New Year’s Resolutions TNCS Style

Keeping New Year’s resolutions is notoriously difficult. Some experts advise against making any at all due to the consequent self-loathing that can envelope us once we realize we have failed epically! A new study claims that only 8% of those who make New Year’s resolutions keep them, and those who don’t give up after just 1 week. On the flip side, however, “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” So do we or don’t we make resolutions?!

We absolutely should (we’re actually hardwired to) . . . but with two key differences. Part of the key is not putting so much emphasis on target dates. Without room to slip, fall, and pick yourself back up, a resolution becomes one of those all-or-nothing pipe dreams with a built-in escape hatch—“I just couldn’t do it. Maybe next year.” Failure and recovery is an inherent part of any worthwhile process, so be realistic about that and don’t let slip-ups completely derail you. “Fail better.” The other difference is in setting small, specific goals instead of grand, sweeping changes. Abstractions such as “lose weight” or “stop smoking” are doomed without a plan in place that provides incremental and achievable daily steps. Ultimately, those small steps will yield the desired result.

Thus, the list below comprises a manageable, realistic, yet worthy set of goals that are universally beneficial. Even better, methods to accomplish each individual goal are also given, taking all of the guesswork out of making 2014 a healthy, happy year!

1. Eat a healthier diet, full of fresh vegetables and fruit: Join One Straw Farm CSA (even if it isn’t a stated goal, you’ll likely drop some pounds in the bargain).

The available bounty ranges from onions, peppers, lettuces, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. to herbs—rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, cilantro, parsley, etc.—and fruit, such as raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, and gorgeous varieties of heirloom tomatoes. . . Starting in June and running through November, on a set day of the week, “shareholders” get 8 pieces of 3–6 items, primarily vegetables . . . for about $24 per week.

2. Read more: Spend 20 minutes reading with your kids before bedtime (as well as curl up with your own reading material before lights-out). The benefits are varied and far-reaching . . . and what better way to close out the day?

[A study shows] that math and reading ability at age 7 years are linked with socioeconomic status (SES) in adulthood. Interestingly, although math and reading ability was also significantly associated with intelligence scores, academic motivation, and education duration, the association with later SES was independent of the family’s SES during childhood. Moreover, the researchers were not expecting to find that specifically math and reading ability were more important than general intelligence in determining SES. In other words, what we’re born with and what we’re born into may not be as important as what we learn in second grade. [The] findings emphasize the importance of learned skills. What this boils down to is really good news for students—the return on improving these skills at all levels is huge, from remedial to the most gifted. “Math and reading are two of the most intervention-friendly topics,” [researchers] say. “Practice improves nearly all children.”

3. Hone math skills: Spend 15 minutes playing math games with the kids before bedtime (like the TNCS Facebook page for games you can play at home to dovetail with Ms. Roberts’s work in class). You may be surprised at how these simple exercises improve your own day-to-day efficiency and obviate that smartphone calculator!

STEM is all over the media, and with good reason. STEM subjects are inherently investigative in nature, cultivating self-guided exploration and producing a greater understanding of the physical world. Ms. Roberts says, “STEM is important for everyday life; for example, we use math at the grocery store and at the bank. And science explains how the world works.” Another appeal of early STEM learning is the downstream payoff. Recently, NPR did a Planet Money story about what job fields yield the highest incomes. In “The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors, In 1 Graph,” STEM came out almost scarily far ahead (that discrepancy is another story). The focus of other media coverage is the nation’s big move to catch up to other developed countries, whom the United States currently lags far behind in depth and breadth of STEM education.

4. Get more sleep: Impose a consistent bedtime (for kids’ and parents’ improved overall health).

“Sleep is no less important than food, drink, or safety in the lives of children.” And yet, with our busy lives and comings and goings, we can inadvertently contribute to sleep deprivation in our kids. “With parents working long hours, schedules packed with school, after-school activities, and other lifestyle factors, naps are missed, bedtimes are pushed back, mornings start earlier and nights may be anything but peaceful. Missing naps or going to bed a little late may not seem like a big deal, but it is. It all adds up, with consequences that may last a lifetime.”

