Environment


Since the 1990’s genetically engineered foods have been on the market, mostly unbeknown to the consumer. The vegetables, fruits, and packaged goods you purchase could contain scientifically modified ingredients. On top of being a little Frankenstein-ish, GMO foods are terrifying because there have been no long term studies done on them, there is a possible genetic effect on humans which is unknown, and doctors have cited it as possible causes of some food allergies and diseases.   Is there a way to know whether you are purchasing a GMO food? Not currently. It’s always a risk, even for items labeled “natural” on the shelves.

 

 

Next week, all of that may change in California. This election, Proposition 37 proposes GMO food be labeled as such for the benefit of the consumers. The law would require any food from plant or animal that contains GMO ingredients to be labeled with a few exemptions. Farm animals fed GMO grain, restaurants, and alcohol are all exempt from this current law as they are regulated differently  It also bars GMO products from labeling themselves as “natural,” which unfortunately is an unregulated marketing word.

Living in California and a huge organic supporter, we are excited for the possibility of this law. Consumers have a right to know what is going in their bodies and it seems the populace agrees. The latest polls are showing over 60% of California voters are in favor of the proposition. Plus one look at who is against it, will make up your mind quickly, Monsanto has been a huge critic, pouring gobs of money into the opposition campaign. They are quite possibly the largest GMO farming corporation that has come under fire for labor violations recently. Would you trust those guys? 

Other than knowing what we are putting into our bodies, passing such a law is so important is that it will set a precedent for other states to follow suit. Organic advocates, parents, and pretty much everyone who buys food will win in the long run if this law is passed. Well, you know that slogan: you are what you eat, and we certainly don’t want to be something made in a lab. Please Vote YES on Prop 37!

 

Now that both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions have been completed and we are headed into a heated 90 day battle between the big choice of two candidates, it’s time to start comparing them. Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, neither are looking so hot (unlike our planet….but that’s another story).  Sure, one is  lesser of the two evils when it comes to energy policy, but it would be nice if we had a few more people to choose from (once again…that’s another story).  And since there are no third-party candidates who are likely to take any votes from these two, let’s just look at them!

Let’s start with the newcomer, Mitt Romney. AP and Romney share an interesting history, as he was once the governor of our founding state: Massachusetts.  Now you might wonder how such a progressive state would vote in a conservative, well he ran on a different platform back then (yet again…that’s another story). If we were talking about Romney from 6 years ago, this would be a different story. In fact, some of his environmental moves have inspired some of Obama’s.

However, let’s talk Romney running today. He does have some interesting ties to Big Oil and has accepted campaign donations from them. In return, he has stated that he will expand drilling for both gas and oil in the United States. He also plans on extending the Big Oil tax cuts and subsidies, yet at the same time, opposes any tax incentives to alternative energy production within the US. And on that note, he is also against raising standards for energy efficiency in general. He seems to oppose any environmental technology advances, even making the statements: “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” and “[fuel efficiency standards are] disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers.” Even further frustrating is his stance on public lands. He has supported the Paul Ryan budget that calls for the selling of 3.3 million acres of public lands to private industry. And don’t even get me started on Global Warming, although once stating that humans were speeding up the production of carbon emissions, he now mocks that idea.

If this future seems a little bleak, we do have a little better news coming from the blue camp. During the 2008 election, Obama spoke a LOT about the environment, clean energy, and green jobs. However, his track record as President hasn’t actually put these ideas into motion. He has mentioned in State of the Union addresses and taken a pledge  that the Federal government should cut oil subsidies and use them to invest in alternative energy.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened in the last four years. Perhaps it something for the future four years? He has also mentioned  investing Federal funds in alternative energies, however, he lists “clean” coal and nuclear as sources of renewable energy. In a bit of good news, he has put into place some energy efficiency standards that will bring commercial facilities to be more efficient by 2025, initiated new rules on emissions from coal power plants that will save lives, and set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.

We are pleased with some of these initiatives, but disappointed in his track record. He does support green jobs and promised 5 million, however, we haven’t really seen that plan come to fruition. He’s also increased offshore drilling and done little in the way of ending fracking. He also has spoken for fighting Global Warming in the past, but has failed to mention it in this campaign or done little to work on this issue over the past four years. However, it should be noted the State Department under his administration is working on international pollution regulations. That being said, he has a pretty inconsistent record on environmental policy. 

