We all follow different paths, go our own ways—what this looks like for #SalmonWMN is utterly inspiring. This video is more than a media campaign for clothes designed by and for women, it is a celebration of diverse definitions and spirited female explorers.

Let go, of rigid concepts and embrace a new definition of what it means to be a woman, an adventurer, an athlete, a part of nature.

Inspired by #SalmonWMN, BE created a Stoke your Spirit list of Insta’s—women of every age, from every corner of the globe, their paths are all different. Some have run up mountains, others prefer to climb, they all rebel the notion “I can be defined”, instead choosing to be led, by the adventures ahead!

Emelie Forsborg @tinaemelie

Courtney Dauwalter @courtneydauwalter

Lucy Bartholowmew @lucy_bartholomew

Mira Rai @mira.rai

Mireia Miró @mireia_miro

Kajsa Silow @kajsasilow

Sara Hattar @sarahattar

Annelie Pompe @annelieadventures

Shelby Stanger @shelbystanger

Celine Cousteau @celinecousteau

Ami Vitale @amivitale

Cristina Zenato @cristinazenato

Jody MacDonald @jodymacdonaldphoto

Nadia Aly @nadia.aly.photo

Cristina Mittermeier @cristinamittermeier

Alison Teal @alisonsadventures

Kate Nelson @plasticfreemermaid

Julia Bradbury @therealjuliabradbury

Siananna Lewis @sianannalewis

Phoebe Smith @phoebersmith

Sophie Radcliffe @challengesophie

Pip Stewart @pipstewart

Daisy Gilardini @daisygilardini

Kiko Matthews @kikomatthews

Randi Skaug @skaugrandi

Nina Williams @sheneenagins

Sasha Digiulian @sashadigiulian

Matilda Söderlund @matilda_soderlund

Emily Harrington @emilyaharrington

Denna Kastor @denna8050

Renata Chlumska @renatachlumska

Shauna Coxsey @shaunacoxsey

Hilaree Nelson @hilareenelson

Sanni McCandless @sannimccandless

Steph Davis @highsteph

Savannah Cummins @sv.cummins

Kristine Tompkins @kristine_tompkins

Lizzie Carr @lizzie_outdside

Victoria Pendleton C.B.E @victorilou

This list comes with a wish to all gutsy girls: Let adventures dance in your head making sweet dreams as you head off to bed! Rest then Rise, Explore, and Live Full Lives!

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! It’s like Shazam® for birds—just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere. Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ You Can

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs.
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording.
  • Keep a log of all your recordings.
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family.
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more.
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today.
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface.
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments.
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models).
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs).

Technical Specifications

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Software written by Tom Stephenson, Stephen Travis Pope and Scott Whittle. BirdGenie™ is a trademark of Princeton University Press.

Shazam® is the registered trademark of Shazam Entertainment Limited and is not affiliated with Princeton University Press in any way.

Great Bear Rainforest is a Spirit Bear Entertainment film presented by Seaspan and directed by Ian McAllister (PacificWild.org), produced by Jeff Turner and executive produced by Kyle Washington and Byron Horner. Distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

A Magical Environment. Unchanged for 10,000 years…

Journey to a land of grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters and the all-white spirit bear — the rarest bear on earth — in the film Great Bear RainforestHidden from the outside world, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the wildest places left on earth. Found on Canada’s remote Pacific coast, it is the last intact temperate rainforest in the world—a place protected by the region’s indigenous people for millennia. Now, for the first time ever, experience this magical world in IMAX and giant screen theatres, and discover the land of the spirit bear.

What is a Spirit Bear?

The spirit bear is a subspecies of the North American black bear that has white fur due to a rare genetic trait. Spirit bears are only found in the Great Bear Rainforest. No one knows exactly how many spirit bears there are, but estimates range from 50 to 100. They truly are the rarest bears on earth!

