Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kristin's Green Gift Guide

I have green on the brain...and not just because I'm constantly fundraising for Future Weather. (Hint, hint: we're offering great holiday gifts for every donation over $10 till the end of December!) But in my effort to make green choices for our production team, I've started searching for green holiday gifts for my friends and family, too.

The good news is there is an abundance of cool, conscientious and
cutting-edge stuff out there - from recycled tees to philanthropic chocolate (I'm 8 months pregnant and really getting to know chocolate...) So check out my Green Gift Guide. It has something for everyone. And please have a happy, healthy and green 2009!

"The Friend-That-Has-Everything" Green Gift:
  • Vintage Cameo Cuff Bracelet from Verde Rocks: Outfit the hip chick in your life with this brass cuff that features a vintage cameo center. Verde Rocks has been featured on Eco Chick, a great site for finding the latest trends in green fashion. (Plus I love that every visit reminds you that Mother Earth is a woman. A lot of people still need reminding.)
  • Matt & Nat Grandmaster Magenta Bag: This hot vegan-leather bag is one of my favorites from Matt & Nat, an eco-conscious designer label that started with the challenge to forego animal products for thirty days. I also love their bag recycling program.

  • Pangea Organics "Joy" Holiday Gift Set: I flipped over this gift set when I recently saw it featured on ecofabulous - and it's not because it uses my middle name (yes, Joy). It's full of refreshingly yummy items like Indian Green Tea with Mint Soap and Lipcare with Lavender and Cardamom. But the coolest part is that the gift box is 100% compostable, biodegradable, and plantable!

"The Who-Says-You-Can't-Please-Everybody" Green Gift:

  • Designer Tees from E Bond: For a $50 donation to Future Weather Productions (our film project!!), you'll be the first to wear this exciting new t-shirt produced from recycled concert t-shirts by Stay Vocal, a ReUse company. Featuring an artful rendering of tree rings by Anthropologie designer E Bond, it's a unisex gift with a purpose: to raise awareness of global warming.

"Hot Hubbies, Boyfriends or Maybe-he-will-be-in-2009-Guy" Green Gift:

"Coolest Green Gifts for Your Little Member of Generation Z":
  • EcoTots Art Time Easel: Just the thing for budding young artists and environmentalists. Constructed from just three pieces of 100% formaldehyde-free, Forest Stewardship Council Certified/environmentally friendly SmartWood®, it features a durable, 100% non-toxic water-based finish.

"The Friend-Who-Can't-Stop-Ooing-Over-The-Dessert-Tray" Green Gift:
  • Theo Chocolate: Okay, okay, maybe Oprah discovered them last year for O Magazine, but they make my favorites list too. Theo is the only organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate shop in the US. Even more importantly, their chocolate is DELICIOUS. It was hard to decide on which bar to select as my favorite. I had to go with the namesake of my childhood hero, The Jane Goodall Bars. According to the site, proceeds from the sale of these chocolate bars benefit cocoa farmers, promote conservation in the tropical rainforest and directly contribute to the Jane Goodall Institute’s efforts to save chimpanzees, develop community-centered conservation efforts and direct youth education programs around the world. A guilt-free treat in my book!

If you are a cinephile, patron of the arts or simply a person concerned with global warming, we hope you keep Future Weather's fundraising efforts in mind as you're gifting this year. We plan on shooting this important story of a girl coming to terms with global warming in 2009, but we can't move forward without the help of supporters like you. Proceeds from our Holiday Fundraising Drive will go to support our production and our green filmmaking guide.

Happy Gifting & Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jenny Goes To Washington

A joint project by Global Exchange and Coop America, Green Festivals are currently the largest sustainability events in the world. I had to see for myself. So a couple of Sundays ago, I hopped on a bus and two hours later landed in DC. The Chinatown bus qualified as public transportation, so Greenfest took five dollars off their already reasonable $15 entry fee.

