Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ecovillages: A New Kind of Community

This felt like the most fitting post during this season of Inauguration for 45th President.

As we are entering an era where it has been outwardly stated (both in words, tweets, and cabinet pics) that our next President is about as far from the environment as you can be, picturing a positive utopia of Ecovillages seemed like the best place to rest my brain space.

What is an ecovillage?

Along with "intentional living" as a foundation of their philosophy, common features also include:
  • a return to the nature through community gardens & shared agriculture
  • bartering as a form of economy
  • off-grid energy sources 
  • energy conservation & eco-friendly transportation
  • co-operatives (including homeschooling) & a community of sharing
  • diminishing consumption and maximizing conservation of resources
No, we're not talking communes! But rather, a community based on sustainability.

To learn more about Ecovillages, check out these resources:

As an aside while thinking about a wonderful world of sustainability (a dystopian contrast of what President Trump might envision for America), I do praise President Obama for setting up two new National Parks (Bears Ears National Monument & Gold Butte National Monument)  and making environmental strides in the last month of his presidency.  Some items can be undone, but it will make the de-eco-ing a little bit harder for incoming President Trump. (Insert environmentalist chuckling here.)

May we all have our picture perfect environmental spaces and places, and may we all be environmental activists when needed here in the next 4 years ahead.

Definition image from, Ecovillage map from from

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Zero Percent: Attacking Food Waste & Hunger

The new year always brings about new plans, new goals, new resolutions, and new game plans.

In the category of "innovation will save our environmental and social issues," technology, apps, and smart phones are once again making a difference.  This time, it's in the category of food waste. Timely here, mid-winter, when it seems to have the greatest impact, especially on the homeless.

Yes, once again, there's an app for that!

Zero Percent is an app that was created in 2013 by Rajesh Karmani in Chicago to help connect businesses with excess food with the people who locally need them. Since then, the concept and reach has extended far beyond just one city.

Their motto:  "Zero waste, zero hunger!" Watch this video to see their vision and mission in action.


Environmental stats about our food footprint (or "foodprint") from their website include:

  • 40% of food ends up in landfill that is not scrap or rotten, just excess.
  • Rotting food contributes to methane, which is "21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide."
  • 16% of Americans ar considered "food insecure." This means they do not know from meal to meal where the next one is coming.

When I was investigating Zero Percent, 356,000+ pounds of food had been donated. Way to go.

For ways to get involved with Zero Percent, check out their website. Businesses, join in here.

video from, image

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Litterati: The Digital Landfill

We've all heard the catch phrase: "There's an app for that."

The same can be said for the world of windblown trash & litterbugs.

on Earth Day 2016, a new app was launched by social entrepreneur Jeff Kirschner called Litterati. Inspired by his daughter and an initial 2013 Instagram picture of trash, first a hashtag (#litterati) then a crowdsourced digital landfill was born.

Think of it as a pollution-free version of Pokemon-Go!

By having the iPhone app, people can submit data photographically to be collected in Litterati's database. Additionally, people can track their own personal impact and see both where (internationally) and what physical types of trash is abundantly out there. Or shall I say, "was" out there...because half of the beauty of the app is the inspiration to pick up the litter and make the world a better place.

I've always said that innovation was the key to our environmental success.  Here's yet another shining example of how that is true.

To learn more about Litterati and Jeff Kirschner's brainchild, watch the video here

Litterati app photo and screenshot from; digital landfill gallery from; video from

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Common Denominator: Disposable Plastic

As we're still getting used to writing "2017" on our checks and correspondences, we probably still have strong memories of our holiday & New Year's parties.  Good times, good times!

In thinking about that, think about how many of the following you also saw (or used) at these during holiday festivities, along with your good buddies, pals, and family members:
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Grocery store baggies
  • Plastic forks & spoons
  • Zipper food storage bags 
  • Shrink wrap or plastic wrap
  • Plastic or styrofoam plates
  • Take out containers
  • Plastic cups and straws
  • Chip or pretzel bags
And let's not even mention the packaging of food, toys, and probably half the gifts under your tree or beside your menorah.

