Category Archives: Green Living

Open Letter Regarding Growing Food


Dear Sir/Madam:

In the past year or so, I have seen a growing assault on a specific type of individual freedom. A seemingly innocuous activity has drawn the ire of local officials, and when I tell you what it is, you will think it is so silly you just might laugh. You might even think that paying attention to this issue is a waste of your limited time, but I can assure you from my own personal experience that it absolutely is not.

In June of 2011 I faced a 93 day jail sentence for growing vegetables in my front yard. Yes, you read that correctly. There was no other issue, no hidden criminal mischief, no homeowner’s association, no history of any other violations. There was nothing in the municipal code that prohibited growing vegetables in the front yard, nor was there anything, unsightly or even vaguely menacing. Yet I was charged with a misdemeanor. If my case was an isolated incident, we could just attribute it to an overzealous city planner and that would be the end of the story.

But in September of 2011, Memphis high school teacher Adam Guerrero was ordered to dismantle a similar garden. In his case, he used the garden to educate students from the local high school about growing food, making soap and biodiesel, harvesting honey, and giving youth productive and constructive ways to use their time. For this he was dragged into court and labelled a troublemaker.

In June of 2012 Karl Tricamo of Ferguson, Missouri was ordered to tear up his front yard garden in spite of the fact that it clearly violated no zoning ordinance. He chose to stand his ground rather than capitulate to bullying by his city, but it was a difficult fight, and one that a law-abiding citizen should not have to wage. Karl won his fight too, but the city is planning to retaliate by drafting new and stricter gardening ordinances that will prevent him from continuing to plant in the future.

In October, 2012 the Helvenston Family in Orlando, Florida were ordered to remove their front yard vegetable garden, with a citation stating that, ”Front yard must be restored to its original configuration and ground covers restored.” In spite of the fact that the original complaint was made by a landlord who lived over 1,000 miles away, and in spite of the fact that neighbors in the area were in support of the garden, the City claimed ground cover violations, then ruled that the vegetable garden was agriculture and only allowed it in the rear yard where there is no sun. The Code still has not changed and the case against them is still pending. Up until this point, they have not been allowed to speak in front of the city council, nor been given a fair hearing, despite the city repeatedly telling media that they are working with the couple to find a fair solution to the situation.

Perhaps most egregious, though, is the case of Denise Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Denise grew a varied garden of herbs, flowers, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. She was cited by her city for violating their zoning ordinances. And while her case was pending, before she had her hearing, city workers came and razed her garden. That’s right. No due process. no fair trial. All because some local bureaucrats wouldn’t tolerate one woman growing some of her own food.

So what can you do? I am asking you to be courageous enough to sponsor a bill that will protect a citizen’s right to grow food. I am asking you to pass into law something that should already be obvious to thinking people: that a free citizen should have the right (barring legitimate concerns over safety and welfare of others, of course) to grow food on their own property. Protect individuals from the petty tyranny of local governments.

Yes, I know we can vote in local elections, and we do. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if you took a stand on this issue? I’ll tell you who would support you, because they supported me during my fight with the city (which I won, by the way): people who care about: food safety, food rights, water conservation, energy conservation, organics, local politics, human rights, keeping government in check, farming, slow food, eating local, land use issues, environmentalists, water quality, peak oil concerns, saving money, healthy diets, teaching and learning, improvising in a tough economy, self-sufficiency, therapeutic benefits of gardening, creating strong neighborhoods and regaining a sense of community, taking pride in what you work for (a most American value), as well as many other things.

It used to be that Americans were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens. Average people felt they were helping their country and their families by putting their hands in their soil and growing some of what they ate. They took pride in the fact that they were able to see the results of their effort on their very own dinner table. Today many people struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Slogans are thrown around about how best to help people who are just trying to “make it”. Here you have case after case of people who are willing to do what it takes to plant what some have termed the new “Survival Gardens”. How wonderful it would be for them to be able to flourish in peace!

At the heyday of our battle, we had several hundred thousand visitors following my story on my blog. I’m sure there were at least that many following our story on other websites and through other media. Undoubtedly you would have more than that supporting you in this issue.

I will eagerly await a response from you.