Co-op America is a great resource for finding sustainable businesses to work with, so I knew the DC Convention Center would be packed with cool green entrepreneurs. What I was not prepared for was the sheer number of them. Part trade-show, part conference, there were food and product samples galore, world class speakers (Amy Goodman, Van Jones) and perhaps most impressive of all, an exciting sense of community, diversity and possibility.

I met the lovely Starre Vartan, the Eco Chick of blog and book fame, at a table for E Magazine. I met the authors of How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate, a fantastic book full of scientific facts and experiments geared for middle-school kids. I met the CEO of Honest Tea, Barack Obama's soft drink of choice. I met drummers, fashion designers, green party planners, activists, intellectuals and school teachers. And at a table hosted by the Goodwill, I met the DC Goodwill Fashionista, who helped me make this cool bag out of a second-hand t-shirt!

The Green Festival website says that through a variety of sustainable measures they "walk their green talk", so I was curious to see how it all worked on the ground. Were there ideas we could borrow for our production?

First, the waste management seemed extremely well-coordinated and definitely in line with the research we did on this blog a few months ago. According to the GF site, only 3% of their waste ends up in Landfills. Resource Recovery Stations were set up nearly every fifteen feet, so you were never at a loss when it was time to throw out your trash. Each station had a separate receptacle for Compost/Organics, Mixed Paper, Recycling and finally Landfill. And just to ensure that your trash ended up in the right place, each station was manned by a volunteer equipped with gloves to do a little sorting.

When I went to recycle my free bottle of Honest Tea, I was asked to remove the cap, something we have become accustomed to doing in the Future Weather office; however, the cap then went into the Landfill receptacle, whereas at our office, we've been collecting them to bring to Recycling Services. There was also no option for disposing of recyclable plastic film, which I'm sure found it's way onto the tradeshow floor. But halfway through the day, boxes began to appear at each Station for people to dispose of the shiny film that wrapped the ubiquitous energy bars samples. I guess that had been bothering someone else, too. (When are "green" companies going to realize that sustainability doesn't just end with products and sourcing?) But I didn't know they could be recycled. When I find out where, I'll report back.

The other major innovation Green Festival made was to mandate that every vendor and food service provider use biodegradable utensils. We blogged about this as well, so I was curious to actually test out these new materials. Of all the products that we covered, bagasse seemed to be the most environmentally friendly, so I was a little disappointed to see that it didn't hold up very well to hot food.
before & after

The innovations Green Festival implemented are changes that not only lessen the environmental impact of the event (we're talking tens of thousands of people, products and samples), but also teach the attendees about new sustainable practices. For instance, changing "trash" to "resource recovery" is a quick and hands-on way to get people to rethink the waste stream. To learn more about Green Festival's extensive waste management efforts, visit this page.

This November, Green Festivals were held in Washington DC and San Francisco. They'll pick up again this spring in Seattle, Denver, and Chicago. If you live nearby, I definitely recommend!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stay Vocal: A ReUse Company

Last summer, a friend forwarded me a link to Alex Eaves' pitch for IdeaBlob and told me to vote for it. It was here that I learned about STAY VOCAL, Alex's iconoclastic (and refreshingly non-corporate) youth-oriented vision of green: a website that promotes positive social and environmental messages through the sale of remade, reprinted t-shirts, bags and other textiles. But make no mistake, this is not just e-commerce dressed up in thrift store clothing. It's a community, art gallery and issues forum on everything from sustainability and gun laws, to equal rights and adoption.

STAY VOCAL's mission is to encourage people to reuse and to make themselves heard. So in the true STAY VOCAL tradition, we thought it would be best if Alex told you the story behind the company himself. --Kemper Herron

STAY VOCAL is a products and information company centered around the practice of reusing materials. But it wasn't always that way.

In 2003, I started the company (originally called VOCAL) as a positive-minded skateboard and apparel company, as a result of working with numerous non-profit organizations, political punk bands, and wanting to continue on in the skateboard world without injuring myself as much.

