Kumon Blog Hop – Kumon Poetry Challenge in Celebration of Earth Day – Win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card

If you read my blog, you’ll know I don’t do a lot of giveaways or contest. But, for St. Patrick’s Day, I had dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen for quite awhile (old day care friends), and both families were raving about Kumon, the world’s largest after-school academic enrichment program. We haven’t used Kumon, but the two families both talked about how much the program had helped their kids and also that the program encouraged good citizenship. The parents volunteered that the program really gave their kids great focus and confidence.

In any event, the following Monday, I received an email from a PR person representing Kumon asking me to participate in a blog hop to promote Kumon’s poetry contest in honor of Earth Day on Facebook. Well, after having two friends recommend the program, and wanting to be part of Earth Day (even though I’m quite cynical and grinchy about it), I said I would participate in the blog hop.

Why a blog hop? Well, the concept behind a blog hop is to introduce everybody to new bloggers and/or new ideas. Kumon has chosen some green bloggers and we are all talking a bit about Earth Day, favorite green tips and other green ideas. Yesterday, Katy from Non Toxic Kids posted a poem! (go Katy). Tomorrow’s blog hop is hosted by Sommer at Green and Clean Mom.

To be honest, I have a hard time getting excited about Earth Day because it seems that there is a lot of greenwashing. But this year, I’m trying because my kids are excited about Earth Day. We’re planning on participating in a local volunteer clean up this Saturday (official Earth Day). We’ve been talking about how we can reduce our use of plastic and recycle more. All year, we’ve been trying to do waste free lunches, and my kids seem to be finally getting why I give them foods from bulk containers into reusable individual containers instead of packing single serve foods. FINALLY! (And, plus, it is way cheaper.) Today in the car on the way home, we talked about whether people will become extince and what the Earthy will look like in 20  years or 50 years or 100 years.

Well, to celebrate Earth Day, Kumon is sponsoring a contest for our kids.  It is a Poetry Challenge in celebration of Earth Day. Kumon encourages students to be good citizens and stewards of the Earth, and Kumon is asking students to tell it how and why the students take care of the Earth, in a poem. The poem should be 200 words or fewer and should celebrate Earth Day.  The poem should be in one of four forms – haiku, limerick, acrostic or free form. Parents submit their child’s poem about nature through Facebook. Each child has a chance to win $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City with a visit to Kumon North America. There will be 6 winners! Please read the contest details.

And,  you have a chance to win a $25 gift certificate (preferably in electronic form to reduce plastic) donated by Kumon. Just leave a comment on this post below and you’ll be entered to win. Winner will be chosen randomly on May 8, 2012 and notified via email (so make sure you leave your email when you comment).

My Cranky Earth Day Rant

Earth Day is here – well, not quite yet here in California, but it is fast approaching. And it seems like such a good thing – a day to appreciate the Earth and to be inspired to do better for it. 

Yet, all the Earth Day hoople just annoys me this year. 

First, every day should be Earth Day. We shouldn’t be able to make ourselves feel better by doing good on one day, and forgetting the rest of the year. We need to go green and non toxic every day. 

Second, being green is not about buying green. Everybody is pushing a green product. I thumbed through or read online (love Zinio) most of the “green” editions of popular magazines, and every single one is trying to sell me green products. And that just gets me. I mean, being green is NOT about buying green – that is counter to being green. Being green is about making do with what you got, not wholesale replacing everything you own with bright, shiny new things. Take Lucky Magazine, for example. How can a magazine dedicated to stylish shopping for chrissakes be green? 

Plus, I mean, don’t get me wrong, some of the green beauty product recommendations in Lucky Magazine were pretty good, unlike some other magazines. But some weren’t so great. Lucky Magazine recommended Kiss My Face’s tinted moisturizer as a green beauty product, yet it has numerous petroleum based ingredients. And petroleum based ingredients, being from a non-renewable resource, just aren’t so green. Not to mention that the particular product has ethoxylated compounds so it most likely has 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogen. 

But, magazines and commercials have had some products so far from being green that, well, I don’t even know what to say. I’m completely stumped. Greenwashing at its finest. 

I know I should be happy that everybody gets into the spirit for at least one day. But I just want to scream that you can’t stop at one day. It isn’t enough to use a re-usable tote for your shopping – now try to use re-usable produce bags. And stop buying single serve items. That’s just a waste of packaging and money. And why the heck are people still buying bottled water? And why the freaking hell is organic produce packed in plastic bags or sealed in plastic wrap on a styrene container? 

And how come people still toss cigarettes out the windows of their cars? They don’t easily degrade people. Those filters are plastic. Cigarettes are trash and shouldn’t be thrown onto the street to go into the storm sewer system and out to our oceans. 

And the irony is, I have an Earth Day giveaway going on for more stuff you probably don’t really need. 

I guess we just have to keep trying.

What can you do to fight global warming? 10 Simple Steps for Anybody

Child hold earth There’s a public service campaign I’ve  seen Los Angeles posing the question – “What did you do to stop global warming?” or something along those lines.  They are on billboards – and I’m not sure who is running the advertising.  It may be part of Al Gore’s We Can Solve It campaign – it is a little hard to read the fine print on billboards when you have two children in the back chattering incessantly – “He’s hitting me,” “She watches ponies ALL THE TIME,” and, my favorite, “I have to poop.  Right now.”

