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Environmental Awareness

Table Of Bees

Middle School. The awkward years. I flashed back as I was carrying my box of my “Just Bea” Cartoon display stuff down the long locker lined hallway. What to expect. What will the kids think of my cartoon. Will I get the ‘ol stink eye?

Kids in the hall.

As I made it to my destination, I glimpsed that the Anchor Bay Middle School students had made a huge drawing of the “Table of  Bees” cartoon from the Caption Contest entry form for my display table at the Family Science Night. Then I looked up – hey wait. That’s a drawing of a different “Just Bea” cartoon. Then I spied another one. Then another.  That’s when it sank in. The hall walls were filled with student’s renderings of various “Just Bea” cartoons. Not only that, turns out Ms Wiles’ students were using the cartoons as a study aid for their science class! Some students even chose to do extra credit projects using “their” cartoon. Emily chose “Earth Movers” as her cartoon and created an edible earthworm landscape that included gummi worms and even chocolate chip “worm poop.” I hope she got lots of extra credit points for that one.

The kids had fun filling out the talk bubble for what they thought Buster might be saying as he’s studying the honeybees and why they could be disappearing. Olivia Z. was the winner of the “Cartoon Caption Contest” you see in this posting! To see the honorable mentions, photos of the wonderful drawings, projects and Emily’s fun worm farm, too – be sure to go to www.facebook.com/JustBeaCartoon www.facebook.com/JustBeaCartoon

It ended up that I had nothing to fear. The kids were great and my “teenage” angst soon disappeared when I got looks of surprise, seeing the kids proudly present their work and even hugs at the end of the night. I hope they had as much fun with it as I did.

The Honeybees thank you Michael Wettlaufer!

Thanks for being the first seeder to Just Bea’s “Save the Honeybees” project!

http://www.greenunite.com/projects/1-help-save-the-honeybees

Birthday Green

Green has always been my favorite color. Various shades, forest, gray green, lime. But come to think of it, I’ve never had a green or “green” birthday party. Not that I can remember.

I have, although, wrapped gifts in the Sunday comics because it was fun and reused gift bags and bows because it made sense, but until now never considered that to be green.

Birthday Green. Now we’re talking.

When I found out it was greeningdetroit.com‘s 2nd birthday it got me to thinking. What would make for a more sustainable birthday party?

Some posts I read encourage no gifts for the birthday honoree – but I don’t see that going over so well with a 6 year old. So here are some other ideas.

Possibly skip the paper invitations and send personal emails, set up a Facebook event, or use an online invitation site like Evite.com instead.

For kids, colored pencils are a fun party favor that can be used over and over and are much less likely than a plastic toy to end up in the bottom of the toy box and worse – the landfill.

Another way is to green up the party is to eliminate paper and disposables. Rather than using paper plates, plastic cups and plasticware, what works quite nicely are re-usable plates, flatware, and napkins. Did you know that during an average year, an American uses approximately around six paper napkins each day. If everyone in the U.S. used one less napkin a day, more than a billion pounds of napkins could be saved from landfills each year. Same goes for special occasions. Just sayin’.

Let’s give it a try, how about we start by clicking on greeningdetroit.com and give a them big paperless birthday wish. And while you’re there under the “big green umbrella” maybe you’ll find more ways to make your next birthday party a little bit greener.

Pickin’ Away

I’ve never played guitar, and I know about two words in French. But, I have used gift cards. OK, hold on, there is a connection.

When I saw the posting “Handmade Unique Recycled Guitar Picks” on Facebook, I had to inquire. It turns out that Alicia, a student at Wylie E. Groves High School, is trying to send herself to France on next year’s senior class trip by up-cyling used up gift cards.

What’s in your wallet?

While thinking of ways on how to help fund her trip, Alicia remembered that she had a bunch of expired gift cards and hotel key cards and didn’t know what to do with them and – Viola! (that’s pretty much the extent of my French) the makings of Guitarishy was born. In Alicia’s fundraising effort, she is now making and selling “one-of-a-kind” recycled guitar picks all of which are custom and different from any other.

Did you know that there are 10 billion new cards placed in circulation every year? When these cards are replaced or reach their expiration dates, most of them are thrown in the trash – wouldn’t you rather contribute to a young student’s dream than to the landfill?

Really, $10 for 15 picks? So reasonable and just in time for the Holidays, you can order them here:  http://etsy.me/tnNPfd

Don’t know what to do with your old and expired library card, video rental card, membership cards, shopper discount cards and retailer gift cards? For card donations or special orders, you can get ahold of Alicia at 248-645-0938 / email guitarishy@aol.com.

