December 2011

It’s almost the New Year and time to ring it in! They say how you spend your New Year’s Eve is how you will spend the rest of the year. So if you want to welcome the new year right, ring it in with an ethical twist. Today we have a delicious organic and fair trade cocktail recipe complete with champagne. This recipe also works great for New Year’s Day brunches, as it is traditionally a morning drink. Not only will this recipe taste delicious to your guests, it will feel good going down. So start your year off right with an organic drink. Happy New Year!!

Organic Lemon Rose Bellini

4 oz Organic Champagne
1/2 oz Fair Trade Vodka
1 Tbsp Organic Lemon Sorbet
2 Organic Raspberries

You have many sources for organic champagne including Brut Nature Champagne and Proseccos. Check out this handy organic champagne guide for more choices. For Fair Trade vodka, we suggest you look for FAIR, made from Fair Trade certified quinoa. You should be able to find organic raspberries at your local farmer’s market, natural foods store, or grocery store. These locations should also carry organic lemon sorbet. We suggest using Natural Choice Foods Organic Lemon Sorbet. Now to make the drink…

In a cocktail shaker, add the vodka and sorbet. Shake these ingredients thoroughly and then add in the champagne. Stir, do not shake after adding champagne. Strain into a champagne flute and top with raspberries. Repeat for each drink served.

With two days left until Christmas, the procrastinators of the world are coming out in full force. Perhaps you were too busy to go shopping, maybe you couldn’t decide what to get, or you might have just been plain putting it off.  Last minute gifts usually means long lines, fights, crowds and all at large chain stores. There will be very few choices left and you’ll end up purchasing whatever you can, rather than a meaningful gift. We understand this position and have been in it many a year. We also understand that giving something environmentally friendly is important to many of us. Just because you procrastinated, doesn’t mean you have to skip on eco gifts. So we have put together a helpful guide on some great last-minute eco-friendly gifts. Good luck out there!

Eco-friendly Starter Kit: You’re low on time, but you want to get your loved one a gift that introduces them to using eco-friendly products. This should be a pretty fast and easy gift to put together. You can run down to your local store, Whole Foods, or even Supermarket, grab a bucket or basket and purchase some eco cleaning such as soaps, detergent, recyclable paper towels, shampoo etc. You may even be able to snag a helpful tip book at your local co-op or Whole Foods.

Travel Mugs: Disposable coffee cups are terrible for the environment, yet super convenient, as many people still use them. However, for the coffee, tea, or cocoa lovers on your list, get them a responsibly made travel mug. You should be able to find some at any store or cafe. Just be sure not to purchase any that are made of plastic. For a better treat, add some coffee or tea to their gift!

Organic Goodie Basket: Places like Whole Foods and supermarkets are open late and are chock full of organic goodies. Grab a basket and fill it with all sorts of organic items. You can do a fruit and nut basket, add some organic chocolate and crackers. Better yet, if you happen to have a Farmer’s Market in the next couple of days, purchase some fruit from local farms or some gift items like organic kettle corn.

Eco Bath Set: Another easy and quick gift for your loved ones that love to pamper themselves. You can find many eco friendly bath goodies, such as fancy soaps, bath salts, natural sponges, and of course bubble bath. Just go to the natural foods section or bath products section of most stores. Of course if you are going to a local natural foods store or even Whole Foods, you’ll likely only find eco bath items!

Organic & Local Wine, Beer, & Spirits: Most people appreciate a nice bottle of wine, a frosty bottle of beer, or a warm spirit to enjoy on Christmas Eve or day. An easy eco fix is to purchase organic versions. You have a ton of options in the wine department, as there are many wineries going organic or at least using organic grapes. Here is a small list of organic wines, but you should be able to locate many others at your local store, just be sure to read the label.  For beer, we recommend you go with your local micro-breweries, but there are also great organic beer companies such as Bison Brewery or Peak Organics.  Spirits may be a little harder to find a few days before Christmas, however, you may be able to find some of the larger organic vodkas and rums at a large liquor store. Look for Square One Vodka, Greenbar Collective, Rain Vodka, and Crusoe Rum. These gifts will definitely add a little kick to the holiday spirit!

