Entrepreneurs Drive Sustainable Solutions, Empower Communities
With both China and the U.S. taking crucial steps to limit emissions and develop alternatives to fossil-fueled industries, the hunt for new technologies and solutions has intensified. And it is about time. One of the most serious findings in a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recently launched in Copenhagen, is that drastic changes in our climate can now be measured on every continent of our planet. It is hugely affecting our raw materials and therefore it is affecting us all—our health, food, water oceans and also businesses’ license to operate. We are now at a point where climate change is not a phenomenon that may hit us one day—it has begun hitting us all.
Azuri Technologies has developed solar power products in Africa that make clean energy affordable for low-income communities. Photo credit: Azuri Technologies
Another crucial finding in the report is that there is a 95 percent probability that climate change is caused by humans. Chair of IPCC Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri put it this way when I spent some time with him last week in Bergen, Norway: this is as close to a 100 percent probability as 600 scientists from 154 countries will ever get.
As Einstein stressed you do not solve problems with the same thinking that created them. New thinking is needed. We need a wide range of solutions addressing the equally wide range of challenges we are facing. We need new ways of lowering emissions, reusing natural resources, bypassing fossil fuels with renewables, and protecting our crops from draught and our communities from flooding.
Though deployment of new solutions is needed quickly, we cannot rush to actions that do not have widespread effects. Climate change ignores borders, and it ignores your income level. Therefore, our solutions must do the same. For too long, the assumption has been that poor people have no purchasing power, and therefore, do not represent a viable market. But as sustainable development has taken a greater interest in developing countries and their growth opportunities, innovative forces are now taking a closer look at how to apply solutions to all segments of the market and still find a business model at the "bottom of the pyramid."
At Sustainia, we have researched thousands of innovative projects over the last three years to find the leading sustainability solutions around the globe. We found that several of them were designed by entrepreneurs in developing countries—creating new markets at the "bottom of the pyramid."
We are seeing several examples of solutions that have managed to deploy sustainability projects to low-income areas in developing countries with a profitable business model. This serves as an important inspiration that sustainable development doesn’t end with the innovation; it must also include widespread deployment.
Pedal-powered recycling in Nigeria
In Lagos, Nigeria, the initiative Wecyclers is fueling social and environmental change by enabling people in low-income communities to make money off of the unmanaged waste piling up in their streets. This is first and foremost a response to the local waste crisis, where overburdened municipal governments collect only 40 percent of city garbage and recycle only 13 percent of that.
The Wecyclers initiative has deployed a fleet of cargo bicycles to pick-up, collect and recycle garbage in low-income neighborhoods. Families are encouraged to recycle their bottles, cans and plastics through an SMS-based program. For every kilogram of material recycled, the family receives Wecyclers points on their cell phone. Families can then redeem points for goods, such as cell phone minutes, basic food items or household goods. The SMS-based program also sends collection reminders and instant updates on points, giving instant rewards for participation. Finally, the initiative adds to the local economy by hiring personnel locally to collect garbage. What I really like about this solution is that it engages the local community in tackling a huge health and environmental problem while making money.
Pay-as-you-go for Clean Energy
British company Azuri Technologies has developed and manufactured solar power products for off-grid areas in emerging markets in Africa that make clean energy affordable for low-income communities. With a pay-as-you-go business model, the company has removed high up-front costs and instead designed a pay-off process, where residents buy scratch cards to activate the solar panels. The scratch cards are cheaper than kerosene alternatives to light, but still pay off the solar panels over the course of a year or so. Azuri has distribution networks in markets, such as Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Zambia and South Africa.
Every day, thousands of rural, small business owners across Africa are forced to close due to a lack of electricity or choose to remain open by using harmful kerosene lamps or expensive, solar-powered batteries. Same thing goes for private households. Azuri is not only enhancing safety and visibility after dark: the innovations also provide infrastructure to rural business owners who can stay open longer to benefit the community and boost sales.
Nurturing fertile crops in developing countries
Israeli-based company Netafim is behind a low-tech drip solution for small-scale farmers in primarily developing countries. The innovation increases yields while saving on water and costs. The irrigation system drips precise quantities of water and nutrients right at the root zone of crops. An elevated tank distributes the water using only gravity. The big win for farmers is that this simple and effective system minimizes the need for electricity and investments in infrastructure. The UN estimates that 500 million small-scale farmers provide over 80 percent of the food consumed in the developing world. With droughts increasing, irrigation systems are vital to sustain agriculture because they addresses water scarcity and soil erosion. The solution is commercially viable with a payback time of about a year, making it fit for microfinance projects. Today, Netafim is used in 11 countries including Mexico, Kenya and China.
Innovations such as these do not stand alone. Right now, an inspiring development is taking place, where private initiatives are finding new ways to grow business models that can empower communities with the benefits of sustainability. Through visionary innovations such as these, low-income communities can also enjoy the positive health effects of waste management, smarter use of resources and the countless benefits of clean energy.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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