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Bullshit: Fuel for the Future?
Livestock farmers are harnessing methane — a natural byproduct of livestock waste — to fuel their operations.

Lillington, North Carolina is a unique, little town. It’s partially powered by livestock manure from local farmstead, Butler Farms. Harnessing methane produced by livestock waste is a dirty job, but owner Tom Butler doesn’t mind. He uses anaerobic digesters — essentially, covered lagoons full of pig shit — to capture methane to be converted into biogas. It’s then used to create enough electricity to power 100 percent of his entire operation and then some.

Repacking Boxes
Towns reclaim space vacated by closed big-box stores.

The whole thing started with Toys“R”Us on Jan. 10, 2006. That day — an average, post-holidays Tuesday — the retailer announced it would close 87 stores as part of corporate restructuring. It was like a starter gun going off. In the eight years that followed, dozens of corporations have shuttered countless big-box outlets — those massive steel caverns of consumerism that dot suburban landscapes. Sears: 100 stores. Linens N Things: 371 stores. Circuit City: 567 stores. By the end of 2012 there was 870.7 million square feet of vacant retail space in the United States. Of that space, 35 percent — almost 300 million square feet — was empty big-box stores…

The War on Waste
Restaurants throw away mounds of food. But new organizations are using what would have been tossed to feed the hungry.

Americans like to eat. A lot. They’re served plates of heaping portions, they eat to satisfaction and the rest is taken away. Sure, what’s left are just scraps, but those scraps add up. The result: billions of pounds of wasted food.

Food Waste by the Numbers

Every year American restaurants waste billions of pounds of food per year — 130 billion to be exact. What can be eaten or reused is left aside or thrown out. There is a lack of awareness surrounding this waste … But it’s not the only resource we waste: there’s space, natural resources, potential, money all wasted every day. Read more about what we’re wasting and how others are working to reduce that in Think Mag’s “Wasted” Edition tablet magazine…

Folks of the Midwest
Quintin Black

“At the gym, I’m a coach. I like weight lifting; I want more people to get into it. Most people are just weak. If people strength-trained they would be much better off. That’s only one of my jobs. I’m also a machinist. I make all sorts of parts, gears, shafts. For someone who never went to college, I’ve got a lot of skills.”

Nebraska’s Tyson Larson Calls Politics a “Fickle Game”
Think Mag chatted with Tyson Larson, the youngest elected Nebraska state senator.

At age 23, Tyson Larson campaigned to become the youngest state senator in Nebraska. By age 24, he achieved his dream. Hailing from Weeping Water, Larson is the senator for O’Neill, a small city in northeastern Nebraska. The 28-year-old advocates for investments in local, rural communities, champions limited government and takes a pro-life stance. With a ranching background, Larson is a conservative with a lot of experience — he’s been involved with political campaigns since he was 19. Make no mistake; the former New York City business intelligence analyst understands the political game. With re-election on the horizon, the Nebraska native talks politics, his motivation and “House of Cards” with Think Mag.

Spring Fare
From our friends at Eat it Kansas City.

It’s finally that time of year again — ready the grill, chill the booze and light the bonfire, spring has officially arrived and summer is right around the corner. There is no better way to celebrate the seasonal change than with some spring-inspired fare.

Summer in Chicago
From Chicago Hustles Magazine.

Summer: A time for new experiences, exploring and most of all, fun. And what could possibly be more fun than going on adventures around the great city of Chicago? With countless festivals, events and parades occurring throughout the summer, there’s always an excuse to celebrate the season in the Windy City.

Caffeinated Creativity
Kansas City’s startup community inspires fresh connections and bold ideas.

Once a week, adults across the country gather together for show and tell — or something like that. The startup collaboration 1 Million Cups provides a chance for entrepreneurs to show off what they have to offer, and it’s more than just trinkets and toys. Ethan Davidson and TJ Tollakson met last year at Green Grounds Café in West Des Moines…

Folks of the Midwest
Fred Griffin

“Where did you get this ring in your nose? Like a pig. I grew up on a plantation and my daddy used to put rings in their nose like that. … I ran away when I was 15 from Chelsea, Miss., and came to Chicago when MLK got killed.”

Better Cities, Better Lives
Three Midwestern cities are making strides toward becoming premier, ideal locations

There’s no blueprint. No step-by-step how-to. No clear set of guidelines. An ideal city is undefined, but city leaders across the U.S. are striving to define ‘ideal’ in their own ways…

User Experience Designers: the Unnoticed Superheroes of Today
Designers are charged with researching the psychology behind user decisions.

There’s a little blue “unsubscribe” button in the upper right-hand corner of a website. Everything from the color, the size and the location evokes a certain response from the user. But say the link was red and at the bottom of the page. Those alterations could entirely change the way the user interacts with the site and how it makes them feel…

2014 Wisconsin Film Festival appeals to a broad audience but stays true to film fanatics
From our friends at Arts Extract

It’s easy — and occasionally wonderful — to stay home and watch Netflix. But when there are 150 art films waiting to be seen and only eight days to see them, who can sit on the couch?

