Posts tagged: environmental impact

Book Recommendation: “An Environmental Guide from A to Z” (Tim Magner)

By , November 16, 2010 3:08 pm

There are a lot of junky books out there, but every now and then, an unknown gem comes my way and makes me very thankful that I get to review books on occasion!  An Environmental Guide from A to Z is just such a book.

Typical A-B-C- books are usually geared towards babies and toddlers and often leave older readers and adults cold.  This book is a happy exception.

Picture an A-B-C book for older children with each letter representing an environmental or nature-related concept or important person.  Each word is fully explained in easy to understand terms and is beautifully illustrated by Aubri Vincent-Barwood.  “D is for Darwin,” “F is for Fossil Fuels, ”  “I is for the Inuit Eskimos,”  “R is for Reduce and Reuse.”

Each letter also has a “Did you know?” section with an interesting fact or two related to the topic.  For example, in the “B is for Bees and Insects” section:  “A bee’s buzz comes from their wings flapping 200 times per second!”

I even learned a few things:  “Q is for Vo Quy,” “L is for Paolo Lugari” (read the book for more information) or “the average ‘piece of food’ travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your mouth….”  How about:  “with solar panels, Germany has nearly cut their use of coal in half” and “Denmark gets more than 20% of its electrical power from wind farms.”  I love it when I find a well-written childrens’ book that actually also teaches me a thing or two.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that it doesn’t just limit itself to teaching facts, ideas and concepts, but it also asks questions encouraging children to think about their own lives.  Each letter has at least one little oak leaf with questions on it, or sometimes activity ideas.  “What’s the biggest tree in your neighborhood?  How old is it?”  Many of these questions will encourage kids to get outside:  “Watching the animals in your neighborhood, can you see how they are built to survive?”

If you are looking for an informative and interesting book that teaches about the environment and “green living”  without being preachy, then I encourage you to take a look at An Environmental Guide from A to Z Many thanks to Tim for sending me a copy.  This is a review copy that will remain on our shelf to be enjoyed for a long time to come.

Parents: Be Heard

By , February 19, 2008 8:34 am

If you would like an opportunity to let some big corporations know your concerns about their social and environmental impact, particularly with regards to your children, then head on over to Parents for Ethical Marketing (aka. Corporate Babysitter). Lisa has been contacted by a marketing agent who wants feedback from parents to pass along to her corporate clients. She has a few questions that she would like interested parents to answer.

Instead of all of us engaging in our usual collective grumble about unsafe toys, poor environmental practices, and the like, here is a chance to get productive and speak up!

3 Environmental Thoughts: Blog Action Day – October 15

By , October 13, 2007 8:16 am

For a few weeks now I have had this little picture in my sidebar. It is a link to Blog Action Day is scheduled for October 15th…as in this coming Monday…as in the day after tomorrow.

The idea behind Blog Action Day is to get as many people talking about the environment, as possible. As of this morning, the Blog Action Day website has 12,316 blogs signed up to participate. These blogs are estimated to reach a worldwide audience of 11,284,000 readers!! Wow!

All you have to do, is write a post on Monday that is somehow related to the environment. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be anything at all really: funny, informative, serious…how about a book review? Or even a photo? The idea is to write in order to join a global conversation on October 15th.

If you decide to do it, you can register your blog here. The Blog Action people will post a link to your blog as a participant and add you to the other 12,316 involved blogs!

In order to get you all thinking about the environment, I found (via the Blog Action Day Resources page) an interesting little test to take which will calculate your personal or household environmental impact and compare it to the US average. Mine was scary. How’s yours? The test is at the Nature Conservancy website.

Congratulations to Al Gore and the UN Panel on Climate Change for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. If you haven’t heard yet, Al Gore and the UN Panel were jointly awarded the prize yesterday for their efforts to spread awareness of the effects of human-caused climate change and to come up with steps to counteract it.

The Nobel Committee announcement stated that Mr. Gore “is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.” You can read the entire announcement here.

To quote another Nobel Peace Prize recipient (1964):

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
– Martin Luther King Jr. (
“Where Do We Go From Here?” speech, 1967)

The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming (Laurie David, Cambria Gordon)

By , September 19, 2007 9:25 pm

I can’t write this one as a traditional “review” since it is a bit premature. I only just heard about this book today, and obviously have not yet read it.

On NPR this morning, there was an interview with Laurie David and Cambria Gordon, the authors of The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming. The authors are apparently the producers of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

This book is a guide to global warming aimed at children (according to Amazon, ages 9-12). The NPR interview says the book features kid-friendly science to explain the phenomenon, and has ideas for what kids can do to help combating global warming.

