July 2010

Living in a time when failed banks, corporate bailouts, and increased unemployment is the daily norm in the States, many of us are struggling with the question of whether or not to invest in the U.S. market. Green America, a nonprofit organization known for its promotion of green and fair trade business principles, wrote in their Real Green newsletter last fall about how investing to be green (and saving green) is a reality. We all know investing our hard-earned cash comes with many risks, especially for those of you like myself who are currently enrolled in undergraduate programs footing hefty tuition bills. Green America’s staff writer, Tracy Fernandez Rysavy, shows us how we can invest responsibly in our communities no matter how high or low our risk tolerance is.

Determining your risk tolerance is the first step in pursuing new investments. Everybody’s risk tolerance is different based on age, industry, and savings. Rysavy suggests speaking with a financial advisor to determine your “investment comfort zone”. For those who would rather take less of a risk, market-linked CDs are a great alternative to directly investing in the stock market. Financial advisor, Ed Winslow, who is the founder of Protect Money Investments, says that market-linked CDs are hard to find at community investing banks. However, your financial advisor can direct you towards banks known for their social and environmental activism. On the other hand, Michelle Weber of Edwards Jones believes in investing directly into the stock market. A social investing financial advisor, Weber states that despite the ups and downs the economy experiences, overall progress is being made. Thus, the opportunity for moneymaking in the stock market is still a reality.

Once you have determined the kind of investment best for you, make an effort to specifically invest in federally insured socially responsible investing (SRI) accounts. Rysavy suggests heading over to Community Invest, an organization who directs investors to community investing institutions. These institutions work on boosting the economies of low-income communities. To assist you with navigating the SRI world, head over to Green Pages where SRI advisors and mutual funds are listed, so you can find causes you and progressive companies and firms mutually support. Many financial advisers, like Brian Laverty of High Impact Investments, forecasts that companies who are enacting greener policies are moving forward in their respective markets compared to companies who are behind socially and environmentally. When it comes to long-term finances, Laverty expects green businesses to come out on top. Therefore, it is smart to invest in companies who support our communities and environment.

But what about college students, many of whom spearhead progressive initiatives through demonstration, writing, and fundraising, but do not have the financial means themselves to take a risk in SRI? Being a student who has accumulated probably too many student loans and attends a private university in Washington, D.C., investing is not exactly on my to-do list. However, I was able to make a low-risk investment in a local business in Lima, Peru through a non-profit organization called Kiva. Kiva extends small loans to prospective business owners across the globe. The beauty of Kiva is you can choose whom you are loaning to. I loaned $25 in November of 2009 to Marisol, a married mother of 2, who sells baked goods out of her husband’s hardware store. I chose Marisol because, at the time, I was preparing to jet off to Cusco, Peru to work at a community center over my holiday break. I thought it would be another fantastic way to show my support for the country. I was paid back in monthly installments of $5 through April 2010 and was repaid 100% of my investment. Best of all, the current repayment rate to lenders is 98.79%. Even though you do not net a gain or profit from this investment, the satisfaction of furthering future small business owners with their business ventures truly gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. The best is when Kiva sends a message to you about the progress of those you loaned to.

In all, you do not have to work on Wall Street to know how to invest wisely. Neither do you have to have deep pockets to make a smart, sound investment. Better yet, there are numerous opportunities for you to invest in specific companies and firms who share your wish for improved communities and a cleaner environment. Spend your money wisely and happy investing!

-Derek Rogers

We are in the middle of summer and you can definitely tell! This summer has been a scorcher.  Much like the heat, concert festivals have come to be the standard summer fare.  With huge festivals such as Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Fesival, Coachella, and Bonnaroo happening all summer long, it is clear this is a musical trend.  These concerts, although fun, take a ton of energy to produce from sound and lighting to sanitation and bottled water. It is a wonder how any of these massive productions could ever be sustainable. Some of these musical showcases are making huge efforts with carpooling, recycling, promoting reusable items and green vendors, however, could there really be a truly sustainable festival?