Guardians of the Forest

Since the last Ice Age, First Nations people have lived among the bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their living history is inseparably connected to the vibrancy of the rainforest, which they have protected for thousands of years. Today, indigenous youth are coming together and taking responsibility for this place they call home. Learn more about their work in Great Bear Rainforest.

For Educators

Invite your students to have a learning experience they won’t forget! Book a field trip to see Great Bear Rainforest and become immersed in the biology, geography, environmental sciences and other key school curriculum. Download the Educator Guide for hands-on activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core ELA and Social Studies. Schedule your field trip now by contacting your local IMAX theatre for information about special group programs.

Filming in the Rainforest

Filming in the remote Great Bear Rainforest presented a unique set of challenges for filmmakers Ian McAllister and Jeff Turner. Over the three years it took to make this film, the crew faced everything from extreme weather, unpredictable wildlife, and the daily rigors of being in a rugged environment far removed from modern conveniences. But this also pushed the filmmakers into fresh creative territory where every shot was carefully planned out and new filmmaking techniques were deployed. Learn more in this interview with director Ian McAllister, who has worked and lived in the rainforest for 30 years. Read the Interview with Ian.

Learn more

To learn more about the Great Bear Rainforest and how you can help protect the spirit bears and their ancient forest home, visit PacificWild.org.  Each of us can make a difference in helping preserve this unique environment, one of the last truly wild places on earth.

In this video you can hear from Fellows with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) first-hand on what conservation photography means to them and why they devote their lives to this effort. They explain the behind-the-scenes work that goes into capturing compelling images.

iLCP supports visual storytellers in a shared mission of furthering environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography and filmmaking.

iLCP is best known for its Conservation Photography Expeditions that connect local, national or international organizations, our Conservation Partners, with one or more of their Fellows. The objective of these intensive documentary efforts is to produce a body of images that fully captures the threats and opportunities faced by communities whose physical environments, fauna, flora, and/or cultural traditions are in peril from human activity. With their deep and varied skill sets in all areas of science and years of experience working in the field, iLCP Fellow Photographers do far more than simply take pretty pictures. Rather, they capture visual narratives that give compelling evidence of the need to protect these special places. Through their extensive network of media, conservation, and policy contacts, iLCP help amplify our Partners’ existing advocacy campaigns to bring about positive conservation outcomes.

Learn more about iLCP @ conservationphotographers.org

Principles of Success learned through the Pursuit of Adventure, an animation by Ray Dalio. A short film with wide application to life and work.

“Whatever success I’ve had in life hasn’t been because of anything unique about me—it’s because of principles that I believe anyone can adopt. I created this animated series to share them with you”. —Ray Dalio

In 1975, Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater Associates, out of his two-bedroom apartment in New York City. Over forty years later, Bridgewater has grown into the largest hedge fund in the world and the fifth most important private company in the United States according to Fortune magazine, and Dalio himself has been named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Along the way Dalio discovered unique principles that have led to his and Bridgewater’s unique success. It is these principles, and not anything special about Dalio, that he believes are the reason behind whatever success he has had. He is now at a stage in his life that he wants to pass them along to others to do whatever they think is appropriate to do with them.

Learn more about Ray’s Principles @ principles.com

Why are Panthera paying such close attention to 197F, the sole wild tiger in a massive wildlife sanctuary in Southeast Asia? Because the science shows that all the elements needed for a tiger recovery in that part of the region are there: plenty of space, prey, and protection.

197F is the key to unlocking that potential.

With just 3,900 wild tigers left on Earth, every tiger counts.

If 197F finds the mate she’s so desperately seeking, their cubs will soon spread out and claim new territory and mates of their own. As Panthera have seen in many of their Tigers Forever sites, it is possible to rebuild healthy populations of tigers, even where there are very few to start.

This Global Tiger Day (July 29th), will you join Panthera with a gift to protect and recover critically endangered tigers?

