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Green Holiday Idea #2: Wrappin' It Up
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One of the things that gives us instant holiday blues: all those piles of post-gift-opening wrapping paper, crumpled and used and pretty darn sad. It's sad because the hoopla is over, but it's extra-sad because that's a lot of wasted paper. Did you know that half of the paper consumed in the U.S. every year is used to wrap and decorate stuff? Even if we're normally good about saving paper, it seems like the holidays are a time when people forget about conserving resources. But presents need to be pretty, right?

wrapping.jpgAh, but that's where you can really have some fun! Wrapping doesn't have to mean cutting a huge swath of store-bought printed paper. It can be a chance to get creative and express yourself, and make your gift extra-special because you did something different and original with it. Here are a few ideas:

  • First, the "duh." Save wrapping paper to reuse by opening it neatly. If you need a large sheet, try collaging together smaller ones.

  • Paper can be found everywhere. The Sunday comics is a time-tested favorite, as is torn out sheets from magazines. Where else? Think about old calendars, posters, unused wallpaper, and even old road maps. Fancy them up if you need to with a layer of clear or colored cellophane.

  • Tear open brown paper grocery bags and decorate the insides. Buy a roll of "butcher paper" at a craft or art store. If something's small enough, grab a brown paper lunch bag. Decorate with drawings, painting, stickers, rubber stamps, words cut out from magazines, glitter, etc.

  • Put something pretty (a ribbon, some glitter, beads, etc.) between two pieces of wax paper; ironing it will glue them together and make a single, spectacular sheet for wrapping.

  • Consider fabric, too -- fabric scraps make great wrapping material. If you or a family member like to sew, make reusable fabric gift bags that can maybe even become a holiday tradition in your home.

  • We have a ton of those gift bags lying around from gifts we've received in the past. Doesn't everyone? This is a great time to put them to use, even if they're not decorated with a holiday theme. Paint them, collage them, sticker 'em up. Even small paper shopping bags with store logos can be tricked out, and don't forget the good ole brown paper lunch sacks that might already be in your kitchen cabinet.

  • If you just have to buy wrapping paper, look out for the kind that's biodegradable or has recycled content.

And then it's time for the finishing touches! Give your gift some bling such as fabric or reused bows and ribbons, or take a walk in your backyard and scoop up leaves, fir or cedar branches, pine cones, and sticks. (Avoid berries, since they can be poisonous to young kids and pets.)

If you create something truly fantastic, snap a photo and email to us at itsmylife@pbs.org!


Green Holiday Idea #1: Make Your Own Cards
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Did you know that there are enough greeting cards sold in the United States each year to fill a building as long as a football field and at least 10 stories high! That's a lot of paper, and most of it does NOT go into the recycling bin!

homemade_card.jpgThere's no better way to save paper (and money!) during the holidays than to make your own cards for family, friends, teachers, and others in your community you want to show some love this season. Start with some plain solid-colored notecards or cardstock and try these ideas with items you probably already have in your house (and are just waiting to get used!):

  • Cut out images from wrapping paper, magazines, personal photos, and even last year's cards (if your family saved them) to make collages.
  • Dig into your stock of stickers for funny images and accents.
  • Fabric, ribbons, and buttons add a great artsy look.
  • Check the kitchen for aluminum foil and cupcake sprinkles.
  • If there's already a stock of craft supplies in your home, look for beads, glitter, pipe cleaners, sequins, felt, yarn, etc.
  • Make a design on the computer and print it out, then glue onto the card.
  • Go old school -- get some markers or crayons and DRAW!
Now you might be thinking, "Well duh, but I never know what to do with this stuff." Using these materials, you could make a:

  • Peace sign
  • Christmas tree
  • Cross
  • Planet Earth
  • Heart
  • Bunch of stars
  • Picture of yourself
  • Home
  • Snowflake
  • Snowman
  • Santa
  • Menorah
  • The numbers "2012"
  • Or anything you think your card recipient might like...
Besides helping the planet, remember this: If you don't have the cash to buy someone a gift, a homemade card created from the heart is a great substitute (and often even better!).

