Tuesday, 26 April 2016 00:00
Tuesday, 27 October 2015 00:00

The great part about being a woodland animal for Halloween? They're definitely super cute, but that’s not the best part. The best part is, you get to be warm! Here are some cheap, easy, and warm costumes for this Halloween.


Own a grey sweater? You’re already halfway there. The other half is purchasing one of these critter caps here. You can go further and buy a tail or dig up some old grey gloves. The hat costs less than 10 dollars after shipping.





















Chances are you own brown pants and a brown shirt/jacket. You could even wear a white sweater with just a brown scarf to get the point across. Pair the brown pants with the sweater or scarf, then dig out the Christmas decorations a little early. In your decorations you may have a headband that has antlers on it. If they’re brown, they're perfect. If they're red and green, some brown felt or even construction paper glued or taped on will transform them. Finish the look with black face paint on your nose, and you’re a deer. Technically you’re a boy deer, but it’s Halloween; what does it matter? Don't have a pair of Christmas antlers? These are under 10 dollars after shipping. And here is a link to a more elaborate deer makeup if you feel like you want more than a black nose.













Your choice: you can be a black bear or a brown bear, so just check your closet to decide. Use a headband you own, or borrow one from someone else. You can use construction paper to create bear ears. Then, to make the look, you can buy these bear claws, which are under 10 dollars after shipping. You can even invest in some bear slippers if you want to go all out.



This is the most creative of these ideas, and is very fun if you don’t mind being what most people find icky instead of cute. To be a snail, you can create a grey cloak that drags behind you. This can be done by going to a fabric store and buying the cheapest grey material they have, getting it cut into a perfect square that would just slightly drag behind you if you were to tie the two opposite points of the fabric around your neck. Then, fasten some cling wrap to the tail end of your cloak. This will look like you're a snail inching around, leaving a slimy trail. Finish the look with this snail eye headband for under 10 dollars after shipping.


Monday, 19 October 2015 00:00

Time to get your pumpkin!

If you haven’t already gotten your Halloween pumpkin and canned pumpkin, it’s time to make your move. Halloween is right around the corner, and so is the effect of a pumpkin shortage.

The majority of pumpkins purchased in the United States come from farms in Illinois. Excessive spring and summer rains reportedly caused a delay in the Midwest pumpkin planting. The delay was followed by extensive periods of dry weather before more heavy rains.

Dry periods caused a need for additional irrigation, and the excessive wet ground made it difficult for the pumpkins to root and grow properly. That resulted in a lower yield and smaller pumpkins this season. The pumpkin crop may be cut by as much as half this year.

The supply of pumpkins will be very slim after Halloween. However, these pumpkins are actually different from the ones used for your typical baking needs.

As you’ve probably experienced when carving, your traditional pumpkin—the Jack-O-Lantern—is largely empty, and contains a stringy mess to scoop out. The best pumpkins for baking are the Sugar Pie, Cinderella or Pink Banana Squash. These varieties have finer, sweeter flesh, which makes them ideal for baking.

Unfortunately, all varieties have been hit by the Illinois rains. Libby’s, which contributes to approximately 80 percent of canned-pumpkin distributions, has high hopes that the shortage will still allow Thanksgiving festivities to continue without much issue. But there will be little to no reserve for 2016.

When in doubt, stock up on canned pumpkin. You never know when you may want a good pumpkin pie!

Check out these other canned-pumpkin recipes from Libby’s, including dips, stews, muffins and more: http://www.meals.com/our-brands/libbys-pumpkin.


Monday, 28 September 2015 00:00

The idea of a “staycation” has become passé, or, at the very least, isn’t in the zeitgeist anymore. But a new park that just opened in Bend might make you rethink your long-distance adventure plans.

The Bend Whitewater Park on the Deschutes River, the first of its kind in Oregon, opened last Friday to fanfare from paddlers, floaters and water enthusiasts.

The park is essentially a short section of the Deschutes that once was cut off by a dam and now allows safe navigation around it without having to pull out of the river and walk around the dam. In so doing, it fills in the missing piece of the 95-mile-long Deschutes Paddle Trail.

The park splits the river into three channels. The first is a whitewater channel with artificial waves for advanced kayakers, surfers and stand-up paddleboarders who want to get wet. The wave is adjustable and run by designated “wave shaper” Ryan Richard.

