Monday, March 31, 2008

Buy a painting.

I was listening to NPR and heard about two artists who have found an interesting way to make charitable donations. Justin Gignac and Christine Santora paint pictures of items representing donations they want to make. For example, they wanted to donate a cow through Heifer International so they painted a cow and sold it for the amount of the donation they then made.

Visit, and scroll from left to right to view the paintings. 100% of the price is donated to charity, but since you get the painting you don't get the tax write-off. Check out their online gallery maybe you'll find something you like, for your wall or for our world.

"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it." - Lou Holtz

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Invest in your community foundation.

One of the sponsors of National Public Radio on KUAR is the Arkansas Community Foundation. I love their slogan - "For Good. For Arkansas. For Ever." but I didn't know much about the work of community foundations. Once I found out, I had to spread the word.

According to the Council on Foundations community foundations are "tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest — improving the quality of life in their area." They make grants, promote charitable activities, identify current and emerging regional issues, direct resources in ways that address community needs, and help their local area prepare for the future.

Community foundations are found in every state. Just enter your zip code and use this community foundation locater to find one near you. There are over 700 community foundations in the US, so you're sure to find one in your area. Once you do, here's how you can get involved:

* Donate. You will support the work of the foundation, charitable agencies near you, and the life and development of your community.
* Volunteer. Perhaps you can serve on the Board of Directors. Or maybe you can offer your services to the agencies your community foundation supports.
* Apply. If you run a locally focused charitable non-profit, you may be eligible to apply for support from your community foundation. You can then use the fund to improve your community.

So learn more about community foundations and see how you can help. As they say, charity starts at home.

"Our power is in our ability to decide." - R. Buckminster Fuller

Friday, March 21, 2008

Give and get happy.

It's carried by Associated Press, talked about on NPR, and blogged about in the New York Times - the news is out: Giving to others makes you happy.

Elizabeth Dunn's research suggests that spending money on others makes the giver happier than spending money on herself. And the level of happiness seems to correlate with the amount of money given.

There's still much more research to be done to fully understand to role of altruism on human emotion, but you can do some experiments yourself. Give your time, your money, your materials. Give generously, give regularly, give selflessly. Now how do you feel? I know how I feel, that's why I strive to make giving a way of life. Try it for yourself and see you you feel.

Happy giving, and happy Spring.

"There is no greater gift to an insecure leader that quite matches a vague enemy who can be used to whip up fear and hatred among the population." - Paul Rusesabagina, humanitarian (b. 1954)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Let an ORCA eat your lunch.

I neglected to bring my lunch to work today so I went to the university dining hall to get some food. On the way in, I was greeted by a slideshow of a new machine the school has installed to reduce food waste. The ORCA is a biocomposting reactor that uses environmentally friendly microorganisms to transform food waste, paper and biodegradable plastic into water and carbon dioxide. In fact, the ORCA produces up to 10 times the amount of water it uses. Imagine what your institution could save in waste disposal costs!

If you are a decision maker at an institution that serves food, look into getting an ORCA or similar machine. You can visit Green Guard Associates to learn more about the ORCA.

The rest of us can do the following:

* Choose less packaging.
* Choose packaging and materials made from biodegradable plastics or paper.
* Try outdoor composting or indoor composting at your home.
* Encourage the higher-ups at your business, school, or other institution to consider getting a biocomposting reactor.

All of this is important because landfills contain more food and paper waste than diapers, styrofoam, and tires - combined. And even though food and paper are biodegradable, they need air and water to facilitate that process. The piles of compacted trash in landfills often don't degrade so they take up lots of space in the landfills. So find a way to compost your waste.

Thanks for the tip, Emory, and for lunch! Happy composting, everyone!

"An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise." - William Dean Howells

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Choose Eco-Palms.

For Christians, this Sunday, March 16, marks the beginning of Holy Week. It will be Palm Sunday, my friend Mawunyo's favorite Sunday. When I was growing up, my church, St. Andrew AME, always had palms for all the parishioners on Palm Sunday (Thanks Rev. Lamb!). I remember those spring days now at Mt. Zion AME where I'll wave my palm high this Sunday (Thanks Pastor Cox!) Unfortunately, those palms were not likely grown or harvested in socially and environmentally sustainable ways. Thankfully, now there are Eco-Palms!

