The plan was to buy the shirts in Africa for about a dollar or less each and “repatriate” them to the U.S. where they could give them a second life, raise money for their non-profits, and increase awareness about over-consumption in the U.S. and its global effects. “The idea is so ridiculous that it resonates with people,” explains Hewens. The repatriated shirts are silkscreened with a stamp image that shows where in Africa they are found, setting them apart from a used t-shirt you might find at a second-hand store. Yes, you could buy a used t-shirt at Goodwill, but these shirts have extra value because they bring awareness to the story of our love of shopping and fleeting trends in the U.S. At the same time, the pair are able to support entrepreneurs and artisans in Africa who sell and modify these shirts.
A wildly successful Kickstarter campaign allowed the two and a videographer to head back to Kenya to make a short film and repatriate 500 shirts (most of which have been sold- many at SOWA). Just in time for the holidays, they are back on Kickstarter, raising funds for the newest iteration of their company- the No More New campaign. They’ve partnered with a Boston fashion designer, Jacqueline Yao, to create three new products made of t-shirts: a reversible bag, a circle scarf, and a skirt. The products will be made by Kenyan artisans who currently modify shirts in the markets to make them more stylish.
The moral of the story? As you do your holiday shopping this season, tell the world you don’t need a new t-shirt. There are plenty already out there, waiting to be repatriated.
Learn more about the used clothing industry from PBS’s Tshirt Travels film and website: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/tshirttravels/film.html
Summer is over and the farmers' markets have closed, but you can still shop local for your Thanksgiving feast (and every meal after).
From the Cape to the Berkshires, Massachusetts has 30 winter farmers' markets (almost double the number from 2010!) that can help you keep your pantry stocked while keeping our farmers and food artisans in business.
Go to the MassGrown website for dates, times, and addresses.
- Amherst Winter Farmers' Market
- Boston/Prudential Center Winter Farmers' Market
- Boston/South End Winter Farmers' Market
- Boston/South Station/Dewey Square Winter Farmers' Market
- Cambridge Winter Farmers' Market
- Carlisle Winter Farmers' Market
- Chelmsford Agway Winter Farmers' Market
- Dorchester Winter Farmers' Market
- Fairhaven Winter Farmers' Market
- Falmouth/Green Harvest Winter Farmers' Market
- Falmouth/Mahoney's Winter Farmers' Market
- Greenfield Winter Farmers' Market
- Marshfield Winter Farmers' Market
- Milton/Thayer Nursery Winter Farmers' Market
- Natick Winter Farmers' Market
- Newburyport Winter Farmers' Market
- North Amherst Winter Farmers' Market
- North Attleboro Farmers' Market
- Northampton Winter Farmers' Market
- Plymouth Winter Farmers' Market
- Salem Winter Farmers' Market
- Sandwich Winter Farmers' Market
- Scituate/Kennedy's Country Gardens Winter Farmers' Market
- Somerville Winter Farmers' Market
- Springfield Winter Farmers' Market
- Walpole Winter Farmers' Market
- Wayland Winter Farmers' Market
- West Tisbury Winter Farmers' Market
- Westford Winter Farmers' Market
- Winchester/Mahoney's Winter Farmers' Market
Light refreshments will be provided. March 22, 6-7:30pm in Academic Building #3, Room 130 at Roxbury Community College. More information.
In 2010, the USPS generated over $13 million in revenue from expanded recycling and waste prevention efforts. Last year, over 80 staff green teams helped save over $5 million through creative low and no cost ideas. The USPS is piloting a mail-back program in certain locations that allows customers to recycle small electronics, CFL light bulbs, and expired medicines easily and safely. They are upgrading their facilities to include energy-efficient lighting and HVAC, native landscaping, low-flow water fixtures, and one of their buildings in NYC has one of the nation's largest green roofs.
The USPS is the first shipping company to have Crade to Cradle certified packaging. The USPS's packaging (including boxes, envelopes, mailers, packaging tape, and labels) have all received silver certification (the second level), meaning they have met certain criteria related to toxicity and human and environmental health, the ability for products to be recycled or composted, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social responsibility.
Stamps are printed with water-based inks and use adhesive that is recyclable. They use hybrid, electric, and advanced diesel vehicles, and one-third of their deliveries are made on foot (and apparently some are made on electric and traditional bikes!). The agency's efforts have not gone unnoticed, they have won over 75 environmental awards including 40 from the White House.
-Photo of electric bike courtesy of USPS
The Boston Tree Party was founded by artist Lisa Gross in October as a way to bring together her interests in urban agriculture, public art, sustainability, and community building. The idea has spread quickly and delegations from across the area, from Boston University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies to Shape up Somerville have signed up to participate. Those that only have the space to plant one of the pair, have reached out to their neighbors to plant the other one, forming diverse neighborhood partnerships such as Tech Networks of Boston and Southie Trees.
Jewelry: Susan Wilson of Liliana Designs in Scituate collects seaglass in Cape Cod and turns the recycled glass into gorgeous rings, necklaces, earrings, and more.
Flowers: About 70% of cut flowers sold in the U.S. come from overseas and many are grown with toxic pesticides. Why not give organic flowers grown on a small family farm in California?
Chocolate: You can't go wrong with chocolate. Taza Chocolate, the organic, direct-trade Somerville-based chocolate is delicious and they pay their farmers living wages.
Recycled Wallet: Greenward has a shop full of green gifts, but this wallet made from reused rubber inner tubes stands out because it's useful and unique.
