Saturday, May 31, 2008

Flying and Offsetting

As I mentioned on Thursday I’m traveling next week, so I figured, what the heck, I think I should purchase a carbon offset as a mea culpa for the flight’s environmental impact. I did some investigating and decided to use again for this trip. Three reasons: they’re a nonprofit; they’re super affordable (only $6 for my roundtrip, even with four separate planes); and they spend time on their site explaining “additionality,” which is their effort to ensure the money they receive creates an offset that would not have happened otherwise (as opposed to funding a project that was going to go forward regardless).

Today’s mitzvah: Are you traveling by car or plane this summer? Check out carbon offsets. They’re not very expensive, and may even help. Click my previous post here for more information. The Natural Resources Defense Council has a helpful overview, “Buying Carbon Offsets: What You Need to Know.”
Vendors like Terra Pass and have easy calculators right on their sites.

Image © 2007 by Terra Pass.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dance Party Friday

Hmmm. Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance?

Cincinnati 5:45 a.m. When it’s a slow news day on the Channel 12 early, early morning show it’s time for . . . Dance Party Friday!

Betcha wish you didn't sleep in this a.m.

Have a fun Friday!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why Pay More for Expensive Airport Bottled Water?

Here’s my doh! moment of the day. I’m getting ready for a trip next week and looking for ways to make the flight more eco-friendly (and just less of a drag for me). So I was delighted to stumble upon an EnviroMom post which, in its brilliance, realized something I had completely overlooked: just because you can’t bring water through airport security doesn’t mean you can’t bring a water bottle. EnviroMom Heather advises bringing an empty and just filling it up at a fountain after security.

This is why moms rule. (Why didn’t I think of this, instead of spending 4 bucks/flight for airport bottled water?) This also gives me a chance to use my reusable, compostable “corn bottle” with the screw-in filter, which I can fill at any tap. (I know I should embrace unfiltered water, but I’m not there yet.) While I don't think I’ll buy another corn bottle now that I’ve read about the problems in diverting food crops for other purposes, since I already have it I want to get some use out of it. This will also double as my workout water bottle at the hotel gym. One week, no throwaway plastic bottles at all.

Today’s mitzvah: Give a shout-out to EnviroMom, who has other practical travel tips here.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy School Supplies from Recycled Newspaper

Were do all those recycled newspapers go? How about cool rainbow- and jungle-themed school supplied for kids (and adults, too!). Eco-Space has a neat post about the O’BON company, which recently expanded from its base in Malaysia and Australia into North America. Their signature product is a pencil made not from wood but from recycled newspaper. Wrapped 36 times and attached to the graphite with nontoxic glue, it’s stronger and more environmentally friendly than traditionally wood pencils. O’BON also has green pens and folders. You can check them out at

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stamp Out Junk Mail

A Year of Living Greener posted recently on Canada’s Red Dot Campaign — little red stickers people can put on their mailboxes to alert their mail carrier not to leave flyers and other mass mailings that arrive addressed to Occupant. We get an annoying gob of glossy useless-flyers almost every week at my house, so I was eager to check out Red Dot’s suggested link for U.S. residents. This led me to Forest Ethics, which is trying to create a Do Not Mail Registry, similar to the popular Do Not Call list. They estimate that the carbon emissions necessary to create 6.5 million tons of junk mail in the U.S are equivalent to the emissions from 37 million cars. Add that to the millions of trees felled each year to create all this paper, and the fact that most of it winds up in landfills — I personally would love to have a simple Do Not Mail registry similar to the Do Not Call list to end this once and for all.

Today’s mitzvah: Check out Forest Ethic’s Do Not Mail Us petition to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Harry Reid — 43,278 signatures strong and growing! You can also visit Catalog Choice to immediately reduce the catalogs you receive in the mail.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Guestbook

oday is Memorial Day (observed) in the U.S., the culmination of a three-day weekend when Americans stop to honor their war dead. I was looking at this blog’s stats and noticing how many visitors over the past two weeks came from countries which, at some point in our history, were at war with each other. I thought this might be a nice time to pause and focus not on the wars that divide us, but instead on the shared interests in a better world that unite us. (Plus you know I love the little flags!)

The virtual Daily Mitzvah community welcomed readers over the past two weeks from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, Scotland, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Togo, the United States, and Vietnam. A big welcome to all — thank you for visiting!