The stakes are high. That’s why Panthera are speeding resources to the areas where 197F and her potential mates are roaming to:

• Increase monitoring of tigers, prey, and human activity in the area;
• Train rangers to use the latest technology to document forest crimes;
• Ramp up patrols at border areas to ID poacher access points and stage ambushes;
• Seize motorbikes used by illegal loggers who often poach wildlife, too;
• Reduce illegal activities in the park by providing viable alternatives to local people

By locking down these critical passageways, we hope to make it possible for three to five new populations of tigers to take hold in the region and plant the seeds of a full-scale recovery.

Checkout Panthera’s infographic telling 197F’s story of adventure and hope.

You can help Panthera rebuild tiger territory by donating this #globaltigerday

Good intentions and the initial actions with which we begin a new year are often noble but not always sustainable or more accurately…strategic!

We bound into hard graft with positive goals and the energy to support them, yet how many of us subscribe to a formula for achieving our lofty fitness aims? The mind is willing but the body needs time to adapt! As we feel the after effects of physical exercise—when stiff, sore, under-used bits begin to ache—most of us fall off the workout-wagon. Science suggests this abandonment of goals relates to a lack of habit-forming strategies and contingencies. In other words we need to prepare for DOMS and other torturous retaliation from our newly recruited limbs.

So, if soreness is a given when starting a fitness routine, and starting a fitness routine is what humans like to do at this time of the year. How can we minimise the inevitable onslaught of pain so we continue to train and give our fitness goals a chance to turn into a habit?

EMPLOY A RECOVERY STRATEGY

Athletes have been exposing themselves to various theraputic strategies for centuries, though methods have changed somewhat in recent times (from acupuncture to ice baths). Amongst the more scientific approaches comes a new breed of biotech which effectively blocks pain and stimulates cellular recovery.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

Victor Hugo

Before hitting the opiates, the 19th Century migraine sufferer and Les Miserables scribe may well have turned to another painkilling idea in vogue at the time—an idea  that’s been around for millennia but that’s now fomenting a healthcare revolution. Electricity.

With world pain endemic and the risks of painkilling drugs becoming increasingly acute, PainPod biotechnology engineers are switching on the power of our natural bioelectrical systems, not just to kill pain, but to precisely target a widening range of health conditions.

On average, 2 in 5 have daily aches or pain, 1 in 5 chronic pain and 9 in 10 of us can expect to suffer back pain. It’s not only the pain that impairs us – constant pain causes anxiety, depression, de-conditioning, social isolation, low self-esteem and relationship breakdown. Pain’s costs are incalculable and many of us are realising that the pills simply aren’t working. A fresh study recently published in the British Medical Journal suggests links between taking high doses of anti-inflammatory painkillers—such as ibuprofen—and heart attacks.  In sport painkiller addiction is endemic, opiates are the biggest cause of accidental suicide in Australia and opiate addiction is killing 175 Americans a day. Demands for effective natural alternatives to NSAIDs, analgesics and opiates are growing.

A new generation of ultra wearable devices that harness the body’s own bioelectrical system are providing an answer. By putting the power of advanced bioelectrical technology directly in the hands of medical professionals and everyday people alike, the evidence shows that not only are they blocking all types of chronic and acute pain, they’re revolutionising health self management by giving individuals the  means themselves to address conditions untouched by drugs THE POWER OF AN IDEA.

Ever since ancient Egyptians discovered the shocking effects of electric fish on the body, low level electrotherapy has been used to manage pain by stimulating nerves, tissues and muscles. The classical  Greeks were galvanised by electro-therapeutic healing—the root of narcotic derives from “narka,” the greek word for electric fish meaning—pain relief. As long ago  as 63 A.D. Romans were easing migraines with electric rays, Scribonius Largus, personal physician to Emperor Claudius,  was an electric  advocate:

“To immediately remove and permanently cure a headache, however long-lasting and intolerable, a live black torpedo is put on the place which is in pain, until the pain ceases and the part grows numb”

Throughout centuries since, devices utilising  electrical impulses have been improving health and saving  lives—in modern medicine most commonly pacemakers and defibrillators.  In the past 50 years,  commercial interest in the field has been dimmed mainly due to the rise of  pharmaceuticals and the debunking of electrotherapy as lacking meaningful evidence.  But times they are a changing.  Innovators are now harnessing latest medical evidence with the most modern understanding  of neurophysiology and molecular mechanisms, leading to a new generation of devices working in natural harmony with the body’s peripheral nervous system, the muscular-skeletal and biocellular systems.  

