THE SOPHISTICATED SHOPPING BAG
There are a lot of reusable grocery bags, but few have the style or sturdiness of the JP Monkey bag ($25). These are the sophisticated shopper’s shopping bags, with understated colors—rusts, mauves, olive greens and chocolate browns—and upholstery-thick fabric in chenille, stripes and florals. With reinforced handles and a rigid insert at the bottom of the bag to keep it level, this is the bag to stuff your other reusable bags into. —Brita Belli
CONTACT: JP Monkey.
Designers Beth Doane and Bethany Armstrong merged their passions for fashion and international conservation to create the Andira Rain Tee collection. They asked children living in endangered rainforests to illustrate what they saw happening around them. Each T-shirt, handmade in Peru of 100% organic cotton and eco-friendly inks and dyes, features one of these colorful renderings, along with the countries and names of the artists. Adult tees and tanks range from $34-$38; children’s shirts are $32. For each piece sold, Kids Saving the Rainforest participants receive a tree to plant in an area threatened by deforestation. Rain Tees are available at www.greenloop.com and www.econsciousmarket.com. —Jessica Rae Patton
Beadforlife, a nonprofit jewelry company, provides colorful eco-savvy beads (120-140 beads, $12), necklaces ($10-$30), bracelets ($5- $15) and earrings ($10) made from recycled paper by women in Uganda. Each piece varies in length, color and design, but the bold colors are sure to make a statement. Beadforlife is dedicated to ending poverty in Uganda by investing all profits into community projects geared toward health, education and housing. —Brooke Neuman
Raw Indulgence provides raw organic food products, including the Raw Revolution live food bar, made with 100% organic ingredients. Raw foods are kept close to their natural state without processed additives. The company’s raw, vegan and kosher food bars contain natural ingredients such as sprouted flax seeds and come in 10 tasty flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough and tropical mango. The product line is available at Whole Foods, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market and the Vitamin Shoppe, as well as on the company website. —B.N.
CONTACT: Raw Revolution
When greening one’s cleaning supplies, the absence of heavy scents long associated with housework may literally be a breath of fresh air. But if you like a little perfume with your products, Ecover delivers both dirt-decimating power and a strong, clean-smelling, plant-based scent. Ecover Ecological Bathroom Cleaner (16 oz., $5.47) comes in a foaming spray. It works well on mildew, soap scum and general bathroom grunge and leaves a brisk lavender scent behind. Sunny Day Fabric Softener (32 oz., $5.98) leaves laundry a bit softer and with a nice, flowery fragrance we’ve admittedly missed since switching to a natural detergent.—J.R.P.
YOUR INNER JOHNNY APPLESEED
Arbor Day is the last Friday in April—the 24th this year. Throw global warming some shade by supporting one of these organizations in their local and international tree-planting efforts:
Trees for Life: Since the early 1980s, Trees for Life has helped people in developing countries plant and learn how to tend fruit trees. As the trees provide food, shade, shelter for animals, counter soil erosion and oxygenate the air, they are truly “a gift that grows.” A $10 donation provides the, ahem, seed money to plant 10 trees.
Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is the go-to source for all things tree- and shrub-related. Just a few ways to participate: gift trees; trees in memory; and Give-a-Tree cards and e-cards, the purchase of which support reforesting in U.S. National Forests.
The National Resources Defense Council: Through the NRDC’s Revive a Rainforest Campaign, your $10 donation will plant a tree in Costa Rica’s Turrialba region.The goal: 20,000 new trees in a protected sanctuary area.
Trees for the Future: Known as the “miracle tree,” Moringa is a vitamin-rich, sustainable food for humans and animals. Trees for the Future offers kits for growing your own Moringa indoors or as an outdoor annual. And, half of your $50 donation will plant 250 of these trees in Haiti, Senegal or Ethiopia.
CONTACT: www.treesftf.org. —J.R.P.
