The Zero Mile Diet: Local Seeds for Local Climates

In the West Coast Seeds catalog, there is a category for The Zero Mile Diet. Click on it, and the buyer is immediately transported to a host of locally-adapted seeds: lettuce greens, peas, and beans that are perfectly suited to the Vancouver climate.

Inspired by the 100 Mile Diet of Vancouverites Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon, companies and individuals are jumping on to the locavore bandwagon with vigor. A new wave of victory gardens is sweeping the nation, this one a citizen response to the need to become more sustainable and more local in their eating. These new victory gardens are sprouting on the front lawns of the suburbs and on the balconies and rooftops of the urban core.

In North Vancouver, British Columbia, the organic gardening program called GardenSmart started more than ten years ago with small fanfare. Now, edible gardening workshops fill up the day that they are advertised. People are eager to learn how to help their fruit trees grow and how to turn their lawn into a thriving garden. Last year, the response from would-be urban gardeners was so overwhelming that the organization had to run many more workshops than they had planned.

Where is all of this interest going to lead? While some might say this is a passing trend in response to the local eating movement, others see it as the harbinger of a greater change. Neighbors are teaching neighbors and the elderly are teaching the young. We’re passing down gardening knowledge from one generation to another. That’s critical. These days, the grandchildren of the victory gardeners are learning how to grow food of their own, this time to sustain a healthy community in the face of environmental change.

As we adapt to local eating and local growing, we need to learn how to save seeds. One of the deep needs in the local growing community is locally-adapted seed that gardeners can also save year to year, building valuable skills for self-sufficiency. Companies like West Coast Seeds, Salt-spring Seeds, and Seeds of Change fill that need to a degree. All of their seeds are suited to the wet climate of the temperate rain forest.

In the world of seeds, there are two very different sorts available. Hybrid seeds are the offspring of two diverse parents. They are engineered to grow with high yield, but this is often at the expense of hardiness. This means that hybrid seeds rely more on infusions of fertilizers and pesticides to remain vigorous throughout the season. When you grow hybrid plants in your garden and save the seed, the seed may be sterile or may not breed true.

Open-pollinated seeds are tough. For thousands of years, farmers have saved these seeds, knowing that they will grow again next year and continue to be vigorous over time. These seeds also adapt to the local climate and tend to have a better flavor, too! Why don’t we have access to more open-pollinated seeds? Well, these seeds are not useful for seed companies. Gardeners need to purchase hybrid seeds every year, while open-pollinated plant seeds can be harvested and saved, so the gardener may not pay for seeds next year.

Open-pollinated seeds are our seed inheritance. As we move into winter, the time for seed catalogs galore, take note of whether you can save your seeds next year. Building this skill is an important foundation for local food security and the self-sufficiency of our communities.

Rumford fireplaces: the most efficient open fireplace

I was excited to learn about Rumford fireplaces recently. As you may or may not know, an open fireplace is typically one of the most inefficient ways to burn wood for heat. Many fireplaces are a mere box in the wall that only allows wood heat to project directly straight outwards. Even worse, some fireplaces are sunken behind a short brick wall, completely blocking any possible radiant heat from reaching your feet!

A Rumford fireplace addresses many of the inefficiencies of a typical open fireplace. Rumford fireplaces are unfortunately somewhat uncommon, but they are very easy to construct. Most are built of brick, but you can use stone, or even cob. You can even build them outdoors, replacing your backyard fire pit with an even more efficient (and beautiful) fireplace to warm up with your friends.

A Rumford fireplace is designed to let heat project outwards at a wide angle, producing far more radiant heat than a boxy fireplace. Not only that, Rumfords burn more cleanly, providing more heat for less wood. The chimney opening in a Rumford fireplace is very small to increase the updraught, creating a cleaner and less smoky fire.

If you have any reliance on open fireplaces for winter heat, you may consider converting your current fireplace to a Rumford. It may take a little bit of engineering, but the results should surely be worth it.

