Celebrate Earth Day by Travelling Green

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miranda-mannersWell as usual, there’s been a big gap between blogs. My apologies. Homework has really taken over this year and when I do get any free time I like to get away with my family. Whenever we travel we usually get accommodations with a kitchen which means we have a number of containers that need to be recycled by the end of our visit. These days, more and more hotels have “green” programs that give you the option of declining housekeeping so that your towels are whisked away after just one use and you keep the sheets on your bed for more than one night. It’s a great start but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Hotels need to provide more recycling options for people to get rid of their waste. If you’re lucky, you might get a “blue bin” garbage type can in your room but I often wonder if they actually recycle the things people leave in there and if they only have recycling for one type of item e.g. glass or tin, and anything else you put in the bin actually winds up in the garbage.

This year when we travelled to a city we had been to before there were a lot more recycling bins and lots of different kinds of bins than I ever remember there being five years ago. And they weren’t just at the hotel we stayed in, they were in more public places than ever before. It was so exciting to know that change was happening. When we visited places and tourist sites without recycling we just carried around the things that could be recycled until we got back to our accommodations at the end of the day.

Whenever we leave a place that we have stayed we usually get follow-up emails asking us to rate our visit and there’s always a chance to make comments about what could be improved on. Our family always comments on the recycling, or maybe I should say, the lack of recycling and we make suggestions for what that could look like in the future and I would encourage you and your family to do the same.

We don’t really care if we get a $5.00 voucher from a hotel (which, by the way, we probably won’t use) as a reward for being “green”.   We’re “green”  because it’s the right thing to do and the least we can do while we’re away. But if that’s what it takes to get people to take action, great. Hopefully, one day, the “green” program will be routine and instead of asking visitors to call the front desk if  they want to decline new linens every day, they’ll have to call, and be charged, to have their sheets cleaned after just one night.

Until then, you can choose a hotel that’s actually green certified from the environmentally friendly bath products it uses to  key card energy control systems that monitor lights and temperature to low flow shower heads and toilets, you’ll know that you don’t have to leave your green habits at home.

 

Can YOU make a difference?

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Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 7.18.31 PMOn the evening of December 11th the Mossom Creek Hatchery was destroyed by fire. The hatchery was located in the forest in my neighbourhood for nearly 40 years. I first volunteered there when I was only nine years old. The experiences I enjoyed shaped my attitudes and my actions where the environment is concerned and put me on a path to the person I am today. My very first film was about one of the co-founders of the hatchery, Ruth Foster. She and the hatchery have had a huge influence on my life and I will treasure the memories of my time there caring for thousands of salmon and releasing them into Mossom Creek, not to mention the education I received from Ruth and others on everything from native plants to almost invisible insects that fascinated my brother and I on so many Sunday mornings.  And speaking of my brother, I’ve asked him to add his own perspective to this in the form of a guest blog.

Hi. I first started visiting the hatchery five years ago. I didn’t even realize that for years I had driven past it with my family without even knowing that it was there. It didn’t take long before it became one of my favourite places to visit. It was the kind of place where you could visit with friends, eat some homemade bread and get a hands-on education about stuff that I didn’t even know existed in my own backyard. It felt really good to help. I never minded the work we did while we were there because I knew I was doing it for the salmon and the creatures that live there. Ruth and Rod always made volunteers feel like we were the most important people on earth and they always made time to visit and share stories with each and every person who visited. 

I have visited the hatchery twice since the fire and it was just as sad to see it the second time as it was the first. But I’m starting to realize that it was more than a building and that we haven’t lost the people that were part of it or the reason for it being there. And that reason will always be there. So that’s why everyone needs to help to make rebuilding it possible and to replace all the things that made it a hatchery. In the coming days you can visit the hatchery website and donate to the rebuilding so that more kids like me can have the kind of experiences I had at Mossom Creek.

Please visit the hatchery website at mossomcreek.org to find out how you can help.

Nature Experiences from Around the World

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Over the holidays I connected with someone who lives in Singapore. It seems we share a lot in common. She’s about my age,  she writes a blog and she loves nature and everything to do with the environment. We decided to guest blog for each other – so here she is – thank you Lavanya.

