30 December 2012

Unwelcome Find

Invasive English laurel
Not all of my discoveries on nature walks have happy endings.

I've found plenty of cool things while on my walks. The evergreen huckleberry bush I blogged about recently is one example. I also found salal two years ago. However, last week, I came across two invasive species.

First, I found some ivy. Seven years ago, I removed a patch of ivy, but apparently, I left a piece because a new vine was starting to spread in the same place. I quickly pulled it up. A few days later, I found a plant I had never seen before. We checked with Sound Native Plants and the Washington Native Plant Society, and they informed us that it was an English laurel, which is starting to invade parts of Washington state. We'll be removing it.

It's always fun to find a native species, but finding an invasive species can turn a nature walk into a security patrol.

To learn more about plants native to Washington, visit the Washington Native Plant Society and Sound Native Plants. For information on removing ivy, visit Ivy Out.

28 December 2012

Traditions of the Tree

My family still has its Christmas tree--from each of the last six years.

In 2007, we started a new tradition of retiring our trees to the wooded area of my parents' property. This allows the trees to become part of the habitat, provide shelter for animals, and break down into the ground. (Currently, the trees from past years are serving as a trellis for blackberry vines.) Keeping the trees also lets them remain part of our lives.

Of course, not everyone has the space to provide permanent homes for their Christmas trees. However, disposing of them in a proper way is still important. (I cringe to see them tossed on the side of the road.) Fortunately, many local governments have options for recycling the trees.

In Washington state's Grays Harbor County, members of the Boy Scouts will collect and recycle the trees for free (donations are welcomed). For more information on this program, click here. Residents of Washington's King County can get information about their tree recycling program here. If you do not live in either of those counties, check the Web site of your county or city government to see if they have a program.

Recycling or reusing your tree is definitely one of the most important Christmas traditions.

22 December 2012

Branching Out

Out of one accident, much growth.

My parents have an evergreen huckleberry plant on their property. It is a native plant and was seeded in by a bird. After we identified it some years ago, it became one of my favorite things to visit when I come home.

During an ice storm last winter, tree limbs fell on the plant, breaking some of its branches. When I saw it, I nervously checked the damage. After examining it, I knew the huckleberry would be okay, and I saw an opportunity. My mom had always talked about getting a start from the plant and growing her own. I collected the broken branches, and she placed them in water. Some of the branches grew roots, and she placed them in dirt. Two of the plants survived.

The successful starts are one great outcome of the accidental pruning. Another occurred with the original plant. I just dropped by for a visit the other day, and the plant has almost completely replaced the broken branches with new growth. It looks more robust than ever.

I was sad when I initially saw the huckleberry plant in pieces, but that moment brought two new plants and a flourish of activity at the old one.

18 December 2012

Fledgling Birders

Nature or nurture? When it comes to our connection to nature, nurture helps.

I've probably always had an interest in birds. My family has recordings of my dad reading field guides to me when I was about four.

Still, bird-watching is something I've only recently taken up. In fact, I didn't really start to figure out just how much someone could do with bird-watching until a few years ago. Before then, I simply had not been made aware of that world. As I grew up, my family gave me plenty of chances to connect with nature. However, beyond our bird books, we didn't have a lot of access to bird-watching information.

That's why I think the latest offering from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is such a great thing. As explained in a blog post on Round Robin, the lab is working with the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to connect aspiring bird-watchers through the Young Birders Network.

The network gives students in high school a chance to start or join bird-watching clubs, share bird sightings, and learn about college and career opportunities related to birds. This is the kind of thing that gives wings to childhood interests.

For more information, visit the Young Birder Network on eBird.

16 December 2012

Seeing the Hermit

Sometimes, hermits come for a visit.

Each of the last few days, I've seen a thrush-like bird. It's brown and lacks any particularly obvious markings. Birds like that can be hard to tell apart. However, knowing it looked like a thrush helped.

I was pretty sure the bird was not a Swainson's thrush because I vaguely remembered that they leave during the winter. With that information in mind, I guessed the bird was a hermit thrush.

After checking All About Birds and WhatBird last night, I found that my memory was correct. Swainson's thrushes move south in the winter, and the hermit thrush is the only member of the thrush family that looks like the bird I saw and lives in the Pacific Northwest this time of year.

Last night's investigation left one thing to do: wait for the bird to come back so I could confirm the species. Sure enough, it came back today, and I was able to get pictures (not the one above) that provided enough evidence to show it was a hermit thrush.

It was exciting to realize I had accumulated enough birding knowledge to make such a guess about a rather plain bird. I'm glad it decided to stop by and give me a chance to get to know it.

09 December 2012

The Ranger's New House

Just like any other raccoon, the National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick is adaptable.

I grew up reading printed issues Ranger Rick magazine. They were a special part of my childhood and helped shape my connection to the environment. I remember loading my bookshelf with the old issues.

In the digital age, publishing has changed a lot, and the wily ranger is adjusting to those changes. The magazine has a digital version available for tablets through Barnes & Noble. And now, a new, interactive version is available for the iPad.

The interaction and reading takes place in Ranger Rick's tree house. Children can play games, earn badges, and learn about wildlife.

It's great to see one of my favorite raccoons settling in nicely to the 21st century. I know he'll be around to touch the lives of many more children.

03 December 2012

Going Nowhere

The "Forward" movement Barack Obama emphasized in his reelection campaign apparently comes from fossil fuels.

Continuing the trend he began in his first term, the president seems ready to ignore key environmental issues like global warming. In this article, TreeHugger reports that Obama has already declined an agreement with the European Union that would have required airlines based in the United States to pay a carbon fee. The article goes on to reveal that the administration is auctioning off to oil companies 20 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

Together, these decisions mean no movement on carbon emissions and a strengthening commitment to oil.

Just a month before the president's second term, two things shine crystal clear: Obama's way forward does not include the environment, and our way forward on the environment does not include him.

30 November 2012

Discover the Holidays

Experience gifts are best when nature is the experience.

When it comes to having a green holidays, I've already talked about finding gifts that connect children with nature and cutting back on consumption. The children's gifts include experience gifts, and you can give gifts that let adults experience nature too.

In Washington state, you can buy Discover Passes from the Department of Natural Resources. These passes give people vehicle access to state-managed recreation lands. In addition, the $35 for each pass help support the DNR's management of lands at a time when the state budget is stretched thin.

It's a win-win-win situation. People get to experience the beauties of Washington's nature, resources are conserved, and the DNR is supported. Those sound like great reasons for a happy holiday season.

