Resources for Eco-Awareness and Action
HAPPY HAPPY DOUGH DOUGH
A winner of Dr. Toy’s Best Classic Toys in 2009, Happy Fun Dough is a natural alternative to popular Play-Doh products. The dough is made by For My Kids from flour, water, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar and citric acid, and each individual jar of dough gets its color (brown, green, natural, orange, pink or yellow) from plant extracts. There’s even a gluten-free variety. What’s more, Happy Fun Dough packaging is completely recyclable, and discarded dough can be safely composted. A sample pack—2-oz. tins of each of the colors in a reusable cotton drawstring bag—costs $23.49. The Super Mega Fun Pack—4-oz. tins of each of the colors—is $35.99. —Emma Mueller
CONTACT: For My Kids.
SUPER SHAVE CREAMS
Ditch the Sasquatch look with shaving creams that leave behind smooth, soft skin, not harsh chemical residues. Dr. Bronner’s shaving gels ($7.99) are both Fair Trade and USDA-certified organic, contain no synthetic ingredients and are never tested on animals. Despite its gel consistency, the shaving cream foams effortlessly into a smooth lather that’s perfect for shaving legs and underarms. Plus, the peppermint/spearmint scent will leave your legs minty fresh! The shaving gels also come in lavender, tea tree and lemongrass. Also try Nurture My Body’s organic shave cream, which uses rich, lubricating emollients great for soothing sensitive skin. This decadent shave cream contains zero chemical preservatives, uses certified organic ingredients and is stored in an eco-friendly glass container that recycles perfectly as a tea light holder. It even comes in a fragrance-free variety. —Jessica A. Knoblauch
SHIVER ME ORGANIC TIMBERS
The creators of Sailor Jerry Rum and Hendrick’s Gin have teamed up with Philadelphia-based Art in the Age to produce what they’re calling "the first truly American liqueur since the pre-prohibition era." ROOT ($32.99) is an 80-proof, 100% USDA-certified organic spirit inspired by a medicinal root tea consumed by Native Americans in the 1700s. Today’s concoction is a unique blend of earthy ingredients including birch bark, cloves, sugar cane and cardamom, that are flavorful and clean without an overwhelming sweetness. —E.M.
CONTACT: Art in the Age.
Each set of tumblers from The Green Glass Company> contains four former beer or soda pop bottles that have been ingeniously reincarnated into eye-catching drinking glasses ($32.50/set of 4). All 8 oz. glasses are made in the U.S. from 100% recycled materials and are completely dishwasher safe. For your summer parties, check out the "Cancun" and "Rock 33" tumbler collections made from recycled Corona and Rolling Rock bottles. —E.M.
CONTACT: The Green Glass Company.
In recent years, honeybees around the world have been exhibiting bizarre behaviors: they’re inexplicably abandoning their hives in vast numbers, resulting in the collapse of entire colonies. In the new documentary, Nicotine Bees (Pierre Terre Productions), director Kevin Hansen delves into the mystery and provides an explanation: nicotine insecticides. These popular insecticides, the film explains, disrupt the bee’s neurological system, hindering its ability to find its way back to the hive. Pick up a copy of the DVD to learn more about what’s happening, why it’s a problem and how you can help. —E.M.
CONTACT: Pierre Terre.
FLAWS IN THE FACTORY
Rick Dove decided to become a fisherman—and take his son along, on the polluted Neuse River in North Carolina. Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment by David Kirby (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99) details how Dove’s catches began turning up dead fish—and more than two million fish perished in the river in 1990. Contact with the water resulted in pus-filled sores erupting over Dove"s—and his son"s—body. The culprit was a type of dinoflagellate—a one-celled plankton—that released a toxin to stun and kill fish. The dinoflagellates were traced to the state’s new hog farm operations, which allowed for thousands of animals to be packed onto a few acres of land.
As Animal Factory points out, these hog operations—concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) —have "far too many animals per acre to absorb the waste." The daily waste of a typical "hog finishing" operation (where some 5,000 animals on a couple acres are in final fattening phase) is equivalent to "the raw sewage of 20,000 people."
Of course, animal waste and human and environmental health issues are not confined to hogs, or to North Carolina. The same fish-killing dinoflagellate has turned up in waterways across the country, including the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, site of Purdue’s largest-in-the-U.S. chicken operations. The book raises a question that’s been plaguing our culture of consumption for some time: What do we do with the waste? The current system of pollute first, deal later projects a frightening future. —Brita Belli
FOLLOWING THE SEA
If you’re not already an ocean buff, you"ll learn a great deal from just the first few pages of David Helvarg‘s Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99). Like the fact that less than 10 humans are killed each year by sharks, but 100 million sharks are killed annually by humans; or that while forests are known as the "lungs of the planet," the oceans absorb far more carbon dioxide. The oceans, Helvarg writes, extract "some 2.5 billion tons of organic carbon out of the atmosphere annually, replacing it with about half the life-giving oxygen we need to survive."
But while insights like these ground the book, Helvarg is more storyteller than scientist, and his book swings from snippets of his childhood adventures in swamps in Queens, New York, to his move, at age 20, to San Diego, California, where he took up bodysurfing and antiwar activism. It’s a compelling picture of how deep those connections to the sea can run when forged early, and how they brought Helvarg from investigative journalism to writing 50 Ways to Save the Ocean to founding the Blue Frontier Campaign. He admits he’s overwhelmed by the magnitude of assaults against the oceans, but his dives and swims keep him energized with his drug of choice: "a heavy
infusion of saline." —B.B.
You’ve probably skipped stones or fed ducks, but have you ever listened to a tree’s heartbeat? Do you know three ways to figure out direction without a compass?
In his new book The Bumper Book of Nature: A User’s Guide to the Great Outdoors (Harmony Books, $29.99), author Stephen Moss describes more than 100 fun and free activities to keep kids—and their parents—entertained in their own surroundings. With suggestions like "Go for a walk in a graveyard," "Lie down in long grass and stare at the sky" and "Dig for earthworms," Moss’s ideas recall the easy fascinations of our own childhoods.
This collection serves as more than just a fun nature guide; it is a means by which the next generation can learn to love and respect the natural world. So get out there and make a plaster cast of an animal track or take a really close look at an ant colony. Moss’s book will inspire parents and children to put their electronics away and start appreciating life’s little wonders. —Emma Mueller