Tools for Green Living

SOY TO THE WORLD

Most candles contain paraffin, a petroleum-based wax that produces black soot when burned. The soot can stain ceilings and walls, and it is no fun to breathe! But candle lovers can now enjoy the sweet smell of Jennifer Brown-Owan’s Jenni Originals ($2 to $78). The candles are made from a blend of soybean and vegetable wax that Brown-Owan calls VegeSoy. While most soy candles are sold in containers because of their soft wax, Jenni Originals are freestanding pillars. Right down to the wick, Jenni Originals are cruelty-free, biodegradable and non-toxic. They burn from 15 to 150 hours, about 40 percent longer than paraffin candles. With a little soap and water, VegeSoy wax is easy to remove from wood, carpeting and other material. "Grapefruit Lemon and Eucalyptus Mint are two of our most popular pure essential oil candles," says Brown-Owan.

CONTACT

Jenni Originals
Tel: (877) 955-3664

—Eve Hightower


CALLING ALL ENVIRONMENTALISTS

The natural living website Redjellyfish has expanded to offer customers the chance to help save rainforests simply by using the phone. This Mountain View, California-based company donates eight percent of its monthly profits to The Nature Conservancy and the Jane Goodall Institute, which fight to protect rainforests. "This is a way for people to support environmental causes without a lot of bother," says Redjellyfish President Michael Galli. Redjellyfish calling cards are made from recycled plastic and monthly bills are printed on recycled paper. The monthly fee is $4.95 and interstate calls are a competitive seven cents per minute. Calling card rates are 15 cents per minute. For local toll rates and international calling cards, see the company’s solar-powered website.

CONTACT

Redjellyfish
Tel: (800) 222-5008

—E.H.


GREENER GIGABYTES

As the lights and ornaments twinkle this season, you can brighten a loved one’s holiday with a gift of greener technology. As the National Safety Council reports, by 2005 at least 55 million computers are expected to end up in landfills, with many of them leaching toxic compounds like lead and mercury into land and groundwater. The PowerMate eco ($1,599) from NEC Solutions is a less toxic PC. The compact, all-in-one unit has a lead-free motherboard. Its 15-inch flat screen liquid crystal display (LCD) contains no toxic boron, unlike conventional desktop monitors. The computer casing is made of 100 percent recyclable plastic, and it is flame retardant without the use of conventional brominated coatings. The PowerMate eco requires no fan to keep cool as it produces less heat and uses less power than most other computers. It ships with a 900-megahertz processor, 256 megabytes of RAM and a 20-gigabyte hard drive.

CONTACT

NEC Solutions
Tel: (888) 632-8701

—E.H.


ORNAMENTS FOR ORANGUTANS

Kevin Francis Face Pots, manufacturer of miniature, hand-painted china collectibles, recently introduced the Endangered Species Pots Collection, featuring uniquely designed manatees, sea turtles and parrots. When its "face" is lifted, each animal ($55) reveals a clever quote: "Rwanda the Gorilla" says, "When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." For an elegant Christmas tree, Whitehurst Imports and the National Wildlife Federation have created a collection of beautiful mouth-blown glass ornaments ($28) in the likeness of animals from Africa, Asia and North America. Kevin Francis Face Pots donates 10 percent of the sale price from selected pots to such causes as Save the Manatee Club and Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Whitehurst Imports promises 10 percent of the ornament proceeds to the National Wildlife Federation.

CONTACTS

Kevin Francis Face Pots
Tel: (800) 634-0431

Whitehurst Imports
Tel: (800) 230-1225

—Diana J. Benton


P.S. I SAVED A TREE

This holiday season, send cards that show you care…about the environment! Tree-Free Greetings splashes its cards and envelopes with vibrant colors, covering every inch with beautiful artwork. Tree-Free makes its exceptional cards ($2.25) out of kenaf, a 4,000-year-old crop with roots in ancient Africa. Kenaf grows 40 times faster than trees, doesn’t require insecticides or chlorine treatment, and can be recycled. In addition to its broad offering of design choices (including Pets, Americana, World Wildlife and Native American), Tree-Free is introducing seasonal cards this year, just in time for the holidays! Cards can be bought online at www.ndncrk.com or at more than 5,000 independent retailers.

CONTACT

Tree-Free Greetings
Tel: (866) 873-3373

—D.J.B.


GOOD CLEAN FUN

Parents looking to avoid toxic toys this holiday season need look no further than Childsake and Ecobaby. Childsake’s dolls ($30.99) are made of natural and recycled material, and come with both a planting kit and a message about caring for the environment. The company’s soft bears, bunnies, elephants, turtles and whales ($9.49 to $41.99) are made of organic cotton. From the sustainably harvested maple and ash to the cooperatively crafted toy, Childsake is as Earth-friendly as a toy company can be. And, five percent of Childsake’s profits go to Save the Children.

