Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Stop smoking

In honor of the popular and very worthwhile new year's resolution to stop smoking, I'm posting some links from the American Cancer Society to help you get started:

* Here are some tips on planning your quit day.

* You know all the reasons why you you should quit: your health, the health of those around you, your appearance, and more. Here's a tool to calculate how much smoking costs you financially. I'm sure you can find a better way to spend that money.

* Click here to ask a tobacco related question and receive a personalized response from a Quitline counselor by email. You can also call the hotline at 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345) 24 hours a day. You can call now.

Also check out the November 18th post on the Great American Smokeout. [I'm thinking of a few folks as I write this. Wonder if they know who they are?] 85% of smokers want to quit, so make today the day you get the information you need to stop smoking. This is your year! You can stop smoking.

Support higher Education: Ghana

I've know several people (myself included) who've dreamed of starting a school. Well, fellow Swarthmore alum, Patrick Awuah did it! Ashesi University is a private, non-profit, four-year highly-selective college in Accra, Ghana. Their mission is "to train a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the values of life-long learning, concern for others and the courage to think in a bold and enterprising way." To accomplish this mission they offer "bachelors degrees in computer science and business administration, based on a liberal arts core curriculum. A service learning component is built into the curriculum, and the overall program challenges students to not only hone their critical thinking and communication skills, but also apply theory to practice through class projects and internships." The first class will graduate in 2006.

To read what others (including the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Seattle Times, and the LA Times) have to say about Ashesi click here. To make a financial donation or to donate an item from the wish list, click here. Donations are particularly needed to increase the number of scholarships given.

Please note that an Ashesi board member has pledged to match every donation from $1000 up to $5000 made until December 31, 2004. That means your donation could be doubled, or with corporate matching, tripled! Any amount is, of course, appreciated. So if you haven't started your own school yet (or even if you have), consider supporting Ashesi.

Donate blood

I'd planned to post about blood donation every 56 days. That's how often most folks can give. Since my last blood donation post was on October 23rd, I'm almost two weeks late. But even though my reminder is late, I am donating blood on schedule. That's what's most important, right? Ready for the reminder? Here goes . . .

One out of three people needs donated blood in their lifetime. You can help meet this need by donating a pint of your own. Blood donation takes only an hour or so, and it's something most of us can spare. Your body will make more and you'll be able to donate again in 56 days. Blood drives happen everywhere, all the time. Contact local hospitals and blood banks for a drive in your area. Or for more information on eligibility, donation locations, and more, call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543) or visit I've found it quite easy to make a donation appointment on line, and drop in to donate when it's convenient for me.

Think of your family, think of your friends, think of yourself, then give. Someone you love may need donated blood soon. Will it be available? It's just an hour, just a pint and it just might save a life. Donate regularly. See you in 56 days . . .

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Provide disaster relief

By now we've all heard the reports: 52,000 people dead, tens of thousands missing, millions homeless, all resulting from an massive earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Your donation will provide relief for the survivors. The following organizations are already at work and can use your help:

* Doctors Without Borders
* Red Cross
* Mercy Corps

Give what you can. It will be put to good use, and will be very much appreciated.

Spend two years in service

I went to my college reunion last year and briefly met an alum who graduated in the 1940's. When he found out I finished in 1993, he asked, "So what have you been doing with the last ten years of your life?" Some might think his question presumptuous, but I kind of like it. It was a good reminder that we should be able to look back on our lives with pride, and without regrets. Plan now so you can do that in the future. Consider spending the next two years in service to others. Here are three programs that will help you do it:

* Teach for America calls "upon our country's most promising future leaders to commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and to become lifelong advocates for change."

* AmeriCorps "is a network of national service programs that engage more than 50,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment."

* Peace Corps volunteers work all over the world in areas like education, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology.

Each of these programs pays a stipend and helps with student loans, among many other benefits. Is your life fulfilling? Think about how it could be. Now make it happen!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Understand justice; live a just life

The formal principle of justice says that in "whatever respects are relevant, persons equal in those respects should be treated equally"(1). But one can think of justice in many different ways:

* Retributive justice calls for punishment in response to actions that create an imbalance in the social order.

* Procedural justice focuses on "making and implementing decisions according to fair processes that [ideally] ensure "fair treatment.(2)"

* Distributive justice refers to a fair, equitable and appropriate distribution of resources, privileges, burdens, and responsibilities.