Organic Homemade Sweets: When you just can’t think of anything to buy, make some gifts of your own, just be sure to get all organic ingredients! Many of your favorite holiday recipes can be made organic and even vegan! Everything from the cocoa to the sugar can be purchased organic and in bulk(that way you cut down on waste).  Try out some of our great organic and vegan holiday recipes or try one of your own.

Gift Cards: When in doubt, you can always purchase a gift card to an eco-friendly store or restaurant. There are plenty online stores, that you can just print or email your gift card. This gives you up until Christmas morning to purchase a gift! Try Autonomie Project, eco clothing & footwear, Greenheart, fair trade & eco gifts, and even Pangea Vegan Shop. Also, check out Pristine Planet for a whole host of eco gift cards.  If you have a local green or organic restaurant, consider stopping in and purchasing a gift certificate. For a list of Green Certified restaurants check here.

Donation Gifts: Another easy and quick online purchase, is to make a donation in your loved ones name. You can do everything from planting a tree to giving school supplies. You can even sponsor a rescued animal or adopt an endangered species. See our guide to Gifts that Keep on Giving for a great list of different donation options.

Sufganiyot, the Hebrew name for jelly donuts eaten during the Jewish holiday of  Hanukkah. These tasty treats are extremely popular in Israel, but are eaten around the world in many a Jewish home.  Traditionally these jelly donuts, along with many other fried foods, are eaten to symbolize the oil which miraculously burned in Jerusalem. They are delightful treat to enjoy during the Festival of Lights or throughout the year. The best part, is these donuts are animal free and can be served to you health conscious and vegan guests.  Happy Hanukkah!

Vegan Jelly Donuts (Sufganiyot)

1 25 gram (1 ounce) package of Active Dry Yeast
3 Cups & 1 Tbsp Organic Flour
1/4 Cup of Organic Earth Balance
1/4 Cup & 1 Tbsp of Organic Evaporated Cane Juice
1 1/4 Cups Water
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Organic Seedless Raspberry Jam
2 Cups of Frying Oil (Canola recommended)

Organic Powdered Sugar for dusting

Mix the active dry yeast, 1 tsp of evaporated cane juice, and 1 cup of warm water in a small bowl. Let this stand for at least 5 minutes, it will begin to foam and smell yeasty. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients. Add in the remaining 1/4 Cup of water and stir until dough-like. Melt the Earth Balance and add to this mixture. Knead the mixture together, adding flour or water as needed. Cover bowl and let the dough rise for about 1.5 hours.

Roll out the dough and cut round circles. Depending on how large you want the donuts, you can use a 2 inch cookie cutter or just a glass. Set aside the rounds and hit a skillet with the canola oil on medium-high. Fry each round for about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown on each side. You will want to turn them occasionally. Once you remove them from the skillet, dust or roll them with powdered sugar on each side. Set aside to cool on a backing rack or plate. Once cooled, poke a small hole (a toothpick or skewer will help) in each donut. Inject raspberry jam with a pastry bag with the smallest tip. Warm them in the oven before serving.

There are only a few more shopping days until Christmas and time to buckle down and pick up those stocking stuffers! The holidays are a perfect time to celebrate fair trade, as it is a time for reflection and thanks.  Fair Trade is the epitome of what the holidays represent, so when you are picking up your stocking stuffers this year, why not make them fairly traded? You can feel good about your ethical decision and spread fair trade cheer throughout the land. There are number of great places to pick up Fair Trade goodies including your local fair trade store, Ten Thousand Villages, natural food stores, co-ops, and even Whole Foods. We have provided a quick list of some great ideas to use as stocking stuffers or even Hanukkah gifts!  So when you are out getting your last minute stocking stuffers, think fair trade!

