Saturday, February 18, 2017

What I learned in Duba

You probably know of Dubai as the city with the tallest building in the world. Perhaps you know
where it is on our planet, or have a vague notion. It is not on the no-immigration executive order.  Trump buildings are going up there.

I never expected to go to Dubai. In fact, I never had the desire. When the invitation came, I first ignored it, then responded with a polite no. But somehow I found myself in Dubai, invitation accepted, attending the Global Dialogue for Happiness and participating in a working group (I think it was the working group on happiness measurements that got me).

On February 14th, the eve of my departure of a five day stay, I asked myself what was the main point that I came away with. I expected my reply (to myself) to be something thrilling, foundational or groundbreaking about the happiness movement. (To see my first post about the Dialogue for Global Happiness, see here.)

After all, the World Government Summit in which the Dialogue for Global Happiness was nested, had been seeded with speeches and panels from a veritable who's who in the happiness movement: Stieglitz, Sachs, Helliwell, Layard, Diener, Buettner, Ura, Tobgay, Seligman, Csikszenthihalyi... Instead what came up was Dubai itself - its growth, its development.
Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

The tallest building in the world stands like a general pointing his soldiers a march into the future in every direction. Everywhere you look, Dubai is burgeoning into "little cities," even in the sea on man-made islands. Hundreds of skyscrapers, gated communities, strip malls and malls as big as towns are popping up in "little" cities what was once sand. Many of these little cities are formed by theme: TECOM, Academic City, Media City, Healthcare City.... Take a ride across the city and you see as many cranes hovering over bones of buildings as buildings. 

In Dubai, about 90% of the population is "expats" (the term used by everyone). An expat is anyone not an United Arab Emirates national. Statistics show that 200 nationalities live and work together in this city. Out of the 2.7 million population, 75% are men, due to the amount of migrant labourers working in the construction sector. It is true that in a restaurant, the servers will likely be from the Philippines. The wait staff at the conference was mostly from India, the drivers for the hotel's buggies from Bangladesh. Australia, England and the U.S supply the education industry. And so on.

I had heard about human rights violations before I came, so asked Edurne, a Basque Spanish expat living with her Turkish - Belgian husband in a gated community about this. Where workers' passports withheld from them and wages not paid?  She mentioned that the construction sector here, like in other neighbour countries, is under international scrutiny. Despite laws banning public protests, labourers took to the street to march for fair treatment and better working conditions. The most recent event took place in 2016, and led to an improvement of Dubai's labour laws. These now include the obligation for the employer to pay monthly wages on time, a definition for overtime rates, improved health and safety conditions, and new mechanisms to help workers notify about infringement of labour rights. 

In my hotel, I asked people in housekeeping and the buggy drivers who ferried us from the hotel to conference how long they had been in Dubai, if they had their passports, and if they were paid. Naeem told me that he had been working in Dubai for 7 years. He went home every year for one month, and the company paid his airfare every other year.  It also provided housing and food. He worked 11 hours a day, driving for 8 hours, break for 2 hours and half an hour on either end of his day to clean the buggy. He was 19 when he came to Dubai. Another buggy ride between hotels and I met Treevannakah, who is planning to work one more year in Dubai. She has already worked for 4 years, and bought land to farm with her earnings. Her last year will give her enough to buy an irrigation system and the equipment she needs to run a farm. She plans to grow water melons, or "sweet melon" as she calls them. She has the comportment of a highly successful person, and I suspected that some day soon, one can expect to hear her speaking at a conference such as the one she was driving people to and from.  The driver from the hotel to the airport was saving money to marry, and would bring his wife to Dubai so he could work and support a family once he did marry. I asked him if he ever felt he was treated rudely, and he said that at home, in Nairobi, his boss would yelled at him at work, but here, he felt respected and respected others. He said with a nod about his boss and himself, "Muslim." 

3D food printing - on the market by 2050?

Other stories had bothered me as well. One involved 6 year old children used as camel jockeys for camel races. They would be injured in the process. I asked Edurne about this. Edurne is a sustainability expert working for a non-for-profit organization called Surge for Water. She is one of those people whom you instinctively feel you can trust, and who gets the connection between treatment of people and treatment of our environment. She told me that the UAE banned the use of child jockeys in commercial camel races in 2002, following allegations of human right abuses and child trafficking. UNICEF and the government of UAE put in place a plan to return children formerly involved in camel racing to their countries of origin and reintegrate them into their communities. Today, robot jockeys are used. In any other setting, I would have been suspicious. However, I had just been to the Museum of the Future and eaten 3D printed food, played with a lawyer-bot, interacted with vision plans for 3-D printing bots that created or re-created cities and towns in deserts or disaster zones.

