June 2010

This weekend is America’s birthday and people around the country will be celebrating in good ol’ American fashion: grilling, drinking, and blowing things up! The 4th of July is a joyous holiday spent celebrating our independence from the colonial power of England. Whether you spend the day soaking up history, being patriotic, or simply drinking and watching fireworks, this holiday can create a lot of waste. But never fear, we have compiled a quick list of helpful tips to “green” your 4th of July. However, you spend your holiday, enjoy your day and Happy Birthday America!!

How to Have An Eco-Friendly 4th:

1)Green Your Menu: Traditionally 4th of July is all about the BBQ, thus burgers and hot dogs. But there is a greener way to celebrate the day! Try and cut back on meats or turn to vegetarian options. If meat is a must try to only purchase local, sustainable, and organic types. However, there are plenty of vegan options out there including soy meats or bean burgers. For some ideas on recipes, check out our backlog. Also, purchase your veggies and fruit from local and organic venues such as Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Natural Foods Stores. Additionally, look into grilling with a greener grill, such as solar or hybrid models or even natural and organic charcoal.

2) Keep the Party Outdoors: The weather is warm and the natural landscape is gorgeous, so why not party outside? Avoid partying inside, as to cut down on energy waste. If you are outside, you won’t have to worry about fans, lighting, or the air conditioner. Plus you can add more to your celebration such as outdoor games like boccie ball, badminton, or croquet. Why not spend your 4th soaking up the sun, instead of hiding in the air-conditioned house?! Here in New England, we only have a few months of warm weather, so be sure and take advantage of it.  If you really enjoy soaking up that sun near water, try to stay local.  If possible consider taking public transportation, buses, or even your bike to the beach, lake or river to celebrate the day. The less you drive or closer you stay to home, the less your 4th of July carbon footprint will be!

3) A Greener Firework Display: Although fireworks are beautiful and a 4th of July tradition, the truth is they are not so eco-friendly. Gun powder, accelerants, and heavy metals are thrown into the air when fireworks explode! These chemicals create poor air quality which affects our health and the environment. Instead of using fireworks at home, try decorating with recycled paper, re-used decor, or even newspaper. Since your city will likely put on a show using conventional fireworks, propose to the city or community that they use Sekon biodegradable or Disney’s gunpowder free fireworks instead.

4) Drink Responsibly: Alright we have to admit when celebrating our nation’s birthday, Americans LOVE to drink! What is a 4th celebration without the booze? Luckily, there are all sorts of great options out there. Local micro-breweries and organic beers are a great alternative to conventional types. If you are wondering why pay more for organic beer, check out our write-up on the benefits of organic beers. Organic and vegan wines are also readily available! But if you prefer the hard stuff, almost every type of liquor from tequila to vodka are now made sustainably and organic. We have compiled several tasty cocktail recipes which include organic spirits. Be sure this holiday that you not only be responsible and leave your car at home, but also drink with earth responsibility!

5) Re-Use, Re-Use, Re-Use: We know when throwing a party, washing dishes can be a pain. However, it is far less polluting and wasteful to use re-usable settings such as plates, cups, and silverware. Paper and plastics, even the recyclable kinds, take an incredible amount of resources to make and recycle. Therefore, it is best to use the dishes you have around the house. If you don’t have enough for your party guests, consider picking some extra settings up at your local thrift store or investing in sustainably made dinnerware. If you must use paper products, be sure you purchase biodegradable items such as corn or soy.

-Gina Williams

Celebrate America’s 234th birthday this July with an organic and vegan Bloody Mary! What better way to start your Sunday 4th of July, than with a pure-tasting dose of American-made organic vodka coupled with rich organic tomato juice? Despite most Blood Mary recipes, our recipe with vegan Worcestershire sauce truly hits the spot whether you are drinking it at brunch or while watching the fireworks in the evening.  And, of course, our Bloody Mary tastes best when consumed responsibly. We suggest two different brands of organic vodka, Crop Vodka and Square One Vodka. Produced with grains grown in the U.S., Crop Vodka is USDA certified for its organic ingredients . Even better, Crop distills in a manner in which carbon treatment and charcoal filtering is not used. They even offer a tomato infused organic vodka to give your Bloody Mary an extra tomato kick!  Square One uses rye grown in North Dakota that is organically certified. The company also developed its bottle, so it could be used as a vase or container after it is empty! All you have to do is peel off the paper label, which is made of sustainably grown and renewable fiber sources. Cheers to an even more responsible way of drinking!

