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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Top Ten Tips to Green Your Prom

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Ally Maize was already excited to go to prom to see her friends dressed up and spend the evening dancing at a swanky hotel. But this year, the 17-year-old high-school senior from West Los Angeles decided to make her prom a little greener.

She wore a couture, floor-length, royal blue ball gown by Lindee Daniel of Puridee. It’s made from fair-trade organic fabric and high-quality Indian peace silks called ahimsa and tussah. She also met with 30 friends, who agreed to carpool to the dance.

Maize founded the Green Youth Movement when she was 15. After watching An Inconvenient Truth, she was inspired to educate elementary students about sustainability and global warming. She organizes events like community gardens to teach kids how to plant and grow their own food. This year, attending her own prom inspired her to inform others on how to lessen its environmental impact.

“Prom is something that high schoolers across the country do every year. It’s easy to make prom greener,” says Maize….

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Notes from Canada: A Plan for the Planet

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“I’ve got an idea – let’s play hide and seek!” Mary Travers spoke, as I recall, on the 33-rpm vinyl record by Peter, Paul and Mary called Peter, Paul and Mommy, an anthology of some of my favourite children’s songs. Songs I love.

Well, I have an idea: let’s save humanity so that many more generations of children will sing children’s songs. Not an original idea but let’s stay with it.

Dependable science delivers a picture of planet Earth as we pass through the consecutive impacts of changing climate, consequence that may start with ecology but quickly moves through the food chain and the economy into the health and wealth of humanity, and the security of civilisation.

This somewhat succinctly embodies the essential message that Gwynne Dyer delivers globally, to all people in government and the smart folk who do “military intelligence”….

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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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Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!

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I’ll bet you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for years. And how about shoes? How many of those are cluttering your shoe rack or heaped on the floor?

The vast majority of people reading this post have clothes that you’ve forgotten about. What good are they doing cluttering up limited closet and drawer space? Isn’t it time to tell them to move along?

After all, someone, somewhere, would love to have a gently used pair of jeans in the size that no longer fits you. Or maybe they’d enjoy those black pumps you only wore a couple of times before deciding they’re not really your style. And that cool outfit you bought that turned out to look better in the magazine than it does on you? Yeah, somebody else would like that one, too.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR) is an event designed to solve the problem of too many clothes and too little space. At a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, you donate your lovingly worn or long-forgotten clothing at the event, then take home something that’s just right for you today….

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Beyond the River Banks – IRR Annual Conference April 30 – May 2

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If you love Iowa’s rivers, you won’t want to miss the 5th annual conference hosted by Iowa Rivers Revival at the end of this month. The conference will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. This year’s theme is “Beyond the River Banks: Celebrating Iowa’s Cedar Valley.”

As Iowans — and those who followed the severe Midwest flooding of 2008 — know, the Cedar Valley experienced historic water levels, reaching beyond the 500-year floodplain in Cedar Rapids and other places along the Cedar River watershed. The conference “emphasizes a watershed approach that recognizes that rivers and streams need space to expand and recede, coexisting in harmony with the communities and habitats they shape,” according to IRR’s executive director, Rosalyn Lehman.

“The floods of 2008 and threats of future flooding have many Iowans talking about a new vision for Iowa’s waterways to ensure the safety of river communities and to preserve and enhance Iowa’s natural heritage,” Lehman says….

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Pop Opera ECOLOGIC Competes for Funds in Pepsi Project

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When I was a kindergartner in an inner city neighborhood of the Chicago Public Schools, my class was bussed downtown to see Rapunzel at one of the grand old theatres. From my nearly front-row seat, the magic of the theatre left a lasting impression on this kid from an economically challenged family.

That kind of magical experience is one Jay Nagle and Dwayne Parks would like to give to thousands of other kids in the Chicago Public Schools. Their goal is to produce free performances of Ecologic, their original musical with an environmental message, in Chicago’s Millennium Park. But their vision needs funding.

Parks and Nagle have entered the Pepsi Refresh Project contest to compete for a grant that would bring their project to life. Jay Nagle is a playwright, dance teacher, and director. His partner, Dwayne Parks, is a musician and composer. Together, they own Totally New Theatre and TKATS — Talented Kids, Adults, and TeenS — a nonprofit theatre arts organization that produces original musical performances. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the team to find out more about their musical and why they think their project merits your votes in Pepsi’s Planet category this month….

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Full-Circle Learning – Global Partnerships Unlock Potential

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After the 1992 civil unrest in South Central Los Angeles, a small grassroots group began an after-school program to show the children living in the area that diverse members of their community cared about them. Teresa Henkle Langness, who later founded Full-Circle Learning, was among them.

“Over time,” Langness says, “we began to see that what these children needed was to be a part of a community, to be a part of the solution, instead of feeling like victims of society’s ills.”

Langness adds, “When we began to incorporate character themes linked to local and global service within each lesson plan, the students’ scores suddenly began to leap. They became much better students, much better people. They began to teach their parents conflict resolution. Outside organizations in the community began to benefit from their work. Families wanted to replicate the model and began asking us for help in doing so.”

