Speaking of maiden names, and in order to make this post somewhat wedding related, I am 98% sure I won’t be changing my name.  The reasons for this aren’t arguably eco-related, but some of the repercussions of this decision could be viewed that way.  I won’t have to get all new credit cards, business cards, or replace anything else with my name on it.  But it was a purely personal decision, as I think it is for everyone.  

So, back to the entry title.  I’ve been a member of Co-op America for about a year, as the result of my volunteering at the Seattle Green Festival.  As a result, I’ve moved to a socially-responsible cell phone company, have discovered ways to research companies on their eco/social practices, signed petitions, gotten discounts, and just more or less stayed on top of key issues.  At the start of the new year, they changed their name to Green America, but they’re the same great organization.

And they asked their members to post the following to their blogs.  So I’m doing so, because it’s got some good general thoughts to keep in mind as we’re planning weddings and getting on with our lives, and because it’s a little free publicity. 

More new posts soon, I promise!

7 Fixes from the Green Economy

Bold solutions from the green economy are the antidote to the broken economy—and can repair the damage and create a world that works for all.

EconomyEveryone now understands that the economy is broken. What our members and readers have known for years— that the economy is not working for people and the planet—is now playing out on Wall Street and Main Street every day.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent results of an economy with fatal design flaws. These design defects range from a dependence on growth, consumerism, and the structure of money to the short-term focus of today’s markets, and policy goals that are focused on growing Gross National Product. Yet, when GNP growth includes a whole set of “bads”—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth actually reduces wellbeing for people and the planet.

Taken together, these fatal flaws systematically create economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The green economy offers solutions that are the antidote to the current breakdown.

Green America members have been trailblazers for green economic solutions for years. We now have a teachable moment to be bold in stepping up with these solutions for long-term change toward sustainability—and helping people through tough times. Now these green economy solutions are more important than ever.

Simply put, we need to move from greed to green.

Here are seven green economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs 
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy—for the sake of the economy and the environment. It is time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, largescale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, energy independence, job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), and the victory over the climate crisis. The five green-energy keys are rapid, large-scale deployment of:

• Energy efficiency—moving toward 50 percent savings in five years.

• Solar and wind—getting to an all-renewable electric grid.

• Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)—getting to at least 20 percent of the US vehicle fleet in ten years.

• Smart grid—rebuilding our aging electric grid with a smart grid that makes it easy to scale up energy efficiency and renewables.

• New national and state electric utility regulation and building codes that make it easy to scale up with efficiency, renewables, and PHEVs.

This year, Green America is launching Project LEAP—our Low-carbon Energy Acceleration Plan—to show how to combine these superheroes for real economic prosperity, energy security, and 80–90 percent greenhouse gas reduction. We shared this with our allies on President Obama’s incoming team (along with our idea for the financing mechanism; see #2 below). But you don’t have to wait for Washington—use Green America resources to get started today:

• Guide to Efficiency First!
• Solar how-to articles, and interviews with the solar leaders of our Green Busienss Network™
• Solar High Impact National Energy (SHINE) Plan. [PDF] 
• Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study. [PDF]

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds 
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Green America and our allies at Clean Edge propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities that are hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, which would pay an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

Millions of people are looking for a way to help the country right now. During the townhall- style presidential debate, one person posed this question to the then-candidates: “What would you ask us to do?”

Green America’s answer: Invest in Clean Energy Victory Bonds so our country can start building the clean-energy infrastructure and get people to work in good, green jobs, right now.

Sign up for the Green America e-newsletter to help advance these and our other green energy policy measures all year long.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink 
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, reducing inequality, and sharing —jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities—are the principles crucial to restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and, in too many cases, as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. From planting gardens to conserving energy to swapping clothes to making gifts—these green economy basics will help us move to an economy that works for all.

