Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion—A Guide to Staying Stylish While Keeping the Environment in Mind

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Clothing, Fashion, Front Page, Slideshow

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Before last month, the last time I read an entire book was December 1999, after I got the third Harry Potter book for Christmas.

However, I completely absorbed myself in “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline on a Saturday afternoon as a result of her easy-to-read writing style and well-researched chapters. Cline sets out to investigate the impact of “fast fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and H&M—stores that have prices so low that clothing becomes practically disposable—on the environment, the economy, and the typical American consumer’s lifestyle. But it starts out as a personal story beginning when Cline finds herself at Kmart. Standing in front of an expansive rack, she recklessly purchases seven pairs of $7 canvas flip flops that had been marked down from $15 and is inspired to look into today’s fashion consumer lifestyle.

The result? A book covers so many topics that it’s impossible to touch on everything in a review. Cline discusses how clothing has become a trillion-dollar global industry, the plummeting price of apparel, the move to overseas production, the separation between cost and quality, the effect of our increased consumption on the environment, and so much more. After reading this book, I was inspired to reflect upon my own fashion choices. I’ve made some changes as a result….

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On My Way to Someplace Else by Sandra Hurtes

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Front Page, Immigrants, Slideshow

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On My Way to Someplace Else begins with liberation, on the day Russian soldiers entered Auschwitz and set Rifka and her fellow prisoners free. “A handsome soldier lifted my mother off her feet and although she was just skin and bones, he kissed her cheeks and told her she was beautiful,” writes Sandra Hurtes. It’s […]

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Naturally Pain Free by Letha Hadady, D.Ac.

December 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Front Page, Health, Slideshow

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Author Letha Hadady knows what it means to live with pain. And, as an acupuncturist trained in Asian herbs and other treatment modalities, she knows how to overcome pain.

In ​NATURALLY PAIN FREE, ​Hadady, who has a spinal disc injury, writes, “The primary function of pain is communication. . . . This book is a tool to stop suffering.”

NATURALLY PAIN FREE is an almost encyclopedic compilation of herbal remedies for chronic and acute pain. aving never read anything like it before, I was grateful for its organization and plain English treatment of an extremely complex subject. It is not, however, simply a textbook on Asian remedies written by an acupuncturist. It is a work of art.

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The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

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When Joe and I began writing this blog late in 2008, we were soon introduced to Patagonia as a leader in sustainable business practices — or, as founder Yvon Chouinard prefers to call them—responsible business practices. We found Patagonia.com’s Footprint Chronicles to be an especially intriguing—and daring—step toward a company’s taking responsibility for its impact on the environment. So, when I was offered an opportunity to review The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, I eagerly agreed.

If you’re familiar with Patagonia, you’ll understand how Chouinard and Stanley are qualified to write such a book. Patagonia is known for its commitment to the environment, for its celebration of the natural world, and for providing its employees with a rewarding and well-balanced work life (see Chouinard’s 2002 book, Let My People Go Surfing)….

There’s no self-congratulatory back-slapping in this book. The authors tell the story of their painful realization of the harm their businesses (Patagonia is “an offshoot of the Chouinard Equipment Company, which made excellent mountain-climbing gear”) were doing to the environment and the financial risks they took when they committed to improvement….

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Iglu by Jacob Sackin

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As I walked outside on the day that I wrote this, I smelled the sweet air of springtime. Though I had gloves, I didn’t need them. My coat was open, and I didn’t shiver. Not so strange if this had been early in May. But it’s December in Iowa. Much as I love spring and enjoy the relative warmth of 63-degree days, I find the moderate temperature most unsettling. December isn’t supposed to be warm where I live. This false, fall “spring” is the harbinger of a changed climate that is already dramatically altering weather patterns around the world. Yet, climate skeptics still fill the airwaves with denial.

In his young adult novel, Iglu, author Jacob Sackin imagines a world in which climate change is no longer questioned by anyone. Climate refugees are fleeing the lower 48 states to Alaska, pushing back the Native people and seizing the land for themselves. War rages on as the Inuit people fight back against the encroaching masses and the cruel Skyhawk soldiers sent to ensure the safety of the refugees.