Today, Full-Circle Learning provides a full preschool-through-high school curriculum in 13 nations. Langness told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), “The mission of Full-Circle Learning is to help young people embrace their role as humanitarians and change agents. We do this through educational programs that integrate and expand students’ character strength, academic excellence, creative capacities, and conflict resolution skills.” …

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Green Campus Project Wants Your Vote

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Have you ever had a dream about a great project that would benefit humanity? Maybe it was little more than an idea. Or maybe you actually got to the stage where you had it all planned out and ready to go, but the funding just wasn’t there.

That’s where Marty Leenhouts finds himself today. He has an idea about a Green Campus Project that will benefit college and university students, reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and make the world a little greener. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the funds to make his vision a reality.

But PepsiCo does. And Pepsi has invited people with vision to submit their own project ideas to the Pepsi Refresh Project, to compete for some pretty hefty cash prizes each month. Here’s the story of one of those projects, in the Planet category. As visionary Marty Leenhouts says, “The fulfillment of the Green Campus project will only happen with the winning of the contest.”

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Leenhouts to tell us about his vision and what he hopes to accomplish with the Green Campus Project….

LEENHOUTS: I’m an educator by heart and by trade for many years, and so my interest has been with students for a long time. My involvement with electric transportation began with an interest in doing something good for the environment. I started it when gas was over $3 a gallon — about a year and a half ago.

People needed a different way to get around that was economical, clean, quiet, easy to ride. Nothing deluxe. Just to get from point A to point B. That got me involved in electric transportation….

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Truth on Earth – Making Music to Change the World

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In a society where many teens and young adults spend their free time in front of the television, playing video games, grabbing fast food, or hanging out with friends at the mall, the three Halpern sisters lead exceptional lives. They’re talented musicians, who together comprise the band Truth On Earth (T.O.E.).

So what else is unique about Serena (20), Kiley (19), and Tess (16)? They’re lifelong vegans, have always been home schooled, and have spent the last two years traveling the country in an RV with their parents….

And this is another way the three are different from most of their peers: Their songs aren’t about the issues many young women are thinking about — boys, flirtations, or the angst of being a teen. “We picked a musical style that had a message and meant something,” Kiley says….

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Fair Trade Connects Local Producers with Global Consumers

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Zulugrass necklaces are at home in both Kenya’s pasturelands and a trendy boutique in Los Angeles. A colorful, coiled group of The Leakey Collection’s Zulugrass™ strands costs $39.95. But what the price tag doesn’t mention is that the woman who cut, dyed, and beaded the native Kenyan grass into this necklace is earning enough money to feed and educate her family for years to come.

Katy and Philip Leakey founded The Leakey Collection™ after a devastating drought a decade ago destroyed the livelihoods of their neighbors in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. As the landscape became charred and depleted, the community’s men moved north to find grazing grounds for their cattle, and the women and children were left behind with no source of income….

Recently, Philip and Katy visited one of these retail outlets — Zero Minus Plus in Santa Monica, California — to discuss the local impact of buying fair trade products. “Fair trade is a response to globalization,” Philip said. “Several decades ago, people produced [goods] for their local markets. With the internationalization of markets, many producers lost their buyers.” Fair trade is a market-based attempt to connect these producers with their new, global consumers, focusing on ethical and sustainable business practices….

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Teens Turning Green – Eco-Healthy Messages for Youth

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When Judi Shils’ daughter started wearing makeup in 2005, Shils was concerned about the toxic chemicals the teen was applying to her face. This, as well as the high cancer rates in Marin County, California, where they lived, inspired Shils to launch Teens for Safe Cosmetics.
Project Green Dorm

The group evolved into Teens Turning Green (TTG). Last July they launched the Project Green Dorm store, a pop-up in The Village at Corte Madera mall. TTG’s mission was to sell green alternatives to typical dorm gear. The pop-up store was designed as a short-term venue, and Project Green Dorm now exists as a checklist on the main Teens Turning Green website. There, users get tips on how to green their bedroom, bathroom, closet, gadgets, and more.

Reducing exposure to chemicals is so important, Shils says, because everything we do to our bodies carries on to our children. “We should do the things we can to ensure the health of generations to come,” she notes. “We’re messing with our chemistry — that’s the bottom line.” …

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Nominate an “Ocean Hero” for Oceana Contest

March 24, 2010 by  
Filed under 2010, Activists, Blog, Contest, Front Page, Ocean, Slideshow, Youth

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There are people around the world who are doing their utmost to stop the destruction of our oceans. People who are putting themselves at risk to make the world’s seas a more habitable place for fish and marine animals. People, including youth, who are making a difference by raising funds to support the work of others. People who not only care about the oceans, but also take action. Each one is a hero, though their efforts may be untrumpeted and little known.

But people who are selflessly working to make the oceans a healthier ecosystem deserve recognition for their efforts.

