AltUse Find - Ten Ways to Teach Kids about Earth Day

Kid-Friendly Earth Day Activities

By Diane Peters Read More
Think a child or a family can’t make a difference? Not so. Little things -- like using a colorful cloth bag, or tossing potato peels and eggshells into the compost heap-- can help the environment. And if your child develops good habits now, they’ll endure as he grows.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage your kids to go green during Earth Day.
Reduce electricity
Explain to your children that lights, computers, televisions and furnaces use energy, and that energy is in short supply. Jessica Altman of Buffalo, NY, encourages her 3-year-old to always flip off the light when she leaves a room and shut off the TV when she’s no longer watching. Now the toddler even reminds others: “Turn off the light!”
Appliances like DVD players use energy even when off, so cutting the power totally is the only way to conserve. Go shopping together to buy power bars and plug your electronics into them (watch little ones closely so there are no shocks).
Take small steps
There are dozens of small things your kids can do every day to save energy and keep the world cleaner and greener. Your kids can:
  • Shut off the water when they brush their teeth
  • Walk, ride a bike or take the bus instead of traveling by car
  • Take faster showers or baths in just a small amount of water
  • Help hang clothes on the line instead of putting them in the dryer
  • Choose products that are not over packaged
Explain to your kids that every bottle and can they use is waste that just sits in a big pile at the local dump if we don’t recycle. Get them involved by making it their job to sort recyclables and take them out for pickup. (Remind them to watch out for broken glass and ask for help if this happens.) If there’s no recycling collection in your area, find out where you can drop off items.
Consider recycled crafts too.
It’s easy to collect your own food scraps and garden waste and turn it into healthy compost in your own yard. Children can help buy a composter (they’re sold at home reno stores and sometimes through municipalities), and, like Altman’s young daughter, fill it with kitchen scraps and garden waste on a daily basis and even help stir it to get things breaking down. And, in a few months when you’ve got compost, they can take part in spreading it over the garden and seeing how “garbage” can become rich dark dirt to make a garden grow.
Do a donation tourA great way to get across the message of "reuse" and "recycle" is to take kids on a trip to your local thrift store, recycling center, or church. If your children have old clothing, toys, shoes, or other items in reusable condition, make a family trip down to the donation center so they can see how their trash is someone else's treasure. Teach kids how items can be reused for different purposes--for example old towels, blankets, and comforters can often be donated to local animal shelters for bedding. These real-life examples will teach kids that many items they would normally throw away can actually have a second life.
No matter how little, you can teach kids to be pro-active about initiating eco-friendly practices in their homes and communities. Below are some examples of how kids can get involved:
Write a letter
Fifteen years ago, 9-year-old Melissa Poe of Nashville saw a TV show about pollution. Horrified by the problem, she wrote a letter to the president that suggested he “get on TV and put up big signs” to make people aware of the problem. She also founded 
Kids FACE, an environmental organization for young people. Your children can write letters to government leaders and corporations about pollution and other environmental issues, and you can give them a hand in looking up addresses and help them decide what they’re going to write. Talk about how you live in a democracy and every voice counts, no matter how small.
Make a reusable bag
One of the first projects Poe and her friends did as pat of Kids FACE was to make fun bags for grocery shopping. Plastic shopping bas are a big garbage problem -- it takes 1,000 years for a bag to break down! Here’s how: Have your kids help you choose some heavy fabric and sew it into simple rectangular bags with handles. Or, buy some canvas bags at a craft or environmentally friendly gift shop. Then use fabric pens to draw pictures on them. (Check out our 
Canvas Grocery Tote bag craft for detailed instructions.) Take the bags out with you every time you shop.
Do a project
If your child has an independent research project coming up at school, suggest she tackle an environmental issue like pollution, garbage or energy. Check out these resources:
Enjoy the earth
Kids have to love the world to want to protect it. So take nature walks and look at the trees, flowers and sky. When you’re away on vacation, don’t forget to enjoy the local natural environment, not just the tourist sites. Encourage them to take pictures, draw pictures, 
read books and write stories about the world and its beauty.
Talk about it
“We focus on just being aware,” says Altman. She often talks to her daughter about birds, plants, gas-guzzling vehicles and energy use. Indeed, just asking your children to shut off the lights and reuse plastic bags is not enough -- they must understand why we’re doing these things and what impact they might have. 
Click here for a kid-friendly Earth Day story.
For more ways to be eco-conscious and earth-friendly games, crafts, and activities, please head over to our main Earth Day holiday page