Chocolates: This is probably the most readily available fair trade gift, even major supermarkets carry some fair trade chocolate. You can go for the big bars made by companies such as Alter Eco or Equal Exchange, or you can go the gourmet route such as Sjaak’s, who offer everything from peanut butter cups to truffles. Or better yet, how about some fair trade fudge, some of it’s even vegan friendly!

Mints: That’s right fair trade isn’t just for chocolate anymore! You can actually find fair trade mints Vermints.  These organic Canadian mints are made with  fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate in their flavoring. Keep your breathe socially conscious and minty fresh!

Homemade Goodies: If you can’t quite find what you are looking for in the sweets department, make your favorite recipe using fair trade ingredients! Some great ideas are Fair Trade Banana Bread made with fair trade bananas and sugar, or how about Fair Trade Chocolate Chip Cookies made with fair trade chocolate chips and sugar. Check out the Fairtrade Foundation’s recipe recommendations for great ideas.

Jewelry:  Another great fair trade item is jewelry. And as you know, you can never go wrong there. You can find anything from earrings to necklaces, and even rings. We love these Daphne bracelets made by displaces women in Uganda. Also, the bike enthusiast in us adores these recycled bike chain bracelets from Ten Thousand Villages. You can find a whole host of great stocking stuffers in beautiful jewelry from at Ten Thousand Villages and other fair trade shops.

Ornaments: Give them something to hang on the tree for next year. Flavours For Life has a wide variety of fair trade ornaments, including our favorite, the holiday gift bag that states “Shop Fair Trade.” Nothing like spreading a little fair trade message! Pristine Planet and Ten Thousand Villages also have great holiday ornaments.

Little Toys: For those youngsters on your list, go for the fun stuff! There isn’t a huge selection of fair trade toys and you aren’t going to find any fair trade legos any time soon (maybe!) but you can find a few sweet fair trade toys. Try Down to Earth Toys such as these cute veggie stuffed animals. For those musically inclined children, we love these wooden egg shakers made in Bali.

Autonomie: Our fair trade store is a one stop shop for great stocking stuffers and we just happen to be having a Holiday Moving Sale which includes some great deals on stocking stuffers. We have our new fair trade earrings and bracelets, made from recycled soda can tabs and bar codes. There are also matching soda can belts! But the best deal of all is our fabulous flip flips, made with FSC Certified sustainable rubber. They are currently on sale for $5.50 (regular $22). Also, if you are shopping for your other needs and spend up to $100 you receive a free stocking stuffer of your choice, including an Autonomie Gift Card.

Gift Card: Which brings us to our last fair trade stocking stuffer idea. The Gift Card. You seriously can’t go wrong here, letting someone pick out their own gift! There are a lot of great places to give an ethical gift card to, including Ten Thousand Villages, Autonomie Project, your local fair trade store, and  Greenheart Shop. For a full list check the Fair Trade Federation.

The weather is certainly frightful and the only cure is to curl up in a blanket at relax with something warm to drink. When you are finished with your shopping and traveling, try cozying up with a hot glass of spiced apple cider. The holidays can be tense and stressful, but don’t let them get the better of you. Make sure you take a few moments to warm your soul, body, and RELAX! We have a special recipe for you that can be enjoyed quietly alone or served at your holiday party. You can serve with or without rum. Just remember, to put your feet up.

Organic Spiced Apple Cider

7 Cups of Organic Apple Cider
1/3 Cup Organic, Fair Trade Evaporated Cane Juice
1/2 Cup Organic Orange Juice
4 Organic, Fair Trade Cinnamon Sticks
1 Tbsp Whole Organic Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Whole Organic  Cloves
1 Tbsp Whole Organic  Allspice
Juice from one Organic Lemon
Orange and Lemon Peels for Zest
Organic, Fair Trade Cinnamon Sticks

1 Shot Organic Spiced Rum (optional)

In a large pot, warm the cider, lemon juice, orange juice on medium heat. Make sure not to boil the mixture. Add in the cane juice, while constantly stirring. Add all the spices, sans one cinnamon stick into a cheesecloth and tie off. Submerge the mixture into the cider and let simmer for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, peel the orange and lemon for a few pieces of zest. Remove the cheesecloth and set aside. If you are adding rum, put a shot into your mug and mix before garnishing. Garnish each glass with one cinnamon stick and a few zest peels of lemon and orange and serve warm!

