Green Tip of the Week


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.

Easter is celebrated throughout the world for religious reasons, however, many people in the secular world use the holiday to usher in Spring. The main non-religious symbols of this celebration are the rabbit and the egg. Both are meant to represent fertility, as the season of Spring generally does. They symbolize the new beginnings and new life that is about to come.  We’ve always loved this idea as it dates back thousands and thousands of years, however being vegan, we weren’t such a fan of using actual eggs. And as environmentalists, we didn’t want to use chemical dyes or plastic eggs.

However, we have fond memories of Easter Egg hunts as children and remember the exhilaration of finding them hidden in your garden. So when we think of what traditions we will pass to our own children and how we want to represent fertility without hurting the Earth or animals, it gets complicated. We want to teach them to celebrate life and the season of Spring in a positive manner, yet still involve the childhood fun and amazement of a good old fashioned egg hunt.

What we decided upon was to keep the symbol of the egg, but vegan and naturalize it!  In craft stores, they sell wooden eggs which can be painted or dyed.  Even better if we could locate FSC certified sustainable wooden eggs, as the White House did this year.  Choosing plastic eggs is another possibility, however, they are generally made from petroleum and can’t easily be decorated. But on the plus side, they can be re-used the following year and can hide fun little gifts.

Once we decided to go the route of the wooden egg, we also want to avoid the typical chemical dyes and petroleum based paints and opted for a natural take. There are a variety of natural paints on the market to use, we love Unearthed, all vegan and natural.  We also found this uber helpful site which explained how to make dyes at home. Here is a run down of what to use for which color, click on the full article for exact instructions.

Gold: Handful of yellow onion skins
Yellow: 2 tablespoons turmeric or a handful of carrot tops
Green: Handful of coltsfoot
Blue: 2 cups chopped red cabbage (for best results, add cabbage to water while hard-boiling eggs)
Pink: 2 cups chopped beets
Purple: 1 cup frozen blueberries
Brown: 2 tablespoons coffee grounds or 4 black tea bags

After the wooden eggs are finished and naturally adorned, the next step was to teach the children how to respect the eggs as new life and not a food source. Traditionally, the eggs would now be hidden all over the yard or house, the children would find them, and proceed to eat them. Using a basket to collect them seemed to continue this idea. Building a nest within the basket or just by itself is a wonderful solution to this issue. The nest will symbolize the new life (eggs) how they would appear in nature, just waiting to hatch rather than be eaten by humans. For an even better effect, add  toy or wooden birds. Now when  the kids collect all their eggs, they will be returning them to Momma and Papa bird.

So there it is. It is possible to celebrate Spring, Easter, and new life, cruelty free and naturally. You can still use the idea of what eggs represent and have a fun, interactive way to teach children about the preciousness of life. Plus, now us vegans and environmentalists can still have our Easter egg or rather eggless hunt for generations! Happy Easter :)

On March 17th people all over the country will be sporting the color green in honor of St Patrick’s Day.  It’s not just the people, as bars begin serving green drinks, shamrock shaped anything sells in stores, and even the Chicago River runs green for the day. With all this green being thrown around one would think everyone was celebrating the environment. But in all actuality St Patrick’s Day can be the complete opposite. With many disposal decorations, often plastic, that end up littered on the street eventually rest in landfills. It’s not only the decorations that are harmful but massive amounts of beef is consumed as well as harmful chemical dyes added to drinks and food.

How do you avoid using this Irish themed holiday to be wasteful and make sure you turn your St Patrick’s Day thoroughly green? It’s actually easier than you think! By using the age-old wisdom of reduce, re-use, and make responsible choices. Here are a few of our suggestions to green your St Patty’s Day.

Re-purpose Decorations: This year, if you must walk around with shamrocks on your head or decorate your office in all shades of green, consider re-purposing items around your house. You may still have plenty of green items left over from Christmas laying around or perhaps from last year. It can be a fun family activity or craft party with your friends. You may also try hitting up your local thrift stores as many of the items not sold the previous year end up in their possession.

