Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shadows of Consumption

In this economy and holiday season, we're all thinking about how our consumption is affecting our lives.

Peter Dauvergne, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has a new book linking consumer culture to the environment. Here's the description. Enjoy:

What are the environmental consequences of rising consumption? To answer this, Peter Dauvergne will present his just-published book The Shadows of Consumption (MIT Press), which explores five very different histories: automobiles; gasoline; refrigerators; beef; and harp seals. For centuries, the direct consequences of consuming have been degrading local ecosystems; but, as these histories show, this is just a fraction of the costs. With increasing intensity and range, he will argue, the globalization of “unbalanced” corporations, trade, and financing is casting shadows of consumption, displacing much of the costs of supplying consumers into distant places and times. Such a process of change obscures responsibility for resulting global patterns of harm, stimulates wasteful consumption among the wealthy, and exposes all consumers to health risks. Over time the environmental costs tend to drift into ecosystems and onto people without the power to resist, tipping into crisis, for example, the rainforests of Brazil, the Pacific Ocean, the Inuit in the Arctic, the poor of sub-Saharan Africa, and future generations.

This analysis, he will further argue, helps to explain why so many of the efforts to manage the global environment are failing even as environmentalism is slowly strengthening. Years of consultation are necessary to transform the consequences of consumption. As a way to begin, he will discuss the value of a guiding principle of “balanced consumption,” both for consumers and the global political economy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Still buying organic?

Appetite for organics sours in poor economy
December 19, 2008 - 9:58 PM
CARYN ROUSSEAU
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Market research firm NPD Group said the number of people who reported buying organic products fell 4 percent in August, compared with a year earlier. While more than one in five surveyed in the latest figures available from NPD purchased organic products, the August data represented the first customer losses for the sector since February 2006 - a decline that is expected to accelerate in the months ahead.

Many devotees of organic foods are not willing to cut back...loyalty to the organic foods movement helps explain why Hain Celestial Group Inc. of Melville, N.Y., which owns the Arrowhead Mills, Health Valley and dozens of other organic food and product labels, reported a $7 million profit in the quarter that ended Sept. 30 as sales grew 22 percent.


While I can understand why people want to save money on their grocery bill, my husband and I like to think of our spending on organic food as our "entertainment dollar." We are committed to continuing to buy organic for both personal and planetary health, as well as supporting local growers. We don't go out to eat as much as most families I know, and we put that "take out" budget toward our grocery bill. I also steer clear of packaged dinners and "prepared foods," where you can spend a lot of money very quickly. If you buy what's in season, shop the bulk bins, and cook from scratch, there is no reason to abandon organic foods in tight times.

Food for Thought and Action

From our friends at Grassroots International:

Dear Supporter,

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are looking forward to gathering around the dinner table with friends and family. Why not take this opportunity to share with your loved ones how they can join you in making a difference in the lives of millions around the world who are affected by the global food crisis?

Grassroots International and the National Family Farm Coalition recently published a free online resources called Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum. This collection of education-for-action exercises and factsheets helps us understand how the food system works (and how it doesn't) and offers hopeful alternatives proposed by those most affected. Moreover, it provides a practical way to advocate for food sovereignty as we inform ourselves and those around us.

As we gather around the dinner table, let's not forget about the nearly one billion people around the world now facing hunger. Instead, take this opportunity to share the curriculum with your family, friends, school or faith organization.

During the season of hope and caring, join me in working to fix our broken food system. We can overcome the current food crisis and build a future where family farmers enjoy the right to feed their families, sell in local markets, and care for the environment -- and where consumers have access to healthy, reasonably-priced, local foods. Now that's something to be thankful for!


Monday, December 22, 2008

eCards from 1Sky

If you haven't gotten around to sending out holiday cards yet, or if you were waiting for the perfect time to send an e-card, check out these free e-cards from 1Sky.

Reality Campaign video

Check out this video from We Can Solve It. The Reality Campaign is a joint effort by the Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Commercialization of Childhood Index

If you think the kids in your life have a worse case of the "gimmies" than you had when you were little, here's why:
[these statistics are courtesy of The Center for Commercial Free Children. Incidentally, they (like all other non-profits out there) would love a donation this year.]

$500,000,000,000: The amount of money in purchases that children under twelve influence every year.

$17,000,000,000:  The amount of money spent to market to children, a staggering increase from $100 million in 1983. 

$3,400,000,000:  Revenue generated by the Disney Princess brand in 2006.  There are 40,000 Disney Princess items on the market today.

1,200,000,000:  Toys sold with kids' meals at fast food restaurants in 2006.

20,000,000:  Baby Einstein videos sold by Disney through 2006.  The American Academy of Pediatrics reccomends no screen time for children under two.

200,000:  The acts of violence, including 40,000 murders, that the average child will see on television by the time they are eighteen.

25,000:  Ads on television the average 2-11-year-old sees on television every year, a figure that does not include product placement.

4,151:  The number of product placements on the first thirty-eight episodes of American Idol

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Power of a Happy, Healthy Attitude

I got this email from my old gym today, and thought it was so great that I would pass it along. Remember, it's not stuff that makes you happy, it's the happy people around you!

Happiness Is Contagious
Do you ever wonder whether happy people have something that keeps them cheerful, chipper and able to see the good in everything? It turns out they do, they have happy friends.

New research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California suggests that happiness is influenced not only by the people you know, but by the people they know. The study shows that happiness spreads through social networks, sort of like a virus, meaning that your happiness could influence the happiness of someone you've never even met.

"We have known for a long time that there is a direct relationship between one person's happiness and another's," says study co-author James H. Fowler, PhD, University of California. "But this study shows that indirect relationships also affect happiness. We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends' happiness, but between your happiness and your friends' friends' happiness."

They concluded that the happiness of an immediate social contact increases an individual's chances of becoming happy by 15 percent. The happiness of a second-degree contact, such as the spouse of a friend, increases the likeliness of becoming happy by 10 percent, and the happiness of a third-degree contact, or the friend of a friend of a friend, increases the likelihood of becoming happy by 6 percent.

Surround yourself with happy people, because happy friends can make you happy.
Source: webmd.com

The Green Guide Holiday Eco Tips

National Geographic Green Guide tackles the issue of greening your holidays and has done your research for you - taking the guess work and stress out of the equation and letting you enjoy your holiday season!
 
Here are a few tips from Green Guide:
 
DECORATIING:
Low-energy LED lights are everywhere now and come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and price ranges. Look for them at any store where you are shopping for holiday decorations.
Get creative! Pull the family together, and make your own decorations from gingerbread cookies, cards, origami patterns, ribbons or the old favorite, the popcorn-and-cranberry garland.

SHOPPING: Make sure to buy safe toys - with this February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will ban the use of hormone-disrupting phthalates (used to soften plastics) and will enact tougher-than-ever lead standards.
The good news: Toys "R" Us and other retailers have already started complying with some of the new rules in advance.
The bad news: Since the new law will come after this holiday shopping season, expect deep discounts on toys that don't meet the new safety standards so stores can get rid of the inventory they won't be able to sell after February.
See http://www.thegreenguide.com/products/Kids_&_Babies/Toys for a comprehensive buying guide.

