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.