Monday, March 31, 2008

WHAT TO EAT: Making Sustainable Food Choices

If you're around New Haven, CT, tomorrow...

WHAT TO EAT: Making Sustainable Food Choices

Tuesday, April 1

Sage Hall (205 Prospect Street), Bowers Auditorium

4:30-5:30 pm

More and more people are trying to change the way they eat to make more sustainable choices, but sometimes the whole process can feel like a minefield. How local does local food have to be? What does “organically grown” really mean? Does living in New England mean eating potatoes all winter? Buying an apple can quickly become a complicated decision, and inviting people over for dinner an impossible one. Anastatia Curley and Laura Hess, of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, will give a presentation addressing these questions, and giving you the resources to make sustainable decisions about food purchasing and hosting events—whether they be masters’ teas, receptions, or dinners—in New Haven.

This event is part of the Yale Sustainability Summit, a week-long series of events on sustainability at Yale.

From Oxfam: Movie Helps Farmers Learn New "Language" to Grow More Rice

Movie Helps Farmers Learn New "Language" to Grow More Rice

Oxfam and its partner, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, or CEDAC, have produced a new instructional video on cutting-edge agriculture techniques. The new movie is called "Do You Speak SRI?" (That's "System of Rice Intensification" if you don’t!) It will teach Cambodian farmers new ways to farm and help them easily and effectively grow more rice to support their families.

It takes a different approach to the traditional educational movie, featuring real farmers rather than actors or scientists, sharing their own successes and telling their own stories about using the new practices.

Click here to read about this innovative project.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird - The New York Times

Here's a sad tale of what our demand for out of season fruits and vegetables does to other species -- specifically, the beautiful songbirds that we take for granted. Eating locally, in season, means that our food doesn't require the massive amounts of toxic pesticides that those berries in the winter need to make it up to our cold region.

This year, I made it to about January on the frozen peaches and berries I bought at the farmer's market and saved from last season. This just means I'll have to stock up more next summer!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour today!

Help us celebrate Earth Hour today by turning off your lights between 8-9 pm your local time.

This is a national movement to raise awareness of climate change and taking one small step towards helping the planet.

For more information, visit

See you in the dark!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bridge at the Edge of the World

Renowned environmentalist James Gustave Speth has released a new book today: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.

Gus Speth is also the Dean of my school, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He has been instrumental in the environmental movement as a whole, and these days continues to educate us on many things, including on the effects of consumerism on ourselves and the environment. His book speaks to this as well as how we as individuals can make a positive difference for the environment.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday Presents Get a Timeout From Parents

This article in the Boston Globe gives a great perspective on what local people are doing to reduce consumption in their children's lives. We definitely like the idea of no-present birthday parties and the lessons it teaches kids. Benefiting non-profits like Horizons for Homeless Children, is an even greater reason to do so!

Thanks to Tim Burke at African Health Foundation for this article.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"What's Tappening?

If you haven't seen this short film about how costly disposable water bottles are to the environment, check it out here, or visit the Tappening website for more information.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Real Dirt on Farmer John, "Growing the Local Food Movement"

The final film in the three part Slow Food Boston Film Festival will play at the Theodore Parker Church in West Roxbury on Sunday, 13 April, at 4pm. The film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, is about John Peterson, a pioneer of organic farming and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the US. Slow Food Boston and the good folks at Theodore Parker Church have also arranged an impressive line-up of panelists to speak after the film, including Jim Buckle (Allandale Farm), Andrew Rodgers (Green Meadows), Kate Stillman (Stillman's at the Turkey Farm), Jen Hashley &
Pete Lowy (Verrill Farm, Pete & Jen's Backyard Birds), and James Lionette (Lionette's Market, Garden of Eden).

In preparation for the event, one of the organizers (Sue Barnard) has made a list of local CSAs, including meat CSAs, in the Boston area. The list needs some updating, but you can find information about Boston CSA and farm resources, on the church website. Click the link in the paragraph on the CSA Task Force.

