Saturday, July 28, 2018

Bar Shampoo: A Plastic-Free Variety

 Most of us probably spend more time singing in the shower rather than thinking about our carbon footprint or plastic footprint. "We're too busy washing that man right out of our hair" or just taking care of the business of being clean.

But our bathrooms have plenty of plastic that we use on a daily basis.
It's the 2nd most plastic-wasteful room in our house.

What if we could change all of that?

Shampoo bars might be the key. Much like a bar of soap, a shampoo bar is a molded bar of ... you guessed it: shampoo. But the environmental (and economic) impact can be huge.

Companies that have jumped on the Shampoo Bar bandwagon include Lush, One Earth Body Care, Aquarian Bath, Stirling Soap Co., Chagrin Valley, Apple Valley and probably a gazillion more on Plus, there's a slew of recipes online for the DIY variety. I've not used bar shampoo yet, but this video alone got me certainly thinking about trying some out!

Plastic Footprint image from and, video from

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Bounty of Food Related Books

This summer I've been eating up books. Of course, not literally, but one of the best parts of summer
time for teachers.

When I was writing about Food Tank, I happened on their wealth of resources, including reading lists. If you are looking for a little literal "food for thought," here's a bounty of food related books: 100+ books from these 6 lists alone. Click the + hot spot icon to go to the webpages.

After looking at all of these lists, I think these are the ones that are initially "whetting my appetite," making me eager "take a bite out of" them!
Additionally, I'm going to check out the monthly podcast "Real Food Reads" hosted by Anna Lappé as a virtual book club, discussing many of the books listed in the links above!

We already knew it, but clearly there's too many books, too little time!

Interactive infographic created at and
Book list links if the graphic doesn't work:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Making the Most of Compost: Garbage to Garden

Anyone who's been hanging around for a while knows I was an avid composter back in the day, when I was teaching at Eagle Cove School. There, we had the Fort Knox of Compost... a 3-part system where we composted our school lunches, creating soil along the way. Doing so, along with our regular recycling, created virtually no classroom trash. (School-wide, we had a little more, but still, a very low-trash work environment.) Later, this compost turned to soil which was used for our greenhouse and our flower beds.

I was one of the handful of teachers who also used the school compost for my home food waste--which of course brought in a slightly different composition and quantity to the school compost bin. Being at a small school, I was widely known for my Infamous Compost Bucket, joke-worthy and legendary!

When the school closed, one of the many losses was my reliance on ECS's compost. We tried the backyard variety, but critters outsmarted us by digging under, and now it has been relegated to yard waste alone.

Given all of this, I'm in love with the Garbage to Garden program in Portland, Maine. Every community should be embracing this level of innovation.

Garbage to Garden has been a curbside compost service in Portland since 2012. The buckets are reminiscent of my own 5 gallon camo bucket! Creator Tyler Frank started it as a grassroots movement, sprung up from conversations with his roommates and put into action on a very small scale with a sign up at a local art festival. From there, it has grown to service 5,000 households, schools, and businesses from Maine to Massachusetts. Maryland! Come to Maryland! You can request cities as they are expanding, but I think I might be a bit far from their farm.

My favorite part too is that once you are on board with them, you can also request soil deliveries, created from compost. A sustainable, closed loop!

To learn more, check out Garbage to Garden's website!

 Videos from and; All photos from

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Recycling Mistakes We All Make

In the category of "This bums me out a bit," I ran across this video posted by "We Can Save The World." It details 5 recycling mistakes we all make. Sad but true, this eco warrior has at one time or another made all of these. Additionally, I learned a thing or two here in watching it this morning.

Luckily, they offer a few suggestions that serve as helpful hints.

Here are a few other things you can do to be proactive with your recycling efforts and help minimize waste, helping to swing the pendulum the other way (if you, like me, is a tad bummed out after watching):
  • Keep bringing your reusable bags with you to the store--or refuse them if you are only purchasing one or two items.
  • Drop your wire hangers back off at the dry cleaner so they can reuse them.
  • Get some stainless steel or paper straws--or just say "no thanks" when you are offered them.  I think I might look into portable, collapsible ones like the Final Straw!
  • Save those gift bags and reuse them when giving gifts, or get creative with material and other reusable covering.

