Archive for June, 2012

Vertical farming

Dickson Despommier of Columbia University is advocating a novel idea: vertical farming. What do you think? Crazy idea, or good idea?

Teachers: Are you looking for lesson ideas?

Teachers: What would your elementary school students think of this new cartoon, “For Goodness Rake”? Would they watch it on their own at home? Could you make a classroom lesson out of it?

The Green Ninja™ series 
Like “Footprint Renovation,” “For Goodness Rake” is part of an emerging series of free, fun lesson starters for grades K-6 that can be used in the classroom or viewed at home on YouTube.  For a variety of lesson ideas and resources, visit our summer workshop page. Also visit the Green Ninja Smart Energy Contest page to sign up for great project to do with your class this fall.

Made by students, for students
The animations in the Green Ninja™ series are created by students in David Chai’s class in the Animation/Illustration Department at San Jose State University. Last month I had the opportunity to visit the classroom and learn more about what goes into the making of these cartoons. At least 40 students put in approximately 10 hours per week all semester long to create each one. The day I was there, students were carefully analyzing each segment of film for continuity and quality. In the next room, graduating senior Erin Schleupner (pictured below) was hard at work colorizing the finished animations using a special graphics tool called a Cintiq. I was truly impressed by the quality of the work and dedication of the students in making these films.

Making of "For Goodness Rake"

Erin Schleupner working on “For Goodness Rake”

Please vote!
One of the student films is now in the running for a “People’s Choice” award worth $5,000 from the Green Screen Climate Fix Flicks festival in Melbourne, Australia. Please vote for “Footprint Renovation” and help support more great student work. You can only vote once, and every vote counts!

–Julie Noblitt
Green Ninja Team

Wanted: starfish throwers

At the Green Ninja Project we were recently asked, “How do you reconcile the enormity of the climate change problem with the relatively small efforts that each person is able to make to help address it?” That is a great question.

It made us think of the Starfish Story. In this story, a child, faced with thousands of stranded starfish on the beach, stoops down to pick one up and save it by throwing back into the ocean. The adult nearby says, “Don’t you see this is an impossible task? There are too many starfish – you can’t possibly save them all.” The child looks at the starfish in his hand and replies, “Yes, but I can make a difference for this one.” He throws it as far as he can back into the water, inspiring others around him to do the same, and thus saving all the starfish.

I recently met a starfish thrower in my neighborhood named Hunter Flynn. Armed with his degree in Economics, he took some time off after college to work on a WWOOF farm in Colima, Mexico and study for a time in India and China, even encountering the Dalai Lama along the way. When he returned home he wanted to do something that would help make the world a better place. So he started his own business, run entirely from his bicycle. At “Minus the Gas, Sustainable Lawn Care” he commutes to his clients’ homes via bicycle, pulling all of his tools in a trailer that was designed and built by his friend at Kick Trailer using only recycled materials. Hunter uses no gas-powered tools, preferring to use a quiet and energy-efficient lithium-ion battery-powered leaf blower and a mechanical push mower.

“I looked around and saw that many gardeners were spending a lot of money on gas, driving all over the area for different jobs,” Hunter told me. “And I thought, what if I didn’t use any gas? I could offer better prices, and I could drastically reduce my business’s carbon footprint at the same time.”

Could he make more money by scaling up with a big staff and a fleet of trucks? Sure. But, he says, ”That’s not the point.”  His goal: a sustainable business that serves his local community, and the planet, for the long term. One sustainable business = lots of starfish. A big Green Ninja thumbs-up to Hunter Flynn. He’s making a difference.

–Julie Noblitt, Green Ninja Team

Mayor Myrick gets two Green Ninja thumbs-up for this fantastic idea. Green Ninja fans: look for Parking Day events near you in September. You too can turn a parking space into a public park!


After Svante Myrick, 25, became the youngest-ever mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., he gave up his car to join the estimated 15 percent of his city’s residents who walk to work. As mayor, however, Myrick has a prime downtown parking spot reserved for his exclusive use. So instead of letting it stand empty, last week he began to, as he put it, “turn the Mayor’s parking space into a park space.”

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How to use a paper towel

We’ve all seen the signs in public restrooms asking us to please not use more paper towels than we need. Of course, the best number to use is … none! But, when paper towels are our only option, how many do we really need to get the job done?

According to TEDxConcordiaUPortland speaker Joe Smith, in the United States we use 13 billion paper towels each year. And, if we were to cut our use by just one paper towel per person per day, we could save – are you ready for this? – 571,230,000 pounds of paper per year. Wow. Can we do it? Yes! Watch this fun 4-minute video by clicking on the image below:

One very sharp commenter on Joe’s video has taken his idea one step further, and created a sign that anyone can download and post in their public washroom. Girish Chavan wrote:

Such a simple idea. I am inspired by this and try to follow it whenever I can. However I notice that at times my muscle memory takes over I end up with more towels than I need. A reminder in the restroom would help not just me but also my fellow hand dryers. So I designed a flyer to communicate this idea and posted it in our work restroom. Some of my friends are doing the same thing. Please help spread the word. You can get the flyer at:

Girish gets a Green Ninja thumbs-up for helping translate a great idea into action. Who’s got another idea to share? Tell us!

Bonus question: We didn’t always use paper towels. Who knows when we started using them and why?

Julie Noblitt
Green Ninja Team

How far can you go on one burrito?

As Dr. Eugene Cordero took to the stage at the TEDxSanJoseCA conference last month, he showed a slide with a picture of his favorite tee-shirt and posed this question to the audience: How far do you think you could you go on the energy you get from eating one burrito? This drew an appreciative laugh from the audience as he began to explain. What do you think?  Is the claim on his tee-shirt correct? How would you go about figuring this out?

Questions like these fuel the imaginations of us here at The Green Ninja Project. Our scientists, educators, and filmmakers create engaging, fun, and creative ways for students to learn about the science behind our changing environment. The Green Ninja™ energizes, activates, and engages students (and teachers!) to make a difference.  We create resources teachers can use, such as:

Stay tuned to hear more about our upcoming projects.  In the meantime, check out Eugene Cordero’s 13-minute TEDx talk and tell us where you fall on Eugene’s burrito enjoyment index. And see the Green Ninja make his dramatic entrance with a special-delivery burrito.  You won’t believe how high he can leap. Go Green Ninja!


–Julie Noblitt, Green Ninja Team

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