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Surf and the City

How riding a river wave in landlocked Munich can teach us about design.This morning I woke with a familiar sense of anticipation...

How riding a river wave in landlocked Munich can teach us about design.This morning I woke with a familiar sense of anticipation and apprehension—the kind that pushes you to an early rise on a sleepy Sunday morning, to creep out into the cold before anyone is up and squeeze into a neoprene wetsuit. Your bare feet itch with excitement as you spot the other surfers who were up earlier than you. It's a new spot and you watch in awe, and in fear.

What was different about this morning’s surf spot was its location: under a bridge beside the Art Museum in the heart of Munich. In landlocked Bavaria, the best surf spots are at points of rivers and canals around the city. The strongest and most popular is the Eisbach (Ice Brook), where river surfers line the banks and wait their turn to jump onto their board and attempt to ride the stationary wave.

A while had passed since I was last donned a wetsuit. Assessing the physics of it all, I asked a local for some advice: “What do you need to do differently than on an ocean wave?” He looked serious. “Place your feet further back on the board, lean further forward, focus on the tree, fall flat but importantly, ignore the audience on the bridge above.” This was surfing in a very different setting—same concept, different context.

He gave me a motivational smile and a thumbs-up; I nodded and jumped in. The forces were all reversed, pushing off the side into the wave instead of being picked up by it, being pulled back by the water instead of being pushed forward. Almost immediately I was face-down in the swell. I’d felt this splash before, but then I felt the real force of this different context.

Instead of paddling to the surface to wait for a break in the waves, or to be washed up to shore and the safety of a sandy beach, I was being pulled downstream in a city river. Fast. This I had not studied, observed nor predicted. I wasn’t as buoyant as I am in the ocean, and the water didn't taste salty. I swam frantically to the side and grabbed the wall of the river bank. My hands ripped across the stone and I realized the speed of the river.

Panicked paddling brought me back to the side and a fellow surfer grabbed my arm. Grabbing the wall again I held on and pulled myself out, grappling with my board as it pulled at my ankle. I was out.

Tourists stand with their cameras at the bridge, capturing the surreal sight of river surfing that breaks their expectations of a city tour. I stood dripping onto the grass, smelling spring leaves instead of salt air, tasting mud instead of sand, needing gloves instead of a rash vest. Captured by the surreal senses of city surfing breaking my expectations of early morning surfing.?

I caught my breath and watched the drifting line of surfers pulled down the river after me, jumping out with varying elegance. I joined the line up with renewed awareness of the experience, other than the obvious, or directly translatable; the shape of the boards, the shape of the surfers, the sound of the wave, the sound of the city.

Many jumps, splashes, and grapples later I was satisfied with my ability to at least stand on the wave, though far from able to navigate it. I gave in to the cold and packed up. As I rode home through the city, with my board hanging off my bike I could feel the same warmth of adrenalin as it rushed around my body. I smiled at having found a new reason to wake up in the mornings with a sense of apprehension.

It struck me that as designers the concepts we create will inevitably reach many more users, in many more settings than we can deliberately design for—and that rather than denying or ignoring these adaptations we can learn from, understand, and be inspired by our concepts in their different contexts.






















Mark Cuban | Mark Cuban speaking with attendees at the 2019 … | Flickr

Mark Cuban—billionaire investor, NBA team owner, and now… pharmacist? Buying drugs from Mark Cuban probably wasn’t on your bucket list for 2022, but maybe it should be. On January 20th, 2022, Cuban added a new venture to his already extensive resume by launching The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs Company, or MCCPDC, an online pharmaceutical wholesaler.

MCCPDC cuts out prescription drug middlemen, purchasing drugs directly from manufacturers in order to provide 100+ generic brand medications to its customers at a much cheaper price (often the cheapest price on the market). “It's ridiculous what the pricing for generic drugs is. Period end of story,” Cuban said in an email to Forbes.

MCCPDC, which was started with the goal of being “radically transparent” with its price negotiations, bases its prices on a simple model—adding a 15% margin on top of manufacturing cost, as well as a $3 pharmacist service fee and $5 delivery fee. Combined, this is much lower than the standard markup for generic medications, which can range from 100% to over %1000.

