Taproot Nature Experience Deepens Children’s Connection to the Natural World

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Taproot Nature Experience was founded on the simple idea that kids need to have time outdoors.

Launched in September 2007 by Zac Wedemeyer and his wife, Elesa, this Iowa City-based company has several different programs that connect children with nature: an after-school program; a summer camp; and Sprouts, a program for pre-school-aged children.

Wedemeyer says that kids used to be allowed to go outside more, but now parents are afraid to let their children out of the house alone. As a former elementary-school teacher, he saw firsthand how little time kids spend in nature and how much time they spend watching television and playing video games….

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Superman Versus Supermemes

October 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Children, Education, Front Page, Slideshow, U.S.

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In the new film Waiting for Superman — which chronicles the collapse of the American educational system — a forlorn mother waits in a gymnasium with thousands of other parents for her lottery number to be called. The drawing will determine which students will attend a good school, and which will be relegated to a failing institution. The mother explains the gravity of the situation: “It’s the difference between whether my son goes to college, or goes to prison. . .”

How did we allow our educational systems to fall so far, so fast? When did the welfare of our children go the same way as healthcare, the safety of our food and the callous obliteration of our environment? How did we allow ourselves to become obese, dependent on antidepressants, and willing to wage inhumane wars over oil, land and beliefs?

Something is happening. Everyone knows we are leaving a worse world behind for our children….

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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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“I Can’t Walk Away and Leave Malnourished Children Standing There”

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My cousin, David Wasson, knows about childhood nutrition better than most. David is an award-winning chef who spent his career preparing meals for wealthy people and teaching their children to cook. He also taught cooking at a community college in the United States. As he approached retirement, David embarked on a completely new venture that would profoundly change his life. Today, as the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, David cooks for children who are as familiar with hunger as most people reading this post are familiar with a full belly.

His work is urgent. With every meal he cooks, he fights to save children’s lives and the health of their brains and bodies….

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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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The Creative Circus Students Say, “Nice Backside” to Used Paper

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As you might guess from its name, students at The Creative Circus, an advertising portfolio school in Atlanta, are among the most talented and creative minds in the nation. Constantly immersed in the creative process, they learn what it takes to excel in the advertising, interactive, design and photography industries. And they learn that “what it takes” is often a lot of paper.

A small group of students realized that students were discarding more than 5000 sheets of paper per week on campus. More shocking: Most of this paper was being recycled after it had only been used on one side. At a school where creativity reigns king, they knew something unprecedented had to be done to change the way paper is used.

On Monday, July 19th, students, faculty and administration were stunned when they arrived to a campus adorned in advertisements and free notebooks made using students’ previously discarded paper. The message? Flip the page over and use the backside. Fresh ideas don’t need fresh sheets of paper….

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Take the Itch Away with Motherlove Green Salve

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Last week, I was sitting at my computer alternately scratching my first mosquito bite of the season and trying to page through my emails. No stranger to itching, I had remnants of poison ivy dotting my left knee. My second case of poison ivy so far this summer, darn it all.

And even though symptoms of my annual battle with the toxic vine are lessening each year thanks to a concoction my pharmacist sells, the itching is enough to drive me somewhat mad.

So, when the following email came up on my screen, it immediately caught my attention:

“I’m writing on behalf of summer and all things itchy and scratchy. Figuring Iowa is full of mosquitoes after all the 4th of July rain, I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in reviewing the Green Salve from Motherlove Herbal Company. It’s saving our skin over in Wisconsin. Thanks!

Julie — the new Blog Review Mother for Motherlove Herbal Company”

No way I’d turn down that offer. I immediately wrote back….

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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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Scented Cleaning Products May Harm Your Health

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Cleaning products that are artificially scented with smells like lilac, lemon, pine, and tropical rainforest may be popular with consumers, but the fragrances themselves shouldn’t be. Each fragrance is potentially made up of hundreds of chemicals — many of them toxic, according to Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE).

“It’s basically chemical soup in a lot of these products,” Switalski says.

WVE is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health. The group compiled What’s That Smell?, a landmark report that examines the health effects of hidden fragrance chemicals.

Women are disproportionately affected by the chemicals in fragrances since they use them more frequently than men. They also experience more health effects from the fragrances, such as skin rashes, headaches, and breathing problems. Plus, they can pass chemicals on to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding….

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Jon Hutson Says, “Enough!” to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

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Jonathan Hutson serves as the director of communications for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. Enough is a part of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Not long ago, a director of communications would have been confined to print, television, and radio to spread an organization’s message. Today, it’s a whole new game, with social media gaining in prominence as the medium of choice.

Fittingly, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) first became aware of Hutson through Twitter, where WeFollow.com ranks Hutson (@JonHutson) as among the most influential Tweeters on human rights and justice. We asked Hutson to tell us about the Enough Project and how they use social media to further the organization’s critically important international work….

HUTSON: The Enough Project was launched three years ago, and is helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. We are calling the U.S. and the international community to action — to witness horrible human rights violations and to take measurable, meaningful action that stops ongoing atrocities and prevents their recurrence.

Here’s the latest example of our work: a witty video by actor/director Brooke Smith and cinematographer Steven Lubensky, called “I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret.” It’s about Congo conflict minerals; it spoofs an iconic Apple ad. Since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof launched the video in a column called “Death by Gadget” in the Sunday, June 27, 2010 edition of The New York Times, this video has gone viral. It’s been covered by Gizmodo, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Planet Green, Elephant Journal, TreeHugger, and CNN International. Please take a look and share it with friends….

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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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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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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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Fauna Extreme Coloring Book Inspires Girls

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Fauna Extreme publishes a coloring book targeted to young girls. But it doesn’t have a princess theme or a cute kitty or an adorable pony in it. This is a coloring book about power and strength and athleticism. And I’m going to tell you about it. But first, I want to go back into time and talk a bit about the world I grew up in. Please bear with me.

When I was a little girl (oh, about a million years ago), boys got to do all the cool things. They played with trucks. They played Army. They were daredevils. They even occasionally swore (swear words weren’t as commonplace among kids as they are today). I didn’t want to be a “girly-girl.” I wanted to be tough, too. I had opinions. I liked being physical and running and jumping. But I was frequently told, “You can’t do that; you’re a girl.” It didn’t always stop me, but sometimes it did.

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Wolf Trap Foundation Inspires Green Living through Theatre

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The “3 Rs” of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic have been replaced by the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Reduce.

For the past two years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Washington, D.C., has been teaching children these lessons through its musical puppet show, Junkyard Pirates.

“We thought, what can 3, 4, 5 year-olds understand?” says Mimi Flaherty Willis, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. The organization commissioned some of their artists to create a show for children to teach the importance of recycling. All puppets are made out of recycled materials and pirates are the “good guys.” Their leader, Captain Spare Tire, is up against his nemesis, Land Fill….

“The arts are very powerful for children and adults,” says Flaherty Willis, speaking about why it’s so beneficial to teach lessons through musical performances. “As children, important messages are taught through games and songs — like the alphabet. We did the same thing to teach recycling.” …

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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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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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