The Alternative Consumer

This blog focuses on environmental issues, and healthy lifestyle choices -- new products and service options for your self, your friends, family and home. It's all about making smart choices, and living well!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Biomass Rather Than Fossil Fuel

There are pros and cons to wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts, but one of the most promising recent home-heating developments is the biomass stove -- a combustion device much like a pellet stove. Biomass stoves burn organic fuels: cherry pits, olive pits, sunflower seeds, corn, wheat and other cereal grains. The seeds and grains go into the hopper and out comes a slow, steady stream of fuel to the combustion chamber. These fuel sources burn cleanly and contain a huge amount of hearth and heart-warming. For more, try for biomass and wood stoves, for biomass stoves, or for soapstone masonry fireplaces. /m

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For Those Who Pre-Fur Fur

For all of you out there who may be overcome by the holiday compulsion to wear or display fur, here is a website suppling faux fur of only the highest quality. This fake fur will quench even the most hide-heavy holiday thirst for animal hair. /r

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vinyl to Digital

If you're a geezer like myself with a deep, if sordid, audio past, or a closet DJ with a pile of Queen Latifah records, you probably have some vintage vinyl lying in storage somewhere that's just begging to get on your computer. Well it just might be time to consider transferring some of your audio gold from analog to digital. If you don't have a turntable, there are several turntables on the market that can do the job via USB. We like the Ion iTTUSB Turntable with USB Recorder available at for $149.99, it comes with software for Mac or PC. Be prepared for this one to be back-ordered.

If you're more of an audiophile and/or have a good existing turntable, you may want to try another option, the ART USB Phono Plus USB Audio Interface, whereby many types of analog audio sources: cassette, vinyl, etc. can connect to your Mac or PC (comes with software). This device allows you to use your existing analog equipment and high-end turntable to get a better quality sound transfer. $99.95 at Amazon, or Sweetwater

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bill Gates May Run Out of Gas...

An interesting celebrity emissions story is making the rounds. It seems Washington State is considering tightening its auto emissions standards to outlaw vehicles that produce "gross emissions". The statute would include Bill Gates' Porsche 959. (click for more)
It's ironic that Bill originally got an exemption to put the Porsche on the street from his buddy, and born-again environmentalist, Bill Clinton.

Finnish-ed Design

Being married to a Finn, number 6 of the New York Post's Sunday Hot List jumped out at me: "Fantastic Finns." Had to check out

Rami's a uniquely talented, Helsinki-based graphic artist with a distinct, illustrative style. Don't miss the "Smeet Mary, Mother of God," "Okay Then" and "Bay Windows Let the Sunshine In" on his The Nuggets of Manly Advice site. At left is his Happy 55th Birthday Dad -- Very Cool Stuff. /m

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dry Cleaning - Think Twice

I haven't been to the dry cleaners in years. That "after-smell" on my clothes was so nauseating that I switched to a wardrobe that could be cleaned more simply. According to Greener Choices, over 80% of dry cleaners use perchloroethylene, or perc, a solvent which is associated with environmental and health risks. Perc has been classified by the EPA as both a hazardous air and water pollutant. It can potentially contaminate surface water, groundwater and drinking water, and it's known to be toxic to plants and aquatic animals. For more on this potent polluter, and to learn about dry cleaning alternatives, click here. /m

Friday, December 15, 2006

Millennia Collection - Holiday Classics

Just released from Christmas Classics is the first three volumes of "The Millennia Collection," a series of Christmas music packages containing CDs of carols, songbooks, and fine art and history books -- available as a single gift set for the first time this holiday season.
Now you can actually learn the words to your favorite carols, instead of humming or mumbling along with your fellow music-lovers. Visit

Bamboo TV - in the Groove

Is Santa delivering a new, wide-screen, LCD Groove Tube to anyone this year? Here's a natural beauty that's surrounded by a nice alternative to nasty plastic -- hard-as-steel, bamboo. Bamboo is our Product of the Year -- extremely durable, versatile, and best of all, a highly sustainable grass. This 19-inch-high, 9-pounder is RoHS-compliant, saves power 5 ways, and will set you back only $473.31. If only the buttons weren't plastic, maybe next year? Check it, here. /m

Nintendo's Wii Problem

If you're not one of the 500,000 or so who rushed out to buy Little Johnny the new Wii, you're probably lucky. Nintendo just announced a recall on 3.2 million defective straps. The new and improved strap will have a .04 diameter instead of the current, .024 inch diameter. For more, click here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SAX-40 The Quiet Airplane

Engineers at the University of Cambridge and MIT have a concept plane that's designed to be a quiet aircraft, and burn less fuel than the current array of birds of flight. Doesn't that sound good...comprehensive coverage from the BBC News website. bon voyage. /m

Welcome to Scooter McGavin

Click on my advertiser's blog (left column), Scooter McGavin's 9th Green for his insights on music, tv, politics and more...some funny, well-written stuff! /m

