Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Burn-out

I'd like to know who came up with the idea that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the day that should become "Black Friday?"  Is it that it's a 4-day weekend for most, opening up prime shopping time before returning to work and school?  Is it that it officially opens up the Christmas season?  (Which is a joke any more given that glittery, plug-in Christmas trees start showing up in the Big Box Stores round-about the same time Halloween costumes start coming down.)  Is it what happens when the economy goes slightly crazy?

Yeah, I know.  All of the above.

But I think the comic up there is fitting.  Let's spend a day of feast, plenty, and giving thanks, with family and friends, content with what we have...only to then go home, set the alarm for a bizarre middle-of-the-night wake up time, and go out with the masses to "shop till you drop."  It's craziness, I tell you!  Madness indeed!  I find it additionally frustrating, that marketing advertisers play on the tight economic times (and everyone's own tight budgets) by dangling the carrot of "Deals, deals, deals!" in front of us.  So, Pavlovian as we all are, shoppers head to the stores...hypnotized much like the followers of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Of course, it might go without saying that I'm not a shopper.  Spending hard-earned, valuable monetary resources on a boatload of stuff that a year from now you won't remember...not my thing.  Add in the millions of people, the traffic, the lines.  Definitely not my thing.  (Remember, I'm the one who, a few short weeks ago, cleaned my garage, shaking my head all the while.)

However, one year (not so many years ago) we actually did try to take advantage of the advertised mucho mega "Black Friday" sales.  I believe a big screen TV was our quest.  We showed up at the store at 3 a.m. to wait outdoors, shivering in a cold and lengthy line, complete w/ blankets to keep warm and chairs to be comfy.  They let us in at 5 a.m (or was it 6?), where...just as all the video footage you've ever seen...people bolted in the store and up the escalator.  I'm talking sprinting, get out of the way or you'll get hurt, through the stores, up the stairs, sprinting.  This was a "respectable department store" too, not the madness of a crazy over-crowded mega-mart. 

Of course, the quest led to an over-small, over-crowded electronics department with yet another line, and numbers being handed out.  Surprise to no one but perhaps me, they were under-stocked (purposely) but had lots of other inviting things that perhaps we'd want to purchase instead.  Yeah, no thanks.  So we went home empty-handed, disgusted with the whole ordeal, and I think we were napping by 9 am.  So not worth it.  Again, big surprise to no one but me!

And yet, according to Tampa Bay Newspaper's Online Edition "Black Friday" business will be booming this year: (from http://tbnweekly.com/front_page/content_articles/112310_fpg-01.txt)
"Nationally, more than 138 million people are expected to head to the stores on Black Friday weekend, and millions have spent time mapping out their strategy and completing their shopping lists. According to a National Retail Federation survey by BIGresearch, of the 138 million who say they plan to shop, 60 million say they will definitely shop this weekend, while 78 million say they’ll wait and see how good the deals are before deciding to brave the crowds and traffic."
Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, wrote a very powerful blog this November 23rd entitled "Choose Family Over Frenzy" (find it here:  http://ow.ly/3evEg).  In it, she talked abut how, by this past Tuesday, she'd gotten 7 email ads for "Black Friday" sales.  It got me curious and counting my own inbox:  20 in the 24 hrs of post-Thanksgiving/pre-"Black Friday" frenzy.  All from caring merchants either thanking me for my previous shopping or my wish to be on their newsletter list.  Thank you so much for kindly thinking of me!  Delete. Delete. Delete.

So Black Friday has come and gone for 2010, but there's still Cyber Monday, and a whole season of shopping ahead.  It does bring about the curiosity of what the credit card bills and garages across our country will look like for 2011 ahead.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Attitudes of Gratitude

Here we are, on the eve of Turkey Day (or "Tofu"rkey Day, if you prefer), which most certainly puts us in a mode of Thanksgiving.  
Appreciation.  
Gratitude.  
Gratefulness.  
Being Thankful.  

Whether you're young or old, in classrooms or not, approaching life with an "attitude of gratitude" is certainly a good idea.  I think it's easy for people, environmentalists in particular, to fall into a "doom and gloom mentality" based on how overwhelming some of our planetary problems can feel...especially given the economic struggles of the last few years.  Yet, I think it's a good habit of behavior--and sometimes, depending on our perspectives, a bit of a perspectivizing challenge--to list all of the things in life we are thankful for.

