Celebrating Zero Waste with Tyler Bonner

Zero Waste started as an effort with the Nelsonville Music Festival, to transform how they manage waste at their festival. Thier goal? Zero Waste.

Practical Advice For Students Who Dream Of Doing Good As They Travel

The new generation of adventure-minded travelers is no longer drifting through unique destinations just for having fun.

How to Drive Success with EmpowerBus

I know we’ve been digging into some serious podcasts around trafficking, but this podcast is about a different kind of traffic: transportation.

David Shekleton & Affiliate Marketing for Good

What happens when you have a career in advertising, and you realize your work is having a negative impact? You become proactive like David Shekleton and put a new spin on affiliate marketing.

TBEX: The Travel Blogger’s Conference

TBEX Huntsville was this year’s North America travel blogger conference. I had no idea what to expect… to be honest, I was skeptical of going to a small town in Alabama that I had never heard of, but Huntsville surprised me…

Backstage at the Columbus Zoo

Columbus, Ohio has one of the best zoo’s in the country.  When Jack Hannah inherited the zoo as director in 1978, it was a mess.  But he built it up with his charisma, vision and fantastic fundraising, and even by staying late to help pick up the trash.  What he built extends beyond what you see: beneath the surface the zoo has an impactful and commendable conservation effort.  I was lucky enough to go on a backstage tour, led by Tom Strasburg, who gave us some unique insight to the zoo’s effort to rehabilitate manatees.

The Columbus Zoo supports over 70 conservation projects across the country, many of them right at the zoo. During our tour, we witnessed a home built system for growing specific kinds of algae and vegetation needed to breed certain sharks. Apparently it is very complicated because fish and aquatic animals go through specific life stages  —  sometimes lasting 2 weeks, sometimes lasting 2 years  —  where they look to eat very specific creatures or plants.

The manatees aren’t as specific. As adults they  pretty much eat Romain lettuce – restaurant grade – and about 50 heads of it a day. (Romain lettuce is one of the closest resembling options to their native vegetation.)

As we walked onto the feeding platform, we had to watch out for Ken. He’s their resident pelican, and well, this is his home… and he can get kind of protective over people marching through his den. He kept a watchful eye on us, but let us pass through.

The staff spear the lettuce with big sticks, and even though the manatees are quick to eat them, you’ll see leftovers floating on top of the aquarium, even though they clean it every night.

They currently have 5 manatees at the Columbus zoo, and so they go through about 11 boxes (each with about 25 heads of lettuce) each day.

The staff even serve special treats: usually a frozen bucket of sweet potatoes and turnips (yum!).  Stubby, who is one of the more dominant patriarchal manatees, likes his sweet potatoes and will guard it the best he can. As the bucket unfreezes and the treats rise up, he’ll position himself over the bucket so he can get the first dibs.

Swimming with manatees is Buddy, the sea turtle… he was rescued at a young age, and only had about 25% of his flippers left. He still jets around his pool, but will probably never be released back into the wild, unlike the manatees who are rotated out once they’re rehabilitated.  The plexi-glass is only 5% reflective, so Buddy can see through, and he will swim across scrutinizing out all the people checking him out.  He seems pretty amused by the people he sees.

The Columbus Zoo has a very specific program for the manatees, and is one of only a couple of locations outside of Florida that do this. They have an impressive pulley system for transporting the manatees, and an entire process for traveling with them on the planes.

We also got to learn the secret history about nibbles… but you’ll have to join the backstage tour if you want to learn more about that! I would definitely recommend the tour, as it is fascinating learning all that goes on behind the scenes — and gave me a much deeper appreciation of all the efforts to support wildlife, not just within the zoo, but for the rest of our planet.

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Discover Columbus, a Unique Destination

Columbus is a unique place. First impressions: it’s small & there isn’t much happening. But living here, I’m starting to develop a deeper appreciation for the city. It has these hidden possibilities: they’re not obvious like London or New York or San Francisco, but they exist under the surface.

