"Our daughter really loves this program! Her maple from 2 years ago is really pretty and growing tall in her grandmother's yard and her tamarack from last year is beautiful and growing strong in our back yard. So, thanks for providing this, it means a great deal to our child."

- Parent

We’re in the Home Stretch!

 

French-Bulldog-Stretch

 

Spring has sprung!

That’s right. In just a few weeks, the tree giveaway will be happening at schools and communities across the US (and even in parts of Canada!).

Did you register for a tree this year? Awesome! You’re all set.

Slipped your mind? Forgot to tie that string on your finger? That’s okay. You’ve earned your good karma points. You still have a chance to register for a tree until Sunday, April 9 even if your school’s deadline has passed.

Is your child’s school participating this year? Can’t remember? You can find out here. Don’t see your child’s school on the list? That’s okay too. You can sign up here. (Make sure you do this on a tablet, laptop or desk computer.)

 

tie

 

Spring may be the season for tree planting, but there’s some “family members” that haven’t been feeling the tree hugging love.

You might know one or two. We know one. Surprised how we overlooked him. He loves to dig. He loves dirt and after fire hydrants trees are his best friend. If anyone was a natural at tree planting (or tree wetting!), it’s him!

So rather than feeling left out this year, he took the initiative. We still don’t know how he learned to type. But that’s for another day.

Right now it’s time to exhale, lift our heads up and stretch towards Earth Day. As you enjoy this spring season with its blossoming flowers, blue skies and warmer weather, remember to keep your umbrellas handy. It’s going to be raining trees for the next few weeks!

 

 

What Are You Thankful For?

It’s Thanksgiving in America today.

It’s the busiest travel day of the year. Nearly 48 million people will be traveling by car, rail or plane! Three million U.S. airline passengers will swarm airports hoping to catch flights, although many travelers will be stuck at airport checkout counters. Others will be stuck in long security lines holding their shoes, eventually wandering around the terminal in their socks hoping to escape by automobile. Car transportation isn’t any better though. The roads and highways are just as bad, though the bonus is you keep your shoes on.

None of these Thanksgiving travel experiences puts someone in a good mood, but it does burn calories and make a person hungry. So it’s no surprise that at Thanksgiving everyone eats lots of food. There’s the staples like cranberry sauce, turkey and mashed potatoes. There’s new twists on old traditions too – Tofurkey, cauliflower stuffing, and other dairy-free and meat-free options for vegans and vegetarians.

Whether you’re on a special diet or not, today’s the day when rules can be broken. We can loosen our belt four notches, kick our no-carbs diet to the curb and attack apple pies like a ravenous banshee. We justify it with these words: “C’mon! It’s Thanksgiving. It’s only once a year. A little indulgence is okay.”

20151109-thanksgiving-pie-recipe-roundup-10

So this Thanksgiving, whether you’re stuck in security lines or not, whether you’re adjusting the notches on your belt or not, whether you’re eating Tofurkey or not, let’s remember what this holiday is really about. (No, it’s not about the Pre-Black Friday TV Mega Sale at your local Best Buy.)

It’s about giving thanks. Thanks to our beautiful planet for giving us life. And thanks to the amazing trees. They provide us with the apple pie on our plates, the roof over our heads (literally), and so much more. (See video below.)

Let’s be grateful and count our blessings today.

And let’s save our ungratefulness for the food hangover and indigestion tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Ready to Decorate Your Home?

Have you noticed all the new home decorating magazines popping up at checkout counters and bookstores lately? It seems there’s a new one arriving everyday.

Home-Interior-Decorating-Magazines-Inspiring-fine-Subscribe-To-Home-Magazines-Subscriptions-Podcasts-Feed-ImageThere must be hundreds of them now. Some are tied to a famous brand or person. Some have European sounding names. Some are just weird. But regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, most of them are saying the same thing.

Add color! Paint! Renovate! Remodel! Buy nice towels. Done.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit simplified.

Some of the articles have interesting nuggets of advice, but I find most a little over the top. For instance, one magazine suggested my life will find new meaning when I begin to hold regular soirees filled with glitter balloons, spiced pear truffles and some kind of lustrous light candleholders.

Really?

Thanks for the advice, but I’ll pass.