Enter the Montreal International Jazz Festival. As we mentioned a few posts ago, we recently vacationed in Montreal. Our trip was perfect timing as we were there during the Jazz Festival. As we stepped foot into the massively crowded fest, we saw multiple stages, disposable bottles, and lighting every where we turned. We couldn’t help but wonder, how much energy is this festival consuming? But all around the festival signs were highlighting that the Jazz Fest had been “Carbon Neutral” since 2008.  On top of their carbon neutrality, much of the merchandise was produced locally in the US and Canada with organic cotton and recycling bins were readily available.

This certainly was impressive and satisfied my aching conscious enough for me to sit back and enjoy the bands. But when I returned home, I really started thinking about those words: carbon neutral. What exactly did it mean? Were they saying, they were running everything on renewable sources, did they somehow find the perfect eco-friendly energy source, or was this another bit of Greenwashing? The curiosity was getting the better of me and I researched this “carbon neutral” festival.

It turns out the festival is a bit of both; Greenwashing and sustainability. No, the fest did not run on generators powered solely by the sweat of the jazz musicians, but they were purchasing carbon offsets. Carbon offsets may seem like a great solution: essentially you are donating money to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, is the festival really carbon neutral? They are using massive amounts of energy and even if they donate money to say, a tree planting organization. Is that really going to make up for the energy they used to fuel a month-long day and night festival?

The truth is, they are trying to be legitimate about turning Green, even devoting a whole webpage to the explanation of their carbon offsetting program and defining their carbon neutrality as: “calculating total climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions from an event, organization or business, reducing them where possible, and then balancing the remaining emissions by purchasing high quality carbon offsets.” Their transparency website states how much of their festival they offset (100% from electricity to travel for the musicians) and where the money is going (Planetair, a Montreal based NGO devoted to supplying high quality carbon offsets.

Even though their system may not be the ideal (sweat some more, trumpet players), they are making an effort. In the end, they are bringing to light that these festivals eat up TONS of energy and are not sustainable in their own right. It would be great to see more of the festivals moving in the same direction or even better take a cue from Sasquatch! who runs their festival on a combination of Wind Power and offsets. Either way, we are delighted to see so many of the major players attempting to be serious about their energy use.  Who knows, someday we may have summer festivals running on the readily available solar power.  We certainly have the summer sunshine for it.

-Gina Williams

While discussing new blog topics at the AP headquarters, we thought of a great new series called Ethical Celebrity Profiles. We realize that many actors, musicians, writers, and other famous people are involved in amazing ethical campaigns. They may be famous for their art or money, but some in the spotlight use their fame for good. Since we know of quite a few famous do-gooders, we thought we would feature a few and our first is Coldplay‘s leading man: Chris Martin.

To tell the truth, my interest in Chris Martin had little to do with ethics and everything to do with music. When Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes hit the scene in 2000, they exploded to international fame, going Platinum. This Alternative Rock band made their mark on the US and international scene with their hits Yellow and Trouble and are currently creating their fifth studio album. Since I first heard their music, I have admired Chris Martin, although once I learned more about him my adoration increased tenfold. For not only was he a gifted musical artist and rockstar, but he was increasingly involved in the Fair Trade Movement.

Chris Martin is likely Fair Trade’s best friend, if not its most famous friend. Even though the Fair Trade Movement is growing, it lacks celebrity endorsements in the same way that the Green and Animal Rights Movements have been able to gain. It would only make sense that the first real celebrity Fair Trade spokesperson would hail from the UK, where the movement is incredibly strong. That being said, Martin has been a huge supporter of Fair Trade. Often on stage, he wears an equal sign on his hands, has Fair Trade messages on his piano, and even speaks about the cause during performances.  However small this may seem, it is bringing worldwide attention to a global issue.  Fans of Martin and Coldplay are being introduced to what is likely a new concept for them.

