Charitable Giving

Tis the Season to Give… Well Every Season is the Season to Give

Tis the season! It’s that time of year again when some of the biggest holidays in the American culture are celebrated: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. Also known as the giving season. It’s also the end of the year for tax deductions, so in November and December there is increase in charitable giving compared to other months throughout the year.  With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas just a few weeks away, it’s never too late to spread generosity. In fact, you should always think of ways to give back whenever you have the chance. Giving is not about how good it makes you feel but what you can do to lend a hand to those in need. Here are a few ways on how you can give back over the holidays and all year round:

Volunteer at a soup kitchen/feeding. Give a couple of hours of your day to help serve food at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or a feeding event with a local organization or church.

Pack care packages. Buy Ziploc bags and fill them with toiletry products, a water bottle, soft cereal bars, crackers, fruit snacks (or other manageable healthy food products), and a card of encouragement and give them out to the homeless with friends or family members.

 Donate clothes or toys. Find a local clothing or toy drive and donate gently used or new items to organizations. You may be able to find drives in a mall, the lobby of your office or apartment building, or even a nearby Starbucks.

 Adopt a family. Many local organizations can help you sponsor a family in need to shop for over the holiday season.

Donate to a food bank. During your shopping trip to the grocery store, pick out nonperishable food items to take to a food bank or a local bank. You can also see about volunteering at the food bank. Make sure to double check the type of food the food bank accepts.

 Visit a nursing home or hospital. With family or friends visit a local nursing home or hospital by spending quality time with residents or patients. Sing a few Christmas carols, bring personalized cards and decorations, or create activities and play games. Many people are without families. Coming with a warm heart can simply brighten up someone’s day.

 Create your own donation drive. Select a charity for you drive and specify the items that you want to collect. Determine the location and date for your drive. Make fliers and do a social media campaign, contact local business, and advertise by word of the mouth to family members, friends, co-workers, and business owners to donate.

 Donate to a charity. If there is a cause or a specific organization that you are passionate about donate money. You would probably spend that money on your daily coffee, an outfit, a movie ticket, or your monthly streaming service bill.

 Go online. Research local organizations in your community or city. There are plenty of organizations around you that you have no idea exists. Understand what they are about and the cause they are representing. Learn about their volunteering and donating opportunities.

I hope this list was helpful in providing you with many great opportunities to give this holiday season. Over the past several years I have volunteered at the Thanksgiving and Christmas feedings at my church back in my hometown in NY. This year I plan to donate to the toy drive at my local mall for a children’s hospital. Now that I told you my plans, it’s time for you to start thinking about yours if you haven’t done so already. Happy Holidays!

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer  from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.

 

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Tis the Season for Saving

A thoughtful and Thankful Thanksgiving

 

Tis the season for boots, thick scarves, feasting and fun! Of all things to be thankful for, consider the privilege of having enough water and energy to enjoy the soul-warming festivities of thanksgiving. Whether you realize it or not, there are plenty of easy opportunities to sustainably enjoy this awesome holiday without having to do much different than what you already do. Consider these hacks for saving water, energy and money.

 

1) Reduce food waste- Typically, our first instinct is to cook buffet style, cooking enough to have leftovers for at least a week. Scrap that (pun intended). Save money and energy, and reduce food waste by getting an accurate count for dinner attendees. Cook just enough to satisfy your attendees or serve smaller portions. Encourage seconds. Whatever you do, make sure all food is enjoyed. Compost food scraps when possible but be sure to keep food items out of the sink.

 

2) Recycle water- Half-drunk bottles or cups of water all around the room? No problem. Collect abandoned cups of water and use for pets, indoor plants, or washing your car! Rather than letting water run, wash all produce in a basin or plugged sink. Recycle that same water to soak dirty utensils or cookware. Use your dishwasher to wash full loads of dishes. If you decide to wash dishes by hand, designate one basin to wash dishes and another for rinsing.

 

3) Conserve energy- Saving money makes holidays even more enjoyable. Save money and conserve energy by turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and use natural light when available. Also, cook side dishes that can be cooked at the same time and temperature as the turkey. Not only will it reduce cooking time and energy costs, it’ll quiet anxious and hangry guests a lot sooner! No one likes hangry guests!

 

Of course, these are not the only ways to celebrate the holidays in sustainable ways. But it’s a great start for beginner conservationists. Nonetheless, Nspiregreen wishes everyone a great holiday season, full of happiness, uplifting family time, and savings!

 

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Christie Holland is an urban planner from St. Louis, MO interested in community development, transportation planning, infrastructure, and urban design challenges. 

