Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Put people first.

Since I commute by train and bus, I run into many of the same people everyday. Yesterday, on my way home I rode the train with a women I see frequently. She's blind, and when we moved to exit at the same stop I asked if she needed assistance. We chatted on the way to her bus and were pleased to note that her first name is the same as my middle name. My conversation with Carol inspired this post on putting people not disability first.

Here are some resources that will help you interact with all people regardless of their (dis)abilities. It's not surprising that that these guidelines apply to everyone because species atypical people (like blond people, blind people, and any other group that is not in the majority) have many of the same needs, desires, concerns, hopes, etc. as everyone else. Considering that most people will be disabled at some point in their lives, this is especially true. Consider these suggestions:

--> Recognize that people are individuals. Give them respect and treat them they way you would want to be treated.
--> Treat adults as adults. Do not patronize people with disabilities by telling them how courageous they are, talking to them like they are children, or talking down to them.
--> Speak directly to the person not their companion (if they have one).
--> Offer assistance but only give it if your offer is accepted. Wait for any instructions the person may give you.
--> Don't focus on the disability, but don't pretend it doesn't exist.
--> Be willing to adjust your pace of walking or talking as necessary.

You may think that this will be easy, but take this test for bias first. If the results surprise or disappoint you, consider a visit to to learn how you can promote tolerance in yourself, your home and your community. Here are a few more resources you may want to consider:

* From Linc, Inc:
* From the National Center for Independent Living:
* From Disability Rights Advocates:

Remember that perspectives may differ because all people with disabilities don't agree on everything. Neither do all women. Or all wealthy people. Or all black people. You get the idea. When we recognize the value that all people possess we're well on the way to putting people first.

It was great meeting you, Carol! See you on MARTA!

"I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves." -- Harriet Tubman

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vote smart.

The candidate for whom I am most likely to vote for in November's presidential election is one which many call "unelectable". That's okay. The candidate is the one I think is best for me, my country, and my world. Although I initially worried about "unelectability" I put those concerns aside when I remembered my favorite Ghandi quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world." Everyone should vote for the person the person they believe will do the best job. If we just vote the person who is most "electable" we could end up with a president everyone voted for, but who no one really likes. That's not a recipe for success. So in the spirit of choosing the person who is best for you, your country, and your world, I present

Project Vote Smart is a political research organization that gathers information on candidates to help you make the very best decision you can on Election Day. Visit to learn about the candidates. You'll find

* Biographical Information
* Campaign Finances
* Issue Positions
* Interest Group Ratings
* Voting Records
* Public Statements

It's all collected and assembled by people from both major political parties. It can help you make your decision both for the primary or caucus and in the November general election. It is indeed our responsibility to vote responsibly. helps make that possible.

"Onward and upward." -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Give and get back or give and grow.

I happened upon a press release from today. What a cool organization! They have developed a way for everyday people to give an interest-bearing donation to their favorite charity and earn a return on their gift. It's called a Charitable Mutual Fund and they've been in use for years, but only for those who can make very large donations. Using the power of the internet, echoDonations enables people to participate with only a $25 donation (or more).

Here's how it works: You make a donation to your favorite charity through echoDonations. They invest the money in the charitable mutual fund. There are two choices on what to do with the interest earned: Give & Get Back™ or Give & Grow™.

* Give & Get Back™ - With this option, the interest is split between you (or your beneficiary) and your charity. Each of you gets a yearly check for the interest, and when you die, your charity gets your original donation. Use this option to get Lifetime Cash Rewards™.

* Give & Grow™ - With this option, the charity gets half the interest in a yearly check. The other half is reinvested in the charitable mutual fund. When you die, the charity gets the original donation plus all the compound interest it has earned.

--> Use their gift calculator to determine what your gift will mean to you and to your favorite nonprofit. echoDonations is a nonprofit so your contributions are tax deductible, but the amount you can deduct is based on your age at the time of donation. is a wonderful way to make a meaningful donation to an organization you care about. And it is particularly nice that both you and your charity can benefit from the interest. What a great way to get your money back. Enjoy!

"Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed." — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Improve your vocabulary.

I was on the Clinton School of Public Service blog yesterday and found the neatest thing: is a click to donate or CTD site with twist: vocabulary lessons. Each time you correctly select the meaning of the given word, 20 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. When you get the definition right you get a harder word (and the WFP gets rice). Get it wrong an you get an easier word. It's addictive, so be careful. As with other CTD sites, advertisers donate money for rice based on how many visitors test and improve their vocabulary. Yesterday 369,007,280 grains of rice were donated.

Every little bit helps. So visit and learn a little to give a little. It's a win-win! Have fun!

"Today the man who is the real risk-taker is anonymous and nonheroic. He is the one trying to make institutions work." - John William Ward

Monday, November 26, 2007

Get your money back.

You don't have to read So What Can I Do long to know that I'm a big believer in donation. We can donate almost everything: clothes, money, even life. But sometimes making a monetary donation just isn't practical. Thankfully there are many ways to do good for others and get your money back. Check out these lending opportunities:

--> This nonprofit organization allows the public to finance microloans throughout the world. Lenders can choose the entrepreneurs they want to support. With their very low rates of default, lenders almost always get their money back though they don't earn a return on their investment. I first wrote about Kiva two years ago.

