Mother’s Day (May 13) is one of the flower industry’s biggest days. While Valentine’s Day is all about roses, usually directed at one love interest, Mother’s Day involves arrangements sent to, potentially, a whole lot of deserving women: moms, grandmothers, mother-in-laws, wives. In the U.S., cut flowers are a $6.2 billion business, according to Amy Stewart’s book Flower Confidential (see review in Books), but it’s increasingly become an import business. The majority of America’s flowers now come from Latin Am-erica laden with pesticides, and are purchased with little thought as to how they are grown or how the workers who grow them are treated.
Instead of grabbing a ready-made bouquet at the local supermarket for Mom this year, we’d like to recommend supporting organic growers. Go to www.organicbouquet.com to find pesticide-free blooms grown in South America that are Green Label-certified. That means the company not only follows organic growing practices, but fair labor practices as well. Founder and CEO Gerald Prolman is expecting record sales this year—more than 20 million stems—as consumers, who have already demanded organic in mainstream supermarkets, begin to follow suit with flowers. One dozen Victorian-esque crown majesty roses in cream and deep pink are $49.95; a candy-colored array of Dutch tulips are $59.95. Organic chocolates and wreaths are available as well. Another site is www.californiaorganicflowers.com, featuring organic blooms grown in Chico, California (pictured). Unusual varieties are the company’s specialty, including dazzling red and pink anemones, bright magenta chocolate ranunculus and delicate yellow and orange le petite narcissus, and delivery is available next day to anywhere in the continental U.S. You"ll score big points with all the Moms in your life when they realize what thought you put into those beautiful blooms this year. —Brita Belli
CLEANING ON SUNSHINE
Even the most modern-day Mom can appreciate a chemical-free cleaner that is truly multipurpose and still seems to last forever. We’re not sure why the lovely named Liquid Sunshine nontoxic cleaner from Vermont Soapworks has such a long shelf life, but the big bottle seems to keep on giving. Unlike green cleaners that still contain fragrance-en-hancing but toxic li-monenes, Liquid Sun-shine is truly chemical-free, made from castille liquid soap and essential oils like organic coconut, olive and jo-joba. Liquid Sunshine can be used to wash dishes, cars, bathrooms, carpets, floors, walls and even laundry. Add a spray bottle of the Liquid Sunshine Spray & Wipe and there’s no cleaning task you can’t handle. What we especially like (besides the hint of rosemary) is how easy the cleaner is on the hands, and how gentle on clothes for allergy-prone folks with sensitive skin. —Brita Belli
CONTACT: Vermont Soapworks, 1(866)SOAP-4U2,
Want to wrap Mom a thoughtful gift in a thoughtful way? The New England-based company Paporganicsis tree-free, manufacturing stationery and gift wrap from organic,hemp and recycled materials. All of Paporganics products are made from organically grown cottonand flower petals, chlorine-free agricultural resources, and post-consumer waste fibers that are printed with vegetable inks rather thanthe toxic bleaches used in standard paper. Paporganics also features classic designs, greeting cards with images of garden bounties, and hemp wrap swarming with bees. The "cultivated cards" ($2.50) are made from 100percent recycled post-consumer paper.Other products includegift wrap ($4.99), gift tissue ($2.49) and gift ribbons ($4.99). —Jennifer Greco
CONTACT: Paporganics, (603)821-1374
THESE LIPS WERE MADE FOR KISSING