The common denominator in the list above is plastic. Most of it, merely single-use waste and destined for (hopefully) a recycling center, though probably a landfill (if not "escaping" out in nature, much to the chagrin of the wildlife that "welcomes" it).

As I've stated before, environmentally, plastic is NOT fantastic!  This video details it...sometimes in ways that are far from pretty.

With the new year upon us, maybe it's time to take notice and really reflect upon what we are doing...and what we can do to help!

2017 glasses image from my house, plastic cutlary image from, Video from

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Down With Denim? Up With Insulation!

In the spirit of giving, here's another way to "go green" this holiday season... in a way that's actually blue!

In these days after the holidays, I'm picturing a house--perhaps your house. Perhaps it has a bounty of gifts under the Christmas tree, around the Hanukkah menorah, or next to the Kwanzaa kinara. Or maybe, instead of a pleathora of presents, maybe your household just took advantage of some of the mega winter sales. No matter what your seasonal situation, there will come a time when you are rotating your closet, doing away with the old, and shuffling in the new.

Should that be your situation and you have some jeans to offload, don't just let them make it to the "circular file" which will ultimately become the landfill. Some people might want to take their old jeans to their local Good Will Store or Salvation Army to make a donation, but sometimes there's one too many holes in those jeans, and they really should never be worn again.

In that case, you get an opportunity to make a difference.

Blue Jeans Go Green is just the organization to help you do

that...and help you make UltraTouch Denim Insulation. Americans "throw out 25 billion pounds of textiles per year." To keep your denim from landing in the landfill and to learn more about the process, check out their website. It'll make you think twice before you decide to just throw away your old jeans.

To learn where to take your denim, or if you are interested in starting your own denim drive, click here.

Video from; Image from, and

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017

Closing out the year always brings reflection.

Ending 2016 may be an emotionally-charged closure for many. It was a year of a lot of events (both nationally and globally), more election drama than any one person needed, and many tragic & iconic passings of people near and dear to our collective hearts.

But another year awaits, right around the corner. A fresh start. A hope and a promise of potential ahead.

What will your year bring you?  More importantly, what will you bring to the new year?

As you get ready to celebrate "out with the old, in with the new," may these serve as inspiration for your year ahead, resolution-making or not:

  • For some excellent New Year motivational & visual quotes to set you off to an inspirational beginning this 2017, check out HappyNewYear.Net.
  • If you want to look for ways to give back to your community in the year ahead, here's a wonderfully comprehensive list of 35+ service activities from Kid World Citizen for you and your family to get involved with. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Helping the Homeless Rest Easier

During the holidays as we are thinking of our loved ones, we often also think of those in need.  The homeless population who have to battle the elements of wind, weather, snow, and chilly temperatures come to mind. I've written about ways to help the homeless hardships many times before.

News stories have been popping up over the last 2 years of different women and groups engaging in a new kind of quilting bee.  Turning plastic bags into "plarn" (or "plastic yarn"), the "bag ladies" are making a difference--making plastic bags into beds. 3' x 6' bed mats, which then in turn recycles like a champ given each bed takes 600--700 bags out of landfills and turns them into something useful, helpful, and important!

For directions about how to make it, check out one of these three links to websites that will show you how to put your old plastic bags to good use!

Image from; video from

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, & Joyous Kwanzaa for All

In the aftermath of #Election2016, even the words "Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas," & "Season's Greetings" have a resounding resonance of political correctness (or not). Yet I find it fascinating how the "holiday planets" are "aligning" this year:
  • Winter Solstice is December 21st
  • Christmas is December 25th
  • Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 24 and goes until January 1st
  • Kwanzaa's 7 nights begins December 26th to January 1st
  • New Year's Eve/New Year's is December 31st/January 1st

For me, Christmas (which is the holiday my family and I celebrate) is a season, a frame of mind, an optimism... not a definitive day. It's about who you are with, and the love in your heart. Let's make the holidays more about that, and less about politics!

Here's wishing you an amazing holiday, no matter what holiday you and your family celebrate.

