While the winter holiday season brings good cheer for most people, it also brings a lot more solid waste to the landfill, harm to the environment and additional debt to the average American family. Here are some environmentally-smart tips for a less wasteful – perhaps less stressful — holiday this year:
Rethink cards – Every year, there are 2.65 billion holiday cards sold in the U.S. That’s enough to fill a football stadium field 10 stories high! Look for cards that contain recycled content or are actually recycled materials. You could use old cards as name tags for presents or for colorful artwork to decorate your house. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
Re-wrap – Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away. Try using colorful pages torn from magazines to wrap small gifts, and old maps or the Sunday comics for larger boxes. Avoid using paper entirely by using reusable decorative tins, baskets or boxes. If you do buy wrapping paper, look for ones made of recycled paper. Reusable cloth ribbons can be used in place of plastic bows. Finally, unwrap gifts carefully and save wrappings for reuse next year.
Message eco – Look for gifts with an environmental message: a nature book, a refillable thermos bottle, a canvas tote bag, a battery recharger or items made from recycled materials. Choose solar powered instead of battery powered products. Or better yet, ones that require no power at all.
Give from the heart – Other environmentally-smart gifts include homemade ones: home baked cookies, bread or jams, a plant or tree. Ones that don’t create any waste at all: concert or movie tickets, dinner at a restaurant, or an IOU to help rake leaves or repair a leaky faucet. Ones that get “used up”: candles, soap, or seeds for next year’s garden.
BYOB – Bring your own tote bags when shopping and avoid coming home with an armload of plastic bags holding just one item.
Have a safe and environmentally-healthy holiday season this year!
The holidays are a great time of year to give! For today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders for real environmental change, they must have access to facts and scientific truth. Your support to The Nature Generation this holiday season ensures we can help the next generation become climate literate, stewards of the environment, and protectors of our natural world.
For today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders for real environmental change, they must have access to facts and scientific truth. Your support to The Nature Generation this holiday season ensures we can help the next generation become climate literate, stewards of the environment, and protectors of our natural world.
Have you ever had a friend you can always count on in a pinch? One who never hesitates to chip in and lend a hand? Both recipients of the annual McGranaghan Stewardship award this year are that kind of friend to the Chapman DeMary Trail, along with other special individuals who received recognition at the annual Hail to the Trail event on Sunday, October 22.
The Nature Generation established the McGranaghan Stewardship award in 2009 to recognize volunteers who care for and enhance the habitat on the trail and encourage youth and the community to be good stewards. This year, the award was presented to Patti Yarbrough and Boy Scout Troop 961.
Patti Yarbrough is a familiar face at the trail. She’s been seen counting creek creatures with kids and families on water quality day to monitor the health of the creek, hauling away trash on a cleanup day, or leading groups of students during field trips. Patti’s enthusiasm for helping monarchs and her love of nature kept her coming back to work with The Nature Generation on the monarch waystation and to help inspire the next generation to be good stewards. She always helped spread the word about efforts at the Chapman DeMary Trail. During her work on the pollinator meadow at the trail, she became so inspired by the plight of disappearing bees and monarchs that she spearheaded a new pollinator garden in her own neighborhood. Thanks to Patti’s time and support of educational activities, more kids in the county are learning how to protect nature.
The moment the waters receded from a flood caused by rains over the summer, Boy Scout Troop 961 answered the call for help to move the heavy picnic tables back into place in the trail’s outdoor classroom and to replace the foot bridges along the path that had washed away. The troop also helped establish monthly trail clean up days and always showed up to help the habitat by removing trash along the trail and removing invasives to help the pollinator meadow thrive. Boy Scout Troop 961’s efforts at the Chapman DeMary Trail have consistently demonstrated their dedication to the environment, stewardship, education, and our community.
The McGranaghan Stewardship Award is named after Loudoun Valley High School Environmental Explorations teacher Liam McGranaghan. He demonstrates what it means to be a good steward of the environment with his students and with the community through his work at the Chapman DeMary Trail and other areas. He and his students were instrumental in establishing the nature trail and continue to serve as stewards of the 10-acre habitat.
The Girl Scouts also are doing their part to make the trail an educational resource by installing a small community library at the trail, stocked with books about nature.
