Buycott. An app that does good.

Recently, I was stunned to learn that one of my favorite cereal manufacturers was one of a few “organic” manufacturers behind a lobbying effort to ban labeling of GMOs. I’ll admit, it was really frustrating, and I felt like I didn’t even know what to buy anymore. Today, I learned about Buycott, and I hope that will help make things a little easier.

buycott

According to this article in Forbes,

“You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries.
Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen.”

In addition, to my point about the anti-GMO labeling lobbiers,

“Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food”

Buycott is still young, and not all products will have a scanable history, but they are actively encouraging users to help add to their database. You can download the app for iphone and android, or simply learn more about it here.

Hopefully this will make supporting the brands who do good, and avoiding the greenwashers a lot easier. Happy shopping!

(this post was originally written by me for the EcoEtsy blog. It is recorded here for my records.)

Save the Bees! post for ecoetsy.com

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When you think about animals vital to human survival, bees and their fellow pollinators are right at the top of the list. Without bees, crops don’t grow, and we don’t get to eat real food. For a few years now, researchers and gardeners alike have been wringing their hands over the mass disappearance of so many bees, known under the collective name Colony Collapse Disorder.

Several culprits were named, including cellphone towers and radio waves, while some organic gardeners quietly began to question the role of pesticides intended to kill harmful insects. Unfortunately, even though the makers of these products promised us they were safe, the evidence is rolling in like a tidal wave, and it’s really no longer possible to believe those assurances. The true killer is looking undoubtedly like a product produced by Bayer Crop Science, called a neonicotinoid, which is a synthetic derivative of nicotine. It works by attacking insects’ nervous systems, and not just the insects you want affected. Tom Phillpot explains how in this Mother Jones article:

Neonicotinoids are what’s known as “systemic,” meaning they suffuse and “express” themselves in the whole plant when it germinates, including nectar and pollen. That’s precisely what makes them so effective at attacking pests—and, unfortunately, “nontarget” species like honeybees and other beneficial insects too.

Now here’s the truly scary news: It’s not just big industrial growers using these harmful products. They’re right in your own lawn and garden center, and quite possibly in your or your neighbor’s yard. Do any of these products look familiar?

bayer

Again, from Mother Jones:

Take a close look at the label, and you’ll find that its one active pesticide ingredient is imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid. “Apply granules to soil around base of plant, sprinkling evenlyin the area under branches,” the instructions state. How does the product work? Bayer provides a helpful explanation right on the label:
This product is absorbed by roots and moves through the entire plant. Even new growth is fed and protected against insects for up to 8 weeks. Rain or watering cannot wash off this internal protection!
That’s great news for your flower garden—and bad news for honeybees and other benign insects that your flowers might be beckoning with pollen and nectar.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a new report out by the American Bird Conservancy indicates that these pesticides may not only be harming bees, but birds and some amphibious species. The synopsis states that “This report reviews the effects on avian species and concludes that neonicotinoids are lethal to birds as well as to the aquatic systems on which they depend.” You can read that report here (PDF) in it’s entirety.

Environmental Agencies in both the US and EU have been pressured by concerned organizations to ban these products, but have so far caved to industry pressure and not done so. According to HuffPo, in the EU, Syngenta and Bayer have proposed a “Bee Health Plan” to try and avoid government action. The plan consists of “the planting of more flowering margins around fields to provide bee habitats as well as monitoring to detect the neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for their decline and more research into the impact of parasites and viruses.”

Here in the US, according to NBC, a group of “four professional beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups… filed a lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam.”
“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” said Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs.”

If you’d like to make your voice heard, Care has a petition to the EPA over here. Talk to your local garden stores about the products mentioned above, or help educate your friends and neighbors about their potential dangers. Try your hand at natural pest control (more on that in a future post) and plant more pollinator friendly organic flowers like bee balm and butterfly bush.

The effects of these neonicotinoids is immediate, and irreversible. We need our bees and our pollinators for our very survival, so action must be takes as soon as possible to get these products out of our ecosystem.

(this post was originally written for the ecoetsy team blog, and is saved here for my convenience)

How do I Recycle??