--> This for-profit company just launched last month. They allow the public to buy securities that fund microfinance organizations throughout the world. "Lenders" earn a return on their investment, but are not able to choose who they fund. Learn more by reading this interview with the founder.

Kiva and Microplace may appear similar, but they have different business models. There's no reason you can't lend through both, especially since you'll likely get your money back. For broader lending opportunities, consider these options:

--> Loan to people in the US and elsewhere. If you practice due diligence you may well earn a nice return.

--> Loan to people in the US and elsewhere. If you practice due diligence you may well earn a nice return.

--> Loan to family members and friends. Having a third party involved could help reduce or prevent disputes and broken relationships.

And if you need a loan to start a small business, stop using payday lenders, get out of debt, pay medical bills, etc. consider registering with one of these companies as a borrower. Lenders, if you choose carefully, you'll be able to help someone in need and earn a return on your investment. is devoted to just these kinds of opportunities. Now that's socially-responsible investing.

"Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable." — Maya Angelou

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Redefine the holidays.

I opened Monday's New York Times and found the following full-page ad:
Let's redefine Christmas. By putting more Thanksgiving in it.
No sooner does Thanksgiving end, than the loathsome shopping season begins - a month-long compulsion to by something, anything, for everyone. We're pressed. We're stressed. And our money is wasted. But we can change all that by focusing on the giving. And redefining Christmas.
Give people donations to their favorite charities.
And request that they give donations to your favorite charities.

A lot more money would go to people who need it. Shopping would be easier and tax-deductible. And our giving would be more in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

The Dalio Family Foundation, which paid for the ad and accepts no donations from the public, ends by saying "The sole purposed of this message is to facilitate charitable giving. Please pass it on." So that's what I'm doing. Consider it: Less hassle. More good. Less taxes. It's win-win.

So this year, instead of or in addition to materials gifts, try giving and requesting charitable gifts. They are gifts that keep on giving. Happy Thanksgiving!

"History is a vast early warning system." - Norman Cousins

Monday, November 19, 2007

Give a child a family.

What do you have to be thankful for this year? As of Saturday, November 17, more than 3,300 children are thankful for their new adoptive parents. On National Adoption Day these children and their parents finalized adoption proceedings and made their families legal. Congratulations!

There are still 114,000 children in foster care, hoping for loving permanent families. Want more information?

* Visit
* Call 1-800-TO-ADOPT or 1-888-200-4005
* Write

There is a child waiting for you. You can change a child's life and your life for the better. Won't you consider being an adoptive parent or foster parent?

"Every child begins the world again." ~Henry David Thoreau

Make and keep a blood donation appointment.

I just came from my regular bimonthly blood donation. Making the donation appointment was on my to do list today and when I registered online I found a drive very nearby. How convenient! Here are a few ways for you to make a blood donation appointment.

* Call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE LIFE (448-3543) to find a blood drive near you
* Call 1-888-USBLOOD (872-5663) to find a community blood center near you
* Visit to make an appointment with the Red Cross online
* Visit to make an appointment at a community donation center.

Once you have your appointment, remember to drink lots of water in the days before and once you've given, pat yourself on the back for saving up to three lives. What a nice way to spend an hour of your time. See you in 56 days!

"Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other." - Elie Wiesel

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Send a net, save a life.

Back when I was in high school, my grandmother got food poisoning from some bad tuna. After she recovered, she told me, "I haven't been that sick since I had malaria in '37!" I was a bit surprised since, at the time, I didn't know malaria had been a problem in the United States. I remember responding, "You had malaria in '37?"

Well, malaria is no longer transmitted in the US, but 41% of the world's population lives in places where it is (Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola, and Oceania). Want some more stats?

--> Over one million people die each year from malaria, most of them young children.
--> In some parts of the world where transmission rates are high, there can be as many as 2 deaths per minute from malaria.
--> Life-saving treatments for malaria are relatively inexpensive: $0.13 for chloroquine, $0.14 for sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and $2.68 for a 7-day course of quinine.
--> "Insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce transmission as much as 90% in areas with high coverage rates."

That's right: NETS SAVE LIVES. And you can too when you purchase a net for just $10 through the Nothing But Nets Campaign from the United Nations Foundation. Just visit to make your donation. And check out So What Can I Do - News for a recent press release about their work in Congo. And here's the great thing: because of Ted Turner's gift to the UN Foundation, every cent of your donation goes toward getting the nets to the people who need them. No administrative costs are taken out.

Mom (my grandmother) took quinine when she had malaria, but others won't have to if malaria can be prevented in the first place. So in honor of her birthday today (it would have been her 97th), I encourage all of you buy a net. I bought two. It's that easy: Send a net, save a life. Happy birthday, Mom!

"You go your way and I'll go mine."Griffin Henry Belk, grandfather of Fanilla Suttles Cobb, grandmother of Karama Neal

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Trade amongst yourselves.