So there you have it, a quick rundown of both main candidates views on the environment. It’s looking like we have a choice of a C or F student. So take your pick! Personally, we will have to go with the lesser of two evils on the environmental front. Here’s to hoping over the next few months the campaign focuses on these environmental issue a little more!

The popsicles are melting and the temperature gage continues to rise. The kids have taken to the streets to cool off under the stream of the fire hydrant and even the dogs are hiding under the shade of the trees. It’s a bonafide heat wave! If this sounds familiar, it’s because the US has been under a nationwide heat wave for the past few weeks. Yes, it is the middle of July, but is there something more sinister at work? With temperatures rising steadily, a lack of winter, and crazy, unpredictable weather, it’s hard not to pose the question. In fact, last week the entire country suffered temperatures well into the 100’s.

In a new study from the American Meterological Society they answer that very question. It states that heat waves are directly related to global warming and  they are on the rise!  The study points out that several heat waves have been connected to human-made global warming. These heat waves include last year’s brutal heat in Texas which was considered 20 times more likely to occur due to global warming and November’s warmer than normal temperature in England was 62 times more likely.   This study marks a new feature in climate science, where it has usually taken years to compile weather studies, this one was able to be analyzed and published within several months. This is groundbreaking science that is sure to help shed some light on the issues we are to face.

If you thought that was bad news, it only gets worse. In another study published by Stanford last year stated that the US is “likely to undergo extreme summer temperature shifts within 60 years.  Yup, expect more droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods and any other weather extreme that will terrify and complicate our modern lives. But not all disasters have been directly connected to global warming including recent floods in Thailand. Monsoons are common in Thailand and researches have related these particular floods to rapid development, meaning more people in more vulnerable areas.

And as the temperature continues to rise, we lose more and more of our polar ice. In 2011, the Artic warmed as a whole and was at it’s second lowest level since we humans started keeping track. In case you haven’t heard, this is causing the sea levels to rise at a steady pace.  Higher sea levels means less land for humans and animals alike and with our population reaching 7 billion, major social issues are headed our way.

Basically all this news is bleak and a bit scary. Is there anything we can do? It’s unlikely we will be able to slow the affects already set in motion. However, we need to get serious about changing our ways. What we have done to the Earth over the last Century needs to stop now. We need to figure out more sustainable energy and stop using gasoline like it’s water running from a tap. We also need to start planning for the future. Rather than deny the Earth is warming, we, as a society, must plan for the future. Acting now, could save countless lives and resources. You and I need to start pressuring our leaders to pay attention to these issues and we need to change our everyday actions. The heat is on, as the say, so let’s cool it down.

Here at Autonomie Project, we are gearing up for a really exciting festival. The GreenLife Eco-Fest is a two-day weekend festival nestled in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Foothills in Northern California (about 2.5 hours from San Francisco).  We are especially excited about this one, as a lot of big names are attached to speak and one of our founders, Gina, hails from the foothills.  Having this big of a festival in the small, but quaint town of Grass Valley is really great, especially since it is a zero waste celebration of all things green! 

As we mentioned, there are some big name speakers coming that we can’t wait to hear. Some we are most looking forward to include John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution, Michael A Bedar  producer of the film, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days, Allison Cook of the Story of Stuff, and Dr. Kevin Danaher co-founder of Global Exchange/Green Festivals and writer of Building the Green Economy : Success Stories From the Grassroots. And on top of these lovely speakers and more, there is some absolutely great workshops, such as: Growing Mushrooms, Biodynamic Gardening, Natural Building, Green Energy, and Reading GMO Labels.

If that wasn’t enough of a reason to hike up to the foothills, there will also be FREE bike tune-ups given by People Powered Alliance, a clothing swap, and the Haute Trash Fashion Show which is fashion made out of “trash.”  If you love shopping there will also be about 120 green and eco vendors, including yours truly.  And don’t forget about awesome healthy food vendors and music. Really, this festival sounds like one big green party, but not the political kind.

If you are in the area or would like to take a beautiful drive/train ride through the California foothills, come stop by! If you come to our booth, you can check out our NEW products such as eco-friendly, Fair Trade dog toys and leashes! We promise you won’t regret it. Hope to see you there!

