January 2009

This Sunday marks the most watched television event of the year: Superbowl Sunday! So as the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers face off in the warm Tampa sun, most Americans will gather around their televisions sets and indulge in snacks and beer. So is there a way to keep your Superbowl party green and vegan? Of course there is! We have put together a quick list of how to green and veganize your Superbowl Party! So sit back and enjoy your Sunday, root for your team, and keep your conscious satisfied. 

Biodegradable and Recyclable Party-ware

Most of the time when we through parties the last thing we want to deal with is washing dishes. So many people usually end up buying throw away plastic and paper silverware, plates, and napkins. Instead of going for the plastic, try out biodegradable plates, silverware, and napkins. There are many companies that make these items such as World Centric and  Nature Friendly. The eco friendly party supplies can also be found at most Whole Foods locations. Not only will this help green your Superbowl Bash, it will make cleaning up all that much easier. If you do use biodegradable supplies, be sure you compost the items rather than sending them out with the regular trash!

Vegan and Organic Snacks

Superbowl parties are usually filled with snacks like wings, pizza, and chips! But there is a way to enjoy your Sunday with healthy, organic, and vegan. Great healthy snacks to serve are organic salsa and chips, organic hummus and carrots, and organic veggies and fruit! But you can also use vegan appetizer substitute such as Health is Wealth Vegan Buffalo Wings, Health is Wealth Vegan Nuggets, Health is Wealth Vegan Egg Rolls, and Nate’s Meatless Meatballs. You can even serve several Toffuti Pizzas, Amy’s Cheese-less Pizza, or make your own! Finally you can serve some great dips and party foods. There are tons of great vegan recipes out there. Here are a few of our own: Vegan 7 Layer Bean Dip, Vegan Spinach Dip, and Vegan Potato Salad.

Green Refreshments

Watching football inevitably brings beer! There is one great company, New Belgium, which happens to be a favorite beer of AP’s! This is a worker owned co-op that makes great beers through wind power and are delivered in soy powered trucks. We suggest you try the Fat Tire or Trippel. If your guests would rather drink wine, consider serving vegan or organic wines. And finally if your loved ones choose not to drink, be sure to serve alternatives for them such as organic soda, like Blue Sky or sparkling cider

Clean Up!

After the new champion has been crowned and all the party goers have gone, the worst part of a get together starts: the dreaded clean up! Just a quick reminder to compost all left over food products and used biodegradable dishes and flatware. Also, be sure to recycle all beer bottles, soda cans, and wine bottles. You can use recycled trash bags and cleaning products. Check out Seventh Generation or Method for several of these products. Be sure your clean up is just as green as your party!

Just in time for Superbowl Sunday, we wanted to share a favorite party dish! This is a simple and tasty treat that will please your guests, especially the vegan ones! This has been a family favorite for years in my family and since going vegan I have made it every year! So grab your Organic Tortilla Chips and dive in. Goes great with beer too!

Vegan 7 Layer Bean Dip

2 Cans Organic Refried Beans
3 Medium Ripe Mashed Avocados
2 Tbl Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Tofutti Supreme Sour Cream
2 Chopped Tomatoes
1 Chopped Bunch of Green Onions
3 oz Sliced Black Olives
8 oz Shredded Follow Your Heart Cheddar Cheese or Daiya

In a casserole dish spread Organic Refried Beans across the bottom. In a separate bowl mix the avocados, lemon, and salt into a smooth mixture. Layer this on top of the beans. Next, pour the Tofutti Supreme Sour Cream into the dish to make another layer. Sprinkle the tomatoes, olives, and green onions on top of this, each in their own layer. Top off with the layer of shredded vegan cheese. Now you are ready to dig in! To spice it up a bit try added jalapenos or spicy salsa.

While down in DC for the inauguration, we decided to check out some of the local vegan options. One that caught my eye was Soul Vegetarian Restaurant. Being from Boston, there isn’t much soul food around or at least not vegan style. It was quite an adventure to find the restaurant as it was not in a central local. The print out we had stated it was right near a metro stop, however we had to walk about 10 blocks, which isn’t SO bad, but when its the dead of winter it can be worth it! The entire menu is vegan and their take on soul food really is excellent. Even with the walk, we were thoroughly impressed! And so is DC apparently, as the restaurant won 2008’s Best Vegetarian Dive in the Washington City Paper.


