If you are reading this, you are most likely going to be drunk this weekend. Why? Because everybody gets drunk on St Patrick’s Day. And by everyone, we mean most people. Yes, we know, the holiday occurs on this coming Wednesday, but the only realistic celebration days for the working world are this weekend, which means you don’t have much time to prepare. And that is why you have turned to us! With a drinking holiday fast approaching, we researched our beer options and found purchasing organic is superior for various reasons. Read on and be, first, horrified, then satiated.

Now, like you, perhaps, many of our favorite beers are conventionally produced. Essentially, this means, large-scale, factory farm produced hops end up in almost all beers. Much like with conventional fruits and vegetables, conventional hops are farmed using harmful pesticides. In fact, the EPA has reported in the last 60 years farming has moved away from labor intensive techniques to pesticide heavy methods. This comes with a whole host of environmental nightmares from the obvious pollution of soil, drinking water, and aquatic eco-systems to the startling death of wildlife, more than 60 million birds die annually from pesticide poisoning. Which makes us wonder, how much of these harmful chemicals end up in our bottled beers? In a Japanese study, many residues were found in shelf ready beers. For some chemicals, this means up to 36% of pesticides lacing the hops in the field, survive processing, brewing, and end up in the finished product. The bottom line, we are drinking and ingesting crop duster poisons. Told you we would horrify you, didn’t we?

We have covered why conventional beers can be harmful to both the environmental and our own personal health. Now on to be satiated! Drinking conventional beers can be dangerous, however, we are not recommending you give up the wonderful world of beer just yet. Instead, we can all turn to organics! The benefits of drinking organics is pretty simple, as you won’t be ingesting any of those harmful chemicals mentioned above. But on top of drinking pesticide free beer you will be supporting local farming. Most organic hops come from  farms which are 100 acres or less. So by purchasing organic beer, you are not only doing your body good, but are supporting local and small farms! Sounds like a double win to us.

Fortunately, the organic beer market is expanding and there are many more choices available these days. The best place to find organic beer is in your city or region! Some of the best beers are from small, local, micro-breweries. You should check around your neighborhood for suggestions. However, there are many great organic companies that are available around the nation and should be stocked at your local specialty shop, large liquor store, natural foods store, co-op, or even Whole Foods. There are many different companies to choose from. Here are some of our favorites: Peak Organic(from Maine), Samuel Smith (although from far away Britain, how can you deny flavors like Strawberry?), and Wolaver’s (Vermont brewery, Otter Creek’s organic line). If none of our favorites satisfy your palate, you can check this list of organic beers from the Daily Green.  You just might find something local and delicious!

Organic beers may not be as readily available as the conventional type yet, however, drinking them and supporting their business helps you and the environment. Next time you are at the liquor store think about those poor birds or the pesticides that can survive in your beer and fork out the extra cash to purchase the organic alternative. Remember the more we purchase, the more demand breweries will see, and that means more organic beers to choose from! So knock one back for the ole’ Irish style holiday and make sure your label reads USDA Organic!

-Jeremy Pearson & Gina Williams

Thanksgiving is the time of year to give thanks and express gratitude. It is a time for relaxation as well as spending quality time with friends and family members. During holidays such as this it’s important we pay attention to our purchasing choices and habits just as much the rest of year, perhaps even more.  Even though, Thanksgiving can feel like an indulgent and gluttonous holiday, what it represents is far more deep. And its the lesson of appreciativeness for what we have and where life has taken us should transmit to the way we celebrate, as well as our daily choices. I n honor of this holiday, we at AP have put together tips on How to Have an Ethical Thanksgiving below. So savor the suggestions below just as you savor your Thanksgiving meal and remember to extend your conscious choices beyond the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving from us at AP and thank you for all your support!

Autonomie Project’s Tips on How to Have an Ethical Thanksgiving:

1) Eat Organic: As you are shopping the aisles of your market, keep in mind how important purchasing organic can be. Most products and definitely most vegetables and fruits come certified organic these days. Not only is it helpful to the environment to eat organic, it is terrific for your body. Non organic foods can contain harmful chemicals and pesticides which can do a number on your body and seep into our soil and eventually into our water supply, thus harming our entire environment. Of course we would encourage you to eat vegan this holiday and provide many great vegan holiday recipes and a guide to surviving the holidays. However, if you are going to eat meat or dairy, we suggest you purchase organic and free range choices. You can find organic items such as these at your local co-op, natural foods store, Whole Foods, and sometimes your regular grocery store. Just be sure when you are making an organic purchase, you look for the USDA Certified Organic label, anything else is not officially certified.

2) Shop Locally: When you are making your holiday food purchases try your hardest to shop local. Meaning, skip the major corporate grocery mega stores for your local store, including co-ops and natural foods stores. But also pay attention to the products you purchase and support your local farms and companies. When you purchase locally, you are stimulating your community’s economy and are supporting a transaction which cuts shipping pollution. This is very helpful to both our environment and to the cost of your product! So be sure to support your local farmer and market.

3) Fair Trade Groceries: Unfortunately not all products can be found Fair Trade at this time. However, there are many food products used for the holidays which you can find Fair Trade Certified. Some Fair Trade products you may be able to incorporate into your meal are Fair Trade rice, olive oil, chocolate and fruit. You might also want to switch your baking supplies over to Fair Trade such vanilla, baking powder, and sugar. You could even make your centerpieces with Fair Trade flowers! Also, serve your guests Fair Trade wine with their meals and coffee or tea after. For a full list of Fair Trade products and where to find them check out Transfair’s list of stores.

