A New Year and A New Beginning

fireworks

We’re a month into the New Year, and that means resolutions have been made, and some have already been abandoned. It means we’ve contemplated the past year, and considered changes for this one to come. It means we have new hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

trees

Hopes, dreams, and aspirations sometimes change, but I’ve always loved nature. I’ve always believed our Earth to be an extension of ourselves, and we of it. So of course I love trees, and I feel honored to have to joined Neighborhood Forest this year.

During my research to learn more about trees, I learned a tree goes through a life cycle much like a human’s (including birth, infancy, adolescence, teen, adulthood, and maturity). This fact was eye opening for me. I’ve always felt trees were somewhat majestic. Now, I see trees as unique beings, that provide us clean air and oxygen, shade us from the sun, and are home to so many other kinds of life. I also see that every tree is special, just like every person. Isn’t it a beautiful thing we get to share that wonder with children, our neighbors and future generations?

This new year your resolutions don’t have to be huge or nearly unattainable. What are you grateful for, thankful for, even if it’s something small? Even if it’s something as small as a tree seedling. I’m grateful that I get to share my love of nature with children and our communities. My resolution is to share that love as far and wide as I can this year. What are you going to go?

together

If you would like to join in on the Neighborhood Forest mission, and share your love of nature with school children, giving them free trees for Earth Day and teaching them about community, consider becoming a sponsor or contact us to find out how you can help. Let’s grow this New Year into a better future together:)

-Tiffany

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.

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!