WRAPPING: There are quite a few recycled and tree-free wrapping paper options on the market. However, if you can't find any in your area, consider these options:
Cover a shoe box in this year's recycled gift wrap and use it over and over again every year.
Consider DIY wrap-use newspaper sections chosen to fit the personality of recipient (Travel, Arts, Style, etc.)  Or try using concert posters, t-shirts, or subway maps!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Food Democracy Now

Michael Pollan sent the following email to his subscriber list:
More than 40,000 people have signed the petition calling for a "sustainable" Secretary of Agriculture, and it's gotten the attention
of President-Elect Obama's transition team. 100,000 would REALLY turn their heads, so if you haven't already signed, or passed it on to other people interested in reforming the food system, please click here:
www.fooddemocracynow.org

Be sure to check out and sign the Food Declaration too. There's a political opening RIGHT NOW and we need to seize it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Story of Stuff goes international

It's already been a year since the launch of The Story of Stuff - a tour through the materials economy that became an internet viral sensation. Now we've got something new to celebrate: The Story of Stuff has gone international and multi-lingual:

According to The Story of Stuff website:
Four and a half million English speakers have seen The Story of Stuff, but until now, the rest of the world has been left in the dark. There's no better time than the holidays to remind ourselves that happiness does not come from stuff, but from the riches of community connection and empathy for our planet and its living creatures. We hope you will get a little more happiness from sharing this message with your friends around the world: www.storyofstuff.com/international/

Happy Holidays from Story of Stuff. If you don't find your language, and would like to help translate, please email us at: sostranslations@gmail.com
"Subject line: Offer to translate: your language"
Or for general enquiries:  storyofstuff@gmail.com
The 25 countries with the highest numbers of online viewers are listed below, with the number of views recorded in each.
1.    United States     2,627,202
2.    Canada     600,312                 
3.    United Kingdom     135,477                 
4.    Australia     100,454                 
5.    Mexico     98,384                 
6.    Germany     95,794                 
7.    Israel     84,897                 
8.    Brazil     83,037                 
9.    India     66,330                 
10.    Spain     60,624                 
11.    Portugal     46,427                 
12.    France     45,422                 
13.    Netherlands     43,971                 
14.    Romania     43,891                 
15.    Argentina     33,352                 
16.    Sweden     32,500                 
17.    Italy     31,648                 
18.    Singapore     27,105                 
19.    Turkey     24,746                 
20.    New Zealand     23,045                 
21.    Colombia     22,147                 
22.    Switzerland     21,673                 
23.    Belgium     19,927                 
24.    Austria     19,147                 
25.    Greece     17,08

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Faces of Renewable Energy

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a new great website dedicated to showing the Faces of Renewable Energy.

Too often we talk about these highly technical and detailed issues of climate change and energy, and we forget that real people are actually behind these amazing feats of innovation.

Learn more about the people behind renewable energy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Top 10 Alternative Gifts for the Holidays

We put our heads together and created this list of alternative gifts for the holidays:

1) Charitable donation in a loved one's name. Visit Alternative Gifts International or your favorite non-profit's website to buy a gift on-line, or visit The Center for a New American Dream's website to see if there is an alternative gift fair in your area. You might talk with your family about pooling your money (everyone makes the same contribution) and donating it to a charity you all feel strongly about.

2) Give the gift of your time. The Buy Nothing Christmas website has cute coupons your can download for "2 Desserts made especially for you", "3 back massages especially for you," and "One free evening of child care." Or of course you can make your own for whatever you might be able to give.

3) Give experience gifts. Offer to take a child in your life for a day of sledding and hot chocolate, ice skating, swimming, or a drive/bus ride to someplace special.

4) Hold a literary Christmas. One of our readers submitted this idea: her family has agreed to each bring one of their favorite books that they've already read and have a book swap instead of exchanging high priced gifts.

5) Give something you already own. One of our members has a yearly ritual with his family where each person wraps up something that has meant a lot to them over the past year and passes it on to someone else in the family.

6) Make something special with your own two hands. Whether you are a knitter, a baker, a painter, or a music maker, your loved ones will appreciate your talents and the way you have shared them with others.

The following gifts are not exactly alternative in that you do have to buy some stuff, but they beat "Big Box" gifts:

7) Frame a photograph of an experience you've had with loved ones over the past year.

8) Give a museum or an aquarium membership to someone (this is the gift that keeps on giving).

9) Give a share in a CSA. Most of these memberships are way too expensive for one person to buy, but some farms will let you spend $30, $50, or $100 toward the CSA share.

10) Give other ecological gifts: rechargeable batteries, a solar powered flashlight, and/or LED lights are all examples of planet-friendly gifts.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Announcement: Gift It Up!

Gift it Up!
We are sorry to report that we are unable to hold our alternative gift fair, Gift it Up!, this year. Although our website is still up, it is disabled at this point. We are hoping to get back on track next year, so that we can continue to raise thousands of dollars for small non-profits, and spread the idea of alternative gifting, conscious consumerism, and sustainability.

Alternative Gifting
Even though we are not offering Gift it Up!, you can still give alternative gifts. Check out our blog on Alternative Gifts for the Holidays at http://blogspot.consciousconsuming.com for a great list, and please email us or post a comment about other ideas you may like to add. You can also visit Alternative Gifts International at http://www.altgifts.org to make a web donation to a non-profit in a loved one's name. If you'd like to attend a physical event, visit The Center for a New American Dream's registry of alternative gift fairs at http://www.newdream.org/holiday/altgift.php

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dr. Juliet Schor on NOT spending our way to an improved economy

The Center for a New American Dream recently featured Dr. Juliet Schor as a guest blogger in an essay entitled, "Forget commercialism! The new realities of consumption and the economy."

Here's the opener, but please click on the link below to read the full article. It's well worth 5 minutes of your time.

Spending our way to prosperity? Not this time around.

As a “New Dream” economist, I am asked all the time: won’t consuming less hurt the economy? When there’s less spending, people get laid off, their incomes fall and businesses, especially small ones, go bankrupt. This question is especially urgent today, given that the recession is deepening and spreading. George Bush was widely (and rightly) criticized for suggesting shopping as the patriotic response to 9/11. Would Barack Obama be wrong if he suggested the same?

Short answer: Yes. But with this topic, there’s rarely a short answer. So here’s the longer one
.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fresh Food from Small Spaces

Check out the new book,Fresh Food from Small Spaces by R. J. Ruppenthal - Chelsea Green

It's a comprehensive look at producing at least 20% of your food supply using fermentation (yogurt and kefir), sprouting, vermicomposting, and container gardening in an urban setting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Power-Sucking Video Games

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently released results of the first comprehensive study to measure electricity use of gaming devices like XBox and Playstation, and the results were grim. Unless the consumer enables the automatic shutoff feature (similar to the "sleep" feature on your computer), these devices can use more energy than all of your kitchen appliances combined! You can click here for directions on turning on the automatic shutoff feature. Even if you're not a gamer yourself, please talk to those neices and nephews of yours over Thanksgiving to tell them about this important way to save energy!

Here is an excerpt from the article; please visit the NRDC website for more information.

Today, more than 40 percent of all homes in the United States contain at least one video game console. Recognizing that all that gaming could add up to serious demand for electricity, NRDC and Ecos Consulting performed the first ever comprehensive study on the energy use of video game consoles and found that they consumed an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year -- roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego. Through the incorporation of more user-friendly power management features, we could save approximately 11 billion kWh of electricity per year, cut our nation's electricity bill by more than $1 billion per year, and avoid emissions of more than 7 million tons of CO2 each year. In this November 2008 issue paper, NRDC provides recommendations for users, video game console manufacturers, component suppliers and the software companies that design games for improving the efficiency of video game consoles already in homes as well as future generations of machines yet to hit the shelves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CA modernizes food animal production

From our friends at UCS:

California voters pass initiative to modernize food animal production

A California ballot measure aimed at improving food animal production practices passed by a wide margin on November 4, signaling an important shift away from the worst practices at CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Proposition 2 will phase out the use of battery cages for egg-laying chickens, gestation crates for sows, and crates for veal calves by requiring that these animals have sufficient living space to turn around, stand up, lie down, and fully extend their limbs. CAFOs, which often use crates and cages to crowd too many animals into too small an area, create unnatural and unhealthy conditions that lead to costly air and water pollution, reduced property values in neighboring communities, and antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans. Proposition 2 is an important step in promoting a modern approach to agriculture that is productive, more healthful, and humane, and its passage is likely to have national implications. Read more from the Los Angeles Times, or download the UCS issue briefing The Hidden Costs of CAFOs (pdf).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Go HDTV-Free (or at least, lessen the impact)

Well you might have TV envy when you visit friends who have upgraded to HDTV's. Personally I don't see much of a difference with the picture, and I feel a bit like I'm caught in the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" when I hear people raving over the picture quality. My eyesight's not perfect, so maybe that's it. Or maybe it's that I'm happy with "good enough," and I remember too well the black and white TV we had when I was little. At any rate, in case HDTV envy gets the best of you, read this month's issue of Greentips, from The Union of Concerned Scientists.

