November 2010

Starting tomorrow at Sunset, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins. Holidays are a time to spend with family and reflect, as well as for religious teachings.  They are also a perfect time for education and information about environmentalism. The Festival of Lights is a wonderful time to promote the Green lifestyle and there are many easy ways to do so. Last year, the Daily Green posted a great piece on the reasons Hanukkah is Green. They spoke with Rabbis Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center and he explained the three levels of wisdom in Hanukkah’s teachings that are relevant to the Green movement:

  • *The Talmud’s legend about using one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs: a reminder to conserve resources.
  • *The vision of the prophet Zechariah (read on Hanukkah), in which the Temple Menorah is viewed as a living being, flanked by two olive trees feeding oil into it, and uniting the worlds of nature and humanity.
  • *The memory that a community of “the powerless” can overcome a great empire. ‘Now we face great oil and coal empires, and if people feel helpless they should be inspired,’ says Waskow.

Hanukkah and other holidays like it are wonderful teaching tools to spread the important message of the holidays. We have some easy suggestions on how to green your Hanukkah this year!

1) Decorations: Although traditionally Hanukkah is blue, it is easy to decorate for the holiday using Green! Heck, they even make sustainable wood dreidels! On top of sustainable dreidels, you can also find organic and fair trade flowers. In fact, Organic Style, an online store of organic and eco-friendly flowers and gifts, even has an organic blue-themed Hanukkah bouquet!

Recycled Pipe Menorah from Notschlock

2) Recycled Menorahs: There seems to be a whole host of recycle Hanukkah themed items this year, but the plethora of recycled menorahs takes the cake! Online many repurposed and recycled menorahs can be found including some made out of recycled white oak, recycled glassrecycled LED lighting, and even bicycle chain. Even though all these materials are fascinating, the one we find most interesting is made out of pipe stock.  Surprisingly, it is as pleasing to the eye as it is pleasing to the Earth.

3) Organic Candles: Since you are going for an eco-friendly menorah, make sure you top it off with sustainable candles. There are many companies who make organic candles and you can also purchase soy, tree oil or palm oil candles. These candles are made from renewable sources, unlike conventional candles that are made from a petroleum base.

4) Organic & Vegan Foods: Remember to purchase all organic, fair trade, or local for all your ingredients this year! Sustainable food can have a huge impact. You can also serve vegetarian and vegan dishes rather than traditional items, as meat and dairy production is terrible on the environment. We have a couple of great vegan Hanukkah recipes including vegan latkes and matzo ball soup.  Also check out the Jewish Vegetarians of North America’s helpful recipe list.

5) Responsible Gifts: For great green gifts, there are a number of sources and ideas!  You can always make gifts out of materials you have around the house. This always makes for a “gift from the heart.” But if you are like most people, you simply do not have the time. There are tons of great eco-friendly gifts out there to find. Check out  this great gift guide: 100+ Green Gift Guide and these 100 green websites to shop for gifts. Or for something a little different considering having a tree planted in your loved ones name and help out the Earth!  Remember also to purchase or make recycled wrapping paper and gift cards!

The week of Thanksgiving is finally here! We have been posting great vegan recipes all month and are so excited for the delicious holiday in a few days. Today we post our last vegan Thanksgiving recipe for this year, and it is a great one!  We thought we would save this delectable garnish. This quick and easy recipe will have your vegan and non vegan guests mouth’s watering and sure beats that canned stuff you used to serve!  Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

Organic Cranberry Sauce

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

1 Bag Organic Whole Cranberries

1/3 Cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice
1/4 Cup Fresh Organic Orange Juice
~1 Tbsp Organic Orange Zest or to taste
Boil the bag of cranberries until they are soft. Strain out the water and put the cranberries back on the stove. Mix in the sugar. With a grater, grate fresh orange peel into the mixture to add zest. Squeeze the juice from the orange you used from the peel. Heat the mixture, but do not boil. The mixture should mush together. You may need to add more cane juice or orange zest  according to your taste. Cool in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Saturday, November 20th is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Haven’t heard of it? It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the grocery stores are packed with loads of people stocking their cupboard and refrigerators with the necessary ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner.  Even though you shopping list may be long, the holidays are a time to give thanks, and this is a great time to spread the message of fair trade. When we brew coffee or boil some rice, we often do not think about the farmers and producers of these items. Some of these workers are not properly taken care of and endure harsh conditions to be sure you have the food on your table. But there are companies out there that are conscious of this and take extra steps to ensure the workers are treated, paid, and given benefits fairly. This year we can be sure and give thanks to the workers and companies who are being responsible. You can do this by supporting fair trade during the holidays.

