A fabulous “Brownies” weekend & a plastic bag nightmare…

girl-scoutsThis past weekend Mom Goes Green got back to nature… as a chaperon of the Girl Scout Brownies camping weekend!

We were good citizens of the planet by walking delicately on developed paths, talking about the importance of nature and including recycling in our weekend.  It’s so sweet to see how those little girls embrace the idea of taking care of Mother Nature and respecting the earth.

When we returned from camp, it was another beautiful day and (although exhausted!) we wanted to enjoy what remained of the weekend, so we headed to a park, on the lake, near downtown Cleveland.  The lake was whipping up some fabulous winds but no one seemed to mind.  What I DID mind was an astonishing collection of plastic bags that were matted to hundreds of feet of chaiplastic-bag-trashn link fence that surrounds a nearby marina.  I wish I had a camera with me so I could show you this amazing eyesore, but I assure you, it was disturbing.

I don’t think this is so much of a commentary on Cleveland as it is of our overuse and reliance upon these disastrous plastic bags!  I wish I could have picked every single one of them out of the fence and tossed them back at the litterbugs that allowed them to become trash.  I also worried about them eventually blowing into the lake. If I had more time, I would have collected them, but dusk was coming and I had sleepy kids and no gloves!  I just wonder when adults are going to realize what our sweet, little Brownies already understand.

I recently learned about Ireland’s “charge” for plastic bags.  If you don’t bring your own reusable, you will pay 33 cents for every single plastic bag you leave with.  FABULOUS idea!  As a result, the use of plastic bags has dropped 94%.  I applaud you, Ireland!  San Francisco has also banned plastic bags, so why can’t we make that happen everywhere?  I know there will be plastic bag advocates who will come up with some reason for this being un-American, but I will always disagree.  A reusable bag can be purchased for 99 cents, and the resources they will save and the pollution they will prevent is immense.  (Let’s remember, there are 4 to 5 TRILLION plastic bags distributed worldwide each year and the negative effects are immeasurable!)

payless-bagI also want to mention a wonderful new program from Payless ShoeSource, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy.  Buy this adorable reusable bag for $1.99 and $1 will go to their “Plant a Billion Trees” Campaign, so a tree can be planted in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (the most endangered rainforest in the world). With this project everyone wins, so buy some!

I already own about 15 reusable bags, but I don’t think I can pass this one up.  Mom Goes Green is a bona fide REUSABLE BAG junky and I will never let a plastic bag become fence decoration!

April 27: National Healthy Schools Day

(Mom Goes Green is EXHAUSTED from chaperoning a Girl Scout Brownies weekend camping trip… {where do they get that energy and the ability to function on such little sleep?!?} so today’s post is by guest writer Janelle Sorensen.  Today is National Healthy Schools Day… enjoy the great info!)

When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet.

kids-playingI didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.

While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.

To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network coordinates National Healthy Schools Day.  This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.

What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:

  • Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality as a policy for your School
  • Distributing information related to Green Cleaning or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products
  • Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist.
  • Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel

You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:CB106473

  • Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims)
  • Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work
  • Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”

She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org.

The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.

What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.

Additional Resources:

(Thanks, Janelle!  Visit Healthy Child Healthy World for more great resources and information! — MGG)

Lawn care chemicals are the wrong “shade” of green.

Just the other day I was driving through the neighborhood with our kids and a smell started to fill the car (and it wasn’t “compliments” of either of the kids because there were no “accompanying giggles!”).

grassWe rounded the corner and I immediately spotted the TruGreen (ChemLawn) truck.  It was sitting in front of a house and idling(!) while the “lawn tech” doused the yard in streams of harsh, nasty, polluting chemical fertilizers and weed killers.  My first reaction was (sincerely) “my god, I used to let that happen in my yard”.  And then I felt ashamed that I ever let it happen.  Next, I wanted to tell my kids to briefly stop breathing.  Then I envisioned screaming at the lawn guy to “turn off his truck!” … followed by knocking on the door and vigorously shaking the homeowner.

Why such the obsession for having the greenest, most pristine lawn on the block?  Do they think the weeds will crawl in the window late some night?  Or someone will pass “judgment” based on their lawn? The reality is that these chemicals are pollutants.  The runoff works its way to ground water, pollutes surface water through the soil and causes major contamination.  It also threatens wildlife and the beneficial insects.