For information about how to purchase a Discover Pass, click here.

27 November 2012

Wrapped up in a Coat

My Christmas wish list is usually more like a general need list.

Actually, this is kind of a family trait. We usually put on out lists things that we would ordinarily buy for ourselves but just happen to need around the holidays. Sometimes, if no pressing need arises, we will just ask for money.

That's why I liked this article from TreeHugger about Patagonia. Patagonia is a company that specializes in making outdoor clothing, and it does so while placing an emphasis on protecting the environment. It's an extraordinary company, and through its Common Threads Initiative, it is challenging people to buy only what they need and to try to repair what they have before replacing it.

As it turns out, what I need this year is a new coat. My last one finally gave out after nearly twelve years of constant wear (it even made two trips to Europe with me). When the need came up, I was glad to be already aware of Patagonia. I knew I wanted my next coat to be from an environmentally conscientious company, and I also knew it would be my Christmas present this year.

For more information about Patagonia, visit its Web site. Be sure to read about its environmental practices.

25 November 2012

Winter Garden

As part of Thanksgiving dinner, we had homegrown tomatoes. My mom had picked green tomatoes earlier in the fall and brought them inside to ripen.

Everyone was glad to have homegrown rather than store-bought tomatoes. However, at some point, the harvest, including cucumbers and potatoes, will run out and the store will become the sole source of vegetables.

Usually, during winter, we resign ourselves to the fact that the nearest produce is at the store. However, the Natural Resources Defense Council is providing tips to keep your vegetable production going during the colder months.

As part of its Smarter Living program, the NRDC gives these recommendations for growing vegetables inside. The tips include what to grow and where and how to grow it.

This is a great idea that helps keep fresh produce around throughout the year and gives us a little more power over where we get our food.

21 November 2012

A Wild Recreation Vehicle

Anyone who helps connect children to nature makes immeasurable contributions to both the environment and our youth, and a new partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the National Recreation and Park Association is helping clear the way for such connections.

The NWF and the NRPA are using the partnership to counter the trend of children not getting outside. They have set a goal of getting 10 million kids outside in the next three years and are challenging parks and recreation professionals and organizations that serve children to assist in the effort.

If you are in a position to help and would like to participate in the program, click here.

16 November 2012

Giving Nature

When I think of holiday gifts, I think of presents under the tree and people gathering inside to unwrap them. However, even though they are given deep in the winter months, holiday presents can connect us to the outdoors.

Within the last week, two sites have shared suggestions for gift ideas that can get children outside and experiencing nature.

Go Explore Nature provides these ideas for nature experiences in the backyard. As a bird-watcher, the binoculars and the field guides stand out for me. In fact, I remember how much I used to love using binoculars.

Also, as part of its Be Out There campaign, the National Wildlife Federation makes these recommendations for gifts. Topping my list from these options would the be the "owl puke" and the outdoor adventure. I used to love seeing owl pellets taken apart. The contents always fascinated me.

12 November 2012

What a Waste

Electronic waste (e-waste) is a growing global problem because of the increasing prevalence of electronic devices and the speed at which new electronics are produced and consumed.

However, we tend not to see the effects of e-waste because, like much of our trash, it is shipped away from us. Terra Blight, a new documentary hopes to shed light on the human and environmental impacts of electronics. Check out the trailer below:

This makes me very happy I decided to improve my computer rather than get a new one. It also makes me thankful for Web sites that help people fix their devices.

You can watch Terra Blight on YouTube or iTunes.

10 November 2012

Getting to the Line First

The United States just completed its latest election cycle, and the country has some excitement over the progress that might be made in the coming years. However, four years ago, we had even more excitement, and environmentally, it got us very little.

During the last four years, few elected officials have prioritized environment issues, and President Barack Obama has declined to throw the weight of the White House behind issues like carbon emissions, often maintaining a silence about global warming.

After seeing this unfold since 2008, I did not share in the excitement from four days ago. However, I like what the group 350.org is planning to do.

The group has decided to bring its protest of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline back to Washington, DC, on November 18. (I wrote about last year's protests here and here.) The 2011 protests were effective in delaying the pipeline, but the president will have to make a final decision soon. Rather than waiting to see if Obama will take a strong stand on the issue when his second term begins, 350.org is getting out in front and making sure the environment becomes a priority.

Go to the 350.org Web site by clicking here. To sign up to be part of the protest, click here.

07 November 2012

Raising the Bar

The trouble with bottled soap is that it comes in bottles, many of which have pumps that can't be recycled.

I can't remember when bottled soap took over my life, but within the last year, I have started making the move back to bar soap. Most of the plastic bottles can be recycled, but making and recycling them still requires resources and energy. Then, there are those pumps and bottle caps that can't be recycled. For these reasons, I began looking for ways to keep bottled soaps out of my life.

To work on eliminating the bottles, I turned to the W.S. Badger Company. I have been using Badger sunscreen and lip balm for two years, and I really like them, so when the company reintroduced its line of soaps, I thought about buying some. However, I waited until my hand soap bottle neared its end and then asked Badger if its body soaps could be used as hand soaps. The representative said the soap made a good hand soap as long as it was placed on a dish that drained (when the soap sits in water it loses its firmness).

I bought the unscented Badger soap and began using it two months ago. It cleans hands well and is gentler on them than the bottled soap I had been using. Also, although it is officially unscented, it does have a bit of that bar soap smell. When I caught a little of that scent, it reminded me how much I liked the smell of bar soap, and by doing so, it brought back some memories.

So far, the experiment with bar soap has been a success. In the future, I may choose to replace my body wash with Badger soap as well.

You can check out the Badger Web site by clicking here. Many of the company's products are certified organic, and Badger does not test its products on animals.

02 November 2012

Wild at Heart

I grew up in one of the coolest regions of the world, right on the doorstep of the Olympic Mountains in Washington state. As a result, I am more accustomed to seeing wild lands around me than buildings.

I'm pretty sure that most of the people who know me would say the natural setting fits me perfectly. The combination of freedom and nature resonates with me and shows the value in protecting the quality of life in the area.

For the last few years, the Wild Olympics Campaign has sought to further protections for the Olympic National Park. Additionally, the campaign has been building a community of people who want to share the experience the park has to offer. This week, Wild Olympics released a video about its work. Check it out below:

Wild Olympics for Our Future from Wild Olympics on Vimeo.

The Wild Olympics Campaign is a great effort to connect people with each other and the environment. At its heart is the idea of maintaining the wild spirit that defines the Pacific Northwest and the inhabitants of the region. For more information on the campaign, click here.

