<![CDATA[Gio Andollo - Matt 6:24]]>Wed, 02 Dec 2015 14:22:04 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[How I Got Sold On Retail]]>Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:38:40 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/how-i-got-sold-on-retailPicture
I haven't contributed much to this blog in a long time. In fact, looking back, I only made two posts in all of 2014. 

There are a few reasons for this.

For one, I haven't rescued any food in almost a year. After my Uptown Freegans meetup group fizzled out last winter, I just didn't have the gumption to get out there and keep it going on my own (though I do intend to ramp up my own food rescuing again this year). More significantly still, I took up a new day job last July. And this time, I couldn't justify it with metaphorical talk of dishes and revolution. No, this time I got a job in retail.

I didn't make the choice lightly, knowing full well how dissonant it would be for me to work such a job. Especially after I'd spent the previous four years touting my freegan lifestyle and ideals. Indeed, there are many aspects of working retail that I absolutely loathe -- we employees are not paid a living wage, customers are often rude and inconsiderate, consumerism and debt spending are encouraged, many products are inherently wasteful or otherwise harmful to the environment, and there is an immense amount of paper, plastic, and fuel that is wasted in packaging and transporting goods from factories and warehouses to the store. 

Nevertheless, I was convinced that this was the right choice for me, at this particular point in my life, and I wish to finally come out of the closet -- to explain why... how I got sold on retail.

When a close friend of mine began working at this outdoor sporting goods store several years back, I also became interested in working there. I've always been into outdoor sporting (i.e. camping, hiking, bicycling, and as of more recently, rock climbing) and the job seemed manageable for me, what with my scheduling and budgeting needs. But when I went in for the interview, I was totally unprepared for the very standard interview questions that I should have expected.

"Why do you want to work here?"

I mean... I don't. I just need the money and I enjoy rockclimbing! 

I didn't say that, of course, but it's what I was thinking. So I stammered through the rest of the interview and ultimately bombed it. 

Embarrassed, and still needing some scratch rather badly, I asked another friend for some guidance: how can I honestly answer these questions and still walk away with a job like this one? She coached me a bit and I gave the interview another try about a year later, at the same store, but with a new manager.

This time, I landed the job with no problem! 

I had been sold on the prospect of working such a job, so when it came time to answer those questions, I was prepared with honest answers that didn't violate my principles.

"Why do you want to work here?"

Well, I have some experience working retail, at a volunteer-run bookshop in my neighborhood. When customers come in looking for a particular book, I love being able to help them find what they're looking for. I also happen to enjoy the outdoors and outdoor activities; I care about the earth and its ecosystems and I love interacting with them in various ways -- camping, hiking, rockclimbing... I'd love to equip other people to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, in ways that both keep them safe and protect the environment that they wish to engage.

Nailed it!

I've been working at this job since July (nearly eight months now) and as I mentioned above, it's not all flowers and rainbows (though flowers and rainbows are among the natural phenomena that I hope our customers will enjoy and preserve as we equip them for their outdoor adventures). There are plenty of serious problems with the way that humans produce, consume, and make-ends-meet in the world today. But for now, in this season of my life, working outdoor-sporting-goods-retail trumps the alternative, of putting myself and my family out on the street. I need the steady work, modest income, and steep discounts on gear that I could otherwise never afford. 

So I'll keep at it for now, hopefully not swinging too far from my freegan and anti-capitalist sensibilities and convictions. And in the mean time, I'll still offer my music for free, volunteer time and energy in my neighborhood, rescue food whenever possible, and always listen to my conscience. It's all I can do to persuade myself (and you, my gracious and understanding readers) that I've not completely sold out.

<![CDATA[#NewMuseum & #WildGoose14, the #freegan way!]]>Tue, 17 Jun 2014 16:12:29 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/newmuseum-wildgoose14-the-freegan-wayPicture
For about a month now, I've participated in an exhibit at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in SOHO. It's an interesting show, very much worth experiencing; and though the hours are long and grueling, I've had a good time there.

So I really want all my friends and supporters to come check it out!

There's normally a $16 admission fee to enjoy all the museum's offerings. And this is reasonable, I think. But the freegan in me also wants to make sure that everyone is aware of opportunities to see the museum for cheaper -- even FREE!

I've long touted the idea that art should be free to experience and enjoy. And it seems that the museum agrees with me -- albeit to a very short extent. 

Here's the deal: if you're able to attend the museum on a Thursday, after 7p, it's pay-what-you-can. Even if "what-you-can" is... nothing. Any other time, admission will be the usual $16. 

