4 Stories To Inspire Your New Year

As you assemble your list of New Years resolutions and firmly resolve to keep them in 2011, we thought we’d give you an update on the subjects of our most popular stories from 2010. Maybe their resolutions will give you a little inspiration.

New Year, new dresses

Marisa models her new dress creation outside of Nate Berkus' show. Photo Courtesy of Marisa Lynch

First appearance on Earth911: 365 Dresses, 365 Days, $365

Marisa Lynch and her New Dress a Day blog made a huge splash on the Web. And her inspirational story, clever crafting skills and passion for reuse made hers one of the most popular stories of 2010.

When we last spoke to Marisa, she’d just passed Day 200 in her mission to upcycle 365 dresses in 365 for $365. In late November, Day 365 had finally arrived.

“After I submitted that last post, it was so bizarre,” Lynch remembers. “From where I started to the last day, I had undergone such a transformation. It was a life-changing experience.”

If you’re one of the thousands of browsers who didn’t want New Dress a Day to come to an end, don’t worry, Lynch couldn’t stand see it end either.

She has continued to post during her time off, including a full week of posts for the holidays entitled New Dress a (Holi-) Day Week, and she will start a second year of New Dress a Day in January.

“I started the blog for myself…but it turned into something so powerful,” says Lynch. “I am so humbled and ecstatic that it turned into a source of inspiration for other people. So, now I really want to continue to pay it forward and do these things and inspire others.”

Lynch says overwhelming reader response is what keeps her blogging day after day, and the number of Web surfers logging onto her blog is only increasing.

“I wake up every day, and there is a new email from someone saying, ‘I’ve been reading you for a few months, and I’ve never reached out before but your blog means so much to me,’” Lynch says. “I literally break down and cry at some of these because they’re so amazing.”

Lynch has a lot in the works for the new New Dress a Day blog, including a new twist – she’ll be accepting donated pieces from readers’ closets and thrift shop excursions.

“People have already reached out to me saying that they have this bridesmaids dress or some other piece they’ll never wear, and they just want to give it to me to use,” Lynch says with a laugh. “It’s really exciting for me because I’ll be able to get more of the story of where these pieces come from.”

She also plans to expand her refashioning to accessories and home décor items and submit weekly themed posts.

“I don’t want people to get bored,” she says. “I want to keep it engaging and still give people the inspiration to craft something new out of a piece that may have been thrown away or donated.”

And expect the new blog to be much more interactive, with video tutorials in response to reader requests.

“My New Years resolution is to do a lot more video on the blog next year,” says Lynch, who says she may even incorporate some of her friends to show the contagious power of refashioning.

“Some of my girlfriends can sew, and some of them have no idea,” she says. “It would be cool to do a video segment with one of my friends who doesn’t know how to sew and walk her through something basic. So, readers can watch and relate to it.”

With year one behind her and a brand new year ahead, don’t expect this Web sensation to be leaving the blogosphere any time soon.

Kyle Berner is still feelin’ good

Kyle Berner with his successful Feelgoodz shoes. Photo Courtesy of Kyle Berner

First appearance on Earth911: Green Ideas That Made Millions

Kyle Berner and his startup company Feelgoodz were one of our Green Ideas That Made Millions. But the New Orleans-based flip-flop brand was nearly wiped off the map due to the effects of the oil spill.

After the spill, a shipment of 10,000 pairs of flip-flops got stuck in the Port of Freeport in the Bahamas en route for delivery in the Port of New Orleans. Although the Port of New Orleans never closed, the disruption caused the shipment to be delayed for two months, leaving Feelgoodz with a huge stock of flip-flops and only a few summer weeks left.

With few options remaining to sell the inventory, Feelgoodz was in danger of not being able to repay a $50,000 loan they received through First Light Ventures’ Village Capital fund. The debt could have meant disaster for Feelgoodz and a lack of funding for another startup set to receive the cash after the funds were reallocated.

Though the future of Feelgoodz seemed bleak, a little luck and some big sales with Groupon helped the startup make it through.

“Groupon saved us,” says Berner, who says the Groupon deal came thanks to coverage on Change.org. “They held a three-day nationwide campaign for us, and we sold 6,500 Groupons in 72 hours.”

“After getting through that moment I sat back and looked at my business model, and I saw some things I wanted to change,” he remembers.

Feelgoodz has since scaled back on retail sales, although they continue to sell at Whole Foods Market and other select retailers, and Berner says he hopes to increase online sales from 10 percent to 25 percent by this time next year. He also aspires to make five percent of Feelgoodz sales through international licensing.

“We are currently working out international licensing for Feelgoodz to be sold in South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico and countries in the Middle East,” says Berner. “They will still come from the same rubber farmers and the same manufacturing in Thailand. We’re just giving people in other countries the licenses to use the Feelgoodz name and sell our flip-flops.”

Feelgoodz flip-flops are expected to hit the international market by June 2011, starting in South Africa.

