Where have all the starfish gone?
Every week I take the kids to the far side of the island to look for sea stars. We have been looking since last fall without success. It feels like the starfish are canaries in the coal mine of the ocean and that’s something to feel sad about and pay attention to.
The Pacific coast of North America is currently experiencing Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Scientists began reporting on sick and dying sea stars in early September 2013. The cause is still unknown but it makes sense that the massive amount of garbage in the ocean can’t be helping.
I think there has never been a better time to share the Starfish Story with children. This is a beautiful story to remind us of the power of ONE.
ONE person can make a difference, ONE family can make things better ~ all it takes is ONE little change.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a young boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” ~ by Peter Straube, adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley.
Several thousand kilometers off the coast lies The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – home to 3.5 million tons of trash – 90% plastic. Inspired by our concern for the health of the starfish and all the creatures in the ocean, we decided to take on a project to reduce our garbage. The idea came from our son Holden who told us about a documentary he saw at school called The Clean Bin Project. It’s about a Vancouver couple who embarked on a year long journey to reduce their garbage to zero. We watched the film as a family and became inspired to come up with our own way to cut down on waste and reduce wastefulness.
Our Pledge: One family, One month, One Garbage Can
Starting on Earth Day, April 22, 2014, we (The Jones Family) pledge to:
- cut our landfill waste in half for one month and avoid buying anything besides food or medicine (in minimal packaging – we plan to shop at farmer’s markets to avoid packaging and bring our own bags);
- stop using single-use plastics: After looking at what we recycle we realized a big part of it is plastics. There are a lot of great things about plastics, for example, plastic medical devices save lives – our concern is mainly single-use plastics. As the Clean Bin Project documentary showed, so much plastic ends up in the ocean despite recycling programs. That means, no more plastic bags to put our produce in, and we have to give up our super-convenient single-serve coffee maker because the pods are not recyclable. (I can’t believe they haven’t come up with recyclable k-cups and t-cups yet!)
- launch an online art installation and blog post (The Star Catchers) to raise awareness about single-use plastics. To symbolize the plastic in the ocean and the sad story of starfish dying in the waters off our home on Bowen Island, the kids made starfish, birds and flowers from Tassimo T-cup plastic discs photographed by Andrea (more photos from this art installation coming soon)
To make these and more single-serve coffee pod crafts, check out theses children’s eco crafts.
Here’s something fun to do with the kids this Earth Day – make eco crafts out of k-cups and t-cups – you know those single-serve coffee discs that can’t be recycled.
What you need:
- K-cups, T-cups, any used single-serve plastic coffee pods/discs.
- Glue Gun
How to make them:
- Simply arrange your pods in any shape. Shapes from nature are especially relevant like birds, flowers and starfish.
- Glue gun them together (for younger children, parents and teachers will have to do the glue gunning)
- Post you relevant art (or have your parents post it) to raise awareness about the impact of single-use plastics on the environment.
Freelance writer/producer/photographer, Andrea Koehle Jones, comes up with the concept, the photos, completes all writing and coordinates between the client and the WordPress programmer. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a quote today.
Check out the new FirstLine Venture Capital website here.
View The Charitree Foundation website here.
See the Love Trees website here.
The world needs more hummingbird environmentalists
Any effort, however small, helps
by Andrea Koehle Jones
Because I run an environmental charity, people often assume I am a hard core environmentalist, militantly preaching and living green. I’m not. Like most people, I sometimes feel overwhelmed thinking about all the problems in the world, and sometimes get bogged down by environmental doom and gloom. After all, it can be hard to see what one person or family can really do to help. Still, I firmly believe that doing one small thing today can make a difference.
I first heard the hummingbird fable from Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. It’s a beautiful story about a massive forest fire and the courageous efforts of a tiny hummingbird.
All the animals in the forest watched a huge forest fire getting bigger and bigger. They felt so overwhelmed and powerless, except for a little hummingbird. It said, “I’m going to do something about the fire.”
The little hummingbird flew to the closest stream, scooped-up a drop of water and put it on the huge fire. Then she went back to the stream and did it again. She kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched, some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop of water, you can’t put out this fire.”
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the hummingbird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then an elephant shouted out to the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?” And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, “I am doing the best I can.”
The collective impact of one small thing
It’s not hard to be a hummingbird environmentalist. This week for example I thought, “What’s one thing I can I do differently? “ I decided to take the kids to the store but instead of driving, as we usually do, we bicycled. At first I didn’t feel like it, but we ended-up having a really great time.
Forty percent of all trips are made within two miles of home. If individuals and families choose to bike or walk to work, or to make fewer shopping trips each week, they could really help the planet (and their wallet). If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year (Source: The Sierra Club, Pedaling to Prosperity). And if people all over the world chose to leave the car at home and walk or bike just once a week, the impact would be even more powerful.
Become a Hummingbord Environmentalist
For me, the key to being a Hummingbird Environmentalist is not immersing oneself in environmental politics. It is about having an open heart, thinking beyond yourself, and being willing to try something new – even fun – once in a while. We can all do one thing better. Here are three ideas that I hope get you inspired.
· Incorporate public transit into your next family outing – if your kids are like mine, they will love the chance to take the bus or train
· Make a hummingbird craft with your kids – it’s a great way to share the hummingbird fable and show them that anyone, no-matter how small, can help make the world a better place: http://www.love-trees.com/hummingbird-tree-craft/
· Plant a tree: Spend $5 to have a tree given to a child through the Love Trees children’s tree planting and environmental education program
My latest writing and photography assignment was a car review of the Chevrolet Equinox LTZ that took me up the Sea to Sky Highway and back in June. Read all about it. http://bit.ly/Qxin9h
Special thanks to Chevrolet Canada and the super-talented MacLaren McCann team I had the honour of working with under the direction of Pearce Bannon.
Kids can plant their Wish Tree and make a wish for the planet – or anything. Giving children a tree of their own to plant teaches responsibility and offers kids the opportunity to connect with nature. Studies show the more time kids spend outside, the more their levels of stress drop and their confidence soars to new levels.
ChariTREE sent another 5,745 school children seedlings in April.
ChariTREE has also recently returned from Zambia where 5,000 children will receive a fruit or nut tree. ChariTREE partnered with African Community Project on this project. Zambia is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest annual deforestation rate.
The Wish Trees and Summit’s Sock Garden are now both available on the Sony Reader Store: http://ebookstore.sony.com/author/andrea-koehle-jones_344289
Theses 100% tree-free children’s books are available around the world and a portion of profits supports Love Trees children’s tree projects around the world!