CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Hello, everybody. Welcome to this special episode of This Is How We Planet, brought to you by Nestlé Waters and iHeart. I'm your host, Charly Arnolt, also known as World Wrestling Entertainment personality Charly Caruso. So, the question we've been asking throughout this entire podcast series is, “How do we planet and why is it so important?” I'm going to tell you why. Because Earth is it. It is our only address. There is no other home that we can just skip off to if this one doesn't quite work out. It deserves and needs the best from us, from all of us. And the only real way to help protect, preserve or change it for the better is to do it together.
Each of our episodes have taken an in-depth look at the people and also the organizations that make our planet a better place in ways both big and small - in our communities, across our country and also all around the world. We focused on areas such as disaster response, children and health, water stewardship, recycling and why collaboration is key to tackling challenges.
We also recognized a PLANET HERO in each of these areas whose work goes above and beyond, and we're featuring them again in this special episode. The best part is that you, our listeners, could also nominate your own PLANET HEROES. And you did not disappoint. We're sharing the amazing stories that we chose from your nominations. And in addition, we have a very special surprise for all of our PLANET HEROES. So, make sure you stay tuned for that.
Passionate. It's a word that describes every episode's PLANET HERO and also our PLANET HERO nominees. The question we have asked each of them is, "What makes you so passionate about what you do?" Our first episode, called Discrimination in Hydration, features passionate people and organization(s), like PTAs, that help to promote healthy lifestyle choices for kids and also for their families. Our PLANET HERO, Nicole Bambalere, is the treasurer of the Terramar Academy of the Arts PTSA of Peoria, Arizona. The PTSA is a volunteer association where parents, educators, students and other citizens can be active in their schools and communities. In 2019, the PTSA hosted a healthy hydration event at the school. So, let's hear how Nicole used her experience to promote the benefits of drinking water to her community and also to encourage them to make water their healthy beverage choice.
NICOLE BAMBALERE: I’m a cancer survivor. I had breast cancer a few years ago and I'm doing great, but I also have seen the impact that health and wellness makes in people's lives. And so, being able to take my experience as a cancer coach now and showing others, especially with water. Water is a huge part of your health and wellness. And I'm able to put my passion into not only my work, but also into my volunteer work. And I absolutely love that because it makes a huge impact on our schools.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Nicole says there's a place at a local PTA for anyone who wants to volunteer and also give back to their school community in a very similar way.
NICOLE BAMBALERE: I think probably the biggest thing that I would say is, don't be afraid of your Parent Teacher Association. Get involved with your PTA. They may need you to do one simple thing that’s your specialty. I know that's what we as a PTA look for, is how can we involve our community members that have these special talents to do something that gives back to their community. Especially in this day and age, I think that giving back is such a huge – it makes such a difference and it, and it really helps push us forward. And it really helps our future generations to thrive.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Our first PLANET HERO nominee is involved in her community in a very unique way, as you can probably tell. You might say she practices kindness to a "T." (Chuckles) And just like Nicole, nominee Angela K. turned a health challenge into something positive that benefits others. Angela is a supermarket cashier from Pearl River, New York. In the midst of the pandemic, her mission is to bring comfort to her customers and also her community by giving them boxes of tea. And since 2019, Angela has handed out more than 1,000 boxes! That is astonishing. And guess what? She also brews tea in her home and invites folks in to share a cup of comfort. So, we asked Angela how and why she makes sharing tea with others the special cause that she calls the Tea Giver Project.
ANGELA K.: In June of 2019, that is when I founded my project. Well, I was battling depression. Within my project, I aim to comfort as many people as I possibly can throughout the world by giving them boxes of tea and tea bags in hopes that they, too, can find comfort within their lives. I also give tea throughout my community and I place drop-off boxes where other people could take a box of tea and leave a box for others who may need comfort.
My typical day is I start super early. I write up positive messages on post-it note cards and I place them on every box of tea and tea bag that I give to others. And then I load them all in a box or a bag so that I can place them throughout my travels. I also give them to local businesses and people who may be going through a tough time in life.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: So, we've heard that so far connecting with others can take many different forms, from sharing a cup of tea to hosting a community event. The fact that we're all connected is a recurring theme and Angela's story - no exception.
