A while back, we had a member of the community, Shahla Butler, raise some concerns regarding our “Bag Project.” We are gearing up to launch another project and I wanted to provide responses to her concerns as a way to address any concerns that others might have. Please find the exchange below:
Shahla Butler: I am NOT in the habit of parading my credentials; since in the normal course of Garden Club activities there is no reason to do so; but in this case, I feel that I ought to tell you that I have a Ph.D., in Chemistry, from one of the top schools in the field, namely the University of Chicago. I only bring this up, so you do not write off my comments too swiftly.
There is no doubt that plastic bags are a scourge on the environment and all of us who care about the environment would like to do something meaningful to combat the pollution they are inflicting on the world.
However, I feel strongly that we should not impose another “Western Solution” on native people who have had perfectly good solutions for generations; if not millennia; as to what works in their communities and cultures. Africans have been taking goods to market, bringing water to their village and transporting objects for millennia, without resorting to either plastic, or so called “reusable” bags.
Our Response: This is such an important point you bring up because we agree that many well meaning so called ‘charitable’ (and that word itself is a problem to me) projects in developing countries have been useless and often do not involve the local people in helping figure out a solution.
The bag project started in a rural village outside of Arusha, Tanzania and was developed by an American, Lori Robinson, and a local woman, Anna.
You are perfectly correct that the African people have used baskets for carrying things for years. Unfortunately when the ” western solution” of plastic bags came along, the basket became extinct. They are rarely seen now. You are probably aware that the plastic bags they use there are a smaller, thinner version of ours and thus they tear and shred and are useless after one use. The hope for the project long term was to clean up the trash, an immediate solution that involved an educational component of why plastic litter is harmful (they burn it, throw it to the wind, and mosquitoes breed in the puddles collected in the litter) and hopefully the art of basket weaving would be revived once the bags are no longer favored. In fact Tanzania banned them from being manufactured shortly after our project started.
Shahla Butler: TRANSPORTING objects in Africa is NOT the problem to be solved. If plastic bags have become too popular it is presumably because they are cheap and easy to acquire. Collecting harmful plastic, reducing its distribution, and educating the local population about its harmful effects is the problem that needs to be addressed!
Our Response: Yes, it was not the bags per say we were concerned about. It was how they were being disposed of. They tear and are left to shred in the environment. Also they are burned because there is no local garbage pick up. The toxins from burning the trash is known to be harmful.We continue to look for ways to recycle the litter into various things and in some areas that is happening. But generally the litter is so shredded and dirty that it is difficult to reuse it.
Shahla Butler: Unfortunately, the so called “reusable bags” have their OWN problems. Not the least being that those that are made of petroleum products still emanate harmful vapors and, the plastics as well as those made of various clothes need to be laundered if they are to remain clean. There is growing evidence that reusable bags that are in frequent touch with “groceries” and are not laundered are exposing people to harmful bacteria. We would NOT be doing anyone a favor if we solve one problem by introducing another!!
Our Response: We are careful to ask for canvas totes and they are laundered. The canvas totes are loved by the women for all kinds of uses. They use them as purses, grocery totes, and children use them to carry things to and from school. They have also provided inspiration to women to make their own as canvas is a much available material there due to all the safari outfitters using it for their tents, vehicles, etc.
Shahla Butler: If the call to action in this case would be to donate $1 for every 20-30 bags collected, we would be happy to solicit, encourage and educate our Club members. Given the nature of incentives for poor folks in Kenya (and other African countries) money may be an incentive to collect and dispose of harmful plastic bags. However, exchanging an old problem with a new one, at the cost of bag (even if surplus) +$1 that does not go to recipient, but some transportation giant, and does not actually BENEFIT the recipient is not attractive. Neither is the thought of replacing today’s fashionable emergency with tomorrow’s.
Our Response: The plastic bags cost money for these women to buy and they are thrilled to have a tote. We have thought long and hard about using money instead but it felt demeaning. It is common for a thousand women to show up for each exchange and they are so excited to get the tote. Not only because it is practical and useful but it is something they are getting from someone in America. In America they are recycled. Target for instance had 2,000 beautiful new totes they were throwing out because they wanted a new design. We took those to Africa. There is a connection to the fact that we are all caring about each other and the environment.
The money collected with the totes goes to pay local people who are working with us to spread the word before a project, the coordinator on the ground for the project (people from America do not go to do the project ), to hire a truck to haul away the garbage, helpers the day of the project to load the garbage, and an interpreter to talk about litter, and to pay for extra luggage fees for travelers to Africa that we find and beg (:)) to carry the totes we have collected. $1 a tote barely covers all of that. There has never been any left over money. We are usually short of money.
We encourage everyone to share any additional concerns that they have. Should you wish to become involved at any point, please shoot an email over to email@example.com.
