Archive for the ‘Why Not…?’ Category

Giveback Box – Low Effort, High Impact

Young couple

There’s a particular type of giving and service I like to point out whenever I find it—I refer to it as “NO skin off my ass” giving or NO SOMA impact. These are the actions that don’t interfere with your everyday routines, yet can, with minimal effort, make a difference in the lives of others.

There are, of course, outstanding opportunities around the world to really dedicate your all—energy, time, sweat, and tears—and I hope you’ll find plenty of those options here and elsewhere. But how about something you can do on any old Tuesday afternoon…or Thursday morning…or any time at all. Actions so simple yet still impactful…the only question that remains, is “Why not…?

GIVEBACK BOX is such a simple yet ingenious idea it boggles my mind why we haven’t all been doing it for years.

Here’s the super-short version:

  1. You order from an online retailer (partners include most major online shops: Amazon, Overstock, LOFT, Levi’s/Dockers, Asics, New Egg, Ann Taylor, UncommonGoods, BonTon, Kenneth Cole, Hanes, REI Co-op,, Nordstrom, David’s Bridal, Banana Republic, and so many more).
  2. Instead of throwing away the box or breaking it down for recycling (and PLEASE recycle packaging if you decide NOT to do the GIVEBACK BOX), you Fill the Box with items you want to donate from your home.
  3. Print out a pre-paid label, and mail (via United States Postal Service or UPS…drop off or have it picked up from your home) shipping to the charity you choose.

So simple. So good. No skin off my ass and yet impactful!

So…Why Not?

Send Your Selfie to Space

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 7.38.14 PMSometimes I just have to write about stuff because it is SO DANG COOL, even if it isn’t directly about volunteering and service travel.

This is one o’ those.

Selfie to Space gives you the opportunity to add your photo to the new test model of the LightSail, launching in a few days. The Planetary Society DOES, in fact, have some very cool volunteer opportunities you should check out, to be a space advocate and more great engagements.

But about that LightSail thing–what the heck is it? It’s a citizen-funded space project — a solar-powered reflective sail using the sun’s energy for propulsion. It’s about 344 feet square and looks an awful lot like the big brother of those foil screens you put in your car’s windshield to block the sun on hot summer days. It heads into space all folded up into a cube the size of a loaf of bread, hitching a ride on other spacecraft until orbit, then it unfurls its mylar sails that are ridiculously improbable and delicate–less than 1/4 the thickness off a garbage bag. And your digital image will be on board.

Theis project is happening thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy the super science dude Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Sending your selfies is free — sign up, send the photo, Tweet about it (#SelfietoSpace), and you even get a certificate…but toss a few bucks at the project too (support link here).

I’ll see you on board!

Barefoot Giving — It Takes Almost Nothing to Make a Difference

adult and child bare feet on wet rockThere’s a particular type of giving and service I like to point out whenever I find it—I refer to it as “NO skin off my ass” giving or NO SOMA impact. These are the actions that don’t interfere with your everyday routines, yet can, with minimal effort, make a difference in the lives of others.

There are, of course, outstanding opportunities around the world to really dedicate your all—energy, time, sweat, and tears—and I hope you’ll find plenty of those options here and elsewhere. But how about something you can do on any old Tuesday afternoon…or Thursday morning…or any time at all. Actions so simple yet still impactful…the only question that remains, is “Why not…?

Here’s one: Why not take a picture to give a pair of shoes to a child in need?

From May 5 – May 21, if you simply Instagram a photo of your bare feet with the hashtag #WITHOUTSHOES, TOMS Shoes will give a new pair of new shoes to up to one million kids who need them. The company always has a one for one practice, where with every purchase you make a new pair is also given to a child somewhere in the world (TOMS does amazing “Shoe Drop” trips to communities across the globe, having donated over ten million pairs of shoes and they have also given one million pairs of shoes to children in need in the United States).

There are some cool things about shoes that make tangible differences in life—differences we don’t often consider since most of us don’t lack for some sort of footwear.

  • Shoes can increase access to education—attendance goes up by 62%.
  • Shoes can help treat disease—podoconiosis, a debilitating disease of the feet and legs, is transmitted through bare feet and affects more than four million people.
  • Shoes can protect feet from illness—other water and soil-borne illnesses are transmitted though uncovered feet.
  • Shoes can improve learning ability—TOMS has created an incentive and recognition program for kids who are screened and treted for amblyopia (“lazy eye”)
  • Shoes can provide comfort—nearly 47 million of us around the world are refugees, half of those are children without access to home and basic amenities. Warm shoes change that experience.
  • Shoes can encourage healthy lifestyles—with a doubling of childhood obesity in the past few decades, sports shoes increase activity and exercise.


SO kick off those kicks, point your camera down, snap, post, tag, and you’ve just given a child something that truly matters. Why not…?

