This comprehensive list of inspiring news stories is usually updated once a week
. For an index to revealing excerpts of news stories on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family
2011-05-16, CNN News
Posted: 2011-05-31 17:17:17
The mob was already waiting for James Zwerg by the time the Greyhound bus eased into the station in Montgomery, Alabama. Looking out the window, Zwerg could see men gripping baseball bats, chains and clubs. They had sealed off the streets leading to the bus station and chased away news photographers. They didn't want anyone to witness what they were about to do. Zwerg accepted his worst fear: He was going to die today. Only the night before, Zwerg had prayed for the strength to not strike back in anger. He was among the 18 white and black college students from Nashville who had decided to take the bus trip through the segregated South in 1961. They called themselves Freedom Riders. Their goal was to desegregate public transportation. Zwerg had not planned to go, but the night before, some students had asked him to join them. To summon his courage, Zwerg stayed up late, reading Psalm 27, the scripture that the students had picked to read during a group prayer before their trip. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I fear?" the Psalm began. But there was another passage at the end that touched Zwerg in a place the other students didn't know about: "Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Zwerg's parents had forsaken him for joining the civil rights movement.
Note: For another amazingly inspiring story of a man in the civil rights movement who faced death by hatred with compassion, click here. And for a powerfully inspiring New York Times article on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, click here. We have clearly come a long way in building more harmony between races.
Lighten your footprint by sharing
2009-12-20, Seattle Times
Posted: 2011-05-31 17:15:41
David Docter and his neighbor on Capitol Hill share a lawn mower and a pressure washer. "Why should we have two pressure washers when I use it twice a year and he uses it twice a year?" asks Docter, who applies similar logic to the mower and to an Oregon Coast cabin he and his wife, Alicia, share with a dozen other families. Two decades ago, when they bought into the cabin, it would have been tough to afford alone. Now, each family gets to use it several weeks a year for minimal expense. These sharing arrangements are small steps. But through them, each family has lightened its footprint, freed up cash and fix-it time, and found confidence in cooperation. Which leads to a logical question: If sharing stuff is so environmentally and economically sensible, why don't more people do it? Why do so many of us have hedge trimmers languishing and taking up space in our garages? Why are huge RVs parked in driveways and boats sitting in slips for 50 weeks at a time?
Because sharing is scary. Ask anybody. There's a reason why Nolo Press' recent book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community, includes "agreements and forms." Long chapters discuss such issues as responsibilities and conflict resolution.
Sustainable farming takes root in agriculture
2011-05-16, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2011-05-24 11:53:39
The sustainable farming movement, cradled in Northern California, has gone mainstream, challenging the industrial model that has ruled American farming for more than half a century.
Eight big foundations - the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation - have just banded together in a group, called AGree, to examine food systems and mediate the conflict between conventional and alternative farming. An emerging scientific consensus that alternative farm systems work, and that the environmental and health costs of industrial agriculture are too high, has drawn powerful new interests to what was a parochial arena controlled by commodity groups. These costs in the United States include depletion of soil fertility and aquifers, from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the Ogallala aquifer in the High Plains. They also include giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico from fertilizer runoff in the Mississippi River, antibiotic resistance from heavy use of antibiotics in livestock, pollinator loss from pesticides and large-scale, single-crop farming, and water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations.
The Emotional Lives of Animals
2011-03-02, Yes! Magazine
Posted: 2011-05-24 11:50:36
Scientific research shows that many animals are very intelligent and have sensory and motor abilities that dwarf ours. Dogs are able to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes and warn humans of impending heart attacks and strokes. Elephants, whales, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and alligators use low-frequency sounds to communicate over long distances, often miles; and bats, dolphins, whales, frogs, and various rodents use high-frequency sounds to find food, communicate with others, and navigate. Many animals also display wide-ranging emotions, including joy, happiness, empathy, compassion, grief, and even resentment and embarrassment. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a relative or companion. Do animals marvel at their surroundings, have a sense of awe when they see a rainbow, or wonder where lightning comes from? Sometimes a chimpanzee, usually an adult male, will dance at a waterfall with total abandon. Ravens and many other animals live by social norms that favor fairness and justice. And outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a dog rescued an abandoned baby by placing him safely among her own newborn puppies. Amazingly, the dog carried the baby about 150 feet to where her puppies lay after discovering the baby covered by a rag in a field.
