Saturday, December 1, 2012

If You Are Willing...

Thank you, Sarah Green, Associate Editor at HBR, for tipping me off to an opinion piece that I missed last week in the New York Times.

The piece, "The Go-Nowhere Generation," by Todd G. Buckholz and Victoria Buckholz, a critique of the millenial generation, is an incredible display of two of the biggest challenges (also known as opportunities) of our times: One, the disillusionment of an entire generation with almost every current system in place, and two, the seeming obliviousness that older generations have to a movement and an economy that is being developed right under their noses.

Another opinion piece that ran recently in the Times also points to the challenge of disillusionment.

Christy Wampole's critique of hipsterdom and all its irony appears at face value to echo the sentiments of the Buckholz's piece; our generation needs to grow up and start taking things seriously. Wampole believes that hipsters somehow feel nostalgic for times they never actually lived. By growing mustaches, raising chickens, learning to pickle things, and filtering their digital photographs to "look old" they are living in irony because, how could and why would they ever hark back to a time they never actually experienced? The answer is because we are a generation with a dearth of living role models and we are a generation collectively going through paradigm shattering change where every system we know is falling apart.

I'll frame this disillusion with a personal story.

On September 11, 2001, I turned 18. I was a senior in high school from rural Western Massachusetts preparing to apply to college. I felt privileged to come from a supportive family and community and was raised to be aware of the world outside and those without privilege. Until that day, I viewed the world as full of opportunity. I knew there was war, poverty, atrocities, and many, many people in the world who did not feel this same way as I did, but because there was the promise of opportunity, I felt optimistic about my role in making the world a better place.

Things shifted after that day. My perspective of my role in the world changed. Rather than operating on optimism, the world (I knew) began to operate on fear. Purse strings tightened, along with security and trust. My friends who had signed up for the National Guard with the promise of tuition and higher education found themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. My friends who applied to college with the promise of employment, found themselves feeling dismal about their prospects upon graduation. There was a collective shift from, "what can't I do to," to "what the hell can I do."

Disillusionment is not the same as apathy. If we are speaking in generalities, my generation is not apathetic, we are disillusioned and fed up with what we have to deal with. Staying home to save money and using technology that connects us is not apathetic just as learning to pickle things and developing other self reliant skills because of the realization that the economic system we were born into may not exist in the near future is not ironic. If we were apathetic we would be pretending like the world around us has not changed. We would be doing things your way. The combination of this generational awareness of the need for systemic change, our increased global connectivity, and new (old) skills that allow us to meet our basic human needs actually gives our society a chance to adapt and survive. Apathetic we are not.

Calling an advertisement an advertisement, within an advertisement, may be ironic. It may also be a sign of disillusion with a medium within a broken system. I see the irony too. More disturbing than hipsters wearing trucker hats, when they've never actually driven a truck, is that the only mainstream media figures telling the truth about our pathetic government are doing so on Comedy Central. Perhaps turning to irony is not an aversion to risk but a collective strategic attempt to hold up a mirror and show the generations who built the broken systems that we've inherited how ridiculous everything they did before us was. If I sound disillusioned, I am. The great thing, is that my tone in this post is both a symptom of inheriting a broken system and of my deep belief that my generation is seizing this opportunity and is in the process of harnessing our collective disillusion to create real long term change.

Christy, I appreciate your humility and self critique as well as your frustration with irony. And, please remember that everyday is an opportunity to live in sincerity.

The second challenge, this lack of awareness that older generations have to the changes they cannot see or measure, also provides great opportunity. Let me hold a mirror to a couple of the questions and points I heard in the Buckholz's article, and again, I'm speaking in generalities.

Why don't you get off your ass, hit the road, and find opportunity?

I if I may, why didn't you value community and sense of place enough and bust your ass to make your hometown a better place for the next generation?

I see a great movement toward a deeper respect for place and community. I have friends across the country working to make their communities, many of which have high unemployment, better places for the people that call them home. Even in Portland, OR, where I live, the epicenter of hipsterdom and the DIY economy, (where young people come to retire), I see a generation of young people who genuinely care about this place and are actively prototyping scrappy business that can thrive in a new economic paradigm.

