Day after Christmas Donation

Word GIVE on Cardboard Letters with Twinkling Lights

Today, on the day after Christmas, making a commitment to volunteer your time or donating to a worthy cause is a fitting way to wrap up your holiday giving.

Nowadays, in the United States, the Christmas holiday season presents us with a dichotomy encompassing the spirit of giving, while promoting excessive spending and overindulging in food and drink.

We Americans fulfill the spirit of giving with gaily-wrapped packages, Christmas cookie swaps, Toys for Tots donations, family and friend get-togethers, and delicious Christmas dinners. Spending time with our family and friends is a gift regardless of whether any presents change hands or not.

On the flip side, signs of excessive spending include going into debt buying gifts, purchasing presents for people who told you they do not need or want anything (they might actually mean it), or buying everything on everyone’s wish lists.

You may have fallen victim to overindulging if you have been nibbling on Christmas candy and cookies nonstop since the beginning of December, embarrassed yourself at the office Christmas party after drinking too many glasses of wine, or ate so much at Christmas dinner you fell asleep on the couch afterward instead of helping with the dishes.

December is also the busiest time at work for many people who are racing to meet year-end sales goals, finishing client projects, or dealing with Christmas shoppers.

These days Christmas is a more low-key event at our house but as a person with a major sweet tooth, I still overindulge during the holidays. If there are sweets anywhere in the house, even secreted away, I know they are there. Yes, I can hear that box of See’s candy calling me from the laundry room where I have ineffectively hidden it.

You see, we all have our holiday season joys and challenges.

Day after Christmas Giving

Today, Monday, December 26, the day after Christmas, some people are trudging off to work, others are recovering from their Christmas festivities, and some people are kicking back and relaxing.

More than a few gift receivers are heading to stores and post offices intent on exchanging or returning gifts. Seasoned day-after-Christmas shoppers are snapping up Christmas decorations, wrapping materials, and tree trimmings at steeply discounted prices, while highly proactive people (or crazy people depending on your view) are beginning next year’s Christmas shopping.

No matter what your plans are for the day, donating or making a commitment to volunteer your time in service of others is a generous way of closing out the holiday season. It is good karma. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Community Parks, Schoolyards, and Gardens

In your neighborhood, there is likely to be at least one park, schoolyard, or community garden where you can lend a hand even if you do not have a green thumb.

Although shoveling snow off walking paths might be restricted to cold climes, tasks like picking up trash, weeding, and turning compost piles, are probably available during most of the year. If you do not want to get your hands dirty, lend your voice by telling friends and neighbors about the park, schoolyard, or garden, spreading the word on social media, or advocating at a school board or city council meeting.

Faith Congregations

Perhaps you would enjoy helping your congregation become more environmentally friendly.

Organized religion comprises the largest social networks on the planet with long traditions of conducting outreach programs, setting and achieving goals, and working in teams. These are all the necessary ingredients for successfully implementing green programs.

Interfaith Power & Light and GreenFaith are both national organizations that help people green their own congregations. To find a local group, type “faith-based environmental organizations” and the name of your city and state in your web browser search window.

Building Projects

For those of you who like building stuff with your hands, try installing solar panels for a nonprofit like GRID Alternatives or participating in building a home with Habitat for Humanity for someone who needs one.

If you are a tech savvy person, offering to build a website for a nonprofit or community group might be just the thing they need. Or, maybe the group could use some assistance setting up social media accounts, which will enable them to get the word out about their organization.

My Day after Christmas Giving

For my day after Christmas giving, I am donating money to One Cool Earth, the nonprofit that grew the two Big Sur Coast redwood tree seedlings I planted in my yard in honor of the Christmas tree in my living room.

Please share your day after Christmas volunteer or donation ideas and actions with other readers.

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America Recycles Day – Aluminum Cans and E-Waste

Recyclable Items Poster - America Recycles Day

This year, for the 20th annual America Recycles Day on November 15, 2016, be an eco-hero by forgoing aluminum beverage cans and tackling your e-waste.

I believe this, that, or the other thing “days” or such and such “months” can be informative and inspiring, motivating us to take meaningful actions related to the theme. For instance, Earth Day in 1970 helped launch the modern environmental movement and the proliferation of pink ribbons each October during Breast Cancer Awareness month has surely brought awareness to the issue.

What about America Recycles Day?

America Recycles Day

The first thing you see when you visit the America Recycles Day webpage is an opportunity to enter the sweepstakes drawing for a gift card.

You can use Google Maps to look for an event, join 67,464 other people in making a pledge to start recycling plastic bottles or watch a one-minute I Want to be Recycled video that follows a plastic bottle’s arduous journey to become a plastic bench overlooking the ocean.

The online store offers America Recycles Day booth canopies, flutter flags, and merchandise, like t-shirts, buttons, and pencils made out of newspapers.

Hmmm. Is America Recycles Day promoting recycling or shopping? Buying stuff to later recycle it doesn’t make sense to me.

Aluminum Beverage Can Challenge

Bales of Crushed Aluminum Cans Awaiting Recycling – Photo: West Boylston, MAHere is an aluminum beverage can challenge for you to consider doing for America Recycles Day.

Picture yourself grabbing an ice-cold aluminum Coke can from the cooler at your local mini mart, guzzling down its contents, and responsibly tossing the empty can in the recycle bin outside the store.

