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Oakland, CA 94607

deliberateLIFE engages today's globally-conscious citizen in building a better tomorrow. We believe choices matter – so we vet ideas, products and organizations to make it easier for today's busy professionals to live well and do good.







Filtering by Category: Notes from the Editor

Expectations and Finding Happiness in the Holidays

Fay Johnson

By Fay Johnson | Editor-in-Chief

For the majority of my life, Ive struggled with realistic expectations. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a hopeless romantic and a dreamer. While these can be beneficial traits, they also have serious down-sides. My struggle to set and manage expectations usually comes to a head around the holidays.

When I was a child, I would pour over Victoria Magazine (what a gem that thing was!) looking at all the vintage dresses – dreaming of walking down the street in full length velvet, with a fur muff to keep my hands warm, as I went caroling in the snow. Mind you, I was born in South Africa where we celebrate Christmas in 85 degree weather, usually poolside. My second home, California, didn't offer anything closer to a white Christmas. But it didn't matter – I was an optimistic old-soul of a child, nostalgic for a world that didn't exist. I wanted to climb into the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Painting and be the family seen through the window in the closing scene of It's a Wonderful Life.

The holidays were a time when I wanted the world to be picture perfect – warm, cozy and safe.

If youre like me, and happen to live in the real world, its easy to see how having these types of expectations can lead to disappointment. I was often in tears by the end of Christmas day, because no matter how lovely the day had been, it lacked the magic of an old-world movie. Oh, how this broke my mother's heart. (It was a bit much to expect her to produce snow-clad roofs, prince charming, and a horse-drawn sleigh). Years of wonderful holidays remained in the shadow of what could have been, instead of appreciated for what they were.

As science continues to make advances (and I continue to mature), a lot has been learned about what affects happiness. A study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the relationship between happiness and reward, and the neural processes that lead to feelings that are central to our conscious experience, such as happiness.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Robb Rutledge (UCL Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and the new Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing), said: “We expected to see that recent rewards would affect moment-to-moment happiness but were surprised to find just how important expectations are in determining happiness. In real-world situations, the rewards associated with life decisions such as starting a new job or getting married are often not realized for a long time, and our results suggest expectations related to these decisions, good and bad, have a big effect on happiness."

“Life is full of expectations - it would be difficult to make good decisions without knowing, for example, which restaurant you like better. It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower. We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness. However, expectations also affect happiness even before we learn the outcome of a decision. If you have plans to meet a friend at your favorite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan."

The neuroscience of decision making would not have likely changed the dreamy idealism of my youth, but as I consider it now, it reminds me that we have a fair amount of power over how we feel. I can choose to take a realistic view of the holidays, make peace with the fact that there won't be snow or a picture-perfect family, and then set my expectations based on all the good things in my life. I am allowing myself the happiness that comes with being expectant about seeing family and friends. My expectation is that we will share a meal, be present with one another, and enjoy the beauty that is human interaction. Regardless of how Non-Rockwell it ends up being.

Scribbled on my kitchen chalkboard wall is the saying: Gratitude Makes What You Have Enough. This year, I’m taking my own advice, setting my expectations and choosing gratitude amidst the holiday hubbub.

Oakland: In Our Neighborhood

Fay Johnson

In September 2013 we moved into a new office in Jack London Square, part of downtown Oakland. It's a lively industrial area set right on the water. We are lucky to have a waterfront promenade, good restaurants, kayak rental, Jack London's historical cabin, and the ferry right outside our door. Here are a few photos taken by Jerome Love, one of our talented contributors.

Jack London's cabin

Jack London's cabin

Warehouses are open, selling fresh produce each morning.

Warehouses are open, selling fresh produce each morning.

The trucks come and go, and bright colors line the street.

The trucks come and go, and bright colors line the street.

Spring Update: We're on Android

Fay Johnson

Issue no. 5 Promo.jpg

It's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2014 is over. Yet, spring is definitely in the air as April showers seem to have come early here in Oakland.

On Sunday we released the beta version of our Android app – If you have become a faithful reader of our blog and have been waiting to be able to access the magazine on your Android tablet – the wait is over! Download our free app from the Google Play Store and send us your ideas and feedback. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday also found us mentioned in a San Francisco Chronicle article about the tech scene in Oakland. Although most of our team lives in other cities (and countries), Oakland has been a great place to start launch this business. If you live in the Bay Area, do consider joining us for dinner on a Wednesday night.

Along with the release of our Android app, Issue no. 5, is out on April 1st.  In this issue we explore some of the spaces which we may overlook in our urban landscape and consider ways to conserve water and energy while contributing to more efficient cities.

