Michelle's Earth Foundation Newsletter
Spring 2009
MEF Logo 742
Michelle's Earth Foundation,  P.O. Box 5140 Preston King Station, Arlington, Virginia 22205
www.michellesearth.org    info@michellesearthfound.org
Donations are possible through Facebook or by mail.
Dear Friend of MEF,

It's time to "put in" your garden. If ever there was a year for home gardens, it is this year. From the President's family to ordinary citizens, there is renewed interest in locally grown produce -- especially grown in your own yard. It's a "win-win" to grow your own fruits and vegetables. For people without the time or energy there is always a nearby farmers' market.

First Lady Michelle Obama working in her organic garden

It is no surprise that Vermont is the country's healthiest state. Vegetable consumption there is among the highest in the nation. Vermont has also seen exponential growth in cooperatives that connect individuals and institutions to locally grown produce.

Here in Arlington many food banks now accept produce from local growers. Anyway you look at it, this is the Year of the Garden.

Ian Willson helping children plant sunflowers, MEF Earth Day exhibit

MEF Welcomes its New President, Gail Fendley!

Gail and Yasmin
Michelle's Earth Foundation is proud to introduce our new President, Gail Fendley. Gail has worked tirelessly as an MEF Board member, and she is already bringing the same energy and enthusiasm to her new position as President.

We would like to congratulate Gail for being inducted into television's Silver Circle.  The Silver Circle honors those who have made significant contributions to the broadcast or cable industry over the span of 25 years or more in the Natl. Capital & Chesapeake Bay Region. Since Hurricane Katrina, Gail has returned to the New

New MEF President Gail Fendley (R) with MEF's Yasmin Rassam (L)

Orleans area at least 40 times, both professionally and personally. Professionally, she's produced numerous segments of the impact of volunteers and faith based workers post-Katrina. These segments are aired on the WETA program Religion and Ethics. Personally, she works with MEF's MESUNOLA (Michelle's Sunflowers in New Orleans, LA) project. MEF has established a presence in New Orleans with the planting of sunflowers which pull lead from toxic soil. With the cooperation of LSU, MEF tests lots where homes will be rebuilt. Gail's son, Ian Wilson, is a co-partner in the MESUNOLA project.
Over the years we have seen the MESUNOLA project blossom into an ever-expanding effort with beautiful and healthful results for some of New Orleans' poorer communities. Gail is also helping to expand MEF's presence in Arlington and Burlington. We enthusiastically support Gail in her new position and look forward to working with her to promote MEF's mission and goals.

Thank You, Jim!

Jim Egenrieder Michelle's Earth Foundation would like to thank Jim Egenrieder for serving as our acting president over the past few years.  Since the inception of MEF, Jim has been a constant source of strong leadership and has displayed an unwavering dedication to keeping Michelle's memory alive. 
When Michelle's friends and family decided to start a foundation in her name, we were armed only with determination and a desire to do something in her memory that would make her proud.  Jim was the source of so many of the qualities that we needed to translate this desire into action. 
Jim took on the enormous duty of acting as president in our fledgling organization when we needed his help.  Our resident technical expert, he created our website, engineered our early newsletters, organized our meetings and board votes online, connected us with numerous other environmental initiatives and organizations, and did so much of the hard work that allowed us to both communicate with each other and to share our message with the world.
He did all of this with calm, compassion, and a seemingly endless supply of patience.  Most importantly, however, he did all of this for Michelle. 
So Jim, for everything you have done, we thank you.
Georgeanne Usova, Rachele Huennekens, and the MEF Board
Michelle on one of Jim's Biology Trips

Michelle on Jim's AP biology field trip to Dyke marsh


Lebanon Seeds

In March Michelle's Earth Foundation partnered with the American University of Beirut's agricultural campus to run a seed planting festival. When Catherine Salzinger, Michelle's friend and soccer team mate now living in Lebanon, heard about the Power of Planting/ Seeds of Hope project, she decided to partner with AUB. "I wanted to do something special in Michelle's memory and this seemed like the perfect project."

Catherine Salzinger
The Power of Planting campaign aims to engage local communities to plant trees in their own locality, ensuring that native species have a future across the country. According to Catherine, "This project's commitment to engaging ordinary citizens made it especially appropriate. It really involves the community - something Michelle would have absolutely loved."