AltUse Find - Participate in Earth Day April 22 2010

Billion Acts of Green

Brought to you by Earth Day Network, the core of Earth Day's 40th Anniversary program is the Billion Acts of Green campaign. This effort is focused on the facilitation and cultivation of service on behalf of the planet. The goal of the campaign is to aggregate the millions of environmental service commitments that individuals and organizations around the world make each year - thereby sending a powerful message that people from all walks of life are committed to solving climate change. Read More
The Billion Acts of Green web site serves as the repository for these commitments. Through the web site, individuals and organizations can have make their own commitments to the environment. These commitments will be displayed alongside those of others. They also will be automatically counted toward Earth Day Network's ultimate goal of a billion acts.
In addition to the web site, Earth Day Network is coordinating large and small-scale environmental projects around the world. These range from tree plantings to large-scale light bulb switch-out campaigns, home energy efficiency retrofits, school greenings and water projects. All are geared to bringing people together to lower the world's carbon footprint. They are run in conjunction with community organizations, national, regional and local governments worldwide, actions include broad-based participation by diverse cultures and ethnicities, faith-based organizations, seniors and a worldwide college campus campaign.
Global service activities have already begun, but a major series of service projects will be held the weekend before Earth Day - April 17-18, 2010. Please check the Earth Day Network's main web site regularly in the months ahead for updates on service opportunities.

AltUse Find - ChapStick® as a Spy Tool

The Double Secret Life Of ChapStick Lip Balm

1972 saw the ubiquitous ChapStick pressed into service as a spying tool.  ChapStick tubes were modified with hidden microphones and were used by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt during the time of the Watergate break-in.  I couldn't find any details of how exactly to use these microphones - I'm guessing that the operator would hold them in his hand with the wires running up his sleeve.  If you look closely, you can see a pushbutton on the body of the ChapStick, which must be a clue.  I'm guessing a push-to-talk button like on a walkie-talkie.  Loose lips might sink ships, but at least they won't be chapped while doing it.

AltUse Find TreeHugger Best of Green 2010 Nomination Form

Best of Green Call for Nominations! To Nominate Someone Click Here

Do you know of a green person, product, company, event, or concept that deserves to be lauded for the positive environmental change it has enacted? Let us know! In TreeHugger's second annual Best of Green Awards, we're looking to bestow top honors on the people, places, and things that are helping move sustainability into the mainstream.

Last year, we awarded more than 170 prizes across eight general themes. This year, we're asking for your help making some of the selections. Let us know who you think should be nominated for a Best of Green Award. Then we'll ask for your help picking the cream of the crop in dozens of specific categories in our new-this-year Readers' Choice Awards.

To make a nomination, pick from one of the eight general themes in which your suggestion belongs, enter the name of your nominee, and submit your form. Suggest as many nominees as you like (only one submission per nominee per person, though, please). We'll be accepting nominations through February 22. Our editors will review your suggestions, and, come March 1, voting will open for the Readers' Choice Awards.

AltUse Find - AltUse Boat Made from Soda Bottles

Trash floats eco-warrior's boat

David de Rothschild plans to sail the Plastiki, his catamaran made of soda bottles, to the giant floating garbage patch in the Pacific to publicize environmental woes.

