Sustainable Donations


April 8th, 2014

Environmentalists are generous by nature, desiring to share our good fortune with others. Like me, most of you probably make monetary contributions to a number of causes. I suspect that, like me, your mailbox (at your door or post office) is probably overflowing with requests. Sadly, they come monthly or more and with lots of letters, explanations, envelopes that fill up our trash.

Here are some possible solutions:

1) MY  solution,  is in this letter which your are welcome to copy and send to your favorite organizations. If  many of us do this, perhaps these well-meaning organizations will move in the right direction:

Dear ________,

Please help me be a better contributor and supporter by removing me from your mailing list. Huh? You may ask.

I feel overwhelmed to face a mailbox of multiple ‘begging letters’ each and every day (on top of adverts, bills). I have no time to read yours, much less those from the 25 other organizations to which I regularly contribute.

It is now December and I have received XX requests by mail and countless emails from your organizatin. I have been donating since ____  contributing an average of $__ each year.  Endless letters remind me only that the organization has no idea of who I am. Once or twice year I pull out an envelope and payment form and toss the rest of the contents. The rest of the mailings from you go directly to the recycling, what a horrible misuse of time & resources. Most of my friends will not take the time to audit the charitable requests as I do but I know from speaking to them that they feel the same way and become resentful of constant requests, larger trash bills and wasted trees.

I am a busy person, heavily involved in my family, work and community. At some point in my life I decided that your organization was worthwhile and effective in using my funds wisely. I have continued to contribute without reading any of your subsequent nicely-crafted letters whose stories were ingrained over a lifetime – I no longer need to read them.

This is the computer age. You DO have the ability to track which of your contributors donate and how frequently – if you truly value them, you will care about their contribution patterns, ask them how frequently and in what form (paper or electronic) they would like to receive communications and respond appropriately.  Yes, a few very old ladies have endless hours to read every piece of mail but I, and most others like me, am not one of them.

I, as most contributors, have limited financial resources to meet endless requests. I plan & spread my giving throughout the year; I don’t respond to special or year end pleas. I expect that the organizations to which I donate to do the same financial planning for the year. You must  trust that your thoughtful contributors will not give less because they are asked less frequently. Many of us are donating smaller amounts electronically on a monthly basis so that your budgets (and ours) are less lumpy.

BTW, I am not swayed by name stickers, note pads, medals or member cards – I am trying to simplify my life in many ways –  no one has ever asked to see any of my members cards and my wallet is full already.

This is not a negotiable request.  If mail did not decrease to quarterly or less by ____ ( date 1 year in advance)

This also serves as notice that you may not sell my name, address, email  to any organization for any purpose.

(USE WHEN APPROPRIATE) ( You may not split your organization into two parts to collect twice as much. I am not gullible just because I have a heart.  I give to the original organization, not the offshoot.)

Sincerely,

Someone who thinks highly of your cause


2) Charity Watch has a simpler notice:

FUNDRAISING REDUCTION NOTICE

I am sending this note to reduce the waste and invasion of privacy caused by unwanted mail solicitations and telemarketing calls. If you would like me to consider contributing to your organization in the future, please agree to the following checked items:

___ Remove my name and address from your mailing list.

___ Do not sell, rent, exchange, or give my name or contribution history to any other organization or business without first receiving my approval.

___ Do not send me direct mail solicitations more than ___ times a year.

___ Do not telephone me to ask for money, or…

___ Phone me no more than ___ times a year, and only on the following day(s) and times:

Name and address labels from your solicitation(s) to me are enclosed.
Thank you for respecting a donor’s wishes.


3) Sandra Block at USA Today  suggests intent giving sites such as Network for Good and Just Give which allow you to donate anonymously (there is a 3-4.75% processing fees so your charity doesn’t get the full amount) but that won’t get existing requests to stop.

