Blog

Clients in Conversation: Money & Spirit – Part II

May 19, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly. This dialogue is with John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture and RSF clients Rose Feerick and Barbara Sargent.

Last fall at the SOCAP14 conference, RSF sponsored a panel titled, “What Does Spirit Have To Do With Money?” The participants, Barbara Sargent, Rose Feerick, and John Bloom (facilitator), began this conversation prior to the panel in preparation and it deepened more during the panel. This “conversation” is an extension of that dialogue. Our hope is that the questions we explored be engaged with by anyone reading this distillation. It would honor the participants and the dialogue itself were this to be the case.

The questions: What in each of our biographies led us to seek the connection between money and spirit? How do spiritual practices inform our work with money? What are some practical examples from your current work with money and gift which evidence the presence of spirit?

Click here to view Part I

Sargent_FeerickRose: I am fascinated by the way Barbara’s journey with money led her back to her natural spiritual orientation. I have also found that working with money has deepened my spiritual journey. Here is what I mean: staying conscious of what is happening in my money life; engaging with financial tensions as a way to see where I need to grow spiritually; choosing to notice and let go of the desires to grab, get more, move from scarcity or fear; bringing my financial realities out of privacy and into transparent community—these practices allow me to become increasingly conscious of my inner life and then make choices that manifest my values and vision. One of those values is compassion for all the ways that I am not yet in full alignment.

I also practice prayer forms that emerge from the monastic stream of Christianity. These practices alongside my work with money are helping, I hope, to open my heart more fully to grace. They make it easier for me to witness the various drives and assumptions that I experience in my day-to-day life, which then give me an opportunity to choose which ones I want to live from. Over time, I hope that my life and financial choices are less sourced from an ego-centered operating system and more rooted in my spiritual heart.

Barbara: I so admire Rose’s willingness to stay present with and explore the dynamic tensions around wealth as part of her spiritual practice. The dynamics between those with and without wealth around power and privilege are so entrenched and strong, and for Rose to sit in conversation and work through these tensions is not only courageous but also contributing so strongly to the eventual breakdown of the separation. As we increasingly realize we are living in an interconnected world where the good of one is the good of all, perhaps those with wealth will increasingly use their resources to serve the wellbeing of all communities. Rose is pioneering the kind of conversations that are sorely needed.

After Kalliopeia was well established, Tom and I started New Field Foundation, which supports the agency of rural women and their associations in West Africa to improve the lives of their families. And most recently, we started Tamalpais Trust, which supports the development and strengthening of indigenous-led initiatives, organizations and networks that promote and serve indigenous cultures and lifeways, human rights, ceremonial practices, and the protection of sacred lands and waters. Indigenous peoples know how to be true stewards of our earth and its varieties of life. They know there is no sustainability without ceremonial life or without honoring the spiritual nature of existence. I think this last point is the key in terms of pointing to the most fundamental need of our time.

Rose: One of the specific needs that Harvest Time has been working on for the past nine years involves a project in Mississippi. The project began when we received a piece of land to give away in a way that would serve healing and transformation. The very act of making a gift in Mississippi has become an opportunity to practice a kind of sacred alchemy so that light can flow through a painful history and bring a hopeful future. Given the history of that particular corner of the world, manifesting that intention has required diving into the shadows of our culture and ourselves so that the diverse circle of people involved can partner from the place of their brilliance and not assumptions, fear or cultural norms that reinforce separation. This is not easy work. And yet, in Christianity we believe that grace is active in places where the shadow is operative and has the power to transform.

Barbara: What a beautiful story Rose tells of how this gift of land to community, done consciously and carefully with the engagement of spirit and self-awareness, can bring grace and transformation. What an invitation for all of us to engage gently, openly, and with maturity in conversations when we see our own or other lives shrouded by shadows where there could potentially be increased wellbeing or freedom from past wounds. In these polarized times this kind of engagement brings hope that we can learn to cross divides.

We live in a spiritually alive universe, and what we are conscious of is only part of the whole. To collectively acknowledge that the unseen and the unconscious parts of life are vitally potent, that we can ask for the energies of love to help us address the unrelenting problems we are facing, and that we can then evolve systems of living that honor this wholeness and the interconnectedness we are beginning to perceive—I think is the next step in our collective evolution.