* Restorative justice focuses on "transforming wrongdoing by healing the harm, particularly to [interpersonal and community] relationships, that is created by harmful behavior"(3). This was the goal of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Consider these different goals of and methods of achieving justice. Which ones resonate with you? Do your life and lifestyle reflect your personal understanding of justice? What changes can you make to ensure that you live the values you hold? Remember, NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Help clear minefields, help save lives

There are about 60 - 70 million landmines in more than 90 countries, killing or injuring about 26,000 civilians every year. That's one every 27 minutes. One third of the dead are children. You can help remove landmines, save lives, and improve the lives of those injured by landmines. Here's how:

* Donate money to help clear minefields. It costs as much as $4,000 to remove just one mine, but less than 50 cents to put one in the ground. Contribute to Adopt-a-Minefield or Adopt-a-Minefield UK.

* Donate a used prosthesis to Limbs for Life. They operate the World Limb Bank which collects used prostheses, and distributes them free to amputees all over the world.

* Contact your elected officials and ask them to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty before 2006. Learn more at Unicef. See the November 15 post for more information on writing your elected representatives.

Let's get to work!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Calculate the size of your ecological footprint, then reduce it.

Your ecological footprint is the amount of productive land it takes to provide the energy, food, goods and services you use and to absorb the waste you create. The average American uses 25 acres to support his or her current lifestyle. While the average Canadian uses 18 acres, and the average Italian uses 10 acres. How much do you use?

Find out by using this ecological footprint calculator. Just answer 13 questions about food, transportation and housing. Then use the information to lessen your negative impact on the environment and on humanity.

Mine was much bigger than I expected. I've got a lot of work to do. What about you?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Spend your money wisely

It's no secret that corporations often have a political agenda. Learn more about the organizations with which you spend your money on these sites:

* Buy Blue is "a concerted effort to educate the public on making informed buying decisions as a consumer. We identify businesses which support our ideals and spotlight their dedication to progressive politics. In turn, we shine that spotlight on unsupportive businesses in the form of massive boycotts and action alerts."

* Choose the blue "compiles information from third party sources primarily to show certain reported spending by political action committees connected with a corporation and by that corporation's employees as political contributions, in each case related to recent federal elections"

* I Buy Different is aimed at young people, and those who promote environmental justice.

Though I'd rather not label states, let alone people as 'red' or 'blue,' I do think the information on these sites is useful for deciding how and with whom you want to spend your money. As one site said, "Vote with your wallet." Happy shopping!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Help train service dogs

My dog, Ebony, was a wonderful companion, but she never worked as hard as a service dog. Service dogs are vitally important to people with disabilities, and include guide dogs for the blind; hearing dogs, that alert their owners to sounds; mobility assistance dogs, which may pull a wheelchair or physically support a person; and seizure alert dogs. But these dogs must be trained to do their job. Help make that happen by supporting the organizations here, either financially or by becoming a volunteer or handler.

* Canine Companions for Independence trains hearing dogs, service dogs, and assistance dogs to help people with disabilities. Support them by raising a puppy, or donating time or other resources.

* Seach Dog Foundation trains dogs to search for people who are buried alive in disaster situations. You can donate, become a handler, or become a volunteer. It costs ~$10,000 to train a FEMA-certified search dog.

* The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners is a non-profit organization that represents people paired with hearing, guide or service dogs.

* Therapy Dogs International is an organization that "provides comfort and companionship by sharing the therapy dog with the patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions. This is done in a way that increases emotional well being, promotes healing, and improves the quality of life for the people being visited and the staff that cares for these people."

So if you're a dog-lover, or if you're a person-lover, consider the work of service and therapy dogs. And do what you can to support them and the people that train and depend on them for a more independent life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Read books for free

Is it too cold to go out to the library? Would you rather not spend money to buy books? Are you tired of reading the books you already have? Do you know someone who is? Then check out the sites below for FREE access to tens of thousands of books. We're talking full text! Earlier this semester, I read Brave New World online for a class. It was fast, easy and free. In most cases the books are in the public domain in the US, and so are older. Search for your favorite titles today!

* The University of Pennsylvania Library offers over 20,000 free books with new ones added all the time.

* Project Gutenberg is the oldest producer of free electronic books (eBooks or etexts) on the Internet. They list over 13,000 books, most are older literary works that are in the public domain in the United States.

* The National Academies Pess offers over 3,000 free books online. Most deal with science, engineering or medicine.

For more on the growing connections between literature and the internet, read this article. Happy reading!

