Tender Sapling

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The Story of Stuff: Individual and Collective Action for Real Change

The Story of StuffDo you have too much stuff in your life? We are constantly amazed by the deluge of stuff in an American life, even when we try to control it and reduce. I know I’ve often wondered how we got here.

That’s part of why I love The Story of Stuff . If you haven’t seen it before, I urge you to stop what you’re doing and watch it right now (it’s about 20 minutes long). Seriously!

Since it was first posted online in 2007, more than 15 million people have watched this wonderful little video by Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios, but I expect that a significant portion of those people have no idea that Annie and crew have produced seven more short films in the same style since then.

The original film is a terrific, child-friendly introduction to “the way we make, use and throw away stuff.” With simple yet engaging animation, it introduces a number of ideas that children and many adults may not have thought about and connects the dots from planned obsolescence to our disposable culture. One of its greatest virtues is that, far from blaming or shaming, this story may stir outrage but it spins it toward empowerment and action. What can each of us do to reduce our consumption and our part in this cycle of consumption?

As a parent, I especially enjoyed seeing my kids get the concepts quickly. It is a great learning tool and one worth repeating every now and then when the cultural tide of material consumption pulls on them.

Since the original, Annie and her team have produced pointed explorations of the life cycle of specific product industries (electronics, cosmetics, and bottled water), all in the same no-nonsense, fun, and down-to-earth style as the original. Perhaps even more interesting, though, is that, recognizing that individual action is not enough by itself to make lasting change, they have begun exploring education for collective change.

With The Story of Citizens United vs. the FEC, the team explains in layman’s terms what this case means and why it is significant. Yes, it is outrageous that the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes corporations as people and grants them the same rights to free speech as individual citizens. Now what can we do about it?

In The Story of Broke, the team skewers the explanation that many politicians give for why the U.S. government can’t afford new programs or even to maintain old ones. They explain that the government is only broke because it first provides huge funding to corporations and their interests. Many of us suspect this already, but the way it is done is so subtle and obfuscated that we the public are kept blissfully ignorant, even as the economy tanks around us and we wonder why corporate profits keep rising even as individual bottom lines plummet.

Most recently, in The Story of Change, they approach collective change head-on, advocating for a grass-roots call for a Constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision and clarifying that corporations are not individuals.

In addition to being a great educational tool advocating for individual change and individual action, the Story of Stuff is also a great resource for being part of the urgent need for collective change and true reform — both for the environment and for social justice (and seeing how closely intertwined those issues are). Go Annie!


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Can Individuals Make a Difference?

We believe, and we teach our kids, that every individual is important and that our individual choices make a difference in the world, whether talking about saving the planet or any other social justice issue. But some would argue, at least in terms of the success of the green movement, that that’s debatable.

Boy in Monticello garden

For example, Continue reading


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The Art of Bending

There’s a wonderful and little-discussed parenting skill I’ve learned to admire that I call Bending. Tendersaplingmama is like a jedi master at bending. I’m still learning.

foyer ironing

To use a well-worn analogy (which incidentally is how we all think about pretty much everything. Here’s a fascinating article on the brain as an analogy machine.), a mighty tree must bend with the wind; if it is too rigid, the wind may uproot or break it.

I’ve come to recognize that kids, or more precisely, kids’ behavior and all the things they do that cause frequency in a parent’s mind and life, are like the wind and we parents, or at least our rules, are the trees. Some level of rigidity is important. Children must learn self-discipline gradually over time, and there must be certain baseline expectations for safety and sanity, not to mention respect, courtesy, etc.

But I’ve come to realize that some of the behavioral expectations we place on young children are simply not developmentally appropriate for many kids. For example, there may be some two-year-olds who can be counted on to not touch breakables on a low shelf, but most would find them irresistible. Often restrictions we give kids are for the parent’s convenience or whim and don’t really have much to do with health and welfare or developing virtues. Those are the areas where we parents tend to get into the biggest power struggles with our kids (can you tell I speak from experience?). Continue reading


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5 DIY Ways to Pamper Mama this Mother’s Day

What will you do this Mother’s Day for the sweet mama in your life? As a parent working on mindfulness and striving to raise mindful tender saplings, I find this American holiday a great way to teach our little ones about honoring their mother. And I love the idea of trying to make our gestures more mindful and meaningful.

It’s traditional and appreciated for dad and the little ones to come through with flowers, homemade cards, and/or chocolates (like these fair trade bars from our Global Kids Gift Guide) for Mother’s Day. While these are all wonderful, how about adding one or more of these fun, thoughtful do-it-yourself ways to show you care? Continue reading


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Thankfulness Thurs Giveaway: Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas + Tender Sapling Cards

12-12ThankfulnessThursday

This month’s Thankfulness Thursday Giveaway is sure bring good cheer. If you’ve read my post introducing Renee & Jeremy and their sublime tunes, you already know how much we adore them in our home. And judging by the stellar turnout for that giveaway of their It’s a Big World cd (plus a Tender Sapling Love All the World tee), you agree!

