Notes from Iowa: Foliage Skateboards Asks for Your Vote

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Ecopreneur Eli Shepherd is the founder Foliage Skateboards, “an environmentally friendly, community-focused skateboard start-up.” Joe and I met Eli when he was volunteering for Iowa City Summer of Solutions and conducted an energy audit on our home. Eli recently contacted us because Foliage Skateboards is currently competing for a $5,000 business grant for start-up companies in Johnson County, Iowa. Like many young start-up business owners, Eli has a big dream but small resources. Winning the Dream Big, Grow Here contest would enable Eli to build the organization he describes below. He is asking for BPGL readers’ support.

If Eli’s company mission and vision resonate with you, we invite you to vote for Foliage Skateboards. Simply click on the Foliage Skateboard link in the Dream Big, Grow Here contest. Then click “Log in with Facebook,” confirm the app, and click “Vote!” You can vote once per day until the polls close at midnight on November 9. Eli also asks supporters to spread the word about the competition on Facebook and Twitter.

So, why should you vote for Foliage Skateboards? And what will the start-up company do if they are awarded the grant? Fair questions. Here is what Eli has to say.

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Obama, Romney, and Women’s Healthcare

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In this election, arguments about women’s healthcare have often focused on abortion and contraception coverage. While I agree these are important issues, I would like to share my views from the perspective of a female cancer patient. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. “Obamacare,” requires insurance companies to cover such preventative services as breast cancer mammography screenings every one to two years for women over 40, breast cancer chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk, and annual screenings for cervical cancer. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have pledged to repeal Obamacare, meaning many women could lose these important benefits from their paid insurance plans.

Even worse is the Republican plan, or lack thereof, for the many women currently without coverage. When money is tight, women are often the family members who go uncovered because we are often charged as much as three times the insurance rates of men (a problem Obamacare resolves as of 2014). I know many hard-working women — single and married — who are self-employed or work jobs that offer no insurance coverage and who can’t afford to pay for coverage themselves. Many married women whose spouse has a good health insurance policy still go uncovered because of the high cost of adding family coverage. Obamacare will make more options available to ALL women when the program goes into full force in 2014. But meanwhile, women without coverage need Planned Parenthood….

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Escape Into Nature On Your Next Trip (or Close to Home)

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Time away from the daily grind helps to keep us sane and motivated, and nothing rejuvenates our inner batteries like the peaceful experience of being fully immersed in nature.

Unfortunately, for city dwellers in particular, that can be a difficult outlet to find. Granted, watching a squirrel bury nuts for the winter or a beetle making its way across the bark of a tree can be a calming experience, possible in a backyard or in the midst of a city park. But just as Thoreau removed himself completely to Walden Pond to truly surround himself within the natural world, there’s something to be said for getting away from civilization altogether….

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Diversely Sustainable Cities II: Philadelphia and Medellin

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In the second story of the Sustainable Cities sequence, we’ll look at two other diversely sustainable cities that may surprise you: Medellin, Colombia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Medellin, Colombia

Medellin has been long known as a city of turmoil — both immersed in filth and historically recognized as the most violent city in the world. Medellin’s most recent mayor, Alonso Salazar, however, has opted to shift Medellin in an entirely new direction.

Following the implementation of several new public transportation initiatives, the city has seen immense changes. Under Salazar, Medellin now boasts of a public bicycle system, ride-sharing programs, and a savvy 1,300-ft. escalator that links Medellin’s formerly poorest neighborhood, Comuna 13, to the city center….

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Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City

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Phoenix, Arizona is a sprawling metropolis in one of the world’s hottest places. It has a long way to go before it can be considered “green.”

Andrew Ross, a professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, wrote Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. His book is based on 200 interviews over two years about the Phoenix area’s likelihood of becoming sustainable.

What resulted from his work is a gripping analysis of government’s effect on making positive environmental changes. In Phoenix, he claims, those in charge are not doing what’s necessary to preserve the region for future generations….