You're not even buying bicycles. Even further proof of your sedentary lifestyle! (What?) 

There is an entire economy that is being built based on meeting human needs, living within systemic means, and building productive and real wealth. Craigslist, or, selling the stuff you don't want anymore to people who do want it, is just an example of how we are shifting from an economy based on consumption and growth to an economy that meets the needs of people and within the systems means of the planet.

It's not that our generation doesn't care, in general, it's that our generation doesn't care about the only way you know how to do things. So, it's no surprise to us that you explain what you see with cynicism and poor logic.

The irony of the Buckholz's piece is glaring. The only thing more ironic than pointing to rebels and risk takers who shunned the status quo and who were misunderstood by the generations who came before them, to prove their views about our generation, is their use of targeted cynicism and passive tough-love to shake us out of our disillusionment of the cynical, fear-based, and passive systems they perpetuate. The fact that they are using cynicism, shallow data, and a lack of long term systemic thinking to sell their books, proves the sentiment of our generation. If you want us to be like you, all we ask is that you change. Until we see that change, we're going to assume that it's business as usual. A business with practices that have left our country with a mess that our generation is stuck with cleaning up.

If you're willing, perhaps the greatest opportunity to build a high performing society and a strong resilient economy is to match your experience, resources, and knowledge of current systems with our ambition to change. I have the absolute privilege and honor of working with authentic, passionate, hard working leaders from older generations. Because of these people I have hope that the shallow cynical thinking I read in pieces such the Buckholz's  and this one in Forbes (from four years ago) that essentially calls social entrepreneurship a cute fad and likens it to "cuddling up to Barny," is on its way out.

If you're unwilling, please step aside.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Local Food Talk Around a Local Meal

For a few weeks, we’ve been trying to meet for drinks: Vince Razionale from Formaggio Kitchen, Julia Frost from Chive Events, and myself. We had a lot to talk about—catering and design, American artisanal cheese, sustainable business, and our common love of all things local. But we just can’t decide on a bar.

Finally, Julia emails a marvelous alternative: “Ok- dinner party at my house on Saturday evening. Why? Because we have amazing friends who are vendors, educators, etc and we all have a ton of ideas, thoughts and ways in which to collaborate. We're all young entrepreneurs and cool people in the slow food, local business, sustainability world right here in Boston and North Shore and you need to know each other!”

Reading that I almost drool on my keyboard. Connecting in an intimate setting with young entrepreneurs around slow food and local business? Swoon. Even better, the women from Chive will cook the meal and we all get to… enjoy. I’ve been to my fair share of networking events: MeetUps, TweetUps, Green Drinks... But this seems unique—no name tags, no awkward milling around looking for a friendly face to approach.

Everyone brings something a little different to the meal: two girls Eva and Chelsea from the Friedman School at Tufts who are getting their masters in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, Vince, the head American artisanal cheese buyer for Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Julia, Jennifer, Lindsey and Annie from Chive Sustainable Event Design and Catering, Mike and Nate, both local farmers. Without a lot of effort, we maintain both table-wide conversations and more intimate ones. I take the opportunity to spread the word about the Boston Local Food Festival, and to learn about the Food Policy masters at Tufts. One attendee bounces ideas for a business plan off the group, and we each give advice from various experience and perspectives.

And the food… oh my god, the food. The turkey, butterflied and cooked with herbs rubbed under the skin-- so incredibly tender and juicy, and complimented by a stunning array of root vegetables. JalapeƱo polenta cakes and an assortment of brightly-hued sauces. A salad of fresh greens from Tendercrop farm picked just that morning.

Oh, and did I mention cheese? Three sublime cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen for desert along with Taza chocolate, sliced apples, and a Pretty Things beer tasting. I almost cry.

