* Journey down “The New Main Street” of green businesses and eco-friendly, fair trade gifts, plus check out our preview of the newly released documentary What Would Jesus Buy? *
THE HOT POTATO
Serving Up a Weekly Helping of
Sustainable & Organic Gardening, Food, Health, and Community
by Adam Brockman & Aireen Joven, November 2007, #37
THIS WEEK’S DISH -
THE NEW MAIN STREET:
Green Gift Ideas, Trees For The Future & What Would Jesus Buy?
“Christmas after hundreds of billions of dollars and decades of corporate imagery has become this nostalgic, this passive, certainly not political in any way, but that moment in late December when daylight gets longer and the darkness less, that is a sea of change. That is the promise of spring. All religions and all kinds of people regard it as an important and exciting moment. This year, especially, with the world at war and the climate crisis, our neighborhoods and families in trouble, this year, it really needs to be a different kind of Christmas.” – Reverend Billy, an anti-consumerism activist from the Church of Stop Shopping, speaks with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, 21 November 2007, about his role in the new film What Would Jesus Buy, produced by Morgan Spurlock, Oscar-nominated director of the documentary Super Size Me.
WHAT WOULD JESUS BUY? Promotional Poster for the film What Would Jesus Buy?, produced by Morgan Spurlock, Oscar-nominated director of the documentary Super Size Me, directed by Rob VanAlkemade, and starring Reverend Billy and the Church Of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Poster by international artist and award-winning photographer David LaChappelle.
‘TIS THE SEASON to be…shopping? Yes, the holidays are upon us once again, and like a Northerly wind, they’ve brought along the blizzard of holiday gift-giving madness. Before you get swept up in the storm, lace up your boots and squeeze into your parkas, because we’re going for a ride…off the beaten paths of Michigan Avenue, and onto the windswept hills of “the New Main Street”, the land of sustainable businesses and earth-friendly, socially-conscious gifts!
This year, it’s easier than ever to “give green” and shop with conscience, but you’ll probably have to venture beyond the walls of most big-box stores to find such treasures. Fortunately, there are several businesses, locally and online, where you can use your dollar to support a healthier world while finding plenty of memorable and unique gifts for your loved ones and, while you’re at it, having a unique adventure that Target and Best Buy could never match. From fair trade, handmade crafts to stylish, organic clothing to eco-friendly and non-toxic home and beauty products, here are a few of our favorites.
GREEN GIFT IDEAS – THE NEW MAIN STREET
• TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES - www.tenthousandvillages.com
We LOVE Ten Thousand Villages. It’s like Pier 1 Imports meets Tiffany’s….only FAIR TRADE! Their online and retail stores offer beautiful, hand-crafted gifts from all over the world, including the Philippines, Mexico, India, Haiti, Ecaudor, and the West Bank, that are made by skilled artisans who are paid fairly for their work. We go to the Ten Thousand Villages in Evanston, just north of Chicago, but other locations in the area include Oak Park, Glen Ellyn, Grayslake, and Rockford. You can also search for a store close to you on their website, which lists over 160 Ten Thousand Villages across the U.S. and Canada. At the Evanston Ten Thousand Villages, you are always greeted by a friendly staff person, ready to offer a complimentary cup of freshly brewed fair trade coffee. All Ten Thousand Villages stores are nonprofit organizations, and are staffed by volunteers.
Our favorite products include simple, lovely, hand-woven baskets from Bangladesh. We use them to hold cassette tapes, gardening catalogs, and office supplies. They would also work as storage for kitchen utensils, baby clothes, or potted plants in the round baskets. I found a pair of flower-shaped silver and pearl inlay earrings at Ten Thousand Villages, fairly traded from Mexico, that I’m always complimented on when I wear them. Other products to look for are colorful wallets and purses, folk-inspired clothing, natural children’s toys, recycled kitchen mats, musical instruments, and home decor. Thanks to TTV, we’ve found fair trade pot holders with a cute garden print; a warm wool hat; a creme-themed scrapbook made out of handmade Nepalese paper and flowers for a wedding gift; greeting cards; the most often used of the bunch, a dark gray stone mortar and pestle from India; and of course, rich, organic, fair trade chocolate bars by Equal Exchange that made it into several family members’ holiday stockings last year.
