Archive for the ‘Course Assignment’ Category

Blogging for Non-Profits

The 12 weeks of my social media course, with the different blogging assignments and tasks, have given me a little bit of insight into the world of blogging. Given my blog focus, it has helped me learn a bit and explore how non-profit organizations can use blogging to good effect. The best blogs in the environmental sector provide timely and useful information to their readers, offer tips and advice for taking action, and empower  people to become advocates.

Providing information

The best environmental blogs that I’ve found so far are the ones that provide the kind of information I’m looking for, whether that’s learning how to start a worm compost or wondering what a good alternative to dry cleaning is. These are great because I usually find them when searching for specific information I need, and blogs usually offer a personal touch, like someone who has tried something in particular. With so many questions about different environmental topics, blogs are a great way to get the perspective of someone else who has had the same questions.

Tips and Advice

There are lots of blogs out there offering great tips and advice to people looking to make a green move. For many people who want to lead a greener lifestyle, the hardest part is figuring out where to start and how to do it. The Clean Bin Project is a great resource for all kinds of waste reduction tips.

Empower People

With sustainable lifestyle changes, as with anything else, people need to feel empowered in order to be able to accomplish anything. The two points above help people to feel that they can make actionable changes in their lives, and this kind of empowerment leads to more long-lasting change.

I think, in this sector, blogging is a very powerful tool that is already being used widely to connect the environmental movement. And as a field that always changing, it can only benefit from more people joining in the conversation, and organizations in this area can harness this to position themselves as experts and resources, for the benefit of all.


Carbon Offsets and Social Media Tools

In the environmental conversation, you often hear about carbon offsets. It can be a controversial conversation – if you or a company achieves a “greener” image because of the purchase of offsets, is it really an improvement? Or, by having the carbon offset market, are we allowing market forces to encourage innovation and environmental improvements by creating financial incentives for companies to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions?

It’s certainly an interesting debate. In terms of individual purchase of carbon offsets, I believe that people should make as much reduction as possible first, and then purchase offsets for what remains. For a good review of offset programs, see the David Suzuki Foundation’s review.

In this blog post, which is admittedly much longer than a blog post is supposed to be, as part of my Social Media course, I am required to review social media tracking tools and grade comments. I have chosen to do this for Offsetters, a local carbon offset company, one of whose employees I was speaking to this week at Globe.

I first looked at Addictomatic. This tool allowed me to find many different conversations going on about Offsetters, on many different platforms, but it also came up with a lot of stuff that wasn’t actually what I was looking for. Twitalizer offered interesting information about the company’s Twitter activity, showing what they are active in and what they are influential about. HowSociable allowed me to see a general score on the social media influence of the company in lots of different platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn), but didn’t offer any more details than that without paying for the more advanced service.

Based on all of these tools, Offsetters has a strong presence in social media, but their circle of influence is still small. They seem to be doing strongest on Twitter, and have opportunities to grow in the social media market.

In looking for conversations about carbon offsets, I didn’t find any of these tools particularly helpful. In the end, Google led me to 10 conversations around carbon offsets. What this tells me about Offsetters is that there are many conversations going on about their topic of expertise, and they could benefit by participating in more of these conversations.

On Twitter






And again






On The Tyee












The Vancouver Sun











Going Green Today









Globe and Mail






















and again











The Environmental Leader









and again

Greening Corporations

As an environmentalist, I struggle with the concept of corporations and sustainability. Recently, I was at a presentation on sustainability by a large packaged-goods corporation, and they had a lot of very interesting things to say. And I’m of two minds: on the one hand, with the way our society is, you really need to have the P&G‘s and the Unilevers and the Walmarts of the world to be making drastic changes towards sustainability. Because, let’s face it, most people are predominantly motivated by money and convenience and the “need” for more stuff. So when these mammoth corporations are making decisions to reduce packaging by x%, or invest in clean water for children in developing countries, on the one hand, I want to applaud them. Well done! We need those huge and influential companies doing things like that, because the average person is not making those kinds of decisions themselves. And money talks.

