August 2010

“It’s cool to stay in school,” a phrase we have heard hundreds of time and yes education is important, especially when the schools are ranked highly. As summer rolls to an end and students are heading back to classes, many school ratings are published. The US and World Report publishes their annual report in August. This year, to no one’s surprise Harvard, Princeton and Yale topped the list of best universities based on academics. But what about other rankings? Every year the Sierra Club also comes up with a list: the “Coolest Schools.” The “Coolest Schools” rank universities with the environment in mind. The Sierra Club offers a survey up to all universities regarding a total of ten environmental categories including Energy Supply, Waste Management, Food, and Financial Investments. Evaluations are made on the survey questions as well as follow-up inquiries.

This year’s list consists of 162 universities who answered the survey including big name UCs such as Irvine, San Diego, and Davis as well as the world-famous Harvard University. Even with these high-profile names, the one getting all the attention is Green Mountain College. Green Mountain College, with an overall 88.6/100 topped this year’s list of greenest schools. The school nestled in beautiful Vermont, ranked so high due to their creativity and the fact that their energy comes from biomass and biogas. They are hoping to move completely carbon neutral by next year.

Others in the top ten include Evergreen State College, Stanford University, and of course Harvard. Each University in the Top Ten has innovative green initiatives. I really liked the Northland College’s McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center which has composting toilets, solar panels, and a wind turbine. I also felt inspired by the University of Washington’s interdisciplinary Environmental Innovation Challenge. For a full list of all 100 Green Universities go to Sierra Club’s Coolest Schools.

Does your school or alma mater make the list? If you don’t see your school or want to improve your school’s environmental ranking consider getting involved with your college leadership or environmental activism clubs. There were a total of 900 schools who received surveys but did not complete them, if your school didn’t complete the survey, encourage them to participate next year and make a green mark on your school to make sure it is the coolest.

-Gina Williams

Earlier this summer, the Autonomie Project team had the pleasure of meeting another local business in the Boston area at a TransFair USA event. We met Ali Siam, one of the founders of Olde City Imports. He and his wife, Ena, operate their business in Randolph, MA. Olde City Imports offers a great range of Fair Trade and organic olive oils as well as olive oil soap, wild flower honey, zaatar, and cous cous. All labor and manufacturing is Palestinian as all the products are sourced from the West Bank. TransFair USA, Fair For Life, and the Palestinian Trade Association certify Ali and Ena’s products as fair trade. We had the pleasure of trying some of Ali and Ena’s products at the TransFair USA event. The olive oil is to die for and is pressed from olives harvested by farmer cooperatives in Jenin, Salfit, Ramallah, and Nablus. The olive oil was so delicious; we absolutely had to dedicate a post to one of their recipes!

I asked Ali to send a recipe I could make using his delectable olive oil. He sent a recipe for Sfiha Bizaatar. This recipe is extremely easy to make and perfect for serving with dinner or having a snack! All you need is your favorite recipe for dinner biscuits, olive oil, and zaatar spice mix. We have provided our instructions for preparing dinner biscuits if you do not have one already.

Organic Sfiha Bizaatar Recipe

2 cups organic flour
2 tsp. organic baking powder
4 tablespoons organic margarine (we suggest Earth Balance)
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup organic soy milk
1 ½ tablespoons organic olive oil (we suggest Olde City Imports)
1 ½ tablespoons organic zataar spice mix (we suggest Olde City Imports)

Sift the flour and then add the baking powder and salt. Then sift again. Add the margarine and mix well. As you are mixing, add the milk gradually. Once the dough turns soft, knead the dough on a slightly floured surface for about 30 seconds. Roll the dough, so that it is ½ inch thick. We suggest cutting the dough with a 2 inch floured biscuit cutter. Then, mix the olive oil with the zaatar spice mix, until the consistency is neither watery nor thick. You can add more olive oil or zaatar to achieve your desired consistency. Apply 1 tsp of the Zaatar/olive oil mixture on top of each biscuit by using a spoon. Bake for about 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. This recipe should make about 12 biscuits.