Camping: Last year's gift for my boyfriend was camping at the Boston Harbor Islands- a trip we really loved. We're in New England so we have no shortage of breathtaking campgrounds that help you get away from it all, check out Reserve America for ideas and reservations.
Cooking Classes: Spend some time together while learning to make the perfect pie or souffle. Boston is full of places to learn to cook such as the Boston Center for Adult Education.
Upcycled Wool Mittens: Zurdacrafts's Etsy store (based in Somerville) specializes in bright mittens, brooches, slippers, and other items made from recycled sweaters.
Photo: wreath made of recycled wool sweaters. Creative Common license/moonlightbulb
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) states that a two panel system for a 4-5 person family would cost about $8,000-$10,000. Residents can save more money on their system (the MassCEC estimates up to half the cost) with other state and federal incentives, such as the 30% federal renewable energy tax credit and Massachusetts' renewable energy tax credit and property tax exemption.
Residents must be an electric customer of NSTAR, National Grid, Unitil, Western Massachusetts Electric Company, or from Ashburnham, Templeton, Holden, Holyoke or Russell to qualify. The rebate program has $1 million and is funded through the MassCEC's Renewable Energy Trust.
In addition to the solar thermal rebates, MassCEC distributes residential rebates for solar electric panels and small wind.
Interested in getting a community supported agriculture (CSA) share, but have lingering questions? Cambridge/Somerville and Arlington are hosting CSA fairs where you can meet representatives from local farms and learn more about their shares. CSAs vary, so be sure to check out the day of the week they deliver, season length, and pick-up location to make sure you'll be happy with the share. For those that live farther away, you can find a CSA in your area by searching Local Harvest's CSA map. Many farm shares in the Boston region fill up quickly, so if you're serious about subscribing, bring a checkbook to the fair.
Cambridge/Somerville: Thursday, February 3, 5:30-8:30pm at 45 Mt. Auburn Street (Harvard Square)
Arlington: Thursday, February 24, 4:30-7:30pm at the Park Avenue Congregational Church, 50 Paul Revere Road (Arlington Heights)
Photo by: Brian Silverstei
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has updated their Northeast region seafood watch guide. Seven species were added or upgraded, a few of which are Atlantic fish. Atlantic haddock were upgraded because stocks have recovered from overfishing. Changes in fishery management have brought back the summer Atlantic flounder population, which was upgraded from "avoid" to "good alternative." Atlantic blackfin tuna, largely a sport fish, was added to the list. Atlantic pollock was also added; all U.S. Atlantic pollock were given a "good alternative" ranking.
What accomplishments are you most proud of over the past 16 years?
One of the things that is key to what we are trying to accomplish is cleaning the river up so that it becomes a place that people want to go. Historically, the Neponset River, like a lot of rivers in Massachusetts, was so dirty and smelly that communities organized themselves away from it. During my tenure and the organization’s tenure (which goes back 43 years), one of our focuses has been water quality and we’ve continued to see great strides there.
In the last five years or so we’ve really started to see developers orienting themselves towards the river instead of away from it and parks are starting to be developed along the river since it’s a nice place to go. People are able to enjoy a resource that they haven’t been able to enjoy for many, many years.
How clean is the river?
We do our own water quality monitoring and our data shows that for most of the watershed, we’ve made a lot of progress cleaning things up. At least during dry weather when you don’t have runoff from parking lots and streets, about 75-85% of the places we sample meet fishable/swimmable standards.
Are there parts of the river that need improvement?
The one big exception is in the estuary- the data shows that it is the least clean of the three harbor estuaries. There’s a big push to get that part of the river as clean as the rest of the river. We think we’ve found the sources and are working with folks to get them cleaned up, but that work is not done yet. The other problem is not a geographic problem area, but a temporal problem area. When it’s raining, you have water coming off streets and parking lots, and the water is not nearly as clean as it should be.
What are your goals for 2011?
We have been focusing on three big issues that we are trying to tackle. One is this polluted runoff problem; we are really starting to get the ball rolling on making progress. We have been working with communities to identify places where they can take steps to rectify the existing runoff problems. Our second big area is looking at water use. We’ve been working with several communities with tremendous results to help them reduce the amount of water they are diverting from the river. This saves a lot of energy- there’s a lot of energy used in pumping, delivering, heating and treating water. This also will, in the long term, keep down water and sewer bills. Our third area is looking at damaged habitat. Rivers are really neat systems in the sense that if you stop putting pollution into them, they have a tremendous capacity to clean themselves up. There are some problems that affect rivers that won’t take care of themselves, such as obsolete dams.
Are there a lot of dams in the watershed?
If you can believe it, there are more than 100 dams on the Neponset River. The work ethic of our forefathers was very intense- they were more committed than your average beaver in taking advantage of every bit of water power. The problem is that today, many of those dams are in a state of disrepair. They may be contributing to flooding programs and have a big impact on aquatic life in the river.
Are invasive plants a problem in the Neponset?
Yes. One of the big invasives we have focused on is purple loosestrife, which is a wetland plant that tends to take over freshwater marshes. We’ve been working with a group of about 100 volunteers who are serving as beetle ranchers. They are raising these tiny beetles that only eat purple loosestrife. They’d actually rather die than eat other plants. We’ve been working on this for about two years and are starting to see results.
What else do volunteers do for you?
The two things where we involve the most volunteers is the purple loosestrife beetle ranching efforts and water quality monitoring. Between these two projects there are probably about 250 people that are doing something once every six weeks.
What can our readers do to help their watersheds?
