Tag Archives: Recycling

Trash: Making Beauty out of What We’ve Thrown Away

recycled orchestraWhat’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word trash?

Dirt. Germs. Land fill, maybe? Trash is what we call the things we no longer have a use for – the things we throw away and discard never to be thought of again. Even when it’s used in a derogatory sense for people it refers to them as the things we don’t want to think about, the things we wish would disappear. Trash is beneath us.

What about “recycle” though? That sounds better, right? It turns out that it’s not just plastic bottles and newspapers that can be re-used or re-created into something else. Things we throw away are being taken by very creative individuals to create new works of art. Favio Chavez is using the trash sent to a slum in Cateura, Paraguay to build instruments for his teenage students.  They make cellos out of rusted oil bins and violins out of old tin. Ordinarily a violin is worth more than a house in that slum. The families who live there raid the land fill for trash to recycle and re-sell and they’ve begun to make instruments for their children. The children then perform in the Recycled Orchestra.

They’ve managed a way to redefine something that inhabits the way they live. They’ve taken something “dirty” – the things we throw away – and made them into works of art that demand to be heard. You can find out more about their project and how you can support (and see the full movie) here.

In a different part of South America – on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – artist Vik Muniz is trying to change the lives of a community of catadores, garbage collectors. They are an unemployed, marginalized part of society, collecting garbage in the largest landfill in the world for recyclable materials to sell and make their living. Vik creates portraits of them with the garbage they collect every day. His original intention was to create the portraits, sell them and use the money to help the catadores find an elevated station in life, but the art inevitably became a collaboration. Vik would take a picture of each of the catadores and then project it onto the floor of a nearby warehouse and every day the catadores would help him fill the picture with the recyclables they had found that day in the landfill. For three years they filmed the process and created a documentary called “Waste Land.” The workers say that the movie has lifted a stigma around their profession and the country of Brazil uses it to encourage recycling nationwide.

These stories take place in two different places, told by two different people with very similar themes. These projects force us to take another look at areas of humanity where we tend to turn a blind eye. They show us that the things we dismiss can be beautiful, the things we throw away can be works of art. So the next time you’re throwing anything away, take a deeper look.

How to Green-Up Your Home to Live a Happy Healthy Life

greenvalentineBy: Elizabeth Eckhart 

It seems today that more and more Americans are concerned with the current state of the environment, and what we can do to help. Everywhere you look, companies are “going green” in an attempt to appeal to the demands of the increasingly educated public. Even electric companies in places like Texas, the oil capital of America, are touting their green energy options, and it’s all beginning to turn the tide: according to the EPA, in 2008 Americans were able to avoid releasing the equivalent of 29 million cars worth of greenhouse gases through eco-conscious living. This translated to a savings of $19 billion for Americans that year.

However, it’s not just our commercial goods we are wanting to be eco-friendly – many of us want to live greener and thus healthier lives defined by mindfulness of our place on the Earth, and making our home as green as possible is an undeniably important part. Our homes should be a haven, not a harm to us, and shouldn’t be reducing the quality of the environment.

So what exactly is a “green” home? Compared to an average American home, green homes are gentler on the environment because they use less energy, water and other natural resources while avoiding waste and negative environmental impact wherever possible. Standard homes consumes about 30 percent of total energy and 65 percent of all electricity generated in the US. By making plumbing, fixtures, landscaping and irrigation systems more efficient, greens homes can use 50 percent less water than standard American homes. Also, constructing a green home generates about 50 to 90 percent less waste than standard homes.

Based on these facts and simple observations, it should come as no surprise to see the rise in the number of eco-friendly homes being built, and for good cause. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that buildings in the U.S. contribute 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and residential buildings produce 20 percent of our total CO2 emissions alone. It is clear that our homes and offices play a major role in the environment, so it’s our responsibility to limit the damage we inflict with them.

Also, not only do standard constructed homes negatively affect the environment, but they are affect our wellbeing. Green homes create less indoor air pollutants than standard homes, which can enhance allergies and asthma and may lead to lung cancer.

There are many options for current homeowners to turn their homes into energy efficient ones. One of the most popular programs to help with this process is the Energy Star program, which was launched in 1995. Energy Star certified energy efficient products typically use 20-30 percent less energy than what is required by federal standards. While Energy Star certifications are for what’s in your home, LEED Certification, launched by the United States Green Building Council, is for the building itself. LEED-certified homes aim to reduce their negative impact on the environment by reducing their energy and water use by an average of 20-30 percent as well as maximizing fresh air within the home to reduce exposure to domestic pollutants.

The reality is though, that most Americans simply can’t afford to build a new LEED certified home, or buy new Energy Star certified products. Luckily, there are many steps all of us can take to reduce our impact on the environment that don’t break our bank.