This event ties in nicely with our own talk about building a local food movement. As a reminder, we will be holding a "Growint the Local Food Movement" potluck, on Sunday, March 30th, with Kate Mrozicki, CSA manager at The Food Project. We will have area CSA brochures available (thanks to all of the farmers who sent them along!), and you'll hear a great presentation, share what you have done (or hope to do) to support/grow local food, and eat yummy potluck food! If you would like to be added to our eVite list for this or future potlucks (Boston area only), please email susan(at)consciousconsuming(dot)com.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boston Green Drinks April 1st, Bill McKibben speaks in Boston March 28-30

From our friends at Boston Green Drinks:
Come join us on Tuesday, April 1st at Cactus Club from ~6:30pm onward.
Location: 939 Boylston Street, Boston
Closest T: Green line to Hynes Convention Center.

Down 2 Earth, a consumer-oriented eco-living show is at the Hynes Convention Center March 28-30. Bill McKibben is one of the keynote speakers, and the content ranges from a seminar in sustainable design to a presentation on eco-conscious wedding planning. Go to (Note: Green Drinker Jennifer Baldwin is one of the organizers, and the Globe will have a story on the show on the 28th by Green Drinker Michael Prager.)

News notes:
The first auction of pollution credits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state consortium that includes all of New England, has been scheduled for Sept. 10. RGGI is the first regional US group to tackle greenhouse-gas reductions with a cap-and-trade system. News brief here.

The US House recently passed a bill that would take the tax breaks that the top 5 oil companies receive — about $17 billion — and reapportion it as incentives for the solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass industries. A similar proposal failed earlier in the Senate, under threat of presidential veto. ... According to Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute and author of "Plan B, 3.0, Mobilizing to Save Civilization," taking political action is the most important step any citizen can take, so please call your senators!


Elaine, Hershie, Michael

Boston Green Drinks Team

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Freiker Works to get kids Biking to School

Another great non-profit in Boulder that encourages sustainability is Freiker. Freiker is short for "frequent biker," and the idea is to get kids motivated about riding their bikes to school by providing feedback about how frequently they ride via the Freikometer. According to their website, "The Freikometer counts riders using a radio-frequency identification (RFID). Freikers have RFID tags affixed to their helmets. When they ride to school, they ride past the Freikometer to 'ring in'." the Freikometers are solar powered, and I can attest (since my daughter goes to school at one of the shools with a Freikometer) that the kids LOVE to have their rides recorded. Freiker offers prizes, like an iPod to riders who ride their bikes 160 rides a year (not easy to do). But riding no matter the weather becomes a habit, and it's great habits like these that our kids need, both for their health and for the planet.

You can contact Freiker to make a donation or to see if they can expand to a school near you!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Conscious Consuming Events in March 2008

I interrupt my Boulder blast to let you all know about some great Conscious Consuming events in Boston:

First off, we wanted to thank you all for the enthusiastic response to our Discussion Series. We provided this as a tool on our website so that more people would take up the cause with people in their own local communities, and it seems to be working! Remember, we are offering small stipends to folks who hold their meetings and take phots or create blog entries about how it went. The goal is to inspire others to “Slow Down and Green Up!”

We wanted to let you know about two events we are holding in Boston in the near future. First, we are excited to announce that we’ll be hosting a lunch-time potluck on Sunday, March 30th, with Kate Mrozicki, CSA manager at The Food Project, to discuss “Growing the Local Food Economy.” We sent the eVite for this event earlier today, so if you didn’t receive one and would like to be added to our eVite list for this or future Boston events, please email susan (at) consciousconsuming (dot) org.

We also wanted to let you all know about the upcoming workshop "Global Warming Cafe: Concrete Steps to Decrease your Carbon Footprint," brought to you by the Boston Climate Action Network, The Jamaica Plain Forum and Conscious Consuming.