Barbara Sargent is president of Kalliopeia Foundation and on the board of New Field Foundation. She and her husband, Tom Sargent, are active in building financial practices that can lead to holistic and truly sustainable ways of living. Her practice is within the Sufi tradition with Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee of the Golden Sufi Center.

Rose Feerick is the Director of Harvest Time, an ecumenical Christian ministry that invites people of wealth to engage questions of money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. Rose has been offering retreats, reflections and spiritual direction related to money and Christian faith for over ten years. She has a BA from Georgetown University and an MDiv from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She lives in Redwood City, CA with her two sons who share her love of music, sense of wonder in nature, and spirit of playfulness.

The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: Ecological Stewardship

May 18, 2015

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)As part of our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year, we’re looking for new borrowers in all three of our focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. Because it’s not always obvious whether an enterprise is a fit for us, we’re delving into what we look for in each area. In past months we covered Food & Agriculture and Education & the Arts. Up this month: Ecological Stewardship.

In this category, we’re seeking social enterprises that practice integrated, systems-based, and culturally sensitive approaches to regenerating and preserving the earth’s ecosystems. In general, borrowers in this area help mitigate climate change, reverse the depletion of natural resources, and support biodiversity. We’re particularly interested in enterprises focused on ecosystem preservation; resource recovery, reuse and recycling; and water and energy efficiency in buildings. These examples from our current portfolio illustrate what we’re looking for:

  • facebookPACT Apparel makes its Fair Trade-certified line of super soft cotton underwear from 100 percent organic, non-GMO cotton and ensures its farms and factories treat workers ethically and pay living wages in addition to engaging in sustainable farming practices. RSF provided PACT with an asset-based line of credit for a bridge loan.
  • IceStone, which came to RSF for working capital, makes a gorgeous, durable, hard surfaces for countertops and the like using recycled glass, portland cement, and pigment. The material is Cradle to Cradle certified and free of plasticizers and resins that emit harmful fumes; it reduces dependence on imported mined natural stone and keeps millions of pounds of glass from the waste stream.
  • Recycleforce - john_hill_demanufactureRecycleForce deconstructs electronic waste and other recyclables, separates the reusable materials, and disposes of the waste safely and cleanly using a workforce of recently released ex-felons. Financing from RSF enabled RecycleForce to equip its facility to divert millions of pounds of electronic waste from landfills while training and supporting a marginalized workforce.

If you know of enterprises in any of our focus areas that could expand their impact with greater access to capital, send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

And please pass our quest for borrowers on to your network! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to all those who’ve been tweeting and posting so far.

Here are a few post ideas:

  1. Are you an eco enterprise looking for #funding? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #socents: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars
  2. Does your #socent need capital to grow? See if you qualify for an @RSFSocFinance loan: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars
  3. Pass it on: @RSFSocFinance has loans up to $5M for the next 25 #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Here’s How to Take the First Steps Toward Impact Investing

May 14, 2015

Originally published on ImpactAlpha

Don Shaffer - Defaultby Don Shaffer

The movement toward investing in what’s good instead of just screening out what’s bad is growing, spurred by a new generation of investors.

Millennials are questioning conventional systems and approaches across the board, from food to education to finance. That’s leading many to start aligning personal and family investments with their values. A recent Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing poll found that millennial investors and women generally are the most likely to invest for impact. Overall, 71 percent of individual investors are interested in sustainable investing, defined as “making investments in companies or funds that aim to achieve market-rate financial returns while pursuing positive social and/or environmental impact.

We suggest people ask themselves, “What is a sustainable return? What is enough? Where can I start taking more risk?

Interest is not the same as action, however—many people quickly confront barriers when they seek to invest for social and environmental benefits as well as financial returns. In conversations with investors across the spectrum, from high-net-worth individuals to people with relatively modest amounts to invest, I’ve found that people often feel uncertain about how to get started and about how to evaluate their options. Answering the following questions is an essential first step for would-be impact investors.

