Latest

Instead of giving away cheap T-shirts or promotional clothing items at Austin’s convention center during the massive SXSW festival, the tech company Medallia is collecting it from attendees. The Silicon Valley-based customer management company has partnered with Austin’s Foundation for the Homeless to collect the marketing apparel given away by other companies (know as SWAG—“stuff we all get”) to donate to the local homeless community. Michael Scott would approve ... Discuss

In 2002, Alfredo Moser had a light-bulb moment. The neighborhood where he lived in southern Brazil suffered from constant blackouts, so after experimenting with plastic bottles and using refracted light from the sun, he figured out a way to light up his home without electricity. Since then, the idea of the "bottle light" not only caught on with his neighbors, but has swept poverty-stricken areas around the world. A Philippines-based non-profit called MyShelter even teaches locals how to make and install the water-bottle light bulbs, allowing them to earn an income. According to some estimates, the light is being used in more than a million homes across 15 countries. Moser, who teaches others how to install the simple technology, says that getting rich from the idea was never the goal for him. "It's a divine light. God gave the sun to everyone, and light is for everyone. Whoever wants it saves money. You can't get an electric shock from it, and it doesn't cost a penny" … Discuss

Almost 9 million people live in Lima, Peru. With limited local water purification infrastructure and not much annual rain, many local families struggle to find access to clean water. So when the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru wanted to advertise their school’s innovative programs, they had an idea. What if they created a billboard that would convert air (Lima has about 90% humidity on a regular basis) into water? The resulting high-tech billboard makes thousands of gallons of water available for free to local families … Discuss

Writer Greg Karber does not like the business ethics of Abercrombie & Fitch. He was outraged by comments made by company CEO Mike Jeffries in which he admitted that his store’s clothes are meant for “cool kids”—not those uncool, unattractive ones (like ones that wear a size extra-large). Karber also thinks it’s pretty lame that the company would rather burn unused clothes rather than donate them to charity because, according to one district manager, “Abercrombie and Fitch doesn't want to create the image that just anybody, poor people, can wear their clothing.”

Now, Karber has decided to help “rebrand” the retailer, by launching the #FitchTheHomeless campaign. He went to local thrift stores, bought all of the Abercrombie & Fitch clothes he could find and headed to Skid Row, where he gave the clothes to homeless people. He’s now encouraging others to do the same—find Abercrombie & Fitch clothing, give it to the needy and Tweet about it with the hashtag. His goal? To make Abercrombie & Fitch “The World’s No. 1 Brand of Homeless Apparel” … Discuss

Carolyn Miles, the CEO of Save the Children, has written this startling column for CNN that looks at America’s relatively low ranking on the organization’s State of the World’s Mothers Index. Despite being 10th in the world for per capita income, the U.S. is 30th on the Mother’s Index. Why so low? According to the piece, the primary factor is a low survival rate for mothers and babies. Here are some stats from Save the Children:

When it comes to a woman's lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, we do better than only five other developed countries: Albania, Latvia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. American women are 10 times more likely to die eventually from pregnancy-related causes than women in Estonia, Greece or Singapore … In the United States, 11,300 babies a year die on the day they are born. That's more than in the rest of the industrialized world combined.

The organization is currently trying to identify the reasons behind the low survival rate, but have observed several contributing factors: obesity, high rates of elective cesarean section deliveries and age can all play a role. But, they’ve also found that survival rates are lowest in economically poor communities and are asking lawmakers to create a National Commission on Children to address the challenges facing mothers who live in poverty … Discuss

When a college professor asked students to come up with a product that would meet an actual need instead of just contributing to an existing fad, Veronika Scott had an idea. After spending months interviewing members of the homeless community in her hometown in Colorado to understand the challenges of daily life on the street, she created the sleeping bag coat. Using fabric donated by several companies and initially funded by local donations, her coats became a sensation.

Today, the now-23-year-old’s non-profit company called The Empowerment Plan employs 10 formerly homeless women to make coats that are sent (for free) to homeless shelters around the country. One unexpected twist in her company’s sudden rise to success: The coats were evidently a hit at Aspen's fashion week. Scott is now working on a for-profit sister company that will sell the coats to help fund the non-profit efforts in the future … Discuss