Light up the Holidays

Candles create atmosphere at the holidays, but can also fill the air with harmful chemicals. Way Out Wax, based in Vermont, produces all-natural candles from vegan soy wax and pure essential oils, including lavender and sage. If you don’t want to cook at Thanksgiving, you should choose Cozy Home, which smells like pumpkin pie. If your living room features a fake Christmas tree, your choice is Northern Forest, which smells like spruce. Sweet Dreams contains lavender, lemongrass and marjoram to help relieve the stress of the holidays. These nontoxic soy candles come in cobalt blue glass containers and convenient travel tins for holidays on the go ($3.99 to $17.99). —Kathleen O"Neill

CONTACT: Way Out Wax, (888)727-1903,

Global Art to Go

Feel good about purchases on Novica. com, where holiday gift-giving directly supports the livelihoods of indigenous artists and artisans in developing countries around the world. In association with National Geographic, Novica serves as an online arts agent for more than 1,700 artists producing masks, weavings, oil paintings, carvings, jewelry, hand-sewn clothing and a host of items for the home. Online shoppers can peruse photographs of 8,500 items for sale, and read about the artists who created each piece. Choose among ornately carved chess sets from Bali, lacquered boxes from Thailand, pashmina shawls from India and Ashanti throne stools from Ghana. Artists set their own prices, and the items are packaged and shipped from overseas Novica offices. —Kathleen M. Mangan

CONTACT: Novica, (877)266-8422,

Planet-Friendly Pooches

Rover and Fido will enjoy their holidays with chew toys made of bouncy and buoyant Orbee-Tuff from Planet Dog. The vintage holiday tree bulbs made from the doggie-durable material are available in red, green and glow-in-the-dark colors. They feature a treat hole for stuffing holiday leftovers to entertain dogs for hours. A portion of every purchase goes to the Planet Dog Foundation supporting canine service programs. ($9.99) —K.M.

CONTACT: Planet Dog, (800)381-1516,

Organic Fragrances

A whiff of jasmine or a hint of violet adds romance to a special evening, and now organic perfumes ensure scents can be worn by even chemically sensitive women. Nature’s Gate Organics has created a new line of phthalate-free, certified organic perfumes from certified organic alcohol infused with flower, citrus and plant essences. The three light-yet-complex scents in the Fragranza collection are presented in Italian frosted-glass spray bottles. Labrinto combines cucumber, white freesia, violet and rose; Presento mixes jasmine, sandalwood and clementine; and Sicuro incorporates grapefruit zest, lily and orange flower (1.6 ounces, $39.99). —K.O.N.

CONTACT: Nature’s Gate, (800)327-2012,

Organics for Men too

Any guy will tell you that it’s hard to keep a straight face when a razor is being dragged across it. Luckily, the new Men’s Stock shaving products by Aubrey Organics are not only vegan and animal-cruelty free, they naturally protect against skin irritation. The face scrub, shave cream, aftershave balm and aftershave contain flaxseed lignan extract to prevent razor burn, witch hazel to tighten pores, and oat protein and organic aloe vera to soothe and hydrate. Manly scents include Spice Island, North Woods and City Rhythms. A gift set with six-ounce shave cream and four-ounce aftershave is $14.95. —Curtiss Martin

CONTACT: Aubrey Organics, (800) 282-7394,

Th!nk Globally, Groove Locally

Forget Christmas carols
the World Music Network has a new label, Th!nk Global, which aims to "combine the ideals of reducing poverty, defending human rights and protecting the environment." The label has partnered with Amnesty International and Oxfam to produce its first two releases. West Africa Unwired is an excellent compilation of West African music often using traditional acoustic instruments to play both new compositions and ancient harmonies. The percussion and rhythm in this album will have your feet and hips up and dancing. Another compilation, Bellydance, presents musicians from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Morocco who each bring their own cultural style to the music. ($18.75; album CD cases are 100 percent recycled material.) —Shannon Huecker