Usually people who cut the palms are paid by volume, so harvesters gather as much at possible without paying much attention to quality. Consequently over 50% of the fronds are discarded, which is bad for the forests and the people and animals that depend on them. Eco-Palms are harvested in a more sustainable way. "Harvesters are paid on the quality of the palms they harvest rather than the quantity, which helps to limit the amount of palms taken from the forest. These communities have taken upon themselves to learn about harvesting practices that minimize impact on the natural forest where the palm grows, and ways to protect this wild species of palm." Using Eco-Palm methods only only 5-7% of the harvested palms have to be discarded. The program also eliminates middlemen for sorting and packing. Instead, community member do the work themselves ensuring a higher wage, and improving their standard of living.

Ready to order? Here's the info you need:

University of MN, Eco-Palms
Attn: RaeLynn Jones Loss
1530 Cleveland Ave N
115 Green Hall
St. Paul, MN 55108
Tel: 612-624-7418
Fax: 612-625-5212

Your church can even order now for Palm Sunday 2009. Just download the 2009 Eco-Palms Order Form and email or fax it in. The 2008 cost is $47.50 for 200 fronds compared to $21 to $23 for common palms.

Each year 300 million palm fronds are harvested each year just for the U.S. consumption, most of them for Palm Sunday. Make sure your congregation chooses palms that reflect your faith. And of course, Eco-Palms are are great for florists too. Check out these articles for more.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it, and happy Spring to everyone!

"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Join the Carnival for Change - Booth 2

Welcome to the Carnival for Change where we explore the web for interesting items relating to social justice, health, education, and opportunity.

* Mohammad Yunus, microlender and Nobel Laureate writes for the Christian Science Monitor: How social business can create a world without poverty.

* Subscribe to GOOD Magazine and 100% of your subscription feed will be donated to the charity of your choice. A one-year six-issue subscription is only $20. "Through a print magazine, feature and documentary films, original multimedia content and local events, GOOD is providing a platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world."

* Fuji Film is holding a photo contest entitled Picture Sustainability. Pictures have to be submitted by March 15, 2008, so hurry!

* Sam Davidson of CoolPeopleCare, has a new book out: New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours. Check it out:

* March 8, 2008 - Saturday - is International Women's Day. Celebrate and cherish the women in your life and our world.

Thanks for visiting the Carnival for Change! If you'd like space at the next booth, send your items to me with "Carnival for Change" in the subject. See you next time!

"A good listener helps us overhear ourselves." - Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Play video games.

I don't think I've played a video game since Atari tennis, but they've improved dramatically since Atari and I know there are many others who really enjoy them. Some of these programers and gamers are interested in social change as well, and they've combined their skills and interests to create games for change. Check out some of these games:

* PeaceMaker allows you to "experience the joy of bringing peace to the Middle East or the agony of plunging the region into disaster." It is available in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Asaf Lubin of Israel writes "I played the game all night last night and found it brilliant and thought-provoking. The concept is of sheer genius and the execution was professional and creative... simply out of this world" and Terry Bowers of the US adds "(My son) has learned more about the conflicts that have been plaguing the Middle East in three hours than I have been able to teach him in many years."

* A Force More Powerful – the Game of Nonviolent Strategy is "the first and only interactive teaching tool in the field of nonviolent conflict." Red Herring writes “It’s like political jujitsu.”

* Climate Challenge is "a game where you are president of the European Nations. You must tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office."

* Darfur is Dying, from MTV, is "is a viral video game for change that provides a window into the experience of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players must keep their refugee camp functioning in the face of possible attack by Janjaweed militias."

* Pax Warrior is an "interactive documentary" that "weaves the tragic story of the UN experience in Rwanda placing the user, first person, in the shoes of a UN Commander trying to maintain peace." They need beta testers!

* Food Force, from the World Food Programme, presents this scenario: "A major crisis has developed in the Indian Ocean, on the island of Sheylan. We’re sending in a new team to step up the World Food Programme’s presence there and help feed millions of hungry people."

* Re-Mission was developed for young people with cancer. "Players pilot a nanobot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients destroying cancer cells, battling bacterial infections, and managing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment."

* Ayiti: The Cost of Life help the player answer the question "What is it like to live in poverty, struggling every day to stay healthy, keep out of debt, and get educated?" It's a project of Microsoft and Unicef.

Many of these games include resources to help you make a real world difference in the situations on which the games are modeled. And player can enjoy gaming while they learn skills and information that is useful away from the screen. So click over, download, and play some video games for fun and a better future. Enjoy!

"I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone." -Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)