Organic and Vegan Bloody Mary:

1.5 oz Organic Vodka(either Crop Tomato Infused or Square One)

3 oz Organic Tomato Juice (R. W. Knudsen)

Dash of Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Annie’s)

Dash of Organic Hot Sauce (Not Cool)

Dash of Horseradish

Dash of Organic Lemon Juice

Dash of Organic Cayenne Pepper (Simply Organic)

Dash of Organic Celery Salt (Simply Organic)

One Organic Celery Stalk

Wedge of Organic Lemon

Three Organic Green Olives on a Fruit Stick

Sherry Mix


Combine the vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and celery salt with a cup of ice cubes. After shaking well, strain into a glass of ice cubes. Add a celery stalk and three green olives on a fruit stick. Lace the drink with Sherry mix and top off the glass with a lemon wedge.

-Derek Rogers

The recent massive Gulf Oil Spill has us all feeling a little down. More and more people are realizing that our dependence on oil has got to end. The most obvious way to lower our petroleum intake is to cut down on driving and flying. However, even the biggest environmentalist among us has trouble avoiding oil products on a daily basis. Sure, we know the big ones, gasoline, plastics, and synthetic leather and rubber, but there are more products than you can imagine fashioned out of this disappearing and destructive resource. We have put together a list of the most shocking 5 we came across with tips on how to avoid them! Eventually we will wean ourselves off the oil and here is how to start.

5 Things You Didn’t Know Were Made From Oil

1) Re-usable Shopping Bags: Many of those re-usable shopping bags you see for sale at any supermarket are actually made out of synthetic fibers. Polyester, polyester, acrylic, rayon, and nylon are made from petroleum. These products will not bio-degrade. In addition, some of the printing on the bag is likely to use petrochemicals, also derived from oil. While re-usable bags are a better alternative to paper and plastic, be sure to check the tag before purchasing. Many re-usable bags are made from natural fibers such as cotton or hemp(even better if it is organic) and if you stick to an eco-friendly company, most likely their inks and printing processes will be sans petrochemicals.

2) Cleaning Products: Most conventional household cleaning products, including laundry detergent, are made from petrochemicals. These chemicals are not only oil based but harmful to our health and largely unnecessary. Next time you go to the market to purchase your household cleaners, try some homemade remedies such as vinegar and baking soda. If you still prefer a lemony or lavender scent to your clean house, check out some of the all natural brands such as Method or Seventh Generation.

3) Candles: Unfortunately, many candles are made with paraffin or polyolefin wax, another petroleum-based products. Candles may make your house smell sweet, but if they are conventional types, they are also emitting pollution into your house and toxic chemicals into your house. This type of oil product is easy to avoid as there are candles made from soy, beeswax(although not vegan), or coconut palm oil.

4) Bath & Beauty: In most make-up and beauty products, such as moisturizer contain offending ingredients such as paraffin oil, petrolatum, and mineral oil which are all derived from crude oil! We all know buying oil sourced ingredients is not the most sustainable, but it must not also be healthy. Just imagine spreading crude oil on your body the next time you think about purchasing a conventional lotion. Gross! Never fear, though, as many natural products are on the market these days which will contain healthy ingredients such as Shea or coco butter and coconut oils. Most natural grocery stores, health food stores, Whole Foods, and co-ops will stock beauty products containing no oil derived products.

5) Foil Packaging: Mmmm so you are reaching for that tasty bag of potatoes chips or other snack when you realize that bag is made out of, you guessed it, oil! Many snack packaging, may look like foil but it is actually made of mylar, a thinly stretched PET plastic bonded with aluminum. The best way to avoid this, is to not eat any snack foods (better for your health too)! But we know sometimes convenience or hunger takes over. Try to purchase snacks made in paper packaging or better yet from the bulk section in re-usable containers.

-Gina Williams

World Cup Fever is spreading fast throughout the planet, as we get closer to the next stage. Even though the world is celebrating and enjoying this tournament, there is a dark side that few are talking about. For over a year, there has been labor issues plaguing the cup in an economically struggling nation. Many South Africans have questioned their government’s lavish spending on “improvements” such as brand new stadiums, new hotels, and a new transit system. Although, seemingly nice upgrades, the people are disappointed millions have been spent on stadiums which will be used for one month, while 40% of South Africans live on just $2 a day.