Be prepared for the scrumptious scent of zaatar to fill your kitchen as the biscuits bake! Once they finish baking, you will be extremely impressed by the combined taste of the zaatar and olive oil. And like me, you will probably eat one too many. You can find all of Ali and Ena’s products at Olde City Imports’ website.  All of their different olive oils are perfect for this recipe. Happy Baking!

-Derek Rogers

Yes, it is official! We can finally say it!! BOSTON IS AN OFFICIAL FAIR TRADE CITY! The Autonomie Project team has been committee members and incredibly active in the Fair Trade Boston organization since its inception a few years ago. You may all remember our excitement and volunteer work surrounding the Kick Off Event last year and the signing of the Fair Trade Resolution back in May, but now we have completed the ultimate goal of declaring the city of Boston a Fair Trade City. Not only are we the first major city in New England to declare, but also the first major city on the East Coast! This is an exciting, innovative, and historical announcement for our fair* city. *Pun fully intended.

Now you may be wondering what exactly is a Fair Trade city?  Transfair has a wonderful campaign entitled Fair Trade Towns, encouraging towns and cities to officially declare themselves Fair Trade friendly. To do so, towns must meet 5 basic criteria: local council must pass a resolution supporting fair trade and committing to serve fair trade products, a range and specific amount of fair trade products must be sold within the town (pubs, cafes, clothing stores etc), a percentage of  workplaces and community organizations (churches, hospitals, universities etc) must serve fair trade products, an active coalition must meet regularly, and garnish media coverage.  Boston is proud to say, me have met and surpassed all 5 requirements!

To celebrate our historical declaration, Fair Trade Boston, along with Autonomie Project, Ben & Jerry’s, Equal Exchange, and many others are hosting a Fair Trade Block Party on September 10th at the Prudential Center Plaza! Live music, fair trade giveaways, and free sampling are just a taste of what our celebration will offer. So please come to our free celebration and party for your city! Boston, it is a time to celebrate and be merry.

We are ecstatic to announce and it almost seems surreal, but we are proud of our little city and hope it springs inspiration around the country.  Find out if your community already has a Fair Trade Towns campaign or start one on your own! Congratulations, Boston!!!

-Team AP

This summer a wave of electricity has been generating regarding the future of personal transportation. What new and exciting developments have come to light, might you ask? Well, Earlier this summer the state of Washington announced a plan which lays the groundwork for the nations first electric highway. Stretching from Vancouver, BC through the length of Washington to Portland OR. Drivers of Electric Vehicles will have the ability to drive nearly the nearly 300 miles without worries of the juice running out. Not only does this set up the makings for some epic northwest road trips, but the nearly 2,000 charging stations planned for Seattle alone will make the Emerald city’s eco-conscious commuter able to breath a sigh of fresh air. This is all part of of the Nations EV project targeting other places such as Washington D.C., Tennessee, Arizona and linking up with projects in Oregon and California to create a 1350 mile electric friendly thoroughfare from Canada to the Mexican border!

With such massive investment in electric vehicle infrastructure it is fair to ask some questions about electric vehicles. Ever since the mid 1800’s people have been intrigued with the possibility of electric powered vehicles. Many people hoped for the potential of GM’s early trials with the EV1. But for many reasons political, and practical those hopes fizzled away until recently. There has been a frenzy of engineers as of late with major auto companies such as Nissan, Ford, GM and smaller companies like Tesla motors pouring their minds in to making reliable, efficient and high performing automobiles. The main area which is improving is battery technology. Current ranges are around 200 miles, but VW’s engineers are projecting a range of 500 miles on one charge within the next 10 years. This development and the fact that Tesla has been exhibiting race level performance out of its Roadster models clearly points to the potential of Total Electric Vehicle Domination within the very near future.

So what does this mean? And is there any downside to the seemingly perfect world of ZERO Emission Vehicles? How could there be? Well one must point out that in today’s energy realities, Zero Emission Vehicles are not exactly Zero Emission. Electric Vehicles must be charged and powered by electricity. Depending where you are, a lot of that electricity might come from “dirty” or otherwise marginally environmentally friendly sources. The Northwest, where this project is to be implemented gets most of their energy from hydroelectric plants such as the massive works on the Columbia river which have definite impacts on native wildlife habitats and indigenous populations. Many other states have varying sources of electricity ranging from natural gas to nuclear to the oft despised dirty coal industry. With the national electric power grid such as it is, one is never quite sure where ones power is actually being produced.

