Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last-minute green gifts for bakers, bathers, film buffs, tasters

Last-minute green gifting? It doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. If you’ve still got a few people left to shop for, here are a few ideas:
The baker: With the economy tanking, more people are cooking at home. Outfit your budding chef with healthy cookware (for risks of conventional nonstick coatings, click here). Uncoated aluminum and stainless baking sheets are sold at nearly all home and big-box (i.e. Target and Wal-Mart) stores. Or go high-tech with Todd English’s GreenPan line of PFOA-free, ceramic non-stick bakeware. The nano-ceramic coating is durable, and it won’t chip and flake like standard, chemical (and carcinogenic) nonstick finishes. A 3-piece bakeware set (including a pizza pan, cooking sheet and roasting pan) sells for $59.90; you have until Dec. 16th for Christmas Eve delivery.

The niece or nephew living in a dorm or just starting out in the world: As much as we love to encourage you to buy local, Wal-Mart, with all of its new green offerings, is everywhere—good if you’re in need of a gift and a long way from home. Their organic cotton bath towels are thirsty, plush, made in the U.S. and a thrifty $14.88/set (see for store locations).

The movie buff: Everyone and their brother seems to have discovered Netflix, but for those few who haven’t, consider a gift subscription that allows you to have rented DVDs shipped or downloaded. Plans start at $4.99/month (you can gift however many months you want).
The person who has everything: In these cases, my favorite gift to give is food. Visit your local health food store and compile a set of Fair Trade Certified teas or coffees, or get a little more creative with local, organic beers and wines. You can even “go local” with liquor: Here in New York, Tuthill Town Spirits makes “Spirit of the Hudson Vodka” with Hudson Valley apples and “Old Gristmill Authentic American Corn Whisky” from New York-grown corn.
by Green Shopper

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Handmade soap

If you don’t have a local handmade soap vendor at your farmers’ market, or even if you do, you can't go wrong giving Healdsburg Soap Company's vegetable-based squares, and keeping at least one to get you through the holidays. The artisanal soaps, made in the food and wine country of Sonoma, California, are $6.50 each, and produce a lovely soft cleansing lather. Lavender soap is flecked with bits of flower hulls; there's also pear/oatmeal, Sonoma rose, sauvignon blanc, and more. Unlike many vegetable soaps, these solid squares didn’t melt away but held their shape till the end (on a soap saver, of course).

Healdsburg also makes a liquid castile soap in lemon, rosemary or natural, $14, and shea butter lotion in many scents--in the spirit of the season, we’ll take the fig, please, $18.

You can choose your own selection among the products and have them sent in a wooden gift box. Hurry to Healdsburg Soap!

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Green gadget: Pushbutton PC savings

Every home office slave needs a cute little useful desk companion that reminds you to be thrifty. Save up to $50 a year with the Eco-button, which puts your PC into energy-saving hibernation every time you press the button and wander away. Yes, all those coffee, lunch and bathroom breaks add up to squandered energy!

You plug it into your computer's U.S.B. port (Universal Serial Bus) where you plug in modem, mice, or DSL cables. Coming soon for Macs. This feature on Eco-button's website helps you calculate how much you'll save. At least, at a cost of $21.99 with shipping, the button will more than pay for itself in less than a year. Available until dec 24, according to their website.

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Real organic hand cream without phthalates

Hands are hard workers. You want to keep them clean, and soothe them with lotion when they get dry and chapped, but it’s not only babies and children who live hand to mouth, and I’d rather not transfer residues of petrochemicals to the food I prepare. Recently I discovered Organic Essence shea cream for hands & bodies, which is one of those rare USDA Organic and Fairly Traded certified personal care products. It's an instant soother for winter dryness and itches. Another great plus: It's wrapped in a Forest Stewardship Council certified label, and packaged in a tub of biodegradable cardboard with a lift-top that resembles those little single-serving cartons of ice cream.

Note: I have used the lemongrass mint and pink grapefruit for months with great success; it also comes in lavender. The fragranced creams (with organic essential oils) smoothe on easily. But the pure shea lotion is rather hard and waxy, and needs to be warmed and softened before you can apply.

