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Hey Pretty Pretty

July 26, 2010

I came across this new movie about cosmetics (scroll down to view it.) It is from the same people who brought us the story of stuff and the story of bottled water, which I have written about in previous posts. This particular story focuses on what goes into our personal care products (soap, makeup, shampoo etc.) and what needs to happen in order for them to be safe. Lead, mercury, tar, and a ton of other toxins are in our care products. Even worse, there aren’t very strict laws regarding the testing these chemicals orthe proper labeling of the them. Many of the toxins in our personal care products have been banned by the European Union. However, this isn’t about fear mongering, there are actual solutions. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of different non profits that work “to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.” In other words they work to create laws that better regulate what can go into our cosmetics and how things need to be labeled so that people know what they are putting in and on their bodies. They also do a lot of outreach to help educate people about what is in their products. The take action and get involved sections of their website include ways to contact your representatives about these issues, ways to educate your community and ways to contact cosmetic companies to let them know you care about what goes into their products. Each month they provide an action alert with something specific you can  do to help. In addition to all of this they also provide a downloadable list of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. By signing, cosmetics manufacturers pledge that:

  1. All cosmetics and personal care products made by the company anywhere in the world meet or exceed the formulation standards and deadlines set by the European Union cosmetics directive to be free of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects.
  2. The company will implement substitution plans that replace hazardous materials with safer alternatives within three years, and publicly report its progress in meeting these goals.

So, I recommend you watch the movie, read the list, buy safe products, and educate others.  By working to both change the laws regarding what goes into personal care products and by choosing safe products you can attack the problem from all sides.



July 20, 2010

As I may or may not have mentioned in previous posts, I teach high school students with autism. There is a lot of confusion about what autism is, why so many people are being diagnosed and what it means to be on “the spectrum.” Many people think people with autism are all savants (which isn’t true) and others think they are “stuck inside themselves” (which also isn’t true). I found this great video online created by a woman with autism. In the video she explains some of her behaviors using her “native language.” She than provides a translation for those who don’t understand her language. It is a powerful and eye opening look into a world very few people understand.


and stuff……

March 31, 2010

I came across the Story of Stuff movie a couple of months ago. Not only is the video interesting and thought inspiring, but the response to the Story of Stuff is a study in and of itself.


The story of stuff is a 2o minute film about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” The film was made by Annie Leonard, an activist who has spend the last 20 years organizing and participating in social justice and environmental causes. The “Story of Stuff” takes a look at the true cost of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of all of the stuff we have.  The movie also provides  “another way” and aims to inspire people to change their current habits of consumption.

Watch the Film:

The Story of Stuff

In addition to the film, there is now a book and a great website that both provide lots of information on the problems of our consumer culture as well as the solutions.   The websites “another way” section has a list of 10 things you can do to and a reading list of books worth checking out on the different topics Annie discusses in the film.


Like anything that is made by someone who is clearly passionate about their subject, there are some (not many, some in my opinion) flaws presented in the film. However, the media has had a field day. Glenn Beck covered it on his show, featuring a rebuttal video made by  Lee Doren of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. People have called the film anti-american and the film has even been banned by some school districts.  As a teacher, it makes me sad to think that a movie that asks people to think about where they spend their money would be banned.  Whether or not you agree with every point in the movie, the general message is hard to be against. Students need to  be taught to think about the impact of all of their choices including their purchases.


I think the movie is great. It it straight to the point, easy to understand, and most importantly it  provides clear ways to help.  It is a film that gives you the chance to be proactive, rather than reactive. Is the film flawed? Sure, find me one that isn’t. Is the message important? YES.

Watch the film, watch the rebuttal and let me know what you think!


ps. annie has also made films about:

Bottled Water

Cap and Trade

and coming in May a  video about  electronics

hope- not just for Haiti

January 30, 2010

It is easy to think people don’t care. Or that people do care but not care enough to do anything or give anything. But then something happens that moves the truest and purest part of our hearts and we act.  Such is the case with the tragedy in Haiti. Disaster struck and people all over the world responded.

Many organizations immediately set up a text for Haiti program where people could send a text message to donate money.  The Red Cross has raised over $27 million dollars just through their texting donations.  This does not include additional money raised through their other efforts.  If you haven’t yet donated through the red cross text program here is a link with info if you want to. Text to Haiti

Watch this video to see some of the work that the red cross is doing in Haiti

The Hope for Haiti benefit concert alone raised about $15 million in one night, and the Hope for Haiti non-profit is continuing to raise money.

