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Guayakí is so good

By Julio A. Cruz

Like most of you, I did not know what was Guayakí Yerba Mate Organic until I saw its Fair Trade table at the Fair Trade Futures Conference in Quincy, Mass. early September.

Guayakí Yerba Mate logo. Photo Courtesy: University of San Diego Student Radio.

Guayakí isn’t only Fair Trade but certified organic, too. I’ve only tried a couple of drinks, including the 16 oz. non-carbonated organic yerba mate Lemon Elation which comes in a can.

Some might ask, what is a yerba mate? I had that same question, and found that it’s:

Yerba mate is the legendary infusion from South America that is luring people away from their daily coffee fix.  Yerba mate first caught the attention of world-class athletes and health-conscious people, but now mate is becoming a favorite healthful daily ritual for all people taking their well-being seriously. Grown in the sub-tropical rainforests of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, yerba mate has long been revered as the “drink of the gods”.

So as you can see, it’s healthy, good for us. It’s also Kosher certified.

In its packaging process, starting from the start in growing the yerba mate to processing it, to packaging to transporting it to having it in your hands, Guayakí products takes out carbon from the environment.

Even the pamphlet, which all its info is on, the paper used is from 50% Post-Consumer Waste paper, it’s processed with free of Chlorine, uses vegetable based inks,  and it’s Green-e certified.

They even plant native trees in South American forests.

So get out, check out Whole Foods Market, for example, and choose any of its six stimulants, like yerba mate, coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa or guarana.


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Honest Tea is going Fair Trade

By Julio A. Cruz

Triple Pundit reports that Honest Tea will be Fair Trade Certified by the end of the 2011 first quarter.

Variety of drinks from Honest Tea. Photo Credit: FreeMania!

This makes them much better in its social and environmental practices plus places them even higher in the beverage category. It comes to no surprise they announce this during Fair Trade month.

It’s probably been a couple years since I started consuming Honest Tea. The green tea with honey grabbed my attention. Now I have about three of their 28 different flavors.

I enjoy the drink because it taste good, it’s healthy, certified organic, light, and very environmentally-friendly.

They do have some drinks in glass containers, which are usually found in Whole Foods Market, but for the most part the drinks are on plastic #1 containers, being 22 percent less plastic than regular bottles, BPA-free while saving world resources.

The drinks are tasteful, especially the ones from the  pomegranate and blueberries to the one with goji berries, where most of its fruits come from the eastern part of the world.

I’m going be even more satisfied when I drink, let’s say the new lemon tulsi as I see the Fair Trade Certified label on the bottle.

Some of its drinks come in packages of 12 and can be found in a Smart&Final.

What this does now is have Honest Tea officially meet Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA standards that better tea farmers’ quality of life.  Meaning, that workers gain a fair portion of profits, have fair working conditions, freedom of association, minimum wage, and that they work under environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

Hones Tea are ahead of the pack now and people are supporting it, like the President and CEO of Fair Trade USA Paul Rice who said:

“Honest Tea is once again raising the bar for the entire industry. Honest Tea has been a pioneer in social responsibility from the beginning…and that they care about the workers who harvest their tea and the future of their communities.”


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An active turn out for the first ever CicLAvia in downtown L.A.

By Julio A. Cruz

On Sunday, 10/10/10, Los Angeles finally held the anticipated and demanded CicLAvia that stretched 7.5 miles from East L.A. to East Hollywood.

I did miss the opening but I got a chance to spend a couple of hours in downtown from Macy’s Plaza to city hall.

It was great to see that many people, different types of people, came out with their bicycles, enjoying the free routes. There were some crossing points for cars to pass by which cyclists sometimes had to stop.

Cyclists either went up towards MacArthur Park or down towards city hall, even children.

Some businesses in the downtown area did closed down for the day, especially because the ciclovia was from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was good to see those restaurants, cafes and bars that open doors for cyclists to take their lunch and water breaks.

There was even a band playing for a while on Spring Street.

By city hall, there was a booth handing out free water and Powerade and other booths giving out more information on what this ciclovia was or is all about.

There was even a free yoga class that took place in the corner of Main Street and First Street, which took place for an hour, starting at 1:30 p.m.

It was a hot day but many people enjoyed the fresh air and breeze from the tall trees around city hall as they laid on the grass, taking a break from that hot sun.

Hopefully there is some type of consistency with this CicLAvia, like in other cities across the world, especially in Latin America, where it is held on every Sunday or every month.

Next time I will check out the dodgeball activity that was going on near MacArthur Park.

Check out full photo slideshow of CicLAvia here.

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Ciclo vía en Los Ángeles por primera vez

Por Julio A. Cruz

El próximo domingo, 10 de octubre, por primera vez la ciudad de Los Ángeles abre las calles para una ciclo vía, que será conocida como CicLAvia en Los Ángeles.

Una ciclo vía es una red de rutas que atraviesan la ciudad y que están reservadas para que los ciclistas puedan viajar a sus destinos y puedan aprovechar las actividades y servicios alrededor del área. Esta práctica es muy común en otras ciudades latinoamericanas como Bogotá, en Colombia, donde hace 30 años los ciudadanos tienen la oportunidad de utilizar sus bicicletas en las calzadas. Otras ciudades que han echo los mismo son: Ciudad de Mexico, Guadalajara, Mexico, Santiago, Chile, Quito, Ecuador y San Francisco.

Kickstarter, Inc.

Esta iniciativa constituye una gran oportunidad para promover un estilo de vida más sano en la ciudad. Su principal objetivo es promover el descenso del uso de carros pero también un estilo de vida más saludable y activo.