The article sums up the recommendations with:
Choose the most efficient technology (which at this time is DLP, or digital light processing, not LCD or plasma).
Choose Energy Star-rated models (which can save 30% energy, or more).
Even if you’re not in the market for a new TV, reduce the energy being consumed by your current TV:

Unplug the TV when it is not in use. TVs that have a standby mode continue to draw power even when turned “off.” 
Turn off the “quick start” option (if applicable). Just by waiting a few more seconds for the TV to warm up, you can significantly reduce standby power consumption. 
Turn down the brightness settings. Many LCD TVs also have a backlight setting that is often set in stores to be brighter than necessary for most home environments. 
Buy an Energy Star-rated digital-to-analog (DTA) converter box if you own an analog TV and do not plan to upgrade to digital by February 2009. According to the EPA, if all analog TV owners used Energy Star converter boxes, global warming pollution would be lowered by an amount equivalent to taking a million cars off the road.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Xcel Energy's Top 10 Winter Energy Saving Tips

I live in Colorado, where I am fortunate the get my gas and electric from Xcel Energy, the largest wind provider in the country (which, let's face it, still isn't saying much at this point; they generate about 9% of their power from renewables; that's wind, biomass, and solar combined). Xcel is a national leader in renewable energy production, and recently announced plans to invest $1 billion in wind farms and biomass production in the Midwest.

Xcel offers consumers a list of "Top 10 Winter Energy Saving Tips." From their website:

Reward yourself and save energy while maintaining your home comfort-level. If these are things you do already, challenge yourself to take the next step. The following are 10 easy tips that are divided among “no-cost, low-cost, and ‘go-big’ (investment)” decisions. So, go on, give them a try!

No Cost

1. Set your water heater to 120°.
It’s simple. Your hot water heater won’t have to work so hard if it’s set at a lower temperature. The temperature control settings on water heaters either indicate “low, medium, and high” or actual temperature settings. Simply consider turning down your water heater to a slightly cooler setting to reduce the amount of energy used to heat the water while still keeping the water warm enough for home use. In fact, each time you lower the temperature by 10°F you’ll save 3–5% on your water heating costs. That’s a savings of $6-$10 a year. *

2. In the winter, to make the most of what Mother Nature gives us—sunlight
Open drapes on south-facing windows to warm your home. Consider closing drapes in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close drapes to retain heat. Up to 15% of your heat can escape through unprotected windows, but the solar heat gain from the sun during the day can conserve valuable energy.

3. Start by setting your thermostat to 68°
Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. Turn your thermostat down 5° at night or when leaving your home for an hour or more to save up to $70 on energy costs each year.**

4. If you have a clothes washing machine, use cold water.
Washing clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year.
Low Cost

5. Replace your furnace or heat pump filter regularly.
Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it is a high efficiency filter designed to last several months) during the heating season to reduce heating costs by up to $35 a year.

6. Install a programmable thermostat.
It’s a cinch. A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts your home's temperature settings when you're sleeping or away. Using a programmable thermostat can save you as much as 10%, or $70 a year.

7. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets.
It really helps! 1.8 gallon per minute showerheads can reduce your hot water consumption by as much as 10%. You’ll see savings up to $6 per year for a sink faucet aerator and $20 per year for a showerhead.

8. Switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.
They cost a little more, but you can save about $50 over the life of just one bulb.
Go Big

9. Weatherize and insulate older homes.
This saves up to 20% of your heating and cooling costs. A handy homeowner can seal up holes to the outside by weather-stripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along the home’s foundation. The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. Other effective places to add insulation include unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces. Insulating walls can be more complex, so check with a contractor for advice. The average home can see a savings of $140 a year.

10. Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances.
A smart choice. Appliances and electronics really contribute to your energy bill. When it is time to replace, remember items like refrigerators, washers, TVs and computers have two price tags--purchase price and lifetime energy cost. According to ENERGY STAR, the average homeowner spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year. Change to appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, and you can save $75 a year in energy costs, while saving the environment.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The We Campaign for Climate Change

Tell President-elect Obama that you support bold action come January:
http://www.RepowerAmerica.org/page/s/obamapetition




Now's not the time for small steps or a narrow focus. It's time to go big. Our challenges are large and are deeply connected. As Al Gore has said, "We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change." With a bold plan, we can make that change in 10 years. In fact, only a bold plan will cut through the special interest politics in Washington and inspire the nation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

On Exhibit in DC - Green Community

The National Building Museum in Washington, DC recently opened an exhibit called "Green Community" where people can see how communities worldwide are creating more sustainable futures through smart planning and design. The exhibit is free and runs through October 2009. The museum is also hosting a "Sustainable Communities" lecture series starting in January.

I haven't been to the exhibit yet, but was intrigued by a little factoid in the Washington Post's review - did you know that Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the White House in 1978? And that Ronald Reagan had them removed? Who knew?!?

There's a review of the exhibit in the Washington Post's Weekend Section from last Friday.

The Bright Side, by Fareed Zakaria

I haven't written much about the economic problems that have struck our country since last summer. So many people have been covering the news so well, and I knew that people who are already into voluntary simplicity wouldn't be as affected as people who finance things they can't afford. However, I would like to call your attention to some facts and articles about this phenomenon, so here's a quote from "The Bright Side," by Fareed Zakaria, published in the October 20, 2008 issue of Newsweek:

Two decades of easy money and innovative financial products meant that virtually anyone could borrow any amount of money for any purpose. If we wanted a bigger house, a better TV or a faster car, and we didn't actually have the money to pay for it, no problem. We put it on a credit card, took out a massive mortgage and financed our fantasies. As the fantasies grew, so did household debt, from $680 billion in 1974 to $14 trillion today. The total has doubled in just the past seven years. The average household owns 13 credit cards, and 40 percent of them carry a balance, up from 6 percent in 1970.


Zakaria goes on to compare how the government has been even less restrained with its spending habits than the American consumer. He suggests that increased regulation of our financial system, rather than stagnating growth, will give our country the discipline, stability, and security that we so desperately need. He doesn't make that comparison to individual spending as well, but it makes sense. The more people regulate their spending, by creating a budget and having the discipline to stick to it, the more secure and stable their financial houses will be. As evidenced on the news, people are indeed cutting consumer spending and increasing savings. The news reports this as gloom and doom for the economy. Can't they see the brighter side?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

MA Students begin Eating Locally

Well this is a very late report, but did you know Massachusetts held it's first annual "Mass Harvest Week for Students" in September of this year? I didn't, but I'm delighted nonetheless. This is from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources website:

"From kindergarten to college, interest in serving locally grown foods in cafeterias is increasing in Massachusetts and throughout the northeast U.S. Feeding locally grown foods to students can be a good way for food service directors to improve the nutritional value and taste of school meals, while supporting the local economy. Selling local products to schools can be profitable for Massachusetts growers who are looking for a new way to connect with local consumers."

For a great list of schools that are working on procuring at least some produce locally and seasonally in metro Boston, visit the Farm to School Network. You can also find information there about how to volunteer there to get your own local school on the path to sustainability.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Boston Apparel Company Joins Fair Trade Federation

On October 16, Just Apparel (JA), a new project with an innovative approach to fair trade, was accepted as a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF). JA partners with an artisan's association in Guatemala to produce custom apparel for organizations, businesses, and individuals. Our partner artisans use traditional techniques to embroider polo shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags.

Based in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, JA is working to bring economic opportunity to a community burdened by a devastating mudslide in 2005 and by a thirty-six year internal armed conflict. Founder and director, Heidi McAnnally-Linz says, “In light of the dramatic consequences we’ve seen from unethical business practices around the world, it’s about time for a business model with ethics at its core. Consumers are ready for this idea.”

JA's products are manufactured in a local family workshop and hand-embroidered by the women of the Ropa Justa artisan’s association. The women earn up to four times the prevailing local wage for handicraft production. As JA Partner Artisan
Maria Reanda Pacach says, "When we get an order, we all get together at the office to have fun, laugh, and of course, work. When we work for Just Apparel, we get paid enough!"

The Fair Trade Federation is a trade association dedicated to strengthening and promoting North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. Their support will allow JA to expand its outreach and change the lives of even more partner artisans. To learn more about Just Apparel and our partner artisans, or to place an order, visit www.justapparel.org.
Customers can buy plain text goods on the website or contact customerservice@justapparel.org with their logo for custom logo orders.

Just Apparel is a not-for-profit initiative of the International Humanitarian Foundation (IHF). The IHF has been promoting partnership-driven community development around the world since 2003. For more information, visit www.internationalhf.org.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bike-to-School Program Expands; thanks, Trek!

Trek Bicycle Corporation -- through its 1 World 2 Wheels(SM) initiative -- has made a major grant to Freiker, Inc., a bike-to-school program based in Boulder, Colorado. Freiker, short for "FREquent bIKER," will use the grant to expand its wildly successful program to communities and school systems hungry for a proven approach for getting kids to ride bikes as the primary method of getting to school.