5. Be more altruistic: Donate to local and international charities through TNCS’s food, clothing, and dime drives.

Howsoever you decide to share your wealth, remember that you will actually derive personal benefit from your selflessness—a beautiful paradox! Being altruistic is a  recognized happiness inducer!

6. Be more environmentally conscious: Join Clean Currents (bonus—you’ll actually save money on your power bill).

The most obvious benefit to wind energy is its environmental friendliness. “Windustry” ameliorates climate change by not only providing a non-polluting source of energy but also by displacing the greenhouse gas emissions that have already polluted the atmosphere from conventional power. But there are other tremendous advantages, too. By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, for instance, clean energy also makes us less vulnerable as a nation to the vagaries of the international oil market . . . and to the associated security risks. Moreover, ever-renewable wind is a cash cow for farmers. Wind farming almost effortlessly generates considerable income without taking up land needed for crops as well as creating jobs and boosting the economy.

7. Learn a foreign language: Practice Words of the Week with the kids, and read the monthly classroom newsletters. Words of the Week are posted each Monday on both The New Century School website (during active school semesters) and on TNCS’s Facebook page (with pronunciations). Stay tuned for a blog post this month dedicated to other ways you can learn Mandarin and Spanish along with your kids at home!

8. Get more exercise: Take a class at Sanctuary Bodyworks while the kids are downstairs at The Lingo Leap. People who exercise are not only in better physical shape, they are also more cognitively and emotionally fit.

Exercise dramatically enhances circulation to the brain and encourages synaptic growth, thereby priming the brain for improved function—providing the “spark,” in other words. Improvements in function include both mental health as well as cognitive ability.

9. Make mornings less stressful:  Sign up the kids for the Garden Tuck Shop lunch program. As if you don’t have enough to do in the mornings—why not let somebody else provide your child with a wholesome, nutrition-packed homemade hot lunch? Even better many ingredients come from TNCS’s on-premise greenhouse, and all others are locally sourced.

You grow in the same environment as your food, so you have a divine connection. Your children and your plants are growing under the same sun and being touched by the same wind, seeing the same clouds and the same moon. The plants growing in your environment have withstood those particular elements. They are perfectly engineered by nature to be exactly what you physically need, right now.

10. Volunteer!: Complete your volunteer hours. Another way to connect with your community is to give something back to it.

Volunteering at TNCS is not a burden; it’s a pleasure—no, an opportunity, a gift even. It’s a chance to be deeply involved in your children’s day-to-day school lives, to connect with them on their turf, and to see and experience what’s going on in their lives from their points of view, all while providing a service to the school. There’s nothing so reassuring in parenting than to get proof that your child is happy and flourishing even when you aren’t there.

So go ahead—pick one (or several) and reap the fruits of your labor. Just don’t get discouraged by bumps in the road. We’ve got all year!

Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge: TNCS Update

It’s a good week for clean energy. It started off with President Obama pledging renewed attention to clean energy in his State of the Union address:

“Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future . . . We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it . . . And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

Then we heard that the ozone hole has shrunk to a record low. And, the week is closing with The New Century School’s own continued commitment a little closer to home. In TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge, we detailed Clean Currents’ initiative to spread the green with GNEC. Having switched both TNCS and The Lingo Leap to 100% wind and solar power, they are now helping local families also switch over. GNEC brings 100% renewable, sustainable energy into your home. Plus, for every family who makes the switch, Clean Currents donates $30 to TNCS for their use in a school initiative of their choice and, with just 20 enrollments, Clean Currents will donate an additional $500 to TNCS!

What is that school initiative? Alicia Cooper-Danyali, TNCS Head of School, says, “The donation from Clean Currents for each family that signs up for Wind Power will be used toward a sound and lighting system for Building North.” Exciting news indeed!

So, How Are We Doing???

Well, today, February 15th is the exact midpoint of the GNEC, which began January 15th and runs through March 15th. So far, 5 households have made the switch. That’s great progress, but we can do better—for our families, our school, and our environment.

