A Week Without Sugar: Day 4 January 06 2012
I'm now on Day 4 of my week sans sugar.
Aside from constantly sending Perry texts complaining about how I'm never letting him talk me into anything again, I'm doing okay. Today I had to get my yellow fever shot for our upcoming trip to Uganda and I'm seriously regretting the fact that I can't pacify my drugged and semi-delirious self with a cookie. Other than that, can't complain, but there are definitely a few things I miss on a daily basis.
Coffee in my sugar
Um, obviously I meant the other way around. Or did I? My subconscious is clearly at work here and that mistype is too good to correct.
I don't even eat jam on a daily basis, but the other day I had some bread (I like to randomly buy loafs of bread and carry them around) and my coworker had jam in the fridge (as one does) and I really wanted some, but I couldn't have it. It was organic raspberry jam. It looked delicious. I'll never know.
This is something I drink on a daily basis. I don't drink soda, but I still like to mix up my boring water routine. In lieu of busting out the vodka at 8 a.m (I do have some standards, you know. They're low, but I have them), I usually have watered down cranberry juice. I miss it.
Not Having to Pay Attention to Every Damn Thing I Ingest
I have suddenly become that person who meticulously scans the ingredients of every item to see if I can eat it or not. The other day I had to Google whether the beer I wanted to order had sugar in it. It did. I was saddened and had water instead. In retrospect it was probably for the best. I had just come from yoga and I'm pretty sure true yogis frown upon post-meditation beer consumption. Whatevs. It's good for your aura.
I love to bake. It calms me. I'm not saying you can't bake without sugar, but all of my go-to comfort recipes are a no-go. Chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, coffee cake, cheesecake. Sob. That was "sob" as in the sound one makes while crying and not an abbreviated version of "son of a bitch," though that sentiment also sums up my frustration.
Overall I feel fine. I was half-hoping that it would be some sort of miracle step and I would feel better, happier, greater or at the very least I would have some crazy side effects and withdrawal symptoms that would turn me into a Mr.Hyde sort of creature...because that's always fun. On the other hand, as much as I love donuts, I'll let you in on a little secret.
I'm all talk.
Are you shocked? Ok, fine, at least pretend to be!
I do love donuts and cookies and ice cream, but I don't eat them on a daily basis nor do I consume them in copious quantities. I was raised in a pretty strict household. With a background in fitness and nutrition, my stepmom was looking out for trans fats and high fructose corn syrup long before looking out for them had become somewhat mainstream. She's kind of a hipster like that.
Oreos and soda were quickly banned and even though I grumbled about it on a daily (hourly?) basis, it made me a lot more aware of what I eat. I don't drink soda, I don't eat candy, and I stay the hell away from high fructose corn syrup. That stuff scares me, you guys. So when I sat down and looked at cutting sugar out of my diet, I was surprised and pleased to note that I actually don't consume that much of it. Not enough to be considered a real live sugar addict anyway.
Nonetheless, this little experiment is good for two reasons. First and foremost, once my week is up I'll be able to give Perry smug looks when I eat my cheesecake and say "I'm not addicted! I proved it!" Secondly, it made me more aware of the sugar I do consume and how prevalent it is in most processed foods. Check it out sometime in the grocery store. Just casually pick up items and look at the ingredients. You'll be surprised. My grocery shopping takes three times longer than normal now because I have to read every ingredient. It's annoying, but it's also pretty enlightening (in a terrifying sort of way).
After reading all of the sugar withdrawal symptoms, I'm curious. Has anyone else tried this for short periods of time or has anyone entirely cut sugar out of their diet? I want to hear some stories, people! E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org I promise I won't post them. Unless, of course, you want me to.
A Week Without Sugar: Day 1 January 03 2012
Perry and I are sitting at the bar of Paisan reading over a booklet on Buyobo published by the Women's Microfinance Initiative. With less than a month before our departure, we're trying to get a sense of the communities WMI works with so that we can develop an itinerary and an action plan to make the most of our time in Uganda.
There is a sentence. A short, insignificant sentence about adding sugar to tea. I see Perry furrow his brow in displeasure and I know what's coming. A lecture about sugar. Only it's not a lecture exactly, more like a terrifying litany of the destructive properties of sugar in all of its varying forms. We talk about addiction. I wave it off saying I enjoy coffee and alcohol, but I give them up periodically for months at a time just to reassure myself that addiction hasn't clamped itself around my neck too tightly, but sugar? I don't know. I eat it in moderation and I don't see the point of giving it up. I like my weekly donut or my evening chocolate chip cookie.
"I challenge you to give up sugar," Perry says with a bemused smile. "For two weeks."
"Okay..." I trail off. I know I'm trapped. I was that kid who never backed down from a triple dog dare. I'm too stubborn and proud. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do it. I think Perry knows this. I think he might be the same.
"What about homemade cookies?" I'm grasping at straws. "They're not processed. It shouldn't count."
In a show of benevolence, Perry shortens my sentence to one week. "One week without sugar. Starting now."
"I can eat fruit?"
"Ok. Deal." I make a mental note to stockpile mangoes.
The waiter comes to clear the dishes. My half-eaten cheesecake sits next to an empty espresso cup. "Are you still working on this cheesecake?" he asks.
"Yes," I respond quickly before flashing a guilty look. "I can't let it go to waste."
Perry laughs. I finish my cheesecake, we close the tab, and call it a day. Standing in the kitchen, I rifle through my cupboards and stand in front of the fridge to make a mental checklist of things that I can't eat this week. Chocolate chips, coffee cake, and cranberry juice. That sounds easy enough, but like a moth to the flame, I'm now fixated on these items.
I sit down at my computer with a glass of water and a steely resolve, but all I can think about is how good a handful of chocolate chips would be with a glass of cranberry juice. I send Perry a text.
It's going to be a long week.
Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions January 02 2012
I never make New Year's resolutions. One because I prefer just to continually focus on self-improvement throughout the year and two because at the end of the year I hate looking over all of the things I said I would accomplish and then didn't because I was too busy doing important stuff like watching reruns of Iron Chef and repinning stuff I'll never make or own on Pinterest. Also, my New Year's resolutions always end up being impractical things like "Buy a pony" or "Move to Afghanistan and become a ski instructor." I have nowhere to keep a pony, I can barely ski, and my Arabic is terrible.
So this year, I'm not going to start anything new. I'm not going to promise myself that this is the year I'm going to win a Nobel Peace Prize or that I'm finally going to get the lead role of Annie on Broadway. I'm going to just keep doing stuff I already do, but I'm going to do it better.
Drink Good Wine
Done. That was easy. We're off to a good start already.
I've never smoked so doing good on this one too. Keep up the good work!
Pin at least 50 things a Day on Pinterest
I'm definitely going to exceed this one. (This list is going great. I'm already feeling like an overachiever.)
Get Lost More
Right now, I get hopelessly lost almost every time I leave my house. Guess I'll need to amp things up a bit.
Drop iPhone at Least Once a Day
Yesterday, it flew out of my pocket while I was playing on the swings in a nearby playground. It's going to be difficult to top that one this year, but I'll try.
Run Fewer Marathons
I didn't run any this year.
Eat More Donuts
The only donuts I regret are the ones I don't eat.
Be More of a Spectacle
Considering that just yesterday I carried a desk a mile through Berkeley because it wouldn't fit in the car, this year is going to be hard to top.
Perfect the "I Just Rolled Out of Bed" Look
I'm so close on this one. The only thing that could get me closer is wearing my pajamas to work.
Watch More Funny Animal Videos
Have you seen this one? BBC Walk on the Wild Side
Travel to New Countries
Check. Perry and I are going to Uganda for the Women's Microfinance Initiative graduation ceremony in January. Perry has no idea what he's gotten himself into. Brave soul agreeing to travel with me. I'll probably accidentally get us signed up for a marathon up the highest peak in Uganda.
Be Less Adventurous
I know you're thinking you read that wrong, but since being adventurous has gotten me spontaneously signed up for a marathon in Morocco, seen me hitchhiking through the Sinai, inspired an overnight stay on a roundabout in Haifa, and gotten me roped into a cycling trip with a bunch of sports-mad French triathletes, I'm thinking maybe I need to tone it down a little.
On the other hand...there is that ultra race in Kenya that I'd like to do...
Adventures in Costco-land December 23 2011
We've all been in a little bit of a frenzy these past few weeks. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. It's because we totally launched our Greenlight Apparel retail line in three Bay Area Costco stores! For the past two weeks we've had a roadshow going on in the San Francisco, Mountain View, and Danville stores and it has been all hands on deck.
After helping Perry out with a photo shoot in the Berkeley hills on Friday (It was beautiful and I learned how to use a reflector to bounce the sunlight. Actually, it was mostly me holding it at random angles and Perry having to come over every five minutes to adjust it. Also, I almost fell off a hillside. So all-in-all, a pretty typical morning for us). Anyway, after "helping" out, I hopped onto BART (yay public transportation) and headed to the Costco in San Francisco to keep tabs on everything and make sure the display stayed pretty.
Stepping into the Costco it was so amazing to see the Greenlight logo from afar as I caught my first glimpse of the signage hanging above our display racks. Two snazzy looking mannequins were placed in front of the racks with crisp, clear photos hanging above rows of zip t's, jackets, and--my favorite--the Momentum long-sleeved shirts. I'm trying to be humble here, but it looked so awesome. Good job, team.
With the flurry of Costco shoppers, the set-up definitely needed some periodic love so I spent the day rearranging hangers, sorting sizes, and just talking to people. I like to talk so I was happy as a clam (weirdest. expression. ever.) answering people's questions and taking the opportunity to tell everyone about Greenlight Apparel. I got a lot of satisfaction out of telling people the item of clothing they were holding was made from recycled plastic bottles, but not as much satisfaction as telling them that 25% of our profits go to education and microfinance programs.
I was wearing the Greenlight Momentum shirt (think Snuggie comfort level meets hipster yoga look) and everyone kept complimenting me on the shirt. It went to my head and I haven't taken it off since. I'm wearing it right now. I wore it yesterday and the day before and if I didn't need to wash it, I'd wear it again tomorrow. We've had people tell us they would like a shirt in every color and I'm right there with them. In fact, we probably need to get on that soon or everyone is going to start thinking I only own one shirt (Not true. I own at least three).
When I got tired of trying to see how many ways I could creatively display the tank top and t-shirt boxes (pyramid displays are so hot right now), I wandered around Costco trying free samples and intermittently texting everyone I know. Unfortunately for all of my friends and family, I have unlimited texting and can barrage everyone incessantly with illuminating questions and commentary like...
"On a scale of 1-10, how badly do you think we need a $350 blender? It's on sale at Costco."(Response: It better make the best smoothie of my life)
"Just undressed the female mannequin. Lot of snickering going on." (Response: Wait. Where are you?)
"Guy just walked past me with nothing but chocolate and alcohol in his cart." (Response: Marry him)
"I just tripped over the mannequin while trying to help a cute guy. I fail at life." (Response: Did he at least help you up?)
While staying on your feet all day in Costco isn't an experience I'd want to live every day, I really enjoyed getting to meet with people and hearing their feedback on our apparel, our set-up, and our company philosophy. Don't roll your eyes, but I actually had a lot of fun helping people pick out styles and sizes and it was incredibly encouraging to see how excited people got when I told them about our work with the Women's Microfinance Initiative or the One World Children's Fund. So many of you had your own stories and ideas on how to give back and I was really touched and inspired to hear all of your thoughts!
So, for those of you who were able to come see us in Costco, thank you for your continued support. You rock! For those of you who we met for the first time, it was great to meet you and thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about us! And for those of you scattered across the globe, we'll have our online store up and--wait for it, wait for it--running soon (Get it?).
