Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth: Box Tops

My school collects Box Tops for Education. You’ve seen them, they toplots of cereal and granola bar boxes, you probably recycle them withe the rest of your cardboard but do you know they are worth ten cents for every one you send to your local school? That money get used for things like supplies for art, books and music. Our school has a competition and the classroom who raises the most money with boxtops gets a pizza party at the end of the year.

There’s five weeks left of school and our class is doing ok (pretty good for kindergarteners if you ask me). But our school has raised thousands of dollars every year with the program. So before you recycle, clip that ten cents and give it to your local kindergartner. The book you buy could teach someone to read.

posted by: Abby Age 6

Check out the scene… the GreenScene

An interesting site that I stumbled upon this morning while looking for events and restaurants to check out this weekend – Boston GreenScene. The site has a team made up of about a half-dozen contributors ranging in passion and professions, all committed to the portal founded by editor-in-chief, Anneli Olila.

Boston GreenScene is a comprehensive resource for individuals and businesses looking to do business with others that share in their commitment to sustainable living and lifestyle choices. “The mission of Boston GreenScene is to connect, highlight, and amplify the organizations, businesses, and individuals who are working to build a sustainable present and future.”

The Live Green Locally™ site includes a Local Green Directory with a wide range of products and services, including everything from builders and architects to green jobs & training, and green gifts to retailers and restaurants. It also has a growing events calendar and contributed articles on  various eco-conscious topics including new initiatives, product reviews and other categories that run the gamut.

 On tap for this weekend in Boston – an all-day, free concert today (Saturday). The 16th Annual Radio 92.9 EarthFest is being held at the DCR Hatch Shell Main Stage with various concert times throughout the day. A celebration for the Earth featuring great music, family-friendly activities and a showcase of environmentally friendly products and non-profit organizations.

Check the site out, and the concert, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Katie

Go a Deeper Shade of Green

I saw this post by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, written by Priya Chhaya and wanted to share it with our readers. It is an interesting perspective on the green movement.

Change your light bulbs. Recycle. Reuse. Unplug your appliances. Use a clothesline. The path to energy efficiency does start at home and its true—we can all be green.

But what about the next step? For years historic preservationists have been adamant that the greenest building is almost always the one that has been already built; that preserving the past also means protecting the planet. We at the National Trust for Historic Preservation have embraced this belief in every aspect of our work… But did you know that there is a sustainability track at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville, the National Main Street Center’s latest issue of Main Street News asks “How Green is Your Main Street?” and the latest Forum Journal (one of the perks of Forum membership), takes a look at “Positioning Preservation in a Green World” where one can truly go a deeper shade of green.

But of course that’s not all. Preaching to the choir is one thing, but we have to somehow reach the peanut gallery—those individuals who can’t see why this all matters, or even what historic preservation has to do with saving the environment. I know that some of us do that well, while others falter when it comes to strategies for communicating this information to our widespread and often not-so-engaged audiences. How do we get them to look past their own homes and lifestyle to seeing the world through a pair of green colored glasses?

I don’t have the answer—but maybe you do.

Priya Chhaya is the program assistant in the office of Training and Online Information Services at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Obama Hanging Tough on Fuel Economy

Good news for the Mrs. Earth and Mr. Bill-Fold. Last Tuesday, President Obama announced new rules for the auto industry, forcing them to step up their commitment to fuel efficiency in their “fleets” to an average of 25 miles per gallon by 2016. Before we get too excited, consider the average fuel efficiency between a 48 mile/gallon vehicle (Prius!) and a 12 mile/gallon vehicle (think BIG and heavy), still achieves a 25 mile/gallon average. But, this is a giant step in the right direction.

As a point of reference, today’s hybrid SUV’s range from approximately 20-25 miles/gallon. There are, of course, exceptions like the Ford Hybrid that gets 34! (Go, Ford!) In comparison, the hybrid sedans range from 26-48 miles per gallon.

Besides the fact that we are still FAR behind Japan and the EU, CNN’s “Tough new car fuel economy rules” blog cited some other interesting points that Americans will be considering when buying cars in the near future, including:

1) Cost vs. savings. The White House says all the new rules — including some recently enacted — will increase the price of a car by a total of $1,300 per vehicle; but, that does not factor in the long term savings consumers could see at the gas pump. If more Americans start driving fuel-efficient cars over the long haul, that could ease demand on gasoline and keep prices down.

2) The environment. According to some, the United States consumes up to 10 percent of world oil output just driving their cars and trucks (including big-rigs transporting goods across the country). Obama argues that more fuel efficient cars on the road will make a dent in carbon emission in this country.

3) Energy security. Obama has even couched his tougher rules in national security terms, because America’s growing dependence on imported oil has become such a burning issue in Washington.

