Resources for Eco-Awareness and Action

Decléor has a whole array of self tanning "milks" and sprays available.


Though the days of slathering on baby oil and baking to a crisp over a long summer day are history, the desire for that sun-kissed glow has remained. There was lots of speculation that skin cancer fears would make pale skin "hot" again, but instead people have just found creative ways to darken their skin minus any actual sun exposure. And the organics world has carved out its own corner of the sunless tanning market, leaving consumers plenty of options for obtaining the most natural of fake tans. We’ve always thought Kiss My Face( was a clever company name, and we like even more that you can see where you’ve applied their instant sunless tanner, preventing streaking. Their secret is walnut shell extract, and there are no animal ingredients or artificial colors. Green People Self Tan Lotion found on derives its natural tanning ingredient from sugar, and is made of 88 percent certified organic ingredients. The French skincare line Decléor has a whole array of self tanning "milks" and sprays available at outlets like that are made of plant-based ingredients and essential oils. And Nature’s Gate Organics ( has launched its own Advanced Care collection of natural tanners, including "upper tanagement" Self Tanning Creme which uses certified organic fennel, linden flower, aloe vera and ivy extract and "happy glow lucky" Bronzing Creme which offers "instant faux tan without the commitment," thanks to certified organic elderberry, hibiscus and other plants. Of course, for greeting that sun head-on, it’s best to go prepared. Check out Aubrey Organics ( for a Tinted Sunscreen that offers a hint of color or a Deep Tanning Sunscreen made with soothing organic jojoba oils, aloe and Canadian willowherb. Happy faking and baking! —Brita Belli

CONTACT: Sephora; Aubrey Organics; Kiss My Face

Farmer John


To make a compelling documentary, you need compelling characters. Or at least one. Producer/director Taggart Siegel has found that in John Peterson, the farm boy-turned-radical-turned organic pioneer whose life is the subject of The Real Dirt on Farmer John.

Peterson was a misfit in his Illinois farming town. Following his father’s death in the late 1960s, he inherited and managed hundreds of acres, all while attending college, inviting artists and activists to join him and turning the farm into a hippie commune. Soon, the neighbors spread vicious rumors about Peterson worshipping Satan, and he had to auction off most of the property and escape to Mexico.

Of course, most family farms were hit by crises during the 1980s, and Peterson was just one more casualty. Except he was ultimately saved by his flamboyant creative streak (he’s partial to wearing feather boas, and dressing like a bee). He realized the potential in organic crops to nourish the Earth and reconnect with the farm he almost lost. And while the neighbors had dismissed him, volunteers from around the country came to the farm to learn about organic practices.

What began as a small operation became Angelic Organics—one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the country, serving fresh veggies and herbs to more than 1000 Chicago-area families. It’s a personal and uplifting voyage that begins with the family’s incredible early footage of tractor-riding and barn-raising and ends with a return to doing things the old-fashioned way: joining friends and neighbors to build something by hand. —Brita Belli

CONTACT: Angelic Organics, (815)389-2746

Boreal Owl ringtone


Who hasn’t been annoyed by a stranger’s cell phone playing the anemic electronic intro to some annoying pop song? The original was bad enough. The Center for Biological Diversity says enough of that, and offers—completely free—Endangered Wildlife Ringtones, a wide assortment of natural sounds from endangered reptiles, mammals and birds. The Blue-throated Macaw, Beluga Whale, Boreal Owl, Mountain Yellow-legged Frog and Yosemite Toad are among the offerings, over 40 in all. Even marine mammal calls are included. Also available are high-quality images to serve as cell phone wallpaper. The goal is not to pick your pocket, but to educate you and your friends about endangered wildlife. These "haunting hoots, sensational songs and crazy croaks" are available on the Center’s website along with some thumbnail explanations of the extinction crisis. —Jim Motavalli

CONTACT: Rare Earth Ring Tones

The Baby Bunch (left) Happy Green Bee (right)