Although it can be deeply rewarding to escape the city from time to time, much of the world’s population lives in dense urban environments and will continue to do so. Therefore, it is wise to consider how we choose to live within these environments.

In recent months, my team and I have been navigating the joys of independent publishing and all the ebbs and flows that accompany a new venture. For our paucity in publishing, I apologize. We are so grateful that you have remained part of our collective efforts to build a better tomorrow and look forward to all we will learn and do together in 2014.

Interested in learning more about why we do what we do? Check out this video or this post on why choices matter. As we journey through 2014, I invite you to contact us so that we may collaborate to find ways to live well and do good.

Get in touch with your ideas. We’d love to hear from you.

Live Deliberately,


Announcing deliberateLIFE for iPhone

Fay Johnson

Since our launch in January we've had countless requests for deliberateLIFE Magazine for the iPhone. I'm happy to announce it's here

Download deliberateLIFE for Your iPhone

If you have already subscribed to deliberateLIFE Magazine on your iPad, simply push subscribe and then select 'restore previous purchases' to sync your devices. And just like that you'll be able to take deliberateLIFE with you in your pocket. 

If you haven't had a chance to check out deliberateLIFE to date, the magazine features topics ranging from food, to travel and provides easy tips and advice on how to live well and do good. We also research and vet products that you can feel good about purchasing. All the content is evergreen so Issues 1-4 will be just as enjoyable today as they were when they were released. 


The Arrival of Fall

Fay Johnson


By Fay Johnson

It's been a busy summer. We filmed our first promotional video with Anthem Films in LA, saw our community successfully raise $10,000 to build a school in Kenya through our collaboration with Change Heroes, released the fourth issue of deliberateLIFE Magazine and yours truly clocked a fair amount of miles to and from meetings (complete with canceled flights, overnights in airports and a few car problems).  

Just like that, summer is gone and fall is here.  And I couldn't be happier.

As if triggered by the cooler weather and the previously set rhythms of school, our team is settling into the fourth quarter – and growing. We've welcomed four teammates, three fall-semester interns and a growing number of volunteers who support our vision of a better tomorrow.

There is much to be excited about as we look at the months to come – Our app is now iOS 7 compatible and soon our content will be available to millions of new readers via the iPhone. (I am beyond  excited about this). To celebrate all that has transpired this year, and to properly introduce the new app, we are planning an official launch party in November.

For our readers – next month, we will release our fifth issue, focusing on the joys of gathering, the story of the food that we share, and how we express gratitude. Do you have a story about a meal or a gathering that changed your life? If so, we want to hear about it! Send us a message.

If you haven't already, download Issue no.4 from iTunes or purchase a PDF copy of the issue from our store. You will find useful recipes for preparing your lunch, videos, compelling article and product reviews – all vetted by our team to make your life easier and more fulfilling.

Thanks for continuing to journey with us.  

                  – Fay

Deliberate Choices

Fay Johnson


By Fay Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

deliberateLIFE Magazine explores the areas where individuals are presented choices – from products, to interpersonal relationships, to community engagement and professional responsibilities – and provides information and options to our readers. Researching and vetting both the products and organizations highlighted, we seek to be a trusted source for today's globally conscious citizen.

deliberateLIFE is based on three beliefs:

  1. Individual choices matter – You add them up and they make a difference.
  2. There are people who want to make informed choices which will make a positive (or at least neutral) impact on the world.
  3. There is no central, trusted source to turn to, to help one make these choices.

With these three ideas in mind, I (Fay) set out to create something that would help people around the world live a positive, healthy, 'impactful' life, with more ease. I know people are busy. I also know there are others out there like me, who if addressed by an expert in a particular field who explained why a choice matters and how it helps, would do their best to implement the expert's advice. So I set out to collect the advice that I wished was vetted for me, into one place.

Utilizing my personal background in human rights research, social entrepreneurship and community development – and levering relationships with experts in other fields such as sustainability, design, healthy living, mindful behavior, and ecotourism – we are actively researching and compiling information for a community of socially conscious people.

What are deliberate choices?

When people come across deliberateLIFE magazine they sometimes ask what we mean by 'deliberate'. After all, one can be deliberate about anything – one can even intentionally and deliberately do something to hurt another. But, that's not what it means to us. To capture what we believe matters, we wrote a manifesto. (You can read it here.)

We live integrated lives, and therefore deliberateLIFE magazine covers a range of lifestyle choices. For example, when you go out to dinner, you are presented with options in regards to where to dine. The choice you make can impact you, your community, and the environment. Where the restaurant sources their food, how healthily it is prepared, who they hire, how much they pays their staff, how they handle their waste management, are all part of the ecosystems of your dining experience. If you choose to eat at a restaurant that serves locally grown food, the produce will be more nutritious (positively effecting your healthy – and your medical bill), and it will have a lower carbon footprint, which helps out our planet. A small business that treats it's employees well, creates jobs and generates economic flow-through which builds a stronger local economy. Many implications to the frequently ask question "Where should we go to dinner".

