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Earth Day: UGH!

16 Apr

Earth Day Banner

From the department of “You’re Totally Missing the Point” comes this gem:

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Cinemark, a fine paragon of film, but not so much of environmentalism, delivered this to me as my weekly coupon today. Putting aside the fact that $2 off a bottle of water when there are water fountains in the lobby is considered a deal, offering a discount on bottled water for Earth Day is equivalent to free bacon on Passover.  Lots of stores will be running Earth Day promotions this year, but it’s important to judge whether or not they’re really earth friendly.  Is owning another reusable bag all that green when you already have 42 languishing in your back seat?  Probably not.  It’s fine to take advantage of deals that you’re going to use, but before you jump on an Earth Day deal, think about it for a second. That will certainly be longer than Cinemark considered this partnership.

~April

P.S. This coupon is only good once so if you try and use it and it doesn’t work we’ll all know someone else missed the point.

Earth Day: Every Last Drop

14 Apr

Earth Day Banner

Arthur C Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  While this usually conjures up images of Google Glass, sophisticated AIs and (in my dreams) teleportation, sometimes I see an amazingly-designed website and think the same thing.  That’s the case for Every Last Drop, a UK website aimed at bringing awareness to water usage.  Not only is it informative, it’s also beautiful, and that makes it effective.  I’m not a coder by any means and so it’s probably not surprising I think this level of computer skill is magical.  I challenge anyone not to be a little impressed at the whimsy this site offers though.

Make sure you check out the website for the full effect, but for a little more info and some simple Earth Day water-saving tips, enjoy their video as well.

Every Last Drop – How to Save Water Film from Nice and Serious on Vimeo.

~April

Earth Day: Weekend Images

12 Apr

Earth Day Banner

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Caterpillar (I think it might be a Garden Tiger Moth?) at Irvine Regional Park

~April

Earth Day: AmazonSmile

10 Apr

Earth Day Banner

If you’ve logged into Amazon lately, you may have seen a little pop up that allows you to link your account to a charity. The program is called AmazonSmile and you can choose from millions of charities to support, everything from the super local to global giants. After you choose a charity, Amazon will donate .5% (I know, a bundle) of your eligible purchases to your charity of choice. You just have to remember to go to smile.amazon.com instead of the regular Amazon start page. Then, you’ll see a note near the price telling you whether an item is eligible or not.  You can change your charity whenever you choose.

To put things in perspective, at .5% you’d have to spend $20,000 to donate $100 to your charity. Even with my thousands of dollars of work purchases every year, I still can’t hit that benchmark. Still, even a little bit can help. It’s probably more impactful to choose a larger charity that a lot of other people will donate to than to give a few bucks to a local charity. You’re better off just donating the money outright.  It’s better to donate something than nothing at all though and if enough people take advantage of the opportunity, a lot of charities will benefit.

In honor of Earth Day, consider a charity that protects our natural resources. Some great ones are NatureBridge, The National Park Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy or The Sierra Club. Thousands of other environmental charities are available, so pick your cause and use your Amazon addiction for good.

~ April

Earth Day: Exercise and the Environment

8 Apr

Earth Day Banner

Since I started blogging again, I’ve really wanted to talk about exercise.  In July last year I had reached my highest weight, went up a size in pants and was just feeling all around blah.  Something inside me woke up and I managed to stop eating bags of chips for dinner and replacing that with whole foods as often as possible.  After I dropped a few pounds, my friends joined a gym and I reluctantly agreed.  I’d never done any sort of exercise program before.  The last physical activity I did regularly was marching band.  When we ran the mile in high school I think I topped 20 minutes.  And I can walk a mile in 20 minutes.  I was intimidated and suspicious, but peer pressure is a great motivator so I went.  When I didn’t throw up or pass out my first visit, I started to think I might be able to do this and here I am a few months later (and 20 pounds lighter), with a regular gym and running routine that isn’t motivated by peer pressure at all.

When our Earth Day month started, I thought that there has to be some way I can connect the environment and living healthfully.  Aside from diet, which is intimately connected to the earth and our food system, I think certain kinds of exercise can inspire and support a love of the earth as well.  Not long after I started strength training, I went for a hike.  I was amazed that unlike previous expeditions, I was able to keep a steady pace without getting too out of breath.  That’s when I first realized that the work I was doing indoors was going to improve my enjoyment outdoors.  Bonus number one!