If you make a holiday card you're super proud of, scan it and email it to us so we can post it on this blog!



Earth Day 2012 + "Born To Be Wild" on DVD
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This Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day 2012 -- an annual worldwide event aimed at spreading awareness of environmental issues. You're probably already bombarded with information at school, on TV, and elsewhere on the Web about Earth Day and how you can help preserve our planet's precious and beautiful resources. We're going to bombard you just a little more: If you haven't already checked it out, please visit our section on Green Living and share your own thoughts on how to help the environment.

borntobewild.jpgWhen we help the environment, we're also helping our planet's co-residents -- the animals. As you probably know, the issue of helping animals and wildlife conservation is a big one for us, because it's a big one for IML'ers. There's something about the way animals touch our hearts and remind us of the incredible power and beauty of nature. We were on the lookout for something that illustrates this in a fresh way for young people, and found the IMAX film "Born To Be Wild," which has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray.

In "Born To Be Wild," we meet amazing people who are dedicated to rescuing and raising orphaned wild animals so they can be returned to the lives they were meant for. In the rainforests of Borneo, Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas and her team care for baby orangutans who are the victims of deforestation, while in the savannahs of Kenya, Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick works to save and rehabilitate young elephants after their mothers are killed by poachers. The film, which is narrated by Morgan Freeman, made us laugh and go "awww" a lot (and even made us cry), really driving home the importance of the human-animal bond. It reminded us of just one of many reasons why environmental awareness matters.

Extras on the discs include wonderful additional footage, which is a good thing because you probably won't be able to get enough of the baby orangutans and elephants. It's a perfect DVD choice for your next family movie night, and unlike other things you might spend time watching, it will make you think...and hopefully act!




Surfing champ Lakey Peterson talks about wet stuff
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Many of us are used to being able to get as much water as we need, whenever we need it. Wanna take a bath? Just turn on the tap! Feed the lawn? Simply grab a hose. But that won't always be the case. In fact, by the year 2013, 36 U.S. states are expected to face serious water shortages. 2013...that's two years away! Gulp! We're getting thirsty just thinking about that.

lakey.jpgHere at IML we've already talked about the importance of water conservation, and how you can help, in our Green Living section. A new campaign called Save Water Today is doing the same thing with videos starring celebrities offering easy advice on how to be water-wise. 16-year-old surfer Lakey Peterson is part of this campaign...actually, she's more than just a surfer; she's an amazing, boundary-shattering athlete and passionate environmentalist. Recently, Lakey shared with us her thoughts on the water issue as well as her upcoming Nike women's surf film, "Leave A Message." 

IML: How did you get involved with the Save Water Today campaign?

 
Lakey:  Since I'm the spokesperson for the Student Conservation Association, they felt I was the perfect person to speak to youth about saving water.  I was super excited to spread awareness about water conservation!
 
IML: What have you learned about water conservation?
 
Lakey: I learned that not only is it more important than everyone thinks it is, it's also actually much easier to prevent water waste than you'd think. It takes so little effort to make so much of a difference!
 
IML: Why do you think young people need to educate themselves about this issue?
 
Lakey: As kids, we're the best hope for being able to save the environment before it's too late. We have a chance to learn from both the positive things and mistakes made by older generations and really make the world a better place to live in!
 
IML: Okay, so what are the top 2 or 3 things we can do every day to conserve water?
 
Lakey: (1) Make all your showers 5 minutes or less. (2) Don't let water run in the sink, even if it's just a little drip. (3) Keep the water off when you're brushing your teeth. That seems small but it saves 3 gallons a day!
 
IML: How can kids get their parents and other adults around them to get with the program?
 
Lakey: It's pretty easy. Whenever you get a flyer or a program or something like that about saving water (or whenever you see one of our Save Water Today ads), just be sure to show it to your parents, and hopefully they'll get that you're serious about it, and it's something to really pay attention to. And whenever you see them wasting water, call them out on it...but be nice!
 
IML: Tell us about "Leave A Message" -- what were the highlights of shooting the film?
 