27 October 2012

New School of Thought

On a daily basis, we are being challenged to think in more global terms, and I believe this challenge of the globalized world has us on our way to rethinking environmental problems.

At first, looking at the many issues we face as a global society and the various interconnected elements of each problem can be demoralizing. However, support can also be globalized and connected more closely. That means, we have more of chance to create the kind of world we want.

As the National Wildlife Federation reports, many college students are waking up and responding to their institutions' investments in fossil fuels. Check out the full story by clicking here.

These students have led movements to divest the colleges and universities from companies like Exxon Mobil. By doing so, they have asked the institutions to live up to the ideals of their mission statements.

This is a great example of the power connected people can have in shaping their world.

25 October 2012

Make it Happen

I really do consider Halloween my holiday, meaning it's my favorite and the one that best fits me. However, when I started seeing decorations come out at the beginning of October, it troubled me a little.

As much as I love Halloween, a whole month of celebrating it seems like a lot. On top of that, I really don't care for the big displays that some people put up. Despite their exuberant celebration of the holiday, the displays have never quite spoken to me.

In contrast, the do-it-yourself decoration tips I found on TreeHugger this morning captured my attention. As I looked through the ideas, memories flooded back to me, creating a closer connection to my Halloween than any of the many manufactured decorations I have seen recently.

I even remembered making faces out of apples in third grade. Also, it occurred to me that the costume I wore most in my life was a black cat outfit my mom sewed for me. It was warm and well-made, and I used it for years.

Above all, the Halloween things that mean the most to me are the experiences and creations that my family and I made. That's what I really mean when I say Halloween is my holiday.

It just feels better when I have ownership over my experiences rather than turning them over to someone else's manufacturing processes.

17 October 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere

It is true that we receive a lot of things, including our lives, from water. However, our relationship with it is even more complex and precious.

Our reliance on water is one of the most important ways our actions related to the environment come back to us. We are largely water, so whatever we put into our water eventually becomes part of us. For these reasons, I want to acknowledge that tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

After nearly a half of a century, even the most important legislation can be taken for granted, but water is so crucial to our lives, we can't afford to forget the value of the CWA. The act was passed just three years after the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire because of the pollution it contained. Since that time, we have made improvements in our management of water pollution, but we have also created new threats, and many waterways continue to struggle.

Remembering our connection to water is a key step in maintaining high water-quality standards and pollution regulation.

15 October 2012

The Time of My Life

The fall weather is here, the colors of the leaves are gorgeous, and the nights are coming earlier. All that remains to top off the season is for Halloween to come.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I've always found a special energy in it, and not all of that energy is related to candy. For example, my mom says I took the idea of becoming something else for Halloween literally. I'm usually very reserved, but around Halloween, I became so excited, I was like some other person.

Even now, I get a little extra burst of excitement as October 31 approaches and the memories of past Halloweens spring back to life.

I really started to get in the Halloween mood when I checked out the Go Explore Nature site a few days ago, so I thought I would share the tips I saw there for making Halloween great. Hopefully, they help you and/or your children make some of the special memories I had a chance to create when I was young.

For tips on exploring pumpkin patches, click here, and for some nature-related Halloween fun, click here.

12 October 2012

Song Sung Green

Alison Sudol, aka A Fine Frenzy
I've been in a music-buying mood for the last few weeks, but I was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted to buy.

I thought about getting something from an old favorite but decided I was in the mood for something new. I had my eye on some new albums, but couldn't pull the trigger for some reason. After a while, I realized I wanted to find some music from an artist who supports environmental issues. However, I couldn't find anything that I really liked.

Everything changed on Tuesday night. I went to iTunes looking for a movie but got sidetracked when I saw a promotion for something called A Fine Frenzy. For some reason, the name intrigued me, so I clicked on the information and discovered what I had been looking for all along.

A Fine Frenzy is actually the stage name of musician Alison Sudol, who just happens to be from Seattle. I listened to some of her songs and liked what I heard, so I bought one of her albums. Then, I bought another last night.

Sudol produces some awesome music, and one of the best parts about it is its references to nature. Those references give it a rooted quality. In addition, they represent more than just a portion of Sudol's lyrics. The environment is a key issue for her, and she serves as a goodwill ambassador for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

You can check out the Web site for A Fine Frenzy by clicking here.

09 October 2012

You Name It

Turning away from a discussion about language and the environment is always difficult for me, but if the conversation also includes talk about fall, I would have no chance of resisting it.

For example, I'm already enjoying the sights, feels, and smells of fall, but when I saw this article from the Mother Nature Network, it pretty much enchanted me. The article looks at the linguistic history that explains why we call this third season of the year either fall or autumn. It is one those little bits of trivia that is not so trivial, especially for a lover of fall, language, and the environment.

Interestingly, as the article shows, the development of language about nature is dependent on our connection with the environment. That's exciting stuff.

To conclude, I should mention that I think autumn is a cooler word but that I usually use fall.

Happy fall.

06 October 2012

Last Stop

After making my last post about how Finland plans to stop using coal by 2025, I found the following article from the National Wildlife Federation quite a contrast.

The article talks about how coal companies in the United States are looking for ways to ship coal to Asia. I had known about this for some time because the primary train routes chosen by those companies go through the Pacific Northwest. Although I'm glad that my region has stood up to the health and environmental threat this plan represents, it is discouraging to see that the coal companies are finding routes through places that are more willing to take on these risks.

Interestingly, as Finland strategizes on how to do away with coal and replace it with renewable energy, the United States looks for ways to keep spreading the impact of coal. Continuing to use coal keeps us from taking important steps to improving our lives, our society, and our environment, and giving coal a wider footprint by shipping it around the world only makes the situation worse.

One has to wonder if we intend to ever move from the old approaches that have depleted resources and damaged our environment.

03 October 2012

Coal is Finnish-ed

As some of you may know, I am quite proud of my Finnish heritage. The great thing is that the Finns keep giving me more reasons to feel that pride.

Finland has the world's best education system. It gives its people quality healthcare. In addition, it has some of the lowest levels of political corruption and some of the highest levels of business competition and innovation.

Yesterday, I found out that Finns are taking yet another step in leading the world. In this news article, it is reported that Finland will stop using coal for energy by 2025. In doing so, it will likely become the first European country to kick the coal habit. What is more, Finns will replace the coal-generated energy with power produced by renewable sources.

I'm very glad to see Finland making this commitment. Hyvä.

01 October 2012

Know Your Bug

Identifying insects and arachnids may seem difficult or even uninteresting. In fact, it is often the case that the only time we want to know what these creatures are is when they cause trouble for us.

