Thursday, March 15, 2012

I saw many familiar and friendly faces at the Paramount tonight listening to an acclaimed author talk about getting kids and everyone, really, more connected to Nature. A large group of folks (I’d say around 300) came out to hear Richard Louv talk about his book the Nature Principle, Last Child in theWoods, and the New Nature Movement. Many for whom I am so grateful for their work in this community: Kate Knott of Living Earth School, Piedmont Environmental folks like my friend Melissa Wiley, Linda Winecoff of the Buford Schoolyard Garden, Todd Barnett of the Field School, Wendy Fisher of Mountaintop Montessori and countless others!

The exclamation mark on his talk came on the ride home when I drove by a plastic grocery bag full of someone’s to-go trash in the middle of the road. I’ve always been perplexed at why people would litter?

To me it’s like peeing in the middle of your living room or spray painting graffiti on your bedroom wall. Who does that?

Louv and I have a similar conclusion: the person who dropped that out their car window was truly disconnected from Nature and the planet and truly doesn’t understand the effect of his/her actions. Our charge as people who are connected and do care is to compassionately reach out and help others see the connection and to choose something healthier for everyone.

Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Nature Principle, Human Restoration and the end of Nature Deficit Disorder. He is the recipient of the 2008 Audobon Medal and chairman of the Children and Nature Network

Some take aways for me was that he urged us to think beyond environmentalism and conservation and join what he calls the New Nature movement. He challenged the audience, Do we really JUST want to be sustainable? Adequate. He quoted William McDonough: “Do you want just a sustainable marriage?” Why not shoot for something a lot better than “just good enough.” It’s not just about energy efficiency, he said, it’s about reconnecting on a deep level to Nature – as lawyers, police officers, teachers, entrepeneurs, artists, homeowners, and the list goes on. We all have a role. And (I like this part) let’s not just get kids into nature, let’s get adults in Nature, work in Nature (I’m thinking year two of the Better Business Challenge needs to include board meetings on rivers or in parks!).

And the way we can get more connected to Nature is to simply get out and play in it! He talked about a Family Nature Club in Roanoke that started with a few families and now has over 700 families on its listserv.

I wanted to ask him a question and unfortunately we ran out of time (with my heart pounding and the microphone in hand and everything). So I’ll share it here.

He made a couple of metaphorical references to Nature. Wanting doctors to “prescribe” nature more and needing to heal the bronchial tubes of our rivers. Which got me thinking about Karen Firehock, Director of the Green Infrastructure Center at UVA, who recently told me about her project where kids played in the streams as “doctors” and monitored the stream. And earlier this week I talked to Robbi Savage of the RCS about solutions around cleaning our waterways and she told me that Moore’s Creek is on a “pollution diet.” As a former middle school educator, I used metaphorical thinking a lot and believe that metaphors are a great way to “embody” a concept on a deep level.

So I wanted to ask Mr. Louv what he thought was the most useful and compelling metaphor when it comes to helping connect kids to Nature. I think it’s this idea of the Earth as a body and we are all doctors or healers or personal trainers. We have created “disease” on the planet and we have some serious “healing” to do on this Earth.

And the solution is not going in for a triple bypass surgery, still getting no exercise, eating supersized bad foods, taking more meds, and watching TV. It’s taking a long, hard look at our lifestyle and what we are putting into our Earth body.

Can we look at the whole organism and making healthier, happier, joyful, holistic choices for the betterment of this organism we live on called Earth? I think we can.

I’m looking forward to reading both books, but in the meantime let’s create a Better Backyard for all of us and play in it. The Backyard with Betty Club. Nature play time for kids, teens, dogs, adults, nanas, and pops. Who’s in?


Monday, March 5, 2012

Apps to help conserve our most precious resource: WATER!

Enjoy this article appearing in Abode magazine this month in newsstands or at www.c-ville/

Water is vital to everyone, every day. In honor of World Water Day on March 22, this month Betty has found top-rated iPhone applications to help you do your part to conserve our most precious resource.

Drip Detective: I love this clever app that calculates your water waste and cost from leaky faucets. Simply tap the screen each time a drip fall from your faucet and voila—see the reason why you should fix it ASAP!

How Blue Are You? This application launched by American Standards details their highest efficiency products, but also offers a water savings calculator, quiz, and efficiency tips.

How much water do you eat? The Virtual Water Project would like to tell you. This application shows the large amount of water it takes to produce everyday things such as food, paper, and cotton clothes. ($1.99)

My Water Diary: Track your weekly water consumption with this application. Just click on their cute shower, toilet flush or mop graphic to see your use. Only caveat: because it hails from the U.K., it calculates in liters.

Meter Readings will help you easily monitor all of your household utility meters—in addition to water, energy and gas. Once you start entering readings, your usage, costs and savings are calculated and displayed in easy-to-visualize graphs.

Finally Facebook, Friend2Friend, and Siemens have teamed up to offer a Personal Water Footprint Calculator to help you conserve. Take a test and you’ll learn where you use water and get savings tips. Plus, you can share with your friends.

I'll drink a glass of tap water to that!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring sports start and so does the increase of my carbon footprint!

My eight-year-old son Ian starts soccer this week - the first time he will officially play a sport. We are very excited. If you know me, I have a lot of energy. Now imagine me on five cups of coffee and that's Ian.

I was stressing about buying new gear for his first practice tonight. Ever since my year of no-buying pledge (2008), it's still hard to shop for all new Gear with a capital "G". The shin-guards, the jerseys, the bag, the soccer ball, the cup (OK plastic does have its important uses!), on and on. I remember when I was teaching middle school in Utah over 12 years ago "Channel One" TV had a story on the abusive child labor practices that went into the manufacturing of soccer balls. (For the latest check out this Dept of Labor site

Luckily, someone's a Betty over at SOCA...I found out about the SOCA gear exchange. Phew! So I left work early and zoomed in and out of there with everything gently used. All for under 20 dollars. Cost-effective AND Betty-approved.

Of course, when I drive up I notice the pristine soccer field. Acres of green lawn.

Ugh. That must take a lot of fertilizer and LOADS of water. (Water is on my mind now that it's March. World Water Week is coming - Betty and the Challenge team will be hosting a Lunch n' Learn on the topic for businesses: Stop Throwing Your Money Down the Drain.)

OK. I'll be taking the "less judgement, more curiosity" approach and be asking lots of questions when the time is right. :-) (not when 15 parents are in line behind me!)

Oh yes... then I'll be driving more with practices and weekend games. Luckily at this first stage, all the games will be held at his school, Stone Robinson Elementary. But with two boys in sports (Garrett in baseball), I wonder if I'll be that mom taxi that I vowed not to become.

Carpools will be essential.

Heading down the stairs with a more can-do spirit, I hear one mother say, "Oh, I always bring plenty of extra water bottles!" I wish she meant the reusable kind.

Mental note: REMEMBER our Coleman water jug to every practice and game!

Here I sit thinking of ways to offset our sports footprint and we're not even on the field yet!