What kind of impact do you want your money to have in the world?

While the term “impact investing” has come to mean positive social and environmental impact, in truth all investments have an impact. Are your current investments having the impact you want? What do you want your impact to be? What issues are most important to you?

Some people focus on a particular area; others act across many interest areas. I know a woman who has oriented her whole portfolio toward soil health. Another woman, on the cusp of a significant inheritance at 35, ended up tossing aside the conventional investing framework and developing her own framework, which prioritizes planetary health. Yet another has moved 100 percent of her family foundation’s assets to investments in social justice and environmental sustainability. She’s also a big supporter of education because she believes it’s a key factor in initiating change.

Read the full article here

Don Shaffer is President & CEO at RSF Social Finance

Clients in Conversation: Money & Spirit – Part I

May 12, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly. This dialogue is with John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture and RSF clients Rose Feerick and Barbara Sargent.

Last fall at the SOCAP14 conference, RSF sponsored a panel titled, “What Does Spirit Have To Do With Money?” The participants, Barbara Sargent, Rose Feerick, and John Bloom (facilitator), began this conversation prior to the panel in preparation and it deepened more during the panel. This “conversation” is an extension of that dialogue. Our hope is that the questions we explored be engaged with by anyone reading this distillation. It would honor the participants and the dialogue itself were this to be the case.

The questions: What in each of our biographies led us to seek the connection between money and spirit? How do spiritual practices inform our work with money? What are some practical examples from your current work with money and gift which evidence the presence of spirit?

Sargent_FeerickBarbara: During the 1980s I was gradually growing into too much wealth for my own comfort as a result of stock that had been gifted to me. My parents advised me to just keep these funds in the bank, not speak about it, and not give too much away.

Toward the end of the eighties I had become quite uncomfortable with this shadowed world, for this was translating into hiding from the reality of my own life, hiding from myself. There was also a nagging, if not fully conscious, feeling that not circulating the funds in service to people and life in general violated a fullness that I sensed was present in me.

I was scared of the exposure that being more public about the presence of this money would bring. At the same time, I was praying to be of service to the well being of the world. Now I can say that that prayer was heard, because the courage and energies needed came for what my husband Tom and I are in the midst of doing philanthropically and through our investments.

Rose: I grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family in an affluent neighborhood. From a young age, I understood that faith was meant to shape how we lived and what we did with financial resources. I witnessed my parents’ generosity in responding to various food drives and fundraising requests. Neither of my parents paid any attention to fancy clothes, jewelry, or cars, which was a source of much embarrassment for me at the time. Even so, I knew that their lack of concern for image was because their hearts and values were rooted in something else—their faith.

I chose to study that faith in college at Georgetown University and there learned about inspiring men and women such as Dorothy Day, St. Francis, and Romero who left positions of privilege in order to confront the injustice of their times. I was also troubled by the economic injustice I witnessed as I took a two-mile bus ride every week from Georgetown to 14th Street to work with homeless women. I understood that Jesus had a lot to say about these realities and wanted to see if I could find a way to embody the Christian values of simplicity and social justice in my own life. How ironic, then, that as I was making this decision, I received a substantial financial gift. Of course, now I see that paradoxical moment as the holy joke that launched me on my path.

Barbara: I am taken by Rose’s expression of that ‘paradoxical moment,’ of receiving a substantial gift of money from, what I call, the universe. It is compelling for me to watch how the universe responds when we make a very serious commitment from our inner life. We are tested, and depending on how we respond, we can be supported by gifts of the energies needed to carry the commitment through, or not. For Rose this moment turned out to be the holy joke that launched her on her life path. This little story expresses a kind of sweetness and intimacy with the unseen world. For me, at a meditation retreat during this early period, an energy came with the words “just start a foundation.” From there I knew I would do so, as intimidated and scared as I was by the thought. When we started what became Kalliopeia Foundation, I asked myself, “What should this foundation focus on, what should it be about?”