During the Hail the Trail event, the pollinator habitat on the trail was officially named the “Amie Ware Pollinator Meadow,” in recognition of Amie’s vision and dedication to the trail. The announcement was made by The Nature Generation Founder and President Amy Marasco, on behalf of her organization and other trail partners, Loudoun Valley High School and the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Amie Ware is active on the trail, at the Old Stone School and throughout the community. Since 2008, she has been transforming the trail into a treasured community asset. She also grew as a photographer and naturalist and is very often on the trail documenting both the wildlife and human visitors. She coordinated field trips for local schools and for school kids in DC who don’t always have the luxury of spending the day in nature. Amie was also responsible for coordinating the documentation of the flora and fauna on the trail, and posted markers and educational materials so visitors could learn more about nature, too. Her love of nature is infectious, and she mentored several students and scouts on their projects on the trail and helped plant a pollinator garden at local schools.
Dominion and New Trail Sponsors Support the Trail
The Dominion Foundation showed its community support and presented a check to The Nature Generation for $25,000, earmarked for making the Chapman DeMary Trail more accessible by replacing existing footbridges and installing sections of boardwalk. Funds from this grant will also be used to develop educational materials to provide more information about the habitat which will be available at the trail throughout the year.
Two new trail sponsors have added their names to the trail sponsor sign: American Hiking Society and Watermark Woods. Thank you to these and others who have joined the growing list of supporters of our local community treasure: Dominion Foundation, Middleburg Bank, Purcellville Gazette, Jason Sengpiehl, Allstate Insurance , Maid Brigade, Bank of Clarke County, Cabinet Showplace, Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast, Purcellville Copy, Purcellville Rotary Club, Wholesale Screening Solutions, Browning Equipment, Inc., Hudimac & Company, It’s a Peace of Cake Catering, The Jimmersons, The Robic Family and Zicht & Associates.
To learn more about the awards and how you can become a Friend of the Chapman DeMary Trail to support and enhance this habitat, contact email@example.com.
By The Nature Generation Founder and President Amy Marasco, written for her monthly column, “A View From My Window,” in the Purcellville Gazette
I am an optimist. I wake up each morning full of hope and joy. The first glimpse of the day may be one of sunlight streaming into the window or it might be the soft sound of rain washing against the panes or the quiet stillness that a morning snowfall offers. Quite frankly, I have learned it does not matter. I relish the fact that a new day awakens and the chance to make it wonderful rests mostly on my thoughts, my actions, and my attitude.
Many people have thoughtful morning practices of meditation or prayer. I start my days with the practice of singing an old fashioned ditty to my beloved dog Mack who raises an eyebrow, does not criticize my singing and nestles back into my bed hoping for more sleep. I stretch, shower, and whistle or sing again—because it makes me smile and fills me with joy. My morning routine also serves as my armor as I face a world that feels increasingly dark, troubled and divided.
Must our world be so discordant, exacerbated by such routinely harsh rhetoric? Might we turn the tide if we were just a bit more empathetic to another’s plight? I wonder if we will have the curiosity, desire, and stamina to learn from those periods in history when darkness and anger prevailed over light and composure. What turns the tide toward peace, caring, kindness and love? Is it leadership? Is it by a shared fight against a common foe? Is it individuals making the decision to choose joy against all odds—and to act upon accordingly in daily interactions? Or is it simply the authentic practice of empathy that allows us to reset and move forward?
Empathy was actively taught in my family. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes was a mantra in our household as I grew up. My father, from an Italian immigrant family, experienced discrimination first hand, yet he channeled his hurt into empathy for others at every turn. His lessons to me came in the most unexpected ways, such as in the simple advice he gave me nearly fifty years ago on the evening before my first school dance. Before leaving the house, he held my hand and said, “Amy Louise, you should dance with every boy that asks you to dance.” When I scrunched my nose and questioned this advice, he asked me, “Do you realize how nervous the boy will be and how rejected he might feel? Put yourself in his shoes, and simply and kindly agree to just one dance?” To this day I try to heed his advice, and when frustrated and upset by actions of family members, friends or those in my community—local or global—I do try to imagine how the other person feels, what story is really behind their anger or fear. And, in my life, I’ve found if I take the time to offer one dance, I can more effectively understand, and often bring calmness—if not resolution—to troublesome situations.