MCCPDC doesn’t currently accept insurance, instead requiring its customers to pay for medication out of pocket, however, as the company notes, their prescription drugs cost less than most insurance plans’ deductible and copay requirements. Additionally, customers must request a new prescription from their healthcare provider to place an order from MCCPDC. However, depending on the medication, the savings could very well be worth it. The leukemia drug Imatinib, for example, costs $47 per month compared to a whopping $9,657 retail.The cholesterol medication Atorvastatin costs $3.60 on the online pharmacy, instead of the the usual $55 plus.

The idea for the company grew out of the Daraprim controversy back in 2015 when “Pharma bro” Martin Shkreli raised the price of an anti-malarial drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill while he was CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. “I was just so livid about that,” says Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company founder and CEO Alex Oshmyansky, who is also a physician, “I've been angry about it for a long time.” Oshmyansky, who has degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, cold emailed Cuban about the idea. Cuban agreed and by January of 2021 the company was formed. In addition to the online pharmacy they just launched, MCCPDC is developing an $11 million, 22,000 square foot pharmaceutical factory in Dallas that they plan to open by the end of this year.

In America, medical care remains prohibitively expensive for much of the population, and market-based solutions like MCCPDC don't solve that systemic problem. However, in absence of a Universal Health Care policy, wholesalers like MCCPDC will help countless people afford their medicine.

Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash
vegetable stand photo

Food waste is a massive problem, both in the US and around the world. According to the nonprofit Food Print, America wastes nearly 40% of all food, over 125 Billion pounds of it, much of which is edible. Globally, the international food system generates a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, yet 33% of all food—1.3 billion metric tons per year—gets wasted. At the same time this is happening, 800 million people, a tenth of the world’s population, are undernourished and food insecure. (With no help from Elon Musk...). While there may not be one quick and easy fix to solve the food waste problem, the Italian city of Milan has been confronting it with real success, and their model could be replicated in cities around the world.

In 2015 Milan became one of the first major cities to enforce a citywide food waste policy. Working in tandem with government agencies, food banks, universities, NGOs, and private businesses, Milan launched a program with the goal of halving their food waste by 2030 through the development of new methods for redistributing surplus food. A few years later, in 2019, the city launched food-waste “Hubs” across the city. Although the Hubs look like any other supermarket, the food on their shelves have been donated by local businesses and other supermarkets. The markets collect local surplus food, and, when necessary, supplement their stock with purchase food aid. The customers at the Hubs, hundreds of Milanese families in need, don’t pay with cash, but rather a prepaid card supplied through the program. The Hubs also provides social services such like legal aid, counseling, and childcare support.

The Hubs have been tremendously successful so far. As of this year, researchers estimate that each of the three existing Hubs recovers around 130 metric tons of food annually — or, about 260,000 meals, utilizing around 30% of Milan’s would-be food waste. “Each city around the world could apply this model,” says Andrea Segrè, a professor of agricultural policy at the University of Bologna. “You need some competence, some knowledge, and willing actors. But you can copy it easily.”

The future for Milan’s Food Waste Hub program looks bright. Two more hubs are set to open in other Milan neighborhoods within the next few months, bringing the total up to five Hubs. And there are hopes to expand the program in other cities across the world. In October, Milan won the first Earthshot Prize, an initiative founded by Britain’s Prince William to support environmental innovations, receiving £1 million in prize money plus a global network of support to scale their model.

Food Hubs aren’t the only answer to the solution—that would need to start at home, because a majority of food waste (~70%) comes from households. Still, the Hubs are an undeniable success in seriously reducing food-waste, and should become a major contributor in the fight against food-waste and hunger.

Photo by Luna Zhang on Unsplash
cactus tree near the body of water during daytime

Four Latin American countries, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, each with coasts off the Pacific Ocean, have joined forces and committed to linking each of their marine reserves together. This collaborative action will form a single interconnected area and create one of the richest pockets of biodiversity in the ocean. That area, to be called the Eastern Tropical pacific Marine Corridor (or CMAR), would be protected and thus free of any fishing. CMAR would cover over 500,000 square kilometers (or 200,000 square miles) including important migratory routes for a number of species, such as sea turtles, whales, sharks, and rays.

The collaboration, which was announced in early November during COP26, was prompted by vocal concerns of the four countries' people and scientists in response to over-fishing from foreign commercial fleets as well as illegal and unregulated local fishing communities – both of which have endangered fish populations. The creation of this preserve should help protect both commercial varieties of fish as well as rare species that thrive within CMAR's borders.

