General troublemaking

The trouble with troublemaking

Trouble making is hard. Really hard. You can care– care deeply– about a fundamentally important issue and life still manages to peek its head in and get in the way of you taking action.

I am a passionate person about many topics, if you couldn’t tell already. Some of these topics include conscientious consumerism, refugee issues, and homelessness. I try to bring these issues to the forefront of my life, to make them a central piece of who I am and what I practice and how I live and breathe.

But then there’s work.

And there are bills.

And there are really, truly, only 24 hours in a day.

And all the sudden the things you care about, the issues that keep you up at night start to keep you up for an additional reason– because you feel you aren’t doing enough. Because you feel that you should have an answer to homelessness, or you shouldn’t have bought a couch that wasn’t ethically made.

I am telling you this, my dear troublemakers, because as someone who works with hundreds of troublemakers every day, as someone who knows many of the “answers” on how to take sustainable action, I struggle, constantly, as most troublemakers I know do. We never feel like we are doing enough. We often, if not always, feel like there’s something grander, something more impactful, we could be doing. It’s important we all know that so we can support each other in those times of “what the heck should I do now?”

It’s during these times I remind that my thoughts, my intentions, are important and world-changing. While I strongly believe that ideas don’t change the world, and action does, I also believe action stems from an intention, from caring about something. That intention will ultimately drive me to my goal.

I also turn to my community, which is what I aim to build here. Surrounding myself with other troublemakers (which I am fortunate to do in my day job as well as my side job!) propels me forward. It inspires me to action. And it teaches me how to pursue the things I care about the most.

How do you live and breathe your passions? And if you don’t, how do you balance your desire to change the world with your day-to-day?  Let me know in the comments.

General troublemaking, Tech

Are we living life, or watching it?

Lately I have become more acutely aware of how much time I, and others around me, spend experiencing the world around them through the lens of a phone camera, live tweets and Facebook statuses. Which has led me to wonder how much of the experiences we partake in are for ourselves, and how much is for the display to the world of how great our life is. I found myself thinking:

Are memories as enjoyable if they aren’t shared– physically or digitally– with others?

In an age of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and more (all platforms I use regularly!), I find myself and my peers seeking the perfect shot, the most beautiful representation of any moment. But are these moments really beautiful, or are we portraying them in a way that makes others seem that way? Are we partaking in activities just to put on display that we have done so? And when we find ourselves in a  truly memorable experience, are we really enjoying that sunrise, delicious meal, inspiring speaker, or adorable puppy or are we spending so much time trying to capture their beauty that we miss out on it altogether?

It’s a true concern of mine. Am I living my life, or watching it go by? Am I seeking to impress others to see what I see, or living my life so it’s something I am proud to display? And are those special moments becoming increasingly less special unless we can share them with others? While photography is a love and passion of mine, that doesn’t mean it has to be for all to see.

I have been toying with the idea going on an Instagram vacation. It’s laughable that that’s a challenging decision, to stop my publicly visible life for a month or two in order to really live it. Yet it’s hard in the digital age to not fall into the pit of social media, of displaying your every action– correction, every enjoyable, beautiful, impressive action– to all your closest friends and frienemies that can see your accounts.

As I type this, I decide I will partake in this experiment. Sorry folks, my Instagram is now on hiatus. See ya in 2015– who is with me?

Social Innovation, Sustainable Living, Tech, Troublemakers

Meet Troublemaker Morgan Berman, Founder and CEO of MilkCrate

morgan-woodI met Morgan Berman when she participated in the Tribe12 Fellowship, a PresenTense Accelerator, this past spring. I was immediately excited by her Idea for MilkCrate, an app for sustainable living (think: yelp for socially responsible/sustainably focused businesses). Dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle as much as possible myself, I was excited to learn more about this necessary troublemaker and support her in building a lasting impact through her app. I interviewed Morgan, read on to learn a bit about what inspires her and more about MilkCrate, as well as her tips for living a sustainable lifestyle.

What inspired you to create MilkCrate?
I wanted to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I began by reading and researching sustainability and the local economy here in Philadelphia. I joined a community garden and eventually started a new one, composted on my deck, ditched my car for a bike, and shopped the local green community here in Philadelphia. Over time my lifestyle choices became immersed in all things green. As a requirement for my Sustainable Design Masters Program at Philadelphia University I developed a thesis that would become the very first version of MilkCrate. I wanted to design something from beginning to end. However my M.Sc. program was focused on the built environment. Most of my peers were architects or engineers. I am neither. So I had to find something I could design that if it ‘broke’, no one would die. An app felt like a good, skill-based place to start. I figured, “I worked at Apple part-time for a year teaching people how to use an iPhone, that’s a good enough qualification to design an app, right?”

How does MilkCrate enable individuals to support their local communities?
Right now MilkCrate is a basic tool allowing you to find businesses and resources connected to sustainability and the local economy right in your neighborhood and throughout the city. Future versions will have a community calendar, social media integration, and many other ways for people to personalize their experience, while connecting with others in the sustainability community, including business owners and our partner organizations.

Why is sustainable living important to you?
It was just a part of growing up. My parents kept a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and composted. My mom and I shopped at thrift stores, first, the mall last. We even dumpster dived, and made some great (but embarrassing) curb-side finds. She eventually started a business called Thrift Shop Maniac Enterprises from her developing skill set and consciousness, and I was there, helping out and learning by osmosis. We re-purposed, reused, rethought, consigned and donated; we rarely if ever considered throwing anything out. But I guess it all came together for me when I started to understand the impact of climate change and environmental degradation, and the uneven distribution of natural resources on people’s lives all over the world. Locally, I care about the lack of access to affordable fresh healthy food here in Philadelphia. And don’t get me started on what treacherous circumstances cyclist like myself face biking around the city in car congested, polluted streets.

How do you live your life in a sustainable way?bannerphonenew
I filter every decision I make through the same process that surrounded me growing up: I buy most of my food locally, whether from farmers markets or restaurants. I compost on my deck and grow a small garden. I bike everywhere. I don’t own a car. I purchase a lot of my clothes secondhand, at thrift or consignment stores. I always have a water bottle and generally cut down packaging in as many ways as possible. I get my energy from Green Mountain Energy. I make sure things like batteries or lightbulbs get disposed of properly. Even my cat Chester is recycled from the SPCA. Once you start living, deciding, shopping this way, the easier it gets.

What are three things Necessary Troublemakers can do today to start living a more sustainable life?
You only need one now: Use MilkCrate! Or if you aren’t in the Philly area, help us grow to your city by contributing to our Indiegogo Campaign before it ends on September 23rd.

What piece of advice can you give to individuals who want to take action on issues that are important to them?
Find other people who care about the same things you do. They have sustained me. They will sustain you.

What’s your favorite item or service you’ve received/purchased from a MilkCrate partner?
I could never pick an all time favorite, there are just too many moments of finding the next great company or product. For me, my favorite ‘moment’ now is giving others the opportunity to find their newest, favorite MilkCrate company. Now that our app is available to download, anyone can find a new MilkCrate favorite in the Philadelphia area, and soon anywhere.

General troublemaking, Healthy Living, My favorite things

Returning to Local

One of the more disappointing first-world moments of my life was when I asked a person in Switzerland what their best and most famous chocolate was, and he said Lindt. “LINDT?!,” I thought, “the one that I get at CVS back in New York?” Unfortunately, that was one of my many rude awakenings as a travel seeking to experience the best of “local” life. I am fortunate to live in a city where I have access to the world at my fingertips, but it makes traveling sometimes quite the bummer. Lately it seems that as the world grows more connected, the less we are able to really appreciate the novelty of traveling to a new place, experiencing a new culture, and tasting a type of food we’ve never tasted before.

I find it interesting that after years of globalization, at the all time high (and perpetually growing) level of global connectedness, many are now seeing a shift back to the importance of shopping and eating local. People are interested in knowing the source of their produce and proteins. Many people care about where the fabric for our clothes came from, and who made it. Websites such as madeclose focus on just that— helping individuals gain access to where their purchases are coming from. The new CUPS app here in NY aims to have New Yorkers frequent small, independent coffee shops, shifting the focus away from ever-present Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Grub Street wrote a fabulous article a few months ago about why you should not eat at the new Dairy Queen that just opened in NYC. My friend Kristin of just made the decision to only source fabrics made in the USA or Canada so that she can trace back their origins.

With the world becoming increasingly transparent, it is important to many people, including some of the worlds most dominant troublemakers, to buy local and understand the ecosystem our food, clothing, and the like exist in. We no longer have the luxury (excuse?) of ignorance. It’s something I aim to be consistently cognizant of– stay tuned to learn more about my sustainable fashion challenge– and I am curious to hear what you have to say.

Do you go out of your way to support local businesses? If not, is there something in particular that is stopping you?

General troublemaking

Inspiring Troublemakers: Ariel and Andrea

Troublemakers: It’s been awhile, but I haven’t forgotten you! Here’s to getting back on track…

As you know, I am fortunate enough to work with individuals driven by their innate desire to make the world a better, more sustainable place. As a change agent myself, it’s constant inspiration for me to be surrounded by those who are taking action about issues they care so deeply about.

One of these individuals is Ariel Beery, who co-founded PresenTense. While not only indebted to him for allowing me to have a job that I find great meaning in (and keeps a small roof over my head), I look at Ariel, and co-founder Aharon, and realize the impact two individuals can make on the world. With an idea they were able to build out an organization that has directly improved and saved lives as well as fosters Jewish community in an age where that is not always easy. While just two examples of the (fortunately!) many individuals working on solving the world’s most pressing needs, Ariel and Aharon are individuals that I can relate to and have worked with the most, and have moved on after PresenTense to continue to do inspiring things.

Ariel, after moving on in a professional capacity from PresenTense, has co-founded a new company called MobileOCT, which allows for affordable mobile screening of cervical cancer in the developing world. This invention can save literally millions of lives. The technology is simple yet the implications are enormous. Shameless plug: help support MobileOCT’s work through their Indiegogo campaign.

My mother, Andrea, is a survivor of cervical cancer. She was fortunate that they found it when she was pregnant with my younger sister, and was able to treat it, but not without long term repercussions. 15 years after her diagnosis and treatment, my mother was diagnosed with Lymphedema, a chronic condition that prevents the lymph system from working, as a result of them removing lymph nodes during her surgery. While fortunate that her condition is somewhat under control, my mom has to live (potentially) the rest of her life with one leg that’s swollen to be about double (or more) the size of the other. It’s a dangerous condition because one bug bite or cut can lead to massive infection, which has happened to her twice.

Every year my mom walks in the Lymphatic Research Foundation’s walk against Lymphatic diseases, and is an advocate for the cause of research and awareness for the condition, which many doctor’s are not aware of. (Another shameless plug, support my mom’s walk! I swear this isn’t supposed to be a fundraising post)

I am humbled and inspired to have worked alongside Ariel, and to consider him a friend and mentor. The work he is doing is not only important for the world, but plays a very special place in my heart. And I am so fortunate to be the daughter of an incredibly strong and inspiring woman who, despite the crap the universe has dealt her, remains positive and aims to make a difference in the lives of others through raising awareness and funds for Lymphedema.

General troublemaking, Social Innovation

How Starting a Startup is Like Starting A New Relationship

I like to be in control of things. I am the type of person who pursues what she wants and am reluctant to let other’s thoughts or expectations stop me. Oh yeah, did I mention that I am a trouble maker? I believe that if an employer or potential relationship does not appreciate that, then it probably isn’t the best fit for me. This attitude has enabled me to accomplish a lot in my life such as landing two of my dream jobs, a handful of meaningful relationships, and some life-changing trips across the glove. But sometimes it’s important to realize that not everything can be controlled not all dreams can be pursued and accomplished as easily, or with as much certainty, as others.

The lack of control is particularly true about entrepreneurial ventures and romantic relationships. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between starting a startup and starting a romantic relationship. Let’s examine.