One tip would be to pick up after your dog, which is a big source of bacterial pollution in rivers. It’s also a nice thing to do for your neighbors. Another big one is being thoughtful about how you manage your lawn. People can go a little overboard with fertilizers, herbicides, and over-watering. The last one is to try to get more involved in your community. Be supportive of your Department of Public Works. For better or worse, the level of government that has the most impact is local government.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
In these times of tight budgets, cities and towns in Western Massachusetts have found that it pays to recycle. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) runs a recycling facility in Springfield that serves over 70 local communities. The facility recycled 36,630 tons of material from July 2009-June 2010 and paid those municipalities $1.14 million in return for their recyclables.
"The significant economic benefits of recycling continue to be realized by western Massachusetts municipalities," said MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt. "We congratulate those residents that do participate and encourage everyone to participate in local recycling programs. These programs matter more than ever given our current economy and pressing environmental challenges."
More information is available here.
The program was not without its setbacks. They had counted on a $15,000 grant from the DEP for compost bins, but that did not materialize since it would have been funded by the failed Bottle Bill. Instead, they received $7,000 from the EPA, and Clark was left scrambling to raise the other $8,000 in one night- which she did.
What to do with those plastic foam cups, packing "peanuts" and other materials that seem so crucial to everyday life? A few communities in Massachusetts are taking steps to recycle the stuff.
Read Katrina Ballard's story here.
Got old books collecting dust on your shelves? Bring them to the Great American Book Drive tomorrow at the Nonprofit Center (89 South Street, Boston) from 10am-3pm. Most books will be given to prisoners through the Prison Book Program and others will be sold by Better World Books. Proceeds will benefit the Prison Book Program and the City Mission Society of Boston.
The Leadership Award went to Eric Magers, a teacher in the Manchester Essex Regional School District. Eric leads the district's green team and helped reduce cafeteria waste by over 95%. Malden won the Large Municipality Award for their Pay As You Throw (PAYT) waste management system, which increased recycling by 74% and reduced trash by 49%. The small municipality award went to Dedham for doubling their recycling rate (which saved them $400,000).
Other winners included:
- School Recycling: Manchester Essex Green Team, Manchester, MA
- Institution/Nonprofit: Island Creek Oyster Foundation & Sustainable Duxbury
- Business Recycling: Raytheon Company, Tewksbury, MA
- Recycling Industry: Pedal People, Northampton, MA
- Food Establishment: Taranta Restaurant, Boston, MA
- Food Establishment: Big Y Foods, Inc., Western MA
- Food Establishment: Hannaford Brothers Company, Eastern MA
Recycling has gotten a whole lot simpler in Cambridge. Cambridge is the latest city to switch to single stream recycling. Cambridge residents can now throw all of their recyclables (glass, plastic, metals, paper, and cardboard) in one bin. The recycling plant in Charlestown will sort the products through a series of magnets, rotators, eddy currents, and optical scanners. Residents have also been given new larger bins with wheels (toters) to hold their recycling.
The new recycling trucks can compact the material, so they can now accept cardboard (no need to cut it up anymore), empty pizza boxes, empty paper coffee cups, large plastic items, and spiral cans (such as a Pringles can). The city expects the new, simpler program to increase recycling rates from 25% to at least 35%. Medford will begin single stream recycling on November 1st.
Watch this short animation from RecycleBank to see how it works.
Traditional plastic is made from oil or natural gas. The bio-based packaging is made from polylactic acid (PLA). PLA can be made from a variety of plant products, but in the US, corn is used. The corn is turned into corn starch and then fermented into lactic acid (similar to how yogurt is made). The lactic acid is then made into plastic. Stonyfield hopes to make the plastic out of non-food crops in the future, such as switch grass.
Stonyfield has tried to make the process as environmentally-friendly as possible. Their concern about the prevalence of genetically modified (GMO) corn pushed them to create an offset through the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Working Landscapes program to pay farmers to grow non-GMO corn using sustainable production standards. A life-cycle assessment of the packaging found that it would reduce Stonyfield's greenhouse gas emissions from packaging by 9%.
Technically, the cups can be recycled, but there are only two facilities in the world that can separate the lid and packaging from the cup, so it is not feasible for the most consumers right now. Most interestingly, Stonyfield found that, "the independent review of PLA’s environmental impact found that composting is not the best option for disposing of the cups, anyway. This is because composting would release back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the plant-plastic which was absorbed by the corn when it was growing."
Stonyfield has posted a video that explains how they made the decision to switch to corn-based packaging.
Yesterday was 350.org's 10/10/10 day of global work parties to "do something
that will help deal with global warming in your city or community."
People in 188 countries came together at over 7,000 climate work
parties to bring attention to climate change. Residents in
Massachusetts hosted dozens of events, from weatherizations to tree
plantings and tire inflation stations.
I went to a local organic farm, Plato's Harvest, to help plant garlic and harvest potatoes. While, at first glance, our work day didn't seem to me to have a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions, farmer Sasha Purpura pointed out that their farm doesn't rely on petroleum-based fertilizers and is mostly run with manual labor instead of fossil fuel dependent machinery. The work day, although exhausting (after separating hundreds of cloves of garlic, my fingers can barely type this) was mostly about fun, meeting new people, and connecting to where my food comes from.
Photo courtesy of Sasha Purpura
How did you come up with the idea?
A friend from college called and said he had a business proposition for me. It is based on the backyard farming businesses that he saw on the West Coast. Our model is different- the others were more of a farming, CSA style business; our model is similar to landscaping.
How long have you been running Green City Growers?
It's been a little over two years.
What's your dream garden gig?
What's the most fun or interesting garden job you've had?