Just as all the world leaders here have called for action not words, I believe this is a concrete action on behalf of Ecuador that goes beyond any words we can say here,” Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador, told the Guardian after the announcement of CMAR. Lasso added that the plan, which supposedly involves one of the largest debt swaps for conservation in history, was “an absolutely direct response of middle-income countries with a commitment to humanity."

This action represents the first time countries with connected maritime borders have joined forces in order to create a cooperative public environmental policy for those borders.

According to Alex Hearn, a British marine biologist who has worked in the Galapagos Islands for twenty years, the eastern tropical Pacific is “one of the last bastions of what ocean biodiversity would look like in a pristine world." As such, the area is incredibly important for scientific research.

Scientists are hoping that this protection of the connectivity between the areas will help support the populations of highly migratory species which have been falling in recent decades. This includes turtles, rays and sharks, and especially the critically endangered species of hammerhead sharks that breed around some of the Galapagos islands.

While creation of CMAR is an undeniably good thing, ocean researchers are hoping to keep building on this unprecedented level of cooperation and protection, with an eventual goal of protecting 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.

Collaborative Fund was founded a decade ago with the mission to support and invest in the shared future. Since then, the conversation around impact investing has only grown. We couldn't be more excited.

Impact investing has evolved to mean different things to different people. In our eyes, any entity -- non-profit, for-profit, individual, or government organization -- that invests time, money, or resources to push the world forward can be classified as an impact investor.

To show how far the world has come, we created an incomplete timeline of some of what we find to be the most interesting milestones in this landscape. You can check it out here.

Impact Investing | An Interactive History

Impact Investing | An Interactive Historyimpact.collaborativefund.com

An interactive history of impact investing from 1971 to today.

We've followed the common thread that ties the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, in which 84 countries committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to the 2006 release of An Inconvenient Truth in Theaters, which opened eyes to global warming worldwide, to more recent, large-scale ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) strides in the corporate world, like:

  • The Ford Foundation committing (the largest commitment of this kind made by a private foundation) $1 Billion to mission-related investments in 2017.
  • Business Roundtable redefining the purpose of a corporation to benefit all stakeholders, not just shareholders, in 2019.

The events we've included in this interactive history stand out as significant moments in this global movement. But this is nowhere near a comprehensive collection. This is more than an outline – it's a call to action. We want this to be a living, breathing thing that we can add to, and we want your help.

If there are any significant events or ideas that deserve to be included, we'd love to hear from you, please email us at research@collabfund.com.

school of fish in water

Ocean pollution is a huge problem. The notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, contains enough trash to cover Texas twice-over. One component of ocean pollution that's especially threatening to human life is micro-plastics, pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm long (about the size of a sesame seed). When plastic pollution enters the ocean, the large pieces of plastic are broken down over time by exposure to the sea elements into very small plastic particles, which then exit the large garbage patches and spread throughout the ocean, eventually being consumed or otherwise absorbed by aquatic life, and working their way up the food chain to humans. According to a 2019 study cited by Consumer Reports, the average American eats, drinks, and breathes more than 74,000 toxic micro plastic particles every year.

Not only are micro-plastics incredibly harmful, their size and ubiquity make them extremely hard to clean out of the ocean. This is why most ocean anti-pollution projects, such as The Ocean Cleanup, focus on removing larger pieces of trash, before they can degrade. However a few years ago in 2019 Fionn Ferreira, just 18 years old at the time, invented an effective new method for removing micro-plastics from the oceans.

Ferreira was kayaking along the coast in Ballydehob, his hometown in west Cork Ireland, when he came upon a rock coated in oil. Ferreira noticed that small bits of plastic were sticking to the oil-coated-rock, which got Ferreira thinking. "In chemistry, like attracts like," Ferreira noted. He decided to combine vegetable oil and magnetite powder to create a nontoxic ferrofluid, a "magnetic liquid," or liquid that acts as a carrier for tiny magnetic particles—since ferrofluids and plastics attract when in the presence of water. Ferreira would add his ferrofluid to water samples full of micro-plastics, then remove the ferrofluid using a magnet, taking the micro-plastics with it. After hundreds of tests, Ferreira's ferrofluid was able to successfully remove at least 87% of micro-plastics from the water samples.

