October 2010


It is election season and as election day fast approaches, candidates are bringing out the big guns!  This is the time when the mud really gets slinging and the outrageous attack ads get double play. For myself, this is the worst time in politics and a time to shut out the chatter and focus on the issues that matter most.  With a majority Democrat Congress and a Democrat President, you would think that energy and environmental policy would take the front seat. However, this summer, environmentalists and people concerned with our current energy policy were saddened to see that no climate bills would be passed this year. Furthermore, it felt as if this might be the last chance for any sort of new environmental policy for a while, as it is projected Republicans will gain seats in Congress this November.

Even though the environment seems like a non-partisan issue, seeing as how it affects us all regardless of party lines, Republicans are notorious for lacking in real environmental change.  Making matters worse, a recent Wonk Report shows that all GOP senate candidates are not supporting environmental policy and the fact that they ALL question climate change science. Even candidates such as John McCain, who fought for climate policy during the Bush years, now fights against it.  The political climate seems to have turned it’s head to the environment. Polls are whatever you take them to be, but  a recent poll conducted in 23 states shows the majority of Americans support clean energy policy and would vote for a candidate who supports this. Yet the entire Republican party is against real climate . How can that be?

In a year where we had a six month oil spill and a few coal mines collapses, it is surprising there is less focus on sustainable energy policy. These events should be a giant distress call, however, they have been pushed to the back burner while candidates discuss talking points needed to win elections. In a normal election year, something as cataclysmic as a six month oil spill would be on every politicians tongue.  But it seems this year is proving different. The importance of our environment has taken a huge hit. If polls are suggesting right, the Republicans who question environmental destruction and who think focusing on offshore drilling will be the answer to our problem, will be flooding the House and the Senate; thus killing environmental policy. We don’t always take party sides, but we are fearful of any politician who is not willing to act on providing this country with adequate sustainable energy policy.

So, if this “takeover” occurs we are surely looking at a regression in policy when it comes to the environment. Which is incredibly unfortunate, given the issues our country and planet face in the near future. At some point, the oil will run out and if we don’t have a backup plan quickly we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world. While other countries are improving solar and wind technology and trying to decrease pollution, we are looking for ways to continue to squeeze the Earth of the last few oil reserves. This is just delaying the inevitable and when the oil finally does dry up, we will have to look to foreign powers to bail us out.

What can we do? When you are choosing a candidate next week, make sure you know their stance on the environment and do not vote for someone who does not support environmental policy.  After the election, continue to pressure your local representatives and senators to act on the environment and encourage them to support sustainable policy. And if we cannot get our government to act on these major issues, consider volunteering or donating to non profits who will take action on our environment. We have the power to change the future of our environment, so make informed decisions and get active!

-Gina Williams

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Halloween is now only days away and everyone is preparing for Saturday’s festivities.  Since, October is officially Fair Trade Month and since Halloween is on the last day of the month, we think it is a perfect opportunity to celebrate both.  This year we suggest you hand out Fair Trade chocolates as Halloween treats! Not only will you be supporting Fair Trade and the farmers who produce the chocolate, but you will be educating your community on Fair Trade.

When you drop a piece of candy with the Fair Trade label into a child’s pillow case, you are spreading the Fair Trade message. Suppose that child take home his goodies for his parents to check over, they will see the symbol. If they don’t know what the Fair Trade symbol is, hopefully they will look it up. Or maybe the child will ask their parents what exactly the symbol means. Either way, the act of giving Fair Trade Halloween treats will get the conversation started and families talking about fair trade values.

On top of spreading the message during the spooky holiday, purchasing Fair Trade chocolate treats is of utmost importance, considering the plight of the conventional chocolate laborer.  There have been reports of slave labor, child labor, safety hazards, and low wages in the chocolate industry, including market giants such as Hershey’s. By not purchasing conventional chocolate and handing out Fair Trade chocolates, you can support good labor and boycott abusive companies.