Posted by: Katie

The Box Office: Recycled Shipping Containers Become Office Space

If you want to see a shining, large-scale example of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” look no further than Providence, R.I.’s Olneyville neighborhood, which has long been home to many of the city’s artists, musicians and creative thinkers.

Olneyville is the kind of hardscrabble place that city planners and realtors are forever trying to gentrify with a healthy dose of demolition, while longtime residents and newly-arriving artists form uneasy alliances in opposition. Olneyville’s spirit was epitomized by institutions such as Fort Thunder, where a group of artists and musicians took a 19th-century mill and, all-too-briefly in the 1990s, turned it into a world-renowned center of activity and community. Tellingly, the mill that housed Fort Thunder was razed to make way for yet another supermarket, which closed two years ago, leaving behind the usual “dead mall” vibe in an already struggling neighborhood where nearly half of the residents live below the poverty level.

Optimistically, then, we can report that it is in Olneyville that a remarkable three-story office space is being constructed out of 32 recycled shipping containers. In late May, the project’s official “groundbreaking” took place: A single tree was planted on the site of the former lumber company where the 10,000-sqaure-foot, cheekily-named Box Office will reside.

If you’ve ever lived in or flew over a port city like Providence, Philadelphia or Baltimore, you’ve seen shipping containers just sitting there, stacked up for acres. I’ve often wondered where these things might end up, if and when they are ever broken or taken out of service.

Now at least I know where 32 of them are going. Here’s hoping The Box Office will be the beginning of a trend in office construction. Check out The Box Office web site to see just how cool this project is.

Posted by Joe Paone

Local Communities Showcase the Way to Sustainable Future

In the midst of this global economic crisis, there is a movement happening in some of the hardest hit places in America – local communities.  This movement is showing that Main Street truly is the way to building a better, more sustainable future.  And that’s just what Joe Grafton, founding director of the Somerville Local First has set out to prove.  Dedicated to promoting and sustaining local business, Local First organizations across the country are campaigning for a shift in the way we act, in the way we think and most importantly, in the way we spend.  That’s what prompted Joe and other local organizers in New England to start the 10% shift campaign and evangelize the true power of local spending. 

The theory behind the “shift” is simple – if all consumers made an effort to shift 10% of their spending to independent and locally owned retailers instead of at stores that rhyme with Shmalmart (as an example, not meant to single out Shmalmart per se) – the community could see thousands of new jobs created and millions of dollars of taxpayer free revenue. 

So Joe Grafton has set out on a mission.  New England isn’t the only area in the United States pushing this movement forward – there are Local First organizations countrywide, working on convincing people that their local independent community is way cooler than they may have thought. 

It’s called Shift Across America and for the next 3 weeks, Joe will be visiting cities and towns from Boston to San Francisco, meeting with politicians and leaders of the local business, publishing, art and music scenes, find out what’s happening in their communities and talk about how 10% Shift is redefining economic paradigms.  These interviews and stories will be documented on the Shift Across America blog, Facebook, and Twitter, where they hope to be joined vicariously by those who hear–and become part of the story.

Shift happens – and it’s happening in the very places that could define this revolution.

Posted by: Ashley/ follow me on Twitter

On the Hunt for Organic Cooking Classes

Last night my girlfriends and I attended a cooking class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a girls night out and what made it even better was that the class was ”5 Ingredients or Less”! Right up my alley. The only thing that could have possibly made the night a bit better would have been a glass of wine to ease my (self-imposed) angst about cooking (it was worse with the anticipation of knowing I’d have to do it in FRONT of strangers). All in all – best friends, great food, and knowledgeable, patient, and enthusiast instructors.

The experience was obviously a success (for me) because this morning I started seeking out more cooking classes. This time, I thought I’d investigate local organic cooking classes and seminars. For the record, I’m not expecting that the classes to vary too significantly, but maybe provide a wider selection of healthier choices and ingredient selection. If you didn’t know already, Rhode Island is known for its culinary aptitude, thanks to a high concentration of Italian (Federal Hill!) and Portuguese heritage in the state (okay, maybe that’s not factually why, but I think so!), as well as the presence of one of the most noted culinary institutes in the nation downtown, Johnson & Wales University. All things considered, I am actually a bit disappointed that my search did not provide many promising leads.

One great find – The Green Grocer in nearby Portsmouth, RI. Among the list of yoga classes and other activities, the store is hosting a “Simple, Delicious & Nutritious Whole Foods Cooking Class” on July 12th. A little info on the class:

Join Jessica for a fun and informative afternoon cooking classes and get some great ideas on making your meals simple and healthy.  As a certified Holistic Health Counselor, she will not only provide some great new recipes, but give you valuable information on the nutritional benefits of the food she cooks.  Her focus is on removing unneeded sugars from the diet, and eating local whole foods.  

I think I might have to check it out. Any other recommendations for organic-centric cooking classes in the New England area?

Posted by: Katie