All the inspiration I need is right in front of me. Spring has officially arrived, which means over the next several weeks I’ve got a front row seat to learn from the Mother of all Home Decorators.

Can anyone match her creativity, her brilliance, when it comes to decorating her own home? What’s a glitter balloon compared to a budding flower?  What are spiced pear truffles compared to a juicy, ripe pear she lets me pluck and eat off a tree?

glitter ballon crop

Wouldn’t it be great if we helped Mama Nature out a bit? She’s been doing this for a couple zillion years. 

Of course, we can’t match her attention to detail, but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind some extra help. What if we cared for, decorated and celebrated our collective home with the same zeal as she does, with as much love as those magazines want us to care for and celebrate our individual ones?

The good news is we are. Millions of us are coming together on April 22 to honor the greatest home decorator and greatest home ever.

All of us are contributing in our own small way. Neighborhood Forest, for instance, is launching its biggest tree giveaway yet, hoping to give away nearly 10,000 trees to kids during Earth Week (April 18-22).

Do you want a tree for your child? You can sign up (on a laptop, tablet or desktop computer) to get one. To find out if your child’s school participating, you can go to this link: http://www.neighborhoodforest.org/search-for-school/

We know parent participation increases when kids are involved. If a child wants a tree to plant, we don’t want them to go home from school empty handed. So this year we’ve created a fun video just for them. (See below.)

We hope it will make them smile, reminding them to tell mom or dad not to forget our real “home decorating” day!

Earth Day is coming. Come join the celebration and let’s decorate our home together. 

No glitter balloons necessary.

 

 

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids) – an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

 

 

Can We Reverse Climate Change?

Many nations. One goal. One very important conference.

The future of our planet is on the line, and we have a few words to say about it!


Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids) – an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

Being Bigger

Remember those days many years ago when the only way to see anything was to look up?

Remember when an upward tilt of your head was followed by a surprise pat on your noggin, a pinch on your cheek, or a remark about your adorability factor?

Well, Neighborhood Forest’s 8 year old spokesman Ishaan knows all about it. And so do some of his friends.

Enjoy! :-)

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids) – an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

And Now a Word from our Spokesman…

Spring is here!

Get the shovels out of the shed, dust off those yard boots, we’re less than two weeks away from Earth Day.

To kick off the season of grass stained knees and dirt-caked hands, Neighborhood Forest’s 7 year old spokesman shares an Earth Day message about feet, footprints and trees.

Enjoy!

 

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

A Homecoming 21 years in the Making

“So will you DJ?”

That’s what my brother Vikas asked me in the spring of 1993. He ran a student-run environmental club at our university called Organization for the New Earth (O.N.E.), which promoted green initiatives on campus and in the community.

He and fellow MUM student Belinda Hoole planned to launch the event, which was part fashion show, part creative musical celebration, and part treehugger project all rolled into one.

They called it Eco-Jam.

My brother needed someone to play the music for the show. He already knew I hunched over turntables every weekend, working as a DJ for our university’s Saturday night dances.

I thought about my brother’s request. Should I do it? The question spun around in my mind during my business classes, my spare time reading Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines and in between moments I’d be recording my mix tapes, which had piled up like dirty dishes in my dorm room.

I figured the whole thing was just a one-time event. Play the music, get a pat on the back, smile at the camera, flash the peace sign a few times and I’m done.

I said yes.

Several weeks later, I found myself in a humble looking Best Western banquet hall where the event was being held. There was a small stage set up and a white backdrop with a big Earth on it and Eco-Jam ’93 written above.

A few hours later, after the sound equipment and lighting were in place, I stood behind my “wheels of steel”, looked at the crowd and said: “It’s MC Double V on the M-I-C! Are you ready?” The stage lights went up. I raised the volume on Rhythm is a Dancer as it thumped through the speakers and a beeline of student models strutted down a makeshift catwalk, wearing a range of sustainable clothing outfits.

Contrary to what I thought, Eco-Jam wasn’t a one time thing. The success of the first event turned it into an annual gathering. In three years the event raised enough money to help O.N.E. plant thousands of trees throughout southeast Iowa.

Though the tree planting initiative faded a few years after my brother graduated (although it was revived in 2010 after a series of life-changing events), Eco-Jam (the catwalk part) continued to evolve and blossom.

 

We grew up and so did those trees.

