5 Easy Ways To Give On #GivingTuesday

December 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

GivingTuesdayWHAT IS IT? #Giving Tuesday is here and today officially kicks off the giving season! Hopefully you survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but this is a day dedicated to charities and for giving back.

WHAT FOR? Between now and December 31, 2014, Cottonwood Institute is committed to raising $20,000 to meet our annual giving goal. This critical funding will help set us up for success in 2015 and enable us to offer inspiring programs like this Flood Restoration Project with Colorado Youth For A Change, our Summer Nature Series with Casa de la Esperanza, the annual Local Lunch hosted by the Earth Task Force, and the Community Adventure Program!

Fire and Flood ProjectWHY ME? Because you care about youth, education, and the environment, you had someone share the outdoors with you, and you are committed to helping Cottonwood Institute connect high need students to the outdoors and empower them to ignite change in their communities.

5 EASY WAYS TO GIVE: Here are 5 easy ways to give on #GivingTuesday to help us meet our annual goal:

1. DONATE ONLINE: Thanks to a generous grant from Salah Foundation, your donation will be matched up to $12,000 for our annual giving campaign until December 31st, 2014 or until our match is met! To help meet our goal, Click Here.

Flood Restoration Project2. DONATE BY CHECK: If you prefer to mail in your donation, please make checks payable to Cottonwood Institute and send it to: PO Box 7067, Denver, CO 80207.

3. PAYPAL: If you prefer to donate via PayPal, Click Here and choose option 3.

4. DONATE FOR COLORADO GIVES DAY: You can schedule an online donation for Colorado Gives Day on December 9th, 2014 by Clicking Here.

5. DONATE STOCK: If you are interested in making a gift of stock to the Cottonwood Institute, please call me at 303.447.1076 and I’ll walk you through how to make an electronic transfer.

GivingTuesdayFinally, if you make a donation to Cottonwood Institute today, or if you have made a donation this year, and you want to go above and beyond “to help good go viral,” please take a picture of yourself with a sign saying you gave to Cottonwood Institute and post it in the comment of our GivingTuesday post on our Facebook Page with hash tags #GivingTuesday, #Unselfie, and #ChangeYourWorld

This will help spread the good word about Cottonwood Institute, #GivingTuesday, and making a difference today!

Thank you so much for your incredible support!

Ford Church, Founder and Executive Director, Cottonwood Institute

Earth Task Force Curbs Consumerism with Clothes-cycling

November 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

photo 2On Thursday, November 13th, 2014, a student led environmental action team at New Vista High School called the Earth Task Force (ETF) implemented a Clothing Swap event during the school’s hour long lunch. ETF worked a couple weeks prior to the event to create a comedic promotional video to grab the attention of the students at New Vista. The Clothing Swap Team then brought some of their own used clothes to kick off the event. The Clothing Swap was very successful, multiple students brought in their used clothes of good quality and took home wonderful new finds.

ETF held the clothing swap to promote and practice the recycling of valuable resources and materials. In this generation, shopping is a concept that entails ONLY buying new clothes. Often our society gets stuck in a cycle of consumerism, constantly buying new things and throwing the old in the trash. ETF wanted to break this cycle and promote the underrated sport of thrifting by doing it at school!

There was a calm before the storm, then the school swarmed the gym embracing the concept of new, and free clothes! A good number of students showed up to the event. ETF was ecstatic about the great photo 1community involvement. Some brought clothes, and some didn’t, but either way clothes were swapped. By the end of lunch period, there were two trash bags of clothes left. These were donated to Goodwill, a thrift store that provides used clothes and other objects at cheap prices.

ETF is very grateful to those students that brought in clothes and those who showed up and supported the event. A special shout out to the video teacher, Andrew Pfouts, for lending ETF filming equipment, and to his students that helped to edit the promotional video. We hope that the students and staff will continue to support future recycling of clothes.

