Green Hour

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Instead of buying stuff (remember last week’s Green caleigh-snowmanTip) invest in experience consumption.

What is experience consumption? It’s spending time, and perhaps some money, on experiences instead of material possessions.
Source: Robin Shreeves

I just read an awesome article at Mother Nature Network from my friend Robin Shreeves entitled Why I’m optimistic about 2010: Experience consumption. Robin explains how the recession has helped us remember our lives are not about the stuff we buy, they are about our family, friends and experiences. Does this sound familiar? Have I not been saying this forever?

Green Living is about living simply, sustainably and thoughtfully.

In her article Robin references a New York Times article that says a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online.

I don’t need validation from the New York Times or ½ of America… but it sure is nice for a change.

According to the Times’ article, The Department of Labor’s time-use surveys show a similar trend: compared with 2005, Americans spent less time in 2008 buying goods and services and more time cooking or taking part in “organizational, civic and religious activities.”

In a subsequent article, January’s ‘experience consumption’ ideas, Robin gives us some wonderful ideas to help us amass experiences and not stuff in 2010. Here are a few:

Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen. After the holidays, many food pantries probably need a bit of cleaning out and organizing. Soup kitchens still need people to help serve. Volunteer by yourself or as a family for an experience that you won’t forget.

Make a big pot of soup from scratch. Try to use up as many ingredients that you already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before you shop for new ingredients. has a great search feature that allows you to search by ingredients you have on hand. Type in the ingredients you have and put “soup” for a keyword and see what you come up with. When you’re done making your soup, share it with a neighbor or someone else you think may enjoy it.

Borrow some great food-themed movies from the library.Invite friends to bring a snack to share for a movie night in. Chocolat, Diner, Mystic Pizza, Who is Killing the Great Chef’s of Europe, Ratatouille, Babette’s Feast, Bottle Shock, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Scotland, PA are just a few titles to look for. I’m sure you can think of dozens more.

Some local ideas for January 2010:

Institute a family game night.

Take advantage of the season. Get outdoors. Go for a walk, go sledding, make a snowman or snow angel.

Pizza Pop Family Concert: “Children’s Stories Set to Music” from the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony. This delightful program is 7pm on Friday, January 22nd at the NDSU Festival Concert Hall. Bernard Rubenstein is conducting. For more information contact go to

If you have any experience consumption ideas for us, please leave them in the comment section!

My Green Side’s weekly web pick:
Giving our kids (even big kids) unstructured outdoor play time makes them happier, healthier… even smarter. Learn more About Green Hour.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at


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by Wendy Gabriel

Dr. Marti Erickson retired in 2008 from the University of Minnesota, where she was Dr. Marti Ericksonfounding Director of the University of Minnesota’s Children, Youth, & Family Consortium, co-chair of the President’s Initiative on Children, Youth and Families and adjunct professor in both Child Psychology and Family Social Science. Marti now works independently as a speaker and consultant and, with her daughter Erin Garner, co-hosts a weekly radio show, Good Enough Moms™, on Twin Cities’ FM 107.1. Marti also is a founding board member of the Children and Nature Network.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?I believe the best way to gain inspiration to be a good steward of the environment is to make time to be in nature, to enjoy and love it firsthand, and to reap its benefits for my physical and emotional health and well-being. Although I cherish the “big” experiences I have in nature — hiking the Grand Canyon or sailing the Pacific — I find that “small” experiences I can squeeze into my day-to-day life are extremely powerful. So I do what I can to spend time outdoors every day. Regardless of weather, I take walks outside. I carry a folding canvas chair in the trunk of my car and, when I have a few minutes between meetings, I take a quick “nature break,” finding a patch of green where I can sit outside and breathe deeply. Every chance I get, I take my young grandchildren (ages 5 months to 4 years) exploring outside, seeing nature in new ways through their curious eyes.


What is a ‘green hour?’The National Wildlife Federation — a significant partner in the Children and Nature Network — has rallied families to declare a “green hour,” a regularly scheduled time when all family members unplug and go outside. Go for a walk, dig in the garden, pick up trash in a nearby park, whatever makes you feel personally connected to the natural world.


Why do you think it’s so important for families to institute a ‘green hour?’With many children spending 45 hours a week in front of one kind of screen or another, I think trading some of that screen time for green time is one very important step to help our children be healthier, happier and even smarter. A growing body of research shows that time spent in nature is associated with better physical health, less stress and anxiety, and better concentration and performance on academic tasks (some of that research highlighting the particular benefits for children with ADHD). Studies also show that children who learn to love nature firsthand in the company of a caring adult are more likely to be good stewards of the environment when they are older. Beyond those benefits for children, I believe a family “green hour” is a wonderful way for parents and children to strengthen their relationships with each other, and close family relationships are a major protective factor against some of the negative forces that sometimes work against our children’s healthy development. And here’s the “green hour” bonus: getting outside is a great stress-buster for adults too — and what parent can’t use that?


Where is your favorite spot on earth?Any spot where it’s 75 degrees, sunny, and my grandchildren are romping in the grass, digging in the dirt, or splashing in the water nearby.


Read more in the Four Questions series:
Four Questions with Adam Shake
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part I
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part II
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part III
Four Questions with Lisa Mills Sutherland
Four Questions with Melissa Kushi

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