On top of this issue, the people working the World Cup and making sure the tourists and football lovers are taken care of, are not being paid as promised. In particular the security guards and stewards. At the culmination of Sunday’s match between Australia and Germany, already an exciting game, hundreds marched into the streets of Durban to demand pay. Apparently, the security staff was promised 500 South African Rand ($65) to work the match, but only received 205 Rand ($26). Obviously, a huge difference and would upset anyone! One of the protesters discussed how much they have been working for so little:

We started at 12 noon and worked until midnight, and they want to give us 205 rand($26). Different things have been said to people, but we were promised 1,500 rand per day. We started to protest because we wanted to negotiate.

The protests may have begun as a negotiation, but Durban police were quickly called to break them up. No injuries or arrests have been reported, however, the strategy has spread to several stadiums in the many cities including: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg. More and more workers are going on strike, including 700 guards at the end of the North Korea and Brazil match. Many feel this is completely unfair and no “trickle down” is occurring in the country. Corporations and the government are making millions from the games, yet the workers on the ground are being paid so little.

Not surprisingly, the issue is trying to be kept quiet and FIFA, the organization responsible for directing the World Cup, refuses to comment. This is obviously an “embarrassment” to FIFA and would much better be brushed under a rug, than dealt with fairly. In fact, the chief executive of the local organizing committee for the cup stated, “This is an employer/employee wage dispute. Although we have respect for workers’ rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt match-day proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances.” This sort of attitude could be detrimental to the employees affected by this dispute.

Personally, I love the World Cup more than I can write into words, but when I read stories like this, it makes me sad.  It seems both FIFA and the South African government, as well as the companies profiting off the games, aren’t thinking with the people in mind. Making it worse, they want it kept quiet, so tourists, players, and the world media won’t notice their dirty little secret. Now, I am not calling for a boycott of the games (I don’t think I could do that to my heart), but try to keep the hard workers and their struggles in mind while watching the matches. And if you are really feeling empowered, contact FIFA and tell them just how you feel.

-Gina Williams

When the first decade of the new millennium came and went, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by personal electronics, a modern-day necessity. Chances are, the first thing you look at in the morning is your BlackBerry, iPhone, or other Smartphone. Then, you probably take your iPod out for a morning jog or connect it inside your vehicle for the commute into work. Perhaps you have an iPad, Nook, or Kindle you use on the subway on the commute to catch up on the day’s local, national, and international news. You have not had lunch yet, but you have used a myriad of personal electronics by noon. Whether we like it or not, electronics have become an essential part of our lives. However, many of us know little about the origins of our handheld havens.

Tin, tantulum, and tungsten are metals found around the globe, which give life to our digital cameras, personal computers, cellular phones, and other electronics. A large percentage of these metals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). What major electronics companies like Apple, Research in Motion (RIM – makers of the BlackBerry), Nokia, Dell, and Motorola don’t tell you is that an estimated 50,000 children work in the Katanga Mine in DRC. Children make up about 1/3 of the entire mining workforce in DRC. Despite the rising value in metal, miners do not receive any raises and most cannot afford to live off the small wage they already earn. Furthermore, the lack of regulation from the DRC government on safety regulations within the mines results in extremely dangerous work environments. In addition, the privatization of mines on the African continent has displaced tens of thousands of people forcing them to leave their homelands.

Why hasn’t the DRC government or electronic companies stepped in to end the human rights abuses, displacement issues, and safety hazards? For 10 years, the DRC has struggled with a civil war. Rebel groups sell to middlemen who pass the metals onto companies like Apple giving them the funds needed to purchase weapons and other war necessities. Because the electronics companies purchase the metals from middlemen, they have no direct ties to an unethical mine. According to Amnesty International, global brands state they are being ethical by purchasing metals from licensed exporters. However, the exporters’ middlemen are known to purchase the metals from rebel groups.

You may be asking yourself how the U.S. government doesn’t hold electronics companies responsible for their supply chains, especially when virtually every American uses an electronic device everyday. Bills have been established, however, they will not be going to a vote anytime soon. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) initiated talks about the Congo Conflict Minerals Act. This would force electronics makers to publicly release which mines in DRC are used in their electronics. Therefore, consumers would know what mines the metals are coming from. The second bill introduced is the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act. This bill would force all SEC-listed companies’ financial statements to contain details concerning how much money is paid out to foreign governments for oil, gas, and minerals. Companies’ reputations would increase by actively and openly sharing this information to consumers.