What We Leave Behind (Seven Stories, $24.95) is the kind of direct, unflinching, personal writing that you’d expect from a memoir about a harrowing childhood, not one about the state of the planet, or what happens to waste. The question of waste, in fact, drives the book—from the correct positioning when one is actually “taking a dump in the woods’ to ubiquitous plastic—”almost everywhere” now, including, authors Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay note, the oceans, the land, the air, Mount Everest, breast milk, frogs…you get the idea. The U.S., these authors tell us, produces 300 billion pounds of plastic a year. The directness of the storytelling and of the horrific vision they lay out is both depressing, and, oddly, comforting. Because this is not a book to pat you on the back and say, “Good for you for using a reusable water bottle, for planting a garden on your roof, for choosing paper with recycled content…” as so many green tips books do. This is a book about choosing sides—our destructive, compartmentalized culture or the future of planet Earth. The mining chapter alone, with its visions of how just one dam break in Romania filled with cyanide pollution killed everything in its path, river to river, should bring us to outrage. How cyanide-laced spills have destroyed drinking water and farmland in Montana and Colorado, thanks to wealthy mine owners who live elsewhere, undisturbed. Regarding these capitalists, the authors are blunt: “I hate those who are poisoning the planet…” they write, “who are poisoning members of my family, who are poisoning me. I hate them, and I will stop them from killing the planet. Who will join me?” —Brita Belli
DOG’S EYE VIEW
Kathryn Miles is a great writer. From page one, this sets Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, a Leash, & Our Year Outdoors (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95) above the pack of everything-I-know-about-life-I-learned-from-my-dog memoirs out there. Her premise is to see her world anew through the light-blue eyes of her shelter mutt adoptee, Ari, during their daily walks. This may seem a mundane proposal, and some of the scenarios are well known (and well worn) to anyone who has welcomed a dog (especially a puppy) into their home—books are chewed, floors are soiled, dead creatures are ecstatically rolled upon, dogs reeking of death are bathed, and bathed, and bathed, the peace of other animal companions is disrupted. The twist is that Miles is a naturalist by trade, a professor of environmental writing at Unity College in Maine, or as it bills itself, “America’s Environmental College.” She is no couch potato using the tethered energy of her young dog to get outdoors for the first time; rather, she decides to take this opportunity to see her well-explored and -recorded world through the new eyes (and keen nose, and closer-to-the-ground) perspective of her pup. She refers to theirs as “caninaturalist” romps, and writes about these adventures—and how she invariably applies them to life among her two-legged friends and family members—with humor, skill and beauty, becoming herself the reader’s guide to a freshly discovered rural world. —Jessica Rae Patton
Journalist Stephan Faris reports on the crisis of global warming from the perspective of one who has traveled extensively, specializing in writing about the developing world. In his work for Time, Fortune, The Atlantic Monthly and others he realized that many of the stories he covered had a common and surprising factor—the far-reaching and immediate effects of climate change. In Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley (Henry Holt and Company, $25), Faris reports on the disturbing alliances forming in Europe between environmentalists and anti-immigration groups; the emergence in Brazil due to deforestation of new diseases and redistribution of older ones; how hurricanes—and insurance companies—are changing the demographics of the Gulf Coast; the impact of hotter summers on the wine industry on the west coast; the impact of water shortages on the political climate in India and Pakistan; and the land grab taking place in the Arctic, posing a host of political and environmental problems. The stories in Forecast are far-flung, and that’s the point: Faris succeeds in conveying, with great urgency, that global warming has already and will continue to affect our planet and its inhabitants in ways beyond which most people can comprehend—but that we must, and immediately. —J.R.P.
A NORTHERN WARNING
The term “peak oil” is often at the center of current energy concerns, especially as oil companies in the U.S. and abroad search for its replacement. A desperate solution lies close at hand: bitumen, a molasses-like substance found in Canada’s tar sands. Award-winning author and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk sheds light and warning on the bitumen industry in Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (Greystone Books, $15.95).
As Nikiforuk suggests, the era of “clean” oil is coming to an end, making room for the dirtiest—bitumen—to be harvested. The extraction of bitumen from the vast acres of sand in Alberta uses and wastes immense amounts of water, natural gas and soil. Yet, at the heart of Nikiforuk’s scathing criticism of petropolitics are the social and environmental injustices, turning the surrounding community into “a carbon storm and the planet’s third-largest watershed into a petroleum garbage dump.” The shocking claims and evidence against the bitumen industry are not meant as a scare tactic but rather a call for collective movement, led by the author’s insightful “Twelve Steps to Energy Sanity.” —Alexandra Gross
ECO BEDTIME STORIES
All too often, environmental-themed children’s books forsake storytelling for message-heavy tales, especially if they are of the lesson-oriented, nonfiction variety. Two new picture-book offerings succeed in not only educating young readers about a particular topic but also in doing so with storytelling success. What’s So Bad About Gasoline?: Fossil Fuels and What They Do (Collins, $5.99) by Anne Rockwell is the latest in the HarperCollins “Let”s-Read-and-Find-Out Science” book series. Rockwell has some 100 children’s titles to her credit, and her experience is evident in her deft, lyrical handling of a topic as broad as the origins, history, production, uses and societal and environmental effects of petroleum and coal. The fact-filled text is well-matched by Paul Meisel’s playful, detailed illustrations.
In Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life (The Blue Sky Press, $16.99), Caldecott Honor recipient Molly Bang and ecology professor Penny Chisholm describe the process of photosynthesis with poetic aplomb. Living Sunlight reads like a love letter from the sun, or a guided meditation for the K-3 set. “Listen to me. Do this one thing: Lay your hand over your heart, and feel,” it begins. “Feel your heart pump, pump, and pump. Feel how warm you are. This is my light, alive in you.” This book begs to be read aloud, with questions before page turns, fun use of onomatopoeia and gorgeous gouache illustrations. —J.R.P.
All’s Well that Reads Well
Bart Potenza came up with the title of his new book, Look Two Ways on a One-Way Street (Lantern Books, $17.00), long before an incident in which he didn’t take his own advice—and was hit by a car. He thought it was a cute metaphor for the unpredictable conditions of life until his foot was run over. In fact, the restaurateur has been coining aphorisms and posting them in his famed New York City vegetarian eateries, The Candle Café and Candle 79, for over 20 years. Being struck on a one-way street drove home (pun intended) the message and provided a great overall theme for this pocket-size collection of positive quips, musings and reminders. Some stand-outs: “Don’t dwell on your imperfections. We all have them. Dwell on what’s swell!”; “Complaining is not a conversation. Change the subject.”; “There’s no point being mean to people who don’t mean anything to you.”; “When you feel left out, use it as an opportunity to enjoy the freedom of your own company.”; “When you rest, you manifest.”; and “If you want a piece of the pie, you may have to bake it yourself.” At $17.00, the book’s pricey for its petite size but, as is stated on the back cover, the cost “reflects Lantern’s commitment to using recycled paper.” And the bite-size advice inside is priceless. —J.R.P.