Did you know that burning candles can be harmful to your health? In 2001, the American Lung Association issued a warning that candles might cause poor indoor air quality, which can damage home interiors and aggravate respiratory illnesses. Many candle manufacturers and retailers don’t even disclose the hazardous compounds that often lurk in their products, from heavy metals to synthetic toxins. Now, natural products leader Aveda has created a candle made from 100 percent natural beeswax and pure plant and flower ingredients that are not harmful to your health. Aveda Plant Pure-Fume Candles ($16 each) contain no petroleum-derived or paraffin ingredients, synthetic aromas or artificial dyes (which are commonly used to create a rainbow of candle colors by conventional makers). They burn very well and help set a calming mood. —Stephanie White
CONTACT: Aveda, (866)823-1425, www.aveda.com.
ALL FUELED UP
This tasty snack won’t leave you ridden with feelings of guilt for indulging. Fuel Natural Endurance Bars from Natural Emphasis are certified organic and made with quality ingredients such as whole hemp and pumpkin seeds, rice crisps, coconut and honey. The energy-boosting bars include five grams of protein as well as calcium, iron and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. They have no preservatives or added sugar and boast of being gluten- and dairy-free. Fuel Bars come in chocolate crunch, apple caramel and chocolate espresso varieties as well as "fun sizes." They are sold in a growing number of natural food markets in the U.S. (for $1.75) and Canada. —Divya Abhat
CONTACT: Fuel Natural Endurance Bars, (888)476-5543, www.fuelbars.com.
COOKING MADE EASY
Compassionate Cooks" new 69-minute DVD treats audiences to a variety of vegan dishes from egg-free "egg salad" to chocolate chip cookies, from vegetable stir-fry with peanut sauce to harvest-stuffed acorn squash. Compassionate Cooks is a California-based nonprofit organization aimed at providing information about vegetarianism through its cooking classes, humane education workshops and supermarket tours. Founder Coleen Patrick-Goudreau says she wants to give people the tools and resources required to prevent disease and optimize health. The video, hosted by Patrick-Goudreau and Alka Chandna, is full of tidbits of practical information that will enhance anyone’s cooking career. The video’s focus is not only on learning vegetarian recipes and cooking methods, but also providing basic nutritional information. Additional features include frequently asked questions about vegetarian dining and "Thinking Outside the Crate: Farm Sanctuary’s First 15 Years," a short piece narrated by Six Feet Under actor James Cromwell. The DVD ($20) also provides an introduction to meat analogs, dairy substitutes and other vegan products available in grocery stores. —D.A.
CONTACT: Compassionate Cooks, (510)531-COOK, www.compassionatecooks.com.
GREEN CLEANING FOR FURNITURE
Howard Products has a solution to your house cleaning nightmares. The company’s new line of synthetic chemical-free cleaners, Howard Naturals Furniture Care Collection, is made of natural, vegetable-derived ingredients such as soy and palm oils. The products are scented with essential oils and are kid and pet safe. The company claims they clean as well as conventional brands, but without the harsh chemicals. The Howard Naturals line includes Wood Cleaner and Polish, Wood Preserver and Upholstery Cleaner (all three for $52), and each is available in three refreshing fragrances: lavender-bergamot, sandalwood-tangerine and vanilla-patchouli. —Kate Slomkowski
CONTACT: Howard Naturals, (800)266-9545, www.howardnaturals.com.
HOLD THE PUMICE, PLEASE!
Environmental etiquette doesn’t have to evaporate on chore day. From greasy grills and stubborn grout to peeling paint and willful pool tiles, Earthstone‘s suite of Earth-conscious cleaning blocks will help you tackle any tough cleaning job with Mother Earth in mind. Instead of harsh chemicals, the company uses recycled glass to replicate and outperform the abrasive qualities of natural pumice, which must be mined, leaving a toxic trail of environmental damage. The company’s PureClean packs quite a punch on dirty dishes and porcelain, and it doesn’t absorb bacteria. For the backyard, try GrillStone or PoolStone for faster, scratch-free cleansing. Need to smooth drywall or sand a deck? QuikSand or PowerSand last 10 times longer than sandpaper, Earthstone says. Prices range from $2.99 to $5.99 per block and from $13.20 to $46.80 for multi-packs. —Tamsyn Jones
CONTACT: Earthstone International, (888)994-6327, www.goearthstone.com.
BAD MEDICINE FOR ANIMALS?
At the turn of the 20th century there were nearly 100,000 tigers roaming the Indian continent, but today only 5,000 remain. In 1970, 65,000 black rhinos wandered across East Africa, and today only 2,500 remain. These sharp declines, according to Richard Ellis" book Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine (Island Press, $26.95), are not due solely to habitat loss. Ellis digs deep into the roots of the impending endangered species crisis and illuminates a little known back-door threat: Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ellis" extensive research gives us the inside story on the black market endangered species trade. Tiger-bone wine or soup is thought to increase sexual stamina, and ground rhino horn is prescribed for everything from headache and toothache to infertility and fevers. "I wanted to sound the alarm," says Ellis. "If the necessary steps are not taken quickly, we will lose forever some of the most charismatic animals on Earth." —Shauna Dineen
SEARCHING FOR PANTHERS
"One of the most alluring things about nature, aside from its ability to constantly surprise, is that nobody who loves wildlife and the woods lives long enough to see everything," Bob Butz writes in his book Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma (The Lyons Press, $22.95). And so begins the search for an animal that was thought to be eradicated east of the Mississippi decades ago (except for the isolated Florida panther). When signs of the great cat appear in Butz’s Michigan backyard, he sets off on a search for truth. Despite numerous eyewitness accounts and controversial evidence, many wildlife officials continue to deny the presence of the cat. However, the animal is known for an uncanny ability to hide in plain sight. Butz records the twists and turns of his hunt for answers on an animal that has sparked heated discussion among skeptics and believers throughout the East. —K.S.
