Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ugly Truth Behind Organic Food | | AlterNet

An interesting article about organic food and farmworkers. Can we unite both environmental and social goals through our food?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Energy Efficiency in the Home

From our friends at UCS:

Don’t Toss Money out the Window
May 2009
Read this issue of Greentips online

Windows let the sunshine in, but in many cases they also let the heat in (or out, in the winter). According to the Department of Energy, heat transfer through windows can account for 10 to 25 percent of your heating and air conditioning costs. Older, single-paned windows are the biggest energy wasters.

Replacing older windows with energy-efficient ones can be expensive, but will save you money in the long run by reducing your energy use as much as 30 percent. Energy Star-rated windows are twice as efficient as typical models sold just 10 years ago. A variety of factors determine a window’s energy efficiency:

  • Solar heat. A window’s solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), a value ranging from 0 to 1, indicates the fraction of incoming solar radiation admitted through a window. The higher the number, the more heat will be transmitted, so you want a high value in colder climates (to take advantage of free heat provided by sunlight) and a low value in warmer climates (to keep heat out and lower cooling costs).

  • Heat transfer. The rate of heat transfer between the inside and outside of a home (unrelated to solar radiation) is known as a window’s U-factor, which generally ranges from 0.2 to 1.2. The lower the value, the less heat is lost from your home—especially helpful during the winter. Some double- or triple-paned windows also contain argon, an inert gas, between the panes to minimize heat transfer.

  • Glazing. Most energy-efficient windows are coated to help reduce heat transfer. Low-emissivity (or “Low-E”) coatings, composed of microscopic metal particles, reduce heat transfer by 40 to 70 percent while still allowing most light through. Tinted and reflective glass are also available, but they block some incoming sunlight as well.

  • Framing. Aluminum is a poor choice for window frames because it conducts heat readily.

Cost Considerations

Windows purchased in 2009 or 2010 that meet specific efficiency criteria are eligible for a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the purchase price (up to a maximum of $1,500 for all qualifying home improvements). See the Related Resources for information on eligibility criteria.

If you can’t replace your old windows now, there are other steps you can take:

  • Seal air leaks around windows with caulk or weatherstripping.

  • Affix Low-E coated film directly to windows to help reduce heat loss.

  • Install storm windows to reduce heat loss from single-pane windows by 25 to 50 percent. Low-E storm windows can cost less than a new energy-efficient window.

  • Use insulating window treatments including shades, curtains, blinds, or awnings to block incoming sunlight in summer and keep heat in during the winter.


Efficient Windows Collaborative

Department of Energy—Window Tips

Energy Star—Rebates and Tax Credits for Windows, Doors, and Skylights

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grow Your Own

It's amazing to see the growth of the local food movement in the past year. I've mushed over it before, but if you need inspiration to get on the path, please read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. You can also visit this part of her site to see photos about how people are growing veggies in their front yards; I find it so inspiring to read about these normal folks, making a big difference in their community food security, health, environment, and tastebuds!

I'm no master gardener, by any stretch. Lucky for me, Boulder recently had a free "Vegetable Gardening for Beginners" workshop. Massachusetts has much more fertile soil than Colorado (and also the absence of summer hail, high winds, oppressive UV radiation, dry conditions, etc.), so I really needed this workshop. I learned what grows super easily here (radishes, tomatoes, potatoes, and greens), what it's possible to grow with some care and attention (lettuce, strawberries, peas and beans), and what does not do so well (carrots, asparagus). I'm really excited to get my plants in the ground, but around these parts I learned I have to wait until after the danger of the last hard frost, which is May 15th. And all that the presenters required of the sixty or so participants was an agreement to share the harvest with neighbors, friends, or Community Food Share. How is THAT for walking the walk! I'm so excited to get my hands dirty; show my kids again the wonders of growing food from seed; eat some yummy, healthy, organically grown food; and share it with people who need it!

EPA rules on Greenhouse Gases

I didn't hear this bit of news until today, so I thought I'd share with you:

April 17, 2009:
Ecological Internet (EI) welcomes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ruling today that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases "may endanger public health or welfare", a finding that opens to door to future regulation of such emissions under the Clean Air Act. EI continues to demand that emission cuts be fast and large, that Congress not weaken planned E.P.A. carbon regulation, and that Congress abandon cap and trade legislation for a simple, highly effective, carbon tax. And that the U.S. leads at Copenhagen or feel the consequences.

The E.P.A said in its proposed endangerment finding that "based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that... these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate." Human health and welfare was thus threatened by increased severity and intensity of storms; more frequent drought, heatwaves, and forest fires; rising sea levels; and harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.

