The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

24 May 2007

Six degrees of water

As you go down this list, you will see an increasing emphasis on changing the world through the water you drink.

1. Water madness
Bling H2O is the inspiration of Hollywood producer-writer Kevin G Boyd. Whilst working on studio lots where image is of the greatest importance, he noticed that you could tell a lot about a person by the bottled water they carried. He felt that whether bottles had a cool shape or the water came from an exotic island, none of the brands that were available made “the perfect statement”. So he set out to create a super-luxury brand which would define a person in the same way that owning a Rolls Royce Phantom does. Initially introduced to hand-selected athletes and actors, Bling is now becoming more widely available.

Bling H2O is bottled at source in Tennessee, and has won medals for best-tasting water. It uses a 9-step purification process that includes UV treatment and microfiltration.
It’s not for everyone. Just for those that Bling. Bling is the ultimate in designer water. It costs around $40 a Half-litre bottle.

2. Bottled water anyway
Go to your local supermarket and you will find many brands of bottled water. Some is “premium” costing $2-3 a bottle; some is “value” at perhaps $1 per bottle. It comes from different parts of the world; some has been imported and travelled thousands of miles to get to you (see the explanation of Water Miles. You are spoiled for choice. In restaurants, you may be offered “still” or “sparkling” often for as much as $7 per bottle.
Did you know that the bottled water industry globally is a $25 billion dollar a year industry. Did you know that UNICEF reckons that this is more than the cost of bringing clean fresh water to every human being on the planet (around one sixth of whom today do not have ready access to this most basic of commodities). And think of the pollution and congestion created by bringing this water to you, and the problem of what to do with the empties (much of which is not even being recycled).

3. Bottled water for a good cause
If you do want to drink bottled water, then check out these two brands. All profits go to support water projects around the world. So at least you will be drinking bottled water for a good cause. Belu is sold in glass bottles, but also in biodegradable bottles made of corn starch.
One water:

4. Pure water on tap
The advantage of tap water is that it is piped direct to you, so involves no water miles. But some people prefer filtered water, especially where the water has been excessively treated to be made drinkable. Check out Pure H2O, which produces high-tech domestic filtration systems which can be connected to the main water supply.

5. The empty bottle
A bottle of Neau water contains NO WATER. This concept was developed by an advertising agency in the Netherlands called Vandejong to highlight the cleanness of tap water , and also to raise money for water projects in the world. each bottle contains a message about the Neau concept, plus instructions to fill up the bottle from the tap. A 330ml bottle of Neau sells for around Eu1.50. This means that an empty bottle costs more than a full bottle. It is not just that the contents of a bottle of water cost virtually nothing; it is the value of the Neau brand which proclaims you as a water saint.

6. Virtual water
Our last product is a virtual water. When you buy a bottle of Charity:Water, you don’t get a bottle, and you don’t get any water. Instead you will be using the $20 that this bottle of virtual water costs to help build freshwater wells.

“Right now more than 1 billion people in the world, mostly in developing nations, do not have access to safe water. Unsafe water causes 80% of all sickness and disease, and kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. With your help, we can alleviate the suffering of many. The donation from just one virtual bottle can provide clean water to someone who needs it for 15 years. Donate by purchasing a virtual bottle of water $20. 100% of your donation will directly fund freshwater well projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, The Central African Republic, and Malawi.”

Charity:Water is the brainchild of Scott Harrison: “Think of it as water for water.” To build a new well in Ethiopia requires just 200 people to buy one bottle of Charity:Water, and will give a village of hundreds clean water for the future. “Bottles of spring at the deli are cheaper, but they don't go as far.”

What is a Water Footprint?

The water footprint of a country or a community shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of that country or community. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country.

Some facts and figures
• To produce one kg of beef requires 16,000 litres of water.
• To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.
• To produce one kg of maize requires 900 litres of water
• The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
• Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
• The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.

Check out this website: Look up the Product Gallery to find out the water footprint of some common foodstuffs and beverages (plus industrial products, shoes and paper). You’ll be surprised.

And assess your own footprint at:

What are Water Miles?

Food miles are the miles that an item of food has traveled to get to your table. From the mango groves of India or the coffee plantations of Costa Rica or the olive groves of Spain to the houses of people living in Germany or England.

Water miles are similar: the distance that a bottle of water has traveled to get to you – from the glaciers of the Alps or a spring in Scotland… In a supermarket survey, the Food Commission found bottled water that had travelled more than 10,000 miles (16,000km) to reach UK consumers.

The distance that food and water is travelling is growing ever longer, with food products and ingredients shipped, flown and trucked to supermarket shelves. Every extra mile uses more fossil fuel and adds more carbon dioxide emissions to our national total – emissions that boost the a country's contribution to climate change.

So check the label to see where the food, drink and water that you intend to purchase has come from. If it has traveled long distances, put it back on the shelf. Buy products that are as local as possible. Your purchasing decisions will have a small impact ; but if millions of people reduce their food and water miles, this will have a huge impact.

