Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences

I'll be out-of-town but I thought this was an a topic that would be of interest:

You¹re invited to the


Join United for a Fair Economy and Demos
for a book-signing and reception
for this exciting new book

With co-editors Jim Lardner and David Smith
and contributors Meizhu Lui and Betsy Leondar-Wright of UFE

Friday, January 6, 2006
4:30-6:30 PM
Atrium of the historic Mary Baker Eddy Library
200 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

What could be more timely than this book? All around us we see the
of too many riches and clout at the top and too little for the rest. In
2004, UFE co-sponsored a national conference with Bill Moyers, Barbara
Ehrenreich, William Greider, Jim Wallis, Bob Kuttner and many other
on inequality; this book is a collection of some of the most inspiring
speeches given that day.

€ Come buy the book for a special pre-publication price of $20.
€ Co-editors Jim Lardner and David Smith of Demos and contributors
including UFE¹s Meizhu Lui and Betsy Leondar-Wright will do a brief
presentation and be available to sign your copy.
€ Refreshments will be served.

Hope to see you there!

DIRECTIONS: The entrance is near the Hynes Auditorium/ICA stop on the
B, C,
and D MBTA Green Line and also near the Symphony stop on the E MBTA
Line. There is $5 parking at the Christian Science Center. Enter from
Ave. across from Symphony Hall and tell the attendant that you are
an event at the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

Sponsored by United for a Fair Economy and Demos.

For more information on the book party, call 617-423-2148 x113.
For more information on the book or to order it online, see

P.S. If you¹ve never seen it, this could be a good opportunity to visit
Boston landmark, the Mapparium, ³a view of the world turned inside-out.
Though you walk inside the sphere, you're not seeing the world as it
appear from the're seeing just the reverse,² according to
website. Come early as the Mapparium and other exhibits at the complex
close at 4:00 PM.

You can also keep your $5 parking space for an evening on the town.

Friday, December 16, 2005

BigBoxMart - JibJab does it again

Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, etc - they all have a similar effect. Drive jobs US manufacturing jobs overseas, add low-paying, menial jobs with poor benefits, destroy local businesses while taxing local infrastructures. This video clip touches on one of the main effects in Jib Jab's signature amusing and light-hearded manner. This is the ad-supported version so you have sit through a short commercial but you knew nothing was really free, didn't you?

Stop the Presses - Join Free Press for Media Reform!

If you're reading this, you are probably deeply concerned about the direction our media is heading. A number of crucial policy decisions will be made in 2006 that could affect the future of American media for decades to come. Unless the public speaks out now, these decisions will be made by high-priced lobbyists and pliant politicians at our expense.
Fortunately, Free Press is fighting to give people a greater voice in shaping our media system. Please join Conscious Consuming and the hundreds of thousands of others in the fight to make a better media in 2006. Together we will:
* Sound the alarm when the FCC tries again to rewrite media ownership rules and let Big Media control more local outlets in every city.
* Pressure Congress to pass a new Telecom Act that’s better than the old one — which gave us the Clear Channel colossus while handing over billions of dollars in public assets to Big Media.
* Confront the administration’s relentless campaign to silence independent and skeptical journalism.
Sign up as a Free Press activist today at

Monday, December 12, 2005

Outsourcing Fun

Thought this article about the emerging market in virtual assets would be of interest...
Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese
(Thanks, Eryk)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lit. gifts by mail!

This is being posted on behalf of XenitH while his Blogger account is being set-up

I have a really cool idea to share gifts with people on this group,
through the mail. Think of how much fun it is to receive something in
the mailbox, that isn't junkmail. These gifts are free, and exists in
our places of dwelling right now. The three great parts about these
gifts are 1. All it will cost is postage, 2. You get the gift back
sometime after Xmas, and 3. It will be more enjoyable when you get the
gift back!

Here is how it works.
I will collect addresses from this group, and lump them together with
other addresses. I then send a list of 3 addresses, yours being at the
bottom to random members of the group. All you have to do is make a
collection of interesting books, articles, magazines, videos or whatnot
that you think would be fun to share with members of our group.
Material related to Conscious Consuming, Voluntary Simplicity or the like. For good measure,
be sure to add something unrelated, but of big interest to you. You
never know, you might hook someone's interest! The package could be as
big, or as small as you wish to make it. Just keep in mind that the
more it weighs, the more likely people won't like the idea of paying
postage to send it back.

