The Art of Living + Working Sustainably | Weekly ensemble

Better World Weekly 120: Plastic Phone Cases, George Washington Carver, Equitable City Development, & more!

Published about 2 years ago • 5 min read


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Hey y'all,

Happy Monday!

If you’re new here, I’m Cory Ames, the Founder of Grow Ensemble.

You can connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

In this newsletter, The Better World Weekly, I share my thoughts and experiences in the world of social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social impact, as well as my musings on seeking meaning and purpose in life and work.

Enjoy this edition of The Better World Weekly



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A couple quick asks for you in this Better World Weekly:

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📱 The 1 Billion Plastic Phone Case Problem

As he does on occasion, my friend Anders Ankarlid from A Good Company (who I’ve hosted on the podcast a couple times), did a detailed write up on the dark truth about the phone case market.

Over 1 billion plastic phone cases are sold every year.

And, we’re adding more cell phone users (and phone case buyers) every year.

Over our own lifetimes we can each individually expect to go through about 27 phone cases.

The majority of phone cases are made from blended plastics that are extremely difficult (near impossible) to recycle.

Each cell phone user changes their phone roughly every 21 months (how do you stack up?)

Each phone case is on average 20 grams of plastic.

The worst part?

Each of these plastic cases take 500 years to decompose.

The best part?

It doesn’t have to be this way!

While we need to talk about consumption, tackling waste issues like this is a two-headed beast:

  1. Create less waste
  2. Create better (lower waste) alternatives

And, thankfully, there are alternatives here.

A Good Company offers a phone case made 100% from linseed plants in Sweden.

When users are done with their cases, A Good Company can take it back, grind it down and turn it into another case, or you can compost it in your backyard.

This, is what A Good Company calls A Good Loop.

A Good Company’s mobile cases are one of my typical recommendations, Pela Cases are another favorite, too.

If you’re in the market for a new phone case, check out A Good Company or Pela Case.

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🌲 George Washington Carver: An Untold Environmental Legacy

George Washington Carver is most well-known for being the “peanut guy.”

(He found over 200 uses for peanuts)

This framing of his life however neglects to share what was his core mission and historic legacy.

Carver was on a mission to use agriculture “to liberate Black farmers from a system designed to keep them dependent upon white landowners.”

Carver himself was born into slavery during the Civil War.

After emancipation, the U.S. government promised Black families “40 acres and a mule.”

Andrew Johnson however reneged on this agreement and returned the land to white plantation owners.

This was what spurred an entirely new system of oppression post-slavery: sharecropping.

Black farmers leased land from white landowners in exchange for a share of their harvest.

The cotton-economy of the South had ravaged the soil. Black farmers were struggling to produce harvests that “paid” their landlords let alone fed their own families.

With a childhood passion for botany and an advanced education in agriculture, Carver took to figuring out how to restore the health of soils in the South so that Black farmers could grow more food while spending less money.

Carver researched and taught. All over the South to help Black farmers liberate themselves from the oppressive system of sharecropping.

And his methods weren’t chemical. They weren’t industrial.

Carver understood that to nourish people we must nourish the planet.

Carver promoted crop diversity, woodland preservation, forest management, natural pesticides, among many other staples of what’s seen as the “modern organic movement.”

All so that the soil was healthy. And the crops to come were bountiful.

Resurrecting and re-telling George Washington Carver’s legacy feels incredibly important to achieving racial and environmental justice.

Read Grist’s more complete account, here.

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🏙 What’s Equitable Town & City-Building Look Like?

Urban real estate is typically developed by well-funded companies that are well outside the city limits.

Big development firms can negotiate with banks, get access to loans or cash investments, and they’ll only focus their work on neighborhoods most likely to yield “high-returns.”

This gives local community members little say on exactly how and for who their own neighborhoods develop.

This takes whatever sort of future financial benefit out **of the local community, too.

Inevitably, this is the most likely scenario to spur massive gentrification.

In South Bend, Indiana there’s a movement to try out a different method of development, with what’s called incremental development.

Incremental development focuses instead on creating and organizing micro-developers (local community developers) to work on a mass amount of small projects at one time.

This is the local small business owner, buying the building their retail store sits in to fill the other vacancies with other local entrepreneurial ventures.

This is the local University Professor, who has spent their lifetime studying and championing equitable community development developing 2-3 homes in a neighborhood everyone thinks is “lost.”

This is the local neighborhood resident of 40 years wanting to develop a an empty neighborhood plot into affordable housing for middle-class families.

This is happening in South Bend, Indiana.

Over 200 micro-developers have organized together to become collectively the largest developer in town.

This incremental development method might just be the key to building local wealth, sustainably and equitably building towns, and rejuvenating a sense of stewardship of our communities.

Read more on Incremental Development, here.

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🌎 Sustainable Business 101 — Now with Audio!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been releasing audio versions of my Sustainable Business 101 series through the podcast.

In this series I share the importance of defining “sustainable business,” ways businesses can be more sustainable, and examples of sustainable businesses in practice.

Here’s a recap of both the articles and podcasts if you haven’t had the opportunity to check them out.

  • Why is Sustainable Business Important? (Article, Podcast)
  • What is a Sustainable Business? (Article, Podcast)
  • The 14 Most Socially & Environmentally Sustainable Companies (Article)
  • Breaking Down the Practices that Make a Business Sustainable (Article, Podcast)
  • How Businesses Can Be More Sustainable (Article, Podcast)

Check them out and let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading! I'll be back next Monday with another edition of The Better World Weekly.

Let's build a better world, together.


CORY AMES - @AmesCory

Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble

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🌍 - Better World Weekly (#120) - 🌍


The Art of Living + Working Sustainably | Weekly ensemble

By Cory Ames

Join over 7,500 others exploring the art of living & working sustainably at the intersection of 📈 business, 🌲 nature, 🧠 & philosophy.

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