Written by Flora Rotner and Rayna Miller

The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Earth Task Force Hosts Bike Repair Day

DSC05506On April 22nd 2014, to celebrate Earth Day, the Earth Task Force (ETF) hosted a bike repair day at the front of New Vista High School. This event inspired more students to bike to school, and provided a free opportunity for people to get their bike repaired or tuned up. Many students also enjoyed the music and hula-hoops! The purpose of the event was to teach the New Vista community about biking to school instead of taking the bus or a car. The event also raised awareness on bicycle safety. DSC05515In recent years the city of Boulder has created a new campaign called Heads Up Boulder that reminds bikers, walkers, and runners to pay attention to what cars are doing especially when crossing the road. In future years, ETF hopes to gain even more popularity in the New Vista community and influence other schools to host a similar event.

About Earth Task Force: The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Article written by Ayden Chance, Earth Task Force Student

2014 Ripple Effect Awards Honor Cottonwood Institute Students Making A Big Impact

Estrella.Bash2014The 2014 Base Camp Bash was an incredible success for the Cottonwood Institute. We raised critical funds for our programs, met some amazing supporters, and celebrated the impact our students are having in the community.

One way we honor our students is through our annual Ripple Effect Awards. The Ripple Effect Award is given each year to two outstanding students and is all about celebrating how our smallest actions, even those we can’t immediately see, can ripple out into the community to have an even greater impact.

This year Cottonwood Institute honored Robert Harding from New Vista High School and Estrella Damian from STRIVE Preparatory Schools Excel Campus. Both of these amazing young people worked hard to lead their peers to make change within themselves, their schools, and their communities.estrella2.Bash2014

Estrella participated in the Mini-Community Adventure Program (Mini CAP) at STRIVE Excel Campus this fall. She helped lead her peers during their Action Project to tackle food waste at their school by designing and implementing a worm composting program for their school. The fertile compost they generate will be donated to two school gardens in their neighborhood. It has been so successful that they are building a second bin to keep up with the composting demand! Throughout their efforts, Estella showed strong leadership and a great work ethic to help design their project, acquire supplies, and share it with the STRIVE Excel community.

Robert has been involved with the Earth Task Force (ETF) at New Vista High School for the past 3 years, with unparalleled dedication. As his senior year draws to an end, we have been consistently impressed with his ideas, hard work, and follow through. From helping to organize their annual Local Lunch to the recent Fracking Panel, Robert has shown how much he has grown and learned from his experiences with ETF. We are excited to keep in touch with Robert to see what he accomplishes in college and through his future career.20140507_121323-1

These two are great examples of what students can and are accomplishing in our programs and beyond. Thanks to all of our students for making what Cottonwood Institute does really matter!

“We never know how the impact of our actions may ripple out. We never know who may be touched. That’s one more reason why, although the fruits of our labors can’t always be seen, they matter immensely.” – Paul Rogat Loeb

A special thanks goes out to local artist, Bryan Buikema from Cracker 8 Projects, graphic designer Amber Selzer, and Piranha Woodcraft for designing and building these beautiful awards, which will be displayed at each winning school for 1 year.

Earth Task Force Hosts “Bring Your Own Mug” Day


This past March, students from New Vista High School’s Earth Task Force (ETF) hosted an exciting community event called Bring Your Own Mug Day (BYOM). The purpose behind the event was to encourage students and staff to use their own reusable mugs, in place of taking advantage of disposable cups. Reusable mugs are an important tool in today’s modern world, which is why ETF is so eager to maintain the tradition of Bring Your Own Mug Day. According to recent statistics from coffee-statistics.com, Americans dispose of 14 billion paper coffee cups each year. Instead of encouraging this waste, students from ETF hosted BYOM on Thursday, March 20th to reward people who use their own mugs.

With the invaluable help of Ozo Coffee, four cambros of coffee fueled the energy of New Vista’s staff and student body for the rest of the day. Ozo generously donated all the coffee for the event, and responses from students and teachers were overwhelmingly positive.