Ultimately, Rumford fireplaces make for warmer bodies for less wood!

Tree climbing for kids

Climbing trees is great fun, and a wonderful way to get kids enjoying the outdoors and appreciating nature. Adventurous kids love the challenge of climbing a new tree, many quiet children love the feeling of getting up and away into a private world of branches, and kids of all ages can learn a greater respect for trees by climbing.

While nearly all children used to climb trees in the days before computer games and myriads of supervised activities, that’s no longer the case. Many parents are understandably nervous about a ‘dangerous’ activity like tree climbing. However, the truth is that if your child has been taught to climb trees safely with your help and approval, he will be at much less risk of injury than if he never learns to do it properly and then climbs in the park when you’re not there, without understanding the limitations of either the tree or his own strength.

Climbing Up!

Be sure to start in dry weather – wet trees can be very slippery. Find a tree with lots of nice, sturdy branches. The tree should look healthy. Growing branches are strong and can withstand much more weight than dead branches. Encourage your child to do a few stretches before starting to climb, to limber up his muscles.

The most important skill when climbing up a tree is to be able to confidently select safe footholds. As a rule of thumb, a branch that is thicker than your forearm should be able to hold your weight. But teach your child to always test each new foothold before putting his full weight onto it. The strongest point is usually where the branch joins the trunk.

Teach your child the importance of having multiple “anchors” at any one time. Committing your entire weight to a single branch without having extra holds on the tree is not a good idea. For example, if you’re standing with both feet on the same branch, you should simultaneously be using your hands to hold onto another branch that you could dangle from if the first branch were to break.

If your child climbs higher than you’re comfortable with, call out and have him stop at that height. On the other hand, many children are nervous of going too high, so please don’t ever push him to climb higher than he wants to – it’s the experience that counts, not the height he reaches!

If your child progresses to climbing tall trees, it’s a good idea to have him wear a hard hat – just in case.

Enjoying it!

Many children enjoy simply sitting in a tree, enjoying the view, and getting that close-to-nature feeling that is so sadly lacking in many kids’ lives today. A familiar tree that a child feels safe climbing can be a wonderfully peaceful place to escape from grown-ups and be alone.

Animal lovers will enjoy looking for birds and squirrels, which may get accustomed to you and come quite close, if you sit very quietly.

Some kids will be keen to build tree-houses or make other ‘modifications’, so be sure to teach your kids the importance of respecting the tree as a living being. For families fortunate enough to have a tree in the garden that is suitable for a tree house, this would be a great project for kids and adults to work on together. The best way to build a tree house without harming the tree is to have a structure that rests on the ground, using the tree itself only for secondary support, and without hammering any nails into the living tree.Getting Down!

Usually it is safest to climb down facing the trunk. Your child should always be sure of his next foothold before letting go with his uppermost hand. As with climbing up, try to have four different contact points with the tree as you progress downwards.

Some children get scared coming down, even though they were perfectly okay going up. If this happens, try to have your child take a breather and relax while in a safe spot. Then encourage him to look at the tree and his hands and feet, rather than downwards. Calmly talk him through one step at a time, reassuring him that you are there to help. Most of the time, if your child was able to climb up, he’ll be successful at climbing down, and will just need some reassurance and encouragement.

Taking it Further…

If your child gets enthusiastic about tree climbing, he might like to progress to climbing with ropes. The basic technique usually involves the use of a harness, a double rope thrown over a branch, and knots. Care with regard to equipment safety is vital, as your child will be entrusting his weight to the rope and harness rather than directly holding onto the tree. Professional tree-climbing training courses can be a great way to get into this activity as a hobby.


The Urban Farm: Greening Small City Spaces

Urban farming is all the rage these days. Where I live, back lanes are becoming orchards and community gardens continue to sprout. Organizations like the Seattle Urban Farm Company are growing, harvesting, and selling food growing on suburban micro-farms. Great stuff!