Saturday, March 29th, 1-5pm

First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist -Parish Hall
6 Eliot St.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130

The Global Warming Cafe is a powerful, new social change technology that enables us to experience the power of community. Rather than passively listening to experts, the Global Warming Cafe is an opportunity to:

+ Draw on your experience,
+ Actively reflect with others in your community, and
+ Find ways with others to take practical steps forward

We will share, listen actively, draw ideas out on paper, laugh and learn. You will leave with knowledge about programs to help us lower our carbon footprint and transfer this knowledge to our homes, communities, workplaces, and beyond.

Take the leap from climate change-induced despair to informed empowerment!

Please RSVP for this event! Email Sarah at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Permaculture and The Great Reskilling

Part of Boulder County Going Local's mission is to help prepare individuals and the Boulder community for peak oil and climate change by building the local economy. To that end, this spring they have been offering a variety of free talks and fee-based workshops collectively labeled The Great Reskilling, which include everything from building greenhouses and installing solar panelling to designing your own permaculture garden. I went to a vermicomposting workshop a few weekends ago and got myself a worm bin to help build up the organic matter in the dry Colorado soil. This Saturday I attended a Permaculture Garden Design workshop with Sandy Cruz. I learned a lot about permaculture, which I knew very little about before the workshop. Mostly, I learned how we should all be to develop our gardening and food preservation skills if our communities are to become self-reliant. Here is a quote from the Boulder County Going Local website:

Many people have first hand experience in growing or eating locally produced food at some time in their life. The idea that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want–mangoes in the winter, Thai spices in Northern Canada or an American burger in Delhi for cheap–is still fairly new and is highly problematic.

In North America a revival is taking place. More and more communities and towns have at least one farmers market. Awareness is spreading. Some people consciously choose to buy local produce when they go grocery shopping or belong to a box scheme or even pick herbs, fruits and veggies from their gardens in the warmer months. Reducing consumption and starting to produce locally is sometimes easier said than done, but this is an area where there are plenty of resources and examples of community groups and also lots of potential for individuals and communities to learn and succeed at various levels.

Why not try googling "permaculture workshop," "community gardens" or "gardening workshop" in your state, to see if you can reskill yourself?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Boulder County Going Local

I may have mentioned that my family relocated to Boulder, CO from Boston last summer. Boulder has a fantabulous group called Boulder County Going Local that is working on relocalizing the economy, from food production and distribution to supporting local, independent businesses. Conscious Consuming is also interested in these issues, as you know. Boulder has long been known as an "eco-community," and people living here are often said to live in the "Boulder Bubble." People in Boulder, I think, are far ahead of most communities in terms of awareness of minimizing climate impact and activities that support doing just that. For instance, during the holidays the city sponsored an LED Christmas light exchange, in which people from the community got to exchange their traditional light strings with LED strings for only $5 (they are normally about $20 a string in hardware stores, if you can find them at all). The two day event "sold out" on the first day, with a line wrapping down the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall. I am not advocating that all of you conscious consumers out there move to Boulder, but that we all follow their lead, and implement some of the programs Boulder non-profits have pioneered in our own communities.

Here is an excerpt from the Boulder County Going Local website:
"BUY LOCAL FIRST!" refers to a commitment to the community. Rather than simply promoting "buying local," the campaign suggests our larger role as stewards. By thinking local first, we can make choices that have dramatic impact on our community, our economy, and our environment. While it will rarely be possible to buy everything we need or use from local independent businesses, we are advocating for people to first think local in order to maximize the impact of daily actions and purchasing decisions.

I will be posting some snippets from the worthy eco-forward non-profits in Boulder this week. Hope you enjoy reading them!

Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat - New York Times

I'm actually posting an article on time: Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat. Even though this article focuses on those who move out of the city to become farmers, there are nice examples of those who decided to stay in the city and start their own local businesses as well. Both are important for a local food revolution!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keep Ads out of Children's Books!