You know those clever people who turn their gift of towels and washcloths into mini wedding cakes? The Baby Bunch is determined that every baby shower attendee should feel the same creative thrill without so much as looking at a glue gun. And the company has gone organic. Its organic line is simple—bib, T-shirt, onesie, socks and a hat in soft, off-white cotton, all rolled and nestled like roses inside a readymade bouquet of blue, pink or apricot silk flowers. It will stand out among the mountain of store-bought packages and show your commitment to the Earth. Meanwhile, those purveyors of lip balms, body lotions and baby oils, Burt’s Bees, unveiled its own baby clothes line called Happy Green Bee. They’ve shunned pastel pinks and blues for vibrant green, yellow, red and orange stripes (or as they call them, bean, butterscotch, radish and pumpkin). The clothes are designed for comfort, including pants, long sock hats and petal-skirted dresses. Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby is hoping the line will inspire more organic cotton growing in the U.S. —Brita Belli

CONTACTS: The Baby Bunch, (877)456-2229; Happy Green Bee, (800)209-0094


Spider monkey© Getty Images

In the blogosphere, animal stories are a welcome relief from all the focus on celebrity antics. Authors of have unearthed lots of bizarre, entertaining factoids. The blind, worm-like amphibian called the caecilian takes parenting sacrifices to new levels by letting its babies feed from its flesh. Spider monkeys rub themselves with chewed-up leaves like dousing themselves with cologne. Environmental nonprofit giant Environmental Defense has launched a blog of its own,, to follow the shifting science and policy of global warming. The group’s global warming experts and guests assess misguided news items in mainstream media, break down international reports and help outsiders understand the way science is manipulated by politicians. —Brita Belli

CONTACTS: ZooIllogix; Climate 411



When it comes to environmental commitment, all we need is a guide. There are many, many of these guides to chose from, not neglecting E’s own contribution to the genre: Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth, which features greener ways to raise babies, heat houses and drive cars (available on Amazon!). But enough about us. Environmental and children’s health advocate Deirdre Imus (and wife to the line-crossing former radio host Don Imus) has made her own foray into the world of environmental guides with Green This! Volume One: Greening Your Cleaning (Simon & Schuster, $15.95), a readable, prac-tical how-to book on really ridding your home of toxins.

Not only is the book full of scary stories such as the fact that dishwashers open at the level of kids" mouths, sending "chlorine vapors…straight into their bodies," but it’s chock-full of the kind of useful solutions parents and concerned consumers can use. With five essential products—distilled white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and table salt—one can pretty much tackle any task from clearing drains to scouring pans to softening laundry and washing windows. "A good nontoxic cleaner like white distilled vinegar replaces all your chlorine bleach products," Deirdre told us in a recent interview. The environmental advocate is the real deal—she founded The Deirdre Imus Environ-mental Center for Pediatric Oncology and launched a line of green products (Greening the Cleaning) and all proceeds from sales of those cleaners and the books are going to help research for kids with cancer.

While Deirdre recognizes that most people won’t want to get as heavily invested in chemical research as she has, she said the book’s message boils down to this essential: "With cleaning products, it’s important that you’re not using ingredients that have been listed as possible or known carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, endocrine disruptors and teratogens: no ammonia, no chlorine bleach, no phosphate, no formaldehyde, no benzene, no toluene, no petroleum-based ingredients." The best way to determine the contents? "Look for a cleaning product that discloses all the ingredients right on the label," Deirdre says. "That"ll eliminate almost all of the products." Not including hers, of course.
—Brita Belli


Guides are much more readable when they come in large print with lots of color photographs. Even if the suggestion to "Keep a Few Geese" seems laughable in my small neighborhood inhabited seasonally by endless flocks of Canadian geese, the handy pictures in A Slice of Organic Life (DK Publishing, $25) make it more fun to consider which goose I would keep (the Pilgrim is rather cute, and "ideal for a hobby farm" says the book). Like all guides to the planet, the ideas in Slice range from the obvious ("reuse household items") to the exceedingly adventurous ("raise a couple of pigs"), but these suggestions are divided in terms of one’s yard space: from no yard to serious land owner. The book is just as focused on living a fuller life as saving the planet, telling us how to grow strawberries in hanging baskets and make preserves. Come to think of it, a lot of the suggestions in Slice are about living life the old-fashioned way, long before anyone considered their actions "environmental."
—Brita Belli.


