BACK TO SCHOOL
Labor Day is coming, so summer camps are closing and bees are flying in lazier circles on cooler air. The squash season is ending, though apple pie is starting to look like a real possibility, and the kids are outside this morning, waiting for the bus. Perhaps one of the children standing in line holds a hemp backpack, a gift from his eco-conscious parents made by Artisan Gear.
Artisan specializes in bags and accessories made of hemp, chosen for its durability as a fiber and sustainability as a crop. The shoulder bag costs $59, and its dye is made without chlorine bleach or heavy metals. The colors range from indigo to a deep chestnut brown. Also available are hemp wallets ($14), coin pouches ($8), and, for the boarding-school bound, hanging toiletry bags ($39).
Green Earth Office Supply can ensure that the contents of the backpack are as environmentally friendly as the pack itself. Old-school standards are available with a conscious twist: the pens are made of recycled plastic (12 for $7.50), the pencils contain 25 percent shredded currency or denim (six for $31.50), and journal pages are 10 percent banana fiber ($5). For little artists, a set of 36 soybean crayons is $57.60.
Naturally, no back-to-school shopping would be complete without clothes. Garden Kids specializes in organic cotton and hemp clothing for boys and girls between three months and eight years of age. Check out the boy’s pirate T-shirts and pants ($52) or girl’s flower bowl dress ($32). Round Belly’s Eco Sprout Organic Kids Clothes features jumpers ($19 to $45), vests ($9 to $19) and short-sleeved camp shirts ($14 to $30). Round Belly also carries men"s, women’s and maternity ware and can make school uniforms. Older students might check out Grass Roots Natural Goods, which offers a variety of hemp and organic cotton clothes. A woman’s cotton/hemp short sleeve wrap T costs $32, and men’s hemp/wool crewneck sweaters can be had for $49. —Paul Gleason
CONTACT: Artisan Gear, www.artisangear.com, (541)830-4411; Eco Sprout Organic Kids Clothes, (218)851-2133, www.roundbelly.com; Garden Kids Clothing, www.gardenkidsclothing.com; Green Earth Office Supply, (800)327-8449, www.greenearthofficesupply.com; Grass Roots Natural Goods, www.grassrootsnaturalgoods.com.
REDUCE, REUSE, REPRINT
Although 90 percent of printer cartridges are recyclable, only 20 percent end up being reused. Planet Green offers a profitable remedy to that statistic. Send the company your used inkjet or laser cartridges and cell phones; they send you money. Inkjet models bring in as much as $5 a piece, laser cartridges are worth up to $16, and, if you’ve got a particularly fashionable cell phone, you could find yourself $150 richer. Between September 1 and October 31, the organization to send in the most qualifying inkjet cartridges will earn an additional $100.
"It’s a great fundraiser for schools, nonprofits and religious organizations," says Program Director Renee van Staveren. Because Planet Green pays the shipping for inkjet cartridges, the company requires a minimum of 20 at a time. The minimum for cell phones is five, but laser cartridges can be sent in any number.
Another option is offered by The Ribbon Factory, which accepts your old cartridges and returns them full of new ink. The company works with dot matrix, inkjet and laser cartridges, and promises a 40 to 60 percent savings off market prices.
The quality of recycled cartridges used to be marginal, largely because hardware manufacturers use patented inks. Both Planet Green and The Ribbon Factory have solved this problem by allying themselves with manufacturers who produce comparable inks. —P.G.
CONTACT: Planet Green, (800)377-1093, www.planetgreeninc.com; The Ribbon Factory, (702)568-7770, www.therib bonfactory.com.
Ah, to be young… it’s not just the curiosity and carefree lifestyle that’s worth pining for; it’s also the fun bath toys and products! The folks at Tiny Tillia sure knew that when they came out with their recent line of children’s all-natural bath and body products. The Lavender Chamomile All Over Cream is paraben-free, so you don’t have to worry about recent studies casting doubt on the safety of this common additive. The Diaper Cream is both hypoallergenic and free of pungent medicinal smells. Especially sweet smelling is the Cucumber Mango Head to Toe Foamy Wash. Prices range from $14 for the creams to $18 for the bubble bath. Aesthetically, Tiny Tillia is right on the money: kids are usually thrilled to have products made just for them, and with lovable animals and prints adorning each bottle, the bath time struggle might just wash away. —Rachel Anderson
CONTACT: Tiny Tillia, (310)446-8084, www.shoptillia.com.