Outside the museum was an air taxi (no rides offered.) UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bid Rashid Al Maktoum had announced during his keynote for the conference that the city would see these in the air soon. One of the give-aways at the conference was a little glossy book with pictures showing how to colonize Mars by 2117.

Dubai as it stands today sprang from the desert 20 years ago.  While I am no historian, my sense is that the country, or perhaps just the city, is a lot like America was 150 years ago. A land of opportunity. A land where one can go and make a future for oneself, although there are dangers (as there were and still are in America).  This is not to say that the area does not have its challenges, and its shadow, the treatment of women among them. But even here, there is tangible, palpable evidence that things are changing with a plan and aim for a better future for all people.
Plans for colonization of Mars
So, in response to my question to myself about the main point I gathered from Dubai: my eyes have been opened, my perspective changed. I have a thought, hope and feeling that perhaps the Middle East, lead by a few visionary leaders - both male and female - is poised for a renaissance.  Such a renaissance will ripple through the world, just as the investment of the Medici's into art, science and architecture - da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Lippi, Botticello, Galileo, Vasari, Brunelleschi - did four or five centuries ago.  Such a renaissance will radically change how we live in cities.

Just in the last couple of years, Dubai embraced Happiness, Sustainability and Tolerance with ministries created and vision and plans in formation. It is a country rich not only in the resources of oil, but also wind and sun. No doubt soon they will harness this energy.  On my drive across Dubai with Edurne, I remember a sadness in her when we talked about the city and sustainability.  But I think her hopes and dreams of a city that really is sustainable may come true. When I asked her about this tension she said "“UAE was founded in 1971. It is a very young nation. It has developed very fast, and it is developing farther. Yes! As you said they are planning to go to Mars! Fast development does not mean perfect development. There are some flaws, and cultural constraints, like everywhere. Socio-political conditions in the Middle East are unique. Some of the fundamental pillars of societies here are based upon what might be shocking to someone from a western perspective. The other way around is also valid." 

Hopefully they will transform our urban environments from grey to green. They, if anyone, can and will find ways to reengineer old buildings and build new buildings so they are closed-loop living systems that provide urban agriculture to feed a people within their urban jungle, revitalize the biodiversity of a city so humans and other life forms thrive together, integrate water into our built systems so that water scarcity is no longer a threat, and rethink transportation so that we do not compromise our quality of life and the ability of future generations to meet their needs to get to work or go play. Perhaps it is Dubai, and the Middle East, that will transition our governments from the whipping boys of commerce and corporations to the leadership that makes every nation great and our planet healthy, happy and sustainable.

By Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance, with contributions from Edurne Gile de San Vincente

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bhutan's Recipe for Happiness