Aliens don’t just live in outer space. They live among us. You walk on them everyday to get to your car; you bake them into your favorite pie. They come up to your window to eat out of your birdfee
der, and you’ve seen kids use them to catch fish in the summer. Aliens in the Backyard (University of South Carolina Press, $29.95) is an eye-opening book by John Leland about plant and animal imports in America. This book challenges common notions of what’s really native. Leland explores the dangers that nonnative species pose to our environment today, and looks closely at their natural history to find out where things went wrong. Prepare to be surprised and intrigued as Leland investigates the evolution of America’s landscape through the eyes of the alien species that have so readily invaded it.—K.S.
NATURE FOR YOUNG ONES
The Kids" Guide to Nature Adventures (Lark Books, $17.95) is a must-have not only for kids, but also for teachers and parents. Bursting with colorful photos and loads of exciting activities, author Joe Rhatigan offers 80 ways to have an adventure in the out-of-doors. Kids will enjoy the games and illustrated activities, teachers will appreciate the creative lesson plans, and parents will see their kids learn about the environment by actively investigating it. Start by following the instructions on how to make your own sleeping bag, then learn how to plan the perfect hike. Take a closer look at how a stream works after you study ants. Perfect your animal calls until it gets dark enough to decode the mystery of the constellations. With its colorful format and easy-to-follow instructions, this book is the perfect addition to any child’s backpack. —K.S.
A GUIDE FOR THE NEW CORPORATION
John Abrams" advice on building a small business is quite straightforward. It comes down to the belief that a company serving the needs of the people, the community and the environment is guaranteed long-lasting success. In The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community and Place (Chelsea Green Publishing, $27.50), Abrams walks his readers through his experiences in forging South Mountain Company, a small residential building and design firm on Martha’s Vineyard. The book is full of personal anecdotes, and it includes guides to the eight established cornerstone principles that helped nurture the company over the years. These include the need to cultivate workplace democracy, stress on "people conservation" and the practice of community entrepreneurism. This memoir can be useful to organizations everywhere that appreciate that bigger isn’t always better, money isn’t always the endgame and true success comes from the meaningful work of dedicated people. —D.A.
Children have always enjoyed ownership: Whether the coveted object is a jackknife or an Ipod, a child’s urge to acquire is nothing new. What’s changed is the degree to which children are consumed by materialism. In Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner, $25), Harvard social economist Juliet B. Schor analyzes the consequences. She reports that children now spend five times as many hours shopping as playing outside. Corporate marketers have craftily nurtured this obsession, using sophisticated tools to manipulate children’s desires. Further, corporations aiming to squelch youthful environmental concerns provide schools with propaganda disguised as curricula. For instance, Schor cites American Coal Foundation materials telling children that the "Earth could benefit rather than be harmed from increased carbon dioxide." A curriculum on handling garbage describes incinerating plastics as "recycling." Schor’s scholarly study of 300 children found that rather than feeling powerful, children fixated on shopping are more likely than others to feel anxious or depressed. Could it be that the consumer culture fails to deliver? —Cathy Shufro
"Humane education" is an approach to teaching that aims to inspire in young people sensitivity for other people, the environment and all living creatures. Its goals include ending oppression, hate and destruction, and teaching children to be critical thinkers. It tries to inspire reverence and respect, and promotes creative responses to situations the media poses as either-or. Zoe Weil‘s book The Power and Promise of Humane Education (New Society Publishers, $15.95) is an inspiring volume that should be on every teacher’s reading list. This book describes the key elements of humane education and offers inspiring stories, concrete examples and sample lesson plans. This thought-provoking book is aimed at changing the way young people look at the world. —K.S.
SAFE FOR BABY
Child-proofing your home is a difficult task. Some parents may not even know where to begin. Get going with The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, $14.95). The book is endorsed by many top safety and health professionals and recently won the 2004 National Parenting Publications" Gold Award. Author Debra Smiley Holtzman—of the Discovery Health Channel’s Make Room for a Baby—didn’t miss a beat. She covers just about every possible issue dealing with child safety. This "how to" guide provides new parents with an in-depth explanation on protecting children from dangers. Some of the numerous topics included are preparing for emergencies, food safety, environmental hazards and choosing a daycare facility. Holtzman’s thoroughness is continued in the appendices, which list pages of helpful resources. —Jennifer Lucich
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE
The blunders and wonders of field work are recounted in 38 tales edited by Jennifer Bove, in which an Alaskan mountain goat perches in a ship’s galley and marmots eat through car engine wires. The Back Road to Crazy: Stories from the Field (University of Utah Press, $19.95) is an anthology of stories from every climate, and the extraordinary nature of the field work is the common denominator. Authors endure ice cold water and snapping coyotes in the name of science. Bove’s collection reminds those who have taken part in field work of those "moments" that could be experienced in no other job. The book is also entertaining for those who have not had the honor (or horror) of being subjected to the random surprises that field work brings. —Jennifer Veilleux