On top of his subtle and not so subtle concert endorsements, he is also heavily involved with Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign. He himself has even traveled to countries like Ghana, Haiti, and Mexico to learn about working conditions and spread the Fair Trade message. He’s also made videos, gathered signatures at shows, and attended international Fair Trade conferences. Some people have called him the Bono of Fair Trade, to which he believes himself to be a “third-rate Bono” and for him, his only cause is Fair Trade. Coldplay first became involved in Fair Trade in 2002,  when Oxfam approached them. At the time, Martin hadn’t any idea what Fair Trade was and what the issues were at hand.  Oxfam sent the band on a trip and their eyes were immediately opened. Martin said this of learning the issues of trade:

But you go on a trip and learn how the importing and exporting of goods around the world works, and you realize it’s a huge crisis. We’ve now seen, firsthand, the problems caused by America dumping rice on Mexico, or Haiti not being allowed to export its agricultural products.”

Since 2002, Martin and his band have worked closely with Oxfam, campaigning during concerts and on their own time as well as their spokesperson, which includes this inspiring video below:

For the Fair Trade Movement, Chris Martin and Coldplay are making waves. They are bringing a fringe cause into the limelight and spreading the message to the mainstream. It is inspiring to see celebrities use their fame for the better and hopefully more of the rich and famous will begin spreading the Fair Trade message. But until then, we have Chris Martin as our Fair Trade front man.  And we are happy to have him!

-Gina Williams

Raw ice cream? What is raw ice cream? Well we were recently turned on by this recipe in VegNews: Strawberry Ice Cream. It looked so delectable, we just had to share it with you. But with an Autonomie Project twist of course! This recipe is pretty quick and would satisfy any vegan, raw foodist, or ice cream lover in your life. We have compiled a base and some suggestions for flavors. Of course with summertime upon us, the fruit flavors sound the most refreshing, but we have thrown in a couple of year round classics as well.  So cool off this summer with homemade vegan ice cream! Let us know what flavors you make or if you come up with some of your own!

1 Cup Coconut Water
1/2 Cup Organic Raw Cashews
3/4 Cup Organic Honey Dates, Pitted

Chocolate: 3 Tbs Organic Cocoa Powder
Strawberry: 3 cups Organic Stawberries, chopped
Vanilla: 1 Tbs Vanilla Bean Paste
Chocolate Peanut Butter: 3 Tbs Organic Cocoa Powder, 3 Tbs Peanut Butter
Blueberry: 2 Cups Organic Blueberry
Butter Pecan: 1/2 Cup Organic Earth Balance, 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste, 3/4 Cup Pecans
Strawberry Banana: 3 cups Organic Stawberries, chopped, 3 Bananas

If you are using fruit, run through a blender and be sure to crush all fruit (for strawberries, be sure the leaves are sliced off first). Set these aside and clean out the blender. Blend the coconut water and cashews until smooth. While the blender is on low add in the dates and whatever flavor ingredients your are using until well mixed. Your mixture will now appear to look like melted ice cream. Place in whatever container you want to use (casserole dish or jar) and put in the freezer for at least an hour. If you have an ice cream maker you can then use this in the contraption and re-freeze. Most of you probably don’t, so you will have ice cream that looks like its melted bur re-frozen. No worries though, it will taste great!

Not too long ago, I went boating with some friends. As the day went on we forgot one of the cardinal rules of any water-filled sport: reapply sunscreen after you get out of the water. Unfortunately, one member of our group looked like a tomato before the day was through and it only got worse as the weekend drew to a close. The sun was kind to me that day and I escaped with only a slight rose-hue to my skin that quickly turned into a tan.

If you are anticipating a day of fun in the sun and want to ensure your escape from similar fate as my above mentioned friend, you are reading the right article. For a “green” solution to your sunscreen needs that is both healthy for your skin and the environment, you may be in luck.

I was recently introduced to a few articles that explore the possibility of a serum that has been found to work for 72 hours with just one slathering on your skin. Research has been performed at John Hopkins University and concluded that this all-natural suntan lotion is absorbed within your skin cells and works to help produce enzymes that protect your skin against UV damage.

