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....