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This Holiday Season Your Best Gift Can Be a Donation to a Nonprofit

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This Holiday Season Your Best Gift Can Be a Donation to a Nonprofit
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya rescues and rears orphaned elephants and rhinos. Wendy Stone / Corbis via Getty Images

If you care about the planet, you're probably thinking that the holidays are not a great time of year for the environment. There's more mail and package deliveries, homes and buildings are decorated with holiday lights, people travel more, and there's so much shopping as people buy presents for friends and family. So what's an environmentally conscious holiday-lover supposed to do?


The holidays are a great time of year to consider giving a different kind of gift: a donation to a nonprofit organization. Whether you make a personal donation on Giving Tuesday or you donate in a loved one's name instead of buying a present, you can still share the spirit of the holiday. To get your nonprofit gift-giving off to a great start, here the EcoWatch team recommends a few organizations we like and why these causes matter.


Jordan Davidson, Freelance Reporter
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust supports the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife habitats in East Africa. The Kenya-based organization safeguards the natural habitat of elephants and rhinos while protecting them from poaching. It rescues and rears orphaned elephants and rhinos. In fact, it operates the most successful elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation center in the world.

Every year, my kids scroll through the orphans, watch a video about their rescue and pick one to foster. In return, we receive monthly updates on the animal's rehabilitation, including their diet, medical needs, how they socialize and the other elephants they have made friends with.


Olivia Rosane, Freelance Reporter
Indigenous Environmental Network
I first became aware of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) during the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but the nonprofit dates back to 1990 and has been working for almost 30 years to resist environmental injustice and build sustainable indigenous communities. Sometimes, everything that's wrong with the dominant culture's relationship to the Earth feels overwhelming. IEN tackles all of it, from deforestation to toxic waste dumping to fossil fuel extraction, and it does so while centering an indigenous worldview that offers a real alternative.

This holiday season, I am giving a gift to the future and donating to support their work. "By attempting to fulfill our responsibility to defend our mother earth we are assuring the survival of our unborn generations," their Unifying Principles read.


Jordan Simmons, Associate Editor
Amazon Aid Foundation
The Amazon Aid Foundation is empowering individuals, NGOS and governments to protect and revitalize the Amazon rainforest. In projects such as the RIVER OF GOLD documentary, they risk their lives to enter the grounds of illegal gold mining in Peru's Amazon rainforest to provide a disturbing account of how illegal mining causes an increase in deforestation and wildfires. The foundation provides information and resources such as the Buyer's Guide that can be used to not only become more conscious consumers, but to spread this message far and wide.

To express my gratitude for having more of an open mind and an understanding of my role as a consumer of gold, I have begun a monthly donation to the Amazon Aid Foundation. I look forward to the day I take this gift to Earth a step further by traveling to Madre de Dios region of southeastern Peru to join their reforestation project.


Chris McDermott, News Editor
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge
The Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Orlando, Florida helps injured, orphaned and abandoned wildlife to recover. They describe their goal as "rescue, raise, rehabilitate and release" and they save thousands of animals a year. They have been especially busy after Florida storms that disrupt so many habitats.

I've supported this organization and have brought injured birds and squirrels to the refuge. The people who work there always inspire confidence that they'll give them the best care.

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This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

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An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

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Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

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A film by Felix Nuhr.

Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.

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Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, where a new soil study was held, on Sept. 11, 2019. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP via Getty Images

One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.

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Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a press conference after a shooting at Forest High School on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.

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