March 2011


The sun is finally shining and the daffodils have begun to bloom, it is officially Springtime! In Spring we see the return of delicious fruits and vegetables that have been missing from our Winter diets.  The farmers markets are beginning to carry items like strawberries, asparagus, cherries, and fresh greens. We love all these fruits and veggies, however, we must say our favorite Spring veggie making a triumphant return is the artichoke.  Artichokes are delicious steamed, added into dishes, and of course in dips! With parties moving outdoors and Spring holidays such as Easter on the horizon, our recipe today: Creamy Artichoke Dip will meet all your needs! This recipe celebrates Spring and it makes the perfect appetizer or snack!

 

Vegan Creamy Artichoke Dip

Prep Time: 15 Minutes  Bake Time: 15-20 Minutes

8 oz Jar of Organic Marinated Artichoke Hearts
1/4 Cup Organic Vegenaise
1/4 Cup Organic “Cream Cheese”
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Glove Organic Garlic
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Chop the garlic finely and set aside.  Drain the artichoke hearts and mash them in a large mixing bowl. Set aside a small amount of the nutritional yeast and paprika (enough for garnish).  Add in the cream cheese, Vegenaise, nutritional yeast, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.  Mix all ingredients until smooth and creamy and pour into a round casserole dish. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle the top with the left over nutritional yeast and paprika. Serve immediately  with chips, pita chips or bread, sourdough bread, or crackers.

About a year ago to the day, the AP blog posted an article concerning California farmworkers and the hellish conditions in which they are made to work.  The very fact that the body of the population is largely composed of migrant and/or immigrant labor, including many who do not speak English and are undocumented, means it is at a supreme disadvantage when attempting to establish the right to a safe working environment, as a whole or individually.  There is little these people can do, and the neglect they suffer can at times lead to a tragic death.

Such was the case in 2008 with Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old woman, two months pregnant, who was made to prune grapes in San Joaquin County for nine hours in triple-digit heat without adequate shade, water or rest breaks.

A few weeks ago, Maria De Los Angeles Colunga and Elias Armenta, the two farm supervisors most-directly responsible for this gross abuse of labor decency and originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, reached a softened plea bargain.  Colunga was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, three years of probation and a fine of $370, and Armenta to 480 hours of community service, five years of probation and a $1,000 fine.  Both were also banned from engaging in farm worker contracting.

Some might argue this outcome to be bittersweet, but easy on the sugar.  While this prosecution is a small but progressive step toward justice in an industry that, until recently, was left to set it’s own rules and labor standards with miniscule regulation or consequence, common sense suggests that the death of this young woman and her unborn child in such an environment would call for much harsher punishment, including serious jail time, something that might scare other labor companies into doing right by their workforce.  Hopefully such changes won’t require more innocent deaths.
You can read more about this issue here, and review last year’s AP farm labor article hereStay informed and stay active!
-Jeremy Pearson

So, who told you only big cities have great vegan food? Sometimes the best spots are the big fish in little ponds, which is exactly what is occurring in upstate NY. Rochester, a pretty little city who is often overshadowed by New York and Boston, especially when it comes to restaurants, now has a big vegan fish! Within the city lives a delicious gourmet restaurant who caters to people who love food no matter what their diet is.  The Owl House, which opened it’s doors in the Fall of 2010 focuses on local, gourmet American foods and specialty beers and cocktails. Although the restaurant serves meat and dairy, it also has tasty vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes including desserts!

On a recent road trip through upstate New York, we had the chance to indulge in this restaurant. After driving six hours we were more than happy to see the adorable Owl House, which living up to its name is in a house in a residential area. One step inside and we felt like we were at part 20′s style bar, part art gallery, part cafe, and part cozy house. Needless to say, we found it hip and relaxing.  After a long drive we were happy to treat ourselves to their unique cocktails such as the Townsend, Bright Eyes, and Upstate.

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks

And what goes better with drinks than appetizers? The Owl House boasts a vegan appetizer we have never seen elsewhere:Vegan Mozzarella Sticks! These definitely live up the hype. We really don’t know how they’ve done it, but it is quite possibly the best mock vegan dish we’ve ever tasted! The “cheese” was perfectly melted and the crust delicious. Honestly, they haven’t left our minds since and the non-vegans among us were just as enthused!  We also tried their Rosemary and Cracked Pepper Fries with house made ketchup, House-made Pickles, and Marinated Olives. We love how everything here is house made and it definitely shows.