There are hundreds of more non-profits and organizations that have raised lots of money.  To read a list of the organizations involved and the amount they have raised check out this article by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

There is no true silver lining when it comes to a disaster like Haiti. It was tragedy and no amount of generosity makes it any less tragic.  However, tragedies can change us and move something in us that reminds us of what’s important.  We know the economy is bad and that people are loosing jobs, but still people gave.  We know that people have ignored problems in Haiti and other struggling areas for a very long time, and why it is sad that it took an earthquake to get peoples attention at least it got our attention. People didn’t turn their backs or close their wallets, they gave. over $528 million so far. it is a reminder to me that people do care about those less fortunate and in need.  it is also a reminder that people might give to other people in need.  maybe, if we make it easy for people to give through tv events, texting, and social networking sites- maybe people will continue to give.  i think the outpouring of money and support since the earthquake in Haiti, should give us all hope about the human condition and our ability to come together.


you couldn’t pay me to do this

January 17, 2010

I haven’t written in awhile. The holidays and the busyness of it all threw me for a loop. But I’m back and it’s a new year and one of my many resolutions it try to write an entry once a week. So here goes the first entry of 2010.

Volunteerism, a lot of people do it and a lot of people don’t. To those of you who don’t, let 2010 be the year you start. You may have 10,000 excuses, but usually they all boil down to being too busy or not knowing where to begin.  So I am here to help.

First of all, you are not too busy.  Everyone and I mean everyone has some time to give to something else.  Not everyone can make a huge time commitment, but there is no one out there who can’t give some time. It might be once a week, once a month, or even just once a year but everyone has at least one day a year that they can give up for a greater cause.  When people think about volunteering they often think it needs to be all or nothing, and feel like if they can’t give a lot of time then it’s not worth it.  However, there are a lot of non-profits and other organizations who put on events, such as charity walks, auctions, and other one day events and having volunteers to work at those events is crucial to their success.  Other places and organizations including shelters, prisons, and hospitals, are often happy to have people make a once a month commitment.  So look at your life and your calendar, figure out how much time you can reasonably give and then give it.

Now that I have convinced you that you have the time, how do you decide what to do? Well, think about your passions.  Some people already have causes that are really important to them and that is always a good starting point.  However, if you don’t have an affinity to a particular cause, think about your interests.  For whatever interest you have there is usually an organization that could give you the opportunity to use that interest.  Say, for instance, you love knitting. There are plenty of different ways you could use that love to help out.  Volunteer at a senior center to knit with the people who live there, volunteer to teach knitting at an after school program, or volunteer to knit items that people are in need of.  You get the idea.  Not interested in a volunteer experience where you are making or doing something specific? Well, you could volunteer with an organization that lets you work with people.  Non-profits like Best Buddies and Big Brother Big Sister don’t require a particular skill set, but rather that you spend time with someone.  I volunteered with Best Buddies and twice a month committed to doing something with my “buddy” a woman my age with an intellectual disability.  We would go shopping, have lunch, run errands; really we did whatever we wanted.  I didn’t even have to change my schedule or go out of my way. I did the things I would normally do, I just did them with her. We would take turns picking the restaurant or places we went, but they we always places we both liked going.

If none of these examples have sparked any ideas, there are also several different ways to search for volunteer opportunities here are a few sites that can help you: – idealist can help you find volunteer opportunities, job openings with  non-profits, internships and a whole lot more. – volunteer match lets you search for volunteer opportunities by location lets you search for volunteer opportunities by interest and location. – in the community section there is a section for volunteering

These are just a few sites.  If you know about particular organizations you would want to volunteer with, just contact them.  Even if their website doesn’t say anything about needing volunteers, call and find out. Most places are happy to have people who want to help.

So, I know most people already know why they should volunteer, but just in case.  Here are a few big ones.

1. It’s fun- if you find the right match it is usually a great time

2. It makes you feel good- Mark Twain said “the best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” He was right

3. It’s Needed- There are a lot of people that need help and things that need to be fixed and not enough money to do it all. The world needs volunteers.

There are a thousand more reasons, some more altruistic and some more selfish.  The only reason that really matters is the one that matters to you.  I hope everyone who reads this considers finding a volunteer opportunity that works for them. Happy new year!


dirty business

November 18, 2009

I was flipping though the September/October issue of UTNE magazine when I came across an advertisement that caught my eye.  It looked a little something like this.