A giant blue balloon with a winking smiley face is tethered 40 feet off the ground. It really looks like if you caught the strings, you could fly away like Curious George. It’s February 11th, in Dubai, and the World Government Summit is being kicked off with a pre-meeting held by the Minister of Happiness. The topic is Dialogue for Global Happiness.
Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tobgay tells us how to govern for happiness.
Someone says this could be the most important meeting in the world. It may be. The speakers include Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tobgay. His country has the longest track record of measuring and managing happiness for the purpose of government. They call it Gross National Happiness.
Tobgay is Bhutan’s second Prime Minister (the country only recently became a democratic monarchy). When he was first elected, rumor had it he was giving up on Gross National Happiness. Not so.
“The simple fact is that governments are not taking the happiness of people seriously enough” Prime Minister Tobgay beings.
Bhutan’s foundation for governing for happiness was lain 400 years ago, when the Nation’s founding father decreed that if government cannot create happiness for the people, there is no purpose for government to exist. Today happiness policies include green, clean, socially and responsible economic development. Free education and healthcare. Bhutan is a carbon negative country, with over 72% of the land covered in forest, and 60% of the land constitutionally protected in forest cover. Tobgay claims Bhutan is the only country that did not have to fight to become a democracy. The last king took such an interest in his people’s happiness that he decided good governance (an aspect or “domain” of happiness) predicated the country become democratic.
In Bhutan, the government measures Gross National Happiness through 9 domains. There are the time-honored ones of the economy, governance, environment, society and health. But they also use cutting edge domains: time balance, community vitality, culture and psychological well-being. These domains define the conditions of happiness.
In 2015 they conducted a third survey (this one took 1.5 hours to complete, the prior one, conducted in 2010, took 4 hours) and found that some people had improved in some areas, fallen in others. Women’s happiness increased a bit since 2010, but they are still less happy than men. The same is true for rural people versus urban people. Overall, 91.2 people are determined to be happy, meaning they had sufficiency in at least half of all the domains. 43% are deeply happy, having sufficiency in at least 2/3 of the domains. Since 2010, the Bhutanese are getting more sleep.
“What we count measures, and what we count, gets done” Tobgay states about the happiness data.
This year, the happiness metrics and data are being used for the nation’s 5 year plan. The strategies and goals are being crafted in response to the happiness data and will be measured by the happiness indicators.
All policies are screened against the domains of Gross National Happiness using a Happiness Screening tool. It’s the Gross National Happiness commission, composed of all the ministers in the government, heads of state and other high level who are responsible for the ultimate decision. If a policy is found not to give benefit in a domain, such as environment, culture or health, it is either sent back to be studied, debated and revised. Or it can be rejected. This is what happened to a mineral development policy. It was rejected after being found to be too polluting and unsustainable. It also happened to a proposal to join the WTO. The harm to the environment and erosion to traditional values and culture outweighed any positive economic gain.
“Gross National Happiness gives us a glimpse into the well-being of our people” Tobgay says.
In addition to the use of the data and indicators for the 5 year plan, Tobgay’s last State of the Nation report to his country’s people was entirely about the 2015 Gross National Happiness report. One policy that did pass was an increase in maternity leave for mothers from 2 to 6 months. This in response to women’s low score compared to men.
In conclusion, Tobgay's recipe for happiness is composed of 5 elements:
  1. Define happiness broadly to encompass the many condition of life.
  2. Measure happiness with surveys and objective indicators.
  3. Once you have measured happiness, use the data to inform proposed policies.
  4. Make Happiness the goal of all your government offices.
  5. Together with all government officers, screen all policies against a Happiness screening tool.
  6. Use the data to inform your long term plan and use the indicators to measure progress.
Does Bhutan have the answer?
Says Tobgay “Are we the happiest people in the world? No, we have a long way to go, but we take happiness seriously.”
Written by Laura Musikanski, reposted from Medium 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Resolution to Protect All People’s Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Use this draft resolution for your city, town, county or other region. While a resolution is not a promise, it is a step forward.  You can amend, change or otherwise customize this to your area. This resolution is based on a resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. You can create a petition and gather support for this resolution, or send a copy (make sure you place your area’s name and change where it says city/town/region) to your elected official.  

Resolution to Protect All People’s Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

                            Signed this day ___________, 2017

WHEREAS, in our City/Town/County (________), every person has the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and no person should have to fear for their life because of their national origin, their liberty because of the color of their skin, gender or sexual orientation, and every person should have equal opportunity to pursue happiness and moreover that the purpose of government is to protect those inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that money has no place in political elections, we will pass an ordinance to overturn the Citizen’s United decision in our city/town/county. We will work with the people our city/town/county to bring about increases in voter turnout and bring about a well-functioning process for public funded campaigns; and be it

RESOLVED, our city/town/county will protect, preserve and promote all people’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and assembly. We will make ensure the permitting process for assembly is easy and accessible. We will work with the Police Department to ensure the safety of all, and use force only where force is needed, just as with sports and entertainment events; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, our city/town/county is a sanctuary city/town/county. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city/town/county and country great, and who stand at over 42 million people in our nation. We build bridges, not walls; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we will never back down on women’s rights, whether in healthcare, the workplace, or any other area threatened by a man who treats women as obstacles to be demeaned or objects to be assaulted. And just as important, we will ensure our young girls grow up with role models who show them they can be or do anything; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That Black Lives Matter in our city/town/region. And guided by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, we will work towards reforming our police department and rebuilding trust between police and communities of color so all citizens feel safe in their neighborhoods; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we still believe in this nation’s founding principle of religious freedom. We do not ban people for their faith, and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That there will be no conversion therapy, no withdrawal of rights in our city/town/county. And to all the LGBTQ people all over the country who feel scared, bullied, or alone: You matter. You are seen; you are loved; and our city/town/county will never stop; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we recognize the tragedy that harms all the people of our city/town/region of homelessness and that housing is a basic human need. We will work diligently to end homelessness in our city/town/county by protecting homeless people and providing shelter, with the aim to provide permanent sustainable shelter; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That climate change is a real threat and concern. We will work towards clean renewable power, zero waste, ecosystem services protection and restoration, and everything else we can feasibly do to protect future generations; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we will work to provide universal health care in our city/town/county, and if the federal administration does not continue providing universal health insurance, the people of our city/town/county will be protected; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That our city/town/county is committed to internationalism and to our friends and allies around the world; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That our city/town/county will work for public transportations systems we can all rely upon, whether federal transit funding is available or not; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That our city/town/county will not be bullied by threats to revoke our federal funding, nor will we sacrifice our values or members of our community for money; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we condemn all hate crimes and hate speech. We will fight discrimination and recklessness in all its forms. We are one city/town/county. And we will move forward together.