You can take part in the initiatives these bills support. Both bills have not been discussed or touched for over a year according to govtrack.us, a website you can use to view the status of a bill as it travels through Congress. Write and call your local Senators and Representatives and push forward these bills. Better yet, write to your favorite electronics maker. I, myself, could never go a day without my BlackBerry Curve or Macbook Pro. Rest assured, I will drop both RIM and Apple a line about my concern for the origins of the products I use everyday. As Americans, we are huge consumers in today’s modern world. It is only right for us to give thought to where our products come from. Tomorrow night, when you are watching the NBA finals on your fabulous plasma television or streaming it live from your personal computer, take a moment to remember those abroad who have sacrificed their lives and well-being for ours.

-Derek Rogers

A few years ago an E. coli breakout kept me from eating one of my favorite foods: spinach. I remember being stranded in Idaho Falls in the summer of 2006 and desperately looking over a menu at a local restaurant in search of something that would appease both my appetite and my vegetarian lifestyle. I swear my heart skipped a beat when I found a Pear Pecan salad made on a rich bed of spinach. I was excited to find a meatless entrée in this Podunk town. I smiled sweetly at the waiter and ordered my decadent salad. The waiter politely told me that they were unable to serve dishes containing spinach because of the E. coli breakout. Defeated, I ordered a cocktail and decided on a pasta dish sans-carne.

It turns out E. coli breakouts are on the rise again, and I am not too happy that I may have to more-heavily monitor my consumption of raw fruits and vegetables. In case you do not know, E. coli is an intestinal disorder that most commonly adversely affects individuals who consume raw plant foods that have been exposed to fecal matter. This disease does not originate from plants, as they lack intestines. Humans do not get plant diseases; they get diseases like E. coli from the exposure and improper contact of human and/or animal fecal matter.

Each year, animals are mass-produced as commodities of factory farms to feed our nation’s growing obsession with animal-flesh-consumption. Animals are bred, fed, and killed to feed and “nourish” a vast majority of our population who are affected with a phenomenon I like to refer to as Meat Fever. Due to Meat Fever, the amount of animals raised to today in factory farms account for over a billion tons of waste produced. This waste is often not disposed of properly, or is disposed into open-air cesspits that leak, thus getting into water sources that contaminate irrigation systems that are used to water our crops. Even with excessive washing and/or cooking of your fruits and vegetables you cannot necessarily get rid of E. coli that may have contaminated produce.

Recent research has suggested that even once you recover from an ailment like E. coli the illness may not be completely gone. Those who have suffered from E. coli, specifically children, can have side-effects appear up to 20 years later! Some of the problems developed are: kidney problems and failure, permanent brain damage, insulin-dependent diabetes, and high blood pressure. E. coli 0157:h7, the commonly known form of this bacterium, infects fewer than 100,000 Americans annually with less than 100 casualties. Sadly, other forms of E. coli exist that cause other health problems like Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) that can lead to hospitalization and/or death.

According to medical researchers from the University of Minnesota, there is a good chance your poultry, pork, and beef may have been exposed to fecal matter. In a recent experiment testing 1,000 samples of meat from various retail markets 69% of pork and beef, as well as 92% of poultry samples had evidence of fecal-contamination. This type of E. coli can harbor in a woman’s lower intestine then travel to the bladder and become UTIs. Over 99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs Americans consume are produced in Factory Farms. Even though many Factory Farms claim to be combating E. coli with antibiotics, E. coli still rages on. Mutations in the bacteria have begun and will continue to appear due to the use and abuse of antibiotics.

Factory Farms are a big obstacle in the fight to protect yourself and your loved ones from E. coli. Although efforts are being done to try to minimize some of the adverse effects of these environmentally unfriendly institutions, perhaps your best defense against E. coli is to educate yourself on how to reduce your chances of exposure. Here are some tips and facts that may help safeguard your lifestyle.

-Hannah Bybee

There is nothing quite like cold strawberries to feel like summer! As summertime quickly approaches, you can almost taste the sweet, delicious, and cool berry. Although, eating plain strawberries can be satisfying, why not make a delicious dessert! What strawberry dessert feels more like summer than Strawberry Shortcake? We say nothing! This great American summer tradition is perfect to serve on a hot day, take on a picnic, enjoy at a family cookout, or just enjoy at home after a long day. The best thing about Strawberry Shortcake is that it can easily be made with vegan and organic ingredients!

