Monday, December 24, 2007

8 Ways to Save Energy at Home

Happy New Year!

For many of us, the new year brings resolutions of better living. We hope that you'll consider taking these easy steps in your life to save energy in your home.

  1. Low-flow shower head. Switch to a low-flow shower head and you have just taken the most effective step in saving water in your home. This cheap fixture will pay for itself in a year in what you save in water bills.

  2. Faucet water saver. This dandy fixture on your kitchen or bathroom faucet lets you adjust the amount of water when washing dishes or brushing your teeth. Those extra seconds will add up to a lot of gallons saved!

  3. Compact fluorescent light bulbs. We all know we should switch from those energy-losing incandescent light bulbs. Each bulb will save over $30 in your electricity bill, and you'll be saving more than 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from contributing to global warming, too. More info

  4. Renewable energy. I opted to get my home electricity from wind energy through my electric utility, costing me 2 cents extra per kilowatt hour. For reducing my climate change impact, I think that's worth it! To find out renewable energy options in your state, ask your utility company or visit

  5. Paperless bills. This is so easy: choose to get your bills online from your utilities, credit card company, bank, and phone company. Sixty-three billion checks are written each year in the United States: imagine how much paper we could save if we all paid bills online?

  6. Offset travel. We've become a traveling society, and all those air miles are building up carbon in our air. Offsetting each trip with clean energy for someone else is easy, and doesn't cost as much as you'd think. There are a dozen different companies out there; ones that I like are and

  7. Wash laundry in cold water. About 90% of energy used to do laundry is to heat water. Your clothes will also last longer when washed in cold water.

  8. Unplug it! More than 5% of a typical home's energy bill comes from electricity "leaked" from appliances that are plugged in and turned off. Unplugging electronics and things like cell phone charges when not in use will save on your electricity bill.

These small changes in your life will do a big part in helping to reduce global warming and save natural resources for future generations.

We at Conscious Consuming hope that this new year will bring health and happiness to you and your loved ones!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Recycle Now Video

Here is a funny movie from Recycle Now with Ed Byrne. Even though I seriously doubt anyone reading this blog isn't recycling, his accent alone makes this video worth it. Plus I love how the Brits place their trash in "rubbish bins," don't you? One of his other You Tube videos is a little risque, so if you want to entice friends to recycle, get them to watch this first, then send them to You Tube and see what pops up!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last Day to Donate!!!

Today is the last day to donate at Gift It Up! to ensure that your gift cards arrive by December 24th. You can still donate after today, but we can't guarantee the gift cards will get to you on time.

Donations to non-profits in a loved one's name is a great addition to, or substitution for, material gifts this holiday season. Donations show that you care about their values and that you're willing to give who they are, not what they want.

Start a new tradition of caring this year! Donate at today!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A World Consumed by Guilt - New York Times

Here's a great article that talks about the dangers of buying stuff solely on its "eco-friendly" label. We hope that consumers continue to question the truthfulness of a $1,065 canvas bag ("100% recyclable"??) from Barney's!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nonprofit Highlight: EarthWorks Boston

One thing I like best about working with Gift It Up! is learning about all the great organizations that are working in my backyard. One of these is EarthWorks Boston, which is working to bring nature to the urban community. It does this through three main ways:
  1. Planting fruit trees in open spaces, in conjunction with local neighborhood groups, to revive neglected spaces and share fruit with the community.
  2. Bringing environment to 1,000 kids in the Boston schools through science-based programs in their own schoolyard.
  3. Restoring Boston's own Urban Wilds areas, a total of 250 acres scattered throughout the city.
Donors can give tangible gifts such as dedicating a tree in an underforested area of Boston or giving an hour of environmental education lessons to Boston schoolchildren.

Local organizations like EarthWorks are crucial in making our city a real community. I hope you can join us in supporting them!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Featured Nonprofit: All Paws Rescue

Does someone in the family love animals? If so, donating to a no kill humane society such as All Paws Rescue may be just the kind of gift for the animal lover in your family. Or, of course, you can choose to adopt a dog or cat directly! Who wouldn't want to wake up Christmas morning to wet puppy kisses? Oh, OK, maybe your housemate...

All Paws Rescue, based in Massachusetts, is run by a group of dedicated volunteers. Services include the sheltering of homeless animals, pet placement services, veterinary assistance (including low-cost spay/neutering), and public awareness and Humane education outreach programs. I am a dog person, and have been thinking about animal shelters ever since I saw the indie film "Year of the Dog" this fall. The film portrays one woman's awakening to the fact that animals have feelings, and the reality is that many "shelters" euthanize dogs and cats when they cannot find suitable homes. She goes a little overboard for her love of dogs over the course of the movie, but in the end realizes that following her passion is more important than what people think of her. A good message for all of us conscious consumers, don't you think? You can donate to All Paws Rescue at

She also realizes that eating animals isn't very nice, either. While less than 10% of the US population is vegetarian, all people interested in reducing their carbon footprint should at least be trying to have meat-free meals. Livestock production is the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases (behind only energy production and transportation), according to the Inernational Panel on Climate Change. For great resources on eating fewer animals, visit Go Veg.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nonprofit Highlight: Free Wheelchair Mission

Free Wheelchair Mission makes an amazing difference in the lives of people with physical mobility issues in the developing world. For under $50, you can buy and ship a wheelchair to someone who might have been bedridden, or might be shunned in their community due to their lack of mobility. These wheelchairs are made with mountain bike tires and backyard lawn chairs. They are low-cost, durable, lightweight, and get the job done. You can visit Free Wheelchair Mission to see a video about the enormous difference a wheelchair can make in a person's life.

There are 100 million people worldwide who need wheelchairs, and Free Wheelchair Mission's goal is to get 20 million wheelchairs out into communities. They have distributed 285,000 wheelchairs to date. Conscious Consuming is proud to have Free Wheelchair Mission participate in Gift it Up! 2007, and we hope you consider this alternative gift opportunity. You can donate at, or email your friends and family a Christmas link about Free Wheelchair Mission.

Gift It Up! on the Tuber Report!

The Tuber Report was awesome enough to take the day off for Gift It Up! Check it out:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Nonprofit Highlight: African Health Foundation

Here's the bad news:
An estimated 12 million children have become orphans due to AIDS in Africa. As you can imagine, this dramatic reduction in adults and parental care has devastating effects on the social stability of these communities.

Over 2 million children in Africa are living with HIV. One of the greatest threats to their health is malaria, which kills 3,000 children every day. A cheap and easy way of preventing malaria is providing $5 bed nets that will keep away infected mosquitoes as the children sleep.

Here's the good news:
Non-profits like African Health Foundation are working everyday to build infrastructure and bring social stability and hope to these communities. Clean water and food are just the beginning, supported by counseling and sports activities for kids that upkeep the mental health of the community. African Health Foundation also brings needed supplies, like those mosquito nets, to the areas of the most need.

You can help. Visit to give to African Health Foundation and many other worthy non-profit organizations.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

5 Green Christmas Tips >> EasterKiwi

Gift It Up! got a mention on 5 Green Christmas Tips on EasterKiwi's blog, next to bunch of other great ideas on keeping your Christmas more environmentally-friendly. Thanks, J!

Friday, November 30, 2007

"The Gift of Giving" in the Globe

Well, Gift it Up! is tomorrow, and we finally got coverage in the Boston Globe. Hooray! Even though you probably know all of the details about Gift it Up! if you read our blog regularly, you can read reporter Danielle Capalbo's article The Gift of Giving just to appreciate her for letting other folks know about us.

Thanks, Danielle!

As you know if you are on our email list, we could use a few more baked goods for our bake sale table, and a few more volunteers to hand out quarter flyers on the street. If you have some time to spare, we'd love your help! Come on down to The River of Life Church at 440 Center St in JP. We are looking forward to a great event!

Bakers, Volunteers and Emailers needed for tomorrow 12/1!!!

Gift it Up! is tomorrow and we need some more help to make sure it's a big success.

Can you bake something? We have a bakesale to offset our costs and make sure the groups get all the money raised at the fair. We would love for you to bring something for the bakesale.

Can you come volunteer? Even if it's only for one or two hours, it would make a difference helping spread the word to people.

Can you spread the word? Please email friends, family and coworkers about Gift it Up! If they are local, encourage them to come. If they aren't, or can't make it, encourage them to visit us on the web. Our general message about the fair is below. Thanks for helping out!

