Benefit Corporations – are they a solution?

What if corporations had to prove they were having a net and material positive impact on society and the environment?

A Benefit, or “B” Corporation status is a relatively new legal structure for public corporations available in some, but not all states. It addresses some of the most problematic corporate law that encourages businesses to operate criminally. It isn’t a full solution but a step in the right direction. “The  purpose of a benefit corporation is to create general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment.” (Wikepedia)

What if all corporations had to demonstrate twice yearly in a questionnaire that their operations were having a material positive impact on society and the environment?  What if shareholders had to demand that of the company they invested in?

This is a paradigm shift from the current model, where shareholders can and do sue companies that put people or the planet ahead of next quarter’s profits.

Of course, material positive impact is a relative term. But B Lab, the non-profit behind the creation of B Corporate structure appears serious about addressing environmental and social issues. http://www.bcorporation.net/

This legal structure allows corporations who feel that people and planet are important to make a public statement about that. It also protects them from greedy shareholders who could cut across the ability of the company to make positive environmental and social decisions if it affects profits.

The concept of passive investors who do nothing but rake in profits and who feel entitled to as many profits as possible needs to be seriously questioned. It is not a sustainable paradigm because it rewards and encourages criminal behavior from many angles.  But Benefit Corporations are a step in the right direction. And well known companies such as Patagonia and Ben and Jerrys are taking the lead.

http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=68413

Another relatively new legal structure, for privately held companies, is the L3C.  A gradient step between for profit and non profit corporations, this structure allows a privately held, for profit company to accept money from both investors and grants/foundations.  It is a “low profit” corporation, operating much as a non profit, but retaining for profit abilities. This structure was created to meet the needs of “social entrepreneurs” who run businesses that have positive social and environmental purposes.

All in all, it’s good to see some people in the business community working to come up with solutions to existing structures that encourage destructive, irresponsible and criminal behavior. Much more work is needed, in every sector.

Living Bridges – permaculture design inspiration

Living bridge in Meghalaya, India

Living bridge in Meghalaya, India

This is a wonderful example of the type of design solution we are interested in accomplishing with permaculture. Working with nature, rather than against her, the people of Meghalaya in India have created a beautiful design for a bridge that will survive heavy flooding. This is an exquisitely  aesthetic and informative 5 minute video that you won’t regret viewing, or forget!  How could we incorporate the lessons of this amazing design solution?

https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/13a16e6996096942

Using compost to heat buildings

The Japanese have created a model tea house that is heated with compost in the walls with pipes running through it. It is an elegant design that could be replicated  in cob houses and other natural building, greenhouses, or other types of buildings. It’s good to see the concept is spreading.  We have seen several working compost showers.  How could you capture the heat in your compost pile?

bakoko-comploo-composting-shelter1

The link below has more information on the tea house.

http://inhabitat.com/circular-pod-tea-house-is-heated-by-compost/

Economics of Happiness

Mark Anielski, a cutting edge economist, has devised a way to make economic statistics reflect what people most want – quality of life.

http://www.anielski.com/celebrating-years-genuine-wealth-leduc-alberta-2/

“This work was inspired by the words of Robert Kennedy who said that the Gross National Product — the primary measure of economic progress– may measure the money flowing in an economy but fails to measure most of the things that make life worth living. This included the quality of our water and land and air, the way we spent our time, and our sense of trust and belonging to a community.”

“This is what the Genuine Wealth assessment delivers: a system of well-being measurement that is the basis of local governance and decision-making.”

This system for measuring quality of life is based on what citizens themselves feel that represents.

I appreciate the similarities between Mark’s flower graph and David’ Holmgren’s Permaculture Flower. Leduc-GW-Flower

permaculture flower

Apprenticeship opportunities in Tampa Bay

We are offering apprenticeship or “shadowing” opportunities to course students in several exciting projects we have ongoing. We are working on all of these from the Tampa Bay area, Florida. There is a lot happening, a lot that needs to be done and if we work together, the sky is the limit!