I'm a big believer in barter and trade. It makes good use of good items, reduces waste, and allows you to save your cash for when you really need it. So in the spirit of clothes swap, I am pleased to present it's high-tech child-focused cousin, U and I Trade.

Visit to trade new or gently used children's clothes, toys, and other items with families from all over the United States. It's a great way to recycle the items your child has outgrown and give those things a new life.

And check out So What Can I Do - News for the latest press release from U and I Trade. They are now collecting items for donation to the people affected by the California Wildfires. Great work! Happy trading!

"Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize." —Albert Gore, Jr.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Do Something.

Writing So What Can I Do for three years has reinforced my knowledge that we all can do something to improve our world, everyone, no exceptions. is a place for young people are are excited about making our world a better place for all of us. They provide "a place to connect, a place to be inspired, be supported, be celebrated." Here are just a few of the things you can do:

* Search their site for teen volunteer opportunities in your area. They even have listings for virtual volunteers.

* Apply for grants to get your service project off the ground or take it to the next level. Hurry! The next set of applications for the Del Monte Do Something Good For You! Grant are due November 9th.

* Nominate someone who makes a difference for a BR!CK Award.

* Exchange ideas about service on the topical message boards.

There's even a page for "old people" who want to support young folks in their efforts. Remember, no one can do everything, but we all can do something, and probably more than we think. Now let's get busy!

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot." —Jack London

Friday, October 12, 2007

Check out the new blog.

It's our birthday! So What Can I Do was launched three years ago today and to celebrate I'm starting a new blog: So What Can I Do News and Press Center. The News and Press Center collects press releases and news stories related to the mission of So what can I do: ethics in action promoting positive social change.

Please send your press releases that publicize opportunities for each of us to make a difference in our world. I'll post them at the News and Press Center and some of them will be discussed atSo what can I do. And visit the So What Can I Do News and Press Center regularly to identify opportunities to serve and contribute.

Thanks for three great years! Keep reading, keep contributing, keep acting!

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stop buying, stop drinking bottled water.

There is a growing movement against bottled water. All kinds of folks from newspaper columnists to religious groups to city governments are eschewing bottled water.

Here's why:
* 86% of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. That means less than 15% are recycled.
* Transporting heavy bottled water uses lots of oil for shipping. More oil is used to make the plastic for the bottles. That means more air and water pollution, and increased dependence on petroleum products.
* 40% of the bottled water is just over priced, high-falutin tap water. Read the label.

What a waste of money and resources! Not to mention the increased pollution. "So what can I do?"

* Stop using bottled water. Pick up a glass and turn on the tap. Ahh! Good water!
* Order "still water from the tap" at restaurants. Environmental stewardship is nothing to be ashamed of.
* Provide cold quenching tap water at your parties, events and home.
* Promote the passage of a bottle bill in your community. These provide an incentive to recycle and increase recycling rates.

Okay, okay. I know bottled water is convenient. So if you must carry around the plastic, do the following:

* Purchase a heavy duty plastic bottle that will last for years.
* Refill it so you can use it multiple times.
* Recycle it so someone else can use it multiple times.

We need not succumb to the advertising and marketing that would have us believe that there is no good alternative to bottled water. We know that tap water is the better choice for us and in the environment in which we live.

"The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars, is no less lovely being dark."
— Countee Cullen (1903–1946)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Donate your jewelry.

I am prone to clutter. [ Admitting it is the first step in recovery. :) ] It can be so hard for me to part with many of the items I have but being able to recycle them certainly make me feel a lot better about getting rid of them. I've written about purchasing environmentally responsible jewelry, but it wasn't until a conversation with Nicole Lorimer that it occurred to me that I could donate jewelry too! Thanks Nicole! Check out to donate the jewelry you no longer wear.

Remember these steps to reduce the clutter in your home and the waste in our world:

* Reduce - Do you really need it?
* Reuse - Can you use it again before getting rid of it?
* Recycle - How can this be used differently or reprocessed for use again?
* Restore - How can I replace the resource I consumed?

The order matters. Have fun decluttering!

"Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win." — Jonathan Kozol

Friday, October 05, 2007

Collect and use grey water.

Georgia is in the midst of an historic drought and almost all outdoor water use has been banned. Given these restrictions, there is new interest in the collection and use of grey water. Grey (or gray) water is the wastewater resulting from washing dishes, doing laundry, bathing, and the like. Grey water comprises 50-80% of residential wastewater. So why let all that water go to waste? Here are a few ways to collect grey water:

* Shower with a bucket to collect grey water.
* Save the water used to boil vegetables, pasta, eggs and the like.
* Keep buckets in the kitchen and bathroom to collect water before it goes down the sink drain.
* Collect the dripping water from your air conditioning unit.
* Install collection equipment to harvest the water.

Clearly grey water is not for drinking (except for potlikker), but there many other great ways to use grey water:

* Water your grass and landscaping.
* Flush your toilet - you certainly don't need potable water for that!
* Hydrate your compost pile.
* Water your house plants.
* Treat your greywater and use it to nourish your garden

Clean potable water is a valuable resource. Use it wisely, whether or not there's a drought.

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." - Steve Bantu Biko

Monday, October 01, 2007

Give a laptop, get a laptop: One Laptop per Child.

