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People all over the world will be celebrating World Fair Trade Day on Saturday May 14th, and the team at Autonomie Project will proudly be among them.  To kick off the celebrations, we are hosting a World Fair Trade DayT-Shirt Design Contest in partnership with the Fair Trade Resource Network!

We are looking for a fresh new design to print on a new adult tee promoting Fair Trade. We will be accepting submissions starting today, April 1st, through May 1st.


All designs will be posted on our facebook page and our flickr account and YOU will have a chance to vote for your favorites! The winning artwork, which best displays the values of fair trade and that the voting public chooses, will be announced on Saturday May 14th, World Fair Trade Day!

The lucky designer will see their shirt go into production and be launched as part of Autonomie’s summer collection. They will of course receive a free tee for themselves, as well as a free gift card for more of AP’s hip Eco-friendly and fair trade products.

And, to take it one step further, 20% of the proceeds from the sale of the tee you designed will be donated to the Fair Trade Resource Network, an informational fair trade hub who focus on education and awareness.

Submissions and any questions should be directed to contest@autonomieproject.com. Start brainstorming now; your design could be our next top seller!

Last week we were happy to attend San Francisco’s first annual Green Film Festival!  About a month ago the festival organizers gave us a ring and ordered custom fair trade tees from our wholesale department. We were honored and pretty excited they would choose us to make their festival tees. But we were also excited to attend the festival. Due to us always working hard at Autonomie and with so many new products coming in for Spring, we could only make it to one film!

This was a difficult choice as the festival was stocked with tons of great environmental documentaries from all over the world. Almost every film on the list was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.  Many films were making their US or West Coast premiere, so we had a tough time choosing which film to attend. Titles included “They Came for the Gold, They Came for it All,” “In the Wake of the Flood,” and “Plato’s Cave,” just to name a few.

After some pondering, we finally decided on the film “Heavy Metal,” a submission from China which explored the issues of e-waste and documented people in China who have created their own “e-waste dismantling army.” It was going to be paired with the short “The Story of Electronics,” by the people who brought you the “The Story of Stuff.” Immediately following the film was the panel: E-Waste and Green Design. We were really looking forward to this panel, as it was going to be a discussion about the destruction caused by electronics and an exploration on ways to make the industry more sustainable.


So we hopped on the train and headed to the Embarcadero, but to our dismay, the film and panel had been cancelled. Apparently, the filmmakers were unable to make the trip from China. Luckily, one of our second choices was starting in only 15 minutes time. We decided to go see the movie “Soundtracker” with the short “The Coral Gardener.” Although initially disappointed about the cancellation of “Heavy Metal,” we were pleasantly surprised with our choice.

Before the film started, we made a pit stop to the cinema cafe, where we were delighted to find fair trade organic coffee as well as vegan cookies and vegan “sausages.” Well stocked on snacks and already in a good mood, we headed for our seats. The first film, “The Coral Gardener” was a quick eight minute short from the BBC about a passionate man working to replenish coral on the coast of Fiji. Corals are beginning to disappear from our seas due to coral bleaching caused by environmental stressors. There is a movement to grow healthy coral and re-plant them in hard hit areas.

The short was informative, inspiring, and made us want to get involved in the movement.  In fact, during the Q&A, we found out there is a whole organization: Corals For Conservation dedicated to this cause and they are always looking for volunteers. Snorkeling in tropical waters to help the Earth? We are there!  We also learned this short was made as a part of a BBC series on passionate people and may be turned into a full feature at some point. We will keep our eyes out for that!

The second, longer film: “Soundtracker” was actually a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Not only was it an interesting and largely ignored topic, but the cinematography and insight were truly a treat! The film follows Gordon Hempton, an Emmy award-winning sound recordist, as he travels through the Northwest on his search for the sounds of nature. Throughout the film you see Hempton attempt to record beautiful natural sounds, only to be interrupted by constant “noise pollution,” such as airplanes, helicopters, and cars. He points out that nature’s noise is disappearing at an alarming rate and man-made sounds are becoming the norm.

Hempton is an eccentric man, who has an obsession, much like a visual artist, to prefect sound. He seems to have made personal sacrifices and lives a fairly solitary life on his pursuit of the sound of nature. It may seem like an abstract concept and in reality it is, but Hempton has a point.  He is a very gripping person who almost turns his quest spiritual.  The film really drives home the lack of connection between humanity and the Earth. At one point in the film, he visits a large cedar tree that has been turned into a monument with the trunks of cut cedars all around it. He begins to get emotional and see it as almost a battle memorial to the fallen forest that once stood here.  To him, it is clear we have lost much of our connection as no one is “listening” and he even references the hum of electricity as “America’s mantra.”

By the end of the film, we felt connected to Hempton and  realized what a beautiful artist he really is. It also made you really, really think how little we get to hear complete natural sounds. We started to think of all the times we have had moments camping or out in the wilderness and how often we hear human noise pollution. It was definitely a different take on what is happening to our planet than other green films we have seen.

