September 2011

In case you haven’t heard, October is Fair Trade! Every year the Fair Trade community raises awareness and celebrates all that is Fair Trade for the entire month of October. This year, Autonomie is excited about celebrating one of our key ethical missions: Fair Trade and we have some exciting promotions coming up!

This year, we wanted to bring Fair Trade back to its roots: the workers, the farmers, and the artisans. Who are they and how does your purchases really affect them? That’s why for the entire month of October we will be featuring stories on the producers for our products including the sneakers, flip flops, and Little Green Radical children’s wear. Each of the four weeks of October, we will feature a specific producer story for one of these products on our blog. We will also be posting pictures of the producers on our Facebook during the entire week.

But here is where you come in! When you see either the blog or album posted to our Facebook, share our post with your friends by choosing the “Share” option under our post! We will choose one lucky winner who shares the producer’s stories to win one of the featured products of that week. You read that right, free Fair Trade goodies for spreading the word.

We will also be holding a special sale for the entire week on the products the producer of the week created such as onesies, children’s dresses, flip flops, or sneakers! Not only will you have a chance to see how your AP purchases make an impact on Fair Trade, but also score some great discounted Fair Trade threads and possibly win a free AP Fair Trade item!

Also be on the lookout for exciting new Fair Trade and ethical products launching mid month. You will want to be the first to know about these.

Be sure to keep up to date on our blog and Facebook all month long to learn how Autonomie and your purchases affect the lives of the workers who produce them. After all, Fair Trade is all about giving them autonomy.

The weather has changed. It’s as simple as that!  Touches of red, orange, and yellow light the leaves and there is a crisp to the air. Fall has arrived and the coolness begins, the craving of comfort food begins.  Along with a chill to the air and comfort food, Fall ushers in a plethora of delicious fruits and veggies. Perhaps one of the most nutritious and traditional of all Fall vegetables is the sweet potato. It is ranked highest on the list of healthy veggies and is incredibly versatile.  So to bring in the Fall, try our delectable recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato Soup.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4-5 Large Organic Sweet Potatoes, peeled
  • 1 Can of Organic Chickpeas
  • 1 Medium Organic Onion
  • 2 Organic Carrots, sliced
  • 5 Cloves of Organic Garlic, minced
  • 1 Can of Organic Coconut Milk
  • 6 Cups of Organic Vegetable Juice
  • 3 Tbsp of Organic Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Organic Olive Oil
  • 1/3 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1/3 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and place in warm water. Set aside. Chop the onion, garlic, and carrots. In large pot cook the onions and garlic with olive oil for about 5 minutes, do not let them brown.  Add in the vegetable broth,  potatoes, and chickpeas. Add all the spices and bring to a boil. Let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes. At this point stir in the coconut milk and maple syrup. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Stir before serving, at this point the sweet potatoes should have a mushed and the soup blended.

Coming of age in the early 2000s, I have a strong image of Bill Clinton engrained in my mind: Arkansas-dwelling, saxophone-playing, and, most importantly for the purposes of this article, barbecue-eating. We’ve all seen the infamous McDonald’s SNL skit spoofing Clinton’s questionable dietary choices. But, through it all, his cheeseburger habits were almost endearing; Clinton was a relatable president, and the fact that he would occasionally chow down on meaty, cheesy, fatty, and greasy dishes was a flaw not worth dwelling on for most American people. In fact, it made him “just like us,” a man of the people.

But that notion shifted last year when Clinton’s physician informed him that something had to change: his health was on the line. The doctor suggested a vegan diet for the 65-year old former president, who very publicly underwent a quadruple bypass surgery in 2004.

“We now have 25 years of evidence,” Clinton said in a 2010 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, referring to how a plant-based diet is known to help lower cholesterol. “I’ll become part of this experiment. I’ll see if I can become one of those that can have a self-clearing mechanism.”

Clinton is a prominent example of a dietary and lifestyle movement whose advantages are proving monumental for many. The Vegetarian Resource Group states that about 3% of American adults are vegetarian, and 1% consider themselves vegan while abstaining from meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, and honey.

But, while tremendously vast, the health benefits of this diet are frequently overshadowed by the activism – often extreme – depicted in the mainstream media. The ethical issues surrounding a meat-free lifestyle are of incalculable importance; not only does the diet save the brutal deaths of countless animals, but it also helps to protect the environment from dangerous toxins and chemicals released during the slaughter and transportation processes of meat production.