ANGELA K.: One of the simplest ways of making the world better for other people is showing them that you are there for them. Even in the simplest of ways, you can sing songs from your window or provide comfort to others through something as simple as a box of tea. I think that people should know is that we are all connected at the same time throughout the world to one cup of tea. There are so many people around the globe having tea at the same time, even though we don't realize that we are all connected as one.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: The fact that we're all connected is also a concept that our episode on Educating the Next Generation of Water Stewards clearly illustrates. We all know that children are the future and can become our best advocates for protecting and also preserving our natural resources. This episode features just a few of the amazing organizations that make it their missions to educate children on the importance of water stewardship and the environment, and also help them to realize that everything is connected. This episode's PLANET HERO is a former teacher who is now the Director of Educational Partnerships at The Ecology School in Maine. Meg Edstrom Jones says she's grateful for her teaching background because it prepared her to provide students with learning experiences outdoors. And it's there that they can start to make connections between themselves and also with nature, and then realize how everything is connected. So, let's hear what Meg had to say about how her kids are able to make these connections.
So, talk to me a little bit more about how kids do make the connections between themselves and nature through your educational programs.
MEG EDSTROM JONES: Ecology really breaks down into being the study of our home. So, the study of our Earth. And in order to study our home, we need to be thinking about the connections between the living and nonliving things that are all around us. And an important part of our connection is that we are one of those living things. So, as a living thing on this Planet Earth, how are we responsible for our role in it and our impact on it? When kids can get outside and they can notice these connections, they experience living and nonliving things in their environments, they can start to understand when those environments are not functioning properly and again, what kind of impact they can have on it, what they might be able to do to change what's happening.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: I'm sure it's amazing when you get to see that light bulb go off in the kid's head. They're having that aha moment. They’re like, “Oh, I get it now,” and making the connections that we're talking about. So, that's probably one really cool thing that you see on a very frequent basis. But what would you say is the best part of your job?
MEG EDSTROM JONES: The best part of my job is probably working with kids who don't identify themselves as being successful in school and then having them come to The Ecology School and go outside, enjoy being outside and also enjoy learning. And maybe even not really getting that what they're doing is learning. That kind of light bulb, like you were talking about, is probably the most satisfying thing for me as a former teacher, as a now parent and as an Ecology School staff. That's it. To be able to get excited and passionate about something is huge.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Our next PLANET HERO nominee, Christine F., is also a teacher and says that connecting with her young students and their parents is the best part of her job. Christine works as a pre-K teacher at a Head Start in Florida. Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and it provides early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and also for their families. A mother of three herself, Christine says she knows what these families go through because she once also struggled to provide for her own children. Being there as a supportive friend for her students and their families motivates her just as much as her love for teaching does.
CHRISTINE F.: I've been teaching for 12 years. I got into it because I love the little kids, but I love the connection with the parents. I think it's like a family when you get attached to these kids. And then some of these families are just struggling. And especially this year, they lost their jobs, they're depressed. And sometimes it's just nice you can just talk with them. It's sometimes knowing I'm not just their teacher; I'm like a friend. I went through a lot, so I always tell them my story. I was a single mom for a long time. I struggled, so I know what it's like to struggle and to provide for your family.
I love Head Start. I feel like that. I don't feel like a lot of people know what it is. It's called Head Start, but I tell parents I call it a step ahead. I feel, especially with the younger kids, we have VPK and it's voluntary, but I think Head Start is giving your child that upper hand of (garbled) how it is to communicate with other people, how to play, how to share. I guess to me, it’s letting them be kids. If people really understood people that live in poverty and that what Head Start provides is all this. To give them that - I call it like a step ahead. It gives them that foundation, but also gives those families an outlet of sorts - resources that they didn't realize were out there.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Now, it is so obvious that Christine is very passionate about her work at Head Start, where she's impacting young lives and those of their parents every single day. So, we asked her, "What are some ways that each of us can help make the world or our community a better place?"
CHRISTINE F.: Helping one another. You don't know what somebody else is going through. And sometimes just the simplest things of helping a friend out, whether it's taking their child to school for them or just listening to them talk or just being there for one another. I feel like a lot of people now are so to themselves that everybody has something going on in their lives. But sometimes it's just the simplest thing. Like somebody once said is that somebody said hi to me and gave me a smile. Just being kind to one another. And just being there for each other.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: As Christine just shared, a HERO'S personal experience and their desire to make a difference in the lives of others can help to define their life's path. This commitment can lead in so many directions, as our episode called Disaster Heroes so clearly demonstrates. The need for clean water and food is really greatest when disaster strikes communities, whether they be natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic or when water is contaminated. PLANET HERO Kara Ross is no stranger to providing these life-sustaining necessities. As the president and also the CEO of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Kara has helped to distribute food and water to communities in need for nearly a quarter of a century. In fact, the Food Bank provides these services every single day, not just in times of disaster. So, I asked Kara how she found her calling to help people through the Food Bank and why the organization's work is so very important.