During my growing up years I had become lost and without purpose, and the natural, spiritual orientation I was born with had disappeared, largely because this was not reflected in the culture in which I lived. So this is what Kalliopeia Foundation came to be about. Its mission is to support the evolution of communities and cultures that honor the unity at the heart of life’s diversity. It is not religiously affiliated, but through its grantmaking it honors programs that hold the sacred at the center, that work with authenticity, the re-emergence of feminine values, and with deeply holistic, emergent ways of living.

Stay tuned for Part II…

Barbara Sargent is president of Kalliopeia Foundation and on the board of New Field Foundation. She and her husband, Tom Sargent, are active in building financial practices that can lead to holistic and truly sustainable ways of living. Her practice is within the Sufi tradition with Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee of the Golden Sufi Center.

Rose Feerick is the Director of Harvest Time, an ecumenical Christian ministry that invites people of wealth to engage questions of money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. Rose has been offering retreats, reflections and spiritual direction related to money and Christian faith for over ten years. She has a BA from Georgetown University and an MDiv from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She lives in Redwood City, CA with her two sons who share her love of music, sense of wonder in nature, and spirit of playfulness.

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Cooperative Fermentation

May 7, 2015

by Alex Haber

Food and agriculture is one of the primary focus areas of RSF’s work. We believe that by investing and giving within food systems, we can also support economic resilience, community health, and thriving ecosystems. Although the Local Initiatives Fund is our primary vehicle for supporting the linkages between sustainable local economies and food systems, many of our other partners focus on this intersection as well.

IMG_7928One such initiative is 2014 Seed Fund grantee Cooperative Fermentation, a project of the Cooperative Development Institute in Maine. The organization’s mission is to democratize the food system by seeding cooperatives in farming and other food enterprises. By providing consulting and training programs across the state, Jonah Fertig, the founder of Cooperative Fermentation, hopes to act like the “bacteria that ferments ordinary cabbage into delicious kraut,” bringing communities together to accelerate the growth of a cooperative food and agriculture economy in Maine.

RSF’s Seed Fund grant supported a number of Cooperative Fermentation’s programs, including pro-bono consulting with farmers and food enterprises, ten cooperative economic development workshops, and a Cooperative Farm Design Day, where about fifty participants explored and designed models for cooperative farms. One of Cooperative Fermentation’s more intensive programs is its Cooperative Design Lab, which includes both web-based and in-person trainings for food enterprises exploring how to self-organize as cooperatives. One of the Design Lab participants is a group of Somali farmers looking to organize as a cooperative, which provides the opportunity for Cooperative Fermentation to create dual-language options for its curriculum. The Design Lab is also co-sponsored by Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative, a borrower in RSF’s PRI Program, who helped to produce the curriculum and agreed in advance to purchase from the cooperative farms being incubated.

IMG_8066

With interest in cooperatives growing throughout the state, Cooperative Fermentation has a number of exciting projects on the horizon. After a very successful training in Portland, the mayor of that city is looking to find ways to incorporate cooperative development into the city’s larger economic development plans. One way this connection might be made is through the city’s purchasing power. The city government, or other anchor institutions, could enact procurement policies that privilege cooperatives during the bidding process. Another large anchor institutional purchaser that could help to scale the cooperative food economy in the state is the University of Maine. Cooperative Fermentation, the Cooperative Development Institute and other collaborative partners are now organizing the Maine Farm and Sea Food Service Cooperative to respond to the University’s Request for Proposal for food vendors. That level of institutional purchasing could make a significant impact on the cooperative and local food economy.

By working at the local level to bring community members together and seed cooperative development, Cooperative Fermentation is building a new food economy from the ground up. RSF is excited to see where that work leads, and to support the next round of innovative Seed Fund grantees, which will be announced later this month!

Alex is Program Manager, Philanthropic Services at RSF.

Exploring the Purpose of Gift

May 5, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly.

KelleyBuhles_Books_Large (2)by Kelley Buhles

In 2013, a critical op-ed by Peter Buffett was published in the New York Times titled, “The Charitable Industrial Complex”, his term for the growing industry of philanthropy. Buffet explains, “Inside any important philanthropy meeting you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”

His piece sparked a wide debate about the effectiveness, and perhaps even the usefulness, of the philanthropic industry. The backlash from the philanthropic and finance communities was strong.