When: Saturday and Sunday, June 23rd & 24th. 10am-7pm with music until 9pm on Saturday

Where: North Star House, Old Auburn Road, Grass Valley, CA

Cost: Free! $5.00 for workshops and $20 for all day speaker pass

Why: Because it’s going to rock!

June is the month to celebrate the Fathers in our lives and what better way to do this than give them an awesome green gift!  Holidays are the perfect time to live by your ethics and purchase that celebrates them. The great thing is, no matter what your Dad’s interests are, you will be able to give him an eco-friendly gift he is sure to enjoy. We have put together a little list of green gifts suited for any Father below. Happy Father’s Day!

2012 Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Gift Guide

The Green Newbie: Maybe your Pops is a little late to the party and living a green lifestyle is brand new to him. Never fear! We have the perfect idea for you: a green basket! Now this isn’t just any basket, as you can fill it with green basics such as light bulbs, books on going green, and green cleaning products. An even better idea is instead of using a basket, use a recycled bin instead.

The Outdoor Man: Whether it be hiking, canoeing, or running this Dad loves the Great Outdoors. We have a couple of great suggestions for this Dad. From upcycled sleeping bags to recycled tents you can find plenty of green gear your outdoor Dad will enjoy. Another awesome gift is a National Parks Pass which is good for one year and allows your Dad entrance to any National Park in the country. He’ll love getting into any National Park all year for free and hassle free.

The Wine Lover: If you Dad is a wine connoisseur, there are plenty of wonderful organic and even Fair Trade wines to choose from. Better yet, you can find organic wine in an eco friendly bag. You could also get him a set of recycled wine glasses, some even made from old wine bottles.  Or if your Dad needs a new wine rack, you could get him a cool recycled rack or make your own, like these made from FedEx materials or bike gears.

The Beer Guy: If your Father prefers to knock a few back rather than sip some wine, he might appreciate some delicious organic and micro-brewery beer. There are plenty to choose from including Brooklyn Brewery, Bison Brewing, and Peak Organic. If he has a favorite brewery, you could buy him one of these awesome mugs made from used beer bottles with the label still on it. If you Dad likes beer and baseball, buy him one of these bottle openers made from bats used in play from his favorite team.

The Workaholic: Some Fathers just don’t know when to take a break. If your Dad loves work more than anything else, we have a couple of great gift ideas. If his laptop never leaves his side give him one of these solar powered chargers. That way he will never have to worry about his battery dying! Another fabulous idea is these great ties made from recycled cassette tape.

The Sports Guru: Many, but not all men love sports. If your Dad is one that does, check out these ethical sports balls made of all natural FSC certified rubber and Fair Trade certified.  If he is a baseball fan, see the above bottle openers mentioned under the beer section. If he has a favorite team he can own a piece of baseball history by using parts of the bat to open his beer or soda.

You may have noticed that within our collection of USA-made, graphic tees, one tee is actually produced in India: our ‘Fair Trade’ tee — and you’ll see that through its impact on its workers and the environment, it certainly lives up to its name!

Our workers are treated respectfully: Our ‘Fair Trade’ tee is produced in conjunction with Hae Now, an organic, animal-friendly and Fair Trade manufacturer in southern India. In an industry that typically exploits its workers with meager wages and sweatshop-like conditions, Hae Now’s workers receive independently assessed fair living wages, safe working conditions, as well as medical, paid leave, retirement benefits, job training, and free education for their dependents. Additionally, our workers are paid pre-harvest with fair prices, which means reliable and steady income.

Organic cotton means no harmful chemicals: The cotton used to produce our ‘Fair Trade’ tee is farmed from a farmer-owned collective in central India. Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of pesticides — the pesticides used in cotton were originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II! Therefore you can imagine how harmful they can be to farmers and the environment: poisoning farm workers, drifting into neighboring communities, contaminating ground and surface water, and kill beneficial insects. The cotton we use in our Fair Trade tee is entirely organic: no pesticides means no ill-effects on workers, farmers, and the environment.

Sustainable farming is practiced throughout: Sustainable techniques like hand-farming, botanical pest control, and crop-rotation are practiced at our farms in India. Besides being better for the environment, crop-rotation gets rid of many costs associated with disease and pest control. Oftentimes Indian farmers rely heavily on expensive pesticides, which easily drags them into spiraling debt. Practices like crop-rotation uses no pesticides and keeps soil enriched and healthy. Because organic, sustainable farming is more labor-intensive, it’s become a powerful vehicle in worker empowerment by creating job opportunities at all levels.

