Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Write in your candidate.

I went to vote this morning and had jury duty yesterday, so I've definitely been involved in participatory governance this week. Judges Linda Hunter and Antonio DelCampo gave very moving addresses to the jury pool on Monday morning. Everyone was hoping to get on a trial after listening to them. I particularly liked that Judge DelCampo mentioned the opportunity to interact meaningfully with people different from oneself as an advantage to serving on a jury. They're both running for reelection this year, though DelCampo is unopposed.

DelCampo told a story about how he was unopposed during a previous election but was a bit shocked and disturbed to get several hundred votes against him. But he was humored and relieved after seeing that most of the other votes were for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the like. But that got me thinking - it made me realize that even when someone is unopposed your vote matters. If you take the time to write in someone else, especially a real person, the unopposed candidate may take that as a vote of no confidence. This is particularly the case with incumbents, who may be running on a lackluster record.

So this morning when I voted (I was only in line 45 minutes - woo hoo!), I thought hard about my votes for unopposed candidates. Those I supported, I voted for. In the past I just ignored unopposed candidates I did not support and didn't vote at all for that office. But today, I considered people I know who would do a better job than the unopposed candidate on the ballot and I wrote those names in. For example, I've been unimpressed with my state representative for many years. I haven't run against her, and no one else has either, but wouldn't she get an meaningful message if more people voted against her than for her, even if those folks were write-ins.

Now I know the people I wrote-in this morning won't win the election, but if more of us write in real people in a vote of no confidence, maybe the unopposed candidates who could do a better job will start doing so.

"A man can't ride on your back unless it's bent." -Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do business with a B Corporation.

Because of the focus and audience of So What Can I Do, I get a number of announcements from companies who are involved in "cause" or "green" marketing. All other things being equal, I certainly choose products associated with a cause I support over those that do not. However, I am much more impressed with companies who focus their mission, not just their marketing campaign, on more than just the bottom line. That's why I like the idea of B Corporations.

"B Corporations are a new type of corporation that are purpose-driven and create benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders." Certified B Corporations adhere to a set of transparent social and environmental standards and they make the interests of all stakeholders part of their business model. There are now 134 Certified B Corporations in 31 industries. If this sounds like a business model you can support, consider these ways of getting involved:

* Become a B Corporation. Follow the three step plan to become a certified B Corporation. Once the process is complete, your company will have access to best practices for social and environmental performance. Your business will be promoted through the nonprofit B lab. And your (potential) customers will know that you are committed to being a good company, not just good marketing.

* Do business with a B Corporation. When you need goods or services, consult the list of Certified B Corporations to see if one fits your needs. You'll get what you need and support socially and environmentally responsible business practices. I am pleased that So What Can I Do has already directly or indirectly profiled several B corporations, like Better World Books and Shore Bank.

The transparent policies of B Corporations are a great way to combat greenwashing and good-coating. So consider becoming or supporting a B Corporation. And by the way, B stands for Benefits - for everyone.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." - Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Join the Carnival for Change - Booth 10.

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

* Google is marking their 10th anniversary with Project 10^100. It is "a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible." Submit your ideas by October 20. Categories are community, opportunity, energy, environment, health, education, shelter, and everything else. Winning projects will be funded, so submit your great idea today.

* How good is your browser?. Visit the website to see how well your browser adheres to web standards. If you are a webmaster, be sure to build your sites in accordance with accepted international web standards. This is important so that people with less sophisticated browsers can still access your site and information. Thanks Jan!

* Hopefully, by now everyone who is eligible is registered to vote. If you need to find your polling place visit They also have information on absentee voting, ID requirements, ballot measures, and other voting-related topics.

* Blog Action Day 2008 was this week. Check out the website or google "Blog Action Day" to read/view/listen to some of the thousands of blog posts, podcasts, pictures, and videos on this years theme - poverty. So What Can I Do participated with this post - End poverty.

* It's time for us to renew our subscription to GOOD Magazine. It's a great magazine and it costs only $20 for a year's subscription. And get this - the full price of your subscription is donated to your choice of twelve charities. Subscribe today!

*The 2008 MacArthur Awards have been announced. Read and be inspired!

* Thanks to all those who voted - So What Can I Do was chosen as Most Original Blog and is a winner of the 2009 Black Web Award. What a great birthday present for So What Can I Do which celebrates four years online this week. Thanks for reading everyone!

* It's prize season and here are some prize-winning books:
--> Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the MacArthur Prize for her work including Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus: A Novel. The Sisters of the Yam read Purple Hibiscus and we really enjoyed it.
--> Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl├ęzio won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his work including Wandering Star.
--> Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The White Tiger.

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! In the meantime, subscribe to So What Can I Do (see sidebar) or follow us on Twitter (@sowhatcanido).

"Men are more often bribed by their loyalties and ambitions than by money." - Robert H. Jackson

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

End poverty.

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 and this year's focus is on poverty. Poverty can be defined as lack of the common necessities that determine quality of life - lack of safe food, shelter, and clothing, lack of opportunities presented by education, health care, and community and personal agency.

Many of us do things to combat poverty in the short term. We donate food to our local food rescue agency for those who need to fill their belly. We donate furniture to the local furniture bank to give to those who need a place to lay their head. We donate coats for kids who need to stay warm in the winter.