Thank you and best wishes,

Julie Bass
http://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/

http://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/open-letter-regarding-growing-food/

Take A Bite With The PB&J Campaign

Is it possible to protect animals and the environment through a vegan based diet? The people from the PB&J Campaign believe it is a fact. The organization was formed by a group of concerned citizens sponsored by the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE) who assists activist working to improve the world naturally. The PB&J Campaign’s sole purpose is to fight our environmental issues through limiting the amount of animal products people eat. Their goal is to shed light on the damage eating animals cause and help individuals change one meal at a time. Although, the program’s reasons are geared more towards environmentalism than animal rights it promotes vegan lifestyle and in the process will save thousands of defenseless animals from slaughter houses. The program shows individuals that they can make a huge difference similar to the act of recycling through simply changing their diet as well.

How Does It Actually Work?

According to the PB&J Campaign, everything we eat comes from plants, whether we eat the plants directly or through an animal intermediary. The basic problem is that animals are inefficient at converting plants into meat, milk, and eggs. Relatively little of what they eat ends up in what you eat because animals use most of their food to keep them alive – to fuel their muscles so they can stand up and walk around, to keep their hearts beating, to keep their brains working. That cow, pig, or chicken has to eat a lot more protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients than it yields in meat, eggs, or milk. The result is that it takes several pounds of corn and soy to produce one pound of beef, or one pound of eggs, one pound of milk, etc. This holds true even if we’re measuring calories or protein; it takes several times the calories or protein in livestock feed to produce the calories or protein we get from the meat, eggs, or milk.

If we’re wasting livestock feed, we’re also wasting what it takes to grow that feed. This includes inputs like fossil fuels (with all the emissions they produce) to run machinery, to pump water for irrigation, for transportation, and to produce the pesticides and fertilizers. Then there’s the land (= cleared rainforest and grasslands) for growing the crops, along with fertilizers (which produce their own greenhouse gas emissions) and pesticides. When you eliminate livestock and digest plants directly it takes less plants to support you. You also save the inputs that go into the plants. You save fossil fuels, water, land, fertilizers, and pesticides. You also save extra greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer and burning fossil fuels, and you save water pollution from chemicals and silt washing off fields into waterways.

And if that’s not enough, you save on the resources used in raising the animals – yet more land and water. You also save the animal waste that is its own pollution problem, not to mention more greenhouse gas emissions like methane from enteric fermentation. Few people are aware that livestock is responsible for 18% of global climate change.

If you want to contribute in the fight to make a healthier planet by one meal at a time than take the Pledge Now.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

OM’s Eco-Business Profile Spotlight: MPG Stickers


MPG Stickers was originally established in 2004 as a sideline Cafepress business to spread awareness about fuel efficient vehicles in the United States and around the world. By obtaining drivers of fuel efficient vehicles to proudly display an MPG sticker on their automobile they promote fuel efficiency as an indispensable alternative method for the environment. It also inspires other drivers on the road who see it to consider changing their habits and switching to a more fuel efficient car.

Harmful emissions contribute to the current global warming crisis which negatively impacts all aspects of life. It’s crucial that as a nation we take important steps to prevent further pollution of our planet. Although, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 sanctioned to increase the MPG rate standard to 35 by 2020 we should not wait until it’s the law to help the environment. Vehicles such as the Honda Insight, Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Jetta Diesel, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Suzuki Swift, Mitsubishi Mirage, and the Pontiac Vibe have excellent MPGs. There are many vehicles used and new that have a quality MPG that can reduce your share of air pollution.

MPG Stickers would like to help others set an example for the world to take notice. They provide bumper stickers that you can place on your car to bring awareness and encourage others to do the same. If your car has 30MPG or more MPG’s stickers are are essential. I had the honor of conducting an interview with Pierre Delforge one of the owners of MPG Stickers which I’ve posted below.

How did MPG grow from an online Cafepress shop into this major non-profit organization?

The MPG Stickers web site was created by Charlie Gordon in 2004, from a desire to encourage people to conserve energy and reduce the use of natural resources. Charlie managed the site by himself for the first 4 years, selling hundreds of stickers all over the U.S. and Canada. In March 2008, he was joined by Pierre Delforge, who had experienced environmental campaign management with his involvement in the Cool Cities campaign, a Sierra Club initiative advocating for climate action by local Bay Area governments.

Pierre and Charlie redesigned the web site to turn it into the cornerstone of a grassroots campaign, leveraging both traditional and online campaign techniques such as flyer distribution, social networking and online ads. They transitioned the campaign to Acterra, a non-profit environmental organization based in the Bay Area, to become a non-profit campaign. All proceeds from sticker sales are reinvested in online advertising to spread awareness and expand the campaign.

The redesign of the site, coupled heightened public interest in fuel efficiency due to gas prices, resulted in a doubling of sticker sales as soon as the new web site was introduced.

What significant role do you think the adoption of fuel efficient vehicles in the U.S. will play in world’s environmental crisis?

Vehicle fuel efficiency touches on several environmental, economic and security issues, from air pollution, to climate change and energy independence. Fuel efficiency is one of the most cost effective ways to address these problems, saving people money, reducing the need to import foreign oil, and slowing down climate change.

Vehicle fuel consumption is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution and CO2 emissions in the U.S.: Cars and light trucks generate over 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases in the U.S. alone, or 18% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (EPA).

However, despite its significant benefits on the environment, we recognize that vehicle fuel efficiency is just one of many solutions required to mitigate climate change. Other critical solutions include clean energy technologies, energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, industry and the rest of the transportation sector, and halting global deforestation. By focusing on one of the key contributors to the world’s environmental crisis, MPG Stickers and everyone who display an MPG sticker on their bumper are doing their share to help transition to a sustainable world.

Are there any additional green projects you envision MPG participating or funding in the near future?

Not for the moment. There is still plenty to do on the vehicle efficiency front, and we want to continue driving change where we can do it most effectively.

What advice would you give someone who is considering investing in a fuel efficient vehicle?

If you can afford a new vehicle, look for one of the most efficient in its category. Your choice sends a message to auto manufacturers, magnifying the environmental benefits you will derive from the vehicle itself.

If the most fuel efficient cars such as hybrids are beyond your budget, consider a used vehicle: there are many very fuel efficient used cars on the market. For example I drive a 1997 Honda Del Sol which gets me approximately 40 MPG, pretty close to a hybrid. There are many other inexpensive, fuel efficient, fun to drive used cars on the market.

But you don’t even need to change your vehicle to have an impact: just display an MPG sticker on your current vehicle, help spread the word, you can have a great impact at virtually no cost!

How can eco-conscious individuals support the MPG Sticker Campaign? What is the most important step a person can take in promoting the use of fuel efficient vehicles?

There are several simple and effective ways to support the campaign:
1. Display a sticker on your car.
2. Download our flyer and distribute it to your family, friends and colleagues.
3. Send the MPG Sticker web site address to your friends, or just stick it in your email signature.
4. Become an online activist: Join our My Space or Facebook groups. Invite your friends to join too.
We have an Activist Guide on the MPG Sticker web site which gives people many other tips on how to support the campaign.

Care about fuel efficiency?
Say it with an MPG bumper sticker!
www.mpgstickers.org

Green businesses are pivotal for universal change. Companies like MPG Stickers help everyday people adjust to a more sustainable lifestyle.

MPG Stickers can be purchased online at Cafepress.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

DC Going Green with SmartBikes


The U.S. is slowly changing to green. DC, Washington is the first city in America to use a SmartBike program to help reduce Co2 emissions and save the environment. It’s an effective method to give people access to eco-friendly transportation. SmartBike Rider Stations can be found all over Europe in countries like Spain, France, Italy, Norway, and Sweden. Now it’s available right here in the good ole’ USA. This is a very successful step towards finding more methods of alternative transportation to integrate into our lives. Local residents and commuters in the D.C. area can access SmartBikes instead of driving, catching a taxi, or other means of fossil fuel dependent transportation.

The SmartBike is specifically designed for repeated use under various weather conditions. An average bike will be used 10-15 times per day by different users. Most individuals take an estimated 20 minutes to ride the bicycle to their desired destination. These bikes are built sturdy to withstand a few bumps and rough handling. It can easily be maneuvered and is lightweight weighing only 16.5 kg. All SmartBikes are weather resistant as well. The safety and comfort makes it a great dependable public transport device. Utilizing a green program like this is an excellent way to live a more sustainable life. SmartBikes allow you to sneak in cardio exercise throughout your busy day while you reduce harmful Co2 emissions in the process.

This bike sharing program works effortlessly. Since it is a self-service bicycle rental system participants pay a relatively small annual membership fee of $40 to obtain their swipe card. The card is swiped into the stations slot and a bike will be released for use. When the individual has completed their trip they can simply dock the Smartbike back. It’s very convenient and simple. The service can be accessed at any hour of the day seven days a week. Each station is positioned strategically all along the city of DC. They can commonly be found near bus stations, offices, and major shopping areas. The program will offer a new greener option for citizens. SmartBike is time tested system that has been operational for over ten years in other countries. Clear Channel Outdoor is the first company to establish a complete automated bike sharing program in the United States. The first SmartBike program was started in Rennes, France in the year 1998. It has been going strong ever since.

It’s thrilling to see the first automated bike sharing program in America. The high gas prices and current environmental issues make this an excellent green alternative. More bike rentals should be an important component of local and federal eco-conscious transportation plans. SmartBike DC will produce an estimated 120 bicycles for this initial venture. Clear Channel Outdoor is currently working with cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland about starting the program in their area as well. Hopefully, the success of SmartBike DC will motivate other cities to follow in their footsteps also.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Green Fashion: Real or Simply Marketing Hype?


The environmental movement has started a major influx of eco-conscious clothing. From organic cotton tees being advertised in commercial retail stores to famous high end designers focusing their new lines on green fashion it’s hard to miss the new eco-trend craze. Whether you’re a fashionista yourself or regular joe it’s obvious green is the new black. Is the green fashion trend legit or is it purely marketing hype? As consumers we are constantly bombarded by marketing pitches that attempt to pinpoint our needs or desires. The more we become aware of our impact on the environment the better choices we make. Businesses know this and use it to keep your attention. Although, it may appear to be simply marketing hype the majority of it is real. Fashion is a large industry and going green will make a significant difference in more than just our wardrobe. There will always be some fraudulent claims and greenwashing in the eco-fashion world like all forms of retail. As long as consumers take a little additional time to research before they invest in a brand advertising to be “green” there are great gains to be made.

Fashion goes beyond designer clothing it is a personal statement about who you are. Individuals on the eco-enlightment path want clothing that represents them. Green fashion meets this need without sacrificing style. The average person can not tell the difference from standard cotton to organic but the manufacturing process does. The practices used to produce our couture outfits and accessory jewelry are seldom environmentally friendly. When purchasing habits change businesses follow. Everyone can make a positive impact on the planet by buying green. Going green in fashion involves considering the environmental costs in every decision and discovering methods to reduce that expense. The ecologically responsible jewelry business greenKarat was one of the first pioneers in finding alternative solutions in the manufacturing process of gold, diamonds, and metals for jewelry. Since their debut several other companies have surfaced using similar eco-conscious practices. Green fashion designers utilize sustainable fabrics, reduce material waste, and lessen their carbon footprint by adding more manual sewing techniques. Soy, hemp, and bamboo silk are a few of the cutting-edge materials environmentally conscious designers use to create stunning pieces. Wearing an outfit that is true to your beliefs as well as your style defines green fashion.

There are countless green clothing stores and designers who provide quality eco wear. Below is a list of seven websites that have stylish environmentally conscious clothes available for purchase.

1.) Eileen Fisher’s organic dresses can be found at http://www.eileenfisher.com

2.) Ana Cohen’s hem attire at http://www.btcelements.com

3.) Sweetgrass’s hand-crocheted and undyed hemp clothing is at http://www.sweetgrassfibers.com

4.) Wildlife Works has graphic T’s made from sustainable fabrics to support their organization that you can purchase at http://www.wildlifeworks.com

5.) Alchemy Goods make bags for men from recycled inner tube material at http://www.alchemygoods.com

6.) Panda Snack creates beautiful bamboo clothing at http://www.pandasnack.com

7.) Sportswear can be purchased at http://www.indigenousdesigns.com

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com