Monday, July 30, 2012

The Power of Spreading Environmentalism Through Social Media

It's a week of Infographics! Here's one about "Responsibility for the Planet" and the idea of if environmentalism was spread amongst social media. What would that look like?

'Sharing' Responsibility for the Planet

Infographic from

Friday, July 27, 2012

You Had Me At iCloud

I've been fortunate enough to have iPads available in my classroom for the past year, and a few months of the prior school year.  As will happen, prolonged exposure to one at school let me to having one at home.  Then came the time to upgrade my phone.  That happened right about the same time as Apple introduced us to "the Cloud."

It goes without saying:  They had me at iCloud.  I officially become one with AppleNation. I love that my iPhone and my iPad sync and I can access information on both.  Yes, they had me at iCloud.

Here's a great infographic about Cloud computing and its eco-benefits!

cloud computing

Infographic from

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TV Room Becomes "EcoRoom"

TV Room Becomes EcoRoom from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

I often tease my husband that if he is not careful, he's going to be accused of drinking the "eco-koolaid" just simply due to prolonged exposure to me. He typically laughs, and agrees with me, telling me it's a risk he's willing to take. Well, it just may be beginning to happen!

You know you have truly become a grown up when you find yourself saying things such as "For my birthday I want to get rid of the carpet in the TV room and put in hard wood flooring."  These were the words this past spring from my husband.  Truthfully, who can blame him given that the off-white carpeting has been more "off-colored" than "in" for years.  My question: who puts in white carpeting?  The eternal optimist apparently, who doesn't have kids or dogs, and moves out before reality sets in!

So, we bit the bullet and made the plan for wood flooring.  And, as I mentioned in a previous GTG post, my husband (good man that he is) agreed that we could go the bamboo, sustainable route.  Even better, we went with an eco-friendly underlayment made from recycled tires, which will ultimately help with sound reduction and insulation.  Very cool. 

So what's an eco-koolaid-drinking, edtech-kind-of-teacher to do to celebrate her sustainability home plan?  Why, make an iMovie about it, of course.  So, check it out above

For those of you on the fence about whether to "bamboo" or not, here are some interesting bamboo flooring fun facts:

✒ Strand woven bamboo flooring is one of the hardest types of wood flooring out there.  Our friends at Lumber Liquidators told us that it is the 5th hardest wood out there.

✒ Bamboo (a grass) grows incredibly fast--faster than any of our other planetary plants. It regrows and regenerates from the same roots.

✒ Fully matured, "old growth" bamboo for flooring happens after 4-7 opposed to matured hardwood trees, which takes approximately 60 years to mature.

 ✒ The bamboo yield per hectacre can be up to 20 times a greater yield than a typical timber forest. Ergo, it is a much more environmentally friendly option.

✒  The species of bamboo used for flooring is not on panda's diet, so no panda will starve due to your desire for sustainable flooring.

Pictures and videos from my camera; "Determination" poster made using the Motivational Poster iPad app with our pics; iMovie made from my pics and housed over at Vimeo

Friday, July 20, 2012

Annie Leonard's "Story of Change"

Annie Leonard, the mover, shaker, and activist maker, creator of "The Story of Stuff" (aka: S'O'S) is at it again, this time in her "Season 2" video:  "The Story of Change."  In this one, not only is she highlighting the importance of living green, but that is only a mere starting place.  She discusses that big changes come in becoming active... and activists. She puts forth a 3-part solution plan as to what we all can do to get to the heart of the problems... whatever "Big Idea" that might be.  As she states, "trying to live eco-perfectly is like trying to swim upstream while the current is pushing us all the other way."

Teachers: Check out the S'o'S website for Curricular resources.

Other S'o'S adorers:   Check out past GTG commentary on the subject!

As Mahatma Gandhi proposes:  "Be the change you want to see in the world.”

As Annie's time to exercise our citizens muscles!! 

What kind of change maker are you? 

Image from; video from; Gandhi pic from (and the video).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Climate Change Conversations, Everywhere!