Please visit our website at and consider make an honorary gift to your choice of nonprofits in a loved one's name.

Instead of the newest incarnation of something you probably already have, won't you consider giving a gift to change the world? If you live in the Boston area, come to Gift it Up! If you can't make it to the event, participate online at

Conscious Consuming gathers 14 non-profits on Saturday, December 1, at the River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain. "Shoppers" will get to talk with representatives from each of the nonprofits, browse their programs, choose a gift to fit any budget, and receive a Gift it Up! card announcing the gift. The event is to be held: Saturday, December 1 12noon – 4pm River of Life Church 440 Center Street Jamaica Plain, MA

Alternative gifting is a growing trend; it was even featured in the funny 2007 indie film "Year of the Dog." If you are unable to attend the fair, you can visit the Gift it Up! website at to learn more about it, to see the list of participating non-profits, and to purchase gifts securely on line.

Conscious Consuming is an all-volunteer non-profit, holding this event to reduce consumption and help other nonprofits. Please forward this info widely!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Jolly and Green, with an Agenda"

There was a great article in the NY Times yesterday called "Jolly and Green, with an Agenda". It chronicled several people who have tried to bring their families along for a greener holiday, through alternative gifting, eco-gifts like LED holiday lights, and giving experiential gifts only. Here's an excerpt:

"It's not just the greens who feel this emotional tug at the end of the year: A 2005 survey by the Center for a New American Dream showed that 78 percent of Americans wish the holidays were “less materialistic.” At the same time, the average American spends about $900 on presents each year, according to the National Retail Federation."

The article talked about how such changes can be emotionally charged, especially between generations. Often our parents felt "want" more than we did, and holiday gifting is a time when they can be extravagant and feel the joys of giving things that they never had (my own mom shared one bicycle among 4 siblings). Many young adults today, however, really do have everything they need. The might WANT more stuff, but let's face it--they don't NEED it. They have grown up with all kinds of stuff, and if anything, are beginning to discover that stuff doesn't make them happy. As people into voluntary simplicity already know, the more stuff you have, the more time you use up taking care of it, repairing it, cleaning it, arranging it, etc. My house if full; I really don't want more stuff.

What do I want? I want to spend time with my family and friends, give to others who have less, enjoy a good meal, and oh, OK, go to a yoga class or two. Your experience will be different, but the essential thing is that these kinds of shared experiences bring back the joy, peace. and love that gives the holiday season such a good name.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tis the Season to Gift It Up!

It's that time of the year again, when Conscious Consuming proudly presents Gift it Up! Please visit our website at and consider making a donation to your choice of nonprofits in a loved one's name.

According to the Consumer's Union, children in our country are sent 30,000 TV ads per year to get their parents to buy them stuff. And yet you know that there also are millions of children around the world who wish every day they had enough food or a safe place to sleep. American's produce 4-5 pounds of trash per person, per day, while children in many parts of the world labor to make us these cheap, "throwaway" goods. Instead of the newest incarnation of something you probably already have, won't you consider giving a gift to change the world?

If you live in the Boston area, come to Gift it Up! If you can't make it to the event, participate online at Conscious Consuming gathers 14 non-profits on Saturday, December 1, at the River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain. "Shoppers" will get to talk with representatives from each of the nonprofits, browse their programs, choose a gift to fit any budget, and receive a Gift it Up! card announcing the gift. The event is to be held:

Saturday, December 1
12noon – 4pm
River of Life Church
440 Center Street
Jamaica Plain, MA

Alternative gifting is a growing trend; it was even featured in the funny 2007 indie film "Year of the Dog." If you are unable to attend the fair, you can visit the Gift it Up! website at to learn more about it, to see the list of participating non-profits, and to purchase gifts securely on line.

Conscious Consuming is an all-volunteer non-profit, holding this event to reduce consumption and help other nonprofits. Please forward this info widely!

Enjoy the peace and good will of the holiday season,

The Team at Conscious Consuming

Buying to Save the Earth? Watch this video first.

Here's a funny video Jerry Mander that follows this green consuming idea:

The New York Times follows up with him in a short interview.

Reactions? Add your comments!

Friday, November 23, 2007

What Buy Nothing Day Means to Me

About a week ago, my sister showed me a catalog she got in the mail. It was from Barney's, the department store, and the theme was "Green Holiday." Inside, the text says, "Join the Green Revolution, we did!" How do I feel about this, she asks?

Looking through this catalog, I was confronted with all the mixed feelings that I have as a business student and a staunch environmentalist. On the one hand, it's great that environmentalism is trendy these days, not just among the consuming public, but among companies that see environmentalism as a selling point for their products. Businesses might use the environment for good, creating new, cleaner technologies and reducing their waste without expense to the economy. On the other hand, every time someone in the U.S. buys anything, this consumption creates ripple effects around the world, causing possible environmental harms through resource depletion and pollution, or creating situations in which human rights are at risk or poor people and countries are dependent on our consumption of material goods for their survival.

For me, this is what Buy Nothing Day is all about. Taking a step away from this consumer lifestyle we live in, trying to understand what this lifestyle has done to our culture, our environment, and our happiness, and reflecting on the reasons why I'm part of this movement to consume wisely. I need a day in which I'm not burdened by what to buy, how much, what potential impacts it has, and why I'm buying it in the first place. In joining the Buy Nothing Day movement, I'm standing with many others who declare that we are humans first, not consumers.

So, I'm not joining the Green Revolution today, not if it means buying a whole bunch of stuff, eco-friendly or otherwise. I'll join the Green Revolution by learning about my impact on the world, by consuming consciously, and by spreading the word.

You can learn more about Buy Nothing Day at:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turnabout is Fair Trade for Christmas Catalogs

Many thanks to guest blogger, Tereza Coraggio for this excellent article about her experiences asking catalog companies about the stories behind their products. Her experiences reminded me of Sara Bongiorni's response when asked by a reporter what she learned during A Year Without Made in China. "What do the US regulated labeling standards tell us?," the reporter inquired. Her reply, "Not much."

On to Tereza:

For those who see the people behind the products, Black Friday is aptly named, and not for the "in the black" of retail sales. The chocolate holidays – Halloween, Valentine's, Easter - are occasion enough for mourning, but Black Friday ushers in a season of darkness. Every year, I'm caught between loving the festivity, the excitement of the kids, and the warm generosity of family and community, and feeling a terrible sadness over the invisible workers, their lives squandered in making tokens of our affection. Although my kids no longer think elves supply the Disney channel, few know the full reality. This year, I decided to do something constructive with my conflict. I decided to turn the tables.

In September, the Center for a New American Dream sponsored a Carbon Conscious Consumer (C3) campaign called Junk Your Junkmail. For a $41 fee, of which 1/3rd was donated to nonprofits, I hired a business called to get me off the direct mail lists and cancel my catalogs. Named for the 41 pounds of unsightly paper fat your mailbox consumes per year, they guaranteed an 80% reduced-carbonhydrate mail diet.

Looking at the pre-season glut, though, I started calling my own Christmas catalogs. I begin by finding something to praise – something I like that they're doing or an interesting product. Then I ask how they make sure that there's no child labor or sweatshop labor involved in making their products. Do they do unannounced factory inspections, or have an outside agency that certifies? What about their supply chain – how do they verify that the cocoa or cotton used isn't harvested by children, or that the mines producing the metals aren't hazardous to workers or the environment?

I ask them to pass my questions on to whoever can get back to me, and I give them my contact information. In the meantime, however, I request that they remove me from their mailing list. Their products are eye-catching, and I don't want the temptation, for me or my kids. I say that I can't blame the mess the world is in on anyone, if I don't care what I'm buying. When I can maintain a Zen humility, as a fellow-muddler slogging through life, the responses I get back are gratifying. These are some...

At Limited Too I talked to a black woman from Texas who politely agreed to pass my comments up the chain. Before hanging up, though, she said it was funny that I called just then. She’d seen a special on the Gap last night and thought to herself, "I used to shop there." She was happy to tell management that people cared, because we all have to stick together.
Unfortunately, the call to get off their mailing list put me onto their automated telemarketing. It's annoying that they can call you, but you don't have an option to talk back. To find a real person, I went to their website, which told me "all our jeans are made with love." Happy to hear this, I clicked to find out more. Up popped a window with stitching details. Where's the love? I googled an article called "Justice for All" on their new Justice brand name signaling a change in strategy. Hurray! That must mean fair wages and labor practices. No, it means prices that are 20% cheaper. Where's the justice? I'll tell you when I get hold of a real person to find out.

