10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media

This post is a collaboration between Mashable’s Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell‘s “10 Ways” series. The post is being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs.

summerofsocialgoodnew

Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That’s one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you’d like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

1. Write a Blog Post

Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days — whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you’re passionate about, you’re helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.

Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.

You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.

2. Share Stories with Friends

twitter-links

Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you’ve gathered a social network.

You’ll be doing charities you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.

3. Follow Charities on Social Networks

In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you’re increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.

Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it’s a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.

You can follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:

Oxfam America (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube)
The Humane Society (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr)
LIVESTRONG (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr)
WWF (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr)

4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs

change-wwf

Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like Change.org, Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.

It’s important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they’re another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you’ll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.

5. Find Volunteer Opportunities

Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and Idealist.org, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers.

For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out HelpInDisaster.org, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out DoSomething.org, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.

6. Embed a Widget on Your Site

Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.

Mashable’s Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.

7. Organize a Tweetup

You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that’s important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.

Be sure to check out Mashable’s guide to organizing a tweetup to make sure yours goes off without a hitch, or check to see if there are any tweetups in your area to attend that are already organized.

8. Express Yourself Using Video

As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like 12seconds.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.

Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac — the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.

If you’re more into watching videos than recording them, Givzy.com enables you to raise funds for charities like Unicef and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital by sharing viral videos by e-mail.

9. Sign or Start a Petition

twitition

There aren’t many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or PetitionOnline.com, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.

Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.

10. Organize an Online Event

Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized “tweet-a-thon” like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.

In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.

Bonus: Think Outside the Box

blamedrewscancerSocial media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew’s Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew’s cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.

Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.

The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.

Special thanks to VPS.net

vpsnet logoA special thanks to VPS.net, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.

Sign up at VPS.net and use the coupon code “SOSG”to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term. VPS.net honors a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee so there’s no risk.

About the “10 Ways” Series

The “10 Ways” Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.

This content was originally written by Mashable’s Josh Catone.

10 Ways to Change the World through Social Media

Citizen journalism, open government, status updates, community building, information sharing, crowdsourcing, and the election of a President.

Editor’s note: This is first guest post from Max Gladwell.

Our children will inherit a world profoundly changed by the combination of technology and humanity that is social media. They’ll take for granted that their voices can be heard and that a social movement can be launched from their laptop. They’ll take for granted that they are connected and interconnected with hundreds of millions of people at any given moment. And they’ll take for granted that a black man is or was President of the United States.

What’s most profound is that these represent parts of a greater whole. They represent a shift in power from centralized institutions and organizations to the People they represent. It is the evolution of democracy by way of technology, and we are all better for it.

For most of us, social media has changed our lives in some meaningful way. Collectively it is changing the world for good. Given the pace of innovation and adoption, change has become a constant. Every so often we find the need to stop and reflect on its most recent and noteworthy developments, hence the following list.

Please note this is not a top-10 list, nor are these listed in any particular order. It’s also incomplete. So we ask that you add to this conversation in the comments. If you’d like to Retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

1. Take Social Actions: The nonprofit organization Social Actions aggregates “opportunities to make a difference from over 50 online platforms” through its unique API. It recently held the Change the Web Challenge contest in order to inspire the most innovative applications for that API. The Social Actions Interactive Map won the $5,000 first prize. The result is a virtual tour of the world through the lens of social action. “People are volunteering, donating, signing petitions, making loans and doing other social actions as we speak — all over the world. To capture the context of the where, this project uses sophisticated techniques to extract location information from full text paragraphs.” You can also join the Social Actions Community, which is powered by Ning…which now boasts more than one million individual social networks.

2. Twitter with a Purpose: This list could be exclusive to Twitter. The micro-blogging sensation was featured on our first two lists (a three-tweet), and it’s certain to be a fixture. From Tweetsgiving, the virtual Thanksgiving feast, to the Twestival, which organized 202 off-line events around the world to benefit charity: water, it’s become the de facto tool for organizing and taking action. Tweet Congress won the SXSW activism award, and celebrity Tweeps Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Rose Tweeted their two million followers about ending malaria. Max Gladwell recently initiated the #EcoMonday follow meme as a way to connect and organize the Green Twittersphere.