Marc Gold travels Asia paying it forward through little acts of kindness
2011-04-04, Christian Science Monitor
Posted: 2011-05-17 12:52:18
Marc Gold spends most of his time on the road. One month he may be in India or Afghanistan; the next he's in Cambodia or Vietnam, both of which he's visited numerous times. But he doesn't travel to see the sights. The retired community-college professor from San Francisco pursues his own brand of tourism: philanthropic travel. "I go where the poor people are," Mr. Gold says. Everywhere he goes, Gold performs acts of kindness, both random and preplanned. He rarely spends more than a few hundred dollars. "For people who live on a dollar or less a day, $50 can make a big difference," says Gold, who has been dubbed "the shoestring philanthropist." [Traveling to India in 1989] led to an epiphany. "I'd thought you had to be rich to do such things," he recalls. "I realized I had the power to help change people's lives." Back home, he asked a hundred friends for small donations and was soon back in India with $2,200. He then set up a nonprofit charity and called it 100 Friends. Two decades later, 100 Friends has some 4,000 members worldwide, and last year Gold raised $200,000. He continues fundraising via his portable office: a laptop, a digital camera, and a cellphone. "This is 80 percent of what I own," Gold says during a stopover in Bangkok, pointing at two duffel bags stuffed with his clothes, dog-eared paperbacks, and his large collection of wacky rubber masks. The latter he uses for clowning around with children from Tibet to Thailand. "I don't need much, and I'm free."
Note: For a great collection of highly inspiring news articles, click here. For a treasure trove of inspiring resources calling us all to our greatness, click here.
European Orchestra to Perform in Gaza Strip
2011-05-02, Wall Street Journal
Posted: 2011-05-10 10:52:25
Daniel Barenboim, a renowned Israeli conductor and Palestinian rights activist, will bring an orchestra of European musicians for a performance in the Gaza Strip on [May 3]. The concert ... would mark a rare solidarity visit from a major international cultural figure to the blockaded Palestinian territory since Hamas' takeover in 2007. The performance comes on the eve of the signing of a reconciliation accord in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah, the other leading Palestinian faction in the West Bank. Mr. Barenboim's visit is likely to enhance the already raised expectations for the end of Gaza's years of isolation. Enlisting musicians from orchestras in Berlin, Vienna, Paris and Milan, Mr. Barenboim has an assembled an outfit dubbed the "Orchestra for Gaza." The group plans to fly from Berlin to Egypt and then cross the border into Gaza for a brief visit that will include a concert at a cultural center outside of Gaza City. Just last week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al Araby said he plans to remove restrictions at the Rafah crossing at the border with Gaza within days, a shift in policy that could lift a several-year-old blockade that has prevented most of the 1.5 million Palestinians from leaving the tiny coastal strip.
World's oldest man dies in Montana at 114
2011-04-14, MSNBC/Associated Press
Posted: 2011-05-10 10:46:47
Walter Breuning's earliest memories stretched back 111 years, before home entertainment came with a twist of the radio dial. They were of his grandfather's tales of killing Southerners in the Civil War. Breuning was 3 and horrified: "I thought that was a hell of a thing to say." But the stories stuck, becoming the first building blocks into what would develop into a deceptively simple philosophy that Breuning, the world's oldest man at 114 before he died Thursday, credited to his longevity. Here's the world's oldest man's secret to a long life: — Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.") — Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.") — Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.") — Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.") Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death. "We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said. Breuning died of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital. He was the oldest man in the world and the second-oldest person, according to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. Besse Cooper of Monroe, Ga. — born 26 days earlier — is the world's oldest person.
Avaaz – the online activist network that is targeting Rupert Murdoch's bid
2011-04-24, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-05-03 11:50:07
If you had been on the Strand in London on the day that the high court was considering how to proceed with scores of civil actions against the News of the World for its phone-hacking escapades, you would have seen a peculiar sight. About 30 people were gathered on the steps of the court, the palms of their hands painted red, bearing banners that read: "Murdoch's men caught red-handed." On the same day, ... another group of 25 people had gathered. They were leafleting shoppers about the News of the World scandal and calling on the government to delay approval of Rupert Murdoch's bid to takeover BSkyB until a full public inquiry could be held. Both events were the work of one of the most successful of a new breed of internet campaigner, in this case a global activism network called Avaaz, which means voice in Urdu and several other languages. Avaaz, formed in 2007, has more than eight million members in 193 countries and can claim to be the largest online activist community in the world. This year alone it has attracted an extra one million members and it is now wholly self-funding with about $20m (£12m) raised so far in online donations. "We have no ideology per se," says director Ricken Patel. "Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!"
