Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do We Really Have to make this trip?

Linda Armstrong left such a great comment on our post "2,000-Watt Society...could we do it?" that I had to share. Sometimes I feel like not too many people read the comments, so I wanted to make sure to share this one with you all. I confess I don't agree with all her points 100%, but that's what debate is all about. At least she got me thinking:

Get a copy of the July 7 and 14 New Yorker. The article begins on page 69. It also discusses an energy efficient building in Switzerland. I think we could save a lot by requiring such efficiency in the construction of new government buildings and schools. Solar is problematic at this point. The panels do not last long enough or produce enough power to pay for themselves. Passive solar heating (south-facing windows) and geothermal are more promising. I think the question we in the US must ask ourselves first is, "Do we really have to make this trip?"

1. Do office workers have to commute when they could work at their computers and answer work phones from home?
2. Do business travelers have to fly when they could hold conference calls or do virtual conferencing in local TV studios?
3. Do children have to be bused to distant schools and sporting events? In LA, busing for integration is a joke. Less than 2 percent of students in the city are white. It isn't doing anybody any good and it's spewing carbon into the atmosphere.
4. Should public servants such as police officers and teachers live 40 miles away from their jobs? Wouldn't they understand the people they worked with better if they lived within 5 or 10 miles?
5. Should doctors and other professionals live 40 miles from the people they serve? Shouldn't neighborhoods be better balanced? They used to be when I was a kid.
6. Should film stars be celebrated for having lots of kids (and thus encouraging others to follow suit)? Shouldn't people think about the resources consumed by a person during a lifetime? It's not an act of generousity to, um, multiply. What's wrong with just one loved child?
7. Shouldn't we be supporting the expansion and improvement of passenger train service in the US? So what if it doesn't make money? Public roads don't make money, either.
8. Shouldn't we be expanding and improving our national railroads? Trucking is fine for local loads. Freight belongs on trains. Trains can be powered in a number of different ways. Europe is way ahead of us in this regard.
9. Shouldn't we be promoting local travel and ways to have fun closer to home?
10. Should't we be developing fashions that wash easily and dry quickly?
11. Shouldn't we be tapping our national imagination for holding competitions for ways to generate and save evergy? For example, how about a sculpture competition--moving sculptures that generate energy--tides? wind? How about an architecture competition for a new government, church, or business building that would be self-sustaining? Gates, are you listening?--offer a prize!

Posted by Linda Armstrong

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Making Local Food last

If you have been harvesting your own food from the garden, getting inundated with your CSA box, or shopping for locally grown food at your nearest market, the thought of preserving food has likely crossed your mind. I am aspiring to can and otherwise preserve my own food as a way to eat more locally in the winter. I read a great article about the resurgence of making jams, complete with recipes and jamming tips. If videos are more your speed, you can also watch a video about easy food preservation tips on the Ball jar website. On the same topic, you can also read about Chef Tory Miller of L'Etoile's methods of putting food by for the winter. He has to manage food for a whole restaurant...we can at least learn to preserve some of the bounty for our own families.

Here's an easy way to get started: berries. All you have to do is go berry picking or buy a whole mess of berries at their height of flavor and then freeze them on cookie trays. After they freeze separately you can put them in a ziplock and enjoy smoothies for months to come! Yum!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Idealist Graduate Degree Fairs Coming to A City Near You!

Many Conscious Consumers evaluate whether they are spending the majority of their time in line with their values, doing something they love. In light of that fact, we are sharing the following, courtesy of Meg Busse at Idealist:

If you are thinking of going back to graduate school, checkout our Idealist Graduate Degree Fairs at

At each of these fairs, you will meet representatives from 60 to 120 of the leading nonprofit-related graduate programs in the country, representing degrees ranging from MPAs and MBAs through Law, Social Work, International Relations, Urban Planning, and many more.