The restaurant is nestled right near Howard University and upon reading reviews and as the name suggest we expected a full restaurant. When we arrived it was just a small take out place with limited seating. We didn’t mind this setting, it just wasn’t what we were expecting! The staff was friendly, laid back, and talkative. And the prices are totally worth the trek! Anywhere from $4-$9! They have daily specials that include several soy alternatives like pepper steak, tofu nuggets, and spaghetti with protein balls. Plus, our favorite baked mac n’ cheese! On top of the daily specials they also have everyday sandwiches, tacos, and pizzas you can order.  It does take a bit of time if you are ordering anything other than the daily specials, so be prepared to wait. My only complaint was that all the food is served in Styrofoam containers. Hopefully they will look into compostable containers for the future.

Baked Mac N Cheese Special

Baked Mac N Cheese Special

We decided to share the daily special of Baked Mac n’ Cheese, Green Beans, and Tofu Teriyaki and we also ordered a BBQ Tofu Sub which came with Candied Yams and Jerusalem Bakes! All of these dishes were quite delectable and filling! The Baked Mac n’ Cheese melted in our mouths and it is seriously the best vegan mac n’ cheese I have ever had! The BBQ tofu was really good as they baked the tofu in strips, smothered them with BBQ sauce, and wrapped them in a thick pita with veggies. Mmmm mmmm that sub was good! We also really enjoyed the candied yams, they were just sweet enough and we usually only eat that dish at Thanksgiving! This was the first time we had tried the Jerusalem Bakes which were thick potato wedges with a breading around them. It was definitely a filling meal!

On top of their service counter they have stacks of all types of vegan cakes made by the local bakery Sweet-n-Natural, located in nearby Maryland. The cakes ranged from cheesecake to carrot cake, but we decided to go with something a little less standard called a PinaColada Cake! The cake tasted exactly like what you would think! A whole lot of pineapple and coconut, but still very sweet and very moist. This was definitely a great end to our meal and we even had a little left over for breakfast the next day!

The restaurant also does brunch on Sundays. We were unable to attend this time, but according to locals the brunch is worth checking out! On a flyer we picked up it listed American favorites such as pancakes and cornbread. Next time we are in DC we will definitely have to check it out.

So if you are in the mood for greasy down home soul cooking, we suggest you check out Soul Vegetarian Cafe in DC. The food is perfect for that great comfort food in the winter or for long study sessions.  Let us know your experience or your favorite dish!

Soul Vegetarian Restaurant

2606 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 328-7685

Yesterday it was reported that the conflict in Israel and Palestine continue despite efforts by the world community to push a cease fire. And today news reports announced today that Obama’s advisors landed in Israel to help ease the tension and hopefully work towards some peace. With all this negative news coming out of the region, it can be a bit depressing. 

So today we wanted to bring you a bit of good news about Palestine. At the end of December 2008, it was made public that Palestine will begin selling their first fair trade product: olive oil in 2009! This is great news for the region as the farming and production of the product is expected to help economic growth as well as helping to lower the unemployment rates. Helping to ease these problems as well as some water and agriculture issues is the focus of the fair trade products. It was also mentioned that in February of 2009 a delegation will be held in the West Bank to begin talks about starting an agricultural hub in Palestine.

To purchase fair trade olive oil and other Palestinian products check out Caanan Fair Trade products. This news may be  the beginning of many fair trade products to come out of the occupied territory. With war raging in the region and economic failure, it seems like we never hear anything positive about Palestine. But hopefully this piece of good news will lead to others. As our politicians work on easing tensions, we hope fair trade initiatives can pave the road to economic and social recovery. And a true olive branch of peace can be extended.

img_0103As I mentioned last week, I headed to Washington on Sunday January 18th to witness this historic inauguration as well as partake in some celebrations! I just wanted to take a moment to share my experiences with you. Without sounding too sentimental I want to say that I could not possibly express in words the feeling and buzz that engrossed that city for the four days I was there. I have never witnessed such an overwhelming and inspiring moment, especially caused by one man. And an American politician at that! But the country is ailing and this is exactly the shift we need.

img_0058The night before the inauguration I was lucky enough to attend the Manifest Hope (sponsored by MoveOn.org, Obey, and SEIU) party. The party was in celebration of the inauguration and artists had filled the gallery with some powerful pieces all inspired by Obama’s campaign. They were also themed around three major ideas that MoveOn.org is focusing on: Healthcare, Worker’s Rights, and Green Economy. The party was exciting and featured awesome performances by Santogold, Moby, and De La Soul. I even mustered up the courage to introduce myself to Moby and talk about veganism. I also briefly met Arnold Schwarzenegger as he strolled through the gallery. Even Rosario Dawson was attending and looked stunning(I’m a big fan of hers)! She was rockin out with the music and was more than nice to all of us commoners! The crowd was energized and we were all excited for tuesday’s events! We met a lot of great people from all over and we even sung Goodbye to Bush. The party raged until the wee hours of the morning as we all headed home for a few hours of rest.