I'll be out of town on June 27-28 (more on this below!) and the exhibit wraps up on June 29th, so this will be my last full week at the museum. Please check the schedule below and I'll look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Friday–Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

New Museum 
235 Bowery 
New York, NY 10002 

The other big story from the past couple weeks is that I'll be performing at Wild Goose Festival, an annual gathering in the mountains of NC, where we stage a sit-in at the intersection of art, faith, and justice. The festival will be June 26-29, and I'll be performing on Friday & Saturday.

Now, I can't pull any strings to get my peeps in for FREE, but I can hook you all up with a serious discount! When you register to get your tickets, just type this promo code where applicable: Andollo30.


<![CDATA[Dumpster diving as an act of faith]]>Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:26:44 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/dumpster-diving-as-an-act-of-faithI recently did an interview and food rescue mission with a reporter from Religion News Service, regarding the role that my faith plays in my identity, worldview, and praxis. Little did I know, this story was soon to pop up on other major news sites, including the Washington Post and Huffington Post, as well as faith-based publications like Sojourners.

Check out some choice excerpts below...

On a recent outing, [Gio Andollo] carefully untied bags outside a supermarket next to Columbia University... Digging through the trash, he found apples that were bruised and sandwiches partially eaten [not sure why the reporter assumed that the sandwiches were partially eaten, since they were still in unopened, clear plastic containers... I did eat them later and they were delicious]. 

Andollo’s forays into the trash are more than just a budget-stretching strategy. Like plenty of other so-called Dumpster divers, he’s on a quest to preserve the planet.

He says the freeganism movement, or the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded, is populated mostly by nonreligious people. But for Andollo, Dumpster diving is an act of faith, one that is motivated by a biblical mandate to care for the Earth. 

Dumpster divers are of a particular demographic, said Sharon Cornelissen, a doctoral student at Princeton who researched divers for her master’s in sociology. She said the movement generally attracts educated white people in their 20s and 30s [that's me!]; typically, they are people who do it by choice rather than need. “It’s more expressed in an anti-capitalism,” she said. “It’s framed more in political terms than spiritual terms.”

As someone who is religious, [Andollo] knows he’s in the minority among his “food rescuing” friends, though he met several other freegans at a gathering of “Jesus Radicals” in Minneapolis. His concern stems not only from his faith but a general concern for the Earth and for other people.

“There’s an environmental concern, but there’s also a concern for the dignity and value of humans and human labor,” he said. “At some point in my life, I couldn’t ignore the ‘Made in China’ tag anymore.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

As for Uptown Freegans, our next gathering will be this Wednesday, February 26, at Word Up Bookshop in Washington Heights. Please find more details at the meetup page. Hope to see you there!
<![CDATA[Freegan Pope Francis]]>Tue, 24 Dec 2013 17:33:33 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/freegan-pope-francisI recently made the mistake of sharing a news story about Pope Francis that was actually totally fake (damn you, internetz!) But given that this recent video and story comes direct from the "Official Vatican Network" website, I think I can trust its legitimacy. 

Basically, Pope Francis gave an exhortation to the world's [mostly desperately poor] dumpster divers, asserting that "wasted food could feed all of [the] world's hungry."  

The Pope is a freegan sympathizer!

According to the Vatican Network website, the Pope urged the "cartoneros" and "recicladores" to raise awareness of food waste.
"We are living in a throwaway culture, where we easily toss away not only things, but people,” Pope Francis said. He added that the food which is discarded could “feed all the hungry people of the world.”
<![CDATA[Support @WordUpBooks on #GivingTuesday!]]>Tue, 03 Dec 2013 17:51:43 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/support-wordupbooks-on-givingtuesdayThe high holy days of American consumerism - Black Friday and Cyber Monday - have passed. Now those of us with different mind - that of generosity and goodwill - inaugurate a new yearly celebration, a different way to use our money during each holiday season.
Washington Heights' own Word Up Books, a 100% volunteer-run community bookshop and performance space, is in on the fun and there's a very special way that you can contribute to the work we are doing at the bookstore and in the neighborhood...

Download my latest Sing Upward package on noisetrade for a donation of any amount and all proceeds will go to Word Up!

I've been a committed volunteer at Word Up for about two and a half years now, and I could hardly speak highly enough about the great impact that our community space has on the neighborhood. We provide everything from books, literary events, and writing workshops to open mics, film screenings, and art gallery. Above all, it's a safe space for folks of all stripes and persuasions, young and old, to join in on the fun - share a story, poem or work of art, volunteer, or just to enjoy a good book.

There is truly nothing else like it in Uptown Manhattan.

So here's hoping you'll take part in the newest holiday phenomenon, Giving Tuesday, by supporting our favorite community bookshop. And be sure to Sing Upward all the while!