The first step would be to get an energy audit — many electric companies offer these at minimal to no cost, or you can do it yourself. A DIY audit consists of checking for, and sealing, indoor and outdoor air leaks that could be driving up your energy bill by 5-30 percent a year. This is particularly important for older homes, since they are more prone to having drafts.

Next, compare home electricity providers to see which companies offer green products, such as solar panels. Many companies today are utilizing renewable sources from solar, to wind, hydro and geothermal to generate electrical power. If you live in states like New York, Maryland, Texas, and other parts of the South, you can try here to see which companies offer eco-friendly options for household electricity in your area and which would work for you and your household’s electricity needs.

The next step is to check your home’s insulation, which keeps the heat from escaping through the ceiling and walls. The attic is the biggest culprit for heat loss, so look there first if you have one, then consider checking and re-sealing the borders of windows and doors.

Your heating and cooling equipment should be next on your list. Cleaning or replacing filters, inspecting ducts and pipes for leaks, and replacing the unit every 15 years will ensure tip-top energy efficiency and will protect your lungs from breathing in mold and other harmful toxins.

The last, and easiest step is to monitor your use of electronic devices. Aside from using any electronic devices less frequently, make sure to unplug everything that isn’t being used at that moment, and definitely do so if you’ll be out of the house for a few hours or more. Unused, but plugged in, electronic devices are leeches of electricity and cost you hundreds of dollars a year without you being any the wiser – this includes power strips and surge protectors, so be sure to unplug these as well as they will continue to draw power. To get more tips on a do-it-yourself home audit check the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

Other greener options for the home are to use less water, use fewer paper goods such as paper towels (opt for cloth towels instead and reuse them), get newer appliances that are more energy efficient and whenever possible buy green household cleaners that don’t contain harsh chemicals or toxins.

Not only will doing everything you can to make your home green reduce your impact on the environment, it will also lead to a happier, healthier life. Wellness begins at home, so make sure your house is part of your solution!

Have any other tips for making your house more green? Share in the comments below! 

***

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

7 Telltale Signs You’re A Hardcore Greenie

max-R Outdoor Recycling BinGoing green is a great way to show your love for the environment and to promote a sustainable lifestyle that really helps the planet. It’s also incredibly addictive, so after the first few steps you might find yourself engaged in an increasing number of green activities. You know you’ve become a seriously hardcore greenie if…

You Look for Recycling Bins Instead of Trashcans

Recycling is one of the easiest, most essential ways to go green. It only takes a little effort, it’s great for the environment, and it’s becoming much more widely accepted. If you’re becoming a hardcore green-friendly person, you likely start looking for recycling bins before you ever look for trashcans, because you realize that practically everything is recyclable. Whether you’re out shopping or visiting a friend, you’re loathe to throw away your paper cups, soda cans, or newspapers, and secretly you feel a little appalled when you discover that there aren’t any recycling bins available.

Your Have Reusable Bags Hidden in the Car

You can’t remember the last time someone at a store asked you if you wanted paper bags or plastic ones because your reusable bags are always at hand. You’ve been known to turn around without shopping if you arrive at the store and realize you forgot your fabric bags. To avoid that in the future, you started squirreling reusable bags away in your car.

People who carpool with you (of course you carpool—it’s better for the environment) are likely to find cloth bags in the side pockets of the door, the glove compartment, the trunk, under the seats, and in the hidden cubby console between the front seats. You now use them for everything, from carrying around your gym clothes to carrying your shopping. In fact, you have enough reusable bags that sometimes you lend them to people at the grocery store who insist on using plastic bags.

You Unplug Without Thinking

Many people don’t even realize that their appliances and gadgets still suck up energy even when they’re turned off—but you do. You’ve long suspected that your electricity bills are high and your appliances are wasting energy even if they’re turned off, because they’re still plugged into the wall sockets. Now that you have proof, unplugging is second nature to you.

When you’re a serious greenie, your routine changes. Where once it was enough to simply walk through your home turning off the lights in empty rooms, now you go around unplugging those big energy vampires. You make sure to unplug your computer and all of its components because you know your favorite tech-toy is one of the biggest culprits. You gleefully unplug kitchen appliances, especially the microwave, and you always pull the plug on the TV too.

Of course, if you’re really green, you likely have smart power-strips as well, to save energy even when you’re using your favorite devices.

You Take Marathon Showers

People waste so much water every day! Long baths and showers aren’t special treats saved for stressful days, they are daily occurrences. But you know better. Not only do you turn off the faucet as you brush your teeth so you’re not needlessly wasting water, you’ve turned showering into an Olympic event.