Autumn is the most versatile season and presents optimal opportunities to enjoy many absolutely awesome things. By this time of year, most of us have recovered from mourning the passage of summer and are ready to embrace the best season of the year.
“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.C. Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables
Autumn has great symbolic importance. In terms of agriculture, it is the time of the harvest, and symbolically it is the season when many people and entities refresh their books and set goals for the new year. Students return to school with clean slates and lofty goals. Employees return to work after vacations with plans for the next year. Even the United States government begins its new fiscal year on October 1st.
So today, we here at LGBG are happy to list 10 absolutely awesome things about Autumn.
1. Autumn colors. Mother Nature never fails to deliver a dazzling display of color during the fall season. Beautiful shades of gold, yellow, green and orange can be found in flowers, fruits, vegetables and most notably trees, sunrises and sunsets. More than any of the other seasons, Autumn is the time for nature’s ultimate showcase. Additionally, the mild fall temperatures create the perfect environment to enjoy outdoor activities.
Beautiful fall flowers
2. The best of sports. Autumn is the best season for sports– hands down– with its numerous offerings. Let’s face it, after the Super Bowl in January and the NFL draft in the spring, there generally is only prognostication about football until the fall. Autumn signals the end of talk and the beginning of play. Whether it is the NFL, college, high school or Pop Warner, football is king. We get to watch, cheer, lament and even manage teams and compete in fantasy leagues. Once considered a “man’s” sport, the NFL now boasts increased popularity among females who now comprise 46% of its fan base. 
We cannot talk about Autumn without talking about baseball. Autumn is the showcase season for baseball with the MLB postseason. After suffering through the summer’s heat and humidity with its accompanying thunderstorms and often extended rain delays, we now can sit back and enjoy the best of major league baseball. The stakes to win the World Series are high, and the competition is stiff. As one of America’s favorite pasttimes, you can expect baseball to be a favorite conversation subject all over the country. An interactive map of baseball can be found here.
Baltimore Orioles advance to American League Championship Series
Autumn also is a popular time for NHL hockey. Preseason has begun, giving teams a chance to evaluate new players and offering fans an opportunity to get a look at their favorite teams matched up with rookie and veteran players. Finally, community sports are in full swing as parents cheer on young football, soccer and field hockey players.
3. Autumn holidays and festivals. We all love holidays and festivals. They afford us a brief respite from the routines of school and work, and they give us a wonderful chance to gather with friends and relatives. Autumn is a great season for holidays, including Columbus Day, Rosh Hoshana, Yom Kippur, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Additionally, we look forward to getting out and enjoying fall festivals, such as Renaissance festivals, book festivals and health fairs.
4. Autumn sunrises and sunsets. At the beginning of Autumn, as we return to school and work, we find that we generally start our days earlier in order to reach our destinations on time. As such, we get to experience more sunrises, that is, until the beginning of eastern standard time in late October. This is a very special and exciting experience that can be summed up beautifully by a Facebook friend, Nancy Neverosi Miller:
As I left for work this morning, walking to my car in the DARK, I thought, “God the one thing I hate about Autumn is the shorter days coming.” It kinda bummed me out until as I was driving to work I realized, it’s also the only time of year I get to watch the sunrise every day on my ride to work and although today’s was not the prettiest, I know there are some great ones yet to come. It’s all perspective, find the POSITIVE!
On the flip side, once eastern standard time begins, we often will find ourselves out and about, returning from work, school or running errand, attending sports practices with our children, or simply enjoying the outdoors. This puts us front and center to enjoy sunsets, which often are dazzling light shows that paint beautiful tapestries along the hillsides and neighborhoods. Autumn sunrises and sunsets are wonders to behold and have the added bonus of providing the perfect canvas for professional and amateur photographers to capture the perfect picture.
5. The season for beer. While beer is good year around, it is during the Autumn season that we get to experience more unique and delicious craft and seasonal brews. Of course, the Octoberfest celebration is largely about beer. Also beer is a staple for any sporting event and for most celebrations with family and friends. Autumn truly is about beer. It is a great time for brewery tours and pub crawls. Beer also pairs well with most of the hearty meals we tend to eat during the autumn and winter seasons.
6. A season for spirits. Autumn also welcomes the return to hard alcoholic drinks. During the summer months, most people avoid heavy hard alcoholic beverages as they do not mix well with heat and humidity. The more popular drinks are flavored vodkas, summer tropicals and light wines. During the autumn months with its chilly evenings, we forget about the tropics and return to brown warming liquor– rye, brandy, scotch and port wines, just to name a few.
