• Connection Junction

    With an advocacy for ecotourism and Fair Trade the Connection Junction will connect people + places + things. All around the world. And plenty of room for humor, fun stuff, avant garde, art, music, making stuff up and just playing around.
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    Stories from exploring Northern California, seeking eco-friendly ways to enjoy the beautiful Bay Area and beyond. Click Here to get eco-excursions with the NorCal Nomad!
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    Inspiring and thought-provoking interviews with people who work and live from their heartfelt passions. Click here for their stories.
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    A collection of my own essays and musings. Click here to read more...
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How to Find Fair Trade

A few of my friends have asked me what to look for when shopping for Fair Trade items. Basically you scan the package labels and look for a label such as posted here. This label “Fair Trade Certified” stands for Food and Drink products. It guarantees that food products were produced and purchased according to Fair Trade Standards. The certification is run by TransFairUSA. www.transfairusa.org But wait, there’s more! When shopping for crafts, gifts and Fair Trade Businesses, look for the Fair Trade Federation label. You can view the label on the site: www.fairtradefederation.org This Federation covers a wide group of craft importers and other businesses, including food and drink.
To keep up with sustainable businesses and all things Fair Trade and eco-friendly, I highly recommend Co-op America and all they have to offer. An annual membership can be as little as $25.00 To shop directly and learn much more use their National Green Pages, online or in print. www.greenpages.org That should get you off to a good start!


Bridging the “Gap”

I advocate for Fair Trade and using local merchants and services as much as possible. In doing so I don’t usually like to take a walk on the dark side; you know, digging up dirt about corporations, grousing about how awful everything is and belaboring labor laws. Just not my style; I’m more user-friendly, I like things warm and fuzzy. But to learn and get the concept of why Fair Trade and corporate responsibility are vital, you might want to take a peek behind the curtain. Kind of like knowing your favorite restaurant; such great food…what’s the kitchen like? I mean really?? Co-op America, www.coopamerica.org, has a new website called “Responsible Shopper”. Here’s the scoop from them: “We comb through reports from the news media, the government (from the EPA to the FDA), and our environmental and social justice nonprofit allies to compile comprehensive data on some of the largest corporations in America. Then, we put it together in our easily searchable Web site, so you can make informed purchasing decisions on everything from cosmetics to groceries to clothing and much more.

Through Responsible Shopper’s “Go Green” feature, we also link you to strategies for shifting your purchasing and investing to more responsible options.”

For me it’s a way to take a look and make an informed choice. I’m not organizing a march against The Gap, throwing things at innocent shoppers who cross the line. (The Gap? What about The Gap? I love their clothes!…sorry, take a look: http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/company.cfm?id=229 ) I want to support what’s working well, for all involved. It’s a learning experience.

KAIPPG – The Connection with Zawadi African Tea

If you’ve been reading this blog…as sooo many of you are, I’m sure; you’ll remember one of my heartfelt projects is promoting Zawadi African Tea. I want to bring to light the Kenya AIDS Intervention Prevention Project (KAIPPG); the organization that receives donations from the proceeds of Zawadi African Tea. I just love how people get connected! How our hearts and minds send out light beams of energy, calling to one another. Actually, I just heard a bit about heart/mind energy. It seems our heart center has been scientifically measured to be sending a stronger percentage of energy, a more intense energy field than our heads. So there you have it! We really do communicate from our hearts; reverberate, resonate, red-hot energy. KAIPPG is a grassroots service NGO located in Mumias within Western Kenya, founded in 1995. This is the area that Robert Kihanya, of Zawadi African Tea, is from. KAIPPG has a nine member board, twelve full time staff, and a large team of trained community based volunteers manage the operations of KAIPPG. Since 2000 they have been working with communities to address the “scourge and impacts of AIDS among orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC).” From the 2007 Report I’ve learned that KAIPPG implemented an extensive nutrition/food security and OVC education programs in Mumias, Teso and Busia Districts in Western Kenya for families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Through my connection with Robert Kihanya and Zawadi African Tea, I’ve connected with KAIPPG’s founder/director, Janet Feldman. We have had a great phone conversation and she is fun as well as accomplished and passionate about her work. And she’s the same age as me! She has a background in arts, history, and international relations, with special focus on international conflict-resolution; is a trained mediator; collage artist; and a social-change activist. I’d rather you went to a couple of websites to learn more about Janet. It gives a much broader acknowledgment of who she is and be’s. And it makes more connections all around!
http://profiles.takingitglobal.org/Frida; http://orgs.takingitglobal.org/27731

Janet is on the farthest east side of the U.S., Rhode Island; and I’m nearly on the edge of the West coast in California. Our connection has just recently been made, but I feel we’ll be working together on who knows how many things. The best part of being in your 50’s and beyond is knowing what you can do and knowing you can do it.


Paddling Up and Down the Streams

I am in the midst of creating and organizing several new streams of income. I have to bring in a certain amount of income each month, or at least over the year, to maintain and supplement our expenses (“our” being me and my hubby). I am determined to do this by working from home and using my own inherent talents and skills, and other skills I have mastered over the years at other people’s companies.

The main attraction of working from home, being independent, a “solo-preneur”, is all the freedom you’ll have. Working when it suits you, wearing whatever is comfy, time for the family and recreation. The hardest part of working from home, being independent, is realizing how little freedom I now have. Because I may be able to drift outside on my deck for a break, but my mind rarely goes “on break” anymore. With my income solely dependent on what I produce, my mind goes into overdrive to keep churning thoughts, ideas, strategies, plans, goals, products, services, advertising, and on and on. And then my heart or inner being or chakras or whatever the hell, balks and whines and gets my knickers in a twist because I long to “while away the hours, conversin’ with the flowers”. Perfect example is this posting right now. I want to get this down, posted on the blog. But I also want, at 7:00am to sit outside with my giant mug of tea and gaze over our backyard, watching the birds and cats. Is this a tug of war with my left brain and right brain? Are the left brain and right brain supposed to be at odds? I was hoping we could all just get along.

The other whacky part…and I say whacky because it just seems ludicrous, is that I KNOW about all kinds of wonderful things to counteract the muddle and spin. Why don’t I just do my yoga practice every morning upon rising? Because I’m stiff and sleepy and I’d rather wake slowly. See? So whiney! Is that the left or right or the soul of me? From time to time I must get down to the soul, sole, sol of me.

Morning musings are a good thing. Flushing out the sludge that coagulates from the dreams that either plaque or entertain me all night long. I don’t intend to make anyone groan by relating my dreams…oh, except this one: a couple of months ago I had a long dream that all the people of Earth realized that, “Matter doesn’t matter.” There was even a best-selling book, called something like “Who Needs the Planets?” And then I saw that we all just sort of spread out wide and thin and floated over the Earth, realizing peace and harmony. It wasn’t a huge religious or even spiritual experience – it was more just practical, logical. In my dream I saw a wide floating vapor, covering the Earth – and the vapor was just us, floating free.


Eco Travel In Our Own Hometown

When talking about ecotourism, I don’t think many people envision the Napa Valley, California and its infamous Wine Country. I live here, in Napa, California and in 2006 when I returned from an inspiring trip to Kenya and Tanzania my head and heart were full of the concept of responsible travel. I had seen the vast beauty of the Rift Valley and I became aware of how our Earth is actually the same no matter if it is the wide open landscapes of the Rift Valley or the concrete freeways throughout California. It is our home and here we are, all of us, all over the globe, digging and toiling in our Earth; completely dependent on our planet. In addition to this, I believe that deep within each of us is an inherent commitment to care for our planet, our home. Africa raised my environmental consciousness and now I view my own tromping around quite differently. I started to think about other “eco-travelers”, travelers who want to be responsible wherever they go and I began to perceive that ecotourism has more than one issue to it; that we can support others in making choices for responsible travel whether on a short road trip in our own region or traveling around the world. I presumed that those who travel responsibly, “eco travelers”, are not exclusively planning adventure excursions in the wild. They may be from the Bay Area, perhaps statewide or international and they may want to visit the illustrious “Wine Country”. In addition to enjoying beautiful scenery and warm, seductive weather, they also love wine-tasting, fine restaurants and plush accommodations. And they will want to know they are being responsible and respectful of the destination they are visiting. Napa Valley is just about 30 miles from end to end and about five miles across at the widest and we have nearly 5 million people visiting here each year! So, I began to research the possibilities of finding tours, attractions, accommodations and restaurants that support the eco traveler in matching their values and commitments when traveling. It wasn’t easy to uncover, but the good news is that during 2007 the county government and the people of the community strengthened their commitment to be environmentally responsible. Throughout the Napa Valley there are tours, attractions, accommodations and restaurants that strive to be environmentally responsible and raise awareness of ecology and conservation. The Napa Chamber of Commerce now lists businesses that have become “Green Certified”, a business that has been certified through the Bay Area Green Business Program (www.greenbiz.ca.gov) and other acknowledged certification programs and “green-minded” businesses that are taking steps to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution, such as using more efficient lighting, purchasing in bulk, watering landscapes efficiently, recycling cardboard, using less toxic products, etc.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ and it is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. In November of 2006, the Gaia Hotel (www.gaiahotelnapavalley.com) opened in the Napa Valley, setting precedence in accommodations as a LEED certified “green” hotel. Along with this positive movement, a limousine and tour company, California Wine Tours, has introduced its “Green Fleet” of “luxury hybrid vehicles”, giving tourists the alternative to the dreaded Hummer. This is brand new green but there has also been devotion to the Napa Valley landscape and the major trade it yields for many years. The winemaker that first catapulted Napa Valley wines to world renown with his highest scoring chardonnay in the Paris Tasting of 1976 went on to develop Grgich Hills Winery, one of the valley’s foremost vineyards that are certified organic using biodynamic farming. This holistic farming practice uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. In 2006, Grgich Hills switched the winery to solar power.

I think the more we know of our own regions and what is being done to further our sustainability and environmental protection, the more we can encourage others to seek out eco friendly choices for our local recreation and leisure activities. I hope to venture out to as many wonderful places around the world as time and money will allow and I also hope to call myself an “eco traveler” in my own hometown.