20 May 2007

Great ideas for changing the world

In June 2007, American Express launched its Members Project. US cardmembers. are invited to do three things:
• Register on the Members Project website, when American Express will donate $1 for each person that registers, which will go into a $5 million fund to invest in making the winning idea happen. American Express will help create a structure capable of turning the idea into a practical project and making that project a success, as well as helping marshall the resources and expertise that will be needed.
• Submit up to 5 ideas to the Members Project website.
• Rate the ideas that have been submitted and post comments. And eventually vote on which idea will become the winning ideas. There will be a long list of 50, which will be reduced to 25 and then to 5. The final 5 will be voted on by those who have registered.

You need to be a US American Express cardmember in order to be able to participate. But if you have a great idea and would like to submit it, then find someone who has a qualifying American Express card (full details are on the website) and ask them to submit the idea or ideas for you. You think your idea’s great; and somebody has to win!

The 365 Ways project has been helping American Express launch the programme, by acting as an advocate whilst doing a promotional tour in the USA for the US version of 365 Ways to Change the World. The Members Project will run through August 2007. If it is a success, it will be repeated in 2008.

You might also want to consider becoming an American Express cardmember. Check out the RED card, where a proportion (1%) of everything you spend is donated to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

The Members Project:
American Express RED card:

Some unusual and interesting ideas that have been posted:

Bet for a better world: a casino (where legally permitted) that will have all the attraction of any other casino with one main difference. Just as state lotteries benefit seniors and education, we will donate exactly 50% of all profit directly to feeding the hungry of the world. The other 50% will be reinvested to grow our casino and/or build more, as well as to ensure a recurring and increasing revenue stream to the scores of hungry we aim to help.

Random acts of flowers: Who doesn't love receiving the gift of fresh flowers? This idea is very simple but will provide insta-joy to many. In partnership with local hospitals and nursing homes in economically challenged parts of the Los Angeles area, to provide many, many beautiful floral arrangements to women who are currently suffering. This small gesture truly has the ability to lift the spirits.

Gourmet Food for the Homeless: Most restaurants waste a sizable portion of their daily food production. There is a variety of ways they waste food, and these are not left overs but good food, it happens all the time when someone cancels his order or changes it, or simply didn't like the look of it. Normally most of these food goes straight to the waste bin. The project aims to collect it and then distribute them to the people who needs it most and otherwise never had a chance to get it. In most cities the areas around downtown has the highest concentration of restaurants and we will have a collection unit for downtown, and then distribute the food to various locations which accepts food coupons and food stamps or homeless shelters.

Polar Bear Floating Platforms. "POPs" are large, circular (50 ft diameter) floating platforms that can provide ocean rest areas for Polar Bears that are forced to swim long distances due to the rapidly melting Arctic ice. These "way-stations" , made from recycled materials, can be placed in the Arctic waters at 10 mile distances in areas where bears search for food. They will provide refuge for the exhausted bears, give them a place to eat and warm themselves. They are easy to assemble, inexpensive to build and may be a key component in helping to prevent the drowning deaths and possible extinction of these magnificent animals.

Make public spaces great

William H Whyte once said, "It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people – what is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished." Today, many public spaces seem to be intentionally designed to be looked at but not touched. They are neat, clean, and empty - as if to say, "no people, no problem!" But to us, when a public space is empty, vandalized, or used chiefly by undesirables, this is generally an indication that something is very wrong with its design, or its management, or both.

Why do many public spaces fail? Because they are badly designed, because they do not cater to the needs of users, and because they are badly managed. These are some of the most common problems:
1.Lack of places to sit.
2. Lack of gathering points including features people want or need, such as playgrounds or for food and drink.
3. Poor entrances which are bright and inviting.
4. Lack of distinctive features that encourage activity around them.
5. Paths that don't go where people want to go
6. Domination of the space by vehicles, cars taking preference over people.
7. Blank walls or dead zones around the edges of the park.
8. Inconveniently located access to public transport.

Take action. Rate your local park as a great public space. See what could be improved. Come up with some ideas for making it better. Find a way of getting your ideas implemented (persuading the park management, getting publicity for the problem and the solution, starting a campaign).

Project for Public Spaces provides ideas for making parks great spaces, and also lists the world’s best parks. The top 6 are:
1. Plaza Hidalgo, Mexico City
2. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
3. Central Park, New York
4. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York
5. Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
6. Parc Guell, Barcelona
And some of the worst include: Forum des Halles, Paris, Tate Modern, London, Parc Diagonal del Mar, Barcelona; Bryant Park, New York., The National Mall, Washington DC.

Project for Public Spaces:

…and have a park that pleases dogs

In public parks, dogs and humans don’t always mix that well. Dogs want to chase balls and generally run around. This pleases their owners, but can annoy people just wanting to relax. Dogs can make a mess; and even if their owners scoop the poop, the grass still becomes a heath hazard.

