June 2010


This weekend is America’s birthday and people around the country will be celebrating in good ol’ American fashion: grilling, drinking, and blowing things up! The 4th of July is a joyous holiday spent celebrating our independence from the colonial power of England. Whether you spend the day soaking up history, being patriotic, or simply drinking and watching fireworks, this holiday can create a lot of waste. But never fear, we have compiled a quick list of helpful tips to “green” your 4th of July. However, you spend your holiday, enjoy your day and Happy Birthday America!!

How to Have An Eco-Friendly 4th:

1)Green Your Menu: Traditionally 4th of July is all about the BBQ, thus burgers and hot dogs. But there is a greener way to celebrate the day! Try and cut back on meats or turn to vegetarian options. If meat is a must try to only purchase local, sustainable, and organic types. However, there are plenty of vegan options out there including soy meats or bean burgers. For some ideas on recipes, check out our backlog. Also, purchase your veggies and fruit from local and organic venues such as Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Natural Foods Stores. Additionally, look into grilling with a greener grill, such as solar or hybrid models or even natural and organic charcoal.

2) Keep the Party Outdoors: The weather is warm and the natural landscape is gorgeous, so why not party outside? Avoid partying inside, as to cut down on energy waste. If you are outside, you won’t have to worry about fans, lighting, or the air conditioner. Plus you can add more to your celebration such as outdoor games like boccie ball, badminton, or croquet. Why not spend your 4th soaking up the sun, instead of hiding in the air-conditioned house?! Here in New England, we only have a few months of warm weather, so be sure and take advantage of it.  If you really enjoy soaking up that sun near water, try to stay local.  If possible consider taking public transportation, buses, or even your bike to the beach, lake or river to celebrate the day. The less you drive or closer you stay to home, the less your 4th of July carbon footprint will be!

3) A Greener Firework Display: Although fireworks are beautiful and a 4th of July tradition, the truth is they are not so eco-friendly. Gun powder, accelerants, and heavy metals are thrown into the air when fireworks explode! These chemicals create poor air quality which affects our health and the environment. Instead of using fireworks at home, try decorating with recycled paper, re-used decor, or even newspaper. Since your city will likely put on a show using conventional fireworks, propose to the city or community that they use Sekon biodegradable or Disney’s gunpowder free fireworks instead.

4) Drink Responsibly: Alright we have to admit when celebrating our nation’s birthday, Americans LOVE to drink! What is a 4th celebration without the booze? Luckily, there are all sorts of great options out there. Local micro-breweries and organic beers are a great alternative to conventional types. If you are wondering why pay more for organic beer, check out our write-up on the benefits of organic beers. Organic and vegan wines are also readily available! But if you prefer the hard stuff, almost every type of liquor from tequila to vodka are now made sustainably and organic. We have compiled several tasty cocktail recipes which include organic spirits. Be sure this holiday that you not only be responsible and leave your car at home, but also drink with earth responsibility!

5) Re-Use, Re-Use, Re-Use: We know when throwing a party, washing dishes can be a pain. However, it is far less polluting and wasteful to use re-usable settings such as plates, cups, and silverware. Paper and plastics, even the recyclable kinds, take an incredible amount of resources to make and recycle. Therefore, it is best to use the dishes you have around the house. If you don’t have enough for your party guests, consider picking some extra settings up at your local thrift store or investing in sustainably made dinnerware. If you must use paper products, be sure you purchase biodegradable items such as corn or soy.

-Gina Williams

Celebrate America’s 234th birthday this July with an organic and vegan Bloody Mary! What better way to start your Sunday 4th of July, than with a pure-tasting dose of American-made organic vodka coupled with rich organic tomato juice? Despite most Blood Mary recipes, our recipe with vegan Worcestershire sauce truly hits the spot whether you are drinking it at brunch or while watching the fireworks in the evening.  And, of course, our Bloody Mary tastes best when consumed responsibly. We suggest two different brands of organic vodka, Crop Vodka and Square One Vodka. Produced with grains grown in the U.S., Crop Vodka is USDA certified for its organic ingredients . Even better, Crop distills in a manner in which carbon treatment and charcoal filtering is not used. They even offer a tomato infused organic vodka to give your Bloody Mary an extra tomato kick!  Square One uses rye grown in North Dakota that is organically certified. The company also developed its bottle, so it could be used as a vase or container after it is empty! All you have to do is peel off the paper label, which is made of sustainably grown and renewable fiber sources. Cheers to an even more responsible way of drinking!