SPEAKING FOR THE ANIMALS
Animals Voice was published by Laura Moretti as a glossy magazine from 1986 to 1997, and even though it’s been consistently available since then online (at www.animalsvoice.com, where there are more than 10,000 links to animal-related information and groups), it’s great to hear that the paper version is making a comeback. Starting with the summer 2006 issue, focusing on where the animal rights movement has been and where it’s going, the 48-page, full-color Animals Voice will be published quarterly. "My sense is that interest in animals has exploded since we suspended publication," says Managing Editor Veda Stram. "And there’s a need for a magazine that speaks for everyone. There are a lot of great publications for animals out there, but most of them are based at organizations with a particular agenda in mind." The goal, to quote movement activist Kim Stallwood, is to "get animals on the radar." The nonprofit magazine costs $20 for U.S. residents and $45 for foreign subscriptions. You can subscribe online or via mail to: The Animals Voice, 1354 East Avenue, #R-252, Chico, CA 95926-7387. —Jim Motavalli
CONTACT: Animals Voice, www.animalsvoice.com.
Paper is a perennial whipping boy of the environmental movement: we cut down trees to make it, we dye it with toxic bleaches, we waste too much and we recycle too little. One company wants all that to change. Mohawk Fine Papers produces premium paper products—everything from letterhead to writing paper and gift cards—and eliminates the need to cut down 312,000 trees by buying 13,000 tons of post-consumer fiber. Premium copy paper is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. Mohawk’s dye processing is "elemental chlorine free," and the company is weaning itself off of fossil fuels: 38 percent of the manufacturing energy comes from 45 million kilowatt-hours of wind power. The company website features a cost calculator that allows you to see how many trees and barrels of oil you save with the
Mohawk was the first paper company to receive Green Seal certification, and in 2005 the EPA, along with the Department of Energy, honored the firm with a Green Power Leadership Award. —P.G.
CONTACT: Mohawk Paper, (800)THE MILL, www.mohawkpaper.com.
LAST OF HIS KIND
The name "Lonesome George" is apt, because the Giant Galapagos tortoise that stars in this book is almost certainly the last of his kind from Pinta Island. He ambled into history in 1971 when a biologist came upon him shuffling along. No one had told him that his species had been extinct since 1906.
Henry Nicholls" Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon (Macmillan, $24.95) is rather strangely titled, since despite biologists" best efforts, George (whose age is a subject of some debate) never really had any "love" in his life. He turns away female turtles from closely related species. And thus his tribe is likely to pass into history with him. Nicholls makes this as poignant as the material demands. But because George is a bit limited as a protagonist, the author roams far and wide in discussing turtle biology and Darwin’s voyages. Consider this: sailors of yore would stow turtles (on their backs) in the hold. During battles at sea, they’d toss the turtles overboard to make their ships faster. And that could explain how turtles from one island ended up living on another. —J.M.
ADVENTURE OFF ANTARCTICA
Australian customs officers, Spanish pirates, Uruguayan businessmen, slick defense lawyers and uzi-carrying South African security guards are only a few of the characters appearing in G. Bruce Knecht‘s latest book, Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish (Rodale, $24.95). Knecht’s exhaustive research whisks his reader to the Antarctic Ocean, where an Australian patrol boat pursues an unidentified fishing vessel through storms and around icebergs. The Aussie captain Stephen Duffy believes that Antonio Perez’s boat has been illegally fishing for Chilean Sea Bass (more accurately known as the Patagonian toothfish), whose former abundance plummeted after its oily white flesh became a favorite of restaurateurs.