Merrimack Valley Green Energy Environmental Summit

The Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce
The Merrimack Valley Green Energy Environmental Summit
Keynote presentations by
Mass. Secretary Ian Bowles,
Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
Representative Barry Finegold, Chairman
Telecommunications, Utlities and Energy Committee
A special panel of local experts to assist you to reduce your energy costs now:
As you face the every struggle with the high costs of energy for your cars/trucs, businesses, building and home, Your Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce has been working to help you address how you might reduce your energy costs NOW!!
If you are a business or homeowner in the Merrimack Valley
you can't afford to miss this program!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Osgood Landing, 1600 Osgood Street, North Andover, MA
Thank you to your Sponsors: Title: Wheelabrator, North Andover
Program: Osgood Landing, Solectria Renewables
Associate: National Grid
Media: Eagle Tribune Publishing
Your Company Name Could Be Here/ Call for sponsorship information
Includes Full Breakfast
Members $20.00 MVCC Energy Summit Non-Members $30.00
Thursday, May 14,2009
Please make ____ reservations
Name(s) ________________________________________ Company ______________________________
Check enclosed _________Pay at door________ Bill my account_______ Credit Card _____--
Amex Mastercard Visa#________________________________________ exp. date_________
Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, 264 Essex Street, Lawrence, MA 01840
Tel#978-686-0900 Fax#978-794-9953
This registration confirms your attendance

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Green Business Summit

Join the Boston Business Journal on May 15th, 2009 as we honor the most innovative and effective leaders advancing "green" workplace policies in Greater Boston.
We will award honorees in the following categories: Innovation, Invention, Design, & Workplace:
Click here to see the honorees.

The morning will also feature a keynote by Ian Bowles, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Panel discussion including:

Gideon Gradman, Vice President of Corporate Development with Ze-Gen Inc.

Jeff Andrews, Partner at Atlas Venture

John P. DeVillars, Partner Bluewave Strategies

Click here to register!

Green Business Summit
Friday, May 15, 2009 7:00am
Sheraton Boston Hotel

Bowditch & Dewey LLP
National Grid
Thomas G. Gallagher

Earthworks call for volunteers!

From Earthworks, an urgent call for volunteers this Thursday!

We are in the midst of establishing a new garden at the Hurley School in Boston's South End. Due to a shortfall of volunteers last weekend, we are putting out an urgent call for help so that we can complete the project. Please join us on Thursday evening for any amount of time between 4-8pm or on Sunday from 12-4pm.
The project involves restoring a garden space to include edible and insect-attracting plants for our Outdoor Classroom students to study, care for, and harvest. The program at the Hurley School serves over 100 kids with hands on environmental science lessons twice a week.
Volunteering is also a good opportunity to learn about organic techniques and using edibles in the landscape. Please respond to this message or call our office if you are interested in signing up. We will provide instructions and directions for the events.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bee Demonstration at MIT!

From our partners:

I'd like to let you know about "Buccaneers of Buzz: Celebrating
the Honeybee" - a multi-media tapdance, voice, video and marimba
extravaganza about beekeepers and their bees. This amazing piece
by Rialto Arts has been awarded a Gold Star by the Massachusetts
Cultural Council. I am privileged to be on the board of Rialto
Arts (, a small non-profit with a mission
of bringing nature and the performance arts together. Please
consider attending the wonderful performance, being staged as
part of the Cambridge Science Fair

May 1, 2 and 3
Broad Institute Auditorium, MIT
7 Cambridge Center, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

Friday, May 1 at 7:30 PM - 6:45 hive demonstration and
bee-keeping Q&A
Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 PM - 6:45 hive demonstration and
bee-keeping Q&A
Sunday, May 3 at 4:00 PM - 3:15 hive demonstration and
bee-keeping Q&A

Miranda Loud, Artistic Director, concept
with Brian Jones, tap/narration,
Yuko Yoshikawa, marimba,
Miranda Loud, film, additional music and vocals

Tickets at the door or
$20 general
$15 students/seniors
children 12 and under free
(no children under 6, please)

Monday, April 27, 2009

TONIGHT - Freshwater Forum at MIT

Please join us tonight for a discussion about communities organizing to protect fresh waterways in New England! It will be a very interesting presentation and discussion. It will also be a great way to network and see other fellows from the region. I hope that you can make it! More information is below and on our website.

Monday, April 27th - Tonight!
Fresh Water and Waterways in New England
MIT School of Architecture and Planning
77 Massachusetts Ave - Stella Room
Cambridge, MA 02139
($10 Suggested donation)
Register here: or at the door

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ask Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Carcinogens in Baby Products

From our partners:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report revealing that toxic chemicals, like 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, are in baby products. Both of these chemicals cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde is also known to cause skin rashes in people who are sensitive to the chemical.

Johnson & Johnson responded by saying "The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth,” and the Campaign should stop “alarming” parents. Please email Johnson & Johnson and let them know that that "a little bit of carcinogen in baby shampoo is OK" is NOT an acceptable stance! Click here to act

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Tips

Happy Earth Day, All!

Today we present a special post from my friend Ted, who has come up with this list of ways to help the environment. Enjoy!

Very easy

  1. We'll start with a no-brainer: Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

  2. This one should've been drilled into your heads by now: Replace most of your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. I buy them online, at While you're at it, replace your halogen torchieres with compact fluorescent torchieres on that site.

  3. If you have a notebook computer and a desktop, use your notebook computer unless you're beating someone up in an FPS or editing your next feature film. Notebook computers use less energy.

  4. Check the pressure in your car tires. Improper pressure can cause bad fuel economy. If you're too lazy to do it yourself, have your mechanic check the next time you get your oil changed.

  5. During the summer, close the blinds in rooms you're not using.

  6. Clean your dryer's lint trap before every use. Your clothes will dry faster and you'll be at a lower risk for fire. ...of course, it's better to dry your clothes outside, but that's not always an option.

  7. Watch An Inconvenient Truth. Even if you've seen it before, see it again. Bring your friends. This movie started a green revolution, and now, years later, I feel that people are lapsing back into apathy. So I think it's important that people keep this on the forefront of their minds.


