It’s hot – real hot! Even the greenest among us just wants to crank up the AC and lay around a lot. You can go there, or you can try out some of these ideas for beating the heat with a lighter environmental impact.
Ever think about giving up chocolate for the good of the planet? Nah, me neither – some sacrifices are too great! Despite having such a captive market, though, chocolate makers from the corporate giants to small-scale artisan operations have looked for ways to reduce their environmental and social impact. Organic cocoa beans and Fair Trade farming operations have become standard on this front, but two chocolatiers, one American, one British, have gone to an extreme to cut their footprints: they’re having either supplies or product delivered by sailing ships.
I eat an apple every single day. I order them from Fresh Direct, and unless I click the ‘organic’ option I get four Granny Smith apples delivered right to my door “fresh” from Chile. Like most people, I rationalize this somehow. “My farmers market is only once a week,” I reassure myself, “and I need apples more than just once and besides, they don’t even have the tart and crisp Granny Smiths that I need and love.” As environmentally aware and responsible as I like to think I am, it didn’t even cross my mind that if a farmer in New York isn’t growing Granny Smith apples, maybe I just don’t get to eat them.
Bottled water companies have had to get imaginative to distinguish their products from one another, because, as many watchdog groups have pointed out, all of it is pretty much just water (often filtered tap water) in a plastic bottle, and it’s often not as “pure” as tap water. That hasn’t stopped vendors from using everything from school spirit to New Age-y interpretations of quantum physics to position their products as unique.
The latest marketing trend for bottled water? Organic. Yep, that’s right. A number of companies now market “organic water.”
If you’re a good treehugger, you always look for USDA Organic certification on food and personal care products, the FSC label on paper and wood products, and the Green Seal on cleaning products. But if you happen to enjoy recreational medicinal horticultural products, caveat emptor dictates your purchases. There’s no way to know the growing practices that produced that dimebag, right?
On our kitchen counter, my wife has a set of glass jars designed for storing staples: flour, sugar, coffee, tea, etc. Of course, we have to buy the products that go into those jars at the store, empty them from their packaging, and then either recycle or trash whatever they came in.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just take those jars to the store and fill them?
Off the top of my head, I can only think of one way that growing plants will get you arrested… but Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan, doesn’t have any illegal substances growing in her front yard. The raised beds and vegetable plants she does have, however, have earned her a misdemeanor citation from the city… and a potential punishment of 93 days in jail!
While the term “organic” must meet strict guidelines for use with food, other products and services can pretty much use the term indiscriminately. So, if you’re thinking about hiring “green” yard care services this year, you still have to ask a lot of questions and otherwise do your homework.
That’s changing in New York, however: this year, the state is rolling out its Be Green Organic Yards NY program. When fully up and running, the program will provide New Yorkers with a list of businesses that have been approved to display a service mark demonstrating their knowledge of organic practices. To receive the designation, businesses must not only agree to avoid synthetic chemicals, but also take a training course that educates employees in a full range of organic considerations: from chemical-free pest control and fertilization to soil health and structure, proper plant and lawn maintenance, and environmentally-sensitive plant selection. The program also requires continuing education by service providers.
Organic food’s supposed to be safer than produce, meat, and dairy raised by conventional methods… right? Organic growers and ranchers are no doubt dealing with that question regularly over the past couple of weeks: between recalls of salmonella-contaminated sprouts and ground beef possibly laced with E. coli, it’s likely many are questioning the value of organics.
When I first saw that Rob Zombie was selling certified organic and Fair Trade coffee through his online store, I thought “That’s unique…” Turns out I was wrong… Zombie’s joining metal artists ranging from Steelheart to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth to Charlie Benante of Anthrax in lending his name and image to coffee. In all of these cases, the brands in question tout their dedication to the environment and social/economic justice.
OK, your average metal musician probably appreciates a good cup of java after a night of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but organic and Fair Trade? Is that necessary for this demographic? Or is this just some kind of marketing ploy aimed at attracting a wider audience?
One Hundred and Eight – Interactive Installation from Nils Völker on Vimeo. Nils Völker created “One Hundred and Eight,” a neat interactive wall installation made from common trash bags inflate and deflate giving it an organic quality. The artist explains: Although each plastic bag is mounted stationary the sequences of inflation and deflation create the…
A young couple decides that the urban corporate rat race is no longer their scene, and chooses to buy a piece of land in the country to start their own organic farm.
Heard this story before? Probably… with the young couple in question coming from LA, Chicago, or New York. Turns out this lifestyle choice is no longer uniquely American, though: Chongming Island, China is turning into a destination for disaffected Chinese yuppies looking to get back to the land.
