Sunday, April 09, 2006

Last post...for now.

I started this blog to show how large an impact little, everyday actions can really have. I wanted to detail, for example, how much energy is saved and pollution averted every time a single can is recycled. I wanted people to know that eating veggies isn't just good for themselves but for the whole world by explaining the strain on natural resources and other negative externalities that arise from raising livestock. I wanted readers to know how to answer that question, "paper or plastic" (neither; cloth! But if it's not an option, then plastic. Click here for why).

Thing is, it takes a lot of time to research these things, and right now I don't have that time (or rather, I choose not to make that time). I plan to come back to this, but for now, consider this the final post of this blog. As an alternative, I highly recommend signing up for the DailyBite newsletter from; it's the closest thing out there to what I would do myself, and its editors are clearly making the time. :)

Thanks for reading!

IdealBite is great, but this is what I tried to start! we are what we do

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wash your hands

Seriously. Change the world by washing your hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Most of us probably do this, but those that don't can ruin it for everyone else (you know who you are).

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, "Hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection."

For more, here's a clip from the CNN Health Library:

"Throughout the day you accumulate germs on your hands from a variety of sources, such as direct contact with people, contaminated surfaces, foods, even animals and animal waste. If you don't wash your hands frequently enough, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. And you can spread these germs to others by touching them or by touching surfaces that they also touch, such as doorknobs.

"Infectious diseases commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, flu and several gastrointestinal disorders, such as infectious diarrhea. While most people will get over a cold, the flu is much more serious. Some people with the flu, particularly older adults and people with chronic medical problems, can develop pneumonia. The combination of the flu and pneumonia, in fact, is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans.

"Inadequate hand hygiene also contributes to food-related illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 76 million Americans contract a food-borne illness each year. Of these, about 5,000 die as a result of their illness. Others experience the annoying symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea."

A couple of related notes
"U.S. Navy recruits who were ordered to wash their hands at least five times a day saw a decrease in respiratory illnesses of 45% from the year before, according to a study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC)." (From

Anti-bacterial soaps are all hype. In fact, they may be making things worse: "Using these soaps may lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the products' antimicrobial agents — making it even harder to kill these germs in the future." Plus, "75% of liquid hand soaps sold in the United States contain triclosan, a registered pesticide by the EPA" (From

Time commitment? An extra minute a day. Maybe.
Cost? Maybe a couple pennies a day in extra soap usage. You may actually save money if you currently use the antibacterial variety and switch to the regular kind.
Impact? Decrease your own risk of getting sick and reduce the risk of spreading germs. The costs to society of preventable sickness are huge, including out-of-pocket expenses, sick days, loss of productivity, redirection of resources away from more serious conditions, higher health insurance premiums, and more. So wash your hands to change your world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Loan $25 (or more) to change lives through Kiva

The idea is simple: help people help themselves.

Kiva "lets you connect with and loan money to a unique small business in the developing world". It takes the beauty of microfinance a step further by pairing it with "microlending"--loans from people like you and me.

Why lend money to someone who wants to start, say, a flower shop in Honduras? Well, with a loan that person can build an honest business, and then provide for his or her family, send his/her children to school, and make strides towards financial security. Now that's a much higher return on your cash then the 0% your $25 is making in your Checking Account. Plus, as a bonus, you can take comfort in that fact that your world is a safer place, since that person will not be tempted by illegal or unethical ways to make money (generally a problem in developing nations).

Learn more about Kiva here.
Time commitment? If you already have a PayPal account, it can take less than 1 minute. If you don't, it'll take 5 minutes.
Cost? Likely zero, as most loans are repaid (yes, there is a smaaall chance it won't be...see the FAQ).
Impact? On someone else, huge. You can directly contribute to helping change someone's life around (for the better). On yourself and your world? Less tangible, but there is an impact. With more honest entrepreneurs, the world becomes safer, richer, and brighter--and so will your life.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Changing the world is as simple as changing your homepage

What does your homepage open up to? Google? Use the Toolbar, it's faster. NYTimes? Get it through RSS. Instead, open up your homepage to The Rainforest Site, so that each time it loads you remember to click the button and save "11.4 square feet of endangered rainforest". Could care less about rainforests (and their life savings secrets?), what about The Hunger Site, which allows you to click and provide "1.1 cups of staple food" for the hungry. There's also The Breast Cancer Site ("free mammograms for women in need"), The Child Health Site ("basic but critical health services to...children"), The Literacy Site ("helps children in need discover the joy of books") and The Animal Rescue Site (".6 bowls of food and care to a rescued animal in a shelter or sanctuary")

Pick a site.
Set your homepage.
Click once a day.

Time commitment? Less than 15 seconds to set your new homepage. Just navigate to the page you want, and then (in Internet Explorer) go to "Tools", "Internet Options" and then click "Use Current" to set the homepage.
Cost? Zero!
Impact? Small (see above descriptions), but it alllll adds up....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Don't just search...GoodSearch!

From the website:

"GoodSearch is an Internet search engine with a simple concept and unique social mission. GoodSearch enables you to help fund any of hundreds of thousands of charities or schools through the simple act of searching the Internet."

"It's simple. You use like any other search engine (we've partnered with the leading search engine to ensure the best results), but each time you do, money is generated for your favorite cause.

