Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Save the earth. It’s easy! You don’t have to actually do anything.

These data were particularly distressing, if not surprising:
Green Teens
While the millennial generation — born after 1978 — is the most passionate and educated about environmental issues, its members lack steadfast commitment. The Generate research firm conducted a marketing poll targeting teens, tweens, and young adults. It found that 74% of young people believe they can save the Earth. On the other hand, they could generally be swayed away from “green” purchases and solutions when presented with more convenient options, lower prices, and simpler solutions. The research found that 71% of teens (ages 13-17) surveyed would be tempted to choose a less expensive product over one that gave back to the environment.
From the GDUSA Green Newsletter, May 2009

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Top 5+1



The Making of Little Big Planet
Alex Evans, Co-Founder of developer Media Molecule, visited the Wired Store to talk about the creative process that led to the making of Little Big Planet, and the way the game has unleashed the creativity of players.



Christoph Niemann on coffee
Pretty funny; I had a similar late start at drinking coffee, although I’ve always been a caffeine fiend. You should spend some time perusing his excellent illustration portfolio, especially Gallery 6.



Chip Kidd
Chip Kidd is possibly the best modern designer of book covers. He’s prolific and I’m sure you’ll recognize at least a couple of the covers in this short profile video.



Smudge
A reality check. They’ve got a great website. This should be an interesting campaign to watch.



Please Don’t Divorce Us
Proposition 8 was a travesty that makes me ashamed to be a Californian. If you don’t know any families who are affected by this, it may be difficult to imagine what it feels like to have your human rights infringed on this way. The Courage Campaign’s community photo pool on Flickr attempts to put a human face on the controversy with moving portraits of those affected by Prop 8. Please consider a donation to the Courage Campaign.



Watch out Microsoft, here comes the iTable
It’s not a Mac and it doesn’t run OS X (it runs WindowsXP, meh) but it’s a lot less expensive than Microsoft’s Surface.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

2008 charitable giving

In 2007, Velma and I supported worthy causes with a little over 2% of our annual income (here’s the list of charities we supported in 2007). We made a goal of trying to increase that over the next few years to 5%.

Although I took off most of 2008 from paid work, we decided we didn’t want to slacken our efforts to donate to charity. After all, we’re financially pretty stable, we don’t have any debt except for Velma’s student loans, and most importantly, the necessary work done by charitable organizations doesn’t stop just because our income lessened this year.

Since we haven’t done our taxes yet, I’m not sure how much we increased our giving this year, but considering we’re giving to 18 of the organizations we gave to last year, plus we’ve added 16 new ones, I think we’re probably a lot closer to our 5% goal.

An experiment: Our do-not-mail policy
Fed up with the amount of solicitations we were receiving every month, in 2007 we sent letters along with most of our donations, asking charities to stop sending us mail. We spelled out exactly what was allowable and what wasn’t, and we made it clear our continued financial support was riding on their compliance. We decided to keep all the mail we’d receive throughout the year, and see who followed our instruction and who didn’t.

We are happy to report that the majority or our chosen nonprofits sent us no mail whatsoever, or only sent us what we asked for (we made exceptions for a few newsletters we wished to receive).

In December, we tallied up the results and assigned grades to each charity, based on their compliance (note: these grades have nothing to do with performance relating to their organizational missions; we considered that separately).

2008 scorecard
These are the organizations we supported in 2007 and 2008. Most of them received a letter with our check, thanking them for following our request and explaining that our continued support is conditional on them sending us no mail in 2009. We made a few exceptions for some of the orgs whose newsletters we like to receive, and we tell them all they can send us one (but not numerous) renewal notice when our membership expires.

Here are the orgs and their 2008 grades:



American Civil Liberties Union
The ACLU fights to protect the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights, a document that's in more peril seemingly every year. They are campaigning to close Guantánamo, working against HIV/AIDS discrimination, to reform discriminatory drug laws, and more.

Grade: The ACLU got a C because they sent us more mail than we’d asked for in 2008. We considered dropping them from our ongoing support, but instead decided to give them another chance and sent them a donation with a new letter, again explicitly asking them to send us no mail. Update: On December 31, while I was compiling this list, an ACLU canvasser showed up at our door. Even after I told her three times we’d just sent them a nice, fat check, she kept pushing for a donation. After that, I had to fight the inclination to give them an even lower score. Sheesh.



Amnesty International USA
Most people know a little about Amnesty International, but did you know how broad their focus really is, and how many worthwhile campaigns they have? Human rights violations in China, protection of refugees, corporate accountability, prisoners of conscience, and the crisis in Darfur are among their many campaigns.

