July 2008

If you are interested in Fair Trade and want to help spread the word, you or your business/organization are the perfect candidate for our new Affiliates Program! You can earn money just by posting our banner on your website, while promoting, supporting and encouraging your friends and family to make ethical and environmentally-friendly choices.

We are a tiny organization with no advertising budget, so we heavily rely on you and our loyal customers to help us spread the word. As they say, ‘the rising tide lifts all boats’, so please join us as we do our part in furthering the mission of Fair Trade Fashion! Our Affiliates Program is a way for us to send a little thanks back to you for all of your help.

When you sign up for our Affiliates Program, you can instantly start making money for you personally, your business or your non-profit organization. It’s simple – when you help bring new socially-driven consumers to our website, our Affiliates Program lets you share in our success. Since you get a cut of each sale that you send our way, you can secure an additional revenue stream for your business or provide an excellent fundraising tool for your non-profit organization.

When a visitor follows an AP Affiliate link, banner, product listing or product review (yes, we’ll let you review our products for free!) on your website that results in a sale on our site, you automatically get credited a minimum 10% commission!

Its easy to sign up and shortly after your account will be active and you can log in on our website. Once logged into your account you’ll find instructions for setting up links on your site (either via banner or text links). These links can be featured on as many sites or pages as you like or could be distributed via email or other promotional methods.

Please visit our website to learn how this program works and to sign up today!

You too can become a partner in Fair Trade and make a difference in the world!


Most people understand a vegetarian’s choice to avoid meat products, but many are baffled by a vegan’s choice to avoid eggs. So, why are vegans not eating eggs? The answer to this question of course is not that simple, as people choose to be vegan for many different reasons. However, to understand one main reason vegans abstain from indulging in egg products, let’s take a look at a life of an egg laying hen.

As children we are raised with the idea that our eggs come from happy cute chickens that live in a big hen house and are tended to by the family farm. This is a fantasy that couldn’t be further from the truth for most American hens. Increasingly eggs are harvested in factory farms, much like the meat industry. Chickens used solely for eggs are referred to by the industry as “laying hens.” The laying hens are kept in ultra tight quarters, depending on the factory, but the USDA reports the average floor space provided is somewhere less than a half a foot per hen.

Being this close together causes many hens to have severe health problems. A report conducted by Compassion Over Killing revealed that these hens do not have enough room to even flap their wings and health problems such as osteoporosis, uterine prolapse(the uterus is expelled from the body), and Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome. Also due to the tight quarters, hens are known to damage themselves and others by overpecking. But don’t worry the factories have found a way to solve this: they burn off their beaks with a headed blade!!! This is quite possibly the worst injustice and an incredibly painful procedure, as it is done without anesthetic most of the time.

Now these hens are only valuable during their egg laying span. The farms try to keep the hens for maximum egg production and routinely are involved in a practice called “forced molting.” This practice is when the chickens are intentionally starved for up to 14 days, body fat is lost, and egg production begins again. Sometimes they are even kept in complete darkness. This can have severe psychological and health problems for these hens, as well as horrible suffering.

So what happens when the hens can no longer produce eggs? They are shipped off to slaughterhouses to end up on people’s tables. But because of brittle bones and mistreatment, they often are bruised and their bones snap easily. Thus the industry grinds them up and uses them in products such as soup and pot pies, as well as chicken meal. More often, slaughterhouses have enough abused chickens to fill the low grade meat quota, that the egg farms need another way to dispose of the hens. There have been reports of farms using wood chippers, often while still alive! And one part of this whole process that is often forgotten about is the baby boy chicks that  hatch at the factory farms. Since the egg laying chickens are the only part of the puzzle these farms care about, they are discarded as soon as they are born. Some of the more common ways to “dispose” of these poor souls is being thrown into a dumpster until they suffocate or dehydrate, ground up alive, or gassed.

Clearly , the American practice of factory farming is not only cruel, but unnecessary. In fact the European Union has banned the use of these “battery cages” beginning in 2012.  So what can we do about it here in the States?

First step, hit them where it hurts: their money! GO VEGAN and start boycotting the egg industry! If you just can’t give up those eggs, only purchase eggs from small organic local farms that still use humane practices. Or get involved! Most have heard of PETA, but there are a number of other great organizations that could use your help including: Compassion Over Killing, Action for Animals, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary and a host of others.

So next time someone asks you, “why don’t you eat eggs?” or “what’s wrong with eggs?” you’ll not only have a complete answer, but be able to send them resources.

Summer is typically the season when time slows down, families spend more time together, and the every day rat race is put aside for naps in the grass. At least it’s supposed to be.

These days, as life quickly fills up with commitments, work, and stress, it has become increasingly more difficult to make time for the things that truly matter in life. Summer is now a blur where spending time in the sun seems to be just another item added to the ‘to-do’ list.

Well, leave it to our friends at Conscious Consuming to stop the chaos and remind us all of the important things of life. This week, they are encouraging us all to ‘slow down and green up’ by celebrating US National Downshifting Week July 7th through 13th. The event is a voluntary simplicity awareness campaign that builds on the work of Tracey Smith, the founder of National Downshifting Week in the UK.

