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You can find fresh, daily morsels of information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so:

  • Navajo teen wins award for building solar ovens
  • Tesla makes its patents open-source
  • Solar Impulse 2 airplane
  • Warka water tower gets water from the air
  • Best ways to protect homes from wildfires
  • Climate Confidential
  • Natural mosquito control
  • EWG’s guide to safe, effective sunscreens
  • Ways to reduce breast cancer risk
  • Cowboy and Indian Alliance
  • Films: Triple Divide, DamNation
  • Wendell Berry poem
  • Quotations, cartoons, photos, videos, etc.
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June 18, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000 [starting this year, it has been increased to $175,000], the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this international prize. And this year, for the first time ever, the Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony will be broadcast LIVE on the Goldman Prize YouTube channel.

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Helen Slottje (NY, USA) — Helping towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking
  • Desmond D’Sa (South Africa) — Rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals
  • Ruth Buendía (Peru) — United the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have once again uprooted indigenous communities
  • Ramesh Agrawal (India) — Organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh
  • Suren Gazaryan (Russia) — Led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast
  • Rudi Putra (Indonesia) — Dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Helen Slottje, who has provided pro-bono legal assistance to help towns across New York (including Dryden) defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking, using a clause in the state constitution that gives municipalities the right to make local land use decisions.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 28, 2014
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This is a listing of some of the green-themed films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Click here to see my previous listing of green-themed films; it lists movies that came out between 2006-2011.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.

Energy / Power

 

Health / Toxic Chemicals

(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section above also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)

 

Food / Agriculture

 

Animal Sentience / Animal Rights

 

Water (Oceans, Rivers, Glaciers)

 

Environmental Movement / Activism

  • Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online

 

More:  See my list of green-themed films that came out between 2006-2011.

If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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March 25, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Kimberly Wasserman (Chicago, IL, USA) — Fought to get local, polluting, coal power plants shut down; leading community greening projects
  • Jonathan Deal (South Africa) — Fighting against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gas extraction
  • Azzam Alwash (Iraq) — Restoring marshes and protecting water resources
  • Nohra Padilla (Colombia) — Instituting recycling and waste management programs
  • Rosanno Ercolini (Italy) — Fighting toxics from incinerators and spearheading a Zero Waste movement
  • Aleta Baun (Indonesia) — Protecting sacred forestland from marble mining

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief, well-made video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the three-minute video about Kimberly Wasserman, who “led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants — and is now transforming Chicago’s old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces:” 

Last year’s recipient from the U.S. was Caroline Cannon, who has brought “the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope, Alaska to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 15, 2013
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Some people might call me a chocolate enthusiast…or, a chocoholic. I crave chocolate. And I usually indulge this craving, because after all, high-quality dark chocolate has been proven to have a slew of health (physical and mental/mood) benefits.

I have a little bit of chocolate almost every day. Not a lot on any given day, mind you…but since my cumulative consumption of chocolate is considerable, I’ve been very pleased to find that many of my favorite chocolate bars are made by companies that address the social and environmental issues related to the production of chocolate.

The following chocolates are a few of my favorites; and they are all made with organic ingredients and/or their cacao has been sourced through fair-trade arrangements. Some of them also support other types of sustainability or conservation programs and practices, which are noted below. I am not being paid to recommend any of these companies or products.

1. TCHO

  • Organic (certified by CCOF)
  • Fair trade (certified by Fair Trade USA)
  • Started the TCHOSource program “to obtain the best beans in the world while enabling the producers of those beans to earn a better living.” They “partner with growers and coops and transfer knowledge about growing and fermentation to enable farmers to escape commodity production and become premium producers and to create a relationship of mutual self-interest that goes beyond Fair Trade.”
  • They also “raise consciousness about the reality of modern slavery in our industry and in the world, and set an example by refusing to use cacao produced by slaves.”
  • Manufactured in San Francisco

 

I recently tried TCHO’s SeriousMilk Milk Chocolate “Cacao” bar (with 53% cacao), and I think this has now become my #1 favorite chocolate bar.  It’s the perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate. I look forward to trying their other bars, as well.

 

2. Newman’s Own Organics

  • 100% organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified, which “guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.”
  • “We have confirmed in writing that the cocoa products we purchase have been produced on farms that treat their workers fairly, and pay them a fair wage. Our suppliers do not and will not support any farms or plantations that mistreat children and adults or engage in Slave Trade Practices.”

My favorite Newman’s Own Organics bar is: Dark Chocolate (54% cocoa), which is a light/creamy dark chocolate.

 

3. Endangered Species Chocolate

  • Some of their bars are organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • “10% of net profits donated to charitable organizations supporting species and habitat conservation in harmony with humanity”
  • “100% ethically traded: Cacao used to create our All-Natural and Organic chocolate products is grown on farm co-ops that foster responsible labor practices, community enrichment and sustainable farming… On-the-ground endeavors, like Project Ecuador are helping empower communities in cacao growing regions.”
  • “All of our chocolate is shade-grown.  Shade-grown chocolate supports lush forests and the species that thrive there promoting biodiversity, providing shelter for migratory birds, and combating global warming.”
  • Information about an endangered species is provided inside each wrapper.

My favorite Endangered Species Chocolate bar (that I’ve tried so far) is: Dark chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds.

 

4. Seeds of Change

  • Organic (certified by QAI)
  • “Directly contributes 1% of its net sales to sustainable organic farming initiatives worldwide.”

I’ve had their Milk Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains, and they were really tasty. I haven’t tried their various dark chocolate products yet, though I plan to. (One point against this company’s chocolates: I don’t love that they put 3 small, individually wrapped bars inside of the larger package. Though the smaller serving sizes are good for portion control and for keeping the unopened chocolate fresh, using that extra wrapping material seems a bit wasteful.)