Here is an early concept sketch about how key parts of our lives fit together: 

10 areas connected by dots - to recreate.png

To us, deliberate living is about recognizing the ripple effect that our lives have, and about choosing to make thoughtful choices because of this reality. What we do each day matters. At the core of our work is the certainty that the choices we make matter in our own lives and the lives of many others, most of whom we may never see. We aren’t going to try to convince you to spend all day in a yoga studio, start an organic farm, or quit your job to traverse the globe.

It is our hope to inspire and challenge you with fun, practical ideas about making deliberate choices that positively impact our world. We are learning and growing together and we look forward to the ideas you, our readers, will share with us about the good you’re doing every day, in your own lives.

Photo by Alice Gao Photography, Graphics by Jon Hwong.


From The Editor: Issue no.3

Fay Johnson

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."—Henry David Thoreau

When Thoreau escaped the center of Concord, Massachusetts in the 1840s to live in a cabin by Walden Pond, he, like many of us today, was endeavoring to remove himself from the hustle and bustle of modern city life to find space for reflection.  He spent two years living in solitude, surrounded by nature, working on what would become his classic, Walden.

One of our core beliefs here at deliberateLIFE is that our relationship to nature and the world around us matters.  We believe that there is intrinsic value to spending time outdoors in environments that are untouched by man.  Stepping away from our controlled surroundings into expanses too grand to bottle, embrace, or capture in a simple photograph—we can again find ourselves in the quiet, and be reminded that we are only one part of the grand story of the universe.

This issue is our Ode to the Great Outdoors and to the wonderful months of summer. It is the season when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere venture out a little further, for a little longer, to enjoy all that awaits us outside.  From summer cocktails in the sun to growing your own rain-fed produce, we hope this issue inspires a few yard-to-table dinner parties and a good deal of laughter with friends. 

And because much of summer’s lore is built on the magical warm days of care-free youth, in the Perspectives section various contributors and readers share memories and reflections on summer and the great outdoors.  We hope these inspire recollections of your own happy memories of sun–drenched days and motivate you to get out and explore once more.


Our deliberate:TRAVEL section takes us to Asia, where one of our wanderlust writers shows us a window into Cambodia—a stunning country with rich and complex cultural history.  We believe travel is a great way to expand one’s horizons while also supporting the local economy, so check out the Visit and Volunteer pages for information on places for you to patronize or volunteer at while in Cambodia.

This summer, keep a journal as you camp, hike, or stroll through a park.  You may not end up writing the next Walden Pond but you may find that taking the time to stop and reflect helps reinvigorate, inspire, and sooth the soul.  Captured thoughts you’d like to share?  Send us an e-mail at hello@deliberateLIFEmag.com.

Here’s to the magic of summer.

Live Deliberately,


 Purchase a PDF version of Issue no.3 from our store here.


Inside Issue 2

Fay Johnson

In issue no. 2, we focused on love, conflict, art, war, and social justice.  These themes weave together well as we looked at valentines day chocolate (which often includes forced child labor in the supply chain), date ideas intended to encourage deeper interpersonal connection, and how artists and designers are using their skills to help address conflict, war, and injustice.

As you know, at deliberateLIFE we focus on identifying the choices people can make, that make a difference. So as we approached Valentines Day, a day that American’s purchase around 58 million pounds (over $345 million USD) of chocolate, finding some ‘guilt-free’ options for consumers, seemed like a good idea. So, we did some research. Below is a quick excerpt from our article on chocolate.


Theobroma cacao, the unprocessed pod, that when processed is turned into cocoa, is indigenous to the Amazon Basin and the tropical areas of South and Central America. Cacao was first cultivated over 2000 years ago. Although cacao used to be a hidden gem of the Mayan empire, today 75% of the cacao beans are harvested in the tropics of West Africa. According to the International Cocoa Organization, the Ivory Coast alone produces more than 35% of the world's cacao. Indonesia and Central America are also large cacao producers. Learn more about the multi-step process from pod to chocolate here.

Although chocolate has a long history of notoriety, there is a bitter side to its ‘sweet’ story. Just as slavery is known to exist in the production of cotton, steel, oriental rugs, diamonds and silk, cocoa production also lends itself to exploitative labor. Child labor and bonded slaves are often used in the harvesting of the cacao pods. According to a US government-funded study, over 1.8 million children work in West Africa’s cacao industry. Many of these children are subject to unsafe working conditions. This unsavory reality has stirred activists and businesses alike to seek solutions....                