With certified organic, you know a product can't be hiding synthetic fragrance spiked with phthalates, those pesky, hormone-disrupting plasticizers that disrupt male reproductive development in humans as well as animals, according to a study published this autumn in Environmental Health Perspectives. See Greenerpenny’s updated list of phthalate-free personal care product brands.

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light jewelry in every way

All that glitters is not gold...and that's a good thing for the environment! Recycled metal has a much lighter footprint than newly mined aluminum, silver or gold, and recycled aluminum is light on the wearer and, in this case, gentle to the pocketbook as well. Timeless gilt chains and links are especially cool this fall, and Jillery's jewelry is so stylish, in its natural color or anodized to create a shimmering gold tone, that it will truly make your season bright. And did we mention affordable? Big "gold" dangling disk earrings, "36. Gold disk pendant, $26. Bracelet, $68. There are necklaces, too, from $68. Move over, Chanel!
Orders are shipped within 1-7 days. Jillery also designs and makes candlesticks, glass and barware, utensils, menorahs, all sorts of unique, happy gifts.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

What, no Kindles?

Alas, dear readers, it’s true. The Kindle, the Amazon wireless e-book downloading and reading device we recommended in October, has sold out for the second straight holiday season, and won’t be available until late February 2009. The Wall Street Journal reports that e-book sales rose 77.8% between September 2007 and 2008. Nice to know that some of us are escaping from recession worries between virtual covers, while others are left flipping through old-fashioned paper pages that killed trees.

For the un-Kindled, this is both good news and bad news. Bad because we can’t get or give it in time for the holidays. Good, because we won’t be tempted to spend the money that’s in, er, short supply right now ($359, which may always seem too high after Oprah’s $50 coupon offering tipped the sales scales and then expired Nov. 1). If we wait (and we have no choice), the price may drop, the way it did from $400 in 2007 to $359 in 2008.
Open to substitutes? Enter the Sony PRS-505 digital reader (pictured above), now on sale for $274.95 T But not so fast! It looks like a Kindle, but it's not wireless, so you need a cable connected to your computer in order to download e-pubs. The Sony Style online e-book store has 57,000 titles, compared with Amazon’s 200,000. But in its favor, the Sony reader weighs only 9 ounces versus the Kindle’s 10.3 ounces. That leaves room for a lipstick in our carry-on bag.

We’ll think about it. Oh, you can also download books from a list of 40,000 titles for free with your Apple iPhone, and even try to read them on the tiny screen. If you have one. We don’t.

For us, the Kindle illustrates the value of delayed gratification, known to some as procrastination. If we decide to give one, it’ll be with a handmade I.O.U. tucked into a traditional book, and the understanding that the recipient can wait till February for a Kindle, select a Sony reader instead, or up to $350 towards an iPhone, provided they recycle their old cell phone. To find a drop-off place, type in your zip code at Earth 911.

What green eye shadows you have!

This “secretly green” gift may not solve the world’s environmental woes, but it is better for the health of the women who use it. Mineral cosmetics, made literally from ingredients pulled from the earth and very little else, are great for overly sensitive, pore-clogged skin. And the eye shadows in this “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” kit from Jane Iredale actually feel good—undoubtedly thanks to the minerals and anti-inflammatory pomegranate extract used to make them. Aside from being good for your skin, mineral cosmetics don’t need hazardous preservatives, like parabens or formaldehyde-containing urea, since they don’t have any water or oil that may grow bacteria. This also means they have a longer shelf life than cream or liquid eye cosmetics, so that $46 price tag will last you a while.

For a smaller price tag ($7.49), you can give one of the eyeshadows in Almay's new Pure Blends line, which come in colors like stone, sage, cocoa and orchid (yes!) and and are silica-free (no chance of grit getting in your eyes, or, worse, lungs). Almay's shadows are also free of phthalates and parabens and, so far as we can tell, petrochemicals, period.

Green drugstore divas know to love Physicians Formula new Organic Wear mineral eyeshadows in round cardboard compacts with mirrored lids; each contains two shades of brown, green or blue, and 15.9% certified organic ingredients. Organic Wear is certifed by Ecocert, a respected French organization that also vets food, mostly in Europe, and requires that all packaging be recyclable. Regularly $7.95, now only $4.77 at . Take care not to confuse with the regular Physicians Formula line, including eye shadows, which contain parabens.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good value in green apparel

For her, we couldn't resist telling you about this lacy, light but warm alpaca investment for $29, marked down 80% from $149 at Viva Terra.