I love local food. Yes, I know that there is controversy about whether local is better, more efficient. But to me, local food seems to be the logical choice – the ultimate in self-reliance. Perhaps there are savings of scale to be had in mass food production elsewhere in the world. However, the logic of picking food from your own backyard, and the community of finding local farmers who can supply your food leaves me happy, full, and feeling rewarded.

We’re members of a local CSA, a community supported agriculture model that requires an initial investment of money for a summer and fall’s worth of produce. Every week, our farmer drops off a box of food that he picked the day before. We collect it from a central location on our way to do other errands. No, we don’t get to choose what’s in the box, but what he grows is a reflection of what grows well and abundantly in our climate.

We’re also members of Urban Grains, the first wheat farm around these parts in a long, long time to grow wheat for people, not for animal fodder. This past weekend we got more than 40 pounds of whole wheat flour, and this weekend we made local pancakes. Yes, those of you from the wheat belt may guffaw, but for those of us from the rainy Pacific Northwest, this is an accomplishment.

After the success of the book Plenty: The 100 Mile Diet, the idea of a zero mile diet is also becoming popular – zero miles being your yard, of course – or your townhouse deck, or a window box. Yet many of urban-dwellers live in tiny spaces with little or no land. What are some creative ways to bring the zero mile diet home in an urban environment? 

Plant Tiles
Imagine a kitchen backsplash that doubles as a herb garden. Plant tiles are tiles that have a little pocket in them, perfect for a small plant. Now, I doubt that you’re going to feed the whole family off these, but they would be a good addition to an indoor food system and especially convenient for areas in the kitchen. If proximity is the key to using the fruits of your urban garden, these are about as close as you’re going to get.

Hanging Baskets
Ah, the hanging basket. While memories of jade plants from the 1970s might ensue, a modern indoor or deck basket doesn’t need to be full of hippie goodness. It can be full of food! I’ve grown crops in these baskets before. The only drawback is the need to water them on a very consistent basis. Choose a basket material that is not exceptionally well-drained or choose dry-area plants, or your lettuce and tomatoes will wilt in warmer weather.

Gutter Gardens
I love the idea of the rain gutter garden. These gardens grow in reused rain gutters on the side of a house. Place them where you have the most amenable weather for vegetables. You no longer need to be constrained to the places where you actually have space on the ground. Imagine a house covered in rain gutters like the ancient terraces, growing food one on top of the other. Yes, this isn’t an indoor garden, but it’s definitely a clever use of tight urban spaces.

Living Walls
What is a living wall? It’s a panel that houses plants. Water moves down the panel and through the roots of the plants. These can be house plants that purify the air in your home, or they can be herbs and other food plants. A living wall is ideal for the deck of an apartment or townhouse. For those who have limited garden space or simply want to make use of every last part of it, vertical food growing is where it’s at.

The Sunroom
If you’re blessed enough to live in a home with a sunroom that gets quite warm in the summer, you’re blessed with a miniature greenhouse. Use your in-home microclimate to your advantage. Where I live in the temperate zone, consistent sun and warmth are a rarity, but a sunroom would allow me to extend my growing season into the fall and start plants like tomatoes comfortably in early spring.

There are so many clever innovations that can turn a home into an urban farm. So dig deep – not too deep, as not to disturb the neighbors – and dig in!

Wildlife in Towns and Cities

A great way to spark children’s interest and enthusiasm in all things related to caring for our environment is to encourage them to take an interest in wild animals. There is nothing quite like the rush of excitement that a young child will feel when he gets close to his first fox, coyote, or eagle.