Consumers who wish to enjoy guilt-free treats now have many options available to them. Possibly the easiest way to ensure that your chocolate is ethically produced is to buy Fair Trade certified products. The Fair Trade certified label guarantees that the farmers who were involved in growing the raw materials in your chocolate receive fair prices for their crops. It also ensures that slave labor and child labor were not used during the production cycle. You can check out Fair Trade USA’s website here for a list of chocolate manufacturers. It is important to note, however, that there are companies making ethically sourced produces that, for financial reasons, choose to forgo the Fair Trade certification process. These companies may choose to develop relationships directly with farmers, monitor their own supply chain and label their products ‘direct trade’ or ‘ethically’ made. The benefit of direct trade, some argue, is that producers can pay higher prices to farmers due to the savings incurred by not going through the certification process.

While we at deliberateLIFE are strongly in favor of producers receiving the best possible price, we do encourage supporting companies that undergo external evaluation of their supply chain to maintain transparency. Note: Organic products are definitely better for the environment and for one’s health, but it’s important to note that ‘organic’ is not synonymous with ‘slave-free’.

Editor-in-Chief, Fay Johnson, and photographer Brandon Dube, working on product stills for the chocolate article. Kona, Hawaii.

Editor-in-Chief, Fay Johnson, and photographer Brandon Dube, working on product stills for the chocolate article. Kona, Hawaii.

When buying chocolate, there are a few things to keep in mind: First, look at the ingredients. The simpler the ingredients, the better the chocolate. There should only be very few ingredients, four to five at the max and chocolate should not include ingredients that you don’t recognize. The next checkpoint is certifications. Look for one or more of the following: Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance and USDA Organic.

Here are a few treats we think you should try.

  1. Theo Chocolate is organic. Their beans are sourced from multiple countries to ensure the best bean possible. With excellent care taken from bean to bar, the Theo Chocolate family makes small batches at a time to guarantee the best taste. www.theochocolate.com
  2. Divine: A leading Fair Trade brand in the UK, and an agent in the world of socially responsible enterprise, Divine Chocolate stems from Ghana and is known for its quality and taste. www.divinechocolate.com
  3. Green & Black’s: Run by a husband and wife duo, Green & Black’s name is simple: green for its organic qualities and black for its deep, rich flavor. Made with 70% cocoa, their bars are almost black in color. www.greenandblacks.com
  4. Endangered Species Chocolate is on a mission to raise awareness about endangered animals while selling natural and ethically traded chocolate. Each year, Endangered Species Chocolate donates ten percent of their net profits to non-profits. www.chocolatebar.com
  5. Equal Exchange: Always searching for new ways to improve the food system, Equal Exchange offers a variety of products that consumers can feel good about. With a commitment to only source from small organic shareholder farmers, their chocolate is good for you and the producer.  www.equalexchange.coop

In the middle of production for issue no. 2, several of our team were invited to a wedding in Hawaii.  Not wanting to miss out on the celebrations, we took our work on the road. Below are some of the outtakes from the shoot in Hawaii.

Photos by Brandon Dube.


Notes from the Editor: Issue 1

Fay Johnson

I have to say – it’s quite a feeling – to see this first issue live on the iPad. I won’t lie – when I finally pushed the ‘go live’ button, I ran around my apartment in joy. It’s here – it is live and I finally get to share it with all of you. It has been a seven month journey to get us to today – and what a ride it has been! Thank you for joining me, as I set out to live my passion and help others find theirs too. 

I started this magazine because I believe that most of us want to live socially conscious and responsible lives – for our families, the global community and ourselves.

For most of us, however, we're stoked when we remember to eat a salad every once in a while and pay our bills on time. Life doesn't leave a lot of space to follow the latest updates in scientific breakthroughs, health, or politics … to say nothing of climate change, extreme poverty, war, and human rights issues. (Feeling jazzed yet?) At deliberateLIFE, we get it – we're on a mission to make following important issues, and making good choices, a bit easier and more enjoyable.

iPad Issue 1_Now Available_Red.png

In each issue you'll find actionable ways to be more deliberate in your daily life. We will also examine a social challenge in each issue, and provide domestic and international perspectives on the topic. In this issue, we discuss varied responses to homelessness.

We'll also bring you inspiring stories of organizations and people doing great work, ethically made products that we think are worth keeping, tips for travel, and information about how you can do your part as we build a better tomorrow. We hope to inspire you to live well and do good by making intentional choices about how you spend your time, use your resources, engage in your community and respond to global issues. And, if nothing else, you can use the information gleaned from these pages as conversation starters at your next cocktail party.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Live Deliberately,