From Commercial Alert:

Dear Friends,

HarperCollins Children's Books recently announced plans to publish a new series of books targeted at 8- to 12-year-olds featuring a character called "Mackenzie Blue."

Although touted by the publisher for teaching kids about protecting the environment and promoting global understanding, the Mackenzie Blue series actually aims to be a vehicle for delivering commercial messages, through product-placement hidden advertisements, product tie-ins, and affiliated multi-media corporate sponsorships. The author of the series, Tina Wells, is chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which specializes in marketing to children and adolescents.

Book publishers should not be exploiting children for commercial gain. Books should educate and entertain children - not encourage them to buy a particular brand of shoe or soft drink.

Please click here to tell HarperCollins not to publish "Mackenzie Blue" unless all product placements and tie-ins with external advertisers are removed.

- Jennifer Wedekind, Commercial Alert

Monday, March 10, 2008

Being Poor in a ‘Charge It’ Society - New York Times

Another article I am remiss in posting on time.

I liked this article, "You Are What You Spend," not only for the article but for the exchanges it produced in its
letters to the editor.

Do others have opinions?


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Why “local” and “Equal Exchange Fair Trade” are two sides of the same coin

Thank you to Phyllis Robinson at Equal Exchange for this great blog post and the permission to repost it here.

Farmers’ markets are springing up in food co-operative and church parking lots and on Main Streets throughout the country. More people are joining CSAs (community supported agriculture) and choosing locally grown products in their grocery stores. And as this trend continues, more and more consumers are starting to ask hard questions about where their food comes from and how its grown, who is growing it and under what conditions, and equally important of course, who’s making the decisions that control our food choices and who’s making the profits from those purchases?

The “buy local” movement implies that people are acknowledging all the hard work that goes into producing high quality, healthy, flavorful products and they want to support their local farmers. They want to know the farmers, how the food was grown and be assured that it’s both healthy for them and safe for the planet. To me, it says that we as consumers are choosing to re-personalize the food system; that we want to be a part of a movement that supports community and the planet and that we are ever more ready to resist the trend for corporate control of our food system and our values.

But what happens when we want to purchase products which aren’t grown locally - such as coffee, tea, chocolate or bananas? How do we translate “buy local” values for imported products? When I think about this desire for good, healthy food; for connections to the growers; and for honest, transparent business practices where farmers, workers, and consumers are all treated with respect and fairness, it sounds just like what we’ve been talking about and working for at Equal Exchange ever since our co-operative business was founded over 20 years ago.

In fact, it’s exactly the reason Equal Exchange has chosen to partner exclusively with small-scale farmer co-operatives when we buy our coffee, tea, and chocolate products. It may be more difficult to go direct, to visit remote, isolated communities, to communicate long-distance by shaky fax and telephone lines that are often down, across language and cultural barriers and time zones, than it would be to purchase our products through a broker or a large plantation owner with all of modern technology at their disposal.

But we do so, because ironically, although our products come from rural communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia, we share the same interests, values, and principles as the “buy local” advocates. We see our farmer partners as local actors in their own co-operatives and in their own communities, working together to create positive change and to resist agricultural and trade policies that also threaten them. We want to know our partners and we want our consumers to know our partners.

It’s why we lead dozens of trips to source each year so that consumers can see firsthand who the farmers are, how their products are grown, and what the farmers’ dreams and challenges are. Of course, we also want the farmers to know where their products are ending up, who’s enjoying them and how, and to make the notion of foreign “consumers” more real and human to them - this is the food system we are co-creating and the larger community and network that we and our partners and allies are helping to foster.

For more on this and on related topics, visit the Equal Exchange blog: Small Farmers. Big Change.

Friday, March 07, 2008

We've gotten a Grant and we're willing to share!