But, in any event, I have to say that the advertising worked.  Most of the time, I make my choices based upon concerns about toxicity, not global warming.  Most of my focus is living a life mostly free of unnecessary toxic chemicals, because of my children.  So, I choose a stainless steel re-usable water bottle over disposable plastic because of the potential exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).  In doing so, my choice happens to be greener – it saves resources and also reduces our carbon footprint.  But that wasn’t my focus in making the choice.

But this advertising campaign made me stop and think.  Okay, here I am trying to protect my children from toxic chemicals so as to reduce their risk of adverse health effects, but it won’t matter much if they don’t get cancer if they can’t live here on Earth.  If you read the reports on what will happen if we don’t do something right now, it is frightening and depressing.  So, at least for me, the advertising campaign made global warming a little bit more personal.  Yes, I had been aware of the issue and yes, I’m a pretty green, crunchy granola type of girl for the most part.  But being non-toxic isn’t always the same as being green, so I decided to pay more attention to being both green and non-toxic.

Americans are responsible for a big chunk of the carbon dioxide causing global warming.  The average American emits 22 tons of carbon dioxide every year, compared to the worldwide average of 5 tons per year.

And that finally brings me to the point of this post.  Stopping, let alone reversing, climate change can seem a bit overwhelming.  Let’s be honest – it doesn’t seem like individual choices will make much of a difference, especially when we have a President intent on doing everything but dealing with global warming.  And, I’ll admit, individually, we can’t stop climate change.  But together, we can unite and call for action – from our elected officials, from companies, from our organizations – to implement policies to stop climate change. 

So a simple step to fight climate change – RAISE OUR VOICES.  Keeping this in mind, some of greenGreen Moms Carnival mom bloggers and eco-conscious women, including yours truly, have gotten together to form the Green Moms Carnival, and our kick-off topic is climate change.  I talked about my thoughts on Green Moms Carnival and buying our way to climate change last week.  But, it is clear that united, moms are a powerful force and can compel change.  I urge you to check out the kick off of the Green Moms Carnival at OrganicMania, and then check out all of the other blogs from these fabulous green moms on climate change.  And keep coming back, because we’ll be talking about it all month.

That being said, every single one of us can make personal choices to help fight climate change.  As the advertising goes, fighting global warming is a million different little choices.  If we all make those choices, or even just a few of us, those changes will add up.  And, when your children ask what you did to fight climate change, you can answer that you did everything you could.  As a bonus, most of these choices will save you money too.  So what can you do?

Smart Mama’s Simple Steps to help fight climate change:

  1. Consume less.  Okay, so that’s my simplest step.  It might seem glaringly obvious.  It might seem impossible, especially if you have kids that are getting ready for school right now.  But consuming less is easier than you think.  Why is consuming less important?  Because the stuff you buy consumes energy in its production – from getting the raw materials that make up the item, to manufacturing it to shipping it.  So, cutting back on the stuff you buy will reduce energy consumption.  So, instead of buying disposable water bottles, try a stainless steel water bottle.  Instead of buying bottled seltzer or bubbly water, make your own at home using, for example, Soda Club USA’s soda maker.  (Okay, shameless plug since I’m currently giving one away.)  Instead of using paper or plastic bags, choose an eco-friendly recycled tote.  There are lots of options to consume less.  To consume less packaging, buy in bulk in your own containers.  If you pack your own lunch for work, use re-usable containers.  There are lots of opportunities. 

  2. Inflate your tires.  Under inflated tires increase fuel consumption.  So, if your tires are at the right pressure, they will reduce fuel economy, increase tire wear and result in higher greenhouse gas emissions.  Think about it – driving your car with only one under inflated tire by 8 psi will increase your fuel consumption by 3-4%.  Pretty simple step to reduce greenhouse gases and save yourself some money!  Other simple tune ups can also increase fuel economy, so take care of your car.

  3. Recycle!  Recycling 20 glass bottles will save 2 pounds of carbon.  And recycling half of your household generated waste will result in a savings of 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. 

  4. Stop energy vampires.  Stand-by on TVs, stereos, video recorders, DVD players, etc., still eat electricity.  Use a power strip with a power cut or unplug your equipment.  The good news?  This may save the average U.S. household as much as $100 per year.  And don’t forget to unplug chargers and transforrmers – this consume electricity too even when not charging a device.  Try the Kill-A-Watt if you want to see what energy wasters you have.

  5. Insulate your pipes.  This can reduce the amount of energy used to heat up your water – and saves water too (if you’re not wasting water waiting for it to warm up).

  6. Wash cold.  Wash your clothes on cold.  You’ll cut power consumption by 80% using cold water over hot.

  7. Be smart about your AC and heating.  We’ve decided to skip the AC completely this summer, but that may not be for everybody.  If you can, go solar.  Also check with your electrical company and see if you can switch to a green power program.  This will fund research and investment in alternate energy sources.

  8. Weatherize and insulate your home.  Cut heating and cooling costs and energy consumed by weatherizing your home.  For example, many homes are not insulated, and insulating will help cut your heating bills by as much as 50%.  Weatherstrip doors and windows.  Cover your outdoor air conditioner.

  9. Buy energy-efficient.  If you are buying new appliances, always buy energy efficient products.  Look for the Energy Star label indicating that the product meets energy efficiency guidelines established by the EPA and US Department of Energy.  And, switch your bulbs to CFL to go energy efficient in your lighting.

  10. Buy local and organic.  Buying locally grown food can save energy used to transport food.

OrganicMania blogged about 10 things she recommends to fight global warming too.  If we all did 10, just think how much we could accomplish.