This season of Thanksgiving, make a list of 5, 10, 20, perhaps even 100 things both in your life, the world around you (and the issues you believe in) that you are thankful for.  Write it down, keep it somewhere handy, and check back in with it frequently

It makes for good "food for thought" as you celebrate your Thanksgiving feasts this season!
"Develop an attitude of gratitude,& give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger & better than your current situation.”   ~Brian Tracy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eco...or is That Elmo??

Who doesn't love Elmo

I mean really....he's small, cute, furry, red...and Elmo!  
Follow Elmo here as he and Jason Mraz Join Sesame Street to get kids Outside.
  
Join Maryland and their "No Child Left Inside" program to follow Governor Martin O'Malley's urging to get our youngsters outside, embracing the great outdoors, and taking advantages of the resources that surround them!!

From their website:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men 
to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. 
Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

~Antoine de Saint Exupery

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Planning for an Eco-Turkey Day


Moonbeam PilgrimTurkey Day is right around the corner (leaving many of us wondering how on Earth it's humanly possible to be this time of year, but that's another commentary entirely)! 

So, as you are gearing up your cornucopia of menu ideas for your feast, there are a ton of FUN ideas for classroom and family-table alike over at PlanetPals. 

recycle artPlanetPals is a warehouse of educational, eco-friendly, ideas that can suit any grade level.  On top of that, there's not only a teachers page (chock-filled with lesson plans and activities), but also a parents page.  PLUS there's arts, crafts, and games galore that are fun for your little ones.  It's a pretty packed portal!

Thanksgiving-specific, you can find:
  • "15 great 'E'cology tips to help you make a greener world this holiday!"
  • "Edible Food Art Thanksgiving Crafts"
  • "Thanksgiving Recycle Crafts"
  • "Gratitude and Thanksgiving: A World-wide Tradition!"
  • "Tis the Season for Homespun Traditions"
  • "Thanksgiving Travel Can Be A Gas....Saver"
  • "Don't Gobble Up The Earth! Learn how you can to SAVE MONEY and SAVE EARTH This Thanksgiving"
  • "A United Nations Thanksgiving Proclamation"
  • "Recycle Your Pumpkins After Thanksgiving"
To check out these great ideas (and to find the cute images above), go to http://www.planetpals.com/green-thanksgiving.html

To learn the PlanetPals story, go to http://www.planetpals.com/planetpals_story.html 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Green Your Routine" and Live In "Harmony" Friday, November 19th, 2010 at 10pm EST on NBC!


Harmony Movie Trailer from Balcony Films on Vimeo.

It only makes sense that "Green Week" should happen in the same week as "America Recycles Day."  Makes almost as much sense as it happening concurrent to "Earth Day."  Well, in November of 2007, during a one week time period, NBC TV did just that.  They shared 150+ eco-themed programming & their commitment to sustainability (aka "Green Week").  The Week of Earth Day 2008 it only seemed natural that they do the same (aka "Earth Week"). 

Thus started a bi-annual NBC TV event  (interestingly enough, tied this year with TV mega-week "Sweeps Week"...where anyone who knows a bit about TV knows that this is the week where show ratings are bigger, and more important than most--so I find it bold that they are linking Sweeps with their Green Week!!).  

Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our WorldPerfectly timed for NBC's Green Week, tomorrow night (Friday, November 19th) at 10 pm EST, NBC is airing the movie "Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World."  

Prince Charles (aka, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales) takes viewer to visit with global leaders about global environmental issues.  From their website:
"They are working to transform the world, address the global environmental crisis and find ways toward a more sustainable, spiritual and harmonious relationship with the planet."
But more than a mere documentary on issue awareness, Prince Charles and the Harmony visionaries are also looking for and offering solutions.

So, whether it's "Date Night Friday Night" or not, be sure to set the DVR and tape "Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World" so you can watch it, then watch it again, ruminating over the richness of our planet, and take stock in what you can do.

To learn more about NBC's twice annually "Green Week," go to http://www.nbc.com/green/about/To learn more about Prince Charles' inspired movie "Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World go to http://theharmonymovie.com/home.php
 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bag the Bag & Plastic Plague



Strange Days on Planet Earth 2Two great video clips narrated by Edward Norton from National Geographics 2008 4-part environmental mystery series "Strange Days on Planet Earth2" (which you can rent to watch from Netflix...along with the original 2005 "Strange Days on Planet Earth" )



Monday, November 15, 2010

Celebrate America Recycles Day TODAY!