You’ve timed exactly how long it takes you to do everything you need to do in your shower. You don’t waste one single second—or a single drop of water. In addition to installing a low-flow head for your shower and a shower timer, you’ve equipped every faucet with an aerator to conserve energy, water, and heat. You know, as you get all clean and fresh, that you’re doing your part to save water.

You Wanted Solar Energy for Your Birthday

After long dreaming of using solar energy, you finally decided that was all you wanted. You saved up, looked around for the best deals and the most quality work, and decided that solar panel energy was the best choice for you. That’s because you know how efficient solar energy really is. You understand the joy of relying on the sun to give you heat, power, and even hot water. While your panels were your biggest birthday present, you still insisted that anyone who got you a present used recyclable paper, of course.

All Your Gadgets Are Solar-Powered

It wasn’t enough to install solar power on your roof, though. You want everything powered by solar energy because, again, you realize how powerful the sun is. So your kitchen is fully outfitted in appliances powered by solar energy. The fridge uses solar power and all of your other appliances are completely energy-efficient. You’ve got a solar-powered watch and the charger you use for your phone, tablet, and other mobile gadgets is also solar-powered. All your friends are jealous of you when the power goes out because you’re still connected. How cool are you?

You’ve Got the Best Compost Pile on the Block

If you’re a hardcore environmentalist, you’ve been composting since long before it was cool. You’ve discovered a way to compost almost everything. As a result, your grass is lush and all the drought-tolerant plants in your garden thrive. You can easily sustain yourself on the food you grow and you routinely share with your neighbors because you want them to eat healthy too.

Composting is part of your routine. Almost everything that comes out of your home either gets recycled or composted. You try to reuse everything for a good purpose and it works for you. Not only do you know you’re doing your part, but you help to erase your carbon footprint every single day. You even offer to start compost heaps for the neighbors who compliment your lifestyle, your commitment, and your gorgeous greenery.

If you’re a serious greenie who takes the eco-friendly life seriously, then you are unquestionably awesome. You’re kind to the Earth, to your family, and to your neighbors because you know that what you’re doing matters.

 

Image via Flickr by max-R

Giving the Gift of Hygiene to Those in Extreme Poverty

Do you ever wonder what happens to your partially used soap bars after leaving your hotel?

I’ve always thought it was such a waste that I only use half the bar or mini-bottle of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I take them home, then they sit in a zip-lock bag and get old. I always feel guilty for throwing them out.

So when I heard about 17-year-old Raghav Rajvanshy’s nonprofit organization, Rcoz, I had to share. His mission: to collect and re-purpose partially bars of soap from hotels and send them to underprivileged communities who do not have access to basic hygiene and sanitation.

Photos: Shekhar Rajvanshy

When Raghav was 14-years-old, he traveled to India and stayed at a hotel across from the slums. It didn’t make sense that the people living in extreme poverty, didn’t have access to basic hygiene and sanitation while many hotel guests were throwing away bottles of partially used soap.

His heart sank when he saw the poor people using ash and sand to wash their hands.

His research revealed the dirty truth. Thousands of hotels throw away millions of pounds of soap daily. Most of the bottles of partially used soap end up in land fills, further contaminating the ground water.

Check out Raghav’s GIG Spark (Lesson on Compassion) submission.

* Special thanks to GIG Volunteer Akina Chargalauf who was so inspired by Rcoz’s mission, she shot and edited this on her iPhone.

Gigster: Raghav Rajvanshy
Where: Fremont, Calif.
Spark: Don’t be wasteful. Be thoughtful and environmentally aware. Join forces with Rcoz to give the gift of hygiene.

His goal is to inspire you to join forces with Rcoz and do
a small act — what you can do — to help him provide basic hygiene and
sanitation to those in need; to promote social and environmentally
responsible practices in the hospitality industry while involving youth
and community to help him educate people through his educational
campaign to prevent the spread of infection and diseases.

Action always starts with awareness. Like many of us, Raghav witnessed waste, people in need and during a trip to Yosemite National Park, he realized the nature’s natural gifts. It made sense for him to do his part to clean up communities in need and the environment. What can YOU do? It all starts with one small act. Go Raghav Go!

How the GIG Spark experience inspired Raghav:

“The GIG Spark experience really had a deep impact on me. I wasn’t aware that there are so many other people trying and succeeding in making a difference in the world through simple ideas. One of the things about the GIG videos that surprised me is the variety of issues they cover, trying to solve everything from global warming to world hunger. All of these people truly inspire me every day and motivate me to work harder and harder towards my own goal of promoting global hygiene and improving the environment. I see GIG Spark as a great virtual community of youngsters who can learn and take inspiration from each other to help shape the future of our world in a very positive way.”

Holiday Help Needed!

