Saturday, June 30, 2018

Oyster Shaking for the Bay

When you have a high schooler who needs service hours, you find yourself in search of new opportunities, often taking part, and often times doing so as a family.

Yesterday was one of those.

My kids and I headed down to Shady Side, Maryland to "do a little oyster shaking." Having never done that before, I wasn't quite sure what it all entailed. 

I had an bit of an idea what it was based on my days at Eagle Cove School. There, my 3rd graders raised oyster spat and had to weekly shake sediment off the oysters within the cage at the end of our school's dock. After a year of doing that every Friday in Science, we always had a spring field trip where Chesapeake Bay Foundation arrived by boat at our pier, clearly making it the best field trip ever! Once on board, we traveled along the Magothy River where the students measured salinity and turbidity before releasing the oysters into the Bay at a designated oyster sanctuary. 

Oyster shaking wasn't anything like that!

 Instead, it involved shoveling oyster shells that were essentially being recycled from restaurants. Lots of oyster shells! Individually, they barely weigh anything. En masse, they aren't exactly light! I'm feeling it in my back and arms today after 2 hours yesterday of shoveling the shells into a super-sized sifter, then shaking out all the dirt and sediment, then lifting the sifter to dump them into the cages. These cages will later be taken to giant vats to be further cleaned with water, then deposited on their oyster boat, and delivered to a variety of oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay.  It was quite an operation!

We were 3 of the 15 or so volunteers that showed up at the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center for the 4-hour Friday volunteer window. It became pretty clear to myself and my two kids that we'd never make it all four hours in the 90° heat! We were proud of our two hours of "mission completion"--with loads of hydrating and some recovery time in the shade to get our 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wind. It was definitely physical work, and we went home quite sweaty and grimy by the end of our morning!

As with any degree of service activity, there's always that element of feeling good at being a part of something outside yourself. Shoveling gives you some reflection time.  I had a few other major take-aways from the experience as well:

  • Sometimes physical work is exactly what you need. You get into a bit of a rhythm between the shoveling and then the shaking. Physical movement, and a little bit of sweat and muscle ache are good for the soul. I'm not sure my middle school son had that same take away, but it also builds perspective and gratitude. He was quite thankful he didn't have to do this job every day! 😉
  • Each of these oyster shells, once part of someone's meal, are now going forward to help become the new home of future oysters, which will filter the water and help clean the Bay. That reward will come back around to all of us who enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, swimming, playing in (and eating from) the Bay.
  • It was good to be in control of something in this out of control world. (It also was a good way to get a little aggression out!) It's been a hard week for Annapolis--our virtual backyard--with the fatal events at the Capital Gazette on Thursday. It felt good to do a little something for our community and the Bay via Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
  • It bears repeating again: it felt good to be part of something bigger than you. Those oyster mounds were pretty darn big, and it certainly didn't get tackled in our 2 hours, nor would it after the collection of volunteers left yesterday, even if we all did all 4 hours.  The fact that a community of volunteers come each week to do this for our Bay certainly shows the strength of environmental stewardship.
Speaking of which... there are still more oysters! If you are in Maryland and want to do something good for the Bay, clear a Friday morning or two this summer. Head to Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Shell Shaking page to learn more and register for one of the following dates:

July 6, 20, 27
August 10, 17, 24, 31

For other, less hefty volunteer opportunities through CBF, be sure to check out their website.

Special thanks to Anna Mudd, CBF's Maryland Outreach & Advocacy Manager for showing us the ropes, educating us along the way as to why shell shaking was such a vital part of Bay restoration,  encouraging us to take breaks, and giving us a tour of the facility. We learned a lot from you and it was a great way to spend the day!

Images from my camera at the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bowl

BYO Singapore has the right idea. It's a major non-governmental push to help Singapore eliminate waste of any sort... especially when it comes time for the doggie bag of leftovers at the end of your dinner time date night, and restaurant eve outing.

This video from New Zealand has its twist:  "Bring Your Own Bowl."

Even from in my own house, we have an over-abundance of cheap plastic containers from take out/delivery in our cabinets (which certainly is preferable to the Styrofoam clam-shell or the single-use plastic ones ones so many places send you home with). Add in, we have various degrees of Tupperware containers or old butter tubs; though, my personal favorite is glass ones with plastic lids given the degradability of plastic over time. The cabinets usually are over-run and at some point, the recycle bin gets hit up with all the ones with no lids or that got mangled for one reason or another.

Wouldn't it just make more sense to plan ahead and take your own takeaway container? I personally love the idea! It's one step closer to zero waste, and saves everyone money (restaurant included). That's a win for everyone!

BYO Singapore image banner from; doggie bag image from; video from

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Decision to Delete

I made a decision earlier this week--on June 21st to be exact. Summer Solstice--the 1st day of summer. I'm kicking off my season and using this day as my fresh start, my diving board, my launching point.

I deleted Facebook off my phone.