3. Visit White House 2.0: Inside of its first 100 days, the Obama administration has managed to set the historic benchmark for government transparency and accountability. The President’s virtual town hall meeting used WhiteHouse.gov to crowdsource questions from his 300 million constituents, complete with voting to determine the ones he’d have to answer. All told, 97,937 people submitted 103,978 questions and cast 1,782,650 votes. The White House continues to raise the bar with its official Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter channels. In so doing President Obama is not just setting the standard for state and local government in the U.S. He’s establishing the world standard. The Obama administration is spreading democracy not by force but through example. Because you don’t have to be an American citizen to be a friend or follower of White House 2.0.

4. Claim your Zumbox: What happens when all mail can be sent and delivered online to any street address in a paperless form? That’s the big question for Zumbox, which has created an online mail system with a digital mailbox for every U.S. street address. And while the answer to that question remains to be seen, it promises to be as liberating as it is disruptive. A key quality for Zumbox is that it’s closed system much like that of Facebook, only instead of true identity it’s true address. This will enable people to better connect with their communities including their neighbors, local businesses, and the mayor’s office. The primary agent of change, though, might not be that this uses street addresses but that it enables direct and potentially viral feedback, which is a virtue that e-mail and the USPS do not offer. The first methods are to request exclusive paperless delivery and to block a sender, but others are certain to evolve such as real-time commenting and ways to share mail with friends, family, and colleagues. Welcome to Mail 2.0. (Disclosure: Zumbox is a client of Rob Reed, the founder of Max Gladwell.)

5. Host a Social Media Event: This is the year of the social media event. No meaningful gathering of people is complete without an interactive online audience, especially when it’s so easy and cost effective to pull off. Essential tools include a broadband connection, laptop, video camera, projector, and screen. Add people and a purpose, such as entrepreneurship. Promote it through social media channels, and you have a social media event. A recent example in the green world is the Evolution of Green, which was hosted by Creative Citizen, a green wiki community. It celebrated the launch of a new Web property, EcoMatters, while also establishing a new Twitter tag. By posing the question, “How can we go from green hype to green habit?” and including the #GreenQ hashtag, it sparked a conversation between attendees and the Twittersphere in real time. Thus was born a new mechanism for getting answers to green questions via Twitter.

6. Travel the World: More than anyone else, Tim O’Reilly knows the potential for social media to change the world. In his opening keynote at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo, he called for a new ethic in which we do more with less and create more value than we capture. This provided the context for SalaamGarage founder Amanda Koster, whose presentation followed O’Reilly’s. The idea is that social media has enabled each of us to have an audience. Whether through Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or a personal blog, each of us can have influence and reach. What’s more, it can be used for good. SalaamGarage coordinates trips for citizen journalists (that means you) to places like India and Vietnam in conjunction with non-government organizations like Seattle-based Peace Trees. The destination is the story, as these humanitarian journalists report on the people they meet and discoveries they make. Their words, images, and video are posted to the social web to gain exposure and because these stories just need to be told.

7. Build It on Drupal: You may not have noticed, but the open-source Drupal content management system (CMS) has quickly become the dominant player on the social web. While we still prefer WordPress as a strict blogging application, Drupal has emerged as the go-to platform for building scalable, community-driven Web sites. It powers Recovery.gov, a key part of President Obama’s commitment to transparency and accountability. PopRule uses it as a social news platform for politics. And Drupal will soon become the platform for Causecast, a site where “media, philanthropy, social networking, entertainment and education converge to serve a greater purpose.” This is especially significant because Causecast CEO Ryan Scott is transitioning the site off of Ruby on Rails because Drupal has proved more efficient, user friendly, and cost effective. (Disclosure: Max Gladwell founder Rob Reed is co-founder of PopRule.)

8. Green Your iPhone: Looking for an organic diner within biking distance that has a three-star green rating? There’s a app for that. It’s called 3rd Whale, and you can download it for free. (Except that the star rating is actually a whale rating.) Complete with Facebook Connect, this iPhone app locates green products and businesses in 30 major North American cities. It uses the iPhone’s dial function to select a category (food), sub-category (restaurants), and distance (walking, biking, or driving). In Santa Monica, this might give you Swingers diner for its selection of veggie and vegan fare. You could then get directions from your current location using the iPhone’s built-in Google map, rate your experience on the three-whale scale, and write up a quick review. 3rd Whale recently released a new feature that integrates green-living tips, which can show how much energy or waste you’ll save by taking a given action.