As Dr. Juliet Schor, economist and author, puts it, “We’ve lost the ability to profitably … grow our way out of recession. The usual kinds of consumer spending (cars, electronics, furniture, apparel, travel) degrade vital eco-systems and have an economic cost. Business-as-usual puts us deeper into an economic hole.”

Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink living over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity—what Green Americans have known all along.


4. Go Green, Fair Trade, and Local 
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases shift from the conventional economy to the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. What we spend our money on—and refuse to buy—does matter. Expanding the green economy is fundamental to the transition to an economy that works for people and the planet. Moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and toward supporting local workers and local, organic farmers creates more justice and sustainability.

Use the National Green Pages to make as many of your purchases as possible from the green economy. Turn to Green America all year long for ways to be intentional with your money—to help create a better economy with the choices you make every day.


5. Community Investing 
All over the county, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hardhit communities are strong, while the biggest banks—from Washington Mutual to CitiGroup —required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep the community investing institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, rates of return. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

You can provide capital to community investing banks and credit unions—it’s as easy as opening a federally insured account. Check out the community investing section of our Web site to get started.


6. Shareowner Activism 
When you own stock, you are a shareowner and have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had General Motors listened to its activist shareholders, it would have invested in the efficient and electric cars that would have prevented the need for a bailout from bankruptcy. Had CitiGroup listened to its activist shareowners, it would have steered clear of the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Activist shareholders are key to reforming companies—from jumpstarting them on the energy revolution to addressing executive compensation to stopping the corruption created by corporate lobbying—for the transition to the new economy. Let’s up the ante.


7. Building Community 
“Whatever the problem,” says Dr. Lynnaea Lumbard, psychologist and interfaith minister, “community is the answer.” Connected, resilient communities help people get through tough times—and celebrate during good times. Now is the time to get started. Get to know your neighbors. Do a neighborhood skills inventory—so people can help each other fix their roofs, repair their bikes, mend a torn coat—saving money and building community. Plan a community garden, a neighborhood garage sale, or clothing swap. Start a dinner or home improvement co-op. (Get more ideas and learn more here.)

The Time is Now 
It looks like we have a huge opportunity on our hands—a global economic breakdown that is teaching us that we are all interdependent. There’s no “there” to escape to, so we all might as well figure out how to live together —and transition our economy to one that protects vulnerable people and our vulnerable planet. Stay tuned to Real Green all year long. We look forward to working with you on turning today’s problems into opportunities for a more just, sustainable, and joyful world.

Alisa Gravitz


Long Distance Communication

November 17, 2008

For the past 2 months, I’ve kind of been ignoring the whole wedding planning thing.  I’ve just been basking in the realization that I’ll be married in 10 months.  Which I suddenly realized is less than a year.  After being engaged for 3 years, I suddenly realized that running out of time could happen if I don’t start doing something.

Well, I still haven’t done much, but I’ve written down some questions for our venue owners.  It’s a start, right?

My excuse for putting it off is that Jason and I are far apart, and it feels kind of wrong to do stuff without him.  And while I’m guessing he’s too busy anyway with important stuff like grad school applications and Mother 3, I know I wouldn’t like it if he was making decisions without me.  Fortunately, in this day and age, there are lots of different ways a couple with 3,000 miles between them can communicate without using a scrap of paper (love letters don’t count; that’s not wedding planning).  🙂