This morning, as I was lazily meandering through the Twittersphere (trying to prolong the harsh reality called "getting out of bed"), I was struck by the recurrent theme that seemed to be cropping up. 

Now granted, with all of the "eco" and "edtech" handles and hashtags I follow, the variations on the theme tend to fall in the color spectrum of shades of green and shades of...what color would "edtech" be? Red, for apples? (Both the "for the teacher kind" and for the "Steve Jobs/iPad/computer" kind.) Regardless...I digress.

Anyhoo, despite my typical green and red shades and spectrums, it was notable this morning just how many tweets pointed toward the unfortunate evidence of climate change. I think it is called "that kind of summer."

Here are some pretty eye opening links, and the Striking Comments (which I'll conveniently call "SC's") that I noticed from each one:

SC: The video itself:

The 2012 Drought Reaches 'Dust Bowl' Proportions  (From The Atlantic Wire 7/16/2012)
SC:  "The 54.6 percent figure (not counting Alaska and Hawaii) makes this year's drought the sixth worst on record in terms of area covered, behind only the brutal droughts of the mid-1950s and the "Dust Bowl" era of the 1930s."

Drought Stress Continues on Crops Despite Showers (From Reuters 7/16/2012)
SC:  "A report from climate experts on Thursday said the Midwest was in the grips of the worst drought in a quarter of a century."

2012-07-16-droughtmap2.jpgExtreme Weather Disaster Area: This Is What the Climate Crisis Looks Like (From Huffington Post 7/15/2012)
SC: The map and "The U.S. Department of Agriculture has named over 1,000 counties in 26 states as disaster areas -- the largest declaration in history -- as a result of the recent drought, wildfires and other extreme weather events..."

Climate Change Fuels the Perfect Firestorm (From Climate Central 7/15/2012)
SC: "In the 1960s, an average of 460 fires each year in Colorado burned about 8,000 acres annually, according to state forest service records. In the past decade that average jumped to about 2,500 fires a year, burning nearly 100,000 acres. Those trends are reflected nationwide. Wildfires burned an average 7 million acres a year across the nation during the 2000s — twice the average of the 1990s. In the coming decade, scientists anticipate, 10 to 12 million acres of U.S. forests will burn each year.....But the greatest impact on the most recent wildfires may well be the changing climate. "What we’re seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like," said Princeton University geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer during a conference call with reporters in the days after the Colorado firestorms. "It looks like heat. It looks like fires.  And it looks like drought."

Majority of Americans Believe Climate is Warming, Weather Less Stable (From Clean Techies 7/16/2012)
SC: "In a poll conducted by the Washington Post and Stanford University last month, six in 10 respondents said that weather patterns have been more unstable during the last three years than in the past; almost as many respondents said that average temperatures had increased during the last three years."

If Climate Counts, Why is Big Oil Gaming the System? (From Clean Techies 7/16/2012)
SC: "In the recent study A Climate of Corporate Control, the Union of Concerned Scientists uncovered several S&P 500 companies that had “made statements in support of climate science and policy in some public venues, while spreading misinformation on climate science or hindering science-based policy elsewhere.” In fact, of the 28 companies researched, 21 of them acted in direct contradiction to their stated positions on climate change, largely employing methods that skirted direct accountability (e.g. sizeable political contributions, lobbying expenditures and the funding of trade groups and think tanks). Of the most egregious offenders are companies such as Conoco Phillips, Caterpillar Inc., Exxon Mobil and Peabody Energy Corporation."

Obama and Romney Ignoring Climate Change (From Discovery News 7/10/2012)SC: " Seventy-eight percent of Democrats believe in climate change while only 47 percent of Republicans hold that view, according to the poll. However, although climate change is a partisan issue in the U.S., political scientists doubt that an increasing belief in the phenomenon will have a major effect on the elections in November."