Organic and Vegan Bloody Mary:

1.5 oz Organic Vodka(either Crop Tomato Infused or Square One)

3 oz Organic Tomato Juice (R. W. Knudsen)

Dash of Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Annie’s)

Dash of Organic Hot Sauce (Not Cool)

Dash of Horseradish

Dash of Organic Lemon Juice

Dash of Organic Cayenne Pepper (Simply Organic)

Dash of Organic Celery Salt (Simply Organic)

One Organic Celery Stalk

Wedge of Organic Lemon

Three Organic Green Olives on a Fruit Stick

Sherry Mix

Directions:

Combine the vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and celery salt with a cup of ice cubes. After shaking well, strain into a glass of ice cubes. Add a celery stalk and three green olives on a fruit stick. Lace the drink with Sherry mix and top off the glass with a lemon wedge.

-Derek Rogers

The recent massive Gulf Oil Spill has us all feeling a little down. More and more people are realizing that our dependence on oil has got to end. The most obvious way to lower our petroleum intake is to cut down on driving and flying. However, even the biggest environmentalist among us has trouble avoiding oil products on a daily basis. Sure, we know the big ones, gasoline, plastics, and synthetic leather and rubber, but there are more products than you can imagine fashioned out of this disappearing and destructive resource. We have put together a list of the most shocking 5 we came across with tips on how to avoid them! Eventually we will wean ourselves off the oil and here is how to start.

5 Things You Didn’t Know Were Made From Oil

1) Re-usable Shopping Bags: Many of those re-usable shopping bags you see for sale at any supermarket are actually made out of synthetic fibers. Polyester, polyester, acrylic, rayon, and nylon are made from petroleum. These products will not bio-degrade. In addition, some of the printing on the bag is likely to use petrochemicals, also derived from oil. While re-usable bags are a better alternative to paper and plastic, be sure to check the tag before purchasing. Many re-usable bags are made from natural fibers such as cotton or hemp(even better if it is organic) and if you stick to an eco-friendly company, most likely their inks and printing processes will be sans petrochemicals.

2) Cleaning Products: Most conventional household cleaning products, including laundry detergent, are made from petrochemicals. These chemicals are not only oil based but harmful to our health and largely unnecessary. Next time you go to the market to purchase your household cleaners, try some homemade remedies such as vinegar and baking soda. If you still prefer a lemony or lavender scent to your clean house, check out some of the all natural brands such as Method or Seventh Generation.

3) Candles: Unfortunately, many candles are made with paraffin or polyolefin wax, another petroleum-based products. Candles may make your house smell sweet, but if they are conventional types, they are also emitting pollution into your house and toxic chemicals into your house. This type of oil product is easy to avoid as there are candles made from soy, beeswax(although not vegan), or coconut palm oil.

4) Bath & Beauty: In most make-up and beauty products, such as moisturizer contain offending ingredients such as paraffin oil, petrolatum, and mineral oil which are all derived from crude oil! We all know buying oil sourced ingredients is not the most sustainable, but it must not also be healthy. Just imagine spreading crude oil on your body the next time you think about purchasing a conventional lotion. Gross! Never fear, though, as many natural products are on the market these days which will contain healthy ingredients such as Shea or coco butter and coconut oils. Most natural grocery stores, health food stores, Whole Foods, and co-ops will stock beauty products containing no oil derived products.

5) Foil Packaging: Mmmm so you are reaching for that tasty bag of potatoes chips or other snack when you realize that bag is made out of, you guessed it, oil! Many snack packaging, may look like foil but it is actually made of mylar, a thinly stretched PET plastic bonded with aluminum. The best way to avoid this, is to not eat any snack foods (better for your health too)! But we know sometimes convenience or hunger takes over. Try to purchase snacks made in paper packaging or better yet from the bulk section in re-usable containers.

-Gina Williams

World Cup Fever is spreading fast throughout the planet, as we get closer to the next stage. Even though the world is celebrating and enjoying this tournament, there is a dark side that few are talking about. For over a year, there has been labor issues plaguing the cup in an economically struggling nation. Many South Africans have questioned their government’s lavish spending on “improvements” such as brand new stadiums, new hotels, and a new transit system. Although, seemingly nice upgrades, the people are disappointed millions have been spent on stadiums which will be used for one month, while 40% of South Africans live on just $2 a day.

On top of this issue, the people working the World Cup and making sure the tourists and football lovers are taken care of, are not being paid as promised. In particular the security guards and stewards. At the culmination of Sunday’s match between Australia and Germany, already an exciting game, hundreds marched into the streets of Durban to demand pay. Apparently, the security staff was promised 500 South African Rand ($65) to work the match, but only received 205 Rand ($26). Obviously, a huge difference and would upset anyone! One of the protesters discussed how much they have been working for so little:

We started at 12 noon and worked until midnight, and they want to give us 205 rand($26). Different things have been said to people, but we were promised 1,500 rand per day. We started to protest because we wanted to negotiate.