Since his discovery, Ferreira was named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair, an annual competition open to high schools around the world, and was awarded a $50,000 prize. He also established a company focused on micro-plastic removal technology, Fionn & Co., while also pursuing a Chemistry degree at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, ferrofluids have been tested as a possible tool for cleaning up oil spills, and early tests have been encouraging.

Ultimately, Ferreira believes that the only way to solve the massive problem of Ocean pollution is to change our consumption habits. "I'm not saying that my project is the solution," he said. "The solution is that we stop using plastic altogether."

Free Images : sand, plastic, sidewalk, floor, asphalt, line, soil ...

Sometimes it seems anti-pollution and recycling efforts are a long road to nowhere. That's how engineer Toby McCartney felt, until visiting India in 2016. While on the trip he worked with a group filling potholes using an improvised method combining waste-plastic, diesel fuel, and fire. Plastic has been used to construct roads in India since the turn of the century--and McCartney realized the idea could be applied to road construction in other countries, "to solve two world problems… the waste plastic epidemic, and on the other side the poor quality of roads we have to drive on today."

Upon returning home to Scotland he and two friends started experimenting, melting down various combinations of consumer plastics on his kitchen stove. After going through over 500 different combinations of waste plastics, McCartney and company found polymers that worked and founded a company, named MacRebur, to start building their plastic-enhanced asphalt roads.

Per MacRebur, plastic waste is broken down into small granules and replaces 20% of the sticky, oil-based bitumen that seals traditional roads. The mixed asphalt that results is up to 60% stronger, up to three times longer-lasting, and has huge environmental benefits. According to McCartney, each mile of road laid with his company's product is equivalent to almost 1.2 million single-use plastic bags or 80,000 plastic bottles. For every one-mile, two-lane road, there's a carbon offset of about 33 tons (equivalent to about 2.3 million plastic bags). Factor in the over four million miles of roads in the US that need to be paved and you start to see the incredible potential of the plastic-enhanced road solution--saving millions of pounds of plastic from ending up in landfills.

The enhanced roads bear no risk of an additional environmental cost. Since the plastic is safely between the stone and bitumen sealant, it can't easily reenter the environment. "All our plastics are heated to around 180 degrees," says McCartney. "They then fully homogenize in, so they mix in with the remaining bitumen in the road… So there is no micro-plastic present in any of our roads." Additionally, the process MacRebur uses never involves actually melting plastic, so no fumes ever escape into the atmosphere.

MacRebur has already paved thousands of miles of enhanced asphalt roads in the UK, and has just expanded to the United States, first Florida and California. While McCartney's enhanced roads are still relatively new, results have been promising so far, and the company is continuing to expand.

"At the end of the day plastic is a great product," McCartney told CNN. "It lasts for [a long, which is a problem if it's a waste product, but not a problem if we want it to last."

Whether it's his net worth or his latest internet beef, it can be hard keeping up with internet troll slash richest person on the planet Elon Musk. Last week around the same time Musk made headlines for his record net worth (currently $306.5 Billion and counting), he also entered into a new twitter feud, this time with David Beasley, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (or WFP).

It all started on Tuesday October 26th when Beasley appeared on the CNN show Connect The World with Becky Anderson to discuss world hunger and how it's worsened in the age of the pandemic. Citing a perfect storm of "conflict, climate change, and COVID," Beasley explained that the number of people with food insecurity doubled in the past year from 135 million to 270 million. Of that 270 million, 42 million people were considered especially critical and at risk of famine-like conditions unless provided with relief.

Desperate for extra-governmental funds Beasley made a direct plea to the ultra-rich, particularly Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, asking for a one-time donation of $6.6 Billion. In making his case he highlighted that government funds have been exhausted as a result of the pandemic, while billionaires have vastly increased their fortunes in that same time. "Bezos' net worth increase last year during Covid was 64 Billion," Beasley stated, "I'm just asking for 10 percent of [the] increase… Musk had a 6 Billion dollar increase in one day." The entirety of the proposed $6.6 Billion donation would exclusively go towards feeding the 42 million people on the brink of famine for one year.

Days later on October 31st Musk responded to a tweet about CNN's segment stating; "If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it." Later adding: "But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent." Unsurprisingly, the tweets immediately went viral.