Grade: AI got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Committee for Green Foothills
CGF is one of our favorite environmental organizations, in part because Velma used to work there and because Mark designed their logo and website. But mostly it’s because they have a 40+ year history of successful grassroots citizen campaigning to keep the farmlands, open space, and hills of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties from being over-developed. If it hadn’t been for CGF’s work over the past four decades, the South Bay and Peninsula would look more like the LA basin today.

Grade: CGF didn’t get scored this year because we never sent them our do-not-mail letter in 2007. However, they got one this December, and we’ll be watching them to see how they fare.



Earth First! Journal
Mario Savio, on the steps of Sproul Hall, said, “There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can't even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

When the law won’t fix the problem, Earth First!ers put their bodies on the line to stop the destruction. Some of the Earth First!ers I’ve met were the bravest, most noble people I’ve ever known.

Grade: The EF! Journal got a B+ this year for only sending us one plea for a donation when their funds had run dangerously low.



Earthjustice
Earthjustice began as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and has provided legal assistance on environmental issues for almost 40 years, representing citizens groups, nonprofits, scientists, and others. “Environmental litigation has been key to preserving threatened natural resources and protecting people’s environmental rights. Lawsuits have protected millions of acres of wilderness and hundreds of endangered species. They have helped improve air and water quality and have forced polluting companies to clean up their discharges.” And I love their slogan: “Because the earth needs a good lawyer.”

Grade: Earthjustice got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Electronic Frontier Foundation
The EFF uses advocacy and lawsuits to preserve free speech rights in the context of today’s digital age. Among its many activities, EFF has participated in lawsuits in support of the college students who published information about the major security flaws in Diebold Election Systems, and against corporate and government infringement of the First Amendment rights of individuals, artists, journalists, bloggers, and others.

Grade: EFF got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Environmental Protection Information Center
The Environmental Protection Information Center has fought for the North Coast in the courts for years. Headwaters Grove probably wouldn't be standing today if it hadn't been for organizations like EPIC.

Grade: EPIC got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Good magazine
Good is a magazine, a website, and a collaboration of people, nonprofits, and businesses who give a damn. I enjoy its’ focus and coverage a lot, and I even love looking at it, as it’s very well designed.

Update: When you subscribe, Good lets you choose a nonprofit to support, and that nonprofit gets 100% of your subscription fee. Last year I chose 826 National, which is the umbrella for 826 Valencia (also known as the Pirate Store) in my neighborhood. Many people who have been to the Pirate Store don’t realize it’s actually a nonprofit that teaches students creative writing skills.

Grade: Good got an A+ in 2008. We received the magazine of course, but no solicitations other than the normal renewal statements.



A Permanent Mark (and Film Arts Foundation)
A Permanent Mark is a documentary film being made by our friend Holly Million about the effects of Agent Orange on Americans and Vietnamese who were exposed during and since the Vietnam War. The Film Arts Foundation is an independent media arts training facility and acts as Holly’s fiduciary agent for contributions to the documentary.

Grade: We didn’t assign a score here because we never sent Holly or Film Arts our do-not-mail letter.



KQED
We donated quite a bit to KQED in 2006, 2007, and 2008, so we were pretty disappointed that they didn’t follow our do-not-mail request. Especially since we listen to KQED FM every day, and we love the programming a lot.

We love KQED so much that we decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves. In December we sent a letter to KQED’s development director, explaining that our request was ignored and asking for a personal note assuring us that it would be followed in 2009, in return for which we would gladly send them a check. To bolster our point, we enclosed all the mail they sent us in 2008. It’s only been a few days since I sent the letter, but I’ll post an update here if we get a response.

Grade: KQED failed with a D. Of the three organizations that utterly failed to follow our do-not-mail policy, KQED was the second worst offender, sending us many renewal notices and multiple requests for upgrade donations.

Update Dec. 31: We received a very prompt, hand-addressed letter from KQED’s chief development officer, to whom we addressed our letter. She was very good about explaining what steps would be followed to complete our request: They would “code your account in our computer system to just send you one renewal request and the occasional invitation to an event” (which is exactly what we asked for), and “merge your two accounts...so the renewal request you receive in the future (next year) will be addressed to both of you” (since Velma and I apparently had separate accounts in KQED’s system). She also included a few facts about KQED’s efforts toward sustainability (she said they have been carbon-neutral for two years and recently installed solar panels on their building), and, of course, she apologized for the confusion. I was very satisfied with her response and we were happy to send their check in the next day’s mail. If all goes well in 2009, KQED should get high marks next December/January.