Critics pointed to a lack of data to back up his claims and the unfoundedness of sweeping generalizations about the motivations of wealthy donors. The biggest problem most had with the article was that he critiqued an industry created for the benefit of humanity and his lack of recognition for all that philanthropy has already done to improve the human condition. In the end, most critics of Buffett came to the conclusion, not that philanthropy is inadequate, but rather that it needs to be better directed and made more efficient.

Here at RSF, the article continues to resonate. His article points not only to giving, but also to how we give. Is expending gift money to analyze the effectiveness of our giving an effective use of funding? Should those who have wealth be the deciders for how their wealth is given away to the community? Is philanthropy something only for the wealthy? Can philanthropy transform the very system that created it?

At RSF we have been exploring deeply the purpose and qualities of gift. One of our first realizations was how different true gifts are from philanthropy. True gifts are given freely and allow for creation and failure. True gifts create trust and solidify community. True gifts are given to us at all aspects of our lives, from the parental gift of nurturing and raising children, to the natural world that supports our lives, to the gifts and talents we each have as part of our being.

We began to see how important gifts are in our lives and in our communities. What happens when these aspects of gift are lost, or overshadowed by the power of money, whether in the philanthropic field or in our modern economic thinking?

In an effort to highlight the important role of gift in the economy, the Philanthropic Services team at RSF created a purpose statement that outlines some of the most important aspects of gifts and our goals for making these aspects more visible in the world. The RSF Philanthropic Services purpose is: To cultivate giving as the source of economic life. And we further qualified the purpose with the following.

As a transformative intermediary we:

  • Move the field of philanthropy towards a gift economy
  • Support and honor our clients’ deepest intentions
  • Integrate gift money into catalytic capital
  • Facilitate the circulation of gift money

As we continue to explore how this purpose fits into our day-to-day activities at RSF, we acknowledge our strong community of values-aligned organizations and individuals that inspire and collaborate with us. Over the past few years we have started to see more and more projects emerge that are taking up similar exploration into the nature and value of gift money and the role gift plays in the world. Here are a few examples:

One of the earliest inspirations for the RSF Philanthropic Services team has been the model of Flow Funding. Created by Marion Weber, Flow Funding is based on the idea of infusing trust, discovery and adventure into the funding process. In her experience as a philanthropist, Marion felt constricted by the work and pressure of deciding how to give away money. She created the Flow Funding model where she would select others, whom she calls “Flow Funders” to entrust her money to. These Flow Funders then would decide how to grant the money out, and could even pass it along to another Flow Funder. Through this process she realized the power of letting intuition and spontaneity into the process, and how that in turn created generosity and feelings of abundance. She also saw how this model expanded the reach of the funds, going to projects that she would have never found on her own. The model democratizes the philanthropic process by having more people involved in decision-making. And, it highlights the value of giving other people the learning experience of being a giver. This model has been an inspiration to RSF’s Shared Gifting model which also works to make the granting process more associative.

Another great project that we have had the pleasure of funding through a Donor Advised Fund is Canticle Farm. Located in Oakland, CA, this community farm has been experimenting with a complete transition towards operating in the gift economy. In 2014, they posted on their website their monthly operating expenses and what those expenses cover in the hope of inviting donors to support their needs. They explain on a post from their website, “What that means for us is making the radical move of detaching the services that we offer to the public from the expectation of receiving conventional currency in return. On the one hand, this presents a challenge in a world where everything (and everyone) is being commodified, and offerings without a price tag may be seen as worthless. On the other, our stance allows a larger circle of generosity—of friends blessed with conventional currency, and time and energy—a means of participating in our shared activities fostering generosity and forgiveness in the human community and compassion for all beings.” This group is pioneering in terms of living fully in the gift economy and we are excited to learn from their experiences.