Lakey: It was AMAZING! I've never been on camera for such a long period of time before, so initially I didn't know what to expect, but it was awesome to travel around the world with all my friends and surf the spots that I always dreamed of!  It's going to be a pretty INCREDIBLE film, and I'm so excited for everyone to see it!
 
IML: Do you think there's an image of women surfers that you'd like to see changed?
 
lakey-surf.jpgLakey: For some reason girls just have the mindset that they can't surf as well as guys, but when you see this film you can see that we don't have that mindset. We don't let anything hold us back from surfing the best that we can.

IML: You started surfing competitively when you were 11. How did being involved so deeply in a sport help you during the pre-teen years? 

Lakey: I think that it has been amazing because I'm so busy that I don't have time to get into trouble. Surfing is known to be a party industry, but I'm not really into that whole scene. Don't get me wrong, I have fun but when it's time to focus...It's time to focus. I have that "Just Do It" mentality in me, I think!

Check out Lakey's Save Water Today PSA and learn more about how to do your part:




The Gulf Coast Oil Disaster
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Hopefully you've heard about this big news story:

On April 30th, an explosion rocked an off-shore oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing the damaged well to leak oil into the ocean water. As of today, the oil is still leaking out, which means that the massive slick, which already covers thousands of square miles, will keep getting bigger. Despite cleanup efforts, most experts believe there's little chance of containing the oil before it reaches shore, meaning states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida could be in for an ecological and environmental disaster even worse than the one Alaska faced when the tanker Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound in 1989. Yikes!

Why this matters:
Plants, animals, and people depend on the Gulf of Mexico for their lives. The oil gushing into the water could have devastating short- and long-term effects on things like:

oilspillfrog.jpg--Coral reefs
--Turtles and marine mammals
--Fish populations, and the jobs of fishermen
--Oyster beds, shrimp habitats, and the seafood industry
--Shore birds and their nesting sites
--Coastal wetlands, and the plants and animals in them
--Beach communities and the tourism industry

British Petroleum (BP), which runs the damaged oil well, is working to cap off the leak. But this process could take several weeks or even months, because the well is in very deep water. They've also said that they will pay for the clean-up of the spilled oil, but with the slick still growing, nobody really knows how long clean up will take or how much it will cost. In the meantime, the communities in the path of the slick are bracing themselves for the worst.

So what can we do about this? Here are some ideas:

Use less gas. Some people think that conservation doesn't help, but to us, it's simple math: The less we drive, the less gas we use, and the fewer oil wells need to be drilled. Try walking, riding your bike, taking a bus, or carpooling with other families. If we all make the change, the impact could be huge.

Donate. Money doesn't solve everything, but it sure comes in handy in a crisis like this and every little bit will help. Do you care about the birds and animals that this oil spill will affect? Try donating money to a wildlife conservation group in Louisiana or Florida.

Volunteer. The containment and clean-up effort in the gulf is going to take big money and high-tech equipment, But as the 1989 Alaska clean-up showed us, it will also take thousands of volunteers, each working to sift the oil from one small patch of beach. If you live near a shore community that is expected to get some of the spill, ask a parent if you can volunteer to help clean the beaches...even before the oil gets there. BP has said that the cleanup effort will be easier if the spill hits beaches that are free of garbage and other foreign debris.

The National Audubon Society has a Gulf Coast Oil Disaster Action Center page that includes more ways you can volunteer and help.

Help out at home. Even if you don't live in one of the states that will be directly affected by the spill, you can still help keep things clean and safe wherever you are. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Use less energy, and use it wisely. Remember: it's not just about saving the environment. It's about saving OURSELVES, because the environment is where we all live!

For more information, check out IML's section on Green Living.


Happy Earth Day 2010
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Tomorrow is Earth Day 2010 -- the 40th anniversary of this worldwide event aimed at spreading awareness of environmental issues.

You're probably already bombarded with information at school, on TV, and elsewhere on the Web about Earth Day and how you can help preserve our planet's precious and beautiful resources. We're going to bombard you just a little more, because you know how important this stuff is to us at IML.

