The Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization whose aim is to make the planet green again through fighting deforestation and preventing soil erosion. It engages the community, especially women, in its process and, in return, compensates participants with a small monetary payment. It has now become an international platform for women’s empowerment through the conservation of natural resources.

The Green Belt Movement was started by the late professor, Doctor Wangari Maathai, who founded the organization in 1977 in Kenya. Dr. Maathai is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman to receive such an honor. She is also the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in East and Central Africa. Dr. Maathai witnessed the struggles of rural Kenyan women with finding drinking water, food and firewood, saw the connection between deforestation, scarcity of rainfall and food insecurity and wanted to address the problem as a whole. She encouraged men and women to practice reforestation, binding soil to prevent soil erosion, food processing, beekeeping and many more sustainable values.

The Green Belt Movement has also dealt with larger issues in the daily lives of Kenyans. It has protected public lands from private landowners, known as “land grabbing.” It has trained farmers with simple techniques to grow indigenous vegetables and fruits that are sustainable in harsh environments. It also uses a water-shed based approach to harvesting. Furthermore, the Green Belt Movement launched the Community Empowerment and Education program, which helped to educate common people on the environment, natural resources and civics.

Since its foundation in 1977, over 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya. The movement also invented a method of spreading ideas among the community through “trainers of trainers.” In 2015 alone, over 200 women who participated in training from the Green Belt Movement have gone on to train over 20,000 members of their communities, thus assisting in the spreading of the Movement’s ideas. The Green Belt Movement has addressed important issues such as deforestation, climate change and women’s empowerment, gaining international status in the process.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

A Green Colombia

Humankind has achieved a level of greatness unknown to its predecessors: today we freely traverse the globe as we please and live comfortable lifestyles, infatuated with the belief that we live in a place where almost anything is possible.

Unfortunately, this whimsical attitude cannot last in a world unable to keep up with each and every whim and passing fancy of the human heart. With the inevitable effects of climate change ravaging the one and only planet in which we live, a growing endeavor to find sustainable approaches and solutions for countries around the world continues to be a top priority on the nation’s agenda.

Recognizing this importance, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $700 million loan which supported green growth in Colombia as well as environmental developments within the country. It was through this Development Policy Loan (DPL) that Colombian administration’s budgetary program was supported.

The National Development Plan for Colombia has several initiatives in support of a green growth strategy which include “reducing water and air pollution as well as the final disposal and recycling of solid waste,” states an article by the World Bank.

Challenges that Colombia faces in this effort include an aversion to adaption in the face of climate change and a “reduction in the costs of environmental degradation on health,” says the World Bank. However, this loan will present a unique and golden opportunity to promote social, economic and environmental developments for this country.

According to the World Bank, “the rate of exploitation of Colombia’s natural resources is greater than the average for Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) countries. For example, extensive cattle raising, mostly undertaken in unsuitable lands, has caused significant deterioration in land use. Equally, the industrial sector is one of the biggest culprits behind organic pollution and the deterioration of water quality in Colombia.”

With the poorest and most vulnerable people suffering the most from environmental degradation issues, advances in environmental sustainability will be welcomed and embraced throughout this region. This loan will not just benefit the very poor but also seeks to improve productivity and overall quality of life for all Colombians.

Future endeavors will focus on strengthening the response capacity to climate change and natural disasters that affect the country. As often as this is repeated, its message stays true: only by investing in these issues today can we create a future for tomorrow.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: DNP, World Bank

Springtime is often seen as a time for renewal and change; the weather is warming up and activities are gravitating towards the outdoors. Here are 5 great spring changes you can make for better health and also help to benefit the globe.

Eat Fresh Foods from Local Farmers

I am sure you’ve heard it before, but buying foods from local farmers is an effective and beneficial way to stay healthy, keep the world green, and support your local economy. Farmers markets usually sell food within a day or two of being harvested so it will be fresh and still nutrient-rich.

Foods that are shipped to supermarkets are often on trucks for at least a week, losing freshness and nutrients that are vital in vegetables and fruits. Without the long distances traveling to deliver foods, local farmers are also selling better food for you without wasting gas and polluting the air.

Visiting farmers markets is fun, and they also provide local farmers with jobs, support, and a source of income. “When farmers sell directly to the consumer, the middleman is cut out thus producing a higher profit for the farmer. The farmer then circulates his profits throughout the community with local merchants creating a cycle that helps to build a strong local economy.”

Communities Grow by Donating Outgrown Clothes

Donating clothing is an easy way to give back to the community and make use of clothing that either you or your kids have outgrown. The springtime is one of the best times to donate clothes and to check out stores such as Savers and the Salvation Army in the US, and Goodwill worldwide; the weather is getting nicer, people are breaking out shorts, and more people are trying to get into shape.

Thrift stores sell gently-worn clothing at affordable prices, and many stores accept not just clothing, but other household items like glassware, shoes, books, and jewelry. Some thrift stores, such as Savers, give nonprofit partners money to help pay for their programs and allow communities the chance to buy cared-for clothing at minimum price.

Go Green to Help Your Greens Grow

When the weather becomes prime gardening weather, pesticides are an easy crutch to lean on to help plants grow. It is not a secret that the use of pesticides is directly correlated with health problems globally. Specifically in under-developed countries, pesticides are often used because farmers are unable to afford health-conscious pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Chemicals in these products are more likely to harm children than adults. Since children are often playing outside, they are more prone to exposure for long periods of time, and they are more likely to bring home chemicals to other members of their families.

