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In a world where consumerism and capitalism reign supreme, keeping track of your carbon footprint is almost impossible, let alone reducing it. But Beth Craig proved that anything is achievable with the right mindset by adopting a carbon-negative lifestyle. Joining Corinna Bellizzi, the Founder of Integrity Hero shares how avoiding carbon resulted in so many positives in her life. She started to eat healthier, free herself from overwhelming debt, and get rid of lavish things that only caused her unnecessary expenses. Beth explains why gratitude and giving back are the main elements of starting a carbon-negative lifestyle, which she expresses by joyfully supporting charities of her choice.
About Beth Craig
Beth Craig is a self-employed consultant, teacher, and writer who teaches students about supply chain issues, social justice, and environmental sustainability. She is a reliable expert in leadership, project planning and management, advertising, sales, and legal writing.
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beth-d-craig
Guest Website: https://www.integrityhero.org/
Show Notes [RAW AUDIO]:
0:00 – Introduction
5:10 – Living a carbon-negative life
11:17 – Cookstoves
15:39 – Turning negatives into positives
28:47 – Parenting
35:45 – Vetting charities and nonprofits
44:50 – Manufacturing practices
48:30 – Doing what you can
57:46 – Conclusion
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How A Carbon-Negative Conversation Resulted In So Many Positives With Beth Craig
I want to share some news about the impact that we’ve had together over the course of the past several weeks. In September 2022, our audience, all of you got to know Tzeporah Berman of Stand.earth as we talked about the concept of a fossil fuel treaty. On the heels of that, an artist and musician, Donna Grantis discovered us through that content and even asked if she could play clips from the interview on stage in Toronto on October 21st, 2022 at the Canadian Climate Music Summit. What an honor. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall.
On that week too, our audience got to know Todd Paglia, the current Executive Director of Stand.earth, who works with Tzeporah Berman directly. He shared how their work has helped conserve 65 million acres of trees. If you’re looking for a charity to support, one that is at the forefront of standing with Earth, I want to double down on my recommendation to check them out. Go to Stand.earth. You can also go back to those interview episodes. Give them a read and share them with your communities.
I wanted to also share an incredible moment I had through this show. I’ve gone somewhat political from time to time. We can all go ahead and laugh at that. It’s quite obvious that I’m somewhat left-leaning. I did get the chance, however, to share with you, Daniel Tonkopi‘s story of everything that he’s doing with Delfast e-bikes to both disrupt the world of electric bikes and stand with Ukraine at the very same time. I produced a few pieces of content that related including 1 bonus episode or 2.
I received words of praise from his Ukrainian team that I simply thought I had to share. “I wanted to thank you for the great episode, including the transcription with Daniel. Honestly, it seems to be my favorite. Believe me, I’ve listened to so many of his appearances. Thank you for the bonus coverage and your attention to what’s happening here in Ukraine. As part of a team based in Ukraine, I find it especially valuable and appreciated a lot. Thank you.” That was from Iryna Zaloha, the PR Manager for Delfast based in Kyiv.
While it’s impossible to stay apprised of everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important that we work to stay informed. I will be connecting with another Ukrainian company soon. That is EOS Data Analytics. They are working at the intersection of satellite data from space and Earth’s climate problems. We already had to move our recording once due to bombings in Ukraine. My hope is that we will proceed without issue. I encourage everyone here to stay vigilant. Stand up for what you believe. Stand up for Earth.
In this episode, we are going to dive more deeply into this very subject of living your values as we get to meet my friend, Beth Craig. Beth has been living a negative footprint life or should we call it a positive footprint life for a couple of years. She’s made it her life’s quest to answer one simple question. What if the whole world did this and was able to live a more positive footprint life? She came up with some methods to help others achieve that reality. She has ultimately discovered that the negative is a new positive. She’s here to share what she’s learned with all of us. I want to welcome Beth Danger Craig to the show.
It’s so good to have you here. We’ve been talking about doing this since before August of 2022 because back in August you were leading this initiative, which I hope you could share with us as an example of some of your work, and then we can dive a little deeper.
I started thinking about what if we could feel the impact of giving back to the earth for a given period of time just to get people warmed up to the idea of living a reversed footprint lifestyle. I started it in August 2022 and I call it Cool Down August. It’s where people commit to reversing their footprint only for the month of August to start warming themselves up to the idea.
