Can a Teddy Bear Change the World?

12 Ways to Green Your Holiday Season

Square One Organic Spirits

Holiday Gift Helps Kenyan Women Support Families and Wildlife

Which State is the Most Energy-Efficient? Which is the Worst? New Report Tells All

nature conserve

Can a Teddy Bear Change the World?

Typically, when you purchase an item online, you are asked for your name, credit card and perhaps an option to join the mailing list. When you purchase a teddy bear from Bears For Humanity™, you have the delightful task of choosing a charity – Toys For Tots, Save The Children, Semper Fi Fund, OneSimpleWish.org, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital– because your purchase instantly doubles as a gift for a child in need! 

More than that, the cuddly pal is personally delivered to a needy veteran’s house, a children’s hospital or an underprivileged household. It’s a win-win way to run a company! The stuffed bears come in two sizes – 16” Premium Bear ($39.99) and 7” Baby Bear ($19.99). The many charity options and five color choices are splashed across www.BearsForHumanity.com website that opens to a philosophical question – Can A Teddy Bear Change The World? 

Toy industry experts, the California welfare-to-work program known as CalWORKs and an armful of mom bloggers heartily shout, “Yes!” The benefits only begin with the buy one-donate one model. The bears are luxuriously soft! Bears For Humanity pals are the only 100% Certified Organic Cotton/ Hemp teddy bears in the world. Plus, they are naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic which gives parents the peace of mind they don't get from polyester plush toys!

As it bestowed its coveted Gold Award to only a handful of toys in its Fall Award program, Parents’ Choice Foundation said, “Among the ways we learn is through imitation and practice - of tasks, process and behavior. Be it the importance of reading, or teaching children empathy and responsibility, parents set the stage. 

But busy lives can interfere; giving to and helping others takes time, thought and understanding. Making a contribution with a positive impact, even in its smallest form, feels good. Doing it again feels better. Creating a pattern becomes habit and habits create change. 

Enter Bears for Humanity. From the materials sourced to the workforce employed, to the carefully screened "Buy One, Give One" program, this company is as much a teacher as it is a manufacturer. These lessons of philosophy and business practice are worth patterning and passing along.

When giving a Sammie Bear to a child, be sure to share Sammie's story. Present it as an age appropriate introduction to empathy and responsibility: getting a hug feels great; giving one feels pretty good too. And by the way, "hugs" can take many forms.”

Other toy industry experts have also taken notice of this new company. Dr. Toy was first to award her Green Toy Company award followed by National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Playonwords.com PAL Award, Able Play Seal of Approval and most recently, Mom’s Choice Award—GOLD seal of approval. 

Explains Renju Prathap, founder of Bears For Humanity, who runs the company with husband Vijay, “we blend certified organic hemp and certified organic cotton at the fiber layer. This is complex and then we weave them. We use custom-made recycled polyfillto fill our teddy bears by hand that hail from plastic bottles and caps by Stein Fibers in North Carolina.” 

Prathap, a businesswoman with stops at Cisco, Apple and Wells Fargo, searched the globe to create an exceptional stuffed toy. “We think the things our little ones play with and sleep with should meet the same high standards as the food they eat and the clothes they wear. After two years and thousands of revisions, we have developed the safest, softest materials possible.” 

How much more “wow factor” can be granted to Bears For Humanity? Keep counting … because each bear is assembled in Northern California, where plenty of jobs have been created jobs for those that need it most. The small business trains individuals through California’s welfare-to-work program, CalWORKs. Teddy bear makers are typically women – many are also moms -- who qualify for this work assistance program. Whether they have been affected by the loss of a family member, traumatic life-events, or are a foster family, Bears For Humanity employees are engaged in improving their lives, as the company improves the lives of thousands of children in need.  

One touching story happened at the start of the summer, as children were ending the school year. The city was Charlestown, South Carolina. The tragedy was on the nightly news for days. Bears For Humanity got to work. As the website’s blog reported in late June, “We want to bring comfort, love and peace to children of all ages at a time when things look out of sorts and out of control in Charleston.  We are collaborating with Christine Osborne, Owner of Wonder Works Toys in Charleston, South Carolina and giving 100% Certified Organic Teddy Bears to all family members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. What better global symbol of love and peace than a hand-crafted teddy bear?” 

