Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Symbiotic harmony

A conversation between a tree frog and a bromeliad plant. See, humans aren't the only ones who talk to their plants.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Classic SoCal

Nothing says Southern California quite like the silhouette of a lifeguard tower on a beach at sunset.

Thank you Rebecca for sharing you beautiful sunset picture from Hermosa Beach, CA.

Do you have a favorite sunset picture that you would like me to feature here? If so, send me your picture and the location it was taken. After all, what good is a beautiful sunset if you can't share it with others?

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

*Please only submit pictures you have personally taken and own the rights to.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trying to stay positive in a world of negativity

I learned something yesterday. Well, actually I realized something, because I believe I have always known that my way of living is different from that of others. I had difficulty keeping myself engaged in conversations because my thoughts and opinions were different than those around me. At times I felt like banging my head against the wall because nobody seemed to understand what I was saying.

I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinions about politics, the environment, and what type of job is best for them. I don’t believe that someone should be put down or made to feel inferior because their opinions may not be the norm. I live an eco-friendly lifestyle, love wildlife, love photography, and believe that in some small way I am doing something to make this world a better place.

I do my best to minimize waste and recycle everything I can. Seeing so many things go into a trash can that can be recycled hits a nerve that I can’t seem to get over. Yet it seems I have to walk on eggshells when voicing this opinion. Seeing plastic bags everywhere drives me crazy – people reusable bags are not that expensive and they won’t sit in landfills or pollute the oceans. In fact, most stores sell them for under a dollar. The food waste during the holidays is unbelievable. I won’t even get started on this one.

I don’t believe in giving a lot of materialistic gifts. We don’t need them and sadly, most will end up in a landfill at some point. Sure, I purchased a camera for my son as a gift this year, but he is passionate about photography and needs a camera that actually works to pursue this passion. For the third year in a row, I will be giving friends and family gifts that cannot be bought in a store. I will be purchasing wish list items from the San Diego Zoo and adopting animals to help save wildlife. These gifts come from the heart and I would be honored to receive such a gift. What difference does it make if my family spends $50 on a gift that I can probably do without or if they adopt an animal in my name for $50?

If a rhino is murdered in Africa, most people don't give it a second thought. Me on the other hand - I sit here and cry as I'm reading the news story wondering what I can do to make it all stop. I believe in making a change for the better and that the results of my actions will last longer than my life here on earth.

Last night I was talking with a friend and she reminded me to keep following my passions. She said that the older generations dislike change and that the best we can do is keep voicing our beliefs and teach the younger generations. I already knew what she said was true, but it never hurts to be reminded that it is ok to be different – to march to the beat of your own drum.

I will …
Never give up.
Stay strong.
Be positive.

Why? Because …
One person can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The art of doing nothing

Everyone needs to do this. The art of doing nothing can do wonders for your mind and body. Take time to relax, take a walk through nature or just hang out and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - There is always hope

Sometimes reading about endangered species can be difficult. Doing research to write about them is even more difficult. Oh, who am I kidding, it can be down right depressing. The word endangered "seriously at risk of extinction" alone breaks my heart. However, part of making a difference in this world is creating awareness; so I keep reading, I keep researching, and I keep writing.

Every now and then I come across a success story or read about how a species, like the mountain gorilla is showing an upward climb in population. This my friends makes all the difference. Then there are the stories that bring me so much joy and hope that I can't help but smile for hours.

This is one of those stories.


According to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo, the rhino was born at Florida's White Oak Conservation Center on October 30 and weighed 132 pounds. Born on an unusually cold night, the calf struggled - he was slow to start nursing and did not establish a strong bond with his mother. When White Oak staff saw he wasn't thriving, they decided to hand rear him. BioPark animal care staff traveled with the rhino from Florida and moved the now 169-pound baby into a behind-the-scenes area at the Zoo on the evening of Nov. 14.

