like take out the garbage, clean their kitchens, and walk their dogs. Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen even packs his own lunch every morning. What distinguishes successful people in their menial tasks is their methodology for taking care of them. By using their free time wisely when it comes to chores and personal tasks, successful people are able to focus on work and not feel anxious to leave the office early and go to the post office to mail their taxes before closing time!

What you can do

When you have chores to do in your free time, make sure you are not procrastinating. If you find out that you need to collect some paperwork for your taxes, do it that day and do not wait a day longer. This will free your mind of this task, and when the next task comes along you will be more likely to take care of it immediately instead of letting it pile onto the other huge amount of work you have to do. When you have a list of chores to do, tackle the easiest one first, this can get the ball rolling when all you want to do is watch TV and dread the biggest task you have.
Instead of multitasking, try doing your chores one at a time. This is a new method called “singletasking” and it forces you to sustain your focus and work through complex problems. You will be surprised to find that you do tasks more efficiently and thoroughly when you focus on one of them at a time. You will not save any time if you have to redo one task because you were too distracted by a different task. This trains you for the office as well, you will be more productive if you are more methodical in all of your tasks. You can also use chore time to recharge, slow down, and simply focus on what you are doing.

9. Reflect

Reflecting gives us an opportunity to learn from our failures and successes. Reflecting on our successes is enjoyable but is only helpful if we critique what we have done right and try to improve on it the next time. Reflecting on our failures is much more productive and will help us improve immensely. Bill Gates once said that “it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Looking back and figuring out what we have done wrong and how we can improve for the next time is something for which successful people excel. Many successful people take time to reflect one day out of the week and others do it whenever an important meeting, presentation, or project ends. Whenever they reflect on their work, they ensure that they will improve the next time something important comes along.

What you can do

One way to track what you have done in your career is keep a journal. This does not have to be a daily journal or even a long journal, it can simply track one event a week if necessary. It should be just enough to tell you what the situation was and what you did wrong or right.  A great way get this started is to take a few minutes every Sunday and dissect the most important event of the week. Even if this was something that just stood out in your mind and was not incredibly important, it is good to get used to figuring out better ways to do it. The United States Army developed what is called the After Action Review or AAR in the 1970’s and it is an efficient tool that many business leaders use today. Microsoft uses this strategy at the end of every project and it has been very successful. The AAR can serve as a template for those wanting to reflect on what they have done. The process is an active reflection centered on these key questions:

  1. What did I intend to accomplish (what was my strategy)?
  2. What did I do (how did I execute relative to my strategy)?
  3. Why did it happen that way (was there a difference between strategy and execution)?
  4. What will I do to adapt my strategy or refine my execution for a better outcome or how do I repeat my successes (if there were any)?

As you can see, this not only gives you a good template to reflect and learn but is also a great way to get you to start thinking more strategically. The next time you do something important, you might first take some time to think about what you want out of it, instead of jumping right in.

10. Be generous

As you progress in your career, earning higher and higher incomes as you go along, you will have more disposable income, and how you choose to spend it will have real consequences in how you continue to earn it. Many top income earners donate a large portion of their incomes to charities or find time to volunteer for various causes. The methods in which they do this are very important and they will keep you along the right path for continued success. Richard Branson saidthat “No one has ever become poor from giving.” Being generous can give you the motivation to continue progressing in your career because you are able see a positive impact from your hard work. It can also make you happier and enrich your social life.

What you can do

Make sure you are being generous in a way that makes you feel generous. Simply filling out an online form and sending money to a charitable organization is not enough for most people. The key is to donate to something where you can see your money in action. If you are someone who cares about animal rights, it is better to visit a shelter and see the animals you are helping rather than just sending money. By watching your money in action, you create positive memories of what you have done and you get a great sense of accomplishment. This can be especially important for those stuck in jobs that seem like just paychecks. It can be a big motivator if the paychecks go to something that feels like an accomplishment.

What is Yoga Therapy?

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This article by  originally appeared on Huffington Post on 07/06/2015

While millions of people around the world today use yoga as a form of physical exercise and countless others use it for spiritual liberation, the number of people using yoga as a therapy is perhaps its greatest area of growth.

