ALL IN THE FAMILY
Three million diapers pour into U.S. landfills each year, where they will likely linger for over a century. Nature Boy and Girl offers an environmentally minded alternative. It uses less raw materials than conventional diapers and its product is 70 percent compostable, thanks to the waterproof, breathable cornstarch-based backsheet that completely degrades in only 45 days. That doesn’t affect the diapers’ performance, though. Independent lab tests demonstrate the diapers have superior absorption speed, capacity, wicking ability and dryness when compared to major brands. Bags of 20 to 30 diapers, depending on the size, retail for about $8.
But why not “pamper” Mom, too? Bella Mama has created a line of natural products especially for pregnant women, that are lanolin-, petroleum- and chemical-free. Sunflower seed oil-based pregnant belly oil, foot salts to soothe aching feet and an herbal sitz bath for healing the body after childbirth are three of the six items available individually, or collectively in gift boxes ($29.92 and $49.95).
Tel: (303) 516-0882
Nature Boy and Girl
Tel: (877) NORSEAN
LIKE A FISH IN WATER
Fishing around for a gift for that sportsman in your family? A “fish friendly” tagging kit will provide him or her with an ecologically friendly twist to fishing. Instead of killing the fish and thus depleting the ecosystem, fishermen can tag and release them. If the tagged fish is later recaught, the original tagger will be sent a complete historical report. Furthermore, the information will be added to a national database on migratory patterns, preferred habitats and growth rates for each species, and this will eventually help in effective fishery management. Kits cost $12; refill tags are $5.
Tel: (516) 749-3474
FABRIC OF OUR LIVES
“The touch, the feel” of cotton is much more than a commercial message to the people behind each step of Maggie’s Functional Organics. The fibers for Maggie’s wide array of certified organic cotton items have been cultivated using only sustainable farming methods. Everything—from button-down dress oxfords, t-shirts, camisoles and underwear to aprons, tote bags, baby clothes and bedding—is not only touchably soft, but completely safe for both you and the environment. A longtime supporter of both U.S.- and Peruvian-grown organic cotton and yarn, Maggie’s will soon support a worker-owned sewing cooperative in a hurricane-devastated area of Nicaragua as well. It seems the company’s organic cotton gloves with two-sided grips ($10) have a valuable function far beyond the garden.
Tel: (800) 609-8593
COLOR ME NATURAL
Always wanted to be a natural redhead? Now’s your chance. In Logona Herbal Hair Colors, plant materials like walnut shells, chamomile, roasted acorn, rhubarb root and organically grown henna coat and strengthen each strand of hair, replacing the harsh chemicals in conventional products that attack your tresses. A new-and-improved formula has the added benefit of jojoba and wheat protein to condition hair as it colors. Essential oils are used to nix any harsh smells and algae extract to convert it into an easily applied gel. No synthetics, preservatives or fragrances are used, and each batch is tested to ensure against agricultural chemicals and heavy metals. One 3.5-ounce package ($8) should be enough to color shoulder-length hair.
Tel: (888) 456-4662
PAINT IT ON
Some women would feel naked without color on perfectly manicured fingernails. But many don’t know the true price of painted beauty, according to a recent Environmental Working Group report. The industrial chemical dibutyl phthalate, a potential cause of birth defects, is in about a third of nail polishes now on the market.
Enter Earthly Delights, a non-toxic, water-based nail polish that peels right off for quick, convenient color changes. No solvents like toluene or hardeners like formaldehyde are in these tiny bottles, making the polish appropriate for even children, pregnant women and people with allergies. And there’s no need to sacrifice style, because the company offers metallic, neon, glow-in-the-dark and scented shades ($2). But just in case you’re still applying that conventional polish, you might want to pick up a bottle of Naked Nails, Earthly Delights’ non-toxic, corn- and soy-based polish remover.
Tel: (512) 303-3448
WHAT’S YOUR DAMAGE?