It's obvious by talking to you that you're so, so passionate about what you do. But what is it, whether it's a past experience or something that’s just inside of you that makes you this passionate?
KARA ROSS: Well, what really captured my heart, probably really early on in this career path, you know having done internships for nonprofits and done some other community work in the past, I always knew I would work in nonprofit or that I would seek out something that I felt I was in service to the community and part of the solutions that need to take place with neighbor and neighbor working together. So, the passion that I really am always inspired about is just the hope that comes from people collaborating and working together and having really honest dialogue and conversation. You know, people holding themselves with integrity and value is what we see all the time in our network. When you have volunteers that are from faith-based communities and neighborhoods and community work, it's hard not to be inspired by how much they do and how much they give of themselves to their neighbors.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Kara also talked about the special challenges that COVID-19 has presented to communities served by the Food Bank and why its efforts are so needed at this time.
KARA ROSS: What’s still sad to say, is in some of the counties and some of the areas we go to with mobile food pantries, it's still not enough. And there's still people that are lined up at the end of that food distribution that still need help from their community. So that's why we keep doing what we're doing, and we keep pushing for hunger relief. There shouldn't be families that worry about feeding their children, senior citizens that may not have family still living here. You know, checking on your neighbor and making sure that people have what they need is so important during this time. And then again, doing it safely and going with guidelines that keep everybody safe for food safety and for the concerns of the pandemic - really important during this time.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: As Kara Ross just said, knowing her work can make a difference in people's lives is incredibly rewarding. Our next everyday PLANET HERO nominee also works to put food on people's tables. Michael H. is the Urban Farms Director at Services for the Underserved, an organization that's based in New York City. Its mission is to ensure that everybody has a roof over their head, is healthy and productive and can enjoy the social connections that create a life of purpose. Mike manages the organization's therapeutic horticulture program for individuals and families who face a range of challenges. These include mental illness, developmental disabilities, and HIV and AIDS that are compounded by histories of homelessness, substance abuse, poverty and unemployment. We talked to Mike about how his work for Services for the Underserved over the past eight years has helped to change lives through gardening.
MIKE H.: About 10 years ago, the agency recognized that in having all of this real estate there were lots of backyards. There were lots of rooftops that were a relatively rare resource in New York City. So, having access to these open spaces was something that they wanted to leverage. The interest from a lot of our residents and a lot of our program participants was in gardening. So, about 10 years ago they began the urban farms initiative, which transformed those spaces into community gardens and food-producing spaces. So, as the Urban Farms Director, over the last 10 years we've brought that program to not just be growing in those spaces, but also have a lot of different accompanying programs - everything from vocational and personal development education to peer supports. Different events and activities can take place in the garden. We use it for therapeutic purposes, so it serves a range of different supports and services within (a) larger scheme of what the organization does.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Mike also shared some of the important ways in which the organization's work positively impacts the local environment and how participants can also benefit.
MIKE H.: A lot of the work that we're doing is having direct impacts on the local environments, whether it's capturing food waste, composting that and building soils, or whether it's conserving things like pollinator pathways. We have beekeeping going on at a number of our sites and we grow in ways that support pollinator populations. So, just some examples there of the environmental impacts that those spaces can have.
There's certainly a food security side to it. So, the materials that we're growing at these sites are being distributed directly to the residents that are caring for them. So, that is not just direct food security, but also an opportunity for them to really empower themselves in deciding what they're going to grow and seeing that go all the way from seed to harvest.
And then the third aspect, which we kind of touched on, is certainly the social determinants of health aspect. So, sort of those less direct impacts on vocational preparation. So, for folks that are looking to transition into the workforce for the first time or might have had a large absence from the workforce, this is an opportunity to really practice things like project management or interpersonal communication and all of those soft skills that many of us might take for granted. And for some folks, it's really just a wonderful recreational or therapeutic experience to be able to have access to those spaces and to the programs that they provide.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Next, we asked Mike what are some ways that we can make the world a better place or a more sustainable place. Where do we start if we would like to make an impact?