Physicians are more frequently encouraging patients to try yoga as an alternative to more invasive treatments that have inconsistent outcomes and potential deleterious side effects. A 2008 Harris study conducted by Yoga Journal found that over 14 million Americans had a doctor or therapist recommend yoga to them. 49.4% of the practitioners in the same study stated that they started practicing yoga to improve their own overall health and those studies were before yoga was really popular here in our culture.

Yoga Therapy is the philosophy, science, and art of adapting classical yoga techniques to contemporary situations in order to treat people’s physical, mental, and emotional ailments. The late master B.K.S. Iyengar said it best: “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” Perhaps this is what distinguishes yoga as a therapy from other disciplines because it is adaptable to each individual, rather than the disease. In some cases its aim is to cure, in some cases it is to heal, and in some cases it is simply designed to bring ease amidst intense incurable health-related challenges.

Just like its method as a treatment, Yoga Therapy’s road to the West has been slow and steady. Formally, its practice stems back to yogis in the early 1900s that most people have never heard of such as Shri Yogendra of Mumbai, Swami Kuvalayananda of Lonavla, and Shri Rama Mohana Bramachari, who lived high in the Himalayan mountains near the border of Tibet. Bramachari was the teacher of Professor Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who is regarded as “The Father of Modern Yoga.”

Krishnamacharya therapeutically altered the classical asanas (poses) to better fit them to people’s bodies. In addition, he advocated the use of props which his sucessor, B.K.S. Iyengar went on to further develop; similarly, Krishnamacharya altered the 5000 year old Indian tradition of only offering yoga to Brahmin men by teaching his first female student, Indra Devi, and many other women thereafter.

Inspired by what he learned from his father, Krishnamacharya’s son T.K.V. Desikachar came to the West in the 1970s and motivated the first generation of Yoga Therapists in the United States including the co-author of the best-seller, “Yoga Anatomy,” Leslie Kaminoff, the founder of Viniyoga, Gary Kraftsow, and Dr. Larry Payne, who founded the first Yoga Therapy studio in Los Angeles in 1984 and whose Yoga Therapy Rx Program at Loyola Marymount University was the first Yoga Therapist training program offered at an accredited university.

Now the book “Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine: Where Ancient Science Meets Modern Medicine” details myriad ways that yoga is being used as a therapy by doctors, licensed healthcare professionals, scholars, researchers, and yoga therapists and practitioners.

The book features chapters written by some of the world’s leading experts in their fields including cardiologist Art Brownstein, M.D. who offers years of insight on why he presribes savasana for 20 minutes per day to cardiac patients; Richard Miller, Ph.D. shares the practices and results of his scientifically backed iRest system of Yoga Nidra that has been used by the military for stress and PTSD; Matthew Taylor, D.P.T. lends his reflections on how Yoga Therapy can be integrated into physical rehabilitation and physical therapy practices; Shanti Shanti Kaur Khalsa, Ph.D. explains the energetic psycho-emotional approach in the Kundalini tradition; Jnani Chapman, R.N. proposing ways in which Yoga Therapy can be applied in cancer treatment; sports scientist, LeRoy Perry, D.C., describes yogic practices that he has used with great success while training Olympic athletes and championship sports teams; and as author of the best-selling “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety” I was asked to write about Yoga Therapy’s expanding role in treating mood disorders.

Ultimately Yoga Therapy supports, enables, and empowers individuals to use ancient healing practices to complement Western modern medicine. Yoga Therapy can transform challenging health circumstances, change people’s perspectives, and positively influence wellness habits.

So whether you are suffering from back pain or heart disease or depression or anxiety, or going through cancer treatment and want to relax from some of the symptoms of chemotherapy, Yoga Therapy can help. Check out our new book “Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine: Where Ancient Science Meets Modern Medicine” and see how you can use Yoga Therapy to help ameliorate physical pains as well as mental and emotional afflictions.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed to Give Away $32 Billion

This post by   and  appeared on Bloomberg Business on July 1, 2015.

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Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has pledged to give away $32 billion over the coming years.

There is no time scale set for the donation, which represents all of his fortune, according to Alwaleed. The billionaire is the world’s 20th richest person with $30.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The gift would benefit Muslim and non-Muslim countries, Alwaleed said in a press conference in Riyadh today. It would be used for work in areas including inter-cultural understanding, disease eradication, providing power to remote areas, building orphanages and schools, disaster relief and empowering women, he said.