Kids all over are looking forward to trick-or-treating or Halloween parties this coming Sunday: dress up in a cool costume, get lots of candy… what could be better? If you’re a parent raising your child on a organic, vegan, kosher, or otherwise specialized diet, Halloween can be hell, though… not only do you need to check candy for tampering, but also for meeting the dietary guidelines you’ve established for your children.
This past weekend, Farm Aid celebrated its 25th anniversary with its annual concert… this time in Milwaukee. The brainchild of Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp, Farm Aid’s mission has always focused on the plight of the family farmer in the United States; in recent years, the organization has also added a healthy dose of sustainability to its message. Some might be tempted to accuse the organization of jumping on the green bandwagon, but Farm Aid recognizes that family farmers are well-positioned to meet the growing demand for safer, healthier, and more environmentally benign agricultural products.
When you hear the phrase “mission-driven business,” you likely think of a company dedicated exclusively to using commerce to address social and environmental problems. That’s definitely the case with A Cup of Organic, a coffee company and cafe based outside of Tampa, Florida. But the owners of this company take the word “mission” much more literally, too: all devout Christians, they devote a portion of their profits to funding missionary work.
From reselling used building materials through its Restores to contributing to the development of Biotown USA, Habitat for Humanity has a definite green streak… if you have doubts, just check out the international organization’s efforts on sustainable building and energy efficiency. The Inland Valley chapter in Southern California has taken this green focus to heart: not only has it incorporated solar power into many of its projects through a partnership with GRID Alternatives (like many California chapters), but it also now includes an organic garden with every “new” home.
Alexander Fury and shoes by Alexander McQueen Alexander Fury, the fashion director of SHOWstudio, talks inspiration and digital media at the eye of the fashion storm. Love’s first video for iPad application stars Elle Macpherson in bouffant and lingerie. FFF goes to Istanbul and India. Clary Sage brings fashion to organic yoga wear.
US presidents golfing on vacation is hardly news, but President Obama’s choice of a course for his ten days of family time in Martha’s Vineyard this month did make the New York Times… because the Vineyard Golf Club “is thought to be the only completely organic golf course in the United States…”
From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the Gulf oil spill, you don’t have to look far for evidence of how heavily we pollute our oceans. The effects of this pollution are both environmental and economic: harming ocean life diminishes our capacity to make use of the many resources on which we rely provided by the planet’s ample blue spaces. Just take a look at some of the numbers from NOAA, National Geographic, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute:
Landscape I and III by Levi van Velew The words “organic art” may induce cringing. A new catch phrase, you dare ask? No, just a convenient way to talk about the latest exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design, “Dead or Alive,” which showcases over 30 artists whose work is made from once living…
Got some old jeans you don’t wear any more? The Gap’s currently running a recycling drive for used denim in partnership with Cotton, Inc.’s “Cotton. From Blue to Green” campaign. Through March 14th, you can donate those old jeans at participating Gap, GapKids, or babyGap locations, get a discount for a new pair, and know that the old ones will be recycled into “UltraTouch Natural Fiber Insulation for communities in need.” This program has collected tens of thousands of pairs of old jeans since its 2006 inception, and used them for insulating homes in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
You can call Annie Haven a “tea bagger” if you’d like, but keep in mind the title doesn’t necessarily reflect her politics (or any other preferences); rather, it’s a professional title. Haven is the founder of Authentic Haven Brand soil conditioner tea, which takes manure from her family’s cattle farm, puts it in 3×5 teabags, and sells it to homeowners looking for something akin to an energy drink for their house plants.
You likely associate community gardens with neighborhoods: residents (either with permission or “guerrilla gardening”-style) take over an empty lot and turn it into a green space. It turns out that colleges and universities have gotten in on the act: a number of schools around the US now offer space to students, faculty, and staff members who want to dig in the dirt, and grow their own food. The University of Idaho is the most recent school to host a community garden; others have done it for years, or even decades. Here are just a few…
With the new year quickly approaching, you may be thinking about changes you’ll want to make in 2010… and food issues may be high on your resolution priority list. Eat more fruits and vegetables… stay away from junk food… cook more… the list goes on and on…
If you’ve done any volunteering in homeless shelters or soup kitchens, you know that these institutions have to focus on stretching their dollars to feed as many people as possible… so organic and/or local produce may be out of the question. Santa Barbara’s Organic Soup Kitchen, a “relatively new non-profit,” takes a different approach to feeding the hungry: their mission statement proclaims that “…no person regardless of financial status shall compromise the quality of food they feed themselves or their family.”