At Plow and Hearth, the rep listened thoughtfully, and said that I was the first person who’d asked these questions. I told him that over 20% of consumers now base their decisions on ethical concerns, according to Co-op America. So I was unlikely to be the last.

At Williams Sonoma, a mom who's homeschooled five kids mentioned a wooden shelf which brought jobs to an impoverished area. I said, yes, but...most manufacturing is done in impoverished areas. Are the jobs fair? She didn't know, but respected me for asking and would relay my concerns. I also found out that her teenage son bakes bread to surprise her when she comes home from work – just the kind of guy I wish my teenage daughter could meet.

I still wanted to try Williams-Sonoma's peppermint marshmallows that take 3 days to make. Besides their own line, they carry Rubicon Bakeries' from Richmond, CA. Looking them up on the web, I found they were started in 1973 by people concerned about the closures of state psychiatric hospitals. Their jobs provide training, housing, employment, and services to the homeless and mentally disabled, and they've recently opened a new bakery in Berkeley. With all this, I was holding my breath when I called to ask the million-dollar question. How do they know if there's child labor or slaves harvesting their cocoa beans? Fair Trade Chocolate! Hallelujah! I'm placing my Christmas orders now.

At Explorations, a catalog of New Age spirituality, I talked to a woman named Trinidad. She’s certain that the owners would NEVER source from anyone who wasn’t ethical, but she wasn't sure how they verify it. However, they’re going to get back to me on a few specifics – an orthopedic neck rest, a Zen alarm clock, and a statue of Gaia. She agreed that it would be spiritually disconcerting to meditate with products made in sweatshops. To my surprise, James Young emailed me, a product specialist from Gaiam. I hadn't noticed that Explorations was theirs. The first two products were made in China, and Gaia was of unknown origin (created or evolved?). Although he handled organic certification, he didn't know who certified their manufacturing standards.

Curiously, some user comments on Junk Your Junkmail were about Gaiam's excessive cataloging and selling of their lists. I asked James if he knew how many they sent out, and who they sold their list to. He thought I should call corporate, where decisions were made, instead of customer service. When I did, the receptionist first sent me to customer service, and then back to James. Hopefully, this isn't an infinite loop.

Title Nine Sports was also certain that everything was ethically made, but didn’t have any details. Their products were made all over the world according to different standards. So, I asked, Title Nine doesn’t have any standards of their own? No, she was certain they did, but she didn’t know them. If she was a customer, she’d want to know the same things, she said. But as a CS rep, didn’t she want to know? We agreed that Title Nine was marketing to young, socially-conscious consumers and I wasn’t the first to ask. She would pass on my concern. Since then, I read at that Orvis and Title Nine topped the list of junk mail last month. I hope they left some trees to photograph with their outdoorsy sports line.

A surprising number of the people I talked to have said they agree with my concerns. The rest have taken my questions seriously and have been respectful. The Noble Collection was an exception. They specialize in upscale movie-theme paraphernalia billed as "Exclusive Treasures at Uncompromising Value." I asked what their uncompromising labor standards were for manufacturing. For a specific example, I chose the $650 18-karat One Ring for control of Middle Earth. "Made in the U.S.!", she said. "Do you know where the gold comes from?" I asked. "How do you know it's not the U.S.-owned Peruvian mine that's killed union organizers and sent death threats to the priest who represents the workers?" I mentioned that all of these movies are about the battle between good and evil – Narnia, Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code. Wouldn't it be contradictory to wear an icon for the 'good side' that paid money to kill union leaders and priests? Or that stunted children's growth from lead in the water? As she fumbled to transfer me, I could hear snickering in the background, and an incredulous, "She wants to know where the gold comes from?!!" The supervisor was curt in relaying my request to the product manager, but warmed to the task of taking me off their mailing list.

If you would like to join Accountability Anonymous, call your own catalogs and send the results to Be polite. Evil may exist, but no one you'll talk to makes enough money. Don't forget to laugh, and remember that it's getting better. A very literate receptionist called my question arcane – by which she meant no insult, just that no one had asked it before. We can't blame the companies if we're not asking. And finally...may your days be jolly and bright, and the rest of black Fridays be white.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Green Toys for the Holidaze

I know many of you probably already subscribe to Co-op America's e-newsletter, but for those of you who don't, you might want to check out their list of Top 10 Toys for the Holidays. I have two kids of my own, and can personally attest to the longevity of some of the toys on their list, especially wooden toys and musical instruments. Everyone from toddlers on up loves to play with wooden toys; electronic toys that "do stuff" are not only annoying to listen to, but they hamper children's creativity. When the toy only has one way to be played with (like most electronic toys), children let it do its thing. But when a toy just "sits there," children have to use their imagination to creatively invent a scene, complete with characters, setting, action, and dialogue. They allow children to do the acting, instead of being acted upon. Not only are these kinds of toys educational in that regard, but they're non-toxic, and FUN to handle. My children have loved their musical instruments from toddlerhood, and seven years later, they're still a favorite when we have friends over (for parades, shows, jam sessions, you get the picture).

If the child on your list is over age 4 or 5, the Family Pastimes board games are a real winner. Not only are they made and sold by a family business, and made of recycled paper, but they are cooperative games. That means that the players have to work together to win the game, and no one child's feelings are hurt when they "lose." Buyer beware, however: these games work best in the context of family play. You actually need to spend time playing them with your kids or they'll sit on the shelf.

While as an organization we promote alternative gifting, I haven't sufficiently evolved as an alternative gifter not to buy my kids presents. As long as you're buying (for your children, neice, or nephew), you may as well get gifts that you'll all be happy to play with for a long, long time, and support some great green businesses in the process.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Take the Pledge to Think Outside the Bottle!

From Corporate Accountability International:

Bottled water corporations are changing the very way people think about water. Though many bottled water brands come from the same source as public tap water, they are marketed as somehow more pure. What's more - bottled water corporations sell water back to the public at thousands of times the cost. Plastic bottles also require massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport. Billions of these bottles wind up in landfills every year.

You can help reverse this trend. At events and over online networks tens of thousands are supporting the efforts of local officials to reduce the social impact and environmental harm of bottled water by prioritizing public water systems. So far, in Chicago we have gathered over 1,500 pledges. Taking the Think Outside the Bottle Pledge is quick, easy, and sends the message that water is a human right, not a commodity.

Take the pledge at: and also visit the website for more information.

Opt-out of Catalogues

This great new service will unsubscribe you from catalog mailings. You can return again and again whenever you receive another catalog in the mail. Not only is it a great way to decrease junk mail, but it also saves trees!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Buy One, Give One

If you are planning to buy some stuff this holiday season, you might want to consider a "Buy One, Give One" program. Many, many socially responsible businesses now regularly donate 10% of the purchase price of items to non-profits or local schools. Buy One, Give One programs take that concept further by donating an item of equal value to the one purchased. Read on for three great programs: the Bogo solar powered flashlight, the XO laptop, and Tam and Rob fair trade clothing company.

Sun Night Solar has developed a Buy One, Give One program for their Bogo solar powered flashlight. These fabulous flashlights are a terrific innovation for us in the developed world, reducing the expense and pollution associated with disposable batteries. In the developing world they are priceless. According to the Sun Night Solar website, "two billion people living in the developing world rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and single-use battery flashlights for light at night. Not only are these options expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment, they also negatively impact health, education, and security." The Bogo light provides an opportunity for children to further their educational opportunities by reading at night, which is especially important in developing countries where children often work during the day. These flashlights also reduce the dangerous, expensive and carbon-emitting use of kerosene. The Bogo solar powered flashlights cost $25, and the buyer gets to choose which US nonprofit will distribute the flashlight to a program in a developing country. Mom, if you're reading, one of these lights is all I want for Christmas!