  1. Skype.  Skype is awesome.  Jason and I videochat pretty much everyday.  You can use it for calling landlines, too, all over the world.  I suppose there isn’t that much eco-friendliness to it, but if you’ve got an iSight mac, you don’t have to buy any extra equipment.  And actually, if all you need is voice anyway, you can use an internet connection and not get a separate phone that you’d need to plug in.  It’s a stretch, I know.  But I did find my webcam (no iSight for me) for $5 on craigslist, saving money and reusing!
  2. Google Docs.  This really is paper saving, and is ridiculously useful as a collaboration tool.  Jason and I are currently working on our (much too long but we love everyone) guest list.  Instead of making lots of paper lists and crossing things out and losing track, we’ve got one place we can both edit (and approve each others’ edits), and where we can eventually organize addresses and RSVP’s and so on.  In the future, I may use it to help us organize/plan our invitation layout and the things we want on our registry.
  3. Our Credo Mobile cell phones.  We were in the middle of a contract with Verizon when we just got fed up with their billing and their customer service.  We contemplated iPhones, but it was going to be really expensive, and we happened to be saving for a, um, wedding.  But I know I feel better with this decision.  Not only did we save money (and they bought out our Verizon contract), but 1% of our charges go to various social and environmental causes, and they’re the only phone company to lobby AGAINST the FISA act.  And they still are.  But I don’t want to sound like a militant evangelicist for Credo (and their parent company, Working Assets) and really play up one choice over any other.  I just think doing a little research into the impacts our choices have and don’t have can make such a huge difference.  Yep, done now!

So, next up, I’ll be calling rental companies about tents and dance floors on my cell, tracking prices on Google Docs, and Skyping with Jason about options all at once…maybe not.

Also, anyone know of a good officiant on the Eastern Shore who would work with us and understand the green philosophy?  Well, ’till next time, but here’s a picture of our caterer/friend Mark and his wonderful bread oven:

making a pizza!

making a pizza!

And, I’m back! +book review

September 10, 2008

I made it!  I’m now in Maryland, and minus Jason for a few months.  😦  But I’ll be able to distract myself with wedding planning and this blog, hopefully!  And I’m going back to Seattle this weekend to see him, so it’s really not that bad (or so I keep telling myself).  If you’re interested, eventually I’ll put up some documentation from our cross-country road trip up on Flickr.

Seeing as how it’s been a few weeks, I feel out of practice.  So please bear with me these next few posts while I get back in the swing of things.  Planning will be starting for real, with a binder and everything, so hopefully with a schedule to guide me, I’ll have plenty of relevant topics to write about.  

Tonight, I bring you a book review.  A little background: Suzan St Maur stumbled upon this blog and left a comment offering to send me a copy of her book, How to Get Married In Green, for review.  Of course I accepted; eco-wedding resources are hard enough to find, and also, I think most librarians love free books!  So my apologies, Suzan, for taking so long, and I only hope I can get a few people to check it out (request it at your libraries, folks, if you don’t want to buy it yourselves).

Suzan lives in England, and the book is targeted for UK audiences.  That said, there’s plenty of information applicable to probably anywhere in the world.  I especially loved the in depth information she provided on jewelry: not only does she discuss blood diamonds, but there’s information on mining and production processes for the all the metals and gems most often used for weddings.  There’s also an amazing interview with a wedding photographer that goes into lots of detail about the impacts of both traditional and digital photography and what can be done to lesson them.  The photographer says more or less outright what I think Suzan does a very good job of implying throughout the book: it’s not just what you do on this one day that makes a difference, but committing to making lifestyle changes that will help make sure you do as little damage as possible.  

However, any one person can only do so much.  Whatever that means for you, Suzan does a great job of giving lots of options.  Maybe you always get your clothing second hand, so getting a beautiful, unique wedding dress the same way is a great option.  But maybe your career demands nice, new clothing, and people expect the same on your wedding day.  Suzan offers suggestions on fabric and reusability.  She includes numerous ideas and options for all the aspects of a wedding, and I think she does a really strong of emphasizing that we just need to think about the decisions that we’re making.  If we alter one small thing in every part of that special day (and our lifestyles), that makes a difference.  If we have to compromise on some things and then totally give up on, say, flying somewhere exotic for the honeymoon because that’s a little more our style, then that’s perfectly okay.