Vegan & Organic Strawberry Shortcake

Prep Time: 15 Minutes    Cook Time: 15-20 Minutes   Cool Time: 30-60 Minutes

1 Pint Organic Strawberries, Sliced
2 Tbsp Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (or other sweetener)
2 Cups Organic All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Organic Soy Milk
4 Tbsp Organic Earth Balance Margarine
1 Tsp Organic Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
Garnish with Soyatoo Organic Soy or Rice Whipped Cream

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degree F. On a cutting board slice the strawberries into thin slices and remove green leaves. In a mixing bowl, add all sliced strawberries and 1 tbsp of evaporated cane juice. Mix up with a spoon and place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

In another large mixing bowl, add the flour, 1 tbsp evaporated cane juice, baking powder, and salt. Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and pinch into the dry ingredients (this works best by hand). Pour in the soy milk and mix with a large spoon. On a cutting board or counter, knead the dough a little(add more flour if it is too wet) and roll out flat(about 1 inch thick). Cut into small circles, using a cookie or biscuit cutter. Place on a greased or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you would rather use cupcake sheets to make rounded shortbread, it will also work. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they have a golden crust. Remove and allow them to cool. Make sure the strawberry mixture is creating a glaze and mix up.

When serving, place one shortcake on a plate, with a spoon add strawberry glaze and garnish with a little bit of Soyatoo Organic Soy or Rice Whipped Cream or another vegan whipped cream. For an added treat, add chocolate shavings to the top of the whipped cream.

Father’s Day is a twenty four hour period of time set aside to let your Pops know you appreciate all that he has done for you throughout your life. Especially for how he resisted the urge to kill you during your rebellious teen years and for all the valuable knowledge that he imparted onto you-  most specifically that money does not grow on trees and that holding the refrigerator door open for longer than fifteen seconds makes the angels cry and the electric bill soar.

While fathers come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments, we should not forget to keep the environment in mind while we put our non-tree growing dollars towards an unique Father’s Day gift this year. No need to  fret, eco-friendly gift giving is simpler than ever before and we have advice for where to shop for your own particular breed of Dad. No, I am not talking “Lecture Giving Dad” or “Frugal Dad”, I am referring to our father’s interest as men outside their paternal tendencies, because when it comes down to it, our Dads just want to get loose and relax on their special day doing what they love to do best- which likely does not involve you, his dear child.

I kid, I kid. Without further ado, here is a handy guide to eco-friendly Father’s Day gift giving!

Classy Dad:  Classy Dads enjoy the finer things in life- champagne, caviar and your new Stepmom who graduated high school two years after you are among his greatest passions in life. This is the rare type of Dad that will not groan to himself when receiving the cliché gift of a tie for Father’s Day, but rather feel a zip of excitement at the notion of broadening his necktie army. His newest fashion recruit does not have to come at a detriment to the environment, check out this fashionable and eco-friendly tie from CROW.

Classy Dads likely have many people to see and numerous places to go, so being punctual is a way of life. This watch by Pulsar is solar-powered and  is the perfect gift  to keep this  go-getter on time  and in style.

Your Dad will likely have plenty of time to charge this bad boy in the Sun as he cruises around town in his convertible with your new Mom. Sorry about the awkward Thanksgivings in your future, brah.

Adventure Dad:
If Mountain Dew had a casting call for X-treme Dads, your father likely would miss that business because he would be too busy base jumping off of cliffs in South America. This is the type of Dad who likes to grip and rip the heck out of life at all times.; the type of man you likely have trouble keeping up with even though he has a good thirty years on you.  For this particular type of Dad you may want to cater to his x-tremeness by giving him some eco-friendly accessories for his next adventure. The Infinit Solar Charging Bag will allow your dear old Dad to charge his portable gadgets while on the go…which is to say, at all times!

Encourage the old man to rest soundly between adventures by giving him the Big Agnes Diversion Recycled Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad. It packs lightly and tightly and will fit in his aforementioned solar charging back pack. It will also allow him to catch some well deserved zzz’s comfortably while camping out in the latest corner of the world he is attempting to conquer.

Go, Go, Gadget Dad!: This is the type of guy who goes gaga for anything featuring the latest technology. You were probably the first family on the block to a own a microwave, a VCR  and a home computer. Now it is your turn to return the gift of gadgetry this Father’s Day. If you are having a particularly lucrative year or have recently stumbled upon a bag of unmarked hundred dollar bills, this eco-friendly and entirely rad robotic lawn mower may be the perfect gift for your beloved Papa. If this this  ‘green’ battery powered mower is a little steep for your budget, or you blew that unmarked money immediately on scratch tickets and a year’s supply of wine coolers, or your Dad does not even have a lawn,  then check out Mercury Innovations and their clever, yet affordable, eco-friendly speaker and boom box offerings.