Tacos with Smoked Tofu

Next we shared the Viva Verde Tacos with smoked tofu (you guessed it, done in-house) and the Saigon sandwich.  The tacos were delightful, especially with the house smoked tofu and black bean and corn salsa. They were filling and really great. We also enjoyed the Saigon sandwich which is a modern take on the Vietnamese Bahn Mi. The sandwich was made with more of the great smoked tofu, pickled veggies, and roasted garlic Vegenaise on a baguette! Boy, were we satisfied! As Bahn Mi connoisseurs this sandwich, although not traditional, was tasty and it was great to have the Vegenaise, which is normally hard to find unless added yourself.

Vegan French Onion Soup

Even though the Owl House has a great list of vegan desserts, we opted for a bowl of soup to round out our meal. One of the best features of the Owl House is their daily specials. Some recent specials include: Grilled Citrus Tofu, Tomato Braised Seitan & Chickpeas, and daily soups. The daily soup for the day was Vegan French Onion soup with vegan cheese! Once again, the Owl House surprised us with a dish almost impossible to find vegan. And let us convince you, this soup was wonderful. The Daiya cheese and soup flavor was perfectly blended. To see their daily specials which include appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, and drinks, check their Facebook page, which often causes us to almost buy a plane ticket to Rochester just from checking our news feed.

It is too bad the Owl House is so far from us, well perhaps it is good for our hips, we wish we could eat every meal there! However, it provides a haven for vegans living upstate that have limited choice. This restaurant makes visiting Rochester completely worth it, even on top of its quaint beauty. It is clear the Owl House offers unique vegan dishes and really takes care in the food they prepare. We must say, it has landed itself a spot on our Top 10 Vegan Restaurants!!

For their senior project, five teams at the University of Maine created tricycles for landmine victims in Mozambique. These 27 students were part of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program and had to complete their Capstone senior project as one of their last assignments. The year-long project was directed by professor Herb Crosby in conjunction with Coreplan CEO Kim Keeley and Landmine Victim Mobility Vehicle Project. It was not only an educational and fun experience for the students, but it helped hundreds of landmine victims as well.

This South African country has been devastated by years of civil war. Although they are finally at peace, there is still an estimated 3 million landmines scattered across the land, causing an unsettling environment. Innocent people continually fall victim to these landmines and suffer injuries including the loss of limbs. Because of its impoverished state many of the innocent victims can not afford prosthetic limbs. Between that and the unpaved and poor conditions of the roads, transportation is a nightmare for injured parties. Normal wheelchairs are not ideal for the terrain of Mozambique which is why Keeley is working with the University of Maine to create a tricycle for better means of transportation.

Red Team Tricycle

The South African insurance company, Core Plan International, backed the competition. With their support and help the winning design would be patented and produced for the people of Mozambique. CEO, Kim Keeley decided that the final design will probably incorporate different aspects of each team’s prototype.

Each five to six person team had to create a prototype of a hand powered tricycle wheelchair for the landmine victims. At the end of their six month journey, each team presented their design on Maine Day. This is a day that all faculty and students have off in order to clean up the campus and participate in community service events. What a perfect time to show off some coolly designed tricycles while cruising around campus.

Green Team Tricycle

Each team had different ideas of what would be the most cost efficient and the most ideal to ride in. Some of the specific qualifications the product had to have were: accessible to double amputee, effective breaking, easy steering, stable on hilly and uneven terrain, under $200 to create, and able to carry 5 gallon pail of cargo. While the Green team chose to use bamboo with the cargo area in the front, other teams used metals with the cargo in the back.

The MET students really enjoyed themselves while working on this project. Even though the Blue Team officially won (see the video below), all the designs were terrific and everyone involved truly won. Many of them felt that it was the cherry to their ice cream because they were able to use every skill they had learned throughout the year collectively in one project, as well as directly impacting a population in need. It definitely put their education to the test, but the outcome was extraordinary and exponentially beneficial.

-Lauren Bowler



Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!  Today we celebrate all things Irish, or really we drink their beer, eat their foods, and wear the color green, but hey that’s close enough. We thought we would do a special cocktail recipe for this day. What better way to party like the Irish than to indulge in some whiskey and coffee? Ok so I don’t really know how authentic it is, seeing how I’ve never been to Ireland (but yes I do have a tiny bit of Irish blood in me). Anyway, we have put together this nice Vegan Irish Coffee recipe made with all organic and fair trade ingredients! As the Irish say, Sláinte!