This fall we will be in:

New York, September 10
Boston, September 15
Toronto, September 18
Washington, DC, September 19
Philadelphia, September 22
San Francisco, September 30
Los Angeles, October1
Portland, October 4
Seattle, October 7
Vancouver, October 10
Chicago, October 20
Ann Arbor, October 21
St. Louis, October 23
Durham, October 27
New Orleans, October 30
Atlanta, November 3

For more information, to register (it's free!), and to see a list of the schools attending each fair, just go to and click on your city.

And if you want to get a sense of who you'll meet at these fairs, and
why you should attend, watch this two-minute video.

The second reason I am writing is to invite you to take a look at two free books that can help you or other people you know find a nonprofit job.

The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers and
The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers are both
available to download for free.

Happy Searching!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't Move Firewood Campaign

Here's something I know nothing about: camping. True, I've been known to spend a few days in nature, but there's always a toilet nearby, and I don't mean those bushes over there.

For those of you who are more outdoors-inclined, this local firewood campaign might be of interest:

Did you know that by transporting firewood you may unintentionally spread invasive insects and diseases that can destroy trees and reshape entire forests? State and federal quarantines attempt to prevent such damage by prohibiting firewood transport into or out of certain areas, or limiting transport to a specified radius.

Continue reading at UCS's website.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

We were the featured non-profit on this week!

We were very excited to read in the weekly email that we were their featured non-profit this week. They have over 1,000,000 nonprofits registered, so that was pretty great news! Visit us on, sign up as a supporter for our cause, and join a social networking site that is dedicated to making a positive difference in our world. It's free to register, and you can launch actions that might inspire others about the issues about which you are most passionate.

"Making Do Without the Minivan"

In Newsweek's My Turn Essay this week, "Making Do Without the Minivan," Jennifer Perrow describes her family's summertime attempt to reduce their reliance on their minivan. She says:
I love the high cost of gas. It's forced our family to rethink our spending habits and our carbon footprint, and we're finding we can do much more on much less than we thought
By reducing family driving and walking or biking more, she notes that "life feels simpler." What I especially liked about her experiment is that what started out as reducing driving became more of an experiment in voluntary simplicity. She notes that errands that had her running in the car here or there have been eliminated in favor spending time with the kids and the family dog.

One of my favorite things about becoming a conscious consumer is its spiraling nature; you start out examining one thing, like the way you drive, or the way you eat, use energy, spend your time, etc., and pretty soon you begin to realize how connected all of those things are. By becoming conscious of how you do any of these things can lead to greater awareness about how you are (or aren't!) living your values on a daily basis.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Growth in Local Foods

Here is a great article by GERRY SMITH of the McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE (8/13/08) about the growth of the localvore movement. I put an excerpt from the article below, but click the link above to read the whole thing.

CHICAGO - Last month, Lenae Weichel embarked on an ambitious dietary experiment: to feed her family for a year with food produced within 100 miles of her Rockford, Ill., home.

Inspired by a Vancouver couple who wrote a book on their ‘‘100-mile diet,’’ she joined a community-supported agriculture program, visited her local farmers market and started growing fruits and vegetables in her backyard.

Weichel, 33, is an extreme example of a vibrant movement of ‘‘locavores,’’ or consumers who try to shorten the distance between their food and its origin, largely from a desire to eat fresher produce, support their local farmers and reduce the carbon pollution associated with transporting goods. Only a few set 100 miles as a strict limit; others might just seek produce from the Midwest. But eating locally grown food, an idea once limited to hard-core environmentalists, is gaining traction among mainstream consumers. Already the movement has inspired a slew of books, prompted restaurants to use local food as a selling point and established ‘‘locavore’’ as the Word of the Year for 2007, according to the Oxford American Dictionary.

Nationwide, the local foods market was valued at $5 billion last year and is projected to grow to $7 billion by 2011, according to Packaged Facts, a publisher of food market research. By comparison, U.S. organic food sales were nearly $17 billion in 2006, up from $1 billion in 1990, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

100% Renewable Power in 10 Years

The Post-Carbon Institute released a response to Al Gore's challenge to the US to produce 100% renewable energy in 10 years (by 2018). The first (and arguably most important) step in the plan is:
Reduce consumption and reduce waste—not just of fossil fuels but of energy overall and of raw materials, almost all of which require energy to exploit and transport. Reducing consumption is vital in making the goal of 100% renewable electricity achievable, both to reduce the amount of renewable power we need to generate and because it will greatly reduce the cost of installing it.