  1. Run the dishwasher and washing machine at night. It puts less strain on the electrical grid.

  2. Turn off/suspend/hibernate your computer when you're not using it for more than two hours. Personally, I think you're fine turning it off even if you're gone for even 30 minutes, but since I don't do that, I can't beat anyone else up for that, either.

  3. Stop drinking bottled water. Let's face it: this is really sh*tty for the environment. Brita's doing great advertising on this, right now, showing you that a bottle ends up in a landfill forever. But we're talking more than just landfills: as a New Jerseyan, if I drank water from a certain company in Maine, every bottle has to travel a minimum of 350 miles to make it to me. And that's just the final product: imagine where the plastic has to come from. <Insert favorite deity here> forbid if I wanted to drink water from the French Alps or the South Pacific.

  4. Here's another good rule of thumb: Buy produce that's in season. That's really a corollary to my last point, but a rather important one. Stuff that's not in season will probably have to travel from some place where it is in season. (See what's in season right now.)

  5. Buy locally-grown food. Why? Same reason as the bottled water. Food that travels less uses less. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's generally a good rule of thumb.

  6. Buy organic produce. Why? Besides the fact that you put fewer pesticides and fertilizers in you, it also means less contamination of groundwater, better energy efficiency (don't ask me why, but organic farms tend to use less energy), better water efficiency, and lower soil erosion.


  1. Get yourself a programmable thermostat. Set your heat and A/C lower whenever you're not home. They'll cost you $40 but save you a lot of money in the long run.

  2. Lump your driving chores together. Unless you drive a plug-in car connected to a solar panel, you're not doing the planet any favors by driving to the grocery store every day. Spend a few minutes to plan ahead: buy stamps, pick up some milk, and drop off your dry cleaning in the same trip. Help the planet, give yourself more time at home, and put gas money back in your wallet, too.

  3. Offset your carbon emissions. Go to for reputable organizations that do this. (I use For $10, you can offset a ton of carbon emissions.

  4. Stop giving out useless gifts. Adult gift-giving can sometimes get out of hand. Around the holidays, people feel compelled to give the proverbial fruitcakes and meaningless tchotchkes that get tossed or thrown in the basement. If I can't think of something tangible to give my friends, I donate to charity on their behalf or offset their carbon emissions. In fact, for this Earth Day, I offset five of my friends' carbon emissions. You may be receiving a card from me in the next day or two.

  5. Replace old showerheads with low-flow showerheads. Also, get faucet aerators, and if you have an old toilet, get one of these.


  1. Buy a front-loading washing machine. They typically use less water and energy than their top-loading counterparts.

  2. Buy LED lights. LED bulbs are way more efficient than compact fluorescents. Not to mention they last tens of thousands of hours (effectively, years and years) and don't contain mercury. Only thing is that they cost a lot up front (a single 60W bulb replacement can cost $120). That price will come down, eventually. But right now, LED night lights are relatively cheap. I own several of these and love them. They emit a bluish light, but they're bright and last for years. Also good are LED Christmas lights. These Christmas lights look like regular Christmas lights but cost pennies for the whole season and last for years without burning out.

  3. Write your Congressman (or -woman) and tell them that you're a constituent who cares about global warming, who wants to see investments in renewable energy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of our last president, I don't believe that environmentalism has to be a partisan issue. If you don't know who your three representatives are in Congress, look here (and also: shame on you! You probably voted for or against them at some point! :P).

  4. This may be "hardcore" but it may be one of the best investments you ever make: Get an energy audit done for your home. They may suggest that you weather-strip your home, replace old appliances, replace old windows with high-performing, triple-paned, inert gas-filled windows, or replace your insulation with blown-in cellulose insulation. Check out the tax credits you can get for doing all this.

  5. Put your money where your mouth is and invest in environmentally- (and socially-) responsible stocks and mutual funds. I'm no financial advice giver, but just to let you know, I used to invest in Pax World mutual funds before the stock market took a nose dive.

  6. Broaden your focus from reusable shopping bags to the big picture. Recycling is good, but understand that if you use your SUV to drive aluminum cans to the recycling center, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Think of the broader picture: how does your behavior impact the world? Where do you buy gasoline? What kind of home products do you use, like toilet paper? When you're waiting for a train at a graded crossing, do you idle your car? Here's a hard one: do you buy clothes, gadgets, and other stuff to fill a void in your life? I'm afraid the list goes on. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting Rid of "Green"

There was an interesting interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman in Newsweek on April 13,2009 called "Getting Rid of Green." I especially liked the following question, and his answer:

You're critical of efforts to get people to make small, symbolic gestures to use less energy. What's wrong with that?

The danger is you think that if you change your light bulbs [to compact fluorescents], you've solved the problem. My motto is, change your leaders, not your light bulbs. Because what leaders do is rewrite the rules. They rewrite the rules of what utilities can burn as energy. They rewrite the car-mileage rules. They rewrite the rules of whether a nuclear plant can be built. These are the only things that give you [change at the scale we need]. Without scale change right now, in terms of climate we're really cooked. You know, I come out of the world of covering foreign policy, and that trained me to look for where the leverage points are. I don't think the leverage points now are in more consciousness-raising.

