Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Real Food Challenge

There was recently an article on ecoSpace about the Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge is geared toward colleges and universities, and it's really easy to get your school involved (or get connected with someone who's already doing something):

"Anna Lappe, author and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute is one of the founders of the Real Food Challenge. Anna is known for her work on issues of sustainability and speaks at universities throughout the country encouraging students to get involved in the nationwide campaign.

Real Food is food that is ethically produced, with fair treatment of workers, equitable relationships with farmers (locally and abroad), and humanely treated animals. It’s food that is environmentally sustainable – grown without chemical pesticides, large-scale mono-cropping, or huge carbon footprints. Real food is food that tastes good, builds community, and has the potential to inspire broad-scale social change.

Clearly the standards of food are being raised with this campaign. Real food is an infusion of many ideas regarding what sustainable food is, it is taking food beyond the tangible items we eat for lunch and examining the social responsibility inferred around the food choices we make. Implicit within this definition is the potential community growth we can experience through investing time and effort in finding out where are food is coming from and creating networks to source our own sustainably grown food.

The central goal of the Real Food Campaign is to re-direct at least 20% of all the food purchased by colleges and universities (currently 4 billion dollars) toward real food within 10 years."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Univ of OK president, David Boren

OK, since I've already gushed over Utne Reader this week, I won't do it again. But I will share with you another excerpt from the May/June 2008 issue. This time it's a quote from David Schimke's interview with former US senator and current University of Oklahoma president, David Boren:

David Schimke asked, "Do today's young people, especially those you encounter at the Univeristy of Oklahoma, still believe in an American Dream? Do they even think in those terms anymore?"

David Boren responds:
I think they do, but their dream stries me as much less materialistic. They want to live in a place where people respect each other without regard to their differences--racial, religious, or whatever it might be. They want to live in a safe place. They want to have enough to give their children good educations and opportunities, of course, but it's a more modest, economic dream than their parents' and grandparents' generations, which tended to measure success materialistically...Part of their American Dream involves a country that's more environmentally healthy, more pristine. And, maybe most importantly, they really want to recreate community.

Amen, brother!!! And it's a good thing, too, since it looks like we won't have much choice. (See previous post)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents

One of my favorite magazines touting the independent and alternative press, Utne Reader published an excerpt of Nan Mooney's new book in their May/June issue. Her book, entitled (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Classtakes an in-depth look at how "stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership are jeopardizing today's educated middle class."

The book is full of some sobering statistics, including how health care premiums for families have increased 87% since 2000, while wages remained stagnant. And how the level of household debt has increased from 33.2% of disposable income in 1949 to 131.8% in 2005 (mostly due to increases in home ownership, but also due to our ever-increasing list of "must haves"). Here is a short intro to the work (which I'm going to order from the library as soon as it's available!):

We're earning less and having to pay for more. Earnings for college graduates have remained stagnant for the past five years, but the costs of housing, health care, and education have all risen faster than inflation. The share of family income devoted to "fixed costs" like housing, child care, health insurance, and taxes has climed from 53 percent to 75 percent in the past two decades.

Though a college degree still earns you a bigger paycheck than a high shcool one, the price of a four-year education has increased exponentially. Between 2000 and 2004, tutions rose 32 percent at four-year public colleges and 21 percent at private colleges, requiring the majority of students to take out loans to fund their education. Once we hit the workforce, those rising numbers do an about-face. Real earning for those with four-year college degrees have flattened out since 2003, not even rising to keep pace with inflation.

It sounds like there's more reason than ever to turn to voluntary simplicity. If your hard work earns you less anyway, you'd better be sure than you are cutting your consumption. If you have time to devote to the cause, lobby your legislature for univerisal health care, and start a voluntary simplicity discussion group in your neighborhood!

Friday, May 16, 2008 article on Greenwashing

There was a great article on greenwashingin The Boston Globe the other day. Since consumers will be spending so much on green products in the next decade, we had better do our homework and make sure that products really ARE green, not greenwashed.

The eight-passenger [Chevy Tahoe] vehicle is plastered with "hybrid" labels. An automobile magazine panel that included the executive director of The Sierra Club named it the "Green Car of the Year."

But the Tahoe gets only about 20 miles per gallon - not much better than the nonhybrid Honda Pilot SUV, which also seats eight. The celebrated Toyota Prius gets around 46 miles per gallon.