B.B.Q Enthusiast Dad: Grilling is like meditation for this kind of Dad. If you see this particular breed of man laboring over his grill, spatula in hand,  you know better than to interrupt  him to suggest that some food stuff might be” done” or in need of “flipping”.  If you follow these simple rules and tread lightly around this grilling machine,  you will likely get to share in the delicious fruits of his labor. This father’s day, say thanks to your father for the countless successful BBQs he has catered throughout his life by purchasing accessories for his favorite accessory, his beloved grill. This innovative grill stone kit, made of recycled glass bottles rescued from landfills, can replace a tired, old rusty wire brush for grill cleaning. This 3 piece bamboo grill set will have your dad grilling in eco-friendly style.

Grilling is not always the most eco-friendly activity, but save the lectures about Organic food and fossil fuels for the Monday following Father’s Day. One eco-step at a time, people.

Bookworm/ Movie Buff Dad:
Perhaps the least emphasized part of the green mantra of  “reduce, recycle, reuse”  is the “reuse” part. You might be thinking:

“Hey, I am not getting my Dad some used junk for Father’s day! That man taught me to drive and used to let me sneak sips of his beer when my Mom wasn’t looking!”

Hey now, I am not implying that you give your dad a tattered old sock you find on the side of the road, but if your Dad happens to be book worm or a movie buff, then why not get more bang for your buck and buy the man some previously used books or DVDs? Not only will you  be doing the Earth a solid, but there are plenty of “good as new “ items available at your local consignment shops that will help you save money. It is the thought that counts, and speaking of counting, your dad will love getting 10 DVDs for the price of 1. The frugal man who raised you to know that generic products are just as good as name brand counterparts will be proud.

The environment won’t think you’re too shabby either.

Lazy Sunday Dad: I have an inkling that most Dads fall under this category. Even the most adventurous father likes to spend a lazy day taking naps on the couch from time to time. Can you blame him? Raising you was not a barrel of laughs. Remember that time you decided you were going to take up the electric guitar? That man shelled out the money for your instrument,  then had to endure  listening to endless hours of you attempting to learn how to play “Smoke on the Water” only to watch idly as you gave up on music forever after receiving your first Playstation, Sega, Nintendo or Atari – depending on what era you grew up in. Reward your Dad for watching you fail and loving you anyways by encouraging him to get his lazy on every so often. Nothing says, “Relax for a spell” like a contraption that forces you to be horizontal and that is surprisingly difficult to get out of once you are ensnared in its loving, rope-like embrace. Your best bet for encouraging your Dad to unwind is to give your Dad an eco-friendly hammock, such as this one that is made out of recycled soda bottles.

If you are feeling ambitious you can always make your own eco-friendly hammock by following these handy directions from Planet Green. It may not be on par with the macaroni art you used to create for him, but I am certain your dad will appreciate it -and that this time your creation will not likely find its way to the trash come garbage day.

Above all else, try to spend this Father’s Day with the man you are lucky enough to call “Dad”. Tell him that you love him and that you appreciate his patience while raising you. Not only is that the gift that won’t stop giving, but it is entirely eco-friendly….unless you speak those words of gratitude while burning a pile or tires, which I would have to strongly discourage.

If you don’t get him a present, I am sure he will understand,  just explain that money doesn’t grow on tress, and wait for a proud look to wash over his face–or for him to slap the back of your head. Raising kids is not cheap business, so he may be looking for some payback.

Happy Father’s Day, folks!

-Meghan Hurley

The arrival of summer means more than digging out your well-worn flip flops from the back of the closet and dusting off your mix CD featuring all of Will Smith’s summer time anthems, it also means, for many of us, the arrival of some well deserved time off. That is right: Vacation time!  At this very moment millions of people are sitting in their overly air conditioned cubicles fantasying about laying on a beach somewhere; far away from deadlines, water coolers and that mouth breather whose desk is adjacent to yours. Not to burst into your fantasy with a hard dose of reality (nice Speedo, btw) but this summer try to remember that there is no vacation from eco-conscious living. No need to grab the bug spray and point it at my eyes in a threatening manner- I will let you get back to your tropical mirage in a moment.   Following any combination of these simple tips will decrease the size of your vacation’s carbon footprint.