So a friend just posted a link to a LA times feature where they pick an object each week and tell you where and how to recycle it. I think that’s pretty amazing, since it can be hard to figure out how to recycle some stuff, and there are a lot of things people don’t realize you CAN recycle (as we found out during the Earth Day festival…)

I have just been inspired to create a new blog feature! I guess it will have to focus on City of Atlanta and maybe Fulton and Dekalb counties if I can get enough info. It would also be kind of fun to post things made from those objects that can be re-used in addition to recycled.

yay inspiration! I’ll start on Wednesday…

Earth Day Extravaganza! Celebrate, Educate, Participate!

This is the first part of a three part festival, taking place over Earth Day week. This first portion will coincide with the opening of the East Atlanta Farmer’s Market, on April 19th. More details on the rest tomorrow, including a call for vendors…

 

By now you’ve probably heard the buzz about the collaboration between Recycle EAV and EACA, which will be bringing you a 3 day Earth Day festival like nothing you’ve ever seen. You may have also heard some talk about lanterns, and a parade. You may be wanting to know more, which makes this your lucky day!
 
On Thursday, April 19th, right at the closing of the year’s first Farmer’s Market, the festival kicks off with a Wishing Lantern launch. Often seen on Chinese New Year, weddings, or during other significant events, Wishing Lanterns float into the sky like tiny hot air balloons, carrying the hopes and dreams of the person releasing it. The lanterns are large enough to be launched by two people (especially if there are children involved!) and burn completely up in the atmosphere, leaving no litter behind. Do you have a wish for the neighborhood? Come get a lantern and set your dream in motion.
 
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You may purchase your Wish Lantern at the April EACA meeting, on Tuesday April 10th, or at the Farmer’s Market on the day of the Launch. Lanterns are 5$, or 3 for 10$. All proceeds benefit your Community Association and it’s programs. 
 
Once the wishes have floated away, the Vauxhall Gardens Variety Players, along with special guests from The Imperial OPA, HoopEssence, and Turnin’ Trixx, will lead us in a lit up lantern parade of epic proportions, through the Village and down to Brownwood Park.
 
 
If you don’t have a lantern, come by one of our two lantern-making workshops and create your masterpiece. The first workshop will be held Thursday April 12th, in the back of the Farmer’s Market lot from 5-8pm. The second workshop will take place during the Farmer’s Market on the 19th. Some materials will be provided, feel free to bring your own, as well as your imagination. You will need a battery operated light source for your lantern, some may be available for purchase at the workshops, but supplies are limited.
 
Once the Parade has wound it’s way to the Park, you will be treated to more fantastical performances from the entertainers listed above, in preparation for the launch of the first of EACA’s Movies in the Park series. Films are provided this month by Studio Outpost, and will feature local artists and films. 
 
This is a great free event for all ages, and we hope to see you there. 

Brr! Here comes the chill!

The weatherman tells me it’s going to drop to 28 degrees tonight. Yikes! Time to cover some plants and bring the pots in.

The temps are expected to rise again this weekend, but this is still as good a time as any to get our house ready for winter. If you haven’t gone through your house yet, here’s a handy checklist to help you get started.

1. Change your furnace filters and have your unit inspected if it’s older.
2. Check your windows and doors for worn, cracked or missing caulk and weatherstripping. You can do this by walking around your windows and doors with a candle. Replace the weatherstripping if necessary. It’s also good to give your windows a cleaning before winter starts, since sunshine is at a premium in dark winter months.
3. If you use a real fireplace, get your chimney inspected and cleaned. If you use space heaters, make sure those are in good working order. Test both your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector while you’re at it.
4. Burst pipes suck. Insulate vulnerable pipes in your crawlspace, and don’t forget outdoor spigots.
5. If you have storm windows, now is the time to take down your screens and put them up.
6. If you have ceiling fans, switch the direction of the blades and turn them on low to encourage warm air to circulate down to where you need it most.
7. Check and clean your gutters. All those fallen leaves can clog them quickly, which can cause a spectacular amount of water damage when the water finds a new route. (because it will, and you won’t know until the ceiling comes crashing down)
8. If you’ve got a little extra time and cash, consider adding insulation to your attic. We did this a couple years back and it made a huge difference in our heating bill.
9. Last, but not least, pull out those sweaters, fleecy throw blankets and warm slippers. Wrap yourself up and get cozy instead of turning up the thermostat.
10. Bonus round: If you suffer from SAD in these dark months, try to make sure you get at least 15 minutes out in some bright sunshine, or in front of a sunlamp each day. You can also invest in some pretty candles or a set of gas logs. Some people find fire helps their mood, plus it’s just pretty!

take THAT Monsanto!

