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Sierra magazine
Enjoy | The Green Life

By Avital Binshtock

Grow a Conscience | Trendsetter: Alicia Silverstone | Faux Gras | Green Biz

Grow a Conscience

Whether your farm fits in a window box or spans several acres, ensure a truly green thumb with these Earth-friendly gardening gizmos.

Trim your lawn's carbon footprint (and stay in shape) with the Brill RazorCut 38 manual-push reel mower from ECOMOWERS, which also comes in a cordless electric version for those who can't forgo a motor but still want a lesser (i.e., battery-powered) evil. EcoMowers offsets its carbon emissions and donates to the U.S. Green Building Council. $239

COBRAHEAD's short-handle weeder and cultivator, manufactured in the United States, has a grip made of flax fibers and recycled plastic. The rugged, multipurpose implement serves as a trowel, dibble, hand fork, and hoe. $25

Destroy bugs, weeds, and fungi without endangering wildlife (or pets or kids) with ECOSMART TECHNOLOGIES' Organic Garden Insect Killer, a nontoxic blend of food-grade essential oils. $8 for 24 oz.

Want to make sure your produce is organic, local, and farmed by someone smart and sexy? Grow your own. OLIVE BARN's Organic Herb Garden Trio Kit comes with biodegradable pots in recycled-paper packaging. Choose three certified-organic packets of seeds from a selection of seven kinds of basil, a salad mix, chives, cilantro, dill, and other herbs. $26

Keep your hands clean, figuratively and otherwise, with Memphis Green gloves from MCR SAFETY. They're made from the pulp of bamboo grass, which is cooler than cotton, naturally antibacterial, and 100 percent biodegradable. $8



Trendsetter: Alicia Silverstone


Alicia Silverstone, actress, author, and environmentalist

Eat animals? As if! Alicia Silverstone, best known for her role as the airheaded matchmaker in the 1995 comedy Clueless, is gaining a green following outside the multiplex thanks to her devotion to Earth-friendly causes. She developed the EcoTools line of beauty products, emplaced solar panels and water-conservation measures at home, and became a vegan. We caught up with her while she was promoting her book, The Kind Diet (Rodale, 2009).

Q: How does being a vegan connect to other aspects of green living?

A: If you're interested in protecting the planet, you have to look at what you're eating. They say one 16-ounce steak takes the same amount of water to produce as six months of showers. So if you're saving water by taking shorter showers but still eating meat, you're really not being as effective as you could be.

Q: The Kind Diet talks about "flirting with veganism." What's that?

A: You can look and feel better just by making a few small changes. I want to give people a safe, nonjudgmental place to start. Just because you don't totally give up meat doesn't mean you can't benefit from this. Sometimes you need to flirt a little.

Q: What do you think of green fashion?

A: It's getting fantastic. I'm not wearing clunky hemp clogs; I'm finding really beautiful stuff. But I've never had to compromise between fashion and being green. My first stop is vintage and used-clothing shops. Sometimes my husband has to remind me, when our sheets are torn or something, that maybe it's OK to buy something new. When that happens, I think bamboo or hemp. —interview by Kyle Boelte

ON THE WEB Read a longer interview with Alicia Silverstone at sierraclub.org/greenlife.


Faux Gras: A carnivore's guide to fake meat

We know that many legume-loving vegetarians can't stand the smell of sirloin (and we're braced for their letters). But we also know that vegetarians make up only 3 percent of the U.S. population, and that most Americans bite into a veggie burger hoping it will taste like ground round. With that in mind, Sierra corralled a panel of professional carnivores and asked them to name their favorite meat substitutes. They didn't mince words. —A.B.

BILL NIMAN is the founder of Niman Ranch, which he has since sold, and of BN Ranch, in Bolinas, California, where he raises grass-fed cows, turkeys, and goats. He also serves as the sustainable-agriculture adviser for Chipotle restaurants.

"Without equivocation, Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burger. They don't attempt to make it taste like meat, though it happens to be