CONTACT: Riverboat Records/World Music Network, (011 )44-020-7498-5252,

A Pot of Tea and Thee

On a dark winter night, curl up by the fire with a steaming mug of Sassafras tea. These loose-leaf, herb-infused teas are caffeine-free, and have names like Cold Shoulder and Shush. "I buy certified organic and wild-crafted herbs whenever I can," says owner Christa Gardner. Sassafras teas are packed in reusable metal tins that brew about 50 cups ($12 to $14). The company also sells discounted refills and tea infusers. Gardner says tea is something to put on the table and enjoy, adding that it is "good medicine." —Adrian Larose

CONTACT: Sassafras, (206)508-1111,

New Year Mindfulness

Enhance New Year’s resolutions with an aromatherapy-diffusing necklace from the Jeffery David Collection. The Genie Bottle pendant is made of sterling silver with a hinged top to insert a porous wick scented with essential oil into the lacework chamber. Choose lavender/ rosemary for calming; lime/mandarin/ bergamot for centering, lemon/cedar/ ginger for uplifting; and pine/cedar/juniper for energizing. Associate the scent with your secret wish so every time you notice the aroma, the thought will come to your consciousness. This is an excellent way to practice mindfulness. (The pendant, one inch tall, is $40; the essential oils are $7 to $11.) —K.M.

CONTACT: Earth Solutions, (404)347-9900,; Jeffrey David Collection, (866)783-6565,

Let it Snow!

Cruise in style on the snowy hills this winter. Camden Toboggan Company makes the Cadillac of snow sliders in its Maine wood shop. Handcrafted from native ash, these toboggans range in size from the six-foot coupe to the 10-foot party wagon. They have stainless-steel fastenings and plenty of padding for hard landings following a high jump on the mountain. With production holding at 40 to 50 toboggans per season, this isn’t a globalized conglomerate, but Camden says that’s exactly the idea. Each heirloom-quality toboggan is individually numbered. Flying in the face of conventional business models, this company believes quality, craftsmanship and a

personal relationship with the customer are good reasons to ignore Henry Ford’s mass production mandate. The toboggans are $250 to $350. —S.H.

CONTACT: Camden Toboggan Company, (203)236-6680,

Warmth all Winter

As the cold weather sets in, some short-haired dogs may need a sweater to brave snowy walks. Chilly Dog all-natural sweaters are handmade in a high mountain village in Ecuador where the indigenous people tend the sheep, sheer the wool, spin it into yarn, dye it with natural dyes, and hand knit sweaters in a host of colors and designs. Choose among patterns like lightning bolts, daisies and rugby stripes, and among styles such as Irish cable knit, and sweaters with turtlenecks or hoods. They are featured in eight sizes to fit the smallest pocket poodle to greyhounds. Purchasing these artisanal fair-trade sweaters supports an entire indigenous community and its traditional lifestyle. ($30 to $60) —K.M.

CONTACT: Chilly Dog, (215)354-0505,


A Tribute to Galen

"I take my photographs from that emotional feeling within me, rather than from an emotional distance as a spectator," said world-famous photographer Galen Rowell. It is this approach to photography that allows the reader to step into and truly experience the landscapes in Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Sierra Club Books, $50). Rowell’s photographs are not merely images of dazzling places, but records of dynamic moments, where nature seems to intentionally oblige the camera. It is as if Rowell communicated with the mountains, moons and wildlife, and they happily complied with his choreography.

Rowell, adventurer, naturalist, photographer and writer, was killed with his wife in a plane crash in 2002. The Sierra Club, with help from his family and colleagues, has compiled this book of journal entries and 175 incredible photographs to commemorate his life. —Shannon Huecker

One Love, One Heart, One Planet

One Planet: A Celebration of Biodiversity by Nicholas Hulot (Abrams, $55) is a provocative collection of photographs from around the globe. The photographers capture the magnificence of eight ecosystems and the diversity of living species found within each. Some pictures are stirringly beautiful; others are gripping images of the dramatic effect human activities have on natural systems. Each photograph is explained by a caption that details what the reader is seeing, and often how that species or ecosystem is threatened. This book is fantastic for lovers of photography, nature or travel, and reminds us how strange beauty can be on One Planet. —S.H.

