Participate in the “Season of Giving”

When the winter holidays roll around, we are asked to “give” and to celebrate the season of giving. We already know it’s beneficial to be charitable, but for millions of Americans, being a philanthropist is not always possible due to their own financial limitations and hard times. Fortunately, there are ways to give and make a difference without spending money. The season of giving is not about the amount of money you contribute, but rather the efforts you make to show you care, that you think of others, and you are trying to make a difference in a sometimes unjust world.

 

Feeling Good in a Season of Obligations

 

Although the “Season of Giving” is meant to be a time of doing good and thinking of others, it has also become another reason to participate in mass consumerism. Unfortunately, a good deed or a  thoughtful gesture has been replaced by a gift card or a material item that may or may not be needed or appreciated. It’s easy to feel pressured and obligated to give during the holidays, even if we can’t afford to or feel like one more material item won’t make a difference in the world.

 

If your family has a tradition of gift giving, suggest putting a limit on of gifts or request that they give towards a charity of your choosing rather than giving you one more kitchen gadget or household item you appreciate, but don’t need in your life. If your family is against straying from tradition, you can still do your part on your own time. Volunteerism is a great way to feel good year round, but particularly in a season of “obligations”. No one expects you to help and they are often grateful of any time you can dedicate.

Teach Children to About Gratitude

 

As grown-ups, most of us realize that materialism can be unnecessary and it’s easier for many of us to ask for nothing. However, children are still at the stage in their lives where toys, books, and other “wants” are important to them. As a parent or relative of a child, it may be difficult to meet all of the requests on a child’s wish list. Some good advice is to choose a few items that will foster a child’s interest, creativity, and growth. Encourage your child to choose an item from a store or even from his or her own toy collection to donate to a child in need. Teaching your child about gratitude and not giving into every want will help him or her grow up to be a more compassionate person; teaching your child to be a better person costs nothing.

Start Giving Early

Remember, you don’t need money to make a difference, but if you feel like you can’t make a real difference without donating money to a cause, start planning early so you don’t feel overwhelmed once the holidays roll around.  For instance, start a small jar of spare change. Once it’s full, donate the amount to a charity of your choice. If you plan on helping out at the local food shelf or serving meals at a homeless shelter, sign up as soon as you can as spots may fill, but there’s a good chance that there will be something to do, wherever you decide to participate in the season of giving.

 

Plastic Microbeads: Scrubbing Your Skin, Polluting Your Planet

The next time you reach for that new skin care product, you should probably think again. That fresh face may come with a big price tag. Microbead awareness is about to have its moment, but at the moment, most people aren’t aware that many popular cleaning and skin care products are extremely hazardous, filled with tiny little plastic pieces which pollute the world’s water and may pose significant problems we’re yet to find. Activists, scientists, environmentalists, and public health experts the world over are currently pushing for bans on these deceptively dangerous little balls of plastic. And, so far, their push appears to be working.

What are Plastic Microbeads?

Plastic microbeads are the tiny little spheres of plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which are found in lots of cleaning produces. Manufacturers sell them to public based on their exfoliating properties; those teeny dots are intended to reach into your pores, scrub out the gunk, and leave your face looking bright and fresh. And, apparently, it works. But there’s a price to pay.

Microbeads and Water

That price is big one. According to a report recently published in Nature, American water habitats are flooded with eight trillion beads every day. Eight. Trillion. Every day. In Lake Ontario, researchers found 1.1 million beads per square mile.  While many of these beads are supposedly caught by water treatment plants, they still make it into the larger world, being sprayed onto crops and eventually trickling into the water system anyways, according to Nature. Then they get eaten by local wildlife. That’s when things get nasty.

Microbeads and Wildlife

Microbeads look like plankton. Plankton is an important source of nutrition for much of the world’s wildlife population. The world’s wildlife, being unaware of what polypropylene is, gobble this plastic caviar by the mouthful. Shrimp and other little creatures eat a particularly large amount of these beads. These animals are, in turn, eaten by larger animals. Which we eat. If we are what we eat, then we get closer every day to become mannequins, it seems. This is a new enough problem that the research is still out, but it can’t be good more massive portions of the American population to be eating polypropylene regularly.  

What’s Being Done

Luckily, environmentalists around North America have been raising the alarm, and lawmakers have been taking notice. In California, lawmakers recently sent a proposal governor Jerry Brown describing a law that would phase out plastic microbeads of a certain size by 2020. In Illinois, the push to get them banned by 2017. A bipartisan bill by Michigan and New Jersey lawmakers is pushing for a 2018 ban. The same thing is happening in Europe.
These laws appear to be receiving popular support. Activists should appreciate the rare ease they are having getting this issue noticed. While the damage being done is serious, and the lawmakers will take a few years to get these bills through, it seems clear that the government is doing the right thing here.    

Education For Children: The Future Of The World

Apathy. We can all fall into a negative attitude in which we feel we are incapable of making changes in our society. We may not like how much we pay in taxes, or the condition of our local or state roads and highways, but what are we doing about it? Many people don’t even bother to vote, even though the lawmakers who are elected will make decisions that will affect us directly. Voter turnout continues to be shockingly low, at about 20% of the population voting in municipal elections, and 59% in federal elections. Where did our community spirit go? A change begins with the education of our children – they will be grabbing the reins and determining all the important issues in the future, including for us during our waning years.

Education is a critical aspect of whether the American spirit of community service and engagement is restored. Schools that focus on volunteerism, teamwork and social action could be an important influencing factor in the future of our country, and our planet.

At one time, civics was taught in every school. Young people learned about their responsibilities and how governments work, and their part in the process as a citizen. Students that are exposed to important issues with hands-on activities often have a life-changing experience, which impacts their inclination to serve as a community leader or active participant in their future lives. The types of activities can include litter clean-ups, fundraising for good causes, classes on lifesaving and other types of activities that have been proven to bring more awareness of our community at large, and a greater sense of responsibility.

One of the ways that makes community service more inviting is to create programs for which the student can gain certification or acknowledgements. Working on these activities teaches teamwork, and the ability to work with a range of personalities. Teenagers can be exceptionally insular, and this offers an opportunity to break out of a certain group of friends and interact with other parts of our society, and to understand other cultures, age groups and types of people – a powerful skill to carry into working life.

Encourage your local schools to add volunteer programs, and urge your child to participate in these programs. There has been an increase in volunteerism in recent years, and this bodes well for the future of our entire country. Maybe we haven’t done as much as we could – but let’s hope our children will.