Ten Thousand Villages Illinois Locations:
• 719 Main Street, Evanston, IL 60602
• 121 North Marion Street, Oak Park, IL 60301
• 499C Pennsylvania Avenue, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
• The Wacker Building, 960 Harris Rd. Ste. 1B, Grayslake, IL 60030
• JustGoods: A Fair Trade Market, 201 7th Street, Rockford, IL 61104
• HEALTHY GREEN GOODS – 702 Main Street, Evanston, IL 60202 – www.healthygreengoods.com
Even before Adam started working at Healthy Green Goods just a couple months ago, it was the only local place to find, as the HGG motto says, “Eco-friendly, toxin-free products for your home, body & future.” It’s like Target meets Linens ‘n Things….only NON-TOXIC! Healthy Green Goods is the first retail store in the entire Chicago area to carry environmentally conscious merchandise for the home that is also healthy for the consumer. Owner Marny Turvill, M.D., is a pediatrician, mother of two, and now successful business owner who understands the importance of a green, non-toxic home environment because of her own multiple chemical sensitivities.
Natural rubber and organic mattresses; organic cotton bed sheets and pillows; organic cotton towels; chemical-free cleaning products in bulk and non-bulk sizes; luxurious body oils, facial cleanser, lip balm, and chemical-free perfume by Trillium Organics; natural chewing gum by Glee Gum; adorable organic baby clothing; reusable shopping bags; bamboo window treatments; no-VOC house paints custom-mixed in house; natural carpeting free of toxic chemicals found in traditional carpets; and the list goes on and on. Try the peel-off nail polish that requires no smelly, chemical-fuming nail polish remover. There’s even low-chemical nail polish remover for non-peel nail polish. Healthy Green Goods just may have something green and fun for everyone on your shopping list.
I have a nose for good, green products, since I am also sensitive to chemically toxic, unnatural products. I feel nauseous around unnatural perfumes and have even developed a rash from the chemicals doused on new, non-organic bed sheets. Organic cotton always feels softer and better on the skin. Trust me! And using chemical-free, organic products to clean your body and clean your home just makes sense. What you put on your skin and put into the air and surfaces of your home should be as good as what you eat, because these substances are absorbed into your body through your skin and air passages.
Interestingly, Adam noticed that both Healthy Green Goods and Ten Thousand Villages, just down the street from each other in Evanston, are both on Main Street. Along with other like-minded shops on Evanston’s Main Street, like the Plain and Simple – Amish Furniture Store and Dave’s Down To Earth Rock Shop, this turn towards a sustainable future of fair trade and eco-conscious businesses symbolize the more and more common greening of Main Street, USA.
• GAIAM & REAL GOODS – www.gaiam.com
In case you don’t live near Evanston but love the sound of Healthy Green Goods products, look no further than Gaiam, an online store and catalog that carries similar items for green living, yoga, and a toxic-free organic home. Apparel; home, garden, and outdoor products; air purifiers, humidifiers, and energy efficient fans; lamps; jewelry; art; books; DVD’s; toys; and special fair trade items can all be found at Gaiam.
According to their homepage, “Gaiam is a health-conscious, environmentally responsible lifestyle company whose goal is to bring LOHAS to the mainstream. The Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) concept is centered on the idea that our own health and happiness is connected to the health of our planet. Taking a holistic approach to our content and product selection, we encourage wholesome lifestyle choices with healthy, green products for your home and body.” Be sure to take note of which items in Gaiam’s catalog are organic and fair trade. Watch out for bamboo clothing too, as bamboo seems to be a renewable resource but the chemical process required to make it into fibers for clothing is not 100% organic.
Gaiam’s Real Goods Catalog focuses on solar and renewable technologies for green living. Here you can find the scoop on super energy efficient refrigerators and laundry machines; small scale solar and wind installation for your home or business; composting toilets; rechargeable batteries; compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs; sun ovens; and solar-powered, water-powered, and hand-cranked almost everything, including flashlights, cell phone chargers, radios, alarm clocks, calculators, laptop chargers, and blenders. Gaiam and Real Goods is like Target meets Circuit City meets Home Depot….only GREEN!
• CO-OP AMERICA – http://coopamerica.org
Still looking for where to find the right green gift? Then Co-op America is your place. A nonprofit organization, their mission is to “harness economic power – the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace – to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” Not only does Co-op America host the annual Green Festivals in D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle, and the Green Business Network, they also publish The Green Pages, a screened directory of nearly 3,000 businesses and groups around the world who meet Co-op America’s standards of making a firm commitment to “sustainable, socially just principles, including the support of sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade, and cruelty-free products”.
You can browse the online green pages for just about any product or service, from travel to finance to clothing to energy to recycled office products to activism to wine & beer. Another option is to support the work of Co-op America by becoming a member, for which you’ll receive a hard copy of The Green Pages, be subscribed to the Co-op America Quarterly and Real Money newsletters, and join a growing community of green consumers and business who care about the “Triple Bottom Line” of sustainability – People, Planet, and Profit, a phrase coined by John Elkington in 1994 and expanded on in his 1997 book Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business.
Co-op America’s website is a rich resource for articles like “21 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Recycle“, “10 Green Toys For The Holidays“, “10 Things You Should Never Buy Again“, and, the perfect segue into the next section of this week’s Hot Potato, “Choose the Best Carbon Offset“. Co-op America’s resources and publications are like Oprah’s “My Favorite Things” Show meets Martha Stewart meets The Price is Right….only SOCIALLY, ENVIRONMENTALLY, AND HUMANELY CONSCIOUS!
TREES FOR THE FUTURE
What if you could give someone a gift that would keep on giving back to the planet for decades, maybe even lifetimes, providing cleaner and more abundant amounts of air while helping restore ecosystems and provide jobs, education, and invaluable life skills? This year, we’re considering giving such a gift to our loved ones by having trees planted in their names! Trees For The Future (www.treesftf.org), an organization based in Maryland, has been helping people around the world plant trees since 1988, while distributing seeds and providing training in sustainable agroforestry. In just 18 years, they have helped plant an estimated 50 million trees across Central America, Africa, and Asia while empowering rural communities to preserve and enrich their homelands and cultures. It is estimated that these 50 million trees remove nearly 1 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
How can you help? For a $45 donation, over 450 trees are planted, and your friend or loved one receives a customized tree planting gift certificate and bumpersticker. If you don’t want to spend this much on just one person, you could plant 450 trees for your entire family. Think of the implications of such a gift! Estimates on the average American’s carbon emissions per person vary; we’ve seen anywhere from 11,000 to 40,000+ pounds (the U.N.’s estimate) per person per year. Depending on climate, the type of tree planted, and the sustainability of the project, each tree planted could sequester between 38 and 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. In theory, this means that 450 trees could offset as little as nearly half and possibly all personal carbon emissions per year…for $45!
Keep in mind that the first step to offsetting your personal carbon emissions is, as Co-op America writes in “Choose the Best Carbon Offset”, “Reduce your impact first” instead of relying solely on buying your way to a lesser impact. Co-op America suggests “flying less, driving less, driving a higher mileage car, or reducing your home energy use.” To that we would add, buying organic food, supporting local, organic farmers, and growing your own – all of which greatly reduce the impact of fossil fuels used in gasoline for shipping, pollution emitted by the trucks or airplanes, and petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers. The planting of trees for carbon offsets is still somewhat of a controversial subject (which we’ll cover in a future Hot Potato), but if done sustainably, such projects will go a long way toward repairing the damage done to our precious Earth, while providing natural beauty and self-sufficiency for future generations. As long as they are planted using wise, agroforestry principles, more trees are always good.
WHAT WOULD JESUS BUY?