Take action:

1. This holiday, Rcoz will collect and distribute care packages to the homeless in San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. They’re collecting unused travel-sized toiletries, tooth and toothpaste from your dentist. NOTE: Deadline for this holiday distribution is 12/12/12. Other donations are accepted all-year long.

2. Donate/contribute what you can: Rcoz needs funding and volunteers to:
-Establish relationships with the hospitality industry
-Collect, rebatch and deliver soap

For more information on how you can take action e-mail: info@rcoz.org

3. Spread the word: Share this video! We hope this video inspires you to be thoughtful this holiday season and use your power to help others.

About GIG Spark:

GIG Spark was developed to create compassion through the exercise of brainstorming, problem solving and experiencing the joy of using your power to help others.

About Go Inspire Go (GIG):
GIG is about inspiring small actions that ripple out to meaningful changes. As we’ve experienced, the ripples continue to billow out, one story, one person, one act at a time.

FEELING INSPIRED? Make your own GIG SPARK and share with us. We may share it with the world.

As part of GIG’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story!

What can YOU do?

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What is the difference between hoarding and collecting?

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

This well-known adage certainly sums up my recent experiences in finding new homes for my old things. Things that others might call junk, I still see as treasures.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector. And, I’m not in the minority, as it seems that collecting is a natural pastime for us human beings. According to Randy O. Frost, professor of psychology at Smith College and author of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, ”A passion for collecting is a healthy outlet and an activity that keeps people connected to the world around them. But it can become a deadly enterprise when it crosses the line into hoarding.”

The numbers are a bit staggering, as according to research reported in a piece in TIME Magazine by Kayla Wembley, “There are between 6 and 15 million hoarders living in the U.S., and some 75 cities now have task forces dedicated specifically toward working with hoarders in their community.”

So what are the differences between being a collector vs. being a hoarder? Some people jokingly have referred to my kind of collecting as hoarding, but there are in fact very distinct differences. Both hoarding and collecting involve assigning special value to your possessions, often value that goes beyond the physical characteristics of the object. To remain a healthy collector, however, your collection must not impede or interfere with your ability to function, or the use of the active living areas of your home, according to TLC.

In Passionate Possession:  The Formation of Private Collections, University of California anthropologist Marjorie Akin explores why we collect, and reveals that people crave a connection to past memories.  Remember those old baseball card collections or marbles you cherished as a kid?

Akin says that another reason people collect is to satisfy personal tastes, show individualism through weird or unusual collections, and to fulfill the need to complete something.  The desire to amass wealth and sell items for profit is another reason for collecting.

The thing I’ve personally discovered about collecting is that a collection is technically never complete.

Take for example my collection of more than 400 elephants, which I talked about in my piece on saving the Toronto Zoo elephants. To me, this has become an incredible aesthetic collection, which I started back in the mid-1970s. Definitely no hoarding here, yet this collection appears to have no end in sight. Others are equally amazed by its beauty and keep wanting to contribute to it by bringing me more. Elephants have arrived from all over the world, in all shapes and sizes, made out of every material imaginable. All well placed and displayed, they add character to my home. I’ve never tripped over even one.

To be honest, I have collections of all kinds. I like to keep things that have sentimental value to me. Kind of like a human pack rat accumulating memories. Most recently, I put all my 1960s, ’70s and ’80s fashion magazines up for sale and had one very serious collector show up, only to be disappointed that the magazines were somewhat water damaged and therefore not collectible by his standards. He was kind, but strongly suggested I throw them out. Immediately. Collector that I am, I couldn’t bear to recycle them after all these years! Believing that they were valuable to someone, I reworded the ad and voilà, I found a writer/photographer who was delighted to buy these slightly soiled magazines to further her research and feed her lifelong passion, which she was turning into a book on style. I was thrilled they were going to someone who would admire and use them.

Before that, my antique bedroom set sold to a lovely Mennonite couple who are woodworkers and saw the workmanship in the sturdy old, almost impeccable set. The 1970s vintage leather couch and chair went to a great couple who were creating a spare room decorated retro style and were excited to see the solid construction and truly loved its well-worn charm. Maybe it really is true that everything old is new again.

My years of designing jewelry using recycled antique watch parts left me with thousands — I do mean thousands — of individual parts that I wanted to go to someone who would appreciate them and actually put them to use. Enter a man studying the lost art of watch repair who got some of the collection, with the rest going to an enthusiastic art teacher who was struck by the incredible beauty of the pieces. She had already bought the thousands of buttons I’d amassed, also during my designing days, to create Native button art with her high school students. Her delight and excitement reminded me of how I always felt when I found new additions to any of my collections.