The second is a calmer channel where floaters on inner tubes can pass on through. The third is a passage for wildlife.

And if you don’t feel like getting in the river, there’s a footbridge with good views of all the fun going on in the water.

Summer’s over, I know. But next year? Consider an Oregon staycation and get your whitewater and tubing kicks in at the park.


Graphic image credit: Bendparksandrec.org
Sources: The Register-Guard, Jefferson Public Radio, Bend Bulletin, Travel Oregon

Sunday, 28 June 2015 00:00

What to do with old tennis balls?

Before putting a tennis ball into the waste bin, consider the possibilities that exist to extend its life. Recently I spoke with Anna at the St. Johns Racquet Center in Portland, Oregon about what the facility does with its old tennis balls.
They do three things:
1. They contact SCRAP, a local donation-based organized creative reuse center that collects tennis balls and tennis ball cans and repurpose them. (SCRAPs can be found in other parts of the USA as well).
2. They take tennis balls that have lost their pressure to Portland Tennis Center, which has a re-pressurizing machine and they re-pressurize the balls.
3.  A lot of dog lovers come into the St. Johns Racquet Center as well as schoolteachers. One member works as a volunteer with a K-9 unit in the Portland area and he collects alls to use for training. Schoolteachers who come in to collect tennis balls use them for chairs in their classrooms. They cut an ‘X' into the ball (puncture the ball) and slip it onto the feet of a chair, so the legs don’t scrape the floor.



Functions for old tennis balls vary. They can become toys for dogs. They can become chairs or bases for tables in furniture design. They can become slider feet for chairs, tools, and orthopedic walkers. Conveniently, Etsy shop EnergyCreatesEnergy sells pre-cut recycled tennis balls in packs of 2, 4, 6 or in bulk. They can become multi-purpose surfaces. The French Tennis Federation has a program called Opération Balle Jaune for balls which are no longer suitable for play. These are ground into granules and added to the resins used to make durable multi-purpose surfaces. The surface produced has been deployed in rehabilitation centers, medical and educational facilities, and children’s hospitals.

They can become equestrian turf. This is currently one of Massachusetts non-profit Project Green Ball’s projects. Project Green Ball is a sustainability initiative to coordinate innovative recycling programs for used tennis balls and to donate surfaces based on the recycled balls to organizations servicing people with disabilities or life threatening diseases. Read more here.

After speaking with Anna at the St. John’s Racquet Center, I visited the Portland Tennis Center (PTC) to chat with the facility’s Head Tennis Professional, David Blagden, who oversees their tennis ball re-pressurizing efforts. In October 2014 PTC purchased a 400-ball capacity Green Tennis Machine—the GTM400—from Arizona company reBounces for about $5,500. A service contract with reBounces includes CO2 tanks for the machine. ReBounces delivers a CO2 tank to PTC every six months or so. Sixty pounds per square inch of CO2 gets injected into the machine at a time, inside the lid of the chamber. The balls get pressurized by the inert gas, forcing the dense molecules through the cores of the balls until they’re back to industry pressure and a bounce that complies with ITF regulations:53 to 58 inches of rebound height when dropped from 100 inches. The balls sit in the machine for 72 hours. When all the gas has been expelled, the pressure inside the tank and the pressure inside the balls has been equalized, at which time the machine sort of
hisses and shrieks, alerting Blagden the re-charging is compete.

PTC has a system in place for balls to travel to the Green Tennis Machine. On court ball baskets have been placed there for the Tennis Pro’s and players to use and a larger collection basket rests in the lobby. This larger basket in turn gets carried upstairs to the GTM400, where 400 balls at a time get re-charged or “cooked,” as Blagden likes to call it, and put back into their supply.

They’ve cooked over 14,000 balls since last October and they’re happy with the monetary results. According to Zach Rouse, PTC’s Tennis Director, tennis balls cost $1 per ball, so they’ve saved the city $14,000. In about 1 1/2 years the machine will pay for itself. Prior to the GTM400 purchase, they were replacing balls 3-4 times per year, investing $3,000 or higher. What’s more, there are additional environmental savings: not as many new ball cans get tossed away, as the re-charged balls get deposited directly back into the carts and ball machines. There is only one other facility in the Portland area re-pressurizing tennis balls, the Vancouver Tennis Center (VTC). VTC purchased a machine on the recommendation of PTC. A facility in Seattle also has a machine, Rouse tells me.

