I must admit, although I am a fan of movies, my favorite part of the Oscars is watching the red carpet pre-show.  There is nothing quite like the glamourous fashion show that takes place on Oscar night.  Hollywood’s finest make their most important fashion decision of the year, as one wrong step could land you on the terrifying “Worst Dressed” list.  But what if a little more thought, or rather consciousness, was put into their decisions. Step through the door, Livia Firth.

Livia Firth has been working through a partnership with Vogue UK since 2010 to bring green and eco-friendly designs to the red carpet. However, this year the green challenge was expanded to pair top environmentally friendly designers including Stella McCartney, Sarah Burton, and Gucci with A-list actresses to strut green red carpet looks.

So which big names turned the red carpet green on Oscar night? Some of the biggest names in the industry were dressed eco consciously. Including, Best Actress nominee Viola Davis and Best Actress winner Meryl Streep. Also on the list were Livia herself and her husband Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh and Damian Bichir. Here are our favorite ethical looks:

Well no one can deny Meryl Streep’s dress was gold class. Her stunning gold dress was Lavin’s first custom eco-friendly gown. Made with Eco Certified Gold fabric the gown became a winning look in more than just fashion. Livia Firth was delighted that one of the Green Challenge dresses was worn by the Best Actress winner. We love this look and so glad her eco dress could get some limelight.

But we can’t ignore Livia Firth’s amazing gown. Her red Valentino dress was made entirely out of recycled PET material and was gorgeous. And who can forget her best accessory, her husband actor Colin Firth, who was also sporting eco-friendly treads in his tux. We may be a sucker for red or maybe the fact that Livia Firth is the spearhead behind getting green on the red carpet, but we thought this was Oscar night’s winning look.

We can’t wait to see next year’s green looks and to see which big name actors will be dressing with ethics!

Environmentalists, gamers, and future city planners are all looking forward to something called Anno 2070! What would interest all these people and what is Anno 2070?  We’re glad you asked. Anno 2070 is a new computer game, which part of the franchise of Anno. Now if you aren’t a total gamer, you probably have no idea what that is.  Anno is a series of SimCity-esque computer games set at various times in history.  But the newest edition, launching sometime this year, will take place in the future, the year 2070 to be exact.

The world is a very, or not so very different depending on your perspective, place in the year 2070.  Climate Change has ravished the Earth and sea levels have taken over several cities. The continuation of the planet and the survival of human civilization depend on how you play the game. You have two options to become either the Tycoons, who are industrial and the Ecos, who are environmentally friendly.  How you play either of those settings, will decide the look of your cities as well as the fate of the planet. 

Environmentalists are loving this game as it gives a glimpse into our Earth’s possible future if the lifestyle we currently lead continues.  However, it doesn’t just give one a prediction of the future, it actively allows the player to creatively solve the environmental crisis, if this can be done, and find ways for modern human society to still flourish in a not so perfect environment.

Even though it is a hypothetical situation, it could influence people to live more sustainably in their own time and place, as well as in the game.  A game with a socially conscious message? Times definitely are a’changin’! Even if you don’t end up playing the game, possibly you can learn a few lessons just from the trailer, “Your decisions change the face of the world. Ecological technology or the industrial standard? Sustainability or mass consumption? Deal with today’s global challenges and create the future.” Will you be playing Anno 2070?

We all know the history of the American Civil War, but did you know about the second largest armed uprising within the United States? I am probably the biggest history nerd I know and I only recently read about the Battle of Blair Mountain . Sure, I know about the struggles of the early 20th Century workers and the power of early corporations, but somehow this story circumvented my radar, or was buried in my brain caverns under all the history books I’ve read in the past twenty years. The story plays out like a modern day sweatshop:

During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries “Big Coal” was running the show in West Virginia. They had set up “company towns,” meaning a single company not only owned the mine and equipment, but the workers, the hospitals, the houses, the utilities, the stores and the government as well. Workers were subjugated to long days and dangerous working conditions–some of which would make your hair stand on end. In a recent re-telling of the story, Robert F Kennedy Jr explained, “Working conditions were horrendous: men and their sons worked 12 to 16 grueling hours in dark, dangerous mines dying from a notorious plague of subsurface explosions, cave-ins and black lung

On top of dealing with these conditions the workers were basically feudal serfs to the coal lords. In the towns in which they lived, the companies owned the police and hired cronies to carry out intimidation and suppression, even using tactics such as espionage and murder. And just to add salt to their wounds, some local and state governments condoned these actions by turning a blind eye and supporting the companies.