Waltham Crossing- an assisted living center in Waltham. There's a garden club and I spend one afternoon a month with them maintaining the garden. It is so much fun.
What's your favorite plants to grow?
Tomatillos. I LOVE cucumbers. I really like growing swiss chard at home.
Do you garden at home or do you need a break from it after work?
I have a 4 ft. x 8 ft. garden plus a bunch of containers, but my garden is not as well cared for as the people we work for! What's that saying? The cobbler's son is always barefoot.
What plants are easiest for a novice gardener (like me) to grow?
Definitely perennial herbs because they come back every year.
What type of fertilizer do you recommend for a home garden?
Fish emulsion. There's a great fish emulsion fertilizer called Neptune's Harvest. It's smelly, but it works.
What garden books do you like?
Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest. In Defense of Food- it's not a gardening book, but is a very important book.
What do you love about your job?
I love doing this, it's really exciting. I love that we have the tools to turn a space that is not being used into a productive vegetable patch.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Look around while you are walking, biking, or driving on Friday- you might see something rather unexpected. Friday is PARK(ing) Day, an annual event where people take over metered parking spaces and turn them into public parks.
At least 11 parking spots in the Boston area (of the 700 worldwide) will be transformed- six on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, two in Coolidge Corner, one in the Longwood Medical Area, one at Tufts, and one in Salem.
Update: Christopher Ditunno emailed that there will be a 12th one at 90-94 Harvard Ave. in front of the Allston Cafe. Thanks for the update, Christopher!
The Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) is hosting Andrew Rimas, co-author of the book Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations for a book reading and signing on Friday at 6:30pm. After the event, there will be complimentary hor d'oeuvres and wine. The event is free, but you must RSVP: email@example.com
Bill McKibben, a Lexington native, environmentalist, and writer, will be returning to Lexington Sunday to speak at Cary Hall. McKibben, the author of several books and a former staff writer at the New Yorker, will be speaking about his new book, "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet," in which he argues that humans have created a new, practically unrecognizable planet.
"At this point, we're not going to make a big dent in climate change one lightbulb at a time,'' McKibben said in an interview. "Instead we're going to need a real political movement. That's why we started 350.org--last year we organized what CNN called 'the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history,' with 5200 demonstrations in 181 countries. But we need to grow this movement bigger and stronger.''
Your Town correspondent Sara Brown asked McKibben a few more questions about the future of the planet. Go here for the full Question and Answer.
This week is officially Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week. The official proclamation from Governor Patrick "urges all the citizens of the Commonwealth to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance."
This is especially fitting, as Massachusetts was recently ranked sixth in the nation by the USDA for the number of farmers' markets we have (currently 228).
You can also check out the blogathon about MA Farmers' Market Week that In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens is hosting. If you are inspired, consider submitting your own post to them!
GreenFest is organized annually by Foundation for a Green Future, Inc., a local nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education.
Annie Leonard and her team from The Story of Stuff explore these questions and more in the The Story of Cosmetics, a seven minute video that was released today.
Using her distinctive style of storytelling and animation, Leonard looks into what our cosmetics and bathroom products are made of (often toxic and untested chemicals) and why this is allowed in the U.S. Leonard's premise is simple: toxics in, toxics out. Our government allows companies to use untested chemicals and chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer in our bath and beauty products. The companies argue that the levels are too low to cause any damage, but with each of us using 6-12 products every day, the chemical stew entering our body adds up. Leonard pushes the precautionary principle- it's best to err on the side of caution, especially when less than 20% of these chemicals have been tested for safety and there have been very few tests to determine how they interact with each other in our bodies.
Does this make you as nervous as it makes me? I'm a big proponent of the precautionary principle and don't want to take unnecessary risks with this one body I have. Luckily, there are actions we can take to minimize our risk. Watch the video. Support the upcoming Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (sponsored by our own Representative Markey). Use less. Buy from companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. Spread the word.
Next week's highlights include:
Monday, July 19th:
11am Curious George Science Club, Orient Heights Branch
1pm DIY workshop, Adams Street Branch
6:30pm Live Endangered Species, Adams Street Branch
Tuesday, July 20th:
3pm New England Aquarium: Traveling Tidepool, South Boston Branch (Registration is required.)
4pm Green Film Festival for Kids- Hoot, Codman Square Branch
Wednesday, July 21st:
10:30am Go Green with Wayne Potash, BPL Copley Square
1:30pm Radical Reptiles, Grove Hall
Thursday, July 22nd:
1pm Green Film Festival- Wall-E, South End Branch
1:30pm Radical Reptiles, Uphams Corner
2pm Green Film Festival- Hoot, Egleston Square Branch
Friday, July 23rd
10:30am Radical Reptiles Live animal show appropriate for ages 5-up, Fields Corner Branch Library (Groups must register.)10:30am Birds of Prey The Audubon Ark Traveling Wildlife Program brings live birds of prey to the library, Orient Heights Branch Library (Space is limited.)
10:30am Animal Invaders, West End Branch Library
11am Green Film Festival for Kids-Ferngully, Roslindale
12:30pm Green Film Festival for Kids-Curious George Goes Green, Faneuil Branch2:30pm Recycled Craft--Recycling Poster, Boston Public Library, Copley Square
For more information and a complete list of events, go to the BPL's Summer Reading website. Contact your local branch to confirm events.