"With Trek's support, we'll be able to expand into more communities across the country resulting in more riding, fewer car trips, and healthier kids," said Zach Noffsinger, Freiker's Executive Director. "Trek is to be commended for making a no-strings-attached gift -- they share our vision and we're grateful for their support."

Freiker plans to use the grant to expand nationwide. They have started this year off by adding a middle school in Eugene, OR, and a high school in Madison, WI. Visit their website to see if the Freikometer is right for your school. Since my daughter went to one of the pilot schools here in Boulder, Crestview Elementary, I can personally attest to how well Freiker works. The solar-powered Freikometer counts student riders (and this year, walkers too!) with an individual number tag that attaches to their helmet. This alone was enough motivation for my daughter; but to top it off, they offer prizes at the end of the year based on the number of rides completed by each child. The Freiker program builds good habits: that biking is good exercise, good for the planet, good for community, and good in almost all kinds of weather. Check out their website today! They will also gladly accept a donation to their program if you believe in the benefits of biking.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another kind of conscious consuming

Here is a guest blog post submitted by Erik Braunitzer of The DUI Foundation:

Despite global problems like war, climate change, poverty, and education, there are issues that are placed on the back burner, which affect us as Americans on a daily basis. Drinking and driving, one of the most hazardous problems in society today, has actually taken a turn for the better over the past couple decades. With new laws, zero tolerance, and strict police enforcement, drivers are becoming gradually more wary of entering a vehicle under the influence. However, the percentage of accidents due to inebriation has only statistically decreased 10 percent since 1982. This is positive, but could use much improvement. Advocacy for the issue has also become stronger, especially from influential groups on the web. In particular, the New York DUI Foundation made presented itself as a net authority no more than a few months ago.

The New York DUI Foundation’s sole purpose is to demote the ideology of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, or any other drug for that matter, and to lessen the occurrence of such incidents. What drivers today don’t understand is, even though they’ve only consumed a glass of wine or two, they just raised their risk level for encountering a potential accident. In New York, groups such as “I’m smart” have arisen to subdue the desire every person has to enter a vehicle after drinking. "I’m smart" actually provides a year’s membership for only 90 dollars. Drivers can drive to wherever they may consume alcohol, and then later are picked up by an “I’m smart” driver, who is accompanied by another in order to operate the member’s vehicle.

The DUI Foundation supports such groups as "I’m smart," and especially advocates the use of public transportation. Buses are an excellent means of travel after a night of drinking. In accordance, DUI Foundation supports green activities or ideals such as green buses and green or fuel efficient cars. It is in everybody’s best interest to promote these modern day marvels and increase world knowledge of the progressively damaging usage of fossil fuels and other environmentally detrimental materials.
The New York DUI Foundation supports public green transportation and brick and mortar foundations such as I’m Smart and wishes to congratulate those who pursue such great endeavors. Those prosecuted for a DUI or DWI are at the mercy of the judicial system, which is usually not tolerant of drinking and driving. Drivers are warned; drinking and driving under the influence isn’t worth the agony put forth upon friends and family. Remember to stay sober and buckle up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Big Plans for a Sustainable Energy Future

By now you might have heard about some new plans to move us toward a more sustainable energy future that will decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Sounds like these plans can't be implemented fast enough, as the world's carbon emissions actually increased by 3% over the past year, which surpassed the expectations of top scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Google.org (the philanthropic side of Google) has unveiled a plan to move the U.S. to a clean-energy future. The vision, according a recent report on Grist:

In 2030, electricity will be generated not from coal or oil but from wind, solar, and geothermal power. Energy demand will be two-thirds what it is now, thanks to stringent energy-efficiency measures. Ninety percent of new vehicle sales will be plug-in hybrids. Carbon dioxide emissions will be down 48 percent. Getting there will cost $4.4 trillion, says the plan -- but will recoup $5.4 trillion in savings. The Clean Energy 2030 plan would require ambitious national policies, a huge boost to renewables, increased transmission capacity, a smart electricity grid, and much higher fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles.


And then there is the Picken Plan. We have written about it before, and he's doing a great job of educating people about the issues of energy security thanks to media buys and loads of press coverage. The Pickens Plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20% of our nation's electricity and allow us to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports within 10 years. You can read all about The Plan here, or can visit the website to sign a petition to ask the Candidates to be more specific about their energy policies, or enter a climate video contest.

Sustainable Building Supply Showroom opens in Newton

This was submitted by Bob Ryan, Manager of Terrene in Newton:

We are pleased to invite you to the VIP Grand Opening of Newton’s first Sustainable Building Supply Showroom – Terrene of Newton. It is our goal to provide the highest-quality green building materials to meet the needs of any homeowner, builder, architect or designer, and we’d like you to come to our showroom and experience first-hand how easy, affordable, and beautiful it can be to go green.

Where: 275D Centre Street Newton, MA - in Centre Plaza
When: Thursday November 6, 2008
Refreshments all day
Ribbon cutting ceremony @ 4PM

After extensive research and consideration we have assembled this collection of the finest green interior finish products available anywhere.
Natural fiber floor coverings - cork, reed, mountaingrass, wool.
Wood Flooring- Cali Bamboo -the highest quality bamboo on the market, Carlisle - The BEST Wide plank FSC certified wood floors.
Sustainable Wood Cabinetry –Terrene Custom (our signature custom line), Grasswood (Bamboo), Fieldstone.
Countertops - IceStone (Recycled glass & concrete), Paperstone (recycled paper), Teragren Bamboo Butcher Block.
Tiles - Sandhill 100% recycled glass, Fireclay (Artisan-made from recycled materials), Terragreen, Ecocycle.
Paint - COMPLETELY non-toxic AFM Safecoat paints & stains, and finishes

These are only some of the products we carry. Our showroom displays them all, and our experienced staff is ready to assist you. We are NOW OPEN weekdays 9-5, Saturdays 9-1 or call (617) 244-6200 or visit www.terrenellc.com.
         
Directions:
From Boston:
I-90 -MassPike West to Exit 17
Go Right off of exit onto Centre Street. Get in left lane and take a Left into our parking lot after the light at the Bertucci’s.

From points West:
I -90 Mass Pike East to Exit 17
Go around the rotary (left) and continue down Centre Street. Get in left lane and take a Left into our parking lot after the light at the Bertucci’s.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Neighborhood Photography Project

Common Boston is planning a photo project exploring the neighborhoods of our common points: Chinatown, Fort Point Channel, Forest Hills, and Peabody Square. We will be meeting folks who take active roles in their communities and or have steeped traditions in their areas in a quest to illuminate what architecture and design means to them. If you are interested in participating or would like to help make this project happen, please e-mail info@commonboston.org.

Halloween costumes

According to the Green Guide, American spend upwards of $5 billion on Halloween -- that’s a lot of money, and a lot of waste for one night! With the economy tightening everyone’s purse strings, National Geographic’s Green Guide has some tips for a frugal, safe, and green Halloween:

Save money and waste by making costumes yourself, using things already available in your closet.
Participate in a costume swap with friends or other families in your neighborhood.
Avoid buying a makeup set for face painting – many have chemicals that can seep toxins into your skin. Instead use Zinc Oxide or natural makeup.
Give out candy made with organic sugar or Fair Trade chocolate.

I have two kids of my own, and can attest to how much "home-made" costumes have gone out of favor. My girls don't want to be the only ones in class looking different, despite MY values. Luckily I am a firm believer in hand-me-downs and am a frequent lurker on Craig's list. While I haven't had much luck getting my kids to wear home-made costumes of the sort I would throw together (in the absense of sewing skills I rely on my glue gun), we have been both the recipients and the givers of gently used costumes from both friends and strangers.

This year my oldest wanted to be a pioneer girl like Laura Ingalls; after searching the web I found my options were a beautiful hand-sewn 100% cotton dress (that cost $70!!!!), or a 100% polyester made in China dress for $25. Not good options. After talking to some friends about it, within the week I had an offer to borrow a costume from a neighbor who had hand-sewn her own (now older) daughter's pioneer dress. How fortuitous!!!