Whether you’re treating yourself or a friend to a Mother’s Day present, Eco Lips has a package tailor-made for giving: a Lip Care Kit with seven lip balms and accessories in a reusable clear vinyl bag. While organic produce and skincare products have gone mainstream, organic lip balm is still coming into its own. Considering that the lips are one of the most sensitive, absorbent parts of the body, it’s a good place to go organic. Eco Lips lip balm is more than 95 percent certified organic, with healing ingredients like aloe vera, beeswax, jojoba oil, soybean oil and calendula. The company also ups the green ante by manufacturing its balms in a solar-powered plant. The gift pack comes with varieties like Berry, Mint, Hemp and Bee Free (vegan) along with a Lip Balm Necklace, an Eco Leash and other fun lip balm carriers. —Brita Belli
CONTACT: Eco Lips (866)326-5477
MOW, MOW, MOW YOUR LAWN
Those living in apartments or modest homes with a little fenced-in patch of grass for a backyard are probably already familiar with the push mower. They’re fun in small spaces, quiet enough for midnight mowing and nimble enough to cut in corners and around walkways. The push mower has received a very modern upgrade from two companies specializing in environmentally conscious lawn care: Col-orado’s Sunlawn and Vermont’s Neuton. Husband-and-wife team Terry and Sandra Jarvis founded Sunlawn in "97, bringing German-based Brill Luxus push mowers to the U.S. The company still sells the precise, light, push and battery-operated Brills ($179-$379), but has also developed its own electric models. The Sunlawn EM-1 rechargeable electric push mower ($379) has adjustable blade height and provides a clean clip so you can "grass-cycle"—use the grass clippings as a natural compost, providing nitrogen and organic fertilizer to the lawn. And it keeps pollutants out of the air. It’s estimated that 800 million gallons of gas a year go into lawn mowers and the California Air Resources Board says operating a traditional lawn mower for an hour creates the same pollution as driving a car for 13 hours. The Neuton Cordless Electric Mower ($359) can also be used for mulching, or clippings can go into a rear bagger. It’s half the weight of a power motor and features a trim-mer/edger attachment for detailed cutting. The batteries, according to the company, are good for up to five years and can be recharged as easily as plugging in a toaster. —Brita Belli
Sckoon Organics, a leading provider of organic cotton baby clothing, has recently expanded into clothing and toys for pets. The company’s products range from Organic Cotton Dog Kimonos ($29) and Organic Striped Dog Tees ($22) to organic cotton bone or animal-shaped chew toys ($9-$13). There is hardly a more fashionable way for Fido to stay warm than wrapped up neatly in red or navy blue with a snappy bow across the back. All of the products at Sckoon, which in-clude baby samurai
hats and newborn ki-monos, were inspired by the designer’s Japan-ese heritage. Based in Manhattan’s SoHo district, Sckoon works with fair trade companies in Egypt and India and sells in specialty boutiques and online. —Denis McGuire
CONTACT: Sckoon Organics, (212)228-6903
A rose may smell as sweet by any other name, but not too close or you may get a nose full of organophosphates (pesticides). If you always wanted to know where that gorgeous bouquet you sent to your mom on Mother’s Day came from, or wondered how those millions of off-season roses became available just in time for Valentine’s Day, Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $23.95), tells all. Stewart has written a concise, engaging, sometimes humorous exposé of the worldwide multibillion-dollar cut flower industry. While sharing her enthusiasm and fascination for flowers, Stewart calls for stricter environmental monitoring and regulation of the business. She guides us behind the scenes, from the greenhouses and wholesale markets of Holland and Ecuador to the airports and flower shops in Miami and New York. While she scrutinizes the business, Stewart also provides the history, the botany and the cradle-to-grave struggle to keep the quickly expiring life force flowing through the cut stems to those brightly colored, sweet-smelling petals.
