Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hall of Plastic

Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe – here in this great hall of justice - are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled. Their mission – to fight injustice, to right that to which is wrong, and to rid the world of Styrofoam and plastic.

As a kid, Saturdays in my house had two rituals:  cartoons and grocery shopping. 

Super Friends was my favorite cartoon, followed by a trip to the great hall of Stop & Shop where I would get my assignment - a handful of coupons from my dad with the mission of gathering these important items.  Off I went, in search of truth, justice and a giant box of Cheerios. 

But my assignment was not complete until I’d roll up the back of my father’s foot with the cart and get “the look.”  As a kid, the look was the equivalent of Lex Luthor.

I haven’t received “the look” in quite a few years…until last night.

I don’t hit the produce aisle of the Key Foods very often and yesterday, I realized why.  It was like I had entered the Legion of Doom.  Nearly every piece of produce was lying on a Styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic. 

I saw an employee standing there taking some sort of inventory.  Maybe she was counting how much had not been bought since they were pretty well stocked.  Could it at all have anything to do with the packaging?!

I decided to activate my Wonder Twin powers and formed of an activist, asking if there was any way to order the fruits and veggies without all the wrap.  She kindly told me to ask the manager and went back to recording.

I was beginning to realize that we might need to call in the Super Friends to come to our rescue. 

I took my cart and was off to interrogate the manager. 

Once I found him, I took the truth lasso from my waist, wrapped it around him and demanded to know why these fruits and veggies were wrapped in toxic, land-filling waste. 

But all I got back was a blank stare.  Clearly this man was not understanding the magnitude of the arch-villain standing right in front of us.

Finally, he began to utter something…something about new ownership next week.

Will the new manager give a shit?

What else does this current manager know?

Find out next time on Legion of Super Markets.

Monday, August 12, 2013

That's Some Bad Trash, Harry

It's August, and just when you thought it was safe to go back to watching TV... Shark Week was back! 
While I fully enjoy watching the feedings of Bulls, Tigers and Great Whites, it’s beyond sad that we even need to have a shark week to raise awareness for these amazing creatures.  In fact, to Jaws’ author Peter Benchley’s chagrin, his book and the movie popularized the false notion that sharks are the enemy. 

But we’ll need more than Chief Brody to kill that idea. 

In the meantime, swimming up on us is another terror of the sea…trash. 

People leaving behind cigarette butts, plastic bags, scraps of food and other unmentionables.  The ones who need to stop acting as the enemy are... us.  For a start, we need to take responsibility for our trash each time we go to the beach.

We've come a long way from 1975, when people were afraid to go to the beach because of "Jaws".  Now, you'll find that a short walk along the coast looking for seashells can turn into a nightmare bigger than a Great White.

At the beach, who even stops to think about trash?  That plastic bag that blew away while you were trying not to get sand in your sandwich?  Or the little plastic rings that stick to the tops of our soda bottles that we just happen to let fall in the sand.  What could those little things matter?  It’s a big beach and a big ocean.  Nothing is going to happen.

But that simply isn’t true.  For every piece of Styrofoam, plastic, butt, and bag you leave behind, our amazing sea creatures are seeing that as food.  Instead of being nourished, they’re dying slow deaths as their stomachs fill with undigestible trash. 

Could it be that the shark in Jaws got so big because she was ingesting so much garbage? 

Nearly every one of my beach outings uncovers some ridiculous piece of crap that you have to stop and ask yourself “Why?”  This summer was no different.  I uncovered everything from balloons to bubbles to a watermelon.  Yes…a watermelon - sitting on the edge of tide waiting to be washed out to sea. 

That’s a little more water than that melon had in mind.

If that imagery isn’t bad enough, imagine you and your family sitting down for that yummy seafood dinner after your great day at the beach.  You bite into that delicious piece of fish… mmmm.  Now stop and think... did that fish ingest any trash?  It probably didn't swallow something the size of Quint, but chances are it's ingested something inedible.  Do you want to be eating little bits of plastic debris?   
Included in everyone’s beach bag along with a summer read should be a summer trash bag – one that you carry to not only take your trash away, but any trash that you might pick up between the car and your coveted spot on the beach. 

