April 17, 2008

Poster Download: Spread the Word on the Spray

For those of you who live in California and want to spread the word, please help yourself to this poster. Download a PDF of either version by clicking on the image. Then take it your local copy shop and start passing them out to friends, neighbors and especially local businesses (and if you are a local business, please post this in your window for all to see).

stop the aerial pesticide spraying in San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz, California - free poster for download

stop the aerial pesticide spraying in San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz, California - free poster for download

The petition continues to grow, with over 22,000 people refusing to be sprayed. Let's keep it growing!

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May 24, 2007

Dump Your Waste on Students!

I just received a really nice email from the editor of a local book publisher who has found a fantastic, simple, easy, efficient way to get rid of a large portion of the company's waste.

When bringing a book to print, publishers create what they call dummies: mock-ups of a book that demonstrate where everything will go, often with blank pages. These books get tossed in the trash or, less frequently, recycled, once the book goes to print. Weldon Owen is no exception to this practice, and the company was faced with hundreds of dummies piling up and destined for the trash heap.

Cue the editor, who contacted a local parents group to see if they could use these books. The response was incredible:
"Oh. My God...dozens of folks wrote back, saying they'd love to have dummies for schools or summer art programs. I just brought the dummies home (probably 400 or more—once I started getting the avalanche of responses, I sent round an all-company e-mail, asking everyone to clean out their stashes), stacked them in my driveway, and sent an e-mail to all the people who'd responded, saying 'Come and get 'em!' In one weekend, all the dummies were gone, and I got several e-mails from folks asking if there were going to be any more, because their school could use more."
So not only did Weldon Owen get all those useless books off their hands, but they gave a large number of kids art supplies. Talk about two birds with one stone. So if you're a publisher looking to unload a number of dummies, contact teachers and parents groups. And if your a parent who needs some cool blank books for kids, try reaching ou to a local publisher and ask if you can have their dummies.

And here's a list of organizations who take "waste" and use it to make art:
Can't find a materials exchange organization near you? Try contacting your local trash pick-up; often they have recycling and materials reclamation programs that aren't well advertised.

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March 13, 2007

Welcome to the World of The Greens

Children are sponges, aren't they? Izz and her older cousin, Dez, are no exceptions. A couple of wacky kids with some wacky friends and some wacky family members, Izz and Dez appear in monthly online episodes, their own blog and some interactive learning games aimed at the tween set. Through it all, they discover what it means to be green and how kids can make an impact on the world around them.

The Greens has some great things going for it, not least of which is the braintrust behind it. Created by WGBH (close to my heart, as a Boston girl born and raised), the entire thing started with—not surprisingly—TED. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is an annual smarty-pants conference in which rich, left-leaning movers and shakers come up with crazy ideas to make the world a better place. Last year, photographer Ed Burtynsky won a wish from the TED community and The Greens were born.

Although the show is quite funny and graphically very engaging, it has some growing and stretching to do. Writing about the environment is tough, even when you're aiming at grown-ups. Making this stuff understandable and attractive to young kids is even tougher. The Greens cleverly rely on plenty of sarcasm and pre-teen angst to earn street cred among their target audience but the incorporation of the actual green stuff can be a little dry. "Ask Hector," a bit in which Izz's buddy advises us on how to save water in just ten words, falls a little flat (it is essentially a list of ten questions with yes or no answers). Contrast that against the engaging interactive quiz game and you can see where the site's strengths and weaknesses lie.

That said, I'm not a kid anymore (I've been told immaturity doesn't count). The little monsters will ultimately be the ones to determine if The Greens are a success or not. And I hope they do; as the group discussed at this year's TED conference, one of the best ways to get mom and dad to change their ways is to convince the kids to do it first (just think about how persistent kids are at getting what they want). If all goes according to plan, each monthly episode of The Greens will continue to make green living fun for kids and their grown-ups.

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February 16, 2007

Kids Think Green is Gross!

We all know that kids are picky eaters, but it turns out that it may have more to do with marketing than with actual taste. According to an article in the Buffalo News, local schoolchildren there turned up their noses when their name brand yogurt was replaced with an organic brand that actually won in blind taste tests with those very same kids. Yogurt sales plummeted more than 50%.

Even before Reagan proposed that ketchup be considered a vegetable, school lunches were barely enough to keep kids full, let alone healthy. Originally intended to affordably feed the nation's hungry students, whose schoolwork and health were suffering from hunger pangs, the national school lunch program fell frighteningly short of its goals. Increasingly, though, city kids are discovering new options that leave their bellies full and their hearts just a little healthier. The question now is, how can we sell our kids on it?

Many of the healthy lunch programs being toyed with these days have goals that go beyond getting kids to simply "eat right." They recognize that children are inundated with advertising these days, and need to be trained to make connections that until now have been deliberately severed: like how the food we put into our bodies affects our state of mind, our ability to function properly and our long-term health. And even how the food choices we make impact the world around us, on both a local level and a global one.

Programs like Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard teach schoolchildren how to grow their own food, thereby making these connections. This is a growing movement, and is largely grassroots in nature. If you have a school-age child, seriously consider whether they are getting the nutrition they need when you send them off each day. Because chances are, they are gulping down sugar-laden sodas, and fat-ridden chips and candy.

If you want your kids to eat something different, try these options:
  • Feed them better at home: According to the Buffalo News report, that is the most effective way to get kids to make better choices when they're on their own.
  • Talk to your school district: Tell your child's educators what you expect of them. Get other parents involved for a stronger influence.
  • Get help: Many organizations work with city school districts to educate kids about nutrition in fun, effective ways. A lot of these even help schools start vegetable gardens and educate the schools themselves on how to serve more nutrutional food. A few programs to get you started include Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard (California), FoodChange (New York), the School Food Trust (U.K.) and Sustainable Food Systems (a consulting firms for schools).
Also check out Two Angry Moms, a documentary about what happens when parents finally get involved in their kids' diet.

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