Since Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced the Giving Pledge in 2010, about 200 individuals from around the world have promised to give away more than half of their fortune in life or death. Gates and Buffett are leading by example. The two richest Americans, who are worth $151 billion combined, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, have put more than $46 billion into the Gates foundation.

The Prince hoped the gift would build a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all,” he said in a statement.

Garbage Fuel Will Power British Airways Planes

This post by Tiffany Stecker and Julia Pyper first appeared on ClimateWire  on April 25, 2014

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Come 2017, British Airways could be able to fuel flights from London’s City Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on trash.
The airline has partnered with Washington, D.C.-based Solena Fuels to make 50,000 metric tons of jet fuel from municipal solid waste per year. It is the first project in the world to attempt to convert trash into a drop-in fuel for airplanes.

British Airways agreed in 2012 to buy the jet fuel from Solena per year over 11 years at “market competitive prices,” about $510 million for the price of conventional jet kerosene. Last month, the London Green Sky Project, as it’s called, found a home: a 20-acre lot east of London that was formerly the site of a large oil refinery.

Green Sky will use the existing waste collection system to pick up household trash and take advantage of the electricity infrastructure that serviced the refinery up to its closure in 2012. Solena is in negotiation with a number of local waste companies that could provide the waste for the facility, according to a British Airways spokeswoman.

The technology isn’t cheap, said Jonathon Counsell, head of environment for British Airways. About $600 million was invested to develop Solena Fuels’ gasification-Fischer-Tropsch combination technology for solid waste. But the payoff will be worth it.

“What we get from that is a very pure, high-quality fuel,” said Counsell, at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in National Harbor, Md., Wednesday. Turning trash into fuel yields twice the energy that incinerating the waste for electricity would provide, he added. Recent life-cycle analyses indicate that the fuel could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 percent compared to fossil fuels, said Counsell. This doesn’t include the avoided methane emissions — a gas with 30 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide — that result from trash decomposing in a landfill.

A century-old process at work
Solena Fuels will use a combination of two technologies to make the fuel. Once the waste has been cleaned of any hazardous or recyclable materials, it will be combusted in a low-oxygen environment that produces a synthesis gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, a process known as gasification. The gas will then be converted to liquid fuel, in a process called Fischer-Tropsch.”When people hear that word, it seems to be like rocket science,” said Solena Fuels President and CEO Robert Do, who fined-tuned the process for organic waste. The Fischer-Tropsch process has been in use for nearly a century to turn natural gas or coal into liquid fuel. In fact, said Do, British Airways has long purchased its jet fuel from the South African energy company Sasol, which makes fuels from coal.

To start, the impact of converting British Airways’ business flights would be minuscule. Fueling the London-to-New York trips with biofuel would displace about 2 percent of British Airways’ consumption at its main hub — Heathrow Airport outside of London. But the airline expects to increase its use gradually, in compliance with a U.K. aviation industry road map that sets the goal of obtaining 30 percent of fuels from renewable sources by 2050.

Keeping the project small also helps reduce risk, said Do, an aspect that attracts project financing. Solera has similar agreements with two other airlines, Lufthansa and Qantas.

Do expects the project will serve as a prototype for similar projects around the world, where trash disposal has become a growing problem.

“Every city in the world today is experiencing difficulties in handling its waste, whether it’s New York City versus London versus Istanbul versus Hong Kong,” said Do.

Multiple ways to replace petroleum
According to Nancy Young, vice president of environmental affairs at the trade group Airlines for America (A4A), municipal solid waste represents a promising alternative fuel pathway for the industry. One major advantage is that the feedstock can be sourced and produced near airports, mitigating transportation and logistics costs.

In 2010, a number of U.S. airlines signed a letter of intent to work with Solena on developing fuel from waste, and they are likely to revisit that opportunity once the British Airways project gets off the ground, said Young. In the meantime, the U.S. aviation industry is working with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, through a grant from the Department of Agriculture, to foster the development of a fuel made from municipal solid waste.

Airlines are also testing fuels from other feedstocks. Lufthansa, which in 2011 became the first airline to use biofuels in commercial flights, announced this week that it’s researching a new type of biofuel made from fermented plant waste by the U.S.-based company Gevo.

