Monday, April 9, 2018

Celebrate Earth Day with this Environmentally Aware Gift Guide

I’ve been an environmentalist since, well, almost since birth.
Celebrate Earth Day with a gift guide for environmentally aware educators | The ESL Nexus
The author camping at various places in the Adirondacks; source: The ESL Nexus

My Experience as an Environmentalist

Perhaps the reason I’ve always been interested in environmental issues stems from the fact that my parents took me camping when I was a baby.  That early exposure must have imprinted the joys of nature on me.  I’ve been involved with and supported various ecological, environmental, and nature organizations and efforts ever since.

I vaguely remember going outside with my Science class to celebrate the first Earth Day in 1970.  We stood on the grass on the field next to the playground and the teacher talked about…something.  I don’t remember what he said, just that it was an important day.
When I was in 7th grade, I entered a local photography contest and won 3rd prize.  (I think 3rd – it was a while ago!)  The contest was to photograph something about the environment and I took a picture of some foam substance that was polluting the creek near my house.

Right after college, I went to Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps Volunteer to work as an agricultural extension agent.  I’d focused on Africa and development work as an anthropology major because I wanted to help people learn sustainable methods of food production.

In my first teaching job in China, photocopying was rationed and I got coupons that limited the amount of copies I could make each month.  I quickly learned to teach without using lots of worksheets.  When I returned to the U.S., that mentality stayed with me and I was careful about how much paper I passed out to my students because I didn’t want to waste any of it.

So in honor of Earth Day, I’ve created a gift guide for teachers who care about the environment.  Please read on to find out how you can raise awareness, save resources, conserve energy, and treat the world around you with respect.
Celebrate Earth Day with this gift guide for environmentally aware educators | The ESL Nexus
Find great gift ideas for yourself, colleagues, friends & family! source: The ESL Nexus

Gifts for the Environmentally Aware Educator

(This post contains some affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you purchase any of the paid products below but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Bluray/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

This is a great movie!  I watched it several years ago and really enjoyed it.  If I could have fit it into my curriculum, I would have shown it to my students because it lends itself to lots of discussion.  It’s a Japanese movie but this version is dubbed in English.  Hayao Miyazaki is a masterful director  and I highly recommend his Spirited Away, too.

Other movies I recommend are:

Food, Inc. – Just don’t watch it before mealtime because you’ll probably lose your appetite, at least for anything with meat in it.
An Inconvenient Truth – The movie that helped people understand climate change.
Soylent Green – Perhaps the first movie that got people thinking about overpopulation and food shortages.  I haven’t seen it in years but it’s stuck with me since I watched it in the 1970s.

You can also also get these movies on Netflix if you have the DVD plan and you may also be able to find them at your local library.


Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap, Free & Clear, 25 oz (Packaging May Vary)
My sister introduced me to this product several years ago and I’ve used it ever since.  I’d been using Palmolive to wash my dishes and this works just as well, plus it’s more environmentally friendly.

Green Works Spray , fresh, 32 Ounce
So many household cleaners have harsh chemicals and bleach in them but this one uses mostly plant-based ingredients.  I use it to clean my bathrooms.  Target carries this product and it’s probably cheaper there so unless you want home delivery, get it at Target or your local supermarket, which is where I buy mine.

I’m sure you know that using plastic bags for groceries isn’t a great idea since they take so long to decompose in landfills.  Sometimes I can’t help using them but I carry 3 washable cotton bags when I go shopping.  I got 2 of them as a thank-you gift when I joined my local PBS TV station in Massachusetts and bought the other from my local grocery store.  If you can find bags that promote a worthy cause, that’s doubly good.  I don’t think my Downton Abbey bags qualify on that count, but I use them, too!

Solavore sport solar oven with reflectors and black cooking pots
After trying to build a solar oven in college, and doing a project with my 8th grade ESL Social Studies students in which they built their own solar ovens from pizza boxes, I really wanted one of these.  After I moved to Arizona, I bought one.  I use it every summer when it is too hot to cook indoors.  I love it!  My electric bill has decreased because I rarely used my stove to cook dinner during June, July, and August.  (I don't use my solar oven in the winter since I actually want my house to be warm then.)  Unfortunately, Solavore, the company that made this product, seems to have gone out of business; there are lots of other options for solar ovens on Amazon but I can't attest to their quality. 


PILOT B2P - Bottle to Pen Refillable & Retractable Ball Point Pen Made From Recycled Bottles, Medium Point, Black Ink, 5-Pack (32812)
I just bought these really cool pens.  I love the fact that they’re made of recycled plastic bottles!  They look and feel like any other pen I’ve used.  They’ve got a rubber grip and they write really smoothly.  If you have to buy pens for yourself or you want to give some out to your students as a gift or prize for something, these would be great.  They’re refillable so you can even have a great class discussion about the disadvantages of other pens that have to be thrown away when their ink runs out.

