Fake plastic trees, zoo poo and “Run Like a Girl” book series

Jan 19, 2022 Episode 82

Fake plastic trees could save the world, zoo uses animal poo for fuel and “Run Like a Girl” book series launches

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!” 


LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!  

I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder 

BOTH: otherwise known as… 

MAMA: My mama. 

LEELA: Not again. 

MAMA: OK, otherwise known as me – Lyndee Prickitt. 

LEELA: Sometimes also called my mom!

MAMA: That’s me – Leela’s mom.

LEELA: Well, folks, this week on Newsy Pooloozi… 

Fake plastic trees aren’t just decorations available at the Dollar Store that musicians write songs about… but a real cutting-edge creation that could save the planet, no kidding. 

Speaking of the environment, we’ll tell you all about a zoo that uses the poo of its animals to heat its water pipes. Yep, no kidding. 

And we’ll have a special, exclusive interview with a sporty mother-daughter-duo who’ve also worked together on a creative project during the pandemic that’s taking off in more ways than one. Clue: it’s called “Run Like a Girl.”

 But first, it’s time for… 

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA: So, Leela

LEELA: So, Mama!

MAMA: You know that song I always play… from the best band in the world?

LEELA: Ummm… you actually say that about a lot of songs and bands!

MAMA: Oh, yeah. That’s true! Anyway, you know the song I love, “Fake Plastic Trees?”

LEELA: Uh! Yeah. Boy do I!

MAMA: Well, get this: it’s a thing. Like a serious weird sucking thing – THAT COULD SAVE THE WORLD!

LEELA: Whaaaat? Wait – should we cue the vacuum cleaner?

MAMA: Sure, go crazy!


MAMA: Actually, such extreme sucking sounds aren’t necessary, So you do know that there’s too much carbon dioxide in the air, right?

LEELA: Oh, yeah. And that it creates a bubble-sort-of-cover around the earth and traps all the heat from the sun inside, causing it to warm up too much, right?

MAMA: Precisely.

LEELA: In other words, global warming.

MAMA: Yes. In fact, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere – as carbon dioxide is also referred to – has increased by around 12% in the last twenty years!

LEELA: Not good.

MAMA: No, totally not good. So, we know trees do their bit – sucking the CO2 right out of the air and converting it into oxygen – which, of course, we need to breathe. 

LEELA: Right, OK… So where do fake plastic trees fit into this? 

MAMA: Well, let me cue the music, Leela, and, sadly, no, not my favorite song as we don’t have permission to play that. 

LEELA: You could sing it, ha ha.

MAMA: Don’t have permission for that either, sadly.

LEELA: Phew!


MAMA: So, how cool would it be if we could get trees that inhale a 1,000 times MORE carbon dioxide than they already do? Which means they can remove like 3.6 billion tonnes – or 10% of our annual carbon dioxide emissions globally – of this deadly gas from the atmosphere every year?

LEELA: Sounds like a dream-come-true. Or, a treem come true! 

MAMA: Haha. “Treem,” good one.

LEELA: If an impossible dream…

MAMA: Well, wake up, LEELA, cos it’s not a dream! Some clever folks at Columbia University in New York have designed artificial “trees” that do just that.

LEELA: What!

MAMA: Yep. So the “leaves” are actually made from thin sheets of papery plastic covered in a material, called resin, that sucks up carbon dioxide from the air!

LEELA: Seriously?

MAMA: AND… they are thousand times more efficient than real leaves!

LEELA: Meewowzerwowzer!

MAMA: Well, nothing to do with cats – but I take your enthusiasm. And since they don’t need sunlight or water to grow, they’re practically zero-maintenance and, unlike real trees that need lots of room to grow, these fake plastic C02 sucking trees can be packed closely together, saving space, to boot! 

LEELA: Whoa…

MAMA: Of course, there’s the small problem of what to do with all that trapped carbon dioxide. 


MAMA: Yeah, no small task, it has to be said. But loads of scientists around the world are working on solutions to that too. But, that’s not all. 

LEELA: Another problem? 

MAMA: Well, it’s the perennial – or constant – problem with all new technology. It’s super expensive at first.

LEELA: Oh, so, not like the cheap fake plastic trees at the Dollar Store, huh?

MAMA: Most definitely not. On more levels than one – as has already been pointed out! So, these fake plastic trees are very expensive to make right now. If… they were to be mass produced the price would come down to around $20,000 – that’s about the cost of a cheap car.. And, well, get this, if the world were to produce a 100 million of these fake plastic trees that could be enough to remove our TOTAL CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION!

