Kids and their best friends

friendsI was interviewed quite a few months ago for a piece that just came out in The New York Times. The writer wanted to find out if children still had traditional best friends, and what she ended up uncovering, I think, is quite controversial. It seems many schools are actively discouraging, in fact purposely separating, best friends.

The piece is called A Best Friend, You Must Be Kidding, and although I think the writer used my information nicely to introduce her subject, I was blown away at the turn the article takes. I’d be curious to know if Hilary Stout, the writer, ended up writing a very different piece than she intended to.

My boys go to a school that I really like. We have a principal that knows each kid by name, knows me by name, and is fair and reasoned. We have teachers that are experienced and supported by the administration and the parents. And even in a district like ours, I get frustrated over the decisions that end up being taken out of the parents’ or the kids’ hands because it’s easier to make a blanket rule in case a few parents can’t be trusted to raise responsible children. I haven’t seen the best friend issue come up at our school, but there have been other things that have frustrated me.

I know this is off topic from my usual green-fare, but I thought I’d bring it to your attention because one, I’m in the first paragraph and that’s a little cool, and two, I’m interested in your opinions.

New Jersey government wasting money on bottled water

no bottled waterOver the past half year or so there have been very passionate debates here in New Jersey about Governor Christie’s budget cuts. School districts and police departments have been hit the hardest with pay cuts/freezes, benefit cuts, and lay offs. Municipalities have been hit hard, too. My boys’ tow summer recreation program will be $100 this summer ($75 for the second child in the family). Last summer, it was $30.

I’m a firm believer in “don’t spend what you don’t have,” but I know New Jersey’s budget problems run way deeper than that simple mantra. Not fully understanding all of our budget problems, I’ve stayed out of much of the debate because while I do have my opinions, I feel they are rather uninformed.

However, I do have an opinion about this in particular. If the state is going to say it’s absolutely necessary for our most vital public servants to tighten their belts and accept pay cuts/freezes or layoffs, then the folks in Trenton better be tightening their belts, too. So when I find out that government offices in New Jersey use tax-payer dollars to buy bottled water for everyday use, it’s infuriating.

I got an e-mail from the Environmental Working Group that says the following:

It’s not news to you, but bottled water is as much as 1,900 times more expensive than municipal drinking water, and it’s not necessarily any safer or cleaner. And researchers have found that producing and transporting bottled water requires up to 2,000 times more energy than tap water.

But New Jersey still uses taxpayers’ money to buy bottled water for government offices and other non-emergency purposes.

When state funds are dwindling and environmental concerns are growing, it’s time for the New Jersey government to take a simple action that will help save money and make New Jersey greener: cut public spending on unnecessary bottled water.

It then directs me to a petition for Governor Christie I can sign my name to ask him to stop using my tax dollars to buy unnecessary bottled water. I’ve signed the petition. If you live in New Jersey, please consider signing it, too.

Image: ecowaterfromair

Thinking electronic gift for dad? Think green!

Another useful guest post by Lynn and Corey from Celebrate Green. Hey, here’s something I forgot to mention. While I took my little hiatus from writing for this blog, I joined the Celebrate Green Team. I do a weekly recipe/food column for them each Thursday.


tech dadDads tend to love electronic gadgets and on Father’s Day, who doesn’t want to give dad what he craves? The challenge is fulfilling dad’s wishes while staying aware of the environmental issues raised in the making, using and disposal of electronics.

The best gadget would use solar or human power, be made locally of recycled materials, come in no or minimal packaging (which is compostable), contain no harmful materials and would be fully recyclable when dad is done with it.

Dream on!

We have yet to reach electronics nirvana. But there are options that meet at least some eco-expectations. Choosing one of these is certainly better than ignoring the issue.

If given the choice between two items that perform in the way your dad wants, see if one of them is better on the green front.

Look for:

Products powered by the sun, gravity, human power or at the least, rechargeable batteries. Solar chargers are widely available as are items like cool, hand cranked flashlights and radios.

Products that are comparatively energy efficient. Computers, TVs and printers are some of the products that companies are working to make better in this department. Check out Energy Star labels where available.

Products made with fewer hazardous materials. All electronics contain hazardous materials (PCs, for example may contain lead, cadmium, mercury and flame retardants in plastic casings). This is why they should never be thrown in the trash. Look for electronics that meet European standards which, while not perfect are better.

Products containing recycled content. Mobile phones and computers are just two of the items available that use some percentage of recycled materials.

Another great idea is to upgrade what dad already has instead of buying a new unit. Adding a larger internal hard drive to his computer, paying for a professional “tune up” so the computer will run faster or purchasing extra memory for a camera are all eco-friendlier alternatives to buying new. And of course, buying the item used, but usable is another green option.

How about gifting dad with a surge protector that turns off power to idle devices eliminating electricity usage and saving money?

As a bonus gift for dad, whether buying electronics or not, offer to recycle any he’s ready to get rid of. Electronics make up 70 percent of all hazardous waste and very little of what could be recycled actually is.

So collect dad’s outdated gadgets, head to Earth 911 and find out how to recycle them close to home.

Enjoy a happy, green Father’s Day!

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

Winners of the Life DVD

Congratulations! The winners are Meredith and Stephanie. My fabulous husband picked the names randomly out of a hat.

The winners have been contacted.

I have contests and giveaways from time to time so stick around, there may be another one soon.

