Tuesday, April 29, 2008

King Corn

Thanks to Boulder County Going Local, I watched the film King Corn last night. It's a fantastic complement to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Let's face it, that book is pretty long and very dense; it's a great book, but not everyone is going to crack it. This film presents similar information is a more digestible, entertaining way. It's not full of answers, but it outlines the changes in our agricultural system over the past 50 years very carefully, through interviews with scientists, farmers, and doctors. Did you know that 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will be diagnosed with diabetes over their lifetime? That we are the first generation in a long time with a shorter life expectancy than our parents? That's because we're mainlining high fructose corn syrup, in the form of sodas, juices, and junk food additives.

I could tell you more about it, but you should really see it for yourself. Order it on their website, Netflix, or attend a screening near you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Urban farming

Ads are everywhere, but after this short one is a cool clip about urban farming (don't blame me, it's the Wall Street Journal's video). Food doesn't get more local than your own front or backyard, as Kip Nash of Community Roots in Boulder, CO explains:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

International Labor Rights Forum’s MOTHER’S DAY Roses Raffle

Personally, on Mother's Day, I'm not much for flowers. I'd rather receive an edible plant like basil or a tomato seedling, but I'm sure I'm in the minority. Indoor houseplants still trump cut flowers (from an ecological perspective), which are shipped primarily from South America. However, if you must give cut flowers, look for Fair Trade flowers. Or better yet, read the rest of this posting courtesy of the Internaional Labor Rights Forum:

"This Mother's Day, celebrate by sending a special gift to a loved one, while also helping to improve working conditions for women in the Latin American cut flower industry.

Enter to win a dozen fair trade roses delivered to your mother (or whomever you choose…)! Each entry costs $10. With a $30 donation, you will not only get 3 raffle entries, but we will also send a fair trade chocolate bar and a special card letting your loved one know that a donation was made in their name. Enter online here .

FOUR winners of fair trade bouquets will be chosen at random from the raffle.
Deadline for entering is May 4. Winning entrants will be notified by May 5 and the 4 lucky recipients of fair trade bouquets will be congratulated on the ILRF website and e-newsletter on May 12. For official entry rules, click here .

Proceeds will benefit the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)’s Fairness in Flowers campaign, which promotes safe and decent work in the cut flower industries through consumer education and support for local organizations that provide services for workers in Latin America. There are 40,000 flower workers in Ecuador and over 100,000 in Colombia, working to grow, harvest, and package the roses and carnations sold in the United States. More than half of these workers are women, and many are single mothers. They commonly face labor rights violations including sexual harassment, pesticide-related illnesses, and forced pregnancy testing. Your donation will help more workers access legal support and health and safety trainings, and will help ILRF and its partners push producers and retailers to provide real protections for flower workers and the environment.

About Fair Trade roses: Most Fair Trade certified roses come from Ecuador and Kenya. In addition to certifying compliance with labor and environmental standards, workers receive a premium to invest in community development. More information at http://transfairusa.org/content/flowers."

Friday, April 25, 2008

International Downshifting Week 2008

Well I had very good intentions to write a daily diary for International Downshifting Week like I did last year, but Earth Day really takes up a lot of the attention in the US, and Downshifting Week at this time of year takes a back seat, unfortunately. It's been really dizzying this year to see how the environmental movement has taken off...the mainstream media has taken up the cause and more people are aware of how their daily decisions are affecting the environment. Just take a look at the growth of farmer's markets and CSAs, the plethora of environmentally focused web sites and blogs (giving us more opportunities to spread the Conscious Consuming message!), and the jump into eco-products by HUGE corporations like Wal-Mart and Target. It's not the same scene it was a year ago, that's for sure.