Another fabulous Buy One, Give One scheme is through One Laptop Per Child. Their mission is to provide a means for learning, self-expression and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education. Collaborating with design experts from academia and industry, OLPC developed the XO laptop: "The result is a unique harmony of form and function; a flexible, ultra-low-cost, power-efficient, responsive, and durable machine with which nations of the emerging world can leapfrog decades of development—immediately transforming the content and quality of their children's learning." Starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child will be offering a Give 1 Get 1 Program for a brief window of time in North America. For $399, you will be able to purchase two XO laptops—one that will be sent to empower a child to learn in a developing nation, and one that will be sent to your child at home. The buyer can also just donate an XO laptop for $200.

Lastly, this holiday season, the women's fair trade fashion label Tam & Rob is launching Buy One Give One Free for Christmas. For every item purchased before Christmas, a new sari will be donated to a destitute woman through the charity Social Action for Association and Development (SAAD) in Maharashtra, India. Tam & Rob supports the work of SAAD, a charity that provides literacy and skills training to some of the world’s most vulnerable women, as the label’s own ethos is also to increase opportunities for disadvantaged groups. The new saris donated by Tam & Rob will benefit these women as they start their new lives and careers supported by SAAD. These companies are doing well by doing good, and we hope you'll support them if you can.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Green Cuisine: Earth-friendly, Healthy Recipes from Top Chefs and Local Farmers

The Union of Concerned Scientists has put out a new series of recipes from chefs using locally-grown, sustainable ingredients. This season's article is on sustainably-grown meats and what it means for meat to have too many antibiotics.

Check it out!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yvon Chouinard's revolution

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, speak about the social and environmental responsibility of businesses. While he made some great points about how corporations need to work towards a sustainable future, and gave examples of how Patagonia has eschewed focusing on growth to ensure job security and less costs to the environment, there was one thing he said and one thing he did that really made me respect him as a leader in corporate social responsibility.

First, he acknowledged that because of the nature of his business, selling new consumer goods to the public, Patagonia will always have a cost to the environment no matter how much they work to reduce pollution, material waste, and use recycled materials. He encouraged us all to use products until they are no longer usable instead of going out to buy new clothes or other products when we don't need them. I've never heard anyone who's trying to sell me stuff tell me not to buy their stuff before!

Secondly, at the end of his talk, the hosts presented Yvon with a bag of goodies as a thanks for speaking to us. He politely declined, saying "I have everything I need." That small gesture showed the thousand audience members that he was committed in his own life to the philosophies he espouses in public.

I'm not writing this post to recommend Patagonia above other companies as a "better" business in any way. I want to show that there are corporate owners out there who care, in a meaningful way, as much as we do about the environment and in the people who live with us on this Earth. We must find a way to work together towards our common goal!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wiser Earth

We are excited to have been included on the Wiser Earth website, which links up activists and community organizers in the social justice and environmental sustainability movements. Paul Hawken, author of the book Blessed Unrest and co-founder of Wiser Earth, posits that these movements (of which Conscious Consuming is a part) together form the largest cultural movement in the history of the world. I am very excited to order my copy of his book from the library, but in the meantime, the Wiser Earth website has videos introducing the concept. My favorite is the second one down. Check it Out!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Playing Sports Fairly

I just found out about this company, Fair Trade Sports, a company that makes Fair Trade Certified, and environmentally-friendly soccer and rugby balls, basketballs, footballs, volleyballs, and other gear. For people who are a little more exercise-enthused than I am, this might be a great option the next time you need a new sports ball!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Slow Down and Green Up Newsletter--November

Happy November everyone!

We at Conscious Consuming are gearing up for our 5th annual alternative gift fair, Gift it Up! We are excited to be holding the gift fair at a new venue this year, The River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain. We gather about 14 non-profits, including Grassroots International, the African Mission Society, Prison Book, The Network/La Red, and Heifer International (with more groups pending); attendees have the chance to talk to a representative from each of the non-profits, and make an honorary donation in a loved one’s name. We have beautiful cards to announce your gift. If you can’t make it to the fair on Saturday December 1st (12-4pm), you can still purchase alternative gifts securely on-line, via our website Lest you think this is too far “out there” for your family, start a conversation at Thanksgiving and see where it takes you. In my very traditional family, we decided to attend Gift it Up together and each choose our favorite non-profits in lieu of material gifts. Your family just might surprise you! If you can volunteer on the day of the event, please email, and if you can hang flyers in your town about Gift it Up!, please email and we’ll send some along.

Speaking of alternative gifting, we would like to share with you The Center for a New American Dream’s alternative gift registry at This is a fabulous resource if you are planning a wedding or baby shower and are interested in nontraditional gifts. The website tool allows you to create your own registry, including gifts such as “bringing us one meal a week after the birth of our baby” or “chipping in for our CSA membership.” You can also provide links to material gifts if you’d like, such as your favorite organic sheets or cloth napkins.

Lastly, Friday November 23 is Buy Nothing Day! According to the Adbusters website, “On November 23, millions of people around the world will go on a 24 hour consumer fast and thousands of activists in 65 countries will engage in credit card cut ups, zombie walks and other pranks and shenanigans in an attempt to catalyze a mind shift towards sustainable lifestyles.” Visit to print flyers to hang in your community or to join with other activists in building awareness about the need to consume less stuff.

Thanks for all you do,

The team at Conscious Consuming

5 Minutes to Change the World

Looking for ways to change the world in 5 minutes a day? has a new tip everyday that will make your home more energy efficient, your commute cleaner, and and your life healthier. You can sign up for their tips through your email or get it through your newsfeed. Be sure to also check out events in your community organized by people like you!

Eaters Unite!

Here's a great article by Michael Pollan on the current Food & Farm Bill being sent through the Senate right now. As Pollan replies to a representative who thinks that the public outcry about subsidies to big ag companies are because people don't know what they're talking about: "It seems more likely that, this time around, people in the city and all across the country know exactly what’s going on — they just don’t like it."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How Climate Change Will Affect the World

An article published Sept 19 in The Guardian called How Climate Change Will Affect the World by David Adam noted that we are no longer talking about global warming affecting our children and grandchildren, let alone "the seventh generation." Those of you in Boston have likely enjoyed having a fall season with 70-80 degree days, but balmy days for us spell disaster in Africa, the Arctic, and the Indian sub-continent. Personally, I think there will come a time (in the not too distant future) when we can't believe we actually wasted potable fresh water on outdoor watering. Heard the drought news out of Atlanta recently? Read on for David Adam's full article:

"The effects of climate change will be felt sooner than scientists realised and the world must learn to live with the effects, experts said yesterday.

Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.

Speaking at a meeting to launch the full report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Parry, co-chairman of the IPCC working group that wrote the report, said: "We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it's us."

He added politicians had wasted a decade by focusing only on ways to cut emissions, and had only recently woken up to the need to adapt. "Mitigation has got all the attention, but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world."

The international response to the problem has failed to grasp that serious consequences such as reduced crop yields and water shortages are now inevitable, he said. Countries such as Britain need to focus on helping nations in the developing world cope with the predicted impacts, by helping them to introduce irrigation and water management technology, drought resistant crops and new building techniques.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said: "Wheat production in India is already in decline, for no other reason than climate change. Everyone thought we didn't have to worry about Indian agriculture for several decades. Now we know it's being affected now." There are signs a similar shift is under way in China, he added.

The summary chapter of yesterday's report was published in April, after arguments between scientists and political officials over its contents. Prof Parry said: "Governments don't like numbers, so some numbers were brushed out of it."

The report warns that Africa and the Arctic will bear the brunt of climate impacts, along with small islands such as Fiji, and Asian river megadeltas including the Mekong.

It says extreme weather events are likely to become more intense and more frequent, and the effect on ecosystems could be severe, with up to 30% of plant and animal species at risk of extinction if the average rise in global temperatures exceeds 1.5C-2.5C. The consequences of rising temperatures are already being felt on every continent, it adds.

Prof Parry said it was "very unlikely" that average temperature rise could be limited to 2C, as sought by European governments. That would place 2 billion more people at risk of water shortages, and hundreds of millions more will face hunger, the report says."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Youth inspired by our MySpace to stop watching television.

We just received this comment over on our MySpace(

"Thanks for inspriring me to give up on t.v. I havent watched it in a week now. One night i was gazing up at the sky watching the clouds pass and the stars come out and shine. I then realized how much of the world im missing out on. I never want to watch t.v again , its also helping me in school. :)~~Thanks, Tori.