Friedman is looking forward to the day when the word "green" disappears as a qualifier for a fuel efficient home, car, energy, etc...because all cars and homes and energy plants will be built to the highest standards of efficiency and sustainability. I get what he's saying, and I totally agree. Conscious Consuming is a non-profit based on education and consciousness-raising, and I guess we will have done our job when there is no longer a need for that, because government leaders will come to the consensus that a sustainable economy is better than a "growth at any cost" economy. I think we have a long way to go, but we're certainly off to a running start with the Obama administration and his appointees. Oh yeah, and everyone's shaken faith in our current economy doesn't hurt either.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eco Cycle's Green Star Schools

Nancy Dudek, the Eco-Cycle Green Star Schools Coordinator here in Boulder County, shared some tips from local Green Star Schools in the Spring newsletter. Perhaps you can implement some of these ideas at your local school. I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea, and am more convinced than ever that each of us can make a big difference if we just put in the time and energy. Thanks, Nancy, for letting me share this with our readers:

Longmont Estates Elementary:
Head custodian, Cheryl Prentice, runs a custodial club with students in first through fifth grades. At the end of their lunch
period, these students help sweep the floor, wipe the tables and stand in the waste station line to help other students in
their grade level accurately sort their waste. Cheryl rewards these students for their extra efforts with gently used books
from Eco-Cycle’s Children’s Used Book Project.

Community Montessori:
When conducting events at their school, Community Montessori encourages its school community to bring their own
reusable water bottles and provides them with a large dispenser of water to refill their durable containers. This greatly
reduces plastic water bottle waste, as well as eliminates the expense involved in purchasing bottled water for participants
at events.

Eagle Crest Elementary:
Donna Chuang, member of Eagle Crest’s parent organization, asked for donations of any old, mismatched silverware that
might be found at home. Just three days after the Green Star Schools program was kicked-off, the school held their an-
nual Valentine’s Breakfast as a Zero Waste event using the donated silverware and purchased compostables. The silver-
ware supply will continue to be used by the school community to reduce both waste and expense for future events.

Heatherwood Elementary:
Harriet Brown, paraprofessional working in Heatherwood’s teacher workroom, retrieves all one-sided paper found in the
recycling bin. When time from her work schedule allows, she cuts the sheets into fourths and prepares stacks of notepa-
per for school staff to (re)use.

Niwot Elementary:
For the past two years, Niwot Elementary parent organization has sold Laptop Lunches ( at the
end of the school year with their school’s supply orders. This can be done as a fundraiser, but Niwot chooses to do it at
cost. Laptop Lunches gives them a discount for their fundraising purposes, and they pass that savings on to their families
to encourage the use of reusable containers.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act

You have likely heard how the unchecked use of antibiotics on crowded CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) has contributed to "supergerms" and antibiotic resistance. Well, according the the Union of Concerned Scientist's latest issue of the FEED newsletter, "Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have reintroduced legislation to address the growing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) will help protect the effectiveness of antibiotics by curbing the overuse of antibiotics in the feed of livestock and poultry that are not sick. A mounting body of scientific evidence links this practice to the rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans, including those caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter, and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria. PAMTA will require the Food and Drug Administration to cancel approvals for the routine use of human antibiotics as a feed additive if the uses are found to be unsafe from a resistance point of view. Learn more about the bill (S. 619, H.R. 1549) and urge your representatives in Congress to support it!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wild Wolves in Danger

I don't know how much you've heard about the wolf debate, but I recently read a great picture book with my kids about what a positive difference their reintroduction to Yellowstone has had on biodiversity and water flows. According to Defenders of Wildlife, "Just last month, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Bush-era wolf delisting rule would go ahead. Starting May 4th, more than 1,000 wolves in the region -- 2/3 of the current population -- could be killed... Return to the Wild, a new documentary from Mofilms, features Defenders’ Northern Rockies Representative Suzanne Stone and highlights our on-the-ground efforts to help ranchers and wolves peacefully coexist in the American West.

You can watch the 27-minute film for free in its entirety or see the trailer below. You can also sign a petition to urge President Obama to protect America's wild wolves.

If you haven’t already done so, please write President Obama and urge him to stand up for our western wolves.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

National Vacation Matters Summit

From our friends at Take Back Your Time:
Mark the dates and make your reservations now for THE NATIONAL VACATION MATTERS SUMMIT



If spaces still remain after May 1, registration fees will increase to $125 and $65.

Tickets will be available from Brown Paper Tickets:

You are also welcome to register directly with TAKE BACK YOUR TIME. Simply send a check payable to TBYT/VACATION SUMMIT to:

Take Back Your Time
PO Box 18652
Seattle, WA 98109

Add your email address for confirmation. Otherwise, we will have a name tag and conference materials waiting for you at the registration desk at the beginning of the Summit.


Studies show that vacations are essential to physical and mental health. They provide the strongest of family-bonding memories. They improve workplace productivity and prevent burnout. They increase international contact and understanding. They offer opportunities for spiritual growth and joyful play. They provide employment and business opportunities in the travel industry. But the United States is the only industrial country that does not guarantees some vacation time by law and Americans get less vacation time than people in almost any other country of the world.

Times of economic crisis like the one we face today are also opportunities to envision the kind of economy and life we really want and to ask what really matters when it comes to quality of life. Just as the Great Depression led to the forty-hour week and the expansion of the middle class, these new hard times can lead us to new choices that honor the need for balance and leisure in our lives.