Vegan Irish Coffee

6 oz Hot Fair Trade Organic Coffee
1 1/2 oz Organic Whiskey
1 tsp Organic Fair Trade Brown Sugar
Organic Soy Whip or Creamer to taste

Organic Nutmeg or Cinnamon for garnish

Brew your favorite brand of organic fair trade coffee (we suggest Equal Exchange) either in a french press or in your coffee maker. Once the coffee is hot, pour into a mug and add the whiskey and brown sugar. Mix until the sugar is melted.

Organic whiskey is new to the market and you may have trouble finding it. The closest we found to Irish Whiskey was Lion’s Pride Organic Whiskey out of Chicago and Organic Malt Whiskey from Braeside Farms Distillery in Oregon.  There are a few other organic whiskies, most hailing form Wales, Scotland, and England. As far as brown sugar, try Wholesome Sweetners Light Brown Sugar, which is vegan, fair trade, and organic!

Next, fill the rest of the mug with soy creamer or whipped cream. The whip is usually a bit thicker and works better for this recipe. We recommend either Soyatoo whipped cream or creamer, both made with organic ingredients.  Lastly, garnish your drink with a few sprinkles of organic nutmeg or cinnamon for a little extra taste.

Check out Mountain Rose Herbs for fair trade spices and Simply Organic for all organic spices. All the fair trade and organic products listed above should easily be found at your local co-op, natural foods grocery, Whole Foods, or online. For the whiskey, you will need to order online or go to a specialty liquor store, Bev & More is a good place to start. Once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day and drink responsibly!

Last week we were happy to attend San Francisco’s first annual Green Film Festival!  About a month ago the festival organizers gave us a ring and ordered custom fair trade tees from our wholesale department. We were honored and pretty excited they would choose us to make their festival tees. But we were also excited to attend the festival. Due to us always working hard at Autonomie and with so many new products coming in for Spring, we could only make it to one film!

This was a difficult choice as the festival was stocked with tons of great environmental documentaries from all over the world. Almost every film on the list was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.  Many films were making their US or West Coast premiere, so we had a tough time choosing which film to attend. Titles included “They Came for the Gold, They Came for it All,” “In the Wake of the Flood,” and “Plato’s Cave,” just to name a few.

After some pondering, we finally decided on the film “Heavy Metal,” a submission from China which explored the issues of e-waste and documented people in China who have created their own “e-waste dismantling army.” It was going to be paired with the short “The Story of Electronics,” by the people who brought you the “The Story of Stuff.” Immediately following the film was the panel: E-Waste and Green Design. We were really looking forward to this panel, as it was going to be a discussion about the destruction caused by electronics and an exploration on ways to make the industry more sustainable.


So we hopped on the train and headed to the Embarcadero, but to our dismay, the film and panel had been cancelled. Apparently, the filmmakers were unable to make the trip from China. Luckily, one of our second choices was starting in only 15 minutes time. We decided to go see the movie “Soundtracker” with the short “The Coral Gardener.” Although initially disappointed about the cancellation of “Heavy Metal,” we were pleasantly surprised with our choice.

Before the film started, we made a pit stop to the cinema cafe, where we were delighted to find fair trade organic coffee as well as vegan cookies and vegan “sausages.” Well stocked on snacks and already in a good mood, we headed for our seats. The first film, “The Coral Gardener” was a quick eight minute short from the BBC about a passionate man working to replenish coral on the coast of Fiji. Corals are beginning to disappear from our seas due to coral bleaching caused by environmental stressors. There is a movement to grow healthy coral and re-plant them in hard hit areas.

The short was informative, inspiring, and made us want to get involved in the movement.  In fact, during the Q&A, we found out there is a whole organization: Corals For Conservation dedicated to this cause and they are always looking for volunteers. Snorkeling in tropical waters to help the Earth? We are there!  We also learned this short was made as a part of a BBC series on passionate people and may be turned into a full feature at some point. We will keep our eyes out for that!

The second, longer film: “Soundtracker” was actually a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Not only was it an interesting and largely ignored topic, but the cinematography and insight were truly a treat! The film follows Gordon Hempton, an Emmy award-winning sound recordist, as he travels through the Northwest on his search for the sounds of nature. Throughout the film you see Hempton attempt to record beautiful natural sounds, only to be interrupted by constant “noise pollution,” such as airplanes, helicopters, and cars. He points out that nature’s noise is disappearing at an alarming rate and man-made sounds are becoming the norm.