Environmental consciousness is a welcome thing, and I'm not complaining about its growth. However, I think that one of the things that sets Conscious Consuming and International Downshifting Week apart is the focus on Slowing Down to Green Up. Voluntary simplicity is by its nature very environmental. The less work we do, the less money we have, the less stuff we buy, the more time we have to do the things that really make life worth living. Downshifting allows us to have more time to spend with friends and family; more time to grow some of our own food, cook meals from scratch, enjoy those meals sitting down at the table, volunteer in our communities, follow our passions and follies. Whether you've been actively engaged in Downshifting Week or not, check out Tracey Smith's website to find Downshifting Tips for Success!

Global Green Expo in Jersey City this weekend!

We just got word of this event and wanted to share it with everyone around Jersey CIty and NYC as something worth checking out:

The 2008 Global Green Expo ,Fri and Sat 25th and 26th April, Liberty Park, Jersey City, NJ (easy access from NYC!)

Lee Welles, the author of the great "Gaia Girls" kids book series will be there. She has done quite a few of these events and assures us that this will be a good one!

For more info, check out their website: www.globalgreen2008.com

Have a great green weekend!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kudos to Conscious Consuming

We are delighted to have been listed as one of "Ten Eco Blogs for Earth Day" by the London Times On-line. We are in good company; also listed was No Impact Man and Climate Progress.

Eco Tips for Jeans

OK, all jokes about the dancing aside, this video from the UN Environment Program suggests we wear our jeans 3x before washing, wash in cold, and hang dry. I would wager that goes for most clothes, unless you're sweating, have young kids with ketchup fingers giving you hugs, or farm for a living. I am still trying to teach my kids to check their clothes to see if they're dirty before putting them in the hamper, but they are only 5 and 7. Hopefully adults have already learned this lesson.

About the United Nations Environment Programme
Created in 1972, UNEP represents the United Nations’ environmental conscience. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, its mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
The UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics - based in Paris - helps governments, local authorities and decision-makers in business and industry to develop and implement policies and practices focusing on sustainable development. The Division leads UNEP's work in the areas of climate change, resource efficiency, harmful substances and hazardous waste.
The Division works to promote:

> sustainable consumption and production,

> the efficient use of renewable energy,

> adequate management of chemicals,

> the integration of environmental costs in development policies.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earthworks' Roxbury in Bloom Tour

Join Earthworks for a tour of Roxbury, MA at the height of the flowering spring! See below for details.

Roxbury in Bloom Tour,
June 14, 10am-noon
Apricot Blossoms
For the second year in a row, EarthWorks will participate in Discover Roxbury's "Roxbury In Bloom" Tour. Ride a trolley through this historic neighborhood of Boston to visit sites with flowers, fruits and vegetables. Delight in a gorgeous display of gardens, parks, historic sites and even a farm!
Click here for more information.

Pets for the Environment

Brace yourself for cuteness.

I came across this great website created by the Environmental Working Group: Pets for the Environment

Though it may seem at first glance a cutsy, almost frivulous way to talk about environmental toxins in the home, the toxins are real and have the potential to be extremely harmful to people, their children, and their pets. This website does a great job of explaining the invisible harms in our cleaning and storage products.

Check out the Healthy Pet Tips! I'm going to be making at least some of these changes in my own home, if not for me, for my kitties I care so much about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Today, April 22, 2008, is Earth Day. Earth Day was started in the 1960's, and some people believe that the modern environmental movement was sparked by this first celebration.

We have giant shoulders to stand on and must solve the most crucial environmental problem of our time in our generation. This is the time to look back at our predecessors and learn from them.

Below you'll find a couple of our favorite quotes from our heroes. Throughout the day I'll be posting more in the comments section of this post. Feel free to post your own as well!