Still, insects and arachnids are a major part of our world, and they really are quite interesting. If you think about it, of all the wild things around us, they probably spend more time with us than any other. In fact, that fear other creatures have of us doesn't seem to influence them much. That's kind of a cool thing.

With that in mind, maybe we should take a little more time to get to know these prevalent companions. BugGuide is a Web site that helps identify bugs. The site includes a ready-to-use guide and also allows you to submit pictures if you can't ID the creature on your own. Once you upload the pictures, the online community helps determine what kind of crawly thing you have encountered.

Additionally, as you share photos, you contribute to citizen science by helping track encounters with insects and arachnids.

To visit BugGuide, click here.

29 September 2012

This Way to the Garden

With fall starting to make its presence felt, it might seem like an odd time to discuss gardening. However, I want to share a Web site that puts gardening at the center of life regardless of the season.

A Way to Garden is a blog from Margaret Roach, who provides tips on gardening, cooking, canning, and other issues related to home and food.

Lately, she has been talking about how to deal with the onset of fall. She had an interesting take on it, suggesting that this is when she makes her gardening resolutions for next year.

Above all, the site serves a great guide for how to put the power of the garden to work for you. Check it out by clicking here.

27 September 2012

Air Apparent

My sister and her husband have been revamping their house. This effort includes the installation of solar panels and the use of plants to improve the inside air quality.

She found the idea of employing plants as air cleaners in an article from the Mother Nature Network. The fifteen plants on the article's list help remove chemicals and other particles that impede breathing and make our homes less healthy. In addition, the article gives tips on how to care for the plants.

According to my sister, the difference made by the plants was noticeable almost immediately. Her allergies are not as bad, and it is easier for her to breathe.

24 September 2012

Environmental Communication Technology

In my last entry, I talked about breaking down barriers and embracing new approaches to addressing environmental issues. Today, I want to talk about how new forms of communication can help with this.

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you might have noticed that I recently added another blog to my blog list. That blog is The Net Naturalist, which you can access through the blog list or by clicking here. It is run by Danielle Brigida, who coordinates social media for the National Wildlife Federation. Brigida uses the blog to highlight new social media and nature-related apps along with tips for using these technologies to connect with nature and promote environmental issues.

The following video explains how Brigida is also using social media to help transform the NWF:

As a longtime follower of the NWF and someone who is interested in communication, I like that the organization is branching out to form new relationships. These connections will likely help the NWF achieve its goals and contribute to a healthier planet.

22 September 2012

The Center of it All

It's funny how a certain idea or topic will pop up in a number of places all around the same time.

Taylor's checkerspot
The idea I've been running into a lot in the last couple of days is that solving our problems requires people from seemingly different walks of life and perspectives coming together.

On Thursday night's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Bill Clinton talked about how his Clinton Global Initiative focuses on finding solutions by identifying the different strengths people have and putting them in the same room. Many of these solutions revolve around environmental issues.

Then, this morning, I read an article from the National Wildlife Federation about programs that unite conservation groups, communities, and local farms. These programs emphasize both conservation and local buying and commerce. By working together, people address many problems and strengthen the health of their communities and local environment.

Oregon spotted frog
Finally, tonight, I came across a Huffington Post article about prison inmates in Washington state helping endangered species. The story would be great even if it only involved the inmates and the endangered species, including the Taylor's checkerspot and the Oregon spotted frog. However, it's so much more than that. It involves the military, some institutions of higher learning, the Oregon Zoo, nonprofit groups, the National Science Foundation, and many agencies, and they are all working together to address species' population declines.

These are the kinds of things that we are capable of if we look past our self-imposed limitations and barriers. They make for a better world and stronger communities, and at the heart of it all, we find a stronger commitment to the environment.

19 September 2012

It's Mine

As promised way back in June, I am going to share the experience I had upgrading my computer.

First, to give you a little background information, I purchased my Macbook laptop four years ago from Apple. However, it was not new when I got it. Instead, Apple had refurbished it (Apple sells refurbished computers at discounted prices on its online store). Along with saving me some money, buying a refurbished computer meant that I was essentially reusing something that already existed.

The computer has served me well from the beginning, but within six months, I began to make some changes. First, I added more memory, which I purchased from a great company called Other World Computing. Memory improves a computer's performance, and OWC sells memory that meets or exceeds Apple's standards for considerably less than Apple sells its memory. I also bought an external hard drive from OWC, giving me a reliable place to back up my information.

For the next few years, I didn't make many changes to the computer. Then, this spring, I had to buy a replacement for my power adapter. I got a used one in good condition from OWC for considerably less than the ones Apple was selling.

The next decision I made about the computer was a pivotal one. At almost four years old, the computer's software was a bit out-of-date, and I was getting low on hard drive space, so I realized I would soon have to either get something new or update what I had. I decided on the latter option.

Upgrading the computer involved getting a new hard drive (actually a solid state drive) from OWC and a new operating system plus additional software. I also decided to invest in protecting the hardware with a keyboard cover, screen protector (both from OWC), and a shell case for the exterior. (Since I was making a commitment to keep my computer around for a while, I figured I should protect it as best I could.)

All the updates were successful (it was actually pretty easy), and my computer is running faster than it ever did. Also, with the help of a kit I got from OWC when I ordered the solid state drive, I was able to turn my old hard drive into another backup device.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I found out I needed to replace the computer's battery. Again, I turned to OWC for a less expensive, more powerful version of what Apple was selling.

Importantly, I feel like my computer is truly my own now. I was able to participate in the creation process that made it what it is today (it's probably as much an OWC computer as it is an Apple). Above all, I was able to get what amounted to a new computer without discarding my old one. This helps conserve resources, making me even happier and more proud about my upgrade.

To check out what is available at OWC (they also have equipment for PCs), click here. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, receiving an A+ ranking. Also, it offsets all its carbon emissions and makes its solid state drives in the United States, further cutting down on the carbon footprint when it ships to customers in the US.

17 September 2012

Hot Talk

The election season is heating up, and the weather has been scorching all year, so it is strange that our elected officials seem so cold to the idea of talking about global warming.

News about record heat and heat-related disasters continues to mount. Last week, MSNBC reported that as of the end of August, 2012 is the hottest year in the history of the United States. Today, USA Today published an article saying this summer was the third warmest summer on record in world history. Then, there is the following video, which shows the record amount of ice melting that occurred in the Arctic this year:

Additionally, in my corner of the world, the Pacific Northwest is beginning to experience the kind of drought conditions that have occurred across the country. Washington state and Oregon are both fighting many forest fires, and I spent last week breathing the smoke from those fires.