If you haven't already checked it out, please visit our section on Green Living and share your own thoughts on how to help the environment.

And then, just because we think it's really cool and inspiring and catchy, watch this video of 13-year-old Leia Schwartz of Florida performing a song she wrote about Earth Day.





Green Holiday Idea #2: Wrap It Your Way
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One of the things that gives us instant holiday blues: all those piles of post-gift-opening wrapping paper, crumpled and used and pretty darn sad. It's sad because some fun is over, but it's really sad because that's a lot of wasted paper. Did you know that half of the paper consumed in the U.S. every year is used to wrap and decorate stuff? Even if we're normally good about saving paper, it seems like the holidays are a time when people forget about conserving resources. But presents need to be pretty, right?

Ah, but that's where you can really have some fun! Wrapping doesn't have to mean cutting a huge swath of store-bought printed paper. It can be a chance to get creative and express yourself, and make your gift extra-special because you did something different and original with it. Here are a few ideas:

  • First, the "duh." Save wrapping paper to reuse by opening it neatly. If you need a large sheet, try collaging together smaller ones.

  • Paper can be found everywhere. The Sunday comics is a time-tested favorite, as is torn out sheets from magazines. Where else? Think about old calendars, posters, unused wallpaper, and even old road maps. Fancy them up if you need to with a layer of clear or colored cellophane.

  • Tear open brown paper grocery bags and decorate the insides. Buy a roll of "butcher paper" at a craft or art store. If something's small enough, grab a brown paper lunch bag. Decorate with drawings, painting, stickers, rubber stamps, words cut out from magazines, glitter, etc.

  • Put something pretty (a ribbon, some glitter, beads, etc.) between two pieces of wax paper; ironing it will glue them together and make a single, spectacular sheet for wrapping.

  • Consider fabric, too -- fabric scraps make great wrapping material. If you or a family member like to sew, make reusable fabric gift bags that can maybe even become a holiday tradition in your home.

  • If you just have to buy wrapping paper, look out for the kind that's biodegradable or has recycled content.

Don't forget the finishing touches! Give your gift some bling such as fabric or reused bows and ribbons, or take a walk in your backyard and scoop up leaves, fir or cedar branches, pine cones, and sticks. (Avoid berries, since they can be poisonous to young kids and pets.)

If you create something truly fantastic, snap a photo and email to us at itsmylife@pbs.org!




 

Green Holiday Idea #1: Make Your Own Cards
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Did you know that there are enough greeting cards sold in the United States each year to fill a building as long as a football field and at least 10 stories high! That's a lot of paper, and most of it does NOT go into the recycling bin!

We're feeling very green over here at IML, mostly because our brand new section on Green Living is now live! We hope you come check it out, get some good tips, and post your own ideas on our Green Living You Said It page. In honor of that, we thought we'd post a few suggestions that fit with the season.

homemade_card.jpgThere's no better way to save paper (and money!) during the holidays than to make your own cards for family, friends, teachers, and others in your community you want to show some love this season. Start with some plain solid-colored notecards or cardstock and try these ideas with items you probably already have in your house (and are just waiting to get used!):

  • Cut out images from wrapping paper, magazines, personal photos, and even last year's cards (if your family saved them) to make collages.
  • Dig into your stock of stickers for funny images and accents.
  • Fabric, ribbons, and buttons add a great artsy look.
  • Check the kitchen for aluminum foil and cupcake sprinkles.
  • If there's already a stock of craft supplies in your home, look for beads, glitter, pipe cleaners, sequins, felt, yarn, etc.
  • Make a design on the computer and print it out, then glue onto the card.
  • Go old school -- get some markers or crayons and DRAW!

Now you might be thinking, "Well duh, but I never know what to do with this stuff." Using these materials, you could make a:

  • Peace sign
  • Christmas tree
  • Cross
  • Picture of yourself
  • Home
  • Snowflake
  • Snowman
  • Santa
  • Menorah
  • The numbers "2010"
  • Or anything you think your card recipient might like...