7. Pumpkin is king. Over the past few years, the popularity of pumpkin has soared. It is a very versatile fruit rich in fiber and nutrients. There are so many products on the market currently during the fall season that features pumpkin, including coffee, breads, candy, beer, etc. Pumpkin is the centerpiece of Halloween festivities.
8. Time for crafting. During the autumn season, many of us find ourselves crafting something, whether it be Halloween costumes or displays, scarecrows, etc. If you are looking for something really special and fun, try crafting a keg out of pumpkin. How’s that for building something?
9. A season for giving. Autumn is an important time for charitable giving and support. Perhaps the largest charitable effort during the fall season is the campaign for the fight against breast cancer. This is now a movement, garnering the support of many businesses, foundations, sports associations, etc. There are few, if any people, who have not been affected by breast cancer, whether personally or through family members or friends. In October, we are proud to take to the street, running, walking, and educating each other to raise funds and awareness to combat this horrible disease.
Another favorite growing movement during the Autumn season is Movember, which brings attention to prostate cancer. This is a great time for guys to grow mustaches and raise money and awareness to combat prostate cancer. Movember is an annual 30-day period where the mustache rules. Detailed information on this charity can be found here.
10. Fall fashion and style. While spring and summer seasons force us to dress down for comfort, the autumn season gives us the chance to dress with flair and creativity. One of the highlights of fall is fashion. We love shopping for dresses, skirts, tops, jackets, boots and shoes. Then we get to personalized our looks with colorful accessories, such as caps, gloves and scarves. Fall fashion is about looking good while keeping warm.
Scarves are a key part of fall fashion.
Autumn offers so much to enjoy. It is a colorful, exciting and enchanting season with many awesome things to do. There is something for everyone during this season, and we wish you the best Autumn ever.
The Autumn season marks the start, in many four-season areas of our country, of a time during which yard work becomes crucial. Often overlooked and neglected, lawn care in the fall can easily improve the condition of the grass and shrubbery, not only for the present season but for the future spring season. So while you’re all gearing up to treat your grass and landscaping, please do try to keep in mind those four legged friends that occasionally graze the yard, both wild and domesticated. And if you have children roaming the yards, working to improve your treatment methods is a no-brainer.
There are better options than automatically resorting to chemical fertilizers and other harmful practices. Read More…
Today, August 16th, marks the annual celebration of National Honey Bee Day, and we here at LGBG are proud to be a part of this observance. This year’s theme, “sustainable gardening begins with honey bees,” is very appropriate because overall beekeeping is a backyard industry. Most beekeeping activities occur in municipalities, towns and suburban areas, rather than traditional farms.
The growing popularity of backyard gardening and sustainable gardening has ushered in a greater concern for honeybees by advocates of green living. More than ever, environmentally consciousness citizens are getting involved in the effort to save honey bees. As we learn and practice sustainable gardening techniques, we better understand and appreciate the important role that honey bees play as garden pollinators. Thanks to the political actions of local gardening enthusiasts, several municipalities and townships have removed anti-beekeeping ordinances and restrictive codes.
Today, August 13th, is International Left-Handers Day, and we here at LGBG would like to salute lefties all over the world. We feel that focusing on left-handers is congruent with our belief that the most important component of sustainability involves the human factor and investment in people. As such, spotlighting left-handers helps to raise awareness of the difficulties this group of people face in activities of daily living with the lack of adaptive product design for their use. Additionally, the attention to the unique needs of lefties fosters greater consideration of the adaptive requirements of lefties by the right-handed majority population.
Virginia Gambrell graduated from Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2010, assuming she would end up with a career related to her major in Spanish. Translating documents between English and the romance language of Spanish would have been acceptable for Gambrell, but she was hardly excited at the prospect of becoming a 9-to-5 desk jockey.
“That made me really uncomfortable,” she said.
With World Cup 2014 at its peak, we would be remiss to omit mentioning the ugly business of “the beautiful game.” The truth is that The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of association football, futsal and beach soccer, has been embroiled in controversy for many years.
Perhaps the greatest complaint about FIFA is its failure at sustainability. When we think of sustainability, most of us consider natural systems, i.e., the environment, natural resources, energy, etc. Often, we ignore the key ingredient of sustainability, namely people or the human factor.
If you are reading this, you probably still are trying to decide on a really awesome Mother’s Day gift for your mom,wife grandmother or significant other. Maybe you are not thrilled with the commercial selections– just tired of cut flowers that die in a few days (plus they often are toxic), chocolate (that Mom really does not need) or the mundane blouse, scarf, etc.
We have a few ideas here at LGBG. Consider taking Mother’s Day to a new level. So many people are aware of the “green movement” and “sustainability,” but they either do not know how to get started or simply have not had the time to get involved. This is your opportunity to introduce Mom to a healthier and happier lifestyle that can be fun for the whole family. Here are a few suggestions: Read More…