Repelling Moles, Earth-Friendly Building, and Old-Growth Timber

I have been searching for an environmentally-friendly way to repel moles from my home without killing or harming them. Any suggestions?Elizabeth Powell, Marion, OH

Having moles in your yard is not necessarily detrimental. In fact, moles eat destructive creatures like Japanese beetles and grubs, and aerate the soil by tunneling, bringing subsoil close to the surface, according to Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Critters: A Humane Guide for Confronting Devious Animals and Winning. “Moles themselves do not eat plant matter,” says Neil Roble, managing editor of Gardens Alive!, an earth- friendly gardening mail order catalog. Most likely, plant damage is done by the vegetarian vole, or by mice, says Roble. However, mole tunneling activity can cause significant cosmetic damage to a well-manicured lawn. There are some mole-friendly ways to urge them to take their digging elsewhere. Gardens Alive! sells an eco-friendly spray called Mole-Med. Eight-ounce bottles are good for a 2,500-square-foot application ($9.99). Made from castor beans that you apply directly into mole holes about once every two months, its smell annoys pesky moles, encouraging them to move elsewhere-without harming them. A physical barrier to try: Surround a cherished garden with an underground barrier of compacted soil and stones about one foot wide and two feet deep. A one-foot-high fence will prevent the moles from walking over the barrier.


Gardens Alive!
5100 Schenley Place
Department E
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025
Tel: (812)537-8650

I am an environmentally-aware craftsperson looking for sources of earth-friendly building supplies. What suppliers, either retail or wholesale, could I check out?Rich Duriff, South San Francisco, CA

Chemicals such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), ammonia, acetone and a host of other irritants are used in conventional building and maintenance products. Several craft suppliers sell non-toxic or less-toxic paints, woodworking materials and other finishes, both wholesale and retail, and usually by mail order. American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM) offers water-based, biodegradable paints low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “Our products are for a broad spectrum of people with chemical sensitivities,” says AFM's Jay Watts. “We have eliminated those chemicals which give people problems. Our formulas are a decade ahead of EPA regulations.”

The Sinan Company also offers natural paints, natural resin lacquers, beeswax-based waxes and paint pigments made from plants and minerals. “Ingredients used are nearly all organic,” say Kadife Basir-Dunlap of the Sinan Company. “We use linseed oil, earth pigments and mineral pigments for our compostable paints.” Be prepared however, to pay more for these and other alternative building supplies, due to the higher cost of organic and alternative materials.

Check out Co-Op America's annual Green Pages for other manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of environmentally-friendly craft supplies.


AFM Enterprises
350 West Ash Street, Suite 700
San Diego, CA 92101-3404
Tel: (619)239-0321

Sinan Company
PO Box 857
Davis, CA 95617
Tel: (916)753-3104

Co-Op America
1612 K Street NW, Suite 600
Washington DC 20006
Tel: (202)872-5307.

In your July/August 1997 issue, you mentioned the importance of not buying wood products made from old-growth timber. When I'm buying wood products, how can I tell if it's old-growth or not?Anna Hunt, Sierra Madre, CA

According to Celia Alario of Rainforest Action Network, “Any wood product can be made from old-growth pulp, like toilet paper for instance, and it can be nearly impossible to trace.” Our best bet as consumers, she says, is to force manufacturers to trace their pulp source, and pressure legislators to make this information available. “Our focus is not on old-growth timber, but on sustainably harvested wood,” says Mark Petruzzi of GreenSeal, which awards its approval to products and companies that live up to stringent environmental standards. Several organizations now subject wood distributors and manufacturers to a rigorous certification process, which is entirely voluntary. “Most of the operations we check out have asked us to come in,” says Todd Cater of the Smart Wood Program, sponsored by the Rainforest Alliance. To be certified, the wood must be harvested sustainably, from a well-managed forest. A certified wood product meets international criteria, and should display an emblem, like the Forest Stewardship Council seal.

The Good Wood Alliance also offers a directory of 250 certified companies and recyclers of sustainably harvested products ($15 for non-members).


Good Wood Alliance
PO Box 1525
Burlington, VT 05402
Tel: (802)862-4448

Smart Wood Program, Rainforest Alliance
65 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
Tel: (212) 677-1900