MIKE H.: I have always felt a big part of that is really just raising your personal awareness. And that can be really simple things like even just going out for a hike, like finding a green space around you, whether it's your local park, whether it's even just around your neighborhood, whether it's actually visiting something like a national park or a state park. I think that in connecting with nature, you have a better understanding of your role within that and your role in protecting it and the role it plays in helping to preserve the systems we rely upon. So, I think that is absolutely a big one - just finding ways to make sure that you're maintaining your connection with nature.
One thing that I kind of echo to everyone I chat with about a lot of these topics is how much opportunity there is to get involved. So, I mentioned a lot of the work that we've done at Services for the Underserved, not necessarily this year, but in general, especially as we look to 2021 involves the external community and helping us to build some of these gardens with volunteer groups or to renovate some of our existing gardens or to work alongside some of our tenants doing special projects. And that is just always a need in terms of folks getting involved.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: When you're involved with a cause like Mike's and can wake up in the morning knowing that today you're going to do something good for people, well that's exciting stuff. And PLANET HEROES, father and son Kerry and Richie Getter of Balcones Resources in Texas, wake up excited every day about what they get to do. So, they're recognized in our Stop Trashing Plastic episode for their company’s work in the recycling industry. Their operating principle is really simple - "Don't waste resources that can be used again." So, let's hear from Kerry Getter first about what makes Balcones Resources committed to making our planet a better place through recycling.
KERRY GETTER: We have an opportunity to wake up every morning and do something positive for the planet and that, that's exciting stuff. One of the things that we do and have done for a long time, is really try to understand what the makeup of a waste stream is. And we look at the materials that go to the landfill and if there is value in those materials, we try to figure out ways to integrate a collection program nearest the point of generation as possible.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Kerry's son, Richie, offered a slightly different perspective.
RICHIE GETTER: So, for me, being in this industry and being able to create change and protect our open spaces and all these beautiful places we like to go and spend time in is really what keeps me motivated to continue to strive to improve what we do and how we look at the environment and how we handle materials that should remain within the supply chain that create value and enhance our environment from an outdoor standpoint.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Our next PLANET HERO nominee (is) New Jersey resident, Mary D. She also cares deeply about recycling, but she doesn't have a company or work or anything on a national scale. Instead, Mary demonstrates that a PLANET HERO can be one person who simply decides to make a difference in their community. Mary says that she just cannot stand to see litter anywhere. Mary is a familiar sight around her neighborhood as she picks up trash and recycles it, either on her own or with like-minded community volunteers.
MARY D.: So, I can't stand to see garbage anywhere. And people around me just know that I'm going to pick it up. Even on vacations when I would walk the beach in New Jersey - the beach is actually pretty clean, but what washes in every day was so much, it was enough to fill a plastic bag.
I live by a pretty big state park. Behind me is an apple orchard, like 200 acres of apples - an apple orchard. And then there's a state park at the end of my development that’s like a thousand acres. But there's kind of a main road that goes by and a lot of litter comes out of that, and I can't stand to see that because it’s a state park. And they cut the grass in the front, but when they cut the grass, then it's actually more noticeable in some ways. So, we do that as community. We group up and we get to pick our spots. So, I always pick that spot.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Mary had a great idea and said that she often uses social media to help recruit volunteers and that the effort is really paying off. But with or without others, Mary is committed to cleaning up litter, planting flowers around town and generally making her community look a whole lot nicer.
MARY D.: I would do it even if the community didn't do it. I just like to see things look nice. If you're dumping anything or you're doing something, it could have a chain effect. So, if we don't work together as people and just human beings doing the right thing, we could make it work. And then I'm willing to always go further to save anything.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: While Mary takes extra steps to make her community look good, our next PLANET HERO nominee, Lisa C., made it a point to teach her daughter to become an environmental steward from an early age. It's something that Lisa learned from her grandparents and then she passed it to her daughter because she says, quote, “We are all guests on this planet.”
LISA C.: I talk to Zoe all the time about the environment because I'm a gardener. I'm an outdoors person. I love this planet. I've always loved the planet. Taking care of it is very important to me. So, I want to make sure that she understands that; she grows up with that. I just want to see our planet stay healthy and it goes through its ups and downs. And I just want to make sure that I'm doing the right thing. And going forward, it's always for the future generations, right? What did they have to inherit by our choices? The choices that you make, they're going to affect tomorrow. And that's how I explained it to her. And that's how it was always explained to me as a very young child. So, I've always tried to do something and kind of make sure that I'm taking care of the planet.