So, the benefits of zero exhaust from your tail pipe in Tacoma might mean Montana is belching out more dirty air and mercury in to the atmosphere. One good way around this would be the more widespread use of smaller local solar and wind energy projects tied in with this Electric vehicle grid. By outfitting parking garages and private residences with solar panels and cities capturing available wind power, we can actually make these cars as close to emission free as possible. Imagine, recharging your Telsa sports car from solar energy captured from your own rooftop!
Another factor not to be overlooked is the impact the increased demand for high grade precious metals will have on the planet. Previous AP blogs have highlighted the impact on the people and environments of third world mineral rich nations. The battery technology used in these vehicles is based on and uses the same elements as laptop batteries and it will be unavoidable that more demand on these elements will create more exploitation. The recent reports on the mineral deposits of Afghanistan are another example of the real sociopolitical impacts of technology on the  world. While there is massive potential of this new technology for unimagined good, we must still be vigilant of the hidden costs within.

By keeping pressure on more socially and environmentally responsible mining and resource extraction, by promoting energy independence, by insisting on cleaner coal technology, we will be able to jump start our flux capacitors back to the future.

-Micah Nisito

When natural disaster strikes, wherever it may be in the world, it tugs at our heart strings. No matter what, when humanity is hurting, we all suffer. The latest disaster to plague our world is the devastating flooding in Pakistan, where three weeks of intense flooding has left 20 million homeless and 1,500 have lost their lives. It was just announced today that the flood waters will likely continue to wreak havoc until at least the end of August. This tragedy, of course strikes home to us, as our Ethletic sneakers are stitched in a Fair Trade factory in Pakistan. We were deeply worried and alarmed when we first heard of the flooding a few weeks ago. We were a tad relieved to find out our factory was in a less affected area and all our workers and their families as well as their community, are safe and doing well. However, contact with them has been intermittent due to countrywide communication issues.

Our workers, on top of receiving Fair Trade wages, have a Fair Trade Welfare Society Fund set up. This fund provides them with a multitude of community benefits such as life insurance and a community health clinic, but has also been used to help with disaster relief. After the devastating 2005 Pakistani Earthquake, the Fair Trade Welfare Society used their funding to donate to disaster relief. This year they are looking to the same to help the flood victims in their region and country. Autonomie Project and our UK partners are also gathering the necessary means to send a donation for flood relief.

It is times like these that we realize supporting Fair Trade and communities such as those in our factory in Pakistan are at an utmost importance. This is not intended to increase our sales in any way but to shed light on the fact that supporting these workers and their factory is more important now than ever before. Purchasing Ethletics right now will double your impact by spending money where it really counts and is the most effective.  Fair Trade wages and the worker’s welfare fund are vital for the workers’ ability to improve their families as well as their community. There is no better time to support Fair Trade products coming out of Pakistan as well as others in the regions affected.

If you would also like to donate directly to the relief efforts, it is easy as pie! Just text the word “SWAT” to 50555 and a $10 donation will go to UNHCR Pakistan Flood Relief Effort. Every $10 helps provide tents and emergency aid. If you would like to donate more than $10 or to a specific charity, check out this list of relief efforts currently taking donations.

-Team AP

As little as a decade ago if someone offered you the opportunity to earn a green college degree you may have questioned the rationale of rewarding thousands of dollars in tuition and endless hours of study time with a moldy diploma.

Ten eco-consciously lived years later you undoubtedly can ascertain that a green college degree is one that is environmentally aware, a degree  that will likely lead to career opportunities in one of the numerous areas of the still expanding Green Industry.  (You have sure gotten smart in the past ten years, you should reward yourself with a crunchy taco ASAP!)