Hempton is an eccentric man, who has an obsession, much like a visual artist, to prefect sound. He seems to have made personal sacrifices and lives a fairly solitary life on his pursuit of the sound of nature. It may seem like an abstract concept and in reality it is, but Hempton has a point.  He is a very gripping person who almost turns his quest spiritual.  The film really drives home the lack of connection between humanity and the Earth. At one point in the film, he visits a large cedar tree that has been turned into a monument with the trunks of cut cedars all around it. He begins to get emotional and see it as almost a battle memorial to the fallen forest that once stood here.  To him, it is clear we have lost much of our connection as no one is “listening” and he even references the hum of electricity as “America’s mantra.”

By the end of the film, we felt connected to Hempton and  realized what a beautiful artist he really is. It also made you really, really think how little we get to hear complete natural sounds. We started to think of all the times we have had moments camping or out in the wilderness and how often we hear human noise pollution. It was definitely a different take on what is happening to our planet than other green films we have seen.

We also noticed that after the movie was complete, our ears were far more sensitive. We could hear our hands brush our hair, the sound of someone tapping their feet, and even people breathing. As we left the theater and walked through the rainy streets of San Francisco, we noticed we could hear the sounds of birds thundering over the horns, trains, and human voices. This deep film really is an abstract look on the destruction of our planet and will leave you seeing, or rather hearing nature in a different way.

We enjoyed both films immensely and certainly hope the Green Film Festival becomes an annual event in San Francisco! If you missed the festival, be sure to check out some of the films discussed above!

The red carpet at the Academy Awards is treated as the world’s most visible runaway where Hollywood’s elite try to dazzle the likes of Joan Rivers for a dose of media ego stroking. An ill-fitting or bizarre outfit can land your photo under an embarrassing caption such as “Oscar’s Fashion Losers or “Someone This Poorly Dressed is Probably a Horrible Human Being and a Lousy Lover“. While this type of pressure leaves many participants willing to sacrifice a basket of puppies to land on certain best dressed lists, people like Livia Firth, whose husband Collin Firth won this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor, choose to buck this trend of turning a blind eye towards ethics in the name of fashion and embraced the challenge of approaching high fashion with a dose of high compassion.

Livia’s lovely Oscar and ethical gown was designed by Gary Harvey who created the dress by “upcycling” 11 used dresses from the era of her husband’s movie “The King’s Speech.”  Livia explains the inspiration behind her Oscar look, “last year my friend Lucy Siegle (author of the forthcoming book, To Die For on the state of the fashion industry and its enormous footprint) challenged me to go through all the red carpets unfurled for the awards season dressed exclusively in sustainable style.” Livia recorded her experiences of approaching the movie award season with a consciousness towards the environment in blog for Vogue.

Currently, eco-friendly threads on the red carpet seem to be the exception, not the rule.  Although sporting an eco-conscious frock is a scarce practice by the rich and famous, some of Hollywood’s elite are slowly but surely dipping their toes into the surprisingly stylish waters of Eco-friendly designs, including Best Actress winner Natalie Portman. Portman, a vegan whose engagement ring has green features as the inclusion of recycled platinum and stones from a conflict-free mine, wore a cream, 100 percent recycled polyester shift with three-quarter lace sleeves from H&M’s Conscious Collection to a pre Oscar party. While this event does not bring as much attention to the eco-friendly fashion movement as a stroll down the Oscar’s widely watched and media dissected red carpet, the support of such a well-known actress of such an important movement for the environment  is not anything to snub our noses at regardless of our opinion of Black Swan or the Star Wars prequels.

Contrary to the *wildly popular belief that you have to be married to Academy Award winning actor in order to take an ethical approach towards fashion, many designers and stores are embracing eco-friendly styles for their 2011 lines. The New York city based eco-friendly label Jai is dying their organic materials for their Spring 2011 line with such green materials as Strawberries and turmeric pulp. The Fair Trade clothing line People Tree who utilizes ecological and ethical practices when making their adorable clothing have launched an ad campaign for Spring featuring Hermione Granger herself, aka Emma Watson.

Unlike Joan Rivers, Mother Nature does not give a flying hoot about whether or not our fashion sensibilities land us on anyone’s best dressed list. Eco-friendly choices in our day-to-day lives, from the clothes we wear on our backs and the food we put in our mouths are enough to get you on her list of “Coolest People of All Time in All of the Universe“– a special list that is released once a year in Cat Fancy magazine.

If ever there was a time to embrace environmentally friendly fashions, the time is meow…sorry, I could not help myself. This is a sentiment that Joan Rivers, Queen Amidala, Black Swans, Hogwart’s alumni and Mother nature would surely agree on.

*Wildly popular aka a belief I just made up that no rational person ever thought was true a second of their highly logical life.