I leave the evening with new friends, new ideas, and renewed enthusiasm for the work I’m doing in the Boston area. To have the opportunity to connect with an amazing group of young entrepreneurs in such a natural, inviting setting makes me realize that others out there must be hungry (no pun intended) for the same thing. All these meetups, tweetups—when maybe what we’re all really after is community.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Green is for the People - Update

(This article originally published in 2007, I do think it's still timely.)

I am sick of climate change. I am sick of being told to go green. I
am sick of hearing that we are collectively doomed.

Yes, we now know the Earth is warming at an alarming rate and many species are in danger including the cuddly seal eating teddy bear of the north, and of course the only specie capable of reading this article.

Former Vice President Al Gore says that we cannot let ourselves reach a level of despair. The Australian climate change activist John Seed says that only when we are at our most desperate of places will we be able to find a way out of this mess. Could they both be right?

Someone once spelled it out for me in these terms: we are the cancer, and the escalating levels of greenhouse gases are the radiation treatment. Pretty bleak. I was disturbed, but did this man, humming
on black coffee and half a pack of cigarettes, disturb me enough to act?

We live in a complex system of systems of systems within systems and systems. The health of these systems creates a balance that the world as we know it needs to thrive and sustain itself. Does this mean that the increased pressures on these systems lead to our collective demise? And is this the type of thing that people need to hear in order to act? Or does rhetoric lead to a cultural backlash that dismisses the messenger and disregards our collective complicity.

* * *

I recently traveled to San Francisco to attend Dwell magazine's conference focused on building sustainable communities in the modern world. San Francisco loves design, loves the color green, and, of
course, loves itself.

San Francisco has, by far, the most comprehensive set of environmentally friendly initiatives. The city has incredibly strong
public and private support for all things "green," the most of any American City I have visited in the past few years. The steering wheel for the green bandwagon, a.k.a. the "sustainability conspiracy" (proudly spoken of by conference moderator Joh Hockenberry), is most definitely in the Bay area, which means the liberal pockets of the East Coast are bringing up the rear. (Or are we driving in reverse?)

That said, with all the free, tree-hugging love oozing from the central West Coast and areas like our very own Pioneer Valley, how does the “sustainability conspiracy” conspire to win over the rest of the United States?

A good way to start, I believe, is with a shift of attitude expressed in the communication of this movement.

For years now the liberal pockets of the U.S. have been nurturing the family of green movements that have evolved out of environmentalism. This nurturing has led to a great deal of momentum but also a great deal of protectiveness. The number of those singing in the choir may be growing but not at the exponential rate needed for the movement's ideals to hit home with a large number of Americans who dismiss the Green movement, and the coasts that harbor
it, as elitist.

Hollywood is buying hybrids faster than automobile companies can make them. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are popping up on every block in major cities. Fair trade is cool, and green is chic (as well as expensive). This may be a move in the right direction. If sustainable, responsible products can infiltrate trendy mainstream America, perhaps we do not need to convince anyone. We can herd the sheep right into the fresh green pasture and they can unknowingly graze on the fair trade grass until the earth heals itself, right?

By buying expensive products such as solar panels for our home and gasoline/electric hybrid automobiles we can not only save the earth and some cash (after the initial investment), but also announce to our neighbors that we are on the right side.

But what about our neighbors who can’t afford high priced organic foods or cutting edge technology?

As the sustainability conspiracy revels in its own culture, I don't see its conspirators seeking common ground with the number of people who need to be convinced that this is an issue that effects us all and that only by taking a collective holistic approach that includes every system we live by, will we have a chance. The pseudo enlightened “we get it, why don’t you” approach will no longer suffice.

A strong, positive, inclusive voice is missing from the current state of the Green movement, and the lack of that voice keeps us in very divided groups. Groups that I believe are working toward a very similar goal, that of prosperity.

So, if there continues to be those of us who actually believe that there are just two types of people living through this mess, those who act and those who sit on their couches and watch The Price is Right, how is it that will we all find ourselves at the “responsible-for-saving-the-world party"?

With a massive all-inclusive invitation, one that reads: "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart."