9. Unite the World Through Video: Matt’s dancing around the world video inspired many to tears. Today, more than 20 million people have viewed his YouTube masterpiece, where he performs a kooky dance with the citizens of planet earth. The most recent example of this approach is Playing for Change, which connects the world through song. The project started in Santa Monica with a street performance of the classic Stand By Me and expanded to New Orleans, New Mexico, France, Brazil, Italy, Venezuela, South Africa, Spain, and The Netherlands. The project was superbly executed via social media, complete with a YouTube channel, MySpace, Facebook, and Blog. It’s received tremendous mainstream media exposure and also benefits a foundation of the same name.

10. Rate a Company: The conversation about corporate social responsibility (CSR) takes place across the social web on blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, but a central hub for this information and opinion is still to be determined. SocialYell seeks to address this by building an online community around the CSR conversation, where users can submit reviews of companies together with nonprofit organizations and even public figures like Michelle Obama. The major topics are the Environment, Health, Social Equity, Consumer Advocacy, and Charity. The reviews are voted and commented on by the community in a Reddit-like fashion with both up (Yell) and down (shhh) voting. The site is relatively new and still gaining traction, but there’s no question that a resource like this is needed to shine a bright light on CSR and and other related issues.

11. Publish a collective, simultaneous blog post on a universal topic: As Nigel Tufnel might say, this list goes to eleven. Let the #10Ways conversation begin…

Final note: This is Max Gladwell’s third list of “10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media.” The first was posted a year ago today on Sustainablog.org, and the sequel followed five months later. If a single headline can capture the Max Gladwell raison d’etre, this is it.

Why Eco Hipsters are saying NO to the latest trend in Jeans

jeans

As the fashion forward mavens that we are, we also choose to keep our philosophies on our backs, literally.  We not only tout organic and vintage threads, but we also are aware of the practices that some fashion labels are doing in the name of style.

This season stone wash jeans are in … and they are all the rage!  Little do people know what it takes to create this look.  It is actually quite toxic and energy intensive to produce soft jeans with that accidentally bleached look.

In the production process of manipulating fabrics to attain that distressed look and feel, manufacturers are going to great lengths to keep up with the industry.  Even if it requires compensating with an environmental impact.

There have been reports of environmental poisoning from the toxic run-off from factories that are distressing and stonewashing denim jeans.  This run off is usually laden in blue dye, chemicals such as sulfur, caustic soda and hydrocyanic acid, a close relative of cyanide as well as large quantities of potassium permanganate, a chemical once used to induce abortion.

Using the technique to soften jeans with a washed look takes 5 gallons of water and about the amount of electricity one would use in a day.  Does not sound like too much, but why not take advantage that we have the resources to make products that do not take the integrity of nature for granted.

Conventional cotton, being one of the most pesticide laden crops in the United States, destroys the soil, water quality and bio-diversity.  Consumers purchasing these products are also inadvertently effecting their own health by exposing themselves to these chemicals that are embedded in their clothes.

Support fairtrade and organic cotton when you have the opportunity, or better yet – buy vintage!

Perhaps, we are being a bit ecocentric to take our ethics in the name of fashion.  The fact of the matter is, this is what we are about, truly living within the integrity of everything we do, eat and wear!

Oh, and by the way, stone washed is so 80′s anyways … lets create a new style!

The Energy Trail of a Drinking Straw

So what is wrong with straws, you may ask?straw

The better question, would be … what is great about them.

Aside from the fact that they are made from plastic and are intended for single use consumption … read on, and

find out how next time you are served a drink, you just might be compelled to forgo the straw!

Background

A straw is a prepared tube used to suck a beverage out of a container. Historians theorize the first straws were cut from dried wheat shafts and they were named accordingly. With the advent of industrial age, methods were developed to mass produce straws by rolling elongated sheets of wax-coated paper into a cylindrical, hollow tubes. This was accomplished by coiling paraffin-coated paper around a rod-shaped form and then securing the paper with an adhesive. The entire straw was then coated with wax to further water-proof it. The wax coating was important since the straw was paper and would eventually absorb some of the liquid being sucked up it. Thus, inevitably these paper straws became soggy and useless. In the 1960s, paper was largely replaced by plastic which were becoming less expensive and increasingly more sophisticated. The explosion of plastic technology led to techniques to manufacture plastic straws via extrusion. Today, straws are made in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and functions.

