May 2011

This weekend the backyard BBQ season begins! With Memorial Day just around the corner, everyone is spending the next couple of days gathering the ingredients for the delicious cookouts that are about to go down. When we think of Memorial Day Weekend, two things come to mind BBQ and beer (of course besides honoring those who have given their lives serving the country). Now, just as any good American, we love to knock a few cold ones back, especially if they are organic.

About a year ago, we did an article on why buying organic beer is so important. During our research for that article, we quickly learned that conventional beers largely use hops that have been treated with pesticides. These pesticides not only seep into the soil and groundwater surrounding the farm, but they end up in your beer bottle, only to be swallowed and ingested by you.  This doesn’t sound too appealing, especially when you are trying to get your party on.

Luckily, there is another delicious choice out there: organic beer. And the best part is there aren’t just a few choices but many! We thought in honor of our all American holiday coming in just a few days, we would discuss a few of our favorite organic beers. So here is your Autonomie Project guide to Organic Beer! 

First up on our list is the wonderful small craft beer company based in Maine, Peak Organic. This delicious brewery only uses the finest of organic hops. Their beers are USDA organic certified and they offer great flavors including basic IPAs, ales, and interesting flavors including Pomegranate Ale and Espresso Ale.

We also love Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA. This awesome eco-friendly brewery is listed on the Top 15 Eco Friendly Breweries by USA Today. Not only is their beer organic, but they purchase carbon offsets and their packaging is made from recycled materials. They offer only a couple of options including an IPA, Chocolate Stout, and interesting single favorites such as Honey Basil Ale and Gingerbread Ale.

Going back to New England, Wolver’s Orgnic Brewing from Middlebury, Vermont provides some delicious organic brewskis.  Their yummy organic hops are actually grown right here in the US (many others use organic Hops from outside the country). Wolver’s not only provides tasty classic beers but they also have a line of organic ciders!

There are also several breweries that offer certain organic beers, but not all their beer is certified. One of our favorites is New Belgium Brewery which is worker owned and run on wind power. Although they currently offer only one organic beer, Mothership Wit Wheat Beer, according to emails we have exchanged with them, they plan to add more to their line in the near future. For other organic beers, look for North Coast Brewing Cru d’Or, Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager, and Lakefront Brewery’s Organic ESB.

For a full list of organic certified breweries and breweries who make some organic beers, check out this great list from Craft Beer. Happy Memorial Day and Cheers!!

With Memorial Day is just around the corner, Americans are ready to start up that grill again. The BBQ, or as we might say on the East Coast cookout, is an all American staple much like apple pie and Memorial Day itself.  Although, the holiday is technically during Spring, it ushers in the Summer BBQ season. But enjoying your grill action doesn’t have to come at the expense of the Earth. In fact, many aspects of the BBQ are harmful to your health as well as the environemnt.

The traditional charcoal BBQ is probably the most harmful of all.  Charcoal contains carcinogens and when ignited spew those, food, and air. Not only can they put harmful chemicals into the air, causing pollution, they can lead to certain forms of cancer.  The harmful chemicals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) can seep into your foods, which you then ingest. Canada has even taken steps to place charcoal on the Hazardous Products Act and packages must contain a warning label. Unfortunately, the US has yet to do so.

Now, as an American, I enjoy a good grilled vegetable or two, but at what risk to myself and the world? Is it worth it?

Luckily, there are a few solutions. If you have a charcoal grill, you can switch from traditional charcoal to all natural charcoal. There are a few good companies to choose from including Greenlink and Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Both these options do not use chemicals, coal, or fillers. Perhaps one of your best options is the Cowboy Charcoal Co which is sold at almost any hardware and food store (including under the Whole Foods 365 and Trader Joe’s brand, which means many Americans are using this without realizing it). Not only is this charcoal contain no chemicals or petroleum, they are made of  leftover wood from the furniture and construction industries, saving them from landfills.

Another factor which causes both pollution and potentially deadly chemicals to your meal is lighter fluid. Many people use lighter fluid to ignite their charcoal grills, just adding to the already harmful charcoal. That’s right, lighter fluid is wrought with volatile organic compounds, including the same stuff that makes up smog. Yes, you are putting the same nasty air that comes out of your tailpipe into your backyard air and food. Doesn’t sound appetizing does it?

Well at least there are options out there. When you are lighting your grill this weekend, skip the lighter fluid altogether. You can try and light the charcoal the good ol’ fashioned way or opt for a chimney charcoal starter. These are a low cost, easy, and eco friendly alternative to lighter fluid. You can find them at almost any hardware, grocery, or BBQ store and they run from $10-$20. Using these puppies will cut down on your environmental impact and have your grill inflamed in up to 15 minutes!