I came up with the original name of "VOCAL" because I was disenchanted by people who complain about how bad things are and never actually do anything about it. It would be a company that encouraged people to use their voice to make some positive change in the world.

Strangely enough, the first piece of merchandise that I ever created was not a skateboard, but rather a ReUse t-shirt. These were used shirts that I cleaned, treated, and put new logo prints on.

I had been selling merchandise for bands for three years at that point, and it was blowing my mind how many new t-shirts were being manufactured all the time. And I wondered how many times those shirts actually got worn before ending up in a thrift store or sent off to a rag company. After researching facts on textiles and textile waste, I realized that this was something that I not only wanted to do, but felt I needed to do.

Over the next four years, I did some extensive touring with the band Anti-Flag as their merchandise manager. While I continued to make ReUse t-shirts, I began venturing off and working on other ideas for positive change as well: adoptions, animal rights, human rights, etc. And during this time, many of the bands we toured with became interested in STAY VOCAL and many joint projects ensued. Some examples are the Anti-Flag Skateboard deck, Darkest Hour T-Shirt, and Bent Left Travel Mug.

But in all that time, there was one major problem. When anyone asked me what STAY VOCAL was, I could not answer them in one sentence. I tended to go off on a rant about all of the different socially conscious ideas that the company was involved in. And it was also quite confusing as to whether or not STAY VOCAL was a non-profit.

This past spring, after a bit of a mental breakdown and talking with my personal discussion group (friends, family members, and business cohorts), it was obvious that ReUse was the most important aspect of STAY VOCAL. So as of the end of March 2008, SV officially became a reuse products and information company. The other ideas are not gone; they just fall under the ReUse umbrella. We encourage addressing all manner of ideas that can have a positive impact on our Earth.

After first making the decision to go strictly reuse, I was a bit nervous about how things would change, especially with the many bands that had helped mold STAY VOCAL to be what it was. But fortunately, the bands have been extremely supportive and are more involved than ever.

When I began making reusable shopping bags, Strike Anywhere, Darkest Hour, and Mike Park (owner of Asian Man Records) were all for having their own. We have also begun providing ReUse t-shirts as tour merchandise for bands like The A.K.A.s and Bent Left. Other bands like Big D and The Kids Table, Sakes Alive!!, and Resolution 242 are new bands in our community, and ReUse has become an important idea to them as well.

Switching to a strictly reuse products and information company was a tough decision, but with the reception that it's received, I know it was the right idea. And hey, I can even say what I do in one sentence now!

Alex Eaves is the owner and founder of STAY VOCAL, a reuse products company based in Norwell, MA. His roots are in skateboarding, traveling with musicians, and working with non-profit organizations. Alex was the May 2008 winner of IdeaBlob's monthly contest for the best small business idea.

Presto Chango: What do you reuse?

Recycling is great, but reusing is even better. Reusing extends an object's lifespan which means less resources are wasted on producing new objects and less waste ends up in a landfill.

Here are a few things that I reuse:

old towels --> rags
bread bags --> produce savers
hummus containers --> leftover storage
egg cartons --> bring back to farmer (so he can reuse!)
ziploc bags --> wash and use again
rubber bands
twist ties

Everyone has their reuse magic tricks. We want to hear some of yours!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quick Clicks for Eco-Action

ABC recently refused to run the We campaigns Repower America Ad. Tell ABC what you think:


It's election year not just for the president, but for important congressional seats as well. Urge your candidates to answer 5 key questions about the environment and find out where they stand.


Pennsylvanians can vote to conserve key environmental components in our state: trees, open spaces, water, habitats and trails. Each cause is represented by a dedicated conservationist. The winner's affiliate organization will receive $5000.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Green Porno Lights Up the Night

Sexy as flashing tubes of neon and strange as the actress herself, Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno series, produced for Sundance, is my new obsession.