If you lived in the wilds of Africa, your children would have the thrill of watching elephants, lions, and gazelles. But even for those of us who live in the middle of a big city, wildlife is all around us. We just need to look a bit harder…

Your Local Park

A park is an obvious place to start looking for your local urban wildlife. Your city might have ballparks, dog parks, or historical parks. Your nearest park might be a bit of everything, with games and also places full of grass and trees. Chances are that there is a park nearby your home where, if you sit quietly on a bench and pay attention, you will start to notice some wildlife.

The first thing you are likely to notice will probably be some birds! City birds are generally quite accustomed to being quite close to humans, and they may even approach you, hoping you will have some breadcrumbs to give them.

Try looking for birds a bit more carefully than you have in the past. Predators such as hawks may sit still at the top of a tree for long periods of time without moving. Keep an eye out for birds flying in and out of trees, and in the spring you might be lucky and spot where they are nesting. Look out for trees with holes in their trunks, as some kinds of birds nest in hollow trees.

Squirrels or chipmunks may be common in your area. They are great fun to watch; look out for them chasing each other and playing, or foraging for food in the undergrowth. At the right time of year, you will see young squirrels, which you can recognize by their smaller size and thinner tails.

When you take nature walks in your local park, try these ideas:

Avoid the crowds and walk through patches of trees or grass where there are less people
Walk quietly, and you will see more wildlife
If you see an animal and want to get closer, approach it from an angle and don’t stare straight at it; this way it will be less likely to think you are about to hunt it!
Carry a notebook and pencil to record your observations
Take your time and see how many different animals you can spot
As well as different kinds of animals, try to observe animals of the same species exhibiting a variety of behaviors

Streets, Alleys, and Sidewalks

City wildlife is not restricted to the green bits. Especially at dusk and dawn, animals like foxes and opossums often roam the city, usually looking for food; our trash cans provide a good source of nutrition! If you’re walking through the city when it’s dark, keep your eyes open and you may be surprised at what you see. Remember to go along quietly, and listen carefully too – you will probably hear the rustling of mice and rats.

The nocturnal mammals, along with the silent but spectacular owls, are best spotted at night. During the day, you’re more likely to see birds and insects. Even on a barren bit of sidewalk, you might find a highway of ants going to and from their nest.

Watery Wildlife

If there is a pond, lake, or stream in your city, you can have great fun discovering what animals live in the water. Ducks and gulls might be the first you spot, but a bit of deeper investigation with a net and a jam jar could reveal anything from water spiders and shrimps to frogs and salamanders. If you catch these, perhaps to make a drawing of them in your nature notebook, it is always kindest to put them gently back in the same location that you found them, once you’ve finished studying them.

Your Backyard

Whether you have a small dirt backyard, a patch of grass, or even just a balcony or window box, the outdoor bit of your own home is a great place to watch animals. The more you can do to make your backyard a friendly place for animals, the more variety you will see. Animals will appreciate clean drinking water, and a variety of plants will make a richer habitat that will be enjoyed by insects like butterflies and bees as well as birds and small mammals. Your own backyard can turn into a little haven that will help make the city a more wildlife-friendly place!


Bake Fabulous Bread in Your Own $20 Outdoor Earth Oven

If you enjoy baking or cooking, and you have the sort of DIY attitude that drives you to want to create, you can build your own outdoor earth oven for as little as $20! An earth oven can be built with little more than some sand, clay, brick, stone, sawdust, and recycled beer bottles, and will bake some of the tastiest breads you’ve ever had.

Let’s get this straight: breads and pizzas are best baked on a wood-fired, super hot brick hearth. Your kitchen oven just doesn’t do the same job that a big masonry or cob oven can do. You’ll know the difference as soon as you taste your fresh baked bread with its crispy crust, perfect crumb, and slight wood-fired flavor.

While brick ovens can cost upwards of a thousand dollars to construct, an earth oven can be made using locally available and recycled materials. (Yes, a masonry oven may last longer, but the difference in skill level and cost to build them versus an earth oven is huge!) Made mostly of cob (a mix of sand and clay), an earth oven is very inexpensive to build—I recently built a 22.5” diameter oven for less than $20! (The only real cost to me was the fire brick, which cost $1 each.) An earth oven also presents an appealing option to individuals wanting to bake outdoors, so that one’s home does not heat up from indoor baking in summertime.