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blood Diamond Causes Stir & Spin

If you're considering buying that diamond-encrusted tiara for your sweetie this Christmas, buyer beware. Although the diamond trade has been a hot-bed of controversy for years (excellent story here), the release of director Ed Zwick's new film, Blood Diamond, has both DeBeers' and Russell Simmons' pr machines and heads spinning. Receiving more ink, as well, is news of companies who grow their own, synthetic diamonds...such as solaura. And to top it off, also in the spotlight are companies like Brilliant Earth, who've found a higher road in high-end, bauble-making. For most, gone are the days of waltzing into Tiffany's and mindlessly picking up a dazzling carat or's a minefield out there, so dig-in and get up to speed, before forking over the cash for these dazzlers. /m

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eugene's Greener Everyday

With a population of 146,000 -- Eugene, Oregon has instituted a 3-pronged effort to become carbon neutral in its buildings and operations, by 2020. This city should be the "poster boy" for all cities to offset its carbon dioxide emissions through improved: conservation, energy efficiency and spending on renewable forms of energy.

Local government and voters have figured out that supporting business and the environment are not diametrically opposed notions...that in order for the community to flourish, they must continue to figure out more ways for man and nature to co-exist.

For more, check out ENN. /m

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nissan Shifts Gears

In an effort to re-brand itself as green friendly, Nissan Motors has announced it's entry into the hybrid car market. LINK

Yoga, Tribe and Culture

Little Guru, a line of socially conscious tees for boys and girls, are made from organic cotton with eco-friendly, low-impact dyes that are gentle on the skin. Yoga, Tribe and Culture and YouthAIDS ( have joined forces to spread the message of HIV/AIDS awareness to the world’s youth population. With the artistic talents of founder-designers James Wvinner and Carmena Su, Yoga, Tribe and Culture offers a limited edition organic cotton tank top to promote YouthAID's 'Off the Mat, Into World' program. 35% of the sale of each tank top is donated to YouthAIDS.

All of YTC's manufacturing, production and labor are done in the USA; everything is 100% fair trade, and they're diligently working to make the move to 100% organic cotton.

YTC collaborates with yoga studio biggies Yoga Works, Jiva Mukti and Exhale Spa to create custom designs for their studios and special events, and designed the tank tees for Michael Franti’s Power to the Peaceful concert held earlier this year in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

The full line of men’s, women’s and children’s wear is available online at Or checkout the list of retail and yoga studio outlets posted on their site. Kid's tees $30; adult's tees $40; look for the 10% discount for first-time, online buyers. /m

my bella pink - just for you

Celebrity and tattoo-inspired clothing is available online just in time for the rush of holiday gift-buying. Pictured here is a personal fave -- the Passport Panty. Yes, you can now protect your two most prized possessions -- your precious panties, as well as your passport as you circle the globe -- in search of tattoos, celebrities, or both.

This party-pack Passport Envelope comes with your choice of cut -- either thong or boy-short style, with towelettes and body spray. Must items for the pretty in pink gal on the go, only $18.

Visit and navigate By Brand rather than By Category -- there's more of a selection. If you like boots, you'll find kooky kickers at Koolaburra. shop on. /m

charmed and dangerous baubles

Having had an office in Chelsea for 15 years, I tap into Union Square's green market and annual Holiday Market regularly. There's a booth that may interest the bauble buyer or book-mark buyer in you. If you can't get to the square, the artist who designs these items also peddles her wares online. Sally Dane, the designer, has created a line of sweet-meets-hip, vintage-inspired charm necklaces and earrings using semi-precious stones and gold-filled chains, and priced most of the items in the $25-40 range.

Turns out she her husband Michael started Hookmarks, several years ago, and she just returned to her love of jewelry-making with the launch of charmed and dangerous this year.

Charmed & Dangerous will be at the Union Square Holiday Market from now, to December 24th: Mon-Fri, 11a-8p; Sat, 10a-8p; Sun, 11a-7p. The Market closes will close at 4p on Christmas Eve. Dane's creations are wildly popular, so move quickly if you don't want to be disappointed. And here's a plus -- her custom-designed gift boxes don't need to be gift wrapped. how charming and practical. /m

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Vere - Good For Diabetics - Chocolate

verē ("pronounced very") is the brainchild of Kathy Moskal. Kathy previously applied her innovative skills at HUE, the highly successful, leg wear company, and is now creating a luxury line of chocolates, all of which are suitable for diabetics and some of which are suitable for vegans, (soy-based, entirely egg and dairy-free).

She owns and operates her Chelsea-based chocolate factory and concocts her specialty confections from pesticide-free cocoa beans from the Ecuadorian Rainforest, certified to be sustainably-grown and responsibly harvested.

Having selected a potent Arriba, an heirloom varietal of cacao bean to form the base of her dark chocolate, she adds a proprietary blend of natural sweeteners -- which is low-glycemic, and won't cause one's blood sugar to spike. The result is slightly bitter-tasting, yet rich, decadent and delicious.