Despite all these events, global warming doesn't seem to be a very hot topic of discussion among politicians. In response, I would like to encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and ask them to talk about global warming and how we should address it.

10 September 2012

It's Gone

Last month, I spent some time talking about bicycles and our communities here and here. Today, TreeHugger ran an article on similar topics.

The part of the article that stood out the most for me was the following video about how people, including police, hardly bat an eyelash at someone stealing a bike:

Some of the pieces of the video would be funny if they weren't so sad. What struck me was that we can lose pride in our communities to the point where we won't even say a word when we see them filled with wrongdoing.

I am becoming convinced that with every bike that rolls away in the wrong hands, we have a little of our own sanctity stolen as well.

04 September 2012

Nose News is Good News

There are good stories, and there are great stories. Yesterday, The New York Times published an article I can't help but love.

The story tells of Tucker, a dog whose nose is being used to help research and protect orcas off the coast of Washington state. Amazingly, Tucker can smell orca scat in the water. This allows researchers to find the scat and use it to evaluate the whales' health.

That's pretty cool, but the story gets even better because before he landed his scent-tracking job, Tucker was a stray in Seattle. He was adopted by Conservation Canines, an organization that gets unwanted dogs with good noses and employs them in wildlife research.

I love everything about this story and just had to share it.

For more information about Conservation Canines, click here.

02 September 2012

This New House

I'm not really much for plugging housing developments. The truth is that each time I see a new one, I get a little sad. I hate seeing natural spaces bulldozed and built and paved over.

With that perspective in mind, I will share some information my sister sent me. It concerns a community called the Garden Atriums. You can visit the community's Web site by clicking here.

From what I can tell, Garden Atriums is a gated community (not my favorite kind). However, it is based on some interesting principles that I think could be good, especially if applied in other areas.

First, Garden Atriums has a community garden, which brings food production close to home and gives the community a central space that will hopefully make for stronger connections between residents. Also, its homes feature less lawn space, decreasing the need for water, fertilizer, and mowing.

Another interesting idea is the use of atriums with plants at the center of the houses. This provides some innovative ways of creating climate control and challenges the barriers that traditionally separate human dwellings from nature. Additionally, the houses generate the power they need with solar energy.

I like that Garden Atriums seems to take sustainability seriously, but I would like to see someone try to incorporate the ideas from this community in one that already exists. If renovation and rejuvenation projects borrow from Garden Atrium's inspiration, the need for brand new developments will hopefully decrease.

27 August 2012

My Souvenirs

I had intended to wrap up my Finland posts earlier this month, but I keep finding new things about it to discuss. Today's entry was inspired by a post from Go Explore Nature.

In its post, Go Explore Nature talks about the idea of collecting moments, not things. As I thought about it, I realized that the idea almost perfectly expressed my experience of Finland.

The only "thing" I bought on the entire trip was an electrical adapter. However, I brought back so much more. I took more than 1,500 photos (I've included two more from Repovesi National Park in this post); I kept a journal with detailed descriptions of each day; I added about 90 names to my family tree; I soaked up Helsinki, my favorite city in the world; I made nature a central focus of the trip; and I got to spend a third of the time with my wonderful Finnish relatives, who epitomized hospitality and introduced me to new things like snorkeling and orienteering. In addition, I shared the whole thing with my mom.

While I was experiencing the trip and then when I was looking back on it, the word full kept coming to mind. I know I got about as much out of the trip as I possibly could. It was completely satisfying, and I didn't need to buy one thing there to have that feeling. Instead, I took in as much as I could at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the connections to nature and family. It was a complete experience, and it even surpassed the fun of my earlier trip to Finland, during which I actually did buy souvenirs.

The Finland trip of 2012 was my life's greatest experience to this point, and by making it about moments, not things, I captured that feeling to hold through the life chapters yet to come.

Finally, I would just like to say that I cannot thank my mom and my Finnish family enough. Without them, this amazing experience would not have happened. I love them; I love Finland; I love nature; and in the end, I think my experience of this trip was really about all that love coming together.

25 August 2012

For Neil

Tonight, as I was on a photography walk, I saw the moon and thought it might be appropriate to take a picture of it on the night of Neil Armstrong's death.

I wasn't alive for Armstrong's walk on the moon, but I felt his loss today nonetheless. On one level, I sensed the passing of a momentous time in history. On another level, I realized Armstrong's importance to environmentalism. The moon missions gave us a new perspective on our world, and in doing so, they added momentum to the early days of the modern environmental movement.

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for helping change the way we view our planet.

24 August 2012

Our Communities, Our Lives

In my last post, I talked about how Turku, Finland, had created a community where bicyclists felt comfortable leaving their bikes unchained, and that entry got me thinking a little more about what the city had done.

Essentially, Turku made it easy for people to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation. In other words, bicycling was a valued priority. Another priority was an emphasis on outdoor activity in general. Aurajoki, a key river of the Turku area, flows through the city and has been turned into the center point for walking and bicycling. Well-maintained paths line both sides of the river, and they are used frequently. Check out the photos below:

My guess is that these paths are used for cross-country skiing and other snow-related activities in the winter.

Overall, Turku has committed to and created a safe, healthy, and environment-connected community for its residents. Clearly, their design for the area intentionally focused on these concerns, and once the heart of the design was identified, they set about making it a reality.

The message is that environmental efforts are about our desires for a high quality of life and a healthy environment. If think those things are indeed priorities, we have to make them happen.

17 August 2012

Bike Ownership

A bicyclist from Portland, Ore., is finding some YouTube fame for tracking down his stolen bike and helping police arrest the alleged thief. Check out the news article.

This story interests me for two reasons. First, it reminds me of my trip to Finland. While in Turku, the country's fifth largest city (178,784 people as of 31 January 2012), I was impressed with the number of bikes in use (even on really rainy days) and that very few people locked up their bikes. I only remember seeing one bike chained to something. The rest of the parked bikes, as you can tell from the pictures below, were simply left with the belief that they would be there when the owners returned.

When I saw these bikes in Finland, I thought about how different it was for bicyclists in the United States, and I realized that the Finns truly had ownership over their community. They had created and maintained a situation where they could feel safe and connected enough to trust people.

