February 2010

With car culture and wasteful packaging all over the United States it is hard to think of our country in its entirety as a “Green” nation. Although we are making active steps to catch up with Global environmental leaders, we are far behind. Huffington Post recently released a list of the “Top 10 Greenest Countries in the World.” And to no one’s surprise the United States did not make the cut. Instead, energy and conservation leaders such as Germany, Norway, and Costa Rica comprise the list.  The United States uses a ton of energy in comparison to our population and of course we consume massive amounts of oil to feed our industry and car addiction. But is there a future in the Green Economy for the United States?

A new report has been published showing that the US is currently leading in installed wind power production. In 2009, the United States added 9.9 gigawatts of wind power bringing the US total to 35.2 gigawatts. This pulled the US ahead of Germany, at least for now. As Obama mentioned in his State of the Union, China is really pushing ahead with renewable energy and in 2009 they doubled their wind power capacity and added 13 gigawatts. China is now in the 3rd place position  for installed wind power, following Germany and the United States.

All this talk of racing with China, feels a tad reminiscent of the Space Race of the Cold War. I get it, the USA wants to be number 1 at everything and if that is the motivation behind greening the US of A, I’ll stand behind it. But really, even if our nation may have invented some of these technologies we should be learning from our friends all over the world. I mean just one quick glance at the 10 Most Green Countries, you can see why we didn’t make the list. Other countries have invested mass amounts of money into solar panels and pollution control methods.

So what is the US doing wrong here? For the past few decades we have ignored the energy crisis and figured out ways or wars of getting more oil in our hands. Even if we have fallen behind in a new green economy, now is the time to reconsider our energy use. Articles about the US increasing wind production are incredibly encouraging, but there needs to be more change or we really will far even farther behind much of the world. And at this point, beyond competition for being a world leader, we can not afford it. So what can you do about it? Contact your local officials (State officials are easier and perhaps more efficient than Federal) and use your money ethically. Support companies that make an extra effort to produce by environmentally friendly means! Things aren’t going to change on their own, it is time we started pushing our government and country into the Green Zone.


Your average dinner conversation in a vegan household contains exactly what you might think: veganism. And tonight around our house was no different. We were finishing up our burritos when our discussion turned to the origins of veganism. As we sat there, talking, my mind began to wonder, “where did this word, vegan come from?” It is a word I use everyday, a word myself and many others like me use to label ourselves, however I had no idea where and when it entered the English language.

After the dishes had been done, I still couldn’t kill the curiosity in my head. So I headed to the trusty interwebs to see what I could find. A simple Google entry of “vegan” brought me to a definition and explanation of the lifestyle in Wikipedia. The article stated the typical stuff,  “veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.” But as I read on I discovered the exact origins of the word vegan.

It turns out that a man named Donald Watson, coined the term “vegan” in 1944. The word vegan is a combination of the first three letters and the last two letters of the word “vegetarian.” Watson has been quoted as saying the word was created as “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” So now I know the word was introduced in 1944, although not the first emergence of the lifestyle, as it has been in Eastern philosophy for thousands of years, it is the first time the word vegan appeared in English.

The Vegan Society Logo via http://www.rickdisco.com

Ok got it. Created in 1944 by Donald Watson. But who is this Donald Watson? Who is this man who created a word that now defines an entire movement? To my surprise, he wasn’t some great philosopher or political activist, he was just a normal guy , a woodcrafter in fact, who cared about the welfare of animals and created an organization. According to Wikipedia, Watson grew up on a family farm in England, where he grew a love for animals. Once realizing, that some animals were slaughtered for food, he made a stand to become a vegetarian at 14. Upon further research into the industry, he decided to cut out eggs and dairy due to the abuses the animals endured. And in 1944, himself and several friends joined together to create a society for their new lifestyle. Thus the still active Vegan Society was created! Watson remained very active in veganism until 2005, when he died peacefully at the age of 95.