But what makes Clinton’s transition to a vegan diet so important to the public awareness is the fact that he is not pelting fur coats with paint or even protesting in the streets. Not to say that activism isn’t a part of the vegan lifestyle, but it’s not the only part; the bitter reality is that animal activism still leaves a nasty taste in the mouths of many. Clinton’s decision to go veg demonstrates the equally important counterpart of activism: health.

The evidence of the benefits of this diet has gone from minimal to overwhelming. Studies now show that vegans maintain a healthier weight than those on more traditional low-fat diets. Additionally, soy proteins can help to inhibit tumor growth, lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of blood clots, and diminish bone loss. The subsequent results are lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Clinton’s goal was to lose weight in time for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding last July.

“I lost 24 pounds,” Clinton said. “I wanted to lose a little weight, but I never dreamed this would happen.”

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the vegan diet could be somehow separated from its stereotypes. I wonder if the health benefits of a plant-based diet could ever reach the mainstream. I wonder when a meat-free diet will be considered obesity and poor health’s biggest enemy.

There are a lot of variables surrounding veganism and its future, but one thing’s for sure: I am beyond ecstatic to see Bill Clinton, a man of the American people, drinking almond milk and eating lettuce wraps.

-Jessica Nicholson

Rumors swirling the debut of the iPhone 5 have been circulating for the past several months and as a current iPhone user, I am tempted, like most others, to get my hands on one.  Smartphones, particularly the iPhone have become an aspect of everyday life for many in America.  But at what cost? In recent reports and some articles published by AP and the likes, reveal that there are many costs that come with the iPhone. 

The problem starts with minerals.  In order to make your smartphone to work as seamlessly as we all love, they are manufactured with three basic minerals: tin, tantulum, and tungsten. This sounds normal, but here’s the kicker. Those minerals are often mined in the conflict ridden Democratic Republic of Congo. Serious labor and human rights violations are occurring in order to mine these minerals, including civil war and flat out murder.

But unfortunately in the life of the iPhone the violations dont’ stop there.  Apple has recently been accused of terrible labor issues surrounding the manufacturing of their products including computers, iPads, and iPhones. Some of these issues include overworked employees, suicide of employees, and even child labor. 

Those things alone are enough to make the consumer ill, but on top of labor issues, smartphones are made with materials that are far less than environmentally friendly.  Recent reports have come out showing Apple factories release harmful toxins into water, soil, and the air we breathe, not to mention all the plastic that is used to create the phones in the first place.

And just when you think you can’t handle the guilt anymore, Grist recently ran an article about an iPhone game that “will make you ashamed of your iPhone.”  The game features four main levels: mining materials in the Congo, including mistreating workers and adding to civil war, saving possible suicide victims at manufacturing plants in China, drumming up excitement among consumers, and throwing out the iPhone and adding to wastefulness. Check out a preview for this game below.

Don’t think we’ve singled out the iPhone alone. All brands smartphones and other electronics used mined minerals from the Congo and many have similar labor and environmental issues in the manufacturing process. So what is the answer? Well, obviously giving up the convenience of said electronics would eliminate all these violations in the supply chain.  But in our modern world, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. One step is to use your current model as long as possible, do you really need to upgrade to the iPhone 5 just because Apple said it is better? Another way to go would be to purchase used and refurbished phones, thus saving them from landfills and not adding to new manufacturing. Lastly, be sure to recycle your phone when it is finally ready to upgrade.

So to answer our opening question, yes we all should be ashamed of our iPhones. And the only way to change it, is to let Apple and other smartphone manufactures we won’t stand for it! Write them today and stop purchasing their brand new items!

Vegan Seafood? What the heck is that?!  Well, beyond being an oxymoron, vegan seafood is popping up all over the place. For years you could find wheat gluten spiced with seaweed formed into a lump and titled “vegetarian fish” at many a restaurant. But a new company challenges the idea of vegetarian seafood, Sophie’s Kitchen.  According to their website, they began their company due to seafood allergies that plagued they founder’s daughter, Sophie and the environmental impact of the seafood industry. Together they created an interesting new substitute for those who love seafood, but don’t partake: whether they be vegan, environmentally aware, or deathly allergic. 

They offer an amazing range including vegan shrimp, prawns, fish cutlets, squid, and calamari. All the products are based with the Elephant Yam Root, which has been used in Asia for centuries. High in fiber the Elephant Yam Root, or Konjac, gives the “seafood” a low calorie count and plenty of flavor.  So how do these products taste, you ask? We just had to find out for ourselves.

