Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to Green School Shopping 101

I love back-to-school shopping!  Notebooks, folders, backpacks…it makes me want to be back in a small wooden desk smelling worksheets fresh off the ditto machine.  Of course, the ditto ink smell was probably the toxic equivalent of an elementary school BP oil spill.

Growing up, back-to-school shopping was a ritual.  We piled in the car and headed off to Bradlees and Caldor to get our supplies.  I can still remember my first Snoopy loose-leaf binder and my blue Trapper Keeper.  Come to think of it, I sniffed those too.

While my school supplies were more than likely filled with BPA and toxic substances, today’s school supplies are much eco-friendlier.  Kids have choices now.  And since our kids are going to be making decisions and running the world sooner than we think, this is the perfect time to step in and teach them which supplies are the right ones to sniff!

School supply shopping does not have to be a complicated word problem.  Instead, it can be a simpler multiple choice.

Here’s a little mnemonic device to shop SMART this back to school season:

Solar calculators and chargers are best.  Harness the sunshine!

Make your child’s lunch using healthy, local and organic foods and pack it all up in a reusable lunch bag!

A reusable water bottle is key to keeping your child hydrated and away from sugary soft drinks.

Recycled products are best!  Look for backpacks, notebooks, pens and other supplies made out of recycled materials.

Thrift store shopping for new clothes.  Today’s thrift stores carry items that still have tags on them!  Don’t be afraid to venture in and take a look.

Your choices and actions will be picked up on by your kids.  Make sure you score an A+ for your kids…and the earth!

(The Ultimate Green Store is a great place to complete your one-stop shopping for "green" school supplies!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tales From The Shark Side

After years of being inundated with shark movies, Shark Week and being told how to save someone from a shark attack, now we are learning how to save sharks from humans.

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for 400 million years.  They have survived mass extinction events but are now endangered because of us.  Sharks may be popular villains, but they are a vital part of the world’s ocean ecosystems.

Last weekend, I was volunteering for Oceana, which had a booth at Nautica’s New York City Triathlon in Central Park.

Oceana is a non-profit ocean conservation and advocacy organization created ten years ago by several foundations.  It merged with Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign to become the largest such group working hard to prevent collapse of fish populations, stop ocean pollution, protect sea turtles from extinction and other important causes.

At the Triathlon their focus was their Shark Campaign.  Oceana is pushing for shark finning bans, reduced shark bycatch (sharks caught in nets) and other forms of protection through policy, science and legal work.

Our goal was to accumulate 500 signatures to send to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to help save sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

We moved through the park like . . . sharks.  While we didn't attack anyone, we did keep moving, hungry for signatures, offering bracelets of support to those that signed our petition.

Soon it looked like I was gonna need a bigger clipboard.  I was being harpooned with one strange rejection after another.

One woman asked when the sharks had arrived in Mexico.  Um, I guess we weren’t clear we were talking about the Gulf of Mexico .

Others gave the simple “No…I’m good.”

“Yeah, but the sharks aren’t!” I wanted to say.

“I’m with the Ocean Conservancy, but no.”


“Sharks!  Not while I’m swimming,” one girl exclaimed.  “Dolphins, yes.  Whales, yes. Sharks, no way!”

They say the same about you, I thought.

One man started off sensible and then said that we should round up all the people who catch sharks and shoot them instead.  No thanks, Chief Brody.

My favorite response was “Call Spielberg.”  I just might, considering how much Jaws – which is one of my favorite movies – has hurt the image of sharks.

As Hooper said to Mayor Vaughn in Jaws: “I think you're going to ignore this particular problem, until it swims up and bites you on the ass!”

Despite everything, we made our goal of 500 signatures.  We didn’t bite anyone, but we did swim up to them.  To truly protect these important creatures, we are going to need an even bigger clipboard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Brother After Shark

Like many Americans, I was obsessed with Shark Week last week.  My TV had not left the Discovery Channel, except for side trips to Showtime for Big Brother After Dark.

Last week, the Big Brother house was also affected by Shark Week, as the “Have Nots” were subjected to sardines and seaweed. 

While the contestants in the BB house are called “House Guests,” every time you set foot in the ocean, you’re a “house guest” of the sharks.  Thankfully, most of the time we’re welcome.  But should a hungry, confused Great White become “Head of Household, ” there could be a slight chance of being “evicted.”

In 2010 there were approximately 60 shark attacks, most of which did not end in death. If you consider the hundreds of people at your local beach on the hottest summer day and multiply that by the thousands of beaches worldwide, that number is pretty miniscule...especically since humans kill more than 70 million sharks worldwide every year.

While sharks may be one of the most-feared animals, they are an important part of our eco-system. In their role at the top of the food chain, they keep other fish populations healthy. They are powerful yet provide balance (like BB’s Jeff and Jordan).

These beautiful, majestic creatures are actually the ones in danger of being evicted.

Shark finning, trawler nets, high mercury levels and extinction are just some of the challenges facing sharks.

But you can help.  You have the "Power of Veto" and can take these sharks off the chopping block!

Oceana and Shark Savers are doing amazing work to help save sharks.  Visit their websites to find out how you can make a difference.  Sign a petition, know where your seafood comes from and stay away from shark fin soup (Big Brother’s Slop would be a better choice).

Taking these small steps can make a huge difference for these amazing creatures of the deep.  Sharks need us to build an alliance with them, so they can make it to the end.

Nothing comes between me and my sharks!