It’s up to all of us to do our part.  To paraphrase Richard Dreyfus in Jaws, we can’t “ignore this problem until it swims up and bites us in the ass.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

24 Hours of Reality

People have been asking me how I weathered Hurricane Sandy being from New York City.

Part of me is beyond grateful that we only had some broken branches and a traffic light tip over.

East 91st Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues

Corner of 92nd & 2nd Avenue

And then there is the part of me that feels guilty as so many people are suffering.

Some of my friends waded through waist deep water and lost power.

Some of my colleagues lost homes and one was held up at gunpoint over firewood.  And throughout the tri-state area, there were many that lost their lives.

Since Hurricane Sandy, there has been a great deal of talk about climate change and “dirty weather.”

Dirty Energy pollution is heating up our climate, and we end up with Dirty Weather.  Today, climate disruption affects us all.  And it will take all of us together to solve it.

It is now more important than ever that we take a stand against climate change.

Millions will join me and Al Gore online tomorrow for the live broadcast of The Climate Reality Project’s 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report.

You can watch it right here.  Just pick an hour…or two…and find out how the world is mobilizing to address this risk.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Unbeknownst to me, my Halloweens when I was growing up were very green.

Though I didn’t always want them to be.

Since the year I was born, I never wore a store-bought costume. My mother was a fabulous sewer and she made all of our costumes using things from around the house.  From clowns to witches, baton twirlers to bumble bees – they were made with love for us, and then passed down to cousins and friends.

We never knew anything else…until that Halloween of 1978.

My mom had taken my sister and me to Bradlees to get some last minute Halloween candy. Bradlees was the equivalent of Walmart but better!

Trips to Bradlees were a treat. They always had really fun stuff that we would beg her for and this trip would be no different.

As we entered the store, we stepped into a Halloween wonderland full of boxed costumes depicting every possible TV character.  It was like a walk through the Battle of the Network Stars.

Chachi.  Mork.  The Bionic Woman.  My eyes widened at every piece of molded, toxic plastic.

And then – I spotted her.  Kris Munroe.  I had to be one of Charlie’s Angels.

I knew I had an original Sheila masterpiece waiting for me but I had to be Kris.  My favorite TV character immortalized in a plastic mask with big eye cut-outs and a one-piece plastic jumpsuit that smelled so good!

I could not find a picture of the "Kris" costume...but you get the idea.

I grabbed the box so as no other 9 year old could take it and ran up to my mom.  “PLEASE can I be Kris for Halloween?”  I shouted as I practically tripped over the cart.
“You have a costume at home that I made you.”

This was going to be harder than I thought.

“You don’t understand. I HAVE to be her!!”

“Now stop.  Put that away.  It’s junk.” she said simply and continued to push the cart, trying to avoid running me over as I blocked the ca

I knew I only had one option left.  And it was risky.  But the situation was dire and I needed to act fast.  The plastic smell was intoxicating me (literally).

I dropped to my knees and began to cry.  And not just any cry.  Full out wailing.  In between sobs, I told her how awful my life was and that I just had to be Kris.

She stopped the cart and calmly asked me to stand up and put the costume away.

And I did.

I was devastated.  I sat the entire car ride home wondering what lucky girl was going to get to be Kris - the best Angel ever.

When I got home, I saw the ballerina costume hanging on my door that she had made especially for me.  And while I was still mad that I wasn’t the plastic version of Kris, I decided that Kris would be on assignment as a ballerina fighting crime.

It worked.

Today, boxed costumes are a thing of the past but store-bought costumes still fill the aisles of Bradlees-type stores.  Made in China with lots of dyes and chemicals, there is no better time to bring back the home-made costume!

And a few years ago I did get to meet the real Kris Munroe (Cheryl Ladd) who autographed my Charlie’s Angels trading card.  That made up for the boxed costume a zillion times over.

I thank my mom for her decision that day and send her a sincere apology for what I’m sure was not a pleasant afternoon.  If she were alive today, I know she’d be sitting at her sewing machine with her glasses on, busily creating works of art for the next generation of Forbes kids (and dogs).

And as I walked by the dozens of Halloween stores that popped up for the month of October, filled with every imaginable character, I think to myself how lucky I was and give my mom a smile.

Costumes hand-made with love by Sheila Forbes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012 - The Power of We

For the past several years, I have been participating in Blog Action Day, a day when thousands of bloggers come together to write about the same socially conscious topic.

