If the sweetheart you want to snuggle up to on Valentine’s Day is passionate about protecting the planet, the way to their heart maybe with an eco-friendly dinner and gift. Here’s how to pull it off.
Wining and dining
Whether you decide to eat out, order in, or cook a meal, opt for a dinner made with organic, locally grown ingredients. Your loved one will be impressed that you considered the importance of sourcing fresh food, supporting local farmers, and limiting the fossil fuels used to transport goods. You’ll find these ingredients at farmers markets and in specialty aisles at your local grocery store. If you’d rather not cook, look for a farm-to-table restaurant in your area.
As for the wine, opt for one that’s organic and comes from a sustainable vineyard. There are many great choices available, and you’re sure to find one that suits your palette and budget.
The perfect gift
Woo your love-interest with one or more of these gifts:
• Organic flowers or, better yet, a potted plant. Easy-to-care-for options include aloe vera, philodendrons, and snake plants.
• Fair-trade, organic chocolate. Some brands also use environmentally friendly packaging.
• An all-natural perfume. Look for one that’s never been tested on animals and is certified organic, vegan, and free of petrochemicals, solvents, dyes, and alcohol.
• Sustainable undies. Choose garments made of organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp.
• Jewelry sourced from a supplier that uses conflict-free diamonds and gemstones mined using sustainable, low-impact practices.
You can find these and other eco-friendly gifts at the stores in your region.
Micro-volunteering: quick bursts of benevolence
Are you looking for a way to give back to your community while also juggling a hectic schedule? If so, then micro-volunteering might be right for you. Here’s what you should know about this approach to community action, which has been growing in popularity over the last decade or so.
What is it?
Micro-volunteering is based on the notion that people are more likely to volunteer their time in short, convenient bursts. It refers to volunteer tasks that take no more than an hour or two to complete and can be done whenever they fit into the person’s schedule. Importantly, micro-volunteering doesn’t require an application, training process, or any ongoing commitment.
What are the advantages?
The main benefit of micro-volunteering is that it’s flexible. This makes it a great option for those who have a busy schedule and would otherwise forgo volunteering because of a lack of time. And since the majority of micro-volunteering happens online, people can have an impact from virtually anywhere.
How can you help?
Micro-volunteering can take on various forms, and many tasks become contributions to a larger project. For example, you can:
• Sign a petition or participate in a letter-writing campaign
• Pick up garbage in your neighborhood while on a walk
• Participate in a research project or survey
• Help a senior with their groceries or yard work
• Share donation opportunities on social media
• Bake cupcakes for a charity fundraiser sale
• Knit a hat for a shelter or worthy cause in your area
To find out more about short- and long-term volunteer opportunities in your community, reach out to a local volunteer center or consult the Points of Light Engage volunteer database at engage.pointsoflight.org.
Earth Day 2021: a focus on nature-based solutions
The theme for this year’s Earth Day, which takes place on April 22, is Restore Our Earth. It’s based on the growing understanding that humans can do more than simply mitigate the impacts of climate change. In addition to transforming the world’s energy, urban and industrial systems, we can restore and use natural processes to combat climate change.
To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the power of nature can be harnessed in a number of ways. Solutions include planting trees, restoring coastal wetlands, and adopting agricultural practices that improve soil health.
In addition to capturing carbon emissions from the air and sequestering them in plants, soil, and sediments, restored ecosystems increase biodiversity and help provide cleaner air and water.
In fact, according to the Global Commission on Adaptation, these types of ecological restoration projects can provide one-third of the climate mitigation needed over the next decade to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.
Communities ranging from rural towns to major cities can become more resilient against the impacts of climate change by restoring and protecting natural ecosystems.
For example, restoring mangrove forests helps protect coastal regions from rising seas and storm surges. Doing so is significantly cheaper than building breakwaters and other infrastructure. Plus, mangroves have the added benefit of storing carbon, preventing erosion, and helping to sustain local fisheries.
For more information about Earth Day and how you can take action against climate change, visit earthday.org.
You never know when an idea will pop up: The invention of bubble wrap
It’s undeniably satisfying and almost meditative: The pop of bubble wrap between our fingers and thumb. But did you know that the invention of bubble wrap — as with many great inventions throughout history — was an accident?
In 1957, engineer Alfred Fielding and his business partner, Swiss chemist Marc Chavannes, were trying to invent a textured wallpaper. They sealed two shower curtains together and initially were disappointed by the air bubbles trapped inside.
