Monthly Archives: May 2011

5 Best Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate Bars

Chocolate. Photo: Some rights reserved by flickr user John Loo.

Whether you’re a dark chocolate lover or a milk chocolate fiend, one thing’s for certain – almost everyone loves chocolate. Over the last few years we’ve even convinced ourselves that it’s good for us, as dark chocolate is filled with flavonoids, which “keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries” (thanks for the medical jargon, WebMD).

The claims go back even further than that, of course, with the Mayans and the Aztecs attributing fatigue-fighting powers, and even longer life, to the drinking of chocolate-based beverages. Today, however, there’s an easy way to enjoy the taste of chocolate and feel good about it at the same time – the new wealth of organic and fair trade chocolate companies that are flooding the marketplace.

Just because a chocolate bar is organic that doesn’t mean that it has miraculous healing powers, however, so you’re probably still best to enjoy it in moderation. If you want a chocolate fix with a natural, feelgood, spiritual high, then we’d suggest checking out the following:

1/ Theo.

Okay, I may be biased in favor of this Seattle-based brand – but they still produce some of the most interesting and unusual chocolate bars around, and their dark chocolate is truly wonderful too (and very, very dark). Bonus points are given for being both Organic and Fair Trade. The more adventurous will want to try the Spicy Chile or Coconut Curry chocolate bars, but their classic flavors deliver as well – plus their single origin series now offers a 91% cacao dark chocolate, one of the darkest on the market.

2/ Divine.

The only Fair Trade chocolate company that’s 45% owned by the farmers, Divine also lives up to its name when it comes to the flavors on offer. Their Dark Chocolate with Raspberries makes for a perfect pairing, while those of you who prefer a milkier chocolate should check out the Coffee Milk Chocolate – your morning pick-me-up in a bar.

3/ Pacari.

An Ecuadorian organic chocolate company, Pacari is particularly notable for its Andean Flavors range, offering everything from Lemongrass to Salt & Nibs. If your tastes are a little more conservative, they also produce the minimally-processed Raw range, including a 100% cacao bar. Not for the faint of heart.

4/ Equal Exchange.

Another organic-and-fair-trade combo, Equal Exchange offers many products, of which chocolate is just the tip of the sugar mountain. Not only do they have the bonus of being widely available in shops and grocery stores, but their chocolate is excellent too – the new Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt comes highly recommended.

5/ Endangered Species.

They’re one of the most common organic chocolate bars to see in stores, but they don’t disappoint on quality either. Many of their bars are all-natural rather than organic, but with flavors like Goji Berry, Pecans and Maca on the organic menu they still have plenty to offer. Their commitment to both social responsibility and conservation is admirable as well.

(These recommendations are based on personal preferences and numerous tastings, and we offer opinions on the quality of the chocolate bars only, not the ways in which they’re produced or sourced. Please feel free to leave comments below if you have other recommendations to make, or want to comment on individual companies – we’re all about the chocolate!)

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Eco-friendly garbage bins to manage waste

The bins have separate compartments to collect paper, plastic and organic waste

Saving resources
Dulsco has launched a line of garbage bins that have separate compartments to collect different categories of waste. -Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Does your office have a bin for recycling paper, in which you can dispose of unwanted printouts and documents? Conservative estimates put the weekly amount of paper thrown out at up to 50kg per 100 staff members, when it could be recycled.

Prakash Parab, director of Dulsco Waste Management Services, said many companies have reduced their paper usage and are adopting environment-friendly practices at the workplace but the waste generated depends on what practices are in place, and the type of business activity.

“It is very difficult to [state] the exact quantities with respect to the number of people working in an organisation. If an organisation prefers to rely on e-mails for communication and has a practice of printing on both sides of the paper, the waste paper (office paper only) generated is to the tune of 30-50kg per week for an organisation with 100 to 120 staff,” he said.

Reprocessing material

To help paper recycling and general waste segregation in the workplace, Dulsco has launched a line of garbage bins that have separate compartments to collect paper, plastic and organic waste. The contents can then be taken to any recycling centre across the country to help reprocess the material.

It is estimated that paper has approximately seven generations, meaning it can be recycled up to seven times. Each time paper is recycled, the fibre length decreases, which impacts its strength. Most paper recycling plants add some virgin paper with recovered fibre in the production of new paper and paperboard products.

According to, an online recycling directory, the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that 57.4 per cent of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2008, in part due to recycling efforts taken at home. Every tonne of paper recovered for recycling saves 2.5 cubic metres of landfill space.

Precious resources

“By segregating the waste into recyclable and non-recyclable material, we can prevent precious resources from reaching landfills. Once sorted at the workplace, the recyclable waste can be deposited at any of the recycling centres run by the municipality, shopping malls, supermarkets, bus stations or petrol stations,” said Parab.

Dulsco also collects waste material from companies and organisations. The waste paper is taken to paper recycling mills in the UAE. A part of the collected material is also exported to paper mills in other countries.
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How Green Are You Really?

Take Our “Never Have I Ever” Quiz.