No, I didn't go cold turkey and cut throat and cancel my account. I'm not ready for that kind of social media drought and craziness quite yet. I still have the auto login set on my laptop and iPad. However, I am a die-hard phone user, largely due to it's portability. It's my camera, my phone, my clock, my crossword puzzles, my hand-held research center, my podcast player, my extension of my left arm. It's my main device I use. Therefore, to go FB-free on my phone is a pretty extreme move for me.

The reasons were many. I was finding myself sinking into the abyss of TotalTimeSuck. Boredom or mindlessness beget scrolling and trolling FB for the latest and greatest (most of which were neither). Add in, the noise of the current news/politics (and affiliated agitation), which seemed heavily strewn this week on just about everyone's FB threads amd wasn't any help to my mood. Plus, especially in the down-time of summer, I was noticing it was at odds, countering my seasonal shift to spend at least 200 hours outdoors. I'm also analyzing my kids' tech time this summer, while also reading Thomas Kersting's book ""Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Teens," which in turn is causing a cold hard look at my own attachment. Teens aren't the only one distracted here in this household.

It was just too easy to toe-dip into Facebook again and again, for far too long at a time.  And my main escape-way has been primarily this one app.

So I hit that little shaking app "x" Thursday morning, watched it disappear, and haven't turned back.

I will say, most of that first day, I was feeling pretty darn liberated. The shackles were off. Clearly since willpower alone couldn't do that for me, I needed something bolder and bigger. Believe it or not, even though it literally was the longest day of the year, it didn't actually feel like it. In fact, quite the reverse. I started binge watching a show with my kids that my daughter had been asking us to watch, and I really watched it, without surfing when bored. I actually gave it a chance. I actually asked for another episode.

That feeling didn't just last one day.

Summer solstice for many traditions symbolizes birth. May it be a sort of rebirth and reconnection to what's around me, whether that means my family, the great outdoors, or a just plain better use of my time in general!

Have I solved my concerns over the tech time of the others in my house? Not yet. That's next week's tackle! ðŸ˜‰

No-Facebook sign; Disconnected book pic from,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=detail; Summer Solstice image from

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sounds of Nature: A Short Film For Kids (& Grown Ups Too!)

I ran across this video on YouTube--much like you normally run across things on YouTube: down the rabbit trail of clicks and sidebars. It really is amazing where you land once you start that little clickable journey!

Entitled "Sounds of Nature: Short Films for Kids," this 7 minute video is comprised mostly of nature sounds and music (rather than words or conversation). To me, it really encapsulated the crossroads of where we are in our technology era versus the therapeutic, imaginative world that being outdoors can balance out. When watching this video (created by BatteryPop Videos For Kids), you really feel the digital pull of kids versus the parental pull a lot of us moms and dads have to yank the cord, earplugs, devices right out of our offsprings' hands.

It's an interesting video to be from a YouTube channel & website that's clearly heavy on the side of video games & more. Watch it here or click this link to watch it at YouTube.

In watching it, and watching the main character deal with the woods after his mom and dad yanked his DS, I was struck not only by the dichotomy of the digital and natural world, but also by the level of childhood imagination it illustrates. In the film, you see the main character embrace a creativity that wouldn't be accessible to him when he was "plugged in." You also see a level of engagement in the surrounds...and hints even at mindfulness, meditation, inventiveness, and problem solving. It's almost as if he entered his own world, complete with digital soundtrack, leading him to into nature and the adventures that woods, sticks, wildlife, water, moss, mushrooms, & pine cones can bring. These are the rich skills our children and our future needs.

After watching this video, it stayed with me, somewhat hauntingly. It mirrored my own love-hate relationship with technology, especially when facing my techie tweenager & teenager that live in my own house. I constantly wrestle with all of our levels of being plugged in.

I'd love it if you left a comment about how your reaction to & reflection of this movie short and what thoughts it left swirling in your mind.

Images from and; video from

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Young Leaders to Save the Day

For the last several years, our 3rd grade teachers have taught a very successful unit on Leadership. Rather than focusing on the Thomas Jeffersons or Rosa Parks of history, they instead turn the table and focus on kids or teens who are leading the way, today. It's a phenomenal unit, and the 3rd graders walk away being inspired to take action themselves, at their own age.

This year, along with having many of their tried and true favorites, they also tapped into the Baron Prize for Young Hero's Winners for 2017. Annually, the Baron Prize winners are announced early fall. This year, September 17th is the day for the 2018 winners. Their mission:
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment.
Mother Nature Network did a phenomenal summary on each of the 2017 Baron Prize winners. Be sure to read their article to walk away feeling good about all the things these 20 kids have done to take positive action for our world!

Other kids out there taking action & going for the greater good that I've written about in the past:

Images from, and

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Many Uses of Almond Waste

If you are like me, you didn't know the harvesting of almonds creates almond waste.  This video highlights the uses of the 2/3 of the almond that we don't eat.

Thinking outside the box and coming up with innovation uses for the waste products is what we need to become environmental leaders!