The video above was produced over the summer, largely shot at the new Word Up Books location on 165th street and Amsterdam, in Washington Heights.
<![CDATA[André op Aarde: Groenland vs. New York]]>Mon, 02 Dec 2013 00:58:40 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/andr-op-aarde-groenland-vs-new-yorkI may not understand Dutch, but climate change is a universal problem that anyone can understand (except some Republicans...) I recently watched this 45 minute video on the subject, largely narrated in Dutch by astronaut André Kuipers, and got a pretty good idea about how climate change is affecting our planet.

Of course there are plenty of documentary videos about climate change in English, but... well, I'm not in any of them. That's right, catch me digging through trash around the 34:20 mark, repping the Uptown Freegans!
The producers of the show wanted to talk to a freegan, to show how much food we are rescuing from the waste stream. Given that I don't understand Dutch, it's a bit unclear to me how they make the connection between food waste (or waste in general) and climate change... but still, it's cool that my mug was on national television in Belgium!

And yes, we should stop wasting so much food because the planet Earth (and all of us who live on it) are seriously affected by the injustices inherent in a food system that allows so much to go to waste.
<![CDATA[TODAY: Buy Nothing at the Free Store!]]>Fri, 29 Nov 2013 22:30:07 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/today-buy-nothing-at-the-free-storePicture
I've spent all morning and afternoon not buying anything - instead spending quality time with people I love - so I've not been able to post anything til now. As it turns out, I have little more to say. I'd much rather spend quality time with people I love than to go around buying stuff I don't need.

So we took the trains down to Atlantic Center, where the Brooklyn Free Store was set up for Buy Nothing Day. I discovered the store last year after the freegan.info Whirl-Mart at Target. It's organized by In Our Hearts, an Anarchist network of autonomous collectives based in NYC. 

In the same spirit, I want to encourage my friends and fans to grab my music this Buy Nothing Day (and beyond). The Sing Upward single package is now available for free (or a tip!) at my noisetrade artist page and the rest of my original discography is available on bandcamp.

Find more music and info below and enjoy the rest of your day buying nothing!
<![CDATA[A public service announcement...]]>Mon, 18 Nov 2013 18:18:36 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/a-public-service-announcement You've heard the three Rs over and over again - reduce, reuse, and recycle - with way too much emphasis on the last. Try...

REDUCE! Reuse Reuse Reuse Reuse Recycle

We need to consume less. Waste less. Not just reuse disposable items (like plastic bags or water bottles); but make, find, or buy (if necessary) bags and bottles (for example) that are actually meant to be used over and over and over again. Unless or until they break. And then you fix them.

Same with every other disposable plastic, styrofoam, or paper item we use. Let's get serious about this, people. There are real consequences to how and how much we consume.
Something to think about.
<![CDATA[The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra]]>Mon, 11 Nov 2013 19:20:04 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/the-landfill-harmonic-orchestraPicture
On August 5th this year, I was still reeling from the #SingUpward crowdfunding campaign which had failed to meet its financial goals by the end of July. Wallowing in disappointment, I mused on the meaning of sauerkraut

But I had just under one and a half months to finish the video, the double-albums, promotion for the show, and so much more... I don't want to remember. It was a LOT of work.

I unloaded it all at Word Up Books on September 15 and then took a vacation.

Now I'm back in the grind (yes, it took me almost two months to recuperate) and I'm adjusting to new rhythms and patterns. While I've put GioSafari on the backburner for a bit, I'm now teaching music as a primary source of income, and refocusing some time and effort on the Uptown Freegans group that I started early this year. 

I find this short video at that intersection...

I hope it inspires you as it has me! I'll try to keep up with this story to share updates. In the mean time, check out their website and facebook links for more info.
<![CDATA[Thank you for curbing your geese!]]>Tue, 13 Aug 2013 04:33:16 GMThttp://www.gioandollo.info/matt-624/thank-you-for-curbing-your-geesePicture
At the opening ceremony for this year's iteration of the Wild Goose Festival, elder Phyllis Tickle led an invocation in which she lauded our humble flock for having grown from a flailing gosling to a mature goose. "We'll see," I thought to myself.

I've attended all three WGF events in North Carolina, volunteering each year on the waste management team. Our group is responsible for keeping the camp clean, by providing and constantly emptying receptacles for trash, recycling, and compost. It's not the most glamorous work, but it certainly piques my freegan interests. I wished to know from the start - are we holy? Are we set apart? Do the wild geese, mostly progressive in their politics and religion, really care about stewarding the earth? Or do they only pay lip service to environmentalism while remaining complacent and irresponsible as the broader population?