 

21 years later, to the amazement of the original co-founders, it’s still alive and kicking! New students took over, other volunteers got on board and it’s become a city-wide event for organic and up-cycled fashion, attracting media, residents and designers from Fairfield, southeast Iowa and beyond.

It’s the end of 2014 and everything’s come full circle. Neighborhood Forest will be relaunching its tree program in southeast Iowa next spring. And we’re excited to be coming home!

Looking back, I realize how wrong I was. That one-time tree event I agreed to do for my brother in the spring of 1993? It’s not done. It’s just beginning.

Thought you might enjoy this video of our long-awaited Eco-Jam homecoming.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

 

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

Horace Cleveland — The Man behind the Cape

“Why aren’t there condos here?”

That’s the thought that bobbed around in my head when my brother and I biked around Minneapolis last summer.

Biking around the city was my brother’s idea. It was my first summer in Minneapolis after my move, and he thought it was the best way for me to see the city up close.

Up to that point my view of the city was limited, confined to the window seats of planes when I’d visit my brother and his family during the Christmas holidays. It was always the same. I looked down from several thousand feet and saw a city covered in blankets of snow with a landscape that looked like the terrain of Antarctica.

My yearly winter visits didn’t allow for much outdoor sightseeing either. The weather was rarely friendly in December, and I didn’t find it appealing to dress up like the Michelin Man and waddle around as a tourist in a massive parka, four scarves, ski mask, goggles and ear muffs.

It wasn’t my idea of fun. Maybe that’s why my brother kept my “outdoor” activities within climate-controlled environments, like walks around the downtown skyway, social gatherings (indoors of course), or coffee shop chats where he pressured me to warm up my innards with mugs of hot chocolate.

My summer bike ride, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. My view of the city transformed from white, grey and frozen to Dorothy in Technicolor in the Wizard of Oz. I was led me through parks and wooded areas, over a winding creek and quaint bridges, around gorgeous trees and beautiful lakes.

I thought I was dreaming. I was engulfed in green everywhere, pinching myself, thinking I’d wake up and the continuous backdrop of trees, lakes and parks would disappear, and I’d be staring out the window of another plane again.

Why hadn’t I experienced this feeling in other places? I’d visited other cities with green space, but they didn’t seem as extensive or well-planned. Some cities had tiny scraps of green refuge and whatever was left of them was being overtaken by an infestation of condos, strip malls or armies of Starbucks.

Who was responsible for my oasis of bicycling happiness that day? Was it the work, I thought, of a mighty environmental superhero, someone with blue tights, a cape and a big S stretched across his chest?

 Bike ride sunset over Lake of the Isles

 

I knew my superhero idea was more comic book imagination than reality, but I was curious to find out if it was true. My curiosity led me to a hero of sorts, although his blue tights and cape were replaced with a chin curtain, blazer and bow-tie.

His name was Horace Cleveland.

Horace Cleveland may not have leaped tall buildings in a single bound or had x-ray vision, but he definitely saw the future. Here’s what he said almost 120 years ago:

“Look forward for a century to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity or restore a natural feature of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value…”

 

Hero Horace

Fortunately, the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners knew the importance of seizing a lost opportunity and gave Cleveland, a noted landscape architect, the thumbs up to plan out his vision.  With the support of Charles Loring, an influential commissioner and the first president of the Minneapolis Park Board, Cleveland became the mastermind behind a number of parks and interconnected parkways that preserved the existing natural features within and around the city.

Future park commissioners and superintendents expanded on his vision, particularly Theodore Wirth (an instrumental advocate of the Minneapolis Park System), which ultimately lead to the famous “Grand Rounds,” an interconnected series of parkways, and parks, centered on the Mississippi River.

Broken down, the city now has parks within 6 blocks of every resident, comprising a 6,400-acre system consisting of local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, the Chain of Lakes (which receive over 5 million visits yearly) and a 55-mile parkway system.

Need to soak that all in? Here’s a cool video that shows how it all began.

Over a century later, the Minneapolis Park System is still getting top marks. When asked in a recent survey what percentage of Minneapolis residents saw the parks and lakes as a unique and valuable asset, the number was 99 percent! What’s more, the city was voted this year as having the best park system in the country.