An earth oven is wood-fired. A small oven can be heated to over 700 degrees in two hours of firing, and then the coals are removed to bake directly on the hearth. In order to make maximum use of the heat, you can bake pizza, followed by loaves of bread, and muffins, pies, or cookies, and then meat stews and beans overnight. The thermal mass of the oven allows for excellent heat storage, and hence, a long chain of breads and foods can be cooked, making maximum use of the energy of the wood.

For more information on how to build your own earth oven, I highly recommend that you check out Kiko Denzer’s Build Your Own Earth Oven for complete details! Highly recommended!

Masonry Heaters are Traditional and Efficient Sources of Wood Heat

Masonry heaters have long been built in the colder climates of Europe, but they have taken quite a while to catch on in America. They are massive in size, but they burn wood very cleanly and store heat for long periods of time, making them much more efficient than typical wood stoves you can acquire commercially.

Instead of the actual burning wood providing most of the heat in a space, a masonry heater is fired for a long period of time (depending on the size of the system, but typically several hours), and then the thermal mass of the heater provides a comfortable radiant heat in your living space.

Masonry heaters are massive systems, and a big undertaking to design and construct. They are very large in size (sometimes they need their own foundation for support), and can be expensive, too. But the benefits far outweigh this: they are one of the cleanest ways to burn cordwood, and the quality of the heat is much greater than that from a wood stove. You can save much in the way of your winter heat costs with a masonry heater.

For more information and details about masonry heaters, I encourage you to check out The Masonry Heater Association of America, which publishes a portfolio with plans for several different heaters that have been thoroughly tested. The website also includes many details about building code issues, information for manufacturers, designers, and professional heater builders.

Eating Greens and Loving It

Reducing the amount of meat we eat is a good way to live a more environmentally friendly family life.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options, 2006) livestock production is a large contributor to many environmental problems including pollution (water and air), erosion and loss of topsoil, excessive usage of energy and resources such as oil, degradation of biodiversity and deforestation.

“Environmental Vegetarianism” is a term coined to describe people who make a conscious decision to remove meat (and sometimes all animal based foods including dairy products and eggs) in order to benefit the environment.

However, if you and your family are not prepared to give up meat, simply eating less meat and more vegetables and other plant based produce is a great way to reduce your family’s carbon footprint. And it can be fun, simple, good for your budget and best of all, really tasty!

Meat as a Garnish

In our home, meals took a turn for the tastier when we started thinking of the meat, chicken or fish part of the meal as a garnish rather than the centerpiece of the food. Instead of having a big piece of meat, a generous helping of potatoes or rice and then adding one or two vegetables as an afterthought, I would focus on the vegetables first.

I’d figure out what tasty vegetables I could prepare as the largest part of the meal? Then I’d add some meat as a garnish.

Of course in order to do this successfully, you need to be confident about cooking your vegetables. Luckily this is really easy to do.

Easy and Delicious Ways to Cook Vegetables

What puts many kids off vegetables, even through to adulthood? Overcooked vegetables that have been boiled to a point where they have lost all of their texture and most of their taste!

Boiling is not a great way to cook vegetables as much of the taste and nutrients seep out into the water during cooking. If you do boil vegetables, follow these tips to ensure they retain some goodness, flavor and texture:

Bring the water to the boil before putting the vegetables into the pot
Check the vegetables with a fork and as soon as they are soft enough to easily pierce through, remove the pan from the hob and drain the vegetables
Remember that slightly underdone is much tastier than slightly overdone!

If you want to retain the maximum goodness and flavor in your vegetables, try roasting or pan frying them. Both of these methods of cooking are very easy and produce delicious results.