To make this process even easier, Clean Currents’ representative Emily Conrad is attending TNCS’s potluck tonight, where you can sign up on the spot. “There are only 4 weeks left in TNCS’s Green Neighborhood Challenge!” says Mrs. Cooper-Danyali. “Clean Currents will be at the potluck to answer any questions you might have and help you sign up for wind power at home. Please remember to bring your electricity bill or BGE Electric Choice ID (10 digit # on the top left of the 2nd page of your bill).”
Did you know that you can calculate your household’s carbon footprint with this online tool? You might be surprised by the amount of greenhouse gases you generate. One big step you can take to reduce this footprint is by converting your household to clean, renewable energy.

TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge

Exciting events are already afoot at The New Century School in 2013, a mere 2 weeks into the year! As reported last November, it’s time to kick off TNCS’s Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge (GNEC), sponsored by TNCS’s new green energy supplier, Clean Currents. By the way, Clean Currents was the December 2012 recipient of the Green America’s People & Planet award for their clean energy innovations and community-minded business operations—Congratulations Clean Currents!

yard sign proclaiming sustainable energy use

Join the Green Energy Neighborhood Challenge and clean up your home’s energy source!

Profiled in this blog in Blown Away with Wind Energy, Clean Currents is a local, independent green energy company, supplying TNCS and other commercial customers with wind and solar power options. In fact, TNCS and the Lingo Leap have been running on 100% wind power since October. Now, it’s time to bring it on home. Starting Monday, January 14th and running through Friday, March 15th, TNCS is partnering with Clean Currents during the Green Neighborhood Challenge to bring clean energy to you.

What is the Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge?

GNEC is Clean Current’s community engagement program. Since 2008, more than 150 Maryland and D.C. communities, schools, groups, and environmental non-profits have participated in GNEC, and, in 2013, Clean Currents is expanding into PA. The program provides both education about why sustainable energy is so important and the support for actually switching to wind power, all while raising money for local green projects. In other words, it brings 100% renewable, sustainable energy into your home. Plus, for every family who makes the switch, Clean Currents donates $30 to TNCS for their use in a school environmental initiative of their choice.

Benefits Galore

Sounds too good to be true, right? It isn’t. Sounds like a lot of effort, expensive, and time-consuming? It’s none of those either. By enrolling in TNCS’s GNEC online, families will see a line item on the power bill they are already accustomed to receiving each month. This line item is not an additional charge, it just means that the money you are putting toward energy suppy is going exclusively to fund wind power production (not power sourced from dirty and carbon-intensive fossil fuels). The charge is right around the same cost (give or take a few tenths of a cent, depending on the particular service) as, for instance, Baltimore Gas & Electric’s current charges. Even better, while BGE and other power companies’ rates fluctuate with the market and also throughout the day (i.e., peak-hour usage costs more than off–peak-hour usage), Clean Currents’ energy rates are fixed; rates are quoted in 12- and 24-month increments. The online enrollment process takes no more than a few minutes, and, once that’s complete, Clean Currents takes over. Your energy bill will reflect the changes within one or two meter readings. There’s nothing to install, and there are no hidden or additional fees.

And, again, TNCS gets $30 for every household who makes the switch! Note: this opportunity is not limited to TNCS-enrolled families. Anyone who wants clean, green energy can join the GNEC . . . but do please mention TNCS on the enrollment form!

Says Emily Conrad, Clean Currents Community Outreach Coordinator, “Our hope is that the Green Neighborhood Challenge will provide an excellent platform to bring The New Century School community together and empower both the students and their families to positively and quantifiably contribute to the school and the planet.”

Emily Conrad Community Outreach Coordinator for Clean Currents

Emily Conrad, Clean Currents’ Community Outreach Coordinator

5 Quick, Easy Steps to Joining the GNEC

Having trouble believing that such dramatic benefits can come from next to no effort? Read on.

Step 1: Go to http://www.cleancurrents.com/ (or click here).

Step 2: Click the orange circle on the right of the page that says, “sign up NOW”.

Step 3: Enter your zip code and click “VIEW RATES”.

wind turbines at Pennsylvania wind far,

This Pennsylvania wind farm is Clean Currents’ supplier.