* * *

While studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, a country praised for its environmental and social initiatives surrounding sustainability, one of my professors, who also worked with the ministry of the environment, looked at me and said, “If American industry jumped on board, the world would have a chance.” She had a great point. Perhaps our greatest right as Americans is our right to ingenuity and in turn to market our ideas to the people.

This ingenuity has built a nation that I am proud to be a part of. Let me remind you that a rally around our national industrial power has saved us before. By standing behind and contributing to our nation’s big business (not to mention higher taxes and victory gardens) during a time of dire need, American’s efficiently and successfully produced the technology and products to take down a tyrant.

The uphill battle we face is very different. In those days we were churning out war-planes and bullets to our soldiers overseas, now we must produce goods and services that will help every American to live more environmentally and socially responsible. If the biggest of business can turn it around and see the benefit to going green, fight the good fight, and buy and sell products that support a healthy vibrant planet, we must support. So what other company has the power to get more goods to more Americans?


They may be a bit late, but what other company claiming to stand behind the ideals of sustainability has 1.9 million employees, revenue of over $351 billion dollars, and the ability to influence enough people to make a real change in the Earth's environment?

True, in the past, Wal-Mart has had horrific policies regarding social and environmental responsibility. But that company has all along been fighting for middle America and speaking a language sweet to its citizens' ears, selling inexpensive consumer products to those who cannot afford things elsewhere; goods priced for the people. Before you discard this company's environmental goals as pure green-wash, take a look at its current and planned initiatives (

Whether or not the Earth is melting or freezing, no matter how desperate we become, whether humans will end up being the disease or the cure, no matter how much of this green movement will fade to fad, we can all benefit from a positive, inclusive, responsible push to change the way we live, work, and consume. If no one is worried about who gets credit for saving the world, if this is a selfless movement aimed at making the Earth a better place to live — the sustainability
conspirators need to put lofty ideals aside and let big industry jump on board to popularize measures this earth needs.

Give those who might not be able to afford to “get it” a chance, and let them know that we are all welcome to live where the grass is green.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Venture: Big Picture Works

Big Picture Works is a newly formed design firm focused on using collaboration, media, technology, communication and good design as a catalyst for creating community and commerce. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

STREETe FOOD Apparel and Art Show Set for January 16th, 2010

On the evening of January 16th, the gallery at Generation Sustain will host a launch party and art opening for the art and adventure inspired apparel company, Streete Food. We will be highlighting various artists from around New England as well as introducing the world to the latest spawn of Generation Sustain and brainchild of artist and snowboarder, Rob Cahill.

Design by, Jess Kooy 

Along with producing a line of most radical apparel, Streete Food aims to support and highlight young artists and designers that have a strong vision.

More information on all of these fronts will be coming soon, as well as times and details about the event.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Alie & Georgia take the NY Times

Our dear friends, Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, are featured in the New York Times today in the Fashion and Style Section. During their recent trip to NYC, I caught up with these babes at their party in the East Village. Alie has been a very good friend of mine since we met back in 2001 in Montana during the Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride.Please help these ladies out reading the article and getting this story to show up as "Most Emailed" on the NY Times site. All you need to do is click on the article and hit the "Email" button at the bottom. Email the article to me, to yourself, to friends, to a congressman, and ex-flame -- whomever -- over and over and over. It doesn't matter who. Take ten minutes and do it 20 times, and you will change the future of Alie and Georgia on Planet Earth.Also, you should watch their videos on the McNuggetini, the Ham Daiquiri, and the Bloody Bacon and Cheese. These drinks are sure to jazz up your Holiday parties!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Musings: GREEN PORN

Obviously I'm playing catch up with you all. So, lets get reacquainted...with porn. Green Porn that is:
Green Porno is the brainchild of Isabella Rossellini who functions as writer, co-director, and star of this series of short films on the Sundance Channel. Each featurette functions as a mini documentary on animal sexuality and behavior. These shorts, fantastically scientifically accurate, are an insightful look into the curious manner in which these creatures fornicate. Rossellini, a critically acclaimed actress herself, has created a playful, educational fantasy world full of humor all while promoting the sustainability of our world's critters, great and small...and odd. Yahtzee!