I’m happy to say we had pledges of about 119 tons for the month of August, but that includes people who have started to already live a negative footprint style too, but then we had some new people join us. One woman decided to start living negative because of that event and then I’m starting a group for people who are going there now. It’s building some steam. That’s good.
What does that look like going negative?
It looks like a lot of things. Going negative looks like for you as far as the pocketbook goes, you have to find a charity that you believe in and then you figure out how much carbon your lifestyle causes to be emitted. This is all a best-as-you-can scenario. We all know that. You then donate more than what you set in motion because of your lifestyle. We all have a carbon footprint because we’re in the United States. There was an MIT study done that everybody, even a homeless person has at least an 8.5-ton footprint because of infrastructure alone.
You can’t get away even if you decide to go super groovy. There are still highways, and water that runs. If you don’t use it by some grace of your inventiveness, you’re still going to have the issue of your ancestors having done it to bring us to where we are here. In my opinion, it’s all about cleaning up the legacy of the footprint as well. That’s what I’m on. I’m advocating when somebody decides to go bigger with this whole thing. They also donate to get rid of the legacy footprint that we were handed by our ancestors.
That leaves a larger footprint than you and I might think about, but there is somebody like Paul Hawken whom I interviewed on an earlier show. He advocates for doing something like purchasing 2 to 3 times the carbon credits for your imprint, specifically when you take on something like air travel because air travel is so very costly. One of the things I’ve also covered is that even if it’s a saving to fly with a stopover or layover, it’s first of all unpleasant, and second of all, you leave a smaller carbon footprint when you fly direct.
I encourage people to fly direct now. There are all sorts of carbon calculators available. You can even go to Flights.Google.com and review flights by all sorts of different airline companies and find the one that has the lowest carbon footprint. Make a donation to offset your carbon emissions by 2 or 3 times to ensure that it works.
One of the things that I have taken issue with is that many of the systems that are out there essentially are providing what they think the carbon sinkability of that tree might be for instance, when it’s fully grown, but it takes a long time for a tree to reach maturity. It’s not necessarily the best method to go forward.
We recently got to feature a lovely gentleman, Hank Dearden, as he talked about his work planting trees for only less than a quarter a tree. He’s able to plant trees around the globe in ecosystems that could use support and ultimately make a pretty strong creating that Forest Planet, which happens to be his website too, ForestPlanet.org.
I encourage people to check out these charities, Stand.earth and ForestPlanet.org. They can be great assets for something along these lines, but we need to also think about minimizing our footprints in our daily lives so that we don’t have to necessarily spend an arm and a leg to try and offset them for the hope it will work. As you and I both know, forest fires take out forests that may have been planted to help sequester carbon. There are other extraneous factors that can get in the way of realizing the dream we’re working to create.
I also use Cookstove as my choice of charity for Draw Down August. This one woman lives a carbon-negative lifestyle because she could understand that issue. She loved the fact that there was such a ripple effect to the planet where not only are you decreasing the amount of carbon or equivalent gases that are going to go into the atmosphere, but also, you’re helping out people to have cleaner cook gear, which people in developed countries have no idea how dirty it can be. You’re making the people who cook healthier, then you’re also saving the forests that are nearby.
You’re also generating income for the villages that have the livestock that has the poop sequestered. It has a huge ripple effect on everyone. That’s my favorite project right now. I pretty much buy all of my carbon offsets from cookstoves because it’s the most immediate to your point about the trees. We need to plant trees, but the metrics on those just aren’t quite as strong for immediate help as the cookstoves.
Tell me more about cookstoves. Is this essentially replacing gas stoves?
Yes. You had a gentleman on here and I featured your show on my webpage for Cool Down August. He was awesome. He goes around the world and installs cookstoves. It’s methane captures. You have a bunch of animals who are pooping in a village, and then you also have humans who do the same thing. You gather all of that, put it in a biodigester, and then it siphons off the methane, which is about 85 times more of a greenhouse gas at the time that it’s created. It does have a half-life.
Right now, we’re up against a literal deadline. The half-life isn’t of importance. We just need to take care of it as soon as we can so methane’s bad. If you put methane into a pipe and put it into a cookstove and turn on a light to cook with it, you immediately turn it to carbon dioxide, which the natural gas that we have is methane, in large part. When you light a switched fire to it, you turn it into carbon dioxide, and now you’ve just decreased the warming capacity of gas by 80.