It says so much that there's not really a need for me to add any comments on it! I love that she touches on appreciating nature, having missed out on so much and that it helped important parts of her life when she stopped watching.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

CNN features 100-mile diet

A recent CNN article, "estimated sales at farmers markets rose from $888 million in 2000 to $1 billion in 2005, according to a 2006 USDA survey. There are now more than 4,300 markets nationwide -- an 18 percent increase from 1994 through 2006 -- where local farmers sell directly to the public the fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and baked goods they have grown, raised, caught and made." The article goes on to say that September was the month to pledge the 100-mile diet.

This news makes me really miss my CSA. Since I relocated this summer from Boston to Boulder, CO, I didn't join my favorite (oh, OK, only) Boston area CSA, Brookwood Community Farm. The farmer at Brookwood, Farmer Judy, grew the most fabulous varieties of tomatoes, beans, and greens, and even prepared a washed field greens mix weekly for her customers. Last year, as a CSA member, I found myself trying new recipes and freezing a lot of food just to keep up with the weekly harvest box. This ensured that I was eating locally not just during the harvest season, but also during the winter when some of those meals made their way onto my family's table.

I am fortunate that Boulder also has an excellent farmer's market, but I think it falls into the "more expensive than Whole Foods" category. Luckily the Whole Foods in Boulder has done a fantastic job featuring local foods, so that shoppers can easily buy locally made products if they want to. I guess the difference is that at the grocery store I buy for the week, rather than buying extra while local foods are in season (and cheaper). I look forward to joining a new CSA next year, and planting a garden of my own, so that I am forced to "put food by" for another day. I can freeze, pickle, and can my way into local foods all year long.

Biofuels: Dream Turned Nightmare?

This blog post about biofuels from Grassroots International tells the reality they're seeing on the ground about the actual production of all that sugarcane that's being hailed as the new fuel of the future.

Can we have less environmentally-harmful emissions without jeopardizing the health, safety, and livelihoods of workers around the world? Will we ever find a solution to our energy-gobbling addiction without building it on the backs of poorer nations?

This issue is timely and deserves more discussion.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Days of Action

Jake Miller of Grassroots International posted the following today on the Grassroots site. Thought it was relevant and worth sharing.

Today is Blog Action Day and more than 15,000 bloggers with a combined reach of more than 12 million subscribers are joining forces to blog about the environment.

Tomorrow is World Food Day, a day created by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, a day that's dedicated to bringing awareness to the struggles of the 800 million people who go hungry every day. Thousands of people around the world will take action to fight hunger.

It's too bad these two days didn't coincide, because so many of the problems related to hunger are environmental, and so many of the solutions are ecological.
Read more

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Slow Down and Green Up Newsletter--October

Well, October holds a lot for Conscious Consumers to think about: it's Fair Trade Month, World Vegetarian month, and Oct 23rd is Take Back Your Time Day! I don't know about you, but I've been feeling more and more optimistic about the growing awareness of buying (and not buying) in line with your values. The message is spreading, and the audience is growing. Even Newsweek recently covered the topic, which you can see in the last post.

Dare I say it? We're almost not even fringe anymore!!! Of course, any trip to the mall could dash my hopes and confirm otherwise. Mental note: avoid the mall, unless it’s to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.

For information on Fair Trade month, visit Co-Op America. If someone would please design some fair trade goodies I could buy at a reasonable price in bulk to distribute to the kiddoes on Halloween it would be fabulous. I love the idea of Fair Trade chocolate (and eat it myself) but my simple living sensibilities prevent me from spending $2 a serving for kid candy.

For World Vegetarian Month, why not try a meat-free week? Challenge your household! If eating meat-free for a whole week sounds impossible, commit to limiting your meat intake, both for the environment (livestock production is the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind transportation and energy production) and for animal welfare/compassion. If you’re in the Boston area, come to the 12th annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, on October 20th from 10am-6pm. Click here for event details, including directions and the speaker and demonstration schedules.

Take Back Your Time Day is October 24th, to signify the nine weeks of vacation scarcity in the US compared with European nations. While we won’t be hosting an event in Boston this year, you can visit Take Back Your Time Day to see if there is an event in your area, or to find out more about Take Back Your Time’s legislative campaigns.

Finally, save the date for Gift it Up! On Saturday, December 1st, Conscious Consuming will host Boston’s 5th annual alternative gift fair at the River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain. We gather 14 or so local and international non-profits and participants have the chance to give gifts that change the world. If you’re in the Boston area and would like to volunteer, we need you! Please email Marty if you might be available to help serve refreshments or hand out flyers on the day of the event.

Have a great time Slowing Down and Greening Up in October! If you got to attend the DC Green Festival this month we are jealous!

The Team at Conscious Consuming

Psssttt...if you like our monthly emails, pass them along to your friends! While we hate viral marketing, for all-volunteer non-profits we make an exception. We hope you will too!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Freegans get Newsweek press!

Read about how the Newsweek author Rania Kelley became a freegan for a month in this Newsweek article. I share her sensibility that dumpster diving is not for me, and she seems, in the end, to have chosen the sensible path of moderation. Most importantly, she has become aware that her consumption patterns are out of whack:

"I am determined to limit my buying. So one pair of fall shoes won't break my budget or make me feel guilty but 12 pairs would—a distinction that I would not have been able to make four weeks ago. There's too much waste, and I'd like to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And with the twelve hundred dollars I saved, I can now retire two weeks earlier than I planned."

Even though I have no idea who actually buys 12 pairs of fall shoes (I hope no one but Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw), I'm glad that she's chosen to be part of the solution. Luckily she has a really public forum to introduce mainstream readers to the concept of freeganism, and maybe a few of her readers will second-guess their consumption patterns, too.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Biking in Boston

Originally posted by Eileen on EcoSpace.

Boston’s Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to reverse Boston’s reputation as one of the worst cycling cities in the United States. Last year, Bicycling magazine put Boston on its list of worst cycling cities for "lousy roads, scarce and unconnected bike lanes, and bike-friendly gestures from city hall that go nowhere." Mayor Menino has just picked up biking himself and has hired a “bike czar”, former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman.

“We need to get more people to take the bike around. It’s good for the health, it’s good for the environment, and there’s less congestion on the streets,” Menino said. “It’s time for the issue to come to the forefront.” He now bikes every morning around his neighborhood.

The plan is to install 250 bike racks across Boston, and implement an online map system. First of course, more bike lanes need to be installed, but lane plans are still in brainwashing stages. Current bike commuters of Boston are being surveyed for their most frequently traveled roads. The city will soon hold a summit for local bikers and national experts.

Now only about one percent of Bostonians bike to work, according to a 2000 US census. And a recent poll revealed that more local residents would bike to work if their workplaces had showers. So the city will try to encourage offices to install shower facilities, convince gyms to let non-members use showers, or even install citywide coin-operated showers.

Another idea is to put bike terminals around the city so residents and tourists could rent a bike, ride it an return it to any other terminal in the city. The concept is similar to Zipcars, and is in place in Paris.

Boston has unbelievable potential," the newly appointed bike czar Nicole Freedman said. "We're a compact city, we're flat, we have a young population and lots of tourists. If we do this correctly, we have the potential to be one of the best bike cities in the country. In three years, I think we will see some very dramatic changes."

Boston loves a parade

SUNDAY OCT. 7 @ NOON -- JOIN THE PARADE! Honk Festival parade: Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes, Feet

Join the Livable Streets Alliance this Sunday at the Honkfest parade. The route is Davis Square (Somerville) to Harvard Square (via Elm, Beech, Mass Ave). Walkers, strollers, bicyclists, rollers, wheelchairs, pedicabs, skateboarders, dancers, kids, adults, teenagers, and geezers will honk, roll, strut, and stroll with 20 marching bands from around the world, led by CarTalk's Click & Clack and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. For more information visit Honkfest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And if you liked that...'ll LOVE this:

Kitchen Garden Day 2007

Know about Kitchen Garden Day? Sponsored by Kitchen Gardeners International, this day celebrates household gardens across the world. Learn more by watching this short 3-minute video:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Junk You Junk Mail!

We've blogged about junk mail before. We all get lots of it. It takes a bit of work to reduce it but we're asking you to take the pledge to reduce you junk mail this month.