The Southern White Rhino almost went extinct in the early 1900's with numbers dwindling down to 100, but thanks to conservation efforts, captive breeding programs at accredited zoos and conservation centers, and reserves, the Southern White Rhino population has climbed to over 20,000 individuals today.

The fight to end rhino poaching isn't over and there are still five other rhino species who need saving (seven if you count the Borneo and Northern White), but seeing this little guy walk out of a crate reminds me that there is always hope when dealing with endangered species.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Sharing the beauty

One of my favorite things about taking pictures of the sunsets is sharing them with others. I also love seeing pictures that my friends take of the sunsets from other places. Don't get me wrong, Orange County, California has some pretty amazing sunsets, but why not share the beauty of sunsets from all over the world?

This week's Sunset Sunday picture is from my friend Katie who also lives in Southern California, but she lives in an area surrounded by mountains and wide open spaces. Katie has the most amazing view of an open field from her kitchen window and captured this beautiful sunset with her phone. What did we ever do before Instagram?

Do you have a favorite sunset picture that you would like me to feature here? If so, send me your picture and the location it was taken. After all, what good is a beautiful sunset if you can't share it with others?

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

*Please only submit pictures you have personally taken and own the rights to.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm thankful for what Mother Earth has given me

As the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches I sit her thinking about what I am thankful for this year. I've watched friends post numerous things they are thankful for on Facebook and twitter; some of which I am thankful for too.

Yes, I am thankful for my health, my home, my job, my friends and family, and the ability to put food on the table - but looking at the big picture there is so much more. It can be easy to get caught up in the materialistic things in life and we sometimes take the most important things in this world for granted.

The very things that make this world a world – the gifts from Mother Nature.

I am thankful for the trees that give me shelter from the sun and create homes for Mother Nature’s creatures.

I am thankful for the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that give me serenity each day.

I am thankful for the men and women who are fighting every day against wildlife trafficking so that my children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to see all the beautiful animals of this world. Not pictured in a book, but in real life.

I am thankful for the many parks and nature reserves that allow me and my son to connect with nature whenever we feel disconnected.

I am thankful for this blog so that I can share my love of nature, animals, photography, and conservation with others.

I am thankful for the countless zoos and aquariums that give people the chance to see so many different animals and that teach us about conservation.

I am thankful for friends who inspire me to keep exploring and learning more about the world around me.

I am thankful for the mountains, the deserts, the oceans, and the rainforests. All of which provide infinite beauty.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The San Diego Zoo now has a "little gift" Xiao Liwu

After much anticipation and almost 35,000 votes the San Diego Zoo announced the name of the newest panda cub in a public ceremony this morning. Following the Chinese cultural tradition, the panda cub was not named until it was 100 days old. After receiving more than 7,000 submissions for a name, the possible names were narrowed down to six and the public voted in an online poll.

Today this "little one" turned 107 days old and was given the name Xiao Liwu.

For those that have been following along, watching the panda cam and squealing with excitement each time the zoo posted a video of the cubs weekly check-ups, today was another milestone.
Xiao Liwu is the sixth giant panda cub born to Bai Yun at the zoo and he certainly is a little gift to the world and the San Diego Zoo family. Finally, we can put a name to that precious little face.

Photo taken on November 13, 2012, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Orangutan

When I see an orangutan I can’t help but smile. These animals are so animated and they definitely have individual personalities. 

Orangutans are also very much like humans – from their mannerisms to their emotional expressions. In fact, orangutans are closer to humans than you may think. They share 96.4% of our genetic makeup, which makes orangutans genetically closer to humans than any other animal. The female orangutan is considered to be one of the most caring and gentle mothers in the animal kingdom. 

Some young orangutans will stay with their mother up to eight years; nursing for the first three years and then learning how to fend for themselves. 

Although orangutans live a mostly solitary life, they create bonds that last a lifetime. It has been said that these bonds are renewed during forest encounters later in life. Aside from the nurturing and bonding, orangutans are highly intelligent animals that learn many things from copying. On several occasions, I have watched the orangutans at the San Diego Zoo cover up with large leaves or a burlap sack when it is raining. That is a pretty smart orangutan!