That brings up the second reason Oregon's YouTube bike saga interests me. The man whose bike was stolen expresses a strong sense of ownership of the bike, and it is clear he wants to fight for a community where that ownership is respected. US society may not yet have developed a culture in which a bicyclist can leave a bike unattended without worrying about it, but the more people show that we will not accept a culture where bike ownership is not respected, the closer we will be to enjoying the benefits of bicycling. Without question, that is the type of community we should all have.

14 August 2012

Look What We Found

Technology certainly creates some challenges for the environment. It often leads to new machines and devices that use up and level nature, and spending too much time with technology can keep us from connecting with the natural world.

However, technology can also benefit the environment. In the past, I have blogged about using smart phones and Web sites to connect with and help nature.

Now, TreeHugger reports a very cool story involving technology and the environment. To summarize, a picture on Flickr led to the discovery of a new species of insect. That's really awesome.

TreeHugger talks about how the story shows the increasing value of technology in things like citizen science. (Another example is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird project making its 100 millionth observation.) I think the insect story also provides proof of the power of people connecting around environmental topics. That connection can be aided by technology.

10 August 2012

Rethinking the Garden

Fertilizers and pesticides have become just another part of gardening, but such chemicals aren't always needed for a healthy, productive garden. In fact, more chemicals often hurt the health of your garden and you.

In the Pacific Northwest, King County and Thurston County in Washington state and Portland in Oregon have teamed up to make the Grow Smart, Grow Safe information guide to fertilizers and pesticides. The guide contains information on the chemicals in such products. It also offers alternative ideas for dealing with animals, insects, slugs and snails, weeds, and other things usually seen as problems for a garden.

Overall, Grow Smart, Grow Safe gives gardeners a little different way of looking at their gardens and the chemicals they might be putting into their plants. You can check out the guide by clicking here.

06 August 2012

Finnish VP

I'll end this series of entries on my Finland trip with a news story that is actually about the United States. However, since I saw the story in Finland and it probably received as much attention there as it did in the US, it still counts as part of my Finnish experience.

The news is that the US Green Party's vice presidential nominee will be a Finnish-American woman. Born into poverty in Minnesota, Cheri Honkala is an advocate for poor people's rights (she and Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein were just arrested for protesting housing foreclosures).

Honkala's ancestors immigrated to the US from Finland. You can read an English-language version of the news article about her nomination on Finnish news outlet Yle's Web site by clicking here.

As a fellow Finnish-American and an environmentalist, I find the news exciting.

04 August 2012

Making the Connection

When I was in Finland, I saw the following advertisement a number of times. It's actually not focused on Finland, but since I saw it there, I am including it in the blogs about my trip.

The ad comes from the World Wildlife Fund, and I think it's really cool. It focuses on the relationship between humans and nature, emphasizing what we have in common. Also, it is simple and to the point but emotionally powerful.

Check it out:

02 August 2012

See Ice Melt

In July, record ice melt was recorded in Greenland. High levels of melting occurred at two different times during the month (click here for details).

As it turned out, my mom and I were flying over and taking pictures of Greenland during the second big melt. We were returning from Finland and got some photos of icebergs breaking away from and melting ice pooling up on Greenland's glaciers.

I was glad to get the pictures because with melting events like those experienced last month, I'm not sure how much longer such pictures will be possible.

Here is a picture of some icebergs heading out to sea from the east coast of Greenland:

This is a picture of some of the meltwater pooling up in the middle of the country's southern region:

30 July 2012

Finnish Design and the Environment

Finns take design seriously (check out their bridges and the glass from Iittala), and they have a knack for creating things that are both functional and cool to look at.

A Finnish company called Think Today takes design even further by focusing on the use of scrap and recycled materials. My mom saw some of its products in a gift shop at the railway station in Helsinki.

The company makes things such as handbags, place mats, mouse pads, coat racks, coasters, and clocks out of scrap materials like wallpaper, laminate, and ceramic tiles. Using the materials helps make sure less is wasted. The cool design (often with a nature theme) of the products makes them a great example of upcycling.

You can check out the English version of Think Today's Web site by clicking here.

29 July 2012

The Art of Nature in Finland

Nature has a strong influence on Finnish life, including the country's art.

Jean Sibelius, Finland's famous composer, took much inspiration from nature, and a lot of the art from the country is based on environmental themes and images.

When I was in Turku at the Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova Museum, I saw an exhibit by Finnish artist Kaisu Koivisto. Koivisto uses many different types of art, including photographs, sculptures, and video. The exhibit, titled Loud Silence, included photographs of Soviet Cold War buildings and missile sites that are being overgrown by nature.

Another piece, called The Absorption of Pollution, is made of cow horns. The piece is moved to different places around the world, sits outside, and collects pollution from those areas. It changes as more pollution is collected.

Reintroducing the Species is a part of the exhibit that focuses on the idea of bringing cows back to Staten Island, where they could be found on farms several decades ago. Koivisto made cows out of blankets, placed them around the area, and took photographs of them.

Koivisto also keeps nature in mind when creating her art. She reuses (upcycles) old materials to make her pieces. To see and learn more about her work, check out her Web site.

28 July 2012

Finns and Photography

While in Finland, I took a lot of pictures and found some Finns who also like to take photos.

Pirjo Natunen lives in Lapland, Finland's far north, and her photographs often focus on nature. She even has some great shots of the Northern Lights. Check out her Web site by clicking here.

Greger Grönroos photographs a variety of subjects, including nature. It was fun to walk around Porvoo with him, snap pictures, and talk photography. You can see his pictures on Flickr by clicking here.

27 July 2012

Finn Focus

I just returned from a visit to Finland, so my next blog entries will focus on that trip. It is great because I get to talk a little more about the Finn part of envirofinn.

Finland gives many chances to go outside and experience nature, and I tried to take as many of those opportunities as I could. I had a great time everywhere I went.

Here is a picture of a lake in Repovesi National Park. I really liked the walk around the park. The sights are similar to those in the Pacific Northwest.

This is a picture of a field near Turku, Finland's former capital. The yellow and the green were pretty together.

Finally, this picture shows the coastline of the Gulf of Finland near Kotka in the country's southeastern region. (Thanks to my cousin for showing the place to me.)

There is more to come, so stay tuned.

26 July 2012

Under the Sea

Most of the photography I've blogged about happens on land, but above the water is not the only place to take pictures.

My sister sent me a link to a Web site from underwater photographer Chris Gug, and I was impressed with the images, so I thought I would share the site. To see Gug's photos, click here.

03 July 2012

Beach Meet

For those who are lucky enough to live near it, Puget Sound provides a great place to learn about nature.