Photo courtesy of Canticle Farm

Photo courtesy of Canticle Farm

Indie Philanthropy, an initiative dedicated to activating the next wave of thoughtful, proactive giving, is busy blazing a bright trail towards reshaping the field of philanthropy as well. Seeking to add diversity and creativity to the field, examples of Indie Philanthropy practices include crowdfunding, giving circles, community-based funding decisions, and seed funding. The initiative is built and sustained by those organizations whose funding work already exemplifies an Indie Philanthropy field of practice, and fortifies each individual’s work with a common voice. The website hosts a donor education tool, highlights of creative funding methods at work and emerging, as well as stories and guides on the practice of unconventional funding. By creating this cohort of imaginative funders, Indie Philanthropy hopes to embolden and inspire mainstream funders to question the status quo in philanthropy, and imagine how the world’s needs might be better served by innovation and experimentation in the field.

It has been tremendously inspiring to see these, and other transformative projects growing in the world. RSF partners, such as those shared here, provide tools for honoring the spiritual and communal qualities of gift that allow it to play its crucial role in our economy. It is equally important to realize that these ideas don’t just apply to those who participate in philanthropy. As John Bloom, RSF Vice President of Organizational Culture, explains, “Mostly our culture views the capacity to give based upon having more than enough—whether that is money or time. I would propose that the opposite is true—when one gives, one experiences the reality that ‘enough’ does not exist without giving. That is, giving makes us whole.”

Kelley Buhles is RSF’s Director of Philanthropic Services.

RSF Shared Gifting Featured in a Report on Collaborative Funding Models

May 1, 2015

Last year, the New Economy Coalition (NEC) sponsored a report titled, “Philanthropy and the New Economy: Models for Collaborative and Democratic Innovation.” The report examines current models of collaborative funding and was published to begin a conversation about how these models might be useful in supporting the movement to create new economies.

As discussed in an RSF white paper on Shared Gifting, some traditional models of philanthropy can dampen collaboration by forcing organizations to compete, rather than cooperate. The NEC report offers information about different forms of giving and explores whether additional innovation within philanthropy might enhance the impact of the emergent New Economy movement. A broad spectrum of historical examples provides evidence that models of giving, rooted in the principles of democracy, justice, and appropriate scale are valuable additions to the traditional paradigm of philanthropy.

The NEC is a network of organizations imagining and building a future where people, communities, and ecosystems thrive. The NEC is united by two beliefs. The first is that we must confront the structural flaws rendering our environment more unlivable and our economy more unjust. The second is that we will only succeed if we develop new commitments and tools to support each other.

RSF is excited to be a part of this growing movement!

Click here to download the report

Save Organic Citrus!

April 28, 2015

We are in the peak of citrus season here in California and while we’re all blissfully enjoying juicy doses of Vitamin C, you may not realize that the organic orange you’re biting into is on the verge of dying off from a disease called Citrus Greening. Jessica Shade, the Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center, has played an integral role researching the disease and is guest blogging this week to help explain what is happening to citrus and what people are doing about it. RSF got involved in the citrus world through our borrower, Uncle Matt’s Organic, an organic orange juice company. Uncle Matt’s is collaborating with The Organic Center on this research project. Check out a previous blog post about their work here: http://rsfsocialfinance.org/2014/07/uncle-matts-organic/

JessicaShade (1024x768)by Jessica Shade

Right now citrus trees are dying all around the country. Citrus greening disease has been killing off thousands of acres of citrus groves, and threatens to destroy domestic citrus production all together.

Citrus fruits are some of the most popular fruit in the United States. Orange juice can be found in almost 7 out of 10 American refrigerators, and Americans drink more than 550 million gallons of orange juice every year with more than 60 million gallons of that juice being organic.

Moms and dads are increasingly choosing organic fruit for their kids, assured that the fruit has not been sprayed with harmful toxic pesticides or has been genetically modified. Unfortunately, organic citrus production is in danger of disappearing from the United States because of the deadly citrus greening disease. Citrus greening has been devastating the citrus industry on a massive scale and is now threatening the very existence of the organic citrus sector.

The deadly citrus greening disease moves quickly, spread by the invasive Asian citrus psyllid, a small plant-feeding insect. Once a tree is infected, it cannot be cured. In the past ten years, citrus greening has wiped out 90,000 acres of citrus. As of yet there are no cures for citrus greening, and the tools we’ve been using have only had limited efficacy.