1. It’s Livable

The cost of living here is phenomenal. I could never save any money for a deposit, let alone dream of buying a place when I lived in London where I could barely afford rent. In Columbus, we bought an 8-year-old house with a mortgage that’s about 1/3 of our rent in London… but about three times the size. Maybe 6 times. It was a small flat.

Plus it has central heating and air conditioning, with a washer and a dryer. You don’t appreciate what that means until you live through a cold damp winter with nothing but a space heater to warm up your bedroom and dry your clothes. Don’t even get me started on the closet space or… basement. Wow.

2. Everything Exists Here – but You Have to Find It

And if it doesn’t… you can start it. My wife wanted to go Bollywood dancing, but couldn’t find a class. So she became an instructor instead. She runs her own Bollywood dance class. Super awesome — but she never would have had the idea to start that in London.

It took me awhile to discover the photography scene in Columbus, but it exists, and is quite close knit. In London it was easy to find, but hard to become a part of it. In Columbus, you can become part of things.

3. The Traffic Jams

They don’t exist here. Not compared to London, NYC, SF, or LA. I have a 15-minute commute… and I can completely skip the highway and take a lovely back road to work. Even the morning slowness on the 5-mile stretch leading down into the highway can’t compare to “real” traffic.

4. Talented People Do Come Here

Initially, it felt like I was surrounded by the OSU grads, but later I realized that people actually move-in here from abroad. There is a huge corporate retail company here that attracts designers from around the world.

The low cost of business has brought Chase’s data center here, along with a huge IBM consulting unit. Even Amazon is developing here. Honda has a big US plant, which brought over a number of Japanese companies to support it. Cardinal Health, Nationwide… even NetJets are based here.

So, it’s got critical mass.

5. Critical Mass Brings Style

Although this is true on a more limited level. The restaurant scene is in progress, but every year there seems to be more and more awesome & stylish eateries popping up: Katalina’s, Condados, Niadas, Katzinger’s, Kittie’s Cakes, Hot Chicken Takeover, Pisticia Vera, the Fox in the Snow and Mission Café are a few highlights. The short north has got character; we even get a visit from Arnold Schwarzenegger each year, for the body building event called, well, “the Arnold”.

6. It Has an Entrepreneurial Scene

I first discovered this through our local startup weekend. They’ve launched a Give Back Hack here in Columbus. But they also have an incubator and services to support startups. It’s not the same level capital they have in the Bay Area, but they’ve got capital here. And ideas.

What’s more is that Ohio has more Social Entrepreneur’s per capita then anywhere else in the world. So you know our entrepreneurs are doing great stuff.

Plus, Columbus has something that London, SF and NYC do not — affordable living. Oh wait… I mentioned that… I must be done.

Also published on Medium.

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All you need to know about Londoners

London is the premier international city. You can walk down Oxford Street and easily hear 10 languages in 10 steps, because people come from everywhere and anywhere. (I used to think New York was the most diverse city in the world, but it really pales in comparison to London.)

Even after 9 years living in London, I only scratched the surface of the diversity in this city. But I did learn some things about the lovely ladies and lucky lads living in London as Londoners:

Londoners are accepting

While the UK might have voted in favor the Brexit, London was overwhelmingly against it. Diversity drives their economy. Sure, some jobs are still typically older white British men. But in finance and the creative industries, talent comes from everywhere. And people get along. It is a beautiful testament that a people with different cultural background get along just fine. In fact, it makes life much richer.

Londoners are adaptable

The tube goes down, the traffic jam is backed up, something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, and people adapt. They find another way.

But they’ll complain about it. Complaining about the weather is not just a favorite pastime, but also a staple conversation starter. In a city where the weather can be gloomy, rainy or moldy, there are hundreds of ways to discuss the drizzly pitter-patter that drops down.

Londoners love their pint

At lunch, after work, the pub is the social scene. Any day of the week, the pubs have a crowd of people popping by for a pint before going home.

Workplaces are much more collaborative for it: when you drink together, you share stories, and you work more effectively together.  I volunteered with the Samaritans… and after every shift we’d stop by the pub. It wasn’t mandatory, but we did it anyways.  Even people like me, who don’t really drink.