To play this revealing party game, check out these scenarios and click the ones you’ve done. If you haven’t done either, then pick the one you’re most likely to do. If you’ve done both pick the one you feel more guilty about.
Take the quiz here!

Quiz courtesy of

Road Trip? 10 Easy Ways to Save Gas and Money

Don’t let skyrocketing gas prices stop you from enjoying your spring break vacation and instead test-drive these gas and money saving tips.

photo of a Vanagon on a road trip

With gas prices gorging our pocket books it’s no surprise that many of us are canceling our spring break road trips and opting instead to spend “quality” time relaxing at home instead. Thing is, there are several steps you could be taking to actually save gas and money and still get out of town! Save green and be green by test-driving these tips:

Why? Keeping your car properly tuned up to improve gas mileage by about 4 percent. Keeping a mileage record will tell you when your gas mileage is slipping, which is a signal for a tune-up.

2. What? SLOW DOWN!
Why? Speeding, rapid acceleration, and rapid braking all waste gas and cut down your mileage potential by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Stop sudden jack-rabbit starts, opting instead for slow acceleration. Keep in mind that speeding wastes gas and money. Each mile per hour you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra 10 cents per gallon according to DOE.

Antonio Principe /

Why? When driving along long stretches of open road, cruise control can be a very valuable asset, maintaining your speed within the least gas-guzzling gear, plus keeping your chances of accidental speeding (and getting pulled over and ticketed) to a minimum. BUT, where cruise control can take a bite into your gas mileage potential is on hills where it tends to coast up the hill until it realizes that it is losing speed and quickly attempts to make up for it by pushing the throttle, increasing your speed and your gas use.

Why? Carrying as few as 100 extra pounds can decrease the average car’s fuel economy by 1-2 percent. Unless you golf on a daily basis, your clubs don’t need to travel with you. Always carry a bag packed in your trunk “just in case?” Lighten it up. That load is dragging you down.

Why? No, not to air out a foul scent, but to let the fresh breeze in instead of cranking up that air conditioner. Using the air conditioning can up fuel use by as much as 10 percent. Imagine saving 10 percent of the money you save on gas by just rolling down the window!

Djordje Veljovic /

Why? See a stop sign or red light up ahead? Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the gas ahead of time, coasting to a stop. When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into. You will experience a more enjoyable and relaxing ride, save money, and minimize brake pad wear out- saving money on both gear and gas.

Why? A clean air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. How does that help you on a daily basis? Replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. A clogged air filter leaves your engine gasping for breath, in other words you are probably running with a “rich” mixture that is more gas and less air. Many auto stores carry air filters, and thankfully they are simple to change. Not sure if your filter needs changing? Take it out and hold it up to the light. If you can’t see any light coming through, it’s too dirty. If you don’t trust yourself to replace it, ask a car expert to help you out. It’s worth it.

Why? The iphone’s map not only shows you the best and fastest route from A to B, but also has the option of showing you hoe trafficked that route is at that moment. By choosing routes with less traffic you not only will arrive to your destination faster, but you will also minimize the excessive stop and go gas use.

Why? Idling is one of the best ways to burn through lots of gas and get absolutely nothing out of it. And where do we spend idle time the most? The Drive-thru. Instead of polluting the planet and wasting gas, park your car, walk inside and order your food (if, that is, you must eat fast food in the first place). Getting up and stretching your legs will also do your body good, and maybe even the interior of your car- catching spills on the food tray instead of your seat.

Adrian Lindley /

Why? If your tires are low on air you could be consuming as much as 3 percent more gas. Why? Low tire pressure creates a slight drag on the pavement as your tires ease into the road with each rotation. Keep your tires properly inflated (but not overly inflated- which can be dangerous) and they will roll more easily, smoothly, and economically.

Now get out of town!

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10 quick vegetarian facts

1. Approximately one quarter of the world’s population enjoy a mostly vegetarian diet.
2. It is estimated that a lifelong vegetarian will save the lives of approximately 760 chickens, 5 cows, 20 pigs, 29 sheep, 46 turkeys and half a tonne of fish.
3. Many animals are vegetarians, including rhinos, elephants, giraffes, guinea pigs, rabbits, gorillas, hippos and goats.
4. Vegetarians do not eat fish!
5. Famous vegetarians include Albert Einstein, Pythagorus, Leonardo da vinci, Gandhi, Mary Shelley, Paul McCartney, Martina Navratilova, Natalie Portman, Tony Benn, Monty Panesar, Morrissey, Russell Brand and Stella McCartney.
6. A “westernised” diet containing meat requires up to 3 times as many resources as a vegetarian diet.
7. Vegetarians enjoy the lowest rates of obesity, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
8. The word “vegetarian” is derived from the Latin word “vegetus” meaning lively or vigorous.
9. Veggies are no more prone to iron deficiency than meat eaters! Even those who do eat meat get a high percentage of their iron from vegetarian sources.
10. Anyone eating dairy products and eggs will get plenty of vitamin B12 in their diet. Other good sources are fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, yeast extract and soya drinks.

View / Download this PDF document here.
Courtesy of

Can Farmed Fish Really Be Considered Organic?