Shared video from; My video of photos from our holiday house using Adobe Spark, image from

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wishing You A Wonderful Winter Solstice 2016

Today's the day... Winter Solstice.
The shortest day of daylight per year.

A myriad of winter holidays happen during this time period, with many centered around Winter Solstice particularly. (Perhaps the ones that aren't specifically came to be to give us a little bright light in the darkest of winter nights.)

Here are two videos to brighten your day of limited light. One an overview of Winter Solstice that I created at, & the other a time lapse of the solstice from Fairbanks, Alaska, upwards toward the Arctic Circle. May these visual images help you enter the season ahead, looking for the brightness where you can find it as our daylight swings upwards, a litte bit with each passing sunrise & sunset.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tinker Crate to Create & Innovate!

Here we are....T-minus-one week to Christmas. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too, as they fall almost right on top of each other this year. Visions of sugar plums are dancing in people's heads. Especially the younger set, as schools start letting out for break, and anticipation is at all time high.

With a week to go, where are you with your holiday shopping?
Still need some ideas?

If that's the case, the Kiwi Crate family might be the place to investigate.
The Kiwi Crate Company (and it's five thematic family members of hands-on kits for kids) help build imagination through STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. "Our goal is to inspire kids to see themselves as scientists, artists, creators, and makers."

Their kits can be ordered monthly, in 3-month blocks, 6-month blocks, or a whole year subscription to keep the creativity come every month for a year. For the crafty, experimenter, innovative kid...this could be the perfect gift you are looking for.

Their brands & kits are all hands-on, developmentally-appropriate activities for each age, with STEAM in mind.  Likewise, they can grow with your kids and their interests, always bringing mystery and invention to your mailbox!

  • Tinker Crate--for ages 9-16, for those who thrive on science & engineering
  • Doodle Crate--for ages 9-16, for those who lean toward art & design
  • Kiwi Crate--for ages 5-8, for the art, science, & engineering kids who like to tinker
  • Koala Crate--for ages 3-4, geared to inspire kids to play and learn through stories and games
  • Cricket Crate--for newborns ages 0-2 to build a foundation for a love of learning

All images from

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Nothing says Friday night like an #eco documentary.  That was me a few weeks ago watching Before The Flood" Leonardo deCaprio's & Fisher Steven's eye-opening 2016 documentary on climate change.

I'd like to invite President Elect Trump to watch it, especially as he is considering drawing America out of the Paris Climate and has positioned a climate skeptic to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  I am glad to hear that he met recently with both Leonardo and Al Gore.  I'm sure they both were more persuasive than I could be in getting Donald Trump to watch the film. I hope Trump watches, listens, and soaks in the facts.

By November 17th (which takes us post election), 60 million people had viewed "Beyond the Flood" either on National Geographic Channel (during the week of Oct. 30--Nov. 7 when it was offered for free) or On Demand (where people had to rent it, which is how I watched it).

When in doubt, he can always check these 13 pictures attached to the Upworthy article: "13 Devastating Photos to Show Your Friend Who Doesn't Believe in Climate Change."

Here's the short list of startling facts that I jotted down while watching the National Geographic
  • 97% of climate scientists believe in it.
  • "We Don't Have the liberty of time to combat climate change."

  • Given Florida's location, it's ironic that both Governor Rick Scott and State Senator (and former presidential candidate) Mark Rubio both oppose the idea. There was an indepth conversation with Miami's Mayor about how they are putting in a major investment on the city's infrastructure to raise the roads. Unfortunately, this will only buy us 40-50 years.
  • "The Ocean is not republican or democratic...yet it is rising all the same."
  • This link takes you to the Worldwide Air Quality Map--a geographic database that updates hourly monitoring the pollution data from factories. The map of China is particularly shocking, especially given it has recently surpassed the United States as the #1 global polluter.
  • "We all have a responsibility to set the example and help the developing world transition before it is too late....Facts are crystal clear: ice is melting, earth is warming, sea levels are rising."
  • "We are losing our status of forefront on innovation and problem solving as we have people, leaders, future-elected leaders burying their heads in the sand, not seeing the undenyable future in front of us."