The beautiful roses, carnations and chrysanthemums displayed at local supermarkets represent the toil of thousands of a largely underpaid and marginalized labor force. Sadly, these workers may have to deal with major future health problems due to overexposure to toxic chemicals. Pointedly, Stewart reports that although many European governments support cut-flower retail markets with environmental and worker-friendly certifications, the U.S. market has been slow to follow. —Bob Johnson
THIS INTIMATE EARTH
There is something of the explorer in all of us, the desire to see the furthest reaches of the planet, if not in person, than in pictures. Alastair Fothergill‘s Planet Earth (University of California Press, $39.95) the companion book to the Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel, is a gorgeous way to take that global journey. There are the sweeping aerial vistas of the red-raked dunes of Australia’s Simpson Desert, the snaking lines of the caribou march across Alaska and the intimate wildlife portraits: the Crayola-colored red-knobbed hornbill swallowing a fig in the rainforest, a young polar cub taking its first steps. The book would make a handsome addition to any coffee table, but its vivid pages deserve a read, too. That’s where one learns that black-lipped pikas (resembling a cross between a guinea pig and mouse) are hardy creatures fundamental to life on the Tibetan plains or that the absent-minded agouti (another rodent) is "the only animal that can break the hard outer shell of a Brazil-nut cluster." Chapters dedicated to shallow seas and ocean depths are particularly eye-dazzling, from hauntingly glowing jellyfish to a two-page spread of sperm whale. This book provides ample proof that there is so much life on the planet yet to be discovered and preserved. —Brita Belli.
THE GREEN REWARD
In their new book Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (Yale University Press, $25), Yale eco-wonks Dan Esty and Andrew Winston examine several industries in which companies have grown significant wealth through embracing sustainable practices. Companies today must deal with a complex new world of lagging resources, regulatory restrictions and growing pressure from customers and other stakeholders to go green. The authors show how such challenges, once thought of only as cost centers, can provide opportunities for innovation, product differentiation and success in the marketplace. For in-stance, BP as part of its "Beyond Petroleum" re-branding, committed $20 million to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases across all of its business units. Those efficiencies gained in reducing greenhouse gases led to savings of more than $1.5 billion over just five years. Esty and Winston provide similar examples from Toyota, GE, Ikea and Nike. The authors also assess why other environmental initiatives fail despite the best intentions. While Green to Gold may be squarely aimed at corporate executives looking for a roadmap to deal with environmental issues, its lessons are relevant for anyone looking for innovative and, yes, profitable, ways to green his or her organization. —Roddy Scheer
WHAT GLOBAL WARMING?
Just when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a new report that makes it almost impossible to deny the reality of global warming, along comes a guide designed to do just that. It’s called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism (Regnery Publishing, $19.95), and it will upend everything you think you know about climate change. But that’s because most of it is, at best, misleading! The book implies that the U.S. shouldn’t be blamed for global warming because "America today is apparently sinking more carbon out of the air than it is emitting into it." It will inform you that most greenhouse gases are not manmade (duh, this was never in dispute), and that the notion that glaciers are melting is a "myth," along with the idea that the science is settled and sea levels are rising. "[W]e confront a circumstance in which a naturally driven climate [!] is seized upon to cow a population with fear by governments seeking to expand their powers and businesses itching to profit from Man’s gullibility," the book concludes. Fortunately, the world is waking up to the dangers of following politically driven "science", of which this book (formatted to look like one of those "Idiot" guides) is a prime example. —Jim Motavalli
THE LONG VEG
Did you think the hippies invented vegetarianism? Tristram Stuart‘s rigorously researched The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (Norton, $29.95) shows that eschewing meat has a very long pedigree indeed. The first western travelers to India were fascinated by the vegetarian culture they encountered there. A 16th century Portuguese writer, for instance, was astounded by "this law of not killing anything." The concept began to spread in Europe. Isaac Newton, known as "a lover of apples," was thought to be a vegetarian. George Cheyne (1671-1743) claimed that vegetarians were healthier, though his own enormous girth was a poor illustration. But it was Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century who really got the ball rolling, with his concept of the "noble savage." In addition to breastfeeding, which he championed, Rousseau believed the fact that women had only two breasts marked the human species as herbivore. His influence spread, capturing both poet Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary, who turned her Frankenstein monster into a vegetarian. Stuart traces this lineage all the way up to Adolph Hitler, the first veg to really besmirch the faith. Found in his library was a French vegetarian cookbook inscribed to "Monsieur Hitler, the vegetarian, and thus the man of peace." —Jim Motavalli.