Ms. David and Ms. Gordon explain that they are attempting to reach children while they are young, and create a shift in their consciousness. They want to teach children to think about how their daily activities affect global warming. They give the example of going to the mall and coming home with five different plastic (petroleum-based) bags. Why not take a reusable canvas bag to the mall?

Water bottles are another example of the change in thinking that the authors hope to pass along to young readers. According to the authors, 2.5 million water bottles PER HOUR go in the trash. Why not carry your own refillable water bottle? (For more on bottled water, please check out my post “Unplug Your Water“).

They also suggest starting a “Green Team” at school to reduce school lunch waste or enact a “no-idle” rule in the drop-off lane.

This book relies on the power of “kids with a cause.” No one will be more likely to reprimand parents on their choice of paper towels or light bulbs than an informed child. So…beware! If you have your children read this book, be prepared to hear criticism of your personal habits until you make them “greener!”

Hear the interview here (3 minutes, 42 seconds).

Unplug Your Water

By , June 28, 2007 8:34 pm

When I was an exchange student to France in 1983-1984 bottled water was simply not “done” in the US. Other than Perrier, which was “fancy water,” I had never seen such a thing.

My French host family bought 6-packs of liter-sized bottles of water at the local “hypermarket” (also new to me then, similar to today’s Super Walmart, but nothing like that existed in the US at the time). This is what we drank at home. We never drank out of a tap. The thought of such a thing horrified them! I think I really confirmed their belief that Americans were culinary barbarians when I confessed that tap water was the only kind we drank in my home.

The French were very particular about their water. Each person had their favorite, and disliked the others. My French family bought Volvic. I thought they were all kind of crazy to think that water actually had a flavor until, by the end of the year, I could tell the difference too! Rather like wine, I now realize that not all water is the same.

I confess to being a Volvic person myself. I think that Evian is an acceptable substitute, but that Vittel (another popular brand in France) tastes like chalk. I really think that I could successfully identify at least these three, maybe more, in a blind tasting.

Here, I drink tap water. If I am out and about and have no water with me, I buy a bottle of whatever is cheapest at the gas station. Why don’t I use a drinking fountain, or ask for a cup (or better yet, keep a reusable cup in my car) and fill it at the sink? I don’t know. I guess I have succumbed to the brainwashing that bottled water is pure and somehow better. It even looks better in those pretty blue tinted bottles with cool and refreshing little droplets depicted on the label. Really, I think it is simply the convenience. But why has filling a cup suddenly become “inconvenient?”

Tonight I learned something new (I love it when that happens). The two leading brands of bottled water in the US (the two combined make up 24% of the US market), Dasani (Coke) and Aquafina (Pepsi), actually “purify” local tap water and bottle it locally so as to save on shipping costs. Local tap water across the US is really pretty pure already. I know that there are those who would argue with that statement, but I wonder how much of a difference you would find in a chemical analysis of local tap water and local Dasani?

Anyhow, when we buy Dasani or Aquafina, we are buying tap water like the kind we get from our tap for free (or almost free depending on where you live). I guess we can credit Coke and Pepsi with reducing their carbon footprint by not bothering to ship water across the country or around the world, but I suspect that their motivation was more their profit margin that their “greenness.”

I learned this in an NPR interview (Bottled Water: A Symbol of US Commerce, Culture) with Charles Fishman, author of an article published in Fast Company magazine about the bottled water industry. His article is entitled “Message in a Bottle.”

In his article, Mr. Fishman calls bottled water “the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel.”

Other interesting stats from the interview:

– Bottled water was introduced to the US from France in the 1980’s by Perrier and Evian.

– Americans spent $15 billion last year on bottled water.

– Americans buy about 1 billion bottles of water per week.

– Think about the fossil fuels that are used in transporting all that very heavy water!

– Although the plastic bottles are recyclable, over 70% of water bottles are not recycled.

I found this story fascinating, and quite timely for me personally. I recently experimented with buying these cute little half-pint bottles of water to throw in the car for the kids if we were on our way somewhere. Well, unfortunately the cute little bottles were way more of a hit than I had intended. What happened was that the children helped themselves to the little bottles and I found them everywhere, indoors and out, usually with just one or two sips gone.

Bye-bye cute little bottles of water! They are potentially handy, but I find that they are wasteful, promote littering, encourage laziness (on the part of the kids and myself), and send a message that disposability is fine.

Who knew that there was so much to be said about something as simple as drinking water!

Listen to the interview here. Read the article here.

Thanks to and photographer ostephy for this photo.

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