 

4) Stay Put: Instead of flying all over or driving far distances to see your family, stay put this year! You can cut down your carbon output by not leaving your home for the holidays. Heck, this will even save you money from pricey gas and plane tickets. You might ask, “But what about my family? The holidays aren’t the same without them?” Well, we have the answer for you! Try skyping with them. We know that word sounds foreign or perhaps made up. But if you haven’t already signed up, check out Skype. It’s a free internet video chat service that is surprisingly clear and makes long distance shrink! The lines are much clearer than any cell phone and you can actually SEE and interact with your family. Trust us, we live thousands of miles from our loved ones, and it really does almost feel as if you are with them. So skip the crowded airports and traffic ridden roads, and catch up with your family virtually. Look at it this way, you can always turn them off when they get on your nerves.

5) Volunteer/Donate Goods: Even though more people volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, we suggest you call your local shelter and use the holiday as a reminder to volunteer on other days of the year. The shelters need help all year-round and would happy to have extra volunteers. However, if Thanksgiving is one of the few days you can spare, go out and volunteer! Also, there are a number of organizations that collect food donations for the less fortunate and their families. Check your local charitable organizations for Thanksgiving Food Drives,  but also check out these organizations as well: Food for Others and Feeding America.  Also, if you have plenty of leftovers call your local shelters to see if they will accept any leftovers. Some states have laws about donated food, but some shelters may be able to accept some home-made goods.

So, here is, pretty much, the deal: John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of the Whole Foods Market grocery chain, wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal,on August 11th of this year.  In it, he espoused his views on the current state of health care in the United States and what he feels reform of that system should entail.  Within this piece he expressed some conservative ideas such as equalizing the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits, repealing government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover and revising tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

He also rejected the idea that health care is a basic right, stating that “A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This ‘right’ has never existed in America.”  Very quickly, Mackey’s piece was roundly criticized by many who uphold a very different view not only of heath care reform but of what Whole Foods as a business entity purports to be its ethical basis.  A boycott, called from many corners, ensued. For many ethical consumers and organizations these statements seemed to fly directly in the face of what Whole Foods markets themselves to stand for.

In his article, John Mackey provides numbers which apparently  breakdown the Whole Foods health care plan. This is a combination of high-deductibles with Health Savings Accounts: “Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.”  Mackey seems to feel this program is worth outlining as a model for a successful health care option, and might actually seem to start making sense if not for reality checkers like Dr. Joel A. Harrison at WholeBoycott.com, who quickly expose Mackey’s figures as sugar-coated: “80% of health care costs for individuals in the U.S. exceed $2,500 and 73% exceed $5,000, so people would rapidly exhaust their health savings accounts” [due to exceeding their high-deductible premiums]. Sick and injured people trust their doctors to make appropriate decisions and neither have the skills for making the decisions nor the availability of data to base such decisions on. High deductibles lead to reductions in both appropriate and inappropriate care, e.g. blood pressure monitoring.”

Another telling sign of Mackey’s corporate-cultural ethic towards the well-being of Whole Foods workers, in this case veritable union-busting, is illustrated by Sharon Smith, writing for Counterpunch.org.  “Preventing Whole Foods workers from unionizing has always been at the top of Mackey’s agenda, and the company has been successful thus far at crushing every attempt. Perhaps the company’s most notorious attack on workers’ right to unionize occurred in Madison, Wis., in 2002. Even after a majority of workers voted for the union, Whole Foods spent the next year canceling and stalling negotiation sessions — knowing that after a year, they could legally engineer a vote to decertify the union. Mission accomplished.”  There already seems to be a wide disconnect between the open, community-oriented and progressive-thinking image Mackey would like Whole Foods to project, and the somewhat shocking realities of its internal workings.

But perhaps one of the most interesting — and least-mentioned — aspects of the debate that has surrounded John Mackey’s article is his almost absurd inclusion of the Whole Foods corporation in his string of ideas.  One is first affronted by the title of the piece: “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.” Of course, Mackey and all who agree with him are entitled to their opinions, but would he really think to use the liberal, progressive-leaning image of the entire company, as well as speaking for it’s workers and even its patrons, as an umbrella to open his conservative rhetoric with in the midst of an internationally-recognized and read financial journal?

According to Deirdre Fulton, writing for the Boston Phoenix, apparently Mackey had intended his piece to be titled simply “Health Care Reform,” and an unnamed editor at the Wall Street Journal had rewritten the title before going to press.  However, even if the article had remained title-less, there is no disguising his comparison of the Whole Foods health care plan with what he would like to see the United States adopt as an over-arching health care approach.  It’s the same difference as the manipulated title; inadvertently speaking for thousands of people, disregarding and thus disrespecting his main demographic as well as those who work long hours for relatively minimal pay to help keep him a multi-millionaire.  It was certainly his right to say whatever he wanted in the publication; this is not an issue of Freedom of Speech.  It was simply an act of incredibly poor taste and laughable business tact, and serves as a small but poignant example of the power and danger of mixing business with politics.

In the meantime, the boycott continues to grow! And we at AP are not suggesting you join the boycott, but just want to give you our opinion of the issue. There are other great ways to support liberal, Fair Trade, organic, and local businesses without shopping at a major chain such as Whole Foods. For instance, we recommend shopping at your local Co-op, independent health food stores, or Farmer’s markets. Because after all, supporting the little guy is always a better alternative than funding major corporations, no matter what their politics are.

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