Monday, July 29, 2013

Educate Yourself About Palm Oil

Face Palm to Palm Oil

Palm oil is pretty nasty stuff. It doesn't offer much nutritional value, but is commonly used in over 50% of manufactured food products as well as health and beauty products. The problem with the stuff is how it's harvested. In order to harvest palm oil, referred to as "liquid ivory," you have to cut down a palm tree. In order to manufacture enough palm oil to meet the current global demand for it, you have to annihilate an entire rainforest. And that is exactly what palm oil manufacturers are doing. The affects on the rainforests of Indonesia have been absolutely catastrophic.

The deforestation has affected not only the animal and plant populations of the region, but also the native peoples who live in and depend on the rainforest for their way of life. The population most devastated by the palm oil industry though, has been the orangutans. In just the past 20 years, over 90% of the orangutans' natural habitat has been destroyed.

The palm oil industry may lead to the extinction of orangutans in the wild.
Image courtesy of

Small Things We Can Do

There are lot of things we can all do to help the effort to stop deforestation by the palm oil industry. You can sign petitions, contact manufacturers, donate, or adopt an orangutan. The easiest thing to do is stop buying products with palm oil in them.

I see palm oil showing up in the ingredient lists of even some of my favorite organic and eco-friendly (even "cruelty-free") beauty, health, and food products. The stuff is everywhere and tricky to avoid. Here are a few lists that I'm using to help me eliminate palm oil from my home.

There are also a lot of online petitions that you can sign; urging retailers, manufacturers, and politicians to stop using, selling, or harvesting palm oil. Here are just a few of them.

If you're interested in learning more about palm oil harvesting, or you want to get more involved, I urge you to visit the Say No To Palm Oil website. You can also check out the recommended reading, below.

Here's a video of a piece that was actually featured on NBC Nightly News all about how the palm oil industry is destroying the natural habitat of orangutans, and what we can do to help.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Further Reading

Update 7/30/2013
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has a great Problem with Palm Oil Fact Sheet.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Best in Crowdfunding: July and August 2013

Here are some of my favorite crowdfunding campaigns that are online this summer.

De-corporatizing Food. Creating an Urban Organic Super-Farm
This is a great project happening right here in Buffalo. East Buffalo Organics is converting an old warehouse on the city's east side into a facility for growing microgreens. This campaign is intended to fund the purchase of the equipment needed to grow and maintain healthy microgreens, which will then be distributed and sold locally. These guys have done their research and clearly know what they're doing. The project will be something great not just for Buffalo, but for the entire food industry.
Campaign Goal: $9811
Deadline: August 11
Platform: Kickstarter

Nicora Johns Shoes
Right now, only 1% of shoes are manufactured in the U.S. That means a lot of factory labor is going into your shoes. (Yes, even your precious TOMS.) Nicora Johns is hoping to change that, and she wants to start with her new line of vegan, sustainable shoes. The styles are adorable and versatile, and you get to pick out your own colors and materials! You'll definitely want to check them out!
Campaign Goal: $72,900
Deadline: August 18
Platform: Kickstarter

Nicora Johns Shoes

The Plastic Bank
This campaign is intended to fund the programming and development of a business venture that is essentially a plastic recycling facility launching a pilot in Lima, Peru. The facility will encourage the impoverished locals of that region to "harvest" waste plastic from the environment, and bring it to the facility to be processed. Individuals who participate by harvesting the plastic will earn credits to be used for education, micro loans, and more.
Campaign Goal: $100,000
Deadline: August 26
Platform: IndieGoGo

PROFAMIL - Using Innovation to Save Women's Lives in Haiti
Catapult is a crowdfunding platform that focuses specifically on gender equality in developing countries. All of the campaigns on Catapult benefit women in some way. This campaign will benefit an organization called PROFAMIL (International Planned Parenthood Federation) which is working to screen impoverished women in Haiti for cervical cancer using an innovative, low-tech screening method.
Campaign Goal: $50,000
Deadline: August 31
Platform: Catapult

Reward the Heroes Scholarship Fund
If you haven't heard of Temar Boggs, you aren't alone. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, his story went widely unnoticed. The 15-year-old from Lancaster, PA rescued a five-year-old girl from her kidnapper and is being lauded as a hero by those who bother to notice. This campaign is intended to raise a scholarship fund for Temar Boggs and his friend. This article confirms that the campaign is legitimate, but also provides information about how you can contribute to the boys' college fund directly.
Campaign Goal: $10,000
Deadline: September 10
Platform: IndieGoGo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Magazines Worth Subscribing To

I don't like most popular print magazines. They promote a culture of celebrity gossip, fast fashion, and fad diets. Not to mention they are a waste of paper, and produce tons of garbage every year. I usually try to prevent printed items from arriving in my mailbox. There are, however, a few exceptions. I have found some really well written, beautifully photographed publications that are fun to receive in the mail, and really enjoyable to read. Most of them are produced responsibly and are void of advertisements. If you want to eliminate the junky content of mainstream fashion, celebrity, and lifestyle magazines from your home, but you still look forward to getting something in your mailbox, here are a few publications you may want to consider subscribing to.