One solution has been to provide dog-free spaces for children (with their parents) to play. But another solution is to create a great space in the park for dogs to have fun whilst their owners look on. This is what First Run has done in Tompkins Park in New York. There are two enclosures: one for smaller dogs and one for larger dogs. It is a dogs playground, with lots of things to do and play with. Some dogs might even feel that they have gone to doggie heaven. The whole thing is controlled and funded by the community.

From the First Run website: The name "FIRST RUN" is no accident - our run was the very first official off-leash space in New York City. In the mid 1980s, before our community had been granted an official space, Tompkins Square Park was a dangerous place suffering from the ill effects of rampant drug use and crime that plagued New York at the time. The founders of First Run were not willing to give up their place in the park, and fought the perils of the day -- and City Hall! -- to demand a safe place to gather with their dogs.

Eventually the Parks Department listened. The Parks Department included one caveat: the run must be managed and FULLY FUNDED by the community (not the city.) The community which fought so hard to make FIRST RUN a reality, raised money and organized volunteers.

Today, even those who have no love for dogs will tell you that FIRST RUN was instrumental in bringing the park back from it's dark days -- providing a center of community renewal that the neighborhood desperately needed. Today, First Run is a source of immense pride and devotion for countless people.

If you believe in equal recreational rights for dogs (with humans), then seen what you can do to introduce the First Run idea into your local park.

First Run:

Six degrees

You will have heard of "six degrees of separation". The next six degrees is six degrees of global warming. Read on. It may want to make you do something right now.

It’s taken the world just a few years to wake up to the threat of global warming. But it may be too late. Many of the effects of a warming world are creating positive feedback loops. For example as the surface ice melts in polar regions in the warmer summers, the pools of water absorb the sunlight whereas the ice that existed before reflected it.

Mark Lynas wrote a wonderful book called “High Tide” when he visited and reported on some of the hotspots of global warming, His new book, “Six Degrees”, was written in an Oxford library where he researched the studies that had been done on the impact on the world of a warming climate to summarise the results in a series of scenarios for each further degree of temperature rise, He has tried to be cautious and reasoned rather than apocalyptic, and retains a faith that we can halt the warming process at around 2 degrees. But the facts may show that we have already got beyond the point of no return. The question may be no longer whether it will happen, but how long it will take to happen.

Read “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas. It is a more serious, more factual and more important book than Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” – which is a great book for persuading Americans to accept the argument for global warming, where people have been slower to accept what science is telling us.

This is what is likely to happen with each one degree rise in temperature.

One degree:
• Deserts invade the high plains of the US causing severe agricultural loss from Ontario to Texas.
• Mount Kilimanjaro loses all its ice.
• The Gulf Stream switches off, plunging Britain and Europe into icy winter cold.
• Coral reefs are wiped out, with the Great Barrier Reef largely destroyed by 2030.
• Island nations submerge under rising seas.

Two degrees
• Greenland tips into irreversible melt, accelerating sea level rise and threatening coastal cities around the world.
• Polar bears, walruses and other ice-dependant marine animals in the Arctic become extinct.
• Drought, fire and searing heat strike the Mediterranean basin.
• Declining snowfields threaten water supplies in California.
• A third of species worldwide face extinction.

Three degrees
• A permanent El Nino grips the Pacific, causing weather chaos around the world and drought inn the Amazon.
• Agriculture shifts to the far North; Norway’s growing season becomes like Southern England today. But with heat and drought in the tropics and sub-tropics, the world tips into net food deficit (people will starve).
• The whole Amazonian ecosystem collapses in as conflagration of fire and destruction.
• Hurricanes in the tropics are half a category stronger than today (remember Katrina).
• The Indus river runs dry, forcing migration and a possible nuclear conflict over water between India and Pakistan.

Four degrees
• Most of the Nile Delta and a third of Bangladesh threatened by rising seas.
• West Antarctic ice sheet potentially collapses; sea levels rise by 5 metres as a result.
• Southern Europe desertifies, and becomes like the Sahara. Migration North becomes a source of conflict.
• All glaciers disappear in the Alps.
• Permafrost melt in Siberia releases billions of tons of CO2 and methane, spiralling global warming upwards.

Five degrees
• The Earth is hotter than at any time for 55 million years.
• Methane hydrate is released from underneath the oceans, sparking tsunamis in coastal regions and pushing global warming into an unstoppable spiral.
• Much of the world is now uninhabitable.

Six degrees
• Mass extinction. The Permian extinction 251 million years ago was associated with this level of temperature and wiped out 90 of the world’s species.
• Huge fireballs sweep the planet as methane hydrate fireballs ignite.
• Seas turn anoxic (without oxygen) and release poisonous hydrogen sulphide.
• Humanity’s very survival is in question.
with thanks to Mark Lynas