By Corey Conley

The Good: Solar Lamps

solar powered led lamp

We’re not talking about the kind they sell at Home Depot, we’re talking about the kind that can bring light to the 1.3 billion people living without electricity. Currently the lion’s share of these people turn to good, old-fashioned fire to light the night, with all its attendant expenses and hazards.

Fuel burning light sources are expensive, cause fires, generate pollution, and worst of all aren’t very bright. It’s an odd fact that the world’s poorest pay the most for each lumen of light.

The Lighting Africa project is helping develop commercial lighting markets in regions of the world that don’t have access to reliable grid-based power sources. They’re working with companies like Cosmos Ignite to get products like the MightyLight – a cheap, solar powered LED lamp – into the hands of the light-starved.

The bigger story here is that Lighting Africa and the MightyLight are part of a movement to bring the best parts of entrepreneurship to bear against some of the world’s most intractable problems. Rather than simply offering “relief,” the minds behind these projects are developing sustainable business models that earn a tidy profit while dramatically improve their “customers’” quality of life.

It may not sound quite as noble as traditional relief work but when it comes to creating real, lasting change, market-based models are giving charity a run for their money.

The Bad: Fatty Chemicals

empty plastic water bottles

Score one for “it’s not my fault.” Evidence is mounting that certain chemicals are adding fuel to the obesity fire. These “Obesogens” disrupt our endocrine system’s natural chemical signals, and researchers say these disruptions could be responsible for at least some of our collective weight gain.

The chemical hypothesis also neatly explains why scientists are finding even the average animal is heftier then they used to be and why human waistlines are growing faster than pure dietary and lifestyle changes would suggest.

Once again, the focus is on pre-natal and early childhood exposure, when the rapidly developing bodies are most susceptible to the chemicals. Scientists believe this is when chemicals can affect bodies at an epi-genetic level, which controls the expression of genes. The chemical bath of modern life is like a kid in a light-switch store, flicking on and off genes that may alter our genetic programming, even through multiple generations.

The prime suspects are the usual chemical bogeymen Bisphenol A (BPA), the hard-to-say-without-spitting phthalates, PCBs, and certain pesticides.

Losing weight may boil down to less about what you eat, and more about what you eat from. BPA and Phthalates are popular in plastic food containers and water bottles. If you haven’t already, make the switch to a metal water bottle that is explicitly free of these chemicals. Steer clear of canned food, which make liberal use of BPA.

The Ugly: Getting roasted off the line by a blue-hair in her new Toyota Camry.

grey toyota camry

These are strange days indeed when automakers of every stripe are rolling out the latest in fuel-efficiency tech, yet sensible sedans are posting 0-60 mph times under 6 seconds. Specifically, Toyota’s latest V-6 grocery getter will get you to 60 in 5.8 seconds, only .4 seconds slower than the 305 horse V-6 Ford Mustang.

Of course, this still begs the question of what, exactly, does the pinnacle of appliance-like automobiles need with such a potent mill.

However, maybe it’s the first sign of Toyota’s self-professed, new found commitment to putting passion in their cars. First there was the Lexus LF-A super car, and now the equally alphabetical Scion FR-S raising eyebrows in showrooms across the world.

‘Bout damn time. Since the untimely 2005 death of the Celica, Toyota has lacked a purpose-built, fun-to-drive car. They raked in the cash and market share, but left those of who remembered the Supra, Celica, and MR2 with only memories and hood scoops.

Here’s hoping the big T ushers in an age of efficient, reliable, but fun products.

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