Tree Huggers: 15 Women Take It Off for the Environment

Cammy Clark

McClatchy Newspapers reporting:

KEY WEST, Fla. - When California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the green movement needed to get sexier, this may not have been what he had in mind:

Fifteen mature environmental activists -- age 44 to 78 -- took off their clothes for a fund-raising 2010 calendar called Women Sustaining the Earth.

"It took a while to get used to the idea,'' said 74-year-old Shirley Freeman, a former mayor and commissioner of Monroe County. ``I've always tried to present myself as professional and with good judgment. But this is a different side of me I really never have explored. And, it's for a good cause.''

The original 500 calendars have been sold -- raising $8,000 for the "community garden'' fund of the nonprofit organization Green Living & Energy Education. But organizers are willing to print more if there's a demand.

Erika Biddle came up with the calendar idea after she heard Schwarzenneger's comment on the radio and watched the 2003 true-life movie Calendar Girls, in which older British women posed nude, or nearly nude, for a calendar to raise money for leukemia research.

Since then, calendars featuring local people to raise money for local causes have become popular. Among them, 18 librarians with tattoos from Texas showed off their inked bodies in sexy poses for disaster relief of damaged libraries.

"When I saw the movie, I thought: 'Why don't we do it?,' '' said Biddle, 63, who hosts the Keys radio show ECOcentric View.

For the calendar, Biddle began recruiting women 40 or older in honor of Earth Day's upcoming 40th birthday in April.

"Do you have the right number?'' Amy Culver said she asked when she got Biddle's call.


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"But then I thought about it,'' said Culver, 44, who works on environmental issues in Key West and Africa. "So many young girls perceive the perfect size to be 0, 2 or 4. This is a golden opportunity to be celebrating natural beauty without face-lifts and everything else.''

Culver posed under a waterfall wearing a white shirt. Freeman posed in the moonlight at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden's pond, wearing strategically placed shimmering gold lamé fabric. All the women in the calendar chose how natural to get, depending on comfort levels.

The calendar was shot at several natural settings around the Lower Keys, including Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, the Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower and Geiger Key.

Biddle said local renowned photographers Sheelman, Richard Watherwax, Lynne Bentley-Kemp and Carol Tedesco brought the ageless beauty of the women to life.

Tedesco knew just what to bring to ease the nerves: champagne.

"The Dutch courage really helped,'' said Rosi Ware, Miss July. Ware, 54, is a communications executive and avid gardener who once was a consultant for Robert Redford.

Garden Hotel executive Alicia Metzler, 74, who posed for the cover shot with exposed breasts, said: ``I like doing things I've never done before. And I've never taken my clothes off for something like this, although I did win a pole dance when I was 50.''

Each month represented a different element of nature. Miss August, Roberta DePiero, posed on a rooftop to represent wind. Her month's quote, by the late actress Lillian Russell: ``Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.''

Freeman, Miss February, said the quote by author and social critic Wendell Berry that goes with her photograph fits her perfectly: ``Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.''

Biddle and Lucy Carleton, 62, a recycling groundbreaker, posed nude on each side of a tree. Biddle laughed when she recited the quote for November that didn't make the calendar: "Don't just hug a tree, make out with it.''

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