While Married in Green is somewhat comparable to Eco-Chic Weddings (which I’ve mentioned before), I think there are a few notable differences, and I’m certainly glad I’m lucky enough to have both books (I’ll be passing them on when I’m done, perhaps to a library!).  First of all, Suzan’s book isn’t quite as resource-based as Emily Anderson’s.  Although there is a chapter at the end with lots of web resources (mostly UK, but don’t write them off without checking them out), Suzan emphasizes looking around on the web yourself, and offers lots of search terms to get you started.  To a certain degree, I think the search terms are a little simplistic, and I think there are some better ways to search than just a search engine (find a good wedding site, for instance, and browse/search around in there; on theknot.com, which I love, not all the individual pages are indexed/found on Google, but there’s a ton of info), but it’s definitely a good place to start.  I also think that there are some areas in Suzan’s book where there’s a little more information about why we need to be thinking about these things: I already mentioned the jewelry and photography; the chapter on receptions has some interesting thoughts, too, such as the energy it takes to power the lighting and dj.  

All in all, I’m really grateful I got the chance to review Suze’s book, and I definitely recommend it to all you other brides-to-be out there.  And it’s printed on paper certified by the FSC!

Wait for it…

July 17, 2008

And keep waiting a little bit longer for actual wedding-related posts.  Big apologies!  But you can look forward soon to:

  • Announcement of our reception/ceremony venue, and what we’re going to try to do to make it as green as possible.
  • Pictures of me in the organic clothing I purchased (it’s pretty!  and comfy!)
  • Food choices (yum!)

But, in the meantime, I wanted to push out a couple of things that caught my eye today.  They kind of underscore our decision to make our wedding as green as possible:

  1. The Story of Stuff.  Check it out; it’s self-explanatory, but a must see.  It came back to my inbox today through Ideal Bite, my favorite daily green tip source. 
  2. Al Gore’s speech on energy policy change, given today.  Can you imagine?  10 years.  We could do it, if enough people stand behind it.  (Full version with annotations here.)

Stay tuned!

A favored wedding

July 2, 2008

One of the major environmentally unfriendly aspects of weddings is the amount of waste it produces.  If you think about it, there’s a whole lot of often traditionally one-time use stuff that’s involved, from the dress to the flowers (more on that later), to those sometimes kitschy favors you often see.  I actually haven’t been to a wedding with those kind of things, but you know what I’m talking about, right?  Maybe it’s a funny little container made of pink plastic that holds chocolate.  You eat the chocolate, and eventually that container ends up in the trash.  Maybe it’s just some random object with the names and date on it; very nice, but really, who has the space on their shelves for the collection of wedding objects from lots of friends and family?  🙂  Then think of that object multiplied times 100+, and then again by all the weddings that have them (there are 2.3 million weddings a year in the United States)!

One way to avoid all that waste is to not have favors at all.  Not only is there no impact in terms of manufacturing, shipping, and garbage, but it’s one less thing you need to plan for and worry about (and spend money on)! 

But, if you do want to provide some kind of token for your guests, as a way of expressing gratitude or for whatever other reason, there are some great options.