We do live in a disposable world, but I have always loved the idea of reusing, and recycling as much as possible, reducing my need to always be buying something new. With Earth Day this April 22, the idea of reducing, reusing and recycling becomes top of mind again. As we all are becoming more aware of the need to green our lifestyles, it’s now less about talk and more about putting these principles into action. Another way old things find new uses again.

My basement is filled with lots more stuff, I admit it. My friend told me that old-fashioned typewriters are making a comeback and that a store in New York that has been selling and servicing them for 52 years is experiencing a boom. It’s the younger generation who are rediscovering the typewriter though, with “type-ins” becoming a new kind of social event. Hmm, come to think of it, I believe I still have my old Smith Corona portable typewriter from the 1970s in its original box and I’m wondering if maybe it’s worth something to someone, too. The list probably will never end here. Some things I know I may never give up, like my collection of playbills that goes back to the original Broadway production of Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand.

The bottom line is it’s possible to find someone who wants the something that you have. I’m always delighted to find new homes for these items and I’ve met some incredible people in the process. It’s great hearing what my collections are going to be used for in the future. My treasures, are now their treasures, making it just a little bit easier to let go at my end. Could I be making room for something new, some unknown collections of my future? Once a collector always a collector, I guess.

It’s always fascinating to hear about other people’s collections. What do you or someone you know collect?

Visit me at:  beverleygolden.com

photo by: TommyClicks

Homelessness Myth #20: They Make Millions

 “Well, maybe homeless people don’t make millions, but they certainly make thousands,” some housed people say.  The myth that homeless people make millions or thousands of dollars is a myth of gigantic proportions.  This myth incorporates the mistaken belief that homeless people make big money by trading on their homelessness.  This myth is simply not true.

Panhandling is one of the primary ways a homeless person can raise funds.  In today’s parlance “begging” is called “panhandling.”

I learned a great deal about the nature and necessity of panhandling from a young homeless woman I met outside a theater in Los Angeles.  It was 9:30 p.m. on a cool winter’s night when I walked by her as she stood by a shopping cart that held her young child and her infant. 

“Can you spare some change?” she asked.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two $1 bills.  As I handed these singles to the young mother, she pulled out a wad of bills from her pocket.  She proceeded to place my bills on top of the high stack that she already had.

I began to walk away when I thought I would talk to the young mother.

“May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” 

“I’m wondering about something.  It’s late at night, you have two young children and you have a lot of money.  Why are you and your children outside in the cold?”

“Well, you don’t understand.”

She pulled out all of her money from her pocket.  For the first time I noticed that the high stack of bills was actually a bunch of crinkled one dollar bills stacked one on top of another.

“Before you came along, I had $26 here.  Now, with your two dollars, I have $28.  I’ll be out here until I get $36 for a motel room for me and my babies.”

I was silent.  I had no more cash to give her.  So, I wished the young mother well and left with a heavy heart.

Obviously, panhandling is not as lucrative as some of us think.  And, this young mother taught me that appearances can be deceiving.

Recycling is another way a homeless person can make money.  We’ve all seen a homeless person pushing a cart filled to overflowing with cans and bottles.  Sometimes there are even plastic bags bulging with recyclables tied to the sides of the cart.  

Can a homeless person “get rich quick” by recycling?  Not really.  Working from dawn to dust, a homeless person may gather as much as $40 in recyclables.  Just enough for a motel room and perhaps one meal.

And recycling is not easy work.  It requires some mental ability and more than a little physical strength.  Certainly, this method of pursuing an income is not available to the elderly or infirm.

My homeless friend, Danny, recycled cans and bottles every day for years.  Each morning Danny would follow the same route, visiting the same locations searching for discarded recyclables.  He considered recycling his job and he was devoted to his work.   

A lovely, responsible person, Danny was hired not long ago by the City to do part-time maintenance work.  Although he enjoys his new job, Danny says that he misses his old job of recycling and the places he would visit every day.

Government benefits are another way that a homeless person can acquire funds to live.  In California, general relief (GR), also known as “welfare,” is a county-funded program.  Although each of the 58 California counties sets its own amount of benefits, San Diego County provides $234 as a loan to a single qualifying adult.

A $234 loan per month is a far cry from riches for a homeless person.  Often a homeless person will use some of his/her GR to rent a motel room for several nights and to pay for food during this same period of time.  His/her goal is to clean up, rest and possibly remember what it is like to be housed once again.  This brief respite gives the homeless person an opportunity to leave the harsh conditions of being unsheltered. 

Other benefits a homeless person may qualify for include:

•  SSI:  Supplemental Security Income is available to assist the elderly, blind or disabled person who has low or no income.  In the year 2000, SSI’s maximum monthly benefit was $512. 

•  SSDI:  Social Security Disability Insurance is a monthly benefit for disabled people who have worked within 10 years of the disability and paid Social Security taxes. In the year 2000, the average benefit was about $750.