  When food is labeled “organic,” you expect that it was produced in a way that is good for both the environment and your health. Unfortunately it seems that up in Canada, that accountability might not be the case for much longer.

The Canadian General Standards Board is considering certifying some net cage-raised salmon (aka farmed salmon) as organic. But here’s the problem: The net-cage method of raising salmon oftentimes harms marine life and aquatic ecosystems. Other animals can get caught in the nets, farm-raised salmon can escape and mate with wild salmon (messing up their genetics), and the nets allow waste from the farm back out into the ocean, which pollutes the water.

There are other issues with certifying farmed salmon as organic, too. Under the proposed guidelines, cage-raised salmon could still be labeled organic even if producers use synthetic pesticides in the fish’s water. These harmful pesticides would inevitably spread out into the ocean, threatening wild animals like lobsters. “Organic” farms would also be allowed to feed the salmon non-organic feed consisting of wild fish, which could deplete the ocean of wild fish populations, further exacerbating already-struggling wild fisheries.  Non-organic wild feed can also contain toxins, which may pose a threat to consumers. Under traditional standards, none of these practices would be allowed on a certified organic farm — they fly in the face of the organic movement’s core principles.

There’s still time to save the future of organics, though: These standards need to be amended before they’re approved and slapped on that nice fillet you’re looking to buy at the grocery store. A public comment period is open until May 31st, and that gives us time to take action.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) is asking for your help in convincing the Canadian General Standards Board that organic should mean the same thing for salmon as it does for everything else. CAAR is a coalition with 10,000 supporters on four continents working to protect wild salmon, coastal ecosystems, coastal communities, and human health from destructive fish-farming practices.

The alliance recently started a petition a so that you can write directly to board members and let them know that organic standards need to mean something. The proposal “to certify net-cage farmed salmon is not only illogical when you consider the principles of organics, but it also creates the illusion that use of net cages for salmon aquaculture is somehow sustainable,” says Bronwen Barnett, Communications Coordinator at CAAR. “Basically, a Canadian organic label would greenwash net-cage farmed salmon.”

That greenwashing would not only impact Canadia consumers, it would affect U.S. diners. America is currently the largest market for Canadian farmed fish. Until the U.S. passes its own organic aquaculture standards, supermarkets could sell this greenwashed salmon as organic in Canada and America.

You can help stop that from happening. Sign CAAR’s petition, and let the Canadian General Standards Board know that you want organic labels to reflect organic values. These proposed rules for farmed fish just don’t cut it.

Photo credit: Lori_NY via Flickr

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Google, Ann Arbor landlord work together for eco-friendly building

Albert Berriz is the CEO of McKinley Properties. The Ann Arbor-based company is working with Google to transform its McKinley Towne Centre office building in downtown Ann Arbor, where Google has its offices, into a green zone. / REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press

A greenhouse. Solar panels. Two Zipcar vehicles. And an eco-friendly rooftop deck.

This spring, Google’s Ann Arbor office is going green in a big way.

The search engine giant that wowed southeast Michigan in 2007 with its creative, employee-friendly work environment is aiming to be a leader when it comes to saving Planet Earth.

That means going beyond recycling paper, composting food at its café and switching to fluorescent lights.

At the five-story McKinley Towne Centre where Google operates its main Michigan office, a large array of rooftop solar panels are turning sunlight into clean energy. Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another portion of the building’s roof. And two vehicles from the car-sharing service Zipcar can be found in the parking lot, making it easier for employees to walk, bike or take the bus to work without having to worry about needing a car later in the day.

Greenhouse veggies coming

Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another part of the building’s roof for Google employees to benefit from. Its Ann Arbor office has 250 to 275 employees.

Google also plans to transform part of the building’s basement into a greenhouse. The vegetables grown there will be used by Google’s chef for meals served in the company’s café.

“I don’t think we are going to stop,” said Mike Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office. “We are about trying new things and trying to do what’s best.”

Last year, when Google was in the midst of renewing its lease at 201 S. Division St., it decided to make its office as green as possible. Its landlord, Ann Arbor-based McKinley, embraced the idea, and the two companies are sharing the costs of the green building projects.

“If we can set the standard in this location … we’ve done the right thing,” said Albert Berriz, CEO of McKinley, which owns offices and apartments in 20 states.

McKinley and Google won’t disclose how much they are spending on the projects but describe the amount as significant. Berriz said it will take nine to 11 years to recoup the cost of buying and installing the solar panels. The panels won’t generate all of the power needed by Google in Ann Arbor.

But Google hopes its green efforts will help it attract talented workers in Michigan. Though the company slowed its hiring during the recession, it is now in the midst of its biggest work force expansion with plans to add more than 7,000 employees worldwide this year alone.

Google has 300 employees in Michigan and aims to expand that by 20% to 25% this year, said spokesman Jake Parrillo. Its Ann Arbor office has between 250 to 275 employees.

The green overhaul is part of a larger transformation occurring at Google.

It has made similar investments at several of its other U.S. offices, such as those in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cambridge, Mass.

“We’ve always been very green, but we continue to try to do more,” Miller said.

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