books

These are a few notable books that have been published recently:halfearth

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, by Edward O. Wilson

Our Only World, by Wendell Berry

Tools for Grassroots Activists: Best Practices for Success in the Environmental Movement, by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers

How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature, by George Monbiot

The Hour of Land, by Terry Tempest Williams

The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World, by Andrew Winston

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, by Rebecca Solnit
(originally published in 2004; reissued in 2016 with a new foreword and afterword)

 

These are a few older books that are among my favorites:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver

Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee

A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr  (This story was also made into a major motion picture.)

And these are some environmental classics, which helped lay the foundation for the environmental movement and have inspired many environmental leaders and writers:

  • Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
  • The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson
  • Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher
  • Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
  • Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

In addition to the authors already mentioned above, the following are some other key authors (in no particular order) who often write on topics related to sustainability and the natural environment. I recommend checking out their writings:

Elizabeth Kolbert, Bill McKibben, Bernie Krause, David Orr, Alan Weisman, David Suzuki, Sandra Steingraber, Janine Benyus, Gary Snyder, Amory Lovins, Frances Moore Lappe, Jane Goodall, Barry Lopez, Carl Safina, Mary Pipher, Robert D. Bullard, Joanna Macy, Wangari Maathai, Buckminster Fuller, Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, William McDonough, David James Duncan, Rick Bass, and Andres Edwards.

Do you have a favorite eco-book or author to recommend?

Share

May 31, 2016
[Click here to comment]

“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.

To get off of mailing lists for unwanted catalogs and junk mail, check out CatalogChoice.

 

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

Share

November 27, 2015
[Click here to comment]

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

HealthyStuff.org

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:

Healthcare:

Cosmetics:

 

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:

Share

March 16, 2015
1 comment

This is a list of links to information resources related to sustainable agriculture, organic farming and gardening, and growing and buying good, safe food.

Image created by Matt FarrarThese resources are organized into the following general categories (though some are relevant to more than one category): Organizations, Magazines and Blogs, Educational Programs, Funding & Investing, Permaculture, Urban Farms, Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours, International/Non-U.S. Initiatives, Films and Books.

At the end, you will find a few suggestions of simple ways to get involved in the good food movement.

Organizations

Magazines and Blogs

Educational Programs

Funding and Investing

(including some crowdfunding sites)

Permaculture

[Partial list; please mention other groups in the Comments.]

Urban Farms

[This is just a small selection; there are many, many more. Please mention other urban farms you are familiar with in the Comments.]

Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours

International/Non-U.S. Initiatives

Films and Books

Many films about food and farming have come out recently. One of the most recent is Symphony of the Soil.

There are also many books on these topics. One new one is called Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, MD.  Another recent book is Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, by Temra Costa.

I also recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as books by Wendell Berry, Michael Ableman, Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, and Marion Nestle.

For other relevant books, check out the offerings from Chelsea Green Publishing, Mother Earth News, and New Society Publishers.

Taking Part

You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in sustainable agriculture and the good food movement. Here are just a few of the steps that almost anyone can take, to create a healthier family, healthier community, and a healthier planet:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO, and locally grown foods whenever possible (from the grocery, a farmer’s market, local farms, a CSA, etc.) To find local farms, farmer’s markets, or food providers, go to LocalHarvest.org, and if you live in California or New York, check out Farmigo.com, which is basically an online Farmer’s Market or CSA for small or large groups.
  • If/when you buy meat (from stores or at restaurants), avoid getting factory-farmed meats. Look for and ask for meats from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and that also, ideally, have third-party certifications (such as Animal Welfare Approved) verifying that the animals were raised and slaughtered humanely. Boosting the demand for such products will help shift the industry away from factory farming. (We’ll be adding a blog post with more information on humanely raised meat in the future.)
  • Buy organic, non-GMO seeds and organically grown plants, and plant them in a kitchen garden, window boxes, porch pots, raised beds, a greenhouse, a community garden, or wherever you can.  Use organic/natural rather than toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It’s fun and satisfying to swap your surplus harvest with friends and neighbors.
  • Replace water-intensive, conventional grass lawns with a garden, or no-mow native grasses or groundcovers. Choose low-water (drought-tolerant), native or adapted (climate-appropriate) plants and flowers, including those that attract and feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

 

Related posts:

Sustainable Agriculture in the Spotlight: Fresh films, books, etc.  [August 2009]

Sustainable Ag: Marin and Sonoma County Resources

Recent Films with Green Themes: Food, farming, energy, etc.  [2011]

Quotations for Gardeners, Farmers, and Others  [MotherEarthNews.com blog]

Chocolates of Choice: Organic, Fair Trade, and Delicious

 

Share

July 24, 2013
1 comment

More than a dozen of the Green Spotlight’s previous posts have referenced green products. Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from building- and home-related products to films, chocolates, and other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

At the bottom of this post, I’ve also added links to some books for eco-minded readers.

Home/Building Products

Other Products

Books

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, by Bernie Krause

Or if you’re interested in books on green business, check out the book listing at the bottom of our Green Business post.

You can find a wide selection of books on sustainable living from Chelsea Green Publishing and from New Society Publishers.

And here are a bunch of other books on sustainability topics.

Share

November 26, 2012
1 comment

Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information. Scroll down to the second half of the post for a listing of companies that specialize in tiny/compact homes or structures.

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Deltec Homes (based in NC)

FabCab

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)
C6 = their low-cost option*

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures (some of which are mobile):

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)
[See this 2016 article on these homes.]

