Wednesday, February 27, 2008

US Energy Policy, as explained by Gary Hart

I was recently reading the November 2007 Denver magazine 5280 (OK, so I'm a little behind in my reading) and came across a great article by former Senator Gary Hart about how our energy policy is plagued by a lack of political will and leadership. He says:

It is in the nature of capitalism for energy companies to continue their current efforts to maximize profits. It is in the nature of consumers to want readily available products at the lowest cost. Neither will change without a basic understanding that our current national energy policy is to sacrifice the lives of our sons and daughters for foreign oil and to sacrifice the global environment of future generations to our wasteful consumption... Many people say we do not have an energy policy. In fact, we do have an energy policy: It's to continue to import more than half our oil and sacrifice American lives so we can drive our Humvees.

I confess I know little about Senator Hart's policies from when he was in office, but boy, do I like how he's thinking now!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sustainable Design Symposium in Boston

Sustainable Design Symposium: At the Crossroads of Art, Policy and Science
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA
Saturday, March 29, 2008, 1-5pm

This Symposium will bring together important voices in arts, product
design and science who advocate sustainability in their work. They will
explore sustainable design in the context of art, science and policy and
showcase methods and materials for the design and creation of environmentally
responsible products and places.

Speakers are Michael Singer, Artist/Designer,
Ursula Tischner, Founder of econcept/Agency for Sustainable Design, Cologne, Germany and Teresita Cochran of Smit Design,

Moderated by Terry Swack, Founder/CEO, Clean Culture,

Joint program of the UrbanArts Institute at Massachusetts College of
Art and Design, Goethe-Institut Boston and Down:2:Earth (D2E), a sustainable
living expo at the Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA.

Free and open to the public. - click on News and Events

Friday, February 22, 2008


This story went around via email this year, but in case you missed it there, it's a cute little anecdote about spending your time consciously, on what really matters to you, instead of just going through the motions:


A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.' The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.' The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.' 'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. Do one more run down the ski slope. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.' One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.

The professor smiled. 'I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend.'

Boston Green Drinks March 4th

Elaine from Boston Green Drinks says to Save the Date!

Tuesday March 4th is Boston Green Drinks. Please join us at Solas, located at The Lenox (a green hotel!) on Tuesday March 4th from ~6:30pm onward. We have the second floor reserved - the stairs are just beyond the bar when you come through the front entrance. Hope to see you there!

710 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116

Closest T:
Green line: To Copley Station. Walk down Boylston just past Exeter.
Orange Line: To Back Bay Station. Walk towards Boylston Street. Take a Left on Boylston and continue just past Exeter.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Product Placement to New Heights

Thought this article about product placement in tween lit on Jezebel was particularly disturbing. Sure, it's just come out that we all read less anyway, but does anyone else find 1.8 brand mentions PER PAGE a little depressing?? Honestly, it just disturbs me to think of 12-year-olds being indoctrinated with Prada worship by fashion obsessed literary heroines. Reading is supposed to be good!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Book out on Global Warming


Written and photographed by GARY BRAASCH

"The best book on global warming I've read this year."
-- Mark Hertsgaard, author of Earth Odyssey (14 December 2007)

Endorsed by Bill McKibben, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Scientific American

Published October 2007 by University of California Press

Based on an eight year project (documented at, this book surveys the science behind climate change and introduces native people, lifelong observers, scientists, and others who are experiencing changes right now. Alongside Braasch's compelling words and images, essays by eminent scientists discuss the impacts of climate change on the oceans, biodiversity, fresh water, mountain cultures, plants and animals, and our health. EARTH UNDER FIRE: HOW GLOBAL WARMING IS CHANGING THE WORLD also offers an upbeat and intelligent account of how we can lessen the effects.

"Earth Under Fire is that rare book, a vivid and consequential work that needs to be held, studied, and pondered. No one who reads this can ignore our collective destiny."
--Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest and The Ecology of Commerce

You can preview and link to order here, or you can order it from your local library. I just did!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Food News

Here's some food news from the Yale Sustainable Food Project:

Food labels in Europe are causing a sticky situation in Africa. As more and more consumers try to limit the food miles on their plate by shying away from food marked by "air-freighted" stickers, angry scientists aren't sure that food miles are all they're cracked up to be--and African farmers are worried that demand for their crops will plummet. Right now, those crops are mostly wheat, rice, and corn. But UN researchers, citing a 75 percent drop in cultivated crop varieties over the last century, are hoping to encourage more niche and value-added production of heritage crops in Africa.