"How a 6,000-pound behemoth can be the green car of the year is beyond me," said David Champion, director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division. "It's a marketing exercise rather than reality."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Voluntary Simplicity Discussion in Natick, MA

A Voluntary Simplicity Discussion group is starting this Sunday, May 18th from 3-4 in Natick Center, and there are about 4 more spots available if any of our readers are interested. The group will meet weekly for 8 weeks, with members taking turns facilitating the discussion and (if desired) hosting. The discussions will be based on the essays in the North West Earth Institutes's course books, which cost $23.

There are also several people who would like to participate in a group but can't do Sunday afternoons. If any of you would like to be added to that contact list, please contact the group facilitator, Anne Lafluer at She says it would be great to have two groups running concurrently. Anne is excited to run these groups, as she's heard very positive things about the courses from others.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Great Shopping Spree is over? Good riddance!!!

In a recent Newsweek article called "The Great Shopping Spree, R.I.P," Robert J. Samuelson says that the consumption cycle that drove the economy for the past 25 years is over. He outlines some disturbing statistics, including:

In 1980, Americans spent 63 percent of national income (gross domestic product) on consumer goods and services. For the past five years, consumer spending equaled 70 percent of GDP.

In 2007, household debt (including mortgages) totaled $14.4 trillion, or 139 percent of personal disposable income. As recently as 2000, those figures were $7.4 trillion and 103 percent of income.

He cites a host of reasons for the perceived end of this disturbing consumption period, including the bursting of the stock and real estate bubbles, a population that is aging out of their spending years, and a tightening of credit.

Samuelson predicts that the end of the "debt-driven consumption boom" will be an extended period of lackluster growth and job creation. I am not an economist, but I say, good riddance to the debt-driven consumption boom. The measure of our success as individuals and as a country has to be more than how much stuff we have and how far we can leverage ourselves to have it. Instead of replacing this consumption boom with nothing, let's replace it with growing more localized, regional economies. If we succeed, there will be more local jobs, not less. We might not get stuff as cheaply, since Americans expect (and all people deserve) higher pay than workers in China, where most of our goods are currently made; but perhaps our growth as a nation will be of a different order: growth in self-reliance, growth in community, and growth in sustainability.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Join us on Saturday the 10th for World Fair Trade Day

One aspect of being a Conscious Consumer is being aware of the impact of our buying decisions on the lives of others. When we buy fairly-traded items, we're making sure that the workers involved in growing, harvesting and/or manufacturing the goods are being paid a living wage.

This Saturday, May 10th, is World Fair Trade Day. Conscious Consuming will be at two events and hope you will join us or get involved in something wherever you are.

We'll have a table at Youth Pride 2008. Look for us down on the Boston Common all day on Saturday.

We're also co-hosting a Fair Trade Show with Autonomie Project. Come check out Fair Trade Fashion and enjoy some complimentary organic wine and Equal Exchange Chocolate! For more info, just click on the invitation below or email

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


WHAT: On May 13, at 6:00 p.m., the “Transition Team” at Boulder County Going Local (a non-profit organization
committed to relocalizing the essential needs of our communities) will preview its 2008 BOULDER COUNTY
GOING LOCAL! Campaign at the Boulder Dinner Theater. The county-wide Campaign sets the theme for a
decade-long effort to make the transition to a stronger, more localized economy in an energy-constrained

This special celebration will feature speakers from a variety of sectors in our community, including locally-owned
independent businesses, the local food system, county and city governments, and non-profit community
services, as well as a preview of upcoming Campaign activities, projects and events through the end of this
year. Highlights of the evening will include:

 Presentations by key sponsors and supporters of the BOULDER COUNTY GOING LOCAL! Campaign
 Introduction of Boulder County’s GOING LOCAL! Resource Guide, which will include articles and
directories covering the Campaign’s BUY LOCAL FIRST! and EAT LOCAL! themes
 Overview of The Great Reskilling, an educational program designed to rebuild the basic life skills that our
grandparents took for granted
 Announcement of the Chautauqua Summer Forum Sustainability Series of panels and presentations
 Announcement of the 2008 RENAISSANCE OF LOCAL! (Sept 27-28)
 Announcement of new community projects
 Announcement of the uplifting Transition Town Initiative in Boulder County, a direct connection to an
inspiring international movement of communities officially transitioning off fossil fuels and becoming
more resilient and self-reliant in response to the twin threats of climate change and fossil fuel depletion
(more at

WHEN: Tuesday, May 13, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with complimentary hors
d’oeuvres provided by the Boulder Outlook Hotel.

