Monday, June 30, 2008 Sea of Trash - Pollution in the World's Oceans

Here's a great article in the New York Times about our oceans' trash problem, and how it's hurting one specific community. What a story! I couldn't stop reading it, as sad as it was.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

U.S. National Downshifting Week

We're coming up on US National Downshifting Week (July 7-13th), which we are sponsoring this year based on the work of Tracey Smith, founder of Downshifting Week in the UK. While she went International this year, the week of April 19-25th kind of gets lost in the hoopla surrounding Earth Day, Earth Week, and Earth Month here in the U.S. We believe downshifting is deserving of its own attention, and so we chose the week of Henry David Thoreau's birthday (born July 12th). Thoreau is America's most famous downshifter, having left the burgeoning Boston suburbs to build his own cabin in the woods in Concord, MA, on the banks of Walden Pond. Thoreau lived for two years with very little "stuff" in his cabin, and wrote his famous book, Walden.

We don't advocate selling all your stuff and moving to the woods, though quite a few people do effectively downshift in a similar manner (like empty nesters selling the big house for a small condo). While smaller spaces generally cost less and fit less stuff, you can also successfully downshift by staying right where you are and evaluating how you spend your time and money. With inflation on the rise and a recesssion kicking in, there is no better time to figure out how to spend less, buy less, and enjoy your life more. Visit our website for a copy of the US Downshifting Manifesto.

For a wonderful introduction to one family's transition to a happier, more simple life, please check out our friend Heather's blog, who kindly wrote this entry to help us spread the word about National Downshifting Week. She leads her blog with one of my favorite quotes; a favorite long before I had even heard of conscious consuming:

"Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you have." -- Anonymous (or was it Thoreau???)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Xanadu design is less than eco-friendly

It turns out that Xanadu, a huge shopping mall in New Jersey, is not exactly eco-friendly. The developers are doing all the requisite greenwashing things, like installing low-flow toilets and reserving spaces in the parking lots for hybrids, but they couldn't even get it together to put solar panels on the roof, or go as far on a limb as considering a LEED-certified building.

My question though, is, why should they even bother attempting to be environmentally-friendly, or even pretending to be? What will be the largest building dedicated to selling consumer goods in the United States will basically be a shrine to consumerism, and if you're going to be the worst of the worst, why not go all the way?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Will this man make you happy?

This slightly too long article on Richard Layar, Britain's "Happiness Czar" still has some good ideas about happiness and what affects our individual happiness levels. Turns out it's not how much stuff we buy!
"It's a world in which one's accumulated possessions depreciate in value. Like Jacob Marley's chains, they drag us down rather than make us happy."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sick Salmon

Some of our most prized fish, Alaskan salmon, is under attack.

This attack is coming from a tiny parasite called Ich, which creates white spots on the fish and makes them turn bad after being caught. Up to a third of Alaskan salmon are being tossed out because of this disease.

The increase in what used to be a rare but natural occurrence is being blamed on global warming. With warmer waters and climates, the parasite has been allowed to thrive.

Salmon is a staple of some Native American diets, and a lot of my friends’, too (I’m a vegetarian). Learn more about this problem from the LA Times and NPR.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our E-Waste Problem

Many of us have gotten used to the idea of keeping up with new technology by buying new computers, cellphones, and other electronic gadgets and getting rid of the old. But trashing our old electronics creates lots of new problems, for instance exporting our lead- and mercury-filled machines to poor countries where they are "recycled" by people who have access to little or no protective clothing and releasing those toxins into the air and water. While some chemicals are used in smaller amounts in newer machines, the problem still lingers. States like California and Maine are creating their own computer recycling programs, but it seems up to us consumers to pressure the companies who create our computers to set up their own recycling programs and force them to deal with the problem.

Find out if your computer company has a recycling program, and learn more about e-waste here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We're in chemical overload

It seems like everyday, there are new studies and articles about how chemical toxins are invading our lives. Even the most environmentally-conscious of us have unknown amounts of toxins in our bodies, and many of these toxins have been linked to health risks such as cancer and other diseases.

Here's a great article from Canada that sums up the issue and talks of a recent study done by the country's Environmental Defense office. You can learn more about the toxins campaign, including how you can remove toxins from your house, at

Friday, June 20, 2008

One Farmer's Experience

Here's an interesting article about one family's experience as farmers in the U.S. and how our current agricultural system has changed their lives. It makes great points about the decline of the environment as we move away from local food systems, and makes links to both the obesity crisis and the opportunity to create new jobs in local agricultural sectors. The debate about the solutions in the comments is worth reading, too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"How Green Is Your Brand?"