To the above recommendations, I would also add buying or making costumes out of all-natural materials like cotton that you know will get a lot of play in the dress up box: pirates, cowboys/cowgirls, doctor coats, and princesses come to mind. After several years of play, your investment will pay off, only to be enjoyed by other children when you donate it via Freecycle or your local secondhand shop. Happy Halloweening!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Earthworks needs volunteers for garden work

From Ben Crouch at Earthworks Boston (if you're in the area, please help them out):

Help us build new garden beds at the Russell School in Dorchester to support our Outdoor Classroom Program at the School. On Sunday, November 2, we are searching for up to 12 volunteers to help build and fill two garden beds for school kids to plant flowers and other perennials.
 
Not only will this help to improve the look and feel of the public school's exterior, but it will also add places to explore and study in the schoolyard. The schoolyard already boasts an orchard with pie cherries, apples and hazelnuts. The flowers will help to attract beneficial insects to improve the health of the trees and quality of the harvest.
 
Please call or write if you are interested in signing up. The project will start at 12:00pm, and, depending on turnout, will take from 2-4 hours. 
Benjamin Crouch
City Fruit Program Director
617-442-1059

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Umbra comes to a screen near you

One of my absolute favorite green advice columnists, Umbra Fisk, recently took her advice to a new medium--Grist TV. Check out her first episode here. You can sign up for weekly RSS feeds or download her clips to iTunes. How fun!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Canadians launch One Million Acts of Green

The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, Canada’s late-night talk show, and Cisco are partnering to spearhead a massive, nationwide environmental movement. This fall, CBC and The Hour will mobilize Canadians to commit One Million Acts of Green. In partnership with Cisco, and the power of their ‘Human Network Effect’ the collective goal is to change how we live and how we treat the planet, one act at a
time.

It’s not about overhauling your life; it’s about one act from each individual amassing to a million. Maybe it’s switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, making the decision to walk or bike to work, or to buy locally grown organic food. It can be as simple as recycling your cell phone or as ambitious as building a green roof space. One small
thing can have a huge impact. Young and old, parents and kids, small towns and big cities, The Hour wants Canadians to take action for the sake of the environment.

All Canadians have to do is commit one act of “green” (or more), then register the act. There will be a highly interactive One Million Acts of Green (OMAoG) website where anyone can log their acts and see an immediate impact via an extensive green calculator designed by GreenNexxus. The site will also be a hub of information about OMAoG, and will serve as an educational resource of “green” content. Registrants will be able to learn more, inspire and challenge others to act.

The campaign officially kicks off on Tuesday October 21, 2008 and will run over The Hour's entire upcoming season, through to June 2009. George and The Hour will unite with other CBC programs to 'go green,' including CBC News, Kids’ CBC, Steven & Chris, Living, CBC Sports and others. The call is out to get everyone involved: politicians, celebrities, athletes, business, schools and universities. Everyone. OMAoG has recruited some big time ‘environmental’ partners who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us for the duration of the campaign: Clean Air Foundation, The David Suzuki Foundation, Earth Day Canada, Environmental Defence, Evergreen, Green Street (managed by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation) and The Climate Project Canada are all non-profit, ENGO’s. They are results-based, community-centred and absolute authorities on what it takes to get to ‘green.’ Their support and commitment to OMAoG is invaluable.

The Hour is the only talk show in Canada that, night after night, delivers the best conversations with an incomparable line up of guests. The Hour has featured some of the leading environmentalists in the world and key issue makers from the likes of: Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Sir Richard Branson, Bjorn Lomborg, Dr. Jane Goodall, Tim Flannery, Terri Irwin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger - making The Hour a perfect vehicle to take this topic and this challenge direct to Canadians.

OMAoG exemplifies what Canadians do best, being a part of a collective. To be bigger than the individual, and to see what can be achieved by working together in a human network, is intrinsically Canadian. The goal is set: the challenge is on to make our lives, our communities, and our environment greener. One Million Acts of Green, one act at a time.

ONE MILLION ACTS OF GREEN - WEB LINKS TO PARTNERS:
Cisco
Clean Air Foundation
David Suzuki Foundation
Earth Day Canada
Environmental Defence
Evergreen
Green Street
The Climate Project - Canada
GreenNexxus

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eco T-shirt by Jay Trainer Band

Ethan Ethan Kanat, Director of Sound + Vision at Tough Customer submitted this guest note:
"We are working with Artful Change, a social action network that uses the power of art and music to help raise awareness for environmental causes, to design an environmental awareness t-shirt. Artfulchange.org is run by Jay Trainer, a singer/songwriter from San Francisco who is working closely with Greenpeace and several local organizations on issues such as sustainable living, global warming and wildlife conservation."

The shirts are a light cream color with a green and black iconographic design that appeals to music lovers and environmentalists; you can see them here. The shirts are made of 100% certified organic cotton, printed using water-based inks, and made without sweatshop labor. Best of all, 50% of all proceeds from the sale of the shirts go to environmental charities. Next time you need a t-shirt for yourself or as a gift for a friend, perhaps you'd consider a sustainably made one that supports environmental causes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Invite the President-Elect to the UN's Climate Change talks

You may have heard of 350.org, which was formed as a result of the great success of Bill McKibben's Step it Up campaign. 350.org is working to spread the message that to combat the worst effects of climate change, we have to roll back carbon emissions so that our air contains no more carbon dioxide than 350 parts per million. The solutions to global warming need world-wide attention and support. As you know, rather than having US leadership, world leaders have been forging ahead as the US has been dragging its feet (we were the ONLY industrialized nation not to sign the Kyoto protocol).

Well our new President has a chance to become a leader on the issue of climate change, by attending the UN Climate Meetings in Poland this December. 350.org's latest campaign hopes to help him along, by sending out 35,000 invitations to the President-Elect in the coming weeks. They have already reached a target of 20,000...will you stop by their site and cast an invite yourself?

Thanks! Let's hope it works. So far, neither Obama nor McCain have agreed to attend the talks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

EcoAmerica's Climate Values Survey

The American Climate Values Survey assesses contemporary climate and environmental values and motivations to provide information and insights to advocates who want to increase the effectiveness of their efforts. It is an Ecoamerica project, sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Department of Conservation of the State of California, NRDC, and The Nature Conservancy.

According to the Survey report:
Public support remains a strategic gap and grave weakness in achieving effective
climate solutions. This problem is complicated by the unfathomably huge, distant, abstract and complex nature of global warming and exacerbated by legacy carbon interests using sophisticated consumer marketing. Those interests spent a staggering $208 million in advertising in the first half of 2008 to influence public opinion. Climate action advocates barely compete in this arena.

While 73% of Americans believe that global warming is happening, only half (54%) of Republicans believe it is real, compared with almost all (90%) Democrats surveyed. Similarly, 34% of Republicans think “global warming is not a problem,” versus 7% of Democrats.


It sounds like the carbon lobby is getting it's money's worth in terms of confusing people about the reality of global warming. The ACVS provides a roadmap for people (like us) to get people motivated to fight for the environment we all share. We have to tie the conversation in to daily life: the cost of heat, gasoline, and food; severe storms; food insecurity. When people see that global warming is having a very direct and measurable effect on their daily lives, they will be willing to bring political and societal pressure to bear on fighting climate change, and join to find individual and collective solutions to our energy, transportation, and food needs. Stay positive, stay upbeat, use facts, focus on building support. Perhaps you can host a Conscious Consuming Discussion series, a "Bike/Bus to Work" Day, a local foods potluck, or a movie screening of an upbeat film like "King Corn." You can also get involved with some of ecoamerica's programs by contacting their Executive Director, Lee Bodner, at lee@ecoAmerica.org.

Clima

Monday, October 13, 2008

Michael Pollan might be my Hero

Have you read Michael Pollan's new open letter to the President Elect on US food policy? He is much more articulate than I am about why what we eat and how we grow it matters so much. Click here for the full article; here is a short quote:
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study.


How 'bout them homegrown organic apples?

Monday, October 06, 2008

BPA and you: alternatives to plastic

In case you have decided not to heed the warnings about bisphenol A, present in the linings of tin cans and polycarbonate (like the colored Nalgene #7) water bottles, this blurb might get you motivated (unfortunately I can't remember the source of this quote...as you might imagine I'm on a fair amount of newsletter lists and I sort of deleted this one by accident):

Ubiquitous chemical bisphenol A is linked to heart disease and diabetes, says research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Food and Drug Administration recently declared that BPA is safe; the new study's release was timed to coincide with a hearing in which the FDA defended that conclusion. For the new study, researchers studied urine samples from 1,455 American adults. BPA was detectable in 90 percent of the samples, though all were within currently recommended exposure levels. However, participants with the highest levels of BPA in their urine had nearly three times the chance of having heart disease than those with lowest exposure, and were 2.4 times more likely to have diabetes. Other studies have linked the chemical to reproductive and hormonal troubles. The new study is the largest to look at the effects of BPA in humans; the FDA relied heavily on industry-funded studies of lab animals. While everyone agrees that more research is needed, many consumers are already trying to avoid BPA by eschewing some plastic bottles, baby toys, and canned foods.


