Winter Activities for Kids | Climate Change

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 31, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

It’s cold out there! You might be wondering about how to keep the kids busy, active, and productive. While remaining tucked away in the warm, cozy house, you can occupy them as they get ready to be Climate Superheroes! The hope of spring can inspire everyone to dig in and prepare for the near future, a future made better because you are helping fight climate change.

What’s the heart of the matter?

Climate change demands our attention now, and the new administration is on board. Discussing his executive actions on climate change, President Biden confirmed his commitment. “It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that is now facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency.” Every person is needed in the fight, adults as well as children. Utilizing fun, creative activities, we can guide the younger generation to a great appreciation of trees, plants, and soil. 

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How does this impact you personally?

Engaging children in climate activities early on will help them internalize the message that they can make a difference in the world. Composting is one activity that allows children to get their hands dirty, literally. From placing food scraps in a jar to turning over compost in a barrel, each step draws youngsters into the process. If you are short on outdoor space, consider gathering food scraps for the community. Your town may have a drop off spot nearby. Composting is more than just a way to keep the kids busy during frosty winter days; it also educates them about the importance of cultivating soil so that it can store more carbon.

Some quick facts:

  • Adding compost to the lifeless dirt transforms it into microbe-filled soil, which stores a giant amount of carbon.
  • Not only does compost increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil, it boosts the nourishment of plants that feed off the soil, enabling the plants to store that much more carbon.
  • Now more than ever, the soil needs more microbes, especially if the US is to be the climate role model for the world, as Mr. Biden hopes. 
  • One of the main goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is soil health. Increasing carbon storage in the soil is the way to achieve this. As countries around the world strive to reach the target carbon neutrality goals set forth in the agreement, composting becomes even more important. The only way to hit our targets is if every household composts.
  • Remember: compost nourishes plants and prevents pests.
  • Compost can be donated to your community for fertilizing common areas.

What can you do about this? 

Start by talking about composting as you make a salad or chop vegetables for soup. Specific elements of compost are right at hand! Reading age-appropriate books about the life of plants, from seed to fruit, will grab the attention of some children. Helpful videos are also available, if your children aren’t maxed-out on screen time. 

Hands-on activities make time fly. Building a climate change project using long-forgotten resources in the attic or garage can lead to a meaningful learning experience for your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Primary age children could write and illustrate a book explaining composting. (Your compost jar provides a helpful visual aid.) 
  • Challenge your eight to twelve-year olds to create a game board about composting and its benefits for the climate. Game pieces can be made of card-board or even repurposed barrettes, action-figures, thimbles and who knows what? 
  • Young writers can compose a poem or song about composting. 
  • Budding scientists can keep a record of what goes into the compost bin, carefully observing the color, texture, and smell over time. 
  • Young teens might make a documentary explaining the importance of composting in the fight against climate change. 

These types of projects challenge young people to use 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and they might have fun along the way!

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Next steps

  • Start gathering your veggie, fruit and other food waste for composting
  • Investigate compost collection methods in your area
  • Find high-interest resources to engage your child (See below)
  • Plan an activity your child will find fun and engaging

Resources

Climate Change for Kids website:

Start Learning

NASA website for kids:

The Greenhouse Effect: Keeping the Balance

VideoWhy all life depends on plants (3:06):

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/videos/spectacular-science/#/1019900995730

Video about composting for young children (5:00):

Composting for Kids With Peppa Pig

SciShow Kids video for kids 8+ (5:00)

Make the Most of Compost!


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Composting | A Major Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 25, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Perspective is everything. Composting can seem like a daunting task or a simple way to make our soil much more healthy. The benefits of composting for the climate and the environment may persuade you to get on board, to learn something new, and to contribute to a growing movement to give back.

What’s the heart of the matter? The wisdom of composting goes back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, and soil cultivation has been in practice ever since. The Founding Fathers realized the importance of renewing the soil of their farms and gardens. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams (among others) treasured the land for its abundance and permanence; fields were not something to be used and abandoned. Because tobacco had depleted the soil of many estates by the late 1700s, Washington began planting crops that could anchor the American agricultural economy. To replenish the soil for wheat fields and orchards, he experimented with manure, Potomac mud, and fish remains. In the end, Washington operated five farms in Virginia and was one of the most successful farmers of his time. 

How does this impact you personally? Composting is a practical way to improve the health of the soil and reduce our carbon footprint. Over the centuries, the basic principles of composting have remained consistent and have yielded the same predictable outcomes for sustaining our planet. The knowledge and tools are at our fingertips. Using the wisdom garnered over the ages, we have the chance, without too much difficulty, to create a thriving environment and help planet Earth.