(Official title here. I.e. Mayor, Councilmember, Commissioner etc)

(Official title here. I.e. Mayor, Councilmember, Commissioner etc)

(Official title here. I.e. Mayor, Councilmember, Commissioner etc)

(Official title here. I.e. Mayor, Councilmember, Commissioner etc)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hope for our inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

There's Hope

Yesterday, the eve of Inauguration 2017 in USA, was hard. I felt exhausted all day and with evening came a simmering anger. I was not pleasant to be around. I felt like I was walking into a bad arranged marriage.  Trying to console myself that it would only be four years did not work. It's not hard to image the damage that can be done in four years.  To people, to culture, to society, to systems.

I put three tasks before myself:
1) Develop a tool for citizen action based on the book "Becoming a Citizen Activist."
2) Write the first petitions the Happiness Alliance would ever write. One callis on all Mayors in the USA to pass resolutions to protect the inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for ALL people. The other calling on all national leaders to appoint Happiness Ministers and Cabinets of Happiness.

By 11:30 pm, I was done, and had done all I could that day. Was it enough? Time would tell, Maybe hardly anyone would sign the petitions, and they would go unnoticed, unheaded. But one does what one can, and then turns it over to a higher power.  I needed to rest, to take the time to go inward. But there did not feel like there was enough time. That, my dharma teacher says, is exactly when you must take the time.  So today, I plan to take at least one hour today and go inward. Sit in silence, see what will emerge. Tears maybe, the tumult of fear, anger, denial, bargaining...ideas, inspiration, maybe even a sense of peace.  But most important, is that I will be taking care of myself.

The link between taking care of yourself and doing the work that is needed and will be necessary if we are going to realize a sustainable tomorrow and today where there is hope for a government, economy and society that puts the well-being and happiness of people before the goals of unfettered economic growth and the rich getting richer.

My hope is that the work we are all doing for the good of our brothers and sisters on two legs, on four legs, in the air and on the ground will be a success.  I send that wish of love out today.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Journey With Food Waste & Happiness: One Woman's Vision (part 1 of 2)

By Amy Bergley, Sustainability & Happiness Studies candidate at Arizona State University

Phoenix, Arizona
I’ve always felt sustainability was important but I had never actively pursued it, until now. It wasn’t until I moved to Arizona that I really started to see the importance of sustainability. Water is a precious resource everywhere, but in Arizona you can physically see and feel its impact. This is what initially sparked my interest in sustainability and what ultimately led me to pursue a Master’s in Sustainability Solutions at Arizona State University. Upon starting my degree, I didn’t know much about food waste and the impact it was having on the world.

It wasn’t until I watched the movie, “Just Eat It: A food waste story” that I began to understand food waste. In this movie, a couple challenges themselves to live off discarded food for six months. They thought this would be difficult to do, however,  that was not the case. In fact, they often found they had more food than they could store in their house. This documentary opened my eyes to the sheer volume of edible food that is being discarded in North America. 

Over the past several months, I began a journey with food waste and happiness that has brought me to where I am today. I set out to ultimately understand why food is wasted and what can be done to stop it. In the United States, it is estimated that around 40% of edible food is wasted (Gunders, 2012). That equates to around 30 million tons or 180 pounds of edible food wasted per person each year (EPA, 2016). With food insecurity running rampant in the U.S., this figure is horrifying. As I began to learn more about food waste in the US and the issues causing it, I wondered if other countries were experiencing the same problem.  In order to find out, I participated in a six week study abroad program where I traveled throughout Denmark and the United Kingdom. During my travels, I interviewed individuals from all walks of life in order to better understand their perspective of food waste and what their country was doing to prevent it.

Aarhus, Denmark
There was one interview that really impacted my perspective of food waste and how it relates to happiness.  This interview took place in Aarhus, Denmark with Annbritt Jørgensen, the founder of Skraldecafeen. This translates to the Garbage Café’. Going into the interview, I didn’t know what to expect or exactly what the Garbage Café’ was. So the The first question I asked was for Annbritt to tell me a little about the organization and how it was started. She replied that it started off as a good idea. She had been learning about dumpster diving in Denmark and the sub culture around it. Dumpster diving is legal in Denmark, although some stores lock their bins so divers cannot access them. Although it is less socially accepted among the upper classes and it is a relatively common practice within certain populations (such as college students). Some people sustain themselves solely on dumpster diving. This inspired Annbritt to take the food that was in the dumpster and to use it as a tool to bring people together. Her organization sets up mobile kitchens in parks around Aarhus and invites everyone people to come and cook food that was harvested by her and her team harvested from the dumpster. This food is clean and fit for human consumption. Typically, the food is thrown out due to low aesthetic standards or older expired date labels. 