Never has a topic resonated so much with me as this year’s - The Power of We.

Having just returned from San Francisco from the training session for The Climate Reality Project, I’ve experienced first-hand what the Power of We means and what it can do.

When I first stepped on to the bold-patterned hotel carpet in the ballroom where our training was about to take place, I instantly froze at the sight of 1,000 like-minded people.

2012 Climate Reality Leadership Corps - I'm in the 3rd row behind Al Gore!
 I spend so much time trying to convince others to carry their own bags and use a reusable mug that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was surrounded by people who were already doing that!  Who was I if I wasn’t yelling at someone to reduce, reuse and recycle?

The Climate Reality Project is the organization founded by Nobel Laureate and Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, to bring the facts to the public about the climate crisis and engage the public in conversation on how to stop it.

As a Climate Leader trained by Al Gore himself, I am now equipped to present the slideshow that Mr. Gore gave in the Academy Award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Joining the global force that is The Climate Reality Project (already more than 3,000 strong and representing over 50 countries) is a tremendous honor that also carries a lot of responsibility.  The climate crisis has become about more than just changing your light bulbs - we need to change laws.

On November 14th and 15th, “we” will be out in big numbers for The Climate Reality Project’s 2nd Annual 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report. (This will be broadcast live over the internet and you can check back here for details or on The Climate Reality Project's website.)

People around the globe will share their stories of about the impact of climate change and how they’re moving forward with solutions.

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk outside on a hot, summer’s day without your hair expanding to the size of Texas from the humidity?

How about not having to swim through your neighborhood because your streets are flooded?

Better yet, wouldn’t it be fantastic if you made s’mores over a campfire as opposed to a wild fire?

24 Hours” will feature music, man-on-the-street interviews, multi-media content…all generating energy and urgency so that We CAN all work together to address the climate crisis.

So as I write about The Power of We, I’m talking about the power of you.

If you are ready to take a stand, talk about climate change and stand up to the will be making a difference.

And if you are one of thousands reading this, then that’s thousands making a difference.

The power of one converted into The Power of We!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Al-Gore-Rhythm Day 3

As I sat on the floor of the Grand Hyatt, listening to Kathy Mattea sing the words, “It’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away,” I quickly turned to my friend Joe and said, “I didn’t realize she sang this song!”

Joe turned to me with a look and said, “Only after the Rolling Stones wrote and performed it 35 years ago.”  He had a look on his face that was all too familiar.

It was one that John, a huge Stones fan, would have given me (and did, when I got home).  I begged Joe never to tell him should the two ever meet.

And I suspect they will.  Joe was one of several people with whom I bonded with at the training.

Up to this point, I had spent much of those three days telling my story and hearing theirs.  So it was serendipitous that the third and last day of training focused on storytelling and presentation.

Everyone has a story to tell and if you read this blog regularly, you know I have lots of stories to tell.

During our training, we were asked to tell each other personal stories…the girl who helped her dad find the spot where his brother died in Viet Nam and my friend Emily who helped to rescue an abused pig at a petting zoo so it could enjoy life at a sanctuary.
But there were also stories of what inspired these 1,000 people to want to save the planet.

Some were raised in homes where their parents’ read Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring," the 60's call-to-arms that launched the environmental movement.  Others, like myself, saw "An Inconvenient Truth" and were immediate converts to the cause.

These are the stories that through our presentations, we will share with our audience…our personal connection to climate change and why it’s so important to make a difference now.
Connecting through our stories, I met some of the most amazing people from all over the world who are expressing their stories about climate change by writing plays, teaching children, creating music and finding alternative energy solutions.

I feel so lucky to have these new friends…friends who I know will last a lifetime.  And with all of our stories combined, the solution to climate change is “Just a slideshow away!”
Me and Eve - my dear friend and fellow actor from So Cal! 

Lauren!  My NYC friend and partner in crime!

All my new NYC friends - Gordian, Kathy, Vicky, Lew, Emily, Lauren and Scott!

As a final story…I'd like to give a shout out to the woman who came up with the title for this series - Al-Gore-Rhythm.  She was in our international break-out session where we gathered to find solutions for those who are experiencing climate change first hand with floods, droughts and massive storms.  I don't know her name, but she's clearly a very witty person!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Al-Gore-Rhythm - Day 2

The closest I have come to the feeling I had the night before my training was the one I had the night before I got married.