To downshift is defined as cutting out unnecessary expenditure, cultivating a simpler lifestyle (thus leaving a lighter environmental footprint), and making more time for the things you truly want to do. Data from the mid-90’s from the Trends Research Institute shows that only about 10% of Americans identify with downshifting, voluntary simplicity, and simple living. In recent days, though, with sky-rocketing gas prices and global economic turmoil, more and more Americans are choosing to cut back their consumption and lead simpler, more fulfilling lives. According to Smith, “a positive approach to living with less helps you re-think ways to enjoy time with your loved ones without reaching for your wallet.”

The dates for National Downshifting Week (July 7-13th) were chosen to coincide with the birthday of America’s most famous downshifter, Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817). To participate, the team at Conscious Consuming encourages you to do anything to live simpler and engage better with your community. Activities include cooking a meal using local, fresh ingredients from you farmer’s market, start composting and/or recycling to lessen the amount of waste you produce, and donating time, items or kindness to someone else in need.

And if you find yourself in doubt that this could truly help lessen your stress and increase your happiness, take a look at this inspiring testimonial from a participant in the UK:

I downshifted because I wanted a better work/life balance. I want to enjoy a life with less stress. Those around me say they wish they were brave enough to try it. We wouldn’t go back to our previous lifestyle with my husband working very long hours. We do have less money but now have more time to cook together from scratch, grow some veggies and spend lots of time together as a family. Our health has improved and we are so much happier. It’s a journey we have enjoyed and are still fine tuning each day. Go on, give it a try, you have nothing to lose but lots to gain.

For more tips and inspiration, visit National Downshifting Week to see what happened last April in the UK or our very own Conscious Consuming to decide how you will spend this week here in the US!

This article was originally written for eCo Times, the new cutting edge online magazine brought to you by eConscious Market.

Wal-Mart is a word that typically conjures up images of bulldozed forests making way for big box retail, swarming shoppers, low cost & low quality products, CEO’s with fat paychecks, and sweatshops in China. Its bad reputation has inspired mass protests, websites devoted to outlining its wrongdoings (such as WIPE, short for Wal-Mart Is Pure Evil), and popular documentary films like Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices. Though with increasing consumer demand for products that make positive environmental and social impacts, even Wal-Mart is making an effort to conserve waste, promote sustainability, and support Fair Trade.

On April 1st, as part of its “Earth Month” initiatives, Wal-Mart released a detailed press release about their plan to launch six new coffees under their Sam’s Choice brand that would include organic, Fair Trade certified, and Rainforest Alliance certified blends. A Fair Trade certification requires certain environmental, social and economical requirements to be met and, most importantly, the producer group to receive a fair price with a set minimum. The Rainforest Alliance certification program also carries heavy requirements that target longterm sustainability and environmental health. The coffees will be roasted by Cafe Bom Dia, a Brazilian Fair Trade cooperative that is one of the first roasters to become Carbon Neutral.

As part of Wal-Mart’s mission to provide “gourmet” items at a “great value,” the coffees, even with all of the impressive certifications and sustainability, are only going to cost $5.88 for 10-12 oz. bags. While skeptics may feel that Wal-Mart is capitalizing on current consumer trends or is doing its share of greenwashing, the initiative is receiving positive accolades from the media, sustainability watchdogs, and even TransFair USA.

TransFair USA is one of the leading Fair Trade certification organizations that audits transactions between US companies and international Fair Trade certified co-ops. In regards to Wal-Mart’s new Fair Trade coffee program, Transfair USA President Paul Rice stated, “Wal-Mart is an innovative partner in offering high quality, Fair Trade Certified coffee in a manner that both expands the marketplace and delivers value back down the supply chain to the farmer. A year from now we will be able to trace Sam’s Choice coffee sales directly to improved environmental management at Fair Trade coffee farms and higher quality of life in farm communities.”

It is true that, with the increased volume and buying power of Wal-Mart, Fair Trade farmers are going to notice a difference and Wal-Mart’s coffees could bring a great deal of added exposure and consumer support to the Fair Trade movement. It is also true that Wal-Mart has been making frequent waves in the press recently with its ongoing green initiatives, such as its solar energy and zero waste campaigns, not to mention the large sums of money the Wal-Mart Foundation has given to environmental causes this year. Whether the global giant is making genuine strides to save our planet or just using progressive causes to feed corporate greed, is up to each individual consumer to decide.

Now that summer is upon us and the celebration of all things American arrives in just two days, our meals make their way outside. Whether you are hosting a vegan party or need to cater to a special diet guest, the following will be your guide to a vegan summer cookout.