We’re thrilled to offer another amazing cd by Renee & Jeremy this month, paired up with one 8-pack Sampler Set of Tender Sapling Greeting Cards. Enter here by 11:59 p.m. PST on Thursday, December 13, 2012. Read on for more details on the prizes. Continue reading


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Tender Saplings Need a Daily Dose of Nature

If you’ve read or even heard of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, then you are probably aware that kids today have dramatically less time outdoors than they used to. Why is this an issue? Having less time outdoors — what Louv dubs “Nature Deficit Disorder” — contributes to a number of problems, from decreased imagination to reduced connection with the natural world. This isn’t just a problem for individuals. When we as a society raise generation after generation of children — tender saplings if you will — who are less and less in touch with nature, our society will have successively less interest in preserving the environment. And this potentially, and arguably, can have cataclysmic effects.

The National Wildlife Federation provides a sobering summary of key research findings on this topic:

* Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.

* Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).

* In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.

Child playing at base of waterfall.

Our middle tender sapling playing at the base of White Oak Canyon’s Lower Falls.

* Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.

* Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.

* The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.

Continue reading


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Tender Sapling Hearts Renee and Jeremy (+ Giveaway)

In this post, Scott shares his discovery of Renee & Jeremy’s sweet sounds, how our paths crossed with theirs, an overview of their work, a link to a free download for all to enjoy, and a chance to win one of their magical cd’s + a Love All the World bodysuit or tee from Tender Sapling. Have Fun!

I first learned of Renee & Jeremy five years ago in 2008, shortly after they released their first album, It’s a Big World, the year before. That was a magical time in our family. Our second son was still in his first year and his big brother had just turned four. I enjoy making a mixed CD for Emily’s birthday every year, and that fall I was seeking mellow yet upbeat, sweet and pure. I wanted a mix we could play at home, in the car, most anytime, that would be as attractive to the kids as it was to their parents.

I struck gold with Renee & Jeremy. Continue reading


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Mindful Tender Saplings

On the spectrum of active to calm, our three boys have all been somewhere between very active and off-the-chart active. It varies for each one at different chapters in their growth and development. They have all sat beautifully for reading time, and there are moments of peace when they will sit reverently for a short prayer or lay in child’s pose or find a quiet corner for a few minutes rest, but there are times when it seems that sitting still is for them (especially at the toddler stage) a physical impossibility.

toddler climbs fridge

Scaling the fridge

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Where There Is Love: Learning Mindfulness on the (Parenting) Job

I’ve studied mindfulness* just enough to know that I’ve been anything but mindful most of my life. It seems I’ve always been focused on some goal, some imagined future, or – truth be told – some distraction in everyday life. Okay, the ability to delay reward (future focus) has value; we don’t want to become lethargic loafs. And there is certainly value in having fun in one’s daily life; we know what all work and no play did for Jack. My issue, and I think this is fairly common in Western industrialized societies, is being worried or preoccupied with those things to the detriment of one’s happiness and ability to be present in the moment.

Which is why mindfulness is such a powerful tool.

For example, the simple act of focusing, even for a few moments, on one’s own breath — how the air feels inside one’s lungs, how it nourishes the body – has the power to re-center one’s mind just beautifully. It becomes so much easier to let go of my worry about the global economic crisis or climate change or what to eat for dinner. Not that I shouldn’t take actions to help stop climate change, for example, but that I should do it without undue stress and worry. Only concern myself with the things I can effect and not carry the burden of worry about everything else.

Two-year-old “cooking”

Continue reading


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Tender Sapling Family Occupies DC Green Festival

Okay, we didn’t actually camp out at the Washington, DC Green Festival (Sep 29-30, 2012), but after two long days immersed (with our three boys) in a fabulous array of green presentations, vendors, films, DIY demonstrations, and discussions, we felt like fixtures. In fact, I was so recognizable carrying our two-year-old on in the Ergo on my back for hours on end that as we were leaving on Sunday evening, one of the Green Festival staff offered the three boys these great organic cotton shirts, joking that they were rewards for my fathering work. We all had a blast while learning a lot, especially our oldest son, who came away inspired to vanquish global warming. This video captures a taste of his enthusiasm.

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Billed as “the nation’s premiere sustainability event” the Green Festival is held annually in multiple cities across the U.S. and has been around for ten years. Continue reading