Solar in the Community – Creating a Greener Britain

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Grey skies, wind, rain and no sign of the sun. That’s the British Winter, most of the Autumn, much of the Spring, and a good deal of the Summer too! But, regardless of the climate, there is clearly enough sunshine for solar energy to thrive, and in recent years the UK has witnessed an unprecedented […]

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Notes from Iowa: 100 Grannies … for a Livable Future

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Don’t we all want a livable future? Why would I target grandmothers? Why not everyone working in every way possible to make the necessary changes to our way of living now so that the children of the future will have a life that is full of the goodness of creation?

The answer to this is that we have to start somewhere, and I am a granny who happens to think that action is needed now. I believe there are others who think so, too.

Grannies have some advantages. We have lived long enough to have seen changes in our climate and our society and not like what we see. We are often retired and have time and underpinnings to be able to devote a considerable portion of our energy to the effort of reducing human impact on the environment, especially the atmosphere.

We know that “older means bolder.” What do we have to lose compared to what our grandchildren may not have?

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where there is clean water and air, healthy food, and where nature is usually friendly and beautiful. I do not want them to live in a world with frequent flooding, drought, heat that kills, and strong storms that require immense financial and emotional resources to recover from.

I live in Iowa and went through the floods in 2008. I know that this scenario will be repeated all over this country and the rest of the world if we do not do everything in our power to reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

Two women friends—also grandmothers—Beth Robbins and Ann Christenson, and I read James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren. We trust NASA’s top climate scientist of many years to be honest about what lies ahead if we do not curb our carbon addiction and if we continue to extract oil from dirty tar sands and natural gas by fracking. “Game Over,” is his conclusion….

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Huddling for the Home Team (Habitat for Humanity) on Super Sunday

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Super Sunday is an American tradition and, football fan or not, the vast majority of us find ourselves in someone’s living room or den gathered around the television watching the game (okay, the ads). For enterprising fundraisers, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to gather friends together for a good cause.

This evening, Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, and his wife, Amber, hosted one of 85 house parties that will benefit the local Habitat for Humanity organization. These Home Team Huddles raise money that goes directly to building homes for deserving—and hard-working—families….

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Together, We Change the World

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This past February, Blue Planet Green Living published a post by Dipak Singh, a writer from India who advocates for safer conditions for the people of his country. His post, Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet, described the horrific effects of spraying the chemical Endosulfan on crops in India and other nations. He wrote, in part:

“The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

“Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children. . . .”

Three months after we posted his editorial, Dipak sent me a Facebook message with the following comment:

“Hello, this is just to tell you that yesterday the Indian Supreme Court put an interim ban on Endosulfan, despite the lobbyist asking for an eleven year time frame. This is one of the sentences from the judgement: ‘When a certain something affected right to life, then every other right, even the fundamental right to business, took a backseat.’ ” …

Dipak followed by thanking me for making a difference in the fight against Endosulfan. Me? All I had done was post his editorial. How could I accept any credit?

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Pioneers for the Planet: The High Wind Story

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On a windswept acreage overlooking a lush valley in mid-eastern Wisconsin, a small group of committed visionaries sowed a seed for change called High Wind, an “intentional community” that grew and blossomed in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although its life as an intentional community formally ended in 1992, the ecovillage legacy of High Wind […]

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In Memory of 9/11: Let Us Wage Peace

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We all speak today of healing, understanding, and peacemaking.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself.

Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. We laud the heroism of the firefighters and so many others. And we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war….

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Edible Gardens Make Summer Tasty and Fun in Iowa City

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When I first moved to Iowa City, I decided to try and conquer my terrible sense of direction by walking around and getting to know the area. Instead, I did what I always do. I found one path that took me from Point A to Point B, and I started taking that path every day.

Along my walk is the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. I first noticed the Recreation Center because I was looking for a gym to attend while living in Iowa City (I can proudly say that I’ve been to the gym a total of one time.) But, I was more intrigued by the garden attached to the side of the building.

Normally I would ask someone about the garden, receive a short explanation, nod my head and go on my way. But, this summer I am a Blue Planet Green Living intern. I get to satisfy my curiosity by being a journalist. So, last Wednesday Hayley Noneman, a summer intern with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, took me on a tour of Parks and Recreation’s garden projects….

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Summer of Solutions Offers Opportunities to Youth Leaders

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Most students use their summer vacations to sleep in, catch up on TV, and relax. For Summer of Solutions project leaders like Jennifer Roach, summer is just another opportunity to create solutions for the problems in their communities.

Roach, along with co-leaders Claudine Constant and Pablo Baeza, is leading a project to start gardens in Hartford, Connecticut’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, one of 15 Summer of Solutions (SoS) projects across the country….

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Iowa City Summer of the Arts Goes Green

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To get a sense of the strong community living in Iowa City, attend one of its summer festivals. This weekend, the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival will take over the downtown area and provide residents with delicious food, music, and the opportunity to learn about the environment.

Environmental education may not be what you expect to see at a festival. But, Iowa City’s summer events attract thousands of people, and that generates a lot of trash. To reduce the waste that Iowa City’s festivals send to the landfill, Summer of the Arts (SotA), the organization behind Iowa City’s festivals, has begun a program called Green Initiatives (GI)….

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Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Helps Change Lives through Improved Sanitation

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“There are 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation. And, according to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that’s supposed to be halved by the year 2015,” Ian Moise [mo-EEZ] told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL).