6D9B3349

Photo courtesy of Uncle Matt’s Organic

One of the most commonly used tools is treating the trees with high doses of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These pesticides are being used to treat the disease on conventionally grown citrus. Unfortunately, the pesticide sprays are not very effective and are creating more harm in their wake. Immediately after a spray, the psyllid population will decrease, but they could rebound to levels above what they were before because the sprays are killing the psyllids natural predators like lady beetles (“ladybugs”). In addition, the sprays are causing large-scale bee die-offs. Bees pollinate 70% of our food, so fewer bees means lower availability of fruit and vegetables. To top it off, the psyllids are quickly developing resistance to the sprays. We’re losing what little control these chemicals provided for the disease.

What we need are solutions to citrus greening that are holistic and take multiple factors into account so they can continue to be effective in the long run without harming beneficial insects or causing other damage to the growing systems.

To address this RSF is helping fund a project with The Organic Center, who has teamed up with citrus growers, university researchers, and other non-profits to launch a large-scale project examining organic methods for preventing citrus greening.

Specifically, this research will look at:

  • Organic methods for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid without the use of toxic chemicals
  • Natural ways to breed organic citrus varieties that are resistant to the disease without the use of genetic engineering
  • Methods for ensuring natural predator health, like the lady beetles, while preventing Asian citrus psyllid spread

This information will be critical for providing growers around the country with the information they need to protect their citrus groves from collapse due to citrus greening. It will also be useful for policymakers in incorporating organic alternatives to Asian citrus psyllid control into area-wide treatment protocols. If it is not stopped, citrus greening may remove organic citrus from our diets, destroy countless farms, and significantly disrupt regional economies. Without further research on organic methods for controlling the disease, the entire domestic organic citrus sector may be wiped out.

Click here to learn more about this project, and check back in a few months for an update on the research study.

Short1

Photo courtesy of Uncle Matt’s Organic

 

Jessica Shade started her involvement in the organic movement as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was a co-owner of the Kresge Natural Foods Cooperative. During her time there she developed a deep interest in the science supporting the environmental, public health, and cultural benefits of organic practices, and that passion followed her through her graduate career at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a PhD in Integrative Biology.

In addition to scientific research, Dr. Shade is dedicated to food system science communication, collaboration, environmental education, and social equity and inclusion in the sciences. She has worked with several organizations to mentor under-represented students in the sciences and increase environmental science collaborations, such as Building Diversity in Science; Puente; the Biology Scholars Program; and Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability. She also founded and directed the Diversity Mentorship Program, which trains and mentors graduate students on inclusive teaching practices.

Dr. Shade is also interested in creative approaches to conducting and communicating environmental research. She has led panels on using artistic approaches to disseminating scientific research, as well as curating, designing, and participating in many environmentally themed art exhibits.

Resources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/10/the-surprisingly-simple-reason-millions-of-bees-are-dying/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/17/opinion/spivak-loss-of-bees/

RSF Extends Additional Financing to GREEN CREATIVE

April 22, 2015

logo11RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to GREEN CREATIVE, a San Francisco Bay Area-based developer and manufacturer of commercial and specification grade LED lighting solutions. RSF financing, in participation with New Resource Bank, will be used to fund working capital needs and build inventory for this ever rapidly growing company.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for 23% of the commercial sector’s total electricity consumption. As energy demands increase, the energy production required to power buildings will expand the US carbon footprint and weigh heavily on the planet.

Traditional lighting sources such as incandescent and halogen lights contribute to high energy usage and high monthly electric bills. GREEN CREATIVE provides state of the art lighting solutions that reduce carbon footprint and lower electricity, maintenance, and cooling bills. These products generally use 80% less energy than traditional lighting sources. In addition, GREEN CREATIVE lights do not contain Mercury or any other harmful substance.

“RSF is pleased to extend a loan to GREEN CREATIVE and work with a values aligned partner like New Resource Bank,” says Mike Gabriel, RSF Lending Manager. “Together we are helping businesses and building owners save money on electricity bills and accelerating a path to a low carbon future.”