Much of the praise can be traced back to Cleveland’s influence, his philosophy of open spaces, natural design, and the importance of preserving these public spaces for future generations to enjoy.

I hope my work at Neighborhood Forest can continue to enhance the natural beauty of our neighborhoods like Cleveland and the city’s visionaries did. The city of Minneapolis is beautiful, and I hope our work can take that beauty to the surrounding suburbs, other towns and cities across the state, and eventually across the nation.

I imagine that would make Horace Cleveland happy, other than trading in his bow-tie and blazer for a cape.

Image source: 3rd image

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

We Boogied Down!

Yes, we got our groove on with Mama Earth this year. Two states.  26 schools. Nearly 2500 trees planted.

A big thanks to all our wonderful sponsors who made it possible.

Of course, a big thanks goes out to our participating schools, our incredible school coordinators, the teachers, the parents, and, of course, the children. Your support and participation helped make this year’s tree giveaway our best one yet!

Stay tuned. We’ve got more in store for 2015.  More schools joining us, more trees to be given away and more smiles to bring to the kids.

We hope you enjoy some of these highlights from Earth Week 2014!

 

It’s Time to Boogie

Spring is here and everyone’s in a good mood. For instance, my front lawn must have a DJ spinning Top 40 hits. The grass has been dancing in the wind every day, free once again, no longer confined by a thick coat of snow, after what seemed like an ice age of being buried beneath it.The normally quiet birds that surround my yard have gone social media on me too, tweeting me their excitement every morning. I think they’ve even invited the tulips in my garden to start the season early because they’re already squirming their way through the soil to get their party hats on. I know in a few weeks they’ll be decked out, wearing red and yellow crowns, doing catwalks in my garden bed.

But this is spring, isn’t it? The season when nature comes alive again. We come alive again it seems, breaking ourselves from the winter blues (freak snow storms aside!) and slowly forgetting all our thoughts of snow shoveling, wind chills and polar vortexes.

Of course, apart from renewal and warmer weather (freak snow storms aside), there’s another reason we appreciate spring: Earth Day.

Yes, the time has come again to show our appreciation for this big, beautiful marble we call home.

I know it’s kind of funny, me appreciating the planet for one day on the calendar. Think about it: I’m given the day to appreciate our planet by our planet! She’s the one traveling a gazillion miles an hour through space, hula hoop dancing around the sun (not even taking a weekend off to get a massage or go on a yoga retreat), just so I can get 24 hours to remember her.

I don’t take her generosity lightly. I know whatever I do for the planet is like holding a candle against the sun. Tree planting activities are wonderful, but it’s a far smaller gesture of appreciation than what the planet gives me in return. What can you get for someone who provides you with air, water and food? An iTunes gift card?

Sure, planting trees through Neighborhood Forest is a small way to repay my debt and it’s making a tiny dent in my earth repayment plan. But I’ve been given a lot and it’s only fair, too, that I at least offer the planet a few extra days of appreciation.

Mind you, there are no plans to change the Gregorian calendar or lobby Congress to pass an Earth Day extension bill on the planet’s behalf. What Neighborhood Forest is doing is voluntarily extending its tree giveaway this year from April 21-29. Heck, we’re even giving trees throughout May! (By then the freak snow storms will be history too.) Anyway, I’m sure Gaylord Nelson, the late US Senator who founded Earth Day way back in 1970, won’t mind our transgression.

What’s more, the longer week allows for some flexibility with tree giving at the schools and with over 26 schools receiving trees this year (two of which are our first in the state of Illinois!), those extra days come in handy.

We’re happy more kids and trees will be making new friendships.

But what about our friendships with you? You. Yes, you the people who reside on this great planet with us: friends, family, parents, teachers, principals, sponsors. Can we thank you enough? We’re grateful for your support and participation this year. You’ve all helped make this year our biggest tree giveaway yet. It’s your turn to take a bow.

If Mama Earth had legs, I’d ask her to bow too. We need her support to get anywhere. We may supply trees and hands for planting, but she provides rain, air and dirt so our efforts are successful.

I’m grateful for the chance to do what I do. I’m grateful that I’m only a few days away from seeing those beautiful smiles on children’s faces again.

I know Mama Earth is smiling with us too. It’s spring after all, and she’s been waiting. She’s got the music turned up and her dancing shoes on.

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.