There you have it! My curiosity, and I hope yours was satisfied by this internet search. Watson lived a very interesting, average life, however, he should be seen as an inspiration. And an inspiration not only for us vegans, but for everyone. His life is an example that anyone can bring change and organize around something they truly believe in. So if you vegans out there are looking for a hero, start with Donald Watson.

-Gina Williams

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Grass is green
Valentine’s Day can be too

Ok, perhaps I am not a poet, but my pathetic attempt at rhyming has a point (of sorts) within its clichéd words. Valentine’s day is almost upon us, a glorious day in which people feel bullied into being unnaturally romantic for a twenty four hour period of time in the middle of February. Singles feel more acutely aware of their singleness and couples-even those who recognize the foolishness of this Hallmark holiday- feel the need to not disappoint their mate by ignoring this day altogether. Both singles and couples alike can agree that this holiday is decidedly unfriendly to the environment.

As with most of occurrences in life, I can not help but to relate it back to an episode of The Simpsons. Homer, Marge and their spiky hair offspring are shown celebrating “Love Day”, a holiday invented by a fictional store named Costigans to boost sales. When this “holiday” comes to a close, a huge pile of trash is compiled, its contents include an adorable teddy bear named Sir-Loves-A lot- the bear that loves to love.

To avoid your own mountain of love debris, try to take an environmentally friendly approach to Valentine’s Day this year. You can try to convince your mate that forgoing all presents is the most eco-friendly way to spend the holiday, but let’s face it- sleeping on the couch is not a fun prospect.

Greeting Cards: Greeting cards filled with sentimental jargon are without a doubt the least eco-friendly part of Valentine’s day. Instead of picking out a card this year with Snoopy on its cover with a poem resembling the masterpiece above inside, consider taking a greener approach to telling the one you love exactly how you feel. You can start by speaking  it to them. Telling someone how much they mean to you is not only romantic, but pretty darn eco-friendly. If you still need to see your feelings in print, send an e-mail greeting card. If you are feeling particularly crafty, consider assembling your own card from recycled goods from around your abode. If you are feeling cryptic- consider writing a message to your beloved on your steamed up bathroom mirror with your finger. You can tell her a ghost did it – nothing is as romantic as an good ol’-fashioned Valentine’s prank.

Chocolate: One of the most prevailing images associated with this holiday-besides the semi-naked baby wielding a bow and arrow- is the box of chocolates shaped like a heart. As romantic as heart-shaped cardboard is, the truth of the matter is that it is what’s inside the box that counts. Do not fret, you can still get your sweetie her delicious chocolates, just make sure they are Fair Trade and/or Organic. Check out companies such as Equal ExchangeDivine Chocolate, or Dagoba Chocolates for tasty and ethical treats. For more ideas on organic and Fair Trade chocolates, some more V-day inspired than others, check out this list by The Daily Green. Nothing says, “I love you, schnookums” like a tasty candy that is produced in the most conscientious manner possible.

Lingerie: A successful Valentine’s, more often than not, ends in the bedroom. Things can get a little PG-13 in there, so you may want to consider getting gussied up, eco-friendly style. Purchase adorable undergarments that are made from sustainable materials from companies such as Enamore. For more ideas of ethical unmentionables, take a look at this list! Then, crank up the Barry White and enjoy yourselves. (Warning: Barry White has been known to make the most pure among us slip our slacks off. Use with caution.)

Organic Wines: Sipping on a glass of wine is a key step in a successful romantic evening. If commercials for R & B  song collections have taught me anything, this wine should be drank by a roaring fire while gazing into your lover’s eyes. Being eco-friendly does not mean skipping out on this sensual tradition, simply get yourself a bottle of delicious organic wine.  Companies such as Frog’s Leap and Frey make their wine from organic grapes. Go the extra green mile and open this bottle of vino with this awesome bottle opener, which is made from recycled bike chains and pretty cool looking, to boot.

Jewelry:  If you can not resist giving your honey the gift of jewelry this Valentine’s Day, look for jewelry made from recycled goods. Pieces from companies like Upcycled Jewelry are  both lovely and unique- qualities perhaps shared with your sweetheart? You can use that line, free of charge, because compliments are the gift that keep on giving.