With twice the antioxidants of standard dark chocolate, vere's elegant line is both extensive -- from bars, brownies and clusters to tiles, truffles and wafers, and affordable. Dip into this guilty pleasure...this vere good, "food of the gods." Click here for availability, and don't miss the "special offer." Be on the lookout for vere good ice cream on the horizon. /m

Victoria's Secret - A Touch of Green

Limited Brands, the parent company of the Victoria's Secret catalog, announced that the publishing of the sexy undies catalog will be getting a little greener. In a joint statement released with the environmental group, ForestEthics, the company has committed to using either 10 percent recycled paper or 10 percent new paper from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as having been produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. Bravo

Doing A World of Good

A World of Good's ethical practices abound, and in their first full year of business, they've improved the lives of more than 2500 artisans in over 31 countries. As noted on their website, they've "created employment for the disabled in Cambodia, and for HIV positive women in Swaziland....promoted anti-child-labor activism in India, provided Tsunami relief in Sri Lanka and supported educational programs in Guatemala and Nepal."

This hand-woven, rattan smoked basket was made (Fair Trade) by artisans in Cambodia ($29.95). Here's to a good, Long Life. /m

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not Buying It

Just not buying this whole Consumerism-thing? Then maybe you want to go to your local public library to check out this book by Judith Levine. (To suggest that you purchase Not Buying It isn't in keeping with the premise of the book -- perhaps you steal the book, read it, and then pass it along to a friend....hmmm.)

Now seriously, Judith has done her research on this hot topic. Although much theory and data exists regarding both what people consume, and why -- very little data exists on why people choose not to purchase. Judith substantiates the premise with Thomas Princen, co-director of the Workshop on Consumption and Environment at the University of Michigan's belief, that this environment "makes the non-purchase decision a critical focus of inquiry."

With this info tucked safely in her back pocket, Judith and her live-in partner, Paul take a year-off from mass consumerism -- and purchase only life's necessities for an entire year -- chronically their experiences. It begs the question: Do you buy it? /m

Sunday, December 03, 2006

for the birds

Re-posting this, (from 8/22/06)...'cause these would make such wonderful gifts!
My husband is a man of action. So when he spied a hummingbird on the patio the other day he quickly decided we should have a proper feeder. As for attracting one more species of wildlife to our door, I was a bit hesitant (we are often visited by turkeys, coyote, snakes, and even a random cow), but at least hummingbirds have the good sense to feed on nectar. Rather like the gods, no?

Our search for something unusual led us to Par-A-Sol ( which crafts possibly the most charming bird feeders I’ve ever seen. Using recycled glass, Parasol recreates classic designs inspired by 1930’s Depression glass and early 20th century perfume bottles. Our feeder now in place, we have seen at least 4 different birds that are happily humming in the garden. And we are happily watching out the window just to get a glimpse of these wonders of nature.

To learn a bit more we consulted the Hummingbird Society and found that while hummingbirds are the world’s second largest bird family, nearly 10% of them are threatened with extinction. You can lend your support at or at the American Bird Conservancy (, both of which have wonderful programs to preserve bird species and their habitats. /jb

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Rap on Gift Wrap

I know it's not an act relished by all, but as long as I'm not confronted by a huge pile of gifts, I actually enjoy wrapping gifts. I usually tie in the way the gift is wrapped, with the theme of the gift. It's not that difficult a thing to do, it usually just takes a few minutes of extra thought.

Instead of buying gift wrap, you can wrap gifts in all kinds of recycled materials -- from cloth (recycle that table cloth, garment or sheet/towel) to baskets, bowls, used boxes or paper bags. Most mass-produced wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Get creative -- have fun and make your own wrapping paper. You can wrap presents with a wide array of alternatives -- old maps or posters; the comics section of a newspaper; or paper bags & boxes featuring your, or your children's doodles/artwork. If every family wrapped just three holiday gifts in any of these ways, (per The Sierra Club), it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Pass along your eco-friendly gift wrap suggestion. /m

Friday, December 01, 2006

Edward Abbey

A book review in The New York Times (11/19/06) caught my eye. Its title reads, "Forest Grump" and its byline: "The collected correspondence of Edward Abbey, cranky environmentalist." How intriguing...POSTCARDS FROM ED is a collection of high-energy, previously unpublished letters (mostly postcards) by the late author of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire...this new work contains his observations on a wide variety of topics -- from sex, cheerleaders and the Bond girls -- to religion and the war in Vietnam. Now here's a gift for at least one person I know. /m

Bamboo for the Bath

From a highly sustainable resource that grows quickly and abundantly -- bamboo plants -- comes furniture, flooring, clothes and bath towels -- just some of the many eco-conscious items made from this highly versatile natural resource. These organic cotton and bamboo towels (sets of 2) -- range from bath-size ($69/set), to face ($32/set), to hand ($15/set); in silver, sage or ivory. silky-smooth, from Vivaterra. /m