National Public Radio
Even though we support three local radio stations around the U.S., I love NPR’s programming enough to send them a separate donation. Shows like “All Things Considered,” “Car Talk,” “Fresh Air,” “Marketplace,” “Talk of the Nation,” and “Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!” keep Velma and I both stimulated and entertained.

I just wish they had a better T-shirt so I could get one for our donation : )

Grade: NPR got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Northcoast Environmental Center
I really love the NEC and try to visit when I go to Humboldt County. They do fantastic education and grassroots work on all sorts of environmental issues, from species, watershed, and forestry advocacy to organizing the local Coastal Clean-Up events. Plus they present a local radio show, the “Econews Report,” and publish one of my favorite monthly newspapers, the Econews.

Grade: The NEC got a B- for two reasons: They sent a bit more mail than I’d prefer, but more importantly, they messed up our names on all our mailing labels last year and it took them several reminders before they got it right.



Pachamama Alliance
Pachamama Alliance works with the Achuar, an indigenous group living in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, to develop a sustainability and economic plan that will protect and manage the two million acres of their tropical rainforest territory.

Grade: Pachamama Alliance got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood is a vital resource in a country that’s incredibly backward about sexuality and where most people are hopelessly uninformed and misinformed about health and reproductive issues. They provide health and sexuality info to teens, women, and men, contraception, HIV/STD tests, pregnancy tests, and much more.

Grade: Sadly, Planned Parenthood got an F for sending us too much unwanted mail in 2008. Velma decided they didn’t get a second chance. We sent their development director a letter explaining the reason why, and telling them we were switching our support to NOW for 2009. Let’s hope it makes an impression and starts some internal discussion about donor requests.



Save the Redwoods League
Velma may work there, but that doesn’t stop us from giving them money. Save the Redwoods League was founded 90 years ago to acquire and protect what’s left of the redwoods. You probably think there are a lot of redwoods left. If it hadn’t been for SRL’s work over the last 90 years, there wouldn’t be any. Most of the redwoods in state and federal parks were originally bought by SRL and transferred to public ownership.

Grade: We didn’t assign SRL a score, since we never sent them our do-not-mail letter. They have an interesting policy, however, of not sending mail to any of their staff.



Trees Foundation
Trees is an umbrella support group for scores of small and medium regional groups in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. They offer centralized support services for their member organizations, including GIS, marketing, fundraising, computer repair and tech support, web development, and graphic design. Our pal Scott Lamorte works there.

Grade: Trees got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and “This American Life”
This has been my absolute favorite radio program for years now, and I hate missing even one episode. While we listen to it on KQED, I feel strongly enough about the show to support it with a direct donation each year.

Grade: WBEZ and “This American Life” got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.



WNYC and “On The Media”
“On The Media” is my other favorite radio program, airing Sundays on KQED. Like NPR, WNYC creates a bunch of other great programming (“Radio Lab,” “Soundcheck,” and “Studio 360”) and I feel strongly enough about those shows and especially “On The Media” to send them a direct donation each year.

Grade: WNYC got a D grade as one of the worst offenders in 2008, sending us multiple donation requests and other such junk. Like KQED, they got a letter explaining that our prior do-not-mail request was ignored and asking for a personal note assuring us that it would be followed in 2009, in return for which we would gladly send them each a check. We also enclosed all the mail they sent us in 2008. We have yet to receive a response.



Wikimedia Foundation
Wikipedia is truly one of the world’s greatest resources, and truly one of the world’s greatest ideas. I use it almost every day, and even though the slogan is “free knowledge for everyone,” last year I decided we should pay for the privilege with a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Grade: Wikimedia got an A+ in 2008 for not sending us even a single piece of mail.


Conclusions
Our do-not-mail request may seem somewhat pretentious to some: How dare we expect nonprofits to cater to our whims? They’re not set up for special cases, their systems and databases just spit out automated lists and mailing labels.

True enough, too few nonprofits are set up to make exceptions for donors who ask for “special treatment.” However, I suggest that there are several strong reasons why more nonprofits should take the few small, easy steps to allow for such donor requests as our do-not-mail policy. And before the harrumphs start coming from the gallery, let me remind you that Velma and I speak from a position of significant experience in how nonprofit fundraising works. Velma was development director for a nonprofit for 2.5 years, and I was a board member for another nonprofit, including a year as chair of the development committee and several years as one of the the primary liaisons between the organization and its members.

Now, let us address some of the reasons why nonprofits should take seriously special requests such as ours...

It’s not rocket science, and we’re paying them to do it
Nonprofits aren’t stupid, they send out a lot of appeals because it works: It gets them donations. However, most nonprofits know that taking care of their donors also yields results too. Just like a for-profit corporation can build brand loyalty with consumers, a nonprofit that really listens to the requests of its members can count on that donor probably giving continually, and probably increasing their donations over time.