February 21, 2010 
Reporting from Sausalito, Calif. - David de Rothschild is talking trash, lots and lots of trash. Read More

"There were 25 billion Styrofoam cups used last year. How do you even get your head around what 25 billion Styrofoam cups looks like?" he said. "Eighty-odd percent of what's purchased by Americans is thrown out within six months."

On this day, though, the British banking heir is focused on some very particular refuse as he skims along the San Francisco Bay in a catamaran called Plastiki: The 12,000 or so recycled soda bottles lashed together to build his clunky vessel, and the growing heap of plastic fragments called the Eastern Garbage Patch floating in the Pacific.

If all goes well -- so far, it's been a little hit and miss -- De Rothschild hopes to set sail aboard Plastiki in March, tour the garbage patch and end up in Australia, while blogging about the evils of plastic and a consumer society.

He also wants to highlight Plastiki's innovations, like the glue made of cashew hulls and sugar, which he said "could go to market today and take epoxies -- horrible, noxious stuff -- off the shelf straightaway."

En route from Sausalito to Sydney, De Rothschild will navigate two well-trod traditions -- quirky British explorer and modern eco-celebrity -- in a quest that smacks of equal parts Sir Richard Francis Burton and Ed Begley Jr. The first conquered uncharted territory; the second powered his toaster with electricity generated by pedaling a stationary bike.

De Rothschild, 31, has been lauded as an eco-adventurer, envied as a "billionaire eco-warrior" and derided as a dilettante "eco-toff" -- British slang for a rich boy with a clean, green conscience.

He prefers the term "environmental storyteller" and said the "idea of the celebrity eco thing makes me want to puke. . . . It belittles the severity of the issues that we've got to tackle. Unfortunately, we're in a society that loves labels and loves celebrities."

This from a man whose Sundance Channel series, "Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living," was promoted online with video of a lanky De Rothschild, wetsuit half off, voice-over describing the bearded Brit as "the hottest thing since global warming."

To be fair, though, sailing a boat made of used bottles across the Pacific Ocean is a lot more challenging than driving a Prius to the Academy Awards.

A onetime hyperactive child turned top-ranked horse jumper, De Rothschild stayed away from the family's storied banking business. He got a degree in naturopathic medicine and bought an 1,100-acre farm in New Zealand, where he still grows organic medicinal herbs.

In 2004, he signed on to an expedition to traverse Antarctica. Facing whiteout conditions, the group spent the first two weeks in small tents waiting for the weather to turn. To pass the time, De Rothschild dared his trek-mates to do stunts.

"Snorting energy drinks up our noses, putting your tongue on the front of the snow machine, bare metal at minus 30 degrees," recalled expedition leader Patrick Woodhead, who likens De Rothschild to Tigger on Ecstasy. "It's a miracle we didn't injure ourselves before starting. . . . David is the most enthusiastic person I know."

Before leaving for Antarctica, De Rothschild took out an ad in a New Zealand teaching publication urging students to learn about the frosty region.

It showed teachers how to follow the trek, and "let kids plan their own expeditions in their classrooms," De Rothschild recalled. When he returned home he was "bombarded by messages from teachers."

Six months later, he launched Adventure Ecology, an organization that blends treks and technology to teach schoolchildren about the environment.

Then he set off to cross the North Pole with skis and sled dogs and chronicle the trip online. But melting ice made it impossible for the team to finish its journey.

"There I was in my tent wearing merino long johns, cooking my dinner and sweating away," he said, recalling an April night near the North Pole. "It doesn't take a scientist to realize that something's amiss."

The trip was aborted after 100 days, he said, but the Adventure Ecology website got more than a million hits.

While researching his next trek, De Rothschild came across an article by Charles Moore, a Long Beach marine researcher who had sailed through a vast, plastic-filled gyre between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.

De Rothschild had found his next cause. His first thought was to sail to the Eastern Garbage Patch with a crew of artists, who would create an installation to highlight how plastic is poisoning the oceans.