Raw Materials

Straws are made from a formulated blend of plastic resin, colorants, and other additives.

Plastic

Historically, straws have been made from paper but today polypropylene plastic is the material of choice. Polypropylene is a resin made by polymerizing, or stringing together, molecules of a propylene gas. When a very large number of these molecules are chemically hooked together they form this solid plastic material. Polypropylene was first developed in the mid-1950s and has many properties, which make it suitable for use in straw manufacturing. This resin is light-weight, has fair abrasion resistance, good dimensional stability, and good surface hardness. It typically does not experience problems with stress cracking and it offers excellent chemical resistance at higher temperatures. Most importantly for this application, it has good thermoplastic properties. This means it can be melted, formed into various shapes and, upon reheating, can be melted and molded again. Another key attribute of this plastic is that it is safe for contact with food and beverage. Polypropylene is approved for indirect contact with food and, in addition to drinking straws, is used to make many types of food packaging such as margarine and yogurt containers, cellophane-type wrapping, and various bottles and caps.

Colorants

Colorants can be added to the plastic to give the straws an aesthetically pleasing appearance. However, in the United States, the colorants used must be chosen from a list of pigments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food contact. If the colorants are not food grade, they must be tested to make sure they will not leach out of the plastic and into the food or beverage. These pigments are typically supplied in powdered form, and a very small amount is required to impart bright colors. Through use of multiple colorants, multi-colored straws can be made.

Other additives

Additional materials are added to the plastic formula to control the physical properties of the finished straw. Plasticizers (materials which improve the flexibility of the polypropylene) may be added to keep the resin from cracking. Antioxidants are used to reduce harmful interactions between the plastic and the oxygen in the air. Other stabilizers include ultraviolet light filters, which shield the plastic from the effects of sunlight and prevent the radiation from adversely effecting the plastic. Finally, inert fillers may be added to increase the bulk density of the plastic. All these materials must meet appropriate FDA requirements.

Packaging materials

Straws are typically wrapped in paper sleeves for individual use or bulk packed in plastic pouches or cardboard boxes.

The Manufacturing
Process

Straw manufacturing requires several steps. First, the plastic resin and other components are mixed together; the mixture is then extruded in a tube shape; the straw may under go subsequent specialized operations; and finally the straws are packaged for shipment.

Plastic compounding

  • The polypropylene resin must first be mixed with the plasticizers, colorants, antioxidants, stabilizers, and fillers. These materials, in powder form, are dumped into the hopper of an extrusion compounder that mixes, melts, and forms beads of the blended plastic. This machine can be thought of as a long, heated, motor driven meat grinder. The powders are mixed together and melted as they travel down the barrel of the extruder. Special feeder screws are used to push the powder along its path. The molten plastic mixture is squeezed out through a series of small holes at the other end of the extruder. The holes shape the plastic into thin strands about 0.125 inch (0.3175 cm) in diameter. One compounding method ejects these strands into cooling water where a series of rotating knives cut them into short pellets. The pellet shape is preferred for subsequent molding operations because pellets are easier to move than a fine powder. These pellets are then collected and dried; they may be further blended or coated with other additives before packaging. The finished plastic pellets are stored until they are ready to be molded into straws.

Straw extrusion

  • The pellets are transferred to another extrusion molder. The second extruder is fitted with a different type of die, which produces a hollow tube shape. The pellets are dumped in a hopper on one end of the machine and are forced through a long channel by a screw mechanism. This screw is turned in the barrel with power supplied by a motor operating through a gear reducer. As the screw rotates, it moves the resin down the barrel. As the resin travels down the heated channel, it melts and becomes more flowable. To ensure good movement and heat transfer, the screw fits within the barrel with only few thousands of an inch clearance. It is machined from a solid steel rod, and the surfaces almost touching the barrel are hardened to resist wear. By the time the resin reaches the end of the barrel, it is completely melted and can be easily forced out through the opening in the die.
  • The resin exits the die in a long string in the shape of a straw. It is then moved along by a piece of equipment known as a puller which helps maintain the shape of the straw as it is moved through the rest of the manufacturing process. In some processes, it is necessary to pull the straw through special sizing plates to better control the diameter. These plates are essentially metal sheets with holes drilled in them. Eventually, this elongated tube is directed through a cooling stage—usually a water bath. Some operations run the plastic over a chilled metal rod, called a mandrel, which freezes the internal dimension of the straw to that of the rod. Ultimately, the long tubes are cut to the proper length by a knife assembly.