We also noticed that after the movie was complete, our ears were far more sensitive. We could hear our hands brush our hair, the sound of someone tapping their feet, and even people breathing. As we left the theater and walked through the rainy streets of San Francisco, we noticed we could hear the sounds of birds thundering over the horns, trains, and human voices. This deep film really is an abstract look on the destruction of our planet and will leave you seeing, or rather hearing nature in a different way.

We enjoyed both films immensely and certainly hope the Green Film Festival becomes an annual event in San Francisco! If you missed the festival, be sure to check out some of the films discussed above!

The Oscar countdown has begun! This Sunday, Hollywood will be a buzz with Oscar fever as the Academy Awards will begin in the afternoon. There are a lot of great films nominated this year and as we have done in the past, we want to highlight a few of the environmentally friendly messaged movies.

Unfortunately, this year has a bit of slim pickings. Over the past few years, there have been fictional feature films with deep environmental messages nominated including Wall-E and Avatar. However, this year the only truly Green films are documentaries. While documentaries are very interesting and entertaining, they are not the most popular art form and will not have the greatest impact. Still, they should be honored for their work.

Two films really stand out this year and they include Gasland and Waste land. Gasland is the story of one man’s investigation into the hydraulic drilling called “fracking” done by natural gas companies such as Haliburton. In the film he uncovers contamination and government deceit, even finding a town where they can light their drinking water on fire. The film is a great expose on natural gas extraction. Often we are focused on the dangers of oil, while not paying attention to other energy sources which are extremly harmful to the environment as well as our health.

Waste Land is a heart wrenching story of the largest landfill on Earth in Rio de Janeiro. It focuses on the lives and poor working conditions of  garbage workers, as well as the story of modern artist Vik Muniz. Muniz creates art from the garbage pickers and gives them money from the profits. He also works to gain recognition and better living conditions for the workers. The film is a beautiful story of excess, trash, art, human connection, and human rights. This is definitely worth a view!

Even if no feature film focused on the environment, we are crossing our fingers that either Waste Land or Gasland are recognized as winning films. Check out the trailers for both films above and let’s hope the Academy honors one of these “land” films. Pun intended.

 

The most anticipated holiday has come and gone, and now you are left with a dried out tree in your living room. It always seems a bit gloomy to throw out your dried up tree, that was once so decorated and brought holiday cheer!  Luckily, you don’t have to throw it out, like discarded wrapping paper.  There are some really creative and interesting ideas to reuse your Christmas tree! Of course, if you are completely exhausted from the season and are not looking forward to the clean up or any new projects,  you should check with your local city or county for appropriate ways to discard your tree. Or you can go to Earth 911 and type in “Christmas Trees” and your zip code to find out how your city’s recycling program works.  Just please don’t put it out with your regular trash or it might end up in the landfill, not quite the proper end to its noble service over the holidays.

If you are looking for a neat and interesting way to reuse that dried up decoration, we have compiled three really neat ways to do just that. Send off your lovely tree with well deserved style.

1) Return to Nature: It might seem a little harsh to chop up your cherished holiday decoration, however, it is a great way to return your tree to nature. You can do this one of two ways if you have a yard or fireplace. The first, is to turn your old tree into mulch for your garden. You can either chop it into little bits yourself or bring it to a store to have it run through a chipper. The mulch will help with soil erosion during the winter months and the fauna in the gardens will appreciate it! The other way to return your tree to nature is to chop it into logs and use as firewood. Fireplaces are a great way to heat your house in during to cold winter and a chopped tree will provide you with plenty of fuel!

2) Eat That Tree: You read that right! There is a new trend out to actually eat your Christmas tree! Chef René Redzepi suggests we use our trees in a number of dishes. He lists a ton of great uses in food such as drying the needles to make a spice and add it to cookie dough, rice, or even in main courses. He also suggests using the branches much like rosemary and thyme to add to any dish or making spruce butter! He stated a poignant argument for his reasoning: “Nature takes enormous time and effort to produce something that we use only briefly. Why don’t we make greater use of this living tree, as we make use of so many other kinds of plants on earth, by eating it?” We have to agree!

3) Make Arts & Crafts: Wood is a wonderful medium to create art with. When Christmas is over you will have an abundance of materials to make arts and crafts out of.  Plus, woodworking is a terrific way to pass the dull and cold winter months that lie ahead.  There are many creative things to make out of wood including coasters, candle holders, even ornaments for next year! You can get a head start on next years gifts, by simply reusing your Christmas tree.

After reading through these fun ways to reuse our Christmas tree, we are excited to try a few out! We, at the AP office are going to try a few of those recipe suggestions above and spruce up our winter meals. Pun definitely intended. What will you do with your Christmas Tree?

We are in the middle of summer and you can definitely tell! This summer has been a scorcher.  Much like the heat, concert festivals have come to be the standard summer fare.  With huge festivals such as Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Fesival, Coachella, and Bonnaroo happening all summer long, it is clear this is a musical trend.  These concerts, although fun, take a ton of energy to produce from sound and lighting to sanitation and bottled water. It is a wonder how any of these massive productions could ever be sustainable. Some of these musical showcases are making huge efforts with carpooling, recycling, promoting reusable items and green vendors, however, could there really be a truly sustainable festival?

