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Farm51 started as a vacant lot and is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers.Many of you are already familiar with the initiatives we decide to invest in abroad, known as our Seeds projects. This year, we have heightened our emphasis on local investing as well – uniting both local and international efforts under the banner of sustainable agriculture and hunger prevention. Since our staff are scattered throughout the US, we have asked them to investigate the meaningful work being done in their communities around these two areas. Then, they bring them to the table for us to assess and collaborate.

One of our regions, Philadelphia, has taken this charge quite seriously. Early on, they began connecting with farm51, a small-scale urban educational farm founded in 2008 in West Philly. Most recently, Chelsea Thoumsin, our Customer Representative in Philly, decided she'd like for us to help support a fundraiser the farm will be hosting on September 6. The farm is a place where community is built and strengthened, where many hands make light work, and where people can connect directly with their food source. What started as a vacant lot is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers. You can learn more about this innovative and industrious farm on their website. And, if you find yourself in Philly on September 6, check out their fundraiser.

Our hope is that our knowledge of and ability to support similar groups in all of our regions will only continue to grow. If you know of any we should know about, don't hesitate to be in touch.

Til next time,
Hannah
WG Pearson students celebrate their new school garden in Durham!So, you all might start to think I have a small obsession with reusing bags – but seriously, so many exciting things are happening in the upcycle bag world!

Last week, we were asked by a local elementary school, WG Pearson, to help them inaugurate their school garden. For the last couple of months, they have been preparing the beds and just recently put down seeds and a few plants. Conveniently, in their early stages of garden planning, they went right down the road to get some of our coffee burlap bags for – that's right – weed barriers!

The 1st through 5th graders at the school have committed to create and maintain the garden organically. There were about 100 of them present for the garden party to dedicate the garden. Those kids knew what was up, with their hands waving in the air to answer "What is a seedling?" and "What are pesticides?" and "What is soil?"

Along with Counter Culture, North Carolina Central University and the Durham Public School system supported this effort, demonstrating what can happen when partnerships are formed. There are three separate beds that include an herb garden, an heirloom section, and other vegetables. The hope is that the students have the opportunity to start early to connect with where food comes from and to be able to continue healthy lifelong practices.

We are grateful for the chance to be a part of such an inspiring project!

Thanks,
Hannah
Welcome to Sustainable Summer, a month-long community effort dedicated to making small changes on big issues.Our Sustainable Summer challenge starts Monday! We encourage you to put the relaxed, reflective mood afforded by the slower pace of summer to good use by making small, positive changes to your everyday habits, and living a little greener before the leaves turn brown.

Each week throughout August, via a Sustainable Summer Facebook group, we'll offer suggestions for little things we can all do to challenge climate change and preserve our natural resources. By tackling habits in the areas of Home, Work, Leisure, Transportation, and Food, we'll see firsthand how big an impact even small actions can make.

Participants will have the chance to enter raffles for great prizes (including coffee, tea, and chocolate) as a reward for green deeds done well; together, we'll end the month by celebrating sustainability with organic snacks, lively conversation, and a panel discussion about climate change and the future. (Of course, there will also be plenty of coffee.)

Join us, as well as our friends at Rishi Tea, Taza Chocolate, King Arthur Flour, Patagonia, and TS Designs, as we send this summer out with a sustainable bang! Take the pledge on Facebook or e-mail us for more information.

Thanks,
Meister

Reusing plastic coffee bags for employee CSA distribution! #SustainableSummerEvery once in awhile the coffee department decides it's time to clean out the drawers where we keep green coffee samples. In each drawer, which represents a month, there are various and sundry sample baggies – small ones, large ones, thick ones, thin ones, and even the occasional cloth one! I suppose many places and many employees would quickly reject these as waste. Here at Counter Culture, however, the conversations about what to do with stray bags occur pretty much weekly.

Here are just a few things I'm looking forward to doing with those bags:

 

  • take them to the farmer's market for fruits and veggies
  • bring them to the co-op for my favorite trail mixes
  • store herbs in them for herbal summer water!


I asked a few co-workers, and here's what they would do:

 

  • use them as trash can liners for smaller bathroom trash cans
  • take them to the grocery store to be recycled
  • store stray buttons and broken jewelry for rainy day mending projects
  • transporting vitamins

Really, the opportunities are endless. So, it's a little quaint, maybe. But, the realness of landfill diversion and the commitment to not purchasing plastic bags that take a ridiculous amount of energy to create isn't just a drop in the bucket. Tim's words, "All right you guys, have at it!" as he set the bags on the counter, are still ringing in my ears!

Thanks,
Hannah

Each week throughout August, via a Sustainable Summer Facebook group, we'll offer suggestions for little things we can all do to challenge climate change and conserve resources.Part of what we love most about summer is the time we get to relax outdoors, slow down from life's hectic pace, and reflect on the months gone by. This August we invite you to put that relaxed, reflective mood to good use by making small, positive changes to your everyday habits, and living a little greener before the leaves turn brown.

Each week throughout August, via a Sustainable Summer Facebook group, we'll offer suggestions for little things we can all do to challenge climate change and preserve our natural resources. By tackling habits in the areas of Home, Work, Leisure, Transportation, and Food, we'll see firsthand how big an impact even small actions can make.

Participants will have the chance to enter raffles for great prizes (including coffee, tea, and chocolate) as a reward for green deeds done well; together, we'll end the month by celebrating sustainability with organic snacks, lively conversation, and a panel discussion about climate change and the future. (Of course, there will also be plenty of coffee.)

Join us, as well as our friends at Rishi Tea, Taza Chocolate, King Arthur Flour, and TS Designs, as we send this summer out with a sustainable bang! Take the pledge at on Facebook or e-mail us for more information.

Thanks,
Meister
Roberto Salazar of Finca Pashapa in Honduras heard about our cookstove project and wanted to.
You may recall what a big hit our carbon footprint reduction project in Honduras was at the end of 2012. Not only were we excited about the offsets, but the excitement sparked a good deal of interest within producer communities, as well. For us, this is the ideal way for good work to get done: groups recognize a timely, valuable, well-organized project and non-governmental organization (NGO) when they see one and want to be a part of it all without us saying a word!
 
For weeks, after Roberto Salazar – a member of the cooperative COLCAFELOL, which has provided us with delicious Honduran coffees in years past – heard about the clean cookstove project that we did with the COMSA cooperative in Marcala, he was emailing us asking how he could get in on the fun. We put Salazar's cooperative in touch with the contact at COMSA and with Trees, Water, and People – the NGO responsible for training on the construction of the stoves – and let the magic happen from there.
 
We recently received news from Roberto Salazar that they successfully made a partnership with Trees, Water, and People to build clean cookstoves. June 18 marked their first day of construction on 85 stoves with members of their cooperative.
 
Thanks to all for generating the enthusiasm, making connections, and getting it done!
 
-Hannah
 
Growers in Ethiopia at our compost workshop in March 2013.At the end of March, coffee buyers Kim Elena Ionescu and Tim Hill traveled together – which they almost never get to do; with so much Coffee Department travel, they usually travel separately – to Ethiopia for a compost workshop funded by our $1-per-pound allocation from our 2012 Holiday Blend and attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya.

"I was really excited about this trip!" acknowledged Kim Elena. "I was also really nervous, however, because I had committed Counter Culture to hosting a workshop in a place I had never been, in a language I didn't speak, on a subject outside my area of expertise."

Read Kim Elena's full trip report on Flickr offering annotated photos offer an overview of the two-day workshop, as well as a few glimpses into the activities at these cooperatives this time of year.

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