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Aromatic Infusions – Luxurious Gifts for Mom (or Yourself)

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If you’re heading to the Des Moines Farmers Market tomorrow, be sure to stop by Candi Karsjens’ booth: #N208 2nd Ave. and Court. You’ll find her selling items that we’re quite smitten with here at Blue Planet Green Living. Your mom, grandma, or aunt will likely be, too. (It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, if you didn’t get my hint.)

In my last post, I wrote about UpCycled Style, glasses, vases, and more that Karsjens makes from repurposed wine and liquor bottles. But that’s only one of her product lines. She also sells pleasantly fragrant, hand-crafted soap and candle items that even this scent-free-workplace advocate can love….

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Mississippi River Distilling Company’s “Grain to Glass” Philosophy Fills Niche in Iowa

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When the Burchett brothers first started talking about the idea of starting their own micro-distillery, they didn’t have much experience. Now, more than a year after its opening, the Mississippi River Distilling Company boasts locally made and award-winning spirits.

Located in LeClaire, Iowa, just above the banks of the Mississippi River, the micro-distillery has been in operation since December of 2010. Ryan and Garrett Burchett honed their skills for distilling by visiting and researching the craft in Germany, eventually bringing back what they learned to their home state of Iowa….

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Huddling for the Home Team (Habitat for Humanity) on Super Sunday

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Super Sunday is an American tradition and, football fan or not, the vast majority of us find ourselves in someone’s living room or den gathered around the television watching the game (okay, the ads). For enterprising fundraisers, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to gather friends together for a good cause.

This evening, Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, and his wife, Amber, hosted one of 85 house parties that will benefit the local Habitat for Humanity organization. These Home Team Huddles raise money that goes directly to building homes for deserving—and hard-working—families….

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My Night in Jail (Occupy Iowa)

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Dear Friends,

Last night, I was one of over thirty protesters arrested at “People’s Park” on the Iowa State Capitol grounds. Honestly, I was surprised by the hostile response of the State Patrol. We were on public property and obstructing neither vehicular nor pedestrian traffic. We were peaceful. We were exercising our right to freedom of speech and to petition our government. The demeanor of many of the troopers made no sense to me, especially coming from a division of State Government that I respect and worked well with when I was a state lawmaker.

Today, as I dialogue with some of the 500 people who participated in yesterday’s “occupy” events, it appears the arrests have only further fueled people’s commitment to push the movement forward….

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Moving Planet: A Play in Two Acts

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Last weekend, climate advocates and activists in more than 180 countries performed in over 2000 showings of what may very well have been the world’s largest production to date: Moving Planet. Billed as “A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels” and built on the backs of tens of thousands of impassioned participants, “energy” was both the central theme and the real star of this show. The production—massive in size and yet purposefully carbon-light—focused on moving our world from dirty energy to clean energy while showcasing the human energy powering the movement….

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Ryan Gourley, Contributing Writer

October 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Activists, BPGL Crew, Iowa, Ryan Gourley

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Ryan Gourley is an organizer for Moving Planet and the Iowa City Climate Advocates, a local division of the Iowa Climate Advocates.

A native Iowan, Ryan received his Bachelor’s degrees from The University of Iowa, where he studied psychology, communication, and theatre. He combines this background with his interest in healthcare as a research specialist for the Iowa City VA Health Care System and a communication instructor for The University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy….

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Pioneers for the Planet: The High Wind Story

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On a windswept acreage overlooking a lush valley in mid-eastern Wisconsin, a small group of committed visionaries sowed a seed for change called High Wind, an “intentional community” that grew and blossomed in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although its life as an intentional community formally ended in 1992, the ecovillage legacy of High Wind […]

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In Memory of 9/11: Let Us Wage Peace

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We all speak today of healing, understanding, and peacemaking.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself.

Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. We laud the heroism of the firefighters and so many others. And we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war….

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VeeV Greens the Liquor Industry with Sustainable Spirits Made from Acai

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When brothers Courtney and Carter Reum decided to launch a spirits company, they were open to different possibilities—but one element of the concept was a certainty. “We knew it would include a sustainability component,” Courtney Reum says. “Nobody was doing anything sustainable in alcohol. There was a lack of innovation. So we realized we had a chance to do something really unique.”