Considering the amazing public interest, it was only a matter of time before someone wrote a consumer’s guide to hybrid vehicles. As more hybrid cars and trucks enter the market every year, the public is bound to be confused in its efforts to separate genuinely green vehicles from the pretenders. The potential addition of plug-in hybrids is also confounding to those who thought that existing hybrids use a plug (they don"t).

For my money, hybrids that employ the technology primarily to increase horsepower (the Honda Accord) are not eco-stars, nor are heavy and expensive hybrid SUVs (the Lexus RX-400h).

If I have any issue with The Essential Hybrid Car Handbook (A Buyer’s Guide) by Nick Yost (The Lyons Press, $14.95) it’s that he’s not critical enough. I think a buyer’s guide should offer clear choices, winners and losers, and this one doesn"t. Yost is relatively upbeat about almost everything.

That said, this handbook puts a lot of useful information about hybrids, from numbers sold to the prospects for plug-ins, between two covers. Given the rapid rate of new introductions, he may have to update it annually.
—Jim Motavalli


Representing 15 years of distilled research, Ellis Jones" The Better World Shopping Guide (New Society Publishers, $9.95) grades products from A to F based on social and environmental records, providing a simple shopping list for concerned consumers. In this pocket-sized guidebook, Jones offers a quick reference to choosing everyday products and services such as clothing, food, body care, airlines and even toilet paper. Find yourself in the frozen dinner aisle? The book says to beware "corporate villain" Stouffer’s (Nestle) which practices "aggressive takeovers of family farms." Scoping out a new computer? "Corporate hero" Hewlett Packard offers "free return recycling of its computers." It’s a shame The Better World doesn’t explain the grading for all the almost-best and almost-worst corporations in between, but we suppose then the final product might not have been so pocket-sized.
—Jennifer Greco


If there is one thing that green guides have taught us, it’s that we don’t have to try very hard. Sometimes the suggestions they offer are so simple, it’s embarrassing that we need to be told at all. Take The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time (Three Rivers Press, $12.95). It recommends that you bring your own reusable water bottle to the gym instead of buying one. Or when you play outdoor sports, it suggests, "Try not to litter." It’s written by Elizabeth Rogers (co-producer of the MTV show Trippin") and columnist Thomas M. Kostigen and features big celebrity content (advice from Jennifer Aniston, Tyra Banks, Justin Timberlake and Tim McGraw, among others) and a foreword from Cameron Diaz and Cradle-to-Cradle guru William McDonough. But The Green Book‘s biggest contribution to the world of green guides is its many clever comparisons. Like this: "If each family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon each year, 38,000 miles worth would be saved… enough to tie a bow around the entire planet." And this: "If every household served fresh-baked bread instead of packaged rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, the energy conserved could fly more than 23,000 early colonists from England to Plymouth Rock." Dinner rolls, colonists, it boggles the mind.
—Brita Belli


Ever get the sense that the Brits are more serious about reducing their climate footprint than we are? How to Live a Low Carbo

n Life: The Individual’s Guide to Stopping Climate Change by Chris Goodall (Earthscan, $24.95) confirms it. Not only is England likely to meet its Kyoto targets while the U.S. refuses to even sign the treaty, but books like this—demanding a serious carbon commitment as part of the average person’s lifestyle—have a chance in the market. Similar U.S. books emphasize soft choices: a few compact fluorescent bulbs, maybe a programmable thermostat. But Good-all, a former Green Party candidate for Parliament, expects far more. When looking at a hybrid car, for instance, he wants to see the total lifecycle carbon production vs. the added cost. He even takes aim at the TV viewing that is sacred on both sides of the Atlantic: Did you know that the average home’s multiple TVs use more electricity than clothes dryers? This book may be daunting to eco-dabblers, and it’s made somewhat less accessible by a failure to translate from the British: prices are in pounds, weights in metric. What’s a "kettle," exactly?
—Jim Motavalli