To address systemic wrongs, I believe we have to make our entry point wherever we can with our own voice from our own life story, supported and fueled by our individual passion. While I often find myself impatient with incremental social change, I don’t think we can move forward on any issue until we take the time to understand its root cause and stay open to dialogue, as difficult and uncomfortable as that may be. Conversation and listening, conducted with mutual respect, are central to humanity and cultures making progress. But, the practice of true empathy might be even a more fundamental and powerful tool.
Empathy is not a selfless act, given we are all tied to the fate of humanity, to one another, to the resiliency of our planet, to the health of our local and global communities, to our ability to learn to live in more harmony. If we don’t practice empathy, I am not sure we can progress. Empathy allows us to imagine and care for the fate of forests we may never walk within; to help people who hunger that we may never meet; to care about and protect coral reefs damaged by pollution that we might never see; and to support people wronged whom we may never know. Empathy can also empower us in routine ways, such as letting the mom with tired and cranky kids go ahead of us in line at the grocery store. The kind of empathy I dream of is one that resets our thinking and changes our daily behavior and interactions.
If we could tap into the capacity for global empathy, just imagine our world.
If each of us would be brave enough to accept just one dance from an unlikely partner—it might be the first step that changes the world. Let’s try!
It’s been many years since I was Nature Nancy, camp counselor, during my summers, but I still wear that hat when I write my books and those are still the faces I see reading them. I can remember the kids piling out of the buses from New York City to experience camp in the country. So much of what I introduced to them was new to them, like jewel weed and the Eastern box turtle that roamed around my cabin. We touched feathers and tried to identify which bird left them behind. We went on walks and listened to the sounds of squirrels scampering and birds calling. It was wonderful to see so many things through their eyes.
As I finished college, completed my science classes, and began writing, my focus was on endangered animals and protecting the environment. By the time, I had my own child and was a Girl Scout leader, I thought I was aware of most environmental issues. I had no idea I was in the dark about something so important. Fortunately, my daughter began working at a nearby farm and I wrote a book called Keeping Our Earth Green. Both brought my attention to a crisis of such magnitude that it would impact everyone. There were not just endangered animals, like pandas, wolves, and bald eagles. There are endangered crops species. Imagine not being able to go to the store and purchase a banana for your lunch or a sweet slice of watermelon. Seeds from many crops are being lost daily for a whole host of reasons, including climate change and modern farming methods. How did I not know that this was happening, that we were losing our biodiversity so drastically? Why wasn’t it on the news daily?
I began to explore the topic and found that there were people all over the world working to save our plants, our crops, our food. It gave me hope!
Now, I wanted to share that with my young readers. I believe with all my heart that they are the people who can make a difference.
It took 8 years for this book to be published, but I was thrilled that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who published Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, would take the leap with me and publish this important story. This book was a journey, not only emotionally, but physically as I traveled as far away as Russia to research this global issue and step through the doors of the brave seed scientists who perished there protecting seeds during WWII.
When I visit schools, and talk to kids and teachers about the importance of our farming methods and food security I am never surprised that they are unaware of the risks that scientists and farmers alike are taking every day to put food on our tables.
I want readers of THE STORY OF SEEDS to know where their food comes from and how they can make choices that make a difference to the future of our food. Although this is a frightening subject, there is so much to be hopeful about. We can celebrate the growth of farmers’ markets and the choice of many heirloom varieties that contribute to our biodiversity. But, we have to remember that with any environmental crisis, it is the marginalized that are impacted the most and the choices we make do indeed have an impact.
I sometimes think about those kids that came to camp every day eager to discover the outdoors with Nature Nancy. They must have their own families now. I hope that they have passed on their curiosity and that they are still interested in the world around them.
Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years. Her 2016 title THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World introduces older readers to the importance of seeds, farming, and the crisis we currently face. It received the Green Earth Book Award and many other accolades. Her latest is BEASTLY BRAINS: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. Other books include Crystal Kite Award winner SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World and MISSION POLAR BEAR RESCUE. Her research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia and she loves sharing her adventures with her readers. She has conducted programs at the Boston Children’s Museum, Atlanta Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, among others and has spoken at the Science Teachers Association of New York State and New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Many of Nancy’s books have received recognitions, including an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Smithsonian Notable Book For Children, a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade title, a Crystal Kite Award, Green Earth Book Award, and a Junior Library Guild Selection. In addition to these accolades, she was honored to be the recipient of the 2007 New York State Outdoor Education Association’s Art and Literature Award for the body of her work. As a long-time environmental educator, she treasures this honor and hopes to empower more children with her books about the Earth.
Nominations for the 2018 Green Earth Book Award are now open until November 20, 2017. Winners that best convey the message of environmental stewardship will be selected by an expert panel of judges in the picture book, and children’s and young adult fiction and non fiction categories.
The short list will be announced in March 2018, and the winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2018. The award in each of the categories will be comprised of a monetary award of $750 to the author and $750 to the illustrator/photographer (or $1,500 if the author and illustrator/photographer is the same person). In addition, Green Earth Book Award-winning books will be donated to Title I schools or military bases across the country.
Occasionally sea turtles get into trouble. Even in the nest they’re at risk: ants can dig through their shells and eat what’s inside, wild animals — or dogs — or people — might dig up their eggs for food. Once hatched, chances are low of reaching the ocean, thanks to confusion from lights or predation by gulls or crabs. And so much can happen at sea: entanglement, disease, disorientation that can lead to heading into cold waters.
How on earth can we stand to share this potential for tragedy with kids? By giving them hope. Not only can sea turtles withstand much of the trouble that finds them, but people are working internationally to smooth sea turtles’ paths — and kids can help.
I get a heart-swelling feeling when a book I’ve written about animals and the work people are doing to help them makes its way into kids’ hands. I’m enormously proud that MISSION: SEA TURTLE RESCUE won the Green Earth Award. Not only did the award lead me into classrooms to talk to students and teachers about sea turtles, but it led me to find more ways to tell such stories.
I’ve gone on to write books about other animals (WHALE QUEST, 2017 and SHARK SEEKERS, 2018, both from Twenty First Century Books). Like MISSION: SEA TURTLE RESCUE, these books show kids not only what the lives of scientists and conservationists are like, but demonstrates how regular citizens — including kids — can get involved.
The Green Earth Award also inspired me to look for other ways to share ideas about stewardship of the environment with more people. My next project will take me to Antarctica, to study microbial communities with a group of scientists from Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory. These microbes produce a chemical gas that’s involved in cloud formation. Not only are they important to the Antarctic environment, as the base of the food chain, but as the Antarctic climate changes them, clouds — and global weather — could change, too.
Maybe you can see the difference between this project and the ones I did before. More to the point, maybe you can’t see, because the microbes and the gas formation are pretty much invisible. How do you make a story out of THAT?
My answer is through science comics. I began drawing and writing stories in a visual format while aboard the icebreaker Healy in 2010, when I accompanied a group of scientists who were studying ice levels in the Arctic. The story of walrus stranded and starving on beaches because the ice floes near their food source had melted shocked me — but I couldn’t use only words to tell such a tale. Comics helped — and when the comic found big audiences on the web, I decided to try more.
Now I’ve started AntarcticLog as a way to introduce the expedition I’ll be part of in March – May 2018. It’s early, but the hunger for climate change stories has already helped it find readers.
I hope the Nature Generation audience will look for my new work, both in books and in comics. You can follow #AntarcticLog on Twitter or look for @AntarcticLog on Instagram. My website has a slideshow updated with new comics each week: www.karenromanoyoung.com/antarctic-log.
Thanks to the Nature Generation for your support and inspiration. And thanks to everyone who works to understand, care for, and bring hope to our changing, beautiful Earth.
Karen Romano Young won the 2016 Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Non-Fiction for Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue. She is a science expert and speaks to schools all over the country. She has written numerous fiction and nonfiction books for children, including Doodlebug, Hundred Percent, the Science Fair Winners series and Try This!: 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You. Karen worked at Scholastic News, and wrote for Cricket, National Geographic World, and the Guinness Book of World Records. She was involved in the extreme research journey the University of Delaware takes to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and spent a month at sea on the R/V Atlantis and dove to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine called Alvin.