Orangutans once lived all over Southeast Asia, but now only inhabit the warm tropical jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling mammal and are 100% dependent on the rainforest for survival. This being said, you can see why habitat conservation is so important. 

From 1980-1990 heavy logging and land development reduced the orangutan population by 50%. Large forest fires destroyed more habitats in 1997. Today, the harvesting of palm fruit for the palm oil is one of the main causes of habitat loss for the orangutan. Palm oil is in everything from cookies, chocolate and cosmetics to biodiesel and unfortunately is not always labeled as palm oil. 

A sign at the San Diego Zoo educates people about palm oil
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of palm oil and people are now actively looking for products with palm oil. This is not good for the survival of orangutans. If you must buy palm oil, then please support the companies who are members of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) You can find a printable shopping guide here. 

Educating people and making them aware that our actions have a direct impact on the rainforest is imperative to saving endangered species. To save the orangutan we must first save their home. All attempts that we make to save the orangutans will ultimately fail unless we can assure that their quickly disappearing rainforest home will be there for many years to come.

For more inofrmation on the palm oil crisis and what you can do to help visit the Cheyenne Mountian Zoo website.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Catalina Island

One thing I love about the Santa Ana winds is they blow away all the smog. On a clear day like this, Catalina Island appears to be close enough that you can reach out and touch it.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, but I did have my iPhone.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wait, don't throw that away - Recycle it with TerraCycle!

When you think of recycling, what comes to mind? Probably cans, water bottles, and newspapers. Some of you may also take it a step further and recycle/reuse your glass jars or sort your plastic and aluminum food packaging for recycling. If so, wonderful – you are proficient at kitchen recycling.

However, what about the other room in your home that is filled with tubes, jars, and various bottles?

Yes, I am talking about the bathroom. For years my bathroom trash can was home to empty moisturizer jars and dried up tubes of mascara. I never thought about recycling these containers because I didn't know that I could. (I call this my pre-TerraCycle period.) I recently sent a box filled with all sorts of personal care and cosmetic product packaging to TerraCycle that included compacts, lipstick tubes, shampoo bottles, foundation tubes, hair pomade jars, and so much more. Yes, all of these containers can be recycled.

You can recycle packaging like this too by simply joining the TerraCycle Personal Care and Beauty Brigade. Participating in TerraCycle brigades is free and is another great way that you can help keep waste out of the landfills. For a full listing of the personal care and beauty product accepted waste visit the TerraCycle website.

While you are there, be sure to look at the other brigades available to join. I am sure you will be just as surprised as I was to learn how many types of product packaging can be recycled.

Points earned from sending in qualified shipments can be redeemed for TerraCycle product bundles, charitable gifts or cash donations made to a charity of your choice. It’s like getting two for one – you keep waste out of the landfills and you are rewarded with making a charitable gift.

So the next time you think about throwing something in the trash can, stop. Don’t throw it away because you can probably recycle it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The mind of a child wonders ... Why?

The other day my son began asking me questions. Questions that I could not answer.
Good questions. In fact, amazing questions!

WHY do people have to kill rhinos for their horns?

WHY do people have to kill tigers for their fur?

WHY do people have to harvest palm oil fruit from the rain forest?

WHY do people have to kill elephants for their tusks?

WHY do people have to be cruel to the animals?

WHY do people have to litter at the zoo?

WHY don't more people recycle?

WHY do people not take conservation seriously?

WHY do people have to cut down the rain forest?

WHY don't people care about these things like I do?

I decided to use his questions for a blog post because I began to wonder ...

WHY does a 9-year-old child question these global issues, when so many adults do not?

