June is the month to celebrate the Fathers in our lives and what better way to do this than give them an awesome green gift!  Holidays are the perfect time to live by your ethics and purchase that celebrates them. The great thing is, no matter what your Dad’s interests are, you will be able to give him an eco-friendly gift he is sure to enjoy. We have put together a little list of green gifts suited for any Father below. Happy Father’s Day!

2012 Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Gift Guide

The Green Newbie: Maybe your Pops is a little late to the party and living a green lifestyle is brand new to him. Never fear! We have the perfect idea for you: a green basket! Now this isn’t just any basket, as you can fill it with green basics such as light bulbs, books on going green, and green cleaning products. An even better idea is instead of using a basket, use a recycled bin instead.

The Outdoor Man: Whether it be hiking, canoeing, or running this Dad loves the Great Outdoors. We have a couple of great suggestions for this Dad. From upcycled sleeping bags to recycled tents you can find plenty of green gear your outdoor Dad will enjoy. Another awesome gift is a National Parks Pass which is good for one year and allows your Dad entrance to any National Park in the country. He’ll love getting into any National Park all year for free and hassle free.

The Wine Lover: If you Dad is a wine connoisseur, there are plenty of wonderful organic and even Fair Trade wines to choose from. Better yet, you can find organic wine in an eco friendly bag. You could also get him a set of recycled wine glasses, some even made from old wine bottles.  Or if your Dad needs a new wine rack, you could get him a cool recycled rack or make your own, like these made from FedEx materials or bike gears.

The Beer Guy: If your Father prefers to knock a few back rather than sip some wine, he might appreciate some delicious organic and micro-brewery beer. There are plenty to choose from including Brooklyn Brewery, Bison Brewing, and Peak Organic. If he has a favorite brewery, you could buy him one of these awesome mugs made from used beer bottles with the label still on it. If you Dad likes beer and baseball, buy him one of these bottle openers made from bats used in play from his favorite team.

The Workaholic: Some Fathers just don’t know when to take a break. If your Dad loves work more than anything else, we have a couple of great gift ideas. If his laptop never leaves his side give him one of these solar powered chargers. That way he will never have to worry about his battery dying! Another fabulous idea is these great ties made from recycled cassette tape.

The Sports Guru: Many, but not all men love sports. If your Dad is one that does, check out these ethical sports balls made of all natural FSC certified rubber and Fair Trade certified.  If he is a baseball fan, see the above bottle openers mentioned under the beer section. If he has a favorite team he can own a piece of baseball history by using parts of the bat to open his beer or soda.

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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.

Valentine’s Day is the day we use to express our love and devotion to our special someone. Unfortunately, the celebration of love has been dubbed a “Hallmark” holiday, thus resulting in plenty of waste. There are, of course, numerous ways to show your sweetheart how much you care, while being easy on the Earth. We have put together an ethical gift guide from the beginning of your date to the end and beyond!

1) The Pre-Date: When you show up on the doorstep of your love or meet them in a fancy restaurant, you want to be prepared with an “opening gift.” Traditionally, this includes flowers, cards, and chocolates. Luckily, there is a way to come prepared with all three and still be ethical. For flowers, look for Fair Trade roses and organic mixed bouquets. You can find these flowers at Whole Foods, local co-ops, and online at sites such as Organic Style. Chocolates also come Fair Trade, organic, and vegan. There are a lot of specialty ethical chocolates and truffles such as Sjaack’s, Equal Exchange, and  Coco-Zen. The most green way to give cards, is not to give them at all. But if you really want to write a love note to your special one, try making a card yourself out of recycled material or old photos, write a song, or send an e-card.

2) The Drinks: For most romantic evenings, wine and cocktails are a must. When you are choosing your wine this year, be sure to stick to organic wines. With the lack of sulfites, these wines will not only impress your green sweetie, but leave your head loving you in the morning. Organic wineries such as Frey, are carried at many natural foods stores, Whole Foods, and even at certain bars and restaurants. Etica is also the first Fair Trade wine and will also impress a socially conscious sweetheart. If cocktails are more your thing, there are now plenty of organic and Fair Trade spirits on the market. We have a great backlog of Organic and Fair Trade Cocktail Recipes.