Romney Flips To Denial: 'We Don't Know What's Causing Climate Change' (From ThinkProgress 10/28/2011)
SC:  The video itself:

All videos and images from the links they are pictured under except the first one, which is from

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Bounty in "BAG IT!" ~ Part 2

I've got plastic on the brain, and I'm not quite done with the true bounty that accompanies the movie "BAG IT"  If you're new to the program and missed it, be sure to check out my Part 1 post on this incredibly eye-opening documentary.

In watching the film, I was struck by some of the infographics, especially when it came to the maps illustrating places that have plastic bag bans in place.  Check out the screen captures from "Bag It" from approximately 7-11 minutes into the film. Keep in mind this movie was released in 2010. See if you notice what I did about the United States compared to the rest of the world:

In the immortal words of Sesame Street (slightly modified):  "Some of these things are not like the other!!"  California has been a US leader, in particular San Francisco (the first US city to ban bags), but even they have met upon resistance all along the way--especially from the Plastic Bag Lobby of the American Chemistry Council.

Luckily here in 2012, more cities have jumped on board.  For a complete list, check out The Plastic Ban Report.  There you'll see articles on a slew of cities, including Los Angeles, the first big US city to ban plastics bags.  We're moving in the right direction, it's just taking awhile!

This past June, an article came out in the China Daily verifying that in the four years since China's June 1, 2008 plastic bag ban, over 24 Billion (yes, "B") bags have been saved due to reduced consumption.  That is equivalent to 4,800,000 tons of oil that was NOT put into production for disposable throw away bags.  In terms of coal, that would be equivalent to 6.8 million tons.  That's a lot of saved energy and natural resources.

So as the eyes start opening, perhaps more will follow suit. 

The question you may be asking is, where can I start--especially as an educator.  The answers are simple, and many:

1.  Watch BAG IT!  Check it out on Netflix, or this Sunday, July 15 at 4 pm on the Documentary Channel.

2.  Check out the Educator Page on the BAG IT website for resources and information as to how to become a BAG IT school, educational advocate, books to read, or how to host a screening

3.  Look into the 24 page BAG IT curriculum which is geared to 4th--12th grade.

4.  Read the Plastic Ban Report.

5.  Most importantly... skip out on the plastic bags.  Bring your own.  Mine live in my trunk of my car and I'm getting better at stopping there to grab them prior to heading into the grocery story.  I'm even getting better of heading back to the car if I'm in the store and have forgotten to grab them.  It's a little step, but it's the right direction.  Case and point:  a quote that appeared in film BAG IT: 
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed people can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead

Skip the Bag, Save the River pic from;  all other pictures in this post are screen capture pics taken from my iPad from the movie BAG IT!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bounty in "BAG IT!" ~ Part 1

With it being summer, I'm catching up on podcasts via TeacherCast.Net, TED Talks I have missed, documentaries on Netflix that I've been stockpiling, and perhaps a soap opera or two. Through it all, I see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.   Especially when it comes to environmental issues.   Namely: Plastics.

Just ask Mr. McGuire from 1967's "The Graduate"...

..or ask author Norman Mailer, who was quoted in 1983 with saying:
“I sometimes think that there is a malign force loose in the universe that is the social equivalent of cancer, and it’s plastic. It infiltrates everything. It’s metastasis. It gets into every single pore of productive life.”
Both commentaries were before--well before--today, where we have...
  • Giant vortexes of plastic trash swirling about in every one of our planet's oceans;
  • Generations of sea creatures eating plastic bits called nurdles which make their way up our marine food chain, all the way to our plates;
  • The threat of the toxic, endocrine disruptor BPA (bisphenol A) in everything from former baby bottles, to plastic toys, to canned food linings, to containers that fill our house, and more;
  • Petroleum is a non-renewable resource, where there are shortages globally--yet we continue to use that petroleum to create a wasteful, disposable, throw away society filled with more and more plastics;
  • The disillusion that "Yay! We are recycling!" yet still today, many plastic trash gets burned or dumped elsewhere upon recycling, causing us to continue our plastic waste use, continuing the cycle.
Bag ItCan you tell I'm not pro-plastics?! (Not a surprise to anyone who has been following GTG.)