"The Earth is not dying, it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses." -Utah Phillips

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

"What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?" -Henry David Thoreau

"Never, no never, did nature say one thing and wisdom say another." - Edmund Burke

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do” - Wendell Berry

"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do." - Barbara Ward

"It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself."
-Rachel Carson

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shorter commutes, happier people

NPR had a news story on this morning about how people are choosing houses with shorter commutes. Although their slant was about the housing markets in lots of cities, I would like to think that this trend shows that people are now valuing their time with family and not in their cars on the highway, more than that big house in the suburb.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"One Less Burger, One Safer Planet"

You might not like to hear it, but it's true. Cutting meat out of your meals is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. I've said it before, but now you can hear Derrick Z. Jackson say it his Globe Op-Ed, "One Less Burger, One Safer Planet."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Make your Earth Day Plans

If you want to do something special this weekend to celebrate Earth Day, you can search for events by city on the Earth Day Network. The Earth Day Network says one of the most important things you can do for climate is to register to vote. I'm guessing most people reading the Conscious Consuming blog are pretty engaged citizens already, but if you haven't registered yet, get a move on!

Many of the Earth Day events are rallies and/or concerts, which can be fun ways to connect with other people in your community. If you want to do something with a little more activism, however, you might consider volunteering for the environment. There are a lot of volunteering opportunities that focus on the environment in April in celebration of Earth Day, and often these can turn into on-going projects throughout the year. If you are in the Boston area, visit Boston Cares to find all manner of environmental and social justice volunteer opportunities. Most volunteering projects require participants to first become Boston Cares members and attend an orientation, and from there, it's on to helping people and the planet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"The Greening of Boston" event with Boston Cares

We thought some of you might want to attend this free event about "The Greening of Boston" on April 29, 2008 from 6-8pm.

In celebration of Earth Day join Boston Cares for our April Conversation Café as we hear from Shubhada Kambli from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of New England as she leads our discussion about the "greening" of Boston and energy efficiency.

In the March issue of Popular Science Magazine, Boston was named the third Greenest City in the United States in part because of its recycling programs, public transportation systems, Green Buildings programs, and renewable energy plans. "Beantown truly is Greentown," Mayor Menino has said. Shubhada Kambli will talk about the steps Boston has taken to become more "green" and discuss ways in which we can all work to make our city more sustainable in the future.

Organization: Boston Cares
Phone: 617-422-0910 x204
Contact person: Sarah Lally
Website: http://www.bostoncares.org

For directions/public transportation information, please visit the event page on Idealist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Sustainable Energy in Motion Bicycle Tour"

Common Circle Tours is a bicycle touring company based in Oregon that offers sustainability tours in both Oregon and Hawaii. It sounds like a fun, educational vacation, and you'd get lots of exercise in the process. The tours are geared toward beginning/intermediate bicyclists, so you don't have to be hard core to participate. As part of the tour, you'll visit intentional communities, organic farms, green building sites, and may get to participate in a service project. You will learn about low-impact camping every night. Read about a typical day on the tour here.

If it sounds interesting, the price for a one week Oregon or Hawaii tour is $695 total for TWO people if you sign up by April 20th. Not bad for a one-week vacation including accomodations and hands-on permaculture education. A deposit of $150 secures your spot. Visit www.commoncircle.com to register or for more information.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Report: Organic veggies have more nutrients

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

A review of nearly 100 scientific studies has concluded that, on average, organic fruits and vegetables have more vitamins, minerals, and beneficial antioxidants than their conventionally grown counterparts. In the new report, scientists from The Organic Center (a nonprofit that promotes organic farming), examined carefully matched measurements of selected nutrients in specific organic and conventionally grown foods. The scientists found that the organic produce had higher levels of tested nutrients in 61 percent of the cases. Furthermore, the organic foods tended to have higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, nutrients that are often in short supply in U.S. diets. By contrast, conventional produce had higher levels of potassium, phosphorus, and total protein, which most people already have in their diets in sufficient amounts. The Organic Center will update its findings online as new studies comparing organic and conventional foods are published. Read the report.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sign Up Now for EarthWorks' Landscaping Workshops

Sign up now for Spring Landscaping Workshops!

EarthWorks is holding a series of landscaping and tree care workshops this spring. Find more info here.