3) The Food: If you are staying in for the night, make a great meal with organic and local food. You will also want to hold off on the meats. We also have a ton of vegan recipes for all courses of a meal. But not everyone stays in for the holiday and luckily eco-friendly and vegan restaurants are all the rage these days. Make sure you take your date to an ethical eatery. If you are looking for organic or eco-friendly try the Green Restaurant Guide and for vegan restaurants look to Happy Cow.

4) The Big Gift: Sometimes you want to pull all the stops out on Valentine’s Day. If you want to give a big gift, such as jewelry, you have plenty of eco options. For something cute and simple, check out these great recycled gift options on World of Good and fair trade jewels on Global Exchange. If you really want to do something BIG, go for eco-friendly diamonds or recycled gold necklaces.

5) The Bedroom: If all goes as planned, your night might end up with a Do Not Disturb sign hanging from your handle. For some eco-fun in the bedroom try giving your significant other some organic lingerie and undies. You will want to decorate with organic and soy candles. And in case things get a little more intense for the celebration you can find some fun toys at Earth Erotics. Oo la la…

6) The Weekend: It is possible that you want to give your guy or gal more than just a night of love to celebrate your relationship. How about taking them to an eco-friendly hotel or resort. For some listings, check out the Green Hotel Association. There are also really cute and quaint vegetarian and vegan bed & breakfasts throughout the country. Just be sure you get there through alternative transportation such as bike, rail, or bus!

You may remember a few months ago when I posted about a new trend in American bars and restaurants: drinking and eating both responsibly AND sustainably. The Huffington Post devoted an article to highlighting nine of America’s greenest bars. One of these bars was Bambara located in Cambridge just across the Charles River from Boston. Bambara is conveniently located within walking distance of the Green Line’s Lechmere T Station and is tucked into Hotel Marlowe on Edwin H Land Blvd. Autonomie Project is fortunate enough to have Bambara in its backyard and I could not resist visiting the restaurant this past weekend.

Bambara is listed on EcoDrinking, a website devoted to establishing bars and restaurants as being green based on numerous factors such as sustainability, organic food/drink options, energy efficiency, and other green initiatives. The website specifically notes Bambara’s use of local ingredients to create organic drinks and entrées as well as their LED lighting and recycling program. Bambara lists numerous “environmentally friendly practices” they are currently using to further their mission of creating a “greener future”.

From the wine list to the take-out containers, Bambara has it covered when it comes to sustainable business practices. Their wine list only features wines that are sustainable, organic, or biodynamic. Recycled cane fiber makes up the content of Bambara’s take-out containers. In addition, the restaurant refuses to use disposable packaging when storing food. Styrofoam is essentially banned from the restaurant. Better yet, Bambara prides itself in its use of local ingredients purchased from local farms, ranches, and fisheries. Bambara has every reason to pride itself in its ingredients; my entire dinner was outstanding.

Thankfully, my friend, Christine, and I chose to venture to Bambara during Boston’s Restaurant Week. We made our reservation on a Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m., but we found that it was unnecessary. We were able to choose a nice high-top table across from the bar along the restaurant’s windows. For $33, we had numerous options to choose from for an appetizer, entrée, and dessert combination. It was immediately confirmed that the ingredients of their dishes were completely organic and fresh when we took our first bites. Christine and I raved to each other about the pasta we ordered. In fact, our waitress kindly noted that all of Bambara’s pasta is made from scratch in-house. You sure can tell!

Bambara’s dinner menu was extensive and impressive, but I think they could definitely improve their selection with additional vegetarian and vegan options. Many of the salads would satisfy a vegetarian’s needs as well as a vegan’s needs sans the various cheeses. However, every dinner entrée has some kind of meat or fish. New vegetarian and vegan options would definitely improve the menu and attract a larger market of customers. It would also add to Bambara’s green mission! I also noticed that the drink menu contains only conventional beers. Local breweries like Harpoon or Peak Organic would be excellent additions to the drink menu. It would also further Bambara’s mission to partner with local businesses. Despite this, Bambara’s cocktails sure do catch your eye on the menu. Bambara’s ‘Mother Earth’ is dubbed as an eco-friendly cocktail. It contains organic Tru vanilla vodka, Makers Mark Aperol, agave nectar, and orange juice. With more cocktails like ‘Mother Earth’, Bambara is sure to expand their customer base.