Velma and I communicate this to the nonprofits we support. Our year-end letters, sent with our checks, explicitly praised those organizations that followed our request of the previous year, explaining that was part of the reason we were sending another check. And in most cases, each of those nonprofits got more from us this year than last year. Those that didn’t follow our instructions got an explanation as well, with the hope that it would serve as impetus for a change in the organizations’ behavior, or at least would elicit some internal discussion.

When I worked at Acterra and served on the board, we used a Filemaker Pro database for our donor/membership list. In it we had fields for all kinds of information about each individual or family, like which of our programs they liked to support, how long they’d been members, who their contacts were on the board and staff, and many more. We also had checkboxes for “No mail,” “No newsletter,” “No phone calls,” and “No email.” Hundreds of members preferred to get their news from us via email, so the only time we would mail those people would be once a year, to tell them their membership was expiring.

Let’s face it, any organization can add a new field to their database. And if they can’t or won’t, I’m not inclined to send money to the lazy or incompetent. And just to be clear, it’s not piddling change we’re sending these nonprofits. All of the orgs Velma and I support yearly get between $50 and $500 from us, with most of them above $100. If an organization thinks our $50 or $100 isn’t worth a half-hour of their time to make a minor change to their database, I’m of the opinion that organization’s staff is overpaid already, and they obviously no longer need our money.

It’s better for the environment, and it saves them money
Many of the worst offenders sending out tons of junk mail are environmental organizations. I have declined to support the Sierra Club for years because they send so much junk mail. And worse yet, their mailings always contain things that are difficult or downright impossible to recycle! How many of those static stickers can I use? I like a lot of things about the Sierra Club, but I detest the hypocrisy displayed by their membership department.

Let’s consider the cradle-to-cradle cost of a typical year’s worth of mailings: First, paper must be made, so that’s forests cut down. Even if it’s partly recycled content, it’s never 100% recycled, and therefore some virgin pulp must be manufactured (BAA and Acterra were the only organizations I’ve ever known to have a policy of always using 100% recycled or tree-free paper for their mailings; and guess who urged the boards to pass those policies?).

Then there’s the bleaching of the paper (highly toxic and highly polluting to air and water). Then it must be trucked from a mill halfway across the country to a city. Then it’s trucked from the paper distributor to the printing company (diesel fumes are highly toxic). Then there’s the printing of the letters, calendars, newsletters, envelopes, etc. (the printing industry uses many toxic solvents et al).

Then all those mailings get sent out in all directions, to probably tens of thousands of households all over the country. That’s a lot of planes, trains, and US Postal Service trucks trundling around (more fuel consumption, more air pollution) to deliver little individual pieces of junk mail to various mailboxes.

And what happens to it all? Over 95% goes in the recycling bin, or more likely the trash.

Of course, the alternative is a lot less wasteful of oil, energy, and natural resources: By checking a little box in their database entry for Mark & Velma, all those nonprofits can prevent a lot of waste and pollution, and they even save the cost of printing and postage!




New charities
Along with the above charities which we decided to continue supporting from 2007 through 2008, we decided to support a few new ones last year. Below are the new causes we supported in 2008. They also received a letter instructing them to not send us mail in 2009. I’ll be sure to write an update about how our continuing experiment goes at the end of 2009.



American Institute of Graphic Arts
The AIGA is America’s premier organization advocating for the rights of artists, participating in critical analysis, and advancing education and ethical practices. I decided this year to renew my long lapsed membership.

California Academy of Sciences
The old Cal Academy was one of the coolest places we’d go on field trips back in elementary school. Early in 2008 Velma acquired a family membership for us and we were among those members who got a sneak peek the week before the new facility opened in September. While I was disappointed that the two-headed snake has long since expired, nothing else disappointed. Quite the opposite.

Clean Water Action
Clean Water Action is a national organization that utilizes policy research, political advocacy, and grassroots organizing to enact environmental protections and hold elected officials accountable to the public.

Courage Campaign
The Courage Campaign is one of two nonprofits we chose to support because of our outrage over California’s unconscionable assault on marriage equality.

Democratic National Committee
When a canvasser came to the door early in the campaign season, I was reluctant to give anything to the DNC. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, and frankly I think both parties screw up pretty bad often enough. Plus I was still pissed about how poorly the DNC handled the 2004 election. Velma, however, gave the canvasser some money. I told him I’d think about donating to the DNC after I’d done some research. Many months later, I surprised myself by being impressed enough to support the DNC.