Now dubbed “Electroceuticals”, an increasing volume of pharmacological research is proving the central roles of  the peripheral nervous system and neuromuscular system in organ function, immune responses and the body’s respiratory, cardiovascular and inflammatory systems—developments which would have been inconceivable only 10 years ago. The last 5 years have seen an explosion of BioElectronics ventures being set up, with billions in funding being put to developing miniaturised electronic devices and electrical stimulation therapies—market analysts predict the electroceutical industry  will be worth $ 25.20 Billion by 2021 up from $ 17.20 Billion in 2016. What’s got investors attention is the potential for electroceuticals to address medical conditions currently  untouched or underserved by commercial pharmaceuticals and without the side effects
The signs are that electrotherapy is powering  out of the twilight and into the sun light.

TAKING THE POWER IN OUR OWN HANDS

What may prove different this time around, isn’t the promise of more power to big pharma or to the markets, it’s that  we can take the power of bioelectricity into our own hands. In the same way that self-monitoring has transformed health—people using smart ultra-wearable sensors and apps to process a wealth of data to help them manage their personal health—this new generation of personal bioelectric devices is democratising healthcare, fomenting a revolution in self-management that’s improving personal health. PainPod have not only developed devices that empower people with the means to manage their pain and help recovery by stimulating the muscular and nervous systems, they’ve  produced easy to use ultrawearables that mimic the body’s natural microcurrent, promoting cellular normalisation and healing from injury or disease.  

CEO Rick Rowan says the vision is to change lives “by making these advanced Biotechnologies accessible for everyone from the young to the elderly” PainPod deliver on that promise by programming the devices with specific frequency formulations, advanced waveforms and protocols formed by  the results of the best available current medical evidence—so,  whether you’re an elite athlete, an arthritis sufferer, a diabetic patient, a parent or truck driver with a musculoskeletal problem, the positive impact on your personal health is likely to be profound. Evidence based, easy to understand and, above all, empowering, these small, lifestyle biomedical devices hold the power to change lives.

Extensive, qualitative evidence and systematic reviews show the formulations and modalities in the devices to be effective for pain relief including chronic, acute, post-surgical and neuropathic pain. Proprietary, embedded neuro-electrical muscular stimulation formulations can stimulate the body systems to produce the hormones essential for body functions and that have been shown to positively impact conditions ranging from muscle atrophy and osteoarthritis through to improved function of  Hematopoietic Stem Cells in diabetic patients—a potential regenerative tool for treating human vascular disease. The same modalities that an athlete can use to increase exercise intensity for muscle mass and strength gains can be used to improve muscular and cardiovascular conditions in the elderly, obese and diabetics.  

Further still, the imperceptible power of Microcurrent has shown beneficial effects in cutaneous wound healing with extensive evidence for  different applications to  promote healing, reduce inflammation and participate  in tissue repair.  

With the ever-growing understanding of the power of our own biosystems and the evolution of devices to harness it, along with the growing power of social evidence to influence change, Rick sees a time fast-approaching  where our first choice will be to reach for the devices not the drugs.   Putting the power in people’s hands, driven by a proposition of mass participation and accessibility “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” And, this time, it most certainly has.

