Monday, June 18, 2012

Eco Camp is Underway!

We're off and running! Well, not quite running but the Campus welcomed the summer's first group of Eco Campers bright and early this morning. Campers took turns introducing themselves and learning a little bit about one another. Barb read the story The Commons and Jim (Harvey) Chamberlin lead a tour of the gardens.
Chatting about the chickens
Garden Trek
A Visit to the "Hoop" House

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gearing Up For Eco Camps

This month HDT turns its focus to Environmental Stewardship. While most of the work we do centers around how we can be kinder to the planet, one of our programs stands out as the largest in that area. For the past 5 years, we have offered Eco Camps in the summer months to school age children. These camps are one-week day camps, held here on the HUG Campus. Camp sessions have been developed to instill in children and their families the value of environmental stewardship. We hope that each family that takes part in our camps will become more environmentally conscious, and take steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Eco Camp sessions are designed with all 3 of HDT’s focus areas in mind: environmental stewardship, energy conservation, and food and water security. We incorporate hands-on activities, experiments, demonstrations, games, role plays, literature, field trips, arts & crafts, and utilize our campus staff to share their expertise with the kids. Activities center around the 3 R’s, ecosystems, energy, food, resources, and sustainable choices. We include new activities each year to keep sessions “fresh” for our veteran campers.

I’ve been talking about camps for kids, but referring to the families that we reach through our Eco Camp program. We purposefully include the whole family in our program, rather than just focusing on entertaining the kids for a few hours each day. Parents are encouraged to pack waste-free, healthy lunches for their kids. The kids take home an Eco Footprint Quiz the first day and complete it together with their families to get an idea of where they stand as a household on the scale of sustainability. Families are invited to a Parent Show-Off at the end of each session, at which time the kids get to tour them around our campus, and show off all of the projects they’ve completed at camp. It’s a learning experience for the whole family!

Everything about our camp sessions is focused on being sustainable…even the snacks we provide. We utilize our garden on campus, and teach the kids about how to grow healthy food right in their own backyards. We do a garden scavenger hunt to teach the kids how to identify plants, and what companion planting is all about. We teach them about the benefits of composting, raising chickens, and eating local foods. They learn how to plant, tend, and harvest produce, as well as food preservation methods.

This year, we will be offering 5 sessions of camp throughout the summer. We are trying something new this year, and offering a pre-school session for kids who are 4 or 5 years old. We are also bringing back our session for middle schoolers entering 7th or 8th grade.

Information about Eco Camp sessions and registration forms are available for download on our website. Sessions are limited to 15 children per session, so register as soon as possible. Registrations must be in at least 2 weeks prior to each session. We hate to have to cancel sessions, but if we do not meet our minimum for a session, we will cancel 7 days prior to that session. We look forward to seeing a variety of familiar and new faces in the weeks to come!

Friday, April 27, 2012

HDT Hosts Exchange Group from Tasmania

Today Happy Dancing Turtle hosted five Rotarians from Tasmania this morning. The group is part of the Rotary Group Study Exchange. After coffee and mini muffins, they were treated to a tour of the HUG campus. 
The group is walking in between buildings in the brisk morning.
Here they are learning about the Passiv Haus Standard
Here they learn about the Passiv Haus Standard;
a measurement to describe how well a building can heat itself
Yesterday they were able to tour much of the lakes area, tasting local delicacies at Fancy Pants Chocolates in Downtown Brainerd, touring the Baxter city police hall, and talking with teachers at Garfield Elementary in Brainerd.
The Bemidji Pioneer has a great article on the team. 
For the past several days they've been touring northern MN, North Dakota, and parts of Canada. For more information on the team, you can view their website. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day 2012

Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day.

It's the day where some will plant a tree, take a hike in the woods, and little else. I think this is because there is a lack of definition in what Earth Day really means. Back in 1970, it was supposed to symbolize a  way to unite people into caring for the planet. However, back then, it wasn't even able to do that.

So, what does it mean today? What are you supposed to actually do on an Earth Day? I believe that it's necessary to, yes, make that token effort (ie, plant a tree), because that's what people will see and that's how people measure progress. However, it is much more important to open up dialogue with others about WHY you care about the planet. This dialogue will help other see the importance of sustainability.

Sustainability implies a long outlook; a perspective that takes into consideration more than your morning Facebook check or your daily lunch choice. With proper perspective, humankind will be able to "save the planet. However, If you listen to George Carlin, it doesn't make a difference what your long term outlook is because the Earth will be just fine. (Mind the is George Carlin, after all.) According to Mr. Carlin, it's not the Earth that needs saving, it's the people living on it that do!

And it's true. Planet Earth doesn't need humankind to survive. BUT, we need a healthy Planet Earth to survive.

That's why it's important to do the token gestures. If everyone starts doing them, they become a movement.  The Earth Day Network offers up these suggestions:

Volunteer. Go to a festival. Install solar panels on your roof. Organize an event in your community. Change a habit. Help launch a community garden. Communicate your priorities to your elected representatives. Do something nice for the Earth, have fun, meet new people, and make a difference.

These are just a few steps that will create awareness. Doing some of these things WILL make a difference to more and more people as we continue to demonstrate the WHY. Earth Day is about building awareness and we must take that long term perspective.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2nd Annual Dam Park Fish Fry Fundraiser!