-Meghan Hurley

March is finally upon us! And you know what that means… cherry blossoms, picnics in the Boston Common, abundant sunshine…and of course, fun and flirty spring fashion! Feze Fair Trade recently published a fantastic blog post about some key fair trade fashion trends for this spring:

#1: Sophisticated Inspiration— 70’s Glamour

  • High-waisted, wide-leg belted pants
  • Bell bottom jeans
  • Silk or satin bow-blouses
  • Ruffled neckline under a blazer or tuxedo jacket
  • Long slim gowns with draping, low necklines, or dress slits

#2: Hot Biker

  • Classic biker jacket (Inhabitat is currently having a giveaway for a reclaimed leather biker jacket worth $856!)
  • Tight leather pants or skirt (neoprene works as an alternative to leather, but better yet—look for recycled faux leather)
  • Biker boots

#3: MAD Women

  • Full, below-the-knee circle skirts, cinched in waist
  • Granny Skirts (think Peggy Olson) paired with a fitted top or a sheer blouse
  • Straight cut sheaf or pencil skirts
  • Fitted sheath dresses
  • Peg-top skirts

#4: Bold—Block, Print & Stripes

  • Bright bold colors paired together
  • Animal prints
  • Take a look at some great examples of stripe outfits here

#5: Lace & Crochet

  • Classic lace clothing and antique-style fabrics
  • Boho lux lace and crochet dresses
  • Crochet tops and vests

One brand that’s really on top of these trends is Urban Outfitters’ line from Philadelphia called Urban Renewal. Just take a look at this striped zipper dress! Urban Renewal’s clothes are made in the USA from vintage, deadstock and surplus materials, so every piece is unique and exclusive!

All of us at Autonomie Project are also very excited for the spring season because we have new awesome products coming our way! This spring, be on the lookout for new rainboots and flip flops from Ethleticrecycled jewelry made by Proxy Apparel, and two new tees—another one for Farm Sanctuary and one that supports the Northeast Organic Farming Association. All organic, all fair trade, and all vegan like always!

But unfortunately as most of you New Englanders and many around the country, have probably noticed, the winter cold is still lingering around. So until it starts to warm up and you can actually enjoy all this awesome spring fashion, we recommend the following to get through the rest of this chilly season:

Knitted scarves, earmuffs, beanies, and headbands from Lowie are fashionable and fair trade—benefitting villagers in Eastern China.

Brooklyn-based Rocks and Salt also has some very fashionable, sustainable, and warm headwear. I recently purchased the Rita and I love it! It keeps my head very warm, and I’ve received so many compliments on it. It’s all handmade by the designers in Brooklyn.

Also, the cold isn’t that bad when you’re enjoying a warm cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate—especially from our friends at Equal Exchange. They serve some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, and it’s all fair trade.

So until it’s officially spring… stay warm and cozy with these wonderful fair trade fashions and treats and get ready for some awesome spring fashion just on the horizon!

-Michelle Thai

The wind blows through your hair, your muscles tense with exercise and your ears fill with the sound of your tires rolling over the pavement as your ride down the street.  You are enjoying this beautiful day as you bike to work, when BAM: a car comes flying by and you breathe in the nasty exhaust as it speeds by you. Sound familiar? It sounds like my every day commute!

But what if it could be different? What if you could ride, walk, live, and even work in a city where there were no cars? Sound like a dream? Soon it will be a reality outside Columbia, South Carolina. What some have called “One of the Best Ideas of 2010“, the Southern state’s Bicycle City is taking Green living to a whole new height.

The city  will be a diverse community with eco-friendly homes, two community lakes, local and organic farmer’s markets, community gardens and businesses with streets winding them together like any American town.  The only catch: these streets are bicycle-friendly only.  The whole town and surrounding areas will be connected via miles of walking, biking and hiking trails. Columbia, a city with commerce and universities, is only twelve miles away, easily reached by train or bicycle trail.  But in case out-of-town visitors must drive there or if a resident has a car to use occasionally, a community parking lot will be available just outside of town.

The community is in the planning stages now with a ribbon cutting ceremony under its belt late last year.  It certainly has come a far way from its conception way back in the 1990′s (it’s the bomb!). If you are interested in living, working, or just visiting Bicycle City, take a moment to take their online survey about your interest in the project.

Planners of this truly sustainable city are hoping the idea spreads. With so much hype around this project it will be of no surprise if more bicycle-only towns start popping up. I don’t know much about this region of South Carolina, but sign me up! Soon I will be belting “Take me home to Bicycle City, where the grass is green and the bikes are plenty” as I ride down car-free city streets.

-Gina Williams

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