If you are ready to ditch that old charcoal grill entirely, there are wonderful green options out there. Probably, the most environmentally friendly alternative is a solar grill.  These amazing contraptions will run you about $200, but your pollution and health savings will be tenfold. Rumor has it, these grills don’t quite give your food the same smoky flavor as a traditional grill, but your clear conscious might make up for it. Plus, cooking using the power of the summer sun just sounds so futuristic and cool. If solar is still not in your realm, you can try a gas or electric grill, although they pollute for other obvious reasons.

Now that you are in the know on how to protect your lungs, food, and planet from being devastated by your Memorial Day cookout, get your green grill on and enjoy the sunshine!

April showers wash the roads clean in order for the month of May. May, of course, is National Bike Month.  For all of the avid cyclers, occasional bicyclists, or bike commuters this month is a celebration and will hopefully be used to bring awareness to the sport and lifestyle.  The month long celebration brings rides, races, tours, and culminates in a Bike to Work campaign. Every year National Bike Month has been growing, but this year it seems to be on fire.

Possibly due to the economy, rising gas costs, and the promotion of green living, bicyclists have risen almost to first class citizens. That’s a joke of course, but really the times are a’changin’. Cities around the country are adding bike lines and paths at a rapid pace. Even Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently saidBikers have as much right to the streets as anybody driving a car and I am concerned about [their safety].”  With a profile politician like LaHood on the side of bikers, it seems everything is looking up!

It’s not just the politicians, but new exciting bicycle sharing programs are finally popping up in the United States.  Bike sharing has been running quite well in world class cities such as Montreal and Amsterdam. Last fall we did a great article about the San Francisco Bay Area creating the very first US regional bike sharing program. They will begin the program within a year. We were even more excited to hear a program coming closer to home. Boston recently announced they will be implementing their own bike share initiative this July.  Their new system will be called the Hubway and will include 600 bicycles which will grow to 5,000 in the next few years. This is going to be a wonderful way to get around the city!

We can’t help but be inspired by the support the bicycle movement is receiving. It is wonderful to have people all over the country and in high places take the bicycle as a viable transportation option. If you haven’t already, bust out your helmets and celebrate your freedom on your bike! For ideas on how to celebrate, check the League of American Bicyclists Bike Month Guide.

Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family. You are laughing, and sharing the day’s events. You help yourself to a serving of mashed potatoes. You descend back into a comfortable sitting position and pick up your fork. Just as the cold steel of the fork touches your mouth, the door slams open and a wave of armed men enter the dining room. Their presence alone is startling, and has frightened you and the rest of your family into a position of powerlessness. They tell you your living room is now the site for a cattle-farm and that although, one day you may resume the meal together, today is not that day.

This scenario is not my first choice for a daydream, but parallel circumstances have been a harsh reality for people, all over the world.

Years of abuse and overproduction of the Earth’s resources has contributed to global climate change, the displacement of indigenous people and wildlife, and has triggered a humanitarian panic to amend our industrial indiscretions.

The Amazon Rainforest often referred to as “the lungs of our planet,” has graciously provided the vital service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things, and has demanded nothing in return.

We are civilized people. No well-mannered men would accept a gift of such generous implications without the returned expression of appreciation. As a token of our humble thanks, this is what we offered the Rainforest:

Since 1970, we have destroyed over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest and displaced or killed countless amounts of indigenous wildlife and people in the process.


Cheeseburgers, furniture, oil, and pharmaceuticals.

And now, in the wake of the new climate change resolution trend, it seem our destruction of billions of acres of rainforest is no longer a sufficient offering. In this new era of environmental responsibility, action has just begun for the reconciliation of our misdeeds. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions in effect come with the same cost for the indigenous life.

Deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the total global carbon emissions. We have been taught to equate carbon emissions with global warming, and global warming with a man-caused process that must be stopped, for the sake of our planet.

In a nutshell: by clearing out billions of acres of rainforest for the timber industries, cattle farming, oil, soybean, and paper industries, we have caused irreparable damage to the planet and the life indigenous to the rainforest. Now it is a race to right the wrongs of the human race, and where there is a demand, there is possibility for economic gain. Ironically and tragically, the indigenous people and wildlife who have forcibly suffered in the name of economic gain are once again being made to bare the burden, only this time it is under the guise of going green.

REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a United Nations collaborative program. According to their website:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”

This simply means that governments, companies or forest owners in the South would be paid for keeping forests standing instead of cutting them down. The main system of finance behind REDD is the carbon-market system. According the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Carbon Markets buy and sell permits to pollute called ‘allowances’ and ‘carbon credits.’ Carbon markets have two parts: emissions trading (also called ‘cap and trade’) and offsets. They are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They claim to solve the climate crisis but really allow polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. These multi-billion dollar trading mechanisms privatize and commodify the earth’s ability to keep its atmosphere balanced. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change opposes carbon markets.”