4) Catalog Choice.org is known as a website that allows you to lower your paper footprint from catalogs but they also work with some of the larger charities to get remove your name from their mailing lists.  It won’t help with smaller and local charities, and not all charities have joined, but it’s a start.

Cool, Clear Water Not So Simple


April 8th, 2013

 

The cold, deep, fast running water is the healthiest as it harbors the fewest bad bugs and bacteria.

Hello Eco- Mom!
Please explain to me why leaving water running is bad! Fresh water is a limited resource; how does running it and using it end up ruining the fresh water?!
Love, Your Daughter

Hello Wonderful, Curious Daughter,
In order for water to get to your faucet it must first:

  1. Be pumped from  sewers, storm drains, resevoirs to a water treatment plant. Pumping takes lots of electricity
  2. That water must be filtered, stirred (again more electricity) and treated (lots of not so nice chemicals)
  3. Bad stuff from filtering must be lifted out, transported somewhere (more electricity and gasoline to transport to waste disposal site)
  4. Good treated water must again be pumped from the plant all around the city through the water mains (again more electricity)
  5. If you’ve used hot water, there is also the natural gas or electricity used to heat that water that is just going down the drain to no good purpose


20% of energy in the US is used just to pump, clean and filter water. Even if you pour clean water back into the drain it gets mixed up with the dirty stuff and has to be re-pumped and re-cleaned endlessly.

Love,
Eco-Mom

PS. Here’s a wonderful design concept to clean your water at home.

 

Sustainable Dishwashing: No More Plastic Scrubbers


October 31st, 2011

Have you scrubbed a pot using one of those green scratch pads lately? Most of us have. Did you know that they are made of oil-based plastic that breaks down as you scrub and those small pieces go down your drain, into the municipal water treatment, are filtered out and end up eventually in the Bay and ociean? Along with microscopic broken bits of plastic bags and bottlecaps they become part of fish and crustacean diets. Plastic has now become a defacto part of seafood flesh – yum, yum.

Solution? Loofah & agave scrubbers. Loofah (my sister grew some in LA one year) & agave are plants. Loofah can be purchased as a yarn if you have time to knit or crochet your own scrubber. As for me, 3M recently introduced scrubbers from agave (found some at Target) but there are probably others (let me know in comments).The sponge part of the old double-sided scrubbers has been natural sponge but with chemical dyes (bye-bye purple, orange, blue). The new sponges are made of recycled paper and natural fibers and have no chemical dyes.

Loofah, natural sponge, paper, yarn are components of these manufactured and handmade scrubbers.

I’m less enthusiast about the 3M soap loaded scrubbers. Soap is phosphorus free and scrubbers are from recycled plastic, but, again, plastic bits into the water stream. Their wipes are from bamboo, rayon (pulpy part of cotton plant), cotton & corn, presumably new material since recycled isn’t mentioned but all are compostable. Read labels & go online for details.

Remember, you don’t need to see scads of bubbles for a dish detergent to do its job. Though it seems counterintuitive, rinsing with cold water is best because bacteria thrive in warm (i.e. temperatures that our hands can handle) water but not cold.

Absorb grease and other food stuck to plate with old napkins, paper towels and put in garbage. Keep a strainer in the sinkhole. The more grease and food particles that go through your municipal water plant, the more energy they must use to clean your water.

Is Your Printer/Copy Paper Recycled?


November 15th, 2010

October 2008.

Is your copy/printer paper recycled? Probably not. If you separate and put out your paper for collection, you might presume that all the paper you buy for copying is recycled – you would be wrong. About 90% of the copy paper available for purchase and used in printing is virgin paper from freshly cut trees. The magazine trade is far worse, only 5% of magazine paper is of recycled content.

As of Sept 2008 the only 100% recycled copy paper I could find at the big box office supply stores was Staples and had to pay about a 50% premium. 30% recycled is readily available at most stores at about the same cost or just slightly more than virgin paper. Why?