Hello everybody! My name is Lavanya Prakash, and I’m 13 years old. I have a huge passion for nature and photography, just like Miranda and I’ve started my own blog. I live in Singapore, which most people think of as a bustling city- but through my exploration I’ve discovered there are so many wild spaces here! I take photographs of new species of plants, insects, birds and animals that I see in my weekly visits to parks, nature reserves and any green space in Singapore (and Malaysia if I go on vacation).

SONY DSC SONY DSCI was so excited when I found Miranda and her story through her Ted talk. It feels amazing to know that there is someone your age doing almost the same thing, even though in the other side of the world. I don’t have many friends here who know or understand what I’m doing, and when I told that to Miranda- she felt the same way!

I also spoke at TedxYouth@Singapore about “Reconnecting children with nature”- about my experiences in nature and how children can spend more time outdoors. My main concern is that teenagers these days know of terms such as global warming and climate change- but are not able to really grasp the situation. This is because they don’t have a connection with nature so they don’t know what’s out there suffering and being damaged.

SONY DSCI told Miranda a bit about Malaysia, and she was really fascinated by it. Malaysia is truly an amazing place, and has one of the richest biodiversity of flora and fauna in the world. It is filled with different ecosystems- from mangroves, oldest rainforests, tall mountains, beautiful seas and oceans teeming with exotic marine and wildlife- including the rare Sumatran Rhino and Pygmy elephant. But sadly, most of these places are being cut down rapidly in Malaysia because of the growth of palms for palm oil. Whenever we visit Malaysia- we have to drive through acres and acres of oil palm plantations until we reach a natural forest. There are so many creatures that depend on the natural forests and it is saddening to know that their homes are being destroyed. 

SONY DSCThank you so much Miranda for letting me write on your blog! You are a great inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to share more of our ideas together and to the world. This is just the beginning for me, and I really hope to make a change here just like Miranda has in Canada. Please do check out my blog and feel free to leave your comments!

Check our Lavanya’s TEDx talk here.

Explore 150

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In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m an outdoors girl. Being outside is my favourite thing to do. I also love history, which is why I probably enjoy social studies at school. So when an app comes along that combines learning about natural, historical and cultural sites in Canada and encourages users to get outdoors and visit those sites, write about those sites and even win some prizes along the way, I’m all over it!

As a member of the Get To Know youth advisory board I was invited to take part in a related board that partnered with Taking It Global to design and pilot a new app called Explore150. Now I certainly didn’t design the app but I have been involved a little along the way to provide feedback and spread the word of its existence. Last month the app launched and I encourage all of you to take a look at it and spread the word too – afterall, that’s what social media does best. It has great graphics that take you all over Canada where you can learn about important sites that help define who we are as Canadians. The great thing about this  app is that it was designed by youth for youth! There’s also a website where you can vote for your favourite sites in Canada.

The app was started because Canada’s 150th birthday is coming up in 2017. It gives kids a chance to learn about Canada and its diversity. Perhaps Abra Rissi, the co-ordinator for Taking It Global says it best.

 …locations vary from historic sites and museums to national parks and community markets. When an Explore150 user visits a location on the app, they are encouraged to check-in to access the peer-generated content on that site. Once checked-in, the user can retrieve information on the site left by their peers and contribute photos or written reflection about their experience at the location. Completing these tasks at Explore150 locations lets users earn points and compete for prizes.

Explore150 users are encouraged to discover new parts of Canada by visiting sites in their community, and can access other parts of Canada by participating dynamically from the comfort of their own home.Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 12.03.41 PM

The app can be downloaded at http://www.explore150.ca

Midway – More than a Movie

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bird iiiChris Jordan is a photographer based out of Seattle but you’d never know it because he has spent so much of his time on the tiny island of Midway the last couple of years. In a previous post I mentioned how connections grow and build so much over time as people who care about similar things come across each other and they put you on to other people interested in the same things and so and so on and before you know it you’ve grown this huge community of people who become resources, supporters and inspirations.  Chris Jordan is one of my greatest inspirations. I first heard his name from Taino Uitto who was featured in my film Forever Plastic.  Chris had all these really powerful images of albatrosses from Midway Island that revealed the plastic contents of their stomaches which mothers feed their babies or adults ingest because they are colourful and look like something to eat.  There’s a huge image of one of these photos at Telus World of Science in Vancouver.