My questions were quickly answered during the 2011 inaugural fest at Shakori Hills, NC. It was clear to me that the Wild Goose community was not conscious of the impact they would have on the camp site, on municipal waste management systems, or on the broader environment. They seemed to show little concern about the consequences of their own rampant consumption, their unbridled use of disposable cutlery, flatware, plastic water bottles, etc.

I wrote about my experience, wagging my finger at the goose. We could and should do better, I argued.

Now don't get me wrong - I understand that being conscious and responsible in these matters can require a good bit of life-change. Relatively few people are well-versed in the practice of composting and probably fewer still are very aware of what can be recycled. It seems that most people don't realize that materials' recyclability depend largely on the kinds of facilities present in any given location - only certain kinds of plastics are recyclable here, glass can be recycled in this place but not the other, and so on. If one is not accustomed to sorting their discards in such a fashion, it may take extraordinary effort to abide by strict regional guidelines.

Moreover, what is a person to do when they've already purchased and packed disposable materials for their camping convenience? Is it reasonable to ask them to return such goods and replace them instead with durable and reusable plates, cups, utensils, and bottles?

No, I thought, and I resolved to help make the next year a better experience, to help train the goose. While it was true that folks needed to do more on an individual basis, they also needed proper guidance from festival organizers. So I signed up as a co-team leader for the waste management team and offered a few suggestions for the Wild Goose coordinators:

  1. Whenever you send messages to attendees about what to bring, be sure to include kitchenware (durable/washable cups, plates, and utensils). Put a notice on the website, do whatever it takes to make sure they bring this stuff! Even encourage them to bring extras so that they can share with their neighbors around a campfire who may not have brought their own.
  2. Take at least one full page (a full spread?) in the festival program to clearly explain how to dispose of everything, especially compost! 
  3. On that same page (spread!), encourage folks to look out for each other and even to hold each other accountable to this. We essentially have to encourage a culture of proper stewardship of God's creation. This means that people need to see it, talk about it, work on it together, maybe even be embarrassed a few times, to be called out on or even (dare I say it) rebuked!

None of my suggestions were heeded and unsurprisingly, little changed. The geese of 2012 were as sloppy and careless as their predecessors.

But this year, I'm happy to say, the tides turned. 

Much changed, beginning with the venue. We luxuriated in the daily summer rains of Hot Springs, a small town on the Appalachian trail, in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina.

Upon my early arrival (I was to work a couple pre-fest shifts), I witnessed the new and improved disposal stations in all their glory. Each had three large cans for compost, recycling and landfill trash, as the years before. But now the cans were different colors - typically green, blue and black, respectively - as were the bags inside them (this would help us to sort the waste in the dumpsters at the end of the festival). Each can also had a laminated sign that listed the materials to be deposited, along with corresponding pictures.

Once the fest started a couple days later, I received my program and opened it to find a full page devoted to explaining the importance of our ecological mindfulness. Moreover, campers were given a sheet of guidelines for the site that also stressed the point, encouraging campers to utilize reusable materials rather than disposable.

And - significantly - the festival organizers ensured that all vendors use compostable materials exclusively. Every utensil or cup was to be made of compostable plastic (from organic matter rather than petroleum), and it was emphasized that soiled paper plates could also be composted. 

All of this information was outlined in the materials given to each camper and it all made for a much better experience on the waste management team, now dubbed Leave No Trace (a fitting name!)

As campers looked over signs at disposal stations, I overheard them asking each other about whether they should compost meat and bones. They had heard from other sources that these should not be composted (generally good advice, especially for backyard or indoor compost), but our signs indicated that they were OK. I explained that all organic matter is compostable, but not all composting systems can handle meat and bones. This particular system could. They shrugged and moved on. This stuff really can be confusing; but I was content knowing that they were engaging the conversation, both at the festival and outside of it.

Even on the festival schedule there were several seminars and discussions about the environment, climate change, sustainable food systems. Not too shabby.

The waste management systems certainly improved this year, there's no question about this. I'm happy for all the progress that was made in planning this year's event. And most of all, I'm proud of my fellow wild geese for stepping up their game. We still have a long way to go at Wild Goose. Much to teach, learn and practice, better systems to put in place. But overall, things are looking up. I look forward to working with the Leave No Trace team again next year and implementing still more effective systems for handling the resources we consume and discard, ultimately for the better stewardship of the planet. 

Perhaps we are all grown up, as our wise elder suggested. At least it seems that we're getting there. Here's hoping that we'll continue to demonstrate, year after year, that you can teach an old goose new tricks.