Re-use Clothing: Dying to wear green on St Patrick’s Day? Look through your closets for already existing items that you can use for the day rather than purchasing something new to wear. A thrift, vintage shop, or Etsy trip would be a great place to find previously worn green clothing to celebrate the big day.

Go Organic: Hold the dye and choose some organic brewskis for your festivities! There are plenty to choose from including Bison Brewery and Peak Organic. For a whole rundown of organic beer and your best choices, check out our old posts. You should also consider some eco-friendly breweries such as New Belgium and Brooklyn Brewery who are both run on wind power. If you are baking cupcakes or Irish favorites make sure all your produce choices are either local or organic.

Hold the Meat: Another great way to keep your St Patty’s Day feeling green is to cut back on the meat. Many traditional Irish recipes call for meat such as colcannon, corn beef, and shepherd’s pie. Alas, do not worry, there are great vegetarian and vegan versions of every favorite St Patty’s recipe. We have a terrific vegan Irish recipes including Irish Soda Bread and Stew, as well as Irish Coffee.

Re-usable Cups: Instead of spending the day and night drinking out of that plastic solo cup, use-reusable cups.  Yes the dishes can be annoying, but in the end you will feel better about not sending a stack of plastic cups into the landfill.  Another options is to choose recyclable or compostable cups.

Usually the only green thing about your Thanksgiving meal is the bean casserole, but this year there are several ways to make your dinner that much greener.  The holiday itself is a tad gluttonous and seems the opposite of anything eco-friendly. Buying too much food, tons of  plastics, and cooking all day. We have put together a short list of ways you can make your day of Thanks a tad more eco-friendly.

Buy Local & Organic: Instead of going to the supermarket for all your veggies, bread, and jams, try your farmer’s market.  You can find almost every thing you need at your weekly farmer’s market or your local grocery store. Be sure to look for organic certified products.  You can also purchase your breads, jams, and other goodies from local vendors. If you must purchase any dairy, definitely look for a local organic option.

Skip the Turkey: Stick to your veggies this year, and skip the turkey. There are plenty of great main vegan or vegetarian dishes to serve rather than turkey. Check our lovely vegan recipe blog for ideas.  You can even take it one step further and Adopt-A-Turkey from Farm Sanctuary. You can also purchase or make meat substitutes for dinner such as Tofurkey or Field Roast.

Organic Spirits: Serve up all your spirits organic! You can find great organic wines, organic beers, and even liquors. From organic vodka to rum, you can find organic versions of your favorite night-cap. Also, be sure to get your mixers organic as well, including cranberry juice, soda, and apple ciders.

Natural Decorations: This year use what nature gave you to decorate rather than buying new fall themed decor. You can use local straw, pumpkins, and squash. Or you may find some great items lying around your own backyard, such as apples and fall leaves. Another great resource is pine cones and tree branches. You can place them around the house or use a glue gun to make wreathes or other decor for your house.

Leftovers: Try to limit your food purchases to what you need, but if you find you still have leftovers be sure to do the green thing. If you compost, be sure to compost them to nurture your garden. Another option is to donate your leftovers to a local homeless shelter, food bank, or Food Not Bombs. Try searching this nationwide database of Food Pantries for a local place near you.

So you’re on your way to college – or maybe you’re already there. It may be your first year, it may be your eighth year, or perhaps you’re somewhere in between. Either way, the eco-friendly habits you keep over the summer living on your own are likely to be compromised by the dorm environment. Some things may be out of your control; for example, I only use fans at home, but my dorm building automatically turns on the air conditioning through the fall. But other aspects are in your control, and a few simple tips can help you keep supporting the planet until your spring exams are finished.

Here are 10 simple ways to make your dorm life greener, from back-to-school shopping to packing up at the end of the year.

1. Buy natural fiber, organic bed sheets. Also consider springing for all natural pillows, comforters, and mattress pads. Bamboo – a very sustainable resource – is also a great option when shopping for bedroom items for your dorm: not just linens, but bath mats and shower curtains, too. Not only will your bed be as comfy as it can be, but you’ll be making the most ethical sleeping choice possible. Check out Earthsake for all of your organic bedding.