Sometimes a River

In Rivers of America (Abrams, $40), Tim Palmer urges the reader, through images and words, to recognize the significance and beauty of the rivers and streams of America, and to connect with what he calls "a life-force of great importance." As Palmer explains what rivers have meant to him in his life, he also explores why they’re important to America—both to our threatened ecosystems and to society as a whole. Palmer’s vibrant photographs capture the energy and spirit of the rivers that bring them to life. Rivers of America will captivate fans of photography and nature, and remind the reader of the natural beauty that still exists in the U.S. —S.H.

A Shot Heard "Round the World

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has transformed the climate change debate. As the film became an unexpected hit, those of us struggling to gain traction on this issue suddenly found a more congenial atmosphere for our message. Like the film, the book (Rodale, $21.95) presents challenging scientific information in a particularly accessible way, and leavens its message with personal anecdotes from the former Vice President’s life. The book’s graphic presentation is appealing, which makes quite a contrast to the usual peer-reviewed data in science journals. If you’re already immersed in the literature, you won’t learn anything new here. But if you think global warming is a minor annoyance likely to impact humanity at some vague future date, here’s your starting point. —Jim Motavalli

Future of Solar Power

Travis Bradford, founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, maps out one possible future for energy in his new book Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry (The MIT Press, $24.95). Bradford explains that solar facilities can benefit our pocketbooks as well as the Earth. He claims that it will soon be cost-effective for cities to be powered via the sun, allowing us to put fossil fuels in the past.

While the book is a bit technical, even a solar-novice can learn plenty about the past and present of solar energy, and what may be in store for the future. —Kathleen O"Neill

Coaled Hearted

Few people are aware that over half of the electricity consumed in America comes from coal, or that burning coal accounts for 40 percent of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. Jeff Goodell‘s Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin, $25.95) addresses the misconceptions, and the mysteries, about America’s coal usage. The coal industry received high praise from Cheney’s Energy Policy Development Group, including a call for 1,900 new power plants. President Bush called coal our "economic destiny," ignoring American Lung Association estimates that coal has killed 72,000 Americans in the last three years, more than AIDS, murder or drugs. Big Coal brings some of these dirty secrets to life, and answers questions few have thought to ask: "Where exactly is all this coal? Is it anywhere near the power plants that burn it? Are there big differences in quality? How expensive will it be to get it out of the ground? How dangerous? What will America look like when we’re finished mining it?" —S.H.

Winging It

Brutus Ostling, an international award-winning photographer, is obsessed with capturing images revealing the secret life of birds. He has spent weeks sitting in blinds nearly drifted over with snow, crouched for days on blistering hot black sand, and trekked through dense jungle swamps to search for rare birds and photograph them at extraordinary moments when the light and the action combine to create art in motion. Between the Wingtips: The Secret Life of Birds (Collins, $34.95) presents 140 images by Ostling, accompanied by text written by noted ornithologist Magnus Ullman. Both hard-core birders and nature lovers will appreciate this stunning book. —Kathleen M. Mangan

Rings around Saturn

Saturn: A New View is a collection of 150 spectacular, other-worldly photographs and new information picked up by the Cassini spacecraft and Huygens probe. Among the incredible discoveries is that Saturn’s a

tmosphere is brilliant blue in the northern hemisphere and yellow in the southern hemisphere; Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has mountains of frozen water carved by rivers of natural gas; and Enceladus, another moon, has subsurface lakes of heated water that could potentially support life. Saturn’s rings, 10 football fields wide, is made up of particles that travel 15 times faster than a rifle bullet. This book by Laura Lovett, Joan Horvath and Jeff Cuzzi (Abrams, $40) fosters a sense of appreciation for, and awe of, the universe we live in. —S.H.