Special operations

  • Straws with special design requirements may undergo additional processing. For example, so called “crazy” straws, which have a series of loops and turns, may be bent into shape using special molding equipment. Another type of straw with special manufacturing requirements is the “bendable” straw. This type of straw can bend in the middle and is made using a special device that creates a series of grooves that allow the straw to flex. These grooves can be crimped into the straws in a two step process. First, it is first necessary to “pick up” the straw so it can be manipulated. This can be accomplished by spreading the straws across a flat plate, which has slots cut in it. The straws will tend to roll into the slots and remain there. The slots are evenly spaced and are adjacent to a separate metal plate, which has a series of metal pins extending from it. The pins are aligned in a parallel fashion with the slots on the plate. Once the straws have come to rest in the slots, the pins can be easily inserted into the straws. The straws can then be easily lifted up and moved around in any orientation by simply manipulating the plate that holds the pins. The steel pins holding the straws have a series of parallel rings cut into them. As the straws are wrapped around the pin, they are gripped by a pair of semi-circular steel jaws, which have a complementary set of rings. The jaws crimp a series of rings into the straw. The crimp pattern allows the straws to bend without closing off. After these operations, the straws can then by proceed to packaging.

Packaging

  • Straws are typically packaged in individual paper sleeves after manufacturing. This packaging is widely used for applications where each straw must be kept sanitary. One method of packaging involves loading the finished straws into a supply funnel. At the bottom of the hopper is a wheel with straw receiving grooves cut in it around its outer edge. The straws drop out of the hopper and are picked up one at a time by this rotating wheel. As the wheel rotates, it moves the straws along to a second wheel, which has grooves connecting to a vacuum source. Sheets or packaging material (paper wrap) are moved onto this wheel from a supply roller. The vacuum holds the paper in place while the main wheel feeds straws on top of the paper. Another layer of paper is guided over the first and the assembly then passes through a sealing roller. The two layers of paper are then crimped together with the application of pressure or otherwise sealed together. The sealed sheet of straws then travels along the conveyor to a punching region where a die presses down and cuts out individual straws. The die cut pieces then move along a conveyor to a collection area. The individual straws can then be bundled together and packed in boxes or pouches for shipping.

Quality Control

Drinking straw quality is determined at a number of key steps during the compounding and extrusion phases of the manufacturing process as well as after extrusion is complete. During compounding, the mixing process must be monitored to ensure the formula components are blended in the proper ratios. Before beginning the extrusion process, it is a common practice to purge some resin through the extruder. This purging helps clean out the barrel and acts as a check to make sure all molding systems are operating properly. At this stage, sample straws can be checked to make sure they achieve the proper dimensions. These samples can also be used to ensure manufacturing equipment is operating at the proper line speed.

During the extrusion process, it is critical that the resin is be kept at the proper temperature. Depending on the processing temperature (and the molecular weight of the polymer), plastic can flow as slowly as tar or as quickly as corn syrup. If the temperature is too cool, the viscosity increases dramatically, and the resin will not flow through the die. If the temperature is too high, thermal breakdown can occur. Over-heating can cause chemical changes in the resin, weakening the plastic and rendering it unsuitable for use in straw manufacturing. Under certain circumstances, die buildup occurs. When this happens, a glob of plastic gets stuck somewhere in the die. This glob eventually breaks free, becomes attached to the molded straw, and ruins its appearance. Unwanted chemical interactions can also effect the quality of the finished straws during the extrusion process. One problem is oxidation, which results from contact with air. This reaction can negatively impact the plastic. Similarly, the plastic interacts with any moisture that is present; too little moisture can make certain plastic blends too brittle.

After the manufacturing process is complete, it is critical that the extruder be properly cleaned. Thorough cleaning is necessary because different types of different colored plastics can be left behind in the extruder barrel. This residue can cause contamination in the next batch that is made. Die cleaning is done when the machine is still hot and traces of resin can be easily scraped from the metal.