It was specifically Ben Jeffreys and his company, ATEC Global which is out of Australia and working primarily in the east and a lot of developing worlds to ensure that we have cleaner cooking. I wasn’t sure if it was a different company you were referring to. That episode for those reading this is called Climate Solutions Clean Cooking and Efficient Energy Use with Ben Jeffreys, CEO of ATEC Global.
Honestly, I learned a lot in that show. I did not realize how much of an impact animal dung makes. The fact that methane specifically cannot be drawn down. If we’re putting that to use to do something like creating energy in a biodigester that would otherwise not be clean energy and perhaps it is producing some carbon, but so much less methane is entering the atmosphere which is a better option. Sometimes I think we need to take our dark green lenses off and look at the whole picture because in a case like that, while it might not sequester carbon in the same capacity or the same way, it’s reducing another negative gas that is difficult to bring back to Earth.
You’re getting into the issue of carbon equivalent gases and that’s something a little wonky, and I don’t know how much people out there know about that, but that’s how everything is measured. Carbon dioxide has one factor of heating capacity for the planet and then methane is 85 times more potent at the time it’s released. If you then convert your methane to carbon dioxide, you’re decreasing 84 times the amount of heating capacity at the moment. Everything that is farted and all the methane that’s released, that’s all got 85 times the capacity to heat as carbon dioxide. That’s why you want to have it converted as fast as you can.
As we think about the personal impact that each of us is working to make, your ultimate decision to turn that negative into a positive, figuring out a way to do so on your own, and then amplifying that effort for other people, how do we get there? How do you guide them? Let’s just talk more about this. I want to peek behind the curtain.
I honestly never thought I’d be here talking to you about living a carbon-negative life. Years ago, I decided that something was just not working for me health-wise. I wasn’t feeling good in my body. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get at it. I journaled for a couple of months first thing in the morning, and I realized I was concerned about the Earth. I didn’t know what more I could be doing because I’m one of those people that can pretty much check all the boxes. I bicycled to the work, buy all my clothes used, deplastify my wardrobe, and capture all my water at the sink. I’m pretty groovy.
I still was feeling like I was missing something. I started to look into all the supply chains of what I bought and I realized, “There is no good story there.” Some of them are good with marketing and people getting to realize their potential with advertising work and design of products, but when you start going back to where the raw materials come from, it’s not very sunshiny. I realized that pretty much everything I owned had a debt associated with it. That the Earth and people were subsidizing my life so that I could have lower costs.
For example, my iPhone at the time cost $600, but there were estimates that it should have cost twice as much if it was just made in the United States. That’s not including paying all the minors and different parts getting bought then I thought, “At least, I owe $1,200 just for my phone. What would my car cost? How about all my clothing?”Almost everything you own has a debt associated with it. The earth and the people are subsidizing so you can enjoy lower costs. Click To Tweet
I went on and on and started doing some comparative analysis in the marketplace. Groovy organic Fair-Trade jeans made at Patagonia versus cheap jeans I’ve bought at Forever 21 at times in my life and then paying that difference, and then it was, “Whom do I pay this money to?” I then started learning how to vet charities and that’s on my website.
I vetted some charities. At the time, I wasn’t feeling so fabulous with my life and I had a pretty stressful job. I was just doing the paycheck-to-paycheck dance for passing pick-me-ups as I could. I saw squeak for 10%. I can wiggle my income around a little bit and I’ll pay 10% of my take-home pay after retirement and taxes, and then I’ll give that to charities, which is hundreds of dollars a month. I got good at vetting charities because I wanted to feel awesome about spending $100 a month that I would “never see,” but I pretty much checked the box next to my integrity living, “Okay. I’m done.” That was it. That was going to be a lifetime expense for me because I knew it was the right thing to do.
It’s a tax write-off, so let’s think about that.
To a certain point, if you get to $6,000 a year, it is the threshold that you need to meet. I’m still not there. I gave away that money and then that was it. In a couple of months, I started to wake up flat-out giddy as I’d never felt before. I was carefree, rejuvenated, handled my work better, and was less stressed. I was a class action settlement administrator, so lots of details, court-mandated deadlines, and millions and millions of dollars on my desk. It was all being handled with way less effort.
I was like, “This is interesting. Does giving have anything to do with this?” Studies have been done with MRIs and everything, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. It was predictable that I would feel this way. I was like, “That’s awesome.” I still didn’t think anything of it. I kept giving and giving. A few months later, all of a sudden, I realized I’m not spending as much money overall. I started saving money. Now, I’m happier.