So where do you get these tasty treats? There are a few companies that offer small chocolates to hand out, perfect for trick or treating. These include Equal ExchangeSjaak’s, and Dagoba. These cute little chocolates, especially those from Sjaak’s are perfectly made for handing out on Halloween night. Also, Global Exchange offers this handy Fair Trade Trick-or-Treat Action Kit. The kit includes 40 Equal Exchange minis to hand out, informational Fair Trade cards, an eco-friendly trick-or-treat bag, and a “Fair Trade is Boo-tiful” poster.  You can still order this kit and receive it in time for the holiday if you order in the next two days.

Remember, take advantage of a fun and festival holiday to spread the Fair Trade message to your communities! Enjoy the last few days of Fair Trade Month and have a Happy Halloween!!

 

Further, and further, proof that California politics is a dazzlingly misleading house of horrifying mirrors: Proposition 23, which suspends State Law AB 32 (requiring greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020) until California’s unemployment drops to 5.5% or less for four consecutive years, is hardly a California Proposition.  When the vast majority of financial backers supporting a proposition are out-of-state corporations, it’s basically laughable that such a bill would be considered to be in the best interests of said state.

What’s more, the largest supporters are, of course, oil companies or those with vested oil interests: Valero and Tesoro, Marathon Oil, the Adam Smith Foundation and the Koch Brothers, from San Antonio, Houston, Wichita and Smithville, Missouri respectively.  That’s just part of the list.  Particularly nefarious are those accursed Koch Brothers, enemies of all things even a smidgen right and good; please read this exhaustively revealing New Yorker article for more.  Also, KQED put together a nifty Google map marking the locations of all major Prop 23 financial supporters and opponents around the States; you’ll notice that the vast majority of opponents are native Californian organizations.  Eureka!

And while the mud gets slung back and forth over the various impacts of 23, from statewide job loss/gain to economic impact on taxpayers to the future of green technology development, there are sound sources that are wading through the muck and exposing it for the scam that it is without even trying. The U.C. Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment has released an enlightened report outlining all possible impacts of 23 on California’s present hurdles and future goals in setting a national standard for environmentally friendly practices.  Most importantly, the report gives an in-depth explanation of AB 32 as its core, without which Prop 23 wouldn’t exist.

And although the Governator isn’t known to have the most effective environmental track record in California’s history, Schwarzenegger must be given some kudos for throwing his weight behind the defeat of 23, as the signing of AB 32 was a defining moment for his office.  Having recently returned from climate change talks in China, Arnold seems inspired and personally committed to his stance, even hosting a fundraising dinner at his home.  Of course, California usually responds to star power in political situations, even when the Hollywood celebrity and their own governor are one and the same.

Thus far, the close majority of Californians are not letting the oil-soaked wool being pulled down their faces, as the LA Times reports.  But the margin is slim, and as the weeks draw down to voting time the Prop 23 circus will only grow in fervor and deceptiveness.  Lest it be forgotten in the wake of TV ads and hearsay, information is the only defense against mania and hype; do the research and you will not be deceived on election day!

-Jeremy Pearson

The creepy, crawly and spooky fill the streets on Halloween night, but alongside them are young trick-or-treaters.  Trick-or-treating has become a favorite among American families, partly because of the costumes and holiday, but mostly because of the candy. If you are raising a vegan family, this can prove a huge problem. Even if you don’t believe in the act of trick-or-treating yourself, you do not want your child to feel left out, or even worse: resent you. We have many friends who are raising their children vegan and have compiled some great tips on how to survive a non-vegan Halloween.

1) Vegan Candy: Even though we would love to suggest that you hand out nuts or raisins, truth is: the neighborhood will avoid your house and possibly your treats will go to waste and be thrown out. So we suggest keeping your kiddies inside and handing out vegan treats to the neighborhood. Your children can have fun dressing up and handing out candy to the kids (as long as you have even better treat bags stashed for them to receive at the end of the night). You can get them excited by wearing costumes themselves and playing a costume guessing game with the kids that do end up on your doorstep. There are several great brands of vegan candy such as Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate Minis, Go Max Go vegan candy bars, or Allison’s Gourmet vegan caramels. There are also a number of mainstream candies that are “vegan by default” such as Airheads and Chick-o-sticks. For a full list of vegan candies, check out this VegNews article.