On our own side of the Atlantic, the Environmental Working Group takes a look at the state of the 2007 Farm Bill and the outpouring of citizen interest that somehow failed to positively shape the bill. A Google Map illustrates the diverse sources of editorials calling for reform and lets you read snippets of each article.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

EcoMoms Parties

Hmm, these EcoMoms parties sound a lot like our new Discussion Series. It's great to know that people are getting together all over the country to discuss environmental and consumption issues and taking steps towards sustainability. Let's keep it up!

Friday, February 15, 2008

More reasons to change to CFLs

This month's Greentips from the Union of Concerned Scientists give even more reasons to switch to compact fluorescent lights.

Remember the old CFL's that were sort of dim and really, really unattractive? If you're nodding, you're dating yourself, because those days are over! The new CFL's are better than ever. Give these lightbulbs another chance, and you'll be saving more than just money on your electric bill!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Companies Doing Good

What can I say? I'm a sucker for socially responsible business plans.

Here are two great companies that recently came to my attention. They both have combined philanthropy and social justice in their businesses, albeit in very different ways.

GOOD Magazine is a company that, when you subscribe, gives your subscription fee to a non-profit of your choice. Why do this instead of just giving the money away yourself? Because GOOD Magazine is also a publication that gives you real news and information, not that dumbed down version that you find on the newsstand these days. The power of knowledge, plus the support of organizations doing well, can lead to real change!

Summa Cum Laude Tutors takes a different approach to doing good. They enlist volunteer medical students to tutor high-income high school kids in Manhattan, and use the fees generated by this to give to worthy non-profit organizations. The med school kids gain skills in teaching and helping others towards academic success, and by volunteering, commit themselves to public service. Everybody wins!

These small businesses are showing that companies can really make a difference. Their philanthropy doesn't have to be a side job, either. I hope we see more and more of these business plans in the future.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lights Out for Earth Hour

I first heard about Earth Hour 2008 through Facebook, that almighty powerhouse. The invitation reads:

On March 29th, 2008 at 8pm local time Earth Hour will commence ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a POWERFUL MESSAGE about the need for action on global warming.

Be part of making Earth Hour 2008 a huge, global success by telling your friends and family. Remember, every single light makes a statement and makes a difference.

Last year, on 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney (Australia) businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. This massive collective effort reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for one hour.

Visit for more information.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Candidates' Stance on Global Warming

An anonymous reader left a great comment last week, and in case you didn't get to read it, s/he says, "I am very frustrated with the fact that so few people are talking about presidential candidates and their thoughts on global warming. Now that it is down to just a few candidates I would think that this would be a bigger issue. Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article. Live Earth is also asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change. I just saw a poll on Earth Lab that says people care a lot about what their next leader thinks of global warming. Does anyone know of another poll or other results about this subject?"

Conscious Consuming is about educating people of all stripes about their consumption decisions. We are an environmental and social justice organization at heart, but believe that all candidates, and all people, can benefit by learning to "Slow Down and Green Up." We have been extremely encouraged over the past year about the increased attention being paid (in the mainstream media and by the public at large) to global warming, yet the news about how our collective lifestyles are impacting the planet is not good, overall. Each of the Presidential candidates does have a (more or less defined) plan to address global warming, and readers will find information on these plans, as well as scorecards and polling data at The League of Conservation Voters website.

Thanks for posting your comment, Anonymous. We appreciate your feedback!

Fair Trade Flowers and Cloned Meat Now Available!

In a "win some, lose some" week this February, Americans now have access to both Fair Trade flowers (which will be labeled and certified by TransFair USA), and cloned meat and milk products, which have no label at all if the biotech lobby gets its way--SCARY!!! According to TransFair, "The Fair Trade Certified label on your bouquet means that flower workers, most of whom are women, can put food on their tables, send their children to school, invest in community development, and use sustainable farming methods." You can check out an ever-growing list of where to buy Fair Trade flowers, and watch their Fair Trade flowers video on the Transfair website.

