Ecological Handprints

More in-depth examples will be featured in the book. Meanwhile, here are a dozen inspirational case studies, many of which are drawn from my research and consulting around the world.

CASE STUDIES: Ecological Handprints

What does an Ecological Handprint look like? As can be seen by the examples that follow, Ecological Handprints are always unique to their specific context. They can occur on any scale, from national programs to small village projects. What they teach us is that there are many ways we can achieve a high level of human development without compromising the natural capital upon which all life depends. In short, they provide living, contemporary and diverse models of how we can lower our footprint and lift humanity.

Grameen Shakti

Grameen Shakti—the word comes from a Sanskrit root meaning energy, force or empowerment—has enabled as many as 2 million people in Bangladesh to light their homes using solar power. It has helped thousands more use chicken or cow dung either to make electricity, or as a fuel in cook stoves that are efficient, safe and clean. See the web site.

Gaviotas Tree Planting

In Gaviotas, Colombia, local women have been employed to plant thousands of trees that gobble up CO2 and provide solar-powered carbon offsets. These trees protect the local watershed, improve the local microclimate with shade, and generate renewable biofuels for the local economy. Similar successful efforts have been demonstrated in Kenya's Greenbelt Movement. As shown in this photo, sometimes kids also can get in the act. See the web site.

Tanzania restoration

In Shinyanga, Tanzania, a traditional resource management system is being employed as the engine for restoration. Ngitilis are carefully managed tracts of land, held individually or communally, that are excluded from grazing during the wet season and then used for fodder at the peak of the dry season. The ngitili has been found to represent an easily instituted and highly effective means of investing villagers in the long-term goals of restoration. When you know you've got food for your goat herd, you can then focus on restoring the land. See the web site.

Green School

The Green School in Bali is striving to have the lowest carbon footprint of any school, in part through using bamboo and rammed earth for its buildings, growing its own food in its gardens, and generating its own power from the adjacent river. The school's curriculum has an ecological handprint focus, and the central building, "Heart of School," is one of the largest bamboo structures in the world. See the web site.

Trashy Bags

One of the most ubiquitous types of plastic packaging in Ghana is called a sachet, which is used primarily for drinking water, ice-cream and yoghurt drinks. In Accra, a bustling city in the tropics, there are hundreds of street hawkers, many of whom are selling these sachets to thirsty drivers and vehicle passengers. Although a hygienic and convenient type of packaging, once used, the sachets are generally discarded on the street with very little thought being given to the damage this disposal can do to the environment. With the motto of "Our Bags Are Complete Trash," they turned the problem of plastic waste into an fashion industry. Trashy Bags now employs sixty local citizens who clean up waterways and other trash-prone areas, and build the local economy. Once they receive the sachets, they wash, disinfect, dry, and then sew them together into bag designs such as brief cases, backpacks and tote bags. See the web site.

Petaluma Bounty
United States

With a motto of "Healthy Food for Everyone," a local non-profit called Petaluma Bounty in Petaluma, California, turned a brownfield into an urban organic farm where youth-at-risk and other local community volunteers now grow and redistribute surplus healthy produce to supply low-income families and seniors. They also operate the "Bounty Hunters," a community food gleaning program that collects fresh, surplus food from backyard gardens. See the web site.

Chido Govero

Chido Govero never knew her father and witnessed her mother die from AIDS. At the age of 12 she learned how to convert leaves, dead tree branches, water hyacinth, coffee pulp and corncobs into a substrate for growing mushrooms. Chido is believed to have "green" fingers, farming more mushrooms on less substrate than anyone else. She is on a crusade under the program "Orphan Teaches Orphans," convinced that the only way girls can escape abuse is when they know how to provide for their own food security. By April 2009 Chido had trained her first dozen assistants and she is determined to reach out and network throughout Africa to create millions of jobs and to stamp hunger out of the continent with what is locally available. See the web site.

Solar Cooker

Solar cooking makes great sense in many parts of the world. In this photo you can see the low-tech and low-cost cooker I brought to the Tibetan highlands of China. These cookers provide time to women who would otherwise be spending their days collecting scarce firewood to cook the daily meal. This allows them to pursue an education, teach children, grow and tend a garden, or care for elderly in the community. Recently, solar cookers have become a critical part of the relief effort in Haiti. See the web site.

Working for Wetlands
South Africa

In South Africa there is a highly successful program known as Working for Wetlands. While the focus is wetland restoration, the program works through projects that maximize employment, create and support small businesses and transfer relevant and marketable skills in the course of carrying out rehabilitation work. These folks are building ecosystem services (natural capital) while employing people who desperately need work. See the web site.

William Kamkwanba

In Malawi, William Kamkwanba, as a 14-year-old, cobbled together spare parts from discarded materials to build a windmill to generate electricity and bring hope to his impoverished village. You can now read about this inspiring Ecological Handprint in his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind or check out his TED talk on You Tube. See the web site.

Trees, Water and People's Tribal Land Renewable Energy Program
United States

In the nation's poorest communities — Indian reservations of the American West — bitter winters force many families to spend up to 70% of their total income to heat their homes. Choices are few: expensive electricity, polluting propane, or firewood from the few trees that remain. Energy costs on these reservations create hardship for almost every family. Trees, Water & People's Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program puts the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. Working with reservation communities, TWP plants windbreak and shade trees around homes, and builds and installs supplemental solar heaters for families in need. These solutions are sustainable, economically beneficial, environmentally friendly, and celebrate the Native Americans' respect for Mother Earth. See the web site.

One World Futbol
All Around the World

The One World Futbol project produces an ultra-durable soccer ball that will withstand the sharp objects of war-torn or earthquake ravaged streets and fields around the world. These balls won't end up as more roadside garbage and promote team building, health, and fun where it is most needed. I've given these balls away in Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, India, and Viet Nam and watched kids faces light up while knowing the futbols won't end up as more garbage in the streets. See the web site.

Taking IT Global
All Around the World

New digital communication tools are helping to spread the world about the potential and practice of Ecological Handprints, and youth are leading the way. For example, around the world over 300,000 young people interested in global issues and creating positive change have formed an online community called Taking IT Global. Another initiative, the World Student Community for Sustainable Development, is an international student organization that carries out meaningful projects that result in positive and enduring changes, improving lives and communities around the world. See the web site.