Winter Essentials


Willow Tree Toys has a line of fair trade Waldorf Dolls ($28-$75) made by a women’s cooperative in Bangladesh that are charming in their simplicity. They range from baby dolls, perfect for infants and toddlers, to the more grown-up "Anna" doll. Anna comes with a T-shirt, jacket, shorts, skirt and leg warmers for mix-and-match outfits. Designed for boys and girls, the dolls are each filled with sheep’s wool and made from locally produced materials. Well-crafted wooden doll furniture, such as beds, swings and strollers, is also available.

For outdoor fun, there are eco-friendly (and delightfully old-fashioned) sleds and toboggans from Colorado-based Mountain Boy Sledworks. The sleds are made from sustainable, fast-growing trees like birch, willow and maple, and come shipped in recycled cardboard (they’re available at local retailers as well). The Classic Flier ($159.99, without seat pad) for instance, is made from birch trees and stainless steel bolts to ensure durability and family heirloom potential. It also has side handrails and a pivot-front design for a fast, controlled downhill experience. The paint is lead-free and the company uses nearly every scrap of wood, turning too-small-for-sled pieces into Christmas ornaments. —Julie Karceski

CONTACTS: Mountain Boy Sledworks; Willow Tree Toys.


If the season’s first snowfall could be interpreted in fabric, the fashion design team Zsega did so with its "Coat Ginger" ($825). This cream-colored wool coat—form-fitting, yet with billowing details such as an oversized ruffled hood, attached scarf and pleated sleeves—took first prize in the 2009 Fur Free Fashion contest sponsored by Born Free USA and E Magazine. It’s so lovely one may be inclined to leave it on once indoors. (And for the price, you"ll want to leave it on all year round.) Visit the designer’s website for their entire Fall/Winter 2009-10 collection of clothing and accessories. —Jessica Rae Patton



What better to bring to a holiday party than a bottle of organic vino? The first organic and biodynamic winery in the U.S., Frey Vineyards is a third-generation, family owned business in Mendocino County, California. They employ biodynamic viticulture, a method of organic grape-growing that regards the vineyard as one unified, interrelated organism. And there are no added sulfites in Frey wines, a boon to allergy sufferers. Don’t miss their Internet-exclusive three-bottle special ($19-$43, plus shipping), a great way to sample a variety or to send as a gift. —J.R.P.

CONTACT: Frey Vineyards.


"E-cards," however environmentally responsible, lack a certain personal touch. Cards from greenshanti let you flaunt your green commitment without sacrificing style. The cards ($7.95/each) are handmade in India from 100% recycled, wood-free paper, with holiday images—a tree, a bell—on the front accented with beading, coconut shells and woven cane sticks. When you factor in the added shipping cost for the cards" weightiness, it’s probably best to reserve these beauties for the extra-special people on your holiday list—the people to whom you actually have something insightful to say. —Brita Belli

CONTACT: greenshanti.


Do your holiday plans (or perhaps your daughter’s or niece"s) involve leotards, tights and tutus? The Brooklyn, New York-based Cynthia King Dance Studio has just released their latest cruelty-free vegan ballet slippers. The slippers ($24.95, kid to adult sizes) are made from soft canvas uppers and synthetic soles by a local New York shoemaker, and were E-tested by a young ballerina who declared them indistinguishable from the canvas-and-leather varieties. —B.B.

CONTACT: Cynthia King Dance Studio, (718)437-0101.


The company Drop makes some of the most serious snowboarding gloves around, not only for durability and warmth, but also for flat-out style. Their newest line, Verde ($55), takes the gloves into sustainable style territory, with chrome-free leathers, recycled Thinsulate insulation and reclaimed outer fabrics. Some of the gloves feature the burly, furry, forest creature Bigfoot developed by a San Francisco graffiti-style artist and the message "The Earth Is My Best Friend." —B.B.

CONTACT: Drop (search for dealers by state).