Environment California
I was impressed enough with this canvasser to give them some money.

Equality California
Equality California is the other nonprofit we chose to support because of Prop 8.

Global Lives Project
This nonprofit was founded by former BAA Schools Group member David Evan Harris. It’s an interesting video and art project that will bring viewers in contact with a taste of the diversity of the globe.

MoveOn.org
Velma donated to get me a Barack Obama T-shirt as a gift. I approve of MoveOn, especially some of their video/commercial campaigns, but I’m a little sick of getting so many emails.

National Organization for Women
Velma Decided we should switch out support to NOW since Planned Parenthood sent us so much unwanted mail in 2008 and we still wanted to contribute to a charity that works on reproductive rights.

Obama campaign
What else can we say? Barack got a few more bucks for his campaign, Velma got a T-shirt.

PlayPumps International
Kids play, water pumps! If you saw our Holiday 2008 Gift for Friends & Family, you already know about this innovative organization working to bring clean water to over 4,000 villages in Africa.

San Francisco Women Against Rape
SFWAR provides resources, support, advocacy, and education to strengthen the work of all individuals and communities in San Francisco that are responding to, healing from, and struggling to end sexual violence.

Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it, and good for the planet.

Tuolumne River Trust
The Tuolumne River Trust promotes the stewardship of the Tuolumne River and its tributaries. Most people don’t realize that much of our water in the Bay Area comes from the Tuolumne. Our pal Peter Drekmeier works at this org.

Women’s Temple
Women’s Temple is a place where women believe in the healing powers of coming together and sharing the wisdom of their embodied spirits with each other. Velma was one of the organizers who took Women’s Temple to Burning Man in 2004.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who’s been naughty this year in the direct mail industry?

ForestEthics has released its annual Naughty/Nice List, their report on the direct mail industry and who’s been playing nice in the past year (phasing out their print catalogs, for example), and who’s been naughty (being secretive about the source of their paper, for example).

If you shop at or receive catalogs from any of these companies, you may want to download the 2-page PDF:
  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Bloomingdales
  • Capital One
  • Chase Bank
  • Citi
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Dell
  • Eddie Bauer
  • HSBC
  • JC Penney
  • L.L. Bean
  • Land’s End
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Patagonia
  • REI
  • Sears
  • Timberland
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Williams-Sonoma

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peace One Day

Through LinkedIn I learned that BAA Schools Group alum Megan O’Grady Greene is working for London-based nonprofit Peace One Day.

From the website: “In 1999 filmmaker Jeremy Gilley decided to try and establish the first ever Day of Peace with a fixed calendar date. In September 2001 the Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first-ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence — Peace Day, 21 September.”



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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Top 5



Jetpack Dreams
Trailer for a book.



Shatner–Hasselhoff ’08
I shoulda voted for these guys instead.



Interesting ad for a bank
Featuring treesitters.



Imapatient Texas cop tazes a woman in 45 seconds
Is he a bigot, a bad cop, or just having a bad day? Trick question. Those attributes are not mutually exclusive. Yet another example of why people distrust cops.



Funny Graduation Musical Speech
I wish the speech at my graduation had been half as creative as this.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Notes from AIGA Compostmodern 2007 (part 2)

Last January I attended Compostmodern 2008, a green design conference presented by the AIGA SF.

I’ve already written about Boisset Family Estates and DeLoach Wines (“The environmental impact of the wine industry”), and CleanWell hand sanitizer and soap (“An alternative to normal antibacterial soaps”) (which I use and heartily endorse), but I hadn’t had time to write up some of my other notes and impressions.

My pocket journal (an ultra-thin Moleskine) is where I jot down such things while I’m out and about. My electronic journal (this here blog yer lookin’ at) is where I save those things for posterity, and share them with others. So here are a few ideas I heard speakers talking about, which made impressions on me:

Self-Indulgent Design
Designers practicing “self-indulgent design” is equal to driving a Hummer. Examples: Elaborate, unnecessarily long brochures, annual reports, and the like which often contain just three words per page and use fluorescent or metallic inks, plastic sleeves, and other wasteful and nearly impossible to recycle materials.

Low Rate of Paper Recycling
Still only 50% of paper is collected for recycling, and whether all of that actually gets recycled or not is another story. Yet 35% of the waste going to landfills is still paper! C’mon people! I can hardly believe that it’s still so difficult for people to just have two separate containers near their desk, and to be mindful of which one gets garbage and which one gets paper. This is not rocket science. A child can do it. And often, children do it way better than adults.