Green Drinks, Blue Oceans

On December 8th, I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive Green Drinks event at the Prince George Ballroom in New York City. Hosted by Green Drinks NYC, the annual Holiday party was enthusiastically focused on Ocean Conservation and the need for Oceanic Education. Introductions were made by award winning Author and Founder of Blue Ocean Institute, Carl Safina(Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas, Eye of the Albatross: Views of the Endangered Sea, Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur.)

The evening's keynote speaker, Dr. Sylvia Earle, addressed the critical issues facing our oceans and delved into her experiences as a marine biologist having logged over 7,000 hours underwater). Dr. Earle is a critically acclaimed oceanographer, a National Geographic "explorer-in-residence", was named a "hero of the planet" by Time magazine, and is also the 2009 TED Prize winner for her work on ocean conservation. It was truly an honor to be in the presence of such dedicated, intelligent people who love our oceans so dearly. Think Green, think Blue.

In recent decades we've learned more about the ocean than in all previous human history combined. But as our knowledge has exploded, so too has our power to upset the delicate balance of this complex organism. Modern overexploitation has driven many species to the verge of extinction, from tiny but indispensable biota to magnificent creatures like tuna, swordfish, and great whales.
Since the mid-20th century about half our coral reefs have died or suffered sharp decline; hundreds of oxygen-deprived "dead zones" blight our coastal waters; and toxic pollutants afflict every level of the food chain. Fortunately, there is reason for hope, and what we do—or fail to do—in the next ten years may well resonate for the next ten thousand.

The ultimate goal, is to find responsible, renewable strategies that safeguard the natural systems that sustain us.

– Sylvia Earle

Check out Green Drinks NYC, and if you are ever in the city on the second Tuesday of the month, join up and get connected. Many thanks to my dear friend Dylana Dillon for putting on such a fabulous event!

Also take a peek at:

Oceans in Google Earth

Citizens Campaign for the Environment

Natural Resources Defense Council


Pew Environment Group

Shark Savers

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't Eat Lunch Alone

On January 8th, 2010 at 12:30pm Eastern Standard Time, Generation Sustain, in collaboration with the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, and The Donkey's Union, will host the first weekly, Don't Eat Lunch Alone - Freelancers' Lunch. Let's call it DELA.

The idea is to bring together freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, local to Shelburne Falls and the Pioneer Valley to eat lunch and see what happens. I know first hand that when it comes to running a business some of us are strong in some areas and weak in others. It's also quite usual that we get absorbed into our own worlds, so starting January 8th, each Friday, we'll be  providing a platform and loose structure to connect and discuss relevant topics.

For more information please get in touch. Specifics coming soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Building Homes, Building Hope

Building Homes, Building Hope...
(at Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity of course)

I am taking my new AmeriCorps VISTA position as the Community and Faith Relations
Coordinator at Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity to the Generation Sustain Venture Space! Thank you and welcome Habitat! Check out or give us a call at 413-739-5503 for upcoming events and ways to get involved, build homes, change lives, and transform neighborhoods!

All. Good. Things. Springfield.

Yes Shelburne Falls has it made but don't forget, things are moving and shaking down in Springfield, MA at our sister-incubator space, Gasoline Alley! Operating out of two abandoned auto garages, Rob Thomas and Joe Sibilia believe "business can be a tool for social change," and they are well on their way towards creating the greenest, most self sufficient, recycled, reused, and innovative space for events and local businesses. Check them out at for more and to plug their monthly events into your calendar.

Tonight they are hosting authors Ed & Deb Shapiro, William Spear and Bernie Glassman as they discuss "Be The Change," a book written by Ed & Deb about the life changing power of meditation. Last month I was captured by their film showing of Frederick Marx's "Journey from Zanskar," a documentary on 2 monks and 17 children on their seemingly impossible and dangerous trek across the Himalayas towards school and futures dedicated to preserving the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (narrated by Richard Gere and prompted by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.)