But the environmental storyteller had a problem. "Unless an artist falls overboard or there's a fight . . . where's the narrative arc?" he was asked by Jeff Skoll, whose Participant Productions released "An Inconvenient Truth."

So De Rothschild started thinking about Kon-Tiki, the storied raft that explorer Thor Heyerdahl built out of wood, reeds and bamboo and piloted across the Pacific in 1947.

Romance? Check. Adventure? Check. Timing? Check. Kon-Tiki had it all, and De Rothschild wanted some of the same for his own project. The idea for Plastiki was born. But first, it had to be built.

"The boat had to carry six people across the Pacific," recounted naval architect Andrew Dovell, whom De Rothschild commissioned to build Plastiki. "The vessel had to derive its primary flotation from two-liter drink bottles. They had to be visible."

Dovell decided Plastiki would be strongest and most buoyant if it were built as a catamaran with a framework of plantation-grown plywood. But De Rothschild had other ideas: Plastiki should live up to its name and be made entirely of plastic -- recycled or recyclable.

The team's first stab at using recycled plastic panels was a failure. Thus began 18 months of research and development on San Francisco's rickety Pier 31.

Plastiki missed scheduled launches in December 2008, and April and December 2009. A hoped-for launch this month has been delayed until at least March.

The team, though, has perfected the self-reinforced polyethylene terephthalate, which forms the catamaran's superstructure. The panels are strong. Recyclable. And untested as a boat-building material.

On this cloudy afternoon the wind rises, but Plastiki's ride is smooth and quiet. What would happen, De Rothschild is asked, if the boat hit a storm strong enough to pop the soda bottles out of its twin hulls?

"Well," he laughed, "I put earplugs in. I put my eye blinds on. I listen to Led Zeppelin."

AltUse Find - Water Pollution Facts

Water Pollution Fact #1: Water from rain, storm drains, and ditches flows directly to streams and bays with little or no treatment. Storm drains and ditches are DIFFERENT than sewers. They are NOT CONNECTED to a treatment plant. Read More

Water Pollution Fact #2: We all live in a watershed. What you do on your property does affect streams, even if you don’t live on a stream. A watershed is an area of land which drains to the lowest point, usually a stream or bay.