Photo courtesy of Dylan Fryer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day we explored Home Depot

I am now convinced that Home Depot is the guys equivalent to Target for girls. He wanted to walk up and down every aisle at Home Depot just to see what they had. No intention of buying anything - just wandering. Exploring the power tools, hammers, rugs, plants, paint ... nothing was left unseen. It was a wonderful way to spend an hour with my son.

How do you spend time with your child?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Cans for Critters

One of the great things about helping save endangered species is that everyone can do something - even children. In fact, I believe children can and will create more awareness about the problems facing endangered species than most adults will. When I offered to be in charge of the conservation service project for my son’s Cub Scout den, I was thrilled to suggest we take part in San Diego Zoo Global’s Cans for Critters.

Cans for Critters is one of the many programs available for the general public to do their part and help protect wildlife all over the world. By recycling cans and bottles, and then donating the money, both individuals and groups can help save endangered species.

There are three levels for individuals (starting at $20) and three levels for groups (starting at $100). We chose the group level of Cheetah, which has a goal of raising $200 for wildlife. Each boy collects cans and bottles and I take them to the recycling center each month. All the money we get goes into a jar so the boys can see how much money they have raised. Even though we started a month late, I am confident that boys will reach their goal by the end of the recycling drive. Cans for Critters officially began on Septemeber 12, 2012 and will end on May 17, 2013 – the day before Endangered Species Awareness Day.

Everyone who registers for Cans for Critters and meets their goal will have an opportunity to receive a special certificate, animal photo, conservation patch, and choice of zoo tickets or eco gifts. There will also be an official Cans for Critters Appreciation Day on June 1, 2013.

The boys are so excited to be part of this conservation project and I am honored to have the opportunity to teach them more about how they can help save endangered species. 

So what do you think? Would you like to help save endangered species by registering for Cans for Critters? It’s quite simple and a wonderful way for people of all ages to help protect wildlife while keeping the planet clean. 
Reduce – Reuse - Recycle

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Going Home

Sometimes it is good to look down instead of up when watching a sunset.

As the sun sets on another beautiful day in Orange County, a family of ducks swims home to the banks of the bay for the night. 

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Friday, November 2, 2012

School fundraiser does more harm than good

Anyone who has children is familiar with the annual school fundraisers. Almost all schools have at least one fundraiser and I understand the reasoning. Budget cuts and minimal funding for programs like art and music have forced the schools to be creative in how they ask parents for money.

Over the years my son has brought home packets with everything from cookie dough, wrapping paper, See’s candy, and the infamous magazine subscriptions. So you can imagine how happy I was to see that this year’s fundraiser was for reusable shopping bags and totes that were made from recycled products. Wonderful!

I was ready to buy all my Christmas gifts and share the fundraiser with my coworkers, but then the little voice in my head told me to look deeper. I went to the company’s website and searched for the about page.

I was shocked when I began to read what it said. - Shocked at the ignorance more than anything else.

Made from woven polypropylene - one of the most popular plastics for making food containers like yogurt cups. 10-40% of the polypropylene used in our bags is recycled from post consumer use. Most of our bags hold up to 50 lbs, which is due to the plastic fibers woven into the bags. Made in China.

Wait, was I reading this correctly? Made in China?

Why on earth would I or anyone buy a product that is supposed to be eco-friendly from a California company that has the product made in China? The thousands of miles on diesel burning cargo ships and the trees that are destroyed to make the shipping crates are not eco-friendly. The size of the carbon footprint left to have a recycled product made in China, only to be sold in the United States is enormous in comparison to making the recycled product here. We strive to cut carbon emissions on our local streets, but pretend that the emissions made on the ocean don’t exist.

My son’s school fundraiser ends today and I sent the envelope back as instructed. Not with an order form or payment, but rather a note to the school.

Please consider another fundraiser next year. Although the bags are nice, there is no point in buying a recycled product that is manufactured in China. The pollution and environmental impact of transporting goods from overseas defeats the purpose of making and buying eco-friendly products. Thank you.

So I’m curious, do you ever look to see where the eco-friendly products you buy are made?