PTC has a collection basket behind its front desk for empty tennis ball cans with lids (not the inside metal can sealers). SCRAP comes in every four weeks or so to collect these. At SCRAP a lot of the donated empty tennis ball canisters with lids are used to hold different scrap products such as wooden beads, glass marbles, little metal bits, and also little assembled things for a craft project; all kinds of tiny bits, little toys, plastic things.

PTC also has designated collection bags for balls that cannot be re-pressurized. These will be donated to whomever wants them, not thrown away. A police officer picked up 400-500 balls for K-9 training not too long ago, Blagden tells me. Presently they have bags of approximately 1,000 balls total ready to donate. They are losing fuzz, the logo print is fading, or can no longer be re-charged by the GTM (e.g. the rubber core has gotten compromised).

With Wimbledon starting tomorrow, in the spirit of tennis and sustainability learn about the Top 10 Wimbledon Sustainability Facts here and afterward take a fun quiz.


Sunday, 31 May 2015 00:00

Talking to kids about climate change, social responsibility, and the environment can be tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to scar a young child or paralyze them with terror of the future by rattling off a list of predictions for sea level rise and doomed polar bears. On the other hand, you don’t want to encourage children to be smug climate enforcers, spying on their neighbors’ recycling for infractions – or to be uneducated about the importance of sustainability. But on the third and glowing hand that cannot be ignored: sustainability means, quite literally, avoiding catastrophe. What to do to prepare for the moment when you must take a deep breath and try to explain why it’s important not to flood the yard with the hose to make a swamp, despite the preferences of the plastic dinosaurs involved?

In my experience, these conversations fall into place if the kid in question has grown up with a sense of their place in the natural world, which even an infant or a toddler can develop. There are three simple activities you can do that will help even the very young along this path: going outside, games, and adventures.

Going outside is the most important one, and also the easiest. Though it’s awesome to make it to pristine wilderness to take in natural beauty, it’s not always awesome to take long car rides to get there, especially as a little kid. Fortunately, no one needs to give up the good in pursuit of the perfect, and all you really need to do is leave the house.

Being outdoors makes us healthier. Circadian rhythms work better with regular exposure to natural light and dark. These cycles influence sleep, mood, endocrine expression, vitamin D absorption, and many, many subtle elements of well-being. People tend to notice this in themselves, and the only way for that to happen in a baby is for them to be outdoors sometimes. Most kids, left to their own devices, will find ways to have fun and learn if they’re just about anywhere, but outside is a much more promising landscape than in front of a screen.

Being outside creates a natural context to use when explaining the basics of responsible ecological behavior. For instance, if you’re outside watching the ducks, it’s a natural time to mention that the ducks need the water to be clean – hence, why littering is mean to ducks and a bad idea.

The second tactic is playing games that somehow incorporate sustainability. Tailor this to your audience. Competitive? Have a trash-collecting competition between two kids on a camping trip or a canoe outing. Whimsical? (Aren’t we all?) Build tiny houses for fairies out of tree bark and pine needles. The important thing here is to introduce the idea that the things that we do make a difference in the natural world, for better or worse. Games introduce this concept while keeping it light and out of the guilt zone, which is really important for young kids (and frankly, people generally respond better to friendly and engaging overtures than criticism and shaming, no matter what their age).

The third tactic is adventures, even the imaginary kind. Tell kids about the places around the world that amaze you – the glaciers, underwater reefs, centuries-old vineyards, redwood forests – and talk about how these places can be protected. I mean “adventures” broadly, because most things can become adventures if looked at with the right perspective. Kids are often naturally better at this than adults, but adults can appreciate the value of this paradigm to make life a lot more fun. Riding your bike to school? Add up how much gas you're saving, and imagine how much carbon that keeps out of the atmosphere.

The important thing to emphasize is what we can do, not what’s out of our control. Be matter-of-fact, and remember that you can both answer questions and mindfully guide the conversation in a direction that moves toward a sustainable future.