It's too hot to cook. For the past two weeks, the first thing to go
in our farm share are the foods we can eat right away and without
cooking- berries, cherries, salad greens, arugula, snap peas, and carrots. The
veggies that need to be cooked are piling up in the fridge, slowly
Not in the mood to cook tonight, I decided to stray from my standard kale recipe (sauteed with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt) and looked for a recipe that didn't involve the stove. I settled on a recipe I had at a dinner party last summer, a raw kale and carrot salad with a peanut dressing. I am pretty new to kale and had never even considered eating it raw before, but it's delicious and tastes similar to cabbage.
the recipe (courtesy of Martha Stewart), but didn't have most of the
ingredients. I omitted the peppers, used chunky peanut butter instead
of the peanuts, and replaced the cider vinegar with red wine vinegar.
An added bonus is that kale has more vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K,
calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals than lettuce.
Photo by SilverShots
This is the first in a new series of profiles of New Englanders who are greening their corner of the world. Frederick Breeden is the founder of Just Soap a Massachusetts-based soap company. Frederick makes soaps using organic ingredients and a pedal-powered machine to stir the soap.
How did you start making soap by bicycle?
I started making soap in 1996 after my mother-in-law gave me a soap making book. I made soap as gifts and then started selling them in stores the next year. Ten years ago, I worked with a bike builder to create a pedal-powered machine to mix the soap. It's not a bike since it has no wheels.
Why did you create the pedal-powered machine?
It allows me to make large batches in less time. It used to take me 12-13 hours to make 400 pounds of soap. Now I can do 440 pounds in six hours, three hours of which is pedaling.
How is your company sustainable?
Other than the human-powered mixer, all of the base oils, herbs and spices are organic, and the essential oils are pure and natural. I don't use synthetic fragrances and the honey is local. My shop's organic certification is pending. I use minimal packaging; the soap sits on open trays. I ship in reused boxes from my co-op and recycle all paper.
Why do you love your job?
I used to work in a factory and the noise of the factory takes over. Here, I keep things on a human scale. The shop is nice and quiet because the mixer is not electric. I can listen to the radio or talk.
What's your favorite thing to do in Massachusetts in the summer?
I go hiking a lot. We live near a 300 acre reservation, so we just go in our backyard. I also garden a lot; we grow a lot of our own foods.
Note: the interview was edited for length.
This summer and fall, I am signed up for a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture). If you haven't heard of a CSA, the general idea is that you pay up-front (usually in the winter) and get a share of the farm's output throughout the growing season. You are helping the farmers by giving them guaranteed cash early on, and you are also sharing in the unexpected highs and lows of mother nature. Tomato blight? Too bad, no caprese salad for you. A good season for strawberries? You're in luck- your box will overflow with juicy goodness. My previous experiences with CSAs have been exciting (trying vegetables I had never tasted before) and stressful (so many zucchinis, what to do?!). Joining a CSA is a fun experience, forcing you to find new recipes and be creative with what you get. So, I'm inviting you to come along with me for the next few months, while I explore my CSA.
This year, I signed up for World PEAS, a CSA that works with new farmers and immigrant farmers from all over the world. I was drawn to it because of the international aspect, the boxes will be filled with vegetables that I've never heard of. This week, week two, the box contained spey cabbage that was grown by a Cambodian farmer. What's spey cabbage? According to the CSA's newsletter (a fantastic piece filled with recipes and interesting facts), spey cabbage is related to bok choy.
I sauteed it with garlic scapes (from last week's share, but you can use garlic instead), fresh ginger, oil, and salt. It cooked down quickly and I finished it off with a drizzle of sesame oil. Delicious!
The Friends of the Public Garden is celebrating its 40th Anniversary by looking for evidence of Asian Longhorned Beetles in the Boston Common's trees. Want to help preserve the Common's trees? Volunteers are needed on Wednesday, June 23rd at 3pm to hunt for beetles. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Asian Longhorned Beetles attack and kill many types of hardwood trees, and prevention is the best control. In 2008, they were discovered in Worcester, requiring the removal of almost 27,000 trees. To learn more, download the new Asian Longhorned Beetle pocket guide. If you spot a beetle, report it on this form.
Photo Credit: Penny Cherubino Photography
If you haven’t seen the documentary Fresh yet- reserve a ticket now.
Fresh highlights a few of the people that are making a difference in the local agriculture movement, including Joel Salatin (a Virginia farmer) and Will Allen (my personal hero- an urban farmer who has brought farming and composting to Milwaukee’s youth through his non-profit Growing Power).
The Brattle Theater will be showing Fresh from June 18-23. Local restaurants, including Henrietta’s Table, Ten Tables, Rendezvous, Coda Bar & Kitchen, and Craigie on Main will be hosting farm-to-table dinners to celebrate the screening (meals come with a free ticket to the movie). Refer to the website for details.
I've always felt a twinge of guilt when throwing out wine corks, feeling that I should be saving them and making trivets, cork boards, or some other crafty project. I don't have to feel guilty anymore; Whole Foods has recently rolled out a cork recycling program in all of their stores nation-wide.
Whole Foods has teamed up with Cork ReHarvest to collect the corks. Cork ReHarvest is a two-year-old company whose mission is to recycle corks, educate the public about Mediterranean cork forests and the families that work on them, and protect the sustainability of these forests. The corks that are collected in the New England area will be used to create a vast number of products, including floors, coasters, yoga blocks, and bags (yes, cork bags!)- thus reducing the demand on the cork forests.
Learn more about the program and its environmental impacts from the Whole Foods Blog.
Bay State Bike Week is this week, and it's not too late to get in on the fun. A list of activities, ranging from films to bike-to-work breakfasts, that are happening state-wide are available on their website. Don't forget to wear your helmet!