Why Fair Trade? December 15 2011
Standing in the grocery store today, I spent at least five minutes silently debating whether I should buy the conventional light brown sugar or the Fair Trade and organic light brown sugar. The conventional was $1.29. The Fair Trade version was over $5.00. It seemed stupid to spend the extra money. I don't exactly rake in the cash as a writer and though I have enough to support myself, I still have to weigh my purchasing decisions and, quite frankly, spending five times the amount I would normally pay for sugar to make chocolate chip cookies seemed kind of idiotic.
But as I stood there, I couldn't help but ask myself what my decision would be if I were held accountable for every action and decision I make throughout the day? If I could see and interact with the sugar cane workers, would the decision to go with something that provides them with a better quality of life be so difficult?
No, probably not. My conscience wouldn't let me off the hook that easily.
Or what if the tables were turned? What if I were the one harvesting sugar cane, trying to scrape a living in an economically oppressive system? What if the difference between a Fair Trade wage and a conventional wage was the difference between me providing for my family or sending my children to school? Wouldn't I implore someone standing at the grocery store to make a choice that took into account my most basic human needs?
In the end, I bought the Fair Trade sugar. Yes, it was five times more expensive and that can be hard to justify if you don't look beyond what's on the shelf in front of you.
But is it fair and just to say that the best deal is simply the one that includes the lowest price point? What about all of the environmental and social costs? I paid more upfront for the Fair Trade sugar, but the conventional sugar is going to cost more over the long-term when you consider the costs of environmental degradation and the repercussions and inhumanity of social injustice.
Shouldn't business benefit everyone involved from start to finish? Relying on unsustainable production methods and an industry whose success is built and dependent upon the oppression of millions of people seems like the antithesis of good business.
Those industries are relying heavily on consumers who operate on an "out of sight, out of mind" purchasing philosophy. If that 10 year-old who stitched together a sweatshirt was standing next to the rack in the store, most consumers would think twice about buying it. If they could see the gallons of toxic chemicals used to produce their conventional cotton t-shirts, they'd likely feel some degree of hesitation before buying them.
Unfortunately, consumer ignorance is enabling devastating business practices and a consumer's decision to support a company that is taking advantage of loose labor or environmental laws is having a tremendously negative impact on someone else's life. You may be against child labor, human trafficking, or environmental degradation, but if you're not aware of your purchasing decisions, you may be inadvertently enabling all of the above.
On the flip side, that same purchasing power can change the face of business. By supporting ethical production methods, you can make humane business practices the norm rather than the exception.
I know the sugar example is a little extreme, and that many of us simply cannot afford to pay two or three times or heaven forbid five times as much for Fair Trade products. Trust me, I put the Fair Trade sugar back on the shelf multiple times before throwing it in my basket and heading to the checkout line. And I know that it's easy to scoff at the idea that Fair Trade is the end all, be all of social justice. It's not. It's simply somewhere to start. Imagining the person harvesting the sugar I was about to purchase brought it home for me. It wasn't about guilt. It was about awareness. It was the realization that even the smallest of my decisions impact someone else. I'd rather have that impact be a positive one.
I'm not arguing that paying $5 for Fair Trade, organic sugar is going to be a quick fix or an easy solution. It's not going to wipe away all of the social injustice, end poverty, stop human trafficking, or prevent environmental degradation in one, fell swoop. However, by making consumers aware of the many despicable production practices currently in use, we can start to put pressure on industries to be accountable, responsible, and ethical in all of their transactions. I, for one, would rather that companies like Gap and Apple spend less on advertising and more on treating people fairly.
Ten Things We Learned at the California International Marathon December 08 2011
Soooo....we were responsible for creating the official California International Marathon merchandise this year (This shirt is my favorite). In light of that, the Greenlight team headed to Sacramento over the weekend to man the CIM merchandise booth at the two-day race expo and at the race finish on Sunday morning.
Here's what we learned from the experience...
Mannequins Are Awkward
There is absolutely no way to appropriately wrestle a mannequin into its position on the stand. No matter what you do, your coworker will turn around and lock eyes with you just as you’re awkwardly wrangling a pair of running tights onto the damn thing or struggling to lift it up onto its stand, your hands inappropriately placed. Those things are heavy and expensive. Collapsing into a fit of laughter while carrying one can turn disastrous very quickly. I wish I could say we refrained from all manner of juvenile jokes, but I can’t because we didn’t.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall or…You Know, Not at All
So it turns out that when people are trying on shirts, they want to see what they look like. Well, at least prior to running 26.2 miles. After running 26.2 miles, they don’t really care about anything other than sitting down. Either way, we totally forgot to bring the mirror. Oops. Sorry, guys, but thanks for taking our word for it when we told you that you looked fabulous. You did, but next time, we’ll have a mirror. Promise.
It’s Possible to Valet a U-Haul Van
When we finally finish breaking down the merchandise booth at the expo and relocating it to our spot near the finish line, it’s close to 9 p.m. on Saturday and everyone is seriously ready for dinner. Circling around downtown Sacramento as we look for parking, Perry and I are in the U-Haul van and Sonny and Monika are driving just ahead of us when they pull to the side of the road.
“Guys, let’s just valet the U-Haul,” suggests Sonny.
I start laughing because I think he’s kidding, but as we pull up to the restaurant and Sonny jumps out to ask the valet guys if they can valet a U-Haul, I realize he’s serious which just makes me laugh harder. I’m now pretty much certain that Sonny can convince anyone to do anything because 30 seconds later, we’re handing over the keys and walking into the restaurant. What can I say? We like to shake things up.
Sacramento is Cold
We’re from the Bay Area. We do fog and drizzle very well, but when it gets below 60, we have problems. Sacramento was “cold.” I know all of you who actually live in places where winter isn’t just some vague concept are scoffing at the poor Californian who thinks Sacramento is cold, so I’m putting the word in air quotes. Just for you. Seriously though. I actually had to put on a fleece jacket. Can you imagine? It was even colder early Sunday morning while trying to coax race t-shirts onto ice cold hangers with stiff, frozen fingers.