A bunch of Monarch butterflies poking around my stomach saying, “Is it morning yet?  Can we walk down the aisle already?!”

The Monarchs (I use Monarchs simply because I don’t really know any other butterflies) can also make their appearance right before I’m about to confront the Starbucks barista as she makes my drink in a paper cup and pours it into my reusable one.

These butterflies are not to be confused with first-day-of-school or starting-a-new-job butterflies. Those are more like moths which bring about a sense of worry and nervousness.

In truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Thoughts of a man circled by Secret Service, our table locations being switched around, a tall guy sitting in front of me blocking my sight line…these are just some of the ideas my brain played around with.

But like most things in life, my worries were for nothing as I took the same chair I’d been in the day before, spread out my notebook, poured myself a glass of water and settled in waiting for the day to begin.

When Al Gore walked out on stage, emotion overtook me and I filled up with tears.

Here was the Former Vice President, Nobel Prize winner, and Academy Award winner standing right in front of me.

But it wasn’t just those titles that were getting to me.  I was about to learn about climate change from the master.

Round one was just simply watching the slideshow presentation which runs about 45 minutes.  The presentation consists of slides showing the effects and proof of climate change and is, of course, narrated by Mr. Gore.

We were asked to note how he presents the material, what feelings are evoked, etc.  The slides have been updated since last I saw the film, but the message is still the same.  The facts have gotten worse.  More droughts, floods, melting.  The situation is dire.

When I first started my conversion to a greener lifestyle, I would come home with stories of people taking 4,000 plastic bags at the grocery store or the girl in the bathroom who would leave the water running as she dried her hands.  John would laugh and then follow up with,“You need to write a blog!”

But I was sure that the green movement was not ready for humor.

Obviously I overcame that thought and found my voice.  And one of the things I learned during Mr. Gore’s presentation is that I’m not alone.  Al Gore is funny.

Talking about how Vatican City is one of the most sustainable places, he commented “Well, they have two advantages: they’re small and they have God on their side.”

But he was also serious.

He noted that it’s important to change lightbulbs, but it’s more important to change laws.

The energy radiating off everyone after he finished the presentation could have supplied enough power to light the Empire State Building for an entire decade.

After our break, it was time to get to the nitty gritty – learning the presentation.  Again, not knowing what to expect, I somehow thought Mr. Gore would appear again later in the day and one of the Climate Reality staff would do the teaching.

And once again, I was wrong.

Mr. Gore divided the presentation into three sections, the opening, the scientific proof, and finally, what you can do.  He went through every slide, explaining what it meant and his rationale for using it.  He was up there for almost nine hours with a few breaks in-between sections.  His energy and enthusiasm never waned.

There were moments of laughter and moments of passion in explaining the slides.

And there were many moments where we all rallied, encouraging him to show us that extra slide or video despite the wants of the staff to keep us on schedule…something none of us at that point really cared about. How often do you get to have Al Gore show you the SNL sketch “The Yard-a-pult?” (This is where Kevin Nealon plays a homeowner who catapults his trash into his neighbor's yard thereby using the analogy, let it be someone else’s problem.)

Like all good things, the day came to an end too quickly.  Mr. Gore told us that we would prevail and wished us “Godspeed for taking on this endeavor.”

The room flew to its feet and erupted in applause for the man that brought attention to a crisis and started a conversation.

After his presentation, Kathy Mattea and her husband, John Vezner, came back and sang for us. 

She prompted us to “sit down and enjoy the show!” and we all dropped to the floor…including Al Gore who sat with us, in the exact same spot, the entire time.  And no matter how cramped my legs got, if Al wasn’t moving, neither was I.

When the final note was played, the butterflies came back.  But this time I realized that I was really the cocoon keeping them safe and it was time for them to be born and set free.

I had come full circle.  The whole reason I started The Green, The Bad and The Ugly four years ago this month, was because of the emotional reaction I had watching An Inconvenient Truth.  And now I was qualified to present that same slide show and hope to make an impact on others the same way it was made on me.

I was the butterfly about to spread my wings – and the message.