Moise is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, who currently consults on a global sanitation project for the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). “Our project is one of the many projects working on expanding access to ‘improved sanitation’ for a target of roughly 1.3 billion people,” he said… (Part 1 of a 2-Part Interview)

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Notes from India: 1984 – Bhopal

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Posts in Blue Planet Green Living’s “Notes from…” category provide readers with a personal viewpoint, often an essay, from a writer whose views are intrinsically linked to their own nation or locale. In this case, we present reflections on a needless and gruesome tragedy that occurred 26 years ago in Bhopal. Those responsible for operations […]

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Notes from Canada: Giving Back to Uganda with Love

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I was born a white child in Uganda, East Africa to missionary parents, Velma and David Freeman. When I was 8 years old, our time in Africa came to a sudden and frightening end.

Just three months earlier, my dad had witnessed the brutal killing of our town mayor in Masaka. The mayor had been dragged through the town on the back of a pickup truck, and then a major in the army openly slit his throat as a warning to anyone who might stand against the regime of the ruthless and unpredictable dictator, President Idi Amin. My father was the only white man he could see, along with a few Asians in the crowd.

Our deportation was ordered shortly thereafter. Idi Amin’s soldiers picked up my father late one night and took him to jail. We had 48 hours to leave. Little did I realize at that young age that everything I knew as normal would change forever….

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Volunteering Made Easy – Action Now + Network

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If you’re like pretty much everyone else I know, you want to do “something” to help causes that are important to you. But your time is limited, and your demands are already huge. How do you find out what organizations support the issues that concern you and where you should expend your limited energy? Action Now + Network is a resource that will help you sort through the options available and choose one (or more) that is right for you.

Launched just two months ago, Action Now + Network is a new website that focuses on organizations that are doing real good for the world. Here’s how founder Sheila Wasserman described Action Now + Network to Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) in an interview from her California office….

WASSERMAN: In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and instant RSS feeds, it’s really impossible to claim ignorance of the world around us. We are all constantly bombarded at warp speed with information on the life-threatening issues we face every day — perilous geopolitical tensions, global warming, and the destruction of our environment, flagrant and egregious acts of cruelty inflicted by humans upon both humans and animals, not to mention hunger, poverty, homelessness, absent or woefully inadequate health care — it’s hard to know where to stop. For most of us, it is mind-numbing to think of what needs to be done to make even a small impact, let alone to solve the overwhelming problems of the world….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Self Sufficiency — The Best “Return on Donation”

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“We are one global community,” says builder, author, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Frank McKinney. “There are so many places around the world that do not have the social service net to protect the indigent like we have here [in the U.S.]. So we took our ministry, if you will, to Haiti.”

This is Part 2 of a three-part interview with McKinney, author of the book, The Tap. He’s a complex individual living a dichotomous life, as described in Part 1. Using the sale of the mansions he builds, he funds the charity he founded, the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), which constructs villages for some of the world’s poorest people.

“We realized the dollars would go so much further by creating self-sufficient villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Frank McKinney explains. “Commencing in 2003, and by the end of 2010, we will have built 15 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. We were there seven years before the earthquake took place. And we’ll be there many years after.

“We realized we could touch a life with shelter for about $500 internationally. So we sold two of the domestic houses [described in Part 1], kept one, and took whatever proceeds we had and stretched those dollars further internationally.” …

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Sustainability – A Personal Journey… by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D.

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When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.

The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.

Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.

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Children on MiniMonos Show Adults How Sustainability Is Done

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I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.

An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine. The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately….

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Beauty Night Heals Mind, Body, and Spirit for Marginalized Women

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Survival sex-workers, drug addicts, and homeless women rarely have an opportunity to feel that someone truly cares about them or to experience human touch in a healthy way. But the volunteers at Beauty Night Society in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) are striving to change that.

Caroline MacGillivray is the National Executive Director and Founder of Beauty Night Society. A 1995 graduate of Gastown Actors Studio in Vancouver, her interest in helping marginalized women arose while volunteering at WISH (Women Information Safe House) to conduct research for an upcoming role.

She explains, “My best friend from theater school married a gentleman who was going to school to become a preacher. They were ‘house parents’ at a transition home for sex workers who were trying to get off the street.

“When she would tell what she did, people sometimes seemed judgmental. She’d get questions like, ‘Why are you helping sex workers?’ ‘Why are you helping people with addiction issues? They have no discipline; they have no control,’ and those types of things….

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Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

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Economics. Environment. Equity. Though the word “sustainability” means various things to different people, it can be pared down to just these three words. True sustainability must take into account all three concepts. The reason most of humanity does not understand this is because we cannot grasp how all three can work at the same time.

Humanity is good at the economic portion. Capitalism focuses on economics and often neglects environmental and social issues; in many cases, economic success comes at the expense of the environment and social equity. Even capitalism does not always work: When our banks fail and need federal bailouts, we end up in a recession. Our economy is based upon the consumption of dwindling and non-renewed natural resources — how long can this last? …

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Fairfield Green Food Guide – A Resource for Local Foods

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Fairfield Green Food Guide started out as a service to Fairfield County residents. But people all over the state are now watching the blog’s founder, Analiese Paik, on New Channel 8′s Good Morning Connecticut. Paik, who is dedicated to offering her services for free just to spread the word about local foods, is becoming a household name and a helpful resource for locavores across the state.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Paik about the passion that drives her and what she hopes to accomplish with her website. Paik’s 18-hour days take her all over the county, partnering with nonprofit organizations and sharing the news about healthy, organic, and local foods.

But, what if you’re not from Connecticut, let alone Fairfield County? If you’re a fan of sustainable agriculture, Paik offers resources and ideas that you will surely find intriguing….

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