The CIM is Badass
Eight men and twenty-five women qualified for the Olympic Trials, numerous qualifiers for Boston, a marriage proposal at the finish line, and a fireman running with all of his equipment (including the oxygen tank)? That would seal the deal for me right there, but aside from fast runners, superhuman feats, cool costumes, and just being incredibly well organized, the race had a great laid-back feel for such a huge event. They even got the weather gods to cooperate with a perfectly clear and crisp day. Not sure how they swung that one. Sacrifices?
Square is Also Pretty Badass
We’ve been using the Square application for iPhone. I’m not plugging anything, but that application is pretty awesome and really easy to use. After using it a few times (Apparently, I'm a slow learner), I start getting excited when customers pay with card rather than cash (I'm also a simple soul, easily delighted by new things, cookies, and sparkly objects). When people say, “Wow, that is so cool,” I can’t help responding, “I know, right?!” Because it totally is.
All Marathon Finish Lines Need Couches
The next booth we have at a marathon, I vote for couches and not just so I can take a nap, although that is a primary factor. After an hour or two of us hopping around trying to keep warm, runners start to trickle in, hobbling unsteadily with tired, but triumphant expressions. It’s painful to watch them teetering on spent legs as they try to reach up and grab a t-shirt in their size. I know that despite their enormous grins, their legs are throbbing and every movement elicits protest from trembling muscles. I know this because the last time I ran a marathon, my body was pissed. A couch directly after would have been a nice peace offering.
Grilled Cheese for Breakfast
…is a genius idea. We were conveniently placed next to Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen food truck (I had nothing to do with that. Honest). Think 9 a.m. is too early for grilled cheese? Think again. That’s my new go-to breakfast food.
We’re Kind of Hilarious
I laughed a lot this weekend. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but in addition to creating awesome racewear, we’re also pretty much hilarious. Between the mannequins, the U-Haul valet incident, and trying to figure out how to set up (and break down) Container Store organizers, there was ample opportunity to illustrate how ridiculous and insanely funny we are.
Next year. Hats.
I have no idea how many times runners asked us if we had hats, but it was a lot. Point taken. Next year, we need hats. I'm going to push for the ones with beer can holsters. I'll let you know how that goes.
Silicon Valley Turkey Trot November 26 2011
The Greenlight team had a blast at this years Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in downtown San Jose. Check out the video and hope to see you next year!
Race Day Ritual. Shattered. November 23 2011
It’s France’s fault really.
Typically, I have a pretty standard race weekend ritual.
Friday night: Eat pasta. Drink insane amount of water. Sleep 8 hours. Get up at least five times throughout the night. Promise not to drink so much water next time.
Saturday morning: Eat bowl of cereal. Arrive at race start one hour ahead of time. Eat banana. Stand in line for 30 minutes to use the restroom. Make my way to start line. Run race. Reward self with something unhealthy.
I know, I know. I’m not a dog and I’m not supposed to reward myself with food. The problem is I haven’t found anything that works as well as a reward. Maybe Apple products. I would totally take an iPad over a donut, but only if someone else is buying. Otherwise we’re keeping the rewards in the under $1 range.
All-in-all, my race day ritual is pretty standard. I’ve been racing for 15 years now and I don’t think much about it anymore. I operate on race day autopilot.
Enter the Lyon half-marathon.
The problem with Lyon is that it’s the gastronomic capital of France. The problem with me is that I love food. The night before the race we settle into a cozy corner table in a typically Lyonnaise restaurant. My race day ritual goes out the window as soon as I see the menu. A bottle of red wine, a slab of meat, and two crème caramels later, I’m half-heartedly wondering if I’ll be regretting this meal 10 kilometers into the race. I can’t decide and after the first bite of my crème caramel I don’t really give a damn.
Heading back to the hotel, I fall into bed determined to get a good night’s sleep and a more appropriate breakfast. Enter very loud drunken people in the hotel courtyard and French pastries. Both undermine my very best intentions. I toss and turn before stumbling out of bed the next morning and directly to a nearby bakery.
With my full concentration dedicated to my pain au chocolat, I lose track of the time. As do my rather nonchalant racing buddies. With five minutes to the start, we drop off our bags, and--being the overly optimistic person that I am--I get in line to use the restroom before my friends decide there isn’t enough time and drag me away to the starting line.
I have to pee so badly. In France, men can just stand discreetly to the side of the road and relieve themselves. I hate them. I run five kilometers absolutely certain that my bladder is seconds away from bursting before we turn a corner and I nearly run smack into a lone porta potty. I praise the heavens and enjoy the race a lot more after that.
I also start talking a lot more after that. My running companion is giving me that weak smile people give when they’re trying to be polite, but really they want you to shut-up. I stop talking and start composing the most amazing story ever in my head. Then I forget it all. Then I grab a bottle of water at the aid station. Then it’s kilometer 19 and I want to stop running, but I can’t because there are still 3 kilometers to go so I start imagining what I’m going to eat after my race.
When I finally reach the finish line, I’ve got my meals planned for the next 24 hours. I’m naturally skeptical of technology so I jump up and down on the finish line to make sure it reads my chip. I grab a Powerade. I don’t like Powerade, but it’s free so I grab it. I love free stuff. I’m allergic to dates (The fruit. I don’t have a problem with the other kind), but I’d probably grab them too if they were free.
After everyone crosses the finish line and we cheer in the first of the marathoners, we duck into a nearby pizzeria. I eat an entire pizza, a salad, and a crêpe. Then I convince everyone that what we really need is gelato. And maybe another crêpe.
When I get back to my apartment in Grenoble, I call my mom.
“How was the race? Did you run a good time?” she asks.
I forgot to check the results.
But I don’t even care because I’m still remembering my pre-race dinner and I decide I’m going to run all of my races in France from now on. Maybe I will only run in Lyon and I will subsist entirely on crème caramels.
