#1117 Sometimes even a bank gets storytelling right. Grab a tissue.

She thought she was trying out an ordinary ATM, but this one gave her tickets to Trinidad

Toronto Dominion’s #TDThanksYou (#TDVousDitMerci) campaign was launched in late July and quickly strummed millions of heart strings. In the same spirit as those wonderful, random-acts-of-kindness projects, TD decided to say thank you to some of its loyal customers by surprising…


#1113 Lettuce in LED-lit tiers; food factory of the future grows in Japan today

The future is today; lettuce factory in Japan; photo from video below

The future is today; lettuce factory in Japan; photo from video below

Food waste accounts for somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of all the food produced around the world. That is a shocking number. That means land, seed, water, storage, manufacturing and everything else that contributes to the food on our table is wasted.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a Sony factory abandoned in the wake of the 2011 tsunami is producing lettuce with only 3 percent waste. According to Truth Atlas (a good source of hope), one of the main reasons for that impressive percentage is water. It isn’t leaching through the soil, and it isn’t evaporating, at least not the way it would in a conventional lettuce-growing operation.

Shigeharu Shimamura, a plant physiologist, is CEO of Mirai Co. He explained that conventional farms can grow 26,000 plants on an acre of land. By stacking the plants and growing them under LED lights, the plant factory can harvest 10,000 heads a day in a much smaller space than an ordinary farm. In terms of feeding a burgeoning population, the ability to grow lettuce is a small start, but this factory is pioneering techniques that can be applied to other kinds of food plants.

Maybe it’s my age, but I have a hard time getting excited about food grown in tiers in a 2300 square metre factory. I think I’m lucky. I will go to my grave with the image of seed, soil, water and sun producing a miracle of food. Still, it appears we humans are reproducing like rabbits and using up the planet’s resources at shocking speed. A factory like this will stave off disaster while we figure out more rational ways of living in harmony with the beautiful earth.

With water and food in peril, a growing population to feed, and the future of my grandchildren at stake, I am encouraged by the creativity of people such as Shigeharu Shimamura. They are working hard to ensure a future for all of us.


#1082 San Francisco Burger King shows its Pride

Proud Whopper

When customers opened the wrapper of their “Proud Whopper”, this is what they saw; photo from Burger King’s Facebook page

San Francisco just might be the safest city in the U.S. for introducing a burger called “Proud Whopper”, timed, of course, to celebrate LGBT Pride Week. But that doesn’t mean everyone greeted it with open arms. You’ll see that in the video below.

The burger was the same old Whopper but with a rainbow wrapping. When customers peeled back the paper, they saw this message, “We are all the same inside.”

Good for Burger King for the gesture, though it would have been far more powerful if it had been expanded to franchises not along the Pride parade route. Still, our LGBT brothers and sisters receive only occasional support from advertisers. So when it happens, it is still worth celebrating.

One day an ad like this will seem quaint, a reflection of those old days when prejudice still dogged the lives of people born with identities different from the heterosexist majority. In the meantime, it gives me hope.


#1070 Tesla Motors throws down the sustainability gauntlet at gas guzzlers


Tesla brings the rainbows; photo by Steve Jurveston, via Flickr Creative Commons

Kudos to Tesla Motors. On June 12, 2014 the manufacturer of electric cars made an unusual announcement: They went open source. That means any company acting in good faith can have free access to their proprietary technology.

Announcing the decision, which applies to both existing and future patents, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, said:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

The move puts Tesla ahead of the automotive pack in terms of walking the sustainability talk. It is also smart marketing, likely to appeal to electric-car buyers. Making their technology open source challenges hide-bound, fossil-fuel-guzzling, car manufacturers to step up the the plate and act on behalf of the planet.

Take that, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. All five states have been in the forefront of the ban-the-Tesla movement. Other states are also trying to put on the brakes, including Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina. Their heads are stuck firmly in the proverbial sand if they think consumers are willing to be forever chained to the gas pump. Climate change, environmental degradation and peak oil make those anti-Tesla actions look not just silly but downright criminal.

So good on you, Tesla. You not only made a smart marketing move. You made a corporate step in the right direction and threw down the gauntlet to the automotive industry. That gives me hope.

Now…let’s have a chat about real sustainability and actual affordability, Tesla. Electric cars should be available for those of us without deep pockets. If the company really wants to make a difference in terms of sustainable transportation, it can’t make cars only for the well-heeled. It also has to look beyond cars and to ways of moving people around with less of a drag on the planet. Maybe even look at why we are so hungry for the new and different that we are reluctant to take a look at the impact of our restlessness on the environment.

So really, what gives me hope with Tesla’s announcement is that a major corporation is opening its secret vaults, inviting the competition to make changes. I am a fan of the open-source movement, the sharing of what we learn, the generosity of the Web community. Together we can come up with alternatives to the consumer society Tesla markets to, alternatives to the endless hunger for New and Better, alternatives that remind us that real wealth is in each other, not more stuff.

You can follow Tesla Motors on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, and Google+

Tesla Motors Sizzle Reel from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.


#1068 Quebec Davids take on the Walmart Goliath

David and Goliath

When Walmart opened its first Canadian store in 1994, I wondered how it would fare. The rah-rah enthusiasm expected of employees did not sound like something Canadians would easily adopt. I figured without the advertiser-driven hunger for the lowest price…