The Garbage Café’ is doing a great job combating food waste in Aarhus by taking thrown away food and turning it into a resource, however, the food is not the focus of the organization. Rather, the food is used as a tool to create a gathering place where everyone is equal. Annbritt proudly stated that “it doesn’t matter if you are homeless or the mayor, everyone participates on equal terms.” She said that when they first set the kitchen up, the homeless population weren’t was not used to being invited to participate in the community things. Annbritt is proud that instead of the homeless of Aarhus being looked down on upon, they are were able to come to the Garbage Café’ and join as equals terms with everyone else. Annbritt’s perspective was so unique. She saw a problem with food waste in her city and acted on it. Her solution not only feeds people, but it also brings happiness and social inclusion to a stigmatized population.

Roof Garden in Copenhagen, Denmark

My interview with Anntbritt got me thinking about ways which combating food waste could benefit people and increase their happiness. I found that not only can reducing food waste save money, but it can also reconnect a person with food and nature. There’s a disconnect with our food system that exists today. This has led to a disassociation between food and the natural environment. It is as if some people have forgotten that french fries are grown in the ground soil and that milk comes from a living animal cow. All areas of the food system requires large quantities of resources in order to grow and maintain them. When food is wasted, all of the resources that went into growing, processing and transporting that food are also wasted.

This is really evident in “The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry” video (watch it here created by the Ad Council to fight food waste. In this video, you watch the strawberry grow, travel through processing, then travel again to the store. At the store the strawberry is purchased and taken home. It then sits in the fridge until it rots and is eventually thrown away. This story is tragic and unfortunately common.   

Jalapino after 2 weeks in fridge
Preventing food waste is easy; it’s just a matter of being proactive. I have a few strategies that I use regularly which have just about eliminated food waste in my home. In the past, much of my food waste came from over buying products at the grocery store. I would impulse shop and inevitably buy more food than I could eat. I began making lists of the items that I needed before going to the store. This has greatly reduced my impulse buying. I’m a vegetarian, so I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. This can be difficult at times, because I only go to the store once a week and the shelf life of some produce items can be very short. Storing produce properly can double the life of it. Certain types of fruits, such as avocado sand watermelons, should be stored on the counter before they are ready to be eaten. Fruits like grapes and strawberries should be stored in the fridge. Storing produce correctly will keep it lasting longer so you have more time to eat it. Another great strategy I have found is to always keep items that need to be eaten first (like leftovers) towards the front of the fridge. This way, they are the first thing you see when opening the door so you are reminded to eat them. On those occasions when I have a few veggies vegetables in my refrigerator that are getting old, I have found that you I can make chili out of just about anything and it tastes good. All you I need to do is throw everything in a pot, add plenty of seasoning, and cook it until its tender. These are just a few strategies I use to reduce food waste at home, but there are plenty more ways.

The more I reduced my food waste, the greater benefits I experienced. Not only did it save me money, but it also pushed me to try new foods that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Any leftover scraps I have from cooking go into the compost bin, which I eventually use in my garden. Living more sustainably and reducing my food waste has made me more conscious of my actions and decisions. This has increased my happiness and brought me closer to nature. 

Works Cited

EPA. (2016, February 23). Turning Food Waste into Energy at the Easte Bay Municipal Utility District. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from United States Environmental Protection Agency:

Gunders, D. (2012, August). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill. Retrieved March 2016, from Natural Resources Defense Council:

A Community Without Food Waste: One Woman's Vision (part 2 of 2)

By Amy Bergley, Sustainability & Happiness Studies candidate at Arizona State University 

In June 2016,I set out to study food waste practices and policy in the United Kingdom and Denmark. I wanted to understand what other countries were doing to combat food waste and how individual happiness was impacted. For six weeks, I lived in these countries and experienced their culture, while conducting field work. Much of my research involved interviews with different organizations working to fight food waste. During my travels, I gained a better understanding of the problem of food waste in each country and what was being done about it. 

Food embodies culture, family, and a connectedness to nature. It brings people together and gives our bodies nutrients that we need to survive. Despite this,  food is being wasted on a massive scale all over the world. In the United States it is estimated that around 40% of edible food is wasted each year (Gunders, 2012). This equates to a loss of about 180 lbs per person each year and a total monetary loss of $165 billion. Efforts have been made to reduce food waste in the US through programs like USDA’s Food Waste Challenge (USDA, 2016). Despite this, the issue of food waste still persists. 