I think about walking through the lawn and then walking into our homes, WITH our shoes, and I shudder.  Every chemical you just walked through spreads itself all over your home and into the indoor air.  And what about those precious LITTLE BARE FEET that touch the lawn?  It’s like walking into a chemical field.  I could never dream of subjecting our kids to such dangerous conditions.  Research has shown that chemical lawn fertilizers and pesticides can present numerous symptoms, including respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, and aggravation of pre-existing conditions (such as asthma) and our children happen to be the most vulnerable.grass-lawn

Now consider this: Each year, in the US, over 103 million pounds of toxic chemicals are applied to lawns in our pursuit of “visual appeal”. That’s all it really is… an aesthetically pleasing look.  This post could go on forever (and in the very near future, I will give more information about regular practices you can adopt to have a healthier lawn) but for now, if you feel you MUST pamper your lawn, at least consider greener solutions.

Check out NaturaLawn of America or (if you’re in Ohio) GoodNature, provider of lawn care for our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  This hasn’t even scratched the surface, but there are great do-it-yourself solutions that I promise to provide… soon!

But, for now, to top things off, the very next day there was a ‘hanger’ dangling from a door knob on the front of my house.  TruGreen’s “Anthony” was offering me a monthly estimate of $53 to contaminate my yard… and family… and the environment.  Thanks, but no thanks, Anthony.  Move on.

Earth Day! Don’t just look through green colored glasses!

It’s April 22… the 39th celebration of Earth Day!  While I am rarely at a loss for words, today I’m going to say less than normal.  I think Earth Day speaks for itself.

I am reminded, however, that this misuse of the planet has been going on for a long time… is anyone old enough to remember the 70’s commercial with the “Crying Indian?” I remember being very little and seeing this on TV… and feeling a sadness every time I saw the Indian cry.  It may be 30+ years old, but it still gets to me.

Today, we have the Blue Man Group to remind us that, while the vehicle for the message is modernized, the message has not changed.

So, I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:

“The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.” ~ Chief Seattle, Divamish Indian, 1855

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.  To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.” ~ Wendell Berry

Happy Earth Day… celebrate!

Earth Day can be simple but significant.

If you do a Google search for “Earth Day” you’re likely to find hundreds upon hundreds of suggestions about how to spend April 22, and am I going to do that too?  Yea, I am.  But first things first…

earth-dayEarth Day is a birthday so to speak – a day to celebrate the earth.  It was created in 1970 as a way to remind us to appreciate nature and learn how to protect our environment.  And while it is celebrated in the spring in the northern hemisphere, it is actually observed in the autumn in the southern hemisphere (both days being the exact “middle point” of the season).  Internationally, it reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, so this (like the newer Earth Hour project) is a worldwide event.

No matter what you do to celebrate the day, it can be truly significant.  If you simply take notice of the earth and how lucky we truly are, you have celebrated!  So here are some simple ideas, if you don’t have some terrific ones of your own!

  • See “Earth” – the Disneynature film that is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
  • Plant a tree – buy a tree for your yard or sponsor the planting of a tree.
  • Plan an eco-friendly meal – eat organic, locally-grown produce and get a taste of the earth!
  • Attend an Earth event – check your local zoo, botanical gardens, nature center or community’s programs.
  • Read a book – if your children are burnt out on their own nature books, check out the local library for some new selections.tree-seedling1
  • Clean out the clutter – and donate what you own that no longer has a purpose, to keep it out of the trash and landfills.
  • Go for a walk – your own neighborhood or a local hiking path can remind you of the wonder of nature.
  • Pick up some trash – this can be coupled with your walk and accomplish even more!
  • Break ground for a garden – as organic as you can get!
  • Adopt naturesponsor an endangered species or an acre of rainforest.
  • Make recycled crafts – your own home (and recycle bin) is full of supplies!
  • Change a habit – whether it’s cleaning products or a pledge to recycle more, every change is a good change.
  • Switch to CFLs – buy some!  And when an old incandescent burns out, switch ‘em out!
  • USE those reusable bags – vow to make this a priority!
  • “Talk about it!” – talk about what Earth Day really means… with your kids, your friends, your neighbor… anyone that might need to know or need a little “push!”

There are still a few days to make your plans, but just be sure to plan something.  But I truly believe that teaching our kids to respect the earth and appreciate this amazing planet is the best way to celebrate… kids that are taught to be “environmentally aware” grow up to be environmentally aware adults!

And remember… April 22 isn’t the only Earth Day… EVERY day should be Earth Day!