While I do a lot of my strength training indoors, studies show that working out en plein air is a double dose of endorphins.  Not only do you get the benefits of being active, you also get a little cure for your nature deficit disorder.  I’ve been running outdoors twice a week lately (I’ve come to be a treadmill hater) and there is nothing that can pull me out of a morning funk more than turning a corner and seeing the ocean.    According to the same study listed above, working out outdoors also boosts performance and makes the exercise seem easier.  It doesn’t take a lot either.  Even five minutes of working out in a natural environment has an impact on mood, self-esteem and creativity.

Sure there are tons of personal benefits to getting outdoors and being active, but what about benefits for Mother Earth?  Here are some ways that getting in shape can help the planet.

  • Walking, biking or running to work or to run errands instead of driving saves gas.
  • Running outdoors as opposed to on a treadmill saves two pounds of CO2 per 30 minute workout. (source)
  • A growing number of “green gyms” promote environmental responsibility by generating energy and using refurbished equipment.  My favorite quote from this article is, “If we’re enabling people to be good stewards of their own bodies, it seems like the natural progression of that is to also be good stewards of the environment.”
  • If you do work out indoors, choose the elliptical or stationary bike (or better yet, weights) over the treadmill.  They consume far less energy.  (source)
  • If you’re concerned about your health, you should be concerned about the environment.  Many environmental factors affect our bodies.  By being more environmentally responsible, you’ll be improving your health and the health of those around you.

~April

Earth Day: Weekend Images

6 Apr

Earth Day Banner

 

To keep life simple, every weekend day that I have a post, I’m just going to share a picture that reminds me why our planet is so darn cool.

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The Devil’s Backbone on Mount Baldy.

~April

Earth Day: @ Your Library

4 Apr

Earth Day Banner

 

Since I suggested a television show last time, I want to round that off by directing you toward some literature.  There’s nothing greener, when it comes to reading, than using your library.  Sharing resources is key to the “Reduce” part of the equation and the whole point of libraries is to facilitate that.  If you love print books you probably already use your public library for that, but I’m a convert (well, 90% of one anyway) to ebooks.  Last year, I shared some services you may not know your library has, but I’m going to repeat one of them here.

If you’re looking for a way to quickly amp up your knowledge on the environment, I’d give your local library a try.  While every library will offer different books, here are a couple the Los Angeles Public Library has that I’m considering looking into this month.  You can get some of these books as audio versions, which is how I’ll be getting my green reading.  Print is being saved for Game of Thrones this month.

Invisible Nature by Kenneth Worthy – This book takes into consideration that most people do want to protect the environment, but also want all the conveniences of modern life.  Worthy puts the lifecycle of products into perspective by showing how our choices affect the environment.

The Last Great Sea by Terry GlavinThe North Pacific Ocean is the largest fishery in the world and integral to the survival of many species, including our own.  Covering science, anthropology and history, Glavin delves into the reasons this portion of the world is so fascinating.

The Nature Principle by Terry Louv – By now I hope you’ve read Louv’s Last Child in the Woods which introduced “nature deficit disorder”.  The Nature Principle details ways our society can continue to live more closely with nature.

Travels in Alaska by John Muir - Since I’ll be traveling to Alaska for the first time this year, I’m trying to find something as amazing as Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, which I read when I went to Hawaii.  I didn’t know John Muir had a lot to do with Alaska and considering he’s such a superstar, I can’t wait to hear his reflections.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene – String theory, The Big Bang, black holes… yeah, I totally understand that stuff.  According to the reviews, this book might at least get me started.  And if I love it there’s his books on parallel universes (The Hidden Reality) and the one on the nature of time and reality (The Fabric of the Cosmos).  That should keep me busy.

Search your library’s catalog for words like “environment”, “nature”, or “climate change”.  You can also try browsing the menu under nonfiction and looking at science, nature or sociology.

~April

 

Earth Day: The Big Picture

2 Apr

Earth Day Banner

In honor of keeping Earth Day/Month/Extravaganza simple, I wanted to start out with a topic that takes as little effort as humanly possible.  I’m going to suggest that you take on the momentous task of watching a television show.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Cosmos.  It’s the reboot of a series that originally aired in 1980 with Carl Sagan.  This time around it’s hosted by science superstar Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Four of the episodes have already aired, but there are still 9 to go… more than enough to get you through April.  If you haven’t watched it yet, you can see past episodes on their website.  I haven’t seen the original series, so I’m just going to comment on the new one.

