The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?

garbage-ptchA few months ago, I wrote a post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).

It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

I certainly got my fair share of comments and emails.  Some readers were appalled (just like I am), while others were skeptical. One particularly fine gent emailed me and wanted to know why there weren’t pictures of this “plastic island” that everyone keeps raging about and why I’m making false statements.

Well, I first think he’s taking terms a bit too literal!  It’s not an actual island where you can dock your yacht, Mr. Crabby Pants!  This garbage patch is an AREA, where the vortex of ocean currents collects all of our discarded trash.   It’s that simple.  The ocean eventually breaks down the plastics into little bits and tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes for plankton (their primary food source). It floats on both the surface to 100 feet below the surface… so NO!  No “island”, but we shouldn’t falsely believe that this is not an issue.

Now, a new expedition to study the Garbage Patch, led by a group of University of California scientists, states that they found much more debris than they expected and are concerned that the “patch” may be much larger than originally thought.

It’s hard to imagine what we can do to prevent this… even experts don’t have the answers.  The only hope is to decrease our dependency on so many plastics, improve our recycling practices and simply change our overall behavior… and clean the mess that already exists.  We must find ways to decrease the plastic trash that reaches the oceans and waterways… period.

The most disturbing part?  There is said to be another patch in the southern hemisphere… and it’s four times larger.

Are your kids being forced to be wasteful at school?

Yesterday was only the second day for our daughter being back at school after what felt like an all-too-short summer and, after once again taking the position of Recycling & Environmental Programs Chairperson at her school, I’ve already found myself with Mission #1 for the year… yea, in all of TWO DAYS!cafe-tray

It seems that our children are actually being forced to be wasteful in the lunchroom and my head is just spinning.  The situation was brought to light by a close friend who volunteered to help new students become accustom to the cafeteria line process and when her story began with an “oh, let me tell you about THIS!” I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

The problem?  All students purchasing a lunch are forced to take all items on the lunch menu, even if they don’t want them!  My friend told me I probably would have choked at how many unopened single-serve applesauce containers met the trash can.  My heart just sank.  Not only is this horribly wasteful, but can you imagine how many food pantries could benefit from all of the unused foods that are thrown away daily?!?

I can’t imagine what policy is in place that literally makes this waste a “rule”, but I certainly intend to find out!  Maybe it’s so the school can say that, while they can’t control what the children eat, it was at least given to them… but if this is the case, it’s a lousy standard.

cafet-lineMy hope is to find a place that would accept these unopened foods and allow them to benefit.  With so many regulations, it may be hard to do.  And then I will need to get the school on board, so that will likely be another huge administrative hurdle, but this one ladies and gents, Mom Goes Green is taking on!!! I never knew about this before, since our daughter is a daily waste-free lunch girl(!), but now I NEED to try to make something happen.  It WILL be my first mission.

If you have a similar story to share and ideas of how to resolve this dilemma, please let me know… I would love to hear it!  And if this story sounds similar to a situation in your own child’s school, consider joining me and see what you can do to make a positive change!

Less waste means less trash, and food for those who need it… in that situation everyone wins!

10 simple ways to raise green kids.

eco-logoWe all want to raise great children… from respect for themselves, to respect for others, to respecting this amazing planet we live on… we can all likely agree that we just want them to live in a happy, healthy world.  I believe there are 10 simple ways to help us raise happy, green kids… so let’s just get to it…

  • Make recycling a habit – teaching children, early on, what is trash and what is recyclable and making it a simple practice at home will inevitably lead them to carry this knowledge throughout life and put it to good use.
  • Teach respect for the environment, wildlife & nature – whether it’s reading books that teach them about preserving the world around them, taking nature hikes or simple little discussions, your kids are sponges and will know why to make good choices and see what we are setting out to preserve… and they’ll love it!
  • Green craft – from habits like using both sides of the paper for drawing to creating crafts and art with recycled materials, your little artist will realize that the greatest masterpieces don’t require expensive trips to the craft store… reusing materials is both fun and environmental.nature-kid
  • Give lessons in the three r’s – it’s not just reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic anymore:  reuse, reduce and recycle opportunities are around every corner.  Lead them in the right direction, explain why this is a “green mantra” and soon those decisions will become automatic.
  • Teach about waste & not over-consuming – turning off water when it’s not being used (brushing teeth!), shutting off unneeded lights, taking only what you need, etc… these habits can be practiced by even the smallest of environmentalists!
  • Help them master the art of giving – teach them the beauty of passing on those toys, games, books and clothes that are no longer needed or wearable.  Explain how this helps others that don’t have as much as they do and why getting the full life out of everything keeps useful “trash“ from being sent to landfills.
  • Plant together – whether it’s a full garden, a tree or a simple pot of flowers or vegetables, kids love to watch things grow (I know I still do!) and learn to appreciate where everything comes from.  You can even plan a trip to a farmer’s market and explain the benefits of organic and locally-grown produce to reduce the effects on us and our environment… they’ll  “get it”!
  • Organize challenges & activities – every kid loves a challenge.  Set-up anything from a week-long challenge to reduce the amount of trash you create to a one-night challenge to see who can take the shortest (yet still effective!) shower… they’ll jump at the chance to be a winner!kiids-on-globe1
  • Volunteer together – whether it’s a large community event to learn and participate or a family organized activity (like cleaning up the trash at a local park or walking trail), there are opportunities everywhere and they’ll see that these efforts go far beyond our own backyards.
  • Lead by example – “Monkey see, monkey do”… kids notice everything, so when you make the right choices, it simply becomes a part of who they are and it will last their lifetime…

Believe me, all of this happened to me and poof!… like magic… Mom Goes Green!

The fragility of life.

Today I’m having a hard time summoning a topic for a blog post… reason being… I just returned from the wake of a friend’s 12-year old son…

After spending the day playing in a football scrimmage, he went swimming and fishing with his best friend and his friend’s dad.  On their way to take him home, rylandthey were in a horrific car accident that instantly claimed all three of their lives.

My heart is absolutely breaking for my friend, Pam.  Life is so fragile and to lose a child must be unbearable.  I can’t even imagine how she is managing to breathe at this point.

Today I ask that everyone make time to hug your children closer, embrace your spouse, and say I love you to all of them.  And just take time to recognize the things that matter most… the amazing people in your life.

And if you would, say a prayer for the soul of little Ryland Reel.  May he rest in peace.

Stressed? Natural ways to put you back in Happy Land!

CB060663Mom Goes Green is always sharing ways to try to improve the things around you… your family’s daily life, your home, your community, our planet.  But what about you?  What’s a stressed-out and tired Green Mom to do?

Well, let me tell you!  Here are three simple ways (with relatively earth-friendly twists) to naturally rejuvenate and leave the stress behind (even if only for a night!):

  • Go ahead and splurge – take a bath and add some natural and organic bath salts.  Studies show that the salts increase prolactin levels by up to a third and help in relaxation!
  • Grab a cup of hot organic coffee or tea – it can actually trigger psychological warmth and pleasant feelings, even after only holding it for 10 seconds!  For a natural antidepressant, add a nice spice… cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, you choose.
  • Turn off the TV and read – stimulating your mind actually creates happiness.  To be eco-friendly, borrow books from the library or a friend, make your purchase at a used book store or, for the avid reader, buy a Kindle.

There you have it… simple steps… and what it takes for a stressed Green Mom to shake off the blues!