Video from; image from

Saturday, July 14, 2018

2 Minutes on Oceans With Jim Toomey

Shoes & socks.
Peanut butter & jelly.
Hugs & kisses.
Paper & pencil.
Salt & pepper.

There's a new dynamic duo in town of things that go together:
Cartoonist Jim Toomey & the United Nations Environment Programme! 

Together they are partnering up to raise awareness on oceanic issues involving coastal environments and how we can impact the ocean (both negatively and positively).

Jim Toomey is a favorite of mine, and I've written about his oceanic cartoon "Sherman's Lagoon" before. He's got a new series of 9 video shorts out with his "2 Minutes on Oceans With Jim Toomey" video series. They include:

The Land-Ocean Connection

Blue Carbon

Marine Litter

The Climate Change Connection

The True Value of Our Oceans

Nutrient Runoff

Adaption to Sea Level Rise

Waste Water: A Widespread Threat & Missed Resource

Green Fins for a Blue Planet

Images from: Batman & Robin from; Jim Toomey picture from UNEP Facebook page; Cartoon from

Videos from Jim Toomey's YouTube Channel:

Food Think With Food Tank

As a teacher, life is pretty hectic 3/4 of the year. But summer rolls around and opens up time a little bit, which also means it opens up life to a little more down time, thought time, and relaxation time.

For years now, summer is also my time to focus a little more on my health, my food intake, my level of exercise and movement, my time outdoors, and my brain space. I read more books, listen to a few more podcasts, lose a few pounds, up the steps on my pedometer, and have more time to do all those things I never had a chance to get to during the school year.

Recently I was listening to the Chalene Show Podcast (her June 4th episode with my favorite Shawn Stevenson from the Model Health Show, which focused on "6 Morning Habtis for Weight Loss"). Chalene Johnson was talking about her dad feeling under the weather and headed to the doctor. She summed it up to an insulin crash where he had a very carb-heavy traditional breakfast of cereal, toast, orange juice (after the last thing he ate the nnight before was ice cream). She was convinced it was low blood sugar due to his food--his doctor didn't even ask about his nutritional intake. She was discussing how food is medicine, and unfortunately many in our doctors in our culture don't even look at this important element.

Insert Food Tank here. This is a good portal (both online and on Facebook) where food-related health topics are addressed. It's especially important as we look at the statistics of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and more that are on the rise and causing major risks to people. From their Facebook page:
"Food Tank is a non-profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. We spotlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and create networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change." 
Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank in 2013 and current president of Food Tank, is impassioned about fixing our broken food system, feeding the hungry, and helping our environment... especially since we are all eaters. Here is her TEDx Talk from March 2015.

On Food Tank's website, you can find news on the following topics, each with articles pertaining to the health and food issues. It's a vast learning library and way to start thinking like food activists, advocates, and innovators
Video from; All images from Food Tank's Facebook page:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Spending Another Morning With Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Before I start this post, I need to digress about the weather. Here in the greater DC-Baltimore area we've been inundated with a July blast of intense heat & humidity. Temperatures all week were mid-upper 90° with the heat index much higher. Steamy, sweaty, grimy & gross are the only words for it--especially for the 4th of July. All difficult for this teacher who has been trying to maximize her summer by getting outdoors as much as possible, especially when I write. Thank heavens for the back yard poolWell, this morning, I walked outside to a delightful, lovely, low humidity, breezy, sunny, glorious day. Pure & utter bliss!!   (written 7/7/18)

OK.... Now that I've got that out of my system... back to your regularly scheduled post!

Any teacher knows that summers are made not only for restoration & relaxation, but also catching catch up or getting ahead of things the normal school year schedule doesn't always allow for. Reading a slew of books. Binge-watching shows. Attending doctor appointments. Planning the new curricular unit for fall.