Be sure to add that list of addresses in the package. This way the
person who receives it from you, will have an address of someone else
to send it to when they are done checking the goods out. While the
recipient of your package is reading through the material you have sent
to them, perhaps they can leave little stickies (or scrap paper) with
ideas, thoughts, or whatnot on the pages (or videos, or newsprint).
When they are done, they send it out to the next person on the list.
After two people have gone through and read the material, they will
send it back to you, the person it belongs to. Now you have a chance to
skim around and read what comments people left for you!
The beauty of this idea is that everyone who chooses to participate
receives 2 different packages via mail, which just might be interesting
things for them to read or view. Needless to say, these are also "free"
gifts, that you will still own after giving it.
This idea takes commitment, and respect for others property. You will
not receive any "presents" unless you send a package out. Remember
Karma when receiving a package.

Before anyone sends me their mailing address, lets brainstorm here more
about this idea. I was trying to think of a way to make postage free
for the recipients, so they will not hesitate to send it to the next
person on the list asap, and inevitably, back to the real owner. I
think deadlines should be set, to keep from anyone being lazy and not
sending them to someone else.
PLEASE share your thoughts on this by using the comments field. This would be a really fun way to get to know some of the members of this group.
Post post post your comments(you don't need to register to do so!).


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Conscious Consuming presents: Inspection of Intersections - December Potluck and Speaker Discussion

On Thursday December 15th, Kumi Silva will explore the intersection of and relationships between race, gender, sexuality and class in contemporary culture and media. The effects of all this on messaging, marketing and effect on consumption(and vice-versa) will be discussed as well.This will be similar to past Conscious Consuming events. It is a potluck with the option to pay $10 in lieu of bringing something.

Dinner will start promptly at 7 and kumi will get the ball rolling at 8. After the last event filling-up so quickly, we are excited to be able to host 30 people this time!

About Kumi: Kumarini Silva is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications Studies at Northeastern University. She recently moved to Boston from the West Coast, where she had been focused on the intersection of andrelationships between race, gender, sexuality and class in contemporary culture and media.

If you are interested in attending, please email and an evite invitation will be sent to you.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A level of responsibility

Today Marty and I attended the opening of a seasonal No Sweat store in Harvard Square today. It was really great to see a lot of people show up for the event and make purchases on the spot! We all need to buy clothes every once in awhile, and it's great to see that there are socially conscious options out there.

I am regularly plagued by questions about how far we need to go to be "good consumers," though. Is it enough to buy union-made? Must the clothes also be made from organic fibers, and are there other considerations we must take? How about a company such as American Apparel, which treats its employees well but does not have a union?

What do others think?

Ok, I'll give my two cents. There was one point in which consumers needed to buy alternative products, such as organic foods or union-made clothes, to show that there is a market for items like these. There is another point where it will be necessary to show a market for only the most stringently certified products. Has it come to this point yet? Are we still "good consumers" if we buy organic food that is shipped in from every part of the world? Am I still socially conscious to accept an article of clothing made in WorkersLoseville as a gift? I think so. I think the point will come to each of us in our own time, of course with consideration to all practical things, like budgets.

But anyways, I do want to hear what others have to say. Post away!


This will be a short post about a big subject, but I was reading an article in Newsweek about the recent Walmart scandals a few days ago and the article said that Walmart has done research and concluded that only 8% of the adult population has a hostile disdain for the Walmart corporation.
Basically, the article said that while a lot of other people feel uncomfortable with Walmart's policies of hiring people part time to avoid providing health benefits, etc., their desire to pay low prices trumps that sense of discomfort and they continue to shop at Walmart.
So basically Walmart's corporate strategy is based on this!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My fair trade is better than yours!


You are invited to the Grand Opening of ALL IS FAIR!
When: 12/1/05 12pm-2pmWhere: 45 Mt Auburn St. Cambridge, MAWhat: All Is Fair, an all fair trade, sweat-free store in Harvard Square will be having a grand opening celebration in which fair trade food will be available for free, for all. Come celebrate this great leap forward for our fair trade movement here in Boston.

Brought to you by
No Sweat Apparel

You can also shop
sweat-free online!