Let’s make some beautiful music and help Alicia get to France.

For The Birds

Wow! I said to myself when I saw these fabulous birdhouses. They’re made up of all kinds of stuff like sugar canisters, percolators, compasses, vintage garden faucet handles, fan blades, and license plates. So cool.

For The Birds

Brian Carlisle’s first birdhouse “aha” moment was when he saw the copper coal bin at an antique store. “For some reason,” he says “I saw the hole for the bird and the handle as a perch. From there it made sense to me to form the roof with some sheet metal and make it swoop with the form of the opening.” He brought it home and as they say, the rest is history.

Already a fan of birds (his yard is certified with the National Wildlife Federation) and photographing them, that along with being a graphic designer – presto! It all came together.

Garage sales, thrift shops and dumpsters is where Brian finds the materials. He considers his upcycled birdhouses “helping not just birds, but all of nature which then reflects and affects us completely. I try to keep the focus on using materials that eventually would have ended up in the landfills and giving them a new life that hopefully will last far longer than their original intent.”

Even though the birdhouses are primarily decorative, Brian says they are habitable  – complete with drainage holes, ventilation and protection from the weather. He just reminds us to keep them out of direct sunlight or cold winds.

Pretty cool stuff. Ordinary items left for junk turned into a work of art. And a habitable one to boot.

See for yourself at gadgetsponge.com.

Recycled Love

I can’t even imagine, I was thinking to myself as I sat in the veterinary emergency room in the wee hours of the morning, how I would feel if I had to surrender Angus to a shelter or the alternative (gasp – I won’t even say it) because I couldn’t pay for his procedures. So sad having to make a decision like that.

With the average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care and training for a dog or cat being $700 to $875 annually, handing over furry friends to shelters is at an all time high. That gets me to thinking about the ones that end up there and how do we make their transition an easier one?

Recycle This

“For the past 18 years, the Friends For The Dearborn Animal Shelter have been ultimate recyclers— of hope, lives, and love”* Since their inception, they have “rescued, rehabilitated, and re-homed” more than 35,000 animals.  “Yes, the biggest need is to remember that animals need homes” says Andrea Kuentz of the shelter, “but also small acts and donations add up in a big way too.”

While our furry friends are waiting to be part of a new family, there are a lot of things you may already have around the house that could be of use to them at a shelter. Peanut butter for the pups, white pages of the newspaper for litter, old towels, or e-collars. And, instead of putting that old armchair out to the curb, donate it to make Fluffy more comfy at a Cat Community. Any old plastic toys your pet isn’t interested in anymore – wouldn’t those make the stay more fun? From adhesive tape to rubber gloves to hot dogs – check alternate ways to give at www.dearbornanimals.org or with your local animal shelter and see how we all can help make life a bit easier.

Recycle things you find in your home. Or upcycle and fill up the water bowl for a new addition. I don’t know about you, but I’m all about ultimate recycling for unconditional love.

*http://www.dearbornanimals.org/events/black-tie-tails-2/

Life In The Park

When I was asked to do a cartoon about Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan and what a great place it is to live, I wondered how does this relate to being green and cause minded? Come to find out I didn’t have to look too hard.

Amongst the safe, clean tree lined streets you’ll find charming homes and many mom and pop stores. The Park (as it’s lovingly called) also recently built their very own movie theatre and a fitness center.

But wait, there’s more!

The Park also has a “Tree City USA” designation. In order to be considered for this title, one of the criteria is that the city has it’s very own designated full time forester on staff. The Park covers just over one square mile and every one of the 8,000 city owned trees are tended to by forester Brian Colter.

One of the many interesting things I found out is that when residents rake the fall leaves to the curb for city pickup, they are taken for compost and then re-used for landscaping. “Black gold” Brian calls it. He also mentioned that when trees die the wood isn’t wasted. Even the mighty ash borer can’t take the tree down so to speak. The Park’s ice rink’s warming hut floor is made from those once infested ash trees which now help keep skaters warm and toasty.

Grosse Pointe Park. What a perfect community blend of ambiance and sustainability. Who knew that in the heart of Metro Detroit the small town is alive and well.

Got Worms?

My significant other had never come across a tomato worm before. You know, the big fat green worm with horns? Now he had one in his very own garden and didn’t know what to make of it. So, while poking around on the internet on how to get rid of the vermin, I ran across a natural deterrent. Dill. Yes, dill weed.

Got Worms?