March 8: Tree Pruning
April 26: Edible Landscaping
May 10: Landscaping with Native Trees and Shrubs

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

Raj Patel has a new book out on the world food system, explaining why some people pay so much for food and some go hungry. Hear and read an interview with the author here.

A new approach to bottle redemption

There is an interesting article in today's Boston Globe on bottle redemption. Massachusetts only has bottle redemption for carbonated beverages. This excludes bottled water, sports drinks, wine, etc.

Last year 144 billion containers were discarded rather than recycled and more than 1/3 of them were plastic bottles. This is unsustainable and changes need to be made to stop this environmentally harmful habit. Of course it would be best if people would stop using disposable bottles and use reusable metal, ceramic or glass containers instead. Until everyone does that, more robust recycling and redemption is an incremental step.

The article discusses a new program in Maine called Clynk. Maine is one of only three states that redeems both carbonated and non-carbonated beverage containers. Clynk is a business with a new redemption model that seems to be winning over people on both sides of the redemption debate. Read the article for details.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Being a Conscious Consumer of Furniture

I just read an interesting article over on used furniture over at the Apartment Therapy website. The article got me thinking about what an outstanding choice quality used furniture is from a Conscious Consuming perspective.

The store featured in her article had the following positive features:
  • It was a local and independent business
  • Offered high quality/durable furniture at a reasonable price
  • Focused on reusing and repurposing items
  • Provides an alternative to Ikea, Crate & Barrel, etc.
  • Will also refinish or reupholster your existing furniture
  • Free delivery so it doesn't require/justify car usage!

This all sounded like a few steps in the right direction. Although I don't have much furniture right now, if I'm in a situation where I confuse wanting more with needing more and choose to purchase some - I'm going to Eddie's!

Idealist Global Volunteering Fair Comes to Boston

Want to make a difference in a community outside the United States?

Learn more about opportunities for international volunteering at the
first ever Idealist.org Global Volunteering Fair in Boston on
Saturday, April 12th!

At this FREE event, hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health,
Harvard Graduate School of Education, John F. Kennedy School of
Government, and Harvard Divinity School, you can:

* Meet over twenty nonprofit organizations that coordinate volunteer
projects around the globe

* Participate in the following workshops:
International Volunteerism 101
Linking Service to Learning
Volunteering as a Family
A Writer in Romania, a Lawyer in Lesotho: Using Your Skills to Volunteer
Know Before You Go
Overcoming Barriers to Service
Choosing a Program or Going Solo
Volunteering Towards Your Career Goals

Please join us from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Harvard University
School of Public Health at Kresge Building 3, 677 Huntington Avenue,
in Boston. For a full list of participating organizations and more
information about the workshops, as well as to learn more about the
fair, locate directions, and/or register to attend this FREE event, go
to www.idealist.org/globalvolunteering.

Please share this with your friends, family, and colleagues…See you at
the fair!

Erin Barnhart
Manager, Volunteerism Initiatives
Action Without Borders / Idealist.org

Monday, April 07, 2008

Call for Applications

Our friends at Slow Food USA are hosting an amazing conference about slow food in Turin, Italy in October of 2008.

Why am I telling you this now? Slow Food is looking for students, cooks, food producers, and others to apply to be a representative at the conference. They're looking for diversity of all kinds and need your participation to do this!

Hope you'll consider applying!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Consumption Conscious 13-year-old!

When I was reading the bimonthly publication World Ark, put out by Heifer International, the other day, I came across this letter from a 13-year-old named Simone Prince-Eichner from Lummi Island, Washington. I hope my kids are this profound at 13!!!

I am a concerned 13-year-old who has given a great deal of thought to such global issues as hunger, poverty and child labor. After reading the article entitled "Product RED: The Power of the Consumer" in the November/December issue, I had several different reactions. It seems sensible to me that while purchasing everyday products a consumer would have the ability to contribute to a worthy cause. However, while the (PRODUCT) RED campaign is helping some, it is our consuming habits that are harming many.