Airlines are putting alternative fuels into action, too. United Airlines, for instance, has an agreement with AltAir Fuels to run flights out of Los Angeles later this year on a commercial-scale, renewable jet fuel made from agricultural waste and nonedible natural oil products. Alaska Airlines also has a purchase agreement in place with Hawaii Bioenergy to fly on a sustainable jet fuel made from woody biomass on flights starting 2018.

In 2006, a coalition of airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, energy producers, researchers and U.S. government agencies formed the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) to promote the development of alternative jet fuel options. USDA, the Federal Aviation Administration, A4A and Boeing also formed the “Farm to Fly” program in 2010 to accelerate the development of commercially viable alternative fuels for aviation.

The airline industry is eager to increase its fuel options because planes simply cannot run on electricity the way cars and trucks can. Today, airlines are restricted to using petroleum-based fuel, which represents the industry’s single largest expense and a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Farm to Fly’ goes aloft
“Airlines are really focused on alternative fuels for two reasons,” said Young. “One is to provide a competitor to petroleum-based fuels for supply and price volatility reasons. On the other side is the sustainability and emissions goals that we have. Providing some amount of sustainable alternative aviation fuel is very important in meeting those.”

The global aviation sector currently accounts for about 2 percent of global emissions, but its carbon footprint is expanding quickly as demand for air travel increases. To mitigate its environmental impact, the industry has committed to improving fleet efficiency 1.5 percent per year and to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

Farm to Fly created the aspirational goal of adopting 1 billion gallons of sustainable alternative jet fuel — about 6 percent of the industry’s current annual fuel consumption — by 2018. Young said reaching that goal is a stretch, but not impossible should fuel supplies substantially increase and the price drop.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he applauds the aviation industry’s effort to move from fossil fuels. But he added that municipal waste isn’t necessarily an environmentally friendly feedstock.

If plastic that can be recycled or food that can be composted is being turned into fuel and burned off without recouping its additional value, those materials aren’t following an ecologically optimal disposal route, he said. And even if fuel producers do commit to recycling, will they remove only what’s economically recyclable, or what’s technically recyclable?

The composition of the waste and how it’s managed will have a significant impact on the sustainability profile of the fuel, said Hershkowitz.

“I would say there needs to be a refined understanding of the physical characteristics that are being converted into the fuel,” he said. “If those physical characteristics allow for the material to be recycled, it should be recycled. If they carry zero Btu [British thermal units], they should be landfilled. If it can’t be recycled and has Btus, then exploring the conversion into a transportation fuel makes sense.”

Adidas Creates Sneakers That Are Made Entirely from Ocean Trash

This post originally appeared on Mind Unleashed on July 2, 2015.

With Earth’s oceans being overloaded with plastic trash, engineers all over the world are making efforts to find innovative ways to remove this harmful debris from the marine environment. Thus, Boyan Slat of The Ocean Cleanup promises to launch a massive ocean cleaning system in 2016.

But what if there was also a way to give this plastic a new life and use it for further production?German footwear giant Adidas has proposed a non-trivial idea on what to do with ocean waste – to make shoes out of it, of course!

The company has created prototype of sustainable sneakers made almost entirely from ocean trash. In particular, the upper shoe is made out of illegal gill nets and other plastic debris removed from the ocean while the shoe base incorporates sustainable materials.

Collecting plastic from the ocean to knit the sneakers was not an easy task. In fact, it was done with the collaboration of the nonprofit organization Sea Shepherd, which organized a 110-day expedition to track illegal fishing boats in West African waters. The green part of the Adidas shoes is nothing but fishing nets collected in the course of this expedition.

Ocean Trash

At the same time, Adidas plans to release a line of sustainable sneakers later this year, believing that there will be no problem with finding plastic waste, such as fishing nets and beach trash, to be used in the production.

The company claims that this initiative is aimed not only to recycle ocean trash but also to help reduce and avoid the production of plastic waste. Thus, Parley for the Oceans, a new nonprofit organization founded with the support of Adidas, is developing innovative technologies to alter the structure of plastic and make it less harmful to the environment, as well as to minimize the use of plastic in production in general.

We’re going to end ocean plastic pollution only if we’re going to reinvent the material,” said Cyrill Gutsch, Parley for the Oceans founder. “Plastic doesn’t belong in nature, it doesn’t belong in the belly of a fish, it doesn’t belong out there. The ultimate solution is to cut into this ongoing stream of material that never dies, is to reinvent plastic.”