Passing this along from our friends at CynerGreen!  and CGKidz


RECYCLING FACTS!
Celebrate Monday, November 15, 2010
America Recycles Day
by choosing to make a difference.  (Please pass along)

You can:
  • Find a recycling bin and facts from your local pickup on what is accepted.
  • Think before you Toss.  Almost everything these days can be recycled.
  • Support local efforts to increase recycling rates.
  •  Purchase biodegradable products and remember to REUSE so you reduce the need for Recycling!
  • Go big and eliminate the use of plastic water bottles completely.  Purchase a safe, stainless steel, reusable bottle.

HERE ARE SOME USEFUL STATISTICS.

  • We use 80,000,000,000+ aluminum soda cans a year.

  • If every American recycled just 10% of their newspapers, we would save 25,000,000 trees a year.

  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

  • There is no limit to the amount of times an aluminum can be recycled.

  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.

  • Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!

  • Mining and transporting raw materials for glass creates about 385 lbs of waste for 1 ton of new glass.

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill a 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!

  • The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees.

  • Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups every year.

  • The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a CFL for 20 hours. 

  • An estimated 80,000,000 Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day, using enough aluminum foil to cover over 50 acres or 40 football fields. All of that foil is recyclable.

  • 100 acres of Rainforests get cut down every minute!

  • A single quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.
  •  A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose -- and even longer if it's in a landfill!
 Happy Recycling!

Danelle Hoffer
CynerGreen | EcoFab Stores, Inc.
http://www.cynergreen.com/
http://www.cgkidz.com/

The Promenade, Chenal

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Story of....My Garage!



Yesterday we had a family affair adventure in organizing, which was probably more like a horrendous nightmare for my children:  Cleaning out our garage!   We did it in true "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" style--the entire contents came out, in the front yard, the driveway, the porch....  Sort, sift, purge, organize ~ for nearly 8 hours yesterday, we cleaned the garage!  

(As an "after the fact" thought, I realized we should have done the "before, during, and after" pictures to immortalize the transformation.)


The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for ChangeAside from cheerleading my kids through the process, I found myself thinking a lot about Annie Leonard and The Story of Stuff.  It's amazing how much "stuff" four people can amass!  We had a lot of stuff!  Yes, some of it is holiday decorations, some outgrown clothes, some camping gear which only gets used occasionally, tools & workbench fillers...those are the things you expect in a garage.  


But there sure was a whole lot of other "stuff" too.  The container of cords that go to heaven-knows-what, like the one Annie Leonard mentioned in http://storyofstuff.org/electronics/.  Broken toys & goofy li'l Happy Meal Toys in need of being tossed (in the recycling, I'll have you know!).  The lamp that no longer goes with this decor (in the car for the GoodWill).  The car seat that has been too little for too many years (again, another for the donation pile).  All that "stuff" that we just had to have at one time our another...which was now in boxes and tossed aside in our garage. Stuff, stuff, stuff....that at one time we couldn't live without, and now we can't wait to get rid of it.


It also got me thinking of the TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch Webcast last weekend.  Particularly Van Jones and how he referred to "us" as a society that values disposability.  Our throw-away society has 5% of the population, yet we create 25% of the greenhouse gases & have 25% of the world's criminals in jails.  Factories that create (and others that destroy), plastic products do so in neighborhoods where the poorest of our people live, and the toxins from those products do the most harm to the people our society places the least value on.  Disposable.  

* Heavy sigh!*

Back to my garage.... I go in there and I feel peaceful now, looking at the organized shelves, not seeing the chaos of 48 hours ago.  I also feel good knowing that I've got my electronics ready to be sent off to the e-waste center, my outgrown clothes ready to be donated, and my recycling ready to be taken out.  It's my hope that the lessons from TEDx & Story of Stuff stay strong in my mind so that we don't find ourselves here--garage items on the lawn--once again.

Last Week's TEDx on Marine Debris; This Week's Call to Arms!!

A busy week of school/life has kept me from here, from updating....yet mucho thanks to the Huffington Post for doing the exact entry that I'd have loved to do.  Here's a perfect update of the TEDx conference last week sponsored by the Plastic Pollution Coalition.  Refuse Plastic.  It's leaps, bounds,and then some above recycling, reusing, and reducing!!

Again...Huffington Post, Deborah Basset:  Kudos!


Picture from Plastic Pollution, Bulgaria Photo Courtesy: TEDxGP2

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 2010 Green Team Gazette

It's November and it's time for a new month's newsletter Green Team Gazette!

