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Grandma Doreen.

My grandmother Doreen was a seamstress, she kept every scrap of fabric just in case it could be useful later.

This is a shortened version of an article first published in Tots to Teens magazine, April/May issue

Sustainability may be the catchphrase of the 21st century, but it’s actually old school. It was only two generations ago that clothes were worn until they were worn out; mended, patched, darned, passed down then finally torn up and used as cleaning rags. “Waste not, want not” was my Grandmother’s mantra. It was the way they lived.

These days in our commercially-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with messages to buy! Buy! Buy! You need the latest phone, the latest toy, the latest fashions. We are using and throwing away more stuff than ever before.

But the earth is a finite place. And everything we do is connected. Every living thing on this planet relies on the same basic things as we do; clean water, clean air, food and a safe home.

Many people around the world have realised that these basic needs are in jeopardy because of the way we live. Because we are simply using too much stuff.

Sustainability is about changing the way we think and behave. It’s about making good choices. To be aware of how we might impact the environment, our community, and the world.

The sheer enormity of saving the world might seem too big a task for the average person. But if person starts with one small change, it can happen. And that’s exactly what the Earth Day campaign to collect ‘A Billion Acts of Green’ is all about. You can pledge your act online at www.earthday.org/2012.

Children too can be empowered early on to take part. The future world after all, is for them. Here are some pledge suggestions for different ages and stages:

Under five

  • Paint or draw on both sides of the paper. Use your paintings as wrapping paper for truly unique gifts.
  • Set up a box to collect bits and pieces for creating art – like bottle tops, boxes and ribbons.
  • Keep taps off while brushing teeth.
  • Look for the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers so you can help sort the recycling.
  • Find someone to hand your clothes onto when you out grow them.
  • Make your fifth birthday a green party – make invitations and decorations out of recycled stuff, serve fresh food on large plates instead of small disposable ones. Tell your guests to bring gifts they have made themselves or recycled from their own stash. (See seven steps to throwing an Earth Day party!)
Josie picking tomatoes.

Helping in the vegetable garden is a great way to learn about food and where it comes from!

5 – 8 years

  • Make green choices with your school supplies – buy recycled books and corn-starch biodegradable pens.
  • Turn off the light when you leave a room. Unplug your stereo or other electronics when you are not using them.
  • Start a swap club – get together with friends to swap books, CDs or games that you are bored with.
  • Collect paper that’s only been printed on one side (ask your parents first) Cut it up and staple them together to make a message pad for by the phone.
  • Ask your parents and friend’s parents to start a walking bus to get to school – or car-pool on wet days!

9 – 12 years

  • Ask for a solar charger for a present and use re-chargeable batteries in all your battery-powered toys.
  • Go green surfing: make a list of websites with ideas on how to be eco-friendly. Share the list with your friends and school teachers.
  • Write a letter to your favourite celebrity and ask them to support a local environmental trust. E.g. http://www.projectlitefoot.org/ top sportspeople are inspiring kiwis to become environmental champions.
  • Ask for a piece of the garden to grow your own vegetables and fruits. Look at a globe to see how far food has travelled to get to your cupboard!
  • Write a letter to your local council to make the streets safer for cyclists and to invest more in public transport.

But above all else – provide experiences! Love the Earth by getting to know its special qualities….

Josie and William at Peters Pool.

Peters Pool, Franz Josef

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William at Lake Kaniere; photo S Mankelow

William at Lake Kaniere 17 April 2012

Okarito Beach; S Mankelow

Okarito beach 18 April 2012

Okarito; photo Robyn Mankelow

Okarito beach 18 April 2012

Rainforest, Franz Josef; photo S Mankelow

Rainforest at Franz Josef 19 April 2012

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Step 1 – Decide on your venue. Make it at home or close to home so all your guests can walk, scooter, bike or come by bus! The local park is a great choice! We decided to throw our Earth Day party this year at Josie’s preschool.

Step 2 – Send out your invitations! We illustrated our invitations with Earth mosaics; first grab old magazines, pick pages with lots of green and blue on them, tear them into tiny pieces then glue them onto your globe. We then scanned our art and emailed our invites out!

Earth Day party invite.

Invitation to an Earth Day party

Step 3 – Choose presents! When I asked my two what makes a good party they both said straight away–presents! So we asked everyone to bring a present–to pick a toy out of your own collection that you are bored with and don’t play with anymore. You can either swap gifts amongst the children like we did at preschool, or even better, donate the toys to a charity that helps struggling families.

Step 4 – Wrap your presents! Old paintings and art work make great gift wrap! Or else, you can recycle old newspapers and tie with a bright piece of wool – that looks great too!

Splatter painting.

The backs of used flip-charts from work are perfect for splatter painting...

Presents.

... and the resulting paintings make awesome gift wrap!

Step 5 – Decorate! Newspaper also comes in really handy to make paper chains for decorations, and the wonderful Earth mosaics that we made in step 1 look great on the wall.

Step 6 – Make the party feast! Source local food, organic fruits and veges for party food and make your own baked treats rather than buying lots of sugar-fuelled convenience food. In fact getting everyone to help prepare the food can be part of the party fun – make pizza dough and put out a choice of toppings! Instead of disposable plates and cups, put all your food on big platters for sharing.

Gingerbread kiwi biscuits.

Gingerbread kiwis - homemade and hand-decorated with icing and jelly crystals

Step 7 – Games and fun at an Earth Day party is about doing something nice for the Earth! If you are at the park why not do rubbish scavengers hunt?  If at home make a poster about Earth Day out of recycled materials to put up at school. At our preschool party we plan to take our wrapping paper, make paper porridge and turn it into completely new paper!

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I’d been meaning to check out the Little River mudslide all summer, but when I read this article online I was finally inspired – Girls who play in dirt grow up healthier.

And with Earth Day coming up soon, it seemed appropriate to start celebrating by covering ourselves in it! All you need is a slope, water and dirt and lots of bottoms!

mudslide.

No brakes - gravity has hold of us!

Standing up at the end is not so easy!

Josie and Mum - who says girls don't like dirt!

PS – next post will be top tips for throwing an Earth Day party … mud-pies might have to be on the menu!

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