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.

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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.