Next week marks the start of American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), a "holiday" that I am more than happy to celebrate. Founded by the Brewers Association, ACBW was created to celebrate and draw attention to small and independent craft brewers in the United States. Local beer has many of the same benefits as local food: products are not shipped across the world, local ingredients (including water) are used, and small businesses provide jobs and support the economy.
How can you celebrate ACBW? Find a brewery event near you and grab a pint of fresh, local beer. Registered events in Massachusetts include:
* Amherst Brewing Company is hosting multiple events and releasing two new beers.
* Cape Cod Beer is giving
* Harpoon Brewery will have a beer tasting on May 19th.
* Haverhill Brewery will be releasing new beers all week.
* Several breweries in the Pioneer Valley are sponsoring a 45 mile bike ride that will stop at multiple breweries (413-687-7723).
* Or raise a pint or two at a brewery near you.
What's your favorite local beer, brewery, or pub?
Typical category: Flowers
Green/local alternative: Potted plants or seeds
The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture's Mass Grown Map lists locations for locally grown flowers, or better yet, seeds and trees to plant. You could also consider taking mom to the New England Wildflower Society to view or photograph flowers.
Typical category: Chocolate
Green/local alternative: Taza chocolate or chocolate cooking classes
Taza is an all-organic chocolate company whose factory is in Somerville. Taza has teamed up with Mass Farmers Market in a Love Your Mother campaign to raise money for local farmers' markets. For each online purchase of their Mother's Day chocolate gift bag, they will donate $20 to Mass Farmers Markets. Alternatively, consider a gift certificate to a local cooking school, such as the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, which offers courses in working with chocolate, such as their "Craving Chocolate" class.
Typical category: Spas
Green/local alternative: Green spas
Check out the Green Spa Network for ideas. These spas recognize connections between personal health and environmental responsibility by incorporating measures such as organic products, reducing water use, using unbleached paper products, and energy audits to identify potential conservation measures.
Typical category: Dinner out
Green/local alternative: Restaurants that serve local, organic food
The Green Restaurant Association is a good resource to find a Green Certified Restaurant. These restaurants are certified based on their water, waste, building, food, energy, disposables, and chemical reduction practices. There are also many restaurants in the area that serve local and/or organic food that aren't certified, such as Gilson's Herb Lyceum in Groton, TW Food in Cambridge, and Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. Check out the Slow Food Boston organization for more ideas and resources.
Typical category: Coupons to help mom around the house
Green/local alternative: Green spring cleaning
Consider offering to clean your mother's home using natural or green cleaning supplies.
Another option is to consider a donation in your mother's name. For example, the International Rescue Committee is sponsoring an Honor a Mother, Rescue Another Campaign. Through this organization, you can help mothers in need around the world, such as by purchasing mosquito nets, helping fund pre-natal care, or sponsoring education.
On Earth Day (April 22) the Boston Children's Museum will host activities with several local environmental groups, Green Schools student performances, fishing, and environmentally-themed storytelling.
From April 20 to April 25, the EcoTarium in Worcester will provide several days of education and entertainment for kids. Pint-sized visitors will be able to flex their artistic skills by making crafts with recycled materials, explore their inner wildlife explorer by interacting with various animals, or for the more scientifically-minded kids, learn about climate change through current exhibits. The EcoTarium's Earth Day Festival, which will be held on April 23, will feature live music, food, and earth-related activities.
The annual Cambridge Science Festival kicks off on April 24. Several of the festival's events (many of which are free) focus on teaching kids about environmental issues.
These are just a few of the many kid-friendly events that will be held throughout the state this week. See the Boston.com events page for a listing of additional local Earth Day events for both children and adults. If you have opportunities you'd like to share, feel free to post them in the comments section of this post.
WGBH is kicking off Earth Week with the premier of their new documentary, Growing Greener Schools, this Sunday (April 18th) at 1:30pm. Growing Greener Schools spotlights schools (from elementary schools to colleges) across the country who have taken leadership roles in on-campus sustainability. The companion website is filled with educational materials (videos, a checklist, and a teacher's guide) to assist schools who want to join the movement.
On a local note, the film spotlights some of Harvard's environmental initiatives, including dorm makeovers, composting, and organic landscaping (full disclosure: I work for Harvard's Office for Sustainability).
If you're stuck inside because of the rain tomorrow, check out the film and get inspired! Let me know if you work with you school to make it more sustainable.
One of the worst perpetrators in the battle against junk mail is pre-approved credit card offers. Not only do I receive a lot of them (constantly adding to my waste stream), but they are an identity theft nightmare waiting to happen.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to opt out of credit card offers that come from banks that use the four major credit firms (Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion).
To opt out, visit www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
Two highlights are the keynote addresses. On Saturday, leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen will discuss his book, "Storms of my Grandchildren." On Sunday, Mayim Bialik, the star of the 1990s sitcom "Blossom" will share her experiences pursuing a green lifestyle.
Down:2:earth will be held on Saturday April 10 (11 am - 7 pm) and Sunday April 11 (11 am - 5 pm) at Hynes Convention Center in Boston. On Friday from 5 - 9 pm, the Local Bites event will offer the opportunity to sample local food and organic wine.
For more information, including a complete schedule and list of exhibitors, visit the down:2:earth website.
Luckily for me, Linda Lannon, a South Shore native, has brought a more socially acceptable option to the market. PeopleTowels are small hand towels that you can keep in your bag, purse, or near your desk and use instead of paper towels or hand dryers. The idea comes from Japan, where, according to Lannon, it is the standard in several areas of the country for people to carry their own hand towels.