It is no surprise that even the implementation of a socially responsible system is designed for a few key players to make a very large profit. Reuters, an international news agency, reported that an Interpol environmental crime official warned that organized crime syndicates are eyeing the REDD forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative new opportunity for fraud, at a conference in Indonesia. Exploitation was and is inevitable, but what does it mean for the people? Aside from marginalized financial gain, will REDD be a solution to the displacement of indigenous life?

I wish I could say yes.

Previous conservation efforts such as: Dumoga-Bone National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Korup National Park in Cameroon have taught us that the indigenous people often lose more access to their land, and are stripped of their freedoms as governments and corporations implement strict regulations and guidelines, in order to uphold their new systems.

So who do we support?  We are constantly being told to go green and we want to do the right thing. We believe in making a difference in our environment and our world, but at what cost? On the other hand, were told not to trust big corporations; the driving forces behind much of these issues. And why should we?

What should we do?
Who can we believe?

The International Conference on indigenous people’s rights, alternatives and solutions to the climate crisis was held November 4-9 2010. in the Philippines. The conference was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network and the People’s Movement on Climate Change.

In their declaration of solidarity, this was said:

We believe that the root cause of the enormous problems we face today is the neoliberal global capitalist system, which puts profits before people and the planet. Central to this system is the expropriation and control of resources by multinational corporations, and dispossession and marginalization of small producers, workers, peasants, women and indigenous peoples.

It is true of the indigenous people of the rainforest, and it is true of you and me. Money is more valuable, globally, than human life. By no means am I suggesting that we fight capitalism or take a political stance one way or the other, but what I am promoting is the value of life above all.

Advocate for the indigenous people of the rainforest. If you have the opportunity to buy goods from a small local company that sells environmentally friendly and fair trade products, give them your money instead of circulating it back into the industries that wreak havoc on humanity.

Most importantly, be informed. Know where your financial support ends up, and what you can do to ensure the quality of life for others, that you get to enjoy yourself.

-Jaclyn Bauman

This Saturday, May 14th is World Fair Trade Day!! What does that mean, you ask? Well, the Second Sunday in May, that doesn’t fall on Mother’s Day is used to celebrate and raise awareness for Fair Trade.  Every year there is an overall theme, this year’s being “TRADE FOR PEOPLE – Fair Trade your world.”  This theme largely rests on the idea that there is a human factor to producing goods and the best way to support ethical working conditions is to be a consumer of fair trade goods.  There a number of great ways to celebrate World Fair Trade Day as well as all year long.

We at Autonomie Project hosted a World Fair Trade Day Tee Design Contest, where we asked artists to submit their best t-shirt design that portrays fair trade. We had a wonderful response and have come up with Top Three Finalists. We are asking everyone to go and vote for their favorite design. The one with the most votes by midnight on May 13th will be declared the winner on World Fair Trade Day and have their tee made by us! 25% of the profits of the shirt will be donated to Fair Trade Resource Network and Fair Trade Boston. Check it out today and go vote!

But if you didn’t get a chance to be a part of our contest, check out these other ways to celebrate fair trade! Happy World Fair Trade Day!

Best Ways to Celebrate World Fair Trade Day 

1) Events: All around the world, local communities will be putting on fun events this weekend ranging from Fair Trade breakfasts to wine tastings and even trunk shows.  Some great events include the Fair Trade USA’s Wake up the World Brunch in San Francisco, Boulder, CO will be putting on a Fair Trade Crawl, and Los Angeles will be hosting a Fair Trade Bazaar. Autonomie will be celebrating World Fair Trade Day in style at two bike rides 3,000 miles apart. We will be handing out free fair trade goodies along the stops for both Boston’s Fair Trade Bike Ride and Berkeley’s Tour de Fair.   For events in your neck of the woods, check out this handy World Fair Trade Day Events Search.

2) Host a Breakfast: Fair Trade USA is promoting the idea of supporting fair trade and starting with breakfast. If you can’t make it or afford to attend their brunch, why not host your own? You can put together a fair trade breakfast using only fair trade ingredients for your family, friends, co-workers, or even classmates. This is a great way to challenge your cooking skills, eat delicious foods, and educated those you love. Almost every ingredient for breakfast can be found fair trade including coffee and tea. For ideas and recipes check out Fair Trade USA’s Wake Up the World website.