Even though the holidays are about giving gifts, not every one wants them.  I find this commonplace in my family. Right after Thanksgiving, we start asking each other “What do you want for Christmas?” Besides the kids, who list off an endless amount of toys, books, and games, we are all a little stumped. It seems every year we end up telling each other, “We don’t need anything.” So what do you do? You could just skip the gift giving, but the holidays would lose their tradition, their glimmer. Well there are other ways to show the people closest to you, you care about them without getting them another useless item.

The best way is to “pay it forward.” One of the great lessons of the holidays is selflessness and giving. So this year, instead of giving someone another tie, sweater, or coffee mug, consider gifting something that truly gives back. There are a number of easy ways to do this, such as donating in someone’s honor to their favorite charity or signing them up for volunteer hours at a local non-profit. We have put together some great suggestions on gifts that keep on giving.

Sponsor An Animal: If you have any animal rights activists, vegans, or just plain animal lovers, this may be the perfect gift. Farm Sanctuary rescues farm animals and they offer an animal adoption gift for the holidays. You can choose specific animals to sponsor including Dandypants the rooster or Noel the goat or you can choose a type of animal including cows, turkeys, and pigs. If endangered species are more your thing, you can also adopt one from the World Wildlife Fund. You can choose to sponsor a snow leopard, tiger, panda, or even lemur! In fact, they offer over 100 species to adopt during the holidays. Plus, their adoption kits include photos, info, and even a stuffed animal!

Plant A Tree: An obvious easy way to do this, is to purchase a native tree in your area and plant it together with your recipient. Although a great idea, with the business of the holidays and winter, it is unlikely you may follow through with the actual planting. Instead, you could donate to one of the many non-profits planting trees around the world. Check out Trees for Change,  American Forests,  Friends of Trees, or even Oxfam. All of these organizations offer tree gifting. Most sponsorships are around $25 and up and all include a nice card to present to your loved one stating how many trees and where they will be planted in their name.

Save the Rainforest: From forest degradation to animal endangerment and to population removal: the rainforest is in serious trouble. But if you are thinking of ways to simultaneously help the rainforest and give a gift this season, look no further than the Rainforest Action Network. Although, you can sponsor planting more trees, there are also other areas to focus on including helping endangered species and human rights campaigns in the Amazon. Plus, with gifts over $20, your loved on will become a member of the Rainforest Action Network and receive the quarterly newsletter, keeping them involved all year long.

Help A Family: Speaking of the wonderful organization that is Oxfam, they have great gifts that keep on giving! They offer some seriously unique and great ways to donate in your recipient’s name. Some of the more interesting ones are providing a school meal, planting a vegetable garden, provide mosquito nets in malaria stricken ares, and providing art supplies or books.  You can even find gifts under $20 if your budget is small and in case you’re procrastinating, they even have an instant print for your gift card!

Provide Disaster Relief: There have been some serious natural disaster ravaging people in the last few years including earthquakes in Haiti, floods in Pakistan and Thailand, and tornadoes in the US. Now is the time to help out! There are a number of ways to do this from donating to great causes such as Doctors Without Borders. But you can also give to specific needs such as the American Red Cross Holiday Catalog which includes donating vaccines or emergency shelters or just to give where money is most urgent at the time. Also, the site Changing the Present has a number of great ways to help including sending blankets, building shelters, and providing medical supplies.