Of course it's a no brainer compared to shopping someplace like Walmart and buying stuff like Nikes, one might not expect to hear No Sweat mentioned as being an important alternative to American Apparel but check out what's going on with American Apparel! Who would have thunk?

Well now we know and now we can be Conscious Consumers!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Flash Mob in Boston this Saturday!!!

Boston Flash Mob details:

As part of a multimedia exhibit, I have designed large format postersto be displayed in Boston, MA on Huntington Avenue in the NortheasternUniversity area. The posters will be placed inside or outside bus shelters in the placeof the advertisements already there.

The posters are a comment on the use of technology as a distractionfrom the real world. It encourages people to become detached from thehumanitarian and political crisis going on. Using a Verizon cell phonead promoting a video phone which can be used for entertainmentpurposes, ie. music videos and trailers, the present image (green daymusic video) on the phone is replaced with current images of thedevastation in Rwanda.

The action of the flash mob participants will be to arrive in front ofone or three bus shelters in which the posters are displayed andtalk on their cell phones for two minutes in front of the poster theyare assigned to.

A pdf of the poster can be viewed upon request by e-mail.
Saturday Dec 3 @ 11:00-11:02

Meet at 10:45 am to pick up instructions at the Au Bon Pain acrossfrom Northeastern University on Huntington Ave.

Hope that afterwords, everyone will help fight holiday consumerism and swing by Gift It Up! since you’ll be in Back Bay area already!
This holiday season Give it Up....For Good!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Restoring meaning and values to the holiday season

This holiday season,
I'm giving a sick child something to smile about;
I'm adding books to a library;
I'm empowering a family to move out of poverty;
And I'm doing this all in the name of my friends and family.

Make this honorary gift by visiting Gift It Up!, Boston's AlternativeGift Fair, on Saturday, December 3rd at the Arlington Street Church inBoston. Between 11am-4pm, you'll have the opportunity to talk with representatives from many local and international non-profitorganizations. Make a donation to these groups in honor of yourspecial someone, and help us make a difference this holiday season.If you can't make the event, you can still participate online at pass this infol along to friends and family who might also beinterested in consciously consuming for the greater good this holiday season.


The Gift It Up! Team

Friday, November 25, 2005

This Christmas, save a gorilla

Good article on alternative gift fairs in the DC area. Unlike the DC fairs, Gift It Up! gives people an opportunity to participate in person or online (

This Christmas, save a gorilla

By Patrick Rucker
Examiner Staff Writer

"Give 'til it hurts" may be a mantra of the holiday season, but one local nonprofit has a better idea: Give 'til it feels good.

Alternative Gifts of Greater Washington has a line of life-changing products you won't find at the local mall.

For $50, a girl can be rescued from forced prostitution. It takes just $2 to pay a day's wages to a teacher in Afghanistan. A hat, scarf, gloves and socks for a local homeless person cost $20.

These are among the wares offered for the next several weeks at fairs across the region. What shoppers actually "buy" is a voucher stating that their money was donated in the name of a family member or loved one.

"These things are just unheard-of," said Jodi Imel, who helped organized an alternative gift fair in Reston on Saturday. The same fair raised more than $20,000 for charity last year, Imel said.

It's gift-giving, she said, "but a little more meaningful."

The first alternative gift fair in the region started in Takoma Park about seven years ago. By creating a bazaar-like atmosphere, organizers of the alternative gift fairs aim to create a familiar shopping experience. Now alternative gift fairs can be found at several spots around the capital region during the holiday season.

The typical alternative gift shopper wants for nothing and won't lie down for seasonal consumerism, said J. McCray, who helped organize the area's first such gift fair in Takoma Park in 1999.

"People are looking to give gifts that are interesting and not necessarily another tie or fruitcake," McCray said.

Besides international aid agencies, local groups like Meals on Wheels and the Washington Animal Rescue League take part.

Shoppers are told as much as possible about exactly how their gift will help.

A "save a gorilla" kiosk in Reston this weekend was decorated with photos and information about an anti-poaching program in Rwanda.

"What they get is a beautiful card with a description of the project and what their money was able to do," Imel said.

If you go

-There are seven more alternative gift fairs in the region through December.

-For more information and schedule, see

Finding alternatives online

If you prefer shopping online, a variety of indigenous crafts and fair-trade goods are just a few clicks away.