But I struggle with the basic fact that these companies, no matter what changes they might be making towards sustainability, are still trying to sell you more stuff. More disposable, more packaged, more stuff, from far away. Stuff that you don’t need, didn’t know you wanted until they told you that you did, and is going to break right after the warranty runs out, so you’ll have to buy a new one because you can’t possibly live without it now, and besides, there’s a new model that has one new feature that you must have!

I rant. I’m sorry. My basic point is that it’s great that these companies are trying to do better. But it’s hard to see what kind of effect it’s going to have if we’re still pushing society to consume even more stuff.

In any case, for my class assignment this week, I am creating a social media release, based on a news release from Green America.

Social Media Release

MEDIA CONTACT: Leslie Anderson Maloy, (703) 276-3256 or

Who is the biggest corporate fool of 2012?

Pick Your Fool: BofA, US Chamber, Chevron, Hershey, KFC/Yum! Brands, Monsanto, Southern, Verizon and Walmart

With April Fool’s Day a month away, the nonprofit Green America is launching its annual “Corporate Fools’ balloting today on Facebook to name the U.S. company with the worst corporate practices. The winner will be determined by votes from the general public as tallied on Facebook.

Green America, in conjunction with various social justice and environmental groups, has nominated nine large corporations and organizations for the dubious distinction: Bank of America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Hershey, KFC/Yum! Brands, Monsanto, Southern Company, Verizon, and Walmart. The companies were nominated for the poor records on the environment and/or social justice practices.

Nominees include Bank of America, Monsanto, Verizon, Walmart and Hershey. For details on the nominees and nominators, please visit the Facebook page.

After the votes are tallied, the winner will be announced on April 1, 2012.

Social Media links:

Facebook            Digg

Coverage to date:

Daily Finance      EcoWatch            News to Watch



Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today’s social and environmental problems.

Green America Press Kit:


Using Social Media for Non-Profit Goals

Some environmental organizations are well established in the world of social media, using various platforms to achieve their goals of information sharing, behaviour change, and fundraising.

Sharing information and behaviour change

For many environmental groups, information sharing and behaviour change are the main goals of the organization, and fundraising supports those goals. Organizations use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs to encourage this kind of behaviour change among individuals. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green blog makes small changes accessible to the public, and strives to answer common questions that people ask and offer tips and recipes, on a variety of environmental topics. By tweeting regularly, they are able to share tips in a quick format, and also draw people to the blog. The blogs, Twitter, and Facebook accounts all tie nicely into each other and each adds more value.

The Sierra Club of Canada uses social media to shed light on national and political environmental issues effectively. Regularly tweeting and posting information on political environmental actions and news releases, the organization aims to “empower people to protect, restore and enjoy a healthy and safe planet.” To achieve these aims, they also are working to inform the public on issues related to the environment. Their social media also includes a blog from their executive director, which adds a very personal perspective to the organization.

Building a loyal fan base

By using social media in this way, we can see that some of the larger environmental organizations are effectively sharing information and encouraging behaviour change. This also leads to the goal of fundraising. By using social media to build relationships and trust, they are developing audiences who are engaged with the organization and missions. This leads indirectly to fundraising. Although not everyone who follows organizations will donate to them, by focusing on the relationship building, they are more likely to create a loyal group of fans who will donate regularly and share the mission of the organization with others. This kind of long-term loyalty is the kind of “customer” that an environmental non-profit organization wants.


Social media can be a very effective and strong tool for non-profit organizations that use it well. Because the key for these organizations is relationships with the public, for behaviour change and fundraising, sharing information in their field is perfect for social media.

Some environmental organizations are well established in the world of social media, using various platforms to achieve their goals of information sharing, behaviour change, and fundraising.

Connecting with what you eat

Food is a huge part of sustainability. In this article on The Tyee, where the topic of obesity and “informed dining” is addressed. Although the article does not talk about sustainability, I think that health and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked. The Slow Food movement, a reaction to the prominence of fast food and loss of traditional food knowledge, demonstrates how taking time to source good food, cook at home, and support local traditions has benefits for health and community.