Electronic Design is Wasteful Too
One big eye-opener for me was something I already knew, but that I hadn’t really processed completely (or maybe I just didn’t want to admit it to myself): Web designers aren’t really polluting and wasting less than print designers. We think of the web and electronic design as a more pure and less wasteful design process, bypassing the pesky problem of deforestation for the pulping of our paper and the nasty chemicals used in the printing process. But in fact, always-on web servers and storage for videos, PDFs, and other files is not free. Servers = energy consumption = oil drilling, coal burning, even *yikes* nuclear energy (and waste). And let’s not forget that servers and hard drives go bad within a few years, all those cellphones and other nifty electronic devices we’re designing iApps for become some Third World country’s e-waste problem (and those countries’ poverty, environmental, and health problems eventually become our problem).

And here are a few links to things I heard about or saw at the conference:

LetsGreenwashThisCity.org
PG&E started a huge publicity campaign a year or so ago under the laudable banner of “Let’s Green This City.” A group of citizens has formed the Green Guerrillas Against Greenwash to unmask the $10 million publicity campaign as mere greenwashing, and offers San Franciscans an alternative in the form of Proposition H.

PaperSpecs.com
An independent (not owned or sponsored by any paper companies) database of information that designers and printers can use to specify paper stocks. It’s a paid service ($19.95/mo. or $158.40/yr.), and I haven’t paid for it, so I don’t know how good it is. They have some free paper, printing, and environmental information available too, but you can’t access the paper database without paying for membership.

Encyclopedia of Life
EOL.org is a new project that intends to harness crowdsourcing techniques to create a vast online resource of information about the Earth’s 1.8 million known species.

The Designers Accord
“A global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact.” I joined earlier this year.

Core77 / BusinessWeek Design Directory
I’d seen DesignDirectory.com a couple times before, but hadn’t bothered to list myself until this year. In participation with the Designers Accord, you can search the directory exclusively for firms/individuals who have certified that they’ve adopted the accord.

Freedom of the Press
In the gallery I observed a single display copy of Freedom of the Press, a newsprint publication by Brian Ponto and Lindsay Ballant. In excellent culture-jamming style, in 2004 they commandeered newspaper racks in New York and inserted their own newspaper with stark observations on American politics and how Americans get their news.

CheatNeutral.com
A satirical nod acknowledging how many people (including me) view carbon trading: “Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.”

Compostmodern 2009
Saturday, February 21
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lolita Lebrón and others attack congress

No other woman in the Hemisphere has been in prison on such charges for so long a period [as Lolita Lebrón]; a fact which Communist critics of your human rights policy are fond of pointing out.
– National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a secret memo to President Jimmy Carter in 1979

When early American revolutionaries chanted, “Give me liberty or give me death” and complained of having but one life to give for their country, they became the heroes of our history textbooks. But, thanks to the power of the U.S. media and education industries, the Puerto Rican nationalists who dedicated their lives to independence are known as criminals, fanatics, and assassins.

On March 1, 1954, in the gallery of the House of Representatives, Congressman Charles A. Halleck rose to discuss with his colleagues the issue of Puerto Rico. At that moment, Lolita Lebrón (b. 1919), alongside three fellow freedom fighters, having purchased a one-way train ticket from New York (they expected to be killed), unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and shouted “Free Puerto Rico!” before firing eight shots at the roof. Her three male co-conspirators aimed their machine guns at the legislators. Andrés Figueroa’s gun jammed, but shots fired by Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irving Flores injured five congressmen.

“I know that the shots I fired neither killed nor wounded anyone,” Lebrón stated afterwards, but with the attack being viewed through the sensationalizing prism of American tabloid journalism, this did not matter. She and her cohorts became prisoners of war for the next 25 years.

Why prisoners of war? To answer that, we must recall that since July 25, 1898, when the United States illegally invaded its tropical neighbor under the auspices of the Spanish–American War, the island has been maintained as a colony. In other words, the planet’s oldest colony is being held by its oldest representative democracy — with U.S. citizenship imposed without the consent or approval of the indigenous population in 1917. It is from this geographical paradox that the Puerto Rican independence movement sprang forth.

This movement is based firmly on international law, which authorizes “anti-colonial combatants” the right to armed struggle to throw off the yoke of imperialism and gain independence. UN General Assembly Resolution 33/24 of December 1978 recognizes “the legitimacy of the struggle of the peoples for independence, teritorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination and foreign occupation by all means available, particularly armed struggle.”

Prison did not dampen Lebrón’s revolutionary spirit as she attended demonstrations and spoke out to help win the long battle to eject the U.S. Navy from the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003.