So what is this miracle potion? You may be surprised to find out this magical mixture is broccoli juice extract! Interestingly enough, the protective compound that absorbs into your skin, sulforaphane, is the same cancer-fighting ingredient that is absorbed when you eat broccoli.

Several studies are surfacing that analyze many of the environmental and health effects of several sunscreens that are currently available on the market. For instance, many of the ingredients in sunscreens adverse affects on hard corals and symbiotic algae. Sunscreens have many of the same effects on aquatic environments as bacterial disease, temperature anomalies, pollution, and high irradiance. Even low concentrations, sunscreens cause rapid and complete bleaching of hard coral because they promote viral infections in coral.

Another drawback to traditional sunscreen is that many of the chemical ingredients; such as avobenzone, benzophenone, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnimate, in popular sunscreens may not be 100% safe. Many of these chemicals are free radical generators. Benzophenone is one of the most powerful free-radical generators known, and is used in industrial processes to conduct chemical reactions. When UV rays reach, benophenone it can react with other free radicals and produce damage to fats, proteins and DNA of cells. One big problem is that these chemicals can often be absorbed into your bloodstream when used often and applied heavily. Many studies and reports have surfaced that link these chemicals used in sunscreens to cancer.

I don’t know about you, but broccoli extract as a sun-combatant is sounding pretty good right now. The only drawback is that scientists haven’t found a way to rid the extract of its green-hue. Personally, though, I would rather be a little green for a day instead of red and uncomfortable for days after sun exposure.

Even with the release of this study, remember there are still safe and eco-friendly alternatives.  Though broccoli may have helped protect better and longer than its conventional counterparts, if you are shy about how soaking your skin with vegetable juice feel free to check out this guide to Eco-Friendly Sunscreen. Remember to stay safe out there and have fun!

-Hannah Bybee

Using disposable wooden chopsticks is numbingly simple (unwrap, eat, throw away) and arrestingly common, to the point that wondering about where and how they are made seems a strange and difficult thought.  They’re just two little pieces of shaped wood, right?  What else is there?  The idea was presented to me only recently, and even the small amount of investigation I’ve done since has completely revolutionized my approach to these small but potentially hazardous and definitely destructive utensils.

The discussion of the toxicity and environmental impact of disposable chopsticks in the public realm is not new; a more recent article, published in a 2005 edition of the Taipei Times, discusses the findings from a study of various brands of chopsticks conducted by Taiwan’s Consumers’ Foundation: Many disposable chopsticks contain high amounts of sulfur dioxide, and chopstick packaging often contains high levels of fluorescent material [and] the amount of lead found on the plastic packaging of some chopsticks was over the regulated 100ppm.”  The article also mentions that particularly light-colored wood may point at large amounts of bleach used as a conditioner. Now, the purpose of this article is not to propagate the Fear Machine and convince you to quarantine the pair floating around the bottom of your take-out order.  The idea is to be more aware of how they are processed and the effects their production might have overall, not only on your body but on the world as well.

Public appeals to abandon disposable wooden chopsticks throughout China started surfacing a year before the Summer Olympics in 2007.  One editorial, posted on ChinaDaily.com, spoke of the call of the Olympic Organizing Committee to begin greening its approach to celebrations. Chopsticks may seem like one of the lighter drops in a trough of environmental degradation issues, but not so fast, says Bian Jiang, secretary-general of the China Cuisine Association: “The country produces and discards more than 45 billion pairs of wooden chopsticks every year, at a cost to the environment of about 25 million trees.”  Such a large country consuming it’s resources almost as insatiably as the USA has reason to be concerned with such a staggering figure.  Try to imagine that many trees, and how much land they cover.  As of this year, environmentalists warn that if China continues to use timber at current levels, China’s remaining forests will be gone in about a decade.

The effects of such deforestation are already being seen.  In a pointed editorial piece written for the Peoples’ Daily Online, Justin Ward relates his experience of waking up in Beijing to see “the city outside bathed in the orange glow of one of the most massive sandstorms in recent history,” an ominous sign of desertification, which is a result of deforestation. The connection between this and the chopsticks we hold in our hands is clear.

