"Here Comes the Sun" (Doo doo doo doo)
Now here's some rad green: A solar-powered iPod charger from the Holland-based company Soldius. The wallet-sized Soldius 1 Universal Solar Charger comes with two mini solar panels and fits most Apple iPods as well as a variety of cell phones. And it gets your music maker up to full juice in about four hours.
Beware, though: Reviewers say you'll need direct sunlight to get a good charge from the Sodius 1. By the way, Soldius also makes solar iPod charging backpacks, luggage, and (gulp) golf bags.
2. Get It on the Download
No, we're not urging you do anything illegal. But as Ideal Bite (one of our favorite green websites) asks: Do you really need the liner notes to that new Nelly Furtado album? So why not just download it instead?
Consider this: CD and DVD jewel cases are often made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is one bad environmental actor (see below) that cannot be recycled. When you download your media, you're also saving the resources used to produce and ship discs…not to mention their higher costs.
And when you get tired of downloading Nelly, you can just delete her: Ideal Bite says 100,000 pounds of CDs worldwide are thrown away every month.
3. Beware the Sign of Three
PVC (also known as #3 plastic) is amazingly prevalent in the modern world — in everything from toys to shower curtains to IV bags. But it's also potentially toxic to humans at all points in its lifecycle, from production to use to incineration.
When PVC burns, it turns into dioxins, endangering communities near trash-processing plants. And PVC is an enviromentalist's nightmare: It can't be recycled, and just one PVC bottle amidst 100,000 #1 and #2 plastic bottles can ruin a recycling run. Mindful of the risks, companies from Microsoft to Victoria's Secret have already eliminated PVC from their packaging.
But what can you do? Avoid buying plastic products that have the number "3" or the letter "v" (for vinyl) stamped into them. The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice has a list of PVC products as well as other steps you can take to rid the world of the sign of three.
4. Naturally Good Posture
That nasty PVC is also part of 90 percent of sticky plastic yoga mats, a fact that definitely harshes the mellow of our downward-facing dog.
So switch your mat to one made of organically grown natural fibers such as cotton or jute. They're washable, give good traction and absorb the sweat pouring off you as you go deeper into warrior pose. Some companies (such as Mina wear and Hugger Mugger) are even making mat bags out of hemp denim and recycled paper.
Still, if you can't bear to part with the stickiness of plastic, try Gaiam's Premium Yoga Mat, which is synthetic but doesn't contain PVC.
5. Low Rise, Low Impact
Designer jeans: You gotta have 'em. But the cotton that goes into just one pair of jeans requires nearly a pound of pesticides — if the cotton is grown conventionally, that is.
Fortunately, you can now score fashion-forward jeans made from organically farmed cotton or hemp, which avoids the pesticides as well as runoff from petroleum-based fertilizers. Try purveyors such as Loomstate, Rawganique or Grace & Cello for ooh-la-la blues that show off your environmental consciousness as well as your figure.
6. But Isn't That Why Newspapers Come in Bags?
If you're a dog owner, you love getting the newspaper delivered — if not for the paper itself, than for the brightly colored bags you can use to clean up after Rover. But regular plastic bags often have tiny holes in them that can result in, uh, unexpected unpleasantness. And they keep the poop preserved for far too long in landfills.
Try biodegradable bags instead: They break down more quickly and cost about the same. Ecosafe, Ecoproducts and Biobag are just a few of the companies making it greener to pick up the brown. And don't you know you should be reading your news online, anyway?
7. Fish Around in Your Purse
OK, so wallet-sized guides to ocean-friendly seafood have been around for a while. But do you actually carry one and use it? Without it, you'll be at sea when it comes to deciding between Alaskan or Atlantic Salmon, bay or ocean scallops, or striped bass from Chilean.
So make this the year of really fresh fish with this guide (PDF, 121KB) from The Blue Ocean Institute. It gives you the most endangered seafood sources, consumption warnings, and the fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, a watchdog group that encourages sustainable fishing practices. Impress your family and friends at restaurants! And give thanks for yet another reason not to order caviar.