Social good takeaways from SXSWi

20 Mar

After an unbelievelable amount of time either a) driving b) churning out digital content while our brains were half-sleeping or c) driving, the SXSWAngels made it to Austin in one piece, ready to take on SXSWi. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, read my blog post HERE to get you up to speed with what I’ve done with my life these past two weeks.

For those unfamiliar with SXSWi, it’s the mackdaddy of all digital conferences. The girls and I could “get our geek on” and it was the norm. Yes, a teammate even tweeted about breathing the same air as the founders of mint.com and somehow walked out of the Austin Convention Center without being arrested for creeping.

After loads of time dedicated to sorting through all the different discussions offered during the five days of geekdom, I naturally gravitated to social good topics. From a panel on the Pepsi Refresh Project to a keynote with Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes, one prevalent trend during the course of the week was for-profit organizations’ innovation in the social good world. Blake made a case for incorporating strong social awareness and cause-related business practices into a for-profit endeavor (and apparently is the perfect case study with Toms). Essentially, giving is easier if it’s already incorporated into your business model. Amen.

Other interesting takeaways from the weekend:

  • During a panel on being a free agent in the nonprofit world, Mark of InvisiblePeople.tv pointed out some agencies suffer from executive director disease, which is a breeding ground of micromanagement and control from fear of letting the brand get in the hands of free agents (aka outside help). At the end of the day, look to work toward the cause, not for the people running the show.
  • On the topic of good business, Blake spoke about the enriching environment TOMS Shoes invests in. This includes working with genuinely good and passionate people and giving back as a team. This also is my dream job situation (so hire me?)
  • While sitting in on a panel on a social hackathon for donorschoose.org, the group of for-profits businesspeople took two days to focus their energies on applying business practices to a need in the nonprofit world. I haven’t completely absorbed it yet, but they produced a free e-book from their hours locked up for the greater good and want other NPOs and social good orgs to put the digital practices to good use.
  • I’m sure many of you have either applied for or fell victim to the constant badgering for votes from a grantee hopeful in the Pepsi Refresh Project. The project continues to evolve, including the expansion to European countries and alterations to the application process and second chances. Two grantees were also on the panel, providing a decent inside look to the work put in on a nonprofit’s end (check out Selfless Tees – a grant recipient preparing to launch – if you want to see a project funded on Pespi’s dime).
  • A final awesome note: TOMS Shoes unveiled that the business is evolving from a shoe company to a one-for-one company. There’s a need for more than shoes in the communities being helped, so the company is expanding their line. I’m OBSESSED with one-for-one and socially-conscious consumerism, so I’m stoked to see what is unveiled on June 7. Speculation is behind a blue button-up polo, but I’m stuck on the idea of a backpack or satchel of sorts. Think about it – how many people in undeserved areas need to transport basic supplies for miles without any means of carrying? What do you think TOMS will unveil or what would you hope to see another organization provide in the one-for-one sphere?

While scouring the online world, I found some very in-depth notes from other panel attendees I thought were worth sharing. This includes the notes on “A Global Conversation: Free Agents & Nonprofits in a Networked World” (hashtag: #netnon) by @askdebra and tweets curated and translated from the same panel, the full video from the Pepsi Refresh Project panel and some graphic whiteboards and videos from the inside of the social hackathon (aka #goodengine).

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#reusetues – plastic bags

15 Mar

Being on the #chevysxsw Road Trip Challenge was my focus last Tuesday, so I’ve already missed one #reusetues. Being tired, delusional and slightly unsure of what day (or month) it is, I didn’t want to go two for two on this one.

Flaking out on your own blog back-to-back isn’t a good record to have.

Something I always enjoyed were the ten tips on the plastic bags at Target for reuse inspiration. Staring at the one Target bag we have in our hotel room right now, they cut it down to only five points. I guess providing advice on redneck water balloons was no longer up the store’s alley.

Naturally, there’s a lot more reusable tips for plastic bags than the ten provided. Share them if you have them. My tip? Don’t use them. If I have time to bore everyone later, we have some funny stories about plastic bags from our trip out to SXSW. Until then, share your reuse or recycle tips.

#reusetues – Books

1 Mar

I cringe writing this post. Books should be books, right? A recent tweet from a friend back in Detroit slapped me with the reality that Kindles and Nooks really are starting to make people second guess why they have a monster bookcase taking up space when everything fits into that little magical tablet.

So today, I begrudgingly accept the fact that books might need a second life, whether through donating or DIYing. Here goes…

Make the pages come to life!