At first I was skeptical, but I've been using a PeopleTowel for a few weeks and love it. I'm sure it will take some time for them to catch on, but for those who want to take one more step to reducing waste, this is a great option (and makes a nice gift). The towels are small, soft, lightweight, and hip.
They are also organic, fair trade, and use soy dyes. The company has paid careful attention to the design, and the final result is something that you're much more likely to want to use. My favorite towel has funky, hand-drawn trees and the text, "This is not a tree," plays off the famous Anya Hindmarch "I'm not a plastic bag" tote.
According to the company's calculations, each PeopleTowel user can save 250 gallons of water, one quarter of a tree, and 23 pounds of landfill waste annually. If every person in Boston used one towel for a year, it would save about 155,000 trees and 250 Olympic swimming pools worth of water.
PeopleTowels can be purchased online or at Greenward (in Cambridge or their online store).
I've been waging a one woman war against junk mail at home. I have been fairly successful at stopping the former tenants' catalogs and various other forms of junk mail from arriving, but there are still a few pieces that keep showing up in our mailbox, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay.
I hit pay dirt recently when I found a website that directed me to the Valpak (the blue coupon books) mailing list removal site. Although I sometimes use coupons, I've never used these and appreciate the company giving me the option to opt out.
Stay tuned for more tips in this series on how to reduce your junk mail.
A local non-profit, Key for Hope, collects old keys and melts them into scrap metal for recycling. They take the money earned from selling the metal and donate it to a local food pantry. A few Whole Foods in the area (see the list below) have teamed up with Key for Hope to raise money for food pantries in their towns. Key for Hope also has collection spots at various retailers across Massachusetts; check their website for a list of locations.
Not only was I able to get rid of our keys, but I organized a key collection campaign at my work. We received over 2,000 keys in two weeks! So, clean out those junk drawers and donate your old keys to a good cause (or, better yet, set up a key drive at your school or office- it's as easy as putting out a box and sending an email).
Whole Foods stores participating in the key drive:
- Prospect Street, Cambridge
- University Heights, Providence
- Walnut Street, Newton
One year ago this month, thousands of cities and millions of individuals turned off their lights for one hour to show support for climate change action. The fourth annual Earth Hour, a global event created by the World Wildlife Fund, will be held less than two weeks, on Saturday March 27 at 8:30 pm local time. This event is not only a symbolic act to demonstrate the urgency of climate change, but is also intended to prompt action and advocacy beyond Earth Hour. As of last week, 92 countries and regions had pledged to participate this year.
In the city of Boston, Mayor Menino has committed to the event and has invited residents to participate. Earth Hour ties in to the Lights Out Boston program, in which building managers can voluntarily commit to turn off non-essential lighting between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. until May 31. To find other local Earth Hour initiatives, check out the Boston Earth Hour Facebook page.
Consider signing up as an individual to turn off the lights in your home, then spread the word to encourage your friends, city, school, organization, or business to join others in Massachusetts and worldwide. The Earth Hour website provides 'how to' guides and social media toolkits to help various types of groups support and promote Earth Hour on March 27.
Check out last year's Boston.com posts on the 2009 Earth Hour:
We're lucky enough to have six of the 60+ Edible Communities magazines in our area: Edible Boston, Edible Cape Cod, Edible Pioneer Valley, Edible South Shore, Edible Vineyard, and Edible Rhody. The magazines are one of the most beautiful I've ever subscribed to. From the stunning cover photographs to the matte paper that is so much classier than traditional glossy paper, the magazine can't sit on my table more than a day before I read it cover to cover. The local focus has opened my eyes to the numerous restaurants, chefs, products, and stores in our area that care as much about locally-grown, sustainable food as I do.
All of the magazines have a strong online presence, so you can always what's going on in your area via the web, email newsletters, Facebook, and Twitter (check their websites, above, for more information).
The magazines' philosophy is best summed up by a quote from Thomas Merton that Edible Boston publisher and editor Ilene Bezahler ended her editor's letter with:
"From the moment you put a piece of bread in your mouth you are part of a world. Who grew the wheat? Who made the bread? Where did it come from? You are in a relationship with all who brought it to the table. We are least separate and most in common when we eat and drink."
Once you pledge to reduce your electricity use, you can track your utility usage through a free web-based tool - Wattzy. You can also take advantage of a free energy audit of your residence and free air sealing (even if you rent rather than own), which is provided through Next Step Living and the MassSAVE program. If you're interested, you'll also be able to use rebates for further work to retrofit and weatherize your home or apartment, provided by contractors who have signed a "Green Collar Hiring Pledge." Consider taking the Commonwealth Challenge pledge to reduce your utility costs and make your home more comfortable, while reducing the greenhouse gas impact of homes and buildings and helping drive important legislation to make Massachusetts a leader in addressing climate change.
With temperatures in the 50s in the Boston area this weekend, many local residents have been flocking outside, basking in the relatively warm sun, and already dreaming of summer days and outdoor activities. In such a dense area, urban parks such as Boston Common and the Emerald Necklace not only provide space for recreation on nice days such as today, but also bring vegetation into a landscape of concrete and asphalt, reduce heat island effect, and often provide habitat for wildlife.
This summer, Boston students will have the opportunity to learn about the stewardship of one of Boston's newest open spaces. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy's Green and Grow program will provide part-time summer internships for Boston residents between the ages of 17 and 20. For eight weeks in July and August, participants will gain hands-on, outdoor experience in horticulture and maintenance of over one mile of connected parks in the heart of downtown Boston.