Tragedies such as the most recent oil spill in the Gulf, serve to highlight urgency of creating a more sustainable way of living worldwide.  This urgency is being met by colleges and universities across the country by a noticeable spike in the number and variety of green majors which are being offered  over the past few years. While many of these institutions have been offering eco-minded courses for decades, these new additions to the curriculum are of note because they broaden the scope of where this eco knowledge can be considered applicable.

If you thought that environmental careers were limited to Scientist or can collector, you have been sadly misinformed. Eco-friendly degrees and the career paths they inspire can be as varying and unique as your more run of the mill degrees. (Philosophy majors, I am looking at you. Sorry that they have not discovered a way to make droning on and on  more eco-friendly, for the time being you are certified ROTM- “Run of the mill” for you folks playing at home. I kid, you need to philosophize how to take a joke! Zing.)

Environmental Law Degrees: If you have always fantasized about objecting to a hostile witness or having a side bar with an intense no-nonsense judge, you do not have to flush your aspirations down the dream toilet just because of your  environmental ethics. Green Lawyers are in high demand due to increases in environmental policies and the arguments that these new policies can sometimes entail. “You want the green…you can’t handle the green!” You may want to practice yelling that, just in case.

Environmental Engineering Degrees
: If you plan on coasting through college on your beer pong skills and good looks alone this complex degree is not for you. The  intricate learning process  of becoming an Environmental Engineer includes fully understanding the intricacies of  numerous environmental factors, including :water and air pollution control, waste disposal, recycling public health concerns and comprehending the environmental impact of future construction projects. This focus of study is offered at prestigious schools such as MIT, which does not stand for “May I Take… that test later?” Serious candidates need only apply. Don’t worry, I am sure a degree in Environmental Beer Chugging will come about eventually.

Environmental Health Science Degree
: If you, like Whitney Houston, are a firm believer that the children are the future you may be interested in pursuing a degree that helps you understand the role the environment plays in the health of humans. Your work will not only ensure that these mystery children in question live to see the future, but you will assist in the wellness of general public by making sure that their environment is one they can healthily thrive in.

Sustainable Business Degrees
: If your first words as a baby were, “Buy low, sell high!” you don’t have to squash your aspirations of being a true wheeler and dealer of the business world to leave your pesky environmentally conscious side appeased. Now you can learn how to manage business affairs with a mind for the environment and a knowledge of key sustainable principles that will help you run an ethical company that will leave you saying, “Buy used, sell sustainable!”

Countless other Green Majors are currently available or in the process of being developed. In 2007 Arizona State University introduced its School of Sustainability, which offers both Bachelors and Graduate degrees of Science and Art in the area of sustainability. Green Education is not limited to four-year degrees, many schools offer certificate programs, such as  Kalamazoo Valley Community College of Michigan which has a twenty-four week program that trains people in having the skills to operate wind turbines.

No matter what focus is chosen, green degrees allow students to prepare for not only their futures, but the future of the world- one in which the environment is no longer ignored or seen as inconsequential but is treated with the respect it deserves.

-Meghan Hurley

As the end of summer fast approaches, everyone is out enjoying the last few weeks. The month of August is filled with vacations, trips to the beach, and camping. We all start to feel the weight of the summer winding down and try to fit every last-minute of outdoor activity into August.  Although summer doesn’t officially end until mid-September, Labor Day marks the end of the summer relaxation period. This year, Labor Day, which is September 6th, marks another end date. It is the end to Global Exchange’s “We Want More from Our S’mores” campaign.

Global Exchange is using S’mores to draw attention to the child labor and slave labor issues surrounding the chocolate industry. I mean, who doesn’t like to indulge the chochlately goodness of a s’mores and why not do it while making a statement? In fact, we can’t think of a better way to shed light on the situation. The campaign encourages all to make Fair Trade s’mores throughout the summer and keep track of how many are devoured. Once you have created your Fair Trade treats, you will want to enjoy their deliciousness, register your s’mores online, sign the petition and submit them to Global Exchange! Global Exchange will then send the entire petition to Hershey’s Chocolate, in an effort to convince them to become Fair Trade.

