From the Founder: “My Green Wish”

March 20, 2013

By Raphael Sbarge

After the birth of my daughter, I was struck by how strong and good I suddenly felt as a father. Conversely, I also felt remarkably vulnerable and defenseless to protect this little person’s journey in a world as vast and complex as ours. Intellectually, of course, I knew that part of growing up is learning from the hard knocks of experience. But I asked myself: “What can I do, and how can I contribute in any small way to leave the world a little better then when I found it, for Gracie?”

While I have never considered myself an environmentalist — I would never use such a highfalutin’ word — I guess I’ve always been drawn to things that consider the planet. Recycler, composter, vegetable gardener, a planter of trees, a driver of hybrid cars — I guess I could be called a radical-greenie-tree-hugger in certain circles. But one doesn’t have to look very hard to be inundated with details of humans overwhelming nature. Headlines about climate change, the effects of chemicals on the earth, frog and bee depopulation, rising waters due to ice cap melt, the effects of plastic on marine animals … I could go on. It’s too much, too hard to hold it all in your head at one time. I found myself thinking, “To heck with it, I’m overwhelmed!”

From this concussion of ideas is where this notion grew. Green Wish is actually a nonprofit that raises money for other nonprofits across the sustainable movement.

Green Wish is a concept of giving that allows people to support a movement — not just one organization, but multiple ones, which alternate every 12 months. Our idea is to find groups that meet the following criteria:

  1. They’re local.
  2. They reach across a spectrum of the green conversation, including air, earth, water and sustainable education.
  3. They’re nonprofits, with a track record of doing good work in the community.
  4. They tend to be on the smaller side.

Using the oft-heard refrain of “Buy Local,” Green Wish has attempted to expand that idea to include “Give Local” — hyper-local, even. Our philosophy is that if people can see the results in their own neighborhoods, it can help inspire them to be stewards of their environment.

It felt more scalable, and easier to grasp this way. Since we’re bombarded with news of environmental damage on a daily basis, the toxic effect of all that information (in my opinion) is that it actually encourages people to tune out. If folks can connect to organizations making a long-term difference right where they live, and feel good about that, then the potential for environmental apathy can also be changed, and people can begin to strive to make difference choices. Ultimately, that can add up to real change.

Green Wish began in Los Angeles and has grown to include other cities across the country. We have offered people a chance to use our infrastructure to create their own community-based green nonprofit, and direct the funds to local nonprofits of their choice. A board is established in every new city; its leaders identify the groups they wish to support, and work with the founding organization to kick start relationships with retailers and business owners interested in promoting the message of “Community Helping Community.” The beneficiaries of the Los Angeles Green Wish chapter include Friends of the Los Angeles River (working to restore the river way), Algalita Marine Research Institute (doing important research on the effects of plastic on marine animals) and Food Forward (a group that gathers volunteers to pick fruit from local trees on public or private land, and donate it to the hungry, a sustainable idea).

Noted environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. is both the face of Green Wish and on the board. He came on to lend his support to an idea that he felt was quite unique and exciting: Helping not just one group, but many.

We use three methods to raise funds; one is via cards found at retailers’ counters, which get scanned into a purchase in $1, $3 and $5 increments. The retailers get a tax-deductible letter for collecting the money. The second is by partnering with a business that wishes to make regular contributions and become a “community member.” The third is through partnerships with local events at schools or in the community, which then donate a portion of their proceeds toward Green Wish. We strive for .90 on every dollar to go to our groups, and work hard to promote the various groups we support to bring not just money, but also (perhaps more importantly) awareness.

Green Wish is a platform to help as many folks as possible, locally, in cities wherever it gets adopted. We see it as a kind of open source concept for green giving, with the proceeds going right back into the community.

As to Gracie, now 10, she thinks it’s pretty cool. She and my 8-year-old son, Django, like to help with some of the details of running a nonprofit. The most important work I’m doing, I believe, is at home, patterning a relationship to the earth that I hope they will come to own and embrace. This is their planet, we are preparing it for them, and they will one day be faced with, most likely, more complex choices than we are facing now. That said, our Green Wish motto, our hope, is “to gather coins, to make real change.”

If you are interested in finding out more or starting a Green Wish chapter in your area, please contact us at

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