Click here to sign up to reduce your junk mail:

Carbon Conscious Consumer

In addition to the forms on the site above, you can also just call the mailers. Every catalog mailer will remove you from their mailing list, just ask. Even nonprofits will remove you. You can also call places that you donate to and ask them not to sell, rent or exchange your information. Almost everybody will stop mailing to you, just ask!

Sweat Free Massachusetts

If Massachusetts is like other states, most of the apparel, textiles, and other products that it buys are made in sweatshops. That doesn't sound like Conscious Consuming to us!

But that can change. Conscious Consuming is proud to be part of a growing national movement of students, workers, unions, faith-based groups, and community organizations is organizing for sweatfree purchasing to build market demand for sweatfree products and political momentum for a just global economy. Six state governments, 45 cities and counties, 120 school districts, and 164 colleges and universities have adopted policies requiring their apparel products to be made in fair labor conditions.

Help us make Massachusetts sweatfree! Through our collective effort, our state can ensure living wages and decent working conditions for those producing goods for us.

Governor John Baldacci of Maine has written to all governors asking them to take an important step for workers everywhere. Join us in asking Governor Deval Patrick to sign on to Baldacci's resolution calling for multi-state collaboration in sweatfree procurement. Governors Rendell of Pennsylvania and Corzine of New Jersey are already on board. Other governors have expressed interest and will sign on soon. In addition, local campaigns are hoping to get their cities to come together with the Governors' initiative to form a State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium to coordinate enforcement of sweatfree procurement policies.

While working to gain the Governor's support, we will campaign for a sweatfree procurement law in Massachusetts, which will include the following provisions:
• A sweatfree manufacturing code of conduct: All vendors, contractors, and subcontractors with the state must adhere to the code of conduct which includes respect for local laws and International Labor Organization standards; above-poverty wages; rights to assemble and bargain collectively; non-discrimination; ban on child labor; and safe working conditions.
• Disclosure of factory locations and wages: To qualify for a bid vendors must disclose locations of factories and wages of workers producing goods to be sold to the state.
• Collaboration with other states and independent accountability: Join other public purchasers nationwide by pooling resources to investigate labor violations and monitor factories, coordinate enforcement, and buy jointly from sweatfree factories.
• Community involvement: Creation of a community advisory committee composed of citizens and worker rights experts to ensure that good intentions are translated into good results.

Please join Conscious Consuming in endorsing this important effort to improve working conditions locally and globally online, visit Your endorsement also signals support of the national campaign for a State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recycling is Awesome!

Our country would be much less environmentally-conscious if it weren't for the recycling efforts in the past decades. Recycling has become a habit for many of us, but we know it's more than that.

Check out for what others are doing to make recycling a business, which as I'm learning in economics, is one of the greatest ways to ensure things get done.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait

Check out this interesting set of works from Chris Jorgan. What a way to capture our consumption visually, and beautifully!

Here's info from the Global Footprint Network:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Artist Chris Jorgan's photos
speak volumes. In Jordan's own words, the photographs portray
"contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics."

Many of the images portray a specific quantity of something Americans
consume: 8 million toothpicks, representing the number of trees
harvested in the US every month to make the paper for mail order
catalogs; 106,000 aluminum cans, reflecting "thirty seconds of can
consumption," according to Jordan. The image above, for example, is a
portion of Jordan's image of 426,000 cell phones, which he says is
"equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day."

This series will be exhibited at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los
Angeles, opening Sep 8. More info at

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Carbon Offsets - Effective or Not?

On today's front page of the Washington Post is an article titled Cost of Saving the Climate Meets Real-World Hurdles, about carbon offsets and their actual effect. It says that because it is an unregulated market, not all produce the results that people pay for, so industry standards might be put in place. And while one guy quoted says he feels it's okay to keep his gas-guzzling vehicle since he paid for offsets, the Sierra Club advises remaking your life to become eco-friendly before spending money on offsets.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Join us this Saturday!

Who: You
What: Potluck Picnic
Where: Franklin Park
When: Saturday, Aug 11 12:30pm
How: Bring food to share, bike, hop, or skip (or even drive) over

Join us at the Tour de Farms potluck in Boston on Saturday, August 11th. While the riders finish up their 15 or 25 mile segments, we will be listening to our speaker Jim Buckle, the Farm Manager at Allandale Farm, Boston's oldest commercial farm, at about 12:30pm. Limited parking is available in the lot opposite the golf course, by the entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo. We will meet up on the fields in Franklin Park for our potluck picnic.

Please bring a potluck item to share, preferably showcasing local food, and some extra for our hungry riders. Visit your CSA, local farmer's market, or garden that week to harvest something yummy. Please bring a small index card to list the recipe or ingredients so that folks know what's in your dish (for food allergies or vegans). Also, please bring a picnic blanket, as there are no picnic tables available. The event runs rain or shine (within reason).

Farm Aid's Tour de Farms ride will showcase innovative urban farms and food projects that are strengthening Boston's local and sustainable food system. The 15 and 25-mile rides will go through the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Brookline, Mattapan, Milton and the beautiful Blue Hills Reservation. The Tour de Farms is a free event and all are welcome. The ride will start and finish at Boston's Franklin Park, beginning at 9:00am and concluding by 1:00pm. Pre-registration for the ride is required. For more information about the Tour de Farm and to pre-register, contact Mark Smith at Farm Aid, 617-354-2922, or via email to

This event is our usual Potluck format. Please bring a food item or $10 in lieu of food.

DIRECTIONS: To get to the zoo, just use and enter Franklin Park Zoo, Boston MA. Once you get to the zoo, pass the first entrance on Columbia Road. Columbia becomes Jewish War Veterans Dr. Pass a golf course and take the next right, Pierpoint Rd. We will be set up about 100 yards down Pierpoint on the left. We'll have a picnic beneath two large trees. Unload there. (If you drive to baseball fields, you've gone too far.) After unloading, drive past the baseball fields and park there.

Any questions, please email

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek

Has anyone read this book yet? It sounds right up our alley: freeing up your time to do things you want to do and how to afford doing it. It sounds like author Tim Ferriss focuses a lot on what you can do at work to free up your time and how to save money in the rest of your life. But, who couldn't use tips like that?

Read reviews for this book here and here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I love this climate change site that's recently come to my attention. It's from the UK and is an interactive way to look at how your living choices (bikes or SUV? line dry or tumble dry clothes?) makes an impact on the Earth's climate. There are also tons of links to more information in case you're curious about other choices you have to affect climate change.

But mostly, it's lots of fun to play around with all the different options and cute pictures. Be prepared to spend multiple hours on this site!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Co-op America: Twelve Ways to Shop Fair Trade Now.

While it may be better not to buy or to buy secondhand, sometimes you just have to buy new (food and gifts, for instance). When buying new, why not shop Fair Trade? According to Co-op America: Twelve Ways to Shop Fair Trade Now:

"The Fair Trade marketplace is broader and more vibrant than ever before. That's the lesson our editors learned while putting together our latest Guide to Fair Trade which makes its debut as a 24-page online PDF." Check it out for yourself, and ask at your local market for fairly traded items.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bringing Moos and Oinks Into the Food Debate - New York Times

I read a great article in the NY Times Food section called Bringing Moos and Oinks Into the Food Debate - New York Times that talks about how various non profits like PETA, The Humane Society, and Farm Sanctuary are working together for what Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society calls the 3 R's: refinement of farming techniques, reducing meat consumption, and replacement of animal products. While the number of vegetarians nationwide is estimated at below 10% of the US population, many more people are opting for conscious eating, where they focus on something of importance (eating locally, eating humanely raised meats, eating organic food, etc) and eat in alignment with that value.

Which reminds me, we're meeting on August 11th for the Tour de Farms potluck in Jamacia Plain. Even if you're not up for riding 15 or 25 miles, you can still learn about the local food movement by coming to hear Jim Buckle, farm manager at Allendale Farm, come to speak. Bring a potluck dish and turn up at Franklin Park at 12:30pm, or email Cindy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Eating Locally on a Budget

I've often heard of concerns about eating locally through a farmer's market because it can cost more than the food at a conventional supermarket. This can be true, but one reason for this is because small, local farmers aren't receiving the same subsidies as industrial agriculture.

This blog post on Wise Bread talks about this further and gives great tips on how to save money at the farmer's market. Many farmer's markets, such as the ones in Boston and in my current town of New Haven, also take WIC and food stamps so that local food can reach a wider audience.