1. make sure there's no one under 18 in the room
2. turn off the lights
3. take a sexy quiz to find out which insect you are
4. (different moods may yield different answers)
5. click 'watch green porno'
6. pick the insect you are
7. prepare to have your mind blown

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FLOW, a gutsy new documentary

FLOW (For Love of Water) is an incisive and humanitarian examination of what experts are calling a global water crisis – a crisis that some suggest could lead to the next major extinction of life on planet earth after the dinosaurs. Weaving alarming, often enraging, stories of pollution and privatization (in both developing countries and the U.S.), agile director Irena Salina makes it quickly apparent that these experts are right.

Referred to by many in the film as "blue gold," water is a $400 billion industry, number three after electricity and oil. As industrialized agriculture and other globalized fiends like dams and bottled water rapidly contaminate and disrupt the earth's natural water supply, water has become a commodity of rising worth; and like many commodities, one that is needed by many (1 billion lack clean drinking water to be exact) and controlled by few.

Who are the corporate bad guys FLOW exposes? The most recognizable names among them are Nestle, Coca-Cola, and World Bank, whose actions are perhaps the scariest of the bunch as the World Bank is not "accountable to civil society or to the communities that are negatively impacted by its projects." And as FLOW asserts, those projects with negative impacts are many.

Like 11th Hour, FLOW is part of a new era of environmental activism. Its highly qualified interviewees tell us in very plain, scientific terms that our future is in grave danger; we cannot afford to isolate environmental issues as things that happen to nature. Scratch the surface and they're connected to every system – economic, political and social – that humans inhabit. Scratch deeper and you find that what's truly at stake is the fundamental belief system of those in power: that the earth is our rightful property to exploit in a destructive quest for profit.

As we ride out the tumultuous end of the most damaging federal administration in American history and face one of the most important elections of our era; as we watch major financial institutions fall and Wall Street panic; and as we worry about the security of our jobs and retirement plans and the very real threat of a credit drought; now is the perfect time for Americans to go see FLOW. It not only puts the struggle for survival in a new light, it leads by some very inspiring examples that change is possible, and only possible, if people get smart and get involved.

Here are ways you can take action...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Real-Life Laduree!

Treehugger reports that William Yuan, a 12-year-old from Beaverton, OR, has invented a solar cell that absorbs 500 times the light of existing cells. Read more...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Future Weather at Greenfest

On Sunday, Kristin, Meg and I, along with a crew of volunteers, spent the day at Greenfest Philly, where we curated the Eco-Film Forum. Here are some of our pics:

Our tent next to Headhouse Square. You can see the I.M. Pei towers in the background.

Our banner, made from recycled plastic bottles and donated by Dream Green Banners.

Our eye-catching display, made by Holly Maher of Metropolitan Moms.

The selection of videos we curated.

Our fundraising swag: socially-responsible dolls donated by the Untours Foundation, seed packs and plantable butterfly necklaces.

Bag Monster & me. His costume is made from 500 plastic bags - the number the average American consumes in one year.

At 4pm, I presented the Future Weather fundraising trailers. They garnered a controversial response from one audience member who called them "dystopian," "negative" and "irksome". He seemed to feel that a family drama with environmental themes should be more cheerful. While I didn't agree with his assessment, it did spark a very good conversation about the function of narratives.

The day was jam-packed, so unfortunately, I didn't get to see as many of the other tables as I would have liked. But I did experience the free water-filling stations. The idea was to bring your own bottle and refill as needed. It may be a good option for providing water on-set, so I'll report more soon.

We finished the day off with a fantastic line-up of local filmmakers and environmental organizations including Marisa Miller of Kind Green Planet and Philly's own Big Tea Party and David Kessler. Thanks to our volunteers Holly Maher, Joyce Wright, Carolyn Richardson, Amy Coleman and everyone who came out and supported us!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Recycling Plastics: Part 1

If there is one thing we’ve learned in the last three months, it’s that throwing your trash in the garbage is not enough. Most everything that's not biodegradable can be recycled. It’s just a matter of setting up a recycling plan that works for your home or business.