Little flags courtesy of famfamfam.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Round-Up

Here’s your Memorial Day Mitzvah round-up. Now turn off the computer and go outside :-)

• Looking for a thoughtful way to celebrate Memorial Day?
Check out my post on the bipartisan Women Veterans Health Care Act of 2008. Tell your Senators you support this act for our female vets.

• Green your picnic #1. I dashed into Whole Foods last week for snacks for my students on the last day of class. My poor planning meant I was stuck with paper plates, so I was just hoping they had something recycled — but instead I discovered something called bagasse. Bagasse is the leftover after liquid is extracted from sugar cane. It’s often just burned, but now entrepreneurs are using it as an alternative to cellulose for paper plates, cups, and cutlery. I like this better than corn-based disposable plates since bagasse is a waste product and doesn’t entail diverting food crops. If you can’t use reusable dishes for your Memorial Day BBQ, see if your store stocks bagasse products.

• Green Your Picnic #2. Daily Green has lots of tasty tips!

Enjoy your weekend!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act

As the number of women serving in the military increases — more than 150,000 in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2002 — so does the number of female veterans coming home who rely on the Veterans’ Administration (VA) for health care. Originally created for a primarily male veteran population, the veterans’ healthcare system lacks adequate resources for the female vets’ health issues, from gyn care to gender-specific PTSD symptoms to, sadly, a newly named phenomenon, Military Sexual Assault Trauma (MST).

Last month a bipartisan group of Senators — Patty Murray (D-WA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) — introduced the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008 (S.2799), which calls for “a long-term study of the health of women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, an assessment of barriers for women seeking care at Dept. of Veterans Affairs facilities and of the VA's provision of health services to women, and training of VA staff on treating women veterans who have experienced sexual trauma or PTSD.”

As the United States observes the Memorial Day long weekend, support female veterans by urging your Senator to support the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement act. You can find your Senator’s contact information here, or send a pre-formatted letter via Care2’s Petition Site.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 22: International Day for Biodiversity

The United Nations has designated May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity. This year’s theme is agriculture, which is very timely given the current world grain crisis and well as hard questions about bio-fuels. Eco-Space has more. Overall the day is designed to promote the importance of addressing agricultural biodiversity and climate change simultaneously, as the best path for success.

The Convention on BioDiversity’s suggestions for action include:
  • conserve biodiversity that is especially sensitive to climate change
  • preserve habitats so as to facilitate the long-term adaptation of biodiversity
  • improve our understanding of climate change – biodiversity linkages
The CBD also has a youth portal for elementary and middle school-age kids.

Today’s mitzvah: Take a moment to acknowledge International Biodiversity Day with a free click-to-give at The Rainforest Site to preserve biodiversity internationally, or
at Care2 to preserve fragile ecosystems in the U.S. Sponsors will make a small contribution for each click, at no cost to you.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Ciclovia

This is my 20th year free of car ownership(!), which I’m celebrating with an occasional series of posts.
I first learned about Bogotá’s Ciclovia while reading the EcoSpace: Conscious Community blog. Street Films terrific short film really brings it to life. Every Sunday, 70 miles of Bogotá streets are closed to traffic and opened to bikes and pedestrians. More than 2 million people of all ages and backgrounds spill out into streets that become their own. They have also added Recreovia: 20 stages where instructors lead giant aerobics and rumba classes (those segments are among my favorite in the film.) It’s inspiring to hear residents share how much the Ciclovia’s safety, freedom, and “community living” means to them. Enjoy.

Ciclovia: Bogotá (9:41).

Today’s mitzvah: Learn more about care-free spaces and cities at the World Carfree Network.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kiss Plastic Bags Goodbye, Redux

May 22, 2008 update to original post: My Flip & Tumbles arrived today. The colors are very pretty, but a heads up that they get crazy wrinkled by being stuffed into the little sock-ball storage pouch. The photos are a tad deceptive in this regard — be aware that the bags pictured may have been ironed or never stored in the little pouch.The original May 19th post follows.

an one ever have too many reusable bags? The Budget Ecoist (cool blog) has me intrigued by the Flip & Tumble bag (pictured at left and below; click for larger images). If I owned a car, I would be happy to use the green flat-bottomed Woodman’s bags (click here for neato photo) made from recycled soda bottles. Since I’m typically on foot or on the bus, my Baggus have been a good alternative (click here for their own groovy pix). They fold up flat into neat little fabric pouches, weigh nothing, and unfolded hold the same amount as a regular plastic grocery bag. Supermarket baggers didn’t initially love them, since the ripstop nylon (parachute material) can be slippery, but now that more people are bringing their own bags this is less an issue.