Improve literacy

Did you know that at least 50% of the unemployed are functionally illiterate? That an estimated $5 billion a year in taxes goes to support people receiving public assistance who are unemployable due to illiteracy? That the average kindergarten student has seen more than 5,000 hours of television, having spent more time in front of the TV than it takes to earn a bachelors's degree? That 44% of all American adults do not read one book in the course of a year? Are you as saddened by these statistics as I am?

"So what can I do?"

* Learn more by visiting the National Institute for Literacy or Proliteracy Worldwide.

* Donate books to children by clicking the bright red button on The Literacy Site. Do this now! It takes less than 10 seconds. And don't forget to click tomorrow.

* Volunteer to teach someone to read. Find an organization near you at This is important since adult reading scores improve approximately one grade level with just 35-45 hours of tutoring. Use the directory to identify tutoring services for people in need of help, and to learn more about learning disabilities.

* Join with Heifer International and use their Read to Feed curriculum to teach children reading skills and sustainable development.

* Volunteer at your local library.

* Read to your children. Read as a couple. Read as a family. Join a bookclub.

* Give books as presents.

I imagine you know how valuable it is to be able to read. Help someone else experience that joy. (Did you click that bright red button?)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Send a social justice e-card

It's the holiday season and, as one friend proclaimed, reconnect month. Take some time out soon to reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues. When you do, consider sending an e-card from an organization whose work you admire and support. They're easy, free, and fast, and are sure to bring a smile you your loved one's face. Choose cards from the Red Cross, Care, Heifer International, Accion International, or Habitat for Humanity. And if you prefer paper cards, consider getting them from Unicef.

You can learn more about these organizations on their websites and through posts on this blog. So when you spread your holiday greetings, spread the word about these wonderful organizations and the work they do. Maybe you or your friends will be moved to volunteer your time or donate money. And then your card will have truly made a difference.

If you know of any other good sites for progressive e-cards, please leave a comment letting us know. Thanks!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Try biodiesel

Does your car or truck have a diesel engine? How about your tractor? If so, consider using biodiesel (or vegetable oil) to fuel your vehicle. It's cheaper, it may earn you a tax credit, and it's better for the environment. Some restaurants will even pay you to take it away! Here are some other reasons you might want to try biodiesel (from the website):
* National economy. Using biodiesel keeps our fuel buying dollars at home instead of sending it to foreign countries. This reduces our trade deficit and creates jobs. Because it's farm-grown, many of those jobs are in rural communities.

* National security. Since it's made domestically, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil. That's good.

* Engine life. Studies have shown it reduces engine wear by as much as one half, primarily because it provides excellent lubricity. Even a 2% biodiesel/98% diesel blend will help.

* It's sustainable and non-toxic. Face it, we're going to run out of oil eventually. Biodiesel is 100% renewable... we'll never run out of it. And if it gets into your water supply, there's no problem - it's veggie oil! Heck, you can drink it if you so desire, but it tastes nasty (trust us).

* It produces fewer emissions. Biodiesel is nearly carbon-neutral, meaning it contributes almost zero emissions to global warming! Biodiesel also dramatically reduces other emissions fairly dramatically. We like clean air, how about you? Plus, the exhaust smells like popcorn or french fries!

* Drivability. We have yet to meet anyone who doesn't notice an immediate smoothing of the engine with biodiesel. It just runs quieter, and produces less smoke.

For more information on biodiesel and to learn where to buy it in your area, visit or the National Biodiesel Board. See you on the road!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Fund microloans

What can $10 buy? A pair of scissors and other supplies for a Filipina woman to start styling hair and support her family. What can $25 buy? Supplies to start a noodle house allowing a Cambodian family to save enough for a first home. What can $50 buy? A cell phone that a Bangladeshi woman can rent out in a neighborhood with no phones, improving her life and the lives of her neighbors. Read more stories here.

Microcredit is yet another way to support sustainable development in the US and around the world. When recipients pay back the loans, the money is sent back out again to improve someone else's life. So check your pockets and see if you have any money to spare. Pool it with a friend and you can make an even bigger difference in someone's life. Consider these organizations:

* Opportunity International "Our mission is to provide opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives. Our strategy is to create jobs, stimulate small businesses, and strengthen communities among the poor."

* Accion International is "a nonprofit that fights poverty through microlending." They also have Accion USAwhich makes small loans in the US.

* Association for Enterprise Opportunity is "the national association of organizations committed to microenterprise development."

2005 is the United Nations International Year of Microcredit. Learn more at Your money goes further when it's used for microloans, since a small amount can make a very big difference. Fund a microloan today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Promote hybrid vehicles (and win a new car!)

New American Dream is holding a contest and the winner will receive a new car!