For the last three months, Jenny has been saving all her household and office plastics. The reason for doing this was simple. The Future Weather Productions office needs a recycling plan that can be easily implemented.

Plastics #1 and #2 can be recycled curbside, but the rest of our plastics need to be sorted and then connected with an appropriate recycling center. This was also a good way to visualize how much packaging we were using on a daily basis to see where we could decrease our consumption.

It required a vigilant watch over everything we threw away – there is plastic everywhere. And it entailed washing food containers – take-out, hummus tubs, and meat packaging being the biggest offenders. When our bin started to overflow, we decided it was time to SORT.


Before starting on the project, I knew that I was a plastics novice. So the first thing I did was brush up on my terminology. What is the difference between all those little recycling symbols?

I read through previous blogs we'd posted on recycling (see bottom for a list) and combed through info on the web. Earth911 and Midwest Recycling Company offer specific descriptions of what characterizes the different plastic codes. The Daily Green offers pictures and generic examples of what types of products fall under each code. And National Geographic's Green Guide offers a list of common food storage containers and packaging and what their codes are.

Once I felt confident in my understanding of the plastic codes, I began sorting. First, I separated the plastics into two categories: solids and films. The solids were any type of hard plastic ranging from old deodorant tubes to take-out containers. The films consisted of grocery bags, food wrappers, cereal box liners, and other generic bags.


I tackled the solids first, making a pile for each code. One thing we learned from Recycling Services, Inc. is that the screw-tops on many plastic containers, including #1s and #2s, are made from a different material than the container itself. So Jenny had been separating those as soon as she dumped a #1 or #2 into her curbside box.

For the most part, I was pretty impressed by how many plastics were actually labeled. (Sometimes difficult to read, but often there. Just search for the little triangle!)

In the end, our solids were mainly made up of #4s, #5s, and #6s. Once I got a rhythm going, I caught on that clear food tubs (think grated parmesan or store-bought hummus) are #5s. The lids that go on top of those tubs are #4s. Many of the clear take-out containers and all of the Styrofoam were #6s.

If you're ever in a pinch, check out the website of the material's manufacturer. I even emailed Dixie, who promptly replied that their condiment cups are a #6.

At the end of the solids, I had a relatively small pile of plastics that were not labeled. These unknowns were a broken Ikea lamp, a retractable pen, plastic netting, and other broken bits. We'll hold these items until we can get someone at a recycling center to help us identify which code they belong to.


Next I tackled plastic films. According to a worksheet called Determining the Type of Plastic Film on PlasticBagRecycling.org, "Plastic film is typically defined as any plastic less than 10 mm thick. The majority of plastic films are made from polyethylene resin and are readily recyclable if the material is clean, dry, and not pigmented black."

From my research, I knew that grocery bags and the smaller produce bags you can find at the grocery store were both #2s. I separated those and went back to the pile. I was surprised by how much generic food packaging is not labeled, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods brands. I started to notice that the bags that were labeled were #4s: mostly bread bags, baby carrot bags and toilet paper packaging. However, after all this, I still had a large pile of bags that were un-labeled. So I went back to the internet.

According to PBR's worksheet, #4 includes three types of polyethylene:

  • Low-density (LDP) has "moderate stretch and strength" e.g. bread bags, Ziploc bags, and bubble wrap
  • Linear low-density (LLDP) has a "slightly tacky feel to the touch, stretchy" e.g. thin newspaper bags and dry-cleaning film
  • Medium density (MDP) has "poor stretch and strength characteristics" e.g. consumer paper packaging (like toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)

So for the rest of the unknown bags and film, I had to make the judgment call. The stretch factor described in LDP and LLDP helped me weed out our Septa token bags, produce packaging and deli meat bags as #4s.

But there were still some bags whose film was not consistent with polyethylene descriptions above. I had a pile of very thick, tough clear plastics used to vacuum seal meat products. Were they #4s or Nylon #7, "typically thick, high-strength plastic films"?

