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.
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?
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:)
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.)
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…”
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.
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.