You were thinking about the imprint you were leaving. The same thing has happened to me. I’m not buying as much. Even when I go to the grocery store, I’m thinking about things like, “That comes in an external bag, so I’m not going to buy that right now. I’ll get that at the farmer’s market.” I’m supporting local economies. I went back to using more cash because that’s easier to use at something like a farmer’s market. I also had this faith now that I was supporting my local community in a way that I wasn’t before. I certainly felt better about the fact that my recycle bin wasn’t getting as full of plastic trash as the berries I might consume as a key example.
Those don’t come another way when you go to the grocery store. They’re always in those plastic clam shells. I’m starting to think about my imprint in this way, altering my purchasing patterns. I started thinking about the things that I bought for my children. I started going to more used clothes shops and buying in these little independent ones that are in my local neighborhood. One is called The Little People Store, which is super cute. It’s run by one local woman. A lot of their stuff comes from donations, but many people sell their used wears there that are repaired well. That clothing is getting a second life rather than being worn only three times.
When I learned the statistic that most clothes that end up at Goodwill have only been worn 3 maybe 4 times, I found that shocking because nothing in my wardrobe has ever been treated that way. I will wear something until it is falling apart. It goes from being the clothes I would wear for going out or work to something I wear around the house to something I wear to the barn to go clean stalls or whatever, to washing cars or painting them to the point where it’s ragged.
I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t think and live this way. They get their fashion with a season, but what we’re seeing now is a fundamental change in even the fashion world for how people are reviewing and thinking about it. I went to San Rafael. I would call it a generally woke community as far as sustainability is concerned.
All of the higher ends in the neighborhood are sustainable fashion, mostly made of cotton. Some are recycled jeans from the 1980s that are finding their way back into retail shops that have essentially merchandised them alongside new styles in a way that gets people to think about these older used clothing or even some clothing never got sold before and was sitting in a warehouse that’s now out and about again. We need to open our minds a little bit and think about our imprints. As we do, we’ll save more money and be able to donate more. People think about investing and set aside $200 or $300 a month to put into a 401(k) and never consider something like a donation fund.
A lot of people who live as you do get so much joy out of it but for some reason in the media or when someone’s going to be onboarding to doing those lifestyle shifts, they think it’s such a burden. It’s way more grounded, simple, easy, less frantic, less cluttered, and a joyful way of life. It’s hard to convince people. It’s almost like telling them, “You should check out this view, but you’re going to have to go walk over there.” They don’t want to do the walk. You’re going to miss out on the view, but if you go, it’s pretty awesome.
I have some of my favorite clothing that I have bought in garage sales. It may not have been the most eco-friendly item in the world. I happened to pick up this beautiful velour dress from Betsey Johnson from probably the late 1990s which is when I was coming of age, so I still love the style. It was on a blanket displayed in somebody’s front yard for $5. I get complimented on the dress and I brag about that moment because again, I’m working to normalize used. Used can be great.
If we want that a little bit faster fashion, it’s certainly not velvet. It’s not made from cotton or wool. It’s probably got plenty of petrochemicals in it, but I’m going to treat it right. I’m going to wear it. I’m not going to throw it in the wash and let all those microplastics go into the drains. I’m going to think about it mindfully and I’m going to care for it. If we think about our items this way and are proud of them, then we make a lesser footprint as it exists.
It also costs less. You can have more money to give which is what I’m thinking. I’m going to grad school now for sustainability. I wrote a paper on how giving is the fourth pillar of health. I have been reviewing some literature on good sleeping, eating, exercise, and giving is pretty fantastic and right up there. I have done all the other three for my life, but now that I’m giving, I feel like I just have an extra little mojo magic that just keeps me revved up. I saved them that I had and then I researched about giving.
Giving does make you richer. There are studies on that as well. It’s the mindset shift like you and I were talking about, where you just end up spending less and liking your stuff more. You do spend less on medical costs because you’re not going to have your health blown out as much because you’re healthier because you’re giving. Also, you’re going to be up for promotions more and people are going to like you more because you’re seen as trustworthy. Humans are automatically wired to trust givers. They get more responsibility and more pay.Humans are automatically wired to trust givers so they get more responsibility and pay. Click To Tweet
When I saw that I was getting happier and wealthier, I paid off all my credit cards and pump my bank account back up in a year. It was awesome. I got curious about what the whole world would look like if we started to do this, and that’s why I’m here with you now. I did some calculations with a friend of mine. We figured out how much carbon has been emitted from 1850 to 2050. How many plastics are going to be emitted by 2050 from 1960? Roughly, what’s the cost to get rid of poverty basing it on the cost of extreme poverty? Who is responsible for this? Who has the opportunity because giving is so good for you?