Step 4: Choose from one of five listed plans that include 1) 12-month or 24-month options, 2) neighborhood or national (via Renewable Energy Certificates—RECs; watch the video) wind suppliers (see map of Clean Currents’ wind farms) that are both Green e-Energy Certified, and 3) 50% or 100% wind power and then click “Enroll now”.

Step 5: Complete the very brief electronic form, accept the terms, click “Submit”, and congratulate yourself for reducing your family’s carbon footprint in an immediate and quantifiable way!

Seriously—it’s that simple!

Do note that on the form you will be asked to “Please provide further details and your Green Neighborhood Challenge name, if applicable”; this is where you fill in “The New Century School” so TNCS gets credit for participating in GNEC. Another field on the form asks for your Electronic I.D., which is not the same as your account number, and can be found at the top left on the second page of your bill. A final note about the form concerns whether you are currently under contract with another supplier. Unless you have voluntarily opted for a supplier other than the utility company (in Baltimore City’s case, BGE), you are not currently under contract (BGE doesn’t count). If you are under separate contract, however, you may want to wait until your renewable window comes around before signing up with Clean Currents to avoid an early termination fee.

So come on everybody, make the choice between 1/14/13 and 3/15/13 to GO GREEN by accepting the Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge! You won’t regret it, and . . . it’s a “breeze.”

As always, kindly let us know your thoughts about this post in the comments section—we love to hear from you! Plus, stay tuned to see TNCS’s measurable process in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Baltimore!

Blown Away with Wind Energy

On October 31, 2012, The New Century School decided to come clean. As part of an ongoing sustainability plan, TNCS switched off fossil fuel–derived energy and turned on with the environmental-friendly, clean energy provided by Clean Currents. Clean Currents delivers 100% wind- and solar-powered energy, a service that benefits the school; the environment; and, some say, the U.S. economy.

Clean Currents logo illustrates that power sources can be green

TNCS gets greener every day!

TNCS is fortunate to be located in Maryland, one of a handful of states (see map) currently enjoying a deregulated energy market for both electricity and gas (most states have deregulated one or the other or are not yet deregulated). This means that although Baltimore Gas & Electric owns and maintains the power lines, Clean Currents’ wind energy is what’s coming through those lines to power the school. In other words, consumers can choose not only who provides their power, but also have a choice in what type of power they buy, thanks to companies like Clean Currents.

With choices come advantages. The most obvious benefit to wind energy is its environmental friendliness. “Windustry” ameliorates climate change by not only providing a non-polluting source of energy but also by displacing the greenhouse gas emissions that have already polluted the atmosphere from conventional power. But there are other tremendous advantages, too. By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, for instance, clean energy also makes us less vulnerable as a nation to the vagaries of the international oil market . . . and to the associated security risks. Moreover, ever-renewable wind is a cash cow for farmers. Wind farming almost effortlessly generates considerable income without taking up land needed for crops as well as creating jobs and boosting the economy.

So, as President Obama has pledged to move the United States toward energy independence, TNCS is doing their part to get there at the community level. Clean Currents was a natural choice for collaboration. Being a “benefit corporation, we have elected to build in commitment to the local communities we serve along with the environment. It’s part of our operating agreement,” says Emily Conrad, Community Outreach Coordinator for Clean Currents.

wind energy is sustainable, renewable, and readily available

Wind turbines harvest wind on a midwestern wind farm

And TNCS likes a company that is motivated as much by doing lasting good for its community as by its bottom line. The benefits to the school itself are also numerous. Besides going green, TNCS will host Clean Currents workshops with students that will focus on “age-appropriate activities around the world of energy,” says Conrad. This is another way that TNCS can reinforce to students the importance of respecting our world.

Finally, readers, you’re invited to ponder these very wise words:

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder why wonder
I am green, and it’ll do fine
It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be . . .

Kermit acts as TNCS mascot for environmental sustainability

Sometimes, it IS easy being green!

P.S. Stay tuned to learn about the upcoming Green Neighborhood Challenge that will bring green energy to your door. That’s right—TNCS and Clean Currents are partnering to expand clean energy availability to the surrounding community. Look for a post about the Green Neighborhood Challenge in early 2013!