Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kids and Composting

In observance of Earth Day, I presented composting assemblies for fourth graders in two schools in town. The kids were great. They eagerly volunteered to act out a story, take the “Rot Whiz Quiz” and make a compost-in-a bottle for their classroom. They asked questions that showed me they were thinking.

One boy wanted to know if you could sell finished compost. I told him they sell it in garden stores. I could just see his wheels spinning, planning his next lemonade-stand-like venture.

Although the “compost in a bottle” is meant for kids to observe the process of decomposition, one teacher, surrounded by her students, told me at the end of the assembly that they had just discussed throwing in their apple cores and banana peels after snack time to eliminate some garbage. (They might need a bigger bottle.) Kudos to the students and the very enthusiastic teacher who got her students keyed up about this. Next step: school-wide composting?

I hope the kids took something away from the assembly. I know I did. I was inspired to see that kids were interested in composting and reducing garbage. It gave me hope for the future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Your Health and Happiness

Earth Day is my favorite holiday. I love the outdoor events that celebrate our Earth and all that people are doing to live harmoniously with it. But have you ever noticed that the things that are good for the Earth are also healthful for its human population?

Take one case—reducing use of gasoline. This produces less climate change gases and less pollution. But look at the other benefits.

Walking and biking to places instead of driving is beneficial for our hearts, bone health, mood, immune system, and so many other bodily functions.

Less people driving reduces traffic congestion and thus stress.

It costs less, in terms of gasoline, and indirectly in terms of medical costs and in some cases gym costs.

Walking with others provides the opportunity to connect socially, another de-stressor. It’s great for children walking to school.

Yes, walking and cycling take time, today’s most precious commodity. So maybe the biggest thing we can do for the Earth and for ourselves is to make our lives less busy.

Where can you cut back? Consuming less means shopping less—is that a possibility? If you’re always chauffeuring your children around, can they engage in less structured activities? If you’re an activist, can you focus on fewer issues? Can you spend less time surfing the net? Each person will find a different answer.

Here’s to your health and happiness, and that of the Earth!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eight Dollars a Gallon . . . For Water

When I was growing up there were no disposable water bottles. You drank water from the tap at home. If you were away there were water fountains. At softball games someone would bring a cooler of a drink and cups. Ditto for picnics.

I ignored bottled water when they made their appearance—thinking them wasteful and expensive—until I had kids. Then I had to deal with the old “but everyone else uses them.” When I researched it, I found my gut was right.
Convenience may be a good argument for disposable water bottles, but drinking safer or better-tasting water is not. U.S. municipalities test their water and have among the safest in the world. (40% of bottled water comes from the tap anyway.) In blind taste tests, most people could not tell the difference between bottled water and municipal water.

Let’s look at convenience. Instead of grabbing a bottle of water, you’d have to fill a reusable water bottle. That’s it! For me, it’s worth that minor inconvenience in order to be a good steward of resources for my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Bottle Water and Resource Use
 Much petroleum and water is used to make the plastic bottles themselves.
 17 million barrels of oil are used annually in the U.S to transport water bottles to their destinations—enough to fuel some 100,000 cars for a year.
 Discarded bottles are often littered or sent to landfills. Even the 20% that are recycled are actually “downcycled”—not used to make more water bottles, but other products like chairs and toys that can’t be recycled at the end of their life.
 It’s expensive! Drinking water from the tap (eight cups a day) might cost less than 50 cents a year. Compare that to how much one spends on water bottles. People complain about gasoline prices. The price of bottled water per gallon (based on $1.00 per one 16 oz. bottle) is $8.00 a gallon. From a tap, an average price is $ 0.002 per gallon.

Alternatives to disposable water bottles
 Use a water fountain.
 Carry reusable water bottles, such as stainless steel ones made by Klean Canteen or SIGG.
 For meetings, use pitchers of tap water.

For tips on breaking the water bottle habit, go to the Center for a New American Dream: http://www.newdream.org/water/index.php

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Limits to Social Networking

The buzz word these days is networking. There are so many ways to connect to your professional, volunteer, or social community online, whether it’s through e-mail, websites, forums, blogs, or sites like Facebook.

But . . . while it’s so helpful for me, as a writer, to receive news of the field and share ideas, there is also a downside to this hyper-opportunity—information overload, less face-to-face interaction, and, of course, less time to write.

The disappearing-time factor is lethal. I love writing this blog, and although it does take a few hours, the real time sucker is not the actual writing, but the networking that goes hand in hand. After publishing a post, I need to send out the link to potential readers and “followers,” peruse and post on fellow bloggers’ sites, cross-post, guest blog, etc.

If I spend too much time on networking-deluxe—which is so easy, pleasant, and hypnotic—then where is the time to write? Clearly there has to be a balance. My answer, at least for now, is to limit my online “networking” allotment to a few hours on one day a week, with shorter follow-up later in the week. Obviously I’m missing a lot on the other five days, but what is the alternative? I want to keep writing, and I think my (future) agent and editors will be pleased with that, too.

Let’s hear from you. Do you self-impose limits on your networking activities? What suggestions can you share for dealing with this decidedly 21st century dilemma?