The company seeks to develop a material that would decompose safely in the environment, unlike the conventional plastic that is estimated to take more than 500 years to break down.

Ocean Trash

Adidas hopes that the use of this innovative material could eventually go beyond the production of footwear. “We don’t have to limit ourselves,” said Eric Liedtke of the Adidas Group. “We can put this in T-shirts, we can put this in shorts, we can put this in all kinds of stuff.”

Alanis Morissette Savors the Moment

This post by Robert Piper originally appeared in Live Happy Magazine on Jun 29, 2015

Alanis Morissette Enjoys the Moment

The singer, songwriter and mother has learned to live in the present.

Alanis Morisette has had several “phoenix rising from the ashes” moments in her life.
Perhaps the most significant was right after giving birth, when she suffered from postpartum depression. “I think postpartum depression often affects—not always obviously—but often affects women who were in one mode of operation. In my case, [I was] very career-orientated, very work-addicted. And so when I gave birth to my son, and frankly when I got married, it was a huge sea change.”

She continues, “I was attempting to live the equivalent of 14 people’s lives all in one human body, combined with the hormonal underpinnings. My temperament is highly sensitive, combined with this high novelty or high sensation-seeking element to it. So often I would feel like I had my foot on the brake and the gas pedal at the same time,” Alanis says.

“Pretty blissed out”

She credits the happiest moment of her life to giving birth to her son, Ever Imre, in 2010. She describes it as a “pretty blissed out, oxytocin-riddled moment.” To her, raising a child is about being as attentive as possible: “I just think mindfulness and parenting are the same thing. If we’re distracted or we’re barely there, we’re technically not parenting.”

Alanis built a studio in her Los Angeles home so she could raise her child mindfully while also working on her passion and career. “For me, offering presence is commensurate to offering love,” she says. “Offering that to a child is the greatest gift of all.”

For her, being a parent is akin to activism, in the sense that you’re making the world a better place by bringing new life into it. “It creates the foundation of what this planet will evolve into,” she says.

Her husband, Mario “Souleye” Treadway, fellow musician and father of her child, joins her in choosing a mindful path—for parenting and all aspects of life. They met at a meditation gathering. “He came with a mutual friend of ours, and when he walked in I just thought ‘Wow!’” Alanis says. It stood out to her that “he was oriented toward really doing the brave inner work, the kind of inner work that isn’t always comfortable.”

Musical beginnings

Alanis started playing the piano at the age of 6, and, a few years later, her talent for music began to shine through. She wrote her first song at the age of 9, and, by age 10 she started acting on the Nickelodeon show You Can’t Do That On Television. By 14, she had signed her first major record deal, spending her early teenage years as a pop singer in Canada.

Everything changes

Even with early accomplishments, Alanis remained a go-getter; she packed her things and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career. That’s when her massive success came at the age of 19—Jagged Little Pill was introduced to the world. Alanis was almost immediately catapulted into fame: millions of passionate, loyal fans; sold-out concerts; traveling and performing week after week. People would come at her with multiple opinions about the direction of her music, fans were breaking into her hotel room, and she was recognized everywhere she went.

“After the tour for Jagged Little Pill and that whole experience, I just felt like I grabbed the brass ring that I’ve been encouraged to chase my whole life, through culture and otherwise. And so there I was, everything was amplified, so if there was any underlying loneliness or unresolved wounds or traumas, from childhood, etc., they were all exacerbated.”

To read more of the feature about Alanis Morisette, including amazing insights and original photos, pick up the August 2015 issue of Live Happy magazine.

6 myths about buying ethical clothing

This post by Leah Wise originally appeared on Style Wise on May 4, 2015.

6 myths about ethical clothing

 Far and away the most common negative comment I get on ethical fashion articles I’ve written for other sites is some variation of:

“Good for you for having enough money to buy expensive clothes. Some of us can’t afford to buy a closet full of ethical clothing and it’s classist for you to even mention it. Have you no pity on poor people in your own country? And have you considered the fact that people in foreign countries will lose their jobs if we stop buying from sweatshops? Better to have a lousy job than no job at all.”

Some of them are considerably less harsh and some are too horrific to repeat here, but it’s clear to me that the biggest deterrence to acquiring an ethical wardrobe is money. So let me clarify a few things.