The brothers resigned their positions as investment bankers with Goldman Sachs and set out to “green” the liquor industry.

That was four years and more than 500,000 bottles ago. Since the first 7,500-bottle batch of VeeV Acai Spirit™ came off the line at Rigby, Idaho-based Distilled Resources Inc., this duo has racked up some pretty compelling eco-cred….

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Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker

August 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Economy, Front Page, Slideshow, Sustainability, Tips, U.S.

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Who couldn’t use a little financial wisdom right about now, with the stock market swinging up and down like a bungee jumper hanging from a bridge, homes in foreclosure around the nation, and unemployment putting an alarming crimp in so many family budgets?

It’s tough to make a buck today, let alone keep it. Yet, for the Amish, a humble people who value frugality and self reliance, hanging onto their money is a given, as author Lorilee Craker tells us in Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving.

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Edible Gardens Make Summer Tasty and Fun in Iowa City

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When I first moved to Iowa City, I decided to try and conquer my terrible sense of direction by walking around and getting to know the area. Instead, I did what I always do. I found one path that took me from Point A to Point B, and I started taking that path every day.

Along my walk is the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. I first noticed the Recreation Center because I was looking for a gym to attend while living in Iowa City (I can proudly say that I’ve been to the gym a total of one time.) But, I was more intrigued by the garden attached to the side of the building.

Normally I would ask someone about the garden, receive a short explanation, nod my head and go on my way. But, this summer I am a Blue Planet Green Living intern. I get to satisfy my curiosity by being a journalist. So, last Wednesday Hayley Noneman, a summer intern with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, took me on a tour of Parks and Recreation’s garden projects….

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Summer of Solutions Offers Opportunities to Youth Leaders

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Most students use their summer vacations to sleep in, catch up on TV, and relax. For Summer of Solutions project leaders like Jennifer Roach, summer is just another opportunity to create solutions for the problems in their communities.

Roach, along with co-leaders Claudine Constant and Pablo Baeza, is leading a project to start gardens in Hartford, Connecticut’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, one of 15 Summer of Solutions (SoS) projects across the country….

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Treasure Mountain Inn: An Eco-Friendly Destination for Travelers

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Eight years ago, environmental activists Andy Beerman and Thea Leonard became the co-owners of Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah.

The couple had worked at the inn for years prior to purchasing the property. Beerman, who worked as a guide and has degrees in outdoor education and environmental studies, now incorporates his personal, environmental principles into the business.

And his principles have paid off. Earlier this year, the hotel was the first recipient of Park City Municipal’s new Environmental Heroes Award. The award recognizes local leaders who work to protect Park City’s environment. Treasure Mountain Inn, the area’s only green-certified, 100 percent carbon-neutral hotel, was also the first local hotel to start recycling in 1996.

“This is an ongoing process,” says Beerman, about the couple’s efforts to make the hotel more eco-friendly….

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Iowa City Summer of the Arts Goes Green

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To get a sense of the strong community living in Iowa City, attend one of its summer festivals. This weekend, the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival will take over the downtown area and provide residents with delicious food, music, and the opportunity to learn about the environment.

Environmental education may not be what you expect to see at a festival. But, Iowa City’s summer events attract thousands of people, and that generates a lot of trash. To reduce the waste that Iowa City’s festivals send to the landfill, Summer of the Arts (SotA), the organization behind Iowa City’s festivals, has begun a program called Green Initiatives (GI)….

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Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days June 18 and 26

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Whether you’re a farmer or a wannabe, the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) Field Days may be of interest to you. Two upcoming events, June 18 and June 26, are geared for farmers (and farmers at heart) who strive for sustainability along with production.
June 18: Improving a Perennial Pasture

What does it take to establish and care for a pasture with perennial plants? One that is good for grazing a growing herd of cattle? Come find out from farmer Nathan Anderson of Cherokee. Together with his dad, Randy Anderson, and his fiancée, Sarah Joachim, Anderson participates in a Practical Farmers of Iowa project to monitor “ecological productivity and financial indicators” related to improving pastures and grazing systems….

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