"Rustle the Leaf" Called On to Promote Anti-Pollution Poster Contest in Vermont Middle Schools

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The State of Vermont and the Chlorine Free Products Association are launching the sixth annual "Designing for a Sustainable Future" poster contest for middle school students. Creators of the environmental comic strip "Rustle the Leaf" were asked to create a special contest announcement featuring their popular characters and humor. The contest is part of classroom lessons about the dangers of using chlorine chemistry for manufacturing paper products.

The State of Vermont's sixth annual "Designing for a Sustainable Future" poster contest is being announced and promoted by an unlikely new spokesperson: a walking, talking Butternut Tree leaf named "Rustle." The namesake of the popular environmental comic series "Rustle the Leaf" is lending a hand--more accurately a stem--to help communicate the dangers of chlorine pollution. The poster design contest was created in the State of Vermont and is supported by the Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA). Its objective is to teach middle school students about the toxic effects of using chlorine chemistry to manufacture paper products. Rustle and his friends are featured prominently in the 2005 contest announcement.

According to CFPA Executive Director Archie Beaton, it was the comic strip's unique ability to cut through the often fact-heavy "fog" of environmental education messages that grabbed his attention. "As soon as I read a couple of the [Rustle the Leaf] comic strips, I knew we should try to get them involved," says Beaton. "In one of their comics about chlorine-bleached paper--in just a single panel--they manage to simply, powerfully articulate our core message."

Within days of first reading the strip, Beaton was on the phone with Rustle the Leaf creator and co-writer Dave Ponce. "We were thrilled to help!" says Ponce, who--along with nationally-syndicated, critically-acclaimed comic strip artist and co-writer Dan Wright--has a special concern for curbing the manufacture and use of chlorine-based paper products. "Beyond the destruction of virgin forests and pristine habitats is the devastation of our fresh water supply, caused by the widespread misuse and dumping of chlorine compounds and other toxins into our lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers," says Ponce.

Guided by what they saw as "compelling and disturbing" documentation from the CFPA, Ponce and Wright went to work creating a special edition Rustle the Leaf comic strip and a beautifully-illustrated poster entitled "5 Things Everyone Should Know About Chlorine-Bleached Paper." Their work is incorporated into a handout that also contains contest rules and prize details, which will be distributed to middle school students in Vermont this month. In April, contest winners will travel to the Vermont State Capitol for an awards ceremony, which is currently scheduled to include Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.

According to Beaton, what's happening in Vermont can happen elsewhere. "It is our belief that, with the help of Rustle the Leaf, we will be able to reach out to more school districts across North America," says Beaton. "We are looking for other NGO's and sponsors to join us in getting out this important message."

GO NATUR'L STUDIOS, LLC. (Danbury, Connecticut) publishes Rustle the Leaf environmental comics every week at http://www.rustletheleaf.com. The comics are also made available as free content to environmental and educational web sites. Since its official launch just two months ago, the comic strip has received praise from environmental activists, celebrities and journalists, has surpassed 100,000 hits per month online, and is being linked to a growing number of leading environmental and educational web sites.

For more information about Rustle the Leaf, contact Dave Ponce at dponce@rustletheleaf.com / (317) 508-5068. Or visit http://www.rustletheleaf.com

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David Ponce