Water Pollution Fact #3: Small amounts of contaminants from all over the land add up to cause pollution in our water. Yes, even the little things matter. You WILL make a difference, no matter how small, if you change the way you do some things.
  • Follow the suggestions in this Fact Sheet to minimize your impact on our water.
Water Pollution Fact #4: Failing septic systems pollute. Untreated wastewater from failing septic systems can contaminate nearby streams, drinking water sources, and bays.
  • Inspect your septic system every 3-5 years.
  • Pump as needed.
Water Pollution Fact #5: Soap from washing your car at home pollutes. Soap and dirt from washing your car can flow through our storm drains and ditches and end up in our streams untreated.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash, on the grass, or on a graveled area.
Water Pollution Fact #6: Soap from charity car washes can pollute if not handled properly.
  • Many charity car washes use available alternatives to prevent dirty, soapy water from going down the storm drain. Commercial car wash water goes to the sewer and is treated. Hold your charity car wash at a commercial car wash with a charity car wash program.
  • Contact Kitsap County’s Sound Car Wash Program at 360-337-5777 to reserve the FREE Bubble Buster.
Water Pollution Fact #7: Oil and antifreeze from leaking cars pollutes. When it rains, water runs over the ground and picks up oil, antifreeze, and other pollutants and carries them to our streams and bays.
  • Put a drip tray under your car to catch car leaks.
  • Fix car leaks.
Water Pollution Fact #8: Garden and lawn chemicals pollute. Common pesticides and fertilizers have been found in neighborhood streams in the Puget Sound Region.
  • Pull weeds by hand.
  • Avoid use of chemicals. If necessary, use sparingly and as directed.
  • Call for information on alternatives to weed and bug killers.
Water Pollution Fact #9: Household cleaners and chemicals can pollute. Cleaners and chemicals used or disposed of outside can end up in our streams and bays. These same cleaners and chemicals can cause harm to septic systems and wastewater treatment plants.
  • Contact The Open Line for alternatives to household cleaners and chemicals.
Water Pollution Fact #10: Pet waste pollutes our water. Pet waste contributed to the pollution that closed some shellfish beds in Kitsap County.
  • Scoop, double bag, and throw pet waste in the garbage.
Water Pollution Fact #11: Waste from livestock pollutes our water. When it rains, water runs over fields and pastures and can carry harmful bacteria from livestock waste to streams and provides unwanted fertilizer in streams.
  • Compost livestock waste.
  • Fence livestock from stream access.
  • Contact Kitsap Conservation District at 360-337-7171 for assistance and alternatives.
Water Pollution Fact #12: Driveways and walkways can be sources of water pollution. Oil, antifreeze, and other pollutants can collect on your driveway. If you hose down the driveway, the water carries all these pollutants to the streams.
  • Sweep your driveway and walkways instead of hosing down.
  • Use apple vinegar to kill moss on driveways and walkways.
Water Pollution Fact # 13: Lawn clippings and yard waste in ravines and ponds can become unwanted fertilizer for streams. Too much plant growth in streams can use up all the oxygen and kill fish and aquatic life.
  • Compost your yard waste.
  • Use a mulching mower.
Water Pollution Fact # 14: Too much soil in runoff can pollute. Soil from erosion carries pollutants and smothers salmon eggs in spawning gravel.
  • Plant vegetation on or cover bare ground.
  • Cover piles of soil.
  • Fence livestock from stream access.
Water Pollution Fact # 15: Sewage from boating can pollute. Untreated sewage is a significant risk to human health and wildlife.
  • While boating, treat and dispose of your sewage properly.
  • Pump your waste holding tanks at pump-out facilities.
  • Properly maintain marine sanitation device hoses to prevent clogging and unnecessary odors.
Water Pollution Fact # 16: Boat and engine maintenance can pollute. Toxic chemicals, oils, cleaners, and paint scrapings from boat maintenance can make their way into the water.
  • Complete any maintenance involving paints, solvents, or sanding with the boat pulled out of and away from the water.
  • Pick-up, don't rinse-off. Use drop cloths, drip pans and vacuums to collect and contain paint, fluids and scrapings associated with maintenance projects.
  • Use less toxic or non-toxic cleaning alternatives.
  • Use oil absorbent pillows or pads in your bilge to soak up oil.
  • Use anti-fouling paints with caution and according to the manufacturer's directions.
  • Contact the Washington Sea Grant Program at 360-337-7165 for information and classes on clean boating and boating maintenance.
Water Pollution Fact # 17: Oil and antifreeze pollute our water when disposed of improperly. Oil and antifreeze that are spilled during maintenance or are dumped on the ground can be carried by runoff to our streams and bays.
  • Clean up small spills with rags. For larger spills, use absorbent kitty litter and sweep it up with a broom.
  • Use drip pans when unclipping hoses, unscrewing filters, or removing other parts.
  • Recycle used oil and antifreeze. Call The Open Line for recycling information and locations, or visit
Water Pollution Fact # 18: Waste from household repairs can pollute our water. Contractors and service people must properly dispose of chemicals and water used during their work.
  • Make sure contractors you hire dispose of chemicals properly.
  • Request use of non-toxic products.
Water Pollution Fact # 19: Littering pollutes. Litter thrown on the ground can end up in our storm drains, ditches, and streams.
  • Throw all litter in appropriate trash cans.
  • Keep litter out of pick up truck beds and cover loads so items aren't blown off to the ground.
  • Recycle and reuse items whenever possible.
Water Pollution Fact # 20: The things we do everyday contribute to over half the pollution in Puget Sound. Litter thrown on the ground can end up in our storm drains, ditches, and streams.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash, on the grass, or a graveled area.
  • Pull weeds manually or use chemicals sparingly and as directed.
  • Scoop, double bag, and throw pet waste in the garbage.
  • Inspect your septic system regularly and pump it as needed.
  • Contact the Open Line for more facts and alternatives.

