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Now, I’m a little undecided as to how I feel about Seventh Generation and the popularity they’ve gained in recent years.  On one (very large) hand, I greatly appreciate that they are offering much more natural and environmentally friendly products that are readily available at your local Target, Jewel, Safeway, <insert regional grocery store here>.    They have a great corporate responsibility policy, including donating 10% of their profits to “to non-profit community, environmental, health, and responsible business organizations working for positive change.”  They strongly oppose testing on animals and offer some great educational material on their website.

Of course, the fact that it’s gained so much hype and popularity and is carried so much by so many big box stores keeps me a little leery.  Also, some of their products contain the highly controversial 1,4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen that’s been all over the news recently. 

However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have incredbily useful information on their website.  Just today, I came across their Seventh Generation Index.  They lay out a number of interesting and useful facts about the state of the environment, alternative energy, green jobs and pollution, mostly from the US but globally as well.  Some very interesting tidbits to highlight:

  • Number of people expected to be employed in the solar energy sector alone by 2030: 6.3 million
  • Number of minutes of sunlight hitting Earth needed to meet global energy needs for a year: 1
  • Size of the patch of desert needed to meet all U.S. energy using concentrated solar power: 92 x 92 miles
  • Percent of global energy needs that could be met by wind power: 3,500
  • Cost to build wind power generators to meet 20% of U.S. electricity needs: $1.2 trillion
  • Amount of money spent on foreign oil in the U.S. every year: $700 billion
  • Percent of total U.S. energy use dedicated to producing food: 19%
  • Percent of total U.S. energy use that would be dedicated to producing food if everyone was vegetarian: 13%  

    Check out the rest of the list here and make sure to spread the word.  It’s statistics like these that really put things into perspective for the average person and helps encourage them to make better choices for themselves and the planet.

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    Ever hear about voting with your dollars? It’s true. The world we live in today is controlled by big business. I think it’s becoming more and more apparent how tight their grasp is on our current government, our media, our television, our lives. (Can anyone even remember when there used to not be any commercials before movies in the theatre?)  The money we spend lets them know if their total and complete invasion is working.

    Alternatively, if we spend our money on crazy alternative, sustainable, fair trade, or all-around good for you products, there’s a good chance that big business will still listen. But, with all the greenwashing that we’re bombarded with every day (really, BP?), it’s hard to tell truth from green stretching of the truth. Here are some triee-and-true options for all of us trying to make our footprint a little lighter in our daily actions:

    Ecoscene: Coming right out of my own ‘hood, Aimee Heilbrunn and Carmen Ramson-Herzing offer up reviews through their weekly e-magazine of different green products out in the market, often comparing them to their more mainstream counterpart. What I love about this website is that they offer up these reviews in a very digestible, easy to understand way, listing out the pros and cons of the product, followed by some final thoughts. All of the products they interview must be accessible to anyone through the Web as well as sustainable. These ladies are still pretty new on the scene, but I encourage everyone to sign up to get their weekly emails and even contribute, if you’re so inclined.

    Co-op America: This organization has been rocking the sustainable lifestyle since 1982. Their mission is “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” Not only do the put on one hell of a Green Festival, but they’ve now created a Responsible Shopper website where you can search for a company profile by name or industry and get their corporate responsibility profile. Not only that, but you can sign onto campaigns to demand more responsibility and sustainability in corporate America. Easy as that!

    So, next time you’re looking to make a purchase, big or small, and want to know which way your dollars will vote, make sure to check out these amazing resources. Little by little, we can start to make the results swing in our favor- Mother Earth’s favor.

    Remember this number. 350 is the amount of carbon dioxide, in parts per million, that is deemed the limit for our Earth. NASA scientist James Hansen, a long-time global warming researcher (he was testifying in Congress back in the late 80’s, before we even cared about what CFCs were). For those of you who speak science, you can check out all of the supporting information here.

    So, 350 is the number. We’re at about 387 right now, which means we’re a little CO2 overweight. Environmentalist, educator and all around amazing dude Bill McKibben has created the website 350 to help us understand what needs to be done to get us down to 350 ppm and to stay there. How do we do this? Says 350:

    We need an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions fast. The United Nations is working on a treaty, which is supposed to be completed in December of 2009 at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. But the current plans for the treaty are much too weak to get us back to safety. This treaty needs to put a high enough price on carbon that we stop using so much. It also needs needs to make sure that poor countries are ensured a fair chance to develop.

    These days, it’s all about social media, and why shouldn’t it? With the time we spend on our computers, it makes lobbying, spreading the word, and being engaged in issues a lot easier and more user friendly. With the click of a button, you can let all of your nearest and dearest (and whoever else resides in your email address book) about the awesome video that explains this issue. You can email your congressperson and let them know that you, as their constituent, want to see this issue dealt with.

    So, what are you waiting for? Go to 350 now, sign up, and do your part to make sure that we keep this Earth the nice, big, beautiful place that it is and can be.

    As the holidays roll around, I’m sure we’re all starting to scratch our heads and ponder what to get our loved ones. I’d love to blog all about the holidays and consumerism, but I’m going to save that for another day. Besides, it would totally defeat the purpose of what I’m about to tell you!

    So, as we’re all constructing our shopping lists and checking them twice, please consider buying gifts from socially-concious shops. There are so many organizations that offer beautiful gifts that are handcrafted by men and women all around the world. Not only that, but the proceeds of those purchases go towards helping those less fortunate- be it formerly incarcerated women, men and women in third-world countries, fair-trade farmers or domestic abuse survivors. I know it’s so easy to run to Target or your local super mall to grab everything you need for a cheap price and save some cash for the holidays. But please take a moment and think of those less fortunate than you. Think of the environment. Think of the future.