Be sure to check out the "Beyond the Flood" website, or watch it at any of these places:
The more we watch, learn, and know about this, the more we all can fight (should President-Elect start to counter all the gains that President Obama has made over the last 8 years).  Given the fact that large populations live near oceans, it's not just an environmental issue.  It's a national security issue. It's a global issue, and certainly a human issue. Let's hope that sanity reigns and helps guide our leaders.  To take action, the "Before the Flood" website can help you with that too!

Video from; documentary image from, climate change image from, Google search image shows where you can find the movie.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why Only 1 Week? Computer Science Education Week EVERY Week

We are wrapping up Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), which was December 5th through the 11th. This is an annually dedicated week to intrigue and inspire all students, kindergarten to 12th graders) to take the mystery out of computer science, coding, and other STEM-centered activities.

Initially, it fell to this week to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born on December 9, 1906, a woman ahead of her time, and one of the first computer programmers in 1944

Since its beginnings in 2009, CSEdWeek has grown over time and in its own magnitute. is an affiliate dedicated to furthering this education, feeling it should be part of core curriculums in all schools.  As we become a global community where technology advances are exponential, computing is certainly a core of many industries.

Of course, it begs the question--why only a week?!

Whether you missed it, want to relive it or extend it, or try your hand at the "Hour of Code" (or more), there's no reason that you should stop at only a week.  Here are some great resources to stretch your own awareness and build your coding and computer science curriculum--both in your school and in your own homes.  Who knows, you might find a resource or two along the way that might make a great Christmas present.

Articles & Information:
  • CSEdWeek maps and stats comparing computer jobs to computer science graduates in a clickable map. The numbers for both my home state of Illinois and my current state of Maryland were staggering and differed by a factor of 10-20! The overall overwhelming stat: "There are currently 517,393 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.
Resources for Educators:
  • ScratchED: Online community for Scratch users and teachers
  • Kids Get Coding: Find both children's books about coding as well as online exercises from blue{shift}, a West London coding school.
Reviews from Common Sense Media:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It's True! "Kazoo" Might Be the New Magazine for You (& Your 5-10 Year Old Daughter)

My daughter was not the typical "girly girl" as she grew up (she still isn't, now that she's in high school).
  • She didn't play with dolls.
  • She only ever had one Barbie, which I believe eventually became headless.
  • She had my old Barbie Corvette and camper (relative antiques!), but her "stuffed dogs: drove them around.
  • "Dress up" looked like stuffed animals wearing Build-a-Bear outfits.
  • She once wore a pirate costume to a Princess party of one of her Kindergarten buddies.
  • She's not a fan of painting her nails, wearing dresses, or playing in my makeup.
  • Heaven-forbid if I want to play with her hair. A pony tail or a regular braid was as fancy as it could get.
  • Pink and purple were not feasible wardrobe choices. Nor were hair ribbons or anything with flowers.
Instead, she was an insect-investigating, tree-climbing, soccer-playing, Lego-building, artistic, creative, techie kind of kid. Thomas the Train was a favorite in her preschool years, and she had strong feelings about naming her new brother Thomas. (We didn't.)

My daughter would have loved a magazine like Kazoo, back in the day!

I first learned about Kazoo in an article at Connections.Mic. Created by Erin Bried to fill a missing niche for her daughter, Kazoo is geared to inspire girls to reach their inner potential, and not be tied to the harsh beauty messages that many girls/teen fashion magazines enhance. It began from a Kickstarter, which raised over $171,000 in 30 days. This definitely showed that other parents were also wanting something with more depth to speak to their girls.