Some tips that I would add are:
1. Browse the entire market before buying -- often, some stands have cheaper produce than others.
2. Eat in season -- the most abundant fruits and vegetables will often be the cheapest. The more you buy out of season, the more you'll pay.
3. Buy in bulk -- along with eating in season, you can find good deals if you're willing to buy a few more carrots or tomatoes. This is also a great time to stock up on fruits and vegetables to can or freeze to have local produce available throughout the year.
4. Befriend your local farmer -- I'm not suggesting scamming our beloved farmers, but those who I have gotten to know and been loyal to have very generously given me deals on their produce. They know, too, that this business is all about relationships (well, that and good food).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fair Trade Hits Home (Washington Post article)

Here's a recent Washington Post article about organic, fair trade nuts & dried fruits from family farms & small co-ops now being sold in the D.C. area, thanks to a partnership between Domestic Free Trade Working Group and Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange.

Eco-Friendly Weddings

Here's an article from the Washington Post a few weeks ago about eco-friendly weddings. It talks about many things you might expect from a "green" wedding - live plants instead of cut flowers, soy ink & 100% post-consumer waste invitations, donations instead of gifts, etc. It also mentions different ideas - place cards written on magnolia leaves, and an online "wedding carbon footprint" calculator to figure out the amount of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions generated by wedding guests, which you can offset buy buying "carbon credits." Hopefully a trend that continues to grow.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How I Offset My Summer Vacation

We're in the midst of summer traveling, and with all this talk about global warming, I'm feeling a little guilty about taking that plane ride to visit my parents in a couple weeks. But alas, I'd feel worse if I didn't go. What's a world traveler to do?

Lots of renewable energy companies are now offering to offset your carbon output with efforts to reduce carbon emissions elsewhere. Through a small donation to their efforts, you can feel good about neutralizing your travel. Travelocity even has a program that allows you to make those contributions as you book your ticket.

I personally like NativeEnergy, a Native American company that supports farmer-owned, community-based renewable energy projects. Offsetting my round-trip flight to Milwaukee costs $12. Considering what we pay for airplane meals these days, I think I can afford it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Help Us Start Spreading the News!

The Conscious Consuming Movement is taking off!

We've experienced a big jump in both exposure and events over the last two years. Now we're ready to take it to the next level by spreading the word but we need your help now.

We do this all without any major overhead. We don't have offices, nobody is paid for the countless hours that are put in and we get many things donated. Now we're asking you to help us spread the message with a small donation. A few dollars from a few people will go a long way!

Please make a donation today to help put the Conscious Consuming message out beyond Boston and beyond the internet.

Donate at

After you've donated, please click the "share" button on the badge above and copy the code onto your website, blog, MySpace of FaceBook!

Earthworks - A Champion in Action

NECN and Citizen's Bank has chosen Earthworks, a Boston-based non-profit organization, as its current Champion in Action. This non-profit works in urban Boston to create a sustainable environment through education programs, nature walks, and restoration and beautification projects. You can watch the video which features my friend Annie Cardineaux. The video also talks about their collaboration with a Conscious Consuming favorite, The Food Project, to bring urban food to Boston farmer's markets.

Green Festival Time Again

If you live in or visit DC or San Francisco, head's up, the annual Green Festival is coming to town in October and November, respectively, and you can sign up to volunteer during the festival right now! Let me just say, whether you choose to volunteer (and get in for free!) or just check out the festival, it is a completely amazing way to spend a weekend. The festival features hundreds of inspirational speakers, booths highlighting products and organizations that are doing cool things in your area, organic food/beer/wine, and workshops on a variety of topics. If you don't live in one of these cities, check out their website anyway. They have video streams of past speakers and lots of other interesting stuff.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Are you a Carbon Conscious Consumer?

Conscious Consuming is delighted to partner with the Center for a New American Dream in presenting their Carbon Conscious Consumer campaign!

The action for July is Eating Local, which is what Day 6 of National Downshifting Week was all about. What a perfect fit! To read more about that, check out our blog entry for Day 6.

We're excited to be involved with this campaign as we continue to grow and spread the Conscious Consuming message.

Click the banner below to find out more and join us!

Carbon Conscious Consumer

A Penny Saved

This year, the Washington Post's Penny Pincher of the Year Contest has a new focus. The Post is looking for unique ideas that not only save money, but also reduce environmental impact. Send your best energy, water, or waste-saving penny-pinching story to the Post and you could win a cash prize and have your idea published. You can nominate yourself, a family member, friend, relative or co-worker. Click here for details.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day 7 of National Downshifting Week: Go Global

Friday - Day 7 of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

"Simplify, simplify, simplify…"
Henry David Thoreau

Ahh...and relax. It's been a great first US National Downshifting Week. New partnerships have been forged and strengthened, new people have joined the effort to "Slow Down and Green Up," and attention is finally being paid to environmental concerns on a national scale in the US.

So today's goal for the Downshifting Manifesto was to start something just for me. I hope you do enjoy whatever you choose. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, said, "I went into the woods to live deliberately..." and really that's what voluntary simplicity and Conscious Consuming are all about. Get in touch with your core values, educate yourself, and live (and work, eat, play, and shop) deliberately every day.

The next steps for Downshifting involve working together to make the sustainability message go global. Historically, "native" societies lived sustainably out of the belief that no one could "own" the water or land, anymore than they could own the air. In relatively recent history all of our Earth's resources have been turned into commodities to be bought, sold, and traded. We have to seize the opportunity as economies grow all over the world to embrace the green economy and the message of sustainable living. It's cool to slow down and green up!

Please send your friends a link to our website or blog to help us spread the message! Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto. Thanks for a great first US NDW!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 6 of National Downshifting Week: Eat Locally

Thursday - Day 6 of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Purchased Local Produce from a Farmers Market, Co-op or CSA: Plan in August for local, winter produce.

Summer meals in the garden state of New Jersey are easy. We get to eat a lot of fresh produce, and everything in season is cheap! Fresh, local, blueberries, strawberries, and peaches have been a staple all week. August in NJ is sublime, with fresh tomatoes and Silver Queen corn, but alas, another month to wait. I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which made for great porch reading), about her family's year of eating local produce, and found it very inspirational! I plan to start making my own bread and soft cheeses to augment the fresh produce I already grow and glean from my local farmer's market and CSA.

I have always complained that eating locally only works in temperate climates like California, but I've been inspired by Kingsolver's book to begin to Put Food By. Canning is largely a lost art in metro and suburban US, but I plan to learn. I am starting with blueberry jam!

It's Day 7 of NDW tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 5 of National Downshifting Week: Make it Homemade

Wednesday - Day 5 of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Cooked a Simple Meal Using Fresh, Local Ingredients: Scrumptous, Sustainable Salad!

Eating is a need we have to fulfill every day, and making your own food these days can say a lot about what you value! The rise of convenience foods in the US is astonishing; as the public gets busier and busier, one of the first things we sacrifice is making (let alone growing) our own food. But shopping for, cooking, and eating your own food doesn't have to be a "chore" to be gotten through; it can be a great way to bond with family and friends and spend time together.

I made a delicious salad today full of a variety of salad greens from a local farmer's market. My kids love washing the greens and using the salad spinner. I added strawberries we recently picked at a berry farm together (entertainment, education, and yummy food all in one outing). They always enjoy helping me make home made dressing, because everything goes right into the cruet and we just shake it up at the end. We complimented our salad with fresh bread baked in town (I aspire to bake my own but haven't gotten there yet).

For friendly service with a smile, fresh taste, and your health, buying food from a local farm, CSA, or farmer's market is a big notch up from the supermarket and it won't break the bank. Preparing that food with your family or friends is part of the fun. Now let's eat!

It's Day 6 tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day 4 of National Downshifting Week: Volunteer

Tuesday - Day 4 of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Donated Time or Items to a Worthy Cause: Volunteer

One of the best things about downshifting out of full-time work is that you have time to do all of the things you would like to do "if only you had the time." One of those things for most people is volunteering and giving back to your community.
When I downshifted a few years back, I decided to get involved in helping Conscious Consuming as an organizer, and I also became a local Leader with La Leche League. I devote several hours a month to each cause, and have a lot of fun in the process!

