Connecting the Dots: Breast Cancer and Office Paper

For many, October marks the end of summer, the beginning of numerous holidays, and of course, good food. But, did you know that October also marks the 25th anniversary of Breast Cancer Awareness Month? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, breast cancer impacts the lives of nearly one in seven women in the U.S. annually, and has increased in men by 25% in the last quarter century alone.

At this point, you are probably asking what breast cancer has to do with Dolphin Blue, a provider of eco-friendly office supplies. Well the answer is simple. Everything.

To continue reading this article, please visit:  http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Connecting-the-Dots–Breast-Cancer-and-Office-Paper.html

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Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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Top Ten Reasons To Be a Green Business

One of my employees recently challenged me to create a “Top Ten” reasons to work for, own, or operate a ecologically friendly, green business.  Here is my take:

10. Because our planet is our “garden”. Only with a totally healthy and productive garden will we be able to live healthy and sustainable lives.

9. Because we’re running low on clean, drinkable, non-chemically-contaminated water.

8. Because we’re quickly losing clean, breathable, non-chemically-contaminated air.

7. Because we’re depleting the minerals and healthy state of our soil. Without healthy soil, we won’t have healthy food. Without healthy food, we can’t have healthy bodies.

6. Because a healthy, sustainable planet will provide great rewards in reduced healthcare costs, healthy employees who are productive and present, and will be much better employees.

5. Because as the owner/CEO of a green business, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re doing your part.

4. Because, as a parent, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re leaving a sustainable planet for your children and future generations.

3. Because you will be happier and healthier, living on a planet that you know has a rich diversity of fellow species, all doing their part in maintaining the balance of nature.

2. Because customers/consumers are looking for businesses with which they have a “values alignment”.  People buy from people and companies they know and trust are doing good.

and most important. ..

1. Because your children deserve at least as much of a natural world we have had.

Here’s hoping you make green waves at work,

Thomas Kemper, Owner and Founder

www.dolphinblue.com

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Sinking Our Economy, Cementing Our Destiny

I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.

After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.

On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.

In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd.  What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.

My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:

If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.

Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.

Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.

If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.

We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.

If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.

Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.

(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)

How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.

Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?

How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.

Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.

Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.

Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.

Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?

If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)

As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.

As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!

At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…

  • We want to balance the budget!
  • We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!

The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.

A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.

And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/in-deficit-town-meetings_b_627030.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/its-the-jobs-stupid_b_627141.html

It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.

We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.

To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

NTM Budget & Economy pg1

NTM Budget & Economy pg2

NTM Budget & Economy pg3

NTM Budget & Economy pg4

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Communicating the Right Message

Dolphin Blue was founded on the principle that we can all do something to assist in creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

We’ve always provided only office products that, at minimum, are certified for post consumer recycled material content, assuring the buyer that you are getting product that meets your requirements, and, that truly contributes to a sustainable planet for future generations.

It’s not often that, in my almost eighteen years of building the Dolphin Blue business, I receive such striking examples of what an entity is doing to not only contribute to sustainability, but also to articulate their actions in a very effective manner, such as the State of Pennsylvania’s online video. One of the key points discussed in this exemplary video is concerning the issue of greenwashing (a practice whereby a provider makes unsubstantiated claims regarding the environmental attributes of their product or service, such as “Third-party certified”, without naming the certifying organization, or, stating “recycled content”, without mentioning whether the recycled content is pre-consumer or post consumer, or, stating the percentage of recycled material). Without proper education, greenwashing is easily perpetrated on unknowing, unsuspecting consumers.

That is bad for the unknowing consumer and detrimental to the sustainability of our planet. It’s also ripping off our children’s future.

This exceptional presentation came to me through H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment), of which Dolphin Blue is a long-time member. Please share this far and wide, so others may be able to benefit from this great presentation on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

Tom Kemper is the founder and president of Dolphin Blue Inc.

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New Developments in Clean Energy Technology

During a 60-Minutes broadcast on CBS (February 18, 2010), Bloom Energy was described as aBloom Boxmajor innovation in fuel cell technology.  The Bloom fuel cell is composed of relatively inexpensive materials, and it produces electricity from oxidation of natural gas or bio-gas.

It was claimed that an investment of $3000 in a Bloom box could be used to provide power to a residence and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  That would add up to a cost of around $300 billion in the US for residential needs and another $200 billion investment for businesses (my estimate).

The total of $500 billion would buy infrastructure to produce cleaner energy — but not clean energy.  We would still need to extract and oxidize huge amounts of natural gas because bio-gas supplies are not adequate to fuel all our energy needs.  Using natural gas does not constitute a long-term solution to either energy needs or to climate change.  We need to think about ways to eliminate the need to burn natural gas and other fossil fuels.

Another (perhaps alternative) step would be to produce electricity from (a) solar, wind, and geothermal sources on “energy farms” in America’s heartland and (b) off-shore solar, wind, wave, and tidal energy sources on “energy islands” that would be positioned in proximity to population centers near our coasts.   (See http://24-7-360.com/EnergyIsland/patappAndFigures.doc.)