The Vacation Matters Summit is about learning and sharing what we know about the value of leisure travel and vacation time. We’ll be bringing together more than three hundred experts, researchers, advocates, stakeholders and interested citizens for the first-ever national gathering about the importance of vacation time. The program starts Monday evening with a welcome and reception and continues until early Wednesday afternoon. It includes eight plenary speakers and at least fifty workshop presenters.

We are still looking for workshop presenters and will be accepting proposals. Let me know if you are interested in presenting and I will forward the information to our workshop committee. Registration fee for presenters will be $25.

Here’s a sampling of some of the presentations you’ll hear:

The Business Case for More Vacation Time
Vacations: A Matter of Social Justice
Vacations and International Understanding: the Case of Hosteling
Simple Vacations
Volunteer Vacations
The Impact of Vacations on Workplace Stress and Health
A short History of the family vacation
Vacations and Family Memories
Why do Americans give up so much vacation time?
Labor’s stake in more vacation time
Using the Economic Stimulus to guarantee more vacation time
The Economic Crisis as an opportunity to re-think what matters
Vacations and Nature Deficit Disorder
Culture Shift: From Valuing Stuff to Valuing Time
Pilgrimage and the Spiritual Value of Vacations

And many more…


Please let us know whether you will need meals and accommodations while in Seattle. Seattle University offers single and double rooms in both residence halls and residence suites at modest prices ranging from $26 to $55 a night. Email me at:

Residence halls—1 person in room: $31 per night; 2 persons in room: $26 each per night
Residence suites—1 person in room: $55 per night; 2 persons in room: $43 each per night

There are also a number of hotels in the immediate area.

Seattle University also offers a meal plan at $30 per day or you may purchase food in the dining area separately. There are also many restaurants in the area.

Please let us know your preferences. Space at Seattle University is limited and first-come, first serve.

Total conference costs including lodging, food and registration (but not travel costs) ranges from approximately $137 (presenters in residence halls) to $265 (non-
presenters in single room residence suites).

Summit begins at 6 pm Monday, August 10 and ends at 2 pm, Wednesday, August 12.

Friday, April 03, 2009

International Climate Treaty gets a boost from Obama Administration

"White House Announces International Meetings to Address Energy and Climate Issue"
Published: March 28, 2009 in The New York Times
The Obama administration announced Saturday that it had organized a series of meetings among representatives of 16 countries and the European Union to discuss energy and climate issues. The meetings, to be held in Washington in April and in La Maddalena, Italy, in July, will seek to resolve longstanding issues that have blocked the development of an international climate treaty. Read full article here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Baltimore Green Guide

Hey Baltimore friends! Have you seen your city's green guide? This looks like an amazing list of companies and services that help you live a more environmentally-friendly life.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Events - down:2:earth - An exploration into sustainable living.

Bostonites, check out down:2:earth, the environmental expo happening at the Hynes Convention Center this weekend. Our friends at Federation of Massachusetts of Farmer's Markets will be at the Local Bites party on Friday night, and all through the expo. Hope you can stop by!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Small Business Carbon Footprint Calculator

Do you own or run a small business and care about the impact you're having on the environment?

Native Energy, a Native American-owned wind energy company, has just put out a carbon footprint calculator for small businesses. It's a quick and easy way to estimate the amount of carbon you're adding to the atmosphere, or what my professors consider uncaptured revenue.

Check it out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crafty Mamas (and Papas)

Mothering recently published an article called "Crafty Mamas," which highlighted four moms that have recently written books or launched businesses based on the rise of DIY (that's "do it yourself" to you and me) projects that conscious consumers might be into. Click here for links to the websites of these moms, pictures of their work, and DIY inspiration.

The author, Jean Van't Hul, shared these words of wisdom after interviewing the four featured crafters:

Making something by hand can take longer than buying it, but many, including [Amanda Blake] Soule, prefer the slower pace of life created by the handmade and the do-it-yourself. From making her own clothing and homewares to baking her own bread, shopping locally, and giving money and time to a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, Soule's choices contribute to her family's slower pace of life. "While it may seem as though making things by hand takes more time and work, I actually think it can do quite the opposite. By choosing to create things ourselves, we--by default--consume less. We have less 'stuff,' and we do less shopping and a lot less running around. I think it's important to look at the whole picture."

If you aren't up to the challenge of crafting something new out of something old, you had better not peek at these sites. Take it from me, you will not be able to look without getting your creative juices flowing!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good News in the Downturn?

Most of us know someone at this point who is out of work. Maybe not your best friend, but certainly a neighbor or family member. The unemployment rate hit 8.1% in March, and by all accounts will rise to 10-12% before the recession subsides. That's scary, and I'm not rejoicing in the fact that anyone has lost their jobs. However, as the saying goes, every dark cloud has a silver lining. According to a recent Newsweek article by Zachary Karabell, "The Biggest Thing to Fear is Fear:"

The most obvious consequence is that personal savings jumped from under zero in the middle of 2008 to 5 percent in January. People have been socking away money and paying down debt. Outstanding credit-card debt has been decreasing for the past two months at least, and plunging auto sales are partly attributable to the unwillingness of many to incur new auto loans. Consumers are already rebuilding their own balance sheets.

