National Wildlife Federation

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GREEN TIP: Take It Outside Week is October 14th to 20th, 2012. Fall is the perfect time of year to head outside and enjoy the season. It’s healthy for you, your children and helps to connect you back to nature.

Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS) created Take it Outside Week in 2009 as encouragement for educators, families and caregivers to make time outdoors a part of a child’s daily schedule. So join HSBS the third week of every October to celebrate our natural world and go play outdoors.

Some facts you may not know:

  • Children today spend less time outdoors than any generation in history.
  • Free play and discretionary time has declined more than 9 hours a week over the last 25 years.
  • A new Nielson Company Report indicates that children ages two to five years old now average more than 32 hours a week in front of a TV screen.
  • According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age, with school-aged children spending 6.5 hours a day on electronic media.
  • The percentage of preschool children who are overweight more than tripled between 1971 and 2009.

According to research children who play outdoors regularly:

  • Become fitter and leaner.
  • Develop stronger immune systems.
  • Have more active imaginations.
  • Have lower stress levels.
  • Play more creatively.
  • Have greater respect for themselves, others and our environment.

According to a government estimate, the average American spends 90% of his or her life indoors and as we get older we become more inclined to stay inside.

The benefits of being outdoors extends well beyond childhood.

The good folks over at Harvard Medical School give some great reasons for all of us to get outside:

  • Your vitamin D levels will go up.
  • You’ll get more exercise (especially if you’re a child).
  • You’ll be happier (especially if your exercise includes green spaces).
  • Your concentration will improve.
  • You may heal faster.

To read the whole story, head over to

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

National Wildlife Federation

Part of National Wildlife Federation‘s (NWF) mission is to connect kids to nature. Families connected to the outdoors raise healthier kids and inspire a life-long appreciation of wildlife and nature. As a result, NWF has created several programs and events designed to make experiencing the benefits of free time outdoors easy. In addition, they are advocates for public policies on the federal, state and local level that increase outdoor recreation opportunities for children.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When you use water wisely you help the environment, save energy and save money.

We all know that water is essential to life on earth. We need water for a variety of everyday needs from growing food, providing power to drinking.

We are using up our planet’s fresh water faster than it can naturally be replenished so we all need to use our water wisely.

To provide enough clean fresh water for people, water is cleaned at drinking water treatment plants before it is used. And after water is used, it is cleaned again at wastewater treatment plants or by a septic system before being put back into the environment.

Saving water is good for the earth, your family, and your community.

  • When you use water wisely, you help the environment. You save water for fish and animals. You help preserve drinking water supplies. And you ease the burden on wastewater treatment plants—the less water you send down the drain, the less work these plants have to do to make water clean again.
  • When you use water wisely, you save energy. You save the energy that your water supplier uses to treat and move water to you, and the energy your family uses to heat your water.
  • When you use water wisely, you save money. Your family pays for the water you use. If you use less water, you’ll have more money left to spend on other things.


Here are some Simple Tips for conserving water:

  • Turn off the tap when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street. And water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
  • Don’t water your lawn on windy days when most of the water blows away or evaporates.
  • Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Spreading a layer of organic mulch around plants retains moisture and saves water, time and money.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn shades roots and holds soil moisture better than if it is closely clipped.
  • Choose shrubs and groundcovers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
  • Use a water-efficient showerhead. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month.
  • When you give your pet fresh water, don’t throw the old water down the drain. Use it to water your plants, trees or shrubs.
  • When you have ice left in your cup from a take-out restaurant, don’t throw it in the trash, dump it on a plant.

Source: Water Use It Wisely

More interesting information about water: Three Myths about Water

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) works to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. As the nation’s largest conservation organization, NWF and its 4 million supporters are committed to sustaining the nature of America for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Find out How You Can Help Wildlife Impacted by the BP Oil Spill.

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

I am a huge fan of playing outside for kids of all ages. Now that my oldest isBe Out There in kindergarten (gasp!) it occurs to me it might get more challenging as she gets older to allow time for unstructured outdoor play. 

Our friend, Anne Keisman, with the National Wildlife Federation is helping us out by giving us some great tips to get outside during a busy day:

1. Scenario: Traffic made you late, there’s no time to cook dinner, so you drive the family over to the rotisserie chicken place to get a quick meal.

Tip: Keep a picnic blanket in your car for an impromptu picnic on any spot of grass you can find!

2. Scenario: Backpack? Check. Lunch? Check. You’re ready to head to school.

Tip: Whether you drive or walk to school, or wait with your child by the bus-stop, take a moment to notice nature. Make it a game of “I Spy” — or download this nature scavenger hunt at

3. Scenario: Your child is studying plants at school and, at the dinner table, recites how photosynthesis works. You, yourself, have never successfully kept a plant alive.

Tip: Start small: All you need is some bird-seed and a sponge. For sponge-garden instructions, visit Next step: check out National Gardening Association’s parents’ primer for gardening with kids at

3. Scenario: You and your youngest wait outside your older child’s school, a few minutes before the bell rings.

Tip: Look up at the sky together. “Wait, mom — is that a sheep or a donkey?” Picking out shapes in the clouds is a classic childhood activity — and needs no special equipment.

4. Scenario: Your child looks at you and says, “Mom — I’m a little old for cloud-watching!”

Tip: For older kids, combine technology with the outdoors and go geo-caching or, the lower-tech version, letterboxing. There are about 20,000 letterboxes and 250,000 geocaches hidden in North America. Visit and

5. Scenario: The kids get home from school and immediately plop in front of the TV. You suggest going outside. They respond, “Indoors is more fun!”

Tip #1: Set time-limits for TV watching and video game playing. It won’t be popular, so make sure you have a back-up plan. If you have a backyard, kid-customize it with a homemade fort, dart boards, a trampoline, a craft table. Set up a bird house to keep wildlife visiting.

Tip #2: No backyard? Find your local parks using For older kids, start stretching your child’s boundaries, allowing them to go for unsupervised walks in the neighborhood with groups of friends. They’ll love the feeling of independence.

6. Scenario: Outside, it’s a perfect fall day, but you look at your child’s homework assignments and realize outside play-time isn’t a reality.

Tip: Take homework outside! There’s no reason math problems can’t be done in the fresh air. Set up a clean outdoor workspace for your child on a patio table, perhaps.

7. Scenario: Your daughter comes home from school clutching new-found treasures: three crumbly leaves, two acorns and a dirt-encrusted rock.

Tip: Instead of putting them on the kitchen counter, a drawer, or — gasp — the trash, start a nature table. Set a limit of how many items they can have in the “nature museum” — so they’ll keep it to a manageable number. Other ideas: use an old tackle or sewing box, or a hanging shoe-organizer with clear plastic pockets. Have your kids decorate it!

9. Scenario: A blank piece of paper in front of her, your daughter asks you, “What should I draw?”

Tip: Have your child make a map of your neighborhood — using only natural landmarks. This will heighten his or her observation skills and can be the first step in creating a “field guide” to the nature in your neighborhood.

10. Scenario: It’s 8 p.m. Dinner’s over, but not quite time for bed.

Tip: Keep flashlights near the door, and go for a neighborhood night hike. Kids will love the novelty — and you can challenge them to identify “night sounds.” Learn how to make a moon journal 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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