DONATE

  • SO MANY PLACES take book donations. We’re talking hospitals, prisons, libraries, local nonprofit resale stores, schools (assuming the material is audience-appropriate), homeless shelters, womens’ shelters and even to the troops overseas. If you need help finding a place to donate, let me help you out.
  • If you have lots of books about a specific topic or genre, hone in on what audiences would benefit from your collection and ask if they’d like it. Chances are, if you’re toting around a stellar collection on plants, a local nature center or science group would be interested in taking those off your hands.

DIY/REUSE

Edit: Maybe it’s sheer coincidence, but the same guy who inspired today’s post also just became a daddy. Congrats Henry & Angela! Check out the Lion King-style photo of him with Baby Charlotte.

Yes, I’m roadtripping for education :)

28 Feb

MONSTER thanks to my dear friends who got this message via e-mail from me. The support is POURING in and I’m so grateful so many others are willing to help me do great things for good causes. xoxo.

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m competing in a national road trip challenge hosted by Chevrolet next week to SXSWi (the mack grandaddy of all digital media/interactive conferences) in Austin, TX. The only team representing any west coast town is ours, and is made up of me and four other awesome chicks from LA. We call ourselves the SXSWAngels to represent our final destination point and the City of Angels.

What does this trip entail? Lots of the details are being kept a secret by Chevy to make our trip a little more sporadic than others, but we do know that we’ll be completing do-gooder challenges in the communities we pass through on our way to Austin. What does that mean? We could be walking dogs at a local shelter in Arizona after our lunch or making a pit stop in New Mexico to help beautify a garden. We’re not sure on the specifics yet, but we do know that we’re going to be helping others as we drive. And the whole way down, we’ll be sharing our journey instantly with our followers online.

One of the outtakes from our photo session. L-R: Besty, me+pole, Amara, Megan, Briana

In the week leading up to the trip, all ChevySXSW teams are competing to raise funds for our national partner, Adopt-A-Classroom. This organization provides teachers additional financial support so they can provide the tools necessary for students to excel in the classroom (instead of the teachers buying everything out of their own pockets).

Here’s a few ways you can help us help Adopt-A-Classroom:

  • Give by telling your story. Glass (a pretty sweet browser tool) is donating $1 for every person who writes a brief shoutout to their favorite teacher on their Facebook wall by March 10. Click HERE to like their Facebook page and share your story.
  • We created some pretty sweet and affordable sponsorship opportunities that are still up for grabs – we made sure to make them as interactive as possible. If you want to control where we eat lunch one day or get a grasp on the gas prices along the route, consider checking them out HERE.
  • We’re also rallying in our “a dollar per mile” challenge, hoping to raise $1,400 to represent the 1,400 miles we’ll be driving in less than three days. Want to have a chunk of road or just one mile dedicated to you while we’re on the road?  Chip in via our ChipIn.
  • If you’re in LA, come to our SXSWAngels Sendoff Soiree this Thursday at Sublime Food Lounge. A portion of all food & drink purchases will go directly to our fundraising efforts.
  • Follow our journey! We’ve been blogging for a few weeks about our experiences as a new team, updating our Facebook and Twitter feeds (if you’re on Twitter, cheer us on using the all-team hashtag #chevysxsw), and will have a TON more platforms open for following once we’re on the road – all that information will be on our website.

I hope you’ll follow our fun journey to SXSW next week (we’re on the road March 8-10) and consider helping Adopt-A-Classroom if feasible. Thanks!

 

A look at volunteerism

27 Feb

Don’t think your few hours of help might actually help? Well check out this infographic on GOOD (hands down, my most time-consuming reader’s addiction out there) called the Pledge To Do Good. Join the pledge to have your hours/causes contributed to the collective effort.

#reusetues – old shoes

22 Feb

I tend to hold onto shoes longer than deemed allowable by society. No joke, I still wear my broken-in & treadless volleyball kicks from high school while hiking with the dogs. You think I’d learn by now, since no traction + going down dusty cliffs with strong dogs = lots of bumps and bruises. I finally started researching new uses for my old shoes because my asics are breaking down fast. They’ve been through a lot, including hiking Waynapicchu, and they deserve a proper reusable retirement.

DONATE

  • Certain brands offer in-house recycling programs, including Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program, which turns old athletic shoes and Livestrong wristbands into Nike Grind (a material with multidimensional usage, including in new Nike products, running tracks, gym floor padding, etc.).
  • There are many regionally-focused organizations who accept mail-in donations of gently-used shoes, including (aptly-named) Donate Your Old Shoes, Soles4Souls, The Shoe Bank, Shoes for Africa and Heart and Sole (a project by our Spartan friends).
  • If your shoes aren’t in despair (like mine), donate them to a local homeless shelter, consignment or resale shop.