Knecht breaks up the gripping narrative with chapters on the toothfish’s history and rapid decimation as a result of modern fishing techniques. Knecht, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, approaches the pursuit and subsequent trial from multiple angles, even uncovering the motives of the pirates, who believe the sea should remain unregulated. But while Knecht presents all of the arguments, he comes down decisively on the side of the conservationist Australians: "It is difficult to escape the conclusion that in going to this extreme, what is literally the end of the Earth, Perez and his industry are approaching the ultimate end of the road." —P.G.
BIRDING UNDER FIRE
"One day I hope to return, with binoculars but without a weapon," writes Sergeant Jonathan Trouern-Trend, a life-long birdwatcher and member of the Connecticut National Guard. Birding Babylon (Sierra Club Books, $9.95) collects highlights from Trouern-Trend’s birding blog of the same name, in which he focuses a naturalist’s eye on the deserts of Iraq. Each entry contains not only a list of the birds he sees on his various tours around the troubled country, but also his brief reflections on the region’s history and people.
The best portions of the book compare Trouern-Trend’s observations of birds with the physical or psychological landscapes around them: "I"m lying on the ground with my eye on some guy racing around in a pickup truck, wondering if he’s going to take a potshot at us (which would have been suicidal), while a pair of crested larks were not even 10 feet from me, the male displaying and dancing around." It’s these unlikely and often opaque connections between wildlife and a war zone that make the book an interesting read, even if you don’t recognize a single one of the Babylonian birds. —P.G.
"We just thought it was going to flow forever." This was the popular belief William Ashworth discovered when he drove across America to uncover the ramifications of the disappearing Ogallala Aquifer.The wellspring, tucked beneath the Great Plains, and holding enough water to fill Lake Erie nine times over, has been the life force of American agriculture since irrigation took hold in the1950s. Since then, 11 percent of the aquifer has been used up, and depletion now races at three times faster than replenishment. "What will our water-guzzling culture look like when the water is gone?" Ashworth poses.
Ashworth invites the reader on his roadtrip in his book Ogallala Blue (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95), as he travels through the grasses of Nebraska to the heat of New Mexico, and digs up the dirt about how the shrinking water supply is affecting these towns, and consequently all of us. Each section explores a town, community or farm whose life has been or will be affected by the decline of available water.Whether it’s water woes or harsh economics that are driving people away from rural places, Ashworth paints heart-breaking portraits of life on the High Plains. —R.A.
A TIMELY LOOK AT ANIMAL RIGHTS
Does animal liberation justify violent means? Is it right to threaten or harm companies or persons associated with animal testing? Should we, as one militant animal rights group puts it, bite back? Lee Hall‘s answer is no. Hall, the legal director of the Connecticut-based advocacy group Friends of Animals, lays out her sharp reasoning in Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror (Nectar Bat Press, $14.95), a look at some of the philosophical quandaries currently facing animal rights activists. Violence, she claims, not only allows conservative pundits to dismiss activists by labeling them terrorists, but also violates fundamental values of the animal rights movement. Animal rights, Hall argues, must apply to all living things, and we cannot protect the rights of one animal by impinging on the rights of another. We cannot return a rabbit to its burrow by burning a CEO’s house.
How then should we work towards change? Veganism is one of Hall’s recommendations, and she also argues that we must break down the hierarchical thinking that dominates our relationships with animals and with each other. She envisions a world in which all life has inherent worth and calls this "the most comprehensive peace movement the world has ever known.” —P.G.
THE TIPPING POINT
Do you want to help protect the environment but just don’t know where to start? Author Wendy Richardson‘s new book Just the Tips, Man for Protecting the Environment ($14.95) makes it easy to do just that, one day at a time. Just the Tips is the latest edition to the popular "flipbook" series Nerdy Books, which offers guides to common software programs. Handily pocket sized, Just the Tips features 365 practical suggestions for protecting the environment in an easy-to-underst
and, down-to-Earth style. Each tip is accompanied by one of six fun cartoon characters that offer clear, to-the-point facts and statistics. With tips ranging from how to make eco-friendly decisions at the store, around the house, at the office, or even when dining in a restaurant, the book makes an excellent gift that anyone would find useful. Naturally, the guide is printed on recycled paper. —Tim Bleasdale