Small Kansas City Wine Shop Is No ‘Underdog’
From our friends at Eat It Kansas City

A new wine shop with more than 400 bottles of wine has infiltrated the alcohol landscape of Kansas City, Mo. — Underdog Wine Co. []. The shop might be small in size — fewer than 600 square feet — but its collection of wine more than makes up for it…

War on Raw
From our friends at The Chicagoist

In recent years, “raw” has been a buzzword on the lips of foodies everywhere. The raw food movement is gaining traction as an alternative diet for those looking to limit their consumption of processed foods…

Adventure is Out There
From our friends at North Dakota Tourism

After surviving blizzards, snow-icanes and dozens of polar vortices it’s not hard to have a ferocious case of spring fever. What better way to say goodbye to those icy winter days than with some outdoor exploring in the warm spring sun…

Transit-oriented development may succeed in Minneapolis neighborhood
From Joe Urban

With the implementation of a new light-rail line underway, all the talk in Minneapolis is of development: How can the city develop around transit? How can the city most efficiently use urban space? How can the city concentrate housing, businesses and gathering places in one central location?

The Food Stamp Failure
A Week Simulating the SNAP Program

I might as well have been drunk.
I weakly paddled, my strokes completely out of sync with the other eight rowers in my boat. I heard my coach’s voice ripple across the water, but I couldn’t make out the words, though I was sure it had something to do with my poor performance. I nodded feebly, watching my shoelaces as my vision faded in and out. Dear God, I thought. Don’t let me black out in this boat…

Scott Walker continues to refuse Medicaid expansion
From Uppity Wisconsin

Betty Bowers recently compared the number of deaths caused by guns each year to estimated deaths due to states refusing federal Medicaid funding. According to a blog post from Uppity Wisconsin, politicians are limiting funding to spite the Affordable Care Act. For Wisconsin, Bowers compared 151 firearm-related deaths to 671 estimated deaths thanks to the political stonewall…

It’s All About Whiskey and Bourbon at Barrel 31
From Eat It Kansas City

Happy Hour at Kansas City’s Barrel 31 is a little different than your average bar and restaurant. It runs from 3 to exactly 6:47 p.m., supposedly the time whiskey pioneer Jack Daniels died on Oct. 10, 1911. But considering Barrel 31 has 85 varieties of whiskey and bourbon available, from staples like Jack to odd balls like Jefferson’s Ocean (it’s aged at sea), the homage makes plenty of sense. This place is all about the hard stuff — and the whiskey nerds who love it…

North Dakota writers unite for a Mid-April workshop
From The North Dakota Department of Commerce

Writers tend to congregate with other writers. Bouncing ideas off other people just helps the creative process. Heck, it can be intellectually invigorating just to be with eccentric people. The great part about writing is that it can happen anywhere — even in North Dakota…

Where “good food” activists miss their marks
From The Hungry Learner

“Good food” has become something trendy rather than practical. The receipt from your last trip to Whole Foods should tell you that. But the premise behind “good food” — local-sourced produce and meat, gluten-free breads, organic everything, genetically modified (GMO) nothing — while admirable in principle, sure seems more dogmatic in actuality…

Folks of the Midwest
Greg Pelo

“Well, this store was purchased by my grandfather on Feb. 2, 1945. In this store, there used to be a jukebox by that back wall that they put my bassinet by. I came home from the hospital and went right there. I’m 68 years old, and I’ve been here for 68 years. So, I suppose forever.”

Defining ‘Local’
We all know we should buy local, but what does that mean?

Think about what you ate for breakfast. How far did it travel to get on your plate? If you aren’t sure, join the club. It’s difficult for consumers to know the source of every ingredient they eat. Depending on the month, those strawberries could have come from California or your local patch. The bacon: a nearby farm, maybe — this is the Midwest, after all. And those Cheerios: Who knows?

America’s Most Wanted Bull
The life and legacy of the unofficial father of American Angus beef.

I’m at birthday party for a bull. There’s a huge canvas tent — like the ones people rent for graduation parties — standing in the front yard of my grandfather’s childhood home in Denison, Iowa. About a hundred gruff, Wranglers-clad farmers sit in neat rows beneath the occasionally flapping canvas. There’s a very low-budget replica Civil War military camp set up behind the podium. Someone is giving a speech, presumably about the bull…

Vending Made Healthy
Farmer’s Fridge dispensers offer a variety of healthy alternatives to junk food

Farmer’s Fridge wants you to eat healthy. Well, healthier. While most vending machines are stocked with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Little Debbie cakes, this year-old Chicago startup stocks its dispensers daily with fresh, organic salads…

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