– Plan and implement a permaculture design for a city park.

– Plan and stage multiple food forests designs for Pine Ridge reservation.

– Work with Greenwood neighborhood on planning a permaculture community garden, and get it created.

– Help with fall planting and ongoing care for an expanding permaculture edible perennials nursery.

– Work on creating and expanding financial permaculture models, including innovative urban farming cooperative ventures, link-up, beneficial connection and integration of permaculture energies around the Bay for mutual benefit, start up businesses that get support from the existing community, time banking, etc.

– Work on community projects, including art gardens, neighborhood place-making, etc.

Our new name – Grow Permaculture!

We are changing our name to more closely reflect our mission.  We are focused on spreading the knowledge and practice of permaculture everywhere, to create more abundance, resilience, quality of life, and healing of both people and the earth.

Our projects include using permaculture to improve conditions in high poverty urban and rural areas with degraded lands, and working with schools, governments and organizations to educate people on the regenerative possibilities of conscious design.  We create demonstration sites so people can see, feel, taste and smell what that is like.

These are non-profit activities that are supported by our for-profit education and design business.  We offer high-quality education and aesthetic edible landscaping and other permaculture services via this service.

We feel that a Permaculture Guild has a very specific function of coordinating permaculture activities in an area and providing support and resources for professional permaculture designers and those who want to become professionals.  While we do provide support to the permaculture community in a number of ways through volunteering and other resources, we feel a better way to describe the relationship is as a sponsor of Guild activities.  It is not our main function to coordinate or facilitate all of the permaculture activities in our area, as a guild would do.

We love the abundance and regeneration inherent in the word “Grow” and we feel there is nothing more appropriate or needed than nurturing and growing the concept and practice of conscious design – far and wide!

Permaculture courses to get college credits

Both the Permaculture Design Course at Pine Ridge and Urban Permaculture Design Course at Tampa will offer college credits from local colleges.  We will have the course numbers available soon, but if you are a student, please plan on being able to purchase three credits from your local college for the course.

What do we base our course pricing on?

Hillside in Haiti

Hillside in Haiti

A few people have asked what we base our fees on for our courses. Some believe that permaculture education should be very inexpensive or free so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.  There are many viewpoints about this, and we believe that multiple viewpoints on this topic, like any other, are healthy for the system and there is room for all of them.

This is how we view the subject for ourselves and why:

Our work is focused on assisting some of the highest poverty and most oppressed areas on the planet, which are also very culturally rich with much to offer.  We focus on projects that regenerate degraded lands and devastated economies so these communities can become self-sufficient and experience resilient abundance.  Our methods are focused on connecting resources and knowledge and putting them in the hands of the people at grass roots level so they can create their own destinies within their own cultural context.

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

We offer our courses and services for free to individuals from those impoverished areas and also bring resources into those environments to assist in the process of regeneration.

We invite students from outside those communities to participate, and charge them rates comparable to similar courses in order to help fund our work in those areas.  We feel this is a better way to do it than grant monies, where possible, as it gives us more freedom to remain maximally flexible and responsive to the needs and resources of the communities.  Please see our blogs in this section for descriptions of some of the work we are engaged in, particularly at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and Haiti, post earthquake.

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Our instructors are some of the most knowledgeable and respected available and often charge top consultant rates for teaching. They are worth it because they can impart knowledge far more deeply, quickly and accurately than someone with less knowledge and experience could do.

We provide a number of extras with our courses that many organizations do not provide, such as rich cultural experiences, apprenticeship opportunities, community building, web promotion for graduates, etc.

Our courses are well worth the fees from a purely practical investment viewpoint, because the knowledge and experience gained should save you far more than the course fee within a few weeks or months if you apply it to your life.

Please know that your course fees are what allow us to continue with our work in devastated areas, and that we strive to make your investment well worth your while by trying to go above and beyond in delivering not just information, but rich life experience that you will always remember.

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge