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.

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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.)

Water Wars, pt 2.

A little while ago, after a trip to my family’s home-town, I wrote about a disturbing trend by Nestle that involved buying land and businesses, solely to get access to water wells. This was resulting in neighbors losing their access to water because Nestle was pumping the aquifers dry to fill the nation’s demand for bottled water.

Well, here’s the guy behind it. He calls the belief that water is a basic human right an “extreme solution”. He prefers privatization, control by corporation, monetization of this precious resource.

If you don’t have water, it’s because you don’t work hard enough.

And because I know this is old, and some people may dismiss it simply because of that, here is a link to his “explanation” on Nestle’s Water Stewardship page. It isn’t much better.

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)

Little Free Libraries

Have you heard about the “Little Free Library” project?


Leave a book, take a book, the ultimate in recycling literacy!
from their website, their mission is:

To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations
To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world – more than Andrew Carnegie–and then more.

You can find a map of all the sites above, as well as instructions on how to build your own. I’m thinking of building one next door in the empty lot, since we get a lot of foot traffic on our street. Or, maybe down by the bus station.

Ollie says Reading is good!


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…

How East Atlanta Village celebrates Earth Day

So we made some lanterns:
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My Lantern, representing the village:


And launched some wishes:
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Fly! Be Free!

And had a parade:
The parade starts
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Then there were performances:
HoopEssence gives fiery performance
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Juggling fire!

and short films in the park:
Short films to watch

(most of the above photos are by John E. Ramspott /BURNAWAY on Flickr)

Then we came back on Saturday for more:





and had demonstrations on gardening, biodiesel, cycling and pedestrian friendliness, a seed swap, park tours, history tours and a fleet of alternative fuel cars!

It was a lot of work, but at the end of the day, we collected 4 truckloads of electronics, a truckload of paint, a truckload of tires, a huge box of batteries, another huge box of CFL bulbs, a grocery bag of printer cartridges, and close to 100 cellphones for recycling. We also collected a couple dozen pairs of eyeglasses for reuse, and over 5 huge boxes of books for the library. Then there was the freecycling… oh WOW did we freecycle some cool stuff! All the leftovers were donated to charity or to Wonderroot’s creative reuse team.

Thanks East Atlanta! It was a success and we hope to do it all over again next Earth Day!

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.