One World Children's Fund: An immeasurable impact November 21 2011
Ok, I admit it. I got a little teary-eyed at the One World Children’s Fund Annual Benefit Luncheon held in San Francisco last Friday.
But it’s not my fault.
When CNN hero Elena Durón Miranda started talking about her experiences working with children in Argentina, my eyes welled up with tears. It wasn’t just her stories; it was her sincerity and the earnest manner in which she told the audience that education is how we begin to break vicious cycles. Durón Miranda founded the organization P.E.T.I.S.O.S. after witnessing children in the town of Bariloche scavenging the landfills for food to eat and materials to sell. Horrified by what she saw, she decided to find a way to provide education and support to these children.
P.E.T.I.S.O.S. is one of the many community-based organizations supported by the One World Children’s Fund, an organization dedicated to helping the 120 million children without access to education, the 300 million children who don’t have enough to eat, and the 150 million children without homes. These numbers are staggering. Even one uneducated, hungry, or homeless child feels like one too many, but hundreds of millions?
One World was able to provide support to 15,000 children in the last year alone. These figures are important when discussing what’s been done and how much more there is to do, but the fundamental point is the point that Durón Miranda made when she said, “A number will never be able to explain the transformation of someone’s life.”
A transformation like the one Michealene Risley, a One World board member, described when she showed enormous strength and courage in telling her own story of abuse while talking about the struggles children around the world face because of sexual violence.
“I refused to let my life be defined by what happened to me,” she said as her voice rang out clear and strong across the hushed auditorium.
Risley then told the story of a beautiful little girl in Zimbabwe who had already faced the brutal and horrific experience of rape. She was two. My heart broke and I wanted to get up from the table and rush somewhere, anywhere, to shield the many thousands of children like her who are subjected daily to these terrifying and horrific experiences.
But not just to shield them. To also educate them, love them, and believe in them like Girls to Women, another One World community-based organization. A video clip showing a montage of little girls and young women announcing their intentions to go to Stanford to study formed a lump in my throat because I was so touched to see the one thing all of these girls had in common: they believed in themselves. Education and love had empowered them to see themselves in a different light, and that's not something that can be measured.
So if I got a little teary-eyed, it was two-fold. One because it breaks my heart to think of these kids out there trying to squeeze happiness out of the miserable situation they’ve been thrown into and two because it’s inspiring that there are people out there who do more than just stand on the sidelines with a broken heart. They reach out. They step forward. They DO something.
What’s so great about the One World Children’s Fund is that it enables individuals around the world to step forward in a myriad of ways. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing and fly halfway around the world to help. Currently supporting 28 projects in 16 countries, One World believes local people have a much better sense of how to solve the problems in their communities and is committed to providing support to volunteers in the U.S. to help fundraise, advocate, and support these existing community-based organizations. Wherever you are, you can support these projects and these children in many different ways.
At Greenlight Apparel, this is exactly the type of approach we support. We don’t believe in throwing money at the problem. We believe in educating and empowering people to stand up in the midst of a system that continually pushes them down. This is why our business model moves beyond just avoiding sweatshops and using environmentally sustainable production methods. We’re committed to supporting microfinance and education programs because…well, because they work.
One World recognizes this. An occasional handout is not what these children need. They need education and support. They need more than someone standing on the sidelines crying for them. They need someone like Durón Miranda to provide them an opportunity beyond scavenging in the landfill. They need people to believe in them.
To learn more about One World's projects and champions, visit their website at www.owcf.org
With all the technology available in the modern world, it can be hard to believe that there are still places without consistent access to electricity. But fewer than 25 percent of residents of rural African villages have power. For students, that means that sitting in a dark classroom without air conditioning, or under a tree, is the norm. Fortunately, that could change thanks to the debut of a solar-powered mobile school last week in Johannesburg.
The "school" is actually a 40-foot-long shipping container, which means it can be transported anywhere on the continent on a flatbed truck. Designed by Samsung as part of the company's social innovation efforts, the school comes fitted with foldaway solar panels that provide enough power to run the school's ventilation system, laptops, 3G wireless routers, electronic blackboard and mini-fridge for nearly two rain-soaked days.
After the traditional school day ends, the schools will be used as adult education classrooms and community centers so that entire villages can have access to education and the internet. The pilot solar school is currently being tested to ensure that it's a functional learning and teaching environment. If all goes well, the units will be mass-produced, transforming the educational opportunities of countless kids and their families.
Five Reasons Not to Spontaneously Sign up for a Marathon November 11 2011
I know. This post should be unnecessary. Surely most of the world knows that deciding on a whim to run 20-42 kilometers is not the cleverest of ideas. But the problem is, there are people like me. People who know that it’s a bad idea, but who, for some bizarre unknown reason, do it anyway
This is generally how the situation plays out:
Friend: Hey, so we’re all running a half-marathon this weekend that we’ve been training for over the past few months. It’s going to be really fun. You should sign up!
Me: Man, that sounds like fun, but I haven’t really been training for a half, so I probably shouldn’t…
Friend: There will be donuts.
Me: Where do I sign up?
After every race, I promise myself that I will never do it again and yet, it continues to happen again and again and again. Short-term memory loss? Masochism? Extraordinary love of donuts? It’s hard to say, but in light of the fact that I just registered for my third half-marathon this month, it’s clear that drastic measures need to be taken.
An intervention would probably be ideal, but since that’s unlikely to happen, I’m defaulting to the next best thing: a list of the top five reasons I will probably maybe never spontaneously sign up for a marathon or a half-marathon again.
You won’t enjoy the “free” snacks
It’s true that the food and water stations have all sorts of great snacks. Trail mix, bananas, Coke (the soda, you guys, the soda), chocolate, applesauce, wine (what? I live in France), but using the excuse of “free cookies” is not a legitimate reason to justify running an impromptu marathon. One because you pay for the snacks when you pay your race fees and two because you will probably be too sick/exhausted/miserable to properly enjoy anything except water.