Besides helping the planet, remember this: If you don't have the cash to buy someone a gift, a homemade card created from the heart is a great substitute (and often even better!).

If you make a holiday card you're super proud of, scan it and email it to us so we can post it on this blog!




 


DVD Review: "Earth"
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When we read IML'ers postings on our "Helping The Environment" You Said It page, we get the feeling our planet's future is in really good hands. So many of you are already doing what you can to conserve Earth's resources or educating yourselves about how our actions affect that floating ball in space we call home. 

DisneyNatureEarthBluray sm.jpg
Earlier this year, the movie "Earth" was released in theatres and maybe you got a chance to see it on the big screen; now it's out on DVD and Blu-ray. If you love Planet Earth (or maybe just have a little crush), this flick is much more than a nature documentary. It tells the story of one year on the planet, capturing incredible footage from every continent and focusing on three very different animal families (polar bears, humpback whales, and elephants) trying to survive in challenging and changing conditions. It's by turns fascinating, funny, tension-filled, and sad. (If you're like us and hate to see animals scared or suffering, a few scenes are hard to watch. But all part of reality and important to see.)

We watched this and kept thinking, "Whoa! How did they shoot   
that?" Fortunately, the DVD offers up a real treat: a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary showing the awesome amount of work, patience, and expertise that goes into making a movie like this. 
IML's Rating: A

Hopefully "Earth," along with other films and TV programs like it, will inspire young people to get involved in wildlife conservation. Because our favorite animals in this movie were the humpback whales, we've gathered a few tips on how you and your family can help them out:

Seek out information about conservation issues
--Check out books from your local library on whales and the places where they live to learn more about these amazing animals.
--Contact local conservation groups to find out what they are doing to help animals like the humpback whale and to learn how you can get involved.
---Visit zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to see marine mammals, support marine mammal conservation, and learn more about how you can animals like whales in the wild.

whale.jpgReduce, reuse, recycle, and replenish
--Conserve water at home. Help family members check for leaky faucets and encourage them to use cold water in the wash. Challenge your entire family to take shorter showers, turn off the water when brushing their teeth, and make a rain barrel. This saves water for animals (and people) everywhere.
--Remember, all drains lead to the ocean! Be careful what chemicals, pesticides, and household products you use. Encouraging your family to use green cleaning products is one way to help keep waterways clean. Finding alternatives to chemical pesticides is another way to help wildlife. And recycling motor oil and disposing of hazardous waste properly can ensure pristine lakes, rivers, and oceans for future generations.

Look
for and purchase environmentally friendly products
--While many whales are protected from hunting, they sometimes still end up trapped in nets or fishing line intended for other animals. If your family eats seafood, make sure it is "whale and dolphin safe" - meaning it is caught in a way that won't hurt other animals.
--When dining out, have your parents ask if the seafood is sustainable - meaning it is caught in a way that won't hurt the fish population or other animals (such as whales and dolphins).
--When fishing, use eco-friendly gear such as fishing line that will decompose and lead-free spinners and weights. Learn about environmentally friendly hooks that can reduce damage to fish during catch-and-release fishing trips. All of these things can help protect aquatic animals and habitats.



The 3 R's 4 R World


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Hopefully you've heard these words so much lately that you've taken them to heart -- or are sick to death of them. Or both. It's all good, because then you know what they mean!

planetrecycle.jpg
So now IML needs your help. We're putting together a brand new section of our site called "Green Living," full of advice for tweens on how to accomplish those 3 R's, as well as other actions that will help save our planet's resources. It's not easy to change habits and give up certain things, but we're sure lots of you out there have already found creative and maybe even fun ways to do just that. 

So we want to know: How do YOU reduce the amount of trash you generate? Do you reuse something on a regular basis? Have you and your family hit upon a good formula for recycling? Maybe you and your friends had a clothing-swap party. Maybe you've figured out how to make something rather than buy it new. We're looking for your ideas to include on It's My Life! You can send them to us with your first name and age. If we use your comment on the site, we'll send you a package of groovy IML light-up pens and stickers!