2) Go Candy-less: In case you want to skip the candy or would rather give out something inedible, we suggest handing out stickers. Kids love stickers and it is a better alternative to nuts or raisins! You can give out Halloween-themed stickers that you can purchase almost anywhere during October. If you would like to spread the message of being kind to animals, you could order these cute PETA stickers. They come with cute sayings and animals, packed with friendly messages such as “Be Bunny’s Honey” and “I’m Not a Nugget.” PETA also just released these great horror themed vegan buttons, our favorite is the vampire one stating “Don’t Suck, Go Vegan.” If you would rather not blatantly promote animal rights you could also hand out other popular items such as Silly Banz, Light Bracelets, or any other small toy children can enjoy.

3) Throw a Party: Instead of trick-or-treating, suggest throwing a costume party to your  children instead.  This way, you can provide the treats and make Halloween complete for your entire family. Use the list above for vegan candy suggestions, and you can also bake some tasty vegan treats such as Pumpkin Cupcakes or Cookies. For more vegan recipes, look no further than our vegan recipe archive.  Throwing your own party can ensure your child gets the full holiday experience and you don’t have to worry about non-vegan treats being served. If your children get invited to another Halloween party, be sure to call ahead and make a vegan alternative to bring along. Check this list out for more party planning ideas.

4) Trick-or Treat Vegan Style: If you still want your children to have an authentic trick-or-treating Halloween, be sure to only frequent vegan households. How do you know where you can get vegan treats? A new website has just been launched entitled No Trick Treats, which allows vegan families to register what goodies they will be handing out. The information is then compiled into a map which will show whether a family is serving vegan, organic, raw, non-food and/or other diet specifics. The website is very new, but hopefully more families will be adding soon. If you are giving out vegan snacks, please take the time to register on the site so people know to come to you! If you can’t find many homes in your area on this site, consider talking with your neighbors ahead of time and even dropping off vegan candy to be given to your children when you knock on the door.

 

Yasir Saddiqe can’t stand or walk. He hasn’t been able to since contracting polio at the age of three, but despite his disability, he worked as a tailor’s apprentice for 18 months after graduating. His customers appreciated his work, as the garments were always high quality and completed quickly. His family and customers all agreed, Yasir has great talent for tailoring.

Now at age 21, Yasir decided it’s time he open his own tailor shop. During his apprenticeship, he earned Rs. (Pakistani Rupee) 50-60, which is about $0.58 to $0.70, per Shalwar Kameez, a loose local trouser-shirt combination. If he opened his own shop, he figured he would stitch 3 or 4 suits a day and sell for Rs. 250 each. After the cost of electricity, rent, and fabric, his earnings would be around Rs. 125 ($1.45), which would be double his previous income.

To get him started, Yasir’s family purchased a used sewing machine for Rs. 13000 ($151.35). However, Yasir needed more funding to actually open the shop. His 60-year old father, Mohammad Saddiqe, earned only the minimum monthly wage of Rs. 6000 as a contract sneaker worker, and has not only Yasir to support, but three other sons and four daughters as well.

Normally situations like Yasir’s would end up hopeless because although there is a minimum wage set by the government in Pakistan, workers are often paid less and therefore struggle to provide for their families. However, Mohammad works for Talon Sports, a leading manufacturer of sports goods in Sialkot, Pakistan. Talon is also the manufacturer of Autonomie Project’s sneaker line, Ethletic. Certified by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 2002, the fair trade premium of Talon products are invested in projects that support the empowerment and social development of workers.