Need extra inspiration to carry out that Earth Day resolution this year? A little number-crunching just might do the trick. The Personal Climate Change Calculator (online at www.americanforests.org) will show just how much carbon dioxide your actions—from driving to work to mowing the lawn—produce over the course of a year. It will then count up the number of trees it would take to pull that greenhouse gas back out of the atmosphere naturally, and take you to the American Forests Global ReLeaf program web page, where you can pay to have them planted in a damaged ecosystem. The cost of offsetting the amount of electricity it would take to heat the average U.S. apartment, for instance, is 12.6 trees, or $13 in planting costs.
According to Arthur Evans and Charles Bellamy, this is not the age of information, or even the computer age. It’s the Age of Insects and, more specifically, the Age of Beetles. With more than 350,000 described species, beetles represent a fourth of all known animal species and surpass humans not only in numbers but also in total mass. In An Inoordinate Fondness for Beetles (University of California Press, $40), these two scientists not only display some of the most spectacular specimens, but also give fascinating accounts of the strange life cycles and morphologies of these often-ignored arthropods.
For an entertaining look at the peculiar species dedicated to bringing insects their overdue glory, treat yourself to Buzzwords (Joseph Henry Press, $24.95). Rightly called the Dave Barry of entomology, May Berenbaum enlightens readers with insect factoids while poking fun good-naturedly at her fellow bug-eyed scholars. Her essays offer a wry take on such topics as the
classification of insect superheroes, the contribution of termites’ intestinal gas to global warming, and modern mosquito repellents (which, according to Berenbaum, would be more effective as an electronic recording announcing the comeback of DDT).
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS
The Resourceful Renovator: A Gallery of Ideas for Reusing Building Materials (Chelsea Green, $24.95) is a showcase of possibilities for both the contractor in a pinch and the homeowner on a budget. Canadian architect Jennifer Corson walks her audience through projects as intimidating as building a greenhouse from aluminum storm windows to small jobs like concocting a coat rack from discarded faucets. No material escapes Corson: wood, metal, stone, brick, glass and ceramics each get their due, with detailed sections outlining their building histories, recyclability, traditional uses and untraditional reuses. Success stories, from an Irish pub to a $1,000 kitchen, punctuate the book, proving it can be done with flair.
If your eyes tear up at the very thought of walking outdoors, Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping (Ten Speed Press, $19.95) should be as close at hand as your Benadryl. There are no clearcut horticultural “goods” and “bads,” says author and gardener Thomas Leo Ogren. He has compiled a veritable encyclopedia of plants, rating the allergen potential of anything you’re likely to encounter on a trip to the nursery or a stroll through the park. Ogren explains in layman’s terms what botanical basics, such as size, shape, color, fragrance and sex, turn a garden from a place of peace into a war zone for itchy eyes. Allergies develop from repeated exposure, he says, and so the best defense to is not to fight offensive plants, but to avoid them altogether. With this book, you’ll be ready to take evasive action.
ECONOMY ON THE RUN
For its carefully documented, well-reasoned debunking of the “growth at any costs” philosophy of the late Julian Simon, Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train by conservation biologist Brian Czech (University of California Press, $22.50) would be worth its cover price. But this relatively short and lucidly written book does more: With many fascinating contemporary references, it gets to the root of the widespread economic belief that a growing economy is always a healthy one. Czech looks at the environmental costs of constant growth, and at the novel theory that natural resources have inherent value. He contrasts the behavior of rich “liquidators” (including, for example, basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, who had a conversation pit lined with the muzzle fur from 17,000 Arctic wolves) with that of conservation-minded “steady staters,” concluding, “Let us roll up our sleeves and solidify the steady state class.”
A SEAT AT THE TABLE
Ann Cooper is a professional chef who does more than just prepare food for hungry customers. “It is my responsibility,” she explains, “to teach the next generation about our food supplies, sustainability and seasonality.” Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What We Can Do about It (Routledge, $29.95) argues that the production and consumption of food must occur in regional, rather than multi-national, contexts. Part exposé, part consumer guidebook, this carefully researched and readable work highlights the connections between the food we eat and the conditions of its production. In doing so, it offers practical advice on how the average shopper can contribute toward both a healthier food supply and a more sustainable environment.
—James E. McWilliams