This month's highlights:
  • Harvest Time & a season of overeating
  • Top 5 "Must See" Food DVD's
  • "Fish Free Fridays" à la the Plastiki
  • The "Dirty Dozen" Grocery Grid
To download, go to:

Be there or be square :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Titanic Amount of Frightening Plastic Facts

I have a fascination with the Titanic, which I've actually written about before (See "Titanic & Plastic Almost Rhyme").

As I've mentioned before, I get about half way into the Leonardo di Caprio/Kate Winslett Movie, and realize how horribly awful the Titanic truly was.

The same thing sort of happened yesterday while I was watching the TEDx Great Garbage Patch live webcast event sponsored by Plastic Pollution Coalition.  I'm fascinated (as is evidence from this blog) by recycling, over-consumption, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and what we can do to help our planet and our environment.  Yet, when you watch speaker after speaker, experts in the environmental and health fields, talking of frightening statistics related to plastics, you start to realize how horrible our love affair with plastic and our disposable society is. 

The TEDx Great Garbage Patch event ran from 8:30 am--6:30 pm PST...which translates to 11:30--9:30 in my eastern standardized time zone.  I watched a good 80% of it.  After watching it, even though much of it I knew, I am changed.  The statistics were truly "Titanic" in size and proportion.  

The  biggies:
  • From Capt Charles Moore who first discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch:    In 1999, there were 6 pieces of plastic to every 1 piece of plankton in some parts of the ocean.  10 years later (2009), the numbers are now 36 pieces of plastic per 1 piece of plankton.  True exponential growth in a ten year time period.  What will 2019 hold??
  • From Fabien Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau's grandson:  95% of the world's life is in the ocean, 99% of the world's biodiversity is in the ocean.  The Garbage Patch is larger than perceived "2 Texases," but more like the size of Canada.
  • Less than 5% of plastic world wide gets recycled--and recycling isn't always what happens when you are recycling.  Much of that gets incinerated in other countries, releasing toxins into the air.
  • From Van Jones (author of "Green Collar Economy"):  The USA is 5% of the global population but responsible for 25% of the green house gases and 25% of the world's prisoners are here in the US.  There is a tie-in with poverty and pollution (in that most disposal sites are located where lower income families live, harming their lives more!!)  "Disposability is something our country believes in."
  • From Jeanne Rizzo, CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund:  93% of us are carrying the toxic plastic BPA (Bisphenol-A) in our body's system...less than 10% of breast cancer is strictly genetic, meaning environmental hazards of the Tupperware era are to blame.  1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer!
  • From Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group:  Plastic Chemical pollution begins in the womb...and we don't know what does are too low to matter!
I could go on and on!  I think it's pretty safe to say that I am "grossed out" by plastic.  With the wealth of information from the multitude of speakers, I know this topic shall continue here in the GTG....

...To be continued!....
To see some of the shorts that were a part of the livestream yesterday, click the title above or go to http://www.livestream.com/tedxgp2.
Pictures from http://coastalcare.org/2009/11/plastic-pollution/ andhttp://climatechangesocialchange.wordpress.com/

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Today = TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch Live Webstreaming

TED = Technology, Entertainment & Design

But today (Saturday, November 6) is the all-day TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch live webcast event.  With the notable oceanographers, explorers, and environmental experts speaking out at the event about the perils of plastic in our seas, "TED" could stand for something different:

Time to Educate & Decide About Plastic! 
If you're on the computer today from 8:30 am --6 pm Pacific Standard Time (11:30 am -- 9 pm Eastern Standard Time), you need to stop by.  Go to http://www.tedxgreatpacificgarbagepatch.com/ 

Make time to educate yourself & decide that it's time to start refusing those plastics!!  That's exactly what I'll be doing as I host our event at Eagle Cove School (http://www.eaglecoveschool.org/special-eco-events)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Plastic Beach

6 to 1.

How's that for a ratio?

Depends.  Might be decent odds at a horse race...or, it's an exceptional student to teacher ratio. 

What if, however, it is what it is:  The number of pieces of plastic in some parts of the ocean to every one "piece" of plankton?  Given the minuscule size of the plastic, it easily can become mistaken for food for marine wildlife...meaning too that you, in turn, might find that your seafood dinner consumed multiple pieces of plastic trash.  

Take 2.5 minutes and watch this video of Midway Island and the plastic trash found there
T-minus-3 days until Saturday's TEDx live webcast event on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  To learn more, go to http://www.tedxgreatpacificgarbagepatch.com/ 

Picture from http://knowledge.allianz.com/en/media/galleries/dying_oceans_human_impacts/12.html