“What is it?” you ask. I asked the same thing. Turns out it’s soap. Not just any soap, soap formed into the shape of a landmine. “Why?” you ask. I, too, asked that same question, so I decided to look into cleanup soap to figure what it was all about.   I was so happy with what I found learned about cleanup soap I thought I would share it.

It turns out that this landmine shaped soap is a way to raise awareness and money for landmine removal and landmine victims in Cambodia.  25% of the profit of the soap goes directly to the non-profit Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund to help both victims of landmines and landmine removal.  

Cleanup soap was conceived by Hideaki Matsui while he was enrolled as a graduate student at Parsons School of Design in New York.  For his thesis he decided to design something that would help a non-profit organization promote their mission.  Having grown up learning about the landmine devastation from his parents, he decided to work with non-profits working to help landmine victims and non-profits dedicated to the removal of landmines.

The soap costs $8 dollars and comes in two scents, coconut and rosemary mint. For every $8 bar of soap $2 dollars are donated to the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund.   To order or learn more about cleanup soap go to

I love the idea of for-profit companies giving money to non-profit organizations.  I also love the idea of business minded people, like designers, sharing their talents with non-profits, which is exactly what cleanup soap is doing.  In order to keep growing and be successful I think that non-profits need to pay attention to things like branding and design, which is what the Cambodian Landmine Museum is doing through its partnership with cleanup soap.   This partnership is something that both for profit enterprises and non-profits organizations need to learn from.

A simple idea, a huge impact.

p.s.  if you are interested in learning more about the history of  Cambodian landmines, landmine survivors and the struggle to remain watch this short video:

sharing is caring

November 8, 2009

There has been endless media coverage on the economy for the past year or so.  While I feel it is important to be aware of what is going on, I am often frustrated at the fear mongering that seems to be a constant everywhere I go.  No matter what radio station, website, TV channel or newspaper I get my news from the message is always the same: be afraid, because even if you haven’t been affected by the recession yet you could be next. While all of this might be true, this type of reporting does nothing to make the situation better.  There might not be a one size fits all solution to the economic crisis, but there are a lot of things people can do on small scale level to save money, help each other out, and  soften the blow a little bit. One of the easiest things we can do is share what we already have.  If we are letting people use what we have and they are letting us use what they have there is the potential to save a lot of money.  Below are three different ways that people are doing exactly that. I suggest that you look into them and think about how you might do something similar in your own community.

santa rosa tool library1. The Santa Rosa Tool Library is exactly what it sounds like: a library for tools in Santa Rosa, California.  People simply sign up for a membership and can then take out the tools they need for their projects.  There are no membership fees or fees for the tools.  If you return a tool past the due date there is a late fee charge of $2.00- $4.00 a day depending on the demand of the tool.  Tools are often expensive and depending on how often you do repairs or build things, there is a chance you might only use some tools once in awhile.  The tool library allows people to do the work they need to do without spending money on tools they might only use once.  The idea of people sharing their resources so that everyone has access to the things they need is something that needs to be spread to other areas.  Really it comes down to sharing.  If you have something that you’re not using and you know someone else could use it let them use it.  There is more “stuff” in this world then we need so pass it along when you’re not using it.  If you are interested in finding a tool lending library near you check out this wikipedia list of tool lending libraries by state

 2. Neighborrow  is another great organization that makes it easy for people to lend and borrow things free of charge. is a web forum wherer people can post what they have to lend.  Once you become a member you can look at what people are lending and simply click “borrow it” if it is an item you need. Currently, to become a member you must have 10 items that you are willing to lend to other people.  Items currently listed include books, movies, baking pans, baby supplies (crib, high chair etc) and more. 

To learn more about Neighborrow go to

3.  A clothing swap is a fun and easy way to get some really nice clothes paperdoll12     without spending any money.   At a clothing swap people trade clothes they no longer want.  Here are a few simple steps to throwing a fun clothing swap. 

1. Invite a bunch of people (especially people whose clothes you like) and tell them to bring any clothes they don’t want.
2. Put on good music
3. Have everyone display their clothes
4. “and now” cried dani “let the wild rumpus start”. At this point everyone just starts trying on clothes and taking what fits them. 
A clothing swap is a fun way to get new clothes without spending a cent. I suggest everyone find a group of friends and plan a seasonal clothing swap.


So there you have it, three great ways to save money, help others, and maybe even help battle our culture of consumption.