But what to use instead? I recommend cooking the things you might typically buy in cans (soups, beans, etc.) in bulk (like once a month), and then freezing them into "canned" sized portions using glass jars like those sold by the Ball company. You might not be a big cook, and might not use cans anyway, but for those of us cooking family-sized portions this tip will work. Also, switching to glass jars for drinking on the go isn't practical for most of us. A lot of people have switched to Sigg water bottles (including me), bur recently I found out that company won't say either way if BPA is in the lining of it's water bottles (what a bummer). I have heard positive things about Klean Kanteen, which is unlined. At home I recycled all of my plastic-ware from when the kids were really small in favor of little glass juice glasses, which are the perfect size for little hands. When dealing with plastics, I say it's best to exercise the precautionary principle and avoid using them for anything that will be ingested.

Young Consumer's Guide to Eco-Friendly Living

Well just in time for the MySpace generation to lust after the newest trend, the United Nations Environment Program has launched the "Young Consumers’ Guide to Eco-Friendly Living," a new and updated version of the Popular YouthXchange Training Kit.

From Morgan Strecker, of UNEP UNESCO YouthXchange:

How to balance looking cool and feeling cool with the need to combat climate are among the key tips in the new United Nations YouthXchange Training kit. This updated version of the guide also gets to grips with the mountains of waste emerging across the globe as a result of today’s fast throw-away society from mobile phones to fashion.

The 2008 Training Kit on Sustainable Consumption, produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is now in its second edition. YouthXchange is a train the trainer tool that aims to promote sustainable consumption patterns among young consumers worldwide. Among other novelties, this updated guide includes a chapter on how to find a balance between youths’ consumer aspirations of dressing cool and fashionable while at the same time being aware of the impact of their consumption on, for example, climate change.

“YouthXchange is one of the most important youth activities connected to UNEP’s sustainable consumption and production work - it provides us with content that we are able to convey to other young people, empowering them to make different choices in their daily lives and be actors of change,” says Gabriela Monteiro, a UNEP Tunza Youth Advisor.

Young people today establish their identities through what they buy and seek social inclusion by purchasing the newest and “coolest” products on the market. Yet, when unguided, this consumption contributes to problems such as ozone depletion, climate change and hazardous wastes that not only affect our daily lives but impact the entire globe.

Through their daily actions, people can increasingly reduce their environmental impact. Well aware of this, UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) and UNESCO decided to update the 2002 guide to include today’s trends. It provides statistics, case studies, games, examples of companies going greener, and alternatives for more sustainable lifestyles. New to the guide are the following features: a clear link between our consumption patterns and climate change, a more substantial e-waste section, updated data and scientific information and two new chapters: one on the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development and one on fashion. Fashion feeds a growing industry and ranks textiles and clothing as the world’s second-biggest economic activity for intensity of trade[1] <#_ftn1> . However, human rights and the environment pay a heavy price – a price that people can increasingly choose to lessen with the rise of ethical fashion.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Young people in developed and rapidly developing economies can play a massive part in fighting climate change while being cool and keeping the planet cool too”.

“Through their purchasing patterns, life-style choices and networks with schools and universities to clubs, the music scene and sports they can also influence the wider world—influence that will be vital for moving communities, companies and countries to back a new UN climate change deal in Copenhagen’s UN Climate Change Conference in 2009” he added.

“This initiative, which fits within the framework of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014), seeks to raise the awareness of young people and make responsible consumers of them,” said Ko├»chiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO “Buying a product, what ever it is, is never a neutral act for the environment; its production, its use and the management of the waste it generates, all impact – to a greater or lesser degree – on our planet.”

Through YouthXchange, UNEP and UNESCO work together to show young people that it is possible to translate our aspirations for a better world into everyday actions.

YouthXchange has been translated and adapted in 19 languages and is available in a bilingual (English and French) website – www.youthxchange.net.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Colorado Schools Improve School Lunch--Thanks, Ann!

This is a great article about the changes that are happening in Colorado regarding school lunch:
Fresh ideas in the lunchroom
By Kristen Browning-Blas

These changes mirror those around the country, where people are re-thinking whether serving reheated frozen food of questionable nutritional value to school children is doing more harm than good. There is a movement afoot to serve more locally grown food, to develop school and community gardens, and to cook from scratch. Check out Ann Cooper's blog and book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way we Feed our Children for more information.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

We are What We Do: Change the World

We Are What We Do is a movement that started in the UK in 2004. Their aim is to inspire people to use their everyday actions to change the world. Their formula is "small actions X lots of people = big change." They have 2 books published and one American book in progress: "Change the World for 10 Bucks". It seems a lot like Change.org in the US, which is going through a revamp this weekend, and next week will feature blogs on topics like global warming, immigration, and human rights.

This is courtesy of the We Are What We Do website:

We started back in 2004 by bringing together 100 simple, everyday actions that can improve our environment, our health, and our communities and make our planet and the people on it much happier. We believe that if enough of us do these actions we will start to make an impact on some of the biggest problems we are all facing. And in joining together in this way, we will create a new community of like-minded “do-ers”; people united by a belief in the possibility of change and our individual responsibility in making it happen alongside that of governments, corporations and other institutions and networks

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Putting Meat back in it's Place

I wish I wrote this article, but alas, Mark Bittman, The Minimalist, gets the credit. His tips on reducing meat consumption are not based on ethics, carbon awareness, buying locally, or anything...they're just practical. Below is a summary, but I really suggest reading the whole thing by clicking

Putting Meat Back in Its Place
By MARK BITTMAN

1. Forget the protein thing (you'll get enough from beans, nuts, dairy, veggies, and whatever meat you do decide to take in)
2. Buy less meat.
3. Get it out of the center of the plate.
4. Buy more vegetables, and learn new ways to cook them.
5. Make nonmeat items as convenient as meat (by pre-cooking beans, grains, and veggies and storing them in the freezer or fridge for quick dinners mid-week).
6. Make some rules. Depending on your habits, it may be no bacon at breakfast; it may be no burgers at lunch; it may be no fast food, ever...
7. Look at restaurant menus differently.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Edible Landscapes

So planting season is over for this year, and, while some of you may be still enjoying the fruits of the harvest from your gardens and CSAs, most of us are turning our attention to rest...or to planning next year's garden? Here is a good article from Edible Front Range on edible landscapes. While some folks have turned to digging up their lawn entirely for a garden patch, this article talks more about incorporating edible plants into the landscape you are already working with. I would also recommend checking the book Perenniel Vegetables out of the library, so that you can begin to think about some no hassle plantings that will return year after year to provide you and your family with food!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pick Some Apples with Earthworks Boston

Benjamin Crouch, City Fruit Program Director, sends the following request for volunteers in the Boston area:
"The Roxubry Russet apples at the Shirley Eustis House in Roxbury, MA are ready to be picked. Discovered in 1649 in our hometown, this is the oldest known variety of apple grown in the Americas! It is an all-purpose apple with crisp, tart flesh and a refreshing taste.
 
We need your help tomorrow (Monday, the 29th) from 4:30-7:00pm! Please email to sign up or call at 617-442-1059 if you have any questions. We will send you directions and instructions. Most of the harvest will be used for charitable purposes, but each volunteer is welcome to take home a small individual share (5-8 large apples per person). This event is open to all ages.
Thank you!"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

World of Good's Smart Cart Quiz

World of Good just launched a "Smart Cart Quiz," that provides you with some sobering statistics. You should check it out, and email it to your friends to spread the word. Our dollars really can make a difference; even in these tighter economic times, we have a lot more dollars to go around than people in other parts of the world.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lester Brown's Plan B

Here is an excerpt from Lester Brown's book Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble:

It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress. In this situation, no action is actually a decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path.

It is hard to find the words to convey the gravity of our situation and the momentous nature of the decision we are about to make. How can we convey the urgency of this moment in history? Will tomorrow be too late? Do enough of us care deeply enough to turn the tide now?