See www.socialsecurity.gov and http://www.ndrf.org/NDRF%20Patient%20Handbook/SecB_pp265-274.PDF

Once again, the monthly benefits available to a qualifying adult through SSI or SSDI will not make a homeless person rich.   The goal of these programs is to provide a safety net for those who do qualify.  These funds may be sufficient for a homeless person to secure housing.

People are homeless for a host of reasons.  But, for whatever the reason, unsheltered people have no homes.  Homeless people are not pretending to be poor.  They do not have the funds for three meals a day and a roof over their heads every night.

No homeless person is getting rich through panhandling, recycling or any government program.

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

Christine

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / B Tal

Homelessness Myth #20: They Make Millions

 “Well, maybe homeless people don’t make millions, but they certainly make thousands,” some housed people say.  The myth that homeless people make millions or thousands of dollars is a myth of gigantic proportions.  This myth incorporates the mistaken belief that homeless people make big money by trading on their homelessness.  This myth is simply not true.

 

Panhandling is one of the primary ways a homeless person can raise funds.  In today’s parlance “begging” is called “panhandling.”

 

I learned a great deal about the nature and necessity of panhandling from a young homeless woman I met outside a theater in Los Angeles.  It was 9:30 p.m. on a cool winter’s night when I walked by her as she stood by a shopping cart that held her young child and her infant. 

 

“Can you spare some change?” she asked.

 

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two $1 bills.  As I handed these singles to the young mother, she pulled out a wad of bills from her pocket.  She proceeded to place my bills on top of the high stack that she already had.

 

I began to walk away when I thought I would talk to the young mother.

 

“May I ask you a question?”


“Sure.”

 

“I’m wondering about something.  It’s late at night, you have two young children and you have a lot of money.  Why are you and your children outside in the cold?”

 

“Well, you don’t understand.”

 

She pulled out all of her money from her pocket.  For the first time I noticed that the high stack of bills was actually a bunch of crinkled one dollar bills stacked one on top of another.

 

“Before you came along, I had $26 here.  Now, with your two dollars, I have $28.  I’ll be out here until I get $36 for a motel room for me and my babies.”

 

I was silent.  I had no more cash to give her.  So, I wished the young mother well and left with a heavy heart.

 

Obviously, panhandling is not as lucrative as some of us think.  And, this young mother taught me that appearances can be deceiving.

 

Recycling is another way a homeless person can make money.  We’ve all seen a homeless person pushing a cart filled to overflowing with cans and bottles.  Sometimes there are even plastic bags bulging with recyclables tied to the sides of the cart.

 

Can a homeless person “get rich quick” by recycling?  Not really.  Working from dawn to dust, a homeless person may gather as much as $40 in recyclables.  Just enough for a motel room and perhaps one meal.

 

And recycling is not easy work.  It requires some mental ability and more than a little physical strength.  Certainly, this method of pursuing an income is not available to the elderly or infirm.

 

My homeless friend, Danny, recycled cans and bottles every day for years.  Each morning Danny would follow the same route, visiting the same locations searching for discarded recyclables.  He considered recycling his job and he was devoted to his work. 

 

A lovely, responsible person, Danny was hired not long ago by the City to do part-time maintenance work.  Although he enjoys his new job, Danny says that he misses his old job of recycling and the places he would visit every day.

 

Government benefits are another way that a homeless person can acquire funds to live.  In California, general relief (GR), also known as “welfare,” is a county-funded program.  Although each of the 58 California counties sets its own amount of benefits, San Diego County provides $234 as a loan to a single qualifying adult.

 

A $234 loan per month is a far cry from riches for a homeless person.  Often a homeless person will use some of his/her GR to rent a motel room for several nights and to pay for food during this same period of time.  His/her goal is to clean up, rest and possibly remember what it is like to be housed once again.  This brief respite gives the homeless person an opportunity to leave the harsh conditions of being unsheltered. 

 

Other benefits a homeless person may qualify for include:

 

  SSI:  Supplemental Security Income is available to assist the elderly, blind or disabled person who has low or no income.  In the year 2000, SSI’s maximum monthly benefit was $512.

 

  SSDI:  Social Security Disability Insurance is a monthly benefit for disabled people who have worked within 10 years of the disability and paid Social Security taxes. In the year 2000, the average benefit was about $750.

See www.socialsecurity.gov and http://www.ndrf.org/NDRF%20Patient%20Handbook/SecB_pp265-274.PDF

 

Once again, the monthly benefits available to a qualifying adult through SSI or SSDI will not make a homeless person rich.   The goal of these programs is to provide a safety net for those who do qualify.  These funds may be sufficient for a homeless person to secure housing.