The 3rd Annual campaign is trying their hardest to gain 1500 or more Fair Trade summer snacks. They are encouraging those to create them at home, summer cookouts, and of course while camping out. We think a Fair Trade S’more party would be a blast! To find Fair Trade chocolate look no further than great companies such as Equal Exchange, Sweet Earth Chocolate, and Divine, just to name a few. For more ideas of how to throw a Fair Trade s’more party or bbq, check out Global Exchange’s step by step guide.

Global Exchange is hoping for a bigger turn out in 2010 than previous years, so let’s make it happen!  Make your Fair Trade statement today, while satisfying your sweet tooth. And act fast, as the deadline for submissions is September 6th–only about a month away! Enjoy your last days of summer and join the Fair Trade movement today!

Wow! This summer’s heat and humidity has sure been oppressive. With reports this is the hottest summer in New England, we have definitely felt it around the AP office. With sweat dripping and fans roaring, we are constantly looking for a way to cool down.  A good friend of ours recently introduced us to the perfect thing! Our friend Jackie, who loves the culinary arts, found an amazing recipe online! Now we have all heard of mango salsa but how about watermelon? Watermelon, a delicious summer treat, always pulls off the cooling trick and when mixed with tomatoes is surprisingly delicious and refreshing. To beat the summer heat, try something a little unique and thirst-quenching. Thanks Jackie!

Organic Watermelon Salsa

Prep Time: About 10 Minutes

  • ½ Cup Chopped Organic Watermelon
  • ¼ Cup Chopped  Organic Tomato
  • 2 Tbs Chopped  Organic Red Onion
  • 1 Tbs Chopped Organic Jalapeno
  • 1 Tbs Chopped Organic Cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 Clove Organic Garlic, Minced
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Chop watermelon, tomato, and onion in small cubes. Finely mince garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. In a medium mixing bowl stir all ingredients, including spices together.  Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

There are many positive outcomes that come along with partaking in a vegetarian diet. Recently an article was published inNutrition Journal that approaches some of the psychological effects that differ between vegetarian and omnivorous diets. The article introduces a new study that has surfaced that presents a theory that vegetarians are happier than their meat-eating counterparts. This is exciting news, as this study will likely open the doors to further research and development of the effects of a vegetarian diet on mood stability, depression, stress and anxiety.

The study published was conducted on an American population of Seventh Day Adventists where the group was split 4:5, vegetarian to omnivore. The Seventh Day Adventists were chosen from two communities; Phoenix, Arizona and Santa Barbara, California, to participate in the study because the group was particularly homogeneous in their lifestyle choices and their exposure to external stimuli. The volunteers for this study could not participate if they were pregnant, lactating, been diagnosed with chronic diseases that affect mental health, or were regular users of mood-altering medications or supplements. The study consisted of three questionnaires. One of the questionnaires measured food frequency (FFQ), while the other two measured psychometric characteristics through the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) and the Profile of Mood States (POMS).

The variation between the two dietary groups was astonishing! Vegetarians scored lower on depression tests and their mood profiles were more positive than their omnivorous peers. Interestingly enough, the vegetarians studied had significantly lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are naturally found in fish. EPA and DHA are critical regulators of brain cell function and structure, and the study contradicts the belief that diets that are depleted or low in these omega-3 fatty acids can lead to impaired mood states.Overall, the results appeared that vegetarians are a happier population than omnivores!

The study of the psychological effects of vegetarian and vegan diets, particularly of the effects these dietary choices on moods, is a topic I hope will be researched further.  Please keep in mind that although the results of this study were substantial, all 138 of the Seventh Day Adventists have limited intake of processed food, as well as have high intakes of fruits and vegetables. The study is not aiming to dissuade the dietary intake of fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but simply explaining that plant sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are available. We are happy to see a study like this go underway, however, since it used such a small subset of the population, one religion/culture, we would love to see it expanded to a larger and more diverse population!

Whatever reason behind your dietary choices, I hope you’re eating food that leads you to happiness and a positive lifestyle. What you eat has a lot to with how your body will function and your overall moods, so treat your body well… Vegetarian or not.

-Hannah Bybee

  • Twitter: @autonomie

    • Facebook

    • Topics

    • Recent Posts

    • August 2010
      M T W T F S S
    • Archives