Well in the early 20th Century the miners were fed up with this controlled lifestyle, which is deliciously ironic considering they existed in a “free” society. With workers unionizing all over the country during this time, union leaders entered the area through some sympathetic politicians. After a major supporter of the miners, Sid Hatfield, was assassinated in broad daylight, the workers formed a 10,000 member protest and marched for six days to the top of Blair Mountain. What proceeded was a deadly battle between Big Coal cronies and miners that included an order from President Warren G Harding (perhaps one of the most corrupt US Presidents ever–which is saying A LOT) to intercede on the side of the coal companies. The miners were gunned down and surplus WWI bombs were dropped upon them. Not to say they didn’t arm themselves and after intervention from the US Forces on their own citizens, they dispersed. Fearing they may be convicted by a corrupt government for treason, they tossed their ammunition and arms into the woods surrounding Blair Mountain. Almost a century old artifacts can still be found along the mountain, which is quite literally a gold, or shall I say “coal”mine for a history lover like myself.

The aftermath of this insurrection proved to be pivotal not only for the workers but for the union movement itself. Sixty years later, unions are one of the Average Joe’s only protection from somewhat unchecked corporate power. Sure, the government now includes higher working standards and moderation of companies, but how long will that last? Only a year ago, the Federal government ruled corporations have the same access to First Amendment Free Speech as a US citizen, and can legally fund campaigns with no limitations. At first glance, this may seem minor, but the consequences have the power to rattle the very foundation of our democracy. The corporations, which have proven themselves can not be trusted, will literally and legally buy out elections. On top of this, the extreme right, who says they stand for the people, have taken an all out war against public unions in the MidWest.

Although the country and world has changed drastically since the Battle of Blair Mountain, Big Coal still exists and is currently backed by many a politician. Recently, Blair Mountain has been pegged to have it’s top blown off and mined. Mountaintop removal mining is not only ecological harmful, but it also results in job loss for the area and in this case destroys a historic landmark–still filled with artifacts, if I may remind you. Luckily, environmentalists, labor groups, and historians have banded together to save Blair Mountain and bring attention to worker’s rights, sustainability, and the protection of the Appalachian legacy. The March on Blair Mountain began earlier this week and will culminate with thousands of supporters atop the symbolic mountain. Hundreds have been marching in the heat and thunderstorms all week and a few hundred, including ex marines and a wheel chair bound grandmother have been arrested.

Thousands are expected tomorrow, June 11th, to show solidarity. If you are not in the region, you can follow the March online and send your support virtually. Even more important, let you voice be heard. Sign the petition for Obama to preserve Blair Mountain and end mountaintop removal mining simultaneously.

So it seems we have entered a new era where rather than evolving and working on the unions, who by the way are not a perfect solution either, we are letting them be destroyed. This is where the people step in. We need to preserve our democratic power.

Gina Williams

The tangible world that we once knew is long gone. Paper records, the Dewey Decimal system, and paper money protected under lock and key, is a dwindling reality. The United States’ entire economic system is represented by a keyboard stroke. Business owners have substituted office space and filing cabinets for cell phones. Moms have replaced crumbled pieces of paper with grocery list apps.

Purchasing a smartphone, particularly an iphone, has proven to be a valuable investment for millions of people. If you are not a small business owner, or a mom, or a banker, but an environmentally conscious participant in the game of life, your iphone purchase can be just as valuable an investment as theirs have been.

I have put together a list of Apps that promote a ‘greener’ lifestyle, and in doing so, discovered the remarkable impact of a seemingly indulgent purchase.

My Carbon Footprint: This app was created by the Blue Chip Marketing Company. It is an easy-to-use application that lets you calculate your carbon footprint. Getting started, you are prompted to answer 10 initial questions and then 1 question everyday after that, to track your impact on the environment.