Do you know anyone who is making a difference to the world’s oceans? If you do, here’s an opportunity to nominate him or her for recognition as an “Ocean Hero,” through a competition sponsored by the conservation group Oceana. Nominations will be accepted at the official contest website,, until April 18, 2010.

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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My 5: Larry Long, Musician, Activist, Teacher

March 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Community, Elders, Front Page, My 5, Slideshow, U.S.

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Larry Long, troubadour, social activist, and teacher, two questions we like to ask all our interviewees. Long is the founder of the Mississippi River Revival, the man who brought Woody Guthrie’s memory home to Okemah, Oklahoma; and the founder and executive director of Communities Celebration of Place….

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KSCA Would “Change the Paradigm” to Protect Kids’ Health

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When it was enacted in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) automatically assumed that some 62,000 chemicals were safe, even though their effects on humans had never even been tested. Equally scary, as each new chemical is introduced, the burden of proof rests on the EPA to show that a chemical is hazardous in order to restrict its use — and that, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “rarely happens.”

If enacted, the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act (KSCA) would change the process of approving chemicals for the marketplace in several significant ways. According to CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in a recent television broadcast, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) will soon reintroduce the bill proposing KSCA, which would change “the paradigm from innocent until proven guilty to guilty until proven innocent, in the sense that [a chemical] has to be tested before it can actually come to market.” …

To find out more about the health risks facing our children from toxic chemicals and why KSCA should be enacted, interested persons are invited to attend Dr. Landrigan’s talk, sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Title: “Children’s Health and the Environment: Target for Prevention”

Speaker: Dr. Philip Landrigan

Date: March 19, 2010

Time: 3:30 – 4:30, Reception to follow

Location: Livestrong Board Room, 2201 E. 6th St., Austin, TX

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Folksinger Larry Long on Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song

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Recently, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed troubadour and social activist Larry Long about some of the many significant projects he’s engaged in during his adult life. He was the founder of the Mississippi River Revival, a group that worked tirelessly to clean up the river and celebrate the culture of the people who lived there. Long helped the city of Okemah, Oklahoma to “bring Woody Guthrie home” by spearheading an event that celebrated both Woody’s music and the community’s contribution to his life and work.

In this part of our conversation, we talked with Long about Community Celebration of Place, which includes Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song (EWCS). Long is the founder and executive director. We asked him to begin by describing the program, which has been implemented in schools across the U.S. and in several countries around the world….

LONG: Community Celebration of Place works with communities to use music, performance, art, and oral history to bring together children and elders, and people of different backgrounds — economic, faith, racial, and cultural — to honor and celebrate our commonalities and differences through a program entitled Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song….

A student shakes the hand of one of the honored elders at his school. Photo: Courtesy Larry Long

Through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, stories of different cultures emerge. This helps create an understanding of others and the possibility of more civil engagement and the ability to work with one another….

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Community Colleges Offer “Green” Classes for Kids and Adults

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Teaching renewable energy at community colleges is nothing new, according to Carolyn Teich, senior program associate from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Such courses have actually been in community college curricula for about 30 years.

But there is also a wave of new courses designed for people who want to live more sustainably. For example, Kirkwood Community College — which primarily offers classes on its Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, campuses — launched a Go Green initiative this past fall in its Continuing Education department.

A team looks at trends in the market to develop new programs for the school, says Kim Johnson, the associate vice president of continuing education programming. Part of her job is to work with that team.

Programs are planned a year in advance, she says. About a year ago, the Kirkwood team discussed the increased emphasis on “green” — especially green jobs — because of the Obama administration’s support of renewable energy technology in the Stimulus package. She also felt the community had an increased interest in sustainability and saving money….

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Larry Long on Bringing Woody Guthrie Home

February 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Community, Events, Front Page, Musicians, Oklahoma

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Through activism and song, Larry Long has fought for social justice and environmental preservation his entire adult life. He has also spent his life focusing on the culture and history of the people and places he sings about.

Part one of our conversation with Larry Long discussed his work with the Mississippi River Revival. Today, we look at how he brought long-overdue honor to fellow folksinger Woody Guthrie, in Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. Guthrie is best known for his folksong, “This Land Is Your Land.”

Guthrie was also known for associating with Communists, and though he never joined the Communist Party, his liberal political leanings did not always make him welcome in his hometown. In fact two water towers stand in Okemah, advertising both Hot and Cold attitudes toward being the birthplace of Woody Guthrie.

Two decades after Guthrie’s death — thanks largely to Long’s important community work — the people of Okemah finally welcomed Woody Guthrie home.

This is part two of a three-part conversation with Larry Long, whom writer Studs Terkel once called, “a true American troubadour.” You can listen to some of Larry Long’s music on his website.

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Gently Used Wedding Gowns — More than a Fashion Statement

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You can use eBay and Craigslist to buy anything from boats to aquariums to musical instruments. And when it comes to your wedding day, you can use them to buy your dress, centerpieces, or other décor — but huge Internet marketplaces make this task seem daunting. Some sites, like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, Recycled Bride, and Bride Share, and have narrowed the focus to make online shopping for gently used wedding items simple for brides-to-be….

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