But Berner’s aspirations for the New Year aren’t all business. Through their Recycle Your unFlop campaign, Feelgoodz continues to recycle all brands of flip-flops and donate them to Kenyan artisans to make new products, and Berner plans to expand the company’s international outreach in 2011.

In partnership with Pencils of Promise, a portion of the sales of all Feelgoodz flip-flops purchased at Whole Foods Market will be donated to fund a lifetime of education for a single child in Laos. Last summer Berner told us “there is no end to this flip-flop,” and it seems that statement has never been more true.

Greg Woodburn is giving more running than ever

Lynn Krasiewich, Sherry Wilson, and Girl Scout Troop 41697 with signs and shoes for the shoe collection drive they recently completed. Thank you to the local store Runnin' Gear, which donated 50 pairs of brand new shoes. Photo Courtesy of Greg Woodburn

First appearance on Earth911: Kids Who Are Saving the Planet

Greg Woodburn, the young nonprofit president who started Give Running as a high school sophomore in 2006, was one of our picks for kids who are changing the world for the better.

When we last spoke to Woodburn in April, Give Running had collected and distributed 6,000 pairs of lightly-worn athletic shoes to underprivileged children the world over. But growth since then has been even faster.

“We recently surpassed 9,000 pairs,” says Woodburn, now a junior at the University of Southern California. “More people have heard about our cause, and they wanted to do their part so we can continue to do our work. We’ve just continued to grow and grow.”

In addition to its chapter at USC, Give Running has several other established chapters throughout the country. They have also recently expanded into international collection projects, including a collection in Spain and a school shoe drive thanks to one special student.

“A few months ago, I got an email from a middle school student in China who wanted to hold a shoe drive at his school,” Woodburn remembers. “I was honored that he’d heard about my cause, and I was able to give him some advice and feedback to make his drive a success.”

Shoes collected from the school drive were donated to children in a nearby rural community in China, showing the power of reuse in international action.

Though Woodburn admits it’s often difficult to balance Give Running with his studies and obligations as a member of the Track and Field and Cross Country teams at USC, he says he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“Give Running has given me so much joy,” he says. “To be able to give children pairs of shoes and see the look on their faces…it’s those experiences that get me through the tough times.”

In the New Year, Woodburn plans to expand his mission to “spread the joy of running” by holding youth running camps in his local community of Los Angeles.

But why stop there? In partnership with International Student Volunteers, 10 volunteers from Give Running will head to South Africa next summer to distribute shoes and help build a sports facility.

“This will be another experience to give shoes firsthand and help a community overseas,” says Woodburn. “It’s very exciting for me.”

The Conservation Cadets: Still cute and still conserving

The Conservation Cadets videos are produced by Flagler College Students in Free Enterprise (Flagler SIFE) in St. Augustine, Fla. Photo Courtesy of Conservation Cadets

First appearance on Earth911: Meet the Conservation Cadets

Back in July, we told you about the adorable Conservation Cadets videos that were tickling funny-bones all over the Web. The hilarious and educational clips, produced by Flagler College Students in Free Enterprise (Flagler SIFE), are continuing into their second season – with a few new characters and a new twist on the cute and clever premise.

“We reevaluated the videos from last season to see what we wanted to change and what we wanted to keep,” says Flagler College sophomore PJ Mistry, project coordinator for Conservation Cadets. “We added a few new characters, and unfortunately some of the kids from last season were unable to do the project again this year.”

Despite losing some of their former stars, Flagler SIFE eventually set the new cast at five cadets, and browsers were introduced to a few new characters like Dexter, a nerdy earth-lover channeling Steve Urkel, and Skippy the Hippy, a laid-back treehugger.

And they’ve changed up their model to make these viral vids even more personal.

“This year, we found homes and small businesses that were interested in saving energy and addressed their needs directly,” says Mistry. “We went in and did a sort of ‘energy audit.’ We asked them what they were willing to do and where they thought they could use some help. They took on these challenges for three months to see how much money they saved.”

Since adopting the new model, two new videos have hit the Web, and the Conservation Cadets helped a pet-loving homeowner and a house full of college students lower their monthly energy bills. A third video, featuring the cadets’ energy-saving efforts at a local bed and breakfast, is still in the editing stages.

Flagler SIFE’s mission for the New Year is to concentrate the Conservation Cadets’ efforts to meet the needs of Hastings, Fla., a low-income neighborhood only minutes from Flagler in St. Augustine.

“We’re going to be going into Hastings as a team to help transform this community,” says Mistry. “With Conservation Cadets, we want to help people in the community become more energy efficient. When you’re struggling to pay your bills, energy efficiency isn’t usually the first thing you think about. You may not realize how easy it is and how big a difference it can make in your monthly bills.”

Flagler SIFE also plans to campaign to instate a recycling program at Flagler and help local woman Malea Guiriba transform her nonprofit pie shop in Hastings.

Guiriba, who works a day-job in weatherization and green building, puts all of her shop’s profits back into the community. Since starting Pie in the Sky, she has been able to provide assistance to several of her neighbors, including building a home wheelchair ramp for a woman with a terminal illness.

Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni

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