Mike Roselle is considered a respected elder of the environmental movement by some, an environmental terrorist by others. In his new memoir Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action (St. Martin’s Press, $24.99), written with Josh Mahan, Roselle recounts his raucous journey as a "nonviolent extremist," along which he founded Earth First!, Rainforest Action Network and the Ruckus Society. It is a fascinating insider’s account of the grassroots environmental movement of the past three decades.

Roselle came to environmentalism honestly, from the derrick of an oil rig in Wyoming where he worked as a driller in 1978. When the company he worked for made plans to enter the Gros Ventre Wilderness in Teton County, he leaked the tip to local advocates, whose passion for wilderness preservation radicalized a guy for whom the hippie lifestyle had, until that point, been primarily a vehicle for doing drugs and getting laid. The book’s title comes from the controversial practice of hammering spikes into trees in order to prevent the timber industry from logging old-growth forests—a practice that Roselle defends as nonviolent civil disobedience, in that each spiked tree was also blazed with a neon "S" and marked with a bright orange ribbon.

Roselle denies the participation of Earth First! in the spiking that led in 1987 to the serious injury of a sawmill worker, insisting it didn’t have the hallmarks of his organization’s actions. Regardless, the injury made it impossible to support spiking in the future, and Earth First! renounced the practice in 1990. Tree Spiker concludes with a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, final chapter about Earth Liberation Front and the fine yet clear line between nonviolent civil disobedience and what has been deemed by the FBI as domestic terrorism. —Jessica Rae Patton


There are countless books to guide you through greening your home, clothes, food, baby nursery and beauty products. The difference with Ed Begley, Jr.‘s latest, Ed Begley, Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living: Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-Conscious Life (Clarkson Potter, $22.50), is that the actor has actually done all the things he’s advising readers to do, from living in an off-grid solar-powered home, to riding a bike in lieu of driving (in L.A.!). The book is broken into three sections, beginning with conservation—how to check your energy use and insulation levels, switch lightbulbs, use a programmable thermostat, save water and the like. The next section tackles production, everything from home-based renewable energy solar and wind systems, to rain barrels and worm composting. The final leg takes on "management," heating and cooling, flooring, painting and, yes, setting up a green nursery.

It’s a very practical how-to guide, albeit one peppered with Begley’s personal anecdotes. In one, Begley admits his mistake of not measuring the wind velocity at his home at various times of the year before putting a turbine on a 20-foot pole alongside his garage. "Not only do I not get enough wind at my site to make the installation worthwhile," Begley writes, "what wind I do get is dirty. It’s turbulent. It’s disrupted. It’s lousy for producing wind power." In the debate over home renewable energy systems, this sort of honesty is both refreshing and needed. Wind, and even solar electric systems, are not practical for many homes. But common-sense information about where your home may be missing insulation (in Begley’s case, spaces in a curved ceiling), what CFLs to use, or more quirky information about the benefits of a home urinal—well that’s just good reading. —B.B.


In the latest installment of the Earth Heroes series, Champions of the Ocean (Dawn Publications, $11.95), author Fran Hodgkins introduces young-adult readers to eight scientists of the sea. These compelling profiles include William Beebe, the first "celebrity naturalist" and deep-sea diver; the famed inventor of SCUBA, Jacques Cousteau; and Tierney Thys, a present-day explorer whose parents made her a child-size wetsuit before such a thing could be purchased. At the end of each chapter is a "Fast Facts" summary of each scientist as well as a timeline that puts their life and accomplishments into historical context. Champions of the Ocean encourages middle school readers toward their own "citizen scientist" explorations. —J.R.P.


Busy Bear Cubs ($6.95) is a perfect stocking-stuffer of a board book by John Schindel, one in the Busy Book series from Tricycle Press. See all different bears and their family members, beautifully photographed by Lisa and Mike Husar romping (and chomping and hiding and riding
) in their natural environs. Other ridiculously cute titles in the series include Busy Bunnies, Busy Penguins and Busy Chickens, and all offer a sweet peek into the lives of our baby animal friends without having to view them in the confines of a zoo. —J.R.P.