Karabell goes on to say that the gradual return to spending from people on Main Street will lead the way out of the economic crises. Instead, I hope that people have used the past six months to reevaluate their priorities. Was it really that big of a deal to forgo the new car or Disney vacation and instead sock some money away in the bank to protect against a rainy day? It's nice to have a savings cushion and get your personal "balance sheet" in order. I know a lot of businesses have been lamenting the lack of consumer demand, but maybe the expectation that people will ALWAYS want to get something that is bigger and better is too demanding of consumers. There is such a thing as good enough, and maybe some of the businesses selling stuff people don't need should be downsizing. Waiting to buy something until there is enough money to pay for it used to be a lot more common; hopefully some of the new savers out there will continue to live this way even as our economy recovers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Simple Funerals on the Rise

Newsweek had an article recently by Matthew Philips called "When Death Comes Cheap," about the rise in "discount" funerals. Apparently, the cost of a casketed funeral has risen 30% from 2000 to 2008, with the price of a traditional funeral now costing nearly $10,000 (yikes!!!!). According to the Newsweek article, however, a variety of discount funeral services are cropping up to meet customer demand for a simpler, thrifiter way:

Now it's cultural shifts that are allowing some of these discount options to thrive. Chief among them is the growing acceptance of cremation, which accounted for less than 4 percent of funerals in the mid-1960s, but more than one third of them last year. (Some observers expect the cremation rate to hit 60 percent by 2025.) Cremation cuts out the three most expensive pieces of a funeral: the casket, the embalming process and the grave plot. Industry critics say that as consumer preference has shifted toward cremation, funeral homes are jacking up prices in an attempt to preserve profits in a declining market.

Cremation not only saves money for your loved ones, but packs a lower environmental footprint than being buried in a casket at the cemetary. It's morbid to think about (especially for you young, hip readers out there), but wouldn't it be better to think about it now, and talk with your loved ones about your wishes, than to have your family spend lots of money on something you might not even want (and let's face it, certainly don't NEED?). Are you reading this, honey?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Give and Be Happy

Newsweek recently published an interesting article called "The Science Behind Our Generosity", which sites a study that states that out of 30,000 Americans surveyed, those that give to charities were 43% more likely to say they were "very happy" about their lives.
It may seem odd to talk about giving more now, when we all feel so tapped out and worried. But that's not a very good excuse. No matter how hard hit we are by the economic slowdown, we are still vastly better off than those who are so poor that they struggle to meet their basic needs. Yet, though it would take comparatively little effort on our part, few of us choose to help them. Why is that?

The article also sites a statistic from UNICEF, which tells us that nearly 10 million children under five die each year from causes like inadequate sanitation, malnutrition, and unclean water. Even though times are getting tighter for most Americans, the fact is that we could easily give more than we do. Eliminate all restaurant meals and you could give from $10-100 a month, depending on how often you eat out. Isn't it worth not eating out so a child can eat in?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bioplastics: Not all their cracked up to be

The Union of Concerned Scientists is one of my favorite resources for scientific environmental information. Their latest issue of Greentips takes a look at "compostable" plastics. Personally I only use disposable/compostable utensils and plates once a year, at one of my daughter's birthday parties. If we have the party at home, I use our regular silverware; but every year one of my kids can have an "out" party (at a gymnastics place or something like that). I find it more convenient at these times to use disposable or compostable utensils and plates rather than bringing my own from home and the dirty ones back again. I know I shouldn't, but Irationalize it because it's only once a year.

Unlike typical plastics made from crude oil, “bioplastics” are often made from plant matter such as corn starch, potato starch, cane sugar, and soy protein. A potentially renewable alternative to petroleum-based plastics would have the long-term benefits of reducing global warming pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels, but do bioplastics fit the bill? As they become more ubiquitous—in the form of grocery bags and disposable plates, food containers, and cutlery—numerous concerns have been raised about their true value:

Click here to read the full text of the article. Basically, UCS summarizes studies that show why we should be favoring durable or recycled good over bioplastics. Reasons include the fact that some people recycle (rather than compost) bioplastics, which contaminates the waste stream; the overuse of pesticides, fertilizer, and fossil fuels in the production crops grown for bioplastics; and the inability of most bioplastics to decompose in backyard compost situations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Projects with EarthWorks Boston

Orchard Care Workshop
Learn the basics of fruit tree maintenance

This workshop will cover the basics of pruning: Learn how to use the tools, make proper cuts, and identify problematic growth. Other topics to be covered will include basic tree identification, and an introduction to our suggested "Maintenance Calendar". The workshop is free, provided that you contribute 20 hours of volunteer time to caring for our orchards.
Russell Elementary School
Dorchester, Massachusetts
March 21st and 22nd

EarthWorks Earthday Weekend
Join us for the Green Apple Festival
Volunteer with EarthWorks as part of the Green Apple Festival, "America's Largest Earth Day Action" over Earth Day Weekend - April 18th and 19th. Join civic and environmentally-minded Americans in a simultaneous nationwide weekend of action that will focus on environmental volunteerism. Then, on Sunday, April 19th, celebrate your efforts by going to a free "Thank You Concert" for all volunteers that will be held at a popular local music venue in Boston!

EarthWorks will be leading volunteers on a project at the Cooper Community Center where we will be clearing brush, planting trees, and ammending soils to create a healthy productive orchard for the Fort Hill Neighborhood.

