Friday, April 28, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Algalita Marine Research Institute

Today, Feel Good Friday is going to the oceans to learn about the Algalita Marine Research Institute.

I first heard about Algalita during my interview with ocean rower, Roz Savage, which you can watch here.  Their mission is stated on their website: "Algalita is dedicated to the protection and improvement of the marine environment and its watersheds through research and education on the impacts of plastic pollution."

Odds are (since you read this blog) that you've heard of the North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It's an area of "plastic soup" in the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas, first discovered by Captain Charles Moore, the founder of Algalita. It was that discovery that changed the focus of the organization in 1999 from restoring disappearing kelp forests to focusing on plastic pollution.

The problem with plastic is that it biodegrades extremely slowly and in the process it breaks down into tiny fragments that fish and other sea creatures mistake for food. It not only kills marine life but also threatens the health of the oceans. That's why "Algalita has worked tirelessly to give the ocean a voice through our in-depth research and education programs. Through everything we do, we illustrate how every individual can be part of the solution."

Steps you can take include advice you've heard before: reduce, reuse, and recycle your plastic. Algalita also adds research and education to the mix. Research efforts include a South Pacific Expedition, a retrospective on the North Pacific Gyre as well as plastic, pollutants, and wild life studies. Education opportunities for youth are FREE and include annual international youth summits, STEM workshops and presentations for the classroom, and Debris Science Investigation Kits, which are geared for grades 6-12 but I still want one.

You can watch a short intro video of Algalita here and check out more videos on their channel. If you want to support their work you can do that by making a donation, buying some merch then liking the Algalita Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Algalita

Friday, April 21, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Community in Action

We've spent the last month profiling organizations in North America so on this Feel Good Friday we're heading south to profile the work of Community in Action.

An NGO based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Community in Action, or CiA, was founded in 2004. As stated on their website, "Our mission is to offer social outreach programs throughout Rio's favelas (shanty towns) as well as personal development opportunities for social entrepreneurs and foreign volunteers. We work with local residents, schools and NGOs to generate local change."

The reason CiA focuses on the favelas in Rio is because they are home to more than a million residents and yet these communities lack "educational opportunities and extra-curricular activities for youth, infrastructure support to build and restore homes (and) empowerment programs for women."

You can watch this 3:20 minute video (with very catchy music) to meet some of the favela residents and see the work being done by CiA. The current list of volunteer projects includes teaching handicrafts, computers or English, providing child care, working in an urban garden, painting murals and more.

CiA provides compelling reasons to make this your next volunteer vacation. "When you sign up with Community in Action, you'll be with our team and our partners in Rio, learning about the true lifestyle and culture of the favela! We offer the most well-rounded volunteer experience, with opportunities to work in five (5) different favelas and participate in nine (9) different projects. Furthermore, you don't need to volunteer with only one project - you can partake in numerous projects during your time in Rio."

If that makes you want to get a Portuguese phrasebook and a plane ticket, you can learn about placement details here. If you'd rather show your support from the comfort of your couch, you can do that by liking the CiA Facebook page and following them on Twitter @VolunteerinRio. Obrigado!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Clean the World Foundation

Happy Feel Good Friday! To be topical, I was going to find a way to appreciate the IRS but realized I did that last year in this post. So instead, here's an organization I learned about recently from reading a Thrillist article by Matt Meltzer - Clean the World Foundation.

As a visit to their website explains, "Clean the World is a social enterprise with the mission of saving millions of lives around the world." They do this by collecting, recycling and distributing discarded soap and amenity bottles from participating partner hotels around the world.

The organization was founded in 2009 by Shawn Spieler, after he learned that his partially used hotel soap was one of more than 2 million bars that is thrown away every DAY in the United States! Stopping this waste from ending up in the landfill is only one motivation of this organization.

Here's another. More than 1.8 million children around the world die from hygiene and sanitation related illness and disease such as pneumonia and cholera. One of the most effective ways to prevent these deaths? Washing your hands with soap and water.

Since it's inception, Clean the World has donated more than 40 million bars of soap in over 115 countries! They start by collecting soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion products from their hospitality partners and bringing it to one of their distribution facilities in Orlando, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, London and Quebec. Soap is run through a cleaning process and recycled. Bottled products are sorted and those that are more than 75% full get cleaned and included in hygiene kits.

Clean the World then partners with other non-profit organizations and NGOs to distribute the bars of soap and hygiene kits to homeless shelters in the U.S. and to children and families in communities around the world. You can watch this video which explains their process, but be warned the music is very melodramatic.

If you like what they're doing and want to help you can! People who live near Orlando, Vegas or Hong Kong can volunteer in a distribution center and no matter where you live, you can host an event to build hygiene kits or support them with a donation.

The next time you stay in a hotel, find out if they participate in this program so you can share it on Clean the World's Facebook page and give them a shout out on Twitter @CleantheWorld.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Feel Good Friday - North Oakland Restorative Justice Council

Last Feel Good Friday I wrote about a Canadian group since I was in Canada. Today I'm back in the Bay Area so I'm going to highlight the work of a Bay Area group, the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council!

The best description of their work comes from their Facebook page. "The North Oakland Restorative Justice Council supports loved ones that have been impacted by violence in the North Oakland area. We support restorative justice for the victims and perpetrators. In addition, we are on-demand for crisis situations when needed to be an alternative to incarceration."

What exactly is restorative justice? According to Wikipedia it is "an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community." For the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council, that means working with member organizations to engage youth in the community, working with neighborhood watch groups and communities affected by displacement and racial profiling to build partnerships and violence prevention campaigns, hosting monthly "Peace 'n Justice Walks" and more. As their slogan says, they are "Putting the neighbor back into hood".

As an example, one of their member organizations is Phat Beets Produce, a group focused on creating a more equitable food system in North Oakland, providing access to fresh produce and facilitating youth leadership. You can watch this video about their Food Justice Food Truck to see how they are impacting the community.

If you like what you read (and live in the Bay Area) you can join the next Peace 'n Justice Community Walk on April 14th. The walks take place the 2nd Friday of every month.

Everyone, no matter where you are, can support the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council with a donation and by liking their Facebook page.