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Why Vanpool? Why not?

Some of you may have heard how vanpools are a great way to commute to work. But when you consider options for commuting to work other than driving alone, vanpools may not come to mind. At first brush, you might consider bus, train, carpool or even biking or walking.

I’ll say to you that Vanpools are a viable option for commuting. Below I discuss the benefits of vanpooling including: cost reduction, stress relief and convenience. Also, I will provide some basic steps in starting a vanpool.

drawing of vanReduce Costs

Everyone is interested in reducing the cost of one’s commute. Research has shown that riding in a vanpool can save you 40-75% of the cost of driving your own car. By eliminating the solo commute to work each day, a vanpooler saves money on gas, maintenance, insurance, oil and tires.

And don’t forget that vanpools can save the wear and tear on your own car. Vanpools may further save you money on fewer car repairs and reduce the likelihood  of needing to purchase another car in the immediate future.

Less delay

Vanpools can use the High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes which will save time during your commute and they can use High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes without having to pay a toll. Additionally, when you let someone else drive to and from work, you can use the free time to work (Many vans provide Wi-Fi.), sleep, read, or simply relax. Plus, your employer may offer a special parking location for your vanpool.

Reduces stress

Then there is the stress factor. This is especially the case in heavily metropolitan areas where the pressure to get ahead to support your family and your livelihood can stress you out. What could be better than making your commute to work much less stressful so you are refreshed and ready to tackle your day when you get there? Ask any vanpool user and they will tell you that the time they spend on their commute both to work and home, is so much more relaxing.

Helps our environment

Of interest to our future generations, and to us too, are the benefits to the environment. An average commute of 50 round-trip miles in a 15-passenger van takes 14 cars of the road and eliminates the emission of over 40 pounds of pollutants into the air, each day. Oh, I can breathe again!

More convenient

It is no secret that vanpools can be flexible and convenient. Some vanpool arrangements allow commuters to be picked up at their home, while others may pick-up and drop-off commuters at Park’n’Ride lots allowing the commuters to run errands after work.

More interaction

Many in urban and suburban environments suffer from the feeling of loneliness and isolation. Being in a vanpool can help you get to know your neighbors and co-workers. More and more stories can be shared the longer the vanpool group has been together. Great way to share both your happy moments and your sad moments.

Reduce congestion

But important to me is how vanpools reduce congestion on our nations’ roads. Basic math tells you that when you add more vanpools on the road, the number of cars on the road decrease exponentially. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion and less time a commuter has to sit in his or her car. This could be the advantage vanpools have over carpools.

I came across an interesting analysis, from Seattle Washington, of how effective vanpools can be in reducing congestion. If you have 100 commuters and 50 of them drive alone and 50 drive in two people carpools, there are 25 less cars on the road than if all 100 commuters drove alone.

Now move all those carpoolers into five-person vanpools. There are still 50 people driving alone, so the drive-alone rate remains at 50 percent. But instead of 75 cars on the road, now there are only 60. With five people per van, the vanpools have freed up a significant amount of road space, although it may not show up in the stats.

So now I have convinced you to consider vanpools, now how does one go about finding out more about vanpools. Well, it could work this way:

  1. Check with your employer to see if a vanpool program has already been set-up.
  2. Also check with your employer on what type/if any transit subsidy is being offered by your company
  3. Contact your local transportation Department and see if they have a commuter assistance program. If they don’t, contact your regional planning agency
  4. Submit your name to the various agencies that are available for administering vanpool programs.
  5. Inquire if a commute-criteria could be run to help identify other vanpool prospects. Some agencies may have the capability as well as some of the private vanpool providers such as Enterprise.
  6. Once seven or more people are identified for the vanpool, the agency will match the group with an appropriate vendor.
  7. Work with local agency to apply for Van Start/Van Save funding administered through your state.

So, what’s stopping you now? Talk to your neighbors and co-workers and set up a vanpool. To no surprise, the hardest part in moving forward on something like this are the first steps. But once you find the people to share a van and you know the costs and financial incentives that are available, the whole process can move forward quickly. When you are riding in your vanpool, you will wonder why you waited so long.

Here are some resources you may want to use to get the ball rolling, or the van rolling:

RideshareOnline.com managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation

TeamRideFinders in Central Virginia

San Luis Obispo Rideshare

Commute with Enterprise

Vanpool Alliance in Woodbridge, VA

VanGo in Colorado State University

Job Links EmploymentTransportation Center

Vanpool Advantages

Commuter Connection in Washington DC

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.





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