There are many items you can purchase fair trade to make sure you give thanks to the fair trade movement, responsible companies, and of course the farmers and producers. You can create a wonderful fair trade holiday dinner from start to finish. We have put together a few suggestions to help you shop this weekend and make sure your Thanksgiving is a fair one!

1) Settings: The first step in entertaining is to set the table. The great thing about this year is that countless items are now available fair trade including table settings. Ten Thousand Villages has a colorful and great assortment of table cloths and runners, many with fall colors. Ten Thousand Villages has a ton of locations throughout the US and an online store. You will also find wonderful fair trade napkins, dish sets, serving trays, and silverware. Ten Thousand Villages carries many of these items. You can also find them at a local fair trade store or other online stores such as Fair Trade Marketplace, Global Exchange and World of Good.

2) Decorations: One of Thanksgiving’s many traditions is the centerpiece. You would be surprised to find out that many items that create a centerpiece can be purchased fair trade. Fair trade flowers are available at many locations online and at Whole Foods markets. You can also find fair trade certified candles and incense to make your home feel cozy and smell delicious! A number of vases, baskets, and candle holders can be purchased at the sites mentioned above: Ten Thousand VillagesFair Trade MarketplaceGlobal Exchangeand World of Good.

3) The Meal: Obviously, the main feature of the holiday is the dinner. We are happy to report you can find many of your ingredients with a fair trade certified symbol including olive oil, cocoa, sugar,rice, and even spices. You can also find many fruits including bananas and oranges certified. Many mainstream supermarkets carry fair trade items these days but you can be sure and find them at local natural food stores, co-ops, fair trade stores, and Whole Foods.

4) Wine & Spirits: Dinner wouldn’t be complete without a glass of wine or a cocktail. Luckily there is now fair trade wine which comes in many varieties as well as fair trade vodka.  There are also some great mixers which come certified included Maine Root which makes natural fair trade sodas such as ginger ale and lemon lime. You can serve fair trade for both your drinking guests and the ones who abstain!

5) After Dinner: After your tummies are filled with tons of fair trade foods, there is nothing better than relaxing with a warm cup of coffee or tea. Luckily, there are countless companies that provide fair trade certified coffee and tea including Equal Exchange, Grounds for Change, and Dean’s Beans. Your guests will thank you for serving such high quality and high conscious after dinner drinks!

6) Recreation: Another great holiday tradition is football! Not only do people love to watch it, but some love to play it as well. It is a wonderful bonding family activity and this year you can even have a fair trade football! Impress your family this year with a socially conscious and certified football. If football really isn’t your activity, Fair Trade sports offers plenty of other sportsballs including soccer balls, basketballs, and even rugby balls!

Thanksgiving is upon us once more and the holiday provides with a day to give thanks, spend quality time with loved ones, and of course, rest.  The day is meant to teach the all-powerful message to give thanks for all that we have. Even with all the tough times our country is facing, we have plenty to be thankful for. Perhaps, the single thing we all can be thankful for next week and everyday is our Earth. The Earth provides us with life and nourishment, as well as a pretty nice place to live. Unfortunately, as a species we haven’t been so thankful for her in recent centuries. As humans continue to pump the world with pollution and imminent extreme climate change is on the horizon, what better time to stop and give thanks to the Earth. One of the great ways to give our mother thanks is to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle. If you have not started implementing these changes to your day-to-day, you can start by greening your holidays.

Last year we posted a helpful blog that provided suggestions for an Ethical Holiday, which included purchasing fair trade and vegan, as well as cutting down your travel and recycling. This year we wanted to focus on a few simple ways you can throw a truly green Thanksgiving dinner at your household. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful and requires a lot of planning, but if you are the host, you can be sure you take the necessary steps to giving an eco-friendly dinner. 2010 is the year to give our world its proper rest and thanks.