This summer, the South Sound Estuary Association is giving people who live around or will be visiting Puget Sound the chance to learn about the sound from trained guides. At various "Meet Us on the Beach" events, beach naturalists will be available to answer questions about the sound and the species that live there.

The events have already begun and will run through August 28. For more information on the schedule of events, click here.

30 June 2012

Online Garden Party

Spending time in the garden is much different and vastly preferable to being online. However, online resources can make for a better gardening experience.

Online communities have formed around the subject of gardening, and TreeHugger shares some of them here. These communities offer information and connections that help gardeners do what they love.

28 June 2012

App Reporting

One of the most disheartening experiences I have when I'm out in nature is finding a place where people have dumped their trash.

The dump sites ruin the land, break my connection with nature, and leave me feeling powerless. After all, the offenders get away, and the number of dump sites is increasing.

However, technology might be providing a way to fight back. As TreeHugger reports, a new smart phone app allows people to report illegal dump sites. If tools like this are used successfully, I think they could help cut down on dumping by providing information to law enforcement and letting dumpers know they are being watched.

I also think the app can be a tool that empowers us to "build our environment," which is an idea I blogged about last week. For those of us who enjoy the outdoors, the environment is our community, and it would be great to take it back from those who are ruining it with their trash.

25 June 2012

Before, During, and After the Sunrise or Sunset

Today's entry is just to share some tips about how to take photographs of sunrises and sunsets. The tips come from the National Wildlife Federation and can be viewed by clicking here.

One of the key ideas I took from the tips was about having the patience to watch the sunrise or sunset develop. Sunrise or sunset is more than just a single moment. At any time before, during, or afterward, the changing light might reveal a unique image for the photographer to capture.

23 June 2012

Building Our Environment

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what it takes to have a healthy environment and strong communities.

I have realized that both require vision and focused efforts to see that vision come to life. Once the desired goal has been expressed, we must take ownership of its building and maintenance. In other words, if we want something to happen, we must make it happen.

This story from BirdNote provides a great example of what I mean. (When you check it out, you can also take a look around BirdNote's new Web site, which is fantastic.)

Of course, improving our environment and our communities means hard work, but if we really want to transform our relationships to each other and to nature, the work will be worth it.

For more ideas about communities and the environment, check out this blog from the Natural Resources Defense Council's Kaid Benfield.

21 June 2012

Etsy Bitsy

Online stores like Amazon.com have made buying mass-produced items from all over easy. However, an online market also exists for handmade, local products.

Etsy is one resource for local, handmade items. I first learned about it in a TreeHugger article on buying green products. Then, my sister shared with me some information about artwork she had purchased on Etsy. The art "upcycles" (adding value to by reusing in another way) dictionary pages by putting printed images over the top of them.

Last month, I used the site to buy a handmade, drainable soap dish that was made about an hour away from me.

It's good to see local people and small-scale production benefitting from the Internet.

14 June 2012

Storming Oil

Oil companies receive as much as $1 trillion per year in subsidies from countries around the world.

This is interesting for two reasons. First, oil companies have been making record profits. Second, it's pretty hard to end dependence on something while giving incentives for selling it.

However, on June 18, organizations like 350.org, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council will be leading a "Twitter storm" to call on countries to end fossil fuel subsidies. The storm will involve people around the world sending tweets against the subsidies. If you don't use Twitter or if you'd like to do something in addition to sending a tweet on June 18, you can sign 350.org's petition against fossil fuel subsidies.

For more information on the Twitter storm, click here.

10 June 2012

In for Repairs

One way to minimize the number of things you have to buy is to get the most out of what you already own, and one way to ensure your things get high mileage is to pick up the tricks for repairing them.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's journal, This Green Life, just released a helpful guide to becoming a repairperson for your own things. Included in the guide are shopping tips for finding durable goods, information on making repairs to a variety of products, and advice for how to decide whether to repair or replace. iFixit is one of the resources the journal article shares. It provides free manuals for repairing many different things.

I get excited about ideas like this because they focus on sustainability, help make the old new, and empower people. Empowerment against consumerism is a difficult thing to achieve, but this is a good start.

In the near future, I will begin a project to rejuvenate my computer.  I bought it as a refurbished model, and it is now more than four years old. Rather than get a new computer, I'd like to see how far I can go with this one, so I will be replacing the hard drive and updating the operating system. Hopefully, that will keep it kicking for a few more years. I'll have more about the project later as an example of getting the most out of products.

09 June 2012

Without a Trace

I've been blogging a lot about ideas for getting outside. In fact, as the National Wildlife Federation reports, today is National Get Outside Day, and this month is Great Outdoors Month.

Hopefully, you'll have an opportunity to celebrate with some outside time. If you do, please keep in mind one of the most important parts of being outdoors: minimizing your impact on nature.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics provides seven principles to help guide you to a fulfilling and environmentally friendly outdoor experience.

08 June 2012

Kids Camp

As the summer weather starts to arrive, more opportunities for camping become available. The National Wildlife Federation will be celebrating these chances for experiencing the outdoors with the Great American Backyard Campout on June 23.

The campout is about getting kids outside, and it embraces the idea that camping can happen almost anywhere, including the backyard. NWF has provided tips for how to get ready for a camping adventure. These suggestions include packing, safety, assembly, recipes, and activities.

For more resources about camping with children, visit Go Explore Nature, which recently reviewed a helpful book about camping and shared information about what it called "glamping," an easier form of camping.

05 June 2012

Beating the Heat

With summer coming, temperatures are on the rise, and that means paying more to stay cool.

However, we can do things that both keep us cooler and limit our energy costs over the hot summer. For some ideas, check out these suggestions from the Department of Energy's blog.

30 May 2012

Rapid Shots

I really enjoy photography, but getting great shots can be an addictive and difficult pursuit. It is especially hard when the subjects are as fast as hummingbirds.

However, the challenge of taking cool photos is probably a big part of what makes photography so enticing. To improve, a photographer must learn new tricks, and as those tactics are mastered, the development is right there to see.

For ways to make your hummingbird shots better, consider these tips from the National Wildlife Federation.

28 May 2012

Native Landscapes

Using native plants to landscape a yard brings many positive results. Native plants usually require fewer resources and less watering because they are adapted to the environment. They also attract birds and other species.

Sound Native Plants, a company I have blogged about before, has recently expanded its Web site to include information about creating landscapes that use native species instead of non-native ones.

The landscaping section of the site is still in its early stages, but it provides information about what native species can serve as alternatives to the non-natives and what species grow best in shade or sun.

26 May 2012

A Bug Life

One topic that has come up a number of times on this blog is the importance and value of getting outside. In fact, a recent entry talked about preparing summer outdoor activities for children.