Catherine Saltzinger,
Michelle's friend and project leader

Native species are very important, because they do not need irrigation. Forty native tree species are being cultivated at AUB's Nature Conservation Center for Sustainable Future (IBSAR).  After the trees become 2 to 3 years old, the communities that agree to care for them gain public green space, while also helping preserve and protect the environment.  

Preparing to plant almond and pine seeds
In order to kick off the project 35 MEF and AUB students participated in the festival and planted 3,000 almond and pine seeds in peat moss boxes.

They also built an irrigation enclosure to water the plants. Finally, the volunteers transplanted 200 baby Lebanese Cedars. The weekend long festival included campfires, singing, good food and camaraderie.

Check out this video from the event.

Preparing to plant almond and pine seeds

Michelle's Curitiba, Brazil, a Very Green City

By Alison Bell

Marcelo Stuba with his motherMichelle's fall semester in Brazil led her to discover a marvelously green and livable city, Curitiba. Some call it the greenest city in the world. Living with the Stubert Barbosa family, she was able to explore this fascinating urban jewel, rich in social programs and environmental progress. How did this little known city become the most environmentally advanced urban area on Earth?

Curitiba is the capital city of Parana, one of Brazil's southernmost states 260 miles south of Sao Paulo with a population of

Marcelo Stuba with his mother

1.8 million.  It is known internationally for its progressive transportation system, social services and environmental practices which have rightfully lead it to be become a model for development in many areas of the world. Curitiba Tube Station and BusIt took roughly three decades of thoughtful planning since Curitiba first outlined its Master Plan in 1965, with the main goals of limiting central area growth while encouraging commercial and service sector growth along the two structural north-south transport arteries which radiate outward from the city center. This Master Plan was designed by Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba and a renowned architect and urban planner. He aimed to make available economic support for urban development by establishing industrial zones and encouraging local self-sufficiency by

Curitiba Tube Station and Bus

providing all city districts with adequate education, health care, recreation, and park areas. With the population steadily expanding since the implementation of the city's Master Plan, the decade of the 1980s, a population of roughly 900,000, Curitiba successfully initiated a number of eco-friendly and social programs.

Here are some examples of how Curitiba has designed and sustained an ideal type of eco-friendly living through thoughtful policy making:

2/3s of Curitiba's citizens travel by bus every day

  • The designation of green areas and tree saving.  Areas protected from future development were established in Curitiba during the last few decades in order to curb some of the environmental disasters that can follow with an explosive growth in population. As Curtis Moore explains in his article Greenest City in the World, "the city launched a series of programs aimed not only at preserving the city's existing trees and green space, but at adding to them." These notions are enforced by law; once a tree is planted it cannot be cut down or even trimmed without a proper permit. Anyone who is caught violating this ordinance will be hit with a fine which is determined by the age, species and diameter of the tree. Moreover, Curitiba's Master Plan offers roughly half a square meter of green space for every person in addition to the number of parks that were dedicated to the city's different ethnic and immigrant groups.
  • The bus system of Curitiba is at the center of its environmental success. These buses are cheaper, faster and more comfortable than cars. They carry two thirds of the city's residents every day. Curitiba's transit system was expanded and a color-coded system for the various bus lines was created in order to provide a safe, reliable, and affordable transit system. Street systems were designed to accommodate the bus routes. Riders purchase their tokens in the ultra modern boarding tubes before boarding. According to recent studies Curitiba's buses carry 50 times more passengers than they did 20 years ago, but people spend only about 10 percent of their yearly income on transport costs. As a result and despite the second highest per capita car ownership rate in Brazil (one car for every three people), Curitiba's gasoline use per capita is 30 percent below that of eight comparable Brazilian cities. Other benefits include negligible emissions levels and little congestion which remain consistent with the environmentally friendly living conditions.
  • A citywide recycling program was initiated in which Curitibanos separate organic waste and trash, plastic, glass, and metal. A "trading garbage for food" program was started when the city needed to come up with an idea to help the more impoverished parts of the city, which are often located in areas whose streets are too narrow for normal garbage pick-up trucks. The idea was to take away some of the city's money allocated to the garbage collection and set up neighborhood associations that provide a "food for trash" exchange. This exchange provides the citizens with incentive: for every six bags of trash that are collected and dropped off at one of these 54 neighborhood associations, one bag of food is given which includes staple dietary needs such as rice, beans, eggs, onions, etc. This practice alone, as noted by Moore, feeds about 102,000 citizens and collects 400 tons of garbage per month.  As far as recycling, Curitiba is proud to boast some of the most spectacular recycling rates in the world. This came into effect through Lerner's vision to focus on educating the city's children on how to sort and recycle and why it is important. He did this by creating the 'leaf campaign', whereby actors dressed as leaves teach children at local schools all over the city and its outskirts how to separate the trash. They learn to separate dry trash, such as plastic and metal, from wet trash, such as eggs shells, potato peels and things that can be used as compost. The city also has garbage street sweepers and cart people, whose job it is to wheel carts door to door collecting trash to bring to the recycling centers. These three factors are what make Curitiba's "recycling army" one of the world's most outstanding, with about 70% of paper and 60% of glass metal and plastic recycled.
Curitiba's impressive goals and accomplishments have made it a leader, not only environmentally, but socially as well, providing free health care and other basic services to the poor. A clear strategy and vision of the future in Curitiba has meant that decisions large and small made over the course of 38 years have added up to a city that is public-spirited and eco-efficient. Despite its ever expanding population, strong leadership has resulted in successful, long-term implementation of its goals. Curitiba is one of the best planned cities in Brazil and an international model for sustainable development.  