Video from Steve Jobs quote from

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Molly Steer: Straws No More

It's always inspiring to see young kids taking action and working to make a difference.

Molly Steer is one of those people. At the age of 9, in the 4th grade, she's making sure all of us take notice about how important taking a stance on straws can be.

Grab a warm beverage (green tea, perhaps) and a stainless steel straw, then sit back to watch Molly's video below. Then read more about steering clear of plastic straws and plastic waste in general, check out these past GTG posts:

Video from; pic from

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Battling Plastic Waste on World Environment Day: June 5th Annually

Rather than my typical Wednesday posting, 
I'm posting this on Tuesday, June 5: World Environment Day. 
A global event. This year's theme: Beat Plastic Pollution.

Earlier this spring I wrote about the National Geographic's Planet Versus Plastic Campaign. It still weighs heavy on my mind.

Especially right now, having just returned from the grocery store from our weekly shopping adventure.  I will say I'm a lucky girl as my husband does the lion's share of our grocery needs--however today I accompanied him. With plastic on my brain, it was eye opening seeing it here, there, and everywhere at the store:
  • At the deli, I got 3 different types of lunch meat & cheese, each offered to me on a heavy plastic slice of what-was-once-waxed paper to sample as he sliced them for me. 
  • Of course there's plastic wrapped & bagged breads, pretzels, corn chips, and more all throughout the store. 
  • The beverage aisle has numerous bottles of this flavored drink next to that flavored drink. 
  • The thin-one-layered bags in the veggie department for buying bulk tomatoes, apples, corn...
Plastic is everywhere, even when you bring your own cloth bags to the store!

Just when it all seems overwhelming, you happen upon innovative and inspirational ideas which are at the heart of solving our plastic waste problems. Here's handful of ways people are working on battling plastic (including some things you do):

Using Plastic Waste as a House Construction Material:

Using Plastic Waste to Build Furniture:

Plastic Bank & Social Plastic:
"By enabling the exchange of plastic for money, items or Blockchain secured digital tokens, we reveal the value in plastic. This empowers recycling ecosystems around the world and stops the flow of plastic into our oceans. All while helping people living in poverty build better futures." (Quoted from the Plastic Bank website.) Social Plastic is Plastic Bank's charity/donation site where you can offset your plastic footprint.

PBS Newshour's Earth Day "How Can Individuals Combat Plastic Pollution"
A lot of information is packed into the 5 minute video interview between Jenna Jambeck and Hari Sreenivasan. Jenna stresses that little steps we each make end up making a huge collective difference.

The Guardian's Article: "I Kept All My Plastic for a Year – The 4,490 Items Forced Me to Rethink"
This article details Daniel Webb's mural he made with one year of his own plastic waste.

Plastic Fishing:


Videos from ;; and; National Geographics Planet or Plastic from; Buckminster Fuller Quote from; and Plastic Pollution by Numbers from

Sunday, June 3, 2018

1000 Hours Outdoors

There are 8,760 hours in a year. Unless it's Leap Year, then it's 8,784 hours.

How are you spending your year of hours? It's a good question to consider.

Across my Facebook Newsfeed lately, I've seen a lot of talk about "1000 hours outside." Not terribly surprising to keep seeing and re-seeing that, as I'm an environmental education blogger who follows a slew of environmental websites via Facebook.

Initially when I saw it, I was thinking it was specifically a summer challenge. Of course, upon digging and doing some mathematical calculations, that would be a major challenge indeed at nearly 12 hours per day for the 3 months of summer!

Rather, the challenge is an annual one, making the daily goal 2.7 hours per day (think 2 hours and 45 minutes). Likewise, the "1000" piece wasn't chosen only for it's roundness notable-number self. Instead, it was chosen since that's approximate average that kids under the age of 8 spend on screened devices a day, based on the 64 page October 2017 Common Sense Media Report. Their exact findings for kids aged 0-8 was 2 hours 19 minutes. (You can find a one-page synopsis of the Common Sense Media report here.)

Of course, as kids get older, those numbers go up. Tweens (aged 8-12) were noted as using 6 hours a day of tech, whereas 12-18 year old teenagers' numbers went up to 9 hours per day. This does not include school demands, which of course more frequently include devices as well.

2 hours is also the recommendation of screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics for kids aged 2 and up.

No matter what age, that's a lot of indoor activity time. Hence the need for a counterbalance.

1000 hours outside is not a novel 2018 idea. When I started doing some digging, I discovered it goes back at least 5 years and can be found on many-a-Pinterest Board. I also found some incredible places to start for inspiration.

As of this point of this 3rd day of June, I'm a wee 4 hours in. (The weather hasn't cooperated--nor have my aging/aching knees--and I've allowed that to be my stumbling blog.) A true 1/4 of 1000 would put me to 250 hours outdoors out of 2,190 hours total. Can I do it? Time will tell, as will my recorded calculations come August 31st. Stay tuned! ðŸ˜‰

Richard Louv book images from; John Burrough's Quote from; 1000 Hours Outside Richard Louv quote pic from