Midway was given its name because it’s midway between Asia and North America. It’s also the home to hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and so many different species of marine and bird life. It’s also close to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all the debris that sits in the ocean gyres in the Pacific Ocean. Chris travelled to Midway a few times each year and documented the troubles of the albatross in the form of thousands of pictures. He would often do really short videos of the birds and post them on his website. To say that these images are breathtaking would be such an understatement. They make the hairs on the back of your neck go up!

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When I visited Chris over a year ago he had another visitor in his studio besides me. It was Sabine Emilliani. So maybe you’ve never heard her name before but I’ll bet you’ve heard of the movie March of the Penguins. Well, she was the editor for that film and it won an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 2005! Anyway, her and Chris were considering co-directing a film about the albatrosses of Midway and using the thousands of images and film footage he had gathered to make a film – and that’s exactly what they did. The film premiered at TIFFS (the Toronto International Film Festival) in September – WOW!   Just listening to Chris is inspiring – seeing his photos puts inspiration on a completely different planet. Watch this interview of Chris and Sabine and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. 

What Chris is really good at, besides taking photos, is telling a story. He uses his images to tell a story. He’s  given me advice that has helped me become a better filmmaker and I will always have his suggestions in the back of my mind when I make future films. My dream is to travel to Midway and practice what I’ve learned from him.

Midway the movie has a deeper meaning than the name of an island – and that’s because of Chris. It represents the in between place - between where we are and where we hope to be. Where the environment is concerned, Sabine sums it up well when she says,  it’s up to us to have a good ending or not.  And that good ending applies not just to the albatross but to the environment and to us.

Watch the trailer for Midway, the movie.bird 2

The Jellyfish Project

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jellyfish blackIn response to an article about my work in the Vancouver Sun, a woman from the David Suzuki Foundation emailed me about the work of some musicians bringing attention to the plight of our oceans. Their website explains best what they do.

The Jellyfish Project is an educational initiative focused on generating awareness among youth about the declining health of our world’s oceans and our environment at large. Through the power of music and live performance, students are engaged into the environmental conversation and are given information on how to become active participants in the sustainability movement.

These guys are perfect examples of caring about what you know about. They talk about having grown up near the ocean and spending their childhoods in and around the water.  It’s because of those experiences that they now want to protect something that gave them so much enjoyment and as a result they now have a huge appreciation for oceans and marine life.

Everyone can find their passion, at any age. Sometimes those passions are obvious, other times, well – not so much. The only requirement is that you have to be willing to look for them. If you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking and remember “if you are passionate about it, pursue it, no matter what anyone else thinks.  That’s how dreams are achieved.”

If you want to learn more about the Jellyfish Project click here.

Wordsmith

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Wordsmith

My friend Richard Louv loves to write. At least I think he must love it because he writes – a lot – and for a lot of different organizations and publications. I really admire the fact that he has this amazing ability to tell stories, he is gifted at using words and he can paint a picture of images and ideas he wants to share by using language. In one of his latest articles he talks about how to use technology while in nature – what a great idea! He talks about how children today can develop what he calls ‘hybrid minds’. “That means maximizing the benefits of electronics (at an appropriate age) while nurturing the full use of the senses through frequent experiences in the natural world.” There are ways to use technology to our advantage outdoors. Take a photo of an animal in its habitat then go home and draw it or paint it. Collect data from outside on your favourite birds maybe and then be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count in Canada and enter your findings on-line to help keep track of all the species in your area. Document changes in your local environment with a digital camera to help educate others about important conservation issues. Rich says, it’s all in the way we use technology; it’s about our choices. If you want to read more about what this article is saying, just click here. And here’s another short article that might get you thinking. It’s called Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Progress. He writes about the possibility of this being a especially creative time in history because of the environmental issues we are faced with – what do YOU think?