“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”Anne Lappe

Here are a few ideas and suggestions for less materialistic, more beneficial and values-driven gift-giving—for the holidays or any other occasion:

  1. Think about some non-commercial or non-material things you would like, and think about or ask your family and friends what types of non-material things they would like. On sokind_logothe SoKind Registry, you and others can create your own wish lists, which can include anything (not just new stuff), such as experiences/activities, time/assistance or services, handmade/homemade or homegrown goods, donations to charities (see #2 below), etc.
  1. Donate to charitable organizations in honor of the people on your gift list. You could pick a cause that you know they support. Some of our previous posts list various environmentally and socially beneficial organizations, including: broad-based sustainability orgs, and other lesser-known environmental and non-environmental orgs. You can also go to our Links page, or scroll down this blog’s sidebar to see lists of additional non-profits. And here are some other types of organizations you might consider: a refugee rescue organization (such as the IRC or UNHCR), wildlife conservation/protection group, animal shelter or animal rescue group, food bank, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, foster child or other children’s organization, seniors support organization, Meals on Wheels, a tree-planting organization, or a public radio/TV station. You could also give the TisBest Charity Gift Card, which allows the recipient to spend the funds on a charity of their choice (among 300+ options).
  1. When buying products, buy from small, locally owned businesses, green businesses, and/or businesses that are certified B Corporations or benefit corporations. A few B Corps that sell consumer products include: Patagonia, The Honest Company, Indigenous Designs, W.S. Badger, Alter Eco, Atayne, Better World Books, Seventh Generation, Method, and Ben and Jerry’s. A couple of other socially and environmentally conscious companies include: PACT (apparel) and Newman’s Own Organics.
  1. 9780300206319Give the gift of information and inspiration: books! There are so many great books (and e-books) on sustainability topics. Here are a few recently published books you should check out:

Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes, by Bernie Krause (who also recently wrote The Great Animal Orchestra)

The Heart of Sustainability: Restoring Ecological Balance from the Inside Out, by Andres Edwards

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert9780865717626_p0_v2_s192x300

Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis

The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience, by Toby Hemenway

You can find a wide selection of other books on green topics from Chelsea Green Publishing and New Society Publishers and Island Press, among other publishers.


Whatever you give as gifts, do your best to avoid buying cheaply-made, sweatshop-manufactured (labor-exploiting), toxic, disposable, or wasteful products and packaging. Instead, consider alternatives to buying new Things, and when you do buy products, look for Fair Trade or locally made, well-made and durable (or consumable), efficient, non-toxic, and needed or at least useful goods made by ethical companies, using organic, recycled, or natural materials and minimal packaging, whenever possible.

For some additional green-gift suggestions, see these posts:


November 27, 2015
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This is a listing of some of the sustainability-themed films that have been released this year. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film.

Click here to see our previous listing of green-themed films; it lists movies that came out between 2012-2014. (Note: We periodically add more films to these listings, as we learn of other films that have come out.)


Racing ExtinctionRacing Extinction  [premiering Dec. 2 on the Discovery channel]


The Yes Men Are Revolting


Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective


Planetary movie



Catching the Sun: The Race for the Clean Energy Future




Resistance, the film



Dryden: The Small Town that Changed the Fracking Game
(11-minute short film; watch it via the link!)


Other films, released before 2015:

Are there other relevant, recent (or forthcoming) films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others?  If so, please mention those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of; it isn’t an exhaustive list. Please let everyone know about other green film festivals by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips and a few even stream some entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above, including some brand new ones that haven’t been screened widely yet.

See the Green Film Network to find film festivals in 24 countries.

Also check out the recent and acclaimed TV series  Years of Living Dangerously  and  EARTH: A New Wild.


October 28, 2015
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Here’s a selection of five good TED talks related to the environment, energy, public health, nature, and other relevant topics. The engaging speakers who have given these talks are experts in their fields. Check out these free videos of the following brief and fascinating talks. We’ll post another set of our favorite TED talks later this year.

The Business Logic of Sustainability / Ray Anderson

The Voice of the Natural World / Bernie Krause

Biomimicry in Action / Janine Benyus

A 40-Year Plan for Energy / Amory Lovins

Protect Our Oceans / Sylvia Earle

And here are some other collections of environment-related TED talks:


September 29, 2015
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10pFlower1The organization Bioregional works with communities (as well as businesses, governments, and other entities) to create better places where people can “live happy, healthy lives within the natural limits of the planet.”