 

People are homeless for a host of reasons.  But, for whatever the reason, unsheltered people have no homes.  Homeless people are not pretending to be poor.  They do not have the funds for three meals a day and a roof over their heads every night.

 

No homeless person is getting rich through panhandling, recycling or any government program.

 

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

 

Christine

 

Recycling Cans To Fund a Wedding and Save the Planet: Couple Knows They ‘Can’ Do It

An engaged Spokane couple collects cans to pay for their nuptials — and help the Earth, too

After I walked down the aisle nearly six years ago I patted myself on the back for everything I did to cut costs: I bought my wedding dress wholesale for less than 500 bucks, I got married in April because it was cheaper than a summer affair, and I got my flowers for free because my mom entered me in a raffle that I surprisingly won.

But when I read about Andrea Parrish and Peter Geyer of Spokane, Wash. I realized that when it came to budgeting for my own nuptials, I was downright lazy. You see, the couple has come up with a truly ingenious — and eco-friendly — plan to raise money for their July 2010 wedding: collecting cans. can_making_money.jpgThey even set up a Web site, weddingcans.com, so you can help them reach their goal.

"My parents always thought I was nuts," Andrea told The Spokesman Review with a hearty laugh.

Nuts, perhaps, but environmentally conscious too. They point out on their Web site that "aluminum recycling is one of the most sustainable and useful forms of recycling" and they wanted to make this project a part of their wedding because "environmental responsibility plays a big part in our lives."

To date, the couple has collected about 18,500 aluminum cans, which sounds like a lot, but is only a mere four percent of their goal. They’re hoping to collect 400,000 cans total. Wow. And clearly they are hands-on about their can collecting, as a recent visitor to their home confirms that it’s piled high with can-stuffed plastic sacks.

The couple says local folks may drop off cans to Peter’s workplace, Instant Sign Factory in Spokane, or contact them and they’ll pick up the cans for you. Not local but want to help? Not to worry. They recommend taking your cans to a local recycling center and using the PayPal link on the site to share at least some of the profits with them.

And in case you were worried that you would help fund an extravagant ball — don’t. They swear the nuptials will be a low-key affair featuring a simple potluck dinner, home-brewed beer and a sword-fighting battle. (They’re into the whole medieval thing.)

So, collect those cans and help out these crazy kids. After all, the money goes to a good cause: true love.

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd for Tonic.com

Photo courtesy of renatodc via stock.xchang

How to Properly Recycle

Few would deny that mankind’s giant steel-toed boot is leaving a massive, negative footprint on our planet. Everyday we’re using up more and more natural (and unnatural) resources, and global warming is also a very real and potentially dangerous phenomenon. Waste is increasing at an alarming rate, with an island of trash piling up in the pacific that is twice the size of Texas!

Luckily, as we all know, there are things we can do about it. And while many require a substantial amount of time, or money, or research, one thing we can do requires virtually none of these at all. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can even turn a small profit out of it!

I’m talking about recycling. And while everyone knows what it means, not all of us know what products can be recycled, where to take your recyclables and how to purchase recycled materials.

Have no fear loyal readers, Causecast is here to help. Let’s begin.

Step One: Find Out What Products Can Be Recycled

The EPA estimates that an amazing 75% of our waste is recyclable. We all know that bottles and cans are good to go, paper too, but I bet you didn’t know you can recycle refrigerators, lawn chairs, motor oil, and oh so much more. You can start with this handy, compact list of all the things you can (and can’t) recycle.

The most common and easy-to-recycle items are the previously mentioned bottles—both plastic and glass, cans (aluminum) and paper. Everything from your milk jug (though not your milk carton) to your soup cans can be recycled again and again and again. These are items you use every single day. You’d almost have to go out of your way NOT to recycle them.

Not sure if the product you just used is reusable? The easiest way to find out is by looking for that famous recycling emblem, usually located on the bottom of your product. You know what it looks like. One major caveat: every municipality has different standards for recycling. Some districts will recycle things that other’s won’t. For example, that cap on your water bottle? Some cities recycle them and others still don’t. Contact your local recycling centers to see what products are recyclable in your area.

I bet you didn’t know that Crocs can be re-used to make new shoes or that wine corks are re-used to make tiles. There are ways to practically recycle or re-use anything.

OK great, so you’re ready to recycle, what’s next?

Step Two: Sort Your Recyclables

Until a few weeks ago, I thought that when I was done with something recyclable, I could simply chuck it into the plastic bag (also recyclable) labeled “Save the World” and that would be that. What I didn’t know was, it’s actually crucial to wash your items out first. They then should be separated into three distinct categories: aluminum, glass, and plastics. There are actually seven different types of plastics, most of which will be accepted at the local recycling plants, though some may not, depending on location.