One of my "favorite" viewing finds (in a disturbingly eye-opening sort of way) is the documentary BAG IT!  Interestingly, it's not new to me, as I wrote about it nearly 2 years ago when it hit the big screen, here in the GTG post "BAG IT!"  When it finally hit Netflix, I never got around to it, untiil now. But finally, having seen it, I feel it really should be mandatory viewing for all!

Bag It Intro from Suzan Beraza on Vimeo.

The basic premise of "BAG IT!" is that we, as a world, need to "bag" the whole idea of plastic bags, bottles, and more. About 4 minutes in, there's a poignant comment: "Plastic is an incredibly valuable resource. It is something that really has a purpose and needs to be used for that purpose in our society.  Petroleum is way too scarce, and way too important to us to be thrown away as a plastic bag." I wholeheartedly agree. 

From the film, I learned that we use about 1,000,000 plastic grocery bags a minute. This calculates out to 500 billion bags a year. Those are some numbers for something that was ultimately designed for a 20 minute life span. That equals a heck of a lot of wasted barrels of oil!

I think it is also interesting that just this past week I heard that "climate change" was no longer the top environmental concern. Yes, people are still aware of that growing issue (which seems to become more and more irrefutable), yet the greatest concern nationwide is now water/oceanic pollution and air pollution. Plastics touch both.

I have more...lots share on this subject.  But until then, check out the trailers, and then check out "BAG IT!" either at Netflix, or when it airs on the Documentary Channel this Sunday, July 15th at 4 pm. 

In the meantime, "bag" the plastic!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Meeting the 100° Heat

You can rarely score better than 100% on a test. People say when you give something 110%, you're giving it "your all." 100--110% are remarkably good things! However, 110, when it refers to the heat index that is associated with the 102°F temperatures outdoors, is not that good of a thing after all. 100 is truly not any better. Hot is hot. Bloody hot!! Dangerously hot!

According to The Weather Channel's recorded weather for Baltimore for the last 7 days this July (see graph to the right), we've been living on or near 100°F for the bulk of a week. In fact, in looking at the graph, I beg to differ with Friday's 99°F due to the 3-digit number that my car thermometer reported (not to mention my own personal sweat factor). During yesterday's 104°F, I was attending a wedding (thankfully indoors), and I "sweated" more than I think I have ever sweat before. Yet, the bride and groom merely glistened and glowed... despite the fact that their families had endured 7 days in all of this heat with no electricity due to the Friday, June 29th derecho storm that swiped Maryland, knocking out trees and power left and right. (Plus, now they have a good story to tell their grandchildren about the week prior to their wedding.)

Just 2 days ago, an interesting article appeared as an OpEd piece in Newsday by Joshua Keating entitled "Bad Weather or Global Warming?" In it, he argues just that--when is weather just wacky, and when is it a result of climate change (aka "global warming.")? He writes:

"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level," University of Arizona professor Jonathan Overpeck told The Associated Press of this summer's heat waves, wild fires and brutal storms. The liberal news watchdog Media Matters has blasted outlets that fail to mention climate change in the coverage of the wildfires sweeping across western states. Some commentators have also blamed climate change for the June 29 derecho storm that spread from the Midwest to the East Coast and left 23 dead and 1.4 million without power."
He goes on to say (as I quote from the same article):
"In fact, more than 2,000 U.S. heat records were broken just in the past week. Climatologists argue that while there's certainly nothing unexpected in periodic record-breaking temperatures, the rate at which these records are being broken year after year can't be explained away by coincidence."
"There's a randomness to weather, but what we're seeing is loading of the weather dice to the point where sixes are coming up 10 times more often," says Mann. "If you were gambling and you saw sixes coming up 10 times more often you'd start to notice. We are seeing climate change now in the statistical loading of these dice."
Keating goes on to say that there are still complications from causally connecting one weather event to climate change, but I think his gambling analogy is a good one.  Why?  Gambling is something we all associate with money, and money does indeed seem to be something we all understand.  It is through money that we often feel the biggest impact.  So perhaps some of those climatary punches will start to be felt.