They base their work around the following 10 principles of the One Planet Living framework:

Health and Happiness
Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well-being

Equity and Local Economy
Creating bioregional economies that support equity and diverse local employment and international fair trade

Culture and Community
Respecting and reviving local identity, wisdom and culture; encouraging the involvement of people in shaping their community and creating a new culture of sustainability

Land Use and Wildlife
Protecting and restoring biodiversity and creating natural habitats through good land use

Sustainable Water
Using water efficiently in buildings, farming, and manufacturing. Designing to avoid local issues such as flooding, drought, and water course pollution

Local and Sustainable Food
Supporting sustainable and humane farming; promoting access to healthy, low-impact, local, seasonal, and organic diets; and reducing food waste

Sustainable Materials
Using safe and sustainable products, including those with low embodied energy, sourced locally, made from renewable or waste resources

Sustainable Transport
Reducing the need to travel, and encouraging low- and zero-carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions

Zero Waste
Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill

Zero Carbon
Making buildings energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies

The following are the most established One Planet Communities that Bioregional has been working with around the world:

  • BedZED, Hackbridge, Sutton (south London), UKBioregional-BedZED

And these One Planet Communities are currently being developed:

  • Zibi, Ottawa, Canada

One Planet Communities is a voluntary program, and it is not a certification program. Similar frameworks that do offer certification include the: Living Community Challenge, and LEED for Neighborhood Development, and STAR Communities. (Check back soon for a new post about those rating and certification programs.)

Related post:

Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities


July 30, 2015
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B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are companies that “use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of June 2015, there are now more than 1,300 certified B Corporations, in 41 countries and 121 industries (twice as many industries as were represented a year ago). Among the larger and most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Ben and Jerry’s, Method, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Sungevity, The Honest Company, Natura, and Etsy (which recent became a publicly traded company).

BCorp-620x415Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they make significant efforts to be beneficial and even benevolent.

Dozens of companies made the top 10%. But here are this year’s Best of the Best. The companies that got the five highest scores of all (in the overall Best for the World list) were:

  • South Mountain Company (an employee-owned, residential design/build and renewable energy firm), West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts [They received the top score overall, which is currently 179]
  • Juhudi Kilimo (an agricultural asset financing and training company; lender / credit provider), Nairobi, Kenya
  • Echale a tu casa (self-build affordable housing program and housing improvements production company), Mexico City, Mexico
  • Beneficial State BankBeneficial State Bank (community development financial institution; bank / credit provider), Oakland, California
  • One Earth Designs (sustainable living products, such as the SolSource solar grill), Hong Kong (as well as offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in China)


Within the Best for the Environment category, these were the companies with the five highest environment scores:piedmont_logo_LRG_0

  • Atayne (high-performance outdoor and athletic apparel), Brunswick, Maine
  • Dolphin Blue (sustainable products online retailer), Dallas, Texas
  • Method Products (home and personal care products), San Francisco, California

There are also categories for Best for Community and Best for Workers.


Click here for stories about some of this year’s Best for the World companies.

Also follow the B Corps blog and B The Change Media, a new media hub for stories about B Corporations and benefit corporations.

And click here to find other B Corps. (You can search by location, name, industry, or keyword.)

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

Other relevant posts:

Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies


June 10, 2015
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We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:

  • Tesla’s Powerwall battery for home energy storage
  • Climate Rides (and Hikes)
  • Hawaii commits to 100% renewable electricity
  • Toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are really biocides
  • Goldman Prize winner videos
  • RoundUp’s links to cancer and other health and environmental harms
  • Environmental education, curriculum resources
  • Fossil-fuel-free funds have outperformed conventional stock-market funds
  • Community Choice local renewable power programs
  • Mother Earth News Fairs
  • Portland generating electricity via turbines in city water pipes
  • Wind turbines installed on the Eiffel Tower
  • New films: Inhabit, Oil and Water, Dryden, Merchants of Doubt, Mother, Revolution, Planetary
  • Quotations, photos, graphics, cartoons, etc.

May 19, 2015
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Green Business is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the business-related posts that have been published on The Green Spotlight:

Green products are one subset of the green business category. The following are a few of our posts related specifically to green products:

Additional posts on sustainable business topics will be published on the blog in coming months. Check back soon for more.


April 26, 2015
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and truly inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives a financial award of $175,000. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

2015 is the prize’s 26th year. The Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony, which is held in San Francisco, California and then in Washington DC, will be broadcast LIVE on the Goldman Prize YouTube channel.

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

Click on each recipient’s name to read—and watch a brief, well-produced video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Marilyn Baptiste, from British Columbia, Canada.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:


April 20, 2015
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Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, nail salon staff, and some factory workers)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), and asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even worse) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:

Center for Environmental Health 

Collaborative on Health and the Environment logo-ewc2

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Silent Spring Institute

Coming Cleanschf_logo_site

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

EPA’s Green Chemistry information


Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include:  power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (including atrazine and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furniture, and furnishings; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); and personal care products (e.g., shampoo and other hair products, sunscreen, toothpaste, nail polish, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials):

Electronics / tech:




Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:


Other health-related posts:


March 16, 2015
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