Category Archives: Environmental Education

Save the koala

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We all know this cuddly bear with its round, furry ears and big nose. They look so cute carrying around their cub in the pouch or on its back. Sadly, the Koalas are an endangered species since most of its habitat is being cleared out.

On September 29, it’s Save the Koala Day where awareness about these furry little creatures is raised so that we can help conserve the Koalas and their homes.

The habitat that Koalas need to survive is increasingly being cleared, and 80 per cent of the Koala’s natural habitat has already been destroyed which have resulted in the extinction of local Koala populations. Only less than 80,000 Koalas are remaining, possibly as few as 43,000. If this rate of decline continues then the Koala is at risk of extinction.

So to spread some love and awareness about these cute, furry animals; Here’s five facts we bet you didn’t know about the koala:

Written by Lærke Vendel Steen, visiting communications and marketing intern from Denmark.

It’s apple season – and for good reason

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Since autumn is finally here, along comes one of our favorite treats: apples.  It’s no wonder we celebrate Johnny Appleseed on September 26th.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt as a good excuse for making yummy apple treats, or maybe a delicious apple pie!

On that day, we applaud the pioneer nurseryman, John Chapman, who spread apple seeds across the young Midwest United States and who we have to thank for apple trees all over America today!

John Chapman was an apple orchardist, traveling the young Mid Atlantic, planting trees on his way – whereas he was given the name Johnny Appleseed. During his travels, he would teach landowners how to establish nurseries of apple trees and how to keep deer and other animals from eating the sprouts. Appleseed was also an animal rights activist and condemned all cruelty towards all living creatures, even insects.

Considered ahead of his time, Johnny Appleseed became an icon of the conservation movement. He is truly an example of how one individual can make a great impact!

One of our projects, Save Our Urban Landscape (SOUL), has become a modern-day Johnny Appleseed.  By planting thousands of trees in the city of New Orleans, they are creating thriving urban forests which have a significant impact on the environmental challenges facing New Orleans.

And just like Johnny Appleseed, SOUL envisions growing and training a workforce of urban farmers who have the potential to play a viable role in green infrastructure. These farms can generate green jobs while also providing food access in marginalized neighborhoods.

But like Johnny Appleseed, remember that you, too, can make a difference. Support our own Johnny Appleseed of New Orleans with a tax-deductible donation to SOUL.

Written by Lærke Vendel Steen, visiting communications and marketing intern from Denmark.

Cute otters to celebration National Sea Otter Awareness Week

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Let’s face it:  sea otters are so cute we really don’t need a week to show our appreciation.

They aren’t just cute, however. The heaviest members of the weasel family, sea otters are also the second smallest marine mammals. Unlike other marine mammals, they do not have a layer of blubber to help them keep warm. Instead, sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom, ranging from 250,000 to a million hairs per square inch, which insulates them.

Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. As predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. Without sea otters, the undersea animals they prey on would devour the kelp forests off the coast that provide cover and food for many other marine animals. Additionally, sea otters indirectly help to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a prevalent greenhouse gas, as kelp forests play an important role in capturing carbon in coastal ecosystems.

So when their numbers diminished less than 100 years ago for their pelts, there were less than 2,000 on the planet. Today, however, they are making a comeback with just over 106,000 worldwide.

But forget the facts and just dive in with this cute video. (Come on, you know you can’t resist!)

What you can do to help our national public lands

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National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands.  Held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, it’s also a “fee-free day”, meaning your entrance fees are waived at national parks and other public lands.

The United States public lands are the places everyone to use for outdoor recreation, education, and just plain enjoyment.  The lands encompass national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, forests, grasslands, marine sanctuaries, lakes, and reservoirs, as well as state, county, and city parks that are managed by public agencies, but that belong to and are enjoyed by all Americans.

In 1872, the creation of Yellowstone National Park began a tradition of setting aside some federally managed land for recreation and conservation. Since 1906, under the  Antiquities Act,  US presidents have been protecting areas of unique historic, scenic, or scientific interest from mining, logging, and other development.  Today, more than 30 percent of the United States is public lands.

Yet critics contend that some recently designated sites are too big, too burdensome on nearby communities, and don’t deserve national monument status. In April, President Donald Trump ordered the US Department of the Interior to review more than 25 public land sites created since 1996 to determine whether they should be reduced in size or eliminated altogether.

Trump’s executive order, however, has rekindled a long-simmering debate over how much of America’s public lands should be reserved for recreational and aesthetic purposes — or should they be used for their natural resources and potential jobs.

As the debate rages on, outdoor products companies large and small are coming together to voice concern over US public lands policy. In August, the CEOs of more than 350 American outdoor businesses signed a joint letter urging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to maintain existing national monuments and to “defend the integrity of the monument-making process.”