5 Simple Ways to Green Thanksgiving Dinner

1) Purchase Local and Always Organic: We know you hear it a thousand times from us but purchasing local and organic foods has a huge impact on the environment and your health. Conventional foods are covered with harmful pesticides that seep into water supplies, harm wildlife, and end up on your plate. You can avoid this by purchasing all organic this year. As far as fruits and vegetables, almost every type is offered organic. On top of fruits and vegetables, a whole host of other items needed for dinner are made organic, including bread, wine, margarine, olive oil, beer and nuts. Whenever possible, please also try to purchase local items, thus simultaneously supporting your community and cutting down on emissions from shipping food all over the world. Farmer’s markets, co-ops, natural food stores, and even Whole Foods are great resources for both organic and local food.

2) Re-think the Turkey: Most Americans love to consume turkey during the holidays, however, factory farmed turkeys, which most people buy, are incredibly harmful to the environment as well as cruel to the animals. Environmental issues include soil erosion and water pollution, just to name a few. In fact, 10 billion pounds of manure are generated by turkey farms in 33 states, and much of it ends up in our drinking water. Luckily there are alternatives! You can skip the meat this year and serve only side dishes or purchase a mock meat product such as Tofurkey. We have a large holiday-themed vegan recipe backlog to choose from, but also check out this list from Gentle Thanksgiving. We also encourage you to consider adopting or sponsoring a turkey through Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey project and save the life of a rescued bird.

3) Consume Less Energy: This tip may seem overly simple but the truth is it can really help! With all the cooking and preparation, the energy you use will soar, as well as your bill. This year, make a couple of conservation moves to reduce the amount of energy you consume. Cook many dishes together in your oven so it is not on for hours and hours, use a slow cooker or microwave (we can’t back the taste) since they use less energy, make sure you use the correct-sized pots in order to maximize the energy used, and wash all dishes via dishwasher, as it conserves water. Another great idea is if your climate allows, host your dinner outside, cutting down the use of lights, heat/AC, television, and stereos. You could also encourage your guests to entertain themselves outside with lawn games or possibly a game of football. These are creative and interactive ideas that will cut your energy and facilitate community.

4) Re-Use, Re-Use, Re-Use: A house full of guests create a sink full of dishes and it may seem easier to use paper or plastic when serving your loved ones. But using these items is not so friendly to the environment. You might as well impress your family with a nice set of reusable dishes and silverware or your nicest set of china. But don’t stop with dishes: cut out paper towels, napkins, invitations and place cards. You can use cloth for napkins and towels and recycle junk mail or newspapers to make place cards and invitations. If every household in the US cut out one package of paper napkins 1 million trees could be saved! For more ideas on how to host a paperless Thanksgiving, look no further than this list of tips by Planet Green.

5) Know Your Portions: Waste is an issue for the United States and Thanksgiving can be a wasteful holiday. According to the New York Times, America wastes about 27% of our food per year and 2% ends up in landfills. Although many people love their Thanksgiving leftovers, not everyone remembers to eat them before they go bad. You can be sure and reduce your leftovers by properly planning how much to cook. According to Use Less Stuff , the average person-to-food ratio should be as follows: Main Course (Tofurkey)- 1 pound; stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans- 1/4 pound each; cranberry sauce-3 tbsp; and pie-1/8 of a 9 inch pie. By using this model you can be sure to cook an accurate amount for your guests without going overboard. If you do have leftovers you cannot eat, consider donating them to a local homeless shelter.

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching we thought we would publish our favorite holiday recipes. We are counting down the days until our biggest vegan feast of the year and want you to be in on the delicious foods. We have a stock pile of traditional recipes perfect for your Thanksgiving feast, with a vegan twist. Check out our backlog of yummy vegan dishes and try out our favorite vegan sweet potato pie.