I know you care deeply enough about it because you are reading this blog. But what are you DOING? To read more of Lester Brown's Plan B 2.0, visit the Earth Policy Institute's website, or get it from your local library. His new book, Plan B 3.0, is available for purchase at the same web site.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

San Francisco plants organic garden at City Hall

So this post isn't necessarily timely in terms of when the story published (August), but it's pretty timely in terms of planning/lobbying/setting up an organizing committee for your own "town hall" victory garden for next summer. In anticipation of the first ever Slow Food Nation event in the US over Labor Day weekend 2008, organizers in San Francisco planted an organic vegetable garden in place of the lawn at City Hall. Read the whole article here.

Last year I read a book about Alice Waters, founder of famed Chez Panisse and organic food visionary, and it detailed her efforts to convince President and Mrs. Clinton to plant an organic garden at the White House during his term. Her idea was rejected, but maybe the next president will enjoy riding the current wave of growing and showcasing local and organic produce. From City Hall to the White House Lawn anyone? Or at least, to your town's common space?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Green Office goes PVC free

If you work in an office, you know it's very hard to avoid products made with PVC. They are in everything from binders, plastic document covers, tape, computer monitors, mouse pads, and paper clips. A company in the Bay Area called TheGreenOffice.com will be removing ALL polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – based products from its inventory in response to growing concerns about its harmful effects to health and the environment. PVC uses and releases highly hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride, dioxins, mercury, phthalates, and other chemicals that have been linked to deterioration of the central nervous system, liver damage, reproductive harm, and certain cancers. This is a big step for The Green Office, as this represents more than 1,500 products in their inventory. We believe it’s the right thing to do and need your help making the PVC-Free Workplace Campaign a success. If you work in an office, please talk with whomever does your ordering and ask them to consider ordering from The Green Office. I'm not sure how their prices compare, but even if they are slightly higher (like when we buy organic food versus conventional food), the benefits to our planet and our personal health are worth it; we have to support leaders in the green economy.

WHAT IS PVC?
PVC is a commonly used plastic used to make many different building, office and consumer products such as vinyl binders. Health and environmental organizations have been raising concerns about the dangers of PVC for many years. In response, major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target are phasing out certain PVC products in favor of safer alternatives.
According to the EPA, “Most vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects (CNS), such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans. Chronic (long-term) exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage. Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans. EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen.”
For more information, please visit the EPA website.
To learn more about the dangers of PVC, visit the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s PVC Campaign website.

WHAT IS THEGREENOFFICE.COM?
TheGreenOffice.com is the only one-stop-shop for office supplies emphasizing sustainable, green products. We offer a full selection of competitively-priced products—each comprehensively ranked by “greenness” using our innovative Green Screen system and shipped via free, next-day, carbon-neutral shipping. TheGreenOffice.com helps businesses become greener by providing practical office greening tips and resources, a Webinar series, sustainability consulting, and Green Office Offsets™ that meet Kyoto Protocol standards. We are a certified B Corporation and Bay Area Green Business and are proud to be an ENERGY STAR Partner and Co-op America Green Business.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vermont family launches GreenFoot car magnets

A homeschooling family in Vermont has launched Go Greenfoot, a campaign to build awareness around reducing one's carbon footprint. They have designed car magnets, available for $6 each or 2 for $10, that announce to the world that you are working to reduce your "footprint."

What started out as a school project to raise environmental awareness has turned into a business for the Emmons family, who created the "Greenfoot" car magnet. David Emmons, his wife Janet, and their three children, Maxson, 19, Katie, 13, and Abbie, 11, are using this project to spread the message of the importance of living “Green”.

As a school project that applied hands-on practical application, the girls were asked to think of a way to raise awareness on the impact an individual's lifestyle can have on the environment and to let people know how easy it can be to reduce a person's carbon footprint. After considering billboards and other ideas, the family decided to work together on creating car magnets. "We all figured it would be something you could see all the time," Janet Emmons said.

The family went right to work. “Our daily life became all about artwork, trademarks, copyrights, packaging, displays, and more artwork, we each had a part to play in this creative process,” David said.

“We determined from the start that we would have everything made locally so that the children would see first hand the positive impact you can have on our own community,” their mother said. With the help of a local print shop to print the package the magnet is sold with and a Hubbardton blacksmith to make displays out of recycled products, the children were able to watch every step of the process.

Through the process the family incorporated school and life lessons in art, marketing, advertising and much more, but what the family learned most was the importance of living green and the impact individuals can have on the world.

"I learned that by doing little things in your daily life, little things like recycling and turning off lights when you leave a room, can really help," Katie said. “I’ve always tried to recycle … but now I really think about things like ‘I should probably turn this off,’” she said. “I’m definitely more aware of it now.”

Maxson said one thing he learned was the effect anyone, including families in small-town Vermont, can have on their world. “It’s been exciting to watch this whole thing take off,” he added.

The lessons learned were exactly what their mother said she had hoped for at the beginning of the project.
”The main thing I wanted them to learn is that they can make a difference. So many times people feel powerless in the world and I think they learned that everybody doing a little can affect the world,” she said.

Since hitting store shelves in June, the “Greenfoot” magnets’ popularity is growing. The family routinely spots the magnets as they travel around Vermont, David Emmons said. Although he said it is exciting to see magnets on what he calls “vehicles of awareness,” the family sees this as the beginning wave of people committing to a lifestyle of living “green”. “Our dream is to raise awareness all across the country,” their father said.

To help make this dream come true, the family has constructed a Web site at www.gogreenfoot.com. The site allows people to share what they are doing to live a “greener” life, get tips on what they can do to help and learn more about the project. You can buy your Greenfoot magnet on the site and storeowners will find information on how to order them for their stores.

Monday, September 22, 2008

We Can Solve It's Green Jobs Now events Sept 27th

This is courtesy of Matt, Lauren, Melissa and the rest of the online team at We Can Solve It:
Join tens of thousands of Americans of all backgrounds for an unprecedented National Day of Action calling for Green Jobs Now to Build the New Economy.

On Saturday, September 27th, the We Campaign, 1Sky, and Green for All will hold events across the country to send the message that it is time to Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years and lift people out of poverty.
September 27th is only one week away, so sign up to host or attend an event today! It's easy and it'll be fun.

The solutions to our climate crisis are simple. Make the switch to clean, renewable energy, end our dependence on fossil fuels, and revitalize our economy. With energy costs and utility bills increasing unchecked, and millions of green collar jobs at stake, there is no time to waste.

We'll be there on September 27th to say it's time to Repower America with Green Jobs Now. Sign up today and join us!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Greenzer: New Green Goods in One Place, and Rated, too!

Greenzer is a new online guide that helps consumers shop for “green” products from online retailers selling eco-friendly items, including Patagonia, Zappos, eBags and GAIAM. 
 
The site also offers green lifestyle content, such as the Daily Greenz blog highlighting green products, services and ideas; buyer's guides to help shoppers find products that are good for them and the environment; and green face-offs, comparing conventional products with a greener alternative.
 
There are 10,000+ products currently offered on the site across ten categories, including apparel and accessories, beauty, pets, babies and kids, electronics, home and garden and travel.  Everything offered on Greenzer.com must meet a minimum green requirement, with select products listing a “Greenzer Score” number. 
 
The “Greenzer Score” uses a proprietary, patent-pending technology to aggregate and weigh a number of factors to determine a product’s “greenness” and give select products a “greenness number” (from 0-10).  The technology uses information generated by Greenzer, third parties like Climate Counts, and manufacturer-supplied information, and looks at a product's overall impact on the environment (i.e. Does it run on rechargeable batteries?), its green attributes (Is it made from recycled materials?  Does it use organically grown materials?), green labels/certifications and the manufacturer's overall green practices.

Next time you buy new (after you've exhausted the second-hand shops, Craigslist and Freecycle, mind you), try out Greenzer.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dig N Swap: on-line clothes swapping

Dig N Swap is up and running! I get all kinds of emails from companies promoting their sustainable fashion lines, believe it or not. Usually I just delete them because I don't think spending $149 for a new hemp shirt is really in line with the "living simply" part of Conscious Consuming. If you want to spend that kind of money on one shirt because it's really what you value, have at it; just don't ask me to promote it for you, you know? The Dig N Swap concept is something different. It builds on the increasing popularity of the clothes swapping phenomenon and takes it to the next level--online. Clothes swapping parties have become all the rage as women look to renew their wardrobe without breaking the bank, but it's not that likely that your friends will have exactly what you're looking for in the size you'll need.