Overall, our experience at Bambara was outstanding. We did not feel too guilty about the food we ate since we knew we were being a bit greener and more sustainable by dining at Bambara! What more justification do you need? So next time you’re in Boston, take the T just one stop into Cambridge for a great drink and meal. There is no better way to enjoy time with friends and family than over an ethical and superbly tasting dinner out on the town.

-Derek Rogers

Memorial Day traditions have become just as American as Apple Pie. And while we are supposed to be honoring those who have died serving in our many wars, most people use the day for cookouts, parades, camping, the start of summer, and of course the American tradition of drinking on holidays.  All these traditions are  a blast and an exciting way to start your summer off with a bang. They also can all be done with the environment in mind. We celebrate our Memorial Day as green as we can and here’s to hoping you will too. Let’s start a new American tradition of making a smaller imprint on the Earth, while still indulging in our fun! To help this new tradition along, we have put together some helpful tips on how to make sure your Memorial Day is red, white, blue, and green!

1) Green that Grill: BBQ is a true Memorial Day and summer tradition and it is easy to green your grill.  Replacing your chemical laden charcoal to more earth friendly means such as wood briquettes or natural organic charcoal. For that smokey BBQ taste, we recommend the wood briquettes! Either of these choices will leave your food without the burning of coal, petroleum products, sawdust, or limestone, which are all toxic. If you want to take it one step further, invest in a new clean burning grill. This will emit far less pollution into the air and your food. It may not be traditional but electric grills, put out 99% less carbon monoxide. If you have the money, the Hybrid Grill is a great way to go, although a tad pricey! For more tips on how to have a green grilling experience, refer to our blog from last summer: Green Your Grill: Eco BBQ Tips.

2) Hold the Meat: Although traditional American BBQs include tons and tons of meat! To truly green your BBQ, we suggest you hold the meat. The meat industry consumes more than a third of the fossil fuels in the US and contributes 18% of greenhouse gases, which is even more than the transportation industry! And those figures are just the beginning of how the current factory farm meat industry is adversely affecting our world.  Environmentalists have long been promoting a veggie based diet as a way to green your life, so why not make the switch for your BBQ this year! There are hundreds of great veggie based “meat” style products on the market such as Veggie Burgers, Soy Dogs, Soy Sausage, Veggie Ribs etc. For some great recommendations check out our Vegan BBQ Tips and Product Battle: Hot Dogs. If faux meat is not your thing, you can always grill veggies straight on the grill or drizzle them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil! For more ideas on veggie recipes look no further than our backlog of delicious vegan recipes. Also, don’t forget to purchase your veggies organic and local if at all possible!

3) Organic & Fair Trade Drinks: Even if we try, we can not deny that many American holidays revolve around drinking! And Memorial Day is no stranger to this rule. Luckily more and more organic beer, wine, and spirits are on the market these days. Try your best to support your local micro breweries when selecting beer, however, if no organic beer is available try a couple of these brands: Peak Organic, Samuel Smith, and Fish Tale Organic Ales. Green America has also put together a list of recommendations for organic beers that we found helpful. For wines look no further than Frey for organic and Etica for Fair Trade. If you like the hard stuff there are also a number of organic and Fair Trade spirits on the market such as Square One Vodka, Tru Organic Gin, 4 Copas Organic Tequila. Also, FAIR Vodka, the first Fair Trade vodka on the market is now available in the US. For ideas on Fair Trade and Organic Cocktails, check out our recipe backlog.

4) Stay Local: We know, we know, a “staycation” is nowhere near as exciting as traveling far away to go camping. However, traveling by car for long distances or by plane is not so eco-friendly. Now we aren’t saying you should camp out in your own backyard literally (although that can be an adventure), we just mean look for destinations close to home. Stay within 20-50 miles of your own home! You may find that there are wonderous campgrounds, beautiful hiking trails, or a pretty lake nearby that you never noticed. You can even do a search on Reserve America to find campgrounds near you or look into the National and State Park systems for local ideas.

