#GreenFest: A Higher Calling for our Fair Trade Clothing Panel

When Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America’s campaigns director, invited Claire Wickland of Alta Gracia and Megan McManus of Amani DC to speak on the ethical apparel panel at the DC Green Festival, she didn’t realize one key commonality embedded in the names of their organizations.  “Alta Gracia,” it turns out, means “high grace,” in Spanish, while “Amani Ya Juu” (parent organization of Amani DC) means “a higher peace” in Swahili.  It makes sense, once you know the missions of the organizations involved. Continue reading “#GreenFest: A Higher Calling for our Fair Trade Clothing Panel”

#GreenFest: Food for Thought from our GMO Panel

Lots of great wisdom shared today at the DC Green Festival on the topic of GMOs.   Our expert panel included Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America; Adam Eidinger, organizer of Occupy Monsanto and the Mintwood Media Collective; Gail Taylor, a DC farmer with the Three Part Harmony Farm; and Zachari Curtis, a DC farmer with the Good Sense Farm & Apiary.   Just a compressed sampling and paraphrasing below of the panel discussion, with a top-five action list from Alisa Gravitz to round out this post:

Alisa – Food is life.  Food is sacred.  We are rapidly losing our ability to know what is in the food that we eat to sustain our bodies and lives.  The good news is that the GMO issue brings people together across boundaries.  For example, in Mexico, and in South and Central America, traditional cultures that highly value corn as a dietary staple are horrified to see corn being genetically modified.  Over the last 15 years, we went from 0 to 90 percent of certain crops being modified.  Over the next 15 years, we must go from 90 to 0 percent, and we can. Continue reading “#GreenFest: Food for Thought from our GMO Panel”

#GreenFest: 5 Things I Learned from “Gearin’ Up Bicycles”

At today’s DC Green Festival, Katie Lupo of Gearin’ Up Bicycles in Washington, DC came prepared with a fun game of bicycle “Jeopardy” with categories like “Bike Maintenance and Repair,” and “DC Bike Laws.”  Long-time DC bicycle commuters and newbie cyclists alike learned something new.   As a bicycle commuter for the last 10 years in DC, here were my top five takeaways:

1)    Remember to safety check your headset and bottom bracket:  The headset is the part of your bicycle where the handlebars connect with the front fork.   If these become too loose, you could lose control of your bicycle on a rapid descent.  Test for fastness of the headset by squeezing your brakes and trying to rock your bicycle back to front.  If the front wheel rocks, you need to tighten your headset.   Same with the bottom bracket, which is where your crank connects to the bicycle.  Try to move your pedals back and forth to the bicycle, and if there’s give, the bracket needs to be tightened. Continue reading “#GreenFest: 5 Things I Learned from “Gearin’ Up Bicycles””

July 2013 “Faces of the Green Pages”: Solar Service, Inc.; Niles, IL

As a regular featured speaker at our Chicago Green Festivals, Solar Service, Inc. owner Brandon Leavitt enjoys seeing his customers from 36 years of Chicagoland solar installations drop by to say hello.

“We’ve counted more than a dozen of our customers at the shows, some of them clients from 30 years ago whose solar systems are still going strong,” says Brandon. We asked him to tell us more about his first solar installation and about his inspiration to start his solar company…

Green America: What does your business do and what are your most popular products?

Brandon Leavitt: Solar Service designs and installs both solar PV and solar heat and hot water systems for new and existing residential, commercial, municipal and multi-family buildings in the Chicago area.  Today, our most popular products are multi-family solar hot water systems and residential and commercial grid connected PV.

What makes Solar Service green?

Brandon: Obviously, by selling and promoting the use of renewable energy systems we are a green business at our core. Also, Our solar thermal panels are made in Florida and Minnesota.  The solar storage tanks are manufactured in the USA. The vast majority of our PV panels are produced and/or assembled in the USA.  We have never purchased PV panels made in China.

We are a ’family friendly’ company where our employees’ needs for flexible work time are respected.  We have always recycled our in-office plastics, glass, metals, batteries and paper.  We pay our refuse hauler extra for a bin to recycle cardboard.  Every year our holiday party is financed by the proceeds from the sale of leftover scrap copper, steel and aluminum from our installs.  Our crew plants a vegetable garden each spring outside our warehouse.  All our drinking water is purified on tap.  Our sales director drives a company-owned Prius.  And of course, all three of our company buildings are solar powered…both PV and thermal!


This Solar Service installation for HarvesTime Foods in Chicago incorporates PV panels as a part of the store’s awning.

Continue reading “July 2013 “Faces of the Green Pages”: Solar Service, Inc.; Niles, IL”

Green America’s Policy Director at White House Climate Change Summit

On Thursday, May 23, Green America’s policy director, Fran Teplitz, will participate in the Women’s Leadership Summit on Climate Change and Energy at the White House.  She’ll be among 100 women leaders invited to share information about their organizations’ climate and energy work, such as Green America’s Clean Energy Victory Bonds proposal.

What’s more, we invite YOU to listen in on a live-stream of the opening of the Summit from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Speakers will (tentatively) include:

  • Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Acting Administrator, NOAA
  • Chair Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality
  • Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President on Energy and Climate Change
  • Dorothy Robyn, General Services Administration
  • Kateri Callahan, President, Alliance to Save Energy
  • Nancy Pfund, Managing Director, DBL Investors
  • Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC
  • Cecilia Estolano, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors
  • Reverend Sally Bingham, Regeneration Project

We hope you can listen in on the conversation on Thursday, May 23, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Garment Factory Collapses in Bangladesh

In the most recent tragedy of the Bangladeshi garment industry, scores of factory workers are reported dead after the collapse of a building yesterday in Savar (outside of Dhaka) that housed several manufacturers of clothing destined for Western markets. Hundreds others were injured, or remain buried under the rubble, with the death toll certain to rise.  As the Financial Times writes:

The tragedy comes five months after at least 117 people were killed in a garment factory fire in the country, and will raise fresh questions about basic safety standards and management practices in a $19bn industry catering mainly to western companies and consumers.

Reuters reports that of the five factories housed in the building, at least one provided clothing destined for Wal-Mart, and others contracted with European retailers.  Notorious for its more relaxed building codes and enforcement, Bangladesh has been the site of some of the worst garment factory disasters of recent years.

Green America’s allies at ILRF are hosting former Bangladeshi garment workers Kalpona Akter and Sumi Abedin (survivor of the 2012 fire noted above) at Gap headquarters in San Francisco this Thursday, April 25.   Please join them, if you are able, to speak out against tragedies like yesterday’s collapse and November’s fire.

NYC GF: “Sustainable or stylish? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Thanks to fashion designer Eileen Fisher for sponsoring our sustainable fashion show, kicking off Day Two of the NYC Green Festival.  Eileen Fisher’s new “Green Eileen” project recycles used Eileen Fisher clothing at stores across the country, and the company’s “&” (ampersand) line brings a new level of sustainability to fashion: made-in-the-USA items, organic cotton and fairly traded garments, and more.   (Find more on green fashion from our recent Green American.) The Green Festival fashion show featured items from the & line modeled by green fashion writers, bloggers, designers, and activists:

Organic cotton dress and made-in-the-USA belt modeled by fashion editor Jasmin Malik Chua.
Organic cotton dress and made-in-the-USA belt modeled by fashion editor Jasmin Malik Chua.

Continue reading “NYC GF: “Sustainable or stylish? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.””