Still, we would need to figure out a way to provide sufficient electricity even when the sun does not shine or when the wind does not blow.  A backup source of energy is needed.

One solution could come from recent developments in an effort to store energy in the form of elemental carbon.   Elemental carbon can be produced from carbon dioxide by a reduction process that uses clean energy.  Elemental carbon could be used like a battery, storing energy that could later be released, as needed, from oxidation to carbon dioxide; but that process would not add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, given that the carbon-dioxide-to-carbon reduction process would offset any net increase in carbon dioxide levels.

Being able to store energy as carbon and to release it without increasing overall carbon dioxide levels would allow us to use only clean energy.  The process of recycling carbon from carbon dioxide could conceivably break dependence on continually extracting and burning fossil fuels.  See this article about recycling carbon dioxide to elemental carbon and using carbon as a recyclable energy resource: http://www.carbonoffsetsdaily.com/press-release/green-carbon-dioxide-recycling-technology-emerging-in-british-columbia-a-feature-of-industry-today-on-industrialinfocom-9964.htm .

Tom Manaugh works as an inventor, an internet marketing consultant for Dolphin Blue, Inc., and a Web designer/developer in Dallas, Texas.

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Toner cartridges: What’s best and worst

Our CEO, Thomas Kemper, received an email questioning toner cartridges, quality and price. Here’s his response:

In reply to your concern about remanufactured toner cartridges, I understand fully well the reason you may perceive all remanufactured toner cartridges as being lesser quality than OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), or, new, branded cartridges.

Among the numerous remanufacturers that provide remanufactured toner cartridges, there are a few who give the rest a bad name. On the other hand there are many that provide an excellent product, and offer competitive pricing, when comparing prices with the OEM product.

As a result the end-user has several options/choices:

Option 1: (sometimes the easiest decision to make because of trusted performance) choose the OEM product at a premium price, paying more and getting a great cartridge.

Option 2: (not always an easy decision because of “unknown” outcome) choose a high quality, premium remanufactured toner cartridge at a price that is 30%-40% less than an OEM cartridge (paying less than you would for an OEM unit and more than you would for the least expensive remanufactured option, and getting a great cartridge).

Option 3: choose the least expensive remanufactured cartridge because the end-user is attempting to gain maximum savings for their expenditure (pay less than any other option and get a cartridge that ends up costing you more in lost time and “headaches”).

Over and over I have seen the end-user make the first choice (Option 1) to “play it safe” – the easiest, yet, costly option. Often, the end-user makes the third choice (Option 3) in order to meet budget, ultimately getting “burned” because of poor product performance. After getting “burned”, they then go back to Option 1, choosing to “play it safe.” Did that once, won’t do it again!

As a provider of only premium remanufactured toner cartridges, we offer end-users the second choice (Option 2), and tend to hold relationships with our toner cartridge customers over long periods of time. Every toner cartridge Dolphin Blue provides is manufactured under ISO 9001 Manufacturing Quality Standards and carries a one-year warranty against all defects in materials and workmanship. If our toner cartridge causes a printer malfunction, we pay for the service to repair the printer. This is a No Lose proposition for the user!

If a toner cartridge is remanufactured to the standards of the OEM unit, it should, and will, perform as well as the OEM – That is why we are not the least expensive option. All Dolphin Blue’s toner cartridges are remanufactured to the standards the OEMs have established. You will not experience a loss of quality with any toner cartridge provided by Dolphin Blue. If an end-user is looking for maximum savings in the up-front cost of toner cartridges, then we are not where you should spend your money.

If, however, you are looking for maximum value and optimal performance, then we offer the best product available and the best investment for your dollar. You may want to purchase just one toner cartridge from us and evaluate the cartridge for yourself. Get your IT manager to put it through his or her rigorous evaluation process. I am confident you’ll find our quality every bit as good as any OEM cartridge you now use.

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Season’s Greenings: A very merry eco-minded celebration

During the holidays, tradition reigns supreme — most people like the familiarity and comfort that come from a routine rooted in warm-and-fuzzy memories. Fortunately, being green is compatible with keeping all those favorite traditions intact, although it may take some slight adjustments. For instance, put a present in a reusable shopping bag or buy 100 percent recycled wrapping paper that uses vegetable-based inks instead of that shiny, not-so-recyclable paper. Love lights on the Christmas tree? Just make sure they’re LEDs. Can’t imagine not sending out holiday cards? Buy recycled ones like those from Twisted Limb or even some with seeds planted inside. 
 
Here are a few other ways you can keep all things merry and bright — both at home during the holidays and out in nature.
 