While I’m sure this decision is going to go back and forth in the courts for a while, this little bit of good news is certainly worth celebrating:

Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops — and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them — are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota’s Star Tribune has reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

You can read the rest over on Natural News. and also in the local Star Tribune

The new DDT

When is rat poison not really rat poison? When it turns rats into “little poison pills” and kills anything who hunts them, and anyone who hunts what hunted them, and so on, and so on, and so on…

(photo of cute rats by matthieu-aubry on flickr)

This frightening article posted in the Sacramento Bee highlights how for the past decade products intended to kill rodents in homes and warehouses have been spreading up the food chain, despite warnings and attempts to get the products banned.

Allan Muth, awoke on June 28 to a startling sight outside his kitchen window: a half-grown bobcat kitten, lying on its side, breathing heavily near a water tray with an adult nearby.

“It was rather poignant,” Muth said. “The adult would go over and occasionally paw the juvenile as if to get it to get up and move, and it wouldn’t.

“Finally, the adult turned and walked away.”

By early afternoon, the young bobcat was dead. Suspicious, Muth placed it in a freezer and later sent it to UC Davis.

Last week, it was examined by Andy Engilis Jr., curator of the school’s Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.

“When we do a necropsy, generally the organs are intact and there is little blood,” he said. “When I opened this animal up, it was engorged with blood. The only time I’ve seen that is with rodents exposed to anti-coagulant (poison). It was compelling.”

The problem has been spreading and is even impacting animals who live far away from urban areas.

Just like with the bees, dependence on the “convenience” of chemicals designed to eliminate “pests” is having a widespread and devastating impact on our whole world.

Please reconsider using these harmful products in your home and garden. The rat poisons in question are sold under the brand names D-Con, Havoc, Talon, Tomcat Ultra and Just One Bite, while the bee killer compound is clothianidin, sold by Bayer Crop Science, under the name Poncho

There are natural alternatives for pesticides if your rats are not as adorable as the ones up top. First, keep your spaces clean and foods in glass or plastic containers. Seal up your attic and crawlspaces to avoid temptation. Rats also hate the smell of peppermint, so soaking rags in peppermint oil will drive out any in your warm attic. Finally, often just the scent of a domestic cat is enough to make these little critters look for a more hospitable home. If you’re a softie like me, you can make sure that there are nice wooded areas left in or near your yard to give them a more appropriate place to call home.

For the bees, try using a simple solution of soap, cayenne pepper and olive oil on your plants to discourage pests, just avoid spraying the flowers so that your pollenators will still be able to do their jobs.

the throwaway society

There’s been quite the discussion floating around several blogs I read, all sparked by one comment in which a woman laid into a “green” design blog for featuring a rather expensive Eames armchair.
Treehugger summed it up pretty well by summarizing Oscar Wilde’s lament that people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Both articles and the comments are pretty interesting in the range of reactions.
I responded to the ReNest article with this:

I am a maker. Not of furniture or probably anything else you’d ever feature on this blog, but a maker nonetheless. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that someone could buy “the same” item as something I’m selling at Walmart for half the price.

Sustainability has so many facets and affording those who make the items in question a wage which doesn’t leave them starving is one of those facets. Add in the cost of sustainable materials and this is often why things “green” cost so much more.
From the end-user standpoint, that Eames armchair aside, I’m so tired of household items that can’t be repaired once they’ve broken. I had quite a fight with a toaster before finally coming to the realization that I could not get the parts to fix it because no one made them.
That’s the real crime: Living in a world where things are designed to break, be trashed and replaced. That’s the thing that should make that woman sick to her stomach.

It’s a crazy line to walk; pricing items so you can keep making more and eat while you’re at it, and pricing them so people don’t roll their eyes and walk away. I hope people care that the things I make can be repaired, altered or made into something else when their current life is nearing the end. I hope that me and all my other maker friends are having an impact on our throwaway society. It is one of my biggest dreams, to help change this…