All you have to do is write a ten word (or less) slogan that tells automakers to bring more efficient hybrid vehicles to market. They're looking for a slogan that will capture the automakers' attention and inspire action. This campaign will make an immediate positive impact on carbon emissions and be a great step toward stopping global warming.

If your slogan is selected as the best core message for the campaign, you'll be gliding past gas pumps in a 2005 Toyota Prius hybrid that gets 55 mpg. So write your slogan, and visit New American Dream today.

And if you win, can I take a spin in the Prius? :)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Engage the media

Have you ever wondered why some stories are covered in the news and others are not? Do you want to write a letter to the editor? Have you ever asked yourself if certain news reports are really true? Do you question the role of advertising or the government in news reporting? Make our press truly free and hold them accountable. Here are some ways to engage your media:

* Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a national media watch group, that works with journalists and activists and works against media bias and censorship. They publish a magazine (Extra!) and have a weekly radio program (CounterSpin - available online). You can also sign up for free e-mail Action Alerts that will suggest ways to talk to the media.

* offers these tips on writing a letter to the editor, getting a story on local TV news, finding the right contact person at media outlets, and more. Use these to voice your opinion, make corrections, or offer an alternative view.

* got lots of attention during the recent presidential campaign. They offered the facts about the presidential ads. Visit their site and check the facts for yourself.

* Listen to alternative radio for a perspective that often differs from that of the corporate media. My favorites are WRFG 89.3 FM in Atlanta and KABF 88.3 FM in Little Rock.

I'll be on the lookout for your letter to the editor!

Wear fair-trade union-made clothing

Check out No Sweat Apparel (as in no sweatshop) for their wonderful line of 100% union made clothing. They have the only fair-trade 100% union-made athletic shoes in the world. In the world! They're nice too! I want the Red MoJo's! :)

So browse No Sweat's catalog. It's a great place to do some holiday or birthday shopping for your socially-minded friends and relatives. Or even for yourself. There are a wide variety of styles available, and you'll look great and feel great wearing them.

Give gifts that multiply: Handwork of India

Handwork of India is a not-for-profit organization that supports economic development for financially disadvantaged women artisans in Mumbai (Bombay), India. They have a great catalog of clothing and household items, many of which would make wonderful gifts. Purchases and donations support the women and their families. Browse the catalog online or in print and find gifts that spread joy to more than just you and your loved one.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Make good use of your time and talents.

Volunteering is a great way to learn about and serve your community, and meet new people. Plus, it can even be useful for resume building and developing good professional references. Even better, you might even have a little fun!

To find a volunteer opportunity in your area, visit the United Way, enter your zip code, and search. You're sure to find an organization that can make good use of your time and talents. And when you work to improve your community, you improve your own life as well.

Party with a purpose

Isn't is a joy to get together with friends to eat, talk, and generally have a good time? There's a lot of that happening this time of year. Next time you organize a party, consider asking your guests to bring a little something to benefit someone else. Admission can be canned goods, clothes or books that you can donate after the party's over. You may want to pick a particular organization in advance so folks can bring specific donations (monetary or otherwise).

Or, consider organizing a one-day community sevice project. Something like Habitat for Humanity, where you and your friends all work together, works well. Afterwards, you can all get together for good food, music, conversation, fellowship, and fun. Besides, people might be more likely to volunteer if they know a party awaits them afterwards.

These ideas work great for birthday, holiday, and other celebrations. Now that's a party that everyone can enjoy. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Take care of yourself, take care of others: World AIDS Day

December 1 is World AIDS Day. The goal is to focus on existing challenges while celebrating the progress that has been made. The theme for World AIDS Day 2004 is "Have You Heard Me Today? Women, girls, and HIV and AIDS". Here are some things you can do today and later to acknowledge this occasion:

* Learn more about HIV and AIDS. Click here and here for more information.

* Approximately one-third of the people in the US infected with HIV don't know it.GET TESTED. Visit (a CDC site) to learn more and find a place to get tested in your area.

* Learn more about HIV vaccine trials. Many people are needed to enroll in trials that test the vaccines and various stages of development. Perhaps you'll want to join a trial and help make an HIV vaccine a reality.

* Donate time, money or other resources to HIV/AIDS service organizations. Just do a Google search with the terms HIV, AIDS and the city, state or country of interest. You are sure to find an organization and group of people that would really appreciate your contribution.

If you have questions or need more information, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline toll-free at 1-800-342-AIDS (1-800-342-2437). Here's hoping that future generations don't have to mark World AIDS Day.