This just in from Neha Yellurkar:

Hey Karama,

I'm an avid reader of So What Can I Do? I know you are always looking for ways to enact social change so I think you and your readers will be as excited about this as I was. OLPC, One Laptop Per Child, a non profit organization based in Cambridge, MA, set out a few years ago to design and build affordable and easy to use computers for children all over the world. So today they are announcing that between Nov. 12 and Nov. 26, consumers can participate in the Give 1, Get 1 program. Every time anyone from the USA or Canada orders an OLPC xo laptop during this two-week period, another laptop will be donated to a child in a developing country. The total cost for both computers is $400, a cost that allows a person here to have a hand in providing a valuable resource and a very fun educational tool for a deserving child. Added bonus: Any order placed during this period is assured to reach by Christmas so the laptops you get and give will be great gifts!

The Give 1, Get 1 program was announced this morning on Good Morning America so for more information you can check out the ABC News!

For more details you can take a peek at the official release on BusinessWire or the XO giving site at:

Thanks Neha! I had heard about One Laptop Per Child on 60 Minutes but didn't know about the Give 1, Get 1 program. What a neat idea! If you agree:

* Visit
* Order your computer between November 12 and November 26, 2007. UPDATE: Extended to December 31, 2007. Order now!
* Get your snazzy new laptop computer.
* Give a child a computer and access to the information and opportunities on the internet.
* Consider donating your computer to a children's school or educational nonprofit or service agency in your community.

What a way to help close the digital divide, in the US and around the world!

“Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living.” - Nicholas Negroponte

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sankofa: Learn from the past to build the future.

Sankofa is an Akan symbol that represents the concept: "Remember the past to build for the future." For me, Sankofa is particularly relevant this month because this is the 50th Anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, my alma mater. I had such a good experience at Central but it would not have been possible without the work and sacrifice of many brave and dedicated people, including the Little Rock Nine:

* Minnijean Brown
* Elizabeth Eckford
* Ernest Green
* Thelma Mothershed Wair
* Melba Pattillo Beals
* Carlotta Walls LaNier
* Terrence Roberts
* Jefferson Thomas
* Gloria Cecelia Ray

There are many others, of course, including Daisy Gatson Bates who served as organizer for the integration effort. To all of those who worked and continue to work to ensure that all children have access to good public education, THANK YOU. I will do my best to give to others what you all have so generously given to me.

"In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute." - Thurgood Marshall

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Choose brown.

I've never been a coffee drinker so I don't pay much attention to the coffee-related accoutrements that Kwadjo has around the kitchen. But I did notice the unbleached coffee filters he recently bought. The filters are brown because they haven't been bleached with toxic and polluting chlorine products. There are unbleached versions of many paper products, in a range of shades from brown to white. Choose them whenever you can!

"God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer." - Anne Sexton, American Poet and Writer, 1928-1974.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Give blood, wherever you are.

I just got back from my bimonthly blood donation which means it's time for my regular post on organ and tissue donation. This time, I'd like to focus on blood donation opportunities around the world. According to the Red Cross, 39 countries use only non-paid, voluntary blood donors. Here's how to donate in some of them:

* Canada: Visit the Canadian Blood Services at or call 1-888-2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283) to search for a donation center near you, join the marrow donor list, and learn more about blood, platelet, plasma and marrow donations. You can also make financial gifts online. The site is available in English and French.

* Thailand: The Red Cross in Thailand operates numerous blood donation centers across the country. Visit or call 0-2252-6116, 0-2252-1637, or 0-2252-4106-9 Ext 113, 157 to find a donation center near you. The site is available in English and Thai.

* South Africa: The National Blood Service provides a safe blood supply across the country. Visit or call 0800 11 9031 to learn about eligibility and and find a donation center.

* United Kingdom: Visit the National Blood Service at or call 0845 7 711 711 (to learn more about blood, organ, cord blood, and platelet donation. You can search or call to set up a donation appointment and contribute to a safe blood supply.

Of course there are many other places around the world where you can safely donate (and receive!) blood and blood products. I wish I spoke languages other than English so that I could post information from many other countries. Feel free to list others blood donation information in the comments. And if you're 25 or under consider joining International Club 25 which promotes regular blood donations and "positive, healthy lifestyles".

So wherever you are, consider donating blood or supporting blood donation centers in your area. It's a great way to make yourself useful and to make a difference in the lives of many people.

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." – James Baldwin

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Change the margins.

I just heard about this on NPR and wanted to spread the word. Ever wonder why the margins on most word processing programs are set to 1.25 inches? There's no good reason. It's completely arbitrary and a waste of paper. For years I've changed the margins for printed documents to .75 inches. Now I know I'm not alone. Enter Tamara Krinsky and Change the Margins.

Change the Margins is a website and movement dedicated to reducing paper waste by reducing the margins used when printing. It's a simple concept really, but it can make a big difference. Consider:

* Penn State University research showed that the University could save 72 acres of forest and over $120,000/year by reducing the default margin settings across campus.

* "Each person in an office on average uses 2.5 pounds of paper each week. In the U.S., a ton equals 2000 pounds, so that means every 2 years and 70 days, each person in an office on average uses a ton of paper."