Prathap, a mom of twins herself, sums it up best. “We are not just building certified organic teddy bears,” the toy maker/humanitarian says with a smile, “we are building lives, one teddy bear at a time. “ 

Teddy Bears currently can be purchased from Amazon or the Bears For Humanity website.  

16” Premium Bears • Ages 3+ • $39.99   The larger of the two buy-one/give-one organic teddy bears boast poseable limbs for snugglier hugs. These bears are at home at a tea party or a dance party. Choose from five colorful characters: 

• Sammie (Iconic Beige)
• Sassie (Pink) 
• Snowie (White) 
• Snugglie (Chocolate Brown)
• Sweetie (Blue)

7” Baby Bears • Ages 3+ • $19.99  The Organic Baby Bears are just like their older siblings, made from the same premium quality  100% Certified Organic Cotton/Hemp Fur Fabric. The Baby Bears do not have moving limbs,  but at 7 inches tall they are so small and soft you’ll never want to put them down. Ahhhhhh. The Babies are offered in five styles.

Follow them on social media outlets Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. For more information and pictures of each bear, click on www.BearsForHumanity.com.

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12 Ways to Green Your Holiday Season

1. Treecycling: Christmas trees can be re-purposed into mulch and used in gardening and landscaping or chipped and used on hiking trails and paths. Christmas trees can also been used for erosion control, soil stabilization and shoreline maintenance. When used in this manner, the trees not only stabilize the soil, but also provide habitats for fish and birds.

2. Scrap the Traditional Wrap: Wrap holiday gifts with children’s artwork or a colorful section of your local newspaper. Some beautiful remnant fabric or what was once a “must have” scarf would make cheerful holiday gift wrapping.

3. Light up the Night with LED Lights: Energy-saving LED lights burn brighter, last longer, and save you money.

4. Green Greetings: sending e-cards—saves time, money and the planet. When the holidays are over, why not turn some of those beautiful greeting cards you received into gift tags for next year? Start by separating the front of the prettiest holiday cards from the back. Trim the edges of the front, following the design of the card, to create a festive gift tag.

5. Give Back: give a gift that makes a difference—changing a life or saving a life. Donate to a local or favorite charity in a friend’s name.

6. Decorate with Nature: create a beautiful holiday wreath using gifts from nature. Collect pinecones, twigs, branches adorned with berries and more from your own backyard, use wire to create the round wreath shape, and decorate with festive ribbons. A great, and green, family project.

7. Shop local: walk into town to do your holiday shopping. Neighborhood shops offer festive and unique holiday gifts—no more gas-guzzling spins around the mall parking lot looking for a parking spot.

8. Use Wrapping for Scrapping: Use holiday-themed wrapping from gifts that you receive for festive scrapbooking page borders. Ribbons, bows and embellishments will also help to create lively holiday memory keepsakes.

9. Give Battery-Free Toys: battery sales spike during the holiday season and these batteries can end up in landfills. Art sets and craft projects provide inspiration and feed imagination.

10. Serve Organic and Locally Sourced Meals: visit local farmers markets to shop for your holiday menu. Locally made jellies and jams also make great gifts.

11. Teach Kids About Giving: after all the new gifts have been opened, ask kids to select a toy they no longer play with and have them donate it to a children’s hospital or child care center. What was old will now seem new again to a child this holiday season.

12. Remember Those in Need: Clean out your closets and donate gently used clothes and coats to local thrift shops and shelters.

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Square One Organic Spirits

This holiday season, Oprah Winfrey's annual favorites list includes the organic and botanically infused spirits of boutique American spirits maker, Square One Organic Spirits, in her much anticipated holiday gift-giving recommendations. With Oprah's keen eye for new ideas to bring to the national stage and her millions of fans, O, The Oprah Magazine will feature the entire Square One Organic Spirits collection in Oprah's Favorite Things 2015.