The Saddiqe family requested a loan from Talon, and in June the loan committee paid for a second hand hem-making machine and loaned Yasir Rs. 25000 to open his tailor shop! Yasir was now practically set to open his shop.  However, just as the loan was approved, a doctor from a local hospital called Yasir to Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, some 2.5 hours away by car. His left knee needed to be re-set. The Lahore hospital charged him Rs. 30000.

Because Talon provides health coverage for its workers and their family, Yasir’s charges were taken care of by the Talon Fair Trade Welfare Society. His follow up costs, which total around Rs. 20000, would also be covered.

Yasir returned home after ten days with half his left leg in a cast. He currently passes time by watching TV on an old computer since he has to stay in bed for at least two months. After that, he can finally open his shop for business. The loan committee has postponed repayment of course, until he is well enough to start his shop.

Considering the fate he has to wrestle with, it is an enormous relief that Talon and Autonomie Project could help make his life a little easier.

-Michelle Thai

October is Fair Trade Month and Autonomie Project is celebrating in number of ways! Our Little Green RadicalsTM collection is in the process of becoming certified through Fair Trade USA’s apparel certification. Our workers have had training in Fair Trade ethics and are just awaiting the factory audit. We are really excited about this process! In honor of the month long celebration all our Little Green RadicalsTM children’s clothing is on sale for 15% off! You can also enter to win a free Fair Trade and organic bib by following Fair Trade USA on Twitter.  Lastly, a blog Gina wrote for Fair Trade USA has been published on their blog discussing how to spread the movement of Fair Trade beyond Fair Trade Month. It is re-posted below. Thanks for celebrating Fair Trade Month with us!

Real Family Values: Raising Your Family on Fair Trade

As cliché as it is, children are our future. There is no denying it. What we teach our children now will directly affect the future world. Living by example and showing our children positive family values is crucial to our society. For us, and for fellow conscious consumers, that includes Fair Trade. When it comes to family values many people would not immediately think of Fair Trade, but the truth is that educating our youth on ethics is absolutely essential for instilling in future generations the knowledge and values to create the change we all hope to seek in the world.

As part of the Autonomie Project, a Fair Trade, Eco-friendly, and Vegan fashion and footwear company, we are very aware of the impact our choices have on the world. As conscious consumers ourselves, we were frustrated by the lack of ethical options that were still friendly to our wallets. So we created the Autonomie Project, where our code of ethics puts people, the planet, and the animals above all else. As a company, these three criteria are vital for how we source our products.

20090919_00-41-38We created our company in hopes to provide these easy, sustainable choices to the market while harnessing the power of business and commerce to support disadvantaged producers that typically lack access to the global marketplace. We currently sell an extensive line of Fair Trade & organic baby and children’s clothing, called Little Green RadicalsTM, including shirts, sweatshirts, bibs, and dresses. Dressing your child from head to foot in Fair Trade clothing is a way to make an impact on the communities in which the garments were produced, as well as educate your child on how the impact of their choices can be felt by people all over the world.

Our children’s clothing is produced in a non-profit rehabilitation center in India, where a workforce that is normally dismissed from society is readily employed. The largely female worker population receives a fair wage and benefits, such as room, board and healthcare, which provides stability for these workers and their families to help effectively raise their community out of poverty. By purchasing Fair Trade products for our children, we not only s

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upporting this positive ripple effect on these communities, but we are setting a clear model for our future generations to follow and grow. Together we can raise and inspire a new generation who thinks beyond themselves and beyond our borders towards making our world a better place for all.

We find it absolutely essential that the ideals and goals of Fair Trade, sustainability and social justice are passed on to future generations. With a sizeable assortment of Fair Trade items currently on the market, from rice and coffee to clothing and sports balls, it is easier than ever to make ethical purchases that have a positive impact on our earth. Making these smart choices as conscious customers provides a model for our children. It may seem like buying one Fair Trade t-shirt is a minor thing, but setting these examples for your children early in their life makes a huge impression. We need to pass on positive and ethical ideas and choices so that the next generation can create better, more meaningful products and make even better decisions than our own.

-Gina Williams and Team AP

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