What can everyone do to make the world better? Well, in general, just besides taking care of the planet, composting, everything that I talked about, just be kind to each other. I think through this pandemic, we've all learned kindness goes a long way. A nice word to somebody could really lift their spirits that day. And I think that really ties into taking care of the planet, too, because I think if people love each other then, hopefully, they'll also love the planet and want to just make the world a better place. Just do that.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: As we've learned, PLANET HEROES can be anybody. They can be volunteers, teachers, business leaders or even just dedicated individuals who all prove that it's possible to make a lasting impact - even if it's just one person at a time.
Well, it can be said of our fifth episode’s PLANET HERO - you know this man, Titus O'Neil, - that his presence has literally touched millions of people throughout the world and I, for one, can vouch for that. A decade-long veteran of World Wrestling Entertainment, Titus is known both inside and outside of the ring for his humanitarian work. Inside the ring, he's a fan favorite and a community relations ambassador. But in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where he lives, he's a hero outside of the ring for his charity work. The Bullard Family Foundation donates to people in need and has helped more than 250 student athletes get into college. The fact is, in or out of the ring, you can always count on Titus O'Neil to put a smile on people's faces. I spoke with this larger-than-life PLANET HERO on our episode called Making an Impact in our Communities. And it was there that Titus shared why collaboration is so important and helping others is a value that he lives by, along with his family.
So, we're talking a lot about collaboration. Tell me why and how can collaboration impact a community in such a positive way?
TITUS O’NEIL: Well, a lot of people have this mindset, some people have this mindset that their initiative and their way of doing things is the only way of doing things. And I feel like the only way you can actually grow in anything is to have great partnerships and relationships with other people outside of your own business or team or whatever it may be. Yeah. And so, when you have partnerships with the right people, it just makes your job that much easier, especially when you know the mission is the same. If we all try to at least halfway put ourselves in someone else's shoes, whether it's those in the lesbian and gay community, those in the black and brown community, those from another country trying to figure things out here in America, if we just try to put ourselves in those other people's shoes, we’d be a lot better off. And the only way that you can put yourself in somebody else's shoes is become partners with them.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Now, speaking of change, you talk about making transformational change versus transactional change. So, what do you mean by that?
TITUS O’NEIL: Transformational change is what helped me get to the point that I'm in right now. It’s people that actually did things over time. It wasn't a one-time occurrence. And so, a lot of times people around the holidays, they get together and they give out turkey meals and it's like, oh, I feel so good that I was able to feed a few families. And you feel good about yourself. And the other person feels good for that day. But they came to you in that situation, so that food or that meal box is only going to last for so long. And so, that's just a transaction to help get them to the next day or next few days. Transformation is saying, you know what? I know you're hungry. Let's find out how you got into this position. And then try to see if there is a way that we can get you out of this position. So, did you graduate from high school? Do you have a trade? Do you have a job? Do you have a house? And so, I feel like people, corporations and community partners around the globe need to take a look at more effective transformational moments that they can have for both the giver and for those that are receiving.
CHARLY ARNOLT/CARUSO: Like Titus, A PLANET HERO can be larger than life or they can work quietly and effectively behind the scenes. However, the result is always the same. PLANET HEROES help to transform people's lives in our planet for the better. So, thank you, Titus, for sharing your inspiring story. And thank you so much to our other PLANET HEROES and our PLANET HERO nominees for the good work that they do each and every day.
Although their impacts are truly priceless, in order to recognize our episodes' PLANET HEROES and our PLANET HERO nominees, Nestlé Waters and iHeart are pleased to award them, get this, with $1,000 each! They can use this gift to support their organization or the organization of their choice to continue on creating positive change. So, congratulations PLANET HEROES, and please continue to inspire us with all of your amazing passions.
But let me leave you with this. If one PLANET HERO can make a huge difference, imagine the good that could happen if we all just did one thing. It's possible if we all make that commitment. So, if you would like to learn more about the people and the organizations that we featured on This Is How We Planet, please visit www.thisishowweplanet.com.
Thank you so very much each and every one of you for joining us. We look forward to having you with us again for more episodes of This Is How We Planet. But until next time, I'm your host, Charly Arnolt, and This Is How We Planet.