Square One, a female-owned pioneer in certified organic spirits and known for its sophisticated, multi-botanical approach to vodka-based spirits, is the exclusive spirit brand on this year's list. Oprah didn't pick just one Square One spirit, she liked them all so much that she requested that Square One create a gift pack of full-sized bottles of the entire collection, along with cocktail recipe ideas.

With only a month to pull it together, the team at Square One Organic Spirits moved quickly to bring the gift collection idea to reality. "As a small company, it was very exciting to get that call that we were on the Oprah's Favorite Things list and to hear that Oprah was already a fan," said Allison Evanow, Founder and CEO of Square One Organic Spirits. "Showcasing the complete collection is an incredible opportunity to tell our story and invite cocktail enthusiasts to try their hand at savory and culinary-inspired cocktails."

Oprah's Favorite Things 2015 includes: Square One Organic Vodka, Square One Cucumber, Square One Botanical, Square One Basil and the newly released Square One Bergamot. All are available separately, in a standard 750ml bottle (SRP $34.99) or the Square One Organic Spirits Collection of five, 750ml bottles (SRP $175). Also available in 50ml mini-sized bottles (SRP $3.99) packaged in the same stylish Square One square bottle. Visit SquareOneOrganicSpirits.com for a list of retailers.


Holiday Gift Helps Kenyan Women
Support Families and Wildlife

Just an inch-and-a-half long from trunk to tail, these tiny beaded elephants are decidedly adorable. But they are also powerful. These little elephants — along with colorful bracelets, necklaces, ornaments and keychains — are helping protect elephants and other wildlife in northern Kenya.

How? Northern Rangelands Trust’s BeadWORKS program is providing 1,000 women in five community-led conservancies access to markets for their beaded handicrafts. Income-earning opportunities are an important component of successful community conservancies, which have been shown to have a dramatically positive impact on elephant poaching numbers.

The Nature Conservancy works closely with NRT, providing funding and scientific expertise.
One of the biggest benefits of forming community conservancies is increased security for both people and wildlife. NRT trains and equips wildlife rangers to thwart poachers, and eco-tourism lodges create jobs and give communities a common purpose to protect their wildlife for the long-term.

"It takes more than guns and rangers to save elephants," said Munira Bashir, Kenya Program Director for The Nature Conservancy's Africa Program. "You have to get people on board and ensure they have an alternative source of income. That's why the BeadWORKS program is so great: It helps local families and it saves elephants."

Income earned from BeadWORKS allows many families to send their children to school, like this one at West Gate Conservancy. “As pastoralist women, we didn’t have a source of income,” said Rebecca Moile, from Lekurruki Conservancy. “We were so reliant on our husbands. BeadWORKS has helped us because we don’t have to rely just on livestock. Now I can send my kids to school…my life has really improved.”

Learn more below about how BeadWORKS is helping women and wildlife in Kenya, and where you can find gifts that give back this holiday season.  BeadWORKS products are now available online, including jewelry, tree ornaments, and keychains - http://www.nrt-kenya.org/beads/


Which State is the Most Energy-Efficient?
Which is the Worst? New Report Tells All

Energy efficiency measures continue to flourish in states across the country, with several states—including California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas and the nation’s capital, Washington, DC—taking major steps that improved their scores in the ninth annual edition of the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, recently released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The State Scorecard ranking of the states is issued annually with the support of the US Department of Energy. This year, DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan participated in the release of the ACEEE report.

Available online at http://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard, the following are key findings of the 2015 State Scorecard:

  • The top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and New York, with Minnesota and Illinois tied for 10th place. Massachusetts retains the top spot for the fifth consecutive year based on a strong commitment to energy efficiency under its Green Communities Act. In California, requirements for reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, major efforts to achieve energy efficiency in schools, and implementation of a cap-and-trade program earned the state several more points this year, putting it only a half-point behind Massachusetts in the state rankings.