 

You can find many of these chocolates at most Whole Foods stores and other natural foods stores. There are a number of other companies that make organic chocolate and/or fair trade chocolate (e.g., ALTER ECO, Equal Exchange, Amy’s, Theo, Angell, and Divine, to name just a few; commenters have also recommended Taza and Green & Black’s). I haven’t gotten around to trying all of them yet, but I surely will in the near future…

P.S. Fine chocolate makes a great last-minute gift for any chocolate lovers you know!

What’s your favorite kind of organic or “ethical” chocolate?

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December 16, 2011
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The following is a partial list of environmental non-profit organizations that have a national (U.S.) or international scope and that take a broad approach to sustainability. These 15 groups address a wide spectrum of environmental issues; they are not single-issue organizations. Due to their holistic perspective, many of these groups do work that—directly or indirectly—promotes greater social and economic equity, as well as environmental sustainability, as all of these issues and conditions are inextricably connected to each other.

Please click on the links to learn more about the work that each of these groups is doing.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of sustainability-minded organizations.  For a longer list, see this set of links.

In addition, there are many single-issue environmental organizations (and local, state, and community-level organizations) that do good and important work in their respective areas and issues. I have highlighted such groups in past posts (e.g., organizations focused on green schools, environmental education, green affordable housing, green building, sustainable communities/planning, etc.), and will highlight other types of green groups in the future. (Update: Our newer posts provide lists of organizations related to resilience; sustainable agriculture/farming/food; and green business.)

If you have a favorite green organization that you’d like people to know about, please share that in the Comments.

* Full disclosure: I have worked on projects for the organizations that are marked with an asterisk.

Related Post: Lesser Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support  [added Dec. 2012]

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November 3, 2011
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Take a peek at The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page to see our daily blurbs and links. Anyone can view the page, whether or not you have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, be sure to click on the “Like” button to join our growing online community (if you haven’t already); then you should be able to see The Green Spotlight’s posts in your daily Facebook news feed.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that are featured. Here’s a sampling of a few of the solutions, efforts, and success stories that we’ve spotlighted on the page in recent weeks:

  • the electric DeLorean, coming out in 2013
  • LEED for Homes Awards: this year’s winning projects
  • hybrid wind/solar systems
  • Reinventing Fire, the new book by Amory Lovins
  • Earthjustice
  • Global Community Monitor
  • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing
  • Silent Spring Institute
  • Arctic Live
  • Revenge of the Electric Car (new documentary)
  • CleanTech Open: this year’s finalists and Forum
  • Brower Youth Awards: videos and info about this year’s winners
  • Solar Decathlon home design competition’s winning projects
  • DIY solar installations in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • how to size a solar PV system for charging an electric car
  • B Corporation legislation passed in California
  • quotations from Ray Anderson, Buckminster Fuller, Annie Dillard, and others
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October 26, 2011
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Most conventional paints and coatings contain and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Some types of VOCs contribute to smog, and many VOCs are emitted or “offgassed” indoors and contribute to indoor air pollution. VOCs can cause respiratory problems and some are known carcinogens.

I have written a 4-page overview of VOCs and other toxicity issues related to paints and other types of coatings. For the free download, just click on this link:

How to Select Less-Toxic, Low-VOC Paints, Primers, Stains, and Coatings [PDF]

Fortunately, almost every major paint manufacturer (and retailer) now has a low-VOC or zero-VOC product line. Most of these products are also low-odor, as some VOCs are responsible for to that noxious “new paint smell.”

I maintain an online product listing of Low-VOC and Zero-VOC Wall Paints, which I recently updated. The listing includes natural paints (e.g., plant- or mineral-based), as well as more conventional synthetic (e.g., latex/acrylic) paints.

A few paint manufacturers, such as AFM Safecoat and YOLO Colorhouse formulate their entire line of paints and primers to be low- or zero-VOC and low-toxic. While most low-VOC paints are interior paints, some brands (including those two) also offer low-VOC exterior paints.

My listing indicates which paint lines have been Green Seal certified or SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified. GreenGuard also certifies paints; it has a basic Indoor Air Quality Certified program, as well as a more stringent Children and Schools Certified program. All of these certification programs are primarily focused on testing products’ VOC emissions.

Unfortunately, synthetic paints often contain other toxic compounds, beyond VOCs, such as phthalates (which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals), propylene glycol and glycol ethers (PGEs), certain heavy metals, and toxic biocides or fungicides. (Green Seal’s certification standard prohibits the use of some of those compounds.) See this Pharos article for additional information on paint toxicity.

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September 26, 2011
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This is a listing of green-themed films that came out in the last few years (between 2006-2011). I have not seen all of these films, so I can’t say that all of them are worth seeing, but many of them have won awards or been critically acclaimed. Click on the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a list of some green film festivals; those sites provide videos and information on even more films.

UPDATE: Also see our newer post on Films on Green Topics, 2012-2014.

Films on energy, fuel, and/or climate change:

Films on food and/or farming:

Films on other topics (e.g., health/toxins/pollution, water, localization, dolphins, etc.):

If there are other relevant films that you’ve heard of or seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

* Films that are marked with an asterisk are films that have a more positive or funny bent than many of the others. There are only so many bleak films about reality that people can watch in a row without getting depressed or angry and feeling helpless to make a difference. I find that it’s best to take in some positive stories, solutions, and humor now and then, to keep myself sane and motivated…

UPDATE: Also see our newer listing of Green-themed Films from 2012-2014.

 

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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August 1, 2011
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