If you do, then need to know this. The worms love dill even more than the tomatoes themselves. It seems that if you plant dill near the tomatoes, the worms will gravitate towards the dill and away from your prized, red juicy fruit.

I found another way to get rid of the critters organically is by sprinkling cornmeal around the plants. The idea is that when the worms eat the cornmeal then drink water, they swell up and burst. I opt for the former “dill weed” pest defense, myself.

In the meantime, it seems like everyone has a good tomato worm story. My friend Stefanie shared one with me (see below) and I hope you will too!

Who’s Afraid of a Little Worm?

When Birgit told me she was creating a strip about tomato worms, the first thing I said to her was my mom chased me around our backyard with one when I was about 8. Maybe I should explain.

I grew up with vegetables. My parents always had a garden. In fact, when it wasn’t a cool to grow your own produce, my dad plowed up a quarter of the backyard of our house in the suburbs to plant vegetables that always included a wide variety of tomatoes. Picking the “crops” was an everyday occurrence for my whole family and I never minded it until my first up close and personal visit with a tomato worm.

In my opinion, tomato worms are some of the nastiest looking pests you’ll ever find in a garden. They are green and plump and they stick themselves to tomato leaves and feast. Since those little munchers are the same color as the plant you don’t see them until you’re right on them and that’s exactly what happened to me. Hello ripe tomato, I’ll put you in the basket. Hello, wait, what’s that?! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! (It’s hard to know how many explanation points to use, I believe the entire neighborhood thought I was on fire.)

My mom was also in the garden. She came over, told me to stop yelling, broke off the leaf with the offending worm and (now here’s where the story becomes a bit cloudy) chased me around the backyard with the wormy leaf. That’s my version. I called my mom to get a little insight before I outed her to the world as someone who would chase her child with a worm and she told me a much different story. Apparently my mom hates tomato worms too, but as a mom, she saw it her duty to protect the crops and set an example for her children. Like she would be afraid of a worm? So she worked up enough courage to break off the tomato leaf and tried to show me it was no big deal. But when she raised the leaf toward me, I thought she was going to touch me with the worm and the screaming chaos ensued.

Thanks to Birgit, my parents will now be planting dill near their tomatoes.

Excess Baggage

I love to travel, and I must admit over the years I’ve learned to make due with just two (OK, maybe three) pair of shoes on a trip – depending. But, it turns out that all along without knowing it I was doing the planet a favor.

It goes to figure that the more a vehicle weighs, the more fuel it will take to power it. Alaska Airlines found that by removing just five magazines per plane they could save $10,000 in fuel costs a year!

Excess baggage doesn’t mean your significant other.

Same goes for when traveling by car. The U.S. Department of Energy wants us to know that by avoiding items unnecessary for our trips, we could reduce our MPG by up to 2% for each 100 pounds. That’s an equivalent gas savings of .04¢ -.07¢ per gallon!

At any rate, that savings on an up-coming trip could add up to a nice dinner. If nothing else, maybe we’ll get an extra bag of pretzels on our next flight.

Earth Movers

You know it’s just rained when you walk outside and get hit with…..the smell of earthworms. I’ve helped a worm or two in my day by picking them off the sidewalk and planting them back in the grass, but my friend Thom takes it even a couple of steps further. Not wanting to squish the little guys, he clears them out of the way before pulling the car out of the drive. What he may not know is that he’s helping in other ways as well.

I feel the earth move under my feet

I knew little about earthworms but learned quite a bit through the University Of Illinois’ “The Adventures of Herman.”* I was flabbergasted to find out that there are around 500,000 worms in an acre of soil, (and some accounts say up to a million in really good soil). With all that burrowing going on, they’re the ultimate aerator. The work they do down there is equal to a drainage system of a 6-inch pipe 2,000 feet long. Crazy.

While moving through the earth, these little guys are also eating and casting (if you catch my drift) at the same time. These 500,000 earthworms can fill up 100,000 one-pound coffee cans with “castings”. I’m not even going to ask how the people who farm worms collect that fertilizer to sell to gardeners.

So, the worms increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil, breaks down organic matter, mixes it, aerates it and then fertilizes it. Next time I see a stranded earthworm on the sidewalk you bet I’ll help him back to Mother Earth. It’s the least I can do.

*urbanext.illinois.edu/worms

Food For Thought

Some of you may remember way back to grade school when “greenhouse” meant something entirely different to us. Like, Saran wrap stretched over the top of a bunch of Dixie cups. But, boy things sure have changed.

Now we’re talkin’ trash!