Spread the green. Eco-friendly presents are everywhere these days, and they’re getting cooler all the time. We especially like the Recycled Bicycle Chain Bottle Opener from Bambeco.com. At just $10, it’s a steal, plus it looks great — cycling enthusiasts will especially flip for it. For more ideas, check out TreeHugger’s Holiday Gift Guide, with something for everyone from the foodie to the fashion buff to the philanthropist, and Dolphin Blue’s gift offerings, including books, music, coffee, calendars, and more.
 
Give a gift that matters. Making a donation to a charity on behalf of a friend or family member who already has plenty is a great way to encapsulate the giving nature of this time of year. For a gift that’s specifically green, try Oxfam America Unwrapped, which allows you to a select a gift that goes to someone who really needs it, while your recipient gets a card explaining the present. Just $18 will get honey bees to help a farmer sell fair-trade honey or a can of worms that will produce fertilizer and enrich land for farming. If your pockets are a little deeper, get a donkey ($100), save a lake ($250), or buy a house on stilts ($10,000).

Another great gift with some extra meaning behind it is a gift tree planting from Dolphin Blue, which includes the planting and care of a young tree in a U.S. national forest, along with a beautiful gift card (made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper).
 
Party in style. Stuffed back in the darkest depths of their closets, almost everyone has one — an ugly holiday sweater. While historically only the elderly set and teachers have worn these works of art with pride, in the past few years, a trend has popped up that makes good use of that sweater you thought you’d never wear: ugly Christmas sweater parties.
 
The inspiration for these parties came from the wastefulness that is ugly sweaters lingering in a heap behind the good clothes, gathering dust instead of shining brightly. In this day and age of reduce, reuse, recycle, digging up that old gift you had to work really hard to pretend to like just makes ecological sense.
 
For extra inspiration, and because it’s all kinds of fun (sure, it wastes some time, but consider it a stress buster, a necessity during this time of year!), check out weloveholidaysweaters.com, where you can virtually create your own ugly sweater with all the goodies of the season, or browse through thousands of images to see what others have come up with.
 
Trees that please. Torn between that yummy-smelling pine and a convenient pre-lit for your Christmas tree? There’s support for both sides, as nearly 29 million households go with the real deal, while about 70 percent choose artificial. But what’s best for the environment? Au naturel trees usually use pesticides and often are shipped from long distances, but they are biodegradable and can be used for things like mulch, compost, wood chips, and fences. Artificial trees are typically made in China from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a pollutant, but they require less maintenance, are less expensive, and can be reused from year to year.
 
One option is to go with a “bulb” tree, a real (small) tree that can be planted outside after the holidays are over, or you can start in the outdoors to begin with and decorate a tree outside. Check out this slide show for other alternatives and read more about the real vs. fake debate.

To subscribe to our newsletter, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Sign-Up.html.

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Giving Thanks: Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving back to Mother Earth

thanksgivingThe Pilgrims may have traveled quite a distance to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, but their food didn’t. They learned to source their sustenance locally, a tough task in a new world, and they celebrated with a feast that eventually turned into modern-day Thanksgiving.

Getting food today doesn’t require nearly as much work for most of us as it did for those Pilgrims in the 1600s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where it’s coming from.
 
Dinner’s Ready
Concerned about the way animals are treated? Try celebrating this year vegetarian-style. There are so many yummy meat-free foods at Thanksgiving, you may not even miss it. But if the big feast just won’t be the same without a bird on the table, look for pasture-raised, free-range turkey. This tells you that the animal lived outside, without harmful chemicals and hormones pumped into its body. Here are some other labels, classified by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to look for when buying food:
 
A GOOD Startcert humane
Cage free” (eggs)
Free range” (eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb)
 
The “Good Start” labels indicate a meaningful animal welfare standard, but the standard covers only one aspect of animal care, and compliance with the standard is not verified by a third party.
 
Even BETTER
animal welfare“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)  
 
The “Even Better” labels generally indicate a higher level of animal welfare because the standards are more meaningful than those for the “Good Start” labels, but the standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care.
 
The BEST Optionsamerican humane
Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit) 
 
The “Best Options” labels cover multiple aspects of animal care, and compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party.
 
To get your local store to carry products with these labels, just ask. Have your friends do the same, and the store will likely listen. You can download a request card to put in a store’s comment box or mail to its headquarters.
 cornucopia2
The Ambience
Decorate your table not with cheesy Thanksgiving-print napkins and paper plates but with pumpkins, gourds, apples, and all the other wonderful edible treats the fall season has to offer. If the thought of doing all those dishes makes you want to scrap the holiday altogether, try Preserve Tableware, an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable stuff. The dishes and cutlery are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are strong enough to be reused dozens of times (or just recycled when you’re done).
 
Top off the look with soy candles and a few sprigs of pine, and you’ll have authentic décor that would make even those who came over on the Mayflower proud.
 
When It’s Over
After the meal’s done and the leftovers picked through, compost the rest. Of the waste Americans send to landfills, 24 percent of it is organic waste (i.e., kitchen scraps). Keeping that waste out of landfills saves space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making it a win-win however you look at it. Making your own compost is easy!

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