With your thirst quenched, you are feeling good about being a conscientious recycler, right?

Yes, but you could do more.

You probably know that aluminum is a valuable and highly recyclable material, but do you know what is involved in making and later recycling an aluminum beverage can? I did not until I looked into it and found out that aluminum cans have a significant environmental footprint.

Mining and refining bauxite (a major source of aluminum) and smelting aluminum is immensely energy intensive, uses large amounts of water, and generates air, water, and soil pollution. Making aluminum can be harmful to workers and the people who live near mining, refining, or smelting operations. Making the cans and later recycling them involves using additional resources, electricity, and water.

To make matters worse, Americans only recycle 55.1% of our aluminum beer and soda cans, meaning 44.9% end up by the side of the road or in a landfill.

Regardless of whether you recycle the can or not, it seems to me that using aluminum to make single-use disposable beverage cans is not a good idea.

If you agree, take the challenge below.

American Recycles Day Challenge – eliminate the need for recycling aluminum cans by not purchasing them in the first place.

E-Waste Recycling Challenge

E-Waste Dropped Off During Earth Day Event - Photo: Cal Recycle 160

Below is an e-waste recycling challenge for you to consider doing for America Recycles Day.

All across the country, city agencies, companies, and community organizations offer electronic waste drop-off recycling events on America Recycles Day and at other times throughout the year.

Imagine this scenario. You can finally get rid of your broken laser printer, an e-reader you never use, a 3-year old desktop computer, a collection of cell phones, and an obsolete game console. You load everything in your car and drive to the drop off location where helpful volunteers take custody of your surplus electronics.

Whew. You are feeling relieved to get this stuff out of your closet or garage and off your hands.

By recycling your unused and unwanted electronics you are enabling the valuable and sometimes rare materials they contain to be retrieved and later used to make new devices, reducing the need for mining and manufacturing new materials which can be harmful to people and the environment (ditto aluminum above).

In addition, keeping electronics out of your local landfill prevents toxic materials like mercury from leaching out of broken computer monitors into the ground and polluting your groundwater basin.

It’s all good, right?

Maybe, but ask yourself these questions.

Was there something wrong with my 3-year old desktop computer, or the cell phones, or the game console other than they are not the latest models? Do I feel compelled to replace my electronic devices when a new model comes out? If so, why?

Recycling an electronic device that is in good working order only to turn around and buy a new one just creates more future e-waste.

If the above scenario rings true for you,  take the challenge below.

America Recycles Day Challenge – do drop off our unused and unwanted electronic devices at an e-waste collection event. Then resist the urge to buy a new device.

The Bottom Line

An important and often overlooked aspect of recycling is reducing the need for recycling in the first place.

I acknowledge that change is difficult. It is also rewarding.

If you stop picking up a six-pack of beer in aluminum cans on the way home from work or buying a new cell phone every year, then there is nothing to be recycled.

Now you are an eco-hero.

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Love God, Heal Earth – Book Review

Love God Heal Earth Book CoverWhether you are a person of faith or not, Rev. Sally Bingham’s book Love God, Heal Earth is both interesting and thought-provoking.

I first learned of Sally Bingham through the Interfaith Light & Power Campaign, a faith-based initiative addressing global warming that she co-founded. I have been curious to learn more about her so selected Love God, Heal Earth as my second book to read this March in honor of Women’s History Month.

Book Review

Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment is the full title of the book that contains essays written by religious leaders from a variety of faiths with an introduction and afterword by Rev. Sally Bingham.

A line from the introduction describes what the book is about.

“It is a snapshot of a moment in human history – Earth history – when the future hung in the balance and communities of faith came together out of love for Creation.”

Readers will find essays by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist religious leaders who incorporate environmental stewardship into their respective ministries and daily lives. A few examples are included below.

  • Rev. Fred Small participates in political activism and endeavors to engage people of faith in caring for Creation by framing supposed environmental issues as issues of justice and compassion.
  • Rev. Pat Watkins seeks to connect faith and the environment through Biblical scriptures.
  • Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield leads the Faith in Place organization, which helps congregations make earth stewardship part of their religious life.
  • Laurel Kearns directs the Green Seminary Initiative that equips religious leaders with tools to help them lead their congregations to a more sustainable and just society that values a healthy planet.
  • Mary Evelyn Tucker studies and teaches in a university setting bringing together the fields of religion and ecology.

The following excerpt from the afterword succinctly wraps up the mission of everyone on Earth.

“Who are we, as human beings, if not caretakers of creation? Stewardship of the planet and our care for each other is our greatest moral duty.”

The Bottom Line

Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is an Episcopal priest and serves on the board of several environmental organizations and the Diocese of California Commission for the Environment. She is the founder and executive director of The Regeneration Project, whose mission is to deepen the connection between faith and ecology. Its main project is the Interfaith Power & Light Campaign, which helps congregations address global warming through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Although I did not learn as much about Sally Bingham as I would have liked, I was fascinated by the essays in Love God, Heal Earth. The authors approach the intersection between faith and ecology through the lenses of their own diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs, yet they are all on the same journey encouraging faith-based communities to care for Creation.

Love God, Heal Earth is about hope. Everyone should read it.

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