The protests may have begun as a negotiation, but Durban police were quickly called to break them up. No injuries or arrests have been reported, however, the strategy has spread to several stadiums in the many cities including: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg. More and more workers are going on strike, including 700 guards at the end of the North Korea and Brazil match. Many feel this is completely unfair and no “trickle down” is occurring in the country. Corporations and the government are making millions from the games, yet the workers on the ground are being paid so little.

Not surprisingly, the issue is trying to be kept quiet and FIFA, the organization responsible for directing the World Cup, refuses to comment. This is obviously an “embarrassment” to FIFA and would much better be brushed under a rug, than dealt with fairly. In fact, the chief executive of the local organizing committee for the cup stated, “This is an employer/employee wage dispute. Although we have respect for workers’ rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt match-day proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances.” This sort of attitude could be detrimental to the employees affected by this dispute.

Personally, I love the World Cup more than I can write into words, but when I read stories like this, it makes me sad.  It seems both FIFA and the South African government, as well as the companies profiting off the games, aren’t thinking with the people in mind. Making it worse, they want it kept quiet, so tourists, players, and the world media won’t notice their dirty little secret. Now, I am not calling for a boycott of the games (I don’t think I could do that to my heart), but try to keep the hard workers and their struggles in mind while watching the matches. And if you are really feeling empowered, contact FIFA and tell them just how you feel.

-Gina Williams

When the first decade of the new millennium came and went, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by personal electronics, a modern-day necessity. Chances are, the first thing you look at in the morning is your BlackBerry, iPhone, or other Smartphone. Then, you probably take your iPod out for a morning jog or connect it inside your vehicle for the commute into work. Perhaps you have an iPad, Nook, or Kindle you use on the subway on the commute to catch up on the day’s local, national, and international news. You have not had lunch yet, but you have used a myriad of personal electronics by noon. Whether we like it or not, electronics have become an essential part of our lives. However, many of us know little about the origins of our handheld havens.

Tin, tantulum, and tungsten are metals found around the globe, which give life to our digital cameras, personal computers, cellular phones, and other electronics. A large percentage of these metals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). What major electronics companies like Apple, Research in Motion (RIM – makers of the BlackBerry), Nokia, Dell, and Motorola don’t tell you is that an estimated 50,000 children work in the Katanga Mine in DRC. Children make up about 1/3 of the entire mining workforce in DRC. Despite the rising value in metal, miners do not receive any raises and most cannot afford to live off the small wage they already earn. Furthermore, the lack of regulation from the DRC government on safety regulations within the mines results in extremely dangerous work environments. In addition, the privatization of mines on the African continent has displaced tens of thousands of people forcing them to leave their homelands.

Why hasn’t the DRC government or electronic companies stepped in to end the human rights abuses, displacement issues, and safety hazards? For 10 years, the DRC has struggled with a civil war. Rebel groups sell to middlemen who pass the metals onto companies like Apple giving them the funds needed to purchase weapons and other war necessities. Because the electronics companies purchase the metals from middlemen, they have no direct ties to an unethical mine. According to Amnesty International, global brands state they are being ethical by purchasing metals from licensed exporters. However, the exporters’ middlemen are known to purchase the metals from rebel groups.

You may be asking yourself how the U.S. government doesn’t hold electronics companies responsible for their supply chains, especially when virtually every American uses an electronic device everyday. Bills have been established, however, they will not be going to a vote anytime soon. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) initiated talks about the Congo Conflict Minerals Act. This would force electronics makers to publicly release which mines in DRC are used in their electronics. Therefore, consumers would know what mines the metals are coming from. The second bill introduced is the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act. This bill would force all SEC-listed companies’ financial statements to contain details concerning how much money is paid out to foreign governments for oil, gas, and minerals. Companies’ reputations would increase by actively and openly sharing this information to consumers.

You can take part in the initiatives these bills support. Both bills have not been discussed or touched for over a year according to govtrack.us, a website you can use to view the status of a bill as it travels through Congress. Write and call your local Senators and Representatives and push forward these bills. Better yet, write to your favorite electronics maker. I, myself, could never go a day without my BlackBerry Curve or Macbook Pro. Rest assured, I will drop both RIM and Apple a line about my concern for the origins of the products I use everyday. As Americans, we are huge consumers in today’s modern world. It is only right for us to give thought to where our products come from. Tomorrow night, when you are watching the NBA finals on your fabulous plasma television or streaming it live from your personal computer, take a moment to remember those abroad who have sacrificed their lives and well-being for ours.

-Derek Rogers

A few years ago an E. coli breakout kept me from eating one of my favorite foods: spinach. I remember being stranded in Idaho Falls in the summer of 2006 and desperately looking over a menu at a local restaurant in search of something that would appease both my appetite and my vegetarian lifestyle. I swear my heart skipped a beat when I found a Pear Pecan salad made on a rich bed of spinach. I was excited to find a meatless entrée in this Podunk town. I smiled sweetly at the waiter and ordered my decadent salad. The waiter politely told me that they were unable to serve dishes containing spinach because of the E. coli breakout. Defeated, I ordered a cocktail and decided on a pasta dish sans-carne.