Dig N Swap looks to complement the real-world parties, which are as much about social interaction as they are about clothes, by creating an online community where fashion-conscious women can communicate, share insights, and trade clothes and accessories. Users list items they are looking to trade and accept or decline trade offers from other users. The founder, Li Qiu, has spent the last year talking to women about the features they would like to see in the website, and implementing the insights they have provided in an easy-to-use website which you can visit at www.dignswap.com.

Li Qui is extremely dedicated to sustainable development and to an eco-friendly lifestyle, and she is confident that Dig N Swap contributes modestly to alleviate the pressure on our planet's resources by recycling items that would otherwise be discarded, and by allowing users to acquire new items in an eco-friendly way that encourages reuse and discourages waste.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green Service Provider Directory

The next time you are looking to remodel or renovate in the Boston area, visit the NEXUS Green Service Provider Directory (GSPD). This free resource enables building owners and renters, homeowners, or individuals to quickly find professional services related to green building, green living or sustainable development.

According to the NEXUS website, "The GSPD is not meant to certify or endorse green professionals. Rather, the purpose of the GSPD is to consolidate and publicize information about a service provider's background, such that the consumer is empowered to make an informed decision when selecting a service provider. The intent is to create a resource whereby consumers can evaluate a variety of companies across a range of experience and credentials."

Sounds like conscious consumerism to me!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

News from the Green Roundtable

Many of you requested access to the resources from the event and so we posted the Walk Lightly presentation and a few additional resources on the NEXUS website. There are plenty more resources and some good places to look are:

The Low Impact Living Carbon Calculator to get you started: www.lowimpactliving.com/pages/getting-started/getting-started

The MA Climate Action Network and their Low Carbon Diet Program: www.massclimateaction.org

The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices written by Michael Brower & Warren Leon

For Green Building tips, materials and more visit Building Green: www.buildinggreen.com or

The Green Roundtable’s NEXUS Green Building Resource Center – www.nexusboston.com

For Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust for solar, wind, hydro rebates – www.masstech.org

A list of all the state’s energy efficiency and renewable incentives/rebates available to you: http://www.dsireusa.org

We will be hosting another Walk Lightly – Low Impact Living presentation on October 23rd at 6pm – spread the word.

Please note that NEXUS is now open for weekend hours on the second Saturday of each month. Please keep these events in mind as an opportunity to bring your family, colleagues and/or friends to learn more and spread the energy of all of our green efforts!

Green your home, green your life.

10 am Gain tools to green your home and life,

11 am Attend a class on greening your home,

12 pm Ask a green expert about greening your home, and

1 pm Tour our green office at NEXUS

When Second Saturday of every month, 10 am–2 pm

Where NEXUS, 38 Chauncy St., 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02111

How RSVP at www.nexusboston.com/space/events

Thanks again and please don’t hesitate to contact us with interesting information, comments and suggestions or stories about your greening successes and challenges.

Best,

Phoebe

Phoebe Beierle

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buy It Like You Mean It

Clay Ward from Buy It Like You Mean It sent along this guest blog post: ( Thanks, Clay...we love what you're doing!)

We are ready for a more personal civic engagement than has ever before been possible. We buy organic more than any other generation has and we are starting to buy local. We collaborate with strangers to make software, music, and wikipedia and we share the results freely. If we have not been present at protests or meetings, it is because we have been waiting for a more efficient, personal, and virtually supported civic engagement. In Buy It Like You Mean It we have created just such a tool for real systemic change that responds to and empowers the specific concerns of its users.

The daily process of spending money is the most fundamentally untapped means for individuals in our culture to act on their values. As socially responsible spending carves out newly profitable market shares, advertising is now more "green" than the products it promotes. Convenient access to centralized, trusted, and customized information will be required before consumers can realize the potential for civic engagement that the free market has only promised. Buy It Like You Mean It is beginning to provide that access in a user-centered format.

Buy It Like You Mean It now enables us to collaboratively describe the real world impacts of consumer products. We are starting by focusing on the chocolate industry, reviewing and rate the performance of the manufacturers, packagers, shippers, and retailers that produce chocolate products. Each company's performance is further broken down so that reviews are linked to consumer interest categories like climate change contribution, human rights, or free market policies.

Soon shoppers will be able to send us text messages and emails containing a chocolate product's bar code. Our system will use the stated interests of the shopper to assign the product a score between 1 (very bad) to 9 (very good). Within seconds the shoppers will receive a reply listing the product's score and a list of suggested alternatives.

In this way we hope to:

1. Allow consumers to buy products that support their own unique values.

2. Assist companies in tracking the practices and reputations of links in their supply chain.

3. Reward positive incremental change as companies experiment with socially responsible product lines and subsidiaries.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Buying from an independent business just got easier

Well I know a lot of you already support locally owned, independent businesses. But what if you travel somewhere and want to find an independent coffee shop? Or if you have moved and aren't sure where to find an independent bookseller? Delocator.net was launched with the intention of helping people locate precisely these locally owned, independent businesses across the country (and in Canada and the UK, thanks to the web-meme component of Delocator). There are over 5000 entries in the database so far, and anyone can submit their favorite local and indpendent book stores, coffee houses, and movie theaters in any US zip code. I checked out Boulder and found a list of 25 locally owned coffee houses in my area.

Become active on Delocator.net or Delocator.Mapyourcity.Net and help promote independent businesses across the country!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Green Patriot Posters

If you are an artist or designer, why not try your hand at developing a "Green Patriot" poster to help build awareness about what ordinary people can do to help fight climate change? The Canary Project and its partners are running a campaign to commission poster designs from leading firms and designers and also to solicit other designs through a national competition, beginning in September. You can enter on-line and also vote on the submissions of other artists and designers. Visit the Green Patriot Poster website for more details about the poster competition, or to take action in your community.

Women’s Garden Cycles Bike Tour

Woah! Check out these three awesome women who biked from D.C. to Montreal to raise awareness about local foods. Their story is being turned into a movie as we speak. For now, check out their blog:
Women’s Garden Cycles Bike Tour

Sunday, September 14, 2008

FLOW - Our Water Crisis on the Big Screen

From the Center for a New American Dream:

"FLOW: For the Love of Water", a feature-length documentary directed by Irena Salina, will give you even more reasons to Break the Bottled Water Habit as it traces the story behind mankind's most precious resource: water.

Featuring interviews with scientists and activists who reveal the building global water crisis, the film, a Special Selection at the 2008 Film Festival, introduces many of the governmental and corporate forces behind the use of water resources that are quietly drying up. By making the connections between the corporate structure that has come to control humanity's water supply around the world the film begs the question "Can anyone really own water?"

This documentary and its unforgettable message are coming to locations around the country over the next several months.

Tracey Smith's "The Book of Rubbish Ideas"

Our friend and collaborator Tracey Smith, founder of the UK's National Downshifting Week (renamed International Downshifting Week in 2008), has recently published a book called The Book of Rubbish Ideas. Congratulations, Tracey!!! She also has a great website dedicated to the ideas in the book. Here is a word from her publicist:

Tracey Smith takes you through each and every room in your house and outdoor spaces in this easy reference guide to reducing household waste. From bedroom to bathroom and study to shed, The Book of Rubbish Ideas has a host of tried, tested and inexpensive ideas for cutting through the clutter to reveal a greener and simpler way of life.

Whether you donate your read magazines to the local surgery or start washing your clothes with eco balls, set up a neighbourhood car share for the weekly trip to the shops or make your own natural yoghurt, the book is packed with small changes to make a big difference; to your lifestyle and the environment.

By positively embracing the idea of living with less you can slow down, green up and save money along the way.

Eco-friendly celebs including BBC presenters Penney Poyzer and Brigit Strawbridge (It’s Not Easy Being Green), pop star turned gardener Kim Wilde and top designer Wayne Hemingway give their top green tips. The book is interspersed with sample letters that readers can use to get active with local authorities, nearby shops, the village school and enthuse friends and neighbours.

Tracey Smith is the founder of International Downshifting Week which encourages people to slow down and embrace a simpler and greener way of life (www.downshiftingweek.com). She is a writer and broadcaster on the subject and presents the radio show Slow Down and Green Up. Her goal is to normalise sustainable living and take the freaky out of eco; she was shortlisted for the ITV Eco Hero Award. Tracey is a Trustee for the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.