You will lose all credibility as a sane individual
Your friends and family, who have likely held your sanity in question for a number of years, will finally have confirmation of the fact that you have officially lost your tentative grasp on reality.
Pain. Lots of it.
The pain you feel during the race is nothing compared to what happens once you finish it. You will not be able to move for a week. Your body will stage a mutiny and you will be confined to the couch for the next week forced to watch daytime television for hours on end and unable to even hobble to the fridge without agonizing pain shooting through your limbs.
It’s true that training can be annoying, grueling, and tedious, but without it you’re setting yourself up for some bigger problems later on. Running 42 kilometers is not a jaunt in the park and you need to prepare your mind and body for it. If you don’t believe me, ask your knees, ankles, and shins after the race.
That dialogue will look something like this:
You: Ready, body?
Knees: #@$! you.
Shins: Yeah, what they said.
The finish line: it’s probably something you won’t see.
It’s unlikely that you will finish the race. Instead you will have to slink to the parking lot pretending you just forgot to pick up your finisher’s t-shirt. In the event that you do finish, you won’t have enjoyed the time it took to get there and, really, isn’t that the whole point?
Morocco Marathon: The fine line between adventure and insanity November 11 2011
I catch my first glimpse of North Africa’s highest peak as I stumble to the top of a nearby ridge, lose my balance and pitch headfirst down the trail. Plumes of dust rise into the air. My boyfriend helps me to my feet. “Didn’t you used to be a competitive mountain runner?”
“Yes. That’s a special technique mountain runners use to get down the mountain faster. It’s called falling.”
“Seems…efficient,” he replies.
I glare at him. I am supposed to be sitting on the terrace of a hotel leisurely sipping Arabic coffee and reading romance novels during a two-week trip to Morocco. Instead I am brushing dust off my backside and trying to coax my muscles through one of the world’s most difficult mountain marathons. What happened? That’s a reasonable question. I’ll tell you.
Insanity. Apparently it’s hereditary and it’s the only plausible explanation as to why someone would spontaneously agree to sign up for--to pay for— a 42 kilometer race with 3,313-meter total elevation gain up Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. What else would inspire two people to hand over all of their remaining cash to pay the race fees and then spend the night in a tent directly across from the local mosque?
At 4:45 a.m. the call to prayer shatters the silence, sending me into cardiac arrest and flooding my consciousness with yesterday’s events.
Imlil. Morocco. Toubkal. Highest peak in North Africa. Mountain marathon. Spontaneous registration. $#!@.
“You are an idiot,” my consciousness reminds me.
Normally I try to counter any negative thoughts, but this time all I can think is, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
I pull on a pair of borrowed tights and my battered running shoes and stagger to the starting line. Villagers line the street to see us off, cheering and waving Moroccan flags.
As the sun casts a pale glow behind the jagged peaks, groups of runners slowly stretch out along the single-track trail snaking its way up the ridge. Before long we find ourselves running alone, occasionally holding up a string of heavily-laden donkeys who seem grateful to be stuck behind two creatures moving at such a leisurely pace.
Three hours and too many kilometers later, we reach the second food and water station at the beginning of the six-kilometer climb up Toubkal. Dehydrated and crumpling with exhaustion, I begin devouring everything in sight. Occasionally I step out of the way of other runners who stop briefly to grab a cookie and an orange slice before continuing on their way. Apparently you aren’t supposed to treat the food stations like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Whatever. They had cookies. I can’t be expected to restrain myself.
As I sink down onto some nearby steps, my boyfriend sits down next to me. The wind sweeps through the valley in a torrent, making it difficult to hear anything other than the blood pounding in my ears. He suggests we turn back.
My muscles are twitching from over-exertion and my hands are swollen from the altitude, but I am still reluctant to forfeit the race. I had hoped that somehow the gods of spontaneous adventure would bestow their favor, enabling us to scrape enough energy together to muddle through an impossible feat. But common sense prevails, and with one last glimpse up to the summit, we turn back.
Twelve kilometers and one summit short of finishing the marathon, we are denied the t-shirts awarded to finishers. Despite the fact that they’re too big and I don’t even like the color red, I sneak envious glances at the stack of neatly folded cotton shirts. Tucking into a bowl of couscous, I promise myself that the next time I run a marathon, I’ll train for it.
New Products November 03 2011
Check out the new Mermaid run cotton race shirt. This shirt is made with 100% organic cotton at our Blue Sign fair trade certified factory. Hope to see you at the Mermaid race this weekend!
The Once and Future Way to Run November 03 2011
Check out this great article from barefoot champion Christopher McDougall (Born to Run). Visit NYT to see a video of Chris teaching the staff at NYT how to run.
When you’re stalking barefoot runners, camouflage helps. “Some of them get kind of prancy when they notice you filming,” Peter Larson says. “They put on this notion of what they think barefoot running should be. It looks weird.” Larson, an evolutionary biologist at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire who has been on the barefoot beat for two years now, is also a stickler about his timing. “You don’t want to catch them too early in a run, when they’re cold, or too late, when they’re tired.”
If everything comes together just right, you’ll be exactly where Larson was one Sunday morning in September: peeking out from behind a tree on Governors Island in New York Harbor, his digital video camera nearly invisible on an ankle-high tripod, as the Second Annual New York City Barefoot Run got under way about a quarter-mile up the road. Hundreds of runners — men and women, young and old, athletic and not so much so, natives from 11 different countries — came pattering down the asphalt straight toward his viewfinder.
About half of them were actually barefoot. The rest wore Vibram FiveFingers — a rubber foot glove with no heel cushion or arch support — or Spartacus-style sandals, or other superlight “minimalist” running shoes. Larson surreptitiously recorded them all, wondering how many (if any) had what he was looking for: the lost secret of perfect running.
It’s what Alberto Salazar, for a while the world’s dominant marathoner and now the coach of some of America’s top distance runners, describes in mythical-questing terms as the “one best way” — not the fastest, necessarily, but thebest: an injury-proof, evolution-tested way to place one foot on the ground and pick it up before the other comes down. Left, right, repeat; that’s all running really is, a movement so natural that babies learn it the first time they rise to their feet. Yet sometime between childhood and adulthood — and between the dawn of our species and today — most of us lose the knack.