3) Toast to Fair Trade:  Since it is a Saturday, why not toast your glass to the efforts of fair trade with some fair trade liquor! Luckily there is now fair trade wine and vodka on the market. There are a few bars out there that serve these ethical indulgences, but if you can’t find a place near you, stay in! Get a group of friends together, fill your glasses with fair trade spirits and toast to World Fair Trade Day! We have a great fair trade and organic cocktail recipe backlog.

4) Get Artsy: If you have little one’s in your life, use this as a teaching moment. You can ask them to sit down and create a drawing that best describes fair trade to them. Here’s your chance to explain what fair trade is and why it is

important to celebrate it. You can then help them create some adorable art while learning a life lesson!

3) Purchase Fair Trade: In honor of World Fair Trade Day, why not keep it simple? The best way to celebrate fair trade is to support it! There are now hundreds of fair trade products including clothing, sugar, coffee, flowers, and even vodka. You can show your solidarity with the workers of the world by making sure every purchase you make this Saturday is in fact fair trade.

One of our favorite past times as a kid was making breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day! It was also so fun to whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles early Sunday morning and serve Mom while in bed. In honor of all Mothers out there, we have put together a great recipe for Vegan Orange-Berry Pancakes. This recipe is perfect for your Mother’s Day breakfast. brunch, even dinner! Hey, they will even work all year round. Bust out your mixing bowls and get baking! Mom can’t wait forever.

Vegan Orange-Berry Pancakes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes     Cook Time: 10 Minutes

1 1/2 Cups Organic All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Soy Milk
1/3 Cup Organic Orange Juice
2 Tbsp Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (or sweetner of your choice)
1 Tbsp Finely Chopped Orange Zest
2 tsp Organic Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Cups Organic Mixed Berries (Srawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries etc)
2 Tbsp Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (or sweetner of your choice)
For best results, chop up the berries and mix in the cane juice an hour before making the pancakes and chill in the fridge. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, cane juice, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the soy milk, orange juice, and zest.  Fold in the wet and dry ingredients until they are mixed. Heat either an electric grill or heat a pre-oiled skillet on medium heat. Ladle out a spoonful of batter into the skillet or grill. Cook on one side until bubbles appear on top and then flip. Cook for 1-2 minutes more. Pour berry sauce over the pancakes and serve!

This weekend is Mother’s Day and what a perfect time to show your love and admiration for the lady who gave birth to you.  There are many ways to give thanks to your Mother, but we at AP put together a great list of ways to show your love for your Mom and the world. You can support fair trade, thus supporting the worker’s of the word and their communities and celebrate your Mom. In honor of upcoming World Fair Trade Day we have put together a little Fair Trade Mother’s Day Guide. Needless to say, Mom would be proud!

Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gifts

1) Flowers:  I know my Mom absolutely loves receiving flowers on any day, but especially if they come with high standards. You can purchase fair trade flowers at a number of retailers including Whole Foods, 1-800 Flowers, FTD Flowers, and One World Flowers.  All these websites and retailers carry beautiful fair trade certified roses. Also, Organic Style offers organic, eco friendly, locally grown, and Fair Labor Practices & Community Benefits™ Certified flowers.

2) Chocolates: Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Luckily there are wonderful fair trade goodies out there to praise your lovely Mother. Sweet Earth Chocolates has an adorable heart shaped gift box of fair trade chocolates.  Sjaak‘s also makes great gift packs of fair trade truffles and chocolates, plus they have vegan varieties as well.

3)  Gifts: There are terrific fair trade gifts out there ranging from jewelry to dishware to even art. You can find adorable gifts at great fair trade retailers such as Ten Thousand VillagesGlobal Exchange, and World of Good.  We especially love Global Exchange’ssuggestions for Mother’s Day which include gift baskets, hand bags, and yummy soaps!

4) Coffee & Tea: Most Mom’s love coffee or tea or both! A perfect gift for a Mom who loves either is a basket full of fair trade coffees and teas. Look to several companies such as Equal ExchangeNumi, and Grounds for Change for some ideas.  If you’d rather spend some quality time with her, why not take her to one of your favorite fair trade coffee or tea shops for an afternoon time out.

5) The New Mom: If you have a sister, friend, or cousin who is a brand new Mom, think about getting her some fair trade spa items to relax. Global Exchange has some terrific baskets filled with fair trade soaps and lotions to soothe anyone’s soul. You can also get her some fair trade goodies for her newborn, which could include fair trade baby clothes or toys.

6) Gifts That Keep Giving: Instead of spending money on a specific gift, you may want to make a donation in your Mother’s name. There are a number of fair trade organizations you can donate to such as the Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Resource Network, or World Fair Trade Organization.  Give your Mother the gift that keeps on giving across the world.

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