In the U.S., pesticides are commonly used in amounts too low to cause severe reactions, but this isn’t to say they do not have negative health effects. Depending on the chemicals being used, the toxins may irritate the nervous and endocrine system, eyesight and skin.

Toss Away the Chemicals in Cleaning Products

Like pesticides, chemicals in house cleaning products are not always as clean for the environment or your body. We are often looking for convenient, easy to use, and inexpensive products, but convenience does not necessarily mean it will be healthy in the long run.

By eliminating exposure to harmful toxins in cleaning products, your body will thank you and benefit over time. Cleaning products often contain chemicals that are bioaccumulative, so after frequent exposure they can add up to deadly levels, even if they are not orally ingested.

Since springtime is a common time for household cleaning and starting fresh, what better time is there to also flush out those common toxins from under your sink?

Take Advantage of Warm Weather

The body is able to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, and springtime has perfect weather to spend outdoors in order to meet your daily vitamin D intake. Scientists recommend spending 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight, which is usually enough for a fair skinned individual to received the recommended dosage of vitamin D from ultraviolet rays.

For a darker skinned individual, it is more difficult to generate vitamin D from the sun and it may require a longer period of time in direct sunlight. This is caused by a higher level of melanin in the skin, which blocks the skin from ultraviolet rays, meaning that darker skinned individuals have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than lighter skinned individuals.

Often, even the lowest amount of SPF blocks 95% of ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin, and this is usually the cause of people not receiving the recommended amount of vitamin D during the spring and summer time.

So doctors recommend taking at least 10 minutes before applying sunscreen in order to meet your vitamin D needs, and if this is not possible, consider asking your doctor about a supplement or look towards healthy fatty fish like salmon, or fortified milks and orange juices.

Vitamin D deficiencies contribute to osteoporosis, rickets, and osteomalacia, but some light outside activities can help fight these deficiencies.

These simple steps can make an incredibly big difference on your body and the world. By doing something as easy as eating locally and giving locally, we are able to help maintain and create a cyclical community based on healthy habits.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: Farmers Market Authority, Savers, Global Medicine, Green Clean Certified, Vitamin D Council, Grosvenor, Mary B. Visualizing Nutrition. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Photo: Food Day

Kenya is Going Green and Improving Its EconomyKenya is pushing a number of initiatives that could improve its green footprint, as well as its economy. In efforts to fight climate change and enhance development, Kenya, in the last ten years, has begun to implement a number of green initiatives that could have major benefits in the future. Kenya, in support of going green, has even added constitutional requirements to protect the environment.

One of these initiatives, entitled the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, is a very large proponent of wind-power.  In fact, this wind-power project is the biggest in the entirety of Africa. It is set to begin operating this year and is predicted to bring about 2,500 new jobs, as well as protect the environment. This alone is a great success for Kenya. And the Lake Turkana Wind Power project keeps on giving. The creation of an alternative energy source means lower energy costs, making it easier to produce goods and making services cheaper.

Another one of these initiatives, which offers similar benefits to Kenya, is the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project. Upon its completion in 2014, the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project will add 288 megawatts of power.

Green energy and power sources are desperately needed in Kenya, where polluting fuels, such as coal, are the current energy sources. Currently, 80% of Kenyans utilize wood-based fuels for their daily needs. This leads to a lot of waste going into the environment, as well as waste as tons and tons of trees are cut down and only a portion are used in the creation of charcoal.

Finding alternative fuel sources and coming up with the funding necessary to build farms like the Lake Turkana Wind Power project – which is 100% privately funded – is helping Kenya in their move towards being green and creating social equity. A lot of the benefits of such projects require long-term maintenance and support; yet they are important in making Kenya stronger economy.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: EcoMENA

Mickey Mouse Has Saved the Rain ForestsFor years, Greenpeace has worked to protect the environment and wildlife, and just recently, it seems that they have made a major breakthrough: with the help of Disney and others, the historic Mickey Mouse has saved the rain forest.

As a strategy for creating consumer awareness about the perils of big-business and their detrimental impact on the environment, Greenpeace will show how big brands are supporting destructive practices through their affiliates and suppliers. For a long time, they were trying to stop Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP) from destroying the habitats of the orangutans and Sumatran tigers but were getting nowhere. In a change of plan, they hired actors to dress up as Minnie and Mickey Mouse and lock themselves to Walt Disney’s headquarters, flying a banner that read “Disney is destroying Indonesia’s rain forests.”

After immense pressure from its customer base, the combined forces of Mattel and McDonald’s, and eighteen months of negotiations, Disney issued new standards requiring that all paper they, its suppliers, and its licensees use, would now be sustainably sourced. Dozens of major paper-consuming companies followed and APP found itself unable to do business with much of the European and U.S. markets. So, APP then announced in February that it would also “go green.” They promised to no longer use any wood coming from natural forests.

After their announcement, nine of the top 10 US publishers, including Harper Collins, have adopted similar standards. “I think this will stand as one of the biggest market-based campaign successes that we’ve seen in a long time,” says Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network. “We’re still a little bit stunned.”

Mary Purcell

Source: Christian Science Monitor
Photo: Max Papeschi