Catch the Rain

OF WINE AND SOIL

Without grapes, there'd be no wine, but without good soil, there'd be no grapes. Wine-maker Kendall-Jackson has teamed with TerraCycle, Inc. to promote healthy soil by "upcycling" its old wine barrels into rainwater and compost bins. The Rotary Composter and the Rain Barrel are made of American or French oak and bring a rustic décor to any backyard. The Rain Barrel holds 55 gallons of rainwater to use for garden and lawn watering. The Rotary Composter produces natural, mineral-rich fertilizer when filled with yard and kitchen waste. Sam's Club and Home Depot sell both items for $99 each. —Kimberly Telker

CONTACT: TerraCycle, Inc


CHOCOLATE VISIONS

The stone-ground organic 70% dark Taza chocolate is indulgent in even the smallest doses, with a cocoa-laden, powdery texture that's more decadent than sweet. It's the kind of chocolate that would pair well with aged cheese and a glass of fine wine. Chocolate Mexicano discs can be melted into cocoa drinks, or simply broken and enjoyed. The round shapes and grainy texture are meant to invoke pre-modern chocolate, from the simple design to the basic ingredients—roasted cocoa beans, pure cane sugar and either cinnamon stick, roasted almonds or vanilla beans. —Brita Belli

CONTACT: (617)623-0804, Taza Chocolate


FINE JEWELRY REDEFINED

Your wedding ring can represent your commitment to the planet as well as to your better half. Brilliant Earth produces fine jewelry from two Canadian mines that adhere to stringent environmental laws. The company's diamonds and sapphires are guaranteed "conflict-free," meaning they do not fund international war, abuse or terrorism, and the settings are made with recycled platinum and gold. Five percent of all profits are donated to African communities. —K.T.

CONTACT: (800)691-0952, Brilliant Earth


FOR THE FASHIONISTAS

Eco-clothing outlet Oxygen Required sells pieces that can be worn in layers as the months grow colder, with an emphasis on simple designs and solid colors. A hooded cashmere and bamboo poncho in "baked apple" ($178) is a sophisticated take on the comfortable zip-up hoodie. The company uses surplus factory fabric, saving on waste, and lots of bamboo—the renewable plant is an environmental improvement over everything from wood to pesticide-laden, water-depleting cotton. Vancouver-based Nicole Bridger of Nicole Bridger Designs is into sustainability on the outside and inside. The clothes—made from organic cotton and bamboo as well as virgin wool and cashmere—include little affirmation labels. Bridger's Grecian style dress, plaid, cocooning shawl and striped top will appeal to the stylish hippie: They're roomy and comfortable but cling in all the right places. —B.B.

CONTACTS: Oxygen Required, (212)817-4119; Nicole Bridger Designs


SMARTER SHOWERS

The Deluxe Showerwise Filtration System ($89) effectively reduces the minerals and impurities in shower water that are common culprits to less-than-shiny hair, itchy, flaky skin and burning eyes. According to the company, you can absorb more chlorine from a 10-minute shower than from drinking the same water throughout the day. The filter works wonders on removing that chlorine and other contaminants like mercury, sulfur and iron oxide. It also inhibits bacterial growth and reduces fungus and mildew. One filter will last up to a year, purifying up to 150,000 gallons of water. An adjustable, multi-jet showerhead is included. —K.T.

CONTACT: www.showerwise.com


TABLE TOPICS

Ecosource Home & Garden has developed grenware, a new, low-maintenance dinnerware line that includes bowls and plates made of bamboo, straw and rice hulls. The pieces have an elegant finish and dishwasher-safe sturdiness, and are designed to last about five years. After that, you can retire them to the yard or garden where they will biodegrade in about four months. Not a bad conversation starter for a dinner party. —Mara Schechter

CONTACT: Ecosource Home & Garden


DOGGIE STYLE

Hot on the paws of greener beauty care products come all-natural dog shampoos. John Masters Organics presents the amusingly named DogPoo ($20), which cleans coats and prevents ticks and fleas with the essential oils of neem, citronella, tea tree and eucalyptus. The company contributes $1 per bottle to Animal Haven, a no-kill animal shelter in New York. —M.S.

CONTACT: John Masters Organics


BOOKS


THE BIG BOOK OF EVERYWHERE

The Encyclopedia of Earth: A Complete Visual Guide by Michael Allaby, Robert Coenraads, Stephen Hutchinson, Karen McGhee and John O"Byrne (University of California Press, $39.99) contains quite a claim in its subtitle. While there could never exist a "complete" guide to our planet, visual or otherwise, this is a fastidiously researched and gorgeously rendered 608-page tome. It is comprised of six sections: Birth (the planet's place in the universe and the emergence of its life forms); Fire (the earth's core and its plates); Land (rocks, minerals, landforms and biomes), Air (Earth's atmosphere, climate and weather); Water (oceans and seas, the marine environment, rivers, wetlands and swamps, and landlocked water); and Humans (our habitats, use of natural resources and impact on the planet). The encyclopedia is easy to navigate, with timelines, "Fact File" sidebars and information boxes throughout. The final section of the book is devoted to global conservation and ends with a dire directive, symbolically represented with a photo of a Sri Lankan drum circle: "To salvage Earth, the human species will need to communicate and cooperate globally like never before."—Jessica Rae Patton


SMALLER LIVING

Five years ago, Gregory Johnson moved to a 140 square foot home, built on a trailer to comply with local building regulations. He has no electricity or running water and eats mostly non-perishable foods at home, using other facilities to shower, go to the bathroom and do his laundry. Since he sold his car on Earth Day in 2004, he has been using a bicycle to get around. Johnson, who founded

Resources for Life and the Small House Society, has turned his experiences into the book Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned From Living in 140 Square Feet (Gibb Smith, $12.95). He recommends taking everything out of the bathroom except what is needed for a short trip and proposes that people create a small home-within-a-home by converting one room into a main, multifunctional area. Conversational and easygoing, Johnson ends each chapter with action points, discussion questions and a (small) space to take notes. —Mara Schechter


OLYMPIC RUINS

This is the sentence Christopher Shaw wants readers to take away from his book Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games (New Society Publishers, $19.95): "The Olympic Games at the local level are all about real estate" (emphasis his). The Canadian professor and activist is particularly concerned about Vancouver's successful bid for the 2010 Olympics, but the corporate corruption and ecological destruction happens in every host city, he writes. As an environmental argument, the book makes a convincing case. The International Organizing Committee planned a "Sea to Sky" highway from Vancouver to Whistler through a sensitive ecological zone known as Eagleridge Bluffs, home to endangered frogs and migratory birds. A coalition of protesters formed, but developers" chainsaws quickly followed, felling 500-year-old trees. "If you drive past Eagleridge now," Shaw writes, "all you see is a huge, ugly 50-meter-wide scar in the earth." The Olympic legacy, apparently, is more than just medals. —Brita Belli


GETTING FABULOUS

The essence of Starre Vartan's book, The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to be Fabulously Green (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.95), can be found in this sentence: "Being an Eco Chick means doing good while having a good time doing it: it is NOT about depriving yourself, but about rethinking how we live our lives…" Founder and editor of the blog eco-chick.com, Vartan (who has written for E) employs a fun tone and style. But she's serious about environmental awareness. She details what clothing and food labels mean; which companies make biodegradable plates, tampons and doggy bags; and what a holistic veterinarian has to say about health. She offers advice on how to make your own perfume, cleaning supplies, and compost. In the last section, Vartan even advises readers how to approach their bosses and families about making environmental changes. This book is a guide, but readers can also use it as a tool to become the guides themselves. —M.S.