You can sign up at the Green Apple Festival website or by contacting Andrew - 617.442.1059 -
Where & When
Roxbury, Massachusetts 02119
April 18th and 19th
10AM - 3AM
City Fruit - New Orchard Expansion
Orchard Planting Projects
EarthWorks is excited about two new orchards being installed this year. One at our home office at the Cooper Community Center and another at the Clapp Farm in Dorchester with the Dorchester Historical Society. These projects will be labor intensive and we need your help. If you are available on one of the dates above to help us plant trees, mulch, and do some light gardening give us a call or email We will provide gloves and tools and encourage you to come dressed for the weather including close toed shoes! Pre-registration is required.
Saturday May 16th, 10:00 - 3:00pm
Cooper Community Center in Roxbury (map)

Saturday May 30th, 10:00 - 3:00 pm
Clapp Farm in Dorchester (map)

Sunday May 31st, 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Clapp Farm in Dorchester (map)

Group Volunteering
Sign Up for Spring 2009 is now open!!!

We are currently booking group projects for the spring. We can accomodate groups of 5-20 adults on most weekdays or weekends. We can also host larger groups with appropriate funding. We also offer volunteer opportunities for youth groups that are chaperoned by adults. Projects typically include tree planting, invasive species removal, tree care, fruit harvesting or orchard care, and schoolyard garden care; tasks vary depending on the date and site.
Contact Andrew - 617-442-1059
An Apple-A-Day
Orchard Intensive with Michael Phillips

Home Orchard Basics - HOR 155

Successfully growing fruit for your family and neighborhood depends on several essential orcharding skills. What starts off sounding so "awfully complicated" can be straightforward when you narrow your scope to understanding the basics. For example, harvesting sunlight through smart pruning renews fruit buds. Fungal diseases become manageable with wise variety selections and enhanced soil biology. Even major insect challenges can be resolved safely when you consider who, what, and when. This workshop is filled with practical information for growing apples and other tree fruits.

Arnold Arboretum
Hunnewell Building
Sat May 9 9:00am-Noon

Fee $30 member, $35 nonmember

Register by emailing or calling Andrew Birch
(617) 442-1059

Organic Apple Insights - HOR 311

Michael Phillips will expand on the morning's themes in this session dedicated to organic orchard techniques. You'll learn about building system health by embracing "tree ecology" and consider orchard compost, herbal teas, and mycorrhizal inoculum. The nutrient density-and flavor-of the apples you harvest for your family is of utmost importance. Dealing with specific pest and disease situations from a holistic perspective requires in-depth understanding of cause-and-effect. The misuse of fungicides and soluble fertilizers often adds to the susceptibility of varieties assumed to be prone to fungal infection. Just as apt, ignoring diversity and biological cycles makes insect dynamics all the more problematic without a chemical arsenal. A core paradigm of organic orcharding states that one sprays not so much to "kill" as to create health so that the system can begin to take care of itself. Growing healthy fruit requires an appreciation of subtleties that make our time on this precious planet all the more fascinating. Note: you must attend the morning session in order to participate in the afternoon session.

Arnold Arboretum
Hunnewell Building
Sat May 9 1:00-4:00pm [HB]

Fee $60 member, $70 nonmember for the day (HOR155 & HOR311)
Fee $30 member, $35 nonmember for the morning only (HOR155)

Co-sponsored by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Earthworks

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Organic Landscape at your service!

It's difficult to fathom that landscapers, companies who work with nature and the land everyday, can completely separate that from being environmentally-friendly. But it's true: lots of landscapers use chemicals, some of them banned for retail use but through a loophole used for commercial use, that are toxic for people, animals, and the environment.

So what's the alternative? Our very own Andrew Keys has started an organic landscaping company in the Boston area that offers design services, and coaching too, if you're one to get your hands dirty. He's certified organic through the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Oakleaf Green Landscape is just one of many landscaping companies that are attuned to the link between the land and environmental issues... duh!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Call for Shorter Work Week as a cure for the ailing economy

The February Take Back Your Time newsletter published an article by Dean Baker, called "When Less is More." Mr. Baker's antidote to our economic woes includes both private health care insurance and reduced working hours. He suggests that the government could pay for these policies with tax incentives for corporations and small businesses. I doubt this will happen anytime soon, but that's what they used to say about a man on the moon, too. I think with this administration and this economy our chances are better than that! Visit this link to read the whole article, but here's an excerpt:

One "obvious way to provide a quick boost to the economy is by giving employers tax incentives for shortening their standard work week or work year. This can take different forms. An employer who currently provides no paid vacation can offer all her workers 3 weeks a year of paid vacation, approximately a 6 percent reduction in work time. Alternatively, employers may cut the standard workweek, say from 40 hours to 36 hours, a 10 percent reduction in work hours. Employers could also adopt policies such as offering workers paid sick leave. If this averaged 5 days a year, this would come to a reduction in hours of 2 percent. They could even offer paid parental leave. These policies would bring the United States in line with the rest of the world. In other wealthy countries, paid vacation time is standard, with the average being close to 5 weeks a year. Similarly, we are the only wealthy country that does not require employers to give workers paid time off for parenting or to provide paid sick days."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Brooklyn Food Conference: Local Action for Global Change

Brooklyn Food Conference: Local Action for Global Change

A grassroots event for a just, sustainable, healthy and delicious food system

~ Saturday, May 2, 2009 ~ 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. ~

Free and Open to the Public

~ PS 321 & John Jay High School, 7th Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y. ~

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Rising grocery bills, food riots, and childhood obesity - Food hits home. Food activists, local farmers, health advocates, academics, union leaders and restaurateurs will gather this day with concerned citizens to discuss the changes and challenges in our global food economy and how it impacts our communities. Workshops and speeches will provide education and networking opportunities for individuals to get involved to improve our diet, health and environment.