LEELA: You’d need a lot of real trees to do that.

MAMA: A thousand times more real trees, in fact. And while we’d all love more trees planted, it would just take too long never mind a lot of space.  

LEELA: Well, I’d say this is a tremendously good invention, wouldn’t you?

MAMA: Ha – I heard that tremendously. You’re in an extreme – as in treemely “punny” mood today, aren’t you? (laughs) We love a pun. 

LEELA: And thank you very much, Mama, for that whippity-whappity-zippity-zappity wrap of what’s making the headlines around the world.

MAMA: Most welcome. So, Leela, turns out we’re not the only mother-daughter duo to create a long-lasting joint project during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LEELA: I can totally believe that.

MAMA: In fact, it’s our very own South Carolina correspondent, Julia Goldman, and her mom Pamela.

LEELA: You mean, Julia, one of the fastest middle school runners in the south?

MAMA: That’s the one. In fact, running is such a part of her life that she and her mom, who’s a writer, have written a book together about –

LEELA: Girls who run!

MAMA: Bingo! It’s a trilogy – which, of course, is a group of 3 novels, plays, movies or albums –called, Run Like a Girl.

LEELA: Interesting title…

MAMA: Yep. Sometimes you just gotta own it. The first book is out now and it’s called Turtle. Here – have a look.

LEELA: So cool! Let’s see, it says, “Trading Brooklyn for coastal South Carolina, Emma Jackson clumsily navigates the social landscape of fifth grade at a new school where friend-dependent bad choices lead her down the wrong path. When Emma shifts her energy into running for a track club, she encounters a new set of hurdles.” Wow – can’t wait to read this!

MAMA: Well, why don’t we dial up Julia and ask her how it was working with her mom – you guys might have some “survival stories” to swap!

LEELA: Oh, come on! It’s great working with your mother. (Ehh-heh-heh – most of the time!)


JULIA: Hello?

LEELA: Julia! Hi – it’s Leela from Newsy Pooloozi. Congratulations on your new book! So cool!

JULIA: Thanks!

LEELA: So tell us how this project with your mom started?

JULIA: WELL, there was this pandemic, you might have heard about it. And in the beginning school was closed and since I like to write and my mom likes to write, well, you get the picture!

LEELA: And how was it working with your mom? I mean, my mom and I are pretty close. But sometimes, I admit, we don’t always see eye-to-eye – mostly when I just want to play around and she kinda wants to get on with producing the podcast… What about y’all?

JULIA: To be completely honest, it was kinda fun. For the most part she would write a few pages and then turn it over to me to make sure it was coming from the point of view of someone who was my age, not her’s. 

LEELA: Any examples of times you didn’t see eye to eye?

JULIA: Hmmm, well she did change the name of one of the main characters without consulting me but I forgave her!

LEELA: Ha ha – forgiveness is key. So why did you decide to write a book about a girl on her sporting journey to be a runner?

JULIA: It’s not easy being a female athlete for a lot of reasons. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls leave sports by the age of 14 at a rate of 2 to 1 over boys. We have both spent a lot of time at track meets and practices over the last 7 years and so we decided to write about a collection of those stories to inspire girls to run, or take up any sport really, and stick with it. Our tagline is: inspiring young runners to read and young readers to run.

LEELA: What was the reason behind making it a series – why not just one volume?

JULIA: A chance to watch the main character grow and tackle lots of challenges. Sports isn’t just about physical exercise, it’s mental training, teamwork as well as individual commitment. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Plus lots of juicy social stuff in there too!

LEELA: What’s your game-plan for promoting the book?

JULIA: I’m glad you asked that. When the book came out in November, we raised $1,000 from sales to benefit our local track club. Funds will be used to support female athletes in need of travel funds to get to high profile meets. Then we started working with a company that inspires girls to recognize their inner strength called Girls on the Run. We are currently reaching out to track clubs across America to help them fundraise to help even the playing field for girls.

LEELA: Awesome – thanks a lot, Julia! Can’t wait to read this book. Be sure to follow them on social media @runlikeagirlbooks and Runlikeagirlbooks.com. 

MAMA: Absolutely. And we’re giving away a copy of this book to the first person who contacts us on social media or at our website Newsypooloozi.com to tell us what sport they are involved in and say they heard the interview and would like the book.

LEELA: That’s Newsypooloozi – p-oo-l  oo-z-I dot com.

WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… It’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”

MAMA: The race is on for getting vital supplies to Tonga, an archipelago nation made of 169 islands in the south Pacific Ocean, where a massive volcano recently erupted followed by a tsunami. Teams are working desperately to clear ash from Tonga’s main airport runway in an effort to get vital supplies to the region.