About Earth Task Force:The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Article written by Cassidy Lam, Earth Task Force Student

Earth Task Force Students Host a Clothing Swap


Last month, students from the Earth Task Force at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO hosted a clothing swap. The purpose of the event was to encourage peers and staff to pursue their fashion interests in a more eco-friendly manner. Due to the money and materials that are invested in the purchase of new clothing, shopping encourages disposable consumerism that harms the planet and exhausts buyer’s budgets. For example, 41% of teenage girls bought 10 or more items of clothing within six months in 2012 (source). This is only a demographic for a young female population, so one can imagine the scale of shopping effects in general. ETF hosted a clothing swap to save resources in a fun and cost free way. ETF members filmed a humorous advertisement to catch the attention of the school’s population, then moved on to setting up the event. It was hosted in New Vista’s gym, where tables were arranged and a clothing line was strung between them. The ambiance was positive and lively, about 30 students walked away with new digs, which didn’t detrimentally affect the environment.

About Earth Task Force: The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Written by: Cassidy Lam & Juliet Luna

Local Farmers + Local Food + Local Action = Local Lunch


The Earth Task Force (ETF), a student led environmental action team at New Vista High School (NVHS) coordinated an annual event that provides a locally sourced lunch to staff and students. For the fourth annual Local Lunch, The Kitchen, a Boulder restaurant that works with local food producers, collaborated with ETF to create a gourmet menu and coach students on culinary skills. Students within the action team reached out to local farms to get donations of ingredients, and with the help of the culinary resources at The Kitchen, prepared the food.  This locally sourced lunch was served to the NVHS community free of charge on Friday, September 20th, 2013.

The Kitchen RestaurantThe driving reason behind organizing the Local Lunch was to educate student peers and the community about the impact of local versus non-local food on the planet: eating locally reduces carbon emissions, fuels the local economy, lets you know where and who your food comes from, and gives eaters a chance to connect with growers. By making this a free event and having the students and staff bring their own plates and utensils ETF not only created an educational experience about local food, but also encouraged people to reduce their trash. This was a truly zero waste event.

Donations for the lunch were received from many local farms including Cure Organic Farm, Munson Farms, Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese, 20130920_120333Oxford Gardens, and Red Wagon Organic Farm and for the first time this year NVHS used many ingredients from their own Learning Garden! The meat was provided by Cure Farm and Locavore, a delivery system that procures local meat from surrounding farms and sells it to customers in the Boulder area. Various other locations, such as 63rd Street Farm, offered to donate food, but were unable to due to the violent flooding of their location during the county’s recent wet weather. Despite the huge difficulty it presented to the providers of the local food, the aforementioned farmers still donated. The event would have been impossible without their help. It was an incredible opportunity to combine the voracious appetites of adolescents with delicious local food, farmers, and chefs in order to create an educational and fun experience.

Local LunchThe Local Lunch event was held on Friday, September 20th, 2013 from 12:05pm to 1:05pm for students and staff at NVHS. The local farmers who contributed to the meal were also welcome to come and enjoy the product of their donations. The sunny weather allowed the community to congregate on the grass by the NVHS Learning Garden, where students and staff sat on blankets eating the food served to them by ETF.  The atmosphere of the event was amiable and relaxed, and the local food was well appreciated. Despite the evident lack of reusable plates brought by students, many individuals could not refrain from eating their lunch and so were served food on their binders and ultimate frisbees. Overall, the 2013 Local Lunch was a successful event and brought the community together through the delight of eating delectable local food.

About Earth Task Force:The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Written by Juliet Luna and Cassidy Lam, ETF students

And The 2013 Ripple Effect Award Goes To…Camille Lauer!

On April 20th at the Base Camp Bash, Cottonwood Institute awarded Camille Lauer with the 2013 Ripple Effect Award! The Ripple Effect Award is awarded to an outstanding Cottonwood Institute student each year. Local artist Bryan Buikema created the beautiful award piece, which will be displayed at the recipient’s school each year. Below, take a look at a video of the award ceremony and read a transcript of Paige Doughty’s heartfelt speech to Ms. Lauer.