He'll be a soft touch in the organic hemp/flax jersey longsleeve crewneck sweater in natural ($56) or natural dye colors ($64), including manly oak and licorice black (yum) at Rawganique.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Green gifts for presidential pets

History in the making: the first African-American president, the first non-Southern Democrat president since JFK, and news that the soon-to-be first family is getting a puppy—which has so many news anchors and bloggers speculating about the breed that we’ve nearly forgotten about the dismal state of our economy.

Despite plummeting stocks, it appears that all pets will be getting extra attention this season, according to a new Consumer Reports survey. Fifty-nine percent of polled respondents said that they plan on giving fewer gifts this season, but only 23 percent said they’d give fewer gifts to their pets. So how are you going to make your pup feel presidential? I’d suggest some Eco Bones from West Paw Design ($9.50 each). These colorful, nontoxic squeaky toys are made from the company’s trademarked fiber, ItelliLoft, which is a polyester made from recycled-plastic soda bottles. And if cats are your fancy, West Paw uses its Intelliloft in toy pumpkins, fish, flowers and turtles stuffed with certified-organic catnip ($5 and up).

For more info, see And as far as my vote for the Obamas’ dog of choice, I’m casting my ballot for a Shih Tzu, although in his first press conference after the election , Barack Obama, who incidentally graduated from Punahou, the top green Hawaiian school, he was leaning towards a mongrel, which in Hawaii is called a poi dog.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Affordable green warmth: throws

Something new: Certified organic Vermont merino "O" wool throws, colored with heavy-metal-free dyes, are marked down to $99 from $130 at BlanketsnMore.

Something recycled: A one-of-a-kind Welsh plaid for $29! These gorgeous 45 x 60" throws for picnic, child's bed or couch (or wrapped around shoulders, as Dickensian shawls) are made by Tweedmill Textiles in Wales, and sales benefit Britain's non-profit National Trust, which conserves all those drafty castles and heritage gardens.

Made from recycled wool that's re-spun and woven with random colors (so no two are alike), this is a gift to warm the heart (and toes) of everyone on your list, including, should he be so lucky, the green-minded Prince of Wales. From

Something itch-free: Green (or blue or pink) Eco-fleece throws, made of 50% post-consumer-recycled soda bottles, are made in Costa Rica with fair trade standards under the auspices of the Fair Indigo Foundation. $34.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Green Gridiron Gift

Any non-sports greenies with die-hard, football-fan relatives know how difficult said relatives can be to shop for come birthdays and holidays. This year, however, I found salvation in a small publisher out of Delaware called Asgard Press that prints reproductions of vintage college football programs on notecards and calendars. AND they do it on 100-percent recycled paper with soy-based inks! They have most of the big sports schools covered—Auburn (my brother-in-law’s reason for being), Michigan, Army, Nebraska—as well as the Pac 10 and Ivy League. Classic rivalries such as Stanford/UC Berkeley and Harvard/Yale are also depicted.

Asgard also prints vintage Marvel Comic and Mad Magazine covers. The reproductions are such good quality that the calendar pages are frame-worthy once the year is over. Calendars are $18.95 and a set of 20 notecards (4 different images) is $19.95 at
By Green Shopper

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Green gifts 2008: The Kindle

Last night, I was making my holiday travel arrangements, when it dawned on me that the holiday shopping season will officially gear up next Saturday—probably at 12:01 when Halloween is officially over. I’ve never been much of a planner when it comes to the holidays, but this year, with the economy in the tanker, I’m trying to get a head start so I don’t get a single massive bill in January.

Which leads me to my next few weeks’ posts—ideas for green gift-givers that don’t come across as preachy or judgmental but can still lead the giftee down a greener path. Honestly, who wants another compact fluorescent bulb, reusable shopping bag or travel mug silently reminding them that they’re not as green as they could be?