Firstly, I absolutely do care about the plight of the poor in my own country. It’s despicable that, despite our national wealth, more than 45 million people live below the poverty line. And we’ve got a few social safety nets, but we haven’t really figured out how to help people get a leg up long term, and it’s only getting worse. And it’s just a matter of fact that low cost, sweatshop-sourced clothing may be the best financial option for a lot of people. If you live paycheck to paycheck and have trouble putting clothes on your back and the backs of your children, please know that I not only feel for you, but I think you need to make the best choice for your family, even if that means making the ethics of your clothing choices less of a priority, or not a priority at all. You are welcome to this conversation, of course, but you may have other things to worry about.

But I also know for a fact that a lot of you can afford to consider your purchases. You’re the ones I’m talking to (and I get the sense that, by and large, you’re also the ones making the most excuses). Reality check: I manage a local thrift shop and my husband is a grad student. We aren’t exactly making it rain over here. But we do benefit a lot from the knowledge that, if something were to happen to us, our parents would be able to step in to support us. We have a social network that makes us feel secure and that helps us make long term financial decisions we couldn’t make if we were going it completely alone. We also don’t have children to support, so our income stretches a bit further.

I am aware of my relative privilege, but I suspect there are a lot of you in my position who don’t realize that it is possible to change your spending habits without breaking the bank. If you can overcome a few prevalent myths, you’ll be on your way to making better choices in no time.

Myth 1: It’s a given that I will buy at least a dozen new items every season.

For many of us, it would be a financial disaster to buy more than a handful of fair trade clothing items every 6 months. But, if you’ve already built a basic wardrobe, you don’t need to buy more than a couple new things a year. Magazines and 5 week trend cycles make us feel obligated to keep up with every new fad on the market, but it isn’t necessary or even fulfilling. You may have to buy less if you’re purchasing from more ethical brands, but that probably won’t hurt you in the long run. Plus, in my own experience, fair trade and domestically produced items from small brands hold up better than fast fashion items anyway, so you won’t need to replace your staples as often.

Myth 2: I can’t dress well with secondhand items.

My go-to advice for people considering their purchases for the first time is to start with thrift shopping. The sticker shock of fair trade and sustainable items will wear off eventually, but in the meantime, try secondhand on for size. A lot of people insist that they can’t get high quality items at thrift shops, but I suspect they don’t regularly visit them. The thrift market is booming and it’s surprisingly easy to find something you like that’s in great condition.

And yes, thrift shopping is a more ethical option, even if you’re buying conventional brands there. Why? Because you’re not contributing to demand for new items and you’re ensuring that things don’t end up in the landfill so quickly. Additionally, money spent at thrift shops supports local charities.

Myth 3: My specific circumstances (size, profession, location) prevent me from buying from ethical retailers.

I feel you on this one. The ethical market is still growing and it’s not always easy – or possible – to find things that fit well or suit your lifestyle. To you, I’d suggest a few options:

  1. Buy from online consignment stores like thredUP and Twice. You may be able to find a greater variety of sizes and styles from secondhand sites online.
  2.  Search ebay’s pre-owned section for brands you like.
  3. Buy well. If you can’t find ethical or secondhand options, try to buy things that will last. You’ll save money over time and you won’t contribute as heavily to demand for sweatshop goods. I do this with shoes, because it’s difficult to find well-made, comfortable shoes on the ethical market (though there are a growing number of companies filling the void).

Myth 4: It’s actually in the best interest of sweatshop laborers that we keep buying their goods. Otherwise, they’ll lose their jobs and it’ll be our fault!

This one is complicated, for sure. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s a great idea to just pull out of countries like Bangladesh or Cambodia, because it’s true that thousands of people are employed by garment factories there thanks to consumer demand for new goods in countries like the US. But I also think it’s too easy to immediately dismiss the whole ethical consumerism discussion by pretending that supporting sweatshop labor is actually moral.

We should continue to support global manufacturing, but try to find the companies that are better regulating their factories. Everlane, for instance, produces a lot of their tops in China, but they can tell you exactly what it looks like to work at one of their factories. In Cambodia, Tonle employees earn fair wages. If we support Tonle, they will grow and be able to employ more people, which means a garment worker can leave the sweatshop for a safer, better environment.

On a related note,

Myth 5: If wages go up, a lot of garment workers will lose their jobs.

