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

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Unless you have been living under a rock or on an outer space adventure the past few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard about the tragic oil spill off of the Gulf of Mexico. 200,000 gallons of oil continue to flow into the sea as efforts to quell the flow of oil have been unsuccessful thus far.

In addition to the tragedy of the eleven men who lost their lives as the drill rig Deepwater Horizon sank into the Gulf on April 22nd,  worries continue to multiply about the long term negative effects this immense spill will have on the environment and its many inhabitants for weeks, months and years to come.

While history has taught us that oil spills such as this one come with dire consequences for the ecosystems surrounding the area of the spill, the long term damage created by this most recent spill remains to be seen. Immediate effects are beginning to become more crystallized, as Reuters is reporting that seven dolphins and over a hundred sea turtles have washed onto shore dead as what officials are assuming is a result of the oil spill.

Environmentalist, such as Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network, are quick to criticize the lack of information being offered about the damage being done to the environment as a result of this catastrophic spill.

Viles  states, “There’s a lot of concern now about the marine impact and we’re not getting a truly transparent response from NOAA(the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Resulting criticism concerning this disaster are not limited to NOAA or other groups one likely has never heard of before, but are  also being directed at President Barack Obama and his Administration, who in recent months announced plans to expand offshore drilling efforts in the United States.

The President,  after resolving  to temporarily suspend the development of  new offshore drilling locations pending  a government safety review of the drilling process,  asserted, “Let me be clear, I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security.” Even though this tragic oil spill highlights American unsustainable dependence on oil, it is not quite enough to move the administration to focus on weaning the country away from gas and petroleum based products.

Funnily enough -not so much in a “haha, this Garfield comic is a hoot!“ kind of way,  but in a more “Hmmm, that is an interesting coincidence” type  of way- on April 28th,  just days after the devastating Gulf spill,  the development of  the first wind farm offshore of the U.S was announced by Government officials.

This is not  to declare a massive, multi-tiered conspiracy is taking place.  The creation of this wind farm is a step in the right direction for the energy future of this country. Regardless of whether or not the timing of the announcement had anything to do with a skillful PR move in order to throw environmentalists a bone during this hugely criticized oil crisis, it still was a plan years in the making, so it is likely a happy coincidence. (She says as she reaches for the tinfoil to wrap around her over sized noggin’. I kid, I kid…or do I? DUN, DUN, DUN!)

Conspiracy theories aside, this wind farm alone will only act as a band aid on a gunshot wound, or a huge oil spill as it were. Halting offshore drilling until the oil slick clears is not enough.This tragic occurrence should not be swept under the table or downplayed.  This sinking oil rig may as well have been a huge blaring alarm clock- one that screeches endlessly and comes with a dangerous snooze button.

We can not afford any more snoozing;  putting off radical changes to the way we as a society treat the energy crisis for another 10 or 15 years because we are too lazy to think about it in the here and now. This is not a time to sleep in or to do what is easiest when we know what is right.

It is time to wake up and take action! We must roll out of bed and painfully pull ourselves into our reality. No matter what you think of driving or plastic bags, the truth is the planet simply does not contain enough oil to sustain the current culture’s lifestyle. We have to make some serious global changes in our energy, transportation, manufacturing and everyday lives. There is just no way around it and this oil spill is like a hotel wake up call to make these changes.

Sadly, like my affinity for stone-washed  jean chaps, the public at large does not appear to share in my opinion on the permanent halting of  the expansion  of offshore drilling efforts.  A recent telephone poll conducted by the Associated Press finds that American adults are unmoved by this latest tragedy in terms of their opinion of offshore drilling. A shocking 50 percent of those polled report still favoring offshore drilling, opposed to the 38 percent who disapprove.

I will be damned if I can not drive the three blocks to 7-11 for a Big Gulp, but it ain’t no skin off my back if a bunch of weirdo fish die.” – Some thirsty guy  driving a Hummer to 7-11. *(Quote may or may not be fictional.)

*It is.