The heroine of the story is April, an Inupiaq girl running for her life, narrowly evading the Skyhawk troops who have captured — or possibly killed — her parents. Everything familiar to April has been destroyed by bombing or bulldozers. Inupiaq people are being rounded up, forced into camps where they can be contained and controlled. April’s family has been torn apart, and she is left alone to fend for herself. In this futuristic coming-of-age story, April finds the strength not only to survive, but also to fight against the cruelty and injustice of the powerful U.S. government. She isn’t perfect — no realistic character is — but she makes a powerful role model for youngsters who are themselves coming to grips with an unfair world and an uncertain environmental future….

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Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City

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Phoenix, Arizona is a sprawling metropolis in one of the world’s hottest places. It has a long way to go before it can be considered “green.”

Andrew Ross, a professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, wrote Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. His book is based on 200 interviews over two years about the Phoenix area’s likelihood of becoming sustainable.

What resulted from his work is a gripping analysis of government’s effect on making positive environmental changes. In Phoenix, he claims, those in charge are not doing what’s necessary to preserve the region for future generations….

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ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums

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There’s not much that causes more smiles and coos than an adorable baby. And it doesn’t have to be human. Take a peek at the animal babies in ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Kittens and Cubs from the World’s Zoos and ZooBorns: CATS! The Newest, Cutest Kittens and Cubs from the World’s Zoos; you’re sure to be charmed.

These small books contain beautiful photographic studies of baby animals that most of us will never get to see in the wild. That’s especially true because many of the babies featured in ZooBorns books are on the Endangered Species List.

By compiling these collections, authors Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland are raising awareness of how zoos protect and conserve endangered species. In addition, they’re contributing 10% of the revenues from each ZooBorns book to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund….

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Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet by Artie Knapp

November 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Books for Kids, Conservation, Front Page, Slideshow

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As a former elementary teacher and the parent of three grown kids, I’ve probably spent thousands of pleasant hours reading children’s books. I know the power of a book to persuade as well as to educate young readers.

When I taught first grade (and as a parent), I carefully chose books that provided a good story and, often, a positive lesson. In the 1970s, my students’ exposure to fictional environmental role models was pretty much limited to Woodsy Owl, whose cry, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” inspired us all to care about our planet.

Today, children, parents, and teachers have a wealth of options to choose from for eco-friendly and inspiring books. One environmentally focused book that recently crossed my desk is Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet. The story will appeal to young readers, who will identify with the heroic turtle, Thurman, in this charmingly illustrated paperback….

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The Overloaded Liberal—Lessons from Fran Hawthorne

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I want to buy local and organic, but if I can’t find food that is both, do I buy local or organic? I believe in supporting local businesses, but if I can only find the notebook with recycled paper at a national office supply store, do I buy it or go with a less environmentally friendly version at the local store?

We each have a set of values that we live by—or try to live by. Whether it is supporting local businesses, buying union-made goods and services, eating organic food, or buying recycled goods, the list goes on. Oftentimes, though, our values start to overlap one another, and it is difficult to find a product to buy or a company to support that falls in line with all of our values, let alone one that we can afford. So what are we to do? …

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Pioneers for the Planet: The High Wind Story

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On a windswept acreage overlooking a lush valley in mid-eastern Wisconsin, a small group of committed visionaries sowed a seed for change called High Wind, an “intentional community” that grew and blossomed in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although its life as an intentional community formally ended in 1992, the ecovillage legacy of High Wind […]

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Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker

August 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Economy, Front Page, Slideshow, Sustainability, Tips, U.S.

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Who couldn’t use a little financial wisdom right about now, with the stock market swinging up and down like a bungee jumper hanging from a bridge, homes in foreclosure around the nation, and unemployment putting an alarming crimp in so many family budgets?

It’s tough to make a buck today, let alone keep it. Yet, for the Amish, a humble people who value frugality and self reliance, hanging onto their money is a given, as author Lorilee Craker tells us in Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving.

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Running Out of Water by Peter Rogers and Susan Leal

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It is no secret that humankind is facing several environmental crises. Greenhouse gases are slowly cooking the earth, several of our natural resources are nearing depletion, and impending water shortages threaten our way of life.

Friends, news sources, and the Internet bombard us with facts like this every day. It’s hard to make sense of it all, and too easy to feel that there is no hope.

But, as the cliché states, knowledge is power. When you understand a crisis, you can do something about it. This idea is the driving force behind Peter Rogers and Susan Leal’s book, Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource….