I recently watched a Passionate Eye episode about chocolate and child labour, and it really emphasizes for me how disconnected we are, as a society, from our food chain. For the most part, people don’t know where their food has come from, how far it has traveled, what its carbon footprint is, or even what is in it.

In the video below, I talk a bit about how to connect more with the food we eat. Local food is a big part of that, supporting local agriculture and reducing our carbon footprint. But there are a lot of things we can’t produce here, chocolate being one of them. I love chocolate, so I try to always buy organic, fairtrade chocolate, to reduce the impact.

I am not a video specialist! The extreme windiness today made filming this short clip on my simple camera difficult, occasionally drowning me out. I hope you’re able to get what I’m trying to say!

Top ten easy changes you can make towards sustainability

Change can be hard. Trying to break old habits and form new ones does not come easily. But it can be done! Here are my top ten changes everyone can make on their journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

1. Make smart commuting choice

  • Do you really need to drive there?

    Biking on Salt Spring Island

  • Try walking, taking the bus, biking. It might take a bit longer, but you get exercise, it’s cheaper, and no road rage.
  • When you’re ready, try giving up the car entirely. If you live in Vancouver, it is so easy to get around by public transit and bicycle, and when you really need one, there are loads of car shares available (car2go, Zipcar, etc)

2. Switch to 100% recycled products

  • You might be really proud of yourself for recycling, but if you don’t buy recycled products, then where do you think all of that recycling is going?
  • Toilet paper, paper towel, notepaper are easy examples of paper recycled products that are just as good as the non-recycled kinds. And no rainforest gets cut down.
  • Some clothing is made from recycled plastics. MEC carries such products. There are also things such as chairs, tables. This leads into my  next point:

3. Reduce! Stop buying things in plastic!

  • Do you still drink bottled water? Here is an excellent video stating, in 3 minutes and 30 seconds (in an entertaining way), exactly why you should NEVER DRINK BOTTLED WATER. Ever.
  • Besides that, look to buying things in bulk, like beans, rice, nuts, and all sorts of other things. Save-on-Foods usually has great bulk sections. So do some of those mom-and-pop shops on Fraser Street.
  • Bring your own containers and bags. You do not need styrofoam containers for that little bit of leftover Chinese. You do not need that plastic bag for those 3 products. Get one of those little pouch bags you can keep in your purse/pocket, and have containers every time you go out for food.

Not good for turtle digestion

4. Support local food systems

  • Some potatoes and greens grown right on our tiny patio.

    Buy from your local farmers market or food that is locally grown. It reduces food miles, and thus carbon footprint.

  • It supports people who work pretty damn hard.
  • Food tastes better when it’s picked and consumed within days, instead of traveling across the globe.
  • When you can’t buy local – and I know, it’s tough – choose organic and fair trade.

5. Give good gifts

  • Give experiences. Tickets to a sporting event or theatre, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
  • Choose things that last a long time, not something that will break right away.
  • Get things that people actually want and need, not just something random because you feel like you’re supposed to get them a gift (no one needs another bath set or scented candle).
  • Edible or otherwise consumable gifts are great – a bottle of nice local wine, some excellent fair trade organic chocolate, some homemade cookies or candles show that you spent more than just money on the person.
  • Don’t wrap it! Seriously, how pointless is wrapping paper and ribbons?

Green Angel campaign from Metro Vancouver


6. Save power

  • It’s good for the environment, and it saves you $$.
  • Turn off you computer, turn off the lights. Seems so simple, but it can make a big difference.
  • Did you know that your electronics still draw power, even when the power is off? You cell phone charger, your laptop, your TV, are all drawing vampire power, even if you think you’ve been diligent and turned everything off. Easiest thing to do is plug everything into a power bar, then turn that off at night. BC Hydro tells us, “Standby power can use up to 10% of a home’s energy consumption.”
  • Hang dry your clothes. A dryer is a serious waste of energy.