img_0101The next morning I awoke and braved the crowds and frigid weather to make my way to the National Mall. It was about 17 degrees out and I had to walk about 10 miles through freeway ramps, tunnels, through bushes, and even over fences to make my way there! We stood in the cold for hours with millions of other Americans of all races, creeds, and economic status. Even though people were standing and walking for hours, the mood was jubilant. Everyone was helping and looking out for each other. Even the riot police and national guards were calm and so nice. They were not yelling at anyone, they just smiled and asked us all where we were from. I have img_0109never witnessed anything so moving. After hours of standing in the cold and being packed so tight with people we couldn’t breathe, I realized I was no where near a jumbo screen or speakers. So my friend and I decided it would be best if we jumped into a local bar so we could actually hear his speech. We experienced the best of both worlds, with the crowd raging outside and inside the bar, we watched the groundbreaking ceremony.

But really the biggest experience I had was meeting people from all over the world and the sentiment in the city. I have been to DC many times, but have never felt so connected to everyone there. No one minded the cold or the lines or the packed Metro. The police and locals were incredibly accommodating. We were interviewed by tons of press and everyone just seemed optimistic, like we had woken up out of an 8 year nightmare. I met people from as far away as Finland and as close as my neighborhood in Boston.
img_0054Obama may not be perfect and I may not agree with everything he does, but the man is competent and inspiring. To watch that many people brave the weather and travel from far off lands just to hear him speak brought tears to many eyes. He brings a new era of hope and responsibility to our country. We can only hope he lives up to his promises. I hope the optimism lasts but that people still challenge him, as he is human, and a politician at that. Let’s not forget what unwatched power can bring. And the road ahead will not be easy, but at least I feel relieved that our nation lays in the hands of an intelligent and inspirational man. I will never forget that day.
-Gina from Autonomie Project
A crowd of cheerful supporters on their way to National Mall
We took over the freeway tunnels!
Where we hung out with massive crowds!
Braving the cold for Obama!
The morning after–Obama’s house now!
Some Obama Swag from the Streets
Sporting Autonomie at the Manifest Hope Party
De La Soul working the crowds at the Manifest Hope Party
Dancing on Stage with Moby at the Manifest Hope party
Meeting Arnold as he made an appearance through the gallery
Manifest Hope Gallery
Obama inspired sculpture of wires
A New Era of Responsibility

obama-1If you are anything like us, yesterday was a total wash when it came to getting work done.  The Autonomie team was either braving the crowds at the inauguration (go Gina!) or completely glued to the tv all day long.  We were just totally intrigued by this special moment in our nation’s history and are truly excited for all that is to come in 2009 and beyond!

One thing that of course caught our attention as owners of a Fair Trade fashion company was all of the commentary on the clothing worn by the Obamas throughout the day.  Who wasn’t gossiping over Michelle Obama’s inauguration day dress made by Isabel Toledo and then the stunning gown she wore, danced in, and tripped on at all 10 inaugural balls.  If you’re not up on the fashion scoop, Michelle’s ball gown was designed and made especially for her by new up-and-coming designer Jason Wu.  It seems that critics across the board are applauding Michelle for her Big Day outfit choices for not only herself, but also for her 2 young daughters, Malia, age 10, and Sasha, age 7.

crew-cutsThe totally adorable and brightly colored winter coats donned by the girls as they watched their father be sworn in as the next leader of our country were made by none other than J.Crew’s new kid’s line Crew Cuts.  While Malia and Sasha’s coats were made especially for them and no other little girl will be able to wear the exact same thing, Michelle is still getting praised for not only how ultra cute the girls looked, but on her choice of using a very accessible and relatively affordable fashion brand unlike First Moms in the past.  While typical inaugural day fashions cost upwards of $1,000, Michelle’s use of an everyday clothing company found in malls across the nation has endeared her more to the American public than ever before.

jacketWhile we agree with the critics that it’s wonderful to see Michelle Obama not let the celebrity-dom of the White House get to her head and continue to shop in all-American locales, we are hardly handing out the accolades when we feel Mrs. Obama could have made a much bigger statement by dressing her daughters in outfits not made in sweatshops.  It’s true that Fair Trade and/or eco-friendly children’s fashions are much more difficult to find than just paying  a visit to the local mall, but they are no less adorable or affordable (like this Organic Baby Cardigan from Fair Indigo) and would have made enormous strides for the ethical fashion movement towards building more awareness and peace around the garment industry.  No doubt Crew Cuts sales of little girls’ jackets will soar through the roof after yesterday, so why not channel that celebrity power to some of the smaller, grassroots do-gooder companies that are so very aligned with Mr. Obama’s values and mission and are working tirelessly to bring positive change to both America and the world?