Although the technology and paper is there for recycled , high quality, glossy magazine paper the will is not there. Those publications that ARE using recycled paper are predominantly those with a scientific, nature, health or consumer vantage such as Audubon, Consumer Reports, Scientific American (Reycled Magazine List) but Oprah has taken the big step as the first mainstream magazine. You can encourage this process by writing or e-mailing to the publishers of the magazines to which you subscribe.

By stopping the junk mail that arrives at your home, advertiser will be printing less. OptOutPrescreen can partially cut the flow of credit card and insurance offers. StopJunkMail.org will give you other ideas. Some folks don’t mind paying Green Dimes $15 to manage new junk mail offers as they arrive at your home; the $15 includes 10 trees planted in your behalf.

Conservatree on the news

How Can I ReCycle This? has hints on how to give a 2nd life to almost anything.

Towards Sustainable Auto Transportation


January 24th, 2009

Amory Lovins in the 8/26/2007 issue of Newsweek spoke about steps the government can take to slow oil addiction.

He also made is short, sweet and to the point on how the average consumer can promote energy efficiency in personal auto transportation:

1) Get the most energy efficient vehicle (both in terms of energy used to manufacture the car and energy it uses). Drive the vehicle properly to maximize efficiency.

2) Be thoughtful about whether the trip is necessary and how many people are in the car

3) Try to live nearer to where you work, shop, attend school and recreate.

4) Push for fairer competition between all ways to get around. Write or call your legislators at all levels, attend local meetings.

The Compact: Adventures in Simple Living


July 18th, 2008

Several months ago I discovered and, sort of, joined the Compact. A group of environmentally concerned friends in San Francisco made a compact not to purchase any new, non-essential items for a year i.e. a compact lifestyle. They did give themselves a little leeway though to buy underwear, socks, and safety items new. They started a Yahoo! group to refine the rules, record their journeys, give each other tips and support each other.

Joining is not rigid -you are more making a compact with yourself – and is more about reconsidering you personal relationship with “stuff”.I’m now more likely to repair something or borrow something. I usually buy tops secondhand but have a difficult time finding pants that fit so I go straight to the stores I depend on for fit.

Soon so many others discovered the Compact that the original group was helping the world and had little time to help each other. To make it more personal again, geographical Yahoo!group offshoots have started because many shopping sources and ideas for free entertainment tend to be local.

Even teens can be tempted away from the mall and make it their own cause as Marta Marano in Toronto has.

Some other links:

Some local groups: San Francisco/Bay Area
Seattle
Los Angeles
Chicago
New York City

GOOD

Not All Buy into Black Friday

What Would Jesus Buy? asks us to reconsider what Christmas is all about.

Not Made in China, only YOU can make it happen


July 18th, 2008

 A recent e-mail chain started:
“Are we Americans as dumb as we appear — or — is it that we just do not think?

While the Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in American markets, the media wrings its hands and criticizes the Bush Administration for perceived errors.

Yet 70% of Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.
Well, duh..why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?

SIMPLY DO IT YOURSELF, AMERICA!!…….”

It asks why not make real Easter eggs instead of purchasing plastic ones and goes on to propose an embargo on buying Chinese from 6/4/08-7/4/08.

The message above is somewhat reactionary and and oversimplifies the eco-political situation, but it has many nuggets of truth and guages the frustration of much of America.

As I see it:
Americans are not dumb but….. many do not think, many are not willing to do without having something cheap immediately despite the the fact that that it was made poorly or by captive slave labor.

We do not need plastic eggs or numerous other plastic tchotkes. Many won’t take the time (& receive the ultimate satisfaction) of creating an intricate Easter egg (or needlepoint holiday stocking). We have lots of inexpensive holiday decorations and then complain about how long it takes us to undecorate. We have too much. We are asking the government to legislate what we are unwilling to do for ourselves – say “no”.