Proceeds support our local community: For every ‘Fair Trade’ tee sold, $5 goes to Fair Trade Resource Network and Fair Trade Boston to help them continue to promote Fair Trade and grow the movement!

And an additional fun fact: the design on our ‘Fair Trade’ tee came from a t-shirt design contest we held last year! High schooler Cathi Schwemin from Hanover, Massachusetts produced this design after learning about the common exploitation of workers and discovering Fair Trade.

**In celebration of World Fair Trade Day, we’re excited to share that our ‘Fair Trade’ tee is 50% off! It’s on sale at www.autonomieproject.com. Know that with this tee, you’re not just looking good, but you’re also supporting so a very important movement of ethical, safe, and fair treatment.

It just so happens that Mother’s Day lands on the same weekend we are celebrating World Fair Trade Day! It also comes a few weeks after Earth Day and some are even suggesting celebrating Mother Earth Day. The great thing about all these holidays falling so near each other is that you can purchase your Mother’s Day gift while celebrating Fair Trade and the Earth. We have come up with a fun list of ethical gifts to give your mom, whether they be Fair Trade or eco-friendly, they’re sure to bring a smile to any Mother’s face.

Mother’s Day Ethical Gift Guide

Re-cycled Cards: Every Mom loves a card that expresses her child’s love. Rather than spending $5 on a store-bought card, make one out of old cards and paper around the house. This is an especially fun project with small children, as they will enjoy making something for Mom. There are tons of great sites online that will give you ideas. Here are a few we like: Recycled Items, e-How, and Mother’s Day Cards.

Organic Herbs: If your Mother has a green thumb, check out some of these great gift ides. We love the Growbottle, which are indoor hydro-gardens. The look is modern and sleek and you can choose from organic chives, basil, oregano, mint, and parsley. Just pick out your gardening Mom’s favorite herb or buy her the whole set. Another great idea is to give her a set of organic seeds which she can grow in her outdoor garden. Seeds of Change is a wonderful resource and you should be able to find organic seed packets at any local hardware/garden store.

Fair Trade Goodies:  No mother can so no to a goodie basket! Try putting together your own basket of Fair Trade treats. Chocolate is a great place to start. Fortunately, Fair Trade chocolate is made in many forms from bars to truffles. You can also add  Fair Trade wine or vodka to eat with the candies. If your Mom doesn’t drink, check for Fair Trade soda, tea, or coffee.

Fair Trade Scarves:  No Mom can deny a good scarf, especially if it comes with an ethical background. Luckily Fair Trade scarves are fairly easy to find.  There are a lot of lovely scarves to be found at Fair Trade stores such as Ten Thousand Villages, World of Good, and Global Good Partners, all who carry Fair Trade products. We especially love the”Block Printed Scarf” from Global Good Partners.

Green Jewelry: And we don’t mean the color here. There are plenty of great eco-friendly jewelry on the market. If you are looking for something to really dazzle your Mother, check out Green Karat. They use recycled gold, silver, and gems and never use diamond mining in their jewelry. If you are looking for something a little less fancy, check World of Good and Etsy for recycled or eco jewelry. We personally love these Fair Trade and eco bracelets from the Andean Collection. They are made with the  Tagua nut, harvested from the forest floor.

Fair Trade/Organic Flowers: We know our Mothers love getting flowers for Mother’s Day, so if you want to go this route, you have an ethical choice. Take a look at Organic Style.  Not only are many of their flowers organic with high labor standards, their vases and packaging are recycled and they purchase carbon offsets. You can choose from beautiful roses to Spring mixed bouquets.

Fair Trade/Organic Tee: If your Mom is the laid back type that likes to wear her heart on her sleeve. Why not get her this organic, Fair Trade certified tee from Autonomie Project. When she wears it, she can promote her and your philosophy of Fair Trade. She’ll not only think of you while wearing it, but spread the values of Fair Trade.