Composting:

  • adds microbes to dirt and soil, enabling it to store loads of carbon that thwarts climate change.
  • reduces methane-producing waste in landfills
  • creates vibrant soil that supports the ecosystem
  • retains water in the soil, reducing the need to irrigate
  • promotes disease-free plant growth

What can you do about this? Whether you live in a noisy urban neighborhood or on a quiet rural road, composting is possible. To keep it simple, deliver your food scraps to your community compost collection site. (See the list of Virginia composting facilities at the end of this article.) Or, find a compost company that picks up your food scraps. Check to see how the company uses the compost, and find out if they return compost to you. Make your own compost by following simple daily guidelines. (Click here to see a short how-to video.) You can make a difference for your family, your community, and the planet. Remember the Founding Fathers: The success of the new nation hinged on its fruitful harvests. Did they ever imagine how critical their organic practices would be for the health of the planet?

Next steps:

  • Begin saving food scraps in a compost bag in your refrigerator, a cool garage or in a clamped container.
  • Gather both green materials (fruits, vegetables, tea, egg shells, coffee grounds) and brown (newspapers, egg cartons, twigs, and dried grass). 
  • Avoid oils, dairy, meat, and bread.
  • Decide if you will create the compost yourself or donate your scraps to your community, or
  • Find the most eco-friendly company to pick up your scraps and use them to benefit soil health.

Virginia Composting Facilities by Area

References:

“Benefits of Compost.” U.S. Composting Council, http://www.compostingcouncil.org/. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Simon, Julia. “How to Start Composting.” NPR, 2021, http://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home.


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Compost & Carbon Sink | Climate Action

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 10, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Compost is a big deal in the calculus for increasing carbon sink in our soil. It provides one of the most effective methods for the US public to assist with cutting carbon as deeply and swiftly as possible.

Peat is a compost. It looks very much like soil, but is simply partially decade vegetation rich in nutrients. These nutrients are what enable the increased absorption of carbon. Peatlands are only 3% of our global lands, yet they store approximately “30% of the earths soil organic carbon.” In light of our extreme #ClimateCrisis, peat should never be removed from its environment to be sold to consumers for profit.

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The ever increasing carbon levels as the global population continues to grow, demands that we each do our own part in every way possible to curb carbon, especially in light of the fact of how simple and easy this actually is.

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As we hurry to build infrastructure to support solar energy and EV autos, it makes sense to simultaneously rush to improve our natural carbon storing assets, which will further the lowering of CO2 in our atmosphere.

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Creating compost bins wherever possible can provide the much needed extra compost for forests, home gardens, public gardens and parks. It was exciting to see a “Compost” bin at the restaurant where I ate today. It was lined up with the other options at the recycling and garbage hub. I always feel so hopeful when a business “gets it” and does it’s little part. The care and maintenance of a compost bin in a restaurant is minor, but the benefit to society is huge. It pretty much follows the same ratio mentioned at the top of the page: 3% / 30% .

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We can do this!

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Let’s Rush to Win One Eco Battle | Commit To Zero Waste 2021

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 6, 2020 by Noreen Wise

It’s exciting to think about all the ways we can rush forward on the climate front in 2021, with John Kerry as the US Climate Envoy, and our 46th President, Joe Biden promising to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the day he’s inaugurated, January 20, 2021.

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I look forward to 2021 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I took the leap year ago, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December 2019, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (this morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass in the US the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce, 85 percent of which is packaged in glass.

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•A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

•Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

•In 2020, wonderful new eco-products have been rolled out, shunning the standard plastic packaging and using paper instead: toothpaste tablets, laundry detergent sheets, shampoo and conditioner bars, and more.

•I recently purchased my first vegan leather tote bag, handmade from cork in Portugal. Vegan leather is a massive new industry. No more animal cruelty.

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We must all transition to these new basics. We hold all the power in this climate crisis. By wielding our money in the right direction, we can preserve our children’s future.

Composting kitchen scraps is a very big deal. Our oceans are stuffed with carbon and can’t handle one more ounce. We lost billions of trees in 2020 as a result of the infernos out West. We suddenly find ourselves at a staggering loss in the ability to sequester the carbon we emit in the US. Soil holds 70 percent of the carbon stored in forests. We must rush to plant tons of green —trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers — as well as fill the soil with compost from home kitchen scraps in the hopes that we can move the needle at twice the speed we’d otherwise be able to do. This is life or death. It’s an imperative.

US household kitchens should have multiple bins just like in Canada and the EU:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. A year ago, on New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.