But the enterprising men soon started brainstorming other ways to use the material, scheming their way through 400 ideas. They named the product Bubble Wrap and continued to test ideas.
Three years later, in 1960, they decided to use it as packaging material and founded the Sealed Air Corp.
Their decision coincided with IBM’s newest invention, the computer called the 1401 unit, which needed a safe way to be transported. Sealed Air Corp. landed its first major customer and soon, smaller companies followed. Until then, most packaging materials consisted of balled-up newspapers, which could be messy.
Over the years, the line expanded to different-sized bubbles and sheets, plus other materials. A non-poppable pool cover even came along. The small business grew to become a Fortune 500 company with sales of $4.5 billion in 2017, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Volunteering: a good cause that’s good for your health
National Volunteer Week, which takes place from April 18 to 24, is an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the impact that volunteer service can have on a community. It’s also an ideal time to learn more about the other benefits of donating your time to a worthy cause.
Boost your physical and mental health
Various studies have shown that volunteering can contribute to better physical health. Depending on the type of activities you do as a volunteer, you can actually reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, lessen symptoms of chronic pain, improve cognitive function and even live longer.
What’s more, volunteering can do wonders for your mental health. The social contact and sense of purpose that come with volunteering help reduce stress, anger, anxiety and depression. It can also improve your self-confidence and overall well-being.
Connect with a larger community
Since it was first established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially. Today, thousands of volunteer projects and special events are organized throughout the week, bringing together people from all walks of life who want to help their communities.
If you want to give back and enjoy the benefits of volunteering, you can use the Points of Light Engage database to find thousands of opportunities in your neighborhood and around the world. Visit engage.pointsoflight.org today.
For more information about National Volunteer Week, visit pointsoflight.org/nvw.
Great time for stargazing
Here’s something to do that costs almost nothing and carries the promise of awe: Look at the sky.
Humans have been stargazers forever, wondering in ancient times if the points of light were holes in the heavenly veil, offering a glimpse of the light of heaven. But even ancient civilizations knew the paths of the stars and were guided by the North Star (Polaris).
Today, light pollution from cities means that your yard might not be the ideal spot to watch the heavens, so you might need to pack up a blanket and some snacks, throw the kids in the car and drive to a good dark sky location. Visit www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/finder/ to look for a good spot near you.
And if you want to know when certain planets are visible, when you can catch a good meteor shower, whether the moon is doing something spectacular or if you’re just curious about what you might see, there’s a tool for that, too. Visit www.space.com/33974-best-night-sky-events.html to see a calendar of night sky events and stargazing maps. The website includes handy visuals, so you know what to look for when you scan the horizon.
If you’re rusty on your constellations or never took the time to learn them, there are more free tools that can help you and your family get the most out of your stargazing excursion. Download the free Star Deck constellation and astronomy flashcards. The Star Deck is available in both English and Spanish.
There are also a number of free apps available to help walk you through your journey to the stars. Try SkyView, available from the Apple and Google app stores. Of course, be aware that with your phone lighting your surroundings, your eyes might not adjust to the night sky as well, and you might miss the show.
A brief guide to building an emergency fund
An emergency fund is essential to your financial security because it provides a safety net in the event that you become unemployed or need to pay for an unexpected expense. Since April is Financial Literacy Month, here’s a look at how to create an emergency fund that will help you weather financial hardship without increasing your debt.
How much to save
Most financial experts recommend that you set aside enough money to cover your household expenses for three to six months. Take into account necessities like rent or mortgage payments, transportation costs, food, and utilities.
How to save
An emergency fund takes time to build up, so start saving as soon as possible. Create a plan to set aside a portion of your income each month, even if it’s a small amount. Find ways to reduce your expenses and use your next bonus or tax refund to bolster your savings.
Finally, remember that this money should be reserved exclusively for emergencies. Adequate savings will help ensure you don’t have to rely on credit cards or high-interest loans if you get sick, lose your job, or need to make a major home or car repair.
Where to save
A high-interest savings account is a smart place to put aside an emergency fund because it ensures your money is accessible if you need it. Plus, you’ll likely earn a bit of a return on your savings. Other liquid, low-risk investment options include a money market account or a certificate of deposit.
If you need help building an emergency fund or achieving other financial goals, speak with a certified financial planner or a registered investment adviser.