TASTE THE RAINFOREST
Tired of candy coming in the same old flavors? Ecuador-based Yachana Gourmet offers organic alternatives to the candy mainstream. The all-natural Jungle Chocolate ($2.49) combines dried, roasted cacao beans (the source of chocolate) with sugar cane syrup and a variety of tasty ingredients. Choose from four different mixes: Jungle Chocolate with Pineapple, Jungle Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts, Jungle Chocolate with Brazil Nuts and Essence of Coffee, or Jungle Chocolate with Raisins and Coconut. This fair-trade company also donates profits to the Foundation for Integrated Education and Development (FUNEDESIN), which to date has preserved 3,600 acres of rainforest, provided health care for more than 8,000 inhabitants of rural Ecuador, and offered technical assistance for regional farmers. Look for Jungle Chocolate in natural foods stores and on Yachana Gourmet’s website.
If you’ve ever felt uneasy about those hard-to-pronounce chemical additives in your lip balm, this product will bring peace to your mind… and a pleasant tingling sensation to your lips. Jess" Bee Natural lip balm, offered in peppermint and tangerine flavors, is a purely blameless blend of beeswax, soybean oil, shea butter, aloe vera gel and vitamin E. The use of tried-and-true remedies to soothe weather-beaten lips means that there is no need for guinea pigs—in fact, the label guarantees: "The only animals we test on are ourselves." Handmade in Columbus, Ohio by Jessica Billings, the lip balm is available in 150 stores across the U.S. You can also buy the balms direct from the company’s website for $3 each. When making a purchase, you can feel good about supporting a friendly face instead of a corporate behemoth. "I"m a one-person company!" Billings laughs.
CONTACT: Jess" Bee Natural, (614)784-8565, www.beenaturallipbalm.com.
Serving as an alternative to junk food snacks, Our Family Farm offers Kosher-certified, organic and all-natural cookies and crackers. Designed for children, but appealing to adults as well, these bite-sized treats include favorites such as the Arctic Bear Iced Lemon Cookies and the Captain’s Catch Baked Cheese Crackers. The products (averaging about $2.50 for a six- to seven-ounce box) contain no trans fats or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Cookies are also available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, and the crackers come in a baked whole wheat variety without cheese. Our Family Farm donates 100 percent of its after-tax profits to children’s charities. Says Annie Bennett, "In giving, we become a part of the solution. That was my father’s dream when he started Our Family Farm."
CONTACT: Our Family Farm, (859)261-2627, www.ourfamilyfarm.com.
FROM A MOUNTAIN MAMA
With Greenridge Herbals, founder and certified herbalist Collen Miller found a way to infuse the beauty and fragrance of nature into everyday products. Her small Rocky Mountain workshop uses organic ingredients and essential oils to craft small batches of herbal soaps ($5), skincare ($12), soy candles ($6 to $16), bath products ($12) and baby care products ($12). The items—most of which contain ingredients from Miller’s own organic garden—are scented with her own special blends, which include: Rocky Mountain Evergreen, Lavender, Sandouli (patchouli and sandalwood), Cowboy Grit, Juniper Spice, Mountain Sage and more. These therapeutic products, for both men and women, are recommended to stifle stress, smooth and clean both young and old skin and to serve as a reminder of the fresh aroma of clean mountain air.
CONTACT: Greenridge Herbals, (303)697-1468, www.greenridgeherbals.com.
"You can have your pie and eat it too!" is the motto of the VegTime company, maker of the all-natural vegan Handi-Pie ($3.79). These pies, made from 70 percent organic ingredients by animal activist Davy Davidson, are healthy and hearty sandwiches made especially for those who have to eat on the run. While they may look pocketsize, they are packed full of veggies, beans, whole grains and unique flavors, making them quite filling. Handi-Pies come in four flavors: Indian Curry, Tennessee BBQ, HotChick (a Thanksgiving-style treat), and Thai Vegetable. Handi-pies are not only good for satisfying healthy appetites, but they also help save the environment. Portions of the proceeds go towards educating the public about sustainable living, agriculture, animal cruelty on farms and animal-free diets. VegTime plans to have national distribution by the time this issue appears.
CONTACT: VegTime, (415) 921-8925, www.vegtime.com.
DRINK TO YOUR HEALTH
New questions have arisen about environmental hazards associated with traditionally produced wine. The pesticides sprayed over vineyards can lead to noxious contaminants, not only at the bottom of your wine glass but also at the bottoms of our rivers. Yet, some critics have complained that organic wines are often sub par. But now California-based Organic Vintners imports a full range of affordable (most around $10 to $20 a bottle) high-quality organic wines, several of which are produced according to biodynamic practices (linking planting and harvesting to lunar and Earth cycles). Organic Vintners also offers vegan-friendly wines (wines strained using natural clays instead of animal products such as egg albumen).
CONTACT: Organic Vintners, (303)245-8773, www.organicvintners.com.