Israeli Luminaries Press for a Palestinian State
2011-04-20, New York Times
Posted: 2011-04-26 11:01:04
Dozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals and artists have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that an end to Israel’s occupation “will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace.” The signers plan to announce their position on [April 21] from the same spot in Tel Aviv where the Jewish state declared its independence in the spring of 1948. The page-long declaration is expected to be read there by Hanna Maron, one of the country’s best-known actresses and a winner of the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious award. “The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people where its identity was shaped,” the statement begins. “The land of Palestine is the birthplace of the Palestinian people where its identity was formed.” It goes on to say that now is the time to live up to the commitment expressed by Israel’s founders in their Declaration of Independence to “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness.” Two weeks ago, another group of several dozen prominent Israelis, many of them from the fields of security and business, issued what they called the Israeli Peace Initiative, a more detailed but somewhat similar plan for a two-state solution. Both groups say they are upset by their government’s policies in this regard, which they consider insufficient.
Betting on green
2011-03-10, The Economist magazine
Posted: 2011-04-26 10:54:05
“Environmentalists are fiddling while Rome burns,” says Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. “They get in the way with silly stuff like asking people to walk more, drive less. That is an increment of 1-2% change.” Forget today’s green technologies like electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells and smart grids, in other words. None meets what Mr Khosla calls the “Chindia price”—the price at which people in China and India will buy them without a subsidy. “Everything’s a toy until it reaches that point,” he says. Mr Khosla has a different plan to save the planet. He is investing over $1 billion of his clients’ money in “black swans” -— ideas with the potential for sudden jumps in technology that promise huge environmental benefits, easy scalability and rapid payback. The catch? Mr Khosla expects nine out of ten of his investments to fail. “I am only interested in technologies that have a 90% chance of failure but, if they do succeed, would change the infrastructure of society in some radical way,” he says. Khosla Ventures’ portfolio reads like an eco-utopian wish-list: diesel from microbes; carbon-negative cement; quantum batteries; and a system for extracting methane from coal while it is still underground.
Note: Why aren't people in governments around the world thinking in this way? The time is now to shift our priorities in investment.
Traffic fatalities fall to lowest level since 1949
Posted: 2011-04-12 10:19:49
The number of traffic fatalities continued its welcomed downward trajectory last year, falling 3% to its lowest levels since 1949, and a 25 percent drop from 2005, according to U.S. Department of Transportation estimates. Preliminary figures show that 32,788 people died in traffic accidents last year, down from the 33,808 killed the previous year and significantly below the 43,510 people killed only six years ago, according to the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Experts attribute the change to a variety of reasons, including changes to cars -- such as vehicle rollover protection -- and programs to change driver behavior -- such as campaigns addressing drunk driving, distracted driving and seat belt use. Laws aimed at young people also likely have had an impact, notably older minimum drinking ages and graduated drivers' licenses. But the rise and decline of the grim number has numerous peaks and dips, influenced by direct changes such as the national speed limit and indirect causes such as recessions.
News of selfless acts has positive effect: study
2011-03-29, CBC (Canada's public broadcasting station)
Posted: 2011-04-12 10:18:16
Good news begets better people. That was the conclusion of new research released ... by the University of British Columbia, that found people with a strong sense of "moral identity" were inspired to do good when they read media stories about Good Samaritans' selfless acts. According to lead author Karl Aquino, who studies forgiveness and moral behaviour issues, four separate studies found a direct link between a person's exposure to media accounts of extraordinary virtue and their yearning to change the world. He said media reports could potentially play a crucial role in the mobilization of history makers if less attention was paid to negative coverage. "The news media have a tendency to celebrate bad behaviour, from Charlie Sheen's recent exploits to articles that focus the spotlight on criminal and other aberrant behaviour." "These things have to be beyond just everyday goodness," Aquino said in an interview. "We're talking here about really exceptional acts of virtue. Acts that require enormous sacrifice, that put people at risk for the sake of others." Based on his research, Aquino also said the media could play a strategic role in helping the fundraising efforts for natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan. "Focusing on individual examples of extraordinary goodness within the crisis may be a more effective and subtle way to encourage people to donate than inundating them with stories and pictures of need and desperation," he said.