We talked a lot about it and it came down to those who are in the middle class and above should look at having this lifestyle because we have the wiggle room in our spending. That’s what makes us in the middle-class discretionary income and above. If you look at all the adults across the planet who are in the middle class and above, it’s roughly 1 in 10 people. You take all of the aggregate bags, divide it by all the people who can afford it, and do it over 30 years, and roughly it would cost $150 a month with given prices the way that they are.
It’s just not that much to do incredible good in a short period of time if you have mass adaption. My big goal is to have people start to treat this like a real lifestyle and start to watch how their brain chemistry unfolds in this more positive, how their bank accounts look better if they embrace it, and then get more people doing it and start to create a movement so that we start to reverse this.
There’s nothing more strong as a vote with your dollar in the marketplace. You can vote every few years. You can march when you’re pissed off. You vote with your dollars every day and if we started taking money away from tchotchkes and throwing it into not-for-profit sectors and creating jobs, nothing’s going to speak louder than that market shift. That’s the revolution I’m looking to start.
It starts also in parenting. I went with my mother-in-law, my husband, and my two kids to Disney on Ice. I’m not a big consumer of Disney, but it was an experience that she wanted to give them so she bought the tickets. We get there and every single thing that you would buy is a souvenir loaded with plastic, batteries, flashing lines, and unnecessary junk. I had to tell my kids, “I’m happy to get you a pretzel, but other than that, we brought our water bottles, going to have fun, and that’s it.” The disappointment on their faces is getting briefer with time.
It’s hard to reason with an approaching five-year-old when he wants that thing, but it gets easier with time. I got back from a recent business trip, one of my few of the last couple of years. I flew all the way from San Francisco to Philadelphia and back for Natural Products Expo East. My kids are like, “Bring me back something,” and I did this to my parents as a young child too.
While at the show, I found a company that makes Bamboo cutlery and thought simply they could use some new stuff with their lunchbox. These are bamboo and they came in an organic cotton bag. I’m like, “It zips up. It does the job. I can put these in their lunches. I’m bringing them back something.” I resisted the stuffed animal at the airport. When I came home, it wasn’t what I brought them. It was that I brought them something. They were as excited by these silly little utensils that were utilitarian tools that they needed frankly. They were as excited about them as I was probably at the stuffed animal at seven and then taking them to bed.
How old are your kids?
They’re almost five and eight.
For example, my older son had a prior nanny that liked to watch the tablet with him periodically on YouTube, as long as it was supervised. She would show him this show called Ryan’s World, which I abhorred because it was so consumerist-based. They have their own toys. They did all sorts of toy unboxing and own branded toys and games on tablets and everything else. They have essentially become millionaires by putting their child’s life on YouTube 24/7.
That’s great. It wouldn’t be my path. I wouldn’t choose that for my kids. It’s not like you can take back what’s out there in this capacity. They’re wealthy people now. This nanny took them to Walmart. I don’t even step into Walmart at one point. They have Ryan’s World toys there. My eight-year-old, at the time was about six, kept asking the Ryan’s World toys, and when were we going to go to Walmart and couldn’t do X, Y, and Z? I have not stepped foot into a Walmart store. I can’t tell you how long it was, probably back when I was in college, which was many years ago.
It’s interesting to see the imprint of one person, his nanny, who had him for a little while, taking him to one store, allowing him to watch one show and what that did for his mind in consumerism and asking for toys, and how frequently asked for toys, and the types of toys he wanted, and how important it was to him to then take a step back. She hasn’t been our nanny for more than a year now. This played into the decision. He doesn’t ask for those things anymore. He’s not as focused on consumerism. This is something we have to think about from a media perspective because it’s the TV shows that our children watch. It’s exposure on YouTube and social media.
If we are constantly attached to our devices in constantly getting these reinforced messages of these things that we should have to be the norm, and whatever that norm is, then we are going to continue to create generations of people that value consumerism over thriftiness. If on the other hand, we’re more mindful and we educate our kids and talk about things like the plastic problem, what’s happening around the globe, supply chain and the environment, and how hot it is this summer, then suddenly they internalize these things and start to think about the world a little bit different.