LITTLE BOOK, BIG PICTURE
In a culture of shrinking attention spans and multiple media distractions, it is often difficult to shoehorn environmental education into the mix. The Little Earth Book (Disinformation Company, $9.95), by James Bruges, succeeds marvelously in cramming some of the most provocative, eye-opening, disconcerting information on the state of our planet into a 187-page paperback small enough to be tucked into a coat pocket. Presented in a series of mini-essays that can be read in three minutes each, the book explores a host of ecological, political and economic issues that are likely to haunt future generations. Did you know that three-fourths of all plant species have become extinct since 1900, and that the top one percent of U.S. households make more money than the entire bottom 95 percent? The boo
k is perfect for skeptics on the move, but even for the sedentary The Little Earth Book provides many inspiring examples of movements working to build a sustainable future.
GREENHOUSE TO GREEN SKYSCRAPER
"A visible green roof is probably the single most effective way that a building can express differences in environmental attitude," write authors Nigel Dunnett and Noel Kingsbury in their innovative book Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls (Timber Press, $34.95). Whether you are the architect of a complex commercial building or the proud owner of a one-room shack, this informative book can show you how and why to make your building "green." Dunnett and Kingsbury explore all of the advantages of green structures from their aesthetic charm to their environmental benefits, which include the ability to promote diversity in plant, bird and insect life, improvements in stormwater management, reduced noise and air pollution, added insulation, reduced maintenance and longer life. The authors illustrate the beauty and practicality of green roofs and facades with beautiful photographs and illustrations.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans (then 10 percent of the population) from diverse backgrounds took to the streets with the common mission of protecting the environment. Earth Day marked the naissance of an era of environmental activism and legislation, and co-founder Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) was the catalyst. In The Man From Clear Lake (University of Wisconsin Press, $30), author Bill Christofferson takes his readers from Nelson’s home base in rural Wisconsin to the U.S. Senate, while exploring what spurred him on—a love of nature. This beautifully written biography reveals a man of great diligence, who possessed the ability to mobilize citizens, senators and Presidents to make a stand for "an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all living creatures."
"THE WRECKING CREW"
George W. Bush’s environmental agenda—demolition, deregulation and liquidation of environmental assets—has enraged voters from across the spectrum. Critics, including these authors, say the Bush administration has single-handedly put the brakes on environmental progress after a century of steady growth. Strategic Ignorance (Sierra Club Books, $24.95), written by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope and Sierra magazine senior editor Paul Rauber, provides detailed evidence that exposes the Bush administration for deliberate environmental negligence. One example among many they cite is the November 2003 decision to drop the investigation of 50 power plants for violations of the Clean Air Act, and the proposed "Clear Skies Initiative," which clears the way for power plants to emit more pollutants. The book also proposes 10 fundamental solutions to help the environment heal from the Bush aftermath.
A book with a similar theme, Bush Versus the Environment (Anchor Books, $12), written by veteran reporter Robert S. Devine, provides an in-depth look into why and how the Bush administration puts polluters in charge and refuses to enforce existing laws. Devine maintains that the administration’s laissez-faire policies gouge the taxpayer, since they—and not the actual polluter—end up paying the bills for cleaning up the mess.
If you have the misfortune of finding yourself drifting on a raft at sea or desperately foraging for food in the deep woods, you’d be lucky if you remembered to bring your SAS Survival Guide: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea (HarperCollins, $19.95). John "Lofty" Wiseman of the British Special Air Service provides a compendium of esoteric information for the stranded: cook ants for at least six minutes, zigzag when fleeing a rhino, and don’t urinate while swimming in the Amazon because a catfish might swim up your urethra. For the more conventionally adventurous, Wiseman provides basic information, with color illustrations, of poisonous and edible fruits and fungi and of dangerous snakes. He illustrates knots and covers first aid. And for the stay-at-home, he provides food for the imagination. What if I did get stranded? Could I survive?
AN ECO-CLASSIC REBORN
Limits to Growth —The 30-Year Update (Chelsea Green Publishing, $35, $22.50 paperback) revisits both the influential 1972 work of the same name and its 1992 sequel, Beyond the Limits, to assess environmental progress and project possible world outcomes. "Growth has been the dominant behavior of the world socioeconomic system for more than 200 years," write authors Dennis Meadows, the late Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers. The authors present compelling evidence that this focus on growth at all costs has led us into a dangerous phase called "overshoot" in which we’ve overestimated and over-used the Earth’s capacity. Without immediate corrective action, the authors warn, we face an unprecedented collapse. Using a computer model dubbed World3, the authors explore how such variables as birth and death rates, energy use and food production might produce varying outcomes. "The world faces not a preordained future, but a choice," they write, hinting at the hope their book provides for a more sustainable future.
DAVID ORR’S NEW PARADIGM
Which of the following can be associated with "the environment:" A) renewable energy; B) national security; C) terrorism; or D) organic agriculture? According to The Last Refuge (Island Press, $20), all of the above. In his new book, subtitled "Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terror," David W. Orr says our national security and future prosperity are intimately connected to our stewardship of the environment. The longer we rely on nonrenewable energy sources and unsustainable corporate agribusiness, he writes, the more vulnerable we become to terrorism and environmental catastrophe. Calling for a radically different approach to policymaking, Orr envisions a truly democratic government that would protect the rights of future generations and count "natural capital" as national wealth.