We’ve got this. Let’s rush!~

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Climate Change & Education | US Botanic Garden in DC

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

With Italy’s official announcement at the beginning of the new year, that all schools will now teach sustainability & climate change, many American educators are looking for ways to incorporate climate change lesson plans into their curriculum.

This is a big deal. Education will curb the fears that many young students harbor when they hear repeated warnings about the future. News flashes on phones about apocalyptic wildfires that killed a billion animals, and destroyed thousands of homes, is massively anxiety provoking. Lack of information fuels their concern, and action oriented facts curb it.

With this in mind, it was very exciting to see the impactful event at the US Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill Thursday evening January 30, 2020 for teachers in the Washington DC and outlying suburbs. Interactive tables, featuring climate change lesson plans, were spread throughout the breathtaking flora. Sustainability, the environment and nature were also included. Very inspiring. Nature itself is therapeutic. Studying nature along with climate action will improve the mental health of our youth as we rush to adapt to the crushing reality of the climate crisis.

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Modeling the importance of composting was powerful, especially on Capitol Hill where Mitch McConnell is blocking compositing in the dining halls in the Senate and House office buildings.

The following are several of the innovative lesson plans featured at the event:

  • Renewables and Nonrenewables, Oh My!
  • Waste Less, Recycle More
  • Greenhouse Manual by the US Botanic Garden: “exploring ways to incorporate a greenhouse as a hands-on learning environment for students of all ages.”
  • School Tree Planting Program
  • Native Knowledge, Teaching America’s Whole Story – created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
  • Living Earth Teach-In: Sustaining our Future through Indigenous Knowledge
  • Air Quality Action Guide
  • What You Should Know About Ground Level Ozone and Particle Pollution
  • An Educators Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE)
  • Oh, and creating seed pizzas that will make spring planting so much easier (this was amazing)

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© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Let’s Commit to Zero Waste in 2020 | It’s Very Simple

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I began 2020 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I jumped in running the last three months of 2019, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (tomorrow morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce which is 85% packaged in glass.

HillReport2-6-2020

A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

Household kitchens should have multiple bins:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. On New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Setting Up Our Home Compost Bins ASAP

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

For the millions of us searching for effective next steps in reducing atmospheric carbon, as well as lowering our personal carbon footprints, having a home compost bin is a significant step forward. The best part, is how easy compost bins are to step up and maintain.

ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300According to Exploring Green , Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, 51% of trash is compostable. This food that is thrown away in landfills turns into methane. Methane increases global warming 21 times that of CO2. But when food waste is composted and then layered into the soil, the soil becomes so rich with nutrients that it substantially increases the amount of carbon the soil can sequester, which lowers our atmospheric carbon level, and reduces the global temperature.

Homes, restaurants, and large dining facilities — whether that be school cafeterias, hospital and corporate cafeterias, mall foodcourts, and large banquets and conference centers — should all be tapped into the simple compositing process. Be on the lookout at restaurants in your area. Most healthy and organic venues now have compost bins.

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There are many ways composting space can be set up. It all depends on where you live and whether you’re able to have a larger outdoor bin.

  • In the kitchen, it’s best to have a small bin, with a handled bucket  that can be lifted out of the lidded container.
  • All food scraps we normally stuff into the sink disposal, will instead by placed in the compost bin.
  • The small compost bin should be emptied each night into the larger bin that is either stored in the yard or garage.
  • It’s important that the large bin is ventilated, and turned with a large stick once a week.
  • Air enables the compost to process faster.
  • An official compost bin has a lower hatch close to the ground, that can be opened when the compost is ready, and easily removed to place in soil around the yard.
  • If you live in a condo or apartment and want to keep everything light, you may want to try a small lidded container on your porch or patio that you can empty by layering into a nearby forest floor regularly.

 

Hands emptying a container full of domestic food waste
photography by AdobeStock

Schools Districts have jumped into the act in a big way, transforming the composting process into a learning lab. Many schools share their composting efforts through social media and it’s very exciting to see students energized by being part of this planet saving effort.

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Teachers really enjoy these interactive, climate action learning labs, too. Win/win experiences are positive and invigorating, making learning fun and joyful. What parents doesn’t love that?

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If you don’t have time or yard space to set up and maintain your own compost bin,  a whole new industry is starting to take shape. CompostNow.org is a compositing service for home, office, and restaurants.

  • They provide heavy duty plastic bin.
  • They pick up full bin each service day, and leave an empty one.
  • They track waste & compost creation by the pound.
  • Members earn compost! Very easy and rewarding… literally.

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So, take the leap. It’s super easy and will instantly contribute to carbon reduction!

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