Denmark is further along in their fight against food waste than the United States. Deemed the European leader in the fight against food waste, Denmark was able to reduce their waste by 25% since 2010 (Facts About Food Waste, 2015). Denmark has also been named the happiest country in the world.  United Kingdom is close behind Denmark, with a 21% reduction in their food waste (Marsh, 2015). 

During my research project abroad, I created a vision for a community that does not experience food waste. My vision focused on three main categories. The first proactively limiting food waste from occurring in the first place. This would alleviate a lot of other issues down the line. The second is redistribution. Rather than putting the food in a landfill, it would be donated to food banks or used to feed  animals. The final area is disposal. This would involve composting the food waste. 

There are four main branches of the food system within the US. These branches are the farmer, the processor (companies which purchase food from farmers and turn it into a different food product such as soup or jam), the retailer, and the consumer (Gunders, 2012). Within my vision for a community, each of these branches must implement strategies to combat food waste. Below I outline how this would happen. 



There are multiple areas in which food is commonly wasted on the farm. Produce which is visually imperfect (i.e. too small or blemished) typically does not leave the farm, despite the fact that it is edible to humans (The Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign, 2016). What happens to it? Is it wasted? Does it go back into the land as compost? Often this food is left in the field and tilled under. The reason farmers don’t harvest visually imperfect produce is because it’s difficult to sell. Many stores will only accept produce that meets certain visual standards related to size and color. 

My vision is that  farmers would harvest all produce and take it to market. Visually imperfect produce would be sold at a reduced price in supermarkets. Farmers could also develop a secondary market for this type of produce, selling it to processors who could make it into soups, jams, and other processed food.

Processor and Retailer

The best way for the processor and retailer to prevent food waste is during transport. Food which is transported long distances can become damaged or overripe. This can lead to large quantities of food being sent to the landfill. This commonly occurs at the Nogales US-Mexico border crossing. Over half of the produce that’s grown in Mexico and imported into the US, comes through this border crossing (Morehouse, 2015). Some of the produce that comes through is rejected at the crossing and ends up in the landfill. There are organizations such as Borderlands Food Bank, which rescues the produce and redistributes it to those in need. However, they are not able to take everything and large quantities of food are still wasted. 

My vision is that transportation of produce and other food products would be greatly reduced. Processors and retailers would get all of their food supply from local (within 200 miles) farmers. Not only would this drastically reduce food spoilage during transport, but it would support local farmers and the local economy. 

Retail stores often carry a large selection of items. At Sprouts Farmers Market (a supermarket), you can find at least six different varieties of apple at any given time. On top of that, stores will often put a lot of product out at once in order to make produce look more appealing and bountiful. These factors combined can lead to food waste. In Denmark, there is less produce selection in the grocery stores. Often times you can only find one or two varieties of an item (apple, orange, peppers, etc). Likewise, the stores don’t overstock the shelves.. Some stores even run out of certain items such as produce and bakery bread by the end of the day. Reducing selection and not overstocking shelves decreases the chance of food being wasted due to spoilage. Another way to reduce this waste is by selling riper produce and older food items at a discounted price. This occurs in multiple supermarkets in the UK and helps sell older products before they must be thrown out. 

My vision is that grocery stores in the US would follow Denmark’s example. They would sell less variety, not overstock the shelves, and decrease the price on older or blemished foods. 

Another method grocery stores could prevent food waste - is - no longer providing  carts and providing only using baskets for customers. In Copenhagen, a large portion of the population commutes on public transportation or bicycles. 
People gathering on a pier in Copenhagen, Denmark where many come on a bicycle. 

Personal cars can be a hassle to have in the city due to small streets and lots of traffic. This limits the amount of food a person can buy at one time from a supermarket. Whatever food they buy must fit on their bicycle basket or they must carry it. This means people often visit the supermarket more frequently and purchase fewer items than they might otherwise do if they had a car. Throughout Copenhagen, it is rare to find a store that offers carts. Baskets encourage people to only buy what they need and reduce impulse shopping, which in turn may reduce food waste.

Rema 1000 - a popular grocery store in Copenhagen, Denmark

Rema 1000, a popular supermarket in Denmark, stopped selling bulk items and  no longer offer buy-one-get-one-free deals in their stores. They did this in an effort to reduce food waste at the consumer level within the country. This cut down on consumer over purchasing at their stores. Customers spend to purchase more than they need when they see deals such as buy-one-get-one-free, because Often times the extra food they buy goes unused and is eventually thrown out (Stopspildafmad). 