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin

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Maybe you’re already a gardener, ready to plant some vegetables to reduce your grocery bill and gain some peace of mind about what additives you will not be putting into your family’s bodies. Or, maybe you secretly yearn for a yard filled with colorful flower blossoms from early spring until late fall.

If you see yourself in either of these scenarios, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting: Turn your organic waste material into black gold, is for you. No, this isn’t a book about planting a garden. It’s about how to nourish the soil you will use to grow amazing veggies and posies. And, I have to say, it’s even fun to read….

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The Healthy Home, by Dr. Myron Wentz & Dave Wentz, with Donna K. Wallace

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“Is it even possible to make a big enough difference in the world to redirect the current trends? Or will we be battling a new revolutionary challenge of man-made toxins, in which degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s are the norm?” asks Dave Wentz, co-author of The Healthy Home: Simple Truths to Protect Your Family from Hidden Household Dangers.

It’s not a rhetorical question. Wentz really wants to know the answer. He has a young son and, like other conscientious parents of a newborn, he’s concerned about his child’s health and the world he will inherit….

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Little Princes by Conor Grennan

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In 2004, Conor Grennan began an around-the-world journey with a two-month stint volunteering in Little Princes, a Nepalese orphanage near Kathmandu. He took on the work less as a humanitarian effort than as a way to justify spending the next ten months indulging his urge to travel, he says. He had no intention of making the orphanage or the children of Nepal his life’s work. “Volunteering in an orphanage was a one-off,” Grennan writes in Little Princes, “an experience that you would never forget and never repeat.” He wasn’t callous, just uninvolved.

But what he could not know then was how deeply these children would affect him, compelling him to return again and again to do all that he could to help them. What he also did not learn at first was that most of the children were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking….

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Eating for Health – Wahls Diet Fights Multiple Sclerosis

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In 2000, her doctor diagnosed Terry Wahls with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that was steadily robbing her of the independence she treasured. A former Tae Kwondo instructor and marathon runner, the loss of mobility was devastating. For four years, she required a tilt-recline wheelchair to conduct the affairs of her daily life. […]

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Energy-Wise Landscape Design – This Book Will Save You Money

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In the depths of winter, it’s always good to remember that spring is just around the corner. After the holiday rush ends, it will be a great time to start planning and dreaming about your yard. And if you’re planning to build or renovate this coming year, you’ll want to be sure you incorporate landscaping ideas that not only look pretty, but that are also energy efficient.

Careful landscaping can be much more effective at saving energy than many of the other efforts we make each day, like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Having the right plantings outside your home will not only save you money, it will also help you live more comfortably in an esthetically pleasing environment.

That’s the essence of the message embedded in every page of Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden by Sue Reed….

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The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment

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Frustration. That is the best way to describe the experience of reading The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment. Page after page reveals the history of industries spewing toxins into our air, water, and soil and a government more apt to look the other way. Presenting the conflict through the lens of individual action and human cost, authors Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter provide an engaging and unsettling account of U.S. pollution.

Turning to the first page of The Polluters, the reader is presented with an image that will haunt the pages of the book: the funeral procession of a victim of the Donora (Pennsylvania) Smog. The burial takes place as smoke from the offending factory rises along the horizon….

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps

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Soap: Laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, body soap, shampoo. Until I thought about it, I never realized how much soap I bought and used on a regular basis.

What if I started making all these different types of soap at home? With The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps by Sally W. Trew and Zonella B. Gould, I not only learned how to make the household product, but how to do it in an environmentally conscious way.

Homemade natural soaps have tons of benefits compared to commercial soaps….

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Superman Versus Supermemes

October 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Children, Education, Front Page, Slideshow, U.S.

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In the new film Waiting for Superman — which chronicles the collapse of the American educational system — a forlorn mother waits in a gymnasium with thousands of other parents for her lottery number to be called. The drawing will determine which students will attend a good school, and which will be relegated to a failing institution. The mother explains the gravity of the situation: “It’s the difference between whether my son goes to college, or goes to prison. . .”

How did we allow our educational systems to fall so far, so fast? When did the welfare of our children go the same way as healthcare, the safety of our food and the callous obliteration of our environment? How did we allow ourselves to become obese, dependent on antidepressants, and willing to wage inhumane wars over oil, land and beliefs?

Something is happening. Everyone knows we are leaving a worse world behind for our children….

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