Volunteering also allows you to develop new skills. This year I learned to make and edit an iMovie for Gift it Up, make blog entries, gave a conference presentation to forty people,and helped write a website. I always wanted to write, and now I'm published on the Web (see, you're reading it!).

Volunteering in your community gives you a lot more than you bargained for - what could you do for yours?

It's Day 3 tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Day 3 of National Downshifting Week: Compost, Recycle, Reduce

Monday - Day 3 of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Started Composting or Recycling: What a Load of Rubbish!

The US has among the highest recycling rates in the world, with 35% of municipal solid waste being recycled, according to the EPA. Yet we have a long way to go. The American Forest and Paper Association says that the paper recycling rate in the US was at an all-time high of 51% in 2005, but we recycle only 17% of plastics. According to the National Recycling Coalition, on average Americans purchace 200 plastic bottles each annually, 80% of which end up in landfills. We produce an average of 4.5 pounds of municipal solid waste per person every day.

Recycling is a routine, and is simpler in the US than in other parts of the world. In many communities you can throw all types of paper (including newspaper, magazines, junkmail and office paper) into one bin, and all types of empty food and beverage containers (plastics, tin cans, and glass) into another. Get going if you don't recycle as part of your routine yet!

If you are already an avid recycler, the next thing to tackle is reducing the waste generated in the first place. Instead of buying juice boxes, buy a thermos and a big jug of juice. Place a filter on your tap to eliminate the purchase of single-use water bottles. Purchase in bulk where possible, and avoid "snack size packs."

Composting also goes a long way to reducing the amount of waste you put out for trash collection each week. There are a variety of composting bins and containers availble, but another simple way is to collect uncooked food "waste" (your veggie peelings, fruit rinds, etc) into a big tupperware. At the end of a few days, dig a hole 18-24 inches deep (so you won't attract animals) where you'll plant your future garden, and dump the clippings in, covering the hole. Place holes 6 inches apart. Next year your soil will be rich and ready for planting!

It's Day 4 tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fight or Flight

This article details a rising trend in big box stores across the country -- house sparrows, and other birds, are moving in to stay. These birds have discovered that with large indoor garden centers, bird food in abundance, and a decided lack of predators, the perfect place to nest is inside a Walmart, Lowe's or Home Depot.
I thought this article had some interesting things to say about a series of issues -- nature's adaptation to the changing way in which America shops (stores so big that a bird could live a full, free life inside and never miss the outdoors), the struggle big boxes have in controlling these "pests" (the birds defecate on products and customers, and can be aggressive during mating season, but big boxes don't want to look cruel by shooting the birds, a methodology that would have once been used), and what this trend has to say about shoppers' nature deficit disorder:
"And some customers like a little wildlife above the shelves. "I find it relaxing," said Teresa La Rosa, a Manassas resident browsing through a Home Depot in Prince William County last week. One set of sparrows was romping through the garden center while another, smaller flock had settled indoors above the patio furniture and the stainless-steel gas grills."I don't feel like I'm in a store when I hear them," La Rosa said. "I feel like I'm outdoors, in nature.""
Ironic? Beautiful? I don't know...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Day 2 of National Downshifting Week: Reclaim Your Time

Sunday - Day 2 of NDW UK ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Reclaimed an Hour of Time This Week: Time for a balance of work and play!

Encouraging everyone else to downshift takes a lot of time as I answer emails, try to garner up some publicity for the first ever US National Downshifting Week, and still try to keep a firm handle on the work/life balance. I am technically on vacation, visiting my mother at the beach, and find myself going to the coffeeshop for several hours each day to promote NDW. Luckily, the rest of the day includes long walks on the beach, jumping the waves, and building sandcastles.

I downshifted a few years ago out of full-time work. I was a teacher, and wanted to cobble out a living that would enable me to stay home with my young children during the day. I tutored, watched other kids in my home, and became a yoga teacher, which enabled me to be with my children during the day and earn more money per month than I would have after teaching and paying for full-time day care for two kids.

In the words of Tracey Smith, "it's easy for us to keep our nose to the grindstone, especially when we love what we do, but there's a bigger picture to consider, our mental health and well-being and making time to enjoy our children and partners."

It's Day 3 tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Day 1 of National Downshifting Week: Say NO to Debt

Saturday - Day 1of NDW US ~ What Have You Been Up To?

Cut Up a Credit Card...Say NO to debt!

In the US our savings rate slipped into the negative territory for the first time ever in 2005, and has grown to –1% today. One way to "say no to debt" is to consolidate and eliminate credit card debt.

I confess, I was not always "debt savvy." I graduated college with $3,000 of credit card debt (despite having a waitressing job during the last two years and every summer). Now, this doesn't seem like that much, but for a recent graduate with no job, making the minimum payments was about all I could muster. As anyone who has been in that situation knows, the interest rate quickly escalates and make the original debt miniscule compared with what the borrower pays over time.

Lucky for me, my mom bailed me out and set up an interest free payment plan. I learned my lesson, never missed a payment and have been debt-free (besides mortgage and car payments) ever since. Now I carry one credit card in my wallet and pay the balance in full every month. I cancelled all of my other cards (doesn't it seem like you get a free offer every week?) and don't buy something unless I can afford it. A big ticket item, like a new appliance or couch is SAVED FOR!

If I can't save enough to buy a new one, I can't afford a new one (how's that for the most logical argument you never hear anymore). I barter, sell, or trade my skills for what I need. Check out great websites like Freecycle (where I got all the free gear for my family's pet hamster), Craig's List (where I sold an old tricycle and got a secondhand two-wheeler), and a bartering site.

It's Day 2 tomorrow ~ what are you going to do, to 'slow down and green up'? Click here for a copy of our Downshifting Manifesto.

Monday, July 02, 2007

National Downshifting Week


The USA will soon be celebrating its first National Downshifting Week, an awareness campaign sponsored jointly this year by Tracey Smith, the founder of National Downshifting Week in the UK, and Boston-based nonprofit Conscious Consuming. National Downshifting week is scheduled for July 7-13, 2007 and is designed to help participants "Slow Down and Green Up."

To downshift means to cut out unnecessary expenditure and cultivate a simpler lifestyle with time to do more of the things you want to do. Data from the mid-90's from the Trends Research Institute shows that about 10% of Americans identify with downshifting, voluntary simplicity, and simple living. Duane Elgin, author of several books on voluntary simplicity, calls this a "conservative estimate." While there is a definite trend toward voluntary simplicity, too many Americans sacrifice themselves to their work. According to Lisa Steubing, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time, more than half of Americans will take less than a week's vacation this year.

Smith says, "Downshifting can leave you excited, encouraged and upbeat and can reduce your stress. A positive approach to living with less helps you re-think ways to enjoy time with your loved ones without reaching for your wallet; changes to your spending habits should happen because you want them to."

Donohoe notes that the dates for National Downshifting Week (July 7-13th) were chosen to coincide with the birthday of America's most famous downshifter, Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817). "Modern downshifters don't have to move into a cabin in the woods to simplify their lives, but would to well to stop chasing money and material things. Happiness depends on knowing when you have enough, and spending time doing the things you love to do," says Donohoe. "Downshifters can live deliberately, leave a lighter footprint on the earth, and have even more time with their families and friends."

National Downshifting Week’s slow down top tips are targeted at individuals, companies, and children and schools, and include things like cutting up a credit card and planting a garden. During the UK's 3rd National Downshifting Week in April 2007, almost 11,000 people from 96 countries and 24 American states visited the website. Over the past 3 years, many thousands of visitors have used the The Downshifting Manifesto which allows individuals to print and track their progress on the road to leading a simpler life.

For further details see Downshifting Week and Conscious Consuming.

Susan Donohoe
Boston, MA
Conscious Consuming, Public Relations Coordinator

Tracey Smith
Somerset, UK
Writer and Broadcaster, Sustainable Living

You may reproduce this press release in on your website or in your publication.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blogging Away Debt

Debt can be a grueling burden for many Americans. For those in debt, whether it be from school, mortgages, hospital bills, bad buying decisions, or just plain struggling to get by everyday, can understand what it's like to always have it on your mind all the time.

This woman has found it therapeutic to talk about her debt, and in fact her and her husband have been able to get rid of a lot of it with the support of the online community. Blogging Away Debt records every transaction, thought, and attempt to get rid of debt. Hopefully this continues to work for her and be an inspiration to others!