We are very excited to have recently been awarded a seed grant from the excellent non-profitSandy Hollow Arts and Recreation for the Environment, Inc. (SHARE). They run all-volunteer music festivals in Central Pennsylvania, and the proceeds from the festivals are awarded to various environmental non-profits. We applied for a grant to help launch our Conscious Consuming Discussion Series. Not only did we get funded, but we're sharing the grant money with our local organizers! Five lucky folks who implement a Discussion Series in their neighborhood will receive a stipend for their hard work. We call it a stipend, because really, it's a pittance, but if you were toying with the idea of launching a series to spread the good, green word, you may as well get a little something for your troubles. Please email susan (at) consciousconsuming (dot) com for more information or to help get your discussion series off the ground. We'd love to hear from you!

I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really. - New York Times

I'm digging myself out of a bunch of work right now, and found this article I meant to post a few days ago. This definitely applies to me!

I've now committed myself to turning my cell phone off after 10pm, and if I don't have any more studying to do that night, the same goes for my computer. It's extremely hard but worth my sanity in the end!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In print nationally!

I am very excited to have had a short article on Conscious Consuming published in the environmental magazine Orion. They have a terrific section called "Making Other Arrangements," in which social justice and environmental organizations can talk about their positive reactions to some of the challenges facing the world. You can read the article, In Lieu of More Stuff, and also read the very interesting comments that people made. Thanks to these readers, today I'm filled with HOPE!!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 6th Annual Summit in Boston

Consuming Kids: The Sexualization of Children and Other Commercial Calamities
Boston: April 3-5, 2008

Register now at

Featuring workshops and presentations by more than thirty leading scholars and activists, this year’s summit promises to be both eye-opening and inspiring. If you work with or for children, have children of your own, or if you’re just fed up with how corporate marketing undermines children’s wellbeing, this is the conference for you:
• Learn about the latest research showing how marketing undermines children’s health, values, and behavior.
• Discover the latest tricks and techniques marketers use to bypass parents and target children directly.
• Explore successful strategies to use at home, at work, and in your community to counter the harmful effects of marketing on children.
• Network with a diverse group of participants at the forefront of the ongoing struggle to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers.

Confirmed presenters include:
• Juliet Schor, author, Born to Buy
• Jean Kilbourne, author, Can’t Buy My Love
• Susan Gregory Thomas, author Buy, Buy, Baby
• Tim Kasser, author, the High Price of Materialism
• Susan Linn, author Consuming Kids

Plus special events:
• Thursday, April 3, at 7:30 PM. CCFC honors Supersize Me’s Morgan Spurlock with the Fred Rogers Integrity Award.
• Friday, April 4, at 7:30 PM. Only Children: A Concert Reading and Roundtable. Excerpts from this brand-new musical, fresh off a sold-out run in New York City, will be followed by a discussion with the playwrights, CCFC’s Enola Aird and Diane Levin, Sophie Godley of the AIDS Action Committee and other experts.

The complete summit schedule is available at:

Register now at

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Slow Food Boston meets March 9th

Reprinted from the folks at Slow Food Boston:
It's Round Two of the Slow Food Boston's Winter Film Series!

Join us next Sunday, March 9th at 4:00PM at the Theodore Parker Church in West Roxbury for an afternoon of 'foodie' documentaries - two short films showcasing ways in which food diversity is being restored and sustained in our world today.

First we'll see Eat at Bill's: Life in the Monterey Market from Lisa Brenneis. This is the uplifting story of market owner Bill Fujimoto's desire to serve his customers well by seeking out and supporting local farmers and producers.

After that, we'll be showing Nick Versteeg's film on the festival of Terra Madre, held yearly in Turin, Italy. Organized and sponsored by Slow Food International, this is an incredible gathering of food communities from around the world, all being brought together in order to work toward establishing a Global Network of Food.

After the films, we are incredibly lucky to have local folks that have attended Terra Madre speaking about their experience and what they brought back home from the gathering.

Cost is $5, payable in advance via check or with cash at the door.

Hope to see you there,

Your friends at SFB HQ

PS: Please see the Slow Food Boston website for directions and info about possible childcare arrangements.