Rewild Your Life 30-Day Challenge

456641_87486155Social media is ablaze of late with 30 days of happiness, or 5 days of gratitude, or similar challenges we post to our circles in the hopes they will help keep us accountable for our forward momentum and results. I love these (love less the calling out of others in what gets dangerously near to a chain letter, participation coercion, no-way-out dynamic).

Here’s one (no pressure or guilt trips) I just learned of, though folks have been taking it on for a while. Rewild Your Life asks each of us to spend at least 30 minutes outside in nature for 30 days. We know it is good for us whether a strenuous hike, a session of surfing, gardening, a walk on a path, or eating lunch on a park bench. At least once over the next month of time, find a new place nearby you haven’t yet explored. Go check it out.

Non-processed air and natural sunlight (or rain or fog or clouds) better our mood, increase motivation, lower stress and anxiety, and profoundly affect our feeling of connectedness. I would add taking each of these opportunities to look for ways to connect with another while you’re at it. On the way to or from our slice of green for the day, make eye contact, smile, genuinely ask how someone’s day is going, hold a door, let that other car merge, tell the telemarketer no thank you in a calm way, leave a larger tip than you might, look up from your phone, ask someone to join you for your 30 minutes of rewilding…

If you do the official Rewild Your Life challenge, there are support systems, guidelines and suggestions, a social media community, even prizes from some cool sponsors.

Thank the day for being there. Thank nature for welcoming you.

What Price Irony? Rich Potato Salad

483170_75337697So…I don’t blame the dude. The dude was just having fun. The dude was hungry.

Kickstarter went viral with the fundraising campaign of Zack Danger Brown who, being an irreverent fella, decided to start a fundraiser to crowd fund ten bucks so he could make some mediocre potato salad. Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding sites (like Indiegogo) are the life’s blood of many creative projects…and this guy has earned (thus far) over $45,000 from 5,571 donors. People jumped on the irony bandwagon, perhaps donation plea exhausted, like we all are, and threw money at this joke project. His total had actually been about $70K but then dropped 30 thousand to the low/mid forties…not sure what’s up with that–quite possibly people revoking their pledged donations.

The cynicism of this whole thing kind of weirds me out.

I get it. I get that it’s funny to fund potato salad. Having run projects through fundraising obstacle courses and angst pits myself, I wish I’d thought of it and just called a youth education program “Potato Salad” or similar…but that’s just it. Those five- and ten-dollar donations from around the country could make a real difference for some truly world-bettering work. If it is so inconsequential to us that we can toss a twenty at irony, why is it like pulling teeth to get $20 to fund a program for mentoring youth living on Native American reservations ( summer fundraiser for creative arts education for underserved youth–an organization I am proud to work with and support) or educational supplies to displaced kids in Haiti? These are just two examples of funding efforts I have personally undertaken.

I in no way mean to devalue the incredibly generous folks who have supported my efforts and the millions of other worthy causes out there. They truly make a huge difference, no question about it. Cynicism isn’t the guiding principle of most of us…and yet…here we are.

That potato salad thing really puts a burr under my saddle. There are rules that prevent Zac from donating the funds raised to charity, but that’s not his fault. I don’t blame him and have read he is looking for ways to give back and get around the bylaws of Kickstarter (maybe making tons of actual potato salad to donate to homeless shelters, or similar). This will assuage my rankled sensibilities…but that double-edged money is nothing haha vs. money is too tight to give to good causes dynamic has me perplexed and challenged.

Throwing money at a problem doesn’t often solve the problem, but funding worthy causes and tirelessly working service groups to empower them to do great work, essentially on our behalf, means the world to so many cash-strapped charitable and philanthropic organizations who are trying to keep the doors open. I know I’m preaching to the choir with readers of this blog…but isn’t that a little more profound than Russets and mayo and vinegar for a joke?

….annnnnd…now I’m hungry.

Colon Cancer—Don’t Stay in the Dark

Every Cause has a Color: Blue for Colon Cancer

Guess where I just got home from? That’s right, a colonoscopy…my first. Woo Hoo.

Here’s the deal. It is absolutely no big deal. Simple as that. HUGELY important test, the butt (pun intended) of many jokes, a jitters inducing manhood threatening (not sure why, but many men make it so in concept) test, and a LIFE SAVER. There is a reason that despite the joking and nervous laughter, every person who has actually had the test says “No biggie” or “SO much less dramatic than I expected” or something along those lines. The test itself is negligible and not even uncomfortable as you never feel anything. Katie Couric did it on TV and America watched–no wincing, no misery. My test wasn’t even done with twilight anesthesia, but full—I was completely asleep, the procedure was about 15 minutes, and then I was awake in mere moments (the anesthesia used was amazing–wide awake within minutes of stopping the administration. I walked down the hall following the doctor and back to the room where my clothes were). The prep the night before is an inconvenience, but even that was so much less than I’d anticipated. So you make several trips to the bathroom, and you’re pretty hungry by the time all is said and done. If THAT is the price to pay to catch a potential killer while it can still be handled…BRING IT ON!