The myth of the panicking disaster victim
2011-03-18, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-03-29 10:51:23
Before the Second World War, the Ministry of War confidently predicted what would happen when London was bombed from the air by Nazi planes. There would be, they warned, "a mass outbreak of hysterical neurosis among the civilian population". The same predictions are made about every disaster – that once the lid of a tightly policed civilization is knocked off for a second, humans will become beasts. But the opposite is the case. It sounds grotesque to say we should see reasons for hope as we watch in real time while the earth is shaken six inches on its axis, tsunamis roar, and nuclear power stations teeter on meltdown. But it is true. From this disaster, we can learn something fundamental about our species. The evidence gathered over centuries of disasters, natural and man-made, is overwhelming. The vast majority of people, when a disaster hits, behave in the aftermath as altruists. They organise spontaneously to save their fellow human beings, to share what they have, and to show kindness. They reveal themselves to be better people than they ever expected. When the social scientist Enrico Quarantelli tried to write a thesis on how people descend into chaos and panic after disasters, he concluded: "My God! I can't find any instances of it." On the contrary, he wrote, in disasters "the social order does not break down... Co-operative rather than selfish behaviour predominates".
Note: For a beautiful example of how people come together to help and support each other in the face of a major crisis, read the inspiring "Letter from Sendai" which has gone viral on the Internet at this link.
'Barefoot' grandmothers electrify rural communities
Posted: 2011-03-22 17:34:44
Turning grandmothers into solar engineers is one of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's favorite jobs.
Roy is the social entrepreneur and founder of the Barefoot College and has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972. It is now a global enterprise with roots in India. Roy recruits women from around the world to install and maintain solar lighting and power in their home villages. The United Nations estimates that around 1.5 billion people still live without electricity. "The way to go about this is not a centralized grid system, which brings in power from hundreds of miles away," he says. "It is to bring in basic light right down to the level of basic household wherein they take ownership and control over that technology." Women are the focus for the solar power projects that the Barefoot College runs because men "were very untrainable," says Roy. "(Men) were restless, compulsively mobile, and they all want a certificate and the moment you give them a certificate they leave the village and go to the cities looking for jobs. So why not invest in women, older women, mature women, gutsy women who have roots in the village and train them." Coming from countries across the world, the women are trained for six months before returning home. Many of the women have previously never left their villages before.
Can you imagine cancer away?
2011-03-03, CNN News
Posted: 2011-03-16 12:39:59
By now, you likely know David Seidler, who won an Oscar on Sunday for best original screenplay for "The King's Speech," was a stutterer just like King George VI, whose battle with the speech disorder is portrayed in the film. What you might not know is that Seidler, 73, suffered from cancer, just like the king did. But unlike his majesty, Seidler survived the cancer, and he says he did so because he used the same vivid imagination he employed to write his award-winning script. Seidler says he visualized his cancer away. "I know it sounds awfully Southern California and woo-woo," he admits when he describes the visualization techniques he used when his bladder cancer was diagnosed nearly six years ago. "But that's what happened." Seidler says when he found out his cancer had returned, he visualized a "lovely, clean healthy bladder" for two weeks, and the cancer disappeared. He's been cancer-free for more than five years. Whether you can imagine away cancer, or any other disease, has been hotly debated for years. One camp of doctors will tell you that they've seen patients do it, and that a whole host of studies supports the mind-body connection. Other doctors, just as well-respected, will tell you the notion is preposterous, and there's not a single study to prove it really works. Seidler isn't concerned about studies. He says all he knows is that for him, visualization worked.
Note: The article goes on to quote a couple doctors who explain how chemically hope and visualization can cause the changes in the body's chemistry which could lead to spontaneous remission in cancer. For other fascinating major media articles listing potential cancer cures, click here.
Can Exercise Keep You Young?
2011-03-02, New York Times blog
Posted: 2011-03-16 12:37:24
We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely. In heartening new research published last week ... exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace. The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lacked the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they developed malfunctioning mitochondria early in their lives, as early as 3 months of age, the human equivalent of age 20. By the time they reached 8 months, or their early 60s in human terms, the animals were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. All were dead before reaching a year of age. Except the mice that exercised. At 8 months, when their sedentary lab mates were bald, frail and dying, the running rats remained youthful. They had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings. They also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. At 1 year, none of the exercising mice had died. The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the impact that exercise had on the animals’ aging process. They had not expected that it would affect every tissue and bodily system studied. Dr. Tarnopolsky’s students were impressed. “I think they all exercise now,” he said.
Note: For a treasure trove of other inspiring articles published in the major media, click here.