Consider this. In manufacturing centers like Dhaka, Bangladesh, entire families work in the factory, even children. With a wage increase, families may be able to afford to let some members pursue other things, like childhood or education. Entire families wouldn’t necessarily have to work, so a few people losing their jobs may not be an issue at all.

This myth also presupposes that profit margins are already set as low as they can go when, in reality, higher-ups make a ton of money. Corporations have the wiggle room to provide better wages to workers and make improvements to facilities even without layoffs or significantly raising prices to consumers. They’d have to set up rigorous systems to ensure that wages are being passed down from contracted garment factory to the workers or set up their own factories, but there’s more money to work with than they like to let on.

Myth 6: The market can regulate itself.

No, it can’t. The market is constantly being manipulated by individuals only looking out for their best interests. Regulation is essential; that’s why we have a 40 hour work week and child labor laws in place in this country. The market is not some magical, mythical being that sorts things out for us. People call the shots and it’s on us to make the market work better for everyone. That being said, we can certainly help the market regulate itself toward better ethics by making smarter, healthier, more loving purchasing decisions.

This list isn’t meant to intimidate you or make you feel miserable. It’s meant to empower you! You have more options than you might think.

What Color Is Your Consciousness?

This post by Christine Horner originally appeared in OM Times on June 28, 2015.

True equality is not material, but is the indelible truth of who you are as part of the totality of Creation.

Compassion for another human being regardless of race, socioeconomic status or mental/physical state requires an emotional intelligence and maturity that most people will not achieve within their lifetime.

We could blame our educational system, culture and conditioning, and even the ongoing oppression by a few, but we would be wrong to do so. The world is merely a reflection of the fundamental misunderstanding that continues to perpetuate human servitude and suffering – the belief that we are separate from one another.

Another name for what ails humanity is Separation Consciousness. Since the physical third dimension consists of up and down as well as high and low, mankind’s primitive mindset has it that due to the appearance of space and time, you and I are not connected. Yet, how can this be? Where does the thread that binds us together begin and where does it end?

The belief in separation is so entrenched in culture and sub-cultures, social systems and even religion, that it has been the excuse to treat each other as undervalued and disposable depending on the ideals of the day. There is no act of violence where inequality (the thought of separation) is not at the root.

What is Equality?

Where does true equality arise? It arises from within. If you do not recognize the interconnectedness between you and me and the world we live in within you, you will not see it outside of yourself. True equality is not material, but is the indelible truth of who you are as part of the totality of Creation.

You can begin to nurture an expanded self-awareness by cultivating mindfulness. Being mindful means to intentionally pay attention to or put your focus on something. Mindful living is living your life consciously, awake and present on a daily basis. Rather than reacting habitually, on automatic pilot without thought and choice, you begin to live your life on purpose and from the heart.

There are those individuals that have transcended education and man-made conditions by looking within to find the unity of all life that is the true nature of the Universe. This is the reward of mindfulness. Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama and even John Lennon have asked each one of us to imagine and examine the world from the inside out and to see life for what it truly is – not us and them, but we.

Of the same source, there is no part of Creation that is more or less valuable than any other. Once this is understood internally, it can then be experienced externally as your conduct in the world begins to build a new reality for yourself and others. Even if others around you do not see that what you do for another you also do for yourself, it is imperative that you remain steadfast within the larger picture or universal prime directive of our oneness.

King himself said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Trumping race is the strength of character you display as your behavior when you interact with the rest of the world.

Responsibility + Integrity = Sustainability

Synonymous with responsibility and sustainability is integrity. Becoming mindful as to whether your choices unite or divide, ask yourself if you are choosing proactive sustainability or destructive reactiveness. The right choice makes you an enabled and empowered human being, transcending skin color and the outdated beliefs of others.

The invitation is to remain steadfast within the seat of personal courage even when others around you lose their way. By this, you lead in no greater way. Being the first to change, you change the world. With new awareness of what is no longer working, the arising leader in you realizes to fight darkness with darkness bears the same fruit. Instead, be the light. Others cannot help but see your example. The time is upon us to live fearlessly and choose courageously as we were born to do.

Nothing can exist without your support. Humanity will advance much more quickly toward ending the wars both private and public. Creating the world we know is possible when we let go of separation consciousness for the rewards of unity consciousness. You are the one the world is waiting for. Will you answer the call?

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