[From the book 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know, by Mickey Z and Disinformation]

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Urge Sierra Pacific to be a better corporate citizen



Sierra Pacific Industries plans to cut down a million acres of California's forests in the next 50 years. SPI is one of the biggest landowners in California and owns most of the forest lands in the Sierra. Our forests are not all parks, like most American believe.

SPI has one of the worst environmental records of California's logging companies due to its years of clearcutting practices and steadfast resistance to adopting to a more sustainable forestry model.

ForestEthics is applying pressure to Sierra Pacific and you can help.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Battle In Seattle



Next month will see the debut of an independent film about the 1999 demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle. The movie looks like it will be pretty good, not the average Hollywood tale in which the “terrorists” all have foreign accents. Independent director Stuart Townsend has taken pains to present the story from many points of view, including lead characters from amongst the protesters, the media, the police, and the general Seattle citizenry who got caught up in something they didn’t understand.

While the the film’s official site features the normal marketing pieces about the cast, et al, it also features three very personal and extremely interesting short clips in which Townsend talks about his impetus to write and make this movie. Even more interestingly, the site features a great deal of information about the issues the demonstrators were trying to bring to light (see screenshot below).



There’s even a separate site, Who Controls the World?, which acts as sort of a historical archive of the 1999 protests, featuring short video interviews with protest organizers and participants, a day-by-day timeline, participant memories, and much more about the pitfalls of globalization.

The film opens September 19 in San Francisco and a few other cities. For a higher quality version of the trailer, go to Apple.com. IMDB entry for Battle in Seattle.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Free the Airwaves

Remember on old TVs how, when you used to switch from channel 5 to 7 (for example), there might be static on channel 6? Those unused spaces on the analog broadcast spectrum are called “white spaces.”

Currently more than half of the spectrum is unused. When TV broadcasters go fully digital-spectrum next year and discontinue their analog broadcasts altogether, there will be a lot more. A coalition including Google, Microsoft, Dell, and others, is asking the U.S. government to turn over white spaces to public use (broadcast spectrum is, after all, a legally recognized public resource). It could be used for better public access to wifi, Internet telephony, and many other things.

While the technology companies that are part of this coalition arguably stand to gain much from this, a variety of public advocacy groups and think-tanks are advocating for public access to white spaces too (Free Press, Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Wireless Innovation Alliance).

I predict this fight will get nasty when many other companies realize they stand to lose a lot too. Expect the traditional and cellular phone companies, for example, to form a similar coalition on the other side, lobbying Congress for strict licensing and fees which would effectively lock out public access the same way licensing has kept citizens from broadcasting their own TV or radio stations.

For more information, and to sign a petition, visit Free the Airwaves.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

BushCo is trying to outlaw contraception, without congressional approval

From MoveOn:

Can you imagine living in a place where birth control is considered an “abortion” and health insurers won’t cover it? Where even rape victims are denied emergency contraception?

It seems unbelievable, but the Bush Administration is quietly trying to redefine “abortion” to include birth control. This could wipe out dozens of state laws that protect women’s reproductive freedom and protect rape victims. Access to basic health care for millions of women would be jeopardized. And it’s being pushed as a “rule change,” meaning: it doesn't need congressional approval.

Here’s what some others are saying about this proposal:
  • “The draft regulation would define birth control as abortion...it could deny access to critical family planning for women across the country.” [source: Letter signed by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and 26 other senators]
  • “The draft rule could void laws in 27 states that require insurance companies to provide birth control coverage for women requesting it [and] laws in 14 states requiring that rape victims receive counseling and access to emergency, day-after contraceptives.” [source: Houston Chronicle editorial]
  • “The administration needs to stop playing word games with women’s health and state clearly they will reject any regulations that will undermine women’s access to basic health care.” [source: Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.]
  • “The birth control pill, the IUD, and emergency contraception might all become unavailable — illegal — as a result.” [source: Brigid Riley, executive director of a Minnesota teen pregnancy prevention organization]
Do something: Sign the petition.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hey "New York's finest," don't forget: You work for us

On July 25 a New York City rookie cop assaulted a bicyclist participating in a Critical Mass ride. According to the New York Times, Officer Patrick Pogan has sworn a statement that the cyclist, Christopher Long, rode straight at him. Clearly, the video (seen below) shows another story. Meanwhile, Long has been charged with attempted assault of a police officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.



This is why cops get a bad name. This is why people hate cops. The New York City Police Department needs a reality check. Perhaps forcibly making all officers learn the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights might help. Protest is not a crime. Bicycling is not a criminal activity. Assaulting a protester is a crime.

Hiring rookie cops who have anger management problems, gigantic chips on their shoulders, and the barest possible understanding of the concept of civil rights should be a crime, and the bureaucrats that do it should be put in jail.

