Gifts For Grads – Don’t Give Cash, Give Kiva

This year all the grads we know are getting Kiva gift certificates instead of a boring check or gift certificate to some chain store. Of course every cash-strapped graduate would love a check but with Kiva they get the money AND they get to do good.

Here’s how a Kiva gift certificate works. You buy a gift certificate for whatever amount you want (lowest is $25). Then the gift recipient goes to Kiva’s site and chooses an entrepreneur in a developing country to loan the money to. The microloans are overseen by various banking institutions and the payback rate is 99% (yes, as Muhammed Yunus said, the poor always do pay back). Once the loan is paid back the lender (your grad) can either choose to reloan the money to someone else or withdraw the money and pay their rent. It’s like giving a gift twice – first to empower a microentrepreneur, then to show grads in your life how proud you are of them.


“Corn-Fed Beef” Is Not Something to Brag About

Yesterday I heard a radio ad for Fred Meyer advertising their special on “all corn-fed beef.” In a perky radio voice the actress announced this as if it was the most wonderful thing Fred Meyer could offer its customers. Maybe at one point “corn-fed” appealed because it meant a nice marbled cut of beef but, Mr. Meyer, this informed consumer knows better. To me “corn-fed” means a fatty cut of beef from a feedlot cow that is pumped full of antibiotics and hormones for its entire short, sad life because, if it doesn’t take antibiotics, the corn (which grass-eating cows were not created to consume) will kill it.

I’d like to call on Fred Meyer to recognize the increasing demand here in Oregon for free-range, grass-fed beef. I have never seen this kind of beef in Fred Meyer and instead go to Whole Foods, New Seasons or our local farmers markets to buy it. Free-range, grass-fed beef is leaner and therefore healthier plus there’s no need to worry about the heavy use of antibiotics or hormones – free-range cows don’t need them. Most recently we enjoyed grass-fed, ranch-raised beef almost daily while in Buenos Aires. Argentine beef is world famous because the cows graze on the sweet grasses of the pampas instead of on corn while stuffed in a crowded feedlot.

Fred Meyer, I don’t hate you, I actually find your natural food section full of many of my favorite grocery items. I’m disappointed though in your lack of knowledge of what Oregon shoppers are looking for and I hope you’ll recognize that at least one customer (me!) is not the least bit interested in your corn-fed beef.

Slave-free Chocolate – Brands You Can Trust

There’s been a lot of interest in my previous postings about slavery and chocolate. Depending on where you are, finding fair trade certified chocolate (which is always slave-free) is not always easy. I just learned from my handy Better World Shopping Guide that the following brands of chocolate are all slave-free. Some are fair trade, some are organic, some are both or neither, but they are all slave-free. Hope this helps those of you socially conscious chocolate lovers having a hard time finding fair trade chocolate where you are.

Slave-free chocolate brands:

  • Equal Exchange (Whole Foods, New Seasons)
  • Endangered Species (Whole Foods, Target, New Seasons)
  • Rapunzel (Whole Foods)
  • Dagoba (at most Oregon grocery stores)
  • Green and Black’s (available at Target!)
  • Newman’s Own (New Seasons, Whole Foods)
  • Cloud Nine
  • Tropical Source (New Season’s, Whole Foods)
  • Shaman
  • Any fair-trade certified brands (look for the black and white Transfair logo)

Local, Sustainable, and Delivered For Free

New Seasons is my favorite grocery store but the closest one to my house is 6 miles and about a zillion stop lights (that is, 20 minutes) away. I’ve known for a while they do home delivery but today they hooked me when I read in their weekly Oregonian ad that they are giving not one free home delivery but three free home deliveries. After that they still only charge $9.95 to deliver your weekly groceries in one of their biodiesel vans. That’s a big plus for this mom of a 16-month old. I ordered my groceries in about 15 minutes this morning while Grace was still asleep and by noon they were here, including a free carton of organic strawberry ice cream the folks at New Seasons threw in for fun.

If you want to try out the home delivery service here are the coupon codes that ran in today’s paper:

First free delivery – use coupon code FIRSTTIMER
Second free delivery – SECONDTIMER
Third free delivery – THIRDTIMER

Right On Target With Organic Cotton

Target has jumped on the organic cotton bandwagon with this ultra hip fashion collection by Rogan Gregory. (Actually Target has been on the organic cotton bandwagon for a while, as my organic cotton bed sheets will attest). All the cotton in Rogan’s collection is 100% organic and these trouser jeans are to die for, with my favorite jean feature – wide legs! Too bad for me, it seems they are already sold out of any sizes bigger than super small. Apparently the collection is only around until the end of June so if you love fashion, the environment and saving money, I’d get them while they’re still to be gotten.

Adventures in Eco-friendly Landscaping

While I was enjoying the crisp fall air and sunshine of Buenos Aires last week, Portland must have had a lot of rain. I know this because I returned home to a backyard full of weeds. They’d taken over in just two weeks despite a frantic weeding frenzy just days before leaving. Our yard drains into the Tualatin River and so I refuse to use weed spray. Before I’d even unpacked my suitcases I was in the back pulling out those determined little suckers. I’m not an immaculate gardener, in fact I’m more inclined towards the messy wildflower look than neatly trimmed hedges, but weeds really, really irk me.

The other thing that irritates me is grass. We’ve owned our home for three years and, despite my husband’s valiant efforts, our front yard grass has struggled. This spring it was so patchy and sad we decided we had to start over or chuck it all together. We’re not big on the heavy fertilizers and weed spray that seem necessary to keep grass healthy so we came up with another plan – kill it! We covered our entire front yard with bright blue tarps just days before we left for Argentina, so that we could return home to dead grass. We’re going to give it a few more days to make sure it’s really dead down to the roots and then, with my dad’s help, we plan to landscape the front yard with native plants and rocks. Not only will our front yard look better but it will require a lot less water and no chemicals to maintain it.

If you have a weed-control technique that doesn’t require chemicals, please share it here. If you love to pull weeds, please come over any time!

Eco-friendly grass killer. Lovely, eh?

Elusive Fair Trade Wine of Argentina

I discovered a lot of amazing things in Buenos Aires- medialunas (croissants) and cafe con leche on sidewalk cafes, gigantic parks and tree-lined boulevards, incredible steak dinners with red wine on white-linen tablecloths for under $10 – but sadly fair trade wine was not one of them. Although Argentina is the primary manufacturer of certified fair trade wines, most or possibly all are exported to Europe with a small portion being exported to the United States (but nowhere near me it seems). As I blogged about a few days ago, I shopped for new jewelry for Bambootique at several fair trade shops in Buenos Aires. I figured if any one could tell me where to buy fair trade wine, my contacts at those shops could. Through Dolores of Fundacion Silataj I received the sad news that Argentina exports its fair trade wine. She also provided me with this list of fair trade vineyards, and if you come across them anywhere in the States please let me know.

Bodegas y Viñedos Amadeo Marañon S.A. (Producer)

Cribran S.A. (Producer)

Davolio, Nidi (Producer)

Mendoza Vineyards SRL (Trader)

Inal SA (Producer)

Bodega Furlotti SA (Trader)

Viña de la Solidaridad A.C. (Producer)

Trivento Bodegas y Viñedos S.A (Trader)

La Riojana Cooperativa Vitivinifruticola de la Rioja (Producer)

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