Save the date! 

Fish will be larger than this little guy.

The 2nd Annual Dam Park Task Force Fish Fry will be taking place on Saturday, May 19th from 4-7pm at the Pine River American Legion.

Last year was busy. Buy your tickets early.

Tickets can be purchased at local (Pine River) businesses and the Pine River Information Center.

Here's the details!

Last year was a huge success, but the Dam Park still needs your help to get built. So, help out your community get the beach it needs and eat very well at the same time!

Bottled Water. Why?

This month we're highlighting the need for water conservation, so, I've been delving into many different water related facts. I've stumbled upon (not using stumble-upon, BTW) the HUGE use of bottled water in the USA. Apparently, America opens up one thousand (1000!) bottles of water every second. That adds up to a tune of 30 billion (with a B!) bottles of water used every year in just the Unites States alone.

There are more stats, but I won't bore you. The basic topic I propose to you today, in a world where water is so scarce, is why do we drink so much bottled water? At an enormous increase in cost to us, we have decided that bottled water is something that we need to buy. It is a necessity to us. 

Is it the taste?
Well, let's go back to the idea of a franchise. You can eat a cheeseburger at a Wendy's in downtown Minneapolis and it will taste like the cheeseburger you can get at a Wendy's in Anchorage. This is because these industries put so much effort (read *Spend loads of money*) in getting a product to look, smell, and taste the same everywhere! 

The same can be said for the water industry. A bottle of Dasani is filtered (tap water) with a special blend of minerals that will make every other bottle of Dasani taste like every other bottle of Dasani. They put efforts (*loads of money*) into creating that taste; claim that it's a feature of their water, that Dasani's water is somehow better because of its taste.

Here's a video of a guy who, after drinking so much types and brands of bottled water, has, in fact, become a true bottled water connoisseur. 

Four out of six is pretty good. But still, would the average bottled water drinker be able to tell the difference?

Blind taste tests prove that there is no discernible difference in taste between tap water and commercially bottled water. 
The dude over at Subliminal Science made a little video where he tested this theory on his teenage kids. And, I understand, while it isn't the most clinically scientific study, it can show some of the basics behind the studies.

Pretty interesting, right? Tap water wins out over Dasani & Fiji waters to the average drinker.

Is it the fear of the dirty dirty tap?
There have been many many dollars put into advertising to perpetuate the idea of tap water as unclean. According to the American Water Works Association, 35% of people who drink bottled water are doing so just because they think it's cleaner and safer than tap water.
If we look at this video (made by Annie Leonard of "The Story of Stuff" fame), we can get a large picture of what bottled water companies are doing in marketing. 

Pretty neat video, right? It helps to put the entire process into context. With all of the negatives on drinking bottled water (Plastic Bottles Used, Money Wasted, Not as Tasty) we have to ask ourselves the ultimate question:


We know that we are using enormous quantities of creating power to make these plastic bottles. And they DONT DEGRADE!

We are spending up to 1000 times what we should normally be spending on tap water. (If you were to drink your eight recommended glasses a day of tap water, you'd end up paying only 49 cents for the YEAR!) 

We are being told that the bottled water is cleaner, healthier, and tastier than tap water. Tests have proven that this is not  the case.

And this isn't even the worst part. Water is so precious and we're are spending (*wasting*) so much money on this product for no good reason. We have clean, tasty, and practically free water readily available right in our houses and we are NOT DRINKING IT! 

Put this into comparison to some parts of the world where people must walk miles to get dirty and diseased water because this is all they can find. I found a quote from P.H. Gleick that just says it all:

"Suburban shoppers in America lug cases of plastic
water bottles from the grocery store back to homes supplied
with unlimited piped potable water in a sad unintentional
parody of the girls and women in Africa, who spend countless
backbreaking hours carrying containers of filthy water from distant
contaminated sources to homes with no water at all."

We are better than the wasting we are doing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Drip Irrigation Systems

One of the most difficult problems that gardeners face is proper use of water. They either use too much or too little. The ones that use too much will set a sprinkler on and forget about it during the day (wasting way too much water) and the ones that use too little simply forget to set the sprinkler out (for those keeping track, I'm one of 'em!)

So, what do you do if you are either of these bad examples? Do you simply wait for the rain? No! You prepare your garden with a drip irrigation system.

Drip irrigation is a method of watering your garden that will use less water, less maintenance, and help discourage less weeds. There are, however, different ways to set up a drip irrigation system, but they all differ in how much time and money you want to put into them.

Here's a video to go over the basics.

If you're just getting started, I'd recommend a simple soaker hose. Known as the “grandfather” of the modern drip irrigation system, the soaker hose, as you saw in the video, is a hose that has (tiny) little holes drilled into it to let water drip out. The pluses for this method is that it is pretty darn cheap. However, unless you move the hose on a regular basis (weekly), mineral deposits from the water will clog the (tiny) little holes.

More advanced systems have something called “emitters.” These will control the flow of water.  These emitters take care of the flow problem in long tubes and help regulate how much water is actually used. Compared to a regular sprinkler system, which can use up to 180 gallons of water per hour, properly installed drip emitters can lessen the water needed to as little as one gallon of water per hour.

So, get out and prepare for the upcoming gardening season. You'll be able to save water and money if you just plan accordingly.