However, the blame for this immense problem cannot be put on China and other producers of chopsticks alone; all nations who chose to import and consume disposable chopsticks are equally to blame.  The China Daily article above states that, “despite boasting the world’s highest forest coverage at 69 percent, Japan imports all 25 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks it consumes every year.”  Who knows how many other nations import, including the United States?  And what can you do on an individual level?  Perhaps a start would be to purchase your own pair of well-crafted, washable sticks for home use and begin habitually bringing them out to meals or to work for lunches.  You can also suggest to your favorite restaurant that they invest in reusable chopsticks, and ask them not to include disposable chopsticks in your take out.

I leave you in the hands of Sam Bett, a local Boston publisher of multiple zines and first-prize winner of the 2008 Amagasaki Japanese Speech Contest, who was the original inspiration for the article’s content:

In today’s world where the effects of global warming have become visible in the daily weather, people are searching for ways to contribute to a solution. To that end, I recommend trying out personal chopsticks. While it’s a small statement, it has the power to produce major effects as the trend gains momentum.  Carrying personal chopsticks is more than just an environmental concern–it’s a matter of taste. After all, doesn’t a guiltless meal taste a whole lot better?

-Jeremy Pearson

While on a recent vacation, we decided to expand our restaurant reviews to the international scene. Montreal is a lovely, artistic, and interesting city that feels like a mixture of Paris and San Francisco. Not surprisingly, a major city such as Montreal has a wide array of vegan options and a few all vegetarian restaurants. Located in the Latin Quarter, we passed a delicious looking restaurant a number of times before deciding to try it.  Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant (although the Y is missing from the sign, in true urban fashion) is situated in the basement of a building housed by tourist shops and clothing boutiques. From the outside it may appear a bit shabby, especially since the Y is missing from the sign, however, once you enter the spot it has a tranquil, modern, and has a classy appearance.

We arrived around 8pm and the joint was packed. The busy wait staff seemed a little confused and stressed with the crowd. It was my impression, they aren’t normally this busy. When we first arrived, we were quickly sat at a nice table and given water, however, we were not noticed again for about 20 minutes. We were willing to forget this, because their menu looked absolutely delicious. The menu has a wide array of vegetarian and vegan Pan-Asian options. With menu offerings such as Lemon Crispy Fish, Pan Fried Steak, Japanese Eel, and Sushi Pizza, how could one not immediately be intrigued? It appears their online menu does not encompass all they offer, but do not be fooled, this place has an extensive menu!

Buffet Menu

The truth is there are several vegan Pan-Asian restaurants, in fact it may be the most common style of vegetarian cooking. No matter how common they may be, we still love to try them out! There was one thing incredibly unique about this place, it was buffet style. Not just any buffet style, but you were given a huge list of dishes and you checked which ones you wanted from appetizers to entrees, as many times as you like.  You just check off on a piece of paper each time and order as much as you want for $20 a person. I am definitely not used to this ordering technique and coupled with my minuscule knowledge of the French language, this created some confusion. Once we figured it out and were no longer ignored by the staff, we were really excited to order but nervous not to let our eyes be bigger than our stomachs (as they charge you extra for leftover food and do not allow you to take any to go).

Sushi Pizza, Seaweed Salad & CA rolls

For our first round we ordered Miso Soup, BBQ Tofu Briquettes, Raviolis with Peanut Sauce, Stir Fried Mushrooms, Crispy Lemon Fish, Seaweed Salad, California Sushi Roll, and the Sushi Pizza. It may seem like a lot of food, but each dish was split between two people and the portions were pretty small. Even though it is listed as buffet style, every dish appeared to be made fresh to order. So fresh that it took a while to receive each dish and they often came out of order. Our sushi came first, followed by one entrée and soup, then the appetizers, and finally our last entrée. It was definitely a different style of eating for us! The sushi, soup, and salad were all tasty and the vegetables were really fresh. We especially enjoyed the Sushi Pizza, which was unique and delicious. Basically, it was seaweed battered, fried and covered in a vegetable vegan mayo sauce. It was tasty and crunchy for the palette. This may have been my favorite dish we ordered at this restaurant and certainly one I will not likely find anywhere else.

