Deborahmclaren's Weblog

Sustianable Tourism, Buy Local, Rural-Urban Connections

Archive for January, 2010

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 27, 2010

There is nothing more beautiful than skiing under the stars and the northern borealis. In Minnesota our snow is fluffy and squeaky. The air is cold enough to make you gasp. Luckily, we can cross country ski under the stars at several places around the Twin Cities metro area. My favorite is Como Park. With Theodore Wirth Park a close second. Check out the St. Paul Park and Rec Winter Site — For details on skiing in Saint Paul, including trail maps and racing information, check out the Park and Rec web site.

Not too far outside of “the cities” as we say here in Minnesota (and some people actually say “the sin cities”) there are lantern lite trails as well as plain old starlight guiding you across the silver iceland. Mora, Minnesota is only 75 miles north of St. Paul and is the home of the area’s finest cross country night skiing. The Vasaloppet Nordic Skiing Center provides access to 10 kilometers of groomed trails. The Center features a wax room, men’s and women’s changing rooms and sauna, a small kitchen and plenty of room for ski gear and events.

The Lantern Loppet in Mora, MN will take place this coming Saturday January 30th. There is over 5km of Lantern Lit trails with three cabins to warm and refresh yourself. This is a very unique experience for skiers old and new. The Lanterns are lit at dusk with many families bringing hot dogs to roast over one of the fires, for dinner.

I love night skiing in Minnesota. Almost as much as dogsledding (although I DON’T do dogsledding at night!).

Posted in Minnesota, Night Skiing, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Show Your Fair Trade, Organic Love on Valentine’s Day

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 22, 2010

Valentine’s Day Flowers and Chocolates that Support the Environment!

According to TransFair USA, the Fair Trade Certified label on your bouquet means that flower workers, most of whom are women, can put food on their tables, send their children to school, invest in community development, and use sustainable farming methods.

The best idea – buy locally! However, if you live in a northern climate like I do, that’s not always easy to do so you want to check with TransFair to determine where you can purchase certified flowers. You can also order organic flowers online for delivery, and support a good environmental cause at the same time – what’s not to like?

For local flowers, first search Local Harvest and find a floral farm, farmer’s market or CSA near you. By cutting down on transportation distances, you’ll be supporting local business and saving on carbon emissions – something anyone would love. Local blooms vary, so Local Harvest also offers lots of unique choices that can be ordered from their site.

One World Flowers believes in supporting sustainable business practices, human rights compliance, and fair compensation for workers in countries all over the world. According to their mission statement, “Suppliers of agricultural products are often pressured by American and European companies to lower costs in order to keep prices low for consumers. Many people don’t realize that because of this, hundreds of thousands of workers in South America, Asia, and Africa are exposed to physical, mental, and sexual abuse each day at work. In the floral industry, most of these workers are women who are not paid fairly for the long hours they are sometimes forced to work. In addition, workers are not given protective gear to wear when dealing with the dozens of harmful chemicals that are used to grow flowers. As a result, many of their children are stillborn or have major birth defects. Fair Trade is changing all of this!”

The Organic Consumer’s Union has made it easy for us to choose not just flowers but lots of other special Valentine’s day treats for our loved ones. Check out their suggestions for fair trade, organic flowers and chocolate!

My pick this year is EcoLogic Development Fund’s organic bouquet.

This Valentine’s Day show your loved one how much you really care with an organic bouquet! EcoLogic has teamed up with Organic Bouquet to offer you a special opportunity.

Purchase a special bouquet of sustainably grown Crown Majesty Roses for that special someone and Organic Bouquet will donate 10% of your purchase to EcoLogic. (The full 10% will be applied at checkout.)

You can show your love for your valentine and the environment at the same time! Visit Organic Bouquet today at
to get your flowers delivered in time for the holiday!

Next week I’ll take a peek at eco-friendly Valentine get-aways and organic wines.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted in Buy-local, Fair Trade, food and wine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

And the “greenwashing” prize goes to…

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 21, 2010

Survival names winner of ‘Greenwashing Award’ 2010
20 January

‘Survival’s ‘Greenwashing Award 2010′ has been won by ranching company Yaguarete Porá’.

A Brazilian company bulldozing an uncontacted tribe’s land in Paraguay has won Survival’s ‘Greenwashing Award 2010’.

The company, Yaguarete Porá S.A., has won the award for ‘dressing up the wholesale destruction of a huge area of the Indians’ forest as a noble gesture for conservation’, says Survival’s director Stephen Corry.

The Totobiegosode are the only uncontacted Indians in the world having their territory destroyed for beef production.

