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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Washington for Haiti Event - January 28th, 2010

haitiwa

I promised Rob and a few other local Seattleites that I would let you know when we’re having microfinance events.  I had no idea it would be so soon!

My company, Re-Vision Labs, is partnering with Seattle Greendrinks, SeaMo, and Global Washington to co-host “Washington for Haiti” in recognition of the urgent need for support.

Join Us

When: Thursday, 28 January 2010, 6pm-9pm

Where: Pike Brewery, 1415 First Ave Seattle WA

What: A Benefit to support the work of one of Haiti’s most well-established economic development organizations, as they play a key role in emergency relief and long term reconstruction efforts.

Who: Hear from speakers representing Fonkoze and other organizations working on the ground in Haiti, as well as live music from Sunday Evening Whiskey Club.

Cost: $20 suggested donation at the door, with all proceeds going directly to Fonkoze.

Learn More

  • Learn more about the event in the blog post I wrote here.
  • Learn more about microfinance in the blog post I wrote recently here.
  • Learn more about what you can do for the people of Haiti here.

Change The World By Changing The Way We Invest

Join The Movement: Changing the World by Changing the Way We Invest

That Is the slogan I created for a new movement. It starts today, physically in Seattle and remotely around the world.

Change The World

The economics of the past clearly haven’t worked, as we have seen over the past several years, but particularly in the last year. The economic norms don’t have humanity in mind, they are not for the good of the people, they are for the good of the few. The rich few. But as you all know from yesterday’s post, I believe individual actions make a difference. I believe each of our actions together can change the world.

Money is one of the things that makes the world go round, there’s no denying it – when the economy goes south, we all feel it.

So let’s redefine finance, change how money works or doesn’t in our world. Let’s put our money where our passion is and truly, completely, invest in our future.

What Is It?

If you’ve ever heard of microfinance or microcredit, that’s what this is. Briefly, here’s how it works: instead of investing your money in a money market fund, or keeping it in a savings account, you put it into an Oikocredit fund. That fund is used to provide loans and business services to people in the developing world who cannot obtain a bank loan for their business plan (because they are poor and have no collateral or previous credit history). These loans have a 95-99% success rate – much higher than typical small business loans. And in 35 years, Oikocredit has repaid every single lender with their money plus interest.

It is a strategy for bringing people out of poverty by helping them become self-sufficient.   And it is a strategy for changing the world by changing what we do with our investments: why give our savings to a big bank who cares nothing about you, your money, or the greater good of the world? You can do more with your money.

Who Does It Change?

Here is a bit I wrote on the Oikocredit website about a woman named Flora.

Flora

Flora lives in a region of Kenya where 90% of people in the area live below the poverty line on less than $2 a day. When Flora’s husband was killed and their cattle stolen in 2001, she cried, feeling helpless and hopeless. But with four young children to support, she desperately needed to rebuild her life. With a series of loans – and a lot of hard work – she was able to re-establish her herd and eventually open a small grocery store. Little by little Flora started thinking big again and taking control of her life.

Flora has never forgotten her own struggle and is devoted to helping others in her community. She offers fair credit in her shop to customers who need it. In addition to a home for her family, she has also built rooms to rent out. This housing means others can live affordably and benefit like she has from the town’s growth. Today, she not only feeds and clothes her family; she pays school fees for her two brothers and plans to send her own children to college. Her future dreams include opening another business. Not only does Flora have improved her own life, but she has also become the inspiration for other single women in her community. Photography: Samburu Teachers Sacco

If you’re still unsure, I encourage you to try investing $25 and see what happens, see how it feels to fuel someone else’s success as you keep you own money safe.

I wonder now why haven’t we done this long ago.  I only recently heard about microfinance, I don’t know about you.  My guess is that we weren’t thinking about how to help each other at the same time we help ourselves, and the big banks have much bigger marketing budgets than these organizations who are trying to change the world.