Fried Mushrooms

About five minutes later our first entrée was served, Fried Mushrooms. The older I get the less I enjoy mushrooms and I had a suspicion I would not enjoy this dish completely. My suspicions were right! Although the flavor was good and the mushrooms were mixed with goji berries and some sort of yellow bean, I couldn’t get into the oyster mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was cooked deliciously but I just personally did not enjoy it. However, quickly following this dish were our two appetizers which were incredibly scrumptious. The BBQ Tofu Briquettes were delectable shish kabobs with plenty of flavor and the Raviolis in Peanut Sauce were almost perfect. Really, the peanut sauce was superb and I could have eaten it on every dish. Unfortunately, it seemed the kitchen staff forgot about our Lemon Fish and we had to wait another ten minutes or so for it to be prepared.

BBQ Briquettes & Raviolis

As we waited, our appetites grew for some dessert, so we received a new buffet ordering sheet. Much to our surprise the buffet did not offer dessert! Feeling a little defeated, we opted for some fruit based sushi to satisfy our sweet cravings. Both our late Lemon Fish entrée and Mango Rolls provided a little sweet ending to our dinner, although I think they should definitely add dessert as an option. We are happy to announce we did not over order and finished our plates, while still being satisfied. Despite the odd ordering technique, Yuan’s provides its patrons with a variety of unique and flavorful fare, as well as a classy and cool environment. Although, not the best vegan pan Asian I have ever had, I  definitely recommend it to those visiting Montreal. Bon Appetit!

-Gina Williams

Low income countries, like Ghana, are being introduced to a sustainable and affordable way to obtain eco-friendly housing. Architect João Caeiro was recently recruited to help, a Lisbon-based design team, develop a house to sustain a single-family for the emerging middle class of Ghana. The result of this collaboration is called Emerging Ghana. Emerging Ghana is designed to be built using only local materials, local labor, and is complete with some of the best strategies for design sustainability you may have ever heard of! This family home is constructed complete with the flexibility and freedom for its owner to build and add-on to the home as a family grows. What’s really amazing?  This awesome house can be purchased for around $12,500 USD. I don’t know about you, but I’m considering purchasing a summer home in Ghana.

Emerging Ghana is attracting some major attention! Some of Emerging Ghana’s recent publicity is due its placement in the Open Source House competition. Open Source House is a nonprofit that emphasizes on global creativity and knowledge about housing designs that are focused on sustainability and affordability. Open Source House aims to bring choice to the typical housing situations of people who live in low-income and poverty stricken areas afflicted with massive urbanization. Every year, a competition takes place where designers are able to showcase their architectural visions in hopes of being chosen as the winner of the Open Source House competition. The Open Source House competition’s first place concept winner will then be built. This year’s winner? You guessed it: Emerging Ghana.

Congratulations Emerging Ghana! With its energy efficient solar-heated water tank, the inhabitants of this beautiful home will be able to bathe and cook with heated water. The solar passive design is south-facing and allows the home to be naturally shaded while rain water is collected to water a food-producing garden in the courtyard. This house is also complete with its own septic tank.

I can’t wait to see this concept be built in late 2010 and to read more media coverage about this fantastic design! Congratulations are also due to Ghana’s impressive run in the World Cup. You go Ghana!

-Hannah Bybee

For the past  month, the 2010 World Cup  has had sports  fans worldwide whipped into a frenzied state of obsession that is commonly known as World cup fever. This affliction sees football fans* unable to concentrate on work while their team of choice is battling it out in South Africa; somehow tolerating the obnoxious bee-like sound that a symphony of vuvuzelas in the stand produces; and accepting daytime- occasionally even morning- drinking, as rabid fans make their ways to various watering holes to see this popular sport played live half way across the world.