We were once the greatest endurance runners on earth. We didn’t have fangs, claws, strength or speed, but the springiness of our legs and our unrivaled ability to cool our bodies by sweating rather than panting enabled humans to chase prey until it dropped from heat exhaustion. Some speculate that collaboration on such hunts led to language, then shared technology. Running arguably made us the masters of the world.
So how did one of our greatest strengths become such a liability? “The data suggests up to 79 percent of all runners are injured every year,” says Stephen Messier, the director of the J. B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University. “What’s more, those figures have been consistent since the 1970s.” Messier is currently 11 months into a study for the U.S. Army and estimates that 40 percent of his 200 subjects will be hurt within a year. “It’s become a serious public health crisis.”
Nothing seems able to check it: not cross-training, not stretching, not $400 custom-molded orthotics, not even softer surfaces. And those special running shoes everyone thinks he needs? In 40 years, no study has ever shown that they do anything to reduce injuries. On the contrary, the U.S. Army’s Public Health Command concluded in a report in 2010, drawing on three large-scale studies of thousands of military personnel, that using shoes tailored to individual foot shapes had “little influence on injuries.”
Two years ago, in my book, “Born to Run,” I suggested we don’t need smarter shoes; we need smarter feet. I’d gone into Mexico’s Copper Canyon to learn from the Tarahumara Indians, who tackle 100-mile races well into their geriatric years. I was a broken-down, middle-aged, ex-runner when I arrived. Nine months later, I was transformed. After getting rid of my cushioned shoes and adopting the Tarahumaras’ whisper-soft stride, I was able to join them for a 50-mile race through the canyons. I haven’t lost a day of running to injury since.
“Barefoot-style” shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry. But simply putting something different on your feet doesn’t make you a gliding Tarahumara. The “one best way” isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.
Full Article and Video LINK
US Half Marathon SF November 02 2011
We had a beautiful day for the amazing course over the golden gate. It's hard to imagine a nicer day for a run. The race kicked off on the waterfront in Aquatic Park on historic Muni Pier with sweeping views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Marina, Crissy Field, the Presidio and across the famous Golden Gate Bridge, exposing breathtaking sights of the San Francisco cityscape. Back along the Golden Gate Promenade, up through Fort Mason and to the grand musical finish in Aquatic Park. Not too shabby!
Thi Nyugen and Frances Uribe have "been been friends since we were 6 years old - over 22 years of laughter and fun!" Thi moved here from Dallas last year, so Frances flew in from Texas so they could run this race together.
feeling good after the race
Empowered by Light - 250 Laterns donated August 09 2011
We're proud to support Empowered by Light in their mission to bring solar lanterns to rural western Zambia. Their goal of promoting renewable energy and allowing children to study at night really struck a chord with us. The lantern they chose get's fully charged with a half a day in the sun and generates enough energy to light up a small room through the evening and charge a cell phone. It was amazing to see just how many cell phones were around. With the average person being a subsistence farmer living on less than a dollar a day you would think that cellphones would be a luxury item only available to a privileged few. Not the case, nearly everyone had one! And they're really a revolutionary tool used connect villagers, promote employment, communicate crop prices, access mobile banking and get the daily news.
It was great to see children studying at night and experience the gratitude from underserved clinics as they excepted our donations.
The trip also brought about the realization of the need for Zambian entrepreneurs to create a rural solar market. If they can get coke, candy and tea biscuits into every far-off dusty corner of the country they should also be able to make available these life-altering solar products. For a family living with no electricity, they can expect dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps and frequent miles-long trip to town centers to charge phones. This $20 kit is such game changer. And the ROI is something like 3-6 months considering the average expenditure on kerosene and cell phone charging.
We feel great about helping to seed schools and clinics with solar laterns and are hopeful that it will bring about more wide-spread and self-sustaining solar adoption as the community sees the benefits and impact.
Simple choice of activist outfitter produces funds to end human trafficking and slavery.
When the 25,000 participants of the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon and Half Marathon begin to perspire their way through this weekend’s events, they’ll be doing more than striving for personal best times – their sweat will be stopping sweatshops.
By partnering with clothing vendor Greenlight Apparel, race producers RUN Racing are funneling $3000 into charities fighting child labor, human trafficking and sex slavery. “RUN Racing is proud to work with Greenlight Apparel and know that we’re not just buying race gear, we’re helping people too,” said John Parks, EVP of RUN Racing. “We always want to provide the very best quality to our race participants, but it’s also great that we can help in this way.” “As a marathon runner I always love going to the expos and buying myself a memorable t-shirt or hat for all the hard training I’ve done,” said Marathon entrant Morgan Gerhart of Progressive Fitness Training Run group, running in her fifth marathon. “I am 100% more likely to buy a t-shirt that supports fighting child labor. It’s so great to know the money is going towards a great cause.”
Greenlight Apparel — Wear it for Good
While many clothing companies are feeling the pressure to go “sweatshop free,” Greenlight Apparel has built its business model specifically around the child labor fight. The company dedicates 10% of every sale to the cause, and actively partners and works with humanitarian charities focused on the Worldwide Child Labor Crisis. Thanks to the sheer numbers behind the Long Beach Marathon, this partnership allows Greenlight to channel $2000 into the microlender Kiva – helping developing communities to produce more sustainable and humane economic opportunities – and another $1000 to the non-profit Love146, which fights for the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation.
“RUN Racing is easily our largest account, and their level of participation really validates our mission,” said Greenlight Apparel Executive Director Monika Gill. “They could certainly choose any number of clothing vendors, but that they use the opportunity to do something extra, something good with that choice – that really makes a statement.”