What amazing connections, impacts, true life changes we can create by changing the way we invest and focusing on putting our investment dollars to the same scrutiny that we put our food buying dollars.

Join Us, Learn More

If you want to learn more, and meet the CEO of this non- profit, come join us tonight:

Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Time: 5:30pm – 9:00pm
Location: Evo
Street: 122 NW 36th St in Fremont; Seattle, WA; 98107
Cost: Free!  Includes drinks and snacks

If you aren’t in the area, don’t worry – we’ve created a fabulous site with lots of information here.  Or if you want a personal connection, just email me – I’m happy to let you know all I know about it.  Also, this is also just the kickoff event – we will be having more organizing events in the coming months around the United States.  If you are not in the US, you can learn more about Oikocredit investments in your country here.

And finally, while this is a client of my new mission-driven business, we picked this client for a reason. We set out to change the world as a business, so we don’t choose our clients lightly.  Oikocredit has been around for 35 years, with an amazing mission and truly selfless people working together. They also take huge strides to make sure their work is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.  They want to improve the world just as much as we do.

If you want to look around at other microfinance organizations to pick which one works best for you, there are several others.  Just make sure you investigate them as we did with Oikocredit – make sure they are offering loans at reasonable rates to people in the developing world, and that they offer services beyond loans – support services like courses in creating a business plan, accounting, marketing, etc – these things are what make the biggest difference.

Change the world by changing the way you invest. Join the movement.

Thoughts?

Have you thought about your investments in this way before?  Will you think about changing the way you invest?  Do you have questions, or other suggestions about ways to change the way we think about money?

Feeling Sluggish in the Winter? Here Are 10 Things To Help Stay Awake and Happy

 

I ran into a neighbor the other morning, as I was walking in after walking my dog and she was just walking out with hers.

 

“You look so refreshed!” she said, “Not like me, I can’t seem to wake up.”

 

Then we went on to talk about how cold it was (in the 20s, which is unusual here).  She said, “Well, is it always like this in the winter?  I mean it’s not raining!”  Ah, I remembered.  She is new to Seattle.

 

“Not always this cold, but it is this grey.  It’s not really the rain you have to worry about, it’s they grey.”

 

“Ah,” she said, clearly beginning to understand.  And we parted ways.

 

It dawned on my when I got back to my apartment that I hadn’t told her the tricks I’ve learned to stay happy and healthy over the winter.  Whoops!  I looked for her as I went back out for my walk to work, but she was gone.

 

Well!  Here is what I would have said had my brain not been so frozen that morning…

 

Ten Ways To Help Stay Awake and Happy in the Winter

 

1.  Take Vitamin D supplements. You get Vitamin D from the sun (UVB), so when there isn’t any sun, or when you always wear sunscreen, you can very quickly become D deficient.  It’s now standard practice for nearly all doctors in the Northwest to recommend D supplements.  D deficiencies can lead to MS, TB, fatigue, depression, seasonal affective disorder (go figure), osteoporosis (D helps regulate calcium), diabetes, liver, and kidney disorders.  I take 2,000 IU/day – my doctor told me to take 1,000 at minimum.

 

2.  Make sure you go outside in a sunny part of the day for at least an hour every day.

 

3.  If you can’t do #2, or if that isn’t enough light, use a light made for light therapy.  These are bright full-spectrum lights (usually 8,000-10,000 lux), and you sit within a foot of it, so that your eye catches the light indirectly, for 30-60 minutes per day usually (this is easy to do at work).  Which part of the day you use it depends on your current sleep/fatigue schedule – some lights come with instructions.  Your doctor can provide further information.

 

4.  Stay on a regular sleep schedule.  Go to bed at the same time, and get up at the same time.  Let your body stay on regular circadian rhythms.

 

5.  Drink caffeine in the morning, but don’t drink it past about 2pm. I know it sounds crazy, but it makes a huge difference.  For me this is especially true with coffee – whereas green tea seems to be ok.

 

6.  Don’t drink more than one drink at night before bed. Counterintuitive, but you actually sleep more soundly when you’re not under the influence of alcohol.

 

7.  Eat four small, protein-rich meals per day. We often crave more carbs in the winter – resist the urge, as they can make us feel lethargic.  Eat whole grains rather than refined flours, stay away from the sugars, and so on.

 

8.  Exercise regularly. It’s more difficult to keep up our exercise routines in the winter, but of course we will feel lethargic if we aren’t getting our blood pumping and muscles flexed!  Find an exercise buddy, make it a part of your daily routine, and just do it.

 

9.  Do things that make you happy – on a regular schedule. Matt and I have to make ourselves go out every weekend, because our desire to hibernate is so strong in the winter.  But once we get out there, we never regret it!  Go to an outdoor museum, walk through the paths at your local wetlands, do something fun outside if you can.  If you just can’t go outside due to the weather, go somewhere stimulating, with lots of windows – or even take a train ride across town.  And at night, watch happy movies, read happy books, and play happy games with the family!

 

10.  If you are more than mildly depressed, however, do consult a doctor right away. There may be easy remedies he or she can provide.

 

How do I know?  Years, and years, and years of living in the Pacific Northwest with seasonal dysphoria.  Factors that may increase your risk of SAD (according to the Mayo Clinic):  being female, living far from the equator, and family history.  Check, check, and check for me!

 

I know I’m not alone in feeling the blues over the winter.  Anyone else have suggestions to add?

 

Cheer up!  Spring will be here in no time!


Happening Upon A Herd Of Urban Goats

Urban Goats!


It was a year ago.  I was driving down the street, and I saw them – were they wild dogs?  I slowed… then the car behind me slowed as well… they… they were goats!  Wow!


I was fascinated – they were alone, under some trees, behind a hastily put-up fence.  Two days later, I’d just returned home and was checking my RSS feeds.  On the Slog newswire was a headline “Goats in Capitol Hill!”


I grabbed my camera and whisked off – it was nearly dark, and this was something that must be captured!


Mmmmmmm


Amazing.  On a hill between the dog park and the freeway, were a whole bunch of happily munching goats!  There were many people looking on, taking cell phone photos, laughing, and enjoying the bizarre sight. A community-building moment to be sure.


I learned later that the city rents them – I’ve seen them in other parts of town since.  One of those fun little sustainability sights in the city!


Not a Baaaad Idea, eh...?


Have a lovely Friday, everyone.


Questions For My Grandfather? Ask Away!

Me and My Grandfather


Today I’m going to be spending the day with my father and grandfather.  One of my grandfather’s wishes before he dies is to visit all of the places he has lived and worked over his 98 years.  Today we’re going to visit his old Seattle homes together.


Last time I wrote about my grandfather, several people were interested in asking him questions and wanting to know more from someone who has lived a century.  So…


Ask Grandpa Joe!


What would you like to know?  If you had someone who was 98 in your life, what would you want to ask him?  Let me know now!


To give you some context, he is incredibly smart, has traveled the world, he still has a great head for business (he had several careers, including starting up a regional banking system), and he has an incredible green thumb.  I’ve written about him quite a bit here – you can learn more about him by perusing those articles.


I will check my emails today (I have to monitor my work emails), so I’ll receive your questions and ask them.  Don’t worry about bothering us on our special day.  Believe me, he will be touched and happily overwhelmed with your kindness and curiosity.

 

UPDATE:  Since there weren’t many questions until late in the day, I decided to hold off until there were more to ask.  So keep asking! I will be seeing my grandfather soon for lunch, and will ask them all at once.

 

Our New Home

As many of you know, we’ve recently moved from a small 1-bedroom in a 1920s building to a brand new LEED-certified (green-built) 1-bedroom plus office.  We’re a bit closer to downtown, the space is twice as large as our previous apartment, it’s very energy efficient, we have a small balcony, plus access to 2 rooftop decks and a fitness room… We LOVE it.


We haven’t quite finished decorating, but here is a peek at our new home…

 

Living Room - Toward Window

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Living Room - Plants and Books

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen/Dining Area

 

Everything looks a bit compressed here, but these two rooms are the size of our entire former apartment.  Not that big is always good, but in this case, small was too small for comfort…

 

Bathroom

Our Bathroom

(You can see Raisin has found many new places to hide!)

 

The bedroom and office aren’t quite up to par yet, so you’ll have to wait to see those.  I’ll also show you our rooftop view later - it’s just down the hall, and I’ve found it is an absolutely perfect place to write.  So lastly, here is the view from our apartment:

 

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

(The crane is one of many building the new Amazon campus)

 

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

(Where we used to live)

 

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

 

And lastly, our two very happy animals…

 

Raisin and Ellis

Ellis and Raisin, who both love the new place

 

Surprise….!

We moved!


Here’s the scoop:  Matt and I have been ever so slowly saving up a bit of money while living fairly frugally in a small apartment.  Small?  Yes.  A bedroom, a living area, a kitchen, and a bathroom – for a grand total of around 500 square feet.  It is a lovely old building, but overall we were just not quite where we wanted to be.


Our apartment was above an alley that is unfortunately a bit too crazy for our tastes – a bit of drugs, a lot of alcohol, and generally too much mayhem at all hours of the day and night.  And it’s small.  And our building has been through 6 managers during the time we lived there (a little over a year), and not a single soul in the building lived there longer than we did (yep, a little over a year).

 

So we have been waiting for an opportunity to move somewhere a little nicer, quieter, and more permanent….


Two and a half weeks ago, we encountered the deal of a century.  Matt and I have had our eye on these new condos that were built in a revitalization project at the edge of downtown (South Lake Union, for those of you who know Seattle).  We didn’t want to buy in this economy, but they were beautiful, built green, and in a perfect location.  Basically, we just gawked at them and sighed every time we passed by.

 

Well, fortunately the economy has worked in our favor for this particular situation, because nobody is moving to condos right now. So, there is a crazy local law that says by the time it opens, a condo must have sold 50% of its spaces, or they have to convert the building to apartments.  Voila!  The condos we had our eye on became apartment buildings!

 

On top of that, because there was an overbuilding of apartments and condominiums in Seattle over the last couple of years, there are amazing deals on apartments right now (2 free months rent, extremely low deposits, etc).


So in a whirlwind, Matt and I decided to move to a brand new condo-turned-apartment building in a nicer area, that is built green (LEED silver), twice as big as our old apartment, super energy efficient, on the top floor (down the hall is a rooftop garden), and our apartment even has a little balcony (bigger than our fire escape) with a little view!  All for just a bit more than what we were paying before.  Yeehaw!! 

 

I have been bursting to tell you all about it, but right after we decided I to move I became ill, and then it truly became a whirlwind of packing, moving, and unpacking.  I feel I have betrayed you all by being gone so long without a peep!  Well, know you know where I have been – and I can’t wait to share with you the details of our new place.

 

Already, I feel my blood pressure dropping, my stress level diminishing, my contentedness increasing.  Raisin and Ellis love the new place – there is a great ledge for Raisin to look out over her domain (the city), and Ellis is happy to have more space where he can be a crazy dog.  Plus nearly every household here seems to have a dog, so there are lots of neighbors to meet and sniff!

 

My walk to work is almost exactly the same distance (and I like the new route better). The round trip from home to the p-patch, office, and then back home is exactly the same distance it was.  So I just have to make that my new routine. There is a p-patch in our new neighborhood, so I’ll put us on the wait list for that one – but it will likely be a year or two before a spot opens up.

 

There you have it!  I can’t wait to tell you more!  Oh yes, and our Walkscore?  It’s 100.  : )

 

Pictures soon….