Roasted Vegetables

Peel your veg and chop into largish pieces (approximately 2” x 1” is about right, don’t be fussy, the size is not all that important). Place into a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Shake the pan to coat the pieces with the oil and roast in a medium oven. Allow about 35 minutes for hard vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes and about 20 minutes for soft vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. Give the pan a thorough shake about half way through the cooking time.

A particularly nice variation on the above is to drizzle the veg with runny honey as well as olive oil. Kids will love the resulting sweet flavor.

Pan Fried Vegetables

Slice the vegetables (as thinly as possible for hard vegetables like carrots, but thicker for soft vegetables like mushrooms). Warm a small amount of olive oil in a large wok or frying pan, add the vegetables and cook over a low-medium heat until soft enough to eat (a bit of crunch is nice so don’t over do them).

Which Vegetables Should I Use?

The great thing about the two methods of cooking vegetables described above is that they are so versatile.

To get you started, here’s a basic list that will give you a nice pan of roasted vegetables:

Butternut squash
Red onions
Red, yellow or green peppers

And for pan frying a starter list might be:

Green beans
Thinly sliced carrots

Bear in mind that pretty much any kind of vegetable can be pan fried or roasted. Why not experiment with new types of vegetables? In particular it’s a really good idea to try to use seasonal vegetables, preferably locally produced ones. This means fresher produce, better taste and of course less negative environmental impact.

Cooking with Your Kids

If you are able to involve your kids as you experiment with cooking different kinds of vegetables, they are more likely to be willing to try out new flavors. Children of all ages will enjoy joining you in the kitchen and if you play your cards right, you might just find that after a while you’re getting a night off as they enjoy cooking for you for a change!


The Permaculture Ethic

I’m in love with permaculture. It’s an ethic that completely reflects what I believe in creating a world in which people work with the earth’s ecosystems to create a place that is more wonderful than when they arrived.

How great would that be? Yes, I know we’re a far cry from it, but the ethic is there, and it’s growing.

What is permaculture? Permaculture is variously defined as permanent culture or permanent agriculture. As an agricultural system, it’s agriculture that works like the earth’s systems. Think of a garden that acts like a forest or a grassland, rather than of the long rows of the same crop.

As a teacher of ecology and as a gardener, I strive to understand the connections between plants, animals, water, soil, air and all of the other living and nonliving things that make up the world. This includes people, of course. Human ecology is the study of how people relate to the earth and to each other, as members of their local ecosystem.

People have always used what the earth provides. However, as our species has become more successful, we’ve been able to use more and more without helping the earth grow. The most dominant global cultures now see themselves as apart from the earth’s ecosystems rather than a part of them.

How do we renew our connections to the earth and craft a better relationship – one that renews both people and ecosystems? We do it by thinking as part of the ecosystem. We do it by taking from the ecosystem and by giving back, in equal parts.

Instead of living in a home that takes energy that is made from fossil fuels and uses it in a profligate manner, we begin to create a home that uses very little energy. We harvest this energy from renewable sources like the sun.

Instead of sending our water to the sewage system and then into our oceans, we reuse our grey water in our gardens and grow food with that water. We use composting toilets. We treat what we once discarded as the resource that it is.

Instead of eating food that grows far, far away, we create community gardens in vacant lots and we garden on our decks and in our suburban lots – instead of growing grass as our primary crop. We create a rich ecosystem that hosts a variety of plants that are well-suited to our climate, and we use companion planting to attract beneficial animals to pollinate our plants and eat the animals who eat our vegetables.

What if we were to think as part of the ecosystem in our homes, our businesses, and our communities? What if we thought about how our decisions could enhance our local ecosystems? Instead of trying to mitigate damage caused by our actions that do not mesh with the local ecology, we’d find ourselves asking how we could best improve our communities through our actions.