Now technically, not sorting and washing is allowed, but it’s highly frowned upon and means more work for someone else later on down the line. Plus, if you want to collect a cash reward for your good deeds, you’ll have to sort them anyway when you get to the recycling plant. I had to do this the first time—by the end my hands were covered in 2 week old beer juice—not recommended.

So you’ve rinsed and sorted, and you’re ready to recycle. Now it gets fun…you can squash your products before recycling them! Remove any caps (for some reason they are often made out of non-reusable materials) and crush those cans and bottles. It’ll save space in your bin, and won’t affect the recycling process at all.

Of course, there’s also all that paper we go through. It can be recycled too, though it should be divided into several groups: newspaper, office paper (higher grade and thus in its own class), and everything else. The majority of paper products can be recycled, with the exception of most pizza boxes, tissue paper, and coffee cups. If possible, remove all rubber bands, wrappers, etc. before recycling.

OK, everything’s washed, sorted, crushed, ready. Now, lets get these used suckers outta here; you know they’re just itching to be reborn.

Step Three: Find Out Where To Recycle

You’ve got several options here, depending on where you live and how much you love money. Many homes these days have recycling containers already (usually the blue one with the recycling logo on it), and more and more apartment buildings are supplying recycling dumpsters for tenants (if yours doesn’t have it, it’s time to get on your landlord’s case). One option is to dump your bags of recycling in these bins, and the wonderful people at the recycling plants will come whisk them away on a weekly basis.

However, if you want some compensation for all your good deeds, you can track down your local recycling center, take them down yourself, and get a cash rebate for your used goods. Recycling rebates vary state by state.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it! To learn more about recycling programs in your area, check out the EPA database.

Recycling has been on the rise for years now, but we can do so much more. 80% of the waste on that floating island of trash is plastics, many of which could have been recycled. Trees are being chopped down every day to provide more paper for us, when in reality, there are endless retailers selling recycled paper. Just one ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees and up to 60,000 gallons of water, for starters.

Step Four: Wonder “What else can I do?”

So glad you asked! On top of recycling your used goods, you can cut back on purchases of non-recyclable material or buy already-recycled products. The EPA has a guide that can get you started, and Eco Mall has a long list of sites where you can purchase recycled goods (the site may look dated but the links are not).

Alternatively, there are hundreds of ways to cut back on usage altogether. Instead of buying 24 packs of plastic water bottles, drink from the tap or from a gallon jug. Instead of deciding between “paper or plastic” at the grocery store, you can bring your own bags.

The possibilities to reducing your carbon footprint are endless.

Lastly, don’t forget that even if a product isn’t recyclable in the literal sense, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be reused. You don’t have to toss clothing, furniture or old appliances in the garbage. You can always donate them to your local Goodwill or thrift store nearest you.

Happy recycling.

Originally posted on Causecast.org.

Recycling + Healthcare = Hope

My site Daily Grommet tries to give back this time of year and we are fortunate to have a community who really values inspired humanitarian efforts. We recently spotlighted a non-profit healthcare foundation that we think is truly inspired and worth checking out.

Its called Containers to Clinics (C2C) and its founder is Elizabeth Sheehan. So, what would you do with a global surplus of shipping containers and a lifetime of international emergency medical experience? If you’re Elizabeth Sheehan, you combine all that and a keen business mind to start Containers to Clinics (C2C) and turn a recycling nightmare into a portable heathcare delivery system. It turns out that those abandoned shipping containers can be converted into durable, portable healthcare clinics that can easily be transported to wherever they’re needed most.

Elizabeth was inspired to act after witnessing how a lack of access to healthcare costs lives and destroys communities around the world. Did you know that of the 10 million children dying in the world today, 50% of them are dying from easily treatable illnesses, like diarrhea and pneumonia? Elizabeth’s goal with C2C is to provide not only the facilities and medical supplies to prevent such unnecessary deaths, but also the training to make each clinic a sustainable operation for the local people. After partnering with many architects, medical suppliers, governments and donors, C2C is ready to launch its first pilot clinic in January in the Dominican Republic.

C2C has plans to deploy many more of these shipping-container clinics around the world, and we at Daily Grommet would like to help. As the holiday season winds down, we’re asking the Daily Grommet community to give one more gift: the gift of health and hope. Please check out my site Daily Grommet and hear Elizabeth Sheehan discuss her foundation. You can make a donation right from our site. Your donation will bring vital healthcare to people who have never even seen a healthcare professional in their lives and help prevent unnecessary deaths due to lack of access to care. As an added bonus, a generous friend of Daily Grommet has agreed to match all donations made through Daily Grommet (up to $10,000) until 6:00PM EST Dec. 31st, 2009. What better gift is there to give? Thank you.

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