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Feature Fri May 21 2010
Alexandra Gnoske is a 21st-century Captain Planet. Her 2010 children's book, Loui Saves the Earth, essentially screams, "You have the power!" inspiring kids to take responsibility for their environment. She also gives them a voice through her blog, Be A Superhero for Planet Earth -- and is always looking for more stories in kids' words.
The mother of three, who grew up in Andersonville, is also founder of green clothing company Recycle Me, which sells organic-cotton T-shirts with catchy slogans like "eco dude" and "EAT ME! I'M ORGANIC," printed in water-based inks. Here she talks about her book and why it's important for kids to care about the environment.
When did you take on environmentalism as a cause?
I've always liked wildlife, and I decided in seventh grade I would get a PhD in wildlife biology and study animals in Africa like Jane Goodall. But actually taking on environmentalism as a cause probably began when I was 15, and I boycotted a certain fast-food restaurant for its use of Styrofoam and buying beef from cattle ranchers in the Amazon. From then on it wasn't just about wanting to study wildlife, but about conservation and protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat.
What made you decide to write Loui Saves the Earth?
I needed an outlet during college finals when I was studying wildlife at Colorado State University. I decided to make a story for my then two-year-old nephew, Louie Salas. He liked animals, like most kids, so that was my starting point. It just flowed from there.
What medium did you use to illustrate the book?
I used colored pencils and my sketch book. It's what I had at hand, and I wasn't thinking about publishing at the time. But when I updated it [in December 2009, 19 years later], I just couldn't imagine it any other way.
What kinds of things do you teach your own kids?
To have respect for themselves, others, and nature. I'm a big recycler, so my kids bring everything home from lunch so we can recycle or reuse it. My kids also know a lot of the local birds because I bird-watch. We spend as much time outdoors as we can, and I garden, so I talk to them about the things I do as I do them. We grow strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, green beans. A lot of life's questions get answered in the garden.
What, in your opinion, is the most important thing kids should know about caring for the environment?
That they can make a difference. Even the smallest action matters. And kids matter too. I like to remind my kids that, when they turn off the light when they leave the room, they are being a Superhero for Planet Earth.
What are you working on now?
I have at least two more books in minds for my Loui and Dusty characters. I will probably start working on them this summer.
Do you think you'd write a book for adults about environmental issues one day?
Yes. For the past year I've been thinking about it. I think most people have no idea about the impact their clothing has on the environment and their personal health. Many books have been written about the economic and trade side of clothing, but not the environmental side. I'd like to write about that. But I still have a lot of research to do.
Loui Saves the Earth is available on Amazon. Says Gnoske, "And if you can't find it at your local bookstore, request it!"