What if we treated our communities as the ecological groups that they are? What if we treated ourselves as members of those communities, no more or less important than the other plants, animals, rocks, soil, air and water that inhabit that place?

We could end up with communities that are:
Diverse. We would be able to explore, use, and celebrate the richness of the human and ecological communities.
Abundant. We would use what the earth provides in such a way that we would not feel limited, but we would feel joyful in our use and reuse and in what we would give back to the earth.
Resilient, in that ecosystems have ways of making sure that there is a plant or animal to step into a role when another cannot fill it.
Simple and complex. Using sun to make energy is a simple idea. However, the ways that this happens are amazingly complex. We can do it with solar cells, plants do it through photosynthesis. Ecosystems appear to thrive by themselves, yet they are supported by a complex system of interrelationships.

When we go beyond reducing our impacts on the earth and think instead of becoming a positive part of the earth’s systems once again, that is permaculture. That is a life, a community, and a world that I would love to see.


Why Ecoliteracy?

A child walks into the forest.
Or does she?

In this age of stranger danger and dwindling open spaces, children interact with video screens more than natural places. Natural places are inaccessible to children. Vacant lots are fenced off. Children are asked to stay inside after school to stay safe, or they have no time for free, unstructured play.

In his book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv talks about this phenomenon, calling it “nature-deficit disorder.” The journalist interview three thousand families about the changing nature of childhood, and what he found inspired him to write a book that explores the need for children to connect with nature. It became a bestseller.

We are born needing to connect with other life, whether this life is a pet, a garden, or a forest. Heading outside is healthy for our physical, mental and emotional well-being. An American biologist named Edward Wilson has named this affinity for other life “biophilia.”
Unfortunately, today many of us connect nature with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of extinction and climate change. Fear for our future.  In our classrooms, how do we build on children’s desire to connect with other life? How do take fear and move into positive action? When we teach ecological literacy, we can do both of these things.

What is ecological literacy?

When we teach ecological literacy, we teach about how nature works.

We learn that:
Life is cooperative. The patterns and networks of species, communities, and systems sustain each other.
Life needs to be diverse. Diversity means that we can change.
Every living and non-living thing is connected. Life is about relationships. Ecosystems are communities. Species work with each other in relationships. And yes, this sometimes means that they eat each other. That’s a relationship too.
Everything starts with the sun. This is what feeds the plants that sustain life on earth.
Matter cycles. Every piece of sand and drop of water has been here forever, and it will always be here, albeit in a different form.
Ecosystems do not have waste. Waste is always food for another organism. If an animal poops, something has to eat that!
People need nature to survive. We need clean air, water, and soil. We need plants and other animals to work with us and sustain us.

Why teach ecoliteracy?

Imagine a classroom or a home that fosters a sense of wonder for the natural world and encourages children to explore that world, both freely and as part of structured projects.

This place would foster joy in our relationship with the rest of nature and encourage children to have an ongoing relationship with natural places, whether these are a corner of an urban schoolyard or a wilderness area.

Together, adults and children would learn that they rely on nature and that they are part of nature. This would provide a foundation so that children could inquire, learn and grow as life-long citizens of the planet.

Why should we create such a space in our classrooms and in our homes?

Literacy is about teaching building blocks – letters, words – so that early readers can comprehend written language. However, the objective is not only to yield people who know how to identify words. The objective is also to create a life long love of reading. We teach literacy so that our students yearn to ask questions and find answers and learn about their place in the world.

The same is true for ecological literacy. Through ecological literacy, children and adults grow to understand nature and their place in nature. We foster connections with nature and encourage people to move beyond fear to explore, learn and act on their knowledge.

Why ecoliteracy?
So that our children can walk into a forest and feel a joyful connection with that place.

Suggested Resources
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv
A look at the importance of nature in childhood that explores ways to renew connections between children and natural places.

Sharing Nature with Children and Sharing the Joy of Nature by Joseph Cornell
Activities to inspire reconnection with nature.