WHERE: Boulder Dinner Theater, 5501 Arapahoe, Boulder
RSVP: Laurie Loughrin, 303-494-1521,

Monday, May 05, 2008

Boston Area events this week

Boston Green Drinks will meet up tomorrow, May 6, from 6:30 p.m. onward at Skipjack's, 199 Clarendon St., Boston. They have a private room, just to the left of the host station (though not in the bar, which is also to the left).

There will be an Energy Fair on Saturday, May 10th from 10:00 a.m.-2:00p.m. at the First Parish Church in Westwood at the intersection of Clapboardtree Street and Nahatan Street. There will be entertainment and food and the event is free!

Also, come visit us at Massachusetts Youth Pride, where we'll have a table about Conscious Consuming. Youth Pride, the country's oldest and largest gathering of GLBT youth, is on the Boston Common this Saturday, May 10th from 11am-5pm.

Hope to see you at one of these great events!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"The Case for Make Believe" Book Release Party

The Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood is having a book release party for Susan Linn's new book, The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World. I read Susan Linn's last book, Consuming Kids, and it was so good that it helped spark our interest in hosting a potluck with Josh Golin, a guest speaker from CCFC. If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, or might have kids of your own some day, I'm sure this book will be worth a read!

"An eloquent brief on the indispensability of unmediated, unadulterated play" ­­-- Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of Art, Mind and Brain.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
7pm - 9pm

Judge Baker Children's Center
53 Parker Hill Avenue
Boston, MA
Free on-site parking
Refreshments will be served

Hosted by The New Press and Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, Professor of Psychiatry,
Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School

Please RSVP to Barbara B. Sweeny
(617) 278-4106 or

In a commercialized world where glitz masquerades as substance and pundits tout the bells and whistles of technology as a panacea, The Case for Make Believe is a passionate plea for ensuring children the time, space, and silence essential for creative play.  

Susan Linn, author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood (The New Press), is a psychologist at Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School and Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. An award-winning ventriloquist internationally known for her pioneering work using puppets for play therapy, she was mentored by the late Fred Rogers.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Slow Down and Green Up--May 2008

Happy May Day!

We hope you've all recovered from Earth Month, International Downshifting Week, and TV Turnoff Week, all of which should’ve helped us leave April feeling refreshed and rejuvenated...

May is here, and we wanted to let you know about some upcoming Conscious Consuming events in Boston:

  • Saturday, May 3rd - Join us at Spontaneous Celebrations’ “Wake Up the Earth” in JP— This family friendly event is free and a great way to get to know some people in your community. Visit for more information, and stop by our table to say hello to Marty and Cindy if you can make it.

  • Saturday, May 10th – Conscious Consuming is tabling at Boston’s 14th annual Youth Pride celebration on the Boston Common. Youth Pride is the oldest and largest GLBT pride event for youth in the nation, and we were excited to be invited this year to spread the message of sustainability. Visit for more information, and please email if you are able to help table this event. All you have to do is smile a lot, hand out brochures, and help sign people up for our email newsletter.

  • Saturday, May 10th (3-5pm) - Celebrate World Fair Trade Day with the Autonomie Project’s Fair Trade Trunk Show and Wine Tasting at Greenward, 1776 Mass Ave, Porter Square. For more information, email or visit


  • Conscious Consuming Discussion Series in Boulder, CO – Join us every Tuesday in May from 6:30-7:30pm at the prAna Store community room in Boulder, CO. We’ll be piloting our Discussion Series, and viewing clips from The Story of Stuff, Everything’s Cool, and Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home. If you can’t make it to Boulder, remember that we have all of the tools for a successful Discussion Series on our website at not bring Conscious Consuming to your own community?

  • We receive lots of great emails from groups such as Green Drinks, Slow Food convivia, Earthworks, BALLE, Community Green, etc. about events all over the US. We generally post these updates to this monthly newsletter on our blog, which now has a subscription service so that you can get emails each time someone posts a new entry. Visit us at to subscribe via email or RSS feeds.

Thanks and have a terrific month!

The Team at Conscious Consuming