Protect the Environment: We don’t need to say it again, but our environment is in serious trouble and it’s a perfect time to get your loved one a gift in their honor. One great idea is a National Parks Pass, the donation will go to preserving our national parks and will make a nice gift to use all year!  But if you want to go beyond the US, there are a number of ways to do so including the Nature Conservancy which provides donation gifts of seed planting and coral reef protection. Also check out the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Green Gifts. They probably have the most choices out of any that include fighting BP to help aid the Gulf Coast wetlands, providing safe drinking water, and reviving the oceans.

End Climate Change: Protecting the environment starts with changing our habits. So this year, give the gift of investment. You can purchase carbon offsets for your loved ones from a number of sites, we recommend Native Energy.  Also, you can directly invest in suing polluters, promote green communities, and build green energy through the Natural Resources Defense Council. Clean Air Cool Planet also provides a number of donation options for cutting climate change from funding green energy research to training teachers and even campaigning.

These are just the tip of the ice burg as there are many more causes with great gift ideas out there. It can be hard to choose one organization, but try to think of what your recipient would want. What are their interests? What would they feel honored about helping? A great place to starts is the Changing the Present website. You can browse by subject, non-profit, price, or do a search of your own. Just remember, the holidays are about giving and this year keep the giving going into 2012.

Today is December 1st and the holiday season is now upon us. One of the great traditions of Christmas in the United States is the Christmas Card, where people send special holiday cards and updates to their loved ones near and far. The tradition actually began in England during the 19th Century and gained popularity on our side of the pond during the 20th Century.  Now living in the 21st Century, the use of snail mail and the waste of cards has slowed the Christmas Card mailings.  On top of this, many cards are made in China with questionable labor practices. However, there are ways to keep the Christmas Card dream alive and responsibly spread holiday cheer! Below we have outlined a few great ideas for ethical

E-Card: Aww the good ol’e e-card. This is probably the most environmentally friendly replacement for the traditional Christmas card. Plus there are so many great options, you can even send your own audio message.  You can even find great Hanukkah e-cards as well! All you have to do is gather you email addresses and hit send! Far more faster and environmentally responsible than purchasing physical cards.

Recycled: Even though e-cards may be easier in some respects, nothing quite beats the romanticism of receiving a card in the mail. When you go to purchase your cards, try to buy those made with recycled paper.  You can find many options online and even at your local store. Check out Cards with a Cause, recycled FSC certified cards that benefit charity.

Fair Trade: Believe it or not, there are fair trade holiday cards out there! A great source for fair trade cards is through Ten Thousand Villages, who have a wide variety of choices for the holidays. Another great place to look is your local fair trade store such as Global Exchange or try Cards from Africa, which benefits families affected by AIDS living in Rwanda.

Handmade: You can also purchase local handmade cards at Farmer’s Markets and street fairs in your area. If the weather is too chilly for that, try sites such as Etsy for unique handmade cards. It’s always great to support your local artisans, especially around the holidays.

Thrift: It may seem odd, but you would be surprised how many un-used holiday cards end up at thrift stores. You can find whole packs of them around the holidays! Also, some thrift stores normally carry bins of old un-used cards, perfect for the eco-responsible shopper. Plus you have the added bonus of finding some odd ones from the 70’s and 80’s, nothing beats vintage kitch!

Make Your Own: A fun holiday project for the family would be to make your own cards. You can use stamps, old Christmas cards, old wrapping paper, and just about anything you have laying around the house. There are some great ideas online on handmaking cards!

Photos: Another somewhat responsible way to go, is to print out a family or fun photo on your own printer. You can use recycled paper to do so! You can just print out your photo and slap a stamp on the back, as photos can be used as postcards and cost less than sending a card in an envelope. Plus this can be a fun and whacky way to update your loved ones on your family adventures of the year.

Recycle and Re-use the Cards You Receive:  After all the month of December is said and done and you have a pile of cards you’ve received, be sure not to just through them out. You have a few eco-friendly options including recycling them. But if you want to do something a little more fun, keep the cards around to make your own handmade cards next year. You can also use them to make a collage, ornaments, wrapping paper, or even gift boxes! Here are some other fantastic re-use ideas!

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