* "Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year -- enough to build a 12 foot high wall of paper from New York to California."

* Paper production is one of the top five water consuming industries.

Change the Margins is working to eliminate some of this waste. Visit to begin convincing your organization to reduce the margins, sign a petition to Microsoft asking them to reduce the default margins, and much more. So before you print your next document, try the following:

--> Send an email instead. Do you really need a hard copy or will a digital version do?
--> Use the back of preprinted paper for drafts.
--> Change the margins to .75 inches. This leaves plenty of room for hole punchers, staples, etc. Don't forget to reduce the top and bottom margins too.
--> Single space or 1.5 space rather than double space the document.
--> Choose a smaller font. Times is much smaller than Courier or Bookman.
--> Reduce the font size. Do you really need 12 point or will 10 or 11 point suffice?

You'll save paper and save money. It's a small step, but it's a start. Today change the margins, tomorrow change the world! Happy printing . . .

“I beg for criticism. You can’t learn anything from a compliment.” – Kanye West

Monday, September 03, 2007

Get the Good Stuff.

The folks at the Worldwatch Institute are all about social justice and environmental sustainability, and all the ways those concepts are connected. They, along with nine partner organizations put together a guide to help us all make responsible purchasing choices. You can download Good Stuff? A Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy for free online. What a service!

Just check out to get the skinny on the social and environmental impacts of the production, use and disposal of 25 common items, from chocolate to CDs. You may be surprised at what you learn. For example, once you know how much energy regular light bulbs waste, you may want to switch to CFLs. And when you find out what goes into chocolate production, fair trade chocolate sounds a whole lot sweeter.

So visit Worldwatch and download your free guide to today. Then read it and use it to make responsible purchasing decisions that will not only improve your life but will make a positive difference in our world.

"Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place." - Zora Neale Hurston

Friday, August 17, 2007

Go green, the easy way.

Laziness was a character flaw that was not tolerated when I was a child, but that doesn't keep me from liking the concept behind the The Lazy Environmentalist. The Lazy Environmentalist is a national talk radio show hosted by Josh Dorfman, founder of Vivavi eco-friendly furniture & home furnishings. Every day, Josh offers "easy, stylish and super convenient ways to green your lifestyle. No guilt-trips. Never any sacrifice." Here's how to check it out:

* Listen Monday through Friday at 11 am and 11 pm on Lime Radio (Sirius channel 114).
* Visit the website:
* Read the book of the same name.
* Check the blog out on the website.

You'll find some great ideas to lower your environmental footprint. I love the toilet that collects grey water (from the washing machine, etc.) and reuses it for flushing. Why do we need drinkable water to flush the toilet? Check out Josh's show and site for more great ideas.

Remember though, our environmental concerns are large, so though the Josh's idea collection is great, we all will have to make some sacrifices. And the sooner the better. Click "environment" below for more ideas.

Have fun!

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." - Frank Lloyd Wright

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Go to the charity mall.

It's been over two years since I suggested readers shop with a purpose. Consider patronizing these 'charity malls' which donate a portion of their profits to a great cause, perhaps even one you choose! Here are just a few of the malls from which you can choose:

* Giveness describes itself as "A Social Network for Philanthropy." Shop Amazon, EBay and other retailers to raise money for your favorite organization. Or use some of the many other features.

* Benevolink works with hundreds of online businesses which contribute a percentage of every dollar you spend to the nonprofit organizations of your choice.

* Giveline has over 1 million products from which you can choose. And every purchase results in a donation to your favorite charity.

* works with almost 600 online businesses and donates up to 27% of the purchase price to your favorite worthy cause.

* Buy for Charity allows you to shop at over 350 stores. A portion of your purchase price goes to the charity you choose.

* donates up to 12% of your purchase price to your favorite organization.

And for those in the UK:

* rectifi charity shop donates 20% of your purchase price to charity. Choose from over 400 UK shops. They also make donations for Yahoo web searches done from the site. Thanks Jonny!

Remember that for the shopper, the contributions are not tax-deductible. That's why the businesses participate. Since they make the donation, it's tax deductible for them. But since you're going to shop anyway, that probably doesn't matter. If you run a non-profit, considering registering your organization. That way, shoppers can more easily support your work. In each case, almost any charity qualifies and it's free for them to join. And often schools and colleges qualify too. So think of your favorites and start shopping! In the words of Benevolink, "I Shop. Therefore I Give."

"A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves." - Simone Weil

Friday, July 06, 2007

Give blood now, and again in 56 days.

I just came from donating blood. The local newspaper has had several articles on the shrinking blood supply - Atlanta was down to less than one day of reserves. That often happens in the summer when people are on vacation. But more folks on the road means more people are likely have accidents and need blood. So I and lots of other folks gathered at the local Red Cross Donor Center to give a pint and perhaps save 3 lives. It didn't take long - about an hour - and it's a great way to serve the community. Especially since only 5% of people who are eligible to donate actually do.

If you've never given blood before or if it's been more than 56 days since your last donation, why not make an appointment to donate? Just call 1-800 -GIVE LIFE (448-3543) or visit to find a blood drive near you or make an appointment at your local donor center. Alternatively, call 1-888-USBLOOD (872-5663) or visit to make an appointment at a community blood bank.