Enter the Montreal International Jazz Festival. As we mentioned a few posts ago, we recently vacationed in Montreal. Our trip was perfect timing as we were there during the Jazz Festival. As we stepped foot into the massively crowded fest, we saw multiple stages, disposable bottles, and lighting every where we turned. We couldn’t help but wonder, how much energy is this festival consuming? But all around the festival signs were highlighting that the Jazz Fest had been “Carbon Neutral” since 2008.  On top of their carbon neutrality, much of the merchandise was produced locally in the US and Canada with organic cotton and recycling bins were readily available.

This certainly was impressive and satisfied my aching conscious enough for me to sit back and enjoy the bands. But when I returned home, I really started thinking about those words: carbon neutral. What exactly did it mean? Were they saying, they were running everything on renewable sources, did they somehow find the perfect eco-friendly energy source, or was this another bit of Greenwashing? The curiosity was getting the better of me and I researched this “carbon neutral” festival.

It turns out the festival is a bit of both; Greenwashing and sustainability. No, the fest did not run on generators powered solely by the sweat of the jazz musicians, but they were purchasing carbon offsets. Carbon offsets may seem like a great solution: essentially you are donating money to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, is the festival really carbon neutral? They are using massive amounts of energy and even if they donate money to say, a tree planting organization. Is that really going to make up for the energy they used to fuel a month-long day and night festival?

The truth is, they are trying to be legitimate about turning Green, even devoting a whole webpage to the explanation of their carbon offsetting program and defining their carbon neutrality as: “calculating total climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions from an event, organization or business, reducing them where possible, and then balancing the remaining emissions by purchasing high quality carbon offsets.” Their transparency website states how much of their festival they offset (100% from electricity to travel for the musicians) and where the money is going (Planetair, a Montreal based NGO devoted to supplying high quality carbon offsets.

Even though their system may not be the ideal (sweat some more, trumpet players), they are making an effort. In the end, they are bringing to light that these festivals eat up TONS of energy and are not sustainable in their own right. It would be great to see more of the festivals moving in the same direction or even better take a cue from Sasquatch! who runs their festival on a combination of Wind Power and offsets. Either way, we are delighted to see so many of the major players attempting to be serious about their energy use.  Who knows, someday we may have summer festivals running on the readily available solar power.  We certainly have the summer sunshine for it.

-Gina Williams

It strikes one as an oxymoron.  Guerrilla gardening.  Hardcore soldier resistance tactics meets backyard tomato seed planting. But yes, in action in urban spaces around the world, this is the increasing truth.  Growing one’s own food, as an individual or for a community, is a concept lost on more and more people in affluent societies today.  The disconnect is complete; modern economics allows people to consume goods produced in ways unknown to them, in places they will never see, due both to a lack of knowledge and exposure, as well as unsuitable conditions in which to create, or grow, these goods themselves.

Guerrilla gardening is a practice and a movement aimed at changing this, and the concept is spreading through example, in the mysterious appearances of plants in forgotten patches of earth in the hearts of cities, and the growing network of support, advice and encouragement among fellow gardeners in publication and on the Internet.

You’re walking down the block in your town or city, perhaps right outside your front door, and you glance over or miss completely a barren plot of dry, trash-strewn earth; perhaps on the sidewalk where no tree or shrub grows, perhaps in a massive concrete planter, or maybe in a forgotten, chain-fenced lot with some links conveniently severed.  This dirt you pass is useful; anything you might like to look at, or like to eat or use for a gift, could grow there with a bit of care and attention. But nothing does, and nothing is done about it, for the idea of planting such useful plants in an urban context doesn’t immediately make sense; it is an alien concept.

We buy what we need in the city, we don’t walk to a bus stop to harvest a stem from our favorite flower or peak into an alley to see how our pea shoots are growing on the back fence of an auto garage.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  People can reclaim the space around them.  You can shape it as you see fit.  Do it boldly in the middle of the day, start a conversation when you get curious questions.  Do it quietly in the middle of the night, away from disapproving eyes.  The spirit of a guerrilla lies in disruption through unconventional, unexpected and innovative means. The disruption is the redefining of what inhabitants of a city call home, bringing the ancient into the modern, the natural into the manufactured.  It is a chance to feel that you can create what you need and desire, that you need not wait for others to do it for you.  And in this struggle, which is inherently communal, you are not alone. There are plenty of communities and resources on the handy worldwide web, so for ideas, info and inspiration, please see:

Guerrilla Gardening: A world community organization including tips, pictures, blogs, and local community boards.

Primal Seeds: A guide to the guerrilla gardening movement and a great resource from other guerrilla gardeners and communities.

Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardening: Even if you are not located in LA, the LA movement is going strong and has plenty of ideas for inspiration.

And if the interwebs just aren’t your thing check out these two hardcover books: On Guerrilla Gardening and Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto

-Jeremy Pearson

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