As the world sees record numbers of new cases of the coronavirus, leading many countries to think they’ve hit the peak, the World Health Organization issues a warning that the COVID19 pandemic “is nowhere near over.”

The most famous rat in the world – Magawa, who sniffed out more than 100 landmines and explosives in Cambodia, has died at the age of 8. She leaves a lasting legacy of all the lives she saved in the Southeast Asian nation.

Speaking of super animals, India’s “super mum” tigress, Collarwali, has also passed away. Giving birth to 29 cubs in eight litters and staring in a BBC documentary for two years, she changed the fortunes of the Pench Tiger Reserve in the central state of Madhya Pradesh

LEELA: And finally, let’s see what the lucky dip machine has for our last story this week.

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”

LEELA: Well, this week the lucky dip machine is being very, very cheeky… No pun intended!

MAMA: Whaaaaat?

LEELA: It’s a story about a zoo that’s being very creative and friendly when it comes to their, ummmm, waste.

MAMA: OK… Well, that sounds good.

LEELA: It might sound good, but I doubt it smells good. Cue the music, Mama.


LEELA: So, I ask you, what does a zoo have a lot of?

MAMA: Animals?

LEELA: Right. And that means they have a lot of…

MAMA: Fur?

LEELA: Yes. Aaaaand?

MAMA: Oh, you said waste, so I’m guessing you mean excrement.

LEELA: Poo! It’s called poo! OK. It’s called manure and dung as well. But let’s stick with poo, shall we?

MAMA: Yiiihhhh…. OK.

LEELA: Well, the Marwell Zoo in Winchester, England is the first to generate renewable energy using ZOO POO – to heat up its water pipes and its tropical enclosures.

MAMA: Whoa… Can you do that?

LEELA: Well, they can and they are, according to our England Correspondent, Jackson Hosking.

MAMA: Jackson – how’s this done – can you really turn poo or dung into energy???

JACKSON: Well, zookeepers collect the dung from the zoo’s endangered species of zebra, oryx and wild ass.

Now, before you think I’m taking this zoo poo story in an unsavory direction – may I remind you that an ass is a kind of donkey.

Right, back to the environmentally friendly angle of this story… once the manure – yet another name for name for animal poo – has been swept up, it’s then shredded and mixed with any hay bedding that’s also been collected.

This zoo poo mixture is pressed together and dried to create blocks. And these blocks, or briquettes, are then used to heat up the zoo’s biomass boiler, instead of using fossil fuels like coal or oil.

And thanks to these clever zoo poo briquettes, hot water flows through the pipes of the zoo’s tropical enclosure, keeping the resident sloth, birds and lizards nice and cozy.

The tropical plants love the heat and humidity too.


Marwell Zoo is working on heating other buildings in the same way. All part of their plan to reduce the carbon emissions the zoo releases into the atmosphere.

 So rather than treating up to 600 tonnes of zoo poo as waste – it can become renewable energy bricks instead…. so long as the animals keep breeding and eating healthily…. and go to the loo in the zoo!

In England this is Jackson Hosking, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi

LEELA: So, there you have it. Thanks a lot, Jackson!

MAMA: Actually, Leela – in India dried cow dung is regularly used as briquettes to fire up stoves, so I should have thought about that. While burning fuel isn’t exactly clean, it certainly is a way to recycle waste.

LEELA: And say zoo poo without offending anyone. Gotta love that. The Zoo Poo – on Newsy Pooloozi!

FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – Researchers at Columbia University have developed fake plastic trees that can suck up a thousand times more carbon dioxide from the air. What’s the other way of saying Carbon Dioxide?


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – Trees do their bit to help clean up the environment by sucking the carbon dioxide out of the air and converting it into what?


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – Young mother Julia Goldman and her mother have written a trilogy called, Run Like a Girl. The first book, Turtle, has just been released. What’s a trilogy?

A group of three novels, plays, albums or movies.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – The Marwell Zoo in Winchester, England is the first to generate renewable energy using ZOO POO – to heat up its water pipes and the tropical enclosures. What are some other, more polite, words for poo?

Excrement, manure and dung 

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – The zoo uses poo from its endangered species of zebra, oryx and wild ass. (Coughs) Ass is the real name of what kind of animal?

A donkey.

And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website,  newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, 

LEELA: I repeat p o o l o o z i

MAMA: Thank you robot leela and take this quiz online in your own time!

LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi! 


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`Alrighty then, see you next week in the happy, splashy, giant Newsy Pooloozi!