Free 2 Work: Supported by the company Juniper Networks and U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person, this app is part of a larger movement that grades companies based on their labor practices. The Free2Work app was designed to allow consumers to easily browse companies’ labor practices, and aid in making socially conscious purchases. This is app is free to download, and very easy to use.

A Real Tree: Created by Mokugift, this app allows you to plant a tree from your iphone. It is truly remarkable. The trees are planted in one of 12 countries fighting deforestation: Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Burundi, Senegal, Zambia, India, Philippines, and Haiti. A Real Tree works with, Trees for the Future and Sustainable Harvest International to, “provide materials and education to local communities o plant trees in an ecologically-beneficial manner.

GoodGuide: This app allows the consumer to monitor the environmental and social impact of an individual product. Before a purchase is made, the consumer can read a brief review on the products’ impact. The GoodGuide’s database consists of nearly 70,000 products and reviews.

Green Car Buddy: This app is a client/server app that facilitates that sharing of rides and parking spaces. The idea is to promote carpooling, and decrease the amount of cars on the road, thus causing less pollution. You can register through your facebook account, or create a username distinct to Green Car Buddy. You can browse the app for rideshares leaving from one specified location to another. You can limit your search to a particular time of departure, or the gender of the driver. As a server, you can limit who is eligible to accept a ride from you by designating a gender option. If your search does not have what you are looking for at the moment, the app will email you when what you are looking for becomes available. This app is free to download and very easy to use. Green Car Buddy is a truly revolutionary idea. As its users grow, so will its impact. My only concern is your safety. Be careful my friends, and always tell someone where you are going.

-Jaclyn Bauman

Time Magazine, Martha, Oprah….Oh my! It seems that everywhere I turn these days, people are talking about veganism. Just a few weeks ago I was shopping with my Mother and we stumbled into a bookstore on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Mind you, we were in Berkeley, but much to my delight the front table was covered in vegan cookbooks. Not just vegetarian books, but vegan books. After flipping through the books and salivating over all the tasty recipes, it dawned on me how far veganism has come.

I have been vegan for nearly twelve years and have seen the movement grow and evolve.  Over the years hundreds of vegan products have landed on the market, restaurants are popping up all over the country, not just in the cities, and an increasing number of cookbooks have been published. We vegans have been celebrating the expansion of our lifestyle, but something else is changing.

It seems the mainstream media has either just figured out what vegan is or more likely they have come to realize how much money they can make off the market.  In the last month or so, vegan shows have been appearing in the least likely places. In early February, the head mogul herself, Oprah hosted a “Vegan Challenge” show where she and her entire staff went vegan for one week. She also had high-profile guests such as Kathy Freston discuss the issues of food and veganism. To see a piece of the show, see below:

Then just a few months later, Martha Stewart produced her own vegan show, which she so thoughtfully titled “The Vegan Show.” On her show, she interviewed the lovely Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur about animal rights and tried out some of Kathy Freston’s tasty dishes. But the deluge of all things vegan didn’t end there. Time Magazine published the article “The Morality of Mealtime” where they discussed factory farming and spoke to Gene Baur. And finally at the end of last month Animal Planet released information that they would be producing a reality TV show around the vegan bakery in PA, Vegan Treats (which we have had the pleasure in gorging ourselves in).

Now you may think to yourself, does this mean the vegan lifestyle is growing and becoming more mainstream? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. While I think it is terrific veganism is getting so much attention, I hope it isn’t just a media fad, much like the Atkins or Blood Type diets. It seems the media seeks out about something interesting, focuses on it for awhile, and moves on. This may be the reason for all the coverage, however, all this attention is bringing awareness not only to the movement but to the abuses in the meat and dairy industries. The more people understand the many reasons behind going vegan, the less we will seem like extremists and the more options there will be for us.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter why people are covering the vegan world, but it matters how it will affect the movement. If people turn to their TV, their magazines and newspapers for answers, we might actually see some change for the animals and acceptance of those who chose to live their lives as vegans.

-Gina Williams

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!

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