2. Decorate secondhand. It’s easy to get caught up in Target wall decals and shiny new posters of your favorite bands, but refrain from impulsively buying new decorations. Shop instead on sites like eBay ClassifiedsCraigslist, and Etsy Vintage  to find unique, one-of-a-kind items to decorate your dorm room with. Also check out Freecycle or your local thrift shops for lamps and other basic room essentials secondhand. Used is great, but we all know used and free is even better! Not only do you avoid having the same Beatles poster as the rest of your hall, but your secondhand shopping makes a big environmental difference.

3. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL ones. If you’re lucky, your school has already done this for you with your room’s overhead lights – but odds are that it hasn’t. So take initiative and bring a few light bulbs to school. But I get it – mood lighting is important. You need that string of Christmas lights across your door. Make sure you buy LED decorative lights, or purchase strings to which you add your own bulbs. If you have some extra light bulbs, consider giving them away to your roommate or a friend. It makes a huge difference in the long term. And don’t forget to turn off your lights when you leave the room. There
won’t be anyone there to appreciate them!

4. Buy natural candles and air fresheners. It’s college – your room just isn’t going to smell great every day. Even though almost all aerosols like Febreze are now CFC-free, according to the Washington Post, over the course of the year, an ordinary plug-in air freshener will use about 18.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity – equal to about a barrel of oil’s worth. As for spray fresheners, take a look at the ingredients offered on their labels and websites and ask yourself how many names you recognize. Try instead to make your own air freshener with essential oils. Or purchase soy candles, free of paraffin and synthetic fragrances, like these beautiful USA made ones from Maddison Ave. After all, stenches are sometimes out of your control, and it’s best to be prepared.

5. Make sure you only use eco-friendly laundry, bath and cleaning products. I think it’s safe to say that I’m Seventh Generation’s biggest fan. They’ve made environmentally friendly products available to everyone at reasonable prices. No matter where you’re shopping for dorm items, you’re likely to find Seventh Gen products there. Think about it this way: if you buy laundry and dish detergent, cleaners, scrubs, tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, bleach and trash bags that are all made responsibly, you’re alleviating a huge strain off of our precious resources that make those items. Hint: try to avoid fabric softeners. I know your mom probably uses them and that makes all the difference, but steering clear of them will save you money and save help make our environment a little bit cleaner. Think carefully about which products are essentials and which ones you’ll forget about after September ends.

6. Buy Fair Trade and organic snacks (and coffee!). I have a Keurig coffee machine at school and try to only buy Fair Trade cups (like these). If you’re making coffee in a French press or with a traditional machine, try to steer clear of big brands. Equal Exchange  is my go-to for delicious Fair Trade and organic coffees and foods. You’ll definitely want to pick up some bars of their chocolate and bags of nuts and berries. Don’t forget to bring your reusable traveler mug and water bottle to school! Having your own water filter or drinking tap water makes a big difference. If you’re sharing a kitchen, try to buy a water filter that fits on your sink to avoid the extra step.

7. Try to buy Energy Star appliances – and share them. Converse with your roommate(s) before you get to school to find out what appliances they’re planning on bringing. Split the cost of an EPA-approved Energy Star minifridge to save money and
electricity. Microwaves are also a greener alternative to cooking on a stove or in an oven (plus you can make all the Cup of Noodles you want) – just make sure you keep it unplugged when it’s not in use. The best option? Go without these kitchen appliances. But if you don’t think you can go without late night Ben and Jerry’s binges for a year, then make sure you bring a few extra spoons to share with your fridge-mates.

8. Use electronics wisely. If you’re only doing your hair on the weekends, why keep your blow dryer and straightener plugged in all week? Same goes for your laptop – if you head home for the weekend, don’t keep it plugged in while you’re gone. The simplest way to control your energy usage is to plug all of your electronics into a power strip that you turn off when you leave your room. Once you get into the habit of unplugging electronics, you won’t even think twice about doing it.

