Archive for October, 2011

Hershey’s and Halloween: A not-so-sweet combo.

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s time to start stocking up on treats for neighborhood goblins and ghouls. Huge bags of fun-size candy bars are lining the aisles in grocery stores around the country. But before you buy, the people behind Raise the Bar, Hershey have a message for consumers everywhere.

They have begun a campaign to raise awareness of Hershey’s non-compliance with International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions that set minimum ages for workers as well as banning forced labor.

Whilke they are calling for immediate change in child labor practices, their demands for fair trade (defined here) may take a little longer. The people behind Raise the Bar are asking Hershey to

“make a commitment to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of its top five selling chocolate bars that prominently displays the Hershey name.”

The ultimate goal is to have almost all Hershey’s products Fair Trade Certified by 2022.

Here’s how to support the cause.

Need alternatives for trick-or-treaters? My top picks for fair trade chocolate.

Check out reverse trick-or-treating!

Have a sweet (and responsible) Halloween!


Bake your way to simpler times with Wild Yeast

Do you remember being a kid, running inside after a hard day at play, and being greeted by the comforting, delicious smell of freshly baked bread? My mom would let me stand over her bread machine and watch as the pasty dough transformed itself into a golden brown loaf, just begging to be covered in softened butter.

The Wild Yeast Blog recaptures all the culinary joy of those bygone days, with easy-to-follow instructions and mouthwatering pictures to guide your way. The author, Susan, began her love affair with bread after a short baking class in 2006. From there, she moved on to the San Francisco Baking Institute and then to developing her own very popular blog for others who love baking or simply love bread.

Susan shares links to the books she uses, recent items she has baked, all-time favorites, and links that offer help for those who may not be naturals in the kitchen.

If you still find yourself needing motivation to steer clear of store-bought bread, just remember that you’ll be in control of every ingredient that goes into it. Love garlic? Add a bunch! Hate raisins? Steer clear. Not a fan of chemical bleaching agents, the very same that make certain manufactured white breads so white? Keep them away from your homemade bread! Susan often recommends using organic flour. Whether you’re doing it for your health or the planet, buying organic sends a message to large agribusinesses that you care about the quality of the ingredients in your food.

Read more about some of our adventures baking bread. Have fun in the kitchen!

– GN

A Boxy Compromise

I was walking through a local grocery store when a strange white box caught my eye. “BOXED WATER IS BETTER,” it boasted.  Keeping water bottles off grocery store shelves (and out of landfills) is a huge environmental goal, as they create an enormous amount of waste and aren’t necessarily better than the stuff that comes free out of your faucet. But are boxes another matter entirely? Could it be that a new shape and a new material might make it easier for people to stay hydrated and the planet to stay free of crumpled, flimsy bottles?

The company behind the bottles states that they can be flattened for effortless transportation, that the boxes are made of 76% renewable resources, and that they can be recycled in certain facilities. They also promise 10% of their profits to reforestation efforts, and another 10% to water relief efforts. While these promises sound like music to a thirsty consumer’s ears, the product still makes me wonder: why bother with the box at all?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to regulate the safety of  ground and drinking water. While many claim to prefer the taste of bottled water, at-home filters can be purchased inexpensively to improve the taste of your tap. Some more pros and cons about bottled vs. tap can be found here. Reusable water bottles are everywhere these days, and much safer than plastic bottles not designed for re-use. Single use plastics, if not properly washed and dried between uses, may grow bacteria detrimental to human health.

Go reusable when possible, but if you do happen to find yourself dehydrated without your trusty reusable bottle, boxed water may be a realistic compromise that gives a little something back.

Read what  TreeHugger has to say, as well as some more Green Ninja information on the energy is takes to package and transport bottled water.

– GN

For Goodness Rake!

A new Green Ninja video has been released – check it out and let us know what you think!

This animatic (storyboard video) was designed and written by Aden Scott, superstar SJSU animator and also the producer of Green Prix.

GN Team

Is asking Facebook to unfriend coal too much?

Sign on. Share a witty status update. Poke a friend. Pollute the air?

A new Greenpeace campaign is committed to drawing awareness to Facebook’s reliance on non-renewable sources.  The campaign is centered around the idea that the company’s data center in Prineville, Oregon will depend partially on energy derived from coal. The center has not yet been completed, but Facebook has already reacted to the Greenpeace campaign.

The company states that the location for their new facility was carefully chosen so that they could rely on the climate to keep the center cool, and not be forced to install energy-guzzling mechanical chillers. They claim the building will be LEED Gold certified, and will rely on recycled water to power an evaporative cooling system. In addressing the issue of coal, Facebook claims to be at the mercy of their power provider. They say that: “electrons powering that data center are produced by the various sources (e.g. hydro, natural gas, coal, geothermal, nuclear, etc.) the provider uses in proportions similar to the mix of sources used.”

The power provider for the Oregon facility,Pacific Power, has an energy mix that is weighted slightly more toward coal than the national average,” according to their official Greenpeace response. Facebook claims that Pacific Power’s long-term plan will move away from coal.

The company has long claimed to be a proud supporter of sustainability, but many are still not impressed with the measures they plan to take in Prineville.

The Greenpeace initiative is just one of many drawing attention to the energy usage of major companies, and is a good example of consumer awareness playing an important role in how businesses power up.  Increasingly, citizens are asking companies to consider the triple bottom line: people, profit, and the planet. By calling out to companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, we can ensure that they do their part to limit their negative impact on the environment.

Join the Greenpeace Facebook group.

Read the list of the Enivornmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Top 50 Green Power Partnership Businesses.


Want to help change the world? Play with your food!

How can human-powered dj sets, orchestras made of vegetables, and online gardens help change the world? Though none of these activities may seem connected, they are all bringing kids of all ages fun ways to learn about the environment. Innovative activism encourages everyone to get involved, targeting everyone from family units to teenagers with headphones permanently attached to their ears. Creative outlets like art and music can drive discussion about bigger issues or even be solutions themselves.

Global Inheritance  is a non-profit dedicated to “thinking creatively in solving world issues.” They work with schools, music festivals, and employers to provide outside-the-box ways to view energy consumption. They hand out popcorn popped with ethanol fuel, challenge you to power your own playground with energy you create using giant hamster wheels, and have artists customize recycling bins for use at high-traffic events. They host outdoor days for kids to complete crafts, learn about the environment, and even have created a 2011 Teen Choice Awards Energy Offset that used Tour de Energy bikes to collect energy to power the event.

Green Allowance is a site that offers both kids and parents financial incentives to go green. After agreeing to sponsor, you complete a simple sign-up process (you can either allow your child to sign up alone or be included on the account) and they are presented with a garden. The trees in this garden represent energy-saving activities, and even display how much money you’ll save yearly by completing the tasks. In some cases, Green Allowance has partnered with electric companies to know your savings exactly. As you complete the tasks and report back to Green Allowance, your garden grows and kids can collect their earnings.

Even the United Nations is finding new ways to increase global dialogue about  “climate change, species extinction, freshwater crisis and any other environmental issues”. The UN Music & Environment Initiative partners with artists, events, and venues to reach young people. The Initiative also hopes to change how people inside of the music industry approach planning their events and packaging their products. You can find a list of participating artists here, but younger children might be especially interested in The Vegetable Orchestra.

The Vegetable Orchestra performs on instruments made entirely of, you guessed it, vegetables. They purchase the vegetables at farmers and local markets, whittle them into instruments, perform, and then use the leftover instruments to cook a hearty veggie stew for their audience.

How do you get the kids in your life involved in the environment?


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