  1. Give a small donation per guest (or a lump sum) to a favorite charity.  Or pick a few charities!  It’s up to you; it’s your day.  Let your guests know about the donation on the place cards (printed on recycled paper), in the invitations, or in the program.  It’s a great way to honor your guests by giving back.
  2. Get crafty!  I’m sure lots of you can make really cool (and useful!) little things, from knitting cell phone cases, to making your own drinking glasses (just get one of these gadgets!).  I don’t want to reveal exactly what we’re doing, but I’ll drop the hint that we’re going to be making magnets out of something that’s easy to get a hold of.  Want to try?  Just buy some non-toxic, eco-friendly glue, some little magnets (or those easy to use adhesive magnetic squares, although that adhesive might not be so great for the environment), and stick the magnets to whatever you think your guests might enjoy!  I might stay away from putting just names and dates; make the object something quirky and fun to put on the fridge, and then use calligraphy to write your initials somewhere discrete so your guests never forget.  🙂
  3. Go with edible.  Just make sure to use the most eco-friendly and minimal packaging you can get away with.  Cute plastic boxes are fine, but un-bleached, recyclable boxes are even better.  Something local is always a great idea, too.  In Washington or New York, for instance, setting out beautiful local apples at your guests’ places with your grandmother’s recipe for apple crisp printed on recycled index cards would be lovely!  Candy “bars” are another favorite; give your guests a few options, and you’ll avoid any guilt over possible allergies or dislikes.  Just provide your guests with containers (collect, clean and resuse baby food or other small glass jars, or use brown paper bags or envelopes- recycled, of course!).
  4. Go with living.  Flower seeds (or small potted plants, as long as your guests won’t have to transport them far), are another great idea.  Print the place card info on Flower Seed Paper (there’s lots of favor ideas here, actually), and put it on small pot, and you’ve given your guests all they really need to grow some beautiful flowers!
  5. If you want to spend a bit more, go ahead and get useful things for your guests.  My friend Leonore, who got married just this past weekend (congrats!!), had pretty espresso cups with saucers (every one was different).  You could also consider giving out reuseable tote bags: tie them up with a pretty ribbon, or even get them printed (here’s a place you could put the name and date)!

Green weddings are becoming more and more popular.  Some might even say “trendy.”  And while I groan at that word, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one, I do think it does help get people to actually think a little about the choices and decisions they make, and hopefully lowers the environmental impact somewhere.  So when I see wedding planners who blog starting to post things about green weddings, that makes me happy.  And they’re experts!  They (might or seem to) know what they’re doing!  It’s a little different from my blog, where I’m kind of stumbling around and mostly just sharing my experiences with you and documenting ideas for myself.  So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite wedding resources with you.

  • The first isn’t a website, but rather a book.  It’s called Eco-Chic Weddings, and it’s by Emily Anderson.  It’s basically my handbook.  Not only does it have lots of great tips, but it’s organized very well and is easy to read.  And you can definitely pick and choose what you decide to use, and Emily always seems to encourage using your own ideas.  And, my favorite part, it has lots of resources (including lots of websites!) that you can go to.  I actually bought the book, because I had a gift certificate and 2 sisters to pass it on to (and it’s awesome), but if you just want to check it out first before buying it yourself, go to your library (had to put that in somewhere)!  You can go to WorldCat, an awesome online catalog of lots of libraries all over the world – just type in your location to see if the book’s available near you!  If not, make your library get it.  🙂 
  • You should also check out Emily’s eco-chic blog!  Lots of great ideas all the time, and the archives are invaluable.
  • I actually don’t remember how I found Ethical Weddings site (probably just by searching for “green” or “eco” and “weddings” in Google), but I really like it.  It has real-world stories, featured articles, and a list of ethical suppliers, just to name some of the resources on this user-friendly site.
  • I’ve also come across Portovert numerous times on other blogs and websites.  I’m not the biggest fan of it, because it seems cluttered and yet overly simplistic at the same time, but it does have a national directory of green service providers in everything from locations to dresses.  It’s definitely a solid resource, and while I may not be the hugest fan (I think part of that is that it is a “national” resource and doesn’t quite have the personalized feel of Ethical Living or Eco Chic), it definitely deserves a spot up here.
  • Those are my main resources for now, but I’m always on the lookout.  I’ve already had a couple expert-type people post comments on my blog with links to their websites (check out The Last Bridesmaid and How to Get Married in Green), and would love to get more!  And any other resources I’ll find, I’ll post to my del.icio.us account with the “wedding” tag, so new sites will always pop up on the left side of my blog.  

So those are the experts I’m going to.  🙂  But I would also like to share with you my expertise.  I’ve got this degree in library and information science, and that training has given me a decent skill set for finding things.  So I’d like to take my best shot at finding things about green weddings for you!  I welcome any and all takers; and we’ll see who can stump the librarian…