9. No more nasty red Solo cups! Nothing says “college drinking” like a red plastic cup. But these cups are wasted on a nightly basis in college environments, and they’re almost never disposed of properly. Since you don’t want to be that kid picking up after everyone reminding them to recycle, host BYOG (bring your own glass) parties or have reusable glasses to offer everyone. That way you have less cleanup and you help make Saturday nights on campus a little greener.

10. Store – don’t ship! And reuse packing supplies. The end of the school year seems to come out of nowhere, but don’t let yourself face packing unprepared. Try to get your hands on used boxes by asking local companies and businesses if they have any extra or visiting recycling centers yourself. Don’t buy packing tape with an unnecessary plastic handle, and share the tape with your friends so it doesn’t go to waste. The most important part? Don’t ship everything home! Do you really foresee yourself using your printer more than once over summer vacation? Store it with your school, along with your winter clothes (if applicable). You’ll save serious money with these tips, and time and frustration. Did I mention you’ll save money? Now the cash you made selling your textbooks can go to something useful, like a new bathing suit for summer. Now I’m getting a little ahead of
myself…

Have a great school year! Keep up the green work in college. Educate those around you who aren’t as aware of these environmentally friendly tips. Print out this list or your own list on recycled paper and post it in your common room. Spread the word that it’s not all that hard to stay eco-friendly in the crazy world that is college dorms.

- Jessica Nicholson

The tangible world that we once knew is long gone. Paper records, the Dewey Decimal system, and paper money protected under lock and key, is a dwindling reality. The United States’ entire economic system is represented by a keyboard stroke. Business owners have substituted office space and filing cabinets for cell phones. Moms have replaced crumbled pieces of paper with grocery list apps.

Purchasing a smartphone, particularly an iphone, has proven to be a valuable investment for millions of people. If you are not a small business owner, or a mom, or a banker, but an environmentally conscious participant in the game of life, your iphone purchase can be just as valuable an investment as theirs have been.

I have put together a list of Apps that promote a ‘greener’ lifestyle, and in doing so, discovered the remarkable impact of a seemingly indulgent purchase.

My Carbon Footprint: This app was created by the Blue Chip Marketing Company. It is an easy-to-use application that lets you calculate your carbon footprint. Getting started, you are prompted to answer 10 initial questions and then 1 question everyday after that, to track your impact on the environment.

Free 2 Work: Supported by the company Juniper Networks and U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person, this app is part of a larger movement that grades companies based on their labor practices. The Free2Work app was designed to allow consumers to easily browse companies’ labor practices, and aid in making socially conscious purchases. This is app is free to download, and very easy to use.

A Real Tree: Created by Mokugift, this app allows you to plant a tree from your iphone. It is truly remarkable. The trees are planted in one of 12 countries fighting deforestation: Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Burundi, Senegal, Zambia, India, Philippines, and Haiti. A Real Tree works with, Trees for the Future and Sustainable Harvest International to, “provide materials and education to local communities o plant trees in an ecologically-beneficial manner.

GoodGuide: This app allows the consumer to monitor the environmental and social impact of an individual product. Before a purchase is made, the consumer can read a brief review on the products’ impact. The GoodGuide’s database consists of nearly 70,000 products and reviews.

Green Car Buddy: This app is a client/server app that facilitates that sharing of rides and parking spaces. The idea is to promote carpooling, and decrease the amount of cars on the road, thus causing less pollution. You can register through your facebook account, or create a username distinct to Green Car Buddy. You can browse the app for rideshares leaving from one specified location to another. You can limit your search to a particular time of departure, or the gender of the driver. As a server, you can limit who is eligible to accept a ride from you by designating a gender option. If your search does not have what you are looking for at the moment, the app will email you when what you are looking for becomes available. This app is free to download and very easy to use. Green Car Buddy is a truly revolutionary idea. As its users grow, so will its impact. My only concern is your safety. Be careful my friends, and always tell someone where you are going.

-Jaclyn Bauman

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