And if you can't donate blood, consider donating time or money to support these efforts. You never know when you or someone you love might need blood. Someone will be there for you. Won't you be there for someone else? And don't forget to consider all the ways you can give life.

“There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” - Josh Billings, American Humorist, 1818-1885

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Free your mind.

Happy Juneteenth! My favorite holiday, Juneteenth, celebrates the 19th of June, 1965, when enslaved black folks in Arkansas and Texas finally found out about the Emancipation Proclamation, even though the document had theoretically taken effect more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863. I wrote before about my great-great-granddaddy, Griffin Henry Belk, and how he responded to the news of his freedom. His actions - immediately walking off the plantation, freeing the mule, and going to search for his parents - suggest he was, in fact, already free. He needed no official Proclamation to free his mind. Neither do we. We too can live our lives striving to be free.

* Free yourself from fear.
* Free yourself from guilt.
* Free yourself from anger.
* Free yourself from worry.
* Free yourself from shame.
* Free yourself from blame.
* Free yourself from jealousy.
* Free yourself from insecurity.
* Free yourself from frustration.
* Free yourself from oppression.
* Free yourself from judgmentalism.
* Free yourself from other people's expectations.
* Free yourself from other people's issues and baggage.

And if you need some help, check out these resources on

* Faith and spiritual health
* Mental health
* Addiction
* Love

On this Juneteenth, free your mind. Who knows what wonderful things you'll be able to accomplish! Happy Juneteenth!

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." - Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
"Free your mind, and the rest will follow." - En Vogue, paraphrasing George Clinton of Funkadelic

Monday, June 11, 2007

Write an ethical will.

Last weekend, Kwadjo at I watched Emmanuel's Gift. It's a documentary about a Ghanaian athlete, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. He was born with a severely deformed right leg, a challenge in most every society. Disabled people in Ghana (and many other places) are generally expected to beg, but Emmanuel's mother expected better for him. And on her deathbed she talked to her teenage son about her hopes and expectations for his life. The conversation had a profound impact on Emmanuel's life; he called it her 'gift' to him.

Emmanuel Yeboah is now a leading advocate for disabled people in Ghana. His organization offers scholarships for disabled children and stipends for physically challenged athletes. His work also led to the passing of the Persons with Disability Bill in Parliament on June 23, 2006. Great work!

The film reminded me of a recent show I hear on NPR about ethical wills. These are documents that are either separate from or integrated with traditional wills that express your fundamental beliefs and allow those beliefs to be shared with the people who love and care for you. According to, ethical wills often center on the following themes:

* Love
* Great life lessons
* Asking and giving forgiveness
* Core personal values and beliefs
* Core spiritual values and beliefs
* Hopes, dreams, blessings, and expectations for future generations

For help creating your ethical will, contact your attorney and peruse these books:

* The Wealth of Your Life by Susan B. Turnbull
* Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Barry Baines

These are also important themes to talk about while you're alive. Preparing for the end of life can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there are many resources to make the process easier. Learn more about

* Organ donation
* Living will preparation
* Burial alternatives
* Body donation

And don't forget to check out Emmanuel's Gift (ideally with someone who can supplement the translation from Twi - thanks Kwadjo!). It is an inspirational film that will encourage you to make the most of your life. Then you'll definitely have something to share in your ethical will.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Give soles for souls.

If you're like me, you have lots of shoes in your closet that you never wear. They're too good to trow away, but, for whatever reason, they never seem to make on your feet. Here's the perfect solution: Donate your new or gently worn shoes to Soles4Souls. This nonprofit organization collects shoes to send to people who need them all over the world. There are several ways you can donate:

* Donate your shoes. They should be new or gently worn so that other can use them. Send them the shoes you only wore once, the ones that are too tight, or too big.
* Buy shoes for donation. These are specifically designed to be very affordable (from $2 to $17 per pair).
* Donate time to assist in shoe drives, warehouse work, relief trips, and more.
* Donate money by check or credit card. Funds are used to support the work of Soles 4 Souls, and donations are tax-deductible.

Call Soles 4 Souls at 1 866 521-SHOE to get information on planning your organizations shoe drive. This is a great way for congregations, companies, schools and civic groups to work together. And if you have well worn athletic shoes you can no longer use, send them to Nike Reuse-a-Shoe.

"Shoes are made to walk in. I think they're really neat. Have you ever seen shoes of tin? They really hurt your feet!" - Karama Neal, age 7

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Reduce, renew, offset. (A guide to carbon offsets)

So you're concerned about climate change. You have every reason to be. You do your part by composting. Perhaps you've changed all the light bulbs in your house to compact florescent bulbs. You're car is a hybrid or maybe it runs on biodiesel, vegetable oil, or E85. Even better, you take transit or walk. You recycle plastics and ink cartridgesand everything you can think of. You are living your life in the most environmentally responsible way you know but you still want to do more.

On average, every American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we use and consume. Want to know much you generate? Use a carbon use calculator to make an estimate. When you are doing all you can to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, consider buying renewable energy credits to offset the rest. Here's how to get started:

* Read The Consumers' Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (a PDF file).