Weaning ourselves off oil will not be an easy task. As a people we will need to learn to conserve energy- walk to 7-11 when that Big Gulp thirst hits you.  Heck, you can even roller blade- which, may I add, would look even cooler , if you sported some jean chaps on your stems while you bladed. Just sayin’.

As for the government, they need to take this alarm clock blaring in their ears as more than just a minor inconvenience that causes them to temporarily shelf foolish plans to expand offshore drilling  and make a real commitment to renewable energies that does not include amplifying our already gargantuan dependence on oil.

If real changes are not made the next alarm may start sounding on your shore and no amount of snooze buttons or delays are going to halt the reality that awaits us.

-Meghan Hurley

As we type this, the Vice Presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have finished their first debate. As you all know our country is an economic crisis as well as an environmental one.  But do you know where each candidate stands on environmental and energy policies? We at Autonomie recognize how important environmental issues as well as a sustainable energy plan is to all of you…as much as it is to us. That is why tonight we would like to lay out the two Vice Presidential candidates views on both energy and the environment. We encourage you to take the time to weigh the ideas of both candidates before making a decision in November.


We want to make note that here at Autonomie Project we are not endorsing a particular candidate but will be voting with the ticket that best meets our values as individuals and as a company.

John Mccain’s VP Candidate: Sarah Palin

  • Palin is a known supporter of Bush’s plan to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which has been a protected reserve since the 1950’s.  She is also a staunch supporter of off-shore drilling. In fact, she actually disagrees with Senator McCain’s view on this matter.
  • The Bush administration added the Polar Bear to the endangered species list and Palin, who is an avid hunter, sued the federal government.
  • As far as Global Warming goes, Palin is on record telling the Newsmax.com: “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.”
  • She publicly opposed a Proposition in Alaska that would have protected the Bristol Bay as well as drinking water from mining run-offs.
  • Palin has taken on Big Oil companies in Alaska including adjusting a Petroleum Profits Tax that eliminated tax loopholes, however she does support fossil fuel drilling on domestic lands.

Barack Obama’s VP Candidate: Joe Biden

  • He has stated, “The scientific evidence is clear: We need to take significant steps toward worldwide reduction of greenhouse gases to avoid permanently altering our climate.”
  • Biden has introduced legislation to the Senate to fund research for better lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles.

So there you have it,  a quick run down of  some of the environmental policies of both the Vice Presidential candidates. Now it’s your turn, make a choice, and please remember to vote!!

As a follow up to last week’s, Top Veggie Friendly Colleges post we wanted to also suggest eco-friendly colleges. Many Universities are making changes not only to improve the environmental impact of the college itself, but also prepare a new generation to fill the Green Collar Market. So we have put together a list of Top Green Colleges! There are several different sources that have ranked Green Colleges based on their sustainable campus life, school policies, and green curriculum. We found four main rankings: Princeton Review, Grist, Sierra Club, and The Daily Green. We have used these lists as a guide and have come up with the following list (and we are proud that both our Alma Maters made the cut!):

Top Green Colleges

#1 Warren Wilson College: Amazingly this school has worked in the Green life into every aspect of the school. Not only do they have an amazing recycling program, but the school is self sufficient (sustainable farms and forest), and they even have soy fueled chainsaws and bio-diesel fuels!!

#2 Oberlin College: Oberlin college boasts a slew of Green programs and has made an active effort to reduce waste as well as educate. The campus has a car sharing program, supports locally produced food in its cafeteria, uses a ton of solar electricity, and their graduation ceremonies are completely eco-friendly including bio-degradable utensils and programs.

#3 Middlebury College: Not only does the Green activist Bill McKibben teach here, but this school has been very active in climate change. They have even put forth a plan to make the school carbon-neutral by 2016 as well as a state of the art recycling center. They even have energy saving competitions between dorms!!

#4 Harvard University: Harvard usually tops everyone’s academic and sports lists, but now they can add Green rankings to their impressive resume. Harvard has recently changed all school vehicles over to veggie fuel from the cafeteria, they have the MOST eco-friendly buildings certified by US Green Building Council, and is one of the largest purchaser of Green and Renewable energy.