It turns out E. coli breakouts are on the rise again, and I am not too happy that I may have to more-heavily monitor my consumption of raw fruits and vegetables. In case you do not know, E. coli is an intestinal disorder that most commonly adversely affects individuals who consume raw plant foods that have been exposed to fecal matter. This disease does not originate from plants, as they lack intestines. Humans do not get plant diseases; they get diseases like E. coli from the exposure and improper contact of human and/or animal fecal matter.

Each year, animals are mass-produced as commodities of factory farms to feed our nation’s growing obsession with animal-flesh-consumption. Animals are bred, fed, and killed to feed and “nourish” a vast majority of our population who are affected with a phenomenon I like to refer to as Meat Fever. Due to Meat Fever, the amount of animals raised to today in factory farms account for over a billion tons of waste produced. This waste is often not disposed of properly, or is disposed into open-air cesspits that leak, thus getting into water sources that contaminate irrigation systems that are used to water our crops. Even with excessive washing and/or cooking of your fruits and vegetables you cannot necessarily get rid of E. coli that may have contaminated produce.

Recent research has suggested that even once you recover from an ailment like E. coli the illness may not be completely gone. Those who have suffered from E. coli, specifically children, can have side-effects appear up to 20 years later! Some of the problems developed are: kidney problems and failure, permanent brain damage, insulin-dependent diabetes, and high blood pressure. E. coli 0157:h7, the commonly known form of this bacterium, infects fewer than 100,000 Americans annually with less than 100 casualties. Sadly, other forms of E. coli exist that cause other health problems like Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) that can lead to hospitalization and/or death.

According to medical researchers from the University of Minnesota, there is a good chance your poultry, pork, and beef may have been exposed to fecal matter. In a recent experiment testing 1,000 samples of meat from various retail markets 69% of pork and beef, as well as 92% of poultry samples had evidence of fecal-contamination. This type of E. coli can harbor in a woman’s lower intestine then travel to the bladder and become UTIs. Over 99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs Americans consume are produced in Factory Farms. Even though many Factory Farms claim to be combating E. coli with antibiotics, E. coli still rages on. Mutations in the bacteria have begun and will continue to appear due to the use and abuse of antibiotics.

Factory Farms are a big obstacle in the fight to protect yourself and your loved ones from E. coli. Although efforts are being done to try to minimize some of the adverse effects of these environmentally unfriendly institutions, perhaps your best defense against E. coli is to educate yourself on how to reduce your chances of exposure. Here are some tips and facts that may help safeguard your lifestyle.

-Hannah Bybee

There is nothing quite like cold strawberries to feel like summer! As summertime quickly approaches, you can almost taste the sweet, delicious, and cool berry. Although, eating plain strawberries can be satisfying, why not make a delicious dessert! What strawberry dessert feels more like summer than Strawberry Shortcake? We say nothing! This great American summer tradition is perfect to serve on a hot day, take on a picnic, enjoy at a family cookout, or just enjoy at home after a long day. The best thing about Strawberry Shortcake is that it can easily be made with vegan and organic ingredients!

Vegan & Organic Strawberry Shortcake

Prep Time: 15 Minutes    Cook Time: 15-20 Minutes   Cool Time: 30-60 Minutes

1 Pint Organic Strawberries, Sliced
2 Tbsp Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (or other sweetener)
2 Cups Organic All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Organic Soy Milk
4 Tbsp Organic Earth Balance Margarine
1 Tsp Organic Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
Garnish with Soyatoo Organic Soy or Rice Whipped Cream

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degree F. On a cutting board slice the strawberries into thin slices and remove green leaves. In a mixing bowl, add all sliced strawberries and 1 tbsp of evaporated cane juice. Mix up with a spoon and place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

In another large mixing bowl, add the flour, 1 tbsp evaporated cane juice, baking powder, and salt. Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and pinch into the dry ingredients (this works best by hand). Pour in the soy milk and mix with a large spoon. On a cutting board or counter, knead the dough a little(add more flour if it is too wet) and roll out flat(about 1 inch thick). Cut into small circles, using a cookie or biscuit cutter. Place on a greased or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you would rather use cupcake sheets to make rounded shortbread, it will also work. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they have a golden crust. Remove and allow them to cool. Make sure the strawberry mixture is creating a glaze and mix up.

When serving, place one shortcake on a plate, with a spoon add strawberry glaze and garnish with a little bit of Soyatoo Organic Soy or Rice Whipped Cream or another vegan whipped cream. For an added treat, add chocolate shavings to the top of the whipped cream.

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