Still, one thing about the outdoors many people dread is having to deal with what we typically call "bugs," especially the ones that bite and/or sting. To help with this concern, the National Wildlife Federation is providing some tips for interacting with bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and ticks.

The information is great for making outdoor experiences safer and for appreciating the role insects and other crawly things play. With this knowledge, we might be able to build a more positive relationship with these species and enjoy our nature outings a little more.

24 May 2012

Photo Positive

For those interested in adding a little something to their nature photographs, check out these tips from the National Wildlife Federation.

I found the ideas about getting "out of the middle" and taking control of the white balance very informative. They give me some things to try.

The tips come from photographer Rob Sheppard. To get some additional ideas, visit his Web site, Nature and Photography.

22 May 2012

That's the Idea

I really get excited by ideas, especially ideas that open new possibilities and improve our relationship with the environment.

That's why I perked up when I saw this article from TreeHugger. It shows how an old, 420-square-foot apartment can be renovated to maximize space and minimize environmental impact. These kinds of ideas introduce new (and, in some cases, old) ways of living that focus on what is truly needed. Also, for me, they spark additional ideas.

Not many things are quite as energizing as when people move away from talking about what can't be done and start discussing what is possible.

18 May 2012

Listen Up

In my last entry, I blogged that today is Endangered Species Day and said our ability to help stop extinction depends on changing how we interact with the environment.

With that in mind, I wanted to share this Alan Rabinowitz interview, which was done by TreeHugger. Rabinowitz is a zoologist who specializes in the study of wild cats, especially the big cats. He also heads Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization.

The interview is wonderful. Rabinowitz is clearly very smart, and his ideas have helped revolutionize conservation and how we think about the human-nature relationship. As you'll find out, he is also a great communicator, explaining environmental issues in clear and interesting ways. That makes the interview very instructive for both members of the general public and individuals who seek to communicate environmental messages.

If you're interested, Rabinowitz also has a book called Jaguar, which I read a few years ago and would highly recommend. It's an example of great storytelling about an environmental subject.

16 May 2012

Species Get Their Day

May 18 is Endangered Species Day, an attempt to draw attention to plants and animals faced with a very real possibility of extinction.

Extinction is an issue that brings our relationship with the environment right before our eyes. Protecting species means our view of the interaction we have with the natural world needs to go beyond attempts at saving animals and plants to the point that we look at the planetary impacts of our daily activities.

Endangered Species Day is an important reminder about both the rights of species to survive and how we see ourselves within a larger world. For more information about the day, including where to attend an event, click here. For some additional ideas about what to do to mark the occasion, visit this page from the National Wildlife Federation.

The picture for this post is of an Iberian lynx, a striking but highly endangered cat that is now found in the wild only in Spain.

15 May 2012

Doing Your Homework for Summer

As parents know, school will soon be out for the summer, leaving children with a lot more free time. However, the challenge of keeping kids busy during June, July, and August is a great opportunity for connecting them with the environment.

It's good to get a head start with your nature-related summer plans. That way, you won't be blindsided when the last day of school rolls around. Also, you'll probably end up enjoying the nature time a lot more if you're prepared.

The following resources might help you begin to lay out your bringing-kid-to-nature strategies. First, check out these tips from Go Explore Nature. The thoughtful ideas come from a mom who has been through this before. Second, look into this reading list from the National Wildlife Federation. Along with providing a reading activity, the books focus on nature, encouraging kids to get outside and connect with the environment.

10 May 2012

The Spring Classic

Major League Baseball's World Series is nicknamed the Fall Classic. Well, the Spring Classic might just be the World Series of Birding.

Since 1984, bird-watching teams having been showing up in New Jersey each spring to identify as many bird species as they can in 24 hours and raise funds for bird organizations.

This year, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has two teams, each competing in a different category. The Redheads will be made up of some of the lab's students while the Anti-Petrels will compete in the carbon-neutral category, in which participants can move location only by bicycling or walking.

For more information about the World Series of Birding, click here. To get an update on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's teams, go to this entry from Round Robin, the lab's blog.

This one's for all the marbled godwits (shorebird). Let's play ball.

08 May 2012

Gardening on the Wild Side

May is Garden for Wildlife Month, and according to Beautiful Wildlife Garden, "It starts with native plants."

The Web site describes the interconnectedness and the far-reaching impacts of our gardening choices. For some additional tips on how to garden for wildlife, check out this page from the National Wildlife Federation.

27 April 2012

Easy Out

If you're a parent, you may have heard about the push to provide children with more outdoor playtime. In short, the argument goes that having opportunities to play outside are an important part of children's health and development.

Still, one of the reasons children are spending less time outdoors is that our society is not exactly focused on what's outside. As a result, figuring out how to give your children good outdoor experiences can be difficult.

TreeHugger recently published some ideas intended to help parents get started introducing their children to nature. I really like the concept of the "hummingbird parent." Also, the suggestion for planting native species connects well with my previous post about Native Plant Appreciation Week, and a recent writing from Go Explore Nature adds more detail to how parents can share the experience of native plants with their children.

For those parents just starting out with outdoor experiences, I think the best thing to keep in mind is the first idea presented by TreeHugger. You don't have to jump right into major nature expeditions. Find something simple instead. This lets you get experience managing an outing, and it also increases the odds that you'll enjoy the time outside. Even "little" experiences with nature can be savored, and if you're not overwhelmed by the situation, you'll probably enjoy it a lot more.

25 April 2012

Washington Natives

April 29-May 5 has been set aside as Native Plant Appreciation Week in Washington state.

This is exciting because it draws attention to and celebrates the great diversity of plants in the state. People throughout Washington can attend events dedicated to native plants and learn about ways they can turn their gardens and landscapes into sanctuaries for these important species, some of which are declining because of habitat loss and other factors.

A major benefit of making native plants the focus of a garden is that they usually require fewer resources. Because they are native to the area, they know how to get by with what the environment provides them.

For more details on Native Plant Appreciation Week, check out the page the Washington Native Plant Society has made for it.

23 April 2012

Green Alert

In recent years, the threats facing frog species have been receiving more and more attention, and people have begun to take action. The action continues this year.

April 28 is the date for Save the Frogs Day 2012, the fourth annual event meant to draw attention and respond to declining frog populations.

For more information about Save the Frogs Day, click here. The National Wildlife Federation provides some additional tips for helping frogs here.

If you can, on Saturday, go out and find some frogs, say hello, and watch and listen to them. It's always a cool experience.