DIY

  • We hear high ankle shoes make great planters. Grow some flowers or herbs in tight spaces by using an old shoe are your garden.
  • Just don’t like the style of your old kicks? Here’s some fun tips to “pimp your shoes” (their words, not mine).
  • They’re so cute, but you just don’t have a reason to keep them in the closet, right? We’re talking about the hot heels, adorable flats, the shoes you wore once then never put back on. Organize a shoe swap with a ton of girlfriends to breathe new life into your fab find.
  • Sometimes boots just don’t make sense to keep around anymore… which is why they make a great lamp.
  • Show some love for your winged neighbors… make a shoe birdhouse.
  • Want to let a little of your artistic side shine through? Use your old kicks as a canvas to make awesome shoe art.
  • Yes, you could even turn your shoes into some awesome solar-powered street lights. Why not, right?

#reusetues – Valentine’s Day edition

15 Feb

Raise your hand if you have one of the following in your possession: a vaseful of pretty flowers, some chocolate goodness in a heart-shaped box, something shiny and blingy or something remotely resembling the most overhyped holiday of sorts (sorry, personal bias).

Yes, lovers everywhere raided their local department stores Sunday night to make sure that somebody special in their life had a token of love on Monday. Some of the most common gifts tend to go forgotten in hours, so why not make the most of your recent inheritance?

Let’s start with roses (and they probably came in a vase). Here’s some ideas of how to reuse these beauties:

DONATE

  • Want to brighten somebody’s day? Give your pretty petals to your local hospital, hospice or senior home. If you happen to receive an abundance of flowers (or if you have a large-scale event, wedding, etc. in the future), organizations like Second Bloom, Flower Power and The Forget Me Not Foundation handle the donation to final destination work for you.
  • No use for the vase afterward? Fill it up with artificial flowers and donate to one of the said causes mentioned above for permanent prettiness year-round.

DIY/REUSE

  • There are SO MANY great uses for roses (besides just looking pretty). Some of my favorites include making a rose petal potpourri, eating a special treat of candied rose petals, creating your own rose petal paper or throwing together a few homemade drink coasters with pressed flowers.
  • Keep the romance alive. Scatter some rose petals anywhere and everywhere…  in a running bath, on the table before dinner, along the bed, (insert other random locations that make sense to you here). It’s the gift that keeps on giving AFTER Valentine’s Day.
  • Vases tend to be super handy and completely underused. Give a second life to your flower holders by giving them a new job. Depending on the size/shape of the vase, you can repurpose them as anything from a new candle holder or decorative piece (fill with marbles/that lovely rose potpourri) to a fish bowl or serving dishes.
  • Know somebody hosting a big event soon? See if they’re open to collecting vases to use at their shindig instead of investing in a ton. Works great at bridal or baby showers, as the centerpieces are usually given away as prizes, so no attendee will go home with the same gift.
  • Back to flowers.. the ones you’ve surely forgotten about by now. If your petals are on the verge of dying, there’s a chance you can still make a rustic type of arrangement.

Moving on to the more delicious option… a box of chocolates. Maybe you’re holding onto that New Year’s resolution still and are avoiding sugary treats. Good for you, and good for the ways other can benefit from it.

DONATE

  • I can’t believe I found organizations that take candy donations, but bingo! Two international organizations that openly take candy donations include Ronald McDonald House Charities (helping families with children undergoing medical treatments) and Operation Shoebox (care packs for the troops), according to this WSJ article. If you’re looking to give locally, some organizations who provide meals (soup kitchens, Meals On Wheels, etc.) may be open to taking sweet treats in. Make sure ALL donations are unopened/unwrapped.

DIY/REUSE

  • You know how there’s always those chocolate-coated flavors you can’t stand eating? Or maybe you’re not enough of a chocoholic to down two pounds of the goods. Solution: chop up and freeze the ones you don’t eat. You can pull those goodies out to add to hot chocolate, ice cream sundaes, coffee-based drinks or any baked goods. Be sure to separate and properly label the treats if you have lots of flavors on hand.
  • Those boxes… so cute, right? Apparently lots of people agree because we found lots of popular reuses for the packaging. Use them as a jewerly holder, makeshift coin bank or random items (sewing materials, love letters, etc.) holder. Or make this lovely heart-shaped clock with your former candy-toting container.

Lastly, let’s visit the wonderful world of jewelry packaging. Those velvet boxes are so lovely but usually have no use after putting the bling on… here’s a few REUSE ideas:

  • Spare key holder. A distinctive holder for those back-up keys. At least if you misplace your main set, you should be able to find the spares.
  • Seed storage. Keep your most treasured plant seeds boxed up and safe before planting come spring.
  • Wedding vows/special love letter holder. Adorable way to keep those special words on paper safe.