5) Alternative Transportation: If you must travel this Memorial Day weekend, we suggest you look to other means besides planes and cars! Bike travel is catching on quickly and is a fun and healthy way to travel. There are plenty of companies that put together tours or you can do it DIY style. Here are some tips on traveling by bike! If traveling by bicycle is a little too intensive for you or if you are traveling with a larger group, you can look into traveling by bus or rail. There are bus companies that will take you and your family to beautiful destinations for camping or hiking. Traveling by public transportation or by bike makes your entire journey an adventure and while you won’t get control of the radio perse, you can experience a whole other world of travel. And really do you ever get control of the radio on family trips?

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Grass is green
Valentine’s Day can be too

Ok, perhaps I am not a poet, but my pathetic attempt at rhyming has a point (of sorts) within its clichéd words. Valentine’s day is almost upon us, a glorious day in which people feel bullied into being unnaturally romantic for a twenty four hour period of time in the middle of February. Singles feel more acutely aware of their singleness and couples-even those who recognize the foolishness of this Hallmark holiday- feel the need to not disappoint their mate by ignoring this day altogether. Both singles and couples alike can agree that this holiday is decidedly unfriendly to the environment.

As with most of occurrences in life, I can not help but to relate it back to an episode of The Simpsons. Homer, Marge and their spiky hair offspring are shown celebrating “Love Day”, a holiday invented by a fictional store named Costigans to boost sales. When this “holiday” comes to a close, a huge pile of trash is compiled, its contents include an adorable teddy bear named Sir-Loves-A lot- the bear that loves to love.

To avoid your own mountain of love debris, try to take an environmentally friendly approach to Valentine’s Day this year. You can try to convince your mate that forgoing all presents is the most eco-friendly way to spend the holiday, but let’s face it- sleeping on the couch is not a fun prospect.

Greeting Cards: Greeting cards filled with sentimental jargon are without a doubt the least eco-friendly part of Valentine’s day. Instead of picking out a card this year with Snoopy on its cover with a poem resembling the masterpiece above inside, consider taking a greener approach to telling the one you love exactly how you feel. You can start by speaking  it to them. Telling someone how much they mean to you is not only romantic, but pretty darn eco-friendly. If you still need to see your feelings in print, send an e-mail greeting card. If you are feeling particularly crafty, consider assembling your own card from recycled goods from around your abode. If you are feeling cryptic- consider writing a message to your beloved on your steamed up bathroom mirror with your finger. You can tell her a ghost did it – nothing is as romantic as an good ol’-fashioned Valentine’s prank.

Chocolate: One of the most prevailing images associated with this holiday-besides the semi-naked baby wielding a bow and arrow- is the box of chocolates shaped like a heart. As romantic as heart-shaped cardboard is, the truth of the matter is that it is what’s inside the box that counts. Do not fret, you can still get your sweetie her delicious chocolates, just make sure they are Fair Trade and/or Organic. Check out companies such as Equal ExchangeDivine Chocolate, or Dagoba Chocolates for tasty and ethical treats. For more ideas on organic and Fair Trade chocolates, some more V-day inspired than others, check out this list by The Daily Green. Nothing says, “I love you, schnookums” like a tasty candy that is produced in the most conscientious manner possible.

Lingerie: A successful Valentine’s, more often than not, ends in the bedroom. Things can get a little PG-13 in there, so you may want to consider getting gussied up, eco-friendly style. Purchase adorable undergarments that are made from sustainable materials from companies such as Enamore. For more ideas of ethical unmentionables, take a look at this list! Then, crank up the Barry White and enjoy yourselves. (Warning: Barry White has been known to make the most pure among us slip our slacks off. Use with caution.)

Organic Wines: Sipping on a glass of wine is a key step in a successful romantic evening. If commercials for R & B  song collections have taught me anything, this wine should be drank by a roaring fire while gazing into your lover’s eyes. Being eco-friendly does not mean skipping out on this sensual tradition, simply get yourself a bottle of delicious organic wine.  Companies such as Frog’s Leap and Frey make their wine from organic grapes. Go the extra green mile and open this bottle of vino with this awesome bottle opener, which is made from recycled bike chains and pretty cool looking, to boot.