One World, a clearinghouse for 1,600 international aid agencies, has a new online gift guide. It offers seasonal goods like ornaments, cards and tea-light candles along with gifts of jewelry, books, fair-trade coffee, tea and chocolate. All the products listed are sweatshop-free and made with sustainable materials.

"This lets people spend money in a way that promotes their values," said Andrea Buffa of Global Exchange, a human rights group based in San Francisco.

Goods purchased through the site give twice, Buffa said.

"It's not [just] for the person giving the gift, but the person who produced it, too," she said.

Shoppers can click through a range of charities and products at

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Some Nutty Trade-Related Humour

Done a bit in the Schoolehouse Rock style, this little piece highlights some differences and disparities that abound between free trade and fair trade.

The Luckiest Nut in the World

Monday, November 21, 2005

Report back on Fair Trade Day of Action

I spent Saturday afternoon with a few other folks interested in promoting Fair Trade outside of the Prospect St Whole Foods in Cambridge. We talked to people about Fair Trade and got at least 100 people to sign cards asking Whole Foods to carry more Fair Trade products.

We then went to Severine's place for dinner which was a nice opportunity to get to know the wide spectrum of people who were involved in this and hear stories of what happened at other locations.

It was encouraging to know that this was happening at nine other stores around Boston and in cities across the US. On the other hand, it is a sign of the overwhelming task that in a large and slightly progressive city, only a few dozen people chose to be involved in this.

The Day of Action was very synergistic with Conscious Consuming since it was about raising awareness of Fair Trade options and of Fair Trade itself. When we purchase Fair Trade Certified items, we are assured that the farmers and laborers involved in production were payed living wages. The slightly higher price of Fair Trade items seems like a small price to pay to make a big difference in the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Americans try to shop their way to fulfillment

Americans try to shop their way to fulfillment
{zen and the art of culture}
By Zen Naylor
November 15, 2005

In this capitalist society, our function is consumption. Everyday, thousands of advertisements bombard our senses, validating our lives with a higher purpose. Whether it is an event or a product, these ads strive to convince us that our lives are incomplete without their product.

Ironically, some of these products are pharmaceuticals aimed at remedying a neurosis immaculately conceived by our commercialized culture. Maybe it would be more appropriate for cheerleaders to strut around with Zoloft written on their behinds instead of Abercrombie.

Ultimately, we are all walking advertisements. We don’t have to sport name brands in order to tell the world who or what we are endorsing. Even our words and actions have become commodities.

In our commercial culture, each of us lives our own “Truman Show.” Our religions and belief systems are commodities endorsed by our culturally choreographed behavior. Consumerism becomes an important social mechanism connecting us to one another and, paradoxically, disconnecting us from one another.

With more than 1 million Americans filing bankruptcy in 2004, our political leaders keep urging us to spend money when our country is faced with social crises. Suggesting we are indeed the magnified reflection of our socio-political circumstances, Americans’ $9 trillion personal debts exceed the U.S. $7 trillion national debt.

Credit is a wonderful thing. In the past, it was nearly impossible for individuals to create the appearance that they were a part of an elite social class. But now all we need to do is acquire a debt payable in two lifetimes, and voila, we can look and live like celebrities.

Consumption itself has become America’s primary cultural commodity. Many of us actually buy that buying is therapeutic and an essential part of this human existence. Mottos such as ‘the one who dies with the most toys wins’ and ‘shop till you drop’ epitomize our materialist paradigm.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina ravished New Orleans, the world watched as impoverished looters ran around carrying valueless physical commodities, such as shoes and stereos, in a literally flooded market. In these instances, the images and news articles displayed in the mass media became a form of ‘Adbusters’ exposing our consumerism that continues to sell even when our own lives are threatened.

For those who don’t know ‘Adbusters,’ it’s a magazine exhibiting articles and imagery that depict the global impact of a consumer culture. Images of the appalling living conditions provided for foreign laborers who work sometimes 16 hours a day just to make enough money to survive are shown aside the name brands propagating these atrocious circumstances.

What we as Americans fail to realize is that our forefathers once endured these same conditions. This is what inspired the establishment of labor unions and eventually reshaped the laws that protected previously exploited workers.

Just as we seem to think we’re doing Iraqis a favor by securing their freedom, why can’t we become conscious consumers and influence the creation of labor protection regulations for foreign workers?