The series is written for a broad audience, so you could probably show it to a twelve-year-old and they’d have no problem following it.  In fact, Neil Degrasse Tyson kind of reminds me of an interplanetary Miss Frizzle with his soothing voice and “Ship of the Imagination.”  If you’re out of grade school though, Cosmos still has something to offer.  One of my favorite features are the animated stories of Important People of Science.  The show takes on the greats, like Isaac Newton, but you’ll also learn about the ones you didn’t study in school.  The animation is distinct and realistic, making it feel like you’re watching a graphic novel.

To tie this in a little better with the Earth Day theme, I think a grand overview like this is important.  Some people come to appreciate the importance of our planet through the little things it offers, like flowers and sunsets, while for others seeing the earth as a unique (as far as we can tell now) piece of an unbelievable vast universe helps them see it a kind of underdog or rare jewel to be protected.  Last year I watched the Discover Channel’s North America series and I loved it so very much.  I am enthralled with images of baby birds awkwardly flying for the first time or trees that have witnessed ice ages.  I am equally captivated by Cosmos and its story of a tiny planet and the people that live on it that are trying to figure out how it, and the universe around it, works.  I think both of these views give us a complete picture and better appreciation of the planet we call home.

~April

MTV 2.0

11 Mar

I’m not a music video person.  Even as a teenager the only music video I remember watching was Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls and whatever was on CMT.  Unless of course you count old episodes of The Monkees.  I was not very cool.  Since MTV and VH1 stopped showing music videos, the scene has changed a lot.  Most people watch their music videos online and because of this I’ve been introduced to a few more.

I still don’t watch very many of them, but I think I’m pretty picky, although my criteria is pretty predictable.  I want them to add to my musical experience even when I’m just listening to the song.  There have been a few that have ruined a song for me (I’m looking at you Avicii), but a select few have captivated me and I think those are worth sharing.


This was the video that made me reassess music videos. Once the electric guitar hits, everything gets trippy.


Already a super creepy song, the video sends further chills up your spine. I bet you could Jungian analyze the shit out of this thing.


Are you noticing a theme? I love me some animation. The song alone will break your heart and the video tells a fairly literal interpretation of the song using puppets.


More stop animation! And creepy magicians!


I don’t know what it is about these videos and people going down throats, but I must like it.


Here’s one that Robin turned me onto. And it’s not even *technically* animation.

~ April

Ash Wednesday and Angry Birds

5 Mar

angrybird

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  If you or any of your friends are Catholic, you’ll most likely see a few Facebooks go dark for 40 days or hear people groan mournfully when there’s cake in the lunchroom.  Now, I’m not the best Catholic, but I do participate in Lent.  In the past I’ve made major changes that have stuck around for the better.  One of my favorites was a few years ago when I vowed to buy nothing new.  The experiment really helped me evaluate my purchases and curbed my consumerism.  Now, I try to make that a part of my Lenten experience every year.

This year I’ve decided to give up playing mobile games.  Last night I deleted all of my games, cringing as I erased all the data.  I woke up a little shaky at the prospect of not matching three colored gems together for hours on end, but I’m confident I can make it through this.  Although studies claim that playing Bejeweled may make you smarter (said studies were of course commissioned by Popcap, the maker of Bejeweled), Americans spent an inordinate amount of time using mobile apps.  The most recent statistics from April 2013 say that we spend an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes on apps a day.  I would guess most days I double that.  I usually play games in between tasks at work, before bed, or while eating lunch, waiting for an appointment or watching tv.  About a year ago I found that one of my apps logged your play time.  After seeing the numbers I deleted the game immediately… only to replace it with another not long after.

So what do I hope to gain from giving up gaming apps for 40 days?  More time, for one.  I’m hoping to use the time I would have spent playing games to do more crafts while watching tv, being more productive at work (and therefore more fulfilled), being more present in other aspects and maybe reading a little more.  After Lent I hope I can go back to playing social games, but I’m going to try to stay away from the pure time wasters.

Well, already I’ve written a blog post instead of connecting colored lines together so I guess I’m off to a good start.

~ April

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