Beasley responded to Musk later that day, correcting an inaccuracy in CNN's headline: the $6 Billion donation wouldn't "solve world hunger" outright, as the headline erroneously stated, the donation would save the 42 million people approaching famine, preventing "mass migration" and "geopolitical instability." (CNN would later correct their headline to reflect Beasley's actual statements).

In later tweets on the same thread Beasley elaborated on his proposal and offered to meet with Musk. Citing WFP's average meal cost of $0.43, Beasley offered the following basic equation to explain how he arrived at his price tag. "$.43 x 42,000,000 x 365 days = $6.6 billion." He also made the case for WFP as the right organization to tackle the issue. "We fed 115M+ people w/ nearly 20B rations. You know how to make cars; we know how to feed people. Decades of proven experience. Systems/ops in place..." Beasley tweeted. And later, "We operate in 80+ countries with operational plans in each. Scaling up to add more people is not difficult for us - just as it would not be difficult for you to make more cars. It's logistics and supply chain. There is a reason why we are Nobel laureates."

The WFP certainly has the history to back Beasley up. In 2020 the $8.4 billion they received in funding helped 115.5 million people in 80 countries, distributed $2.4 billion worth of food, and put $2.1 billion directly in the hands of hungry families to buy food from local markets. That same year WFP again received the highest scores for transparency from the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATA), a group that publishes open-source accounting from more than 1,300 organizations. Beasley also promised, per Musk's wishes, to provide full transparency as to the appropriation and spending of the funds.

It is, however, unclear if Musk was serious about his initial offer. Since his encounter with Beasley, Musk's tweets on the subject have beendismissive, implying that the WFP and other relief organizations are ineffective in allocating their funds. Beasley is still, however, taking the issue very seriously. In addition to the supplemental information he's publicly provided, he also promised a more detailed plan in the near future. One hopes that there's still a chance Musk is swayed by WFP's forthcoming plan (a long-shot, no doubt), or, that Musk has already drawn so much attention to the issue that Beasley and WFP are able to fund raise from a different source. Because, as Beasley stated in his CNN appearance, somebody dies from hunger ever four seconds.

Click here to watch the CNN segment that initiated Musk's response.

via instagram.com/air.ink/

The pen is mightier than the sword. What's mightier than the pen, you ask? Easy. A Graviky Labs Air-Ink pen. "How could one pen be mightier than every other pen," you ask, outraged. Well most pens use traditional ink which is produced in a process that involves burning fossil fuels. Air-Ink pens are different—instead of burning fossil fuels to produce their ink, Graviky labs actually collects and repurposes carbon from air pollution that already exists. Rather than contributing to climate change, their production process actually combats it. Which is good, because air pollution is a major environmental health issue, killing about 7-million people per year, according to the World Health Organization.

"Pollution is bad, but pollution happens to be a really good raw material to make inks," says Graviky co-founder Anirudh Sharma. Back in 2012 Anirudh, then a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, was visiting India when he captured a photo of a diesel generator blowing black exhaust against a stained wall, and had a revelation. "You shouldn't need to burn new fossil fuels just to make ink. Fossil fuels are already being burned." He returned to MIT and in 2013 he and a few friends successfully adapted an inkjet printer to print using ink collected from candle soot. That early success led to more tinkering, and soon they had invented a breakthrough device called the Kaalink.

The Kaalink is a small cylindrical filter that attaches to a vehicle's exhaust tailpipe and collects carbon soot, which Graviky then turns into ink. The device is reusable and filters "between 85-95%" of soot emissions. While the filter doesn't stop CO2 gas from entering the atmosphere, the soot it does capture would otherwise be a highly dangerous environmental pollutant. That pollutant, called PM 2.5, can cause serious health problems like asthma and lung disease. Graviky Labs' entire process, from manufacturing the Kaalink, collecting and processing the soot, and producing the black ink, is carbon-neutral. Each 30 milliliter bottle of Air-Ink is equivalent to approximately 45 minutes worth of vehicular soot emissions.

In terms of improving air quality, Air-Ink can't compete with the improved technology that more recent cars use to combat pollution, but it can be applied to millions of older vehicles, especially in developing countries where pollution ordinances "are rare—or rarely enforced." According to Anirudh, "Pollution is nothing but resources we're not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value." Air-Ink may not be a cure-all for climate change, but Anirudh is hoping it's just one of many ways to start using pollution productively: "It's a start, and it can inspire several others to start looking at new forms of waste that are lying outside, unutilized."