If, as Buddha said, it’s true that the word manifests as the deed, +E (Positive Energy) Awareness Apparel is on the right track to making our world more just, safe and healthy. The company’s 100 percent certified organic cotton t-shirts, tanks and baby clothes feature key words such as "Bang" and "Dirty" on the front, with the explanation of a related social or environmental issue on the back. The "Hot" tank, for example, corresponds to global warming, and reminds us to "Bike, walk, take public transportation." Founder Joan Malony explains, "With +E, I hope to inspire awareness and action in a thoughtful and provoking way to help enact changes that our world is crying out for." +E also donates a minimum 10 percent of profits to organizations—such as the Nature Conservancy and Heifer International—that work to find solutions to Awareness Apparel issues. Prices range from $24 to $33. —Brianne Goodspeed
CONTACT: +E Positive Energy, (800)557-9401, www.shoppositiveenergy.com.
FROM TRASH TO TRENDY
When you see a candy bar wrapper lying on the ground, do you think of a fabulously chic handbag? Maybe that idea never crossed your mind, but to the fashion geniuses at Ecoist, such refuse becomes the fabric for an über stylish clutch.
The company’s handbags are far from trashy, as designers from all over Central and South America weave discarded food and drink wrappers into colorful and eye-catching products.Another signature item is a teardrop-shaped bag fashioned from old movie poster billboards, bringing new meaning to poster art. The end results are well made, impossibly stylish and truly one-of-a-kind.Prices range from $38 to $58 for clutches and small bags, and up to $235 for a beach tote. —Rachel Anderson
CONTACT: Ecoist, (305)674-0433, www.ecoist.com.
Since my uncle quit smoking 20 years ago, he has been using a computer program to calculate how much money he’s saved on the cost of cigarettes ($45,000 to date), not to mention the benefit of better health. That’s the same idea behind the Solar Estimator at FindSolar.com. By plugging in a few details about where you live and how much you currently spend on electricity, the Solar Estimator will tell you how much you would ultimately save by investing in solar technology for your home or business, not to mention the environmental benefits. Findsolar.com also offers a "Find a Solar Pro" directory ranging from equipment to installation services, and an exhaustive list of FAQs, including information on federal and state specific tax incentives. The site was created by the American Solar Energy Society, Solar Electric Power Association and the U.S. Department of Energy. —B.G.
CONTACT: Findsolar.com, (303)443-0898.
ARE YOU DOWN WITH OPT?
Optimum Polymer Technologies (OPT) has a way for you to put the brakes on water waste and pollution when you wash your car. Washing and rinsing with a hose uses up to 30 gallons of water, and the soaps, suds and residues often wash into storm drains and pollute local water sources. By contrast, two capfuls of biodegradable No Rinse Wash and Shine ($12.99 for 32 ounces) require only two gallons of water for all but the dirtiest cars. Because the cleaning solution is contained in a bucket, it’s easy to dispose of properly. OPT also offers volatile organic compound-free tire shine ($11.99), interior protectant ($11.99), micro-fiber drying cloths ($2.99 to $4.99) and petroleum-free UV defense wax ($12.99). Get all five products for $44.95. CEO David Ghodoussi says, "A car is like anything. If you take care of it, it lasts longer, and that’s a good environmental choice." —B.G.
CONTACT: Optimum Polymer Technologies, (866) 896-5023, www.ecocarcare.net.
Greening your workspace can now go beyond those withering plants on your desk, because several companies offer office supplies that biodegrade, contain recycled material or are otherwise Earth-friendly. Sustainable Group focuses on presentation folders, three-ring binders and related items made from recycled materials. The all-brown binders and folders can be printed with company logos, which is an ideal way to promote a business with green attitude. A mixed box of two one-inch binders, four two-inch binders and four three-inch binders costs $52.
One way to find products from the Sustainable Group, as well as other green manufacturers, is through Green Earth Office Supply. Company president Andrea Wilson says she sells office products that use fewer resources, cause less pollution, "and result in less harm to all living creatures."Among the offerings are refillable pens made with leftover wood and biodegradable kitchen supplies, so you don’t have to worry anymore about those disposable plates from an office or backyard party sitting in the landfill for years. Food-related products have been hot sellers, says Wilson. "Food is kind of an in-your-face thing," she relates. "There’s a huge guilt factor." —Adrian Larose
Looking for comfortable, quality eco-friendly clothing? California-based Gramicci‘s fall 2006 line might be just what you are searching for. Gramicci produces a variety of clothing ranging from Western-styled flannel shirts and polo tees to knit hats and hoodies that allow freedom of movement, with comfort and style whether trekking down a city street or through the backcountry. Inspired by the active outdoor lifestyles of rock climbers and surfers, Gramicci clothing is a blend of rugged durability, quality, and a merge of function and fashion. Through the use of hemp blended with recycled polyester, sustainable organic cotton, and organic merino wool, Gramicci produces garments that are soft, comfortable and eco-friendly. Colors are designed to mirror the hues found in nature. —Timothy Bleasdale
CONTACT: Gramicci, (805)496-5060, www.gramicci.com.
As temperatures rise outside, we tend to get a little more active, resulting in scrapes, bruises, sunburns, sore muscles and so on. Before you grab just any first aid ointment, consider a homeopathic alternative.Boiron offers Arnica Cream for pain relief and Calendula Cream for first aid (each $8.99 for 2.5 ounces).Arnica is a mountain plant that has long been used to salve bruises and sore muscles, so try Arnica Cream after a long day out at the garden or a rough backwoods hike. The ability to heal a variety of skin ailments, including burns and scrapes, has long made calendula a staple in the homeopath’s medicine cabinet. Thanks to Boiron’s natural formula, there’s no need to wo
rry about use on sensitive skin. —R.A.
CONTACT: Boiron, (800)BOIRON-1, www.boiron.com.
EASY WAYS TO SAVE THE SEAS
Want to help preserve our oceans? Get married on a wild beach, says author and advocate David Helvarg, who insists doing something so memorable could convince a person to invest time or money into preserving the space. In his latest book, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean (Inner Ocean Publishing, $12.95), Helvarg has followed up his oceanographic research from 2001’s acclaimed Blue Frontier (being released in its second edition this year) and turned it into an accessible reference.With help from illustrator Jim Toomey, 50 Ways is optimistic and light, offering pro-ocean suggestions that range from doing a little bit of research (#44. Learn your local maritime history) to a major lifestyle change (#26. Upgrade your house above hurricane code). "We can all become leaders by changing our day-to-day behaviors in ways that demonstrate how to live well and sensibly on our blue-ocean planet," says Helvarg.The text is a great resource for those new to environmental conservation ideas, though seasoned environmentalists are sure to find some suggestions that could make their life a little more ocean-friendly. —R.A.
These days, for better or worse, it seems that the most effective way to protect something is to explain it in terms that we can all relate to and prove its value to humanity. Paul Stamets does both in Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (Ten Speed Press, $35). He describes the vast, largely subterranean networks of mycelia as "nature’s Internet," and champions fungi’s potential to remediate toxic oil spills, filter pathogens from water, counteract deforestation, yield better crops, and improve public health. Penicillin, it’s clear, was only the tip of the, er, mycelium.
Stamets" appreciation for the mycological world is not only professional (he’s been studying it for more than 30 years); it’s also clearly personal. When carpenter ants threatened to destroy his house, Stamets used a culture of Metarhizium as a natural pesticide. When cattle feces contaminated an inlet near his home, his "mycofilter" rid the water of coliform bacteria. The book is packed with practical details and more than 300 color photos of mushrooms and the mycophiliacs who work with them. Stamets also warns, "Our relatively sudden rise as a destructive species is stressing the fungal recycling systems of nature." Mushrooms can only save the world, it seems, if we decide to save them. —B.G.
HAPPIER KID MEALS
Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food (Houghton Mifflin, $16) is the kid-meal version of Fast Food Nation, the 2001 polemic that woke up burger-imbibers everywhere. Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, Fast Food Nation‘s author and fact-checker, respectively, wrote Chew On This with middle-school readers in mind. The book is short a few of the gorier horrors of its predecessor, but still tells a compelling tale of agribusiness and its environmental devastation; the mammoth political and economic leverage of the fast-food industry; and the health havoc this industry wreaks. Chew On This focuses on how fast-food giants target and impact young people, from wooing them with toys, playgrounds and characters to plying them with nutritionally void and girth-growing food (often through school contracts), to employing them in low-pay "McJobs." In the book’s final chapter, "Your Way," readers are encouraged to engender change by various means, including making healthier choices. Chew On This ought to be on every young consumer’s summer reading list. —Jessica Rae Patton
The World Bank, once a heavy booster of dams, has decreased support of new major dam projects significantly over the last 35 years as current dams become increasingly problematic.Author Jacques Leslie visited heavily dammed areas in India, southern Africa and southeast Australia to research the issue with engineers, activists and executives. Leslie chronicles these experiences in Deep Water (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $25), a narrative, firsthand account of how major dam projects have affected people and environments.Leslie is careful not to declare sides early on, and lauds some of the achievements these projects have earned. However, when everything is laid on the table, people were displaced, species overpopulated or reached extinction, and diseases and famines resulted."Humans believed they could vanquish nature," Leslie declares, "and found themselves vanquished instead." —R.A.
If you’re going to live in the Pacific Northwest, it would be wise for your home to make peace with the elements. A surge of regional architects now understand this, and are adopting sustainable elements into their designs, coined the New Regional Style. Toward a New Regionalism (University of Washington Press, $30) showcases dozens of buildings throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia that are models of how environmental architecture can shine in the notoriously overcast Northwest. "A building affects the environment, just as the environment affects the building," writes author David E. Miller. The book is loaded with full-color photographs of appealing structures highlighting how each building interacts with the surrounding environment, one of the key features of the New Regional Style. —R.A.
DRILLING IN THE MATERNITY WARD
What exactly would opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling mean? That is exactly what Karsten Heuer sets out to find in Being Caribou (The Mountaineers Books, $24.95). In the tome, Heuer and his newlywed wife, Leanne Allison, set off on a harrowing adventure, trekking more than 1,000 miles as they follow the Porcupine caribou herd in their annual migration from their wintering grounds in Canada’s Yukon territory to their calving grounds in the heart of ANWR. The five-month trek takes the newlyweds through the waist-deep snow of early spring to the heat of summer, on the brink of starvation and back, as they cross four mountain ranges and encounter grizzlies, wolves and clouds of ferocious mosquitoes. Heuer keeps the pages turning as he examines the many different sides of the ANWR development issue, while telling the intimate story of the caribou that stand to lose the most. —T.B.