Nuestra ciudad no tiene una gran calidad de aire, por lo que iniciativas como éstas podrían ayudarnos a todos. Por otro lado, es una manera de promover el ejercicio, especialmente en zonas como el centro, donde se concentra un alto índice de población obesa o diabética, especialmente niños.

La CicLAvia recorrerá un tramo de siete millas y media en el entorno urbano de Los Angeles, una de las pocas grandes ciudades que no cuenta con muchos parques y áreas de esparcimiento. La posibilidad del transporte en bicicleta permite introducir en las comunidades el desuso de los carros en todo momento, crecer en un ambiente limpio, y  mejorar el estilo de vida.

El uso de bicicletas ha crecido en los últimos años, especialmente desde que el alcalde Antonio Villaraigosa ha aprobado en poner rótulos en las calles y California, que está en el avant-garde en el país, puede promover un ambiente más amigable un clima menos contaminado.

CicLAvia educará a los Angelinos a aplicar un estilo de vida más sano: podremos viajar caminando, utilizando la bicicleta o el transporte público, siempre que las circunstancias nos lo permitan.

La participación en este evento será una gran experiencia. Es una actividad gratuita y pensada para promover un movimiento a favor de un tipo de vida del que debemos ser parte. Será un gran logro convertir a Los Ángeles, una de las ciudades más grandes del país,  en una de las más limpias y más amigables con el medioambiente.

La inauguración de CicLAvia comenzará a las 10 a.m. y está programada hasta las 3 p.m. ¡Los veremos allí!

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Getting involved in helping others and yourself

By Julio A. Cruz

We live in a country where consumers are the ones that hold control in what products come in and where the money being spent on those products go. It isn’t all up to corporations because in reality, they would not exist if it wasn’t for consumers.

It isn’t only about buying what is seen on billboards or TV.

Fair Trade flowers at Agrogana Farm in Ecuador. Photo Credit: TransFair USA

Consumers’ knowledge is growing but it needs to grow rapidly. That’s because it is vital to understand how we, the consumers, are affecting everyone else with the money we use to spend money, that may be in dealing with human rights, economic equity and environmental sustainability.

A few things we can do to move this along is shopping on a conscious level. That could be through Fair Trade.

Continue to learn more about what is happening outside of our circumference; spread the word about cheap labor; or even work or volunteer within organizations that work around making the lives of producers a better one.

It goes even as far, in products that is, as when purchasing flowers. For example, flowers from Agrogana Farm in Ecuador produces Fair Trade flowers, and I fell on this information just from looking through a pamphlet.

So if you see any information out there that seems to lead in to this way of living, check it out and even do your own homework to make sure that it is legit. Always double or triple check.

Don’t forget, it’s Fair Trade month.

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Getting to know your ‘green’ community businesses

By Julio A. Cruz

This past Sunday, the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce held its first Sustainability Summit, providing several topics on going, being and moving to a ‘green’ lifestyle, but only as consumers but as a community.

One thing is for sure when it comes to sustainable businesses. It is about the 3Ps – people, planet and profits.

Fair Trade is a perfect example in dealing with the right people in honest ways. Some businesses might not be Fair Trade but they are socially responsible and even active when it comes to dealing with human rights, education, creating access (e.g. food) health, and community impact (the most important).

Dealing with the planet is obvious. It is all about climate change, improving it that is, working appropriately with waste, toxins and ensuring safe ways that impact our environment.

Profits are important because face it, money needs to be made to only survive but to continue practicing sustainable habits. Practicing ethics, fair wages to employees, and the people that make the products is very important.

Look for your community businesses to be transparent, some even have their info online, which they should, and others in their stores and the rest have its employees informed of what they do in case you ask them.

As consumers, we have to make sure our local stores that say they are ‘green’ to truly be green.

If you see a store stating they are Fair Trade, organic, ethical, locally made, etc., double check.

For those that are not sustainable and you would really like them to be, talk to them.

As a consumer it is your right to do so and find out what is going on in you community. It is a conscious way of living.

Check out CERES, a network of environmental organizations and businesses, where you can see the measures that business should follow.

For example, one of the speakers, Randi Ragan, spoke on how she follows those measures for her GreenBliss EcoSpa.

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Striving for 100% sustainability in shoes and our lifestyle

By Julio A. Cruz

When most people think about eco-friendly apparel they think that it isn’t fashionable or they just don’t know how the clothes are actually made.

Vegan-friendly shoes from Simple. Photo Credit: Julio A. Cruz

A couple months ago I was in San Luis Obispo with my family in our annual mini summer vacation and came across a small store, Hemp Shak that has all that plus bags, accessories and more.

I’d been wanting some walking shoes and I had been thinking of purchasing some eco-friendly ones, as well, to test them out and see how they look and feel.

I came across a brand that I’m familiar with, Simple, and the shoes that grabbed my attention where literately some “simple” carport elastic ones which happen to be vegan friendly.

My 11-year-old nephew didn’t understand the concept and difference from these shoes in his Vans.

It’s pretty simple, again, “simple.”

The clothing in the store is all natural. No chemicals or dyes. Some are made from either recycled materials or organic cotton.

Most of their shoes are made from recycled car tires. According to Simple, 6 pairs of men’s size 9 shoes can be made from a single tire.

Yes, this is a great sustainable way to wear shoes but the best feeling wasn’t only that I was walking on some eco-friendly shoes or that they actually felt comfortable, and still do to this day, but that I introduced my nephew to a different side of how and why things are made.

As I was paying he saw a bracelet made out of white beads and he got pretty excited about it after reading the tag because is stated that it was made by women in Uganda which are paid reasonably, hence a Fair Trade product.

So we left the store talking about Fair Trade, he with his bracelet, which was a gift for his mom, and I with my sustainable shoes.

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