We honestly couldn’t decide which one to try, but finally decided on the Fried Calamari.  The calamari is already breaded and just needs a pop in the oven or deep fryer!  We promptly returned home and followed the instructions on the box. Between the two of us, one has been vegan for over a decade and never tried calamari, where the other is a vegan sophomore and at one point in time loved regular calamari.  Needless to say, we both definitely enjoyed the vegan calamari. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty close to the real thing: chewy and a little fishy. Not sure if we would eat it all the time, but it would make a great appetizer on special occassions!

Needless to say it was a winner in our book! Although the concept is, well, nothing short of strange, the execution is great. Plus you can’t beat the price! A box will only run you about $3.99-%5.99 depending on the store. Since our foray into vegan calamari, we have also tried the Vegan Fish Filets while on recent camping trip. We have to say those were mind blowingly delectable! Not a fan of fish before going vegan, these were even better than the real thing. We shared our treats with omnivore family members and the concesus was the same: they thought it tasted real (although some agreed it was more like chicken than fish)!

We highly recommend you try these delicious, unique oxymorons! Honestly, we can’t wait to try the prawns and shrimp. They are available at Whole Foods and natural health food stores around the country. Dig in and let us know what you think!

It is now officially September and it is back to the books! By now most universities are back in session or are beginning next week.  As you start your Fall Semester, you may be looking for a way to get involved in your school. Did you know there is a Fair Trade University movement? We knew about Fair Trade Towns (both Boston and San Francisco are one), but Fair Trade Universities are a super exciting new way to spread Fair Trade.

The first Fair Trade University in the US was the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh in 2008. Since then, many campuses are working to make their University a Fair Trade haven. What does it take to become a Fair Trade University? A committee must formed, the school must be selling Fair Trade products, Fair Trade products must be served at internal functions, a Fair Trade Policy must be instated, and a commitment to Fair Trade education. Easy enough, right?

If your University doesn’t have an active committee yet, start one! Fair Trade Towns & Universities site have a lot of great info to helo you get started, including a Student Action Guide and Intro Guide.  Also, if you are near Philadelphia, this year is the very first Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference next weekend.  Start this semester off right and get your Fair Trade education on! Good luck.

Your grill is all fired up, or maybe you’ve browsed the paper for all the great sales, or your family car is packed with camping equipment in preparation for this holiday weekend.  All this excitement is leading up to the official send off to summer: Labor Day Weekend.  Everybody gears up to send off summer with a bang through parties, vacations, and super sales. One last weekend to go swimming or camping before the Fall weather settles in.

But isn’t this weekend supposed to be about something else? Oh that’s right: it’s Labor Day! But what exactly is Labor Day? With all these summer distractions, we seem to have forgotten what this holiday weekend is supposed to represent. Labor Day is meant to honor the labor unions and movement in general. This seems to have been forgotten behind all of the hooplah of drinking and shopping. It is even more important to pay attention to in this political climate where the union and worker’s rights have suddenly become the enemy of the far right.

The true story of how Labor Day came to be is far more exciting than any party you might attend this weekend, or at least to us history nerds.  The very first Labor Day was created in 1885 by Central Labor Union in New York, but became an official holiday in 1894 by Grover Cleveland.  The holiday was established less to honor the workers than to pacify the labor unions who were in a heated battle with the US Government.

Basically Cleveland created the holiday in order to ease tensions created during the Pullman Strike, which was a nationwide railroad strike that halted train travel beginning in the Chicago area.  This being the days before cars and airplanes, the train was the main mode of transportation. Imagine the entire airline industry going on strike today. Anyway, there were serious wage reductions and the workers fought back in 27 states. Everything raged out of control when strikers and sympathizing protesters set fire and the US Marshalls were called in. Unfortunately, everything spiraled even further out of control with the US soldiers killing several striking workers. You read that correctly, the government murdering it’s citizens.

And here is where Cleveland stepped in. In 1894, he made it his priority to reconcile with the Labor Union Movement. He instituted a national holiday in order to honor the labor unions and workers around the world.  It was originally mean to only be a day to honor them, a description or the original celebration included a parade that would celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” Somehow a century later it had evolved into another consumer driven party.

But that doesn’t mean you have to ignore what Labor Day really stands for. As we mentioned, we often forget the sacrifices those who came before us have made.  Especially when the economy is suffering and the some in power have made a vendetta in breaking down the unions, the unions that so many died to create.  Maybe this weekend, try to fit in a little labor right’s history or attend a local parade. Or at least, think of those who sacrificed their lives so you could be treated fairly in your workplace. They are the reason you have Monday off and can kick back while drinking a brewski as the summer ends.

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