Blindfold Magazine
Blindfold is a quarterly lifestyle magazine focusing on social causes. It is a photojournalism publication, so the photography is very well done. The focus of most of the content is an admirable one: making the world better. A one-year subscription is $33.80 and a single issue goes for $11.99.

Chick Pea 
I was lucky enough to meet the makers of Chick Pea Magazine at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair this spring. I was able to look through a few issues of their publication and it is absolutely beautiful. Chick Pea is a quarterly magazine that features vegan lifestyle content from around the web. The photography is wonderful and the design and layout are crisp and clean and gorgeous. You'll want to keep these issues on your bookshelves or coffee table so you can look at them again and again. A full year subscription is $70, or you can order a single issue for $19.

Good Magazine 
Good Magazine is the print version of one my favorite websites, The online version is a constant source of inspiration for me, helping me find small ways to make changes and help others every day. I'm confident that the content of the print version will be similarly wonderful. An annual subscription is only $25, and includes a complimentary membership to the GOOD society.

Laika Magazine 
Laika is a new quarterly vegan lifestyle magazine. They're only now on their second issue. I haven't had a chance to look at a copy, but I have read some glowing reviews of the publication. It reads more like a popular lifestyle magazine than a hippy-dippy vegan mag, but with better content and a better purpose. An annual subscription to the print version is only $36. You can order single issues for $11 each.

Pure Green Magazine

Pure Green Magazine 
This is a quarterly publication about sustainable living. The photography is gorgeous and they seem to have some really great content. The magazine itself is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable based inks in Canada. A subscription costs $82 for U.S. residents or $72 for Canadian residents. If you just want to check out one issue, you can do that for only $18. If you want to explore some of their content before you order, you can check out the Pure Green Mag Blog.

Don't throw your old issues away!

Most of these publications are really quite lovely, so it's unlikely that you'll want to get rid of them any time soon. But when you are ready to get rid of these, or any other unwanted magazines, you should not toss them in the garbage, or even your recycling bin! Most local libraries will accept unwanted magazines. Just be sure to call ahead and make sure your library will accept them before you drop them off. You can also donate the issues to nursing and retirement homes, women shelters, or even hospital waiting rooms. Schools or daycare centers may even be able to use them for crafts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

You Can Recycle That: Flip Flops

For years and years, I wore flip flops from the first snow melt to the first snow fall of the year. I mean I lived in the things! Thanks to places like Old Navy, I could get a pair of rubber flip flops for $2, and stockpile them, with a pair in every color imaginable. Now, my problem feet require something a bit more supportive, and I'm more conscious about where my footwear is coming from. So my flip flop collection is sitting idle, taking up valuable space in my closet. I can't bring myself to toss them, because I know they're going to end up in a landfill somewhere. Luckily, I've come across another handy recycling service that will solve this dilemma!

The Flip Flop Brigade!!!

TerraCycle has teamed up with Old Navy to create this awesome service. Gather up about 10 (or more) pairs of unwanted flip flops, download a FREE shipping label, and drop your package off at UPS. Done! Your flip flops are on their way to becoming something brand new and awesome! As a bonus, Old Navy will send you a coupon for a free pair of flip-flops, and other discounts. (I'll be donating my coupons to the local women's shelter, as I prefer not to shop at Old Navy, or other "fast fashion" retailers.) Remember, you can send in any brand of rubber flip flops; not just Old Navy!

If you're in Buffalo, and want to add your flip flops to my shipment, let me know! I'm also accepting reusable shopping bags, worn or orphaned socks, and just about anything else I've written a "You Can Recycle That" post about. If you're nearby, I'll even pick it up! Send me a Tweet, or email me at to let me know.

For more information about the Flip Flip Brigade, check out their FAQ page.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Can Recycle That: Reusable Shopping Bags

It seems a little weird - why would you need to recycle a reusable shopping bag? Their whole purpose is to eliminate waste. But a lot of us have a surplus of reusable shopping bags that we just don't use. It seems that every business is distributing the bags as promotional items to market themselves. They've become so popular that just about every store is giving them away, and a lot of us end up with so many that we can't use all of them. Personally, I have at least 15-20 of the bags, but only about 4 or 5 that I actually use

Luckily, there's the ChicoBag Repurposing Program

Package up all of your unwanted reusable shopping bags and ship them to ChicoBag. The bags will be distributed to low-income families, encouraging them to "start a reusable bag habit." Any bags that are determined to be unusable will be disassembled and woven into new products suchs as aprons or rugs by The Grateful Thread, providing job training opportunities for victims of domestic violence.

Not only will you be ridding your home of clutter and keeping your reusable bags out of landfills, you'll also be encouraging others to reduce their plastic bag consumption, and providing employment opportunities to those in need. It's a win-win-win-win!

Send your unwanted reusable shopping bags to:

ChicoBag Company
C/O Zero Waste Program
13434 Browns Valley Drive
Chico, CA 95973