On the "lose some" side, the Union of Concerned Scientists reports in its journal FEED, that "The Food and Drug Administration has declared that milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring are safe for human consumption." Despite the fact that these genetically engineered animals are often born with obvious birth defects, the biotech lobby wants to sell cloned meat and milk as a solution to world poverty (oh yeah, and to line their patented pockets). YUK! A better solution would be to stop growing so much corn to feed ruminant animals (that prefer grass anyway), eat lower on the food chain (plants), and use the surplus corn, land, and water to feed hungry people. If you haven't read Michael Pollan's "An Omnivore's Dilemma" yet, get cracking on it, so that you can then follow it up with his latest book, "In Defense of Food," now available at a library near you.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Labor standards in the cut flower industry

You're Invited to....

The Thorns of the Global Cut Flower Industry

Valentine's Day is coming up?

Any Idea Where Your Flowers REALLY Come From?

Presented by: Nora Ferm, International Labor Rights Forum

Tuesday, February 12th @ 4pm
Starr Auditorium, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
University, Cambridge, MA

Refreshments will be served.

If you have any questions, please contact or

For information about the International Labor Rights Forum's
Fairness in Flowers Campaign, visit:

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for
International Labor Rights Forum at:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Earthworks offers native landscaping workshops

EarthWorks, one of the Boston non-profits that participated in Gift It Up! 2007, has some fantastic native landscaping workshops coming up this spring. I would especially try to take advantage of hosting a workshop, as you'll have some of the work done for you by the workshop attendees! How great is that?

Host a Workshop in Your Yard! 
EarthWorks is seeking an individual or group to host a landscaping workshop in their yard. You will receive a reduced-cost landscaping consultation and plant installation in part of your yard. We will consult with you before the workshop to select plants and design the planting to suit your needs.
Contact Ben Crouch if you are interested in hosting a workshop.

Tree Pruning
Saturday, March 8
Do you have a fruit tree that doesn't produce because it hasn't been pruned in years? Or have you pruned many trees before and just want to brush up on your technique? No matter what your experience level, this class will give participants the theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience to enable them to correctly prune fruit, ornamental, and shade trees. Pruners will be available for in-class use.

Edible Landscaping
Saturday, April 26
This class offers participants the planning and technical skills to incorporate fruit- and nut-bearing plants into an existing home landscape. Participants will workshop ideas for their own spaces and practice new technical skills at the demonstration site where the class will take place. Participants will be encouraged to consider the aesthetics, maintenance implications, and environmental impact of their design.
Landscaping with Native Trees and Shrubs
Saturday, May 10
Incorporating the right native trees and shrubs into your landscape can help to cut down on time and energy used for watering and weeding. Native plants can add year-round beauty and intrigue to your landscape while increasing plant biodiversity and animal habitat. Technical skills covered in this workshop will include proper planting, care, and selection.
Workshop Fees
$40/$60 (per class) Members/General Public
$100/$150 (all three classes) Members/General Public
Preregistration is required. All workshops take place from 10am-2pm on Saturdays.

To reserve your spot, please call Annie at  617-442-1059 or e-mail Please include your name, phone number, address, and membership status. We cannot accept credit cards at this time; you will be asked to mail a check to EarthWorks to confirm your registration

Boston Green Drinks and Super Tuesday

This was submitted by Mike Prager, for Boston Green Drinks:

Today is Super Tuesday, Feb. 5th. It is not only Election Day in Massachusetts, but it is also the day for the Boston Green Drinks monthly gathering. Environmentalists of all stripes get together for networking and conversation.

They will meet at Pizzeria Uno, 820 Somerville Ave., Cambridge, just across the street from the Porter Square T entrance; they will be in the ground floor bar, next to the windows. Parking is available in the shopping center next door. Festivities start at 6:30 p.m.

So get out and vote for the greenest candidate you can find, and then come by and talk about it. See you then.

If you haven't yet heard of Green Drinks International, they are a self-organizing network of environmentalists, meeting monthly for friendly conversation and to discuss environmental issues. They are now in 314 cities worldwide, so visit their website to start or join a group near you!