7. Save water

  • In a rainy city like Vancouver, water seems endless. But we don’t harness the power of the rain in most places, so it’s important that we are conserving water, so that we have clean water sources for generations to come.
  • Take shorter showers, and lower water use in toilet by putting something solid in the toilet tank (i.e. a filled water bottle), which will reduce the amount used when flushing.

8. Compost

  • Food waste rotting in landfills is a major source of greenhouse gases.
  • You might be thinking this isn’t very easy. But it actually is. If you’re lucky, you live somewhere with curbside pickup. But most of us don’t.
  • You can get a worm composter, which is small enough even for small apartments. The City of Vancouver even offers subsidized bins for residents.
  • Drop off your food scraps at the Farmers Market. The Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium collects them, and I hope to see all the farmers markets this summer doing food scrap collection.

9. Eat less and choose better animal products

Happy cows in Agassiz, BC

  • Raising animals for food has huge impacts on the environment, considering everything from waste, land use, feed, and greenhouse gasses.
  • Eat less meat (try Meatless Mondays)
  • When you do eat meat, try to choose happy, healthy meat – grass fed beef, organic free-range eggs and chicken, oceanwise fish. Why? Watch this fun video.

10. Support green initiatives

  • Lots of local and international businesses are trying to reduce their carbon footprints. Support businesses that are doing that, and tell them that’s why you’re supporting them.
  • There are lots of great local green businesses in Vancouver. The Soap Dispensary lets you fill your own shampoo and detergent bottles, and Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. offers sustainable food and social initiatives (not to mention fantastic pizza), to name just a couple.

Soap nuts are my own choice for laundry detergent


So, to sum up, there are lots of things you, as a single person, can do to make small changes. And once you start to make a few, you will start to realize it’s not so hard, and we can all create a wave of more sustainable lifestyles!

Letting go of vanity

Every time I see a movie or read a book on environmentalism, I get convinced of one more thing I need to give up or stop doing. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been convinced to give up mascara, to buy sunscreen without parabens (amazingly difficult to find!), to buy only organic, non-GMO soy milk, and many other small changes.

A combination of the Clean Bin Project and David Suzuki Queen of Green’s Dirty Dozen convinced me to finally give up dyeing my hair a while ago. And I have to say, I miss it. I have always had a very blah kind of hair colour… light brown, very nondescript. Since I was 13 years old, I have had blond, black, blue, bleached, red, purple, and auburn hair, to name a few. I love how hair is an impermanent thing that’s easy to change, and colouring my hair often gave me a whole new look.

But I knew that it was bad. Even with no knowledge of how it was bad, how can letting all those chemicals go down the drain possibly be a good thing? I couldn’t, in good conscience, let these chemicals pollute our water any more just because I didn’t like my hair colour. So I gave it up. Now my hair is boring, and healthy.

But one of my favourite blogs, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green, posted this week on eco-friendly hair dye. As part of my Social Media Marketing course assignment, I dugg her article, because she always gives great, accessible tips that are relevant to a wide audience. Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green, is a wealth of information on Do It Yourself projects and lifestyle-greening tips.

For a lot of people, who care about the environment but aren’t as hyper-aware of their own footprint, the kind of accessibility that Lindsay provides is invaluable. There are many things that I have been surprised to discover, and for me, new information has a strong impact on my future behaviours. The Queen of Green blog provides easy information on everything from what can be recycled to how to care for Mason bees.

Navigating a more sustainable world can be pretty tricky, when the norm is the opposite of sustainability. It takes more awareness and a little more effort to seek out the most environmentally friendly options for toilet paper, window cleaner, deodorant, laundry. It’s more time consuming and arguably more expensive (although I guarantee I spend less on things than most people) to shop at the farmer’s market, buy organic, local foods, make pasta from scratch. But for me it’s totally worth it.

Hair dye was a tough thing for me to give up. But it’s only vanity. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll seek out the eco-friendly dyes. Maybe I should just make peace with my natural hair colour.

Most people have something important to them that’s caused them to give up something or other. For some, the passion is fair trade, fair wages. For others, cancer has hit close to home, and cutting out toxins is key.

Have you ever given up something that you loved, on principle?