We do not need the government to suspend trading privileges. That is the beauty of a market economy which China, India and the rest of the world have embraced. The power is all in our hands as consumers. We must find substitutes for incessant purchasing and become the pioneers we once were. Use the time we spend shopping to instead create something, cook something from scratch, learn a new skill, nurture relationships by our presence to others nearby or write a letter or e-mail to those far away.

Don’t stop on July 4. As you vacation this summer, don’t buy a souvenir unless it is made in the state or country you are visiting. At home seek out farmers markets, roadside food stands & small local shops for not only foods that directly benefit the farmers but also non-food items such as locally made soaps, crafts.

Repair: Fix it yourself, or trade skills with a friend or neighbor, keep local tailors & cobblers in business. We just went shopping for a suitcase and paid a little more for one with a true lifetime repair warranty (disclosure, it was made in Thailand). (Victorinox and Briggs & Riley both offer that warranty)

Re-think fashion: buy less but of better quality that lasts longer, shop local craft fairs (but look at labels) thrifts stores. Accessorize, trade. Learn to sew, knit, crochet, quilt. Let’s bring back old-fashioned American ingenuity & creativity. This may not always be easy but the important things in life never are.

Peace,
Claire

The Compact to Live Lightly and Sustainably


December 20th, 2006

Several months ago I discovered and, sort of, joined the Compact. A group of environmentally concerned friends in San Francisco made a compact not to purchase any new, non-essential items for a year i.e. a compact lifestyle. They did give themselves a little leeway though to buy underwear, socks, and safety items new. They started a Yahoo! group to refine the rules, record their journeys, give each other tips and support each other.

Joining is not rigid -you are more making a compact with yourself – and is more about reconsidering you personal relationship with “stuff”.I’m now more likely to repair something or borrow something. I usually buy tops secondhand but have a difficult time finding pants that fit so I go straight to the stores I depend on for fit.

Soon so many others discovered the Compact that the original group was helping the world and had little time to help each other. To make it more personal again, geographical Yahoo!group offshoots have started because many shopping sources and ideas for free entertainment tend to be local.

Some local Compact group links:

San Francisco/Bay Area
Seattle
Los Angeles
Chicago
New York City

Other related links:
GOOD
Not All Buy into Black Friday
What Would Jesus Buy? asks us to reconsider what Christmas is all about.

If you are a fan of thrift stores or would like to find out more about the stores in your area then The Thrift Shopper is for you.

Sustainable Gift Wrapping


December 12th, 2006

Many of you may be doing giftless holidays, but if not, here are many ideas for how to keep the gift-wrapping waste free and fun.

My friend, Tamara, shares some thoughtful traditions:

“Years ago when the girls were younger and their gifts were often odd-sized and bulky, rather than buying those giant plastic draw string bags, I bought some Christmas fabric at the end of the season to make my own.  I made several in a variety of sizes that can be used year after year.  They are easy to store and come in handy.

The second thing that I did was use the nesting decorated boxes that Costco usually carries at Christmas time (although I didn’t see them this year). I bought a set for each child in a different pattern, plus an additional one for any visiting child.  Each Christmas Eve, we un-nest the boxes and set them piled high near each one’s stocking.  Christmas morning, they still have the thrill of the surprise (Including which of the twelve boxes will be filled with a gift or a clue as to where to find a gift) and there is far less waste and the boxes are reused each year.  When they were little it certainly made “Santa’s” job a lot easier too!  Since each girl has a pattern that is hers, and they both still love setting up their respective stacks each year. It has become a cherished tradition along with Advent devotions.

Another way to add to the fun especially when the number of gifts is singular or fewer is to have the boxes passed to one another or the clues for the scavenger hunt to be shared.  Hope these thoughts spur someone else to think of a new way to adapt these to suit another generation.”

My sisters have been wrapping creatively for years and I save those wrappings to delight another person. (That’s my mom opening a gift wrapped in re-used materials.) After the holidays, consider designating a place where you can stash potential wrapping materials for the next time you are giving a gift of any sort.  This would be a good place to keep those packing peanuts for subsequent mailings.