Now don’t get us wrong….we LOVE, love, love the Obamas.  How could you not?  They’re a beautiful, smart, loving and competent family.  The perfect face for America in 2009 and honestly, a breath of fresh air.  But we do hope that in the very near future, Mrs. Obama will start making headlines about supporting Fair Trade and eco-friendly fashions for her daughters.  Now wouldn’t that get some well-deserved attention from the media!

nicholas-kristofNicholas D. Kristof’s op-ed piece in the January 14, 2009 New York Times titled, “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream” has inspired a flurry of disagreeing letters and comments from the public. In case you missed it, Kristof argues that sweatshops provide a great opportunity for those in extreme poverty and that the jobs in sweatshops are far better than rag-picking in a toxic landfill all day. Therefore, his logic extends, more sweatshops should be created. I’ll give him that there are worse things in this world than sweatshops, like being machine-gunned or maybe forced into prostitution. While this might make sweatshops a better alternative, it is certainly no solution, nor is it even a good or just alternative, especially when we have the means to do better.

Instead of arguing the many points raised in his piece, I’ll re-post below some of the thoughtful reactions from others. All responses below are selected excerpts from the letters to the editor and comments posted on the New York Times website.

  • -Nicholas D. Kristof is absolutely right. Sweatshops are much better than a sharp stick in the eye. But when jobs aren’t a pathway out of poverty, they create an asymmetric, unsustainable global economy of producer countries and consumer countries that can stand on its head only so long.
  • sweatshop2-He [Kristof] misses the point: Cambodian garment shops are among the best in Asia because of a deal done with the United States in a trade treaty signed in 1999. In return for access to the American market, Cambodia agreed to abide by core labor standards, including the right to form a union and to bargain collectively. As result, the industry grew rapidly and so have unions in Cambodia.
  • -Nicholas D. Kristof seems not to understand that the No. 1 reason for imposing higher labor standards on imports isn’t to improve living standards abroad but to maintain them here. Americans shouldn’t be asked to compete with workers who think that toiling long hours under abysmal conditions is still better than living in the dump.
  • -As I get older, I think of the options you pose as a choice between different levels of Hell. Is this the best we can do in 2009? Is this to be considered progress and the fruits of modernity?
  • garbage-dump-And by the way, the situation of the garbage pickers in Steung Meanchey is a bit more complex than depicted in the article. It’s related to the difficulties of making a living in the countryside, to land seizures, to government corruption, to monopolization of natural resources by a small circle of elites, to lack of democracy, to post-conflict issues involving displacement and resettlement. In other words, international forces can and should play a much more positive than they do now but many domestic changes need to occur in order for the garbage pickers of Steung Meanchey to disappear.
  • -Sweatshops do not advance the next generation. It is people’s desire to create a better life for their children that motivates an individual to work hard and make that happen, in spite of the sweatshop mentality. I wonder if those people losing jobs here in the US will accept or work hard at a professional job for half pay of what they formally were paid – and to tell them there are many who will take your place if your don’t is not a justification for such treatment. Poverty creates social unrest. You are clearly well educated, please revisit your national and personal history.
  • sweatshop1-Perhaps some working conditions are better than others, but that still doesn’t make them right. How much more effort would it take to make the work place safe, hours tolerable and child labor controlled? It sort of feels like listening to the argument that waterboarding isn’t torture because it doesn’t leave permanent scars. Sweatshops are sweatshops and we who buy their products need to be mindful of the conditions the workers are being forced to endure.
  • -Carried to its logical end, we would all be working in sweatshops eventually, because what you advocate is nothing more than a race to the bottom. More factories – yes! But with internationally accepted standards, or they will bring us all down to a debased level.
  • -Whenever I’ve read your pieces on sweatshops, I’ve always wondered: how did a nice guy like you get stuck in such an argument? I’ll try to be brief: You are right that sweatshops are really a symptom of poverty (or to be more precise, capitalists taking advantage of poverty). But so is prostitution. Where does that fit in your hierarchy of jobs? How about slavery? Might that not be considered better than scavenging in a dump as well?

It is great that Kristof’s work has brought forth lively reactions on such an important matter. I’m very happy that he exists… in the op-ed world and not in the ‘deciding’ world. You can view his column and continue to follow the discussion HERE.

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