IN A NUTSHELL

PainPod is a drug-free, pocket-sized device which harnesses the body’s bioelectrical system to moderate and manage pain levels. It works by delivering bio-electrical nerve stimulation pulses through the skin to the nerve endings in the affected area, blocking pain signals from travelling to the brain. PainPod has a range of devices for different applications, including some specifically designed for hands and feet, but top of its bestseller list are the PainPod 3 and PainPod Mi. PainPod 3 has 12 treatments to choose from and 20 intensity settings; it’s also a 3-in-1 device, not only blocking pain, but also accelerating recovery and increasing performance levels. PainPod Mi is a tiny, ultra lightweight smaller version which is wearable all day, offering a 10 hour micro-current painless treatment, and with a touch of a button the device gives a 15 minute booster massage for immediate pain relief. 

What Is It: A small, drug-free pain relief device.

Why Buy It: It’s wearable and portable, so it can be used on the go.

The Details: The PainPod 3 is rrp $479, and the PainPod Mi is rrp $99, available from www.thepainpod.com, pharmacies, physiotherapists and chiropractors nationally. 

Great Bear Rainforest is a Spirit Bear Entertainment film presented by Seaspan and directed by Ian McAllister (PacificWild.org), produced by Jeff Turner and executive produced by Kyle Washington and Byron Horner. Distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

A Magical Environment. Unchanged for 10,000 years…

Journey to a land of grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters and the all-white spirit bear — the rarest bear on earth — in the film Great Bear RainforestHidden from the outside world, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the wildest places left on earth. Found on Canada’s remote Pacific coast, it is the last intact temperate rainforest in the world—a place protected by the region’s indigenous people for millennia. Now, for the first time ever, experience this magical world in IMAX and giant screen theatres, and discover the land of the spirit bear.

What is a Spirit Bear?

The spirit bear is a subspecies of the North American black bear that has white fur due to a rare genetic trait. Spirit bears are only found in the Great Bear Rainforest. No one knows exactly how many spirit bears there are, but estimates range from 50 to 100. They truly are the rarest bears on earth!

Guardians of the Forest

Since the last Ice Age, First Nations people have lived among the bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their living history is inseparably connected to the vibrancy of the rainforest, which they have protected for thousands of years. Today, indigenous youth are coming together and taking responsibility for this place they call home. Learn more about their work in Great Bear Rainforest.

For Educators

Invite your students to have a learning experience they won’t forget! Book a field trip to see Great Bear Rainforest and become immersed in the biology, geography, environmental sciences and other key school curriculum. Download the Educator Guide for hands-on activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core ELA and Social Studies. Schedule your field trip now by contacting your local IMAX theatre for information about special group programs.

Filming in the Rainforest

Filming in the remote Great Bear Rainforest presented a unique set of challenges for filmmakers Ian McAllister and Jeff Turner. Over the three years it took to make this film, the crew faced everything from extreme weather, unpredictable wildlife, and the daily rigors of being in a rugged environment far removed from modern conveniences. But this also pushed the filmmakers into fresh creative territory where every shot was carefully planned out and new filmmaking techniques were deployed. Learn more in this interview with director Ian McAllister, who has worked and lived in the rainforest for 30 years. Read the Interview with Ian.

Learn more

To learn more about the Great Bear Rainforest and how you can help protect the spirit bears and their ancient forest home, visit PacificWild.org.  Each of us can make a difference in helping preserve this unique environment, one of the last truly wild places on earth.

Food is more than energy it is an expression of love, a vessel of memories, an important part of culture, tradition, and a way to connect to the land—its flavours and fragility. So, as others rush through the stores in search of the perfect gift, consider slowing down to make the best gift of all—good food!

Good food starts with great ingredients…

The simplest way to elevate any dish is with an ingredient of local origin, this adds to the freshness but also the story on your plate.

Stories make a meal into a memory…

Instead of a menu, make a discovery diary with pictures of the land and people behind the produce. I got this idea watching an episode of Destination Flavour: China (S.1 Ep.3), where Australian chef, Adam Liaw explores the food philosophy of Dai Jianjun, owner of the world famous DragonWellManor, (or Longjing Manor), an exquisite fine-dining restaurant nestled in a private garden in Hangzhou. Dai keeps a daily diary with pictures of the produce he cooks with and the people who grow it—his “farm friends”—which he treats as family. The importance of nurturing relationships with his suppliers stems from the philosophy that food is more than ingredients, it is a connection to the land, to culture and community.