And yet . . . the Flip & Tumble 24-7 bag has some advantages, too. It’s made of the same ripstop nylon as thinner ripstop nylon than the Baggus, but it has a long handle, so it can go over the shoulder — this is really a matter of preference since the shoulder strap might also make these more difficult to carry in each hand. I also like that the Flip & Tumble’s pouch is attached to the bag itself, so it can’t be lost, although the wadded up sock ball (from whence the name) isn’t as neat and tidy as the flat-fold little Baggu pouch. The Flip & Tumble is also more expensive at $12 (to Baggu’s $8 on their own web site and at Amazon).

In the interest of, um, blog research, I may have to buy a Flip & Tumble for a side-by-side comparison. (St. Vinny’s will get the second-place bag, so I’m not just mindlessly consuming.) The bottom line, though: there are a lot of bag options that are much spiffier and environmentally friendly than paper or plastic.

Today’s mitzvah: Have you made the switch to reusable bags? (Heck, if I can do it, anyone can!) Check out the bag options in the Daily Mitzvah archives — as well as cool options at your own favorite grocery. The environment will thank you, and you may get 5¢ to 10¢ a bag back to boot.

(Photo credits: Flip & Tumble

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Papers: May 18

Here’s a round-up of news and notes for your Sunday reading pleasure!

Wisconsin Man Says “No” to Gas for One Month
Brian LeFave of Sheboygan Falls, WI, has “parked his pick-up truck and refused to buy gas for a month.” He’s biking to work instead — no small feat for a third-shift worker with an 18-mile round-trip daily commute. Says LaFave: “I think just with the gas prices being so high, everybody complains about it but no one ever really does anything about it. People continue to drive nonstop and not think about it.” Go, Brian! (Courtesy AP)

Bush Administration Bars Drilling in Arctic Wetland
I had to read this twice, but it’s true. The same Interior Department that last week declared polar bears a threatened species yet vowed this would not inconvenience business interests — yep, the same folks on Friday officially banned any drilling in “potentially oil-rich [Arctic] wetlands, in a reversal of its earlier plan.” (Reuters via Environmental News Network)

Volvo vows to end crash deaths by 2020
Car crashes kill 1.2 million people worldwide each year and injure 50 million more. Car maker Volvo says: Enough. Their engineers believe they can end all fatalities in their cars by the year 2020. Gotta love engineers. Go, Volvo! Marty Finestone’s Activitybook has video. (Reuters)

Burma Aid Situation “Improving
Briain’s Lord Malloch Brown says aid supplies are beginning to move (finally) in Burma/ Myanmar. It’s a slow process, unconscionably delayed by the country’s military junta. But world pressure may have finally produced movement to help the hundreds of thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis. According to the BBC while “the relief effort had not been what many Western nations considered sufficient, thanks to support from the governments of the region and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) a compromise had been struck that the ‘Burmese can work with.’ ” If you’e interested in donating for Burmese cyclone or the China earthquake relief, see my Burma and China tags for posts that discuss different charities operating in each region.

And that’s your Sunday news round-up!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Weekend Spotlight

round-up and a thank-you as we begin a sunny late spring weekend here in the Upper Midwest.

May 16th is Endangered Species Day — right in time for our friends the Polar Bears. Other animals are still in peril. Tree Hugger has more info and adorable pix!

China Earthquake: See Thursday’s post for links to three good organizations for emergency donations. I’ve also moved up the Global Giving RSS feed (right sidebar), which includes giving opportunities in China and Myanmar.

Myanmar Cyclone: Aid agencies continue to struggle with Burma’s government. See my earlier post for agencies that already have personnel on-ground, and as such may be the best options for your donations.

Last but not least, a thank-you to Focus Organic for listing and categorizing the many May 15th Bloggers Unite for Human Rights posts, including Daily Mitzvah’s Darfur post.

I’ll be back on Sunday. Enjoy your weekend!

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