One thing I have as a dream I’d love to get to work with a family or to start working with kids. I might be talking at the local high school soon where people for charities is a pretty enriching experience. It teaches you about different cultures and where your stuff does come from and why is there a charity that’s even needed in that area like in the United States where we need charity work. It opens you up to what’s going on, maybe not in your neighborhood.
I’ve always thought that it would be such a beautiful experience to go on a charity shopping journey with a child. The whole thing about doing this work is it’s not stopping you from buying stuff that you truly love. You purchased it, now what do you do to own it and buy everything that went into making that thing to get to you? If corporations cut corners and you buy it for their cost, then you’re cutting corners too.
I teach my children what full cost accounting is about stuff, and then where do they think they want to give their money? They had a few charities in the region. Where would they think the money should go? Why is that? You’re teaching empathy and supply chain, and it’s a global community that brought you your Ryan Toy.
“Who made it? Where did it come from? What happened with pollution?”
Everything we own is a story about the Earth and people. How can you break down that veneer so it’s not just these beautiful glossy advertisements that tell you about this product that appears out of vapor? It’s rich and huge. You know what goes on behind that advertising.
Talk to me for a moment about how you have vetted the charities that you have on your website because I know that this process isn’t one that happens overnight. I have done quite a bit of charity vetting myself, even before I invite any charity to talk here. I do a fair amount of background work on them.
Let’s swap notes. I want to know what your stuff is. I look them up on GuideStar or Charity Navigator. The paperwork that they get in order to do their processes is public paperwork. You have to file taxes as a not-for-profit, and that’s public records. You can look at anyone’s taxes. That’s what these guys do. They go in and look at the paperwork, and create these cute little visuals to show how much went to admin, the cost, and to this and that. They rank them depending on how good they are with their money.
You’re not supposed to go past 25% for your admin costs is one metric. I go and I look at both of those. Sometimes if the charity is bigger, will be on both. Sometimes if they’re smaller, they just hit one. Quite know how they choose. It has to be a certain dollar value or net worth of a charity. How much money do they generate? I do that first to see if they even hit there. If they don’t, I’m still good, but that’s one place. I then put on the internet the name of the charity and then sucks or the name of the charity is a scam or whatever dirty laundry. I want to find out. I put the name of the charity and that and then all the crap floats to the top and I read all that.
What I’ve discovered is that because a charity has some bad press doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Charities have money and they go into places that don’t have money. That’s how charities work. When you take people who are privileged and empowered and put them in another place, maybe in another country where people aren’t, you might have issues of corruption and predatory things that happen in villages like in rescue situations and things like that. It’s gross, but it happens. Charities have gotten in trouble because of it.Just because a charity had some bad press means it is necessarily bad. Click To Tweet
You have a few people who do horrible things and that charity’s name is crap in the media. The beautiful thing about that happening is that now they have to clean up their acts. They’re going to look at their infrastructure and find out where the weaklings were. They’re going to be a better charity because that happened to them. One that is in the same vertical that didn’t get caught may not have that infrastructure and may still have it going on, but it hasn’t come to the light yet. If you find something bad about a charity isn’t necessarily a dead ringer, you should go a little deeper. There’s more nuanced.
I have friends of mine who are activists and anti-demand in a lot of ways and so I’ll ask them too because they tend to read a lot of alternative press, and I vet what they find. If something gets through all of those, by now, I’m like a layperson expert on their charity and they’re vertical of charity. I know what good questions to ask so I call them up and I see how I’m treated. They’re not going to answer the phone right away. They’re not for profit. I’m fine with waiting, but I take that into consideration. How long did it take them to get back to me? Are they taking this call seriously or not?
When I talk with them, I say, “This is what I do. I’m not going to mince words, but I want to talk about some pretty thorny issues if you don’t mind.” They say, “No,” and then we go there. I have a nice robust conversation if I can. If they will meet me with all of my persnickety little dogged questions then I say, “Fine, I’m going to give them money.” It’s a four-step process, but it takes a little while.
That’s the ultimate vote of confidence in the end. I did feature ForestPlanet.org. I learned from my conversations with Hank Dearden that he essentially is working to amplify the other charities that are planting trees. He does a lot of that betting work too. Many of the same points that you brought up he is essentially saying as well, which is an indication that you’re on the right track.
That’s awesome to know.