Green Power Comes to Virginia

Dominion VA Power is now offering green electricity from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other renewable sources to its customers for an additional cost. Customers may buy 100% green energy for their share of grid electricity at $15 extra per month or they may buy $2 blocks of green energy with each block equaling 133 kilowatts-hours of green energy.

Find out more on the Dominion website.
(Image borrowed from www.lbl.gov)


1. The Washington area Council of Governments reported that 70% of the region's greenhouse gas emissions come from what two sources?

2. What energy source provides more than half the electricity on the national grid?
Visit michellesearth.org for the answers!

Michelle's Grandmother Babe with Leland cypress

Michelle's Grandmother Babe with Leland cypress


If every household in the U.S. replaced 1 roll of 1,000 sheet bathroom tissues with a 100% recycled roll, we could save 373,000 trees, 1.48 million cubic feet of landfill space, and 155 million gallons of water.
                                                                                Green Resource Guide

Buy Local, Eat Seasonal

Spring is a wonderful time of the year for fresh -- many locally produced -- vegetables. According to Real Simple magazine, we should be buying the following in the spring:
  • AsparagusMEF Logo 742
  • Artichokes
  • Baby Lettuces
  • New Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

So, head to your local farmer's market, pick up some fresh strawberries, and enjoy a cool strawberry shake.  And remember, our "going local" chef Nathan Lyon says never to wash your strawberries until you are ready to eat them!

MEF Blossoms


Special thanks to Catherine Saltzinger for conceiving and leading the Power of Planting project in the Beqaa Valley. Over 35 volunteers planted 3,000 native pine and almond seeds at the American University of Beirut's nursery facility. Also thanks to Stephanie Lewis who lead the fund raising effort.
Heather Spence continues to work for MEF on conservation projects relating to  the MesoAmerican reef in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Heather is focusing on programs for school children. Keep up the good work Heather!

MESUNOLA, Michelle's Sunflowers in New Orleans, LA, has started a spring round of planting sunflowers to phytoremediate the soil. A new phase of scientifically testing various plants as phytoremediators is about to begin in conjunction with LSU. Thanks to Gail Fendley and Ian Willson.

Earth Day was celebrated by MEF with an exhibit in Brenman Park in Alexandria. Sunflower starts were given away. Thanks to Gail Fendley, Yasmine Rassam and Ian Willson.

A BIG THANK YOU TO GLOECKNERS -  Once again Gloeckner Co has provided sunflower seeds for the 'Michelle's Sunflowers in New Orleans' project. Last year over 35 lots were planted. This year planting began in late February.