* Review this cost and performance comparison of carbon offset providers.

* Purchase your offsets. Consider one of these providers:
--> NativeEnergy is Native American-majority owned and offers "traditional renewable energy credits and offsets from operating new projects."
--> Green Tags offets support solar and wind power projects across North America.
--> The Climate Trust is a nonprofit offset provider.
--> TerraPass uses offsets to fund wind, biomass, and energy efficiency projects
--> Atmosfair focuses on offetting air travel.
--> Co2 Balance will calculate your carbon footprint, advise you how to reduce it to the minimum and then help you offset the rest.

Carbon offsets often take the form of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency programs and reforestation efforts. It's important to remember that your offset purchase must mean that something new happens (for example, a new windmill is constructed) that would not have happened without your purchase. Also, the action that you're buying must actually actually offset your carbon production. Here are a few organizations that certify carbon offsets:

* CDM Gold Standard
* Green-e
* Chicago Climate Exchange
* Environmental Resources Trust
* Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management

Carbon offsets aren't the only solution; we'll all have to make lifestyle changes because we can't buy ourselves out of the climate crises. But offsets can help. Remember, reduce your carbon emissions through decreased usage and increased energy efficiency, renew by choosing renewable energy sources like wind energy or biodiesel, and for the rest, offset. So check out renewable energy certificates. They make great gifts, for yourself, for others, for all of us.

"The greatest pleasure I have known, is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." - Charles Lamb

Friday, June 08, 2007

Use E85.

Did you know that there are over 6 million flex fuel vehicles on the road in the US? Flex fuel vehicles are designed to run on either gasoline or an 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend called E85. Although flex fuel vehicles may seem like a relatively new concept, the first one was a 1908 Model T Ford. So they've been around a while. Unfortunately, many people don't even know they own a flex-fuel vehicle so you can bet they're not using E85.

Using E85 in your car or truck creates less pollution and decreases reliance on imported and domestic oil. So if you have an flex fuel vehicle, consider fueling up with ethanol. "But where can I buy E85?" you ask? Just visit, select the alternative fuel you want, enter your location, and you'll get a list of the stations near you. There are almost 700 of them around the country. Learn more at

And if ethanol's not your thing, try fueling with biodiesel or WVO, or drive a hybrid. Whatever vehicle or fuel you choose, remember to drive gently. There are lots of ways you can help reduce air pollution. Happy travels!

"There's simply no two ways about this fuel question. Gasoline is going - alcohol is coming. It's coming to stay, too, for it's in unlimited supply. And we might as well get ready for it now. All the world is waiting for a substitute to gasoline. When that is gone, there will be no more gasoline, and long before that time, the price of gasoline will have risen to a point where it will be too expensive to burn as a motor fuel. The day is not far distant when, for every one of those barrels of gasoline, a barrel of alcohol must be substituted." - Henry Ford, 1916

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Choose pink, or not.

Last time I went grocery shopping, there were pink products everywhere. I'm not sure why because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But there was pink soup, pink yogurt, even pink laundry detergent. Well, the products weren't pink but the packing was - all in support of breast cancer detection, research, prevention, and treatment. It can be easy to just buy all the pink products, but is that really the best way to support your favorite cause?

As it happened, I just bought the laundry detergent. It was the brand and kind I get anyway, so it made sense. But instead of buying a bunch of products you don't normally use, just send the money you would have spent to a charity that focuses on the cause you care about. They get more money to do good work, and you get a tax write-off.

So next time you see pink products, or any products who makers will support a cause you care about, choose carefully. And don't forget to support the cause directly.

"A good reputation is more valuable than money." - Publilius Syrus

Monday, May 28, 2007

Use enzymes.

A few months ago, I got fed up with the slow drain in our bathroom sink. We'd tried plunging and several brands of liquid drain cleaner. Each attempt would work for a while, but sooner, rather than later, the drain would be unbearably slow again. Then a home inspector recommended we try an enzyme drain cleaner. He drove a hybrid, just like us, and was happy to tell us that enzymes were better for the environment. What he didn't tell use is that enzyme drain cleaners even clean the drain better! After the recommended three daily treatments, our drain has been clear for months. I'm so pleased! Better for the environment and better performance. You can't ask for more. So if you are frustrated by slow or clogged drains, choose an enzyme drain cleaner.

"Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate." - Barnett Brickner

Friday, April 13, 2007

Be a RAINNmaker.

I've written before about online or virtual volunteering. I'm back now with a particular opportunity. If your are interested in preventing and helping survivors of rape, incest, and sexual assault, consider becoming an online volunteer with the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Right now, the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline is only operating Monday through Friday from 2pm to 10pm ET. Unfortunately, they are overwhelmed with people who want to talk anonymously with a trained counselor. They need more volunteers so they can expand the hours and the program.

This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to help, but may not have much time. Volunteers must be trained through their local rape crisis center. Visit and enter your zip code to find a center near you. It's important because, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States has experienced an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives. That means you or someone you know. Won't you help?