My first pick is an expensive but super-cool techie gift that I already bought for myself—the Amazon Kindle. Designed as an e-book reader, this gadget also has a wireless connection that allows you to download not just books but newspapers, magazines and blogs as well. I bought mine for superficial reasons (I love to read the newspaper but hate lugging it around and getting black ink all over myself, my bag and anything else the paper rubs up against). And the Kindle's pretty light; I'd say it weighs the same, if not less than, a paperback. Then, after purchasing it, I read a report that wirelessly downloading a year’s worth of newspapers saves 520 pounds of paper, or about 3 trees every year. And the device has a removable battery, so when it dies, you can replace the battery alone—not the entire thing (ahem, Apple, you could learn a thing or two…)

If you’ve got an obsessive reader on your list who’s leery of ditching the comfort of print for something so cold as electronic ink, you can stress the money savings: If she buys a new book every two weeks at $20 a piece (easy to do if you love hardcovers), she’ll save $250 a year, since Amazon sells all their e-books for $10. And that $50-a-month New York Times subscription is a mere $14.

Plus, the cool factor is unbeatable. Even Oprah’s jumped on board.

Kindles sell for $359 on

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Have a Healthy Mattress for Less $

An affordable green mattress? That seems like a contradiction in terms, when most natural latex, wool or organic cotton mattresses start in the $2,000 range. But it looks like everyone’s favorite furniture bargain basement, Ikea, has gotten into the game.

Their new Sultan Heidal mattress is part of a new collection of greenish mattresses stuffed with a mix of 85% natural and 15% synthetic latex, corn-based synthetic fibers and wool. They use an “eco-cotton” wrap, which according to company reps, is organically grown and treated with a salt-based flame retardant, free of health problems associated with other flame retardants such as boric acid and melamine.
The nice thing about these, particularly in this economic climate, is that they start at $499 for a twin and top out at $999 for kings. For more info, see

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shower Power

Small economies can add up to significant savings, particularly when it comes to energy: turning lights off, plugging electronics into smart power strips, and water-efficient showerheads. I tried the latter after the eco-guilt of my addictively long, hot wintertime showers. Since it’s getting to be that season again, I thought I’d pass along my pick for the best, Delta’s H2O Kinetics 1.6 gallon-per-minute showerhead.

It uses about one-third less water per minute than the federal government requires, but it’s designed so that water droplets are larger and therefore retain more heat. At $56 a showerhead, I was convinced this was just marketing speak that wouldn’t live up to Delta’s promises, but oh, my friends, was I so delightfully wrong. These showerheads are magnificently efficient and even boosted my pitifully weak 4th-floor water pressure. Get one now before winter sets in, and you might not feel so guilty about lingering in the shower on cold, frosty mornings.

There’s not much apartment renters like me can do to green their dwellings, aside from keeping their (landlord’s) refrigerators well maintained and running efficiently, using air conditioners (if you have one) as little as possible in summer, and keeping the heat down as low as possible in the winter (provided you can actually control the temperature of your own apartment). So a showerhead that saves water, as well as the electricity that heats it, just feels good, all around.

H2O Kinetics 1.6 gpm showerheads retail for $56.85; find a store near you at Delta's website.

By Green Shopper

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Portable glass food containers

Plastics aren’t all bad. Those numbered 1, 2, 4 or 5 are perfectly fine and don’t leach chemicals, but all this talk about hormone disruptors in plastics (like bisphenol A, which the FDA mind-bogglingly insists is safe despite numerous studies suggesting otherwise) has me rediscovering the reassuring safety of glass.

A few weeks ago at Zabar’s in New York City, I stumbled onto these cool glass “Frigoverre Plus” containers made by an Italian company called Bormioli Rocco. The lids, made of non-leaching polypropylene, or PP (#5 recycling code) have special vents that make the containers airtight so your food stays fresh, just like it does wrapped in petroleum-based plastic only without the plastic-y taste. The glass is microwave-safe. And they’re leak-proof; speaking from personal experience, even the runniest soups stay inside after sloshing around in a shoulder bag.

A set of 3 Frigoverre Plus containers goes for $37.95 at

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Little luxuries: Organic socks and PJs

Running is a breeze in Maggie's Organics' 82%certified-organic-cotton, 15% Coolmax, 3% Lycra terry sports socks, the comfiest I've ever worn. And though they're low cut, they stay up over your heels. $9 a pair.

And while you're there, check out the pretty easy camisole and shorts set, now on sale for $28.