In our house, it also includes getting a jump on the service hours necessary for the year ahead for my high schooler.

At the end of June, we got in a few of those hours, shaking shells with Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Well we were back at it last Friday, this time in a seemingly unlikely CBF location, with no Bay in sight. We headed to Clagett Farm to get a few more hours under our belt, doing some more volunteering with CBF. This time, the kids took their cousin with them.

As the four of us traveled to various parts of the farm, we learned that the 285 acre farm was acquired by CBF in 1982. There, they raise organic crops sustainably, along with grass-fed cattle for both CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and the Capital Area Food Bank to help lower income families nutrient rich foods at a lower cost. Lots of program details are available on the Clagett Farm webpage.

Our tasks for the day: harvest cucumbers and squash as well as straw-mulch tomato plants.  We discovered early on, there were no Future Farmers of America in our group!

Additionally, we discovered...

  • Muscles we didn't even know we had. Different ones, of course, than those that were achy last week. 
  • 3 hours of farming leaves you pretty darn dirty, especially on a hot, sticky day.
  • That water and hydration are a beautiful, wonderful thing!
  • That cucumber plants (and the surrounding plants around them) could be a little prickly. Pants would have been a good idea for this kid, whose legs were a tad torn up and itchy all over the place. But they cleaned up well and serve as a good badge of doing something outside myself--and outdoors!
  • That hay can also be a tad itchy, and you come home with it everywhere!
  • That hard work and a bit of dirt and sweat can feel really productive. (Okay, that might have been more me than the kids, but I still stand by it.) The showers and the pool felt really good as a follow up.
  • Perspective is a really good thing. These experiences both with shell shaking and being in the fields not only have given us a broader picture to what is around us, but it also what it feels like to literally walk in someone else's shoes. Not only might that make our own environment look a little bit more inviting, but it also opens our eyes to a rich diversity that surrounds us out in the world!

Thank you Carrie, CBF Vegetable Production Manager, for spending the morning with us showing us the ropes and enduring our city-slickerness! For locals, check out the CBF volunteering page if you are inspired to go out, get a little dirty, and do something for others! You can also check out Clagett Farm's blog for updates on their CSA and more.

All pictures from my camera from our day at Clagett Farm.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nature Deficit Disorder

From the official trailer of the film NaturePlay, there's a statement that blinks across the screen:
"The most endangered species in the wild today: Our Children."
Those are startling words. Especially for those of us who remember BigWheels, bike riding until dusk (with no helmet), stream walking, traipsing through the woods, creating back yard forts, running in the sprinkler, living in our oversized-tire sandbox and more. It was summer, and it was outdoors, with the occasional AC break, a glass of lemonade, and a freezer stocked with popsicle as our main way to stay cool. We were outdoors all day.

Not so much these days. Case and point: On the back of Thomas Kersting's book "Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Teens," the latest book I've been reading, there's this stat...which parallels the endangered species quote above:
"According to the latest research, the average 13 year old spends 8 hours per day, seven days a week, glued to a screen."

This summer our professional read book for school is not one but 4, on a variety of subjects related to our PS-12 grade levels. One of the chosen books is Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder." I was already planning on rereading it before knowing that, and it's a book I've written about and referenced several times before. It's now officially 10 years old, and it's message is only louder, stronger, and more necessary than before. We need to be getting our kids outdoors. And it's hard. It's summer, and somedays I'm literally kicking kids off screens and out the door. It shouldn't be this difficult. But it's important, so we keep doing it, as we owe it to our children to do so!

Exposure to nature via virtual reality and video games just isn't enough. It's not a 5-senses experience! Additionally, you come to want to protect something that you know. Watch this NaturePlay Teaser, with Richard Louv & his sentiments as the narration to see how nature speaks to us on so many levels. It might even serve as some inspiration to get out there and do something outdoors.

To learn more about the NaturePlay film and how to get a copy for screening, go to their website.

To feel more, go outside.

Video from, images from and

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

Cheers to all of you celebrating Independence Day this year.

Check out this checklist and see what you can mark off for your celebration!

Checklist created at, image from