Last year search engines generated close to $6 billion in revenue from advertisers. Think about what your favorite cause could do with even a fraction of that money!"

Time commitment? Zero. Just type in (and bookmark), and off you go. If you're even slightly tech savvy make GoodSearch your default engine in FireFox or download the Toolbar for IE.
Cost? Zero!
Impact? Small, for now ($0.01 per search). BUT, how many searches do you make a day? A week? And your friends? And their friends? It'll add up....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Reach for the Nalgene instead of the Evian

Bottled water is convenient. But that's about it, because it's not cheap (usually more expensive than gasoline), not necessarily better (guidelines for tap water are more stringent than bottled water), and it could in fact be bad for you (the added minerals in some waters could be harmful in large doses).

Rather than re-write the article that inspired this post, I'm going to ask that you click here to read it.

My favorite part: "Tap water comes to us through an energy-efficient infrastructure whereas bottled water must be transported long distances--and nearly one-fourth of it across national borders--by boat, train, airplane, and truck. This 'involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels'".

My second favorite part: "More fossil fuels are used in packaging the water. Most water bottles are made with polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic derived from crude oil. 'Making bottles to meet Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year'".

Bottom line? Get the convenience of bottled water out of a Nalgene bottle (or similar), and get almost the same purity from a PUR water filter system or a Britta water filter system (to further purify your tap water...clearly not good enough for untreated water).

Time commitment? Zero. Next time you go to buy bottled water from the grocery store, ask where the Nalgene bottles are, and pick up a water filter system that can further purify your tap water.
Cost? Nalgene bottles range in price, but shouldn't run you more than $20, and a Britta jug with filter will cost ya $30ish. Depending upon how much bottled water you drink, you will pay for all this and have plenty to spare by not buying bottled. Go the extra mile and donate the money saved to a charity that supports clean water--either locally or internationally.
Impact? Reduce air pollution (transport of water, manufacture of plastic), save energy, and if you donate the money you save you can help bring clean water to the world.
Update: Relevant article in the NYTimes:

Update: Nalgene may be bad? Go Stainless instead:,_that_is)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Volunteer your PC through the World Community Grid

The mission of the World Community Grid "is to create the largest public computing grid benefiting humanity". How? By pooling together the unused (read: wasted) processing power of PCs around the globe to tackle quantitative research problems associated with humanitarian research.

About the org
(from their website)

"World Community Grid is making technology available only to public and not-for-profit organizations to use in humanitarian research that might otherwise not be completed due to the high cost of the computer infrastructure required in the absence of a public grid. As part of our commitment to advancing human welfare, all results will be in the public domain and made public to the global research community."

How does it work?
(from their website)

"When idle, your computer will request data on a specific project from World Community Grid's server. It will then perform computations on this data, send the results back to the server, and ask the server for a new piece of work. Each computation that your computer performs provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research!"

It's sheer genius. A win-win scenario that's almost too easy.

To learn more about the project and to download the software, visit

An alternate site with different projects to support:
Time commitment? One download that takes less than 1 minute
Cost? $0
Impact? Right now, you can choose between the FightAIDS@Home Project and the Human Proteome Project (or both).

Change your world


Wanna change the world? You can. It’s easier than you think. A genuine desire to help the world you live in can motivate decisions that have far reaching impacts—further, perhaps, than you might imagine.

Many of the items that will appear in this blog are things you’ve heard before. For example, you know its good to recycle, and yeah, of course giving blood can save lives—but for some reason, maybe you don’t make these things happen? Time and money are so precious, and it’s not worth the trouble to change the way you are just to save a tree or two, right? Well, it is precisely that misconception that this blog seeks to change. Though some of you may learn a new way in which to effect positive change in the world, my hopes are that most of you come away with a realization that it is in fact cost and time effective to change the world. In fact, is not so much about changing the world, as it is about changing your world, because more often than not, an aspect of your life changes for the better.

A wipe at an example

Take for instance toilet paper. Most of us use a little bit (or a lot...a-HEM) of the stuff every day. Some of us like delicate patterns, while others appreciate soothing scents, but I’ll bet the majority are fine with anything—as long as it’s better than the cheap stuff found in most freeway rest areas. Well, as it turns out, current toilet paper use adversely affects Asthma conditions in children, municipal tax rates, and exposes users to carcinogenic toxins.


How can that nice little roll be doing so much harm in our society? It smells! The answer lies in an economic principle known as “negative externalities”. The production of toilet paper involves processes that increase air pollution and thus increase a child’s risk of developing Asthma. Incidentally, more Asthma cases draw even more upon limited medical resources, driving up the cost of health care. The disposal of used toilet paper (yuck!) is no easy task, and sucks up municipal tax revenues. The more toilet paper we use, the more money is spent getting rid of it, the higher our tax rates (or maybe we’ll be lucky and city politicians will just axe educational funding). And the cancer? Well, many bath tissues contain formaldehyde, artificial fragrance, dyes, and dioxins--some of which have been shown to cause cancer in rats.

So, the question is, do you consider improving children’s health, redirecting tax dollars towards areas like education, preserving the environment, and saving water--all while you reduce your own risk for getting cancer--changing the world? I do. That’s why I buy recycled toilet paper instead of regular toilet paper (usually for roughly the same price).

Wanna change the world? Stay tuned for easy-to-do everyday things that truly make a difference. The power of one should never be underestimated.