And I was still unsure about a pile of tough, crinkly film that packaged things like pasta, corn chips and bread (as a bag-liner). Were they OPP#5: "high clarity, fairly stiff, crinkles to touch"?

Jenny turned me on to Eco-Cycle, a Colorado organization with a great website that strives to produce Zero Waste communities. I decided to contact them and ask about the crinkly plastic packaging that was causing me so much trouble.

Micki Folmar of Eco-Cycle told me the type of packaging I was describing was cellophane and therefore unrecyclable. However, she gave me a good rule of thumb (literally!) to distinguish cellophane products from other plastic films: the Tear Test.

"Push your thumb into package. If it stretches or you poke a hole through the package, then it is recyclable. If the packaging tears in an almost straight line, then it is cellophane and therefore not recyclable.” By using the Tear Test, I was able to separate a few cellophane bags from the rest of the crinkly plastic films. But what about the rest?

As the PBR worksheet suggests, we did a burn test for both remaining piles. The tough clear plastics smelled pretty foul, that familiar burnt plastic smell, so we decided they were not #4s, which should smell like a candle burning. The tough crinkly pile smelled slightly sweeter and less acrid. Again, not #4s.

We are following up with Nina Butler at PBR to confirm that we're looking at #7 Nylons and OPP#5. The market for these plastic films (non-#2s & #4s) is smaller, so in the end, we may not be able to recycle them.

Now that we've sorted, the next leg of this project will be to distribute the remaining plastics to recycling centers and answer any remaining questions about what materials can and can't be recycled. Once that's finished, we will be able to execute an effective recycling system within the Future Weather Productions office. So stay tuned for Part Two of Recycling Plastics!

For more on plastic recycling, visit our blogs:

Plastic Codes: A Visual Guide
Recycling FAQs
Recycling Services, Inc.
Clean Vibes
Plastic Bags: Just Say No

Waste Defined
Online Waste-Sorter

Plastic Codes: A Visual Guide

This guide is a work-in-progress, our end-goal being a comprehensive sorting aid that can be used as part of your own home or office recycling plan. As we collect more information, we will add it here. Please comment with your recycling questions and contributions and we'll try to incorporate them.


#1 Plastic Solids: PETE
Clear plastic to-go cups and lids, soda bottles, take-out containers

#2 Plastic Solids: HDPE
Shampoo bottles, deoderant tubes, tofu containers, milk jugs, household detergents

#3 Plastic Solids: PVC
Hard yet flexible clear plastic, commonly used for toiletries, computer and electronics packaging (e.g. toothbrushes, hard drives, videotapes, USB cords)

#4 Plastic Solids: LDPE
Flexible lids to plastic food tubs

#5 Plastic Solids: PP
(SOFT) Yogurt containers, flexible take-out tubs, fruit baskets, straws; (HARD) plastic screw-tops, DVD/CD spools, hard take-out lids

#6 Plastic Solids: PS
Styrofoam, coffee lids, condiment cups, clear plastic take-out boxes, cutlery, opaque lids to fast food cups

#7 Plastics: Miscellaneous
This category is plastics made up of multiple resin layers or parts (in our case a toner cartridge sleeve and fruit container) but also includes three to five gallon water bottles and sunglasses

Metro card, misc. hard cards, broken plastic Ikea lamp, plastic netting, retractable pen, contact lens case, rubbery container, etc.


#2 Plastic Bags: HDPE
Grocery bags, film-like opaque colored bags, cereal box liners

#4 Plastic Bags: LDPE, LLDPE, MDPE, HDPE
Ziploc bags, bread bags, toilet paper packaging, dry-cleaning bags, bubble wrap, and other stretchy yet tougher bags

Crinkly Plastic Packaging: (Code TBD)
Pasta bags, corn chip bags, seals for DVDs and other containers, bread liners, and other films that are tough, crinkly, and either don't tear or tear in a straight line

Thick, Tough Plastics: (Code TBD)
Plastic film that is not easily stretched or torn, often used for vacuum sealing meat

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Future is Planted By Hand

e bond is an artist, graphic designer and dear friend. When she showed me pictures from her vacation to Scotland, I was ecstatic. There before my eyes were countless photogenic Tsugas - the tiny Hemlock sapling that Laduree raises in Future Weather. But what was e doing with Tsuga? Read her story below...