“Securing additional financing allows GREEN CREATIVE to continue innovating and answering the fast growing demand for its products,” says GREEN CREATIVE Principal and Co-Founder, Cole Zucker. “Having financial partners whose long-term social and environmental goals are in line with GREEN CREATIVE’s core beliefs and values means a lot to us.”

LED technology is changing the lighting industry, and producing top products requires ongoing investment in technology development and innovation. GREEN CREATIVE has received significant industry recognition, including several product selections for the prestigious 2013 and 2014 Illuminating Engineering Society Progress Report and the company was a finalist in the 2015 LED’s Magazine Sapphire Award.

“New Resource Bank is thrilled to partner with RSF in supporting the growth of the energy efficiency sector,” affirms Gary Groff, Senior Vice President at New Resource Bank. “GREEN CREATIVE has grown at an unprecedented rate and together we are helping reduce the carbon footprint of households and businesses.”

About Green Creative

GREEN CREATIVE is a 5-year-old solid state lighting development and manufacturing company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. The company specializes in providing cutting edge LED lighting solutions for the commercial and specification markets. GREEN CREATIVE is fully integrated with strong R&D capabilities to constantly offer the latest technology available. For more information on GREEN CREATIVE please visit www.greencreative.com

About New Resource Bank

New Resource Bank is the premier bank for people who are leading the way to a more sustainable world. We match an entrepreneurial spirit with a dedication to achieving environmental and social as well as financial returns. Our mission is to advance sustainability with everything we do—the loans we make, the way we operate and our commitment to putting deposits to work for good. To learn more visit www.newresourcebank.com

The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: Food & Agriculture

April 20, 2015

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)As part of our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year, we’re looking for new borrowers in all three of our focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. These are broad categories, but because it’s not always obvious whether an enterprise is a fit for us, we’re delving into what we look for in each area. Last month we covered Education & the Arts. Up this month: Food & Agriculture.

In this category, we fund social enterprises working in these areas:

  • Infrastructure supporting resilient regional food systems, especially food hubs, which provide some combination of aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and marketing of regionally produced food. RSF is the country’s most active lender for food hubs, and borrowers such as Common Market provide working models for newcomers.
  • Increasing access to wholesome and healthy food for people who need it most through food banks and other programs. Ceres Community Project, for example, is an innovative program that delivers organic, whole-food meals, usually for free, to people battling serious illnesses (and teaches its teen volunteers to cook in the process).
  • training program 2Reducing food waste by redistributing food to food-insecure populations or using value-added processing to create new consumer products. A star in this area is DC Central Kitchen, which uses surplus food to provide healthy meals to low-income and at-risk DC residents, as well as job training for people who face employment barriers. The company was recently featured in the Huffington Post.

In the packaged goods sector, we seek out companies whose products are both environmentally and socially responsible. Our newest borrower, Harmless Harvest, is a great illustration of what we’re looking for: the San Francisco–based social enterprise sells the first coconut water in the United States to earn the Fair for Life fair trade certification.

Option_3

Photo courtesy of Harmless Harvest

To achieve the certification, Harmless Harvest had to demonstrate fair trade practices at each level of its supply chain; form long-term, ongoing partnerships with workers who manufacture its 100 percent raw and organic coconut water drinks; establish a safe environment with fair wages and benefits for all employees and partners; and institute a fair trade premium that goes towards social initiatives in local communities in Thailand. RSF financing, in partnership with New Resource Bank, will fund working capital needs and inventory build-up during the peak coconut season.

If you know of enterprises in any of our focus areas that could expand their impact with greater access to capital, send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

And please pass it on to your network! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to all those who’ve been tweeting and posting so far.

Here are a few post ideas:

  1. Are you a food or ag enterprise looking for #funding? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #socents. bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars
  2. How could your #socent grow with the right #funding? Apply for an @RSFSocFinance loan: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars
  3. Help find RSF’s next 25 #SocentStars. Send your faves to @RSFSocFinance loan info page: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Blog

Page 1 of 4212345...102030...Last »

Categories

Latest posts

Archives

Blog Roll