1)  Take a “Staycation“: As obnoxious as this hybrid word may sound,  Staycations are an excellent way to keep your next vacation eco-friendly. Staycations, for those of you not familiar with this word,  are vacations spent staying where you live (see what they did there?).This is not as boring as it sounds; a staycation is the perfect opportunity to explore where you live through new eyes. A little research and planning will probably reveal to you a bounty of experiences right outside your front door that you have never thought of partaking in. Explore your city or town’s history or look into your State’s park system- the possibilities are surprisingly limitless once you open your mind and choose to step outside of your comfort zone. If you envisioned more relaxation than exploration, feel free to spend a few days lying in your hammock sipping on the adult beverage of your choice. As an added bonus, staycations help eliminate that feeling that you need a vacation from your vacation that occurs when returning home from far off locales. Just remember: No Work!  This means not even checking your work e-mail. I know it only takes a second, but it can be opening a can of work style worms. Step away from that PC and into the sunshine! A staycation is still a vacation.

2)   Stay Local: If the idea of spending your vacation at home is not quite far enough away from your mouth breathing officemate, try to travel somewhere close by.

The closer the better.

The less physical traveling you partake in, the less fossil fuel you will unleash into the environment. It is likely that there are many relaxing locales within a couple of hours of your home.

3)  Greening Your Journey: No, I am not referring to the band of “Don’t Stop Believing” fame, I am talking about the way in which you travel to your vacation destination. Make every effort possible to avoid air travel, it is the super villain of getting around- think Darth Vader or Lord Voldermort levels of wickedness.  If you are driving to your destination, try renting a fuel efficient automobile, such as a hybrid. Perhaps, even try to bring some bicycles along with you so you can get around the area you are staying without being car dependent for the duration of your stay. If you are athletic and feeling up to a challenge, you could  even reach your vacation spot on a bike. Then  you would be a super star of eco-travel, the hero among vacationers- the Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter of getting out of town. This may be the only case wherein I would encourage smugness for your achievement. You’ve earned it, long distance bicyclist. Well done.

4) Lodging: When deciding on a place to hang your hat during your travels, a little research goes a long way. Come on now, no eye rolling, research is hardly a  chore since the advent of the internet. A little Google research goes a long way. Take a few minutes between rewatching David Goes to The Dentist and checking your Facebook to find the most eco-friendly lodging you can. Sites, such as ecotourdirectory.com, make this process even easier. If you are person who enjoys getting  in touch with mother nature, camping is a very eco-friendly and affordable way to make a home away from home.

5)  Souvenirs : Spotting a tourist is not a particularly difficult task. Camera hanging around neck? Check. Fanny pack fastened around waist? Check. Bag of over priced souvenirs? Check. This vacation, try to avoid the temptation of loading up on souvenirs. Most of these tacky trinkets are not produced anywhere near where you are staying and the negative environmental impact of the shipment of these spoons, magnets and key chains overseas is massive. If you still feel the hankering to take away a tangible keepsake from your trip, support a local business that produces their products nearby. Get extra brownie points with the environment if you make sure these purchases are Fair Trade. Think more a jar of organic jam vs.. a plastic harmonica with the name of the city you are in printed crookedly on it.

6) Eco-Volunteering:
Speaking of Brownie Points, I am fairly certain if you spend your vacation doing some Eco-volunteering that the environment will be forced to send you an appreciative organic muffin basket at the end of your trip. If you have a big heart and an appetite for adventure, check out eco-volunteering opportunities. Spending your vacation time helping save the environment may not allow for much downtime, but it will likely be more fulfilling than working on your tan line while chugging a Margarita on a beach. And who knows, you could find your calling while on your adventure. You may never have to listen to Captain “can’t breath through his nose” ever again.

If you are not feeling altruistic and just want to relax, do not feel guilty. You have worked hard and have earned the right to do with this down time whatever it is that will make you the happiest. But while you recharge your batteries, remember to not put a drain on Mother Earth’s. She works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year to keep herself habitable for your vacationing buns. It takes minimal effort to keep the environment in mind while planning and taking your next vacation, and the positive consequences of these efforts will benefit generations to come.

Have fun, people! Don’t forget your sun block and do not forget there is no vacation from ecological living!