  1. You’re never really initially sure if he’s into you. Your first few dates inevitably lead to questions: does he like me? Are our values aligned? Is he thinking about me like I am thinking about him? Similarly, it’s hard to feel confident about your progress in the early stages of a startup. For every win, there are often three or four setbacks. Things move more slowly than you want them to. It requires steady effort to build confidence.
  2. You want to dive in full force, but sometimes it’s important to use restraint. When starting a relationship, no one wants to be the overly eager party. You “play it cool” and wait a few hours between texts, and don’t invest all your energy at once. You don’t want to be too vulnerable too early on. In the startup world, it’s easy to want to dive in head first into your idea. But it’s important to evaluate the market, do your research and homework, and tread carefully before you receive market validation and pour your heart, soul, and wallet into this new idea.
  3. It is what you put into it. Both relationships and startups thrive the more you invest your time and energy into them. People generally approach both with a hearty dose of uncertainty, but the more you are scared to give it your everything, the less likely it is to survive and thrive.
  4. Fitting something else into your busy schedule. Especially as New Yorkers, we are always overbooked with work, networking, friends. Starting a new business, or relationship, means figuring out how to adjust your day-to-day to allow for the other in your life. If you are trying to do both at once (like me!), scheduling is even more fun! It’s important to try to find some time for you, whether that’s a ten minute walk during the day or one night off per week. Or else there’s the reality of burnout.
  5. It could be meant to be, but the timing may be off. Sometimes you hit it off with a guy/gal, but extenuating circumstances prevent you from making it work (work schedule, getting out of a relationship too recently, etc.). Same thing with startups. You could have the perfect idea at a not-so-perfect time which may cause it to fail. Recognizing that, and not letting it discourage you, is highly important in moving on.
  6. When it’s good, it’s really good. A majority of first dates and first startups don’t work out, but keeping your eye on the prize is paramount. Because when they do, it’s worth the roller coaster of emotions, the sleepless nights, the fights and the uncertainty are all worth it. You end up with something that you are proud of, that you can’t wait to tell your friends about and post about on Facebook.

But to be honest, if all this was guaranteed, what fun would that be? The tumultuous journey is half of the adventure.

Healthy Living, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

More Than Just the View


I recently returned from a ten-day trip to Peru. It was an amazing experience, one that challenged me in new ways and exposed me to a new part of the world I had yet to explore, South America, with two close friends.

As you can probably imagine, one of the highlights of our trip was the hiking. Pressed for time (we are all working gals with limited vacation days!) we hiked the one-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (8 miles) and the following day hiked Wanyapicchu, a steep mountain right next to Machu Picchu. While I do enjoy hiking, I certainly cannot call myself a pro, and didn’t quite know what to expect from these two hikes. I was nervous and unsure, but excited to see where the trails would take us.

Despite the hikes being difficult in some sections, I was told, they were:

Totally worth the view.

It’s easy to think that the summit of a hike, or a mountain, is the moment that makes it all worth it. As you stand triumphantly over the ground you have just conquered, taking in an exceptional view of the world below, there is an incredible rush of satisfaction and accomplishment. I certainly felt that at the top. But in Peru, I realized that the journey up the mountain was more transformative than simply being at the top. It’s navigating the unsteady rocks, pushing through mental and physical exhaustion, and encouraging your comrades during the hike that define you and push you past your limits. It’s about the shaky feeling in your legs you get as you descend and the people you meet along the way who you exchange stories with. Those are the moments that define you, that guide you moving forward.

There are many things that may stop you along your way. For us, the altitude made it hard for us to breathe, it was raining and the rocks were slippery. There is often a fear of getting hurt, or a fear of failure. I realized that appreciating the challenges made the successes even more rewarding. The easy way is never quite as fun.

Hiking the Inca Trail and Wanyapicchu gave me perspective on my work both as an entrepreneur and with entrepreneurs. Individuals (myself included at points!) may see the rocky, slippery, and sometimes flat out dangerous path up as simply obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish their goal of seeing the view. But aren’t the challenges the fun part? Entrepreneurship not just about building a product or service that allows you to sit back , drink a pisco sour, and enjoy the view, it’s about the climb. It’s about the times when you feel like you just can’t continue, you need to stop and catch your breath, or when you feel stronger than ever and are able to encourage your team members to power through. It’s about the moments when your legs are shaky and you aren’t sure that your next step will be a successful one. And of course it’s about those moments when you ultimately summit, when you get to look down below at the world beneath you and see all that you have accomplished. It’s the culmination of the hike and the summit that make life interesting, and work as an entrepreneur exciting. If you aren’t interested in the climb as an entrepreneur, you’re in the wrong field.

I don’t want to live in a world where I am always on top of the mountains. I want to push myself to be constantly climbing, catching my breath, and figuring out which rock to step on next. As I settle back into my NYC life, I strive to keep these lessons learned in mind, reminding myself that the challenges are often the most rewarding part of an endeavor.