The answer is that our own cultural images of celebrities, smiling and holding marketable commodities, make more of an impression than the images of social oppression overseas. Advertising has taught us to detach from reality and embrace a pseudo-reality. Inevitably, we spend money on superfluous products to enhance our pseudo-reality rather than to face the true reality.

Ultimately, consumerism becomes a form of escapism, somewhat like a drug. Popular slogans such as “just say no to drugs” or “drug-free” are ubiquitous, but a “just say no to consuming” or “consumer-free” campaign just wouldn’t work in our society.

Consumerism does create jobs, locally and globally. In fact, our “more for less” motto is playing an important part in building the next economic empire, China. Ironically, most American flags are made in China, a metaphor for our unconscious consumption.

Ultimately, our consumerist habits can’t be abandoned; they are an elemental part of our culture. However, in order for our society to progress economically and socially, we will inevitably have to legitimize conscious consumption. It’s interesting how we see Mexico, India and China as developing countries when they are all an essential part of our own development.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The National Supermarket Day of Action for Fair Trade

Here's an opportunity to not just talk Conscious Consuming but live it (and then meet for dinner afterwards!) If you're interested in participating as part of the Conscious Consuming Group, probably at the Symphony Whole Foods, please say so when you respond and copy us at

Join us for a day of fun and hope...

Saturday, November 19th
12 PM – 5 PM.

On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, activists in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Seattle and San Francisco, and groups of volunteers from across the country will join to make this a day to celebrate and promote Fair Trade!

Here, in the Boston area, the Boston Fair Trade Coalition and its volunteers will be heading to our neighborhood supermarkets!

From 12pm-5pm, groups of 2 to 4 volunteers will be standing outside designated supermarkets to talk to customers about the benefits of Fair Trade. We will be handing out Oxfam Fair Trade recipe cards and collecting comment cards requesting that stores carry more Fair Trade Certified products, put them on prominent shelves and promote them to shoppers.

At the end of the day, we will be setting up a meeting with the supermarkets' management to deliver the cards in person and demonstrate that there is a real local demand for Fair Trade!

I am putting groups together to target as many stores as possible. But we need more volunteers! A few hours of your time could change the lives of millions of people, including yours! Please join us and let us Make Trade Fair together!

If you and your friends are already planning on being active that day, let me know so that we don’t organize in front of a store that is already being covered.

Bonus: Everyone of the volunteers will be treated to a delicious International Fair Trade dinner at my house in Medford, near Davis Square, that same night! We will organize car-pooling so that everybody can come and enjoy great food and great company!

RSVP or 617-877-5064, any day, any time.

Thank you,
Severine Calcagni

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Conscious Consuming Social and Discussion 11/16

Concerned that materialism, TV watching, and celebrity worship are getting a little out of hand in this country?

Join us for discussion and socializing

8:00 p.m.Wednesday Nov 16
Asgard Irish Pub & Restaurant 350 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA (617) 577-9100

How to recognize us:
- We'll be at a table in the bar area
- The organizer for this event has a shaved head and looks a little like Bruce Willis (trust me, I'm not proud of it)
- Ask the hostess for the Conscious Consuming group

The Asgard is in Central Square Cambridge (on Mass Ave., starting in Central Square, head towards Kendall Square, go 3 blocks, pass Fire Station) Parking: Street parking or validated parking for $5 in lot adjacent to hotel

Anyone interested in helping to plan future events
(potluck dinners with speakers, TV Turn Off Week, etc) you're welcome to attend
our planning meeting earlier that evening at at Wainwright bank in Central
Square (on Mass Ave, near Prospect St, few stores down from Starbucks) If
interested, please email

What is Conscious Consuming?

Conscious Consuming is a social movement focused on consumption awareness, influence of the media and advertising and quality of life and environment issues that surround all of this. It is also the name of our Boston-based group which focuses on the same issues.

We believe that another world is possible. We meet to find encouragement. We meet to organize activities. We meet to learn from each other and share our experiences. We meet for fun. We meet to work towards a better future.

Our signature event is Gift It Up! but we will be doing several events during TV Turnoff Week in April 2006. In addition to that, we do monthly events that are more focused on discussion, socializing and outreach. Whether you're in Boston or Bangladesh, join us in raising awareness and carrying a positive message!