Since when did Christmas become all about shopping? The material addictions of American culture seem to explode to the forefront starting the day after Thanksgiving, a day ominously dubbed “Black Friday” by the retail sector (“black” means “profit”). Not that there is anything wrong with buying stuff, but who really gives a thought to what they buy? When you step into a big-box department store, do you stop and think, “How are the workers here treated? Do they earn a living wage? Do they have health benefits?” When you buy a sweater or anything else that’s made in China or somewhere overseas, do you ever stop and think, “I wonder if this was made in a sweatshop? Was the person who made this paid a living wage? Are they over 8 years old?” Do you ever stop and think of how your purchases are impacting the Earth?
Luckily, there is one man out there who is on a crusade to save Christmas from what he terms “the Shopocalypse”. His name is Reverend Billy, and he and his entire congregation, The Church of Stop Shopping, are coming soon to a city near you. In the new documentary, What Would Jesus Buy?, Reverend Billy and his congregation travel the country, performing exorcisms at Wal-Mart’s Headquarters, taking over the center stage at the Mall of America to preach against the materialism of our increasingly corporatized culture, and eventually ending up at Disneyland on Christmas Day. Along the way, Billy and director Rob Van Alkemade explore the effects of corporate conglomeration and consumerist culture on small businesses, individuals, and American society.
Produced by Morgan Spurlock, director and star of 2004′s Oscar-nominated Super Size Me, What Would Jesus Buy? promises to deliver equal parts hilarity and revelation as it explores the excesses of a materialistic age while offering ideas and hope for those looking to become responsible consumers and buy less while giving more. Reverend Billy, a New York-based performance artist whose real name is Billy Talen, is as hysterical as he is convincing, and the power of his unique mission is summed up well by Morgan Spurlock during an interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman: “If you can make people laugh, you can make them listen.”
What Would Jesus Buy? is already out in theaters in New York and the West Coast, and opens November 30th at Chicago’s Landmark Cinema. For more information, visit wwjbmovie.com, or go to Reverend Billy’s website at www.revbilly.com.
KISS AND DIY – THE GREENEST GIFT IDEAS
K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple Sweetie, and D.I.Y. stands for Do it Yourself. This holiday season, the gifts most cherished by loved ones may be the ones that you sprinkle with your own special blend of KISS and DIY. We’re talking about creative, hand-made, and non-material gifts to give instead of store-bought ones. How about tickets to see a favorite sports team or musical performer as a holiday gift? One year for Hanukkah, we gave Adam’s grandmother tickets to join us for a local production of The Diary Of Anne Frank. Not only did the $100 we spent for four tickets support a theater company in our own neighborhood in Chicago, the money also went to one of our most enjoyable family nights and led to future theater outings to Adam’s grandmother’s own favorite musical theater. Last year, I gave my mother a membership to the Chicago Botanic Gardens for Christmas, because she loves to garden as well as paint flowers and nature.
Last holiday season though, it turned out that the holiday gifts to receive the most rave reviews and thanks were the ones made out of our own labor of love. As interns on an organic farm in southeastern Wisconsin, we experienced the joy and empowering feeling of putting by food to be saved for use throughout the winter, food that we watched go from seed or flower bud to harvest and table. Knowing they would make the perfect holiday gifts, we canned extra tomato sauce and cinnamon apple sauce. Made out of tomatoes we planted, watered, weeded, and harvested, and apples we pruned, picked, washed, and chopped, before cooking, spicing, and canning, these jars of love were a wonder to behold under the Christmas tree and in the excited eyes of our family. To make the gifts festive, I added gold-colored ribbons tied into bows on the top of each glass jar. On stickers of painted flowers that I used to decorate the sides of the jars, I hand-wrote the ingredients and “From: Adam & Aireen“. We gave a jar of the nutritious and delicious local, organic, hand-grown, and hand-canned cinnamon apple sauce to the parents of Adam’s goddaughter, who decided to save the jar to be the very first food their daughter ate after her mother’s breast milk!
So this holiday season, have fun shopping…or not shopping…with sustainability, visit websites like responsibleshopper.org, remember the words of Reverand Billy, and keep your green eye open for the best green gift ideas of the season. Until next week, The Hot Potato is in your hands. Pass it on!
What Would Jesus Buy? Trailer