In early May of this year, I traveled to meet my friend Sherry for an adventure in the Highlands of Scotland. She was headed there to work for Trees for Life, a non-profit we had raised money for in Philadelphia through our arts group, so I thought I would tag along for a volunteer holiday.

After much traveling on both our ends, she coming from Vietnam, me from Philadelphia, we ended up right outside of Inverness, Scotland, in a small area called Invermoriston. This upper region of Scotland contains small remnants of what is known as the Caledonian Forest. This forest was formed after the last ice age and once covered over 1.5 million hectares of Scottish Highlands. These ancient forests, now fragmented, are home to a wide variety of wildlife, much of which is not found anywhere else in the British Isles, all of which is in danger because only 1% of these forests remain. Trees for Life is dedicated to the regeneration and restoration of these forests, and this is where we would spend the next 7 days.

A typical “work week” with Trees For Life can consist of various jobs ranging from collecting seeds and berries to putting up fences to protect seedlings from animals. Our amazing group of 7 volunteers and 2 leaders would be planting Scots Pine seedlings in an area of the forest that was not able to regenerate on its own due to overgrazing by large populations of deer. For 7 days, these 9 so-called “strangers” lived, ate, and worked together outside planting trees.

Now planting trees in the Highlands isn’t as simple as it may seem, or at least not in the beginning. Each morning we would each pack 90 seedlings into our bright yellow planting bags, pick up our equipment and head out into the vast tree graveyard that we were trying to re-generate by hand. We would trek out to the planting site over wet, uneven terrain in search of good, viable earth for the seedlings to be planted. We learned in our training that in order for Scots Pines to have a fighting chance, they need to be planted in soil that is primarily dry, which always means looking for higher ground.

We spent our mornings planting under clear blue skies, and when it was time for tea breaks, we would lay under centuries old pines that shaded us from the heat while we talked and drew and lounged. In the beginning of the week, I thought I would never be good at planting because I spent so much time trying to find a good spot for each seedling and talking to them, ushering them on their way.

If I must be honest, I think Sherry and I took more photographs, drew more diagrams, and sang more made-up planting songs than we actually planted. But our leaders were kind and assured us that we were doing fine. And believe it or not, each day we were getting better despite our slow pace. By the end of the week, the 9 of us had planted 3,540 trees, and even us “slow” members had gotten pretty adept at planting. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe we accomplished so much in such a short time.

When you volunteer for Trees for Life you become immersed in the nature of your surroundings and you are constantly learning more about the land as you work it. I felt especially lucky, because not only were our group leaders smart and generous with their knowledge, but each member of the group brought their own expertise to the collective experience. It made the planting so much more enjoyable, because our days were filled with impromptu nature walks, bird watching, and wildlife lessons initiated by our own group members!

Since I’ve gotten home, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my group or my time in Scotland. I think of open spaces filled with heather, aspen, birch and pine, and I remember air so clean that lichen grows on anything that will stand still. I think of how old the trees were that shaded me and that they are still standing after hundreds, maybe thousands of years. I also think of what we left behind, which was 3,540 chances at making another forest for someone else to sit under one day. Which is a nice thing to leave behind.

These images were a group effort, as was everything on this trip, so thank you kindly to Rob, Sherry, Danielle, and crew for the beautiful photos they've shared. You can also check out my dear friend Sherry’s account of this same adventure here. Lastly please, please support Trees for Life. They are doing incredible work and they just rock!

bond is an artist living + working in philadelphia. her days are spent as catalog designer for anthropologie, while her nights are spent drawing, making handmade books & dreaming up new ways to see the world.