Londoners love the sun

Maybe because it is so unpredictable and you live in semi-darkness half the year, when you have a sunny day, it is an unofficial national holiday.

Any warmth, and just a splash of sun, and people are out, covering any piece of grass you can find. You actually have to worry about stepping on people’s toes. (Don’t do that. They don’t appreciate it.)

Londoners live life

They walk fast. Although, not New York fast. When they’re not walking, they’re standing in queues. Even on escalators… but only the right.

Tip: never stand on the left, and you will annoying a true Londoner, who will ridicule you silently for your lack of utter ineptitude of the lowest form of travel etiquette. Of course, you won’t know, because they’re too polite to say it to your face. But everyone else standing on the right will know exactly what they’re thinking.


Also published on Medium.

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How to Get The Perfect London Night Shot

I love photography – and have been snapping shots since my first digital SLR in 2004. (Well, before that I shot some 20,000 photos on whatever digital camera I could find.)

There are 15 minutes, at the end of day (probably at the beginning too, but I’m not an early riser), when the light is perfect for photography. The contrast between the sky and the landscape leads to some amazing photographs. Ansel Adams was famous for capturing this with his black and white photos and is still the best-known photographer. He is also the photographer’s curse, for the rest of us now must also rise at sunrise or step out at sunset to capture this “gold-standard” of lighting.

Even after the 15 minutes are over, long-exposure night shots are fun. They capture movement in streaks, and gives otherwise static photos a sense of movement.

My first SLR photography class was a Groupon deal for a tutorial on the Thames River in London – just at the end of the millennium bridge opposite of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We had a group of 15, along with a professional photographer who guided us on how to use our digital SLRs.

There are three variables when you’re taking a photo: ISO (sensitivity to light), F-stop (how bit the hole is that lets in the light), and the shutter speed (how long the hole is open).

For a night shot, the settings are pretty straightforward. You put your camera on a tripod. Set the ISO to 100 or 200 (which is where your camera is optimally designed to operate), and set the F-stop high (around F-16).

F-stop is confusing at first. A higher number means a smaller aperture, and a smaller aperture requires a longer exposure to get the same amount of light, but also maximizes your depth of field. (With a shallow depth of field, your background and foreground would be blurry when your subject is in focus).

You want to maximize the depth of field when you’re shooting a landscape. (F-11 is a standard for photographing people, I’m not sure why, but it seems to work well.)

From this point, you’ve locked in two of the three settings on your camera, leading to one thing you can change: the exposure. So, you change your camera to shoot in manual and start adjusting your exposure.

Manual mode was always a big mystery to me, but it is not as scary as it seems: with a digital camera you get instant feedback after each shot. Plus, cameras have an indicator when the light is evenly balanced, so it’s easy to start in the right ballpark.

Night shot recipe: ISO 100, F-16, manual mode, on a tripod

Hopefully you’re set up 20 minutes before sunset. There is an awesome app by the way, called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which tells you when the sun will set (and rise, and when the moon comes up, for any location on the planet, complete with directional lines of where your light source is relative to you. It’s awesome.)

And now you start taking photos. As the sun sets, you’ll notice your exposures increasing from 1/30th of a second, to 1 second, to 5 seconds, to 25 seconds. As it starts to approach 15–30 seconds, you’ll notice when the photos start popping with that oomph that grabs you.

Long exposures are fun. But when an exposure takes 30 seconds, you spend a lot of time just standing around.

With even longer exposures, you find yourself standing back and observing the world while your camera eats up light. You feel almost like your camera is a sheep eating grass, and you’re the shepherd.

People don’t seem to notice you in a city, and sitting there with your camera, you can sit back and watch all the people walking by. As you’re framing your shot, you notice details too  —  how architecture fits together, what the shapes of the buildings look like, where the cracks and impurities are… the world you see each day comes alive. All the things that you never noticed pop out in their beautiful imperfections.

And that’s all it takes to get started in nighttime landscape photography!

Also published on Medium.

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Belize & Communal Eating

The Thatch Caye resort in Belize was my first experience with communal eating.