DO NOT delay or put off getting this test. Your doctor will tell you when you should have it. If there is no family history of colo-rectal disease, you can likely wait until age 50. I had an intestinal condition earlier this year that made them want to do this early, so I was happy to go and get a clean bill of health. I don’t have to go do it again for seven years. And when it is time to do it then, I know it is no big deal. Colon cancer is brutal. My father-in-law was lost to it before I ever had the privilege of spending any time with him in this world, and that’s not fair. That was a time when we didn’t know as much about colonoscopies and catching the disease early. Don’t let your family lose you or anyone else, male or female, because if it can be caught, many many cases can be treated very effectively. Talk about it, joke about it, shudder at the concept (that’s all in your imagination, but shudder away), but do not procrastinate this one. I promise–the worst part of all is the flavor of the drink you drink the night before. When they invent Bourbon-flavored Magnesium Citrate, I’ll stand in line to get it done!

Some places to find out more:

Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program

Susan Cohas Kasdas Colon Cancer Foundation

Colon Cancer Resource

National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (Katie Couric’s Foundation)

Colon Cancer Alliance

Wild Child

National Wildlife Week is coming, March 15-21, so make plans now to get outside and get the whole family exposed to nature. This year’s Get Wild! Child theme for the week’s nationwide push is: Be Out There at Home, School, and Play. Children and families (yours!) will find magnificent opportunities to spend time together in nature while shutting off the computer games and TV. Kids are more sedentary than ever in our culture, so this week is a great time to initiate, reinforce, and cement into habit the desire to explore and discover while you get outdoors.

Here’s a scary statistic: Today’s average child spends only about 4-7 minutes outside each day! Conversely, 7 HOURS and 38 minutes per day are spent engaged with electronic media (as per the Kaiser Family Foundation). Are you shaking your head as much as I am? When I was a kid, coming indoors was the big bummer. Sure, I loved my Saturday morning cartoons, but even if I was individually a bit unmotivated on a particular day, one or more friends would knock on the door, unexpectedly (but always expected) and ask, “Can Andy come out and play?” We inspired each other to run and chase and play actual or made-up games…to dig holes and build forts…to find bugs and watch clouds. There simply is no X-Box equivalent for that.

The clock springs forward on Sunday, March 14, then the next day, with that extra hour of light, begins the Wildlife Week.

Photo: Charlie Archambault, NWF

You and yours can find endless activities to undertake on your own, and if you want a head start or inspiration, visit the National Wildlife Federation website for resources, ideas, and a “Family Activity Passport” with a week’s worth of plant and animal watch lists and nature-themed games. Then close the laptop, and close the door behind you.

Mai Pen Rai

Mai pen rai… it’s a Thai term translating roughly as “It is what it is.” We use it at our house a lot, and use it much more frequently when traveling. There is so little we can control when traveling—it is one of life’s best opportunities to practice surrendering. Stuck on that tarmac for hours as you watch the possibility of making that connecting flight vaporize? The hotel lost your reservation and has no rooms for the night? Your plane seat is right outside the restroom? (That’s me right now as I write from an American Airlines flight’s pretty darned flawless on board Internet service) Mai pen rai.

It’s like the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

You can change the world by making a contribution, but you can’t always change the circumstances

mai pen rai

the only thing that might need changing is your reaction

nobody is hurting you, right? and you don’t need to be traveling to find it lifts the weight a bit. Try it–why not? It’s Friday…

mai pen rai


Why Not…?

2142296214_90e428e913It’s Friday—Why Not Day

Why Not…Hang Up Politely With Telephone Solicitors? I know they call at dinner time, I know they are bored and it translates through the lines, I know they are desperate to get their pre-scripted lines said before you disconnect and they are as annoying as a summertime tick in your waistband, but it doesn’t take any extra effort to say, “I’d like to save you some time and let you get on to your next call. No Thank You, and can you please add me to your ‘Do Not Call’ list so your colleagues won’t waste their time either? Thanks.”

A slam down of your receiver (OK, I know hardly anybody has slammable receivers anymore) gets the same message across, I suppose, but why not be civil? Believe me, they don’t relish cold-calling you any more than you enjoy getting their calls. Why not cut them some slack?

Why Not?

logo-growforgood-wholesomePLANT A FEW EXTRA

It’s Friday–Why Not day…it often takes little to no extra effort on your part to do something for others.

Today, Why Not Plant a Few Extra? If you’re getting your vegetable garden in the ground this weekend as May is upon us, a few extra seeds or seedlings can make a difference at harvest time. Food & Wine Magazine’s Grow for Good campaign works to raise public awareness and support for charitable organizations that bring locally and sustainably grown foods to consumers. You know there are always too many zucchini for you to ever eat, and by the end of the season the cherry tomatoes stay on the vine too long because you have so many already inside (and have begun to sweat Marinara sauce from constantly eating them), so think about planting extra now and donating the surplus bountiful harvest to a local food bank, meals on wheels, or hunger project. Why not?

Visit to find a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) program near you.