Fake Meat

If you are looking for meat substitutes for your bbq, there are many options that can be found at most health food stores, co-ops, and even health food sections at chain grocers. For just your basic hot dogs, try Tofu Pups or Tofurkey Franks. For a German Sausage twist we suggest Tofurkey Sausages, especially the Kielbasas and Beer Brats. If you are interested in replacing the good ol’ American Hamburger, your best bet is Gardenburger’s GardenVegan or Boca Original Vegan. If Chicken patties are your thing, indulge in Gardenburger’s Chik’n Grill or Breaded Chik’n. Finally, for those of you who go for the BBQ Ribs, try Gardenburger’s BBQ Ribs.

Grilled Veggies

If substitute meats aren’t exactly your thing or would like a side dish with the “meats,” here are a few suggestions. We personally love to make and serve vegan shish kabobs! Usually we like to marinate Tofu chunks overnight in a combination of soy sauce, peanut oil, scallions, and garlic. Next chop up veggies into large chunks. A few good ideas for veggies are Green or Red Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Onions, Mushrooms, and Pineapple. If you place the tofu, veggies, and fruit on a table with the skewers close by, it is fun and entertaining for the guests to make their own kabobs. Also, veggies straight to the grill are always a good standard, especially Corn on the Cob, Onions, Artichokes, and Asparagus. If you don’t like your veggies grilled plain, try soaking them in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Salads and Side Dishes

A great addition to any grilled food is salad! Some American favorites are Potato Salad or Macaroni Salad. Also, a favorite salad of ours is the Simple Sweet Summer Salad. And of course you can always serve any variation of green salads using your favorite veggies and fruits. Other side dishes you might like to include would be Spinach Dip, 7 Layer Bean Dip, vegan breads, and biscuits. Or if you want more suggestions, check out all our vegan recipes!


The easiest and possibly healthiest dessert you can serve at any cookout is fruit. The best summer fruits that won’t spoil outside too quickly are Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Cherries. But if you are feeling a bit more ambitious you may want attempt cupcakes or cakes. Check out the hundreds of vegan recipes for both on VeganCupcakeRecipes.com. You’ll be sure to find something you’ll favor in that long list of choices!

We hope these vegan bbq tips will help you plan your holiday cookouts or for future use. So watch those fireworks on a full stomach and make sure you wear sunscreen!

Just as the summer is heating up, Autonomie is psyched to bring you our new Fair Trade Flip Flops!

Made from the same FSC-certified, all natural rubber as our sneaker soles, these Flip Flops are truly one of a kind: 100% eco-friendly, vegan, and support our Fair Trade community initiatives. Not to mention they’re super comfy and cute and come in a convenient, reusable organic cotton drawstring carrying bag. These sandals truly are the ultimate in ethical summer fashion!

In honor of our fun new flip flops, we thought we’d bring you another story about the people behind our products. Our original Stars of Fair Trade post from March told you about Chandrika, a young worker in Sri Lanka who taps the rubber that eventually gets made into our flip flops and sneaker soles.

Now we’re pleased to introduce you to her colleague, Vasanta Kumrari, another hard worker who is vital to bringing us (and you) all of our Fair Trade style.

When her husband died in an accident 17 years ago, Vasanta (age 46) was offered her deceased husband’s job. This is a tradition on the rubber estate where all of our FSC-certified rubber is tapped. Since then, Vasanta has been working for the rubber plantation, as well as bringing up her three children.

Meryn, her elder daughter (age 23) is married and lives with her husband, a lab technician in a hospital in Chennai. Vasanti visits them and her 2.5 year old granddaughter there once a year for about a week. The overnight journey by bus costs Rs. 450 for a one way trip (about $4.00 in US dollars).

Her son Manu Stephen has just finished final exams at a two year hotel management course. The course costs his mother a total of Rs. 30,000 in fees. The younger daughter Subi (17) is in the 11th grade at a government school where Vasanta is responsible for purchasing her books.

Vasanta lives with Manu and Subi in a small house in a village some five km away from New Ambadi, the rubber estate. The house consists of four rooms, a kitchen/bath, and a toilet outside. The house has electricity, even a television, but the communal water tap opposite her house is on for only 1.5 hours a day, so this water is only used for drinking. There is an open well next door, which serves all of the other needs of the family – and that of the next door neighbors.

Every morning, when it is still dark (because as soon as it gets warmer the freshly tapped latex dries up too quickly and the yield is lower), Vasanti takes a bus to work, which costs Rs. 7 for both ways.

A tapper typically does two tapping rounds per day, usually ending up with two buckets full of freshly tapped latex. Most tappers carry these by bicycle to the nearest collection station (some even have motorbikes now), but Vasanta prefers to carry the latex on her shoulders (as she’s pictured above): 45 kg of liquid – 18 kg of rubber. For this she earns Rs. 126 (a basic wage), plus 40 Rs of bonus. The second round is worth another Rs. 72.

With every purchase you make from us, an additional 25% of our cost goes directly to a worker’s welfare fund that provides these tappers with even more income. The fund also goes to providing Vasanta, her family, and her community with better access to health clinics, fully paid-for health insurance, and better access to water, such as the operation of the neighborhood well mentioned above.

For more information and to check out our line of products, visit us at www.autonomieproject.com.

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