Monthly Archives: December 2011

ReThink: Email Campaigns

Sending out professional mass emails to mailing lists used to involve either significant graphics design experience or a third party marketing group. MailChimp is changing that game. Not only is the design of the email simple to create and beautiful to behold, but integration into any number of social networks, web tools, and office management systems is seamless. Plus, each campaign can be evaluated using detailed reports to track usage statistics. Did we mention that, for all but the heaviest users, MailChimp is free?


ReThink: Sewage

In the developed world, we are accustomed to not thinking about what happens after we flush the toilet. In the developing world, “out of sight, out of mind” is an unheard-of phrase; if a toilet exists to be flushed, the resulting effluent often ends up untreated in the local bodies of water. Simple fix, right? Just install a sewage treatment plant and open sewage disappears.

Not exactly. For one thing, sewage treatment plants are not free; they require large capital investments that governments of developing countries are typically not in a position to make. For another, treatment plants require user fees, which we know in the form of our monthly sanitation bill. Such a system of user support is unfeasible in developing countries, where even the postal service is not a guarantee. Treatment plants have been built through philanthropic efforts, but once funding for ongoing operations dries up, so does the waste. As a result, sewage flows freely, untreated and without boundary.

The people at Waste Enterprisers are revisioning sewage, not only its treatment, but more importantly, its economic potential. Conventional wisdom sees sewage as a cost, not as a revenue-generating opportunity. Waste Enterprisers are capitalizing on the energy potential inherent in human waste, developing industrial fuel solutions from an undesirable and diease-spreading byproduct of human life. These fuels, such as biodiesel and coal substitutes, are clean, carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuels that benefit people on every level: removing waste from the environment, offering employment in processing the waste into fuel, selling the fuel for profit, and using clean fuel to power other enterprises. Waste, instead of being a costly problem, becomes an incredible opportunity for economic and health development. Since when has poop done so much for you?

ReThink: Shoes

The human foot is a marvel of engineering. Built to withstand the continual stress and strain of walking, running, jumping, dancing, and all sorts of pedestrian activity, the foot is uniquely equipped to handle all the requirements of bipedalism. However, conventional wisdom has convinced us of exactly the opposite: our feet are incomplete, insufficient by themselves to handle daily life. Feet, they say, must be enveloped in a supportive, cushy, protective enclosure; the less feet act like feet, the better they will work.

Enter Vibram, the company questioning everything we have been told about our feet. Vibram’s Five Finger line of “shoes” is liberating feet everywhere to do all the things they were meant to do, uninhibited and unrestricted by convention. Whatever the activity, Five Fingers enable newfound liberty in the pursuit as feet are unleashed to be all they were made to be. Freedom is being declared for the captives; the tyranny of oppressive shoes is being torn down. Where will your feet take you?

ReThink: Old Clothes

In a consumer society, when something becomes “old,” it is replaced with something new. Patagonia is challenging this notion through its Common Threads Initiative. While not a new idea, the Initiative is inspiring new commitment to the old mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” The company is doing its part to be sustainable and is providing forward-thinking ways for you to do the same.

ReThink: Microfinance

Most of us have heard of microfinance, which opens the way for entrepreneurs in developing countries to gain access to small amounts of capital. Muhammad Yunus is widely credited with the creation of microfinance through his work in establishing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. The funding for microfinance institutions has traditionally been provided through donor organizations, central banks, and the sale of bonds; however, this paradigm has shifted with the introduction of Kiva. Instead of tapping into traditional capital markets, Kiva connects borrowers with individuals who have extra money to lend, enabling a wealth of new capital to be provided at no additional cost to the borrower. Individual lenders can lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs across the world, enabling economic growth and development to small business owners otherwise unable to take out a loan from a bank. One loan at a time, lives are being changed around the world.

How Kiva Works from Kiva on Vimeo.

ReThink: Autism

1 in 110 babies born today will be diagnosed with autism, with often devastating consequences for the family. Benjamin’s Hope is meeting this challenge head-on by developing a comprehensive community of support for those affected by autism and developmental disability.

ReThink: Payment

Remove the middle man, lower the cost, right? That’s the idea behind Dwolla, the pioneering electronic cash option. Traditional electronic payments involve one or more middlemen, each one very interested in taking a chunk of change out of the payment. Dwolla is taking the Pal out of PayPal, so to speak; transactions cost a maximum of twenty-five cents. The result is electronic payment the way it’s meant to be: simple, fast, and practically free.

ReThink: Logistics

A Grand Rapids-based startup is rethinking how deliveries are made. Zipments connects people who need deliveries made with people who can make deliveries, bypassing traditional modes of shipping. The result is a custom, on-demand, cost-effective logistics solution.

Zipments – How To Post A Job from Paul Genzink on Vimeo.

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