You can read the full text of The Post-Carbon Institute's 10-point plan here. How's that for forward thinking?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Slow Food Boston farm visit and food preservation classes

Willow, Peggy, and Alex of Slow Food Boston wanted to let all of Massachusetts Conscious Consumers know about an event on August 16th at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton: 'Land to Sea: A Celebration of Local Foods.' Starting at 5:00pm, there will be farm tours and hayrides, live music, and amazing amazing local foodstuffs like a lobsterbake, cheeses, breads wine & beer. None of which is to be outdone by the freshly picked veggies from the farm, of course! Call them at 978-468-3720 for more information or to reserve. Cost is $79 for adults and $12 for kids.

The Slow Food Boston food preserving classes at Haley House have been selling out quickly - pickling with Rick Field is this Friday. Next one up is tomato sauces, salsas & dehydrating Sunday, August 24th. Coming up on the evening of Wednesday, August 27th, we'll be hosting a talk and tasting of Slow Food ARK of Taste summer fruits at the NonProfit Center downtown. September brings a fermenting foods class at Haley House, grass-fed dairy workshop, and a celebration of fall with beer. Visit Slow Food Boston for more information!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How to Save $ and Still Eat Healthy

A writer in Colorado recently wrote an article in the Pueblo Chieftan about how to continue to eat healthfully as prices rise. Some of his tricks include buying a local half cow and keeping it in the freezer, switching to bone-in chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts, buying head lettuces rather than "salad mix," supplementing veggies with a backyard garden, and buying laying hens rather than eggs. You can read all about it here. If you are wondering how to get grass fed beef in your area (and maybe find out how to buy 1/2 a cow), visit Eat Wild.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Urban Orchards, Volunteerism, and Ice Cream: What a combination!

We've written before about one of our favorite Boston non-profits, Earthworks. Benjamin Crouch, Director of Progams says:

This Saturday, August 2, come to JP Licks flagship store at 659 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, to try the new Sour Cherry Sorbet. This is the first in a series of Earthworks flavors that JP Licks will produce this summer from fruit grown in our City Fruit orchards. Volunteers helped pick the sour cherries from trees in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Dorchester.
We are using the partnership to promote our new City Fruit initiative. The project promotes the concept of urban orchards as a sustainable solution to nutrition deficiencies and problems with food security. We are also using the promotion to attract volunteer orchard stewards and connect fruit to charitable organizations. Come show your support for the cause, try the sorbet, and meet EarthWorks Executive Director, Andrew Birch, who will be on hand from 2pm - 6pm.
More City Fruit harvests are on the way. Look for opportunities to come pick with us
in August and September.


Boston Green Drinks meets August 5th

Thanks to Mike Prager of Boston Green Drinks for this post:

Our first gathering for August will be on the 5th at Globe Bar and Cafe, 565 Boylston St., facing Copley Square. We'll be in the balcony section.

In news, two dispatches from the state's continued green efforts:
New biofuels law
The governor yesterday signed The Clean Energy Biofuels Act, which will "make Massachusetts the first state to exempt cellulosic biofuels from state gas taxes, creating economic incentives for companies while requiring that the fuels meet strict greenhouse gas reduction standards," according to the Globe story . "The law also requires all diesel and home heating fuel to be 2 percent biofuels by 2010 and 5 percent by 2013."

Rate decoupling
And last week, the Department of Public Utilities decoupled utility rates from sales volume, so that a utility doesn't feel compelled to sell more electricity in order to make more profit. The move was one outcome of the previously signed Green Communities Act.

Beat the Heat is a climate change campaign fundraiser being conducted by Earthwatch Institute. It will be at the Washburn Pavilion on the Charles at the Museum of Science on Aug. 14. Tickets are $100 now, $125 at the door. More info here .