Equal Rights Takes to the Barricades
2011-02-01, New York Times
Posted: 2011-03-08 11:30:53
CAIRO — People here are not afraid anymore — and it just may be that a woman helped break that barrier of fear. Asmaa Mahfouz was celebrating her 26th birthday on Tuesday among tens of thousands of Egyptians as they took to the streets, parting with old fears in a bid to end President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of authoritarian, single-party rule. “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.” That was what Ms. Mahfouz had to say in a video she posted online more than two weeks ago. She spoke straight to the camera and held a sign saying she would go out and protest to try to bring down Mr. Mubarak’s regime. It was a woman who dared put a face to the message, unfazed by the possibility of arrest for her defiance. “Do not be afraid,” she said. To her surprise, dozens of other people picked up on the spirit of her message and started to post their own pictures, holding similar signs to their chests that declared their intent to take to the streets. Ms. Mahfouz is one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group of young, Internet-savvy activists who have been credited with a leading role in organizing the mass protests. She uses Facebook and Twitter as convenient methods for organizing and disseminating messages but finds that talking to people face to face is the best way to motivate them. Although it is still overwhelmingly men demonstrating, there is a new quality to the way Egyptians walk the streets now. “Everyone used to say there is no hope, that no one will turn up on the street, that the people are passive,” Ms. Mahfouz said. “But the barrier of fear was broken!”
Note: Watch this video and learn how without this one woman, Mubarak might still be in power. One person can make a huge difference. For powerful and inspiring information on the military/industrial complex and what we can do to make a difference, click here.
Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution
2011-02-16, New York Times
Posted: 2011-03-08 11:06:20
Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, [Gene Sharp] grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man. But for the world’s despots, his ideas can be fatal. For decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt. When Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement was struggling ... its leaders tossed around “crazy ideas” about bringing down the government. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp. When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago ... among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing.” Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop ... said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” stuck with them. He has concluded that advancing freedom takes careful strategy and meticulous planning, advice that ... resonated among youth leaders in Egypt. Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.” He was struck by the Egyptian protesters’ discipline in remaining peaceful, and especially by their lack of fear. “If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble.”
Note: For powerful and inspiring information on the military/industrial complex and what we can do to make a difference, click here.
A Nobel Peace Prize winner finds spiritual values in planting trees
2011-01-24, Christian Science Monitor
Posted: 2011-02-28 10:58:42
On a visit to Japan, Wangari Maathai learned the story of the hummingbird and the forest fire. While the other animals run in fear or hang their heads in despair, the hummingbird flies above the fire time and again, releasing a few drops of water from its tiny beak. "Why do you bother?" the other animals shout at the hummingbird. "I'm doing the best that I can," the hummingbird replies. "It's such a beautiful story," Ms. Maathai says, thinking of the immensity of the world's environmental problems. "There is always something we can do with our little beak like the little hummingbird." In 2004 Maathai was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize for her work founding the Green Belt Movement, which enlists villagers, and especially women, to improve their local environment. Since then, she's concluded that people's values are what motivate them. If the values are good ones, good actions will follow. Hence it's importance for people to tap their spiritual traditions for guidance in caring for the environment, she says. "If you don't have good values, you'll embrace vices," she says. And if we give in to the vices, "We destroy ourselves. We destroy the environment. If we can embrace [good] values, we also heal ourselves. And in the process we heal the environment." That's the message of her new book, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.
Give Something Back plans to give even more
2011-02-14, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2011-02-21 16:17:02
Give Something Back is celebrating 20 years in business by seeking to triple its size within five years (from $28 million in sales to $100 million) and expand into new categories such as break-room supplies (coffee and snacks), managed print services (toner, paper, repairs and networking), office furniture and janitorial and sanitation products. In most respects, Give Something Back, which says it is the largest privately owned office supply firm on the West Coast, is a regular company. But its underlying premise sets it apart. Inspired by the example of Newman's Own food products, Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx started Give Something Back in Hannigan's living room in 1991 to "use the marketplace to create wealth on behalf of the community," as Hannigan put it. "I loved the idea of being able to combine what I do for work with improving the quality of life in the world I live in," said Marx. Since inception, Give Something Back has donated more than $5 million to a diverse array of nonprofits. Last year, for the first time, its annual donations topped $500,000. It helped pioneer the concept of B (for beneficial) corporations, companies that incorporate social or environmental missions into their charters. About 371 companies nationwide have signed up as B corporations.