Social and eco-entrepreneurism is clearly the Next Big Thing, almost on the verge of creating its own economy a la the Internet. In the athletic apparel industry, Greenlight Apparel, is nearly a veteran in eco-friendly practices and social activism. Launched in 2007, the company has helped rescue 637 children and prevent more than 37,000 child labor hours. In addition to the company’s activism on that front, they also adhere to using 100% organic or recycled fibers. “People make common decisions everyday,” noted Greenlight Apparel co-founder Sonny Aulakh, “and more and more companies like ours are taking common actions that people are going to take anyway, and adding a beneficial byproduct to them. It’s a great trend to be experiencing.”
About Greenlight Apparel: Greenlight Apparel is an activist outfitter of active people, producing high-quality casual and technical apparel for large sporting, entertainment and corporate events. Not just “sweatshop free,” our mission is to aggressively work to eradicate child labor practices and human trafficking. Our company dedicates 10% of each sale to humanitarian partner charities working to eliminate illegal manufacturing sites, build schools and create economic opportunities in developing countries. All Greenlight Apparel merchandise is made with 100% recycled or organic fibers.
About RUN Racing: Led by Olympic Gold Medalist Bob Seagren, RUN Racing specializes exclusively in the development, management and implementation of endurance, health, fitness and special events. RUN Racing events include the OC Marathon held in May; the Pacific Open Water Festivals held in June and August; the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon held in October; the Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K & 5K held on Thanksgiving Day and the LA County Half Marathon held in December. “Follow RUN Racing on Twitter for event information (@RUNRacing) and find The Long Beach International City Bank Marathon on Facebook for interactive event information (Long Beach International City Bank Marathon)”
Nestle sees no point in fighting child labor May 11 2011
For those of us little guys out there fighting gallantly to save the world, it’s just gut-wrenching to see a major player step forward and say, “Meh…it’s not our problem.”
So what do we do about Nestle? The packaged foods conglomerate whose last great idea was peddling litter-in-waiting and its accompanying junk food up the Amazon in a barge, is now suggesting that it has no reason to be concerned about child labor.
In a report yesterday, Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe stated that it is “nearly impossible” to eradicate child labor, arguing that in his (and Nestle’s) native Switzerland, “schools have one week holiday so students can help in the wine harvesting.”
Wait. He didn’t just say that.
Yes. Indeed. Nestle’s chairman likened the worldwide child labor crisis to the children of posh European wine estate owners who help their families with the annual grape haul.
Now, we ourselves have noted what a daunting task this fight is, and it may very well be “nearly impossible.” But to cite the thousands of children worldwide who help family-run businesses and agribusinesses in a healthy way, and use it as an argument that fighting slavery and indentured servitude is futile, that’s just obscene. Especially from one of the largest players in the chocolate industry. I wonder if there’s any child labor in cocoa beans?
Brabeck-Letmathe goes further to say, “anybody who does philanthropy, should do it with his own money and not the money of the shareholders.” This man runs a major company.
OMG. Oh. Emm. Gee.
Oakland Represented Everything Fitness Can Do April 05 2011
The Oakland Running Festival wrapped up almost a week ago now, but that doesn’t make it old news by any means.
Much like your body needs to recover from such an output, and your mind needs some time to let the achievement sink in, the community and the masses have needed a week or so to let the Big Picture develop and assess just how impactful this event has become.
That assessment began with a string of good vibes posted from one runner after another across Facebook and Twitter. Runners loved the event and…*blush*…had a ton of nice things to say about their race tees as well.
But the real accounting of the race’s effect has just recently been released in the form of a commissioned report from the Regional Economic Studies Institute from Towson University in Maryland.
A few line-items from the report: 7,300 runners dumped $3 million into the city; 19 percent were out-of-towners, averaging $445 spent per person on hotels, food, drink, shopping, entertainment, chicken and waffles; for each one, 1.8 non-running guests came along for support.
But really, more valuable than the hard dollar figure is the enormous group hug that all this word-of-mouth generates. Let’s face it, by-and-large the majority of Oakland’s nationwide public relations is emitted from the worst stadium facility in TWO sports, coupled with an infamously criminal-esqe fanbase and the constant threat of being rejected by said teams because, no matter how bad those teams are, they’re still too good for Oakland.
Seriously…ask any long-range out-of-towner their impression of Oakland and you’ll hear it mentioned last among Bay Area destinations, coupled with groans about the Raiders or A’s. Not fair, to say the least.
The truth about Oakland is that it’s gorgeous. On one side it offers sweeping views of San Francisco, on the other the rolling Oakland Hills. In between are blossoming neighborhoods that are becoming more eclectic every day. Rock Ridge? Jack London Square? Are you kidding me? Have you seen them lately?
Well 10,000 plus ORF attendees did. They took a by-foot tour of every nook and cranny the city had to offer, then took to their keyboards to tell the world about it. It was easily the best PR Oakland has received this year, and a testament to the value of fitness events like ORF to create a positive mindshare among the masses. Corporate CMO’s pay attention! Perhaps in lieu of naming rights on the next stadium, you sponsor a series of multi-city fitness events.
Kudos to the neighborhoods of Oakland who all came out to cheer on passing runners and support this celebration of their community. We at Greenlight are honored to have done our part, pumping money from the purchase of our race tees back into the Running for a Better Oakland organization, a non-profit that likes to say it “puts kids back on the streets” by teaching them the value of running and fitness on the wider scale of living an overall better life.
Through the ORF partnership we also were able to donate to Mary’s Meals, an organization that creates a two-fold solution by delivering healthy meals to schools in areas where kids often don’t do either of those. By using the schools as a mess hall, they both create an incentive for the kids to GO to school, and they feed them a healthy meal. Our donation feeds 63 kids for a year.
AAAaaand…because we’re 100% recycled, the ORF shirts spared the equivalent of 60,000 plastic bottles from landfills. Let’s be clear too…all of this back-patting is not on us, but on Corrigan Sports Entertainment for choosing us to partner with on this race. They could use any race tee, but they chose to Wear It For Good.
Here’s to Oakland and the ORF. We hope to be with you year in, year out…
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