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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Show Love to Mother Earth this Earth Day

What will you do to show some love to Mother Earth this Monday? That’s right, Monday, April 22, 2013, marks the 43rd Earth Day – a day that has inspired people across the globe to engage in more than a billion acts of environmental goodness in the last two years alone!

This year’s theme is The Face of Climate Change. What’s the big deal about climate change? Check out this video by our oldest tender sapling for his summary of the issues.

Everyone can do something to spread green love on our planet this Monday or this weekend if that’s easier! You can keep it simple and stay home to: Continue reading


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Sandy’s Gift: A Chance to Explore Sustainability, Soul-growin’ and Fun with Your Kids

If you are reading this before Hurricane Sandy has cleared your path and you have power and a safe, dry roof over your head, let me wish you smooth sailing through the storm and its aftermath. If you are not so lucky, please know that millions of people across the world are praying for your safety. Regardless of whether you live in the affected area or have power, this post is for you.

However you slice this storm’s prediction, it’s serious. Sunday evening’s news not only included announcements for local schools closings, but the incredibly rare pre-storm cancellation of classes at the University of Virginia (my husband’s employer and the site of our first meeting some twenty years ago). I went to bed thinking how severe the storm’s punch would be if the National Weather Service’s 11 p.m. statement warned anyone not all ready for a prolonged power outage to haul your tushy out to the store to complete any last storm prep a.s.a.p. And all this in an area predicted to get only 1-3 inches of rain (update: now 2-6, and possibly snow too) – a ton less than the 8-10 inches expected in the storm center’s path. (Of course, the wind factor here is supposed to be close to the highest speeds for this storm.)

The last thing I thought I’d do this morning is write a blog post. But I woke before the kids and heard the swirl of questions rise up from the still of my subconscious. Do we have enough water and batteries? Is this storm really the largest in a quarter century to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States? How long might we all be without power?

My personal questions shifted into the multitude of anticipated questions from my little ones’ young minds. Why can’t we play with the flashlight in our fort? Why can’t I go biking right now? Why can I see my breath inside? Why can’t I feel my toes? Why does this dinner look like canned dog food?

Storm-time fun, kid-style: Biking in the a foot of snow! (Jan 2010)

And that’s when I realized what a huge opportunity Sandy is for teaching a range of life lessons to our little ones (and ourselves, right?). While no one knows for sure the impact that Sandy will have on an estimated 50-60 million human lives – people from all corners of the earth in America’s great melting pot of the I-95 corridor and hundreds of miles around, by all accounts it’s going to be historically significant. Continue reading


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Presenting Liam Talks: Global Warming

Our 9-year-old son Liam is jazzed about stopping global warming since learning more about it at the Green Festival in DC. You can read more about our Green Fest experience here (Scott’s post) and here (Emily’s post). Hope your kids enjoy hearing a fellow kid’s perspective and catch some of Liam’s excitement to make a difference! (btw, see if you can keep a straight face around the 2:20 mark. 🙂


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Green Fest: Fun for Kids

We were nervous about our weekend plan to spend two days trapped inside an enormous box of a building (DC Convention Center) at Green Fest DC 2012. Not because we suffer from claustrophobia, but because we would have three kids in tow. Boys. All boys. Inside for hours on end. Not outside. Inside. With strangers, polite folk.

Like any wizened, torture-avoiding mama, I planned to take the kids solo to other DC sites, so Scott could attend the work-sponsored event. Scott insisted I take the first spin around the exhibit hall before taking over with the kids. They shadowed me, but I relished the time to take in the vast array of exhibitors without counting kids every minute. Before I had covered even a fifth of the gigantic hall, the boys were in love. They patiently took turns grinding wheat berries at a Waldorf booth before finding the green-wheels exhibitors. Zooming around on three-wheeled trikes and balance bikes, our three boys were in heaven.

    

The hours flew, while we visited hundreds of exhibitors, educated ourselves on green initiatives, listened to speakers share green successes, discovered old and new green products, and explored the kids’ section.

Highlights for kiddos (and mama) included: 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