The Brooklyn Food Conference will have more than 50 partners participating, including Just Food, Slow Food NYC, and The Children’s Aid Society. Key-note speakers include well-known activists Dan Barber, executive chef and owner of Blue Hill Restaurant, and a leader of fair trade development and healthy food, Anna LappĂ©, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and the author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen; Raj Patel of the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System; as well as LaDonna Redmond, head of the Institute of Community Resource Development in Chicago.

Children and teenagers are invited to participate in educational activities such as cooking classes, and arts activities. A New Orleans-style parade with massive puppets will kick off the day.

The conference will expand community awareness on the policies and issues impacting the way our food is grown, distributed and eaten. Topics will explore the politics behind farming and the food supply, as well as the effect of corporate and government policies on labor, nutrition, production, and programs such as school lunches.

It also seeks to increase individual and family participation in our communities by proposing strategies and tactics for a local response to the important issues surrounding the food we eat. A Legislative Food Agenda will be proposed to help position Brooklyn as a stage for change in the global food movement and to advocate for food democracy.

The conference will be free to all participants. Donations from individuals and funding from foundations and food companies are welcome.

About the organizers:

Founded in 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop is the country’s largest member-owned and operated grocery store in the country with over 15,000 members.

World Hunger Year is a leading advocate for innovative, community-based solutions to hunger and poverty. WHY challenges society to confront these problems by advancing models that create self-reliance, economic justice, and equal access to nutritious and affordable food.

The Caribbean Women’s Health Association was founded in 1982, and provides access to health related services for low income and indigent populations, and assists immigrants in adjusting to their new host environment.

Brooklyn Rescue Mission Inc. is a community-based organization in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn that develops creative solutions to food justice, community health and the economic challenges our community endures on a daily basis.

Brooklyn’s Bounty is a coalition of farmers markets in Brooklyn, mostly in communities of color. Its mission is to provide healthy food to Brooklynites and increase awareness of health, environmental and justice issues in the food system in our Borough.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

David Korten: Agenda for a New Economy

A friend sent this to me today. If you have ten minutes, watch this clip about how Obama's economic stimulus plan doesn't get to the heart of our current economy's problems:

David Korten does a good job of linking together our concerns about consumerism, sustainable living, and not having our lives dictated by our jobs. Can we do this all while stabilizing our economy? He definitely has some ideas that are worth listening to.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Say No to Stuff, Scholastic!

The following is from our friends at The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. They are working on a campaign to petition Scholasitic to put the books back in Book Fairs. I don't know if you've been to one lately at a school near you, but they seem to have more "stuff" on offer than books these days:

CCFC reviewed every item in Scholastic's 2008 monthly Lucky (for grades 2-3) and Arrow (grades 4-6) book club flyers. Of the items advertised, 14% were not books, including the M&M's Kart Racing Wii videogame; a remote control car; the American Idol event planner; ("Track this season of American Idol"); the Princess Room Alarm ("A princess needs her privacy!"); a wireless controller for the PS2 gaming system; a make-your-own flip flops kit ("hang out at the pool in style"); and the Monopoly® SpongeBob SquarePants™ Edition computer game. An additional 19% of the items were books that were marketed with additional toys, gadgets, or jewelry. For example, the book Get Rich Quick is sold with a dollar-shaped money clip ("to hold all your new cash!"); the Friends 4 Ever Style Pack consists of a book and two lip gloss rings; and Hannah Montana: Seeing Green comes with a guitar pick bracelet.

The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is not a right. It's a privilege - and an extremely profitable one at that. Last year, Scholastic's book clubs generated $336.7 million in revenue.

It's bad enough that so many of the books sold by Scholastic are de-facto promotions for media properties like High School Musical and SpongeBob. But there's no justification for marketing an M&M videogame or lip gloss in elementary schools. Teachers should not be enlisted as sales agents for products that have little or no educational value and compete with books for children's attention and families' limited resources. If Scholastic wants to maintain their unique commercial access to young students, they need to do better.

We know that Scholastic listens to your concerns. When 5,000 of you wrote them to demand that they stop promoting the highly sexualized Bratz brand in schools, they discontinued their Bratz line. So please SIGN THE PETITION to let Scholastic know it's time to return to selling books - and only books - through their in-school book clubs.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Free Green Market launches in the UK

Free Green Market is an eco social shopping network that allows people to search through hundreds of green and ethical products from a range of retailers, compare prices, get advice and information, discover vouchers and read the views of celebrities and experts. Members can also take part in competitions, product reviews and forums.

At the heart of the Free Green Market is a fun and engaging community of people who want the benefits of a modern life, but also want to be greener. It aims to meet the needs of the majority. It's not about living an alternative lifestyle; it's about everyday people buying everyday products that just happen to be green and eco friendly.

It's free to use; retailers can create their own shop on the market and sell products and services directly free of charge. Companies, large and small, are free to run a shop; from the individual selling hand made gifts to the high street stores selling green and eco friendly products and services. The site is paid for through advertising and sponsorship; there are no click through or affiliate fees.

Free Green Market founder, Simon Sear, said “I set up Free Green Market with the intention of making it easy for the majority of people to make positive changes. Free Green Market gives people relevant information, easy access to trusted retailers, competitive pricing and advice and support from other people just like them.”