This blog post is one of the many questioning the truth behind green advertising and green products that are popping up everywhere. The biggest companies are getting involved... but to what end?

"Making more stuff — no matter how green that stuff is — will not really help combat global warming or reduce our collective carbon footprint. Companies need to produce things and need to make money by selling them — understood — but to me, the idea of simply creating more (albeit greener) product is pretty much on par with lowering gas prices as a solution to skyrocketing oil costs. When will we consider behavior? When we will commit to innovation?"

Monday, June 16, 2008


Carbonrally (Cambridge, MA) is a new web-based service that offers individuals and groups a fun, simple and competitive way to have a measurable impact on climate change.

The site poses challenges that entail personal lifestyle changes. Each challenge translates directly into a reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions measured in pounds of CO2. Sample challenges include drinking tap water vs. bottled water, avoiding disposable coffee cups, and reducing the number of catalogs in your mailbox. The current challenge is to compost your kitchen waste for three months. Carbonrally reviews the science and provides an entertaining analysis linking each challenge to a CO2 value.

Participants act individually on and may also form teams to add a competitive element to the experience. The teaming aspects of Carbonrally have already led to formation of over 290 teams of friends, classmates, and colleagues on the site. Although the site is still in its infancy, thousands of participants have collectively reduced CO2 emissions by more than 100 tons. That's equal to turning off the electricity to about 100 homes for a month.

Carbonrally's team play makes it very popular for groups including friends, colleagues and associates wanting to engage in healthy competition around shared goals.

I remember an essay Bill McKibben wrote in Orion magazine that said that all carmakers needed to do to improve gas mileage was to install MPG meter readers into conventional automobiles (like they have in the Prius), and Americans would use their competitive nature to figure out how to drive better to save gas. Carbonrally is harnessing this competitive nature for good stuff--so invite your friends and form a team.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Safe Cosmetics Campaign

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel on toxins in cosmetics. The lesson that stuck with me the most is that the skin is the largest organ of your body, and the most absorbant... makes you think before spreading on some random cream that has ingredients you can't pronounce.

Here are two great websites to learn more:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eat Low Carbon Diet Calculator

Want to know how much your lunch is causing global warming?

Ok, me neither. But it's interesting to be able to calculate how much carbon was used to create your meal. Check out the Eat Low Carbon Diet Calculator to see how much impact you're having on the Earth, and what you can do to change that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Slow Down and Green Up Newsletter--June

Happy June everybody! Welcome to all of our new newsletter readers, who joined us at Youth Pride or Wake Up the Earth last month. If at any time you want to unsubscribe, just drop me a note or visit the Rise Up website to take yourself off.

Wow, June is chock-full of cool events for Conscious Consumers in the Boston area! We have updated our website with these event listings, but you can also check them out below. Also, we are helping to organize a focus group on conscious consuming for Juliet Schor, board member for the Center for a New American Dream and professor at Boston College. She and her researchers are developing a survey on the ways that people consciously consume and how conscious consumption choices are related to other forms of action and advocacy. We are hoping that 10-20 of you would be willing to pilot the survey and then meet to discuss it on Thursday, June 19th at 6pm in the Boston/Cambridge area. If you did not receive an eVite about this event and are interested in helping out, please email susan (at) and I’ll add you to the eVite list.

I have had several requests from NYC Conscious Consumers about events/activities in the Big Apple. Unfortuntately we can’t cover in detail every major city in the country as we are run solely by volunteers, but we are trying to update our website so that users can post their own events in their home towns. In the meantime, consider hosting a Conscious Consuming Discussion Series in your home town. We have all the stuff you’ll need on our web site.

Slow Food Boston's Terra Madre Fundraiser
The Meeting House, Tiverton Corners, RI
Cost: $50
Sunday, 06/15/2008 3:00PM
Join Slow Food Boston for a wonderful dinner of seasonable, local foods procured and prepared by farmers, fishermen, chefs and brewers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island! The price is $45 all inclusive, payable via Paypal or check, and attendance will be limited to the first 100 people. Children 12 and under are free, and those between the ages of 12 and 18 are $25. The event will raise money to send two local food producers to Slow Food's Terra Madre in Turin this fall. Learn more here:

Voluntary Simplicity Discussion Group
Natick, MA
Sundays, May 18th-July 13th
A Voluntary Simplicity Discussion group starts Sunday, May 18th from 3-4 in Natick Center. 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 interested, please contact the group facilitator, Anne Lafluer at amlafleur(at)hotmail (dot)com.