  • A solid 20 states rose in the State Scorecard rankings. California, a leading state, is also one of the most improved states this year. Maryland, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and Texas also deserve recognition for improvement over the past year. Maryland increased its commitment to energy efficiency in 2015 by establishing new, more aggressive energy savings targets for utilities. Illinois is one of the first states to adopt the newest building energy codes, and has increased the amount of energy efficiency available to utilities through procurement agreements with the Illinois Power Agency. Like Illinois, Texas has been aggressive in adopting the latest building energy codes, and has also taken notable actions to ensure code compliance across the state. The District of Columbia is among the most improved for the second year in a row, due to its progress across a number of policy areas and the ramping up of DC Sustainable Energy Utility programs.

  • Overall, 16 states fell in the rankings this year, due to such factors as policy or program rollbacks or failure to keep pace as other states expanded efficiency efforts. The five states most in need of improvement (starting with dead last) are: North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Mississippi, although new efficiency programs in Louisiana and Mississippi mean these states may not be in the bottom for much longer. While not in the bottom five states, New Mexico dropped the farthest in 2015, losing four points and falling six positions from 25th to 31st in the rankings. This is due in part to the state’s failure to adopt energy building codes beyond the 2009 requirements. Many of the states falling behind are not increasing energy savings year after year, and are therefore being outpaced as other states ramp up programs to meet higher savings targets.

ACEEE executive director Steve Nadel said: “As states move to frame their plans under the federal Clean Power Plan, this year marks a tipping point for energy efficiency. State policies are increasingly encouraging utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency, prompting them to adopt new business models that align their interests with those of customers and policymakers. We can see this taking hold in the 20 states that improved their Scorecard rank in 2015. Utilities across the United States invested more than $7 billion in energy efficiency over the past year alone.”

Annie Gilleo, ACEEE state policy manager and lead author of the State Scorecard said: “ Governors, legislators, regulators, and citizens are increasingly recognizing that energy efficiency is a crucially important state resource. As a result, many innovative policies and programs that promote energy efficiency originate at the state level. The State Scorecard reflects these successes through a comprehensive analysis of state efforts to support energy efficiency.”

Charlie Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: “Energy efficiency is the most cost effective, accessible way for Massachusetts to meet our clean energy goals and help ratepayers manage their energy costs. Being recognized for the fifth consecutive year by ACEEE as the nation’s leader in energy efficiency underlines the commitment Massachusetts has made to pursue a diversified energy portfolio and my administration is seeking more, renewable energy sources like hydro power to continue this important effort.”

Clifford Rechtschaffen, senior advisor on climate, energy and environmental issues, Office of California Governor Jerry Brown, State of California said: “This year Governor Brown called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 by 2030 to deal with the threat of climate change. To help achieve this ambitious goal, the governor called for doubling the rate of efficiency savings over the next 15 years-- on top of the huge energy savings that California has accomplished over the past 40 years. We look forward to ACEEE tracking our progress towards achievement of that goal in upcoming State Scorecards.”

Other Key Findings

The State Scorecard assesses state policies and programs that improve energy efficiency in our homes, businesses, industries, and transportation systems. It considers the six policy areas in which states typically pursue energy efficiency: utility and public benefits, transportation, building energy codes and compliance, combined heat and power (CHP), state government–led initiatives around energy efficiency, and appliance and equipment standards.

Additional topline findings include:

  • Savings from electricity efficiency programs in 2014 totaled approximately 25.7million megawatt-hours (MWh), a 5.8% increase over last year. These savings are equivalent to about 0.7% of total retail electricity sales across the nation in 2014. Gas savings for 2014 were reported at 374 million therms (MMTherms), a 35% increase over 2013.

  • The leading states in utility-sector energy efficiency programs and policies in 2015 are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These are the same three states that topped this category in 2014. With long records of success, all three continued to raise the bar on cost-effective programs and policies.

  • California, Massachusetts, and New York led the way in energy-efficient transportation policies. Massachusetts promoted smart growth development in cities and municipalities through state-delivered financial incentives. New York is one of the few states in the nation to have a vehicle-miles-traveled reduction target.

  • The leading states in building energy codes and compliance in 2015 are California and Illinois. Only four states, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland have adopted the latest commercial and residential building energy codes without significant weakening amendments.

  • Massachusetts, Maryland, and California were the highest ranked for combined heat and power policies.

  • California, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York led the way in state government initiatives.?