Corry, said today, ‘This is textbook ‘greenwashing’: bulldoze the forest and then ‘preserve’ a bit of it for PR purposes. The public won’t fall for it. Yaguarete should stop playing games and pull out of the Totobiegosode’s territory once and for all.’

Act now to help the Ayoreo

Write a letter to the Paraguayan parliament using Survival’s online letter-writing tool.
Donate to the Ayoreo campaign (and other Survival campaigns).
Write a letter to your MP or MEP (UK).
Write to the President, your senators, congressmen or other elected officials (US).
Write to your local Paraguayan embassy (you can find their address through

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Children in Haiti

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 20, 2010

Being a mother, and thinking it is the best job in the world, I have been worried about the children of Haiti. I’ve posted on Twitter, FB, and emailed friends encouraging them to get involved some way, some how. One of my first choices was to make a small financial donation to UNICEF. Since then, they keep me updated on what they are doing on the ground in Haiti. This morning Haiti experienced yet another quake and I received this information from UNICEF:

“As news comes this morning of a major aftershock, thousands of traumatized children in Haiti still need clean water, medical care and protection from trafficking and sexual exploitation.”

I’m concerned also about orphanages and the children whose adoptions have already been approved by both Haiti and the US – and the need to expedite the children to their waiting families. Not only is Haiti in chaos and needs our help, there are now hundreds of other orphans that need to take their places in the homes. These kids have been traumatized, many loosing entire families and wandering about on their own for days.

CNN reported this morning about finding a boy more than a week after the earthquake:

“A 5-year-old boy was pulled alive from a collapsed home Wednesday, eight days after a quake devastated Haiti. The boy’s mother was killed, and his father is missing.”

If you have ideas for supporting orphanages in Haiti, please let me know.

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Travel word of the day: shoo-fly

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 16, 2010

Shoofly = Bypass (road)
From Glossary of rail terminology

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »


Posted by deborahmclaren on January 15, 2010

what is there to say? I would like to find out about organizations that have done reality tours to Haiti.

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Wolves, Kills, Kids and Our Future

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 2, 2010

Children’s Outdoor Environmental Education Experience Story of the Week!

Today I helped my nine-year old write down his memories about the week his class spent at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Minnesota’s great northern woods. His group consisted of about 125 4th, 5th and 6th graders from the Twin Cities who braved below zero winter weather during a very cold December to spend a week near Lake Superior. My husband went along as the Dad chaperone.

Founded in 1971, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center was the first environmental learning center in the nation to be accredited as a K-12 school and is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in environmental education. Wolf Ridge is a place where minds open to the joy and wonder of discovery of our natural world. WRELC’s mission is to “stimulate a love and understanding of nature by involving children and adults in direct observation of and participation on the outdoors and promote self-awareness and leadership development in the process.”

Activities and classes at Wolf Ridge are nearly all outdoors, typically three hours in length (and seemed to go from 8:30 am until 9:00 pm every day). Class subjects include environmental science, cultural history, contemporary environmental issues, personal growth, team building and outdoor recreation.

Apparently these kids had some pretty amazing outdoor adventures (ropes course, zip lines), including orienteering (finding your way around in the woods with the help of a compass), a three-mile Lake Superior trail hike where they spotted wolves and a deer kill (4th graders think that is the ultimate in cool), navigating icy cliffs, and instigating some major snow ball wars. The food was yucky but “way better than our school” and the indoor classes included rock wall climbing, learning that if you live near Lake Superior and choose to go on vacation rather than fix your septic tank your neighbor will have to deal with your pee in the water, and how to make Dream Catchers. I loved the photos of my son dressed as the eastern cotton tail, the smallest of the US hares – including the western jack rabbit and snow shoe hare – using his big buck teeth to demonstrate how to eat bark off a branch (and the stories of the morning they were off tracking the snow shoe hare).

Since I had been the first in our family to volunteer as a chaperone I was slightly bummed not to get to go. However, Dads are a scarce resource and my husband was needed to watch over the wild pack of 4th grade boys, including staying in their dorm room where they apparently threw Fudge (someone’s stuffed spider) around until midnight, spent another hour shining their flashlights around the dark room, and got up multiple times to run into other rooms and the bathroom.

The kids raised their own money to go, and raised funds for everyone who wanted to attend. What I’m truly impressed with them about is that they were determined that every kid could go – and their school is very diverse – mainly Hmong, Somalian, and other kids who are, in some situations, the first person in their families to even go to school. A lot of the kids haven’t been out of the city. Connecting with nature in Minnesota’s great north woods is a fantastic experience for anyone – no matter what your age. Hopefully some of them will be inspired to work in nature. We certainly need them. Handing them our messed up climate is one of the things I worry about the most.

Posted in climate solutions, environmental education, family travel | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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