A discovery diary is a keepsake your guests can treasure, and if you fill it with recipes from your feast, it becomes a living memory they can recreate, re-experience, reinterpret and share with their loved ones.

No Menu adds novelty…

In his earlier series, Destination Flavour: Scandinavia, Adam visited the Swedish city of Malmö and the kitchen of Titti Qvarnström, the first Swedish female chef awarded a Michelin Star for Bloom in the Park. There he found that the secret to her menu, is not having one! Titti likes to surprise her guests, allowing them to experience food as a delicious discovery. Placing emphasis on the experience of trying something new, unearthing unexpected combinations that we wouldn’t normally consider.

Let your guests make their own delicious discovery. Use this concept to introduce different foods, heirloom varieties, or better still, serve a plant-based version of a festive favourite.

Do a Heston for the Holidays…

Heston Blumenthal is known for his clever food deceptions, artfully reimagining how food looks, tastes, feels, sounds and smells. Why not apply this approach to inspire a fresh perspective on plant foods? To get you started here are some suggestions.

Ahimi: turn your tomato into tuna like chef James Cromwell.

This Cheese is Nuts: make aged-almond cheddar or cashew camembert like Julie Piatt.

Smokey Christmas Menu: stuff a breast of celeriac and give poultry the bird like Lisette Kreischer.

Plants offer unexpected benefits…

In her book OMD (One Meal a Day for the Planet), Suzy Amis-Cameron shares her families favourite foods—all of them plant-based. The book sheds light on the amazing impact of eating just one plant meal a day, a small change that dramatically reduces your carbon footprint on nature (OMD estimates that eating one plant-based meal a day saves 736,895 litres of water and 350 kilograms of carbon emissions). Suzy calls these “benefit effects” as opposed to the health and environment side-effects of consuming increasingly larger quantities of animal products.

Make Christmas a celebration of community…

Even if your motives aren’t environmental (though everyone is effected by climate change) or health oriented (according to a study by Harvard researchers, swapping just 3% of processed red meat for plant proteins reduces your chances of an early death by 34%), perhaps the incentive behind making your feast minus the meat is about celebrating and empowering community (reducing demand for industrial meat and dairy improves access to nutritional foods for poorer communities, supporting local farmers and urban/school garden schemes).

I hope this post inspires you to share your table, create memories, re-connect with nature, and celebrate your community through the best gift of all—good food!

Inga Yandell, Editor BE Journal

 

In this video you can hear from Fellows with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) first-hand on what conservation photography means to them and why they devote their lives to this effort. They explain the behind-the-scenes work that goes into capturing compelling images.

iLCP supports visual storytellers in a shared mission of furthering environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography and filmmaking.

iLCP is best known for its Conservation Photography Expeditions that connect local, national or international organizations, our Conservation Partners, with one or more of their Fellows. The objective of these intensive documentary efforts is to produce a body of images that fully captures the threats and opportunities faced by communities whose physical environments, fauna, flora, and/or cultural traditions are in peril from human activity. With their deep and varied skill sets in all areas of science and years of experience working in the field, iLCP Fellow Photographers do far more than simply take pretty pictures. Rather, they capture visual narratives that give compelling evidence of the need to protect these special places. Through their extensive network of media, conservation, and policy contacts, iLCP help amplify our Partners’ existing advocacy campaigns to bring about positive conservation outcomes.

Learn more about iLCP @ conservationphotographers.org

Shopping centres are a hive of activity at this time of year, store shelves adorned with seasonal gifts and fare. While for some Christmas is commercial, for others it inspires a creative spirit to make or uncover a truly unique present for their loved ones.

