Full disclosure. I’ve never been a tree hugger, a vegetarian, or even much of a gardener. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of the outdoors much at all. I like my fast sports cars, big cities, and, till recently, nearly any form of disposable thing. But like so many millions of others, I’ve started to become very aware of our environment and what we can do for it.
In the past few years, several events in particular made me sit up and take notice.
I began working on a TV project with some guys who were a bit younger than me. Their way of looking at the world was different. They pedaled up on their bikes to nearly every meeting. They carried reusable grocery bags long before that was hip. Or legislated! They spoke freely about conserving almost everything.
Then, one day in 2007, a colleague named Matt Hill pulled me aside to let me in on a very big secret. He was giddy and giggling as he whispered, “Steph [his girlfriend] and I are going to run around the whole of North America and raise a million bucks for the planet!”
Well, knowing that crazy Matty was prone to outright fabrication just to get a reaction, I immediately dismissed this with, “Yeah, and I’m having lunch with Donald Trump.”
After a long pause and a steely stare, I realized he was being as serious as I had ever seen him. I felt a sudden rush of emotion filled with envy, pride, and more than a dash of guilt. I told him then and there that I would help out in any way I could.
A year later, he and Steph began running “a marathon a day” as they started their quest around the perimeter of North America. Supported by a biodiesel-fueled RV and not much else, the Run for One Planet movement had begun (www.runforoneplanet.com). They were really doing something.
After a full year on the road, they returned triumphant. It was more than reaching their million-dollar goal; they were triumphant in another way. During their journey, they quickly learned that there was another goal that might just turn out to be of even more value: teaching kids about the environment.
Along the way on their expedition, they brought their environmental message to tens of thousands of kids in hundreds of elementary schools. When they returned, I sensed an almost magical air about them. They had done something very important. And I knew it. And once again, I felt guilty. Yay, me!
Sometimes guilt is good. For me, anyway. It motivates me. It made me decide to convert my classic 1962 blue-smoke-belching Vespa scooter into a fully electric version. And I love it. Now I have all the head-turning fun of a multimirrored modstyle vintage Vespa with the conscience-soothing, completely silent, clean, and nonpolluting practicality of a thoroughly modern electric scooter. And I didn’t stop there. Being a bit of a Porsche fanatic, I have also taken on an electro-conversion project on a 1966 Porsche. Nothing like zooming around town in a whisper-quiet classic sports car.
I started to think about what else I could do. And I realized I could put my P.O.D. (Plain Old Dad) credentials to work and decided to write this book full of fun stories featuring our favorite brother and sister, Elliott and Lucy, helping to spark discussion about making the planet a little better.
© 2011 Ian James Corlett
and Steph Invade
It was the first week of school, and there was excitement in the air. Matt and Steph, a couple of green crusaders, were visiting the school today. They were running more than 11,000 miles around the whole continent and were stopping at schools along their route.
In the gym, Elliott was sitting with his pals, and Lucy was sitting with hers. Matt and Steph arrived to talk about their run and how it was to raise awareness for the environment and help kids to take what they called “the environmental action challenge.” They were both very enthusiastic.
Steph was really smart and knew everything about the environment, and Matt made everyone laugh with his silly voices and stories. Together, they talked about some of the crazy things that happened along their run, such as meeting UFO hunters and dealing with Matt’s blistery feet, but most of all, they spoke about things kids can do every day to make the world a greener place—things like recycling, turning off lights, even how and what you eat.
They said it was as simple as three words: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
The coolest thing happened at the end of their presentation. They played this old song from their parents’ generation called “Teach Your Children,” which is all about teaching kids how to grow up to be good people. But when Matt and Steph said a super-secret word, all the grown-ups in the gym magically “disappeared” so they could share a tip just for kids. (The secret word was “rhubarb,” and Matt said the grown-ups disappeared, but everyone could still see them.) That’s when Matt told the kids that the real lyrics to the song should be, “Kids, teach your teachers and your parents well-er.” In “Matt-speak,” there is “well” and “weller” along with “good” and “gooder.”
So that meant that even though the teachers and all the parents were doing a great job teaching kids most things, kids can take the lead to help teach grown-ups ways to help the environment.
The presentation ended with a big cheer and a pinky-promise commitment from all the kids to take action to help the planet. Elliott and Lucy were especially enthused about it and decided to start taking action right away.
© 2011 Ian James Corlett
It’s in the Bag
Today it was Dad’s turn to shop for groceries for dinner, so he took Elliott and Lucy with him to Wholesome Choices Market, the kids’ favorite grocery store. Lucy loved going there to see all the beautiful displays of fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers that came from farmers nearby.
Elliott liked to go to the grocery store because they always had creepy-looking fish on ice in the fish department. Elliott pretended that the fish were talking to one another, and he made up funny voices for them to match their mouths. “Hello, Mr. Salmon, how are things upstream today?” he would say. “Just fine, thank you, Mr. Trout,” he’d reply in a deep voice. Lucy thought everything about fish was icky even if they did have funny voices. Dad agreed. He said he had a hard time eating things with a face on them. And those fish sure did have faces. Weird ones!
With that, Dad gave the kids jobs. He said it was like a treasure hunt for ingredients. “Lucy, you go find a package of spaghetti and also a jar of sauce called marinara. And be sure to get the one that says ‘organic’ on the package. Do you remember how to spell that?”
Lucy smiled and said, “Yup, and I know what it means, too: it’s made without the yucky stuff!”
Dad just smiled and turned to Elliott. “Elliott, I want you to go get the lettuce, and along with making sure it says ‘organic,’ I want to see if you can get some that is local. All right?”
“Check!” Elliott replied.
Dad also asked him to get a cucumber and some carrots, too. Elliott complained that he had more things to get than Lucy, but Dad reminded him that his sister was smaller and this evened out the contest. “See you at the checkout. First one there wins… oh, and no running
They were off like a shot, and in record time they both came sliding to meet Dad at the front. “It’s a tie!” Dad said with relief.
The kids caught their breath as Dad finished up with the cashier. “Would you like bags today, sir?” she asked. Just as Dad was about to answer “Yes,” Lucy jumped in and said, “Dad, wait!” QUESTION
Why do you think Lucy stopped her dad before he
could answer the question?
Dad didn’t realize it, but Lucy had thought ahead and brought three reusable grocery bags from home. Whenever Mom went shopping, she always brought her own reusable bags, and this had now become a habit for Lucy, too. She answered because she knew her dad didn’t have any with him that day. Bringing her own shopping bags meant that fewer paper bags needed to be used, saving energy and trees. MORE QUESTIONS
By using her own bag from home, did Lucy reduce, reuse, or recycle?
Can you make a decision to remember to use a reusable bag when you go shopping?
What other things in this story are healthy for the environment?
Depending on what it is made from, a plastic shopping bag can take anywhere from 15 to 1,000 years to decompose. In a compressed landfill, deprived of atmosphere to help them biodegrade, paper bags don’t fare much better. Not only that, but many plastic bags find their way into our oceans and get eaten by turtles, birds, and other ocean dwellers. This can kill them.
Note “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
VINCENT VAN GOGH
© 2011 Ian James Corlett