Ecobaby’s huggable toys ($7.95 to $139.99) are made from organic cotton and wool and are naturally resistant to bacteria, dust mites and water. These stuffed animals and dolls are machine washable and dryable. The company’s wooden toys ($5.49 to $499.99) are free of potentially toxic PVC plastic, and its cotton is "organic every step of the way," says Ginny Caldwell, the founder of Ecobaby. "We realize the hard work and time commitment of a parent, so we do the research for you," she adds.

CONTACTS

Childsake

Ecobaby
Tel: (888) ECO-BABY

—E.H.


Books

PLANTS AND POSSIBILITIES

It’s old news that plastics are practical and inexpensive, yet potentially damaging to the environment. But chemistry professor and author E.S. Stevens explores the material of the future—plastics made from plants—in Green Plastics (Princeton University Press, $29.95). Stevens provides a thorough introduction to the newly developing field of environmentally friendly plastics, or "bioplastics." An invaluable resource for students

and teachers, and an accessible starting point for nonspecialists, this well-written book explains the fundamentals of plastic sciences and acquaints readers with emerging technologies. Stevens even provides step-by-step instructions for making bioplastics at home, with supplies from the supermarket!

Eminent environmentalists William McDonough and Michael Braungart appreciate plants for their environmental efficiency. Of the belief that the very concept of "waste" can be eliminated, McDonough and Braungart, co-authors of Cradle to Cradle (North Point Press, $25), insist that human prosperity depends on learning to imitate nature’s highly effective system of regenerative cycles. McDonough and Braungart, respectively an architect and a chemist, are eager to "remake the way we make things," and their highly regarded new book offers innovative design (the book’s pages are made of tree-free, waterproof synthetic "paper") and an honest respect for the planet and its biodiversity.

—D.J.B.


READING, WRITING, RECYCLING

"Go on a weight-loss program that works," author Pam Grout writes. Um
excuse me?? But that’s not an insult; it’s simply one of the tips in her highly comical and informative book, Recycle This Book and 72 1/2 Even Better Ways to Save "Yo Momma" Earth (Patootie Press). The book is printed wholly on recycled bags and paper, most of which were hand cut by Grout herself. According to Grout, each American produces roughly his or her own body weight in trash each month, and her suggestion is not to cut down your waistline, but rather the amount of trash you create. For $8.95, you can learn 71 1/2 other ways to be nicer to our "Momma."

CONTACT

Pam Grout
Tel: (785) 331-2495

—Corene Luh


FLYING HIGH

The epic flights of an albatross he named Amelia are chronicled in Carl Safina’s Eye of the Albatross (Henry Holt and Company, $27.50). Albatrosses can travel as much as 5,000 miles without stopping, and Safina’s book traces Amelia’s journeys across the Pacific and back to Tern Island, where her baby awaits its food and scientists await observation opportunities. Woven among the tales of Amelia’s trips are the recollections of fishermen and biologists. Safina gives us an informative narrative of albatross life while also sharing with us his wonder at the natural world, which created an animal so perfectly suited for its environment. Along the way, Safina also reminds us that many albatross species are endangered, partly because they become entangled in commercial fishing lines.

—Abbi Leman


VEGGIE DINING’S ULTIMATE GUIDE

Perennial holiday concerns include how to buy the right presents for everyone, and how to keep from gaining weight in the midst of all the wine-and-dine festivities. ViVa’s Healthy Eating Guide (ViVa’s Center for Nutrition, $14.95), by Lisa Margolin and Connie Dee, just might solve two problems at once. First, get this comprehensive directory of vegetarian, healthy ethnic, and natural foods restaurants, and markets across America as a present for someone. The book lists healthy eating establishments alphabetically by state, then city or town, then restaurant. Next, get a copy for yourself and start planning your Christmas parties. Now you can make sure that everything you taste this holiday season is both healthy and delicious.

—Jane Pek


O WALKING TREE

Skarskantuana ((o-ho-lee-ab) Publishing, $21.95) is the inspirational story of a schoolteacher who, in reading her seventh graders" spring break stories, is amazed to find a tale she remembered from her own childhood about Skarskantuans, trees that could walk. Having previously thought the story to be her mother’s own crazy concoction, the teacher sets out to discover whether the tale is fact or fable, and the book consists of her journal entries. Published as a beautifully bound notepad, the book includes an activity section that encourages readers to write on their own and plenty of blank space. The first of an eight-book Great Lakes Series by couple Caleb Bland and Wendy Streit, Skarskantuana is a fusion of Christian and environmental ethics that will inspire imaginative growth in all young readers.

—Stefan Rogus