    Have I inspired you yet? Check out the plethora of sites available. I really just scratched the surface, thanks to Britt Bravo of the awesome Have Fun, Do Good blog and some of my own basic research:

    The V-Day Shop– Remember the Vagina Monologues? Well, the movement that started that, V-Day is still going quite strong and has a small shop where you can buy a few items to help support the movement to end violence against women.

    Women and Children First– This is a fantastically fabulous woman-owned and run bookstore, specializing in women’s issues and LGBT issues. They’re an independently owned bookstore, which is definitely an endangered species, so all the more reason to shop there! You can order online or check out their shop in Andersonville. Bonus: They donate 10% of their proceeds to a different women’s or LGBT organization every month.

    Oxfam America– Oxfam is an international organization dedicated to making positive change for the poor by focusing on three main areas: development, emergency relief and campaigning. Their American site offers lots of great ideas for holiday shopping. Buy a cow for a family in a developing country and help provide an entire economic support system. You can also buy other animals and gardens, irrigate a farmer’s land for 2 months (for only $20!), help support indigenous women or small business owners or provide gender rights training for community activists. They’ve also got a great list of other great ways to help the poor through your shopping, including fair trade products as well as a list of groups around the US who offer homemade foods and crafts and support rural communities.

    Women’s Bean Project, Inc.– This Denver-based initiative teaches workplace competencies for entry-level jobs through employment and by teaching job readiness. They employ women with histories of poverty, unemployment, a lack of education, single mothers, etc. They sell mostly food such as soups, cookie mixes, and spice rubs.

    The Enterprising Kitchen– Very much like Women’s Bean Project, but this one is Chi-town based and they offer natural soaps, candles, and other fun bath products. The women here have the opportunity to work in all aspects of an enterprise: manufacturing, customer service, direct sales, assembly, production and shipping and receiving. I’ve actually been here and seen the warehouse in action, and it is mighty impressive.

    Thistle Farms– Similar to the previous two groups, but with a little extra- Thistle Farms is the cottage business of Magdalene, a two-year residential community in Nashville, TN for women with a criminal history of addiction and prostitution. They offer natural and organic handmade healing products which reflects their desire to heal themselves.

    The Nest– A non-profit that supports women artists and artisans of the developing world by helping creat sustainable entrepreneurial businesses. They provide micro-credit loans (all the rage these days) that are used for purchasing necessary supplies and materials for beginning/maintaining arts and crafts-based businesses. They raise this money through the sales of merchandise exclusively produced by both well-known artisans as well as the recipients of the micro-credit loans as repayment for their loans.

    Rosie’s Place– The mission of Rosie’s Place is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homless women in the Boston area. They introduce women to craft skills and the basics of merchandising and offer a source of income to the artisans through their Women’s Craft Cooperative. Check out what they can make out of beautiful buttons!

    Ten Thousand Villages– A non-profit group that sells handcrafts from artisans all over the world and gives them the profits. Novel idea, right? There are stores all over the country, but for you Chicagoans, there’s one in Evanston and one opening soon in Oak Park, not to mention 2 in the ‘burbs (Glen Ellyn and Grayslake).

    Global Girlfriend– A fair-trade boutique selling specialty hand-made gifts and goods made by numerous women’s non-profit programs, women’s cooperatives worldwide and products that benefit women’s human rights.

    The Lime– For the eco-friendly loved one. I’ve just recently discovered this site, but here they offer a number of eco-friendly ideas for every type of person in your life as well as mention other sites to check out with similar lists.

    Of course, if there’s nothing you can find in these sites, peruse at your own leisure. There are plenty of great organizations out there that offer some fabulous gifts that in turn make this world a better place. Maybe you’re no into the whole physical gift thing. That’s cool. Instead, donate to an organization that benefits someone you know or an organization that works for a cause that your loved one holds dear, such as UNICEF (you can buy greeting cards, too) or the Make A Wish Foundation.

    Still can’t find anything cool? The least you can do is try and shop local.

    Most of us have seen or at least heard of An Inconvenient Truth, right? I’m sure that most of you have heard about how many millions of tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into the air every year. And yet, especially during the holidays, traveling is still a necessity. What is an aspiring eco-friendly bloke like yourself to do?

    In comes our savior- Terrapass. This group calculates how many pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted from your traveling (with some help from Google Maps), whether it be flying or driving.
    Example: A round-trip flight from Chicago to San Francisco (about 7,400 miles) uses 147 gallons of fuel and emits 2,883 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

    Yikes! That’s a lot of global-warming causing gook. But, according to Terrapass’s calculations, for a mere $36.95, I can buy the offset of 7,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and breathe (great pun!) easy.

    Another example: A 2001 Ford Focus with manual transmission and an average of 15,000 miles a year emits about 9,176 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

    Ouch! That’s way too much! But what about all of those greenheads out there in the ‘burbs where public transportation is virtually non-existent (Sorry, Pace)? Never fear! For a simple $49.95 a year, you can offset all of your nasty CO2 discharge.

    What does the money buy, you ask? Terrapass uses the money to support energy projects that balance out the climate impact that we make, such as wind energy, biomass and industrial efficiency.

    Don’t believe them? Terrapass is audited every year by the Center for Resource Solutions, the leading certification agency in the renewable energy market. Terrapass is the only organization in the industry that goes through this verification process. Still not satisfied? They offer a 100% money-back guarantee.

    So, please, whether you’re traveling this week for Thanksgiving or making plans to get the heck outta freezing dodge over the December holidays, please consider this small financial investment that pays back bigger than we could ever imagine.

    Post-Script: They even have special holiday ideas!

    What Is This Girl Talking About??