-Meghan Hurley

As far back as my brain can remember, I patiently wait every four years for the magical, exhilarating and largest sporting event on the planet: THE WORLD CUP! I was raised in a football, ah well since this is the States I will say soccer, family. As a family we ate, breathed, and drank soccer. Myself,  siblings,  father, and mother all have played, refereed, and coached soccer through the years. I can remember where I watched every World Cup Final game for the last 22 years or so! Perhaps my favorite memory, is driving home from Oregon to California and stopping in a furniture store with my Dad to watch Brazil and France duke it out in 1998. Anyway, I am not alone in this sheer excitement and anticipation, as most of the world, sans the majority of the US, will be glued to any television available to catch all the matches in this year’s cup. That is right, 2010 is a World Cup Year and I am counting down the days( I have even downloaded the  World Cup Countdown App to be sure I keep on track)!

Ok so now you are probably wondering, why on Earth would Autonomie Project, a Fair Trade and Eco friendly Fashion company be discussing a sporting event? Well, not only am I a HUGE fan of the sport, but we recently were made aware of some interesting details. This year’s cup is hosted by South Africa and preparations for the tournament began long ago. Like many modern events, a focus on making the event carbon neutral was an early goal for South Africa. However, with a mass frenzy to build the infrastructure for the World Cup, there seems to be a bit of greenwashing going on.

It is true that South Africa has made serious efforts to keep the games Green, such as their carbon offset program, where they have planted over 800,000 trees in various cities. Many South African environmentalists aren’t quite buying it though. Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth South Africa reiterated this point, “Once carbon is produced, claiming that offsetting is ‘neutralizing’ the carbon footprint is nothing more than ‘greenwash.'” We somewhat agree with this idea, however, planting trees is always a great improvement for a city. On top of carbon offsetting, South Africa has improved its public transportation for the event, making it easy and efficient to travel between stadiums.

When preparations first began, the country was toting itself as creating a Green World Cup. Environmentalists inside the country were frustrated when a new stadium was built, rather than using the old stadiums in Durban. Many were outraged that new construction materials were adding to the overall carbon footprint of the tournament. This definitely may be true, however construction on the new stadium is very eco-friendly. Not only did they re-use much of the concrete and o ther building materials from the demolished stadium, but the new stadium is also built with PTFE which provides natural light, has natural ventilation, energy efficient heat, and collects rainwater.  Even though we agree that keeping the old stadium would in large be more eco-friendly, at least the new stadium was built with some re-used materials and with green architecture in mind.

Beyond the country of South Africa, this year’s “World Cup 2010 Kits,” created by Nike, are claiming to be the most Environmentally friendly kits ever. The jerseys to be worn by the most famous players such as Ronaldo, and by the average soccer fans at home, are made from recycled plastic bottles. They say that they used enough plastic bottles to line the whole coast of South Africa into the uniforms. A Nike spokesperson told GreenMyStyle.com the kits are sustainable in other ways, “We use a variety of environmentally preferred materials such as PET, organic cotton, ‘green’ rubber, and many of our inputs into our shoes are recycled materials from factory production.” This sounds all well and good, however, GreenMyStyle and others are questioning Nike’s credentials, as they haven’t always been the most ethical company in the past and do not provide transparency into where the materials actually come from or provide certification. Also, recycling is great but probably not the most sustainable method of production, as the process itself emits pollution.  On another note, Nike has been the subject of labor rights issues, with sharp criticism from both the Fair Trade and Labor Rights movements.

Although, it seems serious steps are being made by the South African government and World Cup planners, as well as private industry to make the 2010 World Cup Green, there is still disappointment. It was reported that the 2010 World Cup has a carbon footprint 6 times larger than the 2006 World Cup, held in Germany. It should be noted the 2006 numbers did not include transportation and most qualifying teams are from Europe, cutting down the impact of distance traveling. It seems most environmentalists feel South Africa dropped the ball on making the event green and think bigger steps should have been made. However, there are a couple of great things that will come from this including more efficient public transportation, more green space, drawing attention to the environmental sector in the country, and encourage the next World Cup (held in Brazil) to go even more Green!

While knowing that the biggest way the World Cup could cut their carbon footprint is to lessen world travel, it sort of defeats the heart of the  cup. Much like the Olympics, the World Cup is seen as a time for harmony and for the world to come together. There may come a time when the matches may need to be played in a more central location and possibly only the finals in distant lands. Whatever the future holds the environmentalist in me is happy to see some changes and is hoping for more, but the soccer lover in me is anxiously awaiting June 11th. In fact, as we speak my  World Cup Countdown App says we have 7 days, 21 hours, 44 minutes, and 41, 40, 39, 38 seconds…

-Gina Williams

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