Every year, in the midst of our hectic daily schedules, Earth Day approaches more quickly than we’re prepared for.  It’s a time when we’re reminded to go the extra mile and make a new kind of effort beyond what we consider our daily eco-friendly habits.  We’re caught scratching our heads, thinking “how can I do my part without sacrificing too much of my time?
There are many small and large ways to keep the balance between responsible ecological action and keeping up with the demands of a modern lifestyle, and yet we can offer you two in one: plant some bamboo.
Yes, that dreaded homeowner’s bane that can grow at mythical speeds and lay tornado-like waste to landscaping.  Not quite true, though.  Yes, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plant on earth; some reports have claimed 39 inches in 24 hours in  optimal conditions.  This is actually a good thing, as it’s stalks, or culms, grow to desired height quickly and can be endlessly harvested; it’s the ultimate sustainable woody resource.  But not all bamboo species are “runners,” those that grow out in lines from underground nodes and root balls, defying fences and delicate plants.  It’s quite easy to find “clumping” species that have vertical primary growth like other plants and are non-invasive.  It’s becoming evermore popular and easy to purchase at local nurseries(for those of you in CA’s Bay Area) and online .
Why bamboo for Earth Day?
1)  As stated above, it is an absolutely sustainable resource.
2) It is an excellent C02 “fixer,” devouring the atmosphere-warming gas at incredible rates, and emits 35% more oxygen than the biomass equivalent of trees.
3) Although it thrives with ample water, its hardiness is epic and drought-resistant varieties are easily found.  Frankly, it’s difficult to kill.  It’s the Van Damme of plants, a real hard target.
4) It needs no fertilizer and usually no soil amendment, as long as it drains decently, which means very low energy cost.
5) The variety of uses exceed any other growing thing on Earth.  That’s not an official statement, but seriously, find something else you can make healthy food, medicine, building materials (from bicycles and fishing rods to boats and houses), musical instruments, clothing, paper, fertilizing charcoal, beer and weapons out of.  You will fail.  To see just how versatile this miracle vegetation is, check out this gallery of bamboo products.
6) It’s tall, dark and handsome.  That’s earthy.
And you don’t necessarily have to plant it in a pot or in your yard.  Our cities and suburbs have a surprising amount of abandoned or unclaimed open space that some bamboo plants would take full and beneficial advantage of.  And once it takes hold, the plant’s hardiness makes it easy to break apart root balls to form new clusters which can be harvested for new planting.
Planting bamboo is an easy favor you can do for yourself, your community and shared planet.  It feels good!  No, really; the internodes are smooth and silky to the touch.  Sensual.
-Jeremy Pearson 

Every action we take impacts the world around us. When we drive, fly, buy a can of soda, or even just take out the trash we are affecting the Earth. You may have heard the term “carbon footprint” to describe our environmental behavior. Carbon footprints are a way of measuring our individual and collective environmental harm caused everyday.   Entire companies have been founded on this idea, such as those that offer carbon offset credits. You can even calculate your own or household’s carbon footprint online and see how you match up with the US and rest of the world.

Although we love how informative carbon footprints are, it can be a little overwhelming. The idea of a carbon footprint only looks at the negative ways in which we impact the planet rather than focusing on the positive. That’s exactly what Gregory Norris thought when he decided to found Handprinter.org. The site looks at what Norris calls handprints rather than footprints. Handprints include all the positive things we do everyday that make a difference.

 

Norris, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, thought of the idea after realizing his students were feeling pessimistic about their effect on the world, even stating that “the planet would be better off if they had not been born.”  Norris felt his students and others looking at only their footprints were concentrating on detrimental actions. “…Something was missing-that we can also benefit the planet,” Norris explained, “I needed to name those benefits to make them as tangible as footprints.”

And that he did. He took his handprints and turned them into a website that not only lets you calculate your own handprint, but encourages others to follow suit. The website promotes spreading one’s positive impact via social media, which in turn increases your handprint the more you share. He hopes to take this idea one step further where organizations, schools, and maybe even cities will compete among each other for larger handprints.

Norris’ handprints are already having the positive effect he was hoping for, as they ended up on Time Magazine’s list of “10 Ideas that are Changing Your Life.”  We love the encouraging message handprints bring, because focusing on the bad news often overwhelms and depresses us, but this idea gives us hope. It introduces a way to look at our actions  in a bright light. Next time someone asks about carbon footprints, make sure to tell them about your handprints. Will you be using handprinter?

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