Byproducts/Waste

The major waste product from straw manufacturing is the plastic resin. Resin, which is contaminated, overheated, or otherwise ruined must be discarded. However, straws, which fail for other reasons, can be reworked. This process of reusing plastic is known as regrinding and involves pulverizing the straws and remelting them. This can be done without loss of quality because of the thermoplastic nature of polypropylene.

The Future

There are a number of interesting new developments in straw technology. First, new and improved plastic blends are constantly being evaluated. This is necessary to keep costs down, meet regulatory requirements, and improve quality. In addition, new processing and design methods are being developed. These can expand the straws into new areas. For example, thermoliquid crystals, a special colorant that responds to changes in temperature, can be added to straws to make them change color when they come in contact with hot or cold liquid. Other unique applications include ways of printing straws with the identity of the beverage (e.g., diet, root beer, etc.). The straw can then be used to mark what the drink contains. Other advances include straws made by a blow molding process, which creates faces or other artifacts in the middle of the straw.

Where to Learn More

Books

Richardson, Paul. Introduction to Extrusion. Brookfield Center, CT: Society of Plastic Engineers, 1974.

Other

US patent 5,722,219. Method of Making a Drinking Straw.

[Article by: Randy Schueller]

Earth Hour Los Angeles

earthhourOn March 28th – the world will go dark, in the name of taking action for global warming.

Although the gesture may appear to be a subtle one, it speaks in volumes.

Few people realize that the simple action, of turning their lights off, eliminates CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Earth Hour was founded two years ago in Australia.  This year, it is expected that half a billion people will participate throughout the world, in addition to, eight flagship cities including, our City of Angels.  A total of 800 cities in 80 countries will be officially participating.

Imagine, by this simple act, spread across the world,  millions of tons of CO2 will be prevented from entering our atmosphere – proving, that collectively we can make a big difference!

Street artist, Shepard Fairey, designed a very Russian Avant Gard-esque poster for this years’ event, encouraging everyone to vote by turning their lights off!

It is a remarkable, yet effortless, motion that will begin in Fiji at 8:30 p.m on March 28, and it will last one hour. The initial commencement will create a wave, that will be seen throughout the world.  Earth Hour, is the movement that joins forces with cities, schools, neighborhoods and individuals to make a stand against climate change.

Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture that it meant to send a visual message to our elected officials to encourage them to take a concerted action on climate change.

Turn Out.   Take Action.

Earth Hour LA and the World Wild Life Fund, has municipalities, organizations and its citizens, involved in by encouraging the city to continue with your life – simply in the dark, for one hour.  Thousands of Angelinos will Dine by Candlelight, where restaurants, hotels and bars will join Earth Hour by committing to dim their lights, and host by candlelight.  Musical performances will go acoustic and theater performances will be in the dark!

About 100 buildings & iconic venues will be turning out the lights in joining this global revolution.   The culmination of this event is at the Nokia Plaza at L.A. LIVE, where the Staples Center, The Los Angeles Convention Center and the Nokia Plaza will go dark in celebration – see you there!

One Hour

One Community

One Planet

Another Reason to Eat Organic

img_3732A friend of mine worked for a financial PR firm for an organic fruits and vegetables company based on the Mainland China called Chaoda. They were experiencing explosive business growth in 2004.

Traditionally, the Chinese who were wealthy would import all of their fruits and vegetables from Japan and other SE Asian countries. Chaoda was one of the only native players in the organic farm business providing a local alternative to this necessary practice, hence their profitability.

Why do you ask do the affluent native Chinese import?

Because their own commercially grown produce is so laden with pesticides as to be deemed by the educated class as being toxic and haphzardous to one’s health.

Where do you ask that many of those state farm grown veggies wind up?

Answer: As marinated and canned vegetables in private label grocery store chains in the US, often manufactured by middle men so as to make the country of origin of this food impossible to track.

Very little transparency here. Scary and even more convoluted when the foodstuffs are finished products that have several ingredients such as infants formula or dog food, by way of example.

Another great reason to support your local farmer’s markets,  grow and can your own food.

Be discerning with what you feed yourself and your family!

Thoughts – Albert Einstein

“A human being is part of the whole called by us the universe,
a part limited in time and space.

We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something
separate from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of consciousness…
Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our
circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole
of nature in its beauty… We shall require a substantially new manner
of thinking if humanity is to survive.”

-Albert Einstein