One of the best parts of Cottonwood Institute’s programs is that they not only give students experiences in the natural world and in their communities, but they also give students the opportunity and support to take and make informed action in their communities.

No program more so than the Earth Task Force (ETF). As an adult mentor of the ETF I help facilitate a lot of difficult discussions about complex environmental and social issues that don’t have clear answers, or simple solutions.

camilleAs a result teachers and mentors in the field of environmental education often use a metaphor of a small stone thrown into the middle of a pond. “Your actions,” we tell students, “are that stone, and the ripples that it makes when it hits the surface of the water, even when the stone is long gone from view, are the effects of your action. The effects of your actions echo out into the world in positive ways you don’t even know about.”

This is how the Ripple Effect Award came to have its name. It is an award that is given to an outstanding student and passed on to the next outstanding student from year to year. In 2013 the Ripple Effect Award was given to one of ETF’s leaders and most loyal members, Camille Lauer.

RippleEffectAwardThis young woman has dedicated countless hours of her time to organizing sustainability event and projects. She has helped create and serve all local lunches at her school in order to educate students and staff about the connections between the industrialized food system and climate change, she has arrived early at school to check her peers in for Transportation Transformation, a student-run program which rewards people for using alternative transportation, she helps facilitate student retreats and that’s just the beginning!
During the 2012-13 school year Camille Lauer took the lead with five other Colorado schools to organize plan and execute the “Ban the Bag Rally” in Denver on April 13th. If you were walking on 16th street Mall that day you may have seen 40+ students performing an anti-plastic bag flash mob performed to “Gangnam Style!” This coalition of youth groups has been writing letters to city councils and congress to encourage Denver to implement a bag ban or fee on single use plastic bags. Camille was one of the leaders of this action and event.

Camille’s spirit of fun, passion for life, and ability to inspire others motivate everyone around her. The Cottonwood Institute is so pleased to honor her with the 2013 Ripple Effect Award!

Speech written by Paige Doughty.
Take a look at even more pictures from the 2013 Bash Camp Bash by clicking here!

Graveyard Poetry, Pre-Calculus, and Shoveling April Snow For May Flowers In The Learning Garden

Shoveling Snow LG2013Although snow covered much of the compost when students arrived at school earlier this spring, but that didn’t stop a brave and motivated group of New Vista High School advisory students from shoveling and moving compost, clearing our gardens out of a foot of snow, digging weeds and spreading compost over all of our gardens! Just in time to take advantage of the moisture brought in by the next spring snowstorm!

Many beautiful vegetable and herb signs were designed and painted by students in Marco Demartino’s Advisory Group. The signs will be proudly displayed in our Learning Garden as well as in our “Garden Against Hunger.” Our Garden Against Hunger is a collaboration with the Boulder Food Rescue and we will help tackle their mission to put an end to hunger by growing and providing food for those in need in our local community.

Learning Garden SignsWe launched the New Vista Gardening Club that met once a week on Thursdays for the last month of school. Members helped prepare the Learning Garden beds for planting and they later planted one of the beds with colorful varieties of carrots and beets.

One of the intentions behind the Learning Garden was to develop an integrated curriculum across all disciplines at the high School level. Martin Park’s Pre-Calculus class brought this vision to life. Martin designed an exciting project for the students with an end goal of raising awareness for the school gardens. In our pilot lesson, we discussed variables that Pre-Calculus Lesson Planeffect plant growth and then headed out to the Learning Gardens to plant. Several varieties of Lettuces, along with spinach, radishes, arugula and calendula flower seeds were planted.  Students have been monitoring and watering the beds and taking data on variables such as soil moisture, soil temperature, and air temperature and have been collecting data on plant growth. Their results were presented along with photos, at the End-of the-Year Student Exhibition!