Last day to enter to win Life on DVD

life dvd

Just a reminder that the contest to win a copy of BBC Earth’s Life on DVD ends tonight at 11:59 ET. I only have ten comments so far, so the chance of winning one of the two copies is pretty good. Click here to read how to enter.

Tasting the difference

apple in orchardI’ve been on a journey for a little over two years now to really change the food my family eats. I’ve been very successful in some areas and there is still work to be done in others.

Paying attention to the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides has helped. It helps me get the most bang for my organic buck. Since I can’t afford everything organically, I can chose to focus on the produce that are considered most harmful when bought in their conventional form.

Because of the writing I do for Mother Nature Network, I’ve read more than my fair share about organic vs conventional. Is there a nutritional advantage? Is there any difference at all? Is there a taste difference? You can find evidence proving yes and evidence proving no to all of those questions if you read long enough.

But, I have to say, the other day, I definitely tasted a difference. I’ve been buying organic apples for a couple of years now or buying apples from a farm at the market that uses very sustainable practices. Yesterday, I was on my way to walk with a friend and I hadn’t had breakfast. I ran into a corner market on the way and grabbed a conventional apple to help get me through the walk.

I could taste the chemicals on the fruit. I’m not sure if it was the wax used to make it look shiny or the pesticide residue left from the field, but there was a bitter, unpleasant taste to to the skin. And when I licked my lips, it was still there – hard to get rid of.

My husband brought home some conventional bananasĀ  a while back. I always buy organic bananas. My oldest son couldn’t stand the taste. He didn’t know it wasn’t organic, but he said it was the worst banana he ever had. I didn’t taste any difference, but he did.

I wonder if when taste tests are done in places like malls on people that don’t usually eat organics, if they have trouble telling the difference, but as we start to eat fewer and fewer foods that are full of chemicals, do we become sensitive to the difference? I’m not saying we do, I’m just wondering if we do.

I do know that when I prepare fresh, natural (organic or not organic) foods, I certainly enjoy them much more than processed foods. That wasn’t necessarily the case when I first started to make changes.

How about you? Do you taste the difference?

Image: Digicia

Win a copy of BBC Earth’s “Life” on DVD

froggy guyI remember when my husband sat me down and told me I had to watch BBC Earth’s Planet Earth. I sat there with my mouth open watching a film that introduced me to beautiful birds, fish, animals and other miraculous creatures that I will probably never get to see in person. Not only were the creatures beautiful, the film itself was stunning. The color, the closeups, the everything…it’s just an amazing film to watch. If you’re looking to understand why its so important that we don’t harm natural habitats and why we need to care for this Earth, Planet Earth goes a long way in helping you understand.

The makers of Planet Earth have released another film, Life, that offers the same experience. There are 130 stories from the natural world – 54 of which have never been captured on film before. In addition to the creatures, the film also dedicates one portion to plants. The technology used to film Life has improved since the filming of Planet Earth (hard to believe it gets better than that).

Take a look at a clip from the film. You’ll see sea creatures you most likely have never seen before and wouldn’t get a chance to see if not for this film.

Like what you see? I sure do. Warner Brothers has given me to copies of the film on DVD to give away to my readers. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, their are four DVD’s in each box with 484 minutes of stunning image after stunning image. Special features that weren’t seen when the Discovery Channel initially ran Life include ten behind the scenes video diaries by the filmmaking team, deleted scenes, and a music only viewing option.

How can you win one of the two copies I have? It’s easy. Simply leave a comment below and tell me where you favorite place is to go to experience the natural world. This is very important – in your comment, you must leave a way for me to contact you if your name does not link to contact information. Your e-mail address or your twitter name would be ideal. If I have no way of contacting you, you will not be eligible to win. Two winners will be chosen at random.

life dvdHere is some other fine print:

  • The contest will run until Wednesday, June 9, 2010 and end at 11:59 ET.
  • Contest is only open to residents of the United States.
  • The films will be send media mail – so your patience in their arrival after the contest ends is appreciated.
  • Winners will be announced on Friday, June 10, 2010.
  • Please only enter once. Second entries will be discarded.

I’m back…..

Where have I been? It’s been almost three months since my last post. I’ve been here. Life just got away from me, that’s all. Many of you know that my mom had a heart attack last fall, and I thought when she was finally back in her own home things would magically go back to normal. Turns out, that’s not the way it works.

But I’m back, and I’ll be posting twice a week through the summer.

First up, I’ve got a giveaway for you that you’re going to want to come back tomorrow to hear about.

Really, please come back tomorrow. I’ve missed you all.

What do young adults care about?

This is a cool video – cool like the Typography video I showed you last month. Don’t let the title “The Future of Publishing” fool you into thinking it’s not relevant to a blog about being green – it is. Watch.

David Letterman educates us on the Great Pacific Ocean Patch

Earlier this week, David Letterman interviewed Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Moore spoke with Letterman about the Great Pacific Ocean Patch, a floating island of plastic trash that is estimated to be about twice the size of Texas. It floats between California and Hawaii.

In the following videos Moore explains that 1/4 of the trash in the patch is from ships, but the other 3/4 of it comes from what is thrown away improperly on land. The usually joking Letterman listened intently (with a few jokes, it is Letterman after all). We should, too. Watching this should surely make us think twice about how much plastic we consume and how we dispose of what we chose to use.

I want to thank Beth Terry from Fake Plastic Fish for pointing these videos out. It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up to watch Letterman!