When you add in some greater statistics, I think the climate change argument gets harder and harder to argue and dispel.  According to Science Daily, May 2012 had the second warmest global temperatures on record since we've been keeping track of that data since 1880. (Incidentally, the #1 time was only 2 years ago: May 2010). (For those of you wondering why "May 2012" and not June or July, the statistical analysis for May came out June 18th, meaning it's probably too early in July for full info on June!) If that stat isn't good enough, what about this one:
"May 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive May and 327th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average."

327 months in a row? That's 27.25 years. YEARS!! Years beating the 20th century average. That is significant. That is older than my friends, the bride and groom, at yesterday's wedding
It is through numbers such as these that makes me shake my head, wondering what people are thinking when they vehemently argue against the fact that the planet is heading up at a rapid rate. Numbers such as these are not coincidental!

Weather stats from; Weather image from Keating's article; Wedding photo from my camera.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our House Meets Vision House

Ask any panda and he (or she) might disagree, but bamboo is not just for dining anymore. Nor is it just for pandas.

In my house, we celebrated our patriotic rights and freedoms this Fourth of July by heading to Home Depot and Lumber Liquidators (where, yes, there's an App for that).  There, we exercised our First Amendment Rights and the freedom of speech, by exercising our freedom of choice and the right to choose whatever kind of flooring we want for out house.

We had already decided in May that the not-so-white-anymore white carpeting HAD to go in our family room. (What were they thinking, whoever put that in?!?)  My husband, knowing the eco-nut that I am, graciously let me talk him into bamboo rather than traditional hard wood flooring.

We want what the pandas are having. We chose sustainability. We chose bamboo.  All we have to do now is choose color and type! (AKA, the hard part).

Given that it is Independence Day, and there's freedoms &  fireworks (and more), it reminds me of our last experience w/fireworks. Ironically, it was only a mere week and change ago on our Floridian family adventures to Disney World and beyond. This time my memories take me to Epcot... specifically, to our visit with their Vision House exhibit in Epcot's Innoventions.

The Epcot-ian Vision House is one of the first "high profile" green home exhibits that are "designed to get mainstream America excited about sustainable living."  Opened Earth Day 2012 (for obvious reason), Vision House (sponsored by Green Builder Media) is an example of all that can be in the world of green building.

Add in, they have a 3 great portals where you can "choose your world:" kids, grown ups, or teachers.   Three great tastes that taste great together!! Whether you want straight info, "Earth Games," ready made power point lessons, how-to videos or fun/eco-animated stories with an enviro-message, the Vision House website has oodles and gobs! The kids' page is exceptional!!

Of course after my visit to Vision House, my wheels are turning more and more of all the cool things we can do!  Some of the neat features of Vision House, from my own camera:
Check out that Coca Cola Recycle Symbol.

Soda Bottle recycled chairs above sustainable
flooring, and a refurbished dining table.
Insulation? Yes!  Levis!!
Panda pic:; Vision House Sign; all others from my trip and my camera:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trekking Down to Animal Kingdom's Conservation Station

As I've mentioned in the last few posts, I spent a chunk of June in Florida. With our kids being at the perfect age (and being former Floridians), this summer was just the right time to do the Theme Park circuit. Not only did we do LEGOLAND, but we also hit up Disney and SeaWorld.

Along our many travels, my inner eco-editor was always on the lookout!  It wasn't hard at all at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  We jumped a train which took us to an area of the park called "Conservation Station."  With Rafiki (from "The Lion King") as our guide, we walked a trail between the rail station and the conservation center.  Along the way, snapping pictures as we went, we learned from several informational signs the answer to "This conservation...what is it?" We also discovered what we can do in our backyards and beyond to put conservation into action!!  Be sure to learn about many things you can do at home by checking out the mini-photo/movie tour of mine above or over at Vimeo.

Animal Kingdom's Conservation Station from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo; pics from my camera!