Letter size printer paper available at Target stores
I was lucky to work in a school where teachers were given a couple boxes of photocopy paper for the year.  I never ran out – the legacy of my teaching in China – but other teachers did.  If you have to buy your own paper, or need it at home, I recommend this brand from Target.  It’s not flimsy and it prints out fine.  You can get it in different sizes; the link takes you to the 750-sheet package.  What’s really nice is that it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means the paper comes from “responsibly managed forests,” as their website puts it.

Platypus collapsible 1 liter water bottle with screw cap

One year, my union gave us teachers big plastic water bottles with straws.  It was a nice gesture but to be honest, the water bottle was too cumbersome.  I bought the 1/2 liter size version of this product because it’s BPA free and when it’s empty, it folds up and doesn’t take up much space inside my handbag.  It looks like the smallest size is now 1 liter but since the bottle is collapsible and you don't have to fill it all the way up, I'd still recommend this.  It's great to use when traveling.

Acrostic poem poster available in The ESL Nexus TPT store
This is a resource in my TpT store.  It’s a poster that spells out “Earth Day” and it teaches kids about the holiday.  Just print out the 3 pages and then tape or glue them together to make the poster.  Complete directions are in the resource.  Download your copy HERE.


Reflections at Walden by Thoreau

Probably the quintessential book for anyone who considers her/himself a friend of nature is Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.  I visited Walden when I was in grade school and even though I didn’t know anything about Thoreau at the time, I was struck by the peacefulness and beauty of the place.  My parents gave me Reflections at Walden as a gift shortly afterwards.  It’s short and includes excerpts from other of Thoreau’s writings, including some poems that you can share with your students.  You can find various versions of the book on Amazon and also on Ebay, where it may be cheaper.  If you'd like to read Walden itself, it's available for free thanks to Project Gutenberg and you can find it in various formats HERE.

Star Trek Cookbook by the actors in various Star Trek TV series
I’m a big Star Trek fan (the original TV series and movies, NOT the reboot!) and the idea of traveling in space has always interested me.  You might be asking yourself how it relates to the environment but think about it: Where else would you need to respect and conserve the limited resources available to you than on a spaceship?  I haven't actually made any of the recipes but if I ever want to make raktajino, plomeek soup, or gagh, now I know how.  Plus, it's fun to see photos from the shows and read what the actors have to say about food in their universes.

A Mighty Girl is a website that lists children’s books about the environment.  They’re organized by age groups and although girls are the protagonists in all the books, boys can read them as well.
Ranger Rick magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation
When I was a kid, I had a subscription to this magazine and loved it.  Later on when I was teaching, I subscribed for a few years because I wanted my students to develop an appreciation of the natural world.  Growing up in a small city, they didn’t have the opportunity to go out and play in a forest or by a creek like I did and I wanted them to at least be able to read about the great outdoors.  You can find it on Amazon but if you subscribe through their website directly, it's cheaper.

The Body Shop Moringa Cleansing Face & Body Bar – Cleansing and Invigorating – Vegan – 3.5oz
After a long day at school, using a fragrant soap is a great way to relax.  I discovered The Body Shop company when in Hong Kong on my way to teach in China.  I’ve used their soaps since 1990.  The company made its name by being one of if not the first personal care company to not test its products on animals.  It also has fair trade deals with many of its suppliers of ingredients.  In addition to this scent, I also really like their pink grapefruit and shea butter soaps.
Bar of lavender-scented soap by the Mistral company
For a more luxurious soap, I recommend Mistral.  They use natural ingredients and don’t test on animals.   The soaps lather really nicely and have the most wonderful scents.  They also offer a 4-bar gift box, which I once given and loved.  You can buy them on Amazon but they’re much cheaper if you purchase them directly from their website.  They have a large variety and I love their imperial jasmine, sandalwood hazelnut, almond milk, Balinese vanilla and coco lime.  But I don't recommend their lavender flower -- it has little twigs in it along with flowers and I didn't like how that felt.


You can also make a gift donation in someone’s name.  I've contributed to many of these organizations:
Audobon Society
National Resources Defense Council
National Wildlife Federation
Nature Conservancy 
Sierra Club
World Wildlife Fund

Lastly, the National Park Service celebrates Earth Day by conducting special events that week.  National Park Week runs from April 17 – 25 in 2020; each year it's around those dates.  Saturday is usually a fee-free day, which means you don't have to pay an admission fee that day.  (Check this National Park Service webpage to find out when they have fee-free days.)  Go outside and enjoy yourself in one of America’s treasures -- that's how I'll be celebrating Earth Day!