#5 Duke University: Duke has now required all new buildings to be certified by the US Green Building Council and is making an active effort to improve their green energy through wind and hydro-power projects. They are also pushing a biking campaign and discouraging its students to use cars.

#6 University of New Hampshire: UNH located in Durham, NH boasts an Office of Sustainability and in 2009 80-85% of their energy will come from a landfill source. They have also developed an organic dairy farm and a Sustainable Horticulture department, where they work with children in the area on developing a new Green Generation.

#7 Tufts University: Tufts was the first university in the country to pass a green initiative and won the US Climate Change award in 2005. They are committed to meeting the demands of the Kyoto target for emmissions and continue to develop solar panels! Also, this is one of our Alma Maters!

#8 Universities of California: Ok. We realize this includes 10 schools, but if we evaluated all ten separately they may have taken over the list! Every campus in this system has made efforts to use renewable power by 2014, increase use of low- to zero-emission vehicles by at least 50 percent, and achieve zero waste by 2020!! Also each campus has their own initiatives they are focusing on: UC Davis (our other Alma Mater) has sustainable and organic agriculture programs, UC Berkeley has an all organic cafeteria, and UCLA has really pushed the bicycling movement.

#9 Yale University: Yale has developed a superior alternative energy plan including: solar, wind, and geothermal energy produced on campus. They also promote using biofuels in cars and have incentives to employees who use a carpool system. And lastly they have developed a new school of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

#10 Evergreen State College: This public school hosts a large organic farm complete with composting facility. On top of this, the school purchases only 100% clean power, is in the process of switching to electric cars, and is building Green Buildings for future use.

Bummed that your school didn’t make the cut??  Well then take matters into your own hands!  It is after all the power of the student body itself that can have the most influence over university administration, so start talking to your professors and university staff and start making positive changes on your campus today!

Ok so we have all heard of white collar and blue collar jobs, but what is all this about green collars? In the rough times of economic downturn, its important to keep focused on the next wave now hitting the marketplace: Green Collar Jobs!

Economic forecasters are seeing the “Green Collar Job” market on the horizon and expect it to fuel our economy as the manufacturing and service industry is falling.  So perk up all you college students out there and start doing your research.  You could be the next leaders of this exciting and revolutionary industry!

So what exactly is a Green Job and how do you even begin to define something so vague and so broad?  Well, America is making changes (hopefully) to move away from our dependency on oil and as we do companies are starting to catch on. From urban planning to eco-friendly operations, companies are looking for engineers, architects, consultants, contractors, marketing professionals, etc. (the list goes on forever) that have an eye and expertise for all things green that make a positive impact on our planet.  A recent study by American Solar Energy Society reported that there were a shockingly huge 8.5 million jobs created by the growing environmental trends in 2006 and another 40 million will be created by 2030.  So seriously kids, even if you’re not an environmentalist, you should strongly consider joining the movement just for the employment opportunities!  Our world is a transitioning into a Green World and with it we need people like you to fill the expanding job market.

So where do you find these types of jobs? Well there are a number of job search sites that focus on eco like the Environmental Career Opportunities website.  They update their site every two weeks and have over 500 green jobs listed – so make sure to check it out.   There’s also the Environmental Career Center and Green Engineering Jobs. Another great way to find Green Jobs is through local universities and the Federal, State, and local governments.  Schools and governments are also expanding their employment pool to include jobs considered to be a part of the Green Collar Market!
On September 27th there will be a national day of action to bring more attention to the growing green job market organized by a movement called Green Jobs Now. The day will be filled with grassroots events throughout the country aiming to draw attention to the need for more Green Jobs and funding so that environmentalism can more easily become a part of our daily lives.  Even YOU can sign the Green Jobs petition, participate in an event near you or even host your own event in your neighborhood!

This is a very exciting time for our ever-changing world, as well as for small eco-minded companies like ourselves!  We really hope Green Jobs Now and other events like it will draw the attention of both political candidates and the general public to keep environmental issues at the forefront.  With all the negativity about the recession, its certainly refreshing to focus on the dawning of a new and hopeful era!

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