These activities are critically important because they meet a pressing and immediate need. However it is also important to consider ways we can eliminate these needs completely. Many people argue that it is actually possible to END POVERTY. I suggest that that should be our goal. Here are some ways you can ensure that everyone has the common necessities we all need to have a decent quality of life.

* Consider class. Consider how tolerant you are of people who have a different (or the same) amount of or access to money and opportunity as you. Think honestly, carefully, and critically about what you believe in. Think about what is right. And make sure your words and actions reflect your beliefs. We may demonstrate class or other biases without being conscious of it. So be honest with yourself and when you see or hear inappropriate unjust behavior, do something about it.

* Think globally, act locally. The current financial crises emphasizes that we live in a highly integrated world. By practicing consciously connected living, we acknowledge how intertwined our lives are and make choices that maximize benefit for everyone.

* Stop making excuses. Instead of focusing on what won't work, develop something that will. Instead of saying you have no time to contribute, use the time you have more wisely. Instead of saying you have no money to contribute, look for other valuable skills, items and resources that you can use for good.

* "Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mohandas Ghandi reminds us that who we are, how we act, what we care about influences the world we live in. If making the world a better place for all of use who live in it is important to you, browse this site to find ways to make sure your lifestyle reflects your values and priorities.

Want to learn more about how to end poverty? Check out these books:

* Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
* Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference (BK Currents (Paperback))
* The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass (c. 1817–1895), U.S. abolitionist. Speech, April 1886

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trick or Treat for good.

Halloween is almost here - time flies! If you are looking for something meaningful to do this holiday, consider these suggestions. The kids will have a good time while making a positive difference in the world.

* Sight Night - Trick-or-Treaters collect used eyeglasses that will be cleaned, repaired and hand-delivered to people in developing countries who couldn't otherwise afford them. If you wear corrective lenses, you know what a difference they can make and how much better your life can be because of them. Download information and collection materials from

* Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF - You or your children can raise money for children everywhere by collecting donation for UNICEF. Order a box online or download a canister wrapper. You can also help UNICEF by raising money online, with your mobile phone, through your Facebook or Myspace page, or by sending Halloween ecards.

* Trick-or-Treat for Food Allergy - Order a box from the Food Allergy & Anaphlyaxis Network to collect money to be used for food allergy research and education. You can order up to five boxes online or call 1-800-929-4040 to order more. Kids can even earn prizes for participating.

* Trick-or-Treat for canned goods - Kids can support their local food bank by collecting canned goods while trick-or treating. Visit (formerly Second Harvest) to find a service agency near you. And be sure to tell your neighbors about the organization their donations will support.

* Party with a purpose. If you host a Halloween Party or Haunted House, ask your guests to bring canned goods, gently used coats or clothes, eyeglasses, or monetary donations for your favorite charity.

Start planning and order your materials now, so that you'll have them in time for Halloween. Enjoy!

"If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes." - West African proverb

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Make your own fuel.

We are experiencing a significant gas shortage here in Atlanta. Nowadays, it's not unusual to drive by a dozen or more gas stations, all with no gas. I really appreciate our hybrid in times like these, but I still wish I could convince Kwadjo to get a grease car. Wouldn't it be great to be able to have an automotive fuel supply separate from big oil? We'll now you can. Check out these options for making your own biofuel:

* The Ester Machine System from Green World Biofuels is "a complete biodiesel production system that enables the operator to turn used fryer or virgin vegetable oils into high quality finished fuel." You'll need to identify a source of oil to use as feedstock.

* The EFuel100 MicroFueler™ is "the world's first portable ethanol micro-refinery system." The system can run on their sugar-based feedstock (available for purchase) or you can use waste ethanol - leftover beer, wine, and spirits.

* What if you have oil but don't want to use biodiesel? Perhaps a vegetable fuel conversion kit from is right for you. Once it's installed, your diesel engine can run on straight vegetable oil in any climate.

* What if you drive a vehicle with a gas engine? In that case, check out the Flex Box Smart Kit E85 conversion kits from Flex Fuel US. Their models are the only conversion kits approved by the EPA. They allow your vehicle to run on anything from pure gasoline to E85 (85% ethanol).

This kind of DIY technology is expensive at the start, but may make sense if your home or business uses a lot of fuel or you have a good supply of reagents and feedstock to make the fuel. Note that there may be tax credits available for purchase of these machines. And you'll want to make sure you don't run afoul of tax law by trying to sell the fuel.

Of course one of the best ways to decrease dependence on oil and gas is to use alternative transportation - transit, walking, biking, teleworking, or at least carpooling. Safe journey!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Do business with a community development bank.

A bank is a bank is a bank, right? Well not if it's a community development bank. Community development banks, also called community development financial institutions, are federally insured banks that "have a primary mission of promoting community development" through "stimulating the local economy, creating jobs, and improving the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods." What a great purpose!

When you do business with a community development bank you automatically support their mission since profits are directed into local community development programs. So visit a branch or website for a community development bank in an area you care about. Then open an account. If you prefer, you can make a direct donation to the programs the banks supports. Either way, your money will work for a better future in a community you love.

"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." -John Wooden, sports coach