New from Sprint is the Solio Mono Hybrid Phone Charger. This small, easy-to-carry device allows you to store power from a socket or the sun and charge your phone on the go. Just leave the charger in the sun for a short while, and plug in your phone. Cloudy day? Plug in the Solio overnight and let the Lithium battery store the charge. The Solio Mono Hybrid Charger comes with several adapters for different cell phones, a carabiner clip and a handy hemp travel bag. It’s a hefty $90, but eliminates the cost and waste of purchasing a new charger every time you change phones. —Kristen O"Neill
CONTACT: Sprint (866)866-7509, www.sprint.com.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
The curvy, bigger-than-average RADIUS Toothbrush has always been committed to style, but now it’s reached new green heights. Toothbrushes from their Source line are made from recycled dollar bills. The U.S. Treasury sends RADIUS retired bills, which are then blended with recycled plastic to make the comfortable and durable toothbrush handle. The Source toothbrushes are also available in recycled wood and recycled flax. The replaceable heads make up just 7% of the toothbrush’s total weight, and though they are not made from recycled material, each head thrown away produces far less waste then having to replace an entire plastic toothbrush every few months. The toothbrushes are $6.95 each, or $18.77 for a family 3-pack. —K.O.
CONTACT: RADIUS Toothbrush, (800)626-6223, www.radiustoothbrush.com.
Timberland’s latest boots, the Earthkeepers 2.0 ($160), are upping the company’s eco-cred. Instead of tossing these boots when they’re worn out, they’re designed to be disassembled and recycled. In fact, the boots are 80% recyclable and include "Green Rubber" soles made from tire waste that are designed to be remolded into usable rubber. And be warned: The company’s online ad, in which a hiker falls off a cliff, is stung by bees, knocked over by a tree and attacked by eagles, suggests that if you don’t wear Earthkeepers, "Nature might get you back." —Brita Belli
CONTACT: Timberland Earthkeepers, www.timberland.com/earthkeepers/index.jsp.
OIL IT UP
Sweet Grass Farm’s new Farmhouse All-Purpose Surface Cleanser ($6.95, 26 oz.) can pretty much clean anything. Use this all-natural, 100% biodegradable spray to clean windows, walls, woodwork, tiles, fixtures and more. Made from a mixture of pure essential oils, the cleanser won’t leave your house smelling like chlorine and chemicals. Instead, choose from four of their naturally light and fresh-smelling fragrances including herb blossom, lavender, white lilac and lemon verbena. The natural antibacterial properties found in essential oils fight off germs and bacteria without the toxic residues. —K.O.
CONTACT: Sweet Grass Farm, (603) 766-1651, www.sweetgrassonline.com.
T-SHIRTS IN ACTION
Announce your intention to "buy local" or "carpool" with the purchase of a We Add Up T-shirt. Made from organic cotton, these hip, hand-printed T-shirts advocate taking action against climate change. Each shirt has a unique number printed on the front, indicating how many people have committed to taking a stand against global warming. Shirts range from $22-$25, with $1-$3 of each T-shirt sold donated to a nonprofit partner specifically committed to the action of that T-shirt’s message. This fall, the company is working with over 100 schools on fundraising efforts where schools keep a 15% commission on shirt sales while raising environmental awareness. —K.O.
CONTACT: We Add Up, www.weaddup.com.
LUNCH BAG, REVISITED
Bamboo, the fastest growing plant on earth, only takes 59 days to grow back after a 60-foot cut, regenerates without replanting, and doesn’t need chemicals to grow. That’s why New Wave Enviro‘s 100% Bamboo Lunch Bag is a sustainable choice.The green bamboo fabric is super soft, but also strong and durable. It’s also naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic, big enough to fit a hardy meal, but flexible and small enough for easy storage and travel. —K.O.
CONTACT: New Wave Envrio, (800)592-8371, www.newwaveenviro.com.
WEEDING OUT THE TRUTH
The technical definition of a weed is "a plant out of place." But who determines the place and what belongs there? Why is a cacophony of color welcome when cultivated but otherwise considered unsightly? In A Weed by Any Other Name (Beacon Press, $23.95), author Nancy Gift offers a season-by-season meditation on the plants we call weeds, sharing her professional knowledge as a weed specialist, her fond memories of wild flora on her childhood playgrounds, and her sometimes contradictory approaches to them on her own suburban property.
Gift is the acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and refers often to Carson’s teachings—and to the campaigns waged by chemical companies to disparage the famous naturalist’s ideas. Gift writes, "though I am deeply skeptical of pesticides in general, I believe Rachel Carson advocated limiting—not eliminating—pesticide use." Gift reluctantly uses Roundup to eradicate a patch of poison ivy, seeing no other means of its removal that won’t subject someone to its rashy wrath. But she also goes into detail about the dangers of this common herbicide, calling to task its maker, Monsanto, and the government, for not requiring companies to reveal the contents and dangers of their products" "inert" ingredients, one of which is deadly to amphibians.
Gift doesn’t rally for everyone to transform their lawns into vegetable gardens or let them sprout into mini-prairies. But she does urge homeowners, gardeners and anyone with land to scape to view weeds in light of all the ecological services they provide—soaking up storm water, reducing greenhouse gases, preventing soil erosion, absorbing ground contaminants, as messengers about soil quality, and as a food source for wildlife, honeybees and even ourselves—recipes for rose hip tea, dandelion wine and wild garlic pesto included. —Jessica Rae Patton
SPEAKING TO SKEPTICS
In What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate (Pe
nguin Group, $14.95), author Greg Craven, a high school science teacher, tackles the question of how to deal with global warming skeptics. He does not just address the scientific facts and myths, but also dissects what it is about the global warming debate that causes so many citizens to turn a deaf ear. "Climate change plays right to the weak spot of our brains" alarm systems: It is impersonal, amoral, and seemingly distant and gradual," he writes.
From there, Craven provides readers with ideas on how to rise above the "shouting match" and construct a solid argument. Chapter topics include assessing credibility and potential risk and acknowledging the uncertainty of science. Craven examines the debate from all angles, pointing out that it may never be fully settled but concludes that taking action against climate change "clearly offers a better chance of safeguarding our future."
The topic might be serious, but Craven’s delivery is lighthearted and easy to digest, often complimented by his diagrams and illustrations. He honed his skills after creating the 10-minute YouTube hit "The Most Terrifying Video You"ll Ever See," and followed up with a series of videos on global warming that addressed critics" points. The thorough research shines through: For every argument, be it economic, scientific or political, Craven has a counterpunch. —Julie Karceski
CHANGE FOR THE GREENER
Vanessa Farquharson, author of Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days (Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, $13.95), spent an entire year making one eco-friendly improvement to her life every day. The changes ranged from the big (selling her car, unplugging her fridge) to the small (giving up drinking straws, picking up litter) to the more unusual (using vinegar as a shampoo substitute—"I reeked like a fish-and-chips shack.") All are hilariously documented in her book, which examines the degree of difficulty involved in going green.
She admits to a certain level of snobbery towards environmentalists at the start of her adventure, but by the end of the first month, she had joined their ranks. Farquharson approached her sacrifices with humor and an open mind, and at the end retained 271 of her 366 changes. A few things were just too hard to give up (the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, shaving her legs), but many adjustments she found much easier to maintain. One fun tip: always order ice cream in a cone, rather than a paper cup. —J.K.