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little Green Buildings (made w/ SIPs; based in WA)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

To see many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see the Tiny House blog.

Also take a look at this article on 3 prototypes of Tiny Houses that Let You Live Green and Off the Grid[Added to this post in 2016]

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

Share

July 30, 2012
4 comments

In addition to writing posts for this blog (The Green Spotlight), I write articles and blog posts for MotherEarthNews.com and other publications, and I do writing and editing work for clients. I almost never mention my other work activities here on my blog, but it occurred to me that some readers might like to know a little about my other writings and my professional background.

I have been a published writer for more than two decades. I was a writer, reporter, and producer for public radio’s Living on Earth program for several years. More recently, I was a contributing author for the book Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing (2nd edition, edited by Global Green USA, published by Island Press). I wrote the chapter on Green Operations and Maintenance, as well as one of the case studies featured in the book.

I’ve written numerous articles and commentaries on green building and other environmental topics. My articles have been published by more than a dozen media outlets (e.g., magazines, newspapers, public radio, and online media), including:

  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Natural Home magazine
  • Environmental Design + Construction magazine
  • Urban Land’s GreenTech magazine
  • Living on Earth radio program
  • GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
  • GreenHomeGuide.com
  • KQED.org, and
  • Environmental News Network (ENN.com)

I’ve also written and/or edited guides, manuals, newsletters, reports, website content, marketing materials, case studies, and other types of publications on behalf of companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. My clients have included: New Leaf Community Markets, the David Brower Center, Global Green USA, Environmental Defense Fund, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Enterprise Community Partners, Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants, the National Building Museum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter, EduTracks, ICLEI, Industrial Economics, Lehrer Design, Compendia, the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Ecobanca, and the Resource Renewal Institute.

Here’s a small selection of some of my writing work in recent years:

  • Case studies on a few of the campus projects and programs that received the 2010 and 2012 University of California/CSU/CCC Best Practices Award: UC Santa Cruz Campus’ Water Efficiency and Water Management Improvements; UC Irvine’s Medical Education Building; and CSU Sacramento’s American River Courtyard residence hall. Written on behalf of the UC Berkeley Green Building Research Center / Lehrer Design, 2011-2012
  • Green Operations & Maintenance Manual for the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, along with a Healthy Home Guide for SMHA residents, December 2011
  • “Chemical cleaners can introduce poisons, health risks into the home,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2007

And the following are a few of my stories that were broadcast on public radio’s Living on Earth:

 

I invite you to visit my PUBLICATIONS page for a more comprehensive list of writings and broadcast pieces that I’ve written, edited, or produced.

For information about the editorial services that I offer, please visit my Writing and Editing page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

-Miriam

Share

May 30, 2012
[Click here to comment]

This post provides a list of links to green-business-related organizations, associations, websites, books, and other resources, which are useful not only to people who own, manage, or work for companies, but to all of us—as consumers and citizens who are affected by business decisions and corporate practices every day. The resources are organized into the following categories:

  • Green Business (general)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environmental & Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Financing, and Investing
  • Clean, Green Jobs
  • Local Economies / Community Investment and Resilience
  • Confronting the Corporate Corruption of Government
  • Ecological Economics
  • Online Media
  • Books

[Note: New links were added to this post in April 2012.]

Green Business (general)

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

Share

February 20, 2012
[Click here to comment]

About a year ago, I posted a piece with tips, ideas, and considerations for selecting green gifts. Here’s a summary recap of the 7 types of gifts I suggested in that post:

  1. Non-“stuff”  (e.g., activities, services, or donations, rather than products)
  2. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown stuff
  3. Locally made or Fair Trade goods
  4. Products with green attributes or purposes
  5. Re-gifted items or lightly used finds
  6. Eminently useful things
  7. Small stuff

Take a look at last year’s post to see the specific ideas that I suggested within each of those categories. This year, I’d like to supplement those suggestions with a few more. In addition to the criteria listed above, you also might want to consider choosing the following types of gifts:

  • Products (or services) made and sold by small, independent (and ideally local) businesses, rather than national chains or multi-national corporations. Or at least try to buy things that were Made in the USA (or whichever country you live in) to help boost the domestic economy.
  • Goods made or sold by companies that are members of the 1% for the Planet campaign: “a growing global movement of 1,395 companies [as of Nov. 2011] that donate 1% of their sales to a network of 2,691 environmental organizations worldwide.”
  • Goods made or sold by Certified B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations), which “are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of Nov. 7, 2011, there are 451 Certified B Corporations. That number will be growing, as more companies achieve this certification and as more states pass laws establishing the legitimacy of Benefit Corporations. One of the Founding B Corporations is BetterWorldBooks.

Speaking of books, here are a few green-themed books that might interest some of the people on your gift list:

Also, I might as well mention a few green product brands that are personal favorites of mine: Newman’s Own Organics; Seeds of Change; Sustainable Seed Co.; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; and Patagonia. I am not getting paid to recommend any of these companies.

Lastly, here are some online resources for additional information on green products and reducing wasteful consumption:

Related posts:

Greener, More Gratifying Gifts (added November 2015)

Green Goods: Beneficial Products and Gifts (added November 2012)

Good Duds: Sustainable and Responsible Clothing (added October 2013)

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good (added July 2013)

Lesser-Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support (added December 2012)

Share

November 8, 2011
1 comment