I have worked with Charity Navigator and my father-in-law’s charity which was listed there as well. I happen to have some behind-the-scenes notes on what gets companies listed versus not. If they have not filed their paperwork on time, they get de-listed, even if they might otherwise be like a five-star Charity Navigator brand.
If they were on and they disappear for a little bit, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything nefarious has happened. Often, just means they’ve filed for an extension to submit their paperwork. That’s one thing to know. Another thing I do, because I’m a greenie and hate junk mail is I have chosen to walk away from certain charities that send a lot of mail. The two that are on my blacklist, even though they might do some great work, are the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy because no matter what, if I give them $5, I will be on their junk mail list for the next several years. I am not going to do that anymore.
This is the added benefit. One I like to support is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a great place to go to educate yourself on what’s happening in our oceans. It’s a great place to go with kids. If you become a member and you happen to be a local, then you get free passes and you can share them with your community and friends when they come into town. I like to go at least 3 or 4 times a year with my kids because every time, it becomes an opportunity to talk about what’s happening in our oceans. They ask questions and learn something new.
What the Packard family has done with MBARI, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium is fantastic. They are doing a lot to ensure the health of our oceans and to ensure that these open spaces get protected. I love that you have a membership and can go to member events. You can show up with your children and have unique hours to view certain exhibits and things like that too. It becomes part of your social reinforcement, which is also a very good thing.
Something else that I like to do is work with small charities. Often what you’ll find is when you go to these big multinational companies that get big UN projects and things like that too, their administrative costs tend to be higher. The smaller organizations tend to be more based on volunteer hours. They tend to have a deeper connection with the directing that they’re working on.
For example, Vitamin Angels work to bring vitamin A to communities around the globe, specifically to reduce the instance of child vision loss or babies born without the ability to see. For a long time, they have operated on only a 5% administration cost. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that they moved to 90%.
That means that 10% of the funds that bring in, they use for admin. Everything else goes to their work. If you care about infant mortality and infant blindness, this is a good company to partner with. Now, granted that might not be in the environmental space, but there’s also a connection between the vitality of people around the globe and what they’re willing to do to survive.
This is an uncomfortable piece of the conversation because you talk about the social impact and sustainability that are the root of this show. The two can be closely connected because the person that’s looking at putting food on the table and having to make hard choices, or they’ve got a forest in their backyard, that is their families, they might authorize its clear cut because they got to put food on the table.
You then have the question of why are they in a spot where they have to worry about putting food on their table, and if you look at the manufacturing practices, I hate to say it, but it’s still slavery time on the planet. People in America have no idea and I didn’t know as bad as it is until I started to go there. You get little whiffs of it in the news, “Congo and the cobalt.” That goes away, but it’s everywhere.
It’s nasty. The reason why people are so scared of making bad choices is that modern globalization of manufacturing practices has usually put them in the pickle to begin with. Not to mention the fact that that’s why we have global warming. It’s not about being in a blame game, but it is about looking at how privileged I am in this culture and that I have wiggle room in my spending. I’m in the top 10% of wealth on the planet because of that. It’s incumbent upon me to start giving back to whom I consider my brothers, sisters, and cousins across the planet and start helping them out, and then it helps me too.
We essentially have slavery here in the United States. It’s just that it doesn’t get talked about like that because it’s our indentured servitude that comes from prison terms.
I posted this on my Facebook feed.
We have a prison system that’s essentially it. It’s a for-profit prison system. There are products that are made in our presence from your license plate to the clothing. It’s not one simple thing.
The courtroom furniture that they’re arraigned in is made by prison labor. Liberal students in college are sitting in chairs made by slaves and they have no idea. I’m totally passionate about that too.
We don’t talk about it. We think about incarceration as something that happens to people who deserve it.
It’s awful. People are not unpacking the web there. There’s so much that went in life before that.
We could go on and on talking about these subjects because there are so many intersections, but I want to ask you before we prepared a wrap, if there’s a question that I haven’t asked that you wish I had or something that you wanted to cover and make sure that our audience is attuned to.
We’ve answered the skepticism about the charities question. You can find charities with great value and heart that do good work so trust that. It’s like buying a car, you got to shop but it’s out there. It’s worth your time. When you shop, you also get dopamine from being curious. You’re going to feel better about shopping for a charity. It’s already given to you before you even donate any money. Even the bad ones because you’ve got dopamine, but the question is, “Where do people get started?”