My vision is that these strategies would be implemented to cut down on consumer impulse shopping and over purchasing; this would in-turn would prevent food waste from occurring.


I have already discussed what grocery stores can do to prevent food waste from occurring at the customer level above.There are things the customers can do to reduce food waste. These things include organizing their refrigerator so older items are at the front, making a list before going to the grocery store, cooking more at home rather than eating out, and using up leftover foods. All of these strategies can lead to increased happiness. For instance, reducing food waste can save money, lead to a healthier diet, and increase connectedness to nature. When food is thrown away, the money that went into purchasing that product is also thrown away. Likewise, if a person uses the food in their refrigerator instead of dining at restaurants, they can save money and reduce food waste. Strategies to reduce waste such as cooking and gardening, can bring a person closer to the food they eat and allow them to better understand the amount of resources which go into growing food. Studies have shown that people who cook most of their meals from home generally eat healthier (Wolfson, 2014). Gardening, even if it is just growing herbs, can relieve stress and provide physical exercise. 

My vision is that , all of us would be proactive at preventing food waste by implementing these strategies. We would also notice the benefits that go along with reducing food waste and be more inclined to continue the behavior long-term.


Wefood outlet
There are times when creating some food waste can be difficult to avoid. These situations can occur at stores, when some food items don’t sell, or at catered events when too much food is prepared. In situations such as these, it is important that these food items are not thrown away but taken to a local food bank. or other organization which serves people in need. Any food that is not fit for human consumption can be donated to farms as animal feed. There are non-profit organizations in the UK, US, and Denmark which practice this redistribution of food. Wefood in Denmark is a supermarket which only sells rescued food items. 

Food which would otherwise go to waste is donated to Wefood, where it is sold at a drastically discounted rate. This gives people access to food who might otherwise struggle to pay full price. Wefood donates a large portion of their proceeds to local charities.

In the UK, there are organizations such as Exeter Food Action which pick up excess food from grocery stores and re-distribute the food to soup kitchens and other charities which gives the food to those in need. 

Both of these organizations provide food to those who might not otherwise get it. Not only is the food being kept out of the landfill, but it is being given to people who need it the most. In an ideal community, these types of organizations would exist. They would have easy access to the food in order to get it transported to those who need it. Any food that is not fit for human consumption can be sold to farmers at a highly reduced rate as animal feed. This will keep even more food from being wasted.   

Rescued food from Exeter Food Action morning pick-up


A London municipal food waste 
Within any food system, some waste is inevitable. Food that has spoiled is not fit for human or animal consumption. Food spoilage occurs at the farm, processor, retailer, and consumer levels. Spoiled food should be viewed as a resource, rather than waste. When spoiled food is composted, it can be used to put nutrients back into the soil. In communities across the UK food waste bins are collected by the city. This is also happening in Boulder, Colorado, Portland Oregon and Seattle, Washington. 

My vision is that the food waste bins would be collected from residences and businesses. Each  municipality would be in charge of collecting food waste. Each city or county would then have a processing facility put in place to turn the incoming food waste into a resource. This would be in the form of a composting facility which then sells compost to members of the community. With this in place, no food would go to the landfill.'


It will take time and work for my vision to come to pass. However, these changes are necessary to reduce the environmental impacts food waste is having on our planet. Food waste threatens ecosystem health, degrades soil, and reduces environmental quality. Food in a landfill creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. These changes are necessary in order to reduce the likelihood of future environmental consequences and increase the resilience of our food system. 

Something personal here like. I believe these changes will happen, and my hopes and dreams are to work in this field to make these visions come true, community by community. 

Works Cited

Facts About Food Waste. (2015). Retrieved March 2016, from United Against Food Waste:

Gunders, D. (2012, August). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill. Retrieved March 2016, from Natural Resources Defense Council:

Marsh, P. (2015, June 8). Food Waste in Denmark Down by 25 Percent. Retrieved March 2016, from CPH Post:

Morehouse, L. (2015, April 10). Lunch, Not Landfill: Nonprofit Rescues Produce Rejected at U.S. Border. Retrieved October 2016, from NPR:

Stopspildafmad. (n.d.). Stop spildaf mad: Food Waste: A Global Tragedy. Retrieved April 2016, from Stop Wasting Food:

The Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign. (2016). End Food Retrieved from
USDA. (2016). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved March 2016, from United States Department of Agriculture:

Wolfson, J. (2014, November 17). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Retrieved October 2016, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Love Trumps All

Three guiding principles for a leadership with love: seek to understand, be kind, and be the change you want to see.

