Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eye Care and the Himalayan Stove Project

I just returned from Chicago where I provided a keynote presentation for the United Eye Care Professionals annual conference. In this case, the parallel between my life's work as "guide to a blind guy" and that of the optometrist and ophthalmologist and their role of improving visual acuity to their patients is fun to draw out. It all comes down being the "eyes" for the people around you....providing clarity and Vision for your team or in their case, their patients. It was a great event with Vision and Teamwork being the overriding themes.

I also had a captive and interested audience regarding the Himalayan Stove Project that I am so committed to and serve as a board member. I knew that this group of professionals would rally around the idea of improving eye health in a remote part of the world that suffers from many ailments that are a direct result of inefficient burning cooking stoves in their homes.

In poverty-stricken communities, inadequate housing ventilation and improper cooking stoves pose a danger to all inhabitants but primarily women who do most of the food preparation. Dangerous smoke released from burning unclean solid fuel sources often has no direct path out of the house due to unflued stoves. One study found that less than 20 percent of homes in poor areas of northeastern Brazil and central Mexico were safe to live and breathe in. This is because wood smoke contains many chemical products such carcinogens, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons that are bad for human health.

Many people in the Third World are forced to use such fuels for cooking because of deforestation, population expansion, and degradation of agriculture and land. In fact, nearly half the world's population prepares meals with wood or wood-replacement fuels on primitive stoves without chimneys.

Indoor air pollution takes many forms, ranging from smoke emitted from solid fuel combustion during cooking to complex mixtures of chemicals present in modern buildings. In many households, everyday exposure to air pollution may contribute to an increasing prevalence of asthma, cancer, and cataract....which is where a group of optometrists really come in.

At the Himalayan Stove Project, we provide clean cookstoves to individuals and families living in the Himalaya who now cook with traditional, rudimentary cookstoves or over open fire pits inside their homes, consuming excessive amounts of precious fuel and polluting the indoor air to dangerously unhealthy levels. Our goal is to deliver 10,000 clean cookstoves within five years.

I have spent a good deal of my life in the Himalaya and have woken up in many a smokey teahouse with my eyes burning and lungs heavy with particulates. By simply improving the efficiency of the wood burning technology, we can touch a community on so many different levels...

  • Environmentally. By implementing a more efficient burning stove we are able to minimize the use of organic local fuels, therefore minimizing clear cutting and scarce wood consumption.
  • Socially. By cutting down on the smoke in the room, families are more apt to gather together for meals and socializing in the main living room.
  • Physically. A more efficient burning stove diminishes the incident of pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and cataract.
At the HSP we have established a simple supply chain format. For $100 we are able to take one stove from production line all the way to home implementation in the Himalaya. It's cheap. It's simple. It's effective.

As I cruise around the country providing keynotes to Fortune 500 companies I am constantly encouraging corporate America to get behind a socially responsible project that provides immediate results to families in the Himalaya.

However, you can help too. Our donations page allows you to make any level of contribution. But think of this... for $100 you will provide an extended family a piece of technology that will dramatically improve their physical, social and environmental well being...with a few keystrokes on your computer.

Make a difference today!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sherpas...The Supply Chain of the Himalaya

Last week I had the opportunity to provide the closing keynote for the Global Conference of Supply Chain Professionals in Philadelphia. This was the annual gathering of 3,000 of the folks that bring all of the products from manufacturer to consumer everyday of the year. From produce and apparel to computers and soft drinks...these are the individuals that work within their respective industries to deliver items to our store shelves.

Clearly we take for granted the ease with which we can walk into the grocery store and purchase a banana from Guatemala for cents on the dollar. The execution and planning that goes into bringing that banana from tree to store requires an immense amount of planning, communication and commitment to deliver in the way that we as the consumer expect it to be delivered.

In preparation for this event I did as much research as possible on the roles and responsibilities of the supply chain professional and it quickly became clear that these folks are truly the Sherpas of consumer based industries. Committed, selfless and a strong desire to see a project through to it’s end. The right way.

As most of you know, the Sherpa community has been instrumental in my life. I have tremendous respect for the men that have helped me and my teams to the summits of many Himalayan giants. We depend on the Sherpas to help us with so many of our tasks while climbing these huge peaks...from assembling camp to cooking the food and even establishing the route on very dangerous sections of any given mountain. Critical to our success for sure.

But beyond their commitment to helping their teams, the Sherpa embody an attitude of “get it done”. You will never hear a Sherpa complain about a task being too hard or too long or too heavy. They are work horses and know that in order to get their job done they have to take the skills they have, knuckle down and just get it done. It is quite simply, the Sherpa Attitude. They don’t care about their own summit aspirations. The accolades that follow the successful summit of a huge peak mean very little to them. They are committed to getting their team to the top.

It’s all about accepting a chore. Strategizing on best practices. Surrounding yourself with like minded, hard working folks. And then executing. With loyalty, integrity and gumption. No whining. No complaining. Just get it done.

I believe that each of my new supply chain friends from the event the other day really related to the role of the Sherpa. They know that their job is to selflessly provide their team an end result...every time.

The Sherpa attitude is proud. It’s time to Sherpa Up!

Go fight the good fight!