Although the outdoor industry is waking up to realize they have a political voice, you have a voice, too. During National Public Lands Day show your support by using this day to visit the lands that give us so much. (And remember on the fourth Saturday of September, your admission to any park is free!) You can also show your support by joining Save Our Outdoors (free as well). When there,  you can change your Facebook profile picture to show your solidarity in saving public lands.

Appreciating – and helping – the elephants

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Favorite animal?  In a recent unscientific poll, most people say elephant.  And no wonder! They are currently the largest land animal and so interesting!

So much so we put together a video with more information on the animal that ‘never forgets.’  (It’s true!  Find out why in this video.)

Simplify your life! And help the environment

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The first week in August is Simplify Your Life Week.  And although many may think simplifying means items of convenience, such as pre-packaged foods and disposable items, including paper plates, diapers and plastic utensils, there are some wonderful ways to simplify your life without hurting the planet.

  • Eat more natural, locally created foods.  Studies show our average meal has traveled several thousand miles to arrive on your plate. Not only is this at a massive cost to the environment, but your food will probably have lost a lot of its nutrients in transit for up to several weeks before you eat it. A good way to start doing this is by grocery shopping just the perimeter of the store where the fresh food is, while looking for locally-sourced items. In addition, you’ll be eating healthier, and supporting local farmers.
  • Understand you don’t need everything.  Clutter fills more than our shelves and closets – it permeates our lives. We work hard to be able to afford things, many of which require care, cleaning, storing, insuring, protecting….and the media and the merchants are constantly offering us the next “must have.”  The cost of consumer goods goes beyond the price tag. Environmental costs come from resource extraction, manufacturing, shipping and waste management.
  • Choose online shopping (even for groceries). Buying goods online can be an environmentally friendly and time-saving way to shop. Think about it: a delivery truck is making multiple stops on a route.  That reduces the carbon footprint.
  • Consider outsourcing. As the world becomes smaller, and technology improves, hiring others who may live on the other side of the world is increasingly going to be the norm AND it can actually save us a lot of time and money. From an environmental point of view – outsourcing and remote working reduces the carbon footprint of commuting, and additional office space. From a personal standpoint – it saves you money, and hassle.

Some things that are supposed to make our lives simpler may actually just make it more complicated and intricate.  Take a look at how you can make a difference to the environment while adding more simplicity to your life.

It’s too darn hot.

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If you have been keeping up with Northern California’s weather, you know we’ve been in a heatwave lately, and it is expected to last for several more days. This heat is cause for concern, not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a food security and health perspective.

The massive winter storms which coated towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range after years of drought  is now melting too fast. That means waterways could flood and damage the vital crops in the Central Valley.  Find out more about this through our project, Maven’s Notebook.

The heat can be dangerous in other ways too. Young children, elderly people, pregnant women, people with disabilities and animals are especially vulnerable to the heat.

Here are some tips to beat the heat:

  • Get wet. Hang a wet sheet over a window, which is what the rangers do at Death Valley National Park. Incoming breezes are cooled by the evaporating water.
  • Block sun. Closing curtains and blinds (ideally with sun-deflecting white on the window side) can reduce the amount of heat that passes into your home by as much as 45 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Eat cold. Although barbecue is ubiquitous with  warmer temperatures, it works against you on hotter days.  When it’s too hot to cook, consider cold soups or rely on electrical appliances instead of those cooking methods that generate more heat.
  • Swig it. Staying hydrated is important. You can think beyond water to other foods that will keep you in the cool, including watermelon, peaches, celery, and cucumbers.

The outdoors awaits

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Over the course of more than 150 years, a once-radical idea has evolved into a cohesive United States national parks system, with a sometimes conflicting two part-mission: to make the parks accessible to all and to preserve them for future generations.

North and south, east and west, they stretch from the edges of our maps to the hearts of our cities, covering nearly one-third of the country. This June, celebrate the natural wonder and outdoor spirit of America by getting outside during Great Outdoors Month.

June is a special time to celebrate America’s great outdoors and all the benefits it brings, including annual economic impact of $650 billion nationwide. That’s why June has been named Great Outdoors Month.

Whether camping, fishing, rock climbing, or playing in a neighborhood park, nature offers each of us the opportunity to get active, explore, and strengthen our bonds with family and friends.  It’s also a time great to uphold our nation’s legacy of conserving our lands for future generations.

So as you enjoy the great outdoors, think also about how you can better support it.

I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike.

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The Queen song aside, now is a great time to start riding your bike to work or school, especially since this week is Bike to Work Week.

Biking to work is an efficient and fun way to get the exercise you need, without having to find extra time to work out. And this year, with gasoline prices as high as they are, biking to work makes more sense than ever.

Then there is the issue of the carbon footprint.  The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy concluded bicycling could help cut carbon emissions from urban transportation 11 percent.

That’s where our project Menlo Spark comes in. They have been working with the community in Menlo Park to develop a special bike path for commuters. Check out what else they are doing at http://menlospark.org/