Organic Vegan Sweet Potato Pie

2 Cups Organic Sweet Potatoes, peeled
1 Cup Organic Soy Milk
1/2 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp Organic Earth Balance
2 Tbsp Organic Molasses
1 1/2 tsp Organic Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Organic Nutmeg

Pie Crust (or purchase an uncooked vegan crust from a store)
2 Cups Organic Unbleached Flour
1 tsp of Salt
2/3 Cup, plus 1 Tbsp of Soy Margarine (we suggest Earth Balance)
1/4 Cup Ice Water (more may be needed)

Peel and half the sweet potatoes and boil in a saucepan until soft. Mash the potatoes with as if you were making mashed potatoes and add in the Earth Balance and soy milk. Add all other ingredients together until smooth. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you are making the pic crust from scratch, begin by combining the flour and salt. Blend in 2/3 cup soy margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Add in the water until mixture starts to hold together (you may not need all the water or you may need more-play it by ear!). Next roll out the crust with a rolling-pin (or in times of need a washed wine bottle can substitute). Place the crust in a 9 inch pan and use your fingers to make even patterns in the dough. Add the filling to the crust and bake for 50 minutes to an hour.

American holidays are wrapped with tradition, from the foods we eat to the decorations and even our activities.  Nothing is more traditionally American than Thanksgiving. The holiday is meant to bring all together and to give thanks for everything in our lives. But let’s face it, most Americans focus on the feast, which consists of traditional fall foods including sweet potatoes, cranberries, walnuts, and apples. However, the center of all these foods for most Americans is the turkey. Unfortunately, the turkey industry is nothing to be so thankful for.

In the US, 72 million turkeys are slaughtered for holiday meals! And these turkeys endure serious pain and suffering. A whole host of suffering is put upon turkeys including painful de-beaking, overcrowding, and over anti-biotic injecting. Honestly, this is not what I would consider an American tradition.  Fortunately, there is something you can do about it! Instead of purchasing a turkey for your table, you can adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary! The program rescues thousands of turkeys that would have ended up on the dinner table, and finds stable and loving homes.  People will property and room farm animals adopt these intelligent and caring animals for the rest of their lives. If you have room, consider adopting a turkey today. If you can not take on raising a rescued turkey, please consider sponsoring a turkey. With a donation of $30 you can sponsor one of the rescued turkeys that live on the Farm Sanctuary.

This year, you can make a difference and save a turkey’s life. Trust us, they will be thankful for your choice. For more information of the turkey industry and Farm Sanctuary‘s Adopt-A-Turkey Project take a look at this eye-opening video:

When I think about graduating in two years and moving back home to San Jose, California, I think about how much I’ll miss being able to walk everywhere in Boston and using such convenient public transportation. Last week, however, I heard some very exciting news about a bike sharing program coming to my hometown!

Next year, the San Francisco Bay Area will be launching the country’s first regional bike sharing program! It’s intended to get drivers out of their cars and onto bikes—improving the quality of our health and air as well as decreasing our environmental impact.

The program sounds relatively easy so far. Users would register at a station or ahead of time online for a bike share account. They would unlock any of the program’s bikes with a credit card or pre-paid smart card, and ride it to any station within the network. San Francisco will start off with 500 bikes – gradually increasing to 2,750 – and 50 stations around Market Street. Within two years, thousands of bikes will be available at Caltrain stations in San Jose, Redwood City, Mountain View, and Palo Alto.

When it comes to billing, users will be charged by how long they check out the bike—unless the trip is less than half an hour, in which case the trip would be totally free of charge. For tourists or out-of-town people like me, the program accommodates those of us that would like to use the bikes for just a day or two.

We’ll have to wait until next year to see how well it works, but other places that have a bike-share program have already seen major success. Paris’s bike-sharing program, Vélib, generated more than 25 million bike trips in its first year. In Montreal, the one-year old program called Bixi has already counted three million trips (they reached two million trips just two months ago!). Gina of Autonomie Project actually travelled to Montreal over the summer, and she easily found that Bixi was the ultimate way to get around. “I found it more affordable than renting a car and far more convenient, as well as a great way to see the city,” she said.

The success of these bike share programs makes me hopeful for the one in San Francisco. Although I always enjoy visiting the city, I really dread driving and parking. Not including gas, a trip easily costs me an extra $20 in parking garage and meter expenses – and there was even this one time when I got a parking ticket.

Once this bike share program launches, I definitely plan on trying it out. It’ll save me money, give me some outdoor fun, save me from a headache, and help the environment.

-Michelle Thai

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