With so many holidays already making demands on our dollars, we at E are loathe to add another to the list. But we can’t let Earth Day (April 22) sneak by without a mention. While Earth Day may not have arrived as a consumer holiday (yet), it offers consumers a moment of reflection about how their dollars are being spent—how where they shop and what they buy can have real repercussions on the environment. So while our Tools section is always full of suggestions for eco-conscious shopping, we hope that Earth Day will provide a little extra incentive to go green.
One way to stay focused on the mission of Earth Day every day is with a little guidance from Karma Coaching Cards for the Environment. The three-year-old Van-couver company was started by Jane Clay-ton, who designed the Karma Coaching Cards for a friend in the business world who had lost sight of what was important in life. The latest environmentally themed cards made on recycled paper with natural dyes and fibers each feature a way to "reduce, reuse and recycle" with a corresponding environmental fact. "Grow some fresh air" suggests one card, and then recommends the Gerbera Daisy and Bamboo Palm as "efficient at removing common airborne toxins." The deck, which costs $19.95, comes with 50 cards for rethinking our lives in small, manageable ways. —Brita Belli
Kee-Ka started out as a greeting card company in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but soon expanded into a clothing company producing greeting T-shirts. More recently, Kee-Ka has produced a line of 100 percent certified organic cotton products for babies. Using simple words and images, Kee-Ka’s bodysuits and blankies emphasize baby’s cuteness: there’s a cupcake, a pumpkin, a monkey and a sweet pea. Packaged in ready-to-give recycled boxes and made from 100 percent certified organic, super-soft cotton with gentle dyes, the clothing doesn’t sacrifice style for environmental awareness. Currently available in stores or online, there are organic cotton bodysuits ranging from $24 for one to $43 for a twin set, a matching burp and bib set for $24 and organic bedding and blankets for $38. —Jennifer Greco
Although most of our economy is still dependent on petroleum-based products from making to transporting goods, one company is looking to reverse the trend by offering natural, organic skin care products made with non-petroleum, natural and organic ingredients that are locally harvested. Moon Valley Organics is a Washington state company that specializes in handmade natural skincare alternatives using organic botanicals and natural bee products. All of Moon Valley’s products are made with organic oils and all packaging is made with non-petroleum based, natural fiber materials and soy-based ink. Moon Valley offers a variety of organic products to choose from, including lip balms ($2.95), beeswax candles ($3.50), raw and unfiltered honey ($3.95-$17.95) and soaps and lotions ($4.95-$13.85). Not only are the prices friendly, but the product line continues to expand—recent additions include products for both baby and mother. There’s the Tummy Bar ($10.95) for expectant mothers, designed to help prevent stretch marks, and the Baby Bum Bar ($8.95), an all natural treatment for diaper rash. —Jennifer Greco
Styled after the "60s but with a very contemporary edge, www.love-eco.co.uk provides a new online shopping destination for green consumers. Not only are Love Eco’s wares, from toys and wallets to baskets, big on design, but they’re all affordable and would make memorable gifts. Check out the collection of boldly patterned Chicken Doorstops made with fabric remnants. Filled with rice, the little triangular shaped pals are practical and fun. For men, they’ve got a colorful collection of 100 percent recycled, water resistant, super-slim Jimi wallets designed to slip into front pockets. They’ve caught on with snowboarders and others who brave the elements. And the women’s large clutch bags made from leather remnants from the furniture industry are individual right down to their vintage buckles. With organic cotton hand puppets and recycled cardboard teepees for kids, soaps and skincare products and bamboo bath towels, it’s a great place for creative, conscious shopping. —Brita Belli
Tired of damaging your hair with ammonia-based hair dyes? Now there’s a permanent and inexpensive at-home hair coloring pack that contains certified organic ingredients and is 100 percent ammonia-free. Tints of Nature features a naturally derived color base that uses organic comfrey extract, organic Roman chamomile extract and organic aloe vera, maintaining healthy hair and scalp while providing natural-looking color. The hair coloring pack that ranges from $9.60 to $15.99 includes hair dye made from organic ingredients and shampoo and conditioner sachets that help restore the hair’s pH balance to prevent color fade and promote a natural shine and feel. Tints of Nature is currently available in 32 permanent and semi-permanent colors. —Jennifer Greco
Usually, all one really asks of a book is that it transports them somewhere. In the case of Noel Perrin and his book, Best Person Rural: Essays of a Some-time Farmer, (David R. Godine, $24.95) that "somewhere" is his 85-acre farm in Thetford Cen-ter, Vermont. That sounds like a lot of space, but the essays in this slim volume are not so much expansive as personal, about how easy and cheap it is to make maple sugar candy ("Sugaring on $15 a Year") or how instructive to try and heat one’s home primarily with woodstoves ("The Year We Really Heated with Wood"). In short, Perrin learned to examine the slowed-down pace of his life and then slow it down even further. Not the handiest man, he nonetheless learns to do things by hand, to chop wood, to build stone walls and erect fences. "Sixteen years ago I blundered into fence building when I acquired a wife and an old farm the same year," he writes with typical quiet humor in "In Search of the Perfect Fence Post." His wife "was determined to have a garden, and the deer were determined she wasn"t. I volunteered to build a fence." There are plenty of pauses for reflection throughout the volume, and even an essay drawing on the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau in a call to renounce nuclear weapons. While Perrin passed away two years ago, at age 74, his essays have left a memorable impression of a life thoughtfully lived. —Brita Belli
PLUG IN THAT HYBRID!
Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America by Sherry Boschert (
New Society, $16.95) is a lively account of the growing movement (now with major automaker backing) to create plug-in versions of today’s hybrid vehicles. The plug-in concept is a bit confusing to some consumers, many of whom still think that standard hybrids need to be plugged in. By adding a bigger battery pack and wall charging, plug-ins give al-ready green hybrids another merit badge: Now they can cruise 20 to 30 miles on grid electricity alone, with the gas engine held in reserve for longer trips. Boschert does an admirable job of explaining the technology in easy-to-follow language, and introduces a memorable set of characters, including the very effective plug-in booster Felix Kramer of CalCars.org, and Chelsea Sexton, a former GM employee turned EV advocate. Started as a seemingly quixotic campaign by small bands of environmentalists, the movement for plug-ins has gained a production commitment from GM and advanced research programs at many other carmakers. The race is on. —Jim Motavalli
TALKING TO CHIMPS
Fortunately for author Dale Peterson, who has written the definitive biography, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man (Houghton Mifflin Company, $35), his subject was a copious letter writer. Peterson amassed about 2,000 of Goodall’s letters to draw an intimate portrait of the world’s most famous female scientist. The book begins with the young Valerie Jane or "V.J." hiding earthworms under her pillow, developing an attachment to a stuffed chimpanzee ("Jubilee") from her absentee father and leading a group of girls dubbed the Alligator Club on scientific missions. An animal-lover from her earliest moments, Jane holds an id-yllic view of Af-rica, where she dreams of living life as a field re-searcher. What is fascinating, in following her story through broken engagements and bouts of malaria and myriad pets and very little money, is how determined and single-minded Goodall was and is. On her first visit to Gombe, Africa, where she will spend her life researching chimps, she writes home to family: "It is the Africa of my childhood’s dreams, and I have the chance of finding out things which no one has ever known before." In living with the chimps, learning their individual personalities and becoming familiar to them, Goodall discovered the animals using tools, eating meat, and performing ritual rain dances, strengthening their link to humans. Her sincere enthusiasm for her work hums on every page of this biography. —Brita Belli
THE LOVED ONE’S NATURAL MAKEOVER
Bravo to Mark Harris! This sometime-contributor to E has produced a wonderfully readable book on an unusual subject. Fans of Jessica Mitford’s An American Way of Death, first published in 1963 (and selling out immediately) might appreciate this green sequel. The death industry, which has long hosted funeral homes dedicated to squeezing as much cash as possible from the bereaved (with $10,000 coffins, among other things), is now undergoing a makeover. Why not a simple pine box, or (as seen on the award-winning HBO series Six Feet Under) a canvas shroud and a gentle lowering into the Earth? Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial (Scribner, $24) is a beautifully written narrative journey that documents how an intrepid few are opening some closed doors, getting rid of the toxic embalming fluids and polished caskets and allowing people to leave their bodies with dignity. We begin and end as dust, after all, and the growing natural burial business is assisting the worms to do their work. It’s packed with practical green burial information, too. —Jim Motavalli
FOR THE ANIMALS
Animal Instinct by Dorothy H. Hayes (iUniverse, $15.95) is a novel that lets the reading public in on a dirty secret: Animal rights activists are not necessarily congenial bosses. The novel, set in the author’s home state of Con-necticut, follows the misadventures of a tyrannical nonprofit CEO, Hon-or Vine, and the eventual struggle that develops over the heart and soul of the group. Hayes, a former reporter and con-firmed animal ad-vocate, has a good ear for dialogue and description, and her fast-paced book will keep you turning pages as you’re absorbing useful information about not only the world of fin, fur and claw, but about the movement to protect this wild kingdom. —Jim Motavalli