Strolling modern markets one discovers a surprising amount of pop-up stores, with make-your-own options transforming standard stocking stuffers into personalised ornaments, perfumes, confectionaries and much more. Creative spaces filled with happy crafters beavering away like elves in Santa’s workshop. And a beautiful hand-crafted gift certainly makes an impression but it takes time to produce—a luxury rarely afforded the deadline driven. For busy people seeking a gift of authentic and original craftsmanship, Kantala’s collection of handmade ethical fashion accessories might just be what you’re looking for.

Inspired by a 300-year-old traditional hand-weaving technique, Kantala combines Sri Lankan influences with functionality for a modern lifestyle.

Ethical Elegance aptly describes the brands aspirations, from plant-based materials to supporting local artisans. BE Journal takes you behind the brand with co-founder Nadishan Shanthikumar to learn more…

How did you begin designing consciously-crafted bags?

Both of us believe in creating value through our work that creates a positive impact in our communities and the environment. This belief was influenced by our upbringing and local culture which emphasizes compassion, care and respect towards others. So, our shared vision was to set up an enterprise based on these values with a mission to create a positive social and environmental impact.

While on his travels, Vikum found the moment of inspiration in Egypt when he saw a set of hieroglyphics cleverly incorporated into contemporary goods. He became convinced a product based on a traditional Sri Lankan craft was the business he wanted to create. Upon his return to Sri Lanka, Vikum searched for a traditional Sri Lankan craft that could be applied to a contemporary product which had a global demand. It was while on this search he came across the traditional artisans of Henavala, who were continuing a handwoven craft with a history of over 300 years, dating back to Sri Lanka’s last royal kingdom of Kandy. After Vikum shared his findings with me the two of us set out to learn more about this traditional craft. Soon we came to realise both the craft and the natural fibre material used to weave the mats gave the foundation to the positive social and environmental impact we wanted to create.

After seeking feedback from various people about the different applications of the handwoven material, we realized the material was well suited to make handbags. Hereafter, we set in motion the process of creating the perfect handbag that would champion the handwoven mat. As we brought in the different elements we needed to complete the Kantala handbag, we always stuck to the vision and mission we shared. This helped us to create the consciously-crafted bag each and every Kantala handbag is today.

What are the cultural influences and benefits to local communities?

There are multiple cultural influences at play when it comes to our work. As the core material of every Kantala product is the handwoven natural fibre mat, each product is influenced by the traditional craft which has a history of over 300 years. The weaving techniques used to create various designs have been perfected generation after generation. It is these skills and techniques which make it possible for us to create a variety of woven patterns.
Unfortunately, when we first met the artisans back in December 2012, the craft was in decline due to a lack of economically viable opportunities. We were amazed by the craft and its potential that we made it our mission to secure and revive the craft.

A fair living wage and timely payments have helped create economic benefits for the artisans. This helped to increase the number of artisans engaged with Kantala from 8 in 2013 to 22 by end of 2017. However, one concerning indicator was the average age of the artisans. In 2013 the average age of an artisan was 60, which highlighted the impending demise of the craft due to a new generation not taking up the craft. However, as we continued to promote our artisans to a global audience and reposition the craft as a highly skilled and prestigious sector, younger folks have started to take up the craft. By the end of 2017, the average age of an artisan dropped to 50. Thereby, Kantala has helped to secure a defining element of our traditional crafts and culture while creating a fair and respectable livelihood for rural communities in Sri Lanka.

What elements of nature proved the most versatile in construction and style?

One of the key elements which drew us to the handwoven mats was the natural fibre mat which was used to weave the mats. The fibre, which is extracted from the hana plan (Agave cantala), is a long fine white colour fibre with a mild sheen. The fibre is extremely strong, it’s cousin in Mexico is used to make rope, making it an ideal material for making objects that have to withstand weight. At the same time, its visual qualities give it an aesthetically pleasing texture once dyed and woven.