Tools For a Greener Office: A Conference on Making Offices More Sustainable
MassRecycle, Inc. The Massachusetts Recycling Coalition
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Date/time: June 24, 2008 8:00am

Hope you all have a happy June!
The Team at Conscious Consuming

-Slow Down and Green Up!

Slow Food Boston Promotes Eating Locally

We wanted to thank Connie, Willow, Peggy and Alex, our friends at Slow Food Boston, for this post (which is an excerpt from their June newsletter);

Summer seems to have finally arrived - we've had our first few steamy days, the sun is truly warm even on the cooler days... and most importantly, the Farmers Markets have reopened for the season and CSA deliveries are gearing up as well. So get out there and support them!

If you can sneak out of work one of these days, pay a visit to your local market and say hello to the farmers. They all seem so glad to be back out in front of the public eye - after months of toiling away in the gardens and fields, it's nice to see the faces of the people who really appreciate what they're doing. So go and tell them! Schedules of the market locations and times are on the FMFM WEBSITE. There is sure to be one near you...

Although the pickings are a little scarce so far, a little searching will yield some great things; chive blossoms, incredible spring hardy greens, rhubarb, asparagus, young garlic - and beautiful potted herbs & flowers to spruce up your deck, backyard or sunny windowsill!

Another way to support our local farmers is by attending our benefit dinner next Sunday, June 15th. We're gathering down in Tiverton Rhode Island for an afternoon meal of local foods & drinks in order to raise money to send a few local producers to Italy this fall. They'll be attending the Slow Food Terra Madre Festival, interacting with food producers from the world over - and then bringing their newfound knowledge back to share with us. Go to our website for more information and to register and pay.

And speaking of sharing knowledge, we're psyched to see some Boston (well, Cambridge) based folks not only championing the 'eat local & seasonal' mantra, but also providing resources for doing so through their website: BOSTON LOCALVORES. Take a look and feel free to give them any feedback you have - they want this to be a comprehensive & useful list for all of us.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Wallet Mouth

Ok, probably everyone in the world knows about this amazing blog but me, but here it is.

Talk about conscious consuming. Wallet Mouth is an example of one woman doing her research and spending her money to reflect her and her family's values. Her blog is categorized by products, issues like labor and environment, and includes her struggles as a mother to buy the best for her baby.

I'll definitely be reading this blog every day!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Take a Bite out of Climate Change

How is the food you eat everyday linked to global climate change? Every animal and plant grown for our consumption has an impact on the climate, but the impacts are not all the same.

The Small Planet Institute, founded by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, has started a new website called Take a Bite out of Climate Change. It was created to help consumers understand their food's impact on climate change and what they can do about it. Questions like, "why are scientists worried about genetically modified foods" are answered. Since the website is in its early stages, there's only a few questions so far, but you can make a suggestion as to what you'd like to see answered. Check it out!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Boston Green Drinks June 3rd

Boston Green Drinks is meeting tomorrow, Tuesday June 3rd at Tavern in the Square (Central Square) from 6:30 onward. The room to the left of the host station is reserved for us, just ask the host for the Green Drinks party.

Closest T:
The Central Square T stop on the Redline puts you just about at the front door.

Tavern in the Square
730 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-868-8800


A reader named Kristen recently sent us a link to a new website called She saw their table at Boston's Earthfest, and dropped us a note about them. We encourage you to do the same...if you know about events, nonprofits, or businesses that you think conscious consumers would be interested in, drop me a line at susan (at) consciousconsuming (dot) org and I will see if it's a good fit for our blog.

You can see a video on what Izzitgreen is all about here, but basically they are a user generated review site that encourages readers and reviewers to consider "what goes in" (energy use, carbon offsets, clean products, how they treat employees) and "what comes out" of a business (service, products, distribution, etc) when making buying decisions. They are hoping their users will comment on their favorite local businesses and on what those businesses are doing to be more sustainable, which will in turn drive other businesses to make earth-friendly moves as well.

We are excited about the potential of this site to help conscious consumers make informed decisions. So the next time you're going to buy something new, check it out!