If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need help, call the RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673). You can call from anywhere in the US, and free and confidential counseling is available by phone 24 hours a day.

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil." - Elie Wiesel

Friday, March 09, 2007

So long . . .

As you can tell, So what can I do has been on hiatus. I will continue to post occasionally, and there are over 300 posts in the archives for you to peruse. You can find them in the sidebar at the right of the screen, or use the search function at the top of the page to find topics of interest. In addition, you can read more of my writing on Associated Content. Here's the latest:

Enjoy, and thanks for reading! It's been a wonderful ride!

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Search the web.

How often do you use search engines to search the web? If you're like me, it could be dozens of times per day. What if each search could raise money for good causes? Now several new search pages now make that possible. Choose your favorite:

* Good Search - 50% of revenue donated to the charity of your choice. Powered by Yahoo.

* LiveSearch - For each search, "Microsoft will contribute to, a UN agency-led campaign providing education and sports programs for the nine million refugee youth around the world."

* - 50% of revenue donated to the charity of your choice. (UK based)

* Charity Cafe - 100% of profits go to Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and OxFam. Powered by

* ClicksCount - Donations to UK children's charities. Powered by MSN.

* - 50% of revenue donated to charity. Powered by Google.

* Do Good Toolbar - Download the toolbar and each search results in a donation. Powered by Google.

--> If you work for a nonprofit, consider adding your organization to the list of charities for these sites. And spread the word among your supporters so they can search and fund your programs.

It's great when something you do everyday can make our world a better place. Thanks Brian, thanks Michele!

"The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose." - Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Consider burial alternatives.

The cost of funerals is rapidly approaching $10,000, not as much as most weddings, but still pretty steep. The expense alone is enough reason to consider burial alternatives, but you may also be concerned for other reasons: land use, contamination of ground water by toxic embalming fluid, use of nonbiodegradable coffins and vaults, and the like. Thankfully there are many good alternatives for green burials that honor the deceased and comfort the bereaved. Here are a few of your choices:

* Natural burial "ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects.  Interment of the bodies is done in a bio-degradable casket, shroud, or a favorite blanket.   No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults." 

* Donation of the body for forensic research or medical training.

* Memorial reefs are an option for those who have been cremated. The cremains are used to create a "permanent living legacy that memorialize the passing of a loved one." Reefs are lowered into the sea to help restore the marine environment by creating artificial reefs and fish habitats.

* Cremation, a low-cost, widely-available alternative for those who are interested.

Many of us find it uncomfortable to think or talk about our own deaths, but having conversations about end-of-life care, organ donation, financial issues, and the like, can make things so much easier for your loved ones.

"One's death should mean something." - Edward Abbey

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Play. Pump.

That's all folks will have to do to have clean water when you support PlayPumps. Did you know that

* Unsafe water and lack of sanitation is now the single largest cause of illness worldwide.
* More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.
* 40 billion hours are lost annually to hauling water, a chore primarily undertaken by women and girls.

PlayPumps is working to change all that. Theirs is an innovative and sustainable system that pumps water using the energy of children at play on an associated PlayPump merry-go-round. What a neat idea! This nonprofit organization installs pumps (and merry-go-rounds!) all over the world helping people have clean water.

Won't you support their work? It's so easy to make a long-lasting difference. Remember, we all need water.

"We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented
with ourselves."
-Henri Frederic Amiel, philosopher and writer (1821-1881)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Host a Souper Bowl party.

There are just 15 days left until the Super Bowl. Lots of folks watch it for the football. I like the commercials, and sometimes the halftime show. If you're having a Super Bowl party on February 4, why not make it a Souper Super Bowl?

"The Souper Bowl of Caring is a youth-led, grassroots movement of caring, the result of thousands of young people joining together to fight hunger and poverty in their communities. Since 1990, $33 million has been raised for charities across the country." Check out to find out how to:

* Register your community, religious, school or other group to participate.

* Donate to support the operating expenses of the non-profit Souper Bowl.

* Participate in the Service Blitz, by volunteering in your community on the Saturday before the big game.

Remember, each organizer gets to choose the agency to which to donate the money. I like Heifer International (for sustainable development), Potluck Food Rescue (for waste reduction), and Plant a Row for the Hungry (for healthy food), among others.

Have fun at your Souper Bowl Party!

"We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves." - Eric Hoffer, philosopher and
author (1902-1983)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Choose a refurbished computer.

Unused computers can create a lot of waste, not only of plastics but also of toxic metals used in the circuitry. Still, for many of us, computers serve an important need so we want to be sure we have a good one. Refurbished computers, made from machines returned shortly after delivery, work as well as new ones at half the cost and with a reduction of waste and damage to the environment.

You can help reduce e-waste by purchasing a refurbished computer instead of a new one. Here are two resources to help you choose a good one:

* Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool is "a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes."

* Green Electronics Council has a mission to "inspire and support the effective design, manufacture, use and recovery of electronic products to contribute to a healthy, fair and prosperous world."

And remember, instead of throwing your outdated or nonfunctional computer in the trash, contact the manufacturer to see if they'll take it. Often the parts can be reused. Happy computing! (And happy 2007!)

"Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough." - George Washington Carver