There’s so much scarcity feeling and feelings of overwhelm and that we’re all doing enough, especially what I call the guilty greeners who are like, “I’m already trying to bike as much as I can. I already do enough,” what’s so sad is everybody’s so concerned about shrinking their footprint. That’s the first step. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but it’s this feeling or this ethos of, “I’m awful. I need to make myself tiny. I’m not welcome on the planet. Look at all the harm I do.”
What I’m trying to say is that’s a lifestyle choice. If you decide to leave great, big, fat, juicy, and awesome footprints in exchange for diminishing the bad ones and going big on the good ones, it’s a whole different light, way bigger, fun, involved, and grounded. I’m advocating that. Follow your cognition. You’re filling up your gas tank, which is totally legit.
This infrastructure is not made for people to not drive cars, which sucks, but as you’re filling up a gas tank if it’s sticking on you and you don’t feel good about it, listen to that and then see, “Is there a way I could give back to be in balance with the Earth, with this one thing that annoys me that I always have to do?” Start there.
If you’re like me, you might have made the decision to allow your husband who commutes for work to drop your kids off at school and pick them up in the evening because it’s on his way out and on his way back as opposed to making a unique trip each day without ever telling him that’s what you were doing. I think about every trip that I make in my car.
I make the simple effort of trying to have the errands happen in a circle, typically do those on farmer’s market stays because I’m not in a space where I can bike to all of these spaces and get everything I need for my home. I will make the circuitous loop, and if I need to, I’ll gas up that day. I have to tell you, I got through the entire month with one tank of gas. I don’t think I’m going to have to fill it up before the 31st.
Do you donate and draw that down?
Yes, I do. What I do is if the entire calculation that I make is based on my mileage and then if I fly. That’s what I do. In my home, I’m working with solar energy that I installed. Most of that is taken care of. I do have a surplus that I still have to pay for. Again, I look at that. I haven’t calculated our food and things along those lines. That’s far more complicated, but perhaps I can use your metrics. Do you have a tool that you can provide to help people run a calculation?
I use the standard calculators to find where people are even so that they have a starting place. I always round up for the bad and then double it and pay that for the good. If you want to go super easy, guaranteed positive negative life living, just go big on the giving part because then you get to walk around saying inside your gut to yourself, “The world is getting healthier and cleaner because I’m alive. I am no longer a burden on Earth.”
I can point to a piece of paper with numbers on it and say, “Even if I’m jerked that day or I’m not in a good mood, the air is still getting cleaner because I’m alive,” and that’s a whole different feeling than what most people have walking around. It feels good to be a contributor on that level. Try and be kind and nice and all that stuff as all good humans like to do. To have that in my pocket too is very empowering and also humbling because not everybody has the wherewithal to do this either. How can one spread the tools around so that everybody else feels empowered to feel like the earth is getting cleaner because they’re alive too?
I love that. I will also mention that I am not a lover of all things Meta. Facebook does have the ability for you to create donation campaigns that you share with your community. You can donate on your birthday or on a holiday. You can create an event and they cover the 3% fees that a credit card would often charge those charities so your dollars go to good use. If you’re giving $100, it’s not $97 that’s going to them, it’s $100. That’s something that’s important to think about because, in so many of those charities, $3 makes a difference. If I’m giving to ForestPlanet, for example, with Hank over here and he’s getting $3 less, that could be 20 trees planted. That may not sound like much, but it is something.
The American dollar is unique too. Our dollar goes a long way in other countries. When you think it’s a latte for you, it could be like two malaria nets that protect people for 3 to 4 years. It’s amazing.
Thank you so much for joining me, Beth.
My pleasure. I appreciate it. It’s nice to be here.
What a treat to have Beth here so that we could dive deeply into what a difference each of us can make. I want to encourage everyone to check out Beth Craig’s website and her important work by visiting IntegrityHero.org. If you enjoyed this episode and our conversation, please subscribe and write us a review on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you happen to catch us. You could even be watching us on YouTube. This helps more people discover the show.
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- Tzeporah Berman – Past Episode
- Todd Paglia – Past Episode
- Daniel Tonkopi – Past Episode
- EOS Data Analytics
- Beth Craig – LinkedIn
- Paul Hawken – Past Episode
- Hank Dearden – Past Episode
- ATEC Global
- Climate Solutions Clean Cooking and Efficient Energy Use with Ben Jeffreys, CEO of ATEC Global – Past Episode
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Vitamin Angels
- Spotify – Care More Be Better
- Apple Podcasts – Care More Be Better
- YouTube – Care More Be Better