While this might not be of relevance to its use as a material in our handbags, the hana plant also serves quite a bit of community service as well. Hana plants can be grown as a bio-fence to stop wildlife entering cultivated land. It is a safe and environmentally conscious alternative to electric fences used to ward off wildlife. The plant can grow without watering and fertilizer while the leaves will keep on growing until the plant flowers and dies. All of this make the hana plant a genuinely versatile element of nature in many aspects.

Another element in our bags which play a versatile role is the upcycled coconut shell accessories. The coconut shell, which is discarded or incinerated, is used to make the logo tags and some of the other accessories such as D-rings and shoulder strap sliders used in our bags. Coconut shells are deceivingly tough and once polished using sandpaper and a brush, adds a unique aesthetic element to our products. Engraving the Kantala logo on coconut shell pieces has given a signature touch to our products.

Why is it vital to improve the current methods and materials used?

As an organisation which creates a positive social and environmental impact, our cost base is comparatively greater than most of our competition. In order to scale supply and maintain costs at a manageable level that doesn’t erode our competitiveness and mission, it is important for us to continuously review the processes and materials which are used to create Kantala products.

When you are working with traditional crafts, scalability becomes a key concern because all processed are done using hand tools. If the business fails to scale while maintaining cost competitiveness, the brand will ultimately fail. Therefore, certain low value add processes have to be mechanised using modern technology while labour is redirected to the core high value add activities. This will create higher efficiency, meaning the brand can scale while maintaining cost competitiveness. Also, by redirecting labour to higher value add activities, the artisans can earn more while increasing their output.

Three materials used in Kantala products are sourced from overseas, due to the lack of a viable alternative in Sri Lanka. This incurs added costs and increased lead times, which reduce the efficiency of our operations. Therefore, it is vital for us to engage local sources to improve substitutes to these imported materials, which will reduce the material cost and lead times. This also means we can redirect fund which would have been sent overseas back into our local communities as well.

What are the practical challenges of designing innovative storage solutions for modern lifestyles?

A world of fast changing consumer preferences translates into shorter product lifecycles which becomes hugely challenging when you are producing handcrafted goods. Unlike synthetic materials which can be easily moulded into any form or shape, natural materials are restrictive in their adaptability. However, by designing the interior of the products in such a manner that it gives the user functional flexibility, we manage to overcome most of these issues. We create certain products that are targeted to a very specific lifestyle while other products have the functionality to apply across multiple lifestyles.

Our plan is to carve out a niche position in the market that addresses a selected number of lifestyles which complement the personality of Kantala as a slow fashion brand. Therefore, we concentrate on achieving technical and design proficiency in addressing the storage requirements of these selected lifestyles.

How do you envision the definition and application of bags evolving in the future?

The core functionality of the handbag has remained the same over the decades. However, the purpose it fulfils changes according to the consumer who carries it. For one consumer their handbag is merely a practical necessity while to another it is an aesthetic element. To another customer, it could have emotional connotations. We believe the definition and application of the handbag will remain within this paradigm changing only from the point of view of the customer.

Bag makers who clearly identify their customer group and delivers a product that meets the customer’s practical, aesthetic and emotional expectations will see their products do well.

What is the ideal all-rounder for a travelling professional?

This is actually a question we are addressing at the moment. One of our first and favourite customers recently got in touch asking to develop a bag for her which she can use on her work trips of about one to two nights. We worked closely with her first to identify her needs while traveling on work and how we can provide her a solution.

The modern professional has many electronic devices which need to travel safely. They also like to carry a book to read, a magazine, notepad and pen etc. And then you have all the garments they need. The last thing a traveling professional needs after a long day of meetings is to have to carry multiple bags and spend time checking in and retrieving luggage.

Therefore, we created a simple solution with a comfortable handle for easy carrying, extra padding for safety, and a wide base which allows us to add multiple compartments which can accommodate up to 4 electronic devices and cables while having room for writing material and garments. From the outside it looks like the everyday elegant bag you take to work. But on the inside, it can accommodate quite a lot of things that will keep you organised and on the go for at least 2 nights. This is what we believe will make an ideal all-rounder for a traveling professional.

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