...Food is growing outside and there is always beer on tap and popcorn popping...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Shots of the Space in Shelburne Falls

Mckenzie Rollins who also wrote the article below took these photos of our space last Friday to prepare for our new website. Look for more posts by Mckenzie, but for now, enjoy these images from a cloudy November day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

All Things Alie Ward...

A peculiar child at birth, the mystery that is Alie Ward has followed her into adulthood. Ward is the leading lady of Curiology, an umbrella company that she established as a forum for her painting and custom tattoo shirts, and is based in Los Angeles. Ward also confides to me that she was in dire need of a company to front a Bolivian organ trade operation that she was running on the side. Originally, this was bringing her more monetary stability than the sale of her paintings, shirts, and writing gigs as the Events Editor at Metromix LA (which is now Brand-X). Mostly she explains, “it was stolen from prostitutes,” and Curiology was initially established to sideline the feds and hide the abundance of money that was suddenly in her hands. However, the organ trade has subsided, and Ward can now focus solely on the other aspects of her business

Ward uses a hefty amount of text in her art, so Curiology embodies not only its literal meaning of “writing with pictures,” but also perfectly defines Ward as an artist. She “approaches her paintings like a roadside sign or a billboard.” Her marriage of verbal and visual elements, specific or ambiguous, has become her own language. She communicates with ideas and has basically centered her world on writing and pictures. Oh, and I can’t forget to tell you about her extensive collection of insects. Yep, let me say that again, this lady collects the creepy crawlies. Her love of science and all things with multiple legs has long influenced her work. “I make so many anatomical illustrations in paintings, and I sometimes letter my text on my paintings (particularly the dichotomy series) like a scientist would a specimen.”

Ward is clearly a very busy little lady. How does one balance the production of art, customized shirts, and a full time gig keeping LA shamelessly aware of all things hot and new? Well, schedule your life in hour blocks. That’s what Alie Ward does. A self proclaimed total slob by nature; Ward steadily instills a “hyper anal challenge” upon herself.

“Because I have too many jobs on my plate, some things fall to the wayside (eyebrow plucking, vacuuming my car, calling my mom etc) which is why it took McKenzie, 2 weeks, 3 voicemails and 1 Facebook comment threatening a cowboy boot up and orifice to get this interview.”

But I hold no grudges as any time, in person or on the phone with Miss Ward, is well worth the wait. These sessions always result in spastic fits of laughter occasionally followed by the necessary use of a diaper, squeals of joy, and a rampant exchange of horror stories in all possible fashions of life. Thanks Alie Ward for your honesty, your humility, and your overall perfect adoration of all things dork.

*Side note: Alie has decided that if Curiology fails, and life in LA becomes too much, she and I will live in a loft while perfecting the genealogy of Unicorns, breeding them for our own whimsical magical adventures. Sounds good to me.

Check out Alie Ward’s paintings, custom shirts, and wildly humorous blog at,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sustainability Across America Tour

On a quick note, we would like to throw our full support behind the organic clothing company SUST's latest project called Sustainability Across America. I'm looking forward to working with anyone and everyone involved with the project in the near future and more details regarding the project and our collaboration will be coming out shortly.

"Modern day journalist, Laura Jones, is at the helm of the 3-month road tour. The tour includes visits to many of the nation’s metropolitan areas as well as the most beautiful national parks and monuments. The Sustainability Across America tour is meant to encourage grassroots growth in the sustainability movement, as well as to gather and document perceptions about being green, sustainable, and organic."

Other partners include, cmarchuska, ecosalon, Guayaki Yerba Mate, Indigenous fair trade + organic, RESTORE® CLOTHING, and Ryann.

They have a pretty cool van too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 233rd US!!!!!!

Benjamin Franklin "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." Benjamin Franklin

There is always a better way to do things. Back to work on the 6th. Have a great weekend GS!