Archive: October 2012

October 29th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future

We have a title for our book, being released here first as a serial blog. Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future.

The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 6. To those who made recommendations on title possibilities, thank you! Chapter 6 begins the second half of the book, which we will publish as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

CHAPTER Six – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Some people might tell you its all downhill from here; that making do is the best we can expect; from now on. Some say that all the future holds is making the best of a bad situation. You see them every day. These are the ones who surround themselves with people just “like” them. It’s common. The desire for “sameness” creates vanilla personalities everywhere.

The idea that conforming would bring pleasure makes sense socially for the species. We live in a world of “me too” culture. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. After all, it probably doesn’t often promote survival to stand out from others in the small, tight-knit group on which you depend for your survival. For many, life is not about blazing new paths but about cherishing and preserving time honored ones. Choirs are made up of individuals singing the same song. Without tradition there would be no song.

Peer pressure can be rough but there are times when bucking convention can be beneficial. There’s a global debate about the homogenization of cities and towns and cities. That trend is troubling. In the past 50 years many of the world’s cities have gone from unique to the uniform, stylized to the standardized. That’s death. When it comes to competitiveness, great cities are great at being different.

Distinctiveness is a key concept in economic development in city differentiation. It works like this. If you can’t differentiate your city from any other city, you have no competitive advantage. The unique characteristics of cities may be the only truly defensible source of competitive advantage.

In the sacred choir that is globalization, too many cities suffer the social and economic consequences of losing their distinctiveness when it is that unique appeal that drives their economic prosperity. Change is inevitable. The concepts of world peace, world unity and globalization have a direct relationship to one another. The disorder and anarchy the world has witnessed is a natural consequence of the lack of unity among nations. Globalization is considered an avenue to world peace by minimizing differences between countries. But globalization breeds conformity that can lead to the destruction of the unique character and identity of cities. Cities do not have to grow by destroying the very things that people love about them.

What do people love about cities? What makes people love where they live? What attracts people to cities in the first place? And keeps them there? In the future, cities will need to think more about the customs, characteristics and quirks that make them a place worth caring about; that make them distinctive. The young and well educated want to live in distinctive cities. If you think about it, cities have personalities. Seattle is very different from New York. And they are different from Vancouver, BC.

Seattle is booming. Blue skies, abundant water and picturesque mountain ranges are appealing. It’s a stimulating place. A lot is going on making one of the most desirable places to live and work in America. Clubs, music, arts, sports teams, Seattle has it all. Design is everywhere. The arts scene mirrors its people. Some say it’s the coffee culture. Maybe it’s the weather. Who’s to say?

One might think that since Vancouver BC is just 140 miles up the road from Seattle, and like Seattle is set in the midst of water and snow-covered mountains, they might be twins. Even their population has similarities, with the Vancouver metro area of 2.4 million comparable to Seattle’s 3.4 million, each heavily influenced by connections to Asia. Yet, a visitor to each city may be more impressed with their differences than their similarities. Vancouver is all about the avoidance of freeways, while Seattle is cut right down the center by one. Vancouver’s waterfront is lively, with an emphasis on residential towers. Seattle’s central waterfront is more gritty, with a mix of tourism, an elevated roadway, and visible industry. That is scheduled to change in Seattle in the coming decade, but our guess is that each of these two cities have figured out that distinctive is a future advantage and each will work hard to retain their personalities.

The competition for people is substantial but the sheer scale of cities often prevents them from excellence. Without doubt, competing with cities like Paris will always be demanding. Paris is Europe’s number one city brand. The offset is companies have the option of doing business anywhere in the world. They can decide what the best location is, the place that provide the most benefits. People like you and I can’t bank on traditional industry for jobs. For many, living in one place but working somewhere else is no longer an idea but a reality. The “somewhere else” they chose must be “live-able”. It must be attractive to the individual.

Your generation is drawn to places that embrace entrepreneurship and innovation, but even that isn’t enough. Cities must also be “live-able” with quality of life appeal. The reason: the environment – where you live – makes a powerful impact on happiness. Great cities are going to great lengths to attract, entertain and retain you.

[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of, and curator of Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through]

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October 29th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation | Comments Off

Time to Vote

We shouldn’t place barriers on voting that deter potential voters. We should make voting easily accessible, and incentivized, so we get as many votes as we can for the fairest possible election.

Even if the government disagrees, citizens are fed up and taking these matters into their own hands. Celebrities are trying to make voting seem like the cool thing to do. People on Facebook are developing apps and groups that encourage people to become informed voters. Not only is voting information becoming available in more and more places, but some of your old voting locations are getting new technology to speed up the end-of-night paperwork for voting registrars. In Stafford county, one man, Cameron Sasnett, developed a program called “results-logic” to tabulate results faster and with more accuracy. This also allows voters to get through the lines more quickly, speeding up the process on both ends.

As the presidential election is upon us, it is important now more than ever to look at how Americans’ voices are heard even before we get to vote. New technology is emerging that allows for more effective communication between Congress and its constituents. Former congressional aide Marci Harris left her position to solve one of government’s biggest problems,  ‘The way information is processed is breaking. There has to be a new way,’ said Harris, who founded PopVox, a startup that aims to improve the communication between Congress and its constituents. This technology is focused on getting citizens’ opinions TO Congress, but what technology exists that enables, nay forces, Congress to directly communicate back to its constituents? Is that even a technology solution or is it just a matter of Congress stepping up their level of transparency? I’d be interested to see how these new technologies can benefit each and every American, even those without internet, or those uncomfortable giving out private information online. It should be an attractive thing to vote, but so many people have voting limitations thrust upon them, or they just don’t understand the tremendous value associated with voting. Perhaps if citizens thought their voices would actually be heard, and valued, they’d take the time to vote for an America they actually want.

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October 24th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Media | 5 Comments

Glen to appear in History Channel special: What is the Earth Worth

Hey everyone, check out a new program on the History Channel, What is the Earth Worth. It will air on Thursday October 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM EST/PST (8:00 PM Central); check your local listing. I was interviewed for a day in Seattle last spring for this program, by the production company, Bullseye Productions from Scotland. They have produced the program in association with IWC Media, a company in the Zodiac group of media companies.

The program looks at the future of about eight vital earth resources and asks what they are worth. We’ll see how much of the footage they shot with me ended up in the final product, but it should be an interesting hour.

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October 22nd, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Environment & Energy | Comments Off

From the desk of Captain Obvious: Water’s important

Not only is water important to maintain and preserve so the entire world can have drinkable water in the future, but water is important to share with those who are unable to obtain potable water right now. The Vestergaard Frandsen LifeStraw is an easy way to contribute to society. According to the LifeStraw website: “Half of the world’s poor suffer from waterborne disease, and nearly 6,000 people – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water.” LifeStraw filters through dirty and contaminated water, making it clean and safe to drink, minimizing the risk of waterborne diseases. Donate a LifeStraw to someone in need today!

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October 21st, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future, and you – sustainable business

This is Part 4 of Chapter 5 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on and on Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle How Cities and Millennials will Shape the Future is leading. What do you think?

by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

It comes down to this: sustainability is either as a constraint in manufacturing or a tremendous opportunity to transform the way we do business. Earth’s greatest challenges begin with manufacturing, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. Not all wastes can be recycled. That is where a product’s impact on the environment must be considered. Creating products with less packaging, that are easier to repair, that last longer, that use less harmful materials, that can be fully recyclied is the ideal.

Critics tell us this will never work. It can never be done. It is impossible. It will never be accepted. How often have those words been spoken? Listen. It will. It can. It is. And the transition to a low carbon economy doesn’t have to be a financial burden. It can actually open up whole new worlds of opportunity.

Toyota pioneered the next evolution – lean manufacturing in direct contradiction to the image of factories spewing pollution from smokestacks. When it first emerged, the concept was revolutionary known as “just in time.” It kept inventories low. It fundamentally changed how products are invented, manufactured, shipped and sold. Companies all over the world have saved money, quadrupling productivity by tailoring the Toyota method to their own.

Wal-Mart aims for zero waste by 2025. Wal-Mart has realized that reducing waste saves money for their business, their suppliers and their customers. It boils down to savings. Subaru’s zero-waste program is a money-maker and a job saver. For the past few decades, they’ve sold three million vehicles without a layoff, while enjoying the cost saving green dividend of not wasting anything. Do the math. Companies and cities that lower their impact on the natural environment are more likely to thrive in a world with limited resources than their competitors.

On the flipside, one company’s waste can be another company’s raw material. Some companies get rid of waste by dumping it. The US Business Council for Sustainable Development had an idea, something that will work for everyone – By-Product Synergy (BPS). By-product streams from one manufacturing is matched with users at another facility to create new revenues. Collaborative networks are creating cost savings and the need for virgin-source materials.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says producing food and energy side-by-side offers one of the best formulas for boosting food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty in many countries.

Life may not always be as black and white as this. There may not be a perfect solution for everyone. But imagine what we could do if everyone decided to do whatever it takes to make the world a better place. Challenge yourself. What’s your dream?

What about non-manufacturing activities? In the not so distant past, the United Nations once declared leisure a basic human right. Practically speaking, that might mean you have a right to party; or if you’re a music fan, the right to listen to whatever music you like; to attend rock festivals. But there can be downside consequences. Summer’ city festivals are great fun but between trash produced and power consumed, they’re not so great for the environment.

Milwaukee’s “Rock the Green” is the brainchild of Lindsay Stevens Gardner, owner of event management and marketing agency LuLu Live. Gardner understood the consequences and came to a responsible solution. A color-coded labelling system was developed to mark discarded compostable materials, organics, recyclables and trash. A program collected and funnelled food through grinders. Food and drink vendors began offering organic, sustainable and local ingredients on their menus. And admission included a free reusable water bottle. Not half bad.

When it comes to fun in the sun environmentalism, Lollapalooza is second to none. Keeping Grant Park and the planet healthy and around for future generations seems to be a key mission for Lollapalooza. A waste diversion incentive program offers hundreds of recycling bins, composting stations in the picnic areas, and a team of hired professionals and volunteers. Fans can take environmentally friendly transportation to the festival. And even before that, fans can
purchase certified carbon offsets from Green Mountain Energy Company when they buy their tickets. At the festival, Green Street art vendors are selected for their individual causes. Whether they create fashionable goods from recycled materials, use earth friendly materials, promote environmental awareness, or have fair trade agreements with people around the globe.

Lollapalooza’s non-profit presenting sponsor, the Parkways Foundation, is the philanthropic partner of the Chicago Park District. Since 1994, the Parkways Foundation has funded park projects all over Chicago. The festival has generated millions of dollars in revenue for the Foundation for historic preservation and restoration, programming initiatives and environmental enrichment. Initiatives like these are going on in great cities all over the country. They’ve got it covered, or so it seems. The question is, where do we go from here?


[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of, and curator of Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through]

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