Recently I visited a real “green school” and wished I had this kind fun learning about the environment when I was a kid. Teacher Pauline Roberts of Birmingham Covington School says not only do the students recycle cans, chip packets and juice pouches, but have found a bunch of other creative ways to recycle. Like taking out of date library books and turning them into clocks by adding working parts to the front cover. And, after months of collecting plastic bottle caps for project “Flip Your Lid” – the bottle-cap mural is almost complete! June 6th the last cap gets put into place.

Through the nationwide “Green School Program” points are earned by either activities completed, various projects, recycling, and learnings. After a school reaches 10 points, it can earn a “Green School” status. 15 points gets “Emerald” and 20 or more gives the school an “Evergreen” status.

The students at Birmingham Covington School have earned an Evergreen status by doing things such things as preventing over 400 pairs of shoes entering landfills, and through the “Trash Free Friday” campaign, the kids calculated that a 8000 saved pounds was kept out of the landfill. Now we’re talkin’ trash!

Pauline says “They are beginning to realize that they are agents of change and that one kid can make a difference.”

How Do You Like Them Apples

Ok. A show of hands who’s found a bug in their food – after taking a bite? Because of that, it’s been years since I’ve been able to stomach brussel sprouts. Luckily the worm was still in one piece.

How do you like them apples.

If you can get past the tomato worms and such, the stuff out of your own garden tastes so much better. But if you don’t have the time or space for that sort of thing – or don’t have a green thumb, your local farmers market is a great place to go for that fresh, home grown yumminess.

Organic fruits and vegetables may not look as pretty, but sure are full of flavor. When you purchase from your local farmers, you’ll know that you’re getting seasonal and tasty fruit and not mealy old apples like the ones from the chain supermarket – where you don’t know where they came from. Or know if they were picked pre-ripened, or if they’re sprayed with chemicals to keep them fresh, or how long they’ve been in transit.

In going to the farmers market not only do you support local growers sustain their business but also help ensure farms for our children in the future. If nothing else, it’s also a great place to get to know neighbors in your community.  So whenever you can, try to get locally grown produce. This way you know where it comes from – and that includes the worm.

Get Off The Pot

Sometimes I can over-think things. Or think about it and put it aside. Or grumble about how my water bill went up again but don’t install a low flow toilet. I can think about carpooling with a friend but that won’t make their car magically appear at my front doorstep.

The power is in the doing.

So get that sticky note that’s been stuck to the fridge since last year and do the thing you’ve been putting off. Get the momentum going. Take some little steps and make it so.

Get A Green Return

The Canton Public Library in Michigan is Celebrating Earth Day all week (April 18-22) see what our guest blogger Laurie Golden, Marketing & Communications Manager, has to share:

Libraries are the ultimate practitioners of the three Rs of the green lifestyle. Just think of the trees and money you’ll save by checking out books from your local library instead of purchasing them, thereby reducing your consumption. And talk about reuse! You can read a book or watch a DVD over and over, then return it to the library for someone else to use. When it comes to recycling, you can donate your old materials to libraries for used book sales.

Libraries also have other resources to help you go green, like books and other materials on living green, growing your own foods, using sustainable materials and reducing your energy costs. Plus, informative programs to help you plant a sustainable landscape, learn about nature, alternative energy and more. Check out a Kill-A-Watt and monitor the energy consumption of your appliances. Many libraries are taking it a step further, with LEED certification, like the Ferndale Library and Ann Arbor District Library Traverwood Branch. It doesn’t get more green than that!

Drafting

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t like to see my money get thrown out the window. I’m guessing you don’t either. With the rough winter months behind us, so are the high energy bills, right? Don’t let the lure of the warm spring weather lull you into a sense of lower utility bills, remember running the AC in the summer poses the same problem.

With the price of gas going up at the pump brings the promise of higher consumer energy bills, too.  I’ll bet you’ve already felt it. According to dropyourenergybill.com, air leaks and drafty windows and doors, you could be wasting as much as 35% of your energy dollars through them.

Plug hole in it. Save some money

Well, here’s an easy way to find out if money is getting sucked out of your home and wallet.  Hold a lit candle near the seam of the door or window and if the flame or smoke bends towards it – bingo!

Easily remedied. Just head over to your local hardware store for some window and door weather-stripping or caulk. Styrofoam plugs seal off energy loss around outlet plugs and light switches inside your home. I’ve even seen a “Weatherizing For Dummies Kit”, doesn’t get easier than that!

We all know the cost of energy isn’t going down, so get yourself one of those door snakes or dogs – or whatever they are – chances are you can get not only one, but two! Two! All for the same low price.