After Sunday’s final game between the Netherlands and Spain fans will either feel the agonizing disappointment of defeat or the absolute elation of being a champion.  Monday morning offices across the globe will likely see an increase of productivity, the sound of swarming bees will again illicit an appropriate amount of fear in individuals, and drinking before noon will again only be practiced by professional winos and eaters of brunch.

As it stands, the greenest thing about football–or most sports for that matter–is the fields on which they are played. Big corporate sponsorships, by companies such as Nike and Adidas, see this beloved game and many other professional sports being played with less than eco-friendly gear and balls. These big name companies may have catchy slogans and million dollar ad campaigns that frequently air during the World Cup, but each has a scandalous history of  human rights violations– each taking of advantage of  cheap sweatshop labor frequently–allegedly even currently.

Once the World Cup fever breaks, and you start to feel withdrawals for the World’s favorite sport, you may get a hankering to kick a ball of your own up and down a grassy field this summer. Unlike these big shot professional sport organizations, you can approach your purchases from a standpoint of compassion. When it comes to big named brands, ignore the commercials that have been pumped into your eyes and ears throughout this World Cup– just don’t do it. Get your soccer–er, I mean football gear from companies such as  this amazing company, Fair Trade Sports. Their products are not only Fair Trade certified, but they are all vegan and eco-friendy! As if this were not impressive enough, this company generously donates their after -tax profits to an array of  children’s charities!

Now that’s a spicy football!

Even if you never make a goal, you can take pride in knowing that your gear is not only eco-friendly, but human kind friendly. You may not be a sports star, but you are a super star of compassion- so go ahead, have a good morning drink, you’ve earned it.

* “Soccer fans” to those of us in the United States–football here involves more tackling and confusingly, much less contact between ball and foot.

-Meghan Hurley

You may have read in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago about the newest trends in American bars, restaurants, and clubs; they are becoming greener. Thanks to website,  www.ecodrinking.com, anyone can hop on the web and search their nearby city for the most ethical way to go out and hit the town when it comes to sustainability, organic options, energy efficiency, and other green initiatives. To find the greenest bars and clubs across the country, the website uses numerous factors to establish whether or not the establishment is worthy of being deemed green.

EcoDrinking describes how there are no clear standards for an establishment to be green seeing that there are innumerable ways to make green initiatives (which is why businesses should begin to think greener!). However, it is easy to compare the establishments to each other by noting the number of green initiatives they are making. Some of the most common initiatives the establishments on EcoDrinking are making are: offering organic beverages, implementing recycling programs, adding more organic ingredients to dishes, using recycled materials, and using local ingredients. Thanks to the Huffington Post, you can check out the ” 9 “greenest” bars in U.S.

If you are looking for a good, and green, time on the west coast, you can check out Temple in San Francisco. Paul Hemming established Temple in response to his frustration with the “wasteful nature” his industry participates in. Temple has made major strides to green up their business. Some of green accomplishments include diverting 89% of their waste away from landfills! Even their kitchen grease is donated in order to create bio-diesel fuel preparation. They also have an eclectic array of artists who perform there allowing you to “stimulate your senses”.

Looking to hit the town in the Mid-West? Check out Uncommon Ground‘s two locations in Chicago’s Wrigleyville and Edgewater neighborhoods. The Edgewater location was just ranked by the Green Restaurant Association as a 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant. Uncommon Ground achieved this by using local foods, low-flow spray valves, and completing the décor with reclaimed wood. All employees wear organic cotton uniforms!

And for those of you looking to have a sustainable night out on the East Coast, look no further than Cambridge’s Bambara just across the Charles from Boston. Recycled cane fiber makes up their take-out containers and employees use washable mugs and glasses when taking quick water breaks. Styrofoam has no home at Bambara and recycled paper and soy ink are both used to create new menus whenever possible.

Having a sustainable and ethical evening is easier than you think and can be loads of fun! Next time you head out for dinner after a hard day’s work or want to catch up with old friends over drinks, head over to these establishments. Who doesn’t enjoy an ethically justified night out? By keeping these businesses prospering, we can further spread the message of sustainability to more business across the U.S.

-Derek Rogers

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