From their website, Erin shares the mission of her magazine:
"There’s no other magazine like Kazoo. All of our stories are either developed or inspired by top female artists, explorers, scientists, chefs, athletes, activists, writers and others. Regular features include: science experiments; comics; art projects; recipes; interviews with inspiring women from Olympic athletes to astronauts; and fun activities, like secret codes, jokes, mazes, search-and-finds and more.... By celebrating girls for all that they are—smart, inquisitive, creative, brave, strong and, yes, loud—Kazoo will help shore up their foundation, so that by the time they enter adolescence, they’ll be more likely to question anyone who makes them feel small than they’ll be to question themselves."
Additionally, Erin lists some startling statistics on the Kazoo "About" page that make you take pause about teenage depression, girls' emphasis on their own weight, and girls' negative self image and self esteem issues that can start as young as 10 or 11. Some of those statistics are listed in their "Possibilities" video below.

Sounds like a great resource for young girls to inspire them to get outside, to be active, to be themselves, and ultimately to be leaders! Might be just plain perfect for some of the young ladies in your life!  #GoGirls!!

Kazoo logo from from, pictures from my own personal archives!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

Ahh....Christmas season.

By this early part of this time of the year, you are getting your tree up, decorations out, and the whole shopping started (unless of course your heritage has you celebrating a different holiday).

For some, Christmas is eggnog flowing as the musical sounds of carols through the radio/stereo. I can see a twilit room, illuminated by twinkling lights on a tree, sipping hot cocoa in my minds' eye.

Of course the real version tends to be a tad more stress-filled.

What we all need is a li'l time, love, and tenderness.

We actually can make that happen, by giving the gift of kindness. (That and love are what makes the world go round!)

Following our Thanksgiving Theme of gratitude, here are two great places to go do just this:
The big "moral of the story" is that these are the ways morale is built.  Not just for others through the empathy you show them, but it also helps warm your own heart, bringing to focus what the real meaning of the season is!

It's the perfect type of advent calendar to bring into your holiday!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eco Adventure's "After A While, Crocodile: Alexa's Diary" Book Launch

It's not your typical Friday night when you can get all of this in one fell swoop:

  • Book signings
  • Bonfires warming
  • Face Paintings
  • Gator Holdings
  • Reticulated Python sightings
  • Reptile handling
  • Arts, and crafts galore, and more
But it is what you get when you go to EcoAdventures on a book launch eve of the book After A While Crocodile: Alexa's Diary by Dr. Brady Barr & Jennifer Keats Curtis.

The book follows Alexa in her school in Costa Rica, where she and her classmates are raising American Crocodiles.  She notes her crocodile's growth in her diary, and before you know it, it's time to return her guy Jefe back to the wild.

The two co-authors are infamous in their own rights. Dr. Brady Barr is known as a reptile expert (that's a "herpetologist" to you and me) and host to over 100 wildlife documentaries for National Geographic Television. He's a regular contributor to National Geographic Kids Magazine. Jennifer Keats Curtis is an environmental author of 18 children's books, many of which are on wildlife rescue. In addition to being passionate about animals and conservation, Jennifer is an amazing environmental educator (and Marylander) who also was a regular addition to our Eagle Cove Earth Week as an author in residence each year.  

EcoAdventures is the perfect place for this type of evening...especially when the Executive Director is Mei Len Sanchez-Barr...who is married to EcoAdventures' Public Relations guy and Animal Expert, Dr. Brady Barr!

Brady and Jennifer were on hand for autographs... as was Alexa! For me, meeting them was the highlight. However for the under-10 crowd that night, it could have been more about being around some really cool reptiles, getting faces painted, and a slew of other hands-on, memorable events.

After A While Crocodile: Alexa's Diary is a great book to round out your reptilian study.  Likewise, these are just a click away:

Eco Adventure logo from; all other pictures from my camera from the Book Launching event Novemenber 18, 2016.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Post-Feathered Feasting: Chef Ann Thanks Michelle Obama: Gratitude #4

Coming off the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us are still enmeshed in leftovers of the day: turkey sandwiches, leftover potatoes (mashed, sweet, or otherwise), and pie slices for breakfast.  (Unless it's my house, where the pie plate deceptively was left out, yet erroneously empty! Curses you felonious children of mine!)

Food is still on many of our minds.

