Tools for Green Living


“Explode them dawgs,” says the voluble Mark Mason of the Varmint Militia, who spends his vacations shooting prairie dogs for the pure joy of seeing them airborne by the force of a .22-caliber bullet. Mason is one of the protagonists of Varmints, a Bullfrog Films’ feature-length documentary by Doug Hawes-Davis about the plight of the American prairie dog, once one of the most successful mammals on the Great Plains, but increasingly one of the most endangered. Varmints might turn your stomach with its graphic imagery of exploding prairie dogs, but it’s a balanced treatment, letting its interview subjects either elucidate or hang themselves. Atmospheric old government films are chilling in the intensity of their bloodlust. But as several experts point out in the film, there’s just no evidence that prairie dogs interfere with farmers or ranchers.

Baboon Tales, also from Bullfrog Films, is no standard nature film. This video tells the socially-adept creatures’ tale with science and genuine respect—you’ll learn how baboons use humans to find water, react to infant starvation, and revere their elders for their food-finding wisdom. Both are available for rental or purchase from: Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547, tel. (800) 543-FROG.

—Hal Herring and Tracey C. Rembert


Buying products directly from small co-ops throughout the world, SERRV International markets merchandise through a network of churches and socially-responsible stores across the U.S. Offering shade-grown coffee from Costa Rica, hand-harvested wild rice from the White Earth reservation in Minnesota, and an extensive selection of hand-woven natural fiber baskets, trays and platters, purchases help international communities in need, while channeling proceeds to their creators, not unnecessary “middlemen.” Catalogs are available from: SERRV International, 500 Main Street, New Windsor, MD 21776-0365, tel. (800) 423-0071.



Before you head out to Pier One to buy a set of typical tumblers, check out the creative styles of Green Glass. This South African-based company is giving new life to empty glass bottles. Founders Sean Penrith and Philip Tetley discovered that the bottles piling up in their backyard could become unique wine glasses, tumblers, coffee mugs and vases. An added perk is that with each glass purchased, a donation is made to the World Wildlife Fund. CONTACT: Green Glass, PO Box 1040, Great Barrington, MA 01230, tel. (413) 274-1111.

—Meagan Boltwood


The World Wildlife Fund is stepping up its direct action techniques. The organization now boasts the Conservation Action Network (CAN) at, and is dedicated to increasing “rapid response” to environmental concerns by sending registered users e-mail “action alerts” on everything from endangered species to global warming. Simply send your response to the network, which forwards it to the appropriate decision-makers. With nearly 9,000 participants from over 100 countries, the network is proving that “You CAN make a difference.”



Cascadian Farm is looking for enthusiastic apprentices to work on its farm in Washington’s beautiful North Cascade Mountains and learn the art of organic production, landscaping, maintenance, marketing, small project construction and cooperative living. Farm manager Harlyn Meyer says the apprenticeship “can be very rigorous and demanding at times, but it’s also a great way to gain personal insight while participating in the amazing cycle of the farm.” Participants work 50-hour weeks in exchange for knowledge, room, board and a $50 per week stipend. CONTACT: Cascadian Farm, 719 Metcalf Street, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, tel. (360) 853-8173.



What do you get when you take a comfortable river sandal made from waterproof, naturally-raised cow leather and recycled rubber, and give it a name honoring one of the most endangered fish in the country? The Coho Sandal, of course. Produced by the folks at Deep E Co. using a nontoxic tanning process, sales from the rugged, water-loving sandal will benefit the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund to support its efforts in protecting Coho salmon habitat. Available for $75 from Deep E Co., 404 NW 10th Avenue, Suite 201, Portland, OR 97209, tel. (888) 233-3373.

—Fran Ryan


If you’re running out of amazing wildlife stories to tell your friends, it may be time for a new adventure. Why not leave them speechless with a whale tale? Patricia Corrigan’s The Whale Watcher’s Guide: Whale-Watching Trips in North America ($12.95; NorthWord Press, 800-328-3895) is an in-depth look at how to pick a trip and what to expect, while reviewing participating tours, museums, aquariums and national parks. The helpful list of whale organizations, programs and suggested readings will certainly point whale watchers in the right direction.

And once you have a destination, don’t forget to pick up Barron’s Nature Travel Guides: On the Trail of Whales ($11.95; Editions Nathan). This colorful guide, written by Jean-Michel Dumont and Remy Marion, offers detailed descriptions of whale behavior, reproduction and migration routes, while profiling whale-watching “hot spots”—and how to get to them, where to stay and when to visit.



There’s no need to leave home to live it up at a spa. Pamper yourself in your own bedroom by creating some of Greta Breedlove’s recipes for relaxation in The Herbal Home Spa ($14.95; Storey Publishing). A how-to on herbal rejuvenation, the book includes a list of natural ingredients, needed equipment and tips on making your spa experience more enjoyable. Escape the unpronounceable ingredients of commercial products by indulging yourself in a relaxing Venus Vinegar Bath or moisturizing your skin with homemade Orange Blossom Face Cream.



Have you ever wondered how to cultivate a garden that produces more than commercial strains of plants and vegetables? Thanks to Starting From Seed, novice to experienced gardeners can combat the increasing loss of genetic diversity in food crops by propagating unique heirloom varieties at home. Edited by Karen Davis Cutler and Janet Marinelli, this easy-to-read guide includes everything the natural gardener needs to know about obtaining, growing, collecting and storing seeds. The key to a healthy, diverse harvest is now at your fingertips. Available for $9.95 from Brooklyn Botanical Garden, 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225-1099, tel. (718) 622-4433 (ext. 274).



No Dear

, Not Here by Jean Davies Okimoto ($14.95; Sasquatch Books) takes children on a Pacific coast journey, with two marbled murrelets as their guides. Ralph and Alice are a happy bird couple, searching for a place to build a nest. In this colorfully-illustrated book, the birds travel the cities of the coast, but can not find a suitable place to settle down. From a Vancouver Canucks hockey game to the top of a totem pole, their search finally ends in the pristine old-growth cathedral of the Clayoquot Sound.



Gale E. Christianson dispels the idea that global warming is a modern phenomenon in Greenhouse: The Dramatic 200-Year Story of Global Warming ($22; Walker Publishing). The 300 billion-year-old history begins with natural philosophers and scientists, who first described the Earth as a giant greenhouse. The debate shifts into the industrial realm of fossil fuel use, and concludes with 20th century researchers debating the globe’s demise, from El Nino storms to decimated penguin populations. With this book, Christianson shows that the controversy over global warming has escaped its think-tank roots and become accessible to the general public.