Here's a second video that shows some of the tactics (and incompetence) of the NYPD in dealing with Critical Mass.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Requiem For A Day Off
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, trailer remix.



InfoMania
I really like this half-hour weekly media program on Current.com. [via Ynnej]
www.current.com/topics/76254712_infomania

The right way to cook bacon
www.chow.com/stories/11089

"Green" graffiti makes paint-free protests
Photo gallery of culture jamming and graffiti techniques that don't rely on spray-paint.
news.cnet.com/2300-13838_3-6242898-1.html

MIT Bunny Letter Opener
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZBHZT3a-FA

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The girl effect

“70% of the world's out-of-school children are girls. Girls deserve better. They deserve quality education and the safe environments and support that allow them to get to school on time and stay there through adolescence.”
www.girleffect.org



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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Junk mailers pay less for postage than you do – a lot less

While individuals now pay 42¢ to mail a regular letter, direct mail marketers have once again been granted a much lower rate by the government bureaucrats who make up the rules. It costs just as little as 14¢ to mail one of those credit card offers you got twelve of yesterday.

ForestEthics.org believes junk mailers shouldn't be rewarded for invading our privacy and destroying the environment. Less than 10% of Canada’s Boreal Forest is protected. It is being logged at a rate of 2 acres a minute, 24 hours a day, to make things like catalogs and junk mail.

The Do Not Mail campaign has collected over 40,000 signatures since March. If you haven't made your voice heard yet, do it now.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tell politicians we need a Do Not Mail Registry

Unless you're a big fan of junk mail (I suppose there's someone out there like that) you may want to sign ForestEthics' petition to create a Do No Mail Registry that would work like the existing Do Not Call Registry.

An astonishing 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered in the U.S. each year, accounting for one-third of all the mail delivered in the world (!).

And guess whose forests are being cut down to make all that crap you just throw away?

Learn more...

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Is Apple improving its environmental record, or is it just spin?

Did anyone else notice that Steve Jobs actually made it a point, albeit briefly, to talk about Apple's environmental goals at his MacWorld keynote last month?



When I was checking out the specs for the new MacBook Air on the Apple website I was astonished to see on the Tech Specs page, a big, bold box labeled Environmental Status Report.




A short while later I went looking for Apple's page on their environmental standards, which I had seen last year but wasn't sure where to find it since they've redesigned their site in the meantime. I went to the home page of Apple.com and figured I'd have to click on "Site Map" and then look for the link there, but I was surprised to see an "Environment" link at the bottom of the home page, right next to "Job Opportunities."



It all made me wonder whether Apple is beginning to do a better job with their product designs, or whether it's just their marketing department that's doing a better job with spin.



As I mentioned here a couple years ago, Greenpeace has been critical of Apple, citing the company as the 4th worst tech firm in 2006 and launching the Green My Apple campaign in 2007.

Likewise, in 2005 the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) launched it's Bad Apple campaign to criticize, among other things, the non-ubgradeability of the iPod and Apple's reluctance to institute a take-back solution for electronics recycling. (SVTC's campaign was itself criticized in a 2006 article on Roughly Drafted.)

I've been wondering if these two watchdog groups had been following Apple's progress and what their take was. Alas, the SVTC's website search sucks and Google doesn't seem to have even spidered their content (!), so I didn't find much there, although it seems that SVTC is still pushing Apple for shareholder resolutions that would improve its computer take-back efforts.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace seems to have discontinued its Green My Apple campaign after Steve Jobs issued a very public pronouncement last spring on a page titled "A Greener Apple," wherein he described the company's plans to, among other things, phase out some of the worst chemicals found in CRT monitors. I thought this was a little bit disingenuous on Apple's part, however, since it had been clear for a while that Apple was phasing out CRTs for business and product design reasons, not environmental ones. Jobs' letter also signaled improvements in e-waste reduction via upgrades to its electronics take-back program.

In a statement about Jobs' letter, Greenpeace said, "It's not everything we asked for. Apple has declared a phase-out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufactures' pledge to phase them out by 2009... But while customers in the US will be able to return their Apple products for recycling knowing that their gear won't end up in the e-waste mountains of Asia and India, Apple isn't making that promise to anyone but customers in the USA. Elsewhere in the world, an Apple product today can still be tomorrow's e-waste. Other manufacturers offer worldwide takeback and recycling. Apple should too!" [Full article]

Greenpeace also issued a detailed analysis of Jobs' pronouncement last May. Almost a year later, though, they don't seem to have put out a follow-up yet. I hope they will.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Corruptibles



Take action against the Broadcast Flag, Audio Flag, and Analog Hole.

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