See the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Green and Grow webpage for further details. Applications for the program are open until April 5.
Future events in the series include:
How to make (almost) anything, March 10
Planting the seeds, April 28
Food, glorious food: our palate versus the planet, May 7
A recently published book, Greening Your Family, by New Hampshire resident Lindsey Carmichael, helps make shopping and purchases simpler and safer. Carmichael began her research after her young son was diagnosed with asthma. Her research into the possible causes led her to earn a Master of Public Health and write this book. The slim volume is a fantastic
reference, as it is organized well and is easy to use. Each of the topics, which range from green cleaning to personal care products to food, begins with a few paragraphs on why conventional products are harmful and what to look for in a safe product, followed by a list of companies that make non-toxic products. Many are brands that are commonly found in drugstores and supermarkets, such as Burt's Bees and Tom's of Maine.
I'm currently running low on laundry detergent - the old me would have purchased the cheapest option, but after reading this book, I don't feel comfortable buying a product with benzene, a carcinogen linked to leukemia and blood disorders, so I'll bring the book along as a reference to find my trusty new laundry detergent.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the Ten Americans study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They tested the umbilical cord blood of ten babies and found 287 toxic chemicals, 212 of which were banned 30 years ago. Watch Ken Cook of EWG talk about the study (the short talk is both
touching and funny).
Learn more about Ten Americans and what you can do, here.
A common saying in the environmental field is "you can't manage what you don't measure." Some
Below is a partial list of libraries that have watt meters available. Athol also lends out an energy kit, which includes a watt meter, tire pressure gauge, a hot water gauge, and books on how to save energy. If your library doesn't loan them out, consider asking them to buy one or reserve one from the Minuteman system (search kill-a-watt).
If you know of a library that lends out watt meters but is not listed here, post a comment or email email@example.com and I'll update the list.
If you haven't seen Food, Inc. yet, it's an entertaining and eye-opening look at our food system (and it's nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary).
Both events are free and are at 79 Highland Avenue in Somerville. If you're going to the sprout workshop, bring a wide mouth jar.
More info on Food, Inc.
Boston University recently launched a new sustainability website, which offers helpful tips not only for the Boston University community, but also for individuals and other institutions interested in reducing their carbon footprints. The "Ten Sustainable Actions" section describes specific steps with quantifiable metrics, ranging from washing clothes in cold water to bringing your own mug to work. Some of the statistics are staggering and strong motivation to implement a particular action. For example, using reusable bags is advisable because, "Globally we consume between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags each year, most of which end up in the landfills."
The site also provides other valuable information, such as recommended computer energy settings, definitions, global statistics, events, links to news, and sustainability-related job postings. Check it out here: http://www.bu.edu/sustainability/
Weatherization barnraisings have been growing in popularity in the Boston area, with local groups helping to make local homes and community centers in their neighborhoods more energy efficient. Groups have popped up in 21 municipalities in Massachusetts including, Arlington, Allston/Brighton, Brookline, Boston, JP, Lowell, Medford, Quincy, Roxbury, Somerville, Waltham, and Worcester (get contact info for all 21 groups here: http://www.heetma.com/affiliates.php).
The events are usually a few hours long and are a great way to not only weatherize buildings, but to meet your neighbors (barnraisings often include a party afterwards), and learn the skills necessary for reducing your own home?s energy use.
Sign up for an upcoming weatherization:
Brookline: February 27, sign up by emailing: JLockwood@GreenGuild.Com
Cambridge, February 28, 12:30-5pm, sign up here: http://www.heetma.com/index.php
Somerville: March 7, 1-4pm, sign up by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about HEET from a previous Globe article: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/11/30/turning_up_heet
Additionally, now is the time to start planning for the bounty of summer. Every February, I look forward to joining a summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share to support a local farm. Each week from June-October, I pick up a box of interesting vegetables, some of which I've never heard of, and then find simple ways to cook them. Kale chips, which I make by sprinkling olive oil and salt over chopped kale, then baking on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, is one of the best simple recipes I've discovered.
Many farms are now accepting sign-ups for their summer CSA shares, some of which sell out quickly. Websites such as Boston Localvores, the Local Food Guide to Metro Boston, and Local Harvest are great resources for finding farms and farmers' markets. However, if you're having trouble deciding which farm to join, a free Farm Share Fair will be held on Tuesday, February 25 from 6-7 pm at 50 Paul Revere Road in Arlington. The Fair will present an opportunity to meet farmers from 20 local farms, and if you're interested, volunteer to help or sign up for a fun summer share.
Members of the Gates Intermediate School’s Future City Team are spending part of their February vacation week at the national championships in Washington, D.C. -- again.
The annual competition, sponsored for the past 18 years by National Engineers Week, asks students to create “their visions of the cities of tomorrow.” Those cities can exist wherever and whenever the students choose, as long as they are ecologically sound.
This year, the 21 students on the team decided to put their city in Greenland, and have it up and running in time to host the 2050 World’s Fair.
Read more about their project here.
In addition to tips, we'll be highlighting local green events, restaurants, stores, products, people, architecture, etc. We'd also love to hear from you. What do you do to reduce your impact? What kind of green living questions would you like to see answered? We're here to help make the Boston area greener - one person and one post at a time.
-Dara & Andrea
About the green blog
Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
Doug Struck covers environmental issues from Boston.
Glenn Yoder produces Boston.com's Lifestyle pages.
Eric Bauer is site architect of Boston.com.
Bennie DiNardo is the Boston Globe's deputy managing editor/multimedia.
Dara Olmsted is a local sustainability professional focusing on green living.