Given that, and the fact that I'm still chuckling over President Obama's puns and pardons of both Tater and Tot, the flight to freedom of the White House Turkeys, I'm struck by another moment of gratitude this Thanksgiving season. That is the one from Chef Ann Cooper's toast to Michelle Obama and all of the strides the current First Lady has made these 8 years on behalf of health and wellness for our children.

In case you don't know who Chef Ann is, she's become the National Renegade Lunch Lady, on a mission to get healthy foods in our schools, for our kids.

Making enormous leaps in school lunches since 1999, Chef Ann certainly pays some of the tributes to Michelle Obama and her legacy.  Some of the things she highlights that we should all be thankful to our First Lady include:
From that toast, in Chef Ann's own words:
"None of this could have been accomplished without Michelle Obama's tireless dedication to childhood health. She's one of my heroes – she's a truly amazing advocate, a strong voice with true leadership and, as we've seen on numerous occasions, a powerful speaker. I'd like us all to raise a glass and toast the first lady. May we all support and grow the work that she began and forge partnerships with the new administration to further the health of our nation's children."
Cheers indeed!

#Wrong photo from my camera, using the LiPix app; Let's Move! logo from; Video from

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving & Thanking This Thanksgiving: Gratitude Part 3

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends, feasts, gratitude and giving... and a day off of work (if not a few) for a little rest and relaxation. A myriad of things to make people happy.

Here's a lovely list of things to be thankful for and ways to give back to all
    1. Give food to shelters
    2. Compost
    3. Minimize your transportation costs if possible
    4. Reduce, reuse, recycle
    5. Go organic when possible 
  • Remember the homeless and do what you can to help. That might mean donating to a shelter, or even serving food at a soup kitchen. 
  • Remember that holidays are not always happy times for all.  Remember those who have family far away or who have passed. Remember our military who are fighting overseas, separated from their loved ones. Send them a note, an email, drop by a meal, or share some times with them. A simple hug goes a long way.
  • Donate time where you can or make charitable donations for a cause you believe in.
For some past thoughts on this heartfelt holiday, visit some of my GTG posts from Tgiving past.

Header created using Canva. Rhanksgiving Blessing image created using PicCollage.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Out in Nature & Being Sure To #OptOutside This Black Friday: Gratitude Part 2

A weekend or 2 ago, one of the things I most wanted to do was go hiking with my family. So we did. And there is photographic proof of it. One of my favorite things about this picture is that the background of the collage is an another photo from the day--the amazingly brilliant oranges and golden hues of the season.

Walking meditations while outside, soaking in the beauty of autumn, is something to totally be thankful for.

Another thing to be thankful for: REI and their second annual invitation to #OptOutside. The gist of the campaign: REI is purposely, pointedly closing (both in stores and online) on the day after Thanksgiving (traditionally known as Black Friday--shopping, sales galore and more). Their philosophy (not to mention the whole brand of their store) is to get people outside, embracing nature, and bringing out everyone's best. So, all 149 stores are closed Black Friday, and their 12,287 employees get a paid day off.

Last year, 170 companies did the same.  This year... 475 companies are on board to do the same thing, so REI isn't going it alone.  Add in, National Parks from 22 states are offering free admission to further encourage people to get out there and enjoy nature.

Added bonus in opting outdoors... time unplugged. If you are outside, you can't get sucked into the vortex of social media and the likes of Facebook. It's a total escape from the media blitz and bad news of present day politics. If you are out and about, moving and grooving and in the moment, you can't be reading from the phone in the palm of your hand or from the screen upon your lap. Plus, sitting and being sedentary is the new smoking & peril of our time. Being out, and really one with nature and viewing is a beautiful, wonderful thing.
"As a nation we're still spending over 90 percent of our lives indoors and it's a trend we need to tackle," said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke in a statement. "The moment we announced our decision last year, people who build their lives around the outdoors really embraced the idea of reclaiming Black Friday. It took on a life of its own and became about much more than REI."
At this writing, more than 2 million people have opted in to #OptOutside.  Will you? For an activity finder, check out their website. For some inspiration, check out their gallery.

Video from
"Will You Go Out With Me" pic; other photos from our outdoor adventures.