AltUse Find - Coffee Grounds in your Garden

Did you know your plants also enjoy coffee?
By Carolina Dream Coy Read More
That's right, the grounds from your morning coffee are actually good for your plants. Nitrogen found in used coffee grounds will nourish your plants.

Coffee grounds have nutrients in them that are good for your garden whether you are growing flowers or vegetables adding coffee grounds to the soil will benefit your plants.

Many of the nutrients found in coffee grounds are the same nutrients found in store bought plant fertilizer. Therefore, by using coffee grounds, your plants will be getting the nutrients they need while you are saving money and recycling at the same time.

Personally, I prefer to do it the easy way and simply sprinkle the coffee grounds on the soil around my flowers and plants. This also works well for indoor plants as well as plants in the garden. Others prefer to compost their coffee grounds for later use.

Composting Coffee Grounds:
In order to compost your coffee grounds you will need an area in which to keep them. A barrel or any container that you can seal outside works well. You can also use a variety of items in your coffee compost.

Vegetable scarps such as onion peels, potatoes peels, banana peels or any other vegetable scraps you may have make a great addition as do grass clippings, leaves and sawdust. A few earthworms will also be a great addition to your compost.

The smell of coffee brewing first thing in the morning, followed by actually drinking the coffee is an excellent way to wake up. It's great to know that you can put those grounds from your daily pot of coffee to use instead of throwing them away.

After you have your morning coffee, stop, don't throw those grounds away. Give your plants a boost by adding the coffee grounds to the soil. Not only will you have healthier plants you will also be saving money on fertilizer.

Other Perks to Fertilizing with Coffee:
By mixing coffee grounds into the water before watering your plants, you can serve your plants a nice refreshing energy type drink.

Another great perk to using coffee grounds as fertilizer in the garden is that it helps reduce pests in the garden. Coffee grounds in the garden may deter ants, cats and other pests.

My husband is finally getting used to the fact that we don't throw away our coffee grounds because we keep them for our plants. When I'm not using them for my plants, I'm using them to fight cellulite and soften my skin. That's one more reason among many to love coffee.

Don't toss the grounds from your morning Java in the trash, save them to nourish your plants. Nourished plants are happy plants.

For AltUse Discussion - 12 Ways Vancouver Built Sustainability into the 2010 Winter Games

Sustainability at VANOC means managing the environmental, social and economic impacts and opportunities of our Games to produce lasting benefits, locally and globally. Read More
To do this, we recognized local and global sustainability challenges and opportunities. We learned from past Games and best practices. And we embraced our unique opportunities to make a positive difference, including:
  • Thinking ”sustainability”
    We expanded our program beyond the environmental impacts and benefits of the Games to include the social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
  • Engaging with stakeholders
    to learn from community, partner and sponsor feedback on all aspects of planning and hosting the Games.
    Stakeholder Feedback >>>
  • Publishing annual sustainability reports
    We are accountable for our performance on our sustainability objectives and communicate publicly about it in annual Sustainability Reports.
  • Celebrating sustainability innovations
    through the Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Star program which recognizes initiatives by Games partners, sponsors and VANOC that demonstrate positive and measurable social, economic and environmental impacts.
  • Raising awareness and inspiring action
    by encouraging Games participants, spectators and others to “Do your part”.
  • Leaving lasting legacies
    From accessible, energy- and water-efficient community facilities; to management tools such as the SMRS and the SSET; to transferable programs such as the Buy Smart, carbon management and asset-disposal programs; to affordable housing units in Vancouver and Whistler and in six other BC communities; to changing transportation habits, we have worked to create lasting benefits in our communities.
For highlights of VANOC’s sustainability program watch the Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Journey video and read thedetailed backgrounder.
Also see Sustainability Stories >>>