Jewelry:  If you can not resist giving your honey the gift of jewelry this Valentine’s Day, look for jewelry made from recycled goods. Pieces from companies like Upcycled Jewelry are  both lovely and unique- qualities perhaps shared with your sweetheart? You can use that line, free of charge, because compliments are the gift that keep on giving.

Flowers:  The presentation of a beautiful bouquet  is  not  only a way  for thoughtless sitcom husbands apologize to their nagging wives, it is also a way for real life couple’s to say, “Hey, you are pretty alright.” to their baby or muffin pie. Buying flowers locally that are in season, and whenever possible organic, is a way to double your romancing power-it is like amending your previous, “Hey, you are pretty alright” with a ,“and I think Mother Earth is pretty swell too.” Keeping mother earth happy is of utmost importance, for even if your relationship goes down in flames she will be there to catch your tears with  her soil. She is pretty considerate that way. But if you can’t purchase them locally or live in a wintery climate that doesn’t support blooms in February, consider sites like Organic Style to send flowers to your love.

Be Thoughtful: Romance is not about money spent, this Valentine’s day do something thoughtful for your better half. Even if it is something as simple as making them  a simple (hopefully organic) dinner or bringing them Fair Trade coffee in bed, it will show them that you appreciate and love them more than a dollar amount can express.

Have a happy Love Day….err, I mean, Valentine’s day, everyone.  We can all take a lesson from Sir-Loves-A lot and be sure that you love to love-meaning, whatever you do to celebrate, make sure it is not from a sense of duty but from a need to let your doodle bug how much they mean to you.

Try to do it the other 364 days a year too and you may just have yourself a lasting and happy relationship.

-Meghan Hurley & the AP Team

Today is finally Christmas Eve and with one of the most celebrated holiday around just around the corner, it is time to start celebrating! What better way to kick back and relax with loved ones than to enjoy some cocktails? And even better when they are ethical! Today is a special two for one treat. We want to share with you two of our favorite holiday cocktails, made Fair Trade and Organic of course! So sit down by the fire and share stories while you wait for a visit from Santa and enjoy this wonderful conscientious spirits! Happy Holidays from all of us on the AP team.

Mulled Wine:

  • 2 bottles of organic dry Red Wine
  • Peel of 1 organic orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1/4 Cup packed organic brown sugar

In a small saucepan heat the red wine on low heat, be sure not to let it boil. Next with a vegetable peeler add the orange zest of the orange peel. Next mix in the spices and sugar. Be sure to stir throughout. Keep on low heat until the mixture begins to steam. At this point it is ready to be served. Garnish with orange slices or cinnamon sticks.

Now to make it ethical:

Organic/Fair Trade Red Wine: There are many great organic wineries existing now including: Frey Vineyard and Organic Wine Company. For some great recommendations read this article on organic and vegan wines as well as the Organic Wine Journal. If you are looking for a nice Fair Trade wine, look no further than Etica Fair Trade Wine.

Organic Oranges: Organic oranges can be found at your local co-op or natural foods store and in most major markets these days. Just be sure to look for the USDA certified Organic symbol.

Organic/Fair Trade Spices: There are a number of different organic spice companies including Simply Organic and The Great Spice Company. Once again, keep a look out for the USDA organic symbol when choosing your organic spices. If you want to support Fair Trade spices check into Silk Road Spices and Mountain Rose Herbs. Both these great companies are Green America approved, Fair Trade and Organic certified.

Organic/Fair Trade Brown Sugar: Wholesome Sweetners makes perfect organic and Fair Trade certified  brown sugar, which works great for baking or this recipe! You can also use Florida Crystals, their brown sugar is certified organic, however not Fair Trade.

Holiday Nog:

1.5 oz  Papagayo Organic Spiced Rum from Paraguay

2 oz Nog

For the 2 ounces of nog you can either try out one of our Vegan Holiday Nog recipes from scratch (we offer a raw or soy based option) or purchase Soy or Rice Nog from the store. If you would like warm and toasty nog, quadruple the recipe and heat the nog in a saucepan at medium heat. Be sure not to heat it to a boil and add in the rum. Mix thoroughly and serve warm. Garnish with organic cinnamon or cinnamon sticks.

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