Students in Vanessa’s Gothic Literature Class studied Graveyard Poetry and following their poetry lesson, students were brought out to the garden to learn about earthworms. The earthworms were to serve as inspiration to write their own graveyard poems.  Students didn’t have to dig deep to find an abundance of earthworms in our Garden Against Hunger beds, a great sign that our soil is thriving and full of life! Students learned about the significance of worms in the garden, as well as the role that worms play in creating compost to minimize waste in landfills and to feed our soil. Students gathered organic matter in varying stages of decomposition from in and around the garden and added it all to our new vermicomposting worm bin. Our red wiggler worms are happy in their new home, working hard to create nutrients for our gardens’ soil!

The Earth Task Force planted the remaining beds in our Learning Garden. Several varieties of kale, as well as swiss chard, carrots, beets and flowers were planted and our gardens are well on their way to providing food for ourselves and for those in need in our community!

A huge thank you goes out to Eco-Cycle for donating a truckload of beautiful compost to New Vista High School, which is now a Green Star School!  The nutrient rich compost, which arrived in coordination with New Vista’s Service week, will help our gardens produce an abundance of deliciously healthy vegetables and Pre-Calculus Poseherbs for our students and community! And thank you New Vista Staff for helping to engage our students in our school gardens and thank you New Vista Students for helping to get our gardens off to a happy and healthy start!

Summer Vacation is here and our school gardens need your help! Meeting times, dates, and planting days for student volunteers are currently being scheduled! Community Experience Credits are available for those who dedicate some time to help maintain our gardens over the summer. Please Email Melanie Goldbort with any questions or if you would like to be involved!

This article was written by Melanie Goldbort, Learning Garden Coordinator.

The Learning Garden is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO made possible by a grant from the Utah Society for Environmental Education and the US EPA Region 8 Small Grant Program. Learning Gardens are a product of The Kitchen Community in Boulder, CO.

Earth Task Force helps New Vista High School Become First Green Star School!

May 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

Eco-Cycle Green Star ProgramCitizens of the United States represent about 5% of the world’s population but produce 30% of the world’s garbage. The Earth Task Force (ETF) was shocked by this amount of waste production. For years the ETF has searched for ways to reduce waste production at New Vista High School (NVHS) and save precious natural resources. Past projects have included recycling campaigns, reuse campaigns and a student-run composting program.  Now they have been rewarded for all that hard work! At the beginning of April 2013 ETF partnered with Eco-Cycle to help NVHS become the first Green Star High School.

Eco-Cycle Green Star LogoEco-cycle’s Green Star Schools program works with schools with the goal of zero waste. The end goal is that none of the school’s waste is thrown into the landfill. Green Star Schools is a comprehensive program that involves educating the staff and student body about what goes where and it includes an industrial composting system!

For the last 4 years the ETF had been using an on site compost where compost was taken by the ETF’s members to an area at the back of the school. Unfortunately, it meant that not all products, like meat and dairy, could be composted and compostable flatware and silverware still had to be thrown away. Because of ETF’s hard work running the backyard composting program, they were thrilled to become a Green Star school and gain the ability to expand the compost program with an industrial level system.  The industrial composting from Eco-Cycle now allows many different kinds of items to be composted at New Vista further reducing the waste we produce.

Green Star SkitThe Earth Task Force and Ecocycle hosted a Green Star School launch on April 3rd, which included a student written skit performed by students and staff to educate the NVHS community about the importance of conserving our precious natural resources. Eco-cycle introduced the new recycling and composting systems. At the end of the presentation representatives from each classroom came to pick up trash, recycle, and compost bins for each room in the school. The launch was fun for the entire school and a great way to start off the Green Star School program. Students are happy about the new waste disposal system and the amount of foodstuffs being composted rather than thrown away. The office staff has decided to host zero waste events with financial support from the Earth Task Force.

Written by student journalist Allison Bell.

The Earth Task Force is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

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