It is our responsibility as consumers to vote with our dollar, using it in a way that creates a "good deal" for everyone. We must first decide if our level of consumption is sustainable, and then we must pause to think about who and what our choices are affecting.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Intro to Permaculture comes to Brighton

Well I mentioned that I attended a Permaculture Garden Design course a few weeks back here in Boulder, and I wanted to let you know about one coming up in Brighton on April 12-13th, 2008. This Intro to Permaculture Design course will be led by noted Permaculture instructor Dick Pierce and local guests, offering practical training and skills in sustainable living. According to their notes, they "will cover design principles, techniques, and mind-sets that can easily be applied to your home, workplace, and community to help you live well and joyously, in the city, suburbs, or country, but with less energy, less consumption, and a smaller/kinder ecological footprint." Sounds like a great way to spend a weekend to me!

BTW, I found out about this course at The Relocalization Network, which unbelievably enough, after a lifetime of environmentalism and 2 years of blogging for Conscious Consuming, I JUST DISCOVERED! These folks are awesome!!! They are actually trying to teach people to do something about peak oil and global climate change, instead of putting their heads in the sand and watching reality TV! How inspiring!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


The 2008 Boston Skillshare will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 5th and 6th, 2008. This is a nearly free event, where local people host workshops to teach a skill, and take workshops to learn a skill. It's a great way to meet new people, connect with those in your community, and learn something in the process.

Register at MIT's stata center
32 vassar street, cambridge
$3-10 sliding scale and/or volunteer
Now with over *50* different workshops, a smattering of which are listed below. To see the updated workshop
schedule and full descriptions, visit http://bostonskillshare.org/workshop.php:

Esperanto Conversation
Introduction To Juggling
Learn To Knit
Practical Urban Cycling
The Truth About Identy Theft
35mm Film Pinholes: Simple Cameras Made Out Of Trash
Beginning Lampwork: Making Glass Beads
Creating Emotional Safety As A Facilitator
Drag King 101: Strut For Success!
Intermediate To Advanced Juggling
Sprouts And Microgreens
Crafting Creatures: Easy Techniques For Knitted Stuffed Animals
Games And Fun And Games And Fun And Games: Fun And Games
Herbal First Aid
Kick the Kibble: Cooking for your Animal Companion
Lesbian Dating 101
People's Poetry Workshop
Rad Library Resources
Grow It Yourself: Beginner Urban Gardening
How To Become A Backgammon Master
Salsa, Merengue, Spanish & La Lucha
Supporting Survivors Of GLBT Abusive Relationships
You Are Not A Number: Applying To Grad School Even If Your GREs Are Low
Destroy The Binary: Taking Back Gender
Free (the) Net : Build Your Own Wireless Internet Router
Home Brewing
Intro To Linguistics
Mask Making And Cardboard Sculpting
Time Management
Vintage Moped Restoration And Small Engine Repair
Basic Self Defense
Electronic Design, Microcontrollers and You
Fun with Fermentation!
Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, And Blocks To Success
Run, Run, Run For Fun
Speed Erotica
Strap It Down, Pack It In: Drag King Masculine Performance Workshop
Chemical Weapons & Police Tactics
I Wanna Felt You Up
How To Use Your Story: A Community Organizing Overview
Prefigurative Parenting: Growing Empowered Kids from the Beginning
Soccer for All
Wild Carrot: Natural, Conscious Herbal Contraception
Yurts and Simple Shelters! What. Why. How.
Basic Bicycle Maintainence
Growing Yr Own Mushrooms
JP Kickball©: Strategize And Socialize
Personal Coaching 101
Protest Street Tactics
Soap Making And Embroidery Everyone Can Do It!
Know Your Rights!
Wiggle It Just a Little Bit: Indoor Worm Composting