Flowers:  The presentation of a beautiful bouquet  is  not  only a way  for thoughtless sitcom husbands apologize to their nagging wives, it is also a way for real life couple’s to say, “Hey, you are pretty alright.” to their baby or muffin pie. Buying flowers locally that are in season, and whenever possible organic, is a way to double your romancing power-it is like amending your previous, “Hey, you are pretty alright” with a ,“and I think Mother Earth is pretty swell too.” Keeping mother earth happy is of utmost importance, for even if your relationship goes down in flames she will be there to catch your tears with  her soil. She is pretty considerate that way. But if you can’t purchase them locally or live in a wintery climate that doesn’t support blooms in February, consider sites like Organic Style to send flowers to your love.

Be Thoughtful: Romance is not about money spent, this Valentine’s day do something thoughtful for your better half. Even if it is something as simple as making them  a simple (hopefully organic) dinner or bringing them Fair Trade coffee in bed, it will show them that you appreciate and love them more than a dollar amount can express.

Have a happy Love Day….err, I mean, Valentine’s day, everyone.  We can all take a lesson from Sir-Loves-A lot and be sure that you love to love-meaning, whatever you do to celebrate, make sure it is not from a sense of duty but from a need to let your doodle bug how much they mean to you.

Try to do it the other 364 days a year too and you may just have yourself a lasting and happy relationship.

-Meghan Hurley & the AP Team

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, one can almost taste delicious mouth-watering chocolate. In modern times chocolate has become more than just a delicacy, but a staple of the American diet and some would even say it is healthy for you. And who would argue with that? However, as some of you may know the Chocolate industry is less than ethical in many ways. Over the past several years many independent companies have popped up with great solutions to this problem such as Organic and Fair Trade certified chocolate. On top of the smaller companies more and more large companies have also pledged to produce chocolate with these criteria, including the very recent announcement by Green & Black (owned by Cadbury)in which all their worldwide chocolate, including the US will be Fair Trade certified.

And even the big cats are starting to make serious changes. Last year, the Fair Trade world was pleased to hear that Cadbury Dairy Milk (0wner of Green & Black), the leading UK Chocolate company would begin producing all their cocoa through Fair Trade certified means. Everyone rejoiced and hoped such a move would influence major US chocolate players to make the same changes. And then came January 2010.

It was announced that US giant, Kraft bought out Cadbury in a high profile business exchange.  The Fair Trade camp gasped with concern about the pledge Cadbury had just made. Would such a huge US Corporation source ethically? Would they hold true to Cadbury’s commitments? Or would all the progress be lost? Fortunately, Kraft has stated they will hold up the ethical sourcing of cocoa, as Cadbury had pledged to do.

One collective sigh for us fair-traders! However, as history has proved before, word is not always action. Will Kraft keep this decision up even if it means higher sourcing costs? One way to be sure, let them know exactly how you feel. Change.org has set up a quick and easy way to write Kraft to let them know, as consumers, you want to see them stick to their ethics. We don’t want to watch another great step forward fall flat on its face! So take a moment to take some action and demand Fair Trade standards. And don’t just stop there, make a choice yourself to purchase only Fair Trade chocolate.

Even though purchasing a dollar-or-two chocolate bar may not seem like its making a difference, think of the message you, as a consumer, are sending, as well as the impact your contribution will have on the workers. Next time you are choosing your sweetie their heart-shaped chocolates, think of those who produced them and make the ethical choice.

-Gina Williams

UPDATE: Our contacts at Transfair have asked us to share the following information with you.  A representative from Cadbury has assured Transfair that the Kraft buyout of Cadbury and Green & Black will not affect the Fair Trade certification of the cocoa used. In fact, a spokesperson for Kraft stated, “…we will of course respect Cadbury and Green & Black’s Fairtrade commitments. Cadbury and Green & Black’s have proud histories in ethical sourcing and if our offer is successful we look forward to maintaining this heritage.”  Looks like all is well in the Fair Trade world! Thank you to Transfair providing us with this information. 

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