Well this was supposed to be my Christmas post but I got a little sidetracked (thanks Spearia).
West Michigan is known nationwide for being a very charitable region. In fact according to the Grand Rapids Convention & Visitors Bureau, West Michigan ranks as the second most generous place in the nation for charitable giving. (anyone have a better link for this study?)
Based on this information and inspired by this extremely cool article from National Geographic “Big Ideas: Little Packages“, I thought I had the makings of an interesting post. The Big Ideas: Little Packages story features products designed to be affordable and to solve solutions in developing countries. Some of the products highlighted are a infant warmer, paper asthma spacer, rolling water container, and solar powered laptops.
Reading about all these great products that solve very serious problems in developing countries, started to remind me of how West Michigan companies are doing their part to provide solutions as well. Of course with West Michigan’s background in charitable giving it should come as no suprise that our areas innovations extend far beyond just donating dollars. Here is a list of some companies/organizations that I have come across:
- Personal Energy Transportation Carts – Some retired seniors from the Holland area began a non-profit venture creating PET carts for children in developing countries, who have lost limbs from landmines. Often times children who have lost limbs have difficulty traveling, because of rough terrain (roads are quite lacking) and these carts enable children to more easily traverse the terrain in their homeland.
- K-Light Solar Lantern – A local West Michigan company PiSAT Solar produces solar lanterns. The company focuses on the “triple bottom line”–economic viability, environmental accountability and social responsibility. To live up to their vision PiSAT Solar along with the Koinonia Foundation started a program of donating one K-Light Solar Lantern (to people in need in developing countries) for every lantern purchased. The Koinonia Foundation provides assistance under a number of their programs, one of which is the Beacon Program, which encourage economic growth and poverty reduction by helping unemployed mothers begin sustainable businesses.
- Boxed Water is Better – This Grand Rapids based company sells water in cardboard containers, which is more environmentally friendly (renewable resource, can be shipped flat, and can be recycled). Additionally, Boxed Water is Better also is quite charitable (but they haven’t donated anything yet, since they have yet to turn a profit), since they will donate 10% of their profit to world water relief foundations, and they will also give an additional 10% to reforestation foundations as well.
- Life Straw – The Life Straw is a portable water filter that can be used at the water source to provide clean drinking water (when drinking water through the straw). Although the company Vestergaard Frandsen is based in Switzerland, they have leveraged a West Michigan company to create a video for them. Creo Productions created a video for Life Straw (bottom , left corner of page). It’s an interesting story in that Aaron Carriere (co-founder of Cre0) got sick in Ecuador, and wanted to do something about the global unclean water problem and reached out to Vestergaard Frandsen, with an offer to help create a video for Life Straw.
- SCR Michigan – Native Ghanaian and owner of SCR Michigan, a Kalamazoo computer repair shop, Stephen Opoku has also begun to donate computers to his native Ghana through the Global Host Project, which is building a center to train Ghanaians on computers. Stephen is looking for any computer donations, so that he could fix them and send them back to his native country. Read more about this story here.
- ELEMENTAL – So this is a late addition to the bunch, but the ELEMENTAL Project is an online magazine devoted to covering the “good news”. Four guys founded this company in Grand Rapids as a avenue to “showcase positive stories, and promote cause based businesses, charities, and individuals who are actively helping others. By publishing these unheard stories we’re hoping to inspire involvement and bridge the gap between people with resources and those in need.” They have some cool stories on their about positive things, which is much better than what you usually get in your local paper.
It is great to find people combining West Michigan strengths in charitable giving and in innovation. Very inspiring, and I just wish there were more examples from our area, because all of the products highlighted by the National Geographic article are amazing in their relatively simple design, and how they solve such a huge problem. So what did I miss?