November 9th I woke to an unexpected flood of sadness, despair and fatigue. My calendar told me I was chalk full of appointments but I decided to clear the day and spend it in contemplation.  No email, no calls, no meetings. Just the quiet of each moment, bringing my mind back to drop into the feelings passing, the thoughts arising, the breath rising and falling.

It is so easy to fall into the pit of depression and hopelessness. It is part of who we are to have a grief response to something that is lost. Just as it is part of who we are to be divisive, angry and hateful.  It is also part of who we are to be cooperative, caring and loving.
We get to choose which aspects of our nature we develop.  

Three guiding principles came to me after my day of contemplation. These three I share with you.

Seek to understand
Don't gather strength to fight harder.  Do not coalesce to get stronger against another philosophy, party or people. Instead open up and listen to the other side - the side you see as the enemy, or misguided and mistaken. Have the strength to soften. Develop your capacity to open up and listen. Seek to understand.  

If someone in your family voted for the party you resolutely disagree with, take time this holiday season to listen to why they voted that way. (If you can't find someone in your family, look to your family-in-law or ex-family-in-law, or friend's family...somewhere you will find someone linked to you with whom you do not agree with politically). Ask questions to get to the heart of the needs they are trying to fulfill in their own life and hopes they aspire for the future. Keep asking until you can find something in common and something that opens your heart to their perspective. If talking face to face is too hard a first step, read the facebook posts of a friend of a friend or family member who is for everything you are against. Develop your capacity to listen and understand until you can take bigger bites.

This does not mean you should allow yourself to be verbally abused, yelled at or ridiculed. But it does mean you can listen without judgment, without intent to change or challenge anyone. Listening to understanding has a profound effect on the person who feels heard and understood, and, like spending a good chunk of time in contemplation, on you. Trust in yourself, in your own values and in your natural ability to develop wisdom by listening.

Be Kind. Love trumps all. 
Each of our actions has a ripple effect, just because that is the nature of actions and reactions. Everyday people are committing acts of kindness that never get in the news, but have untold far-ranging effects. So you can choose to be your own good act generator, and make a difference in your neighborhood, office, home, and anywhere else.  

Try to do something unexpected and kind everyday. Compliment a stranger or buy someone a coffee in the line behind you (that is a famous and much loved random act of kindness). On your commute. give a car trying to merge enough space to get in easily. Hold the door open for the person behind you or who is going in the opposite direction. Spend 30 minutes of unstructured focused time with a child in your life. Do the same with your friend, partner or relative.  Join your neighborhood's "Buy Nothing (name of your neighborhood)" or "Nextdoor (name of your neighborhood)" and give away a batch of cookies, one hour of gardening or some other service for free to a stranger in our neighborhood.  

As you develop your kindness muscle, go for the harder things.  Give a gift to someone you don't like.  Say something really nice (and true) about someone you have a grudge against. 

One of the hardest ways to be kind is to be kind to oneself.  Count catching yourself when thoughts of worthlessness or self-hatred arise and noticing these as an act of kindness. Count replying to these thoughts with a feeling of love for yourself as a really big act of kindness. 

As your acts of kindness accumulate over the days, feel good about the good feelings that grow in you. Take the time to stop and drop into the goodness of you. This too is an act of kindness, and has a ripple effect. 

Be the change you want to see.  
This old old saying is never truer than when we are in the midst of all we do not want.  Jung said "what you resist, persists." Positive psychology research tells us to focus on our strengths. There is also a Native American teaching that the best way to parent is to be the adult you want your children to be. All of these adages add up to being the change you want to see.  

That said, Mark Twain said "Few things are harder to bear than the annoyance of a good example." Being the change you want to see does not mean trying to change others. It comes from knowing your true self and letting it shine through.  

In how you treat others, in how you treat yourself, in how you participate as a citizen, be the change you want to see. If you wished for a different outcome from the one we had November 8th,  find a way to be part of the change you wish to happen.  It may be by showing up at meetings held by your local policy makers, signing up for your local party and elected official's newsletters - and reading the news; volunteering for an initiative or on a campaign. A quick search "how to get involved in local politics (your city or region name)"  will give you avenues and ways to get involved.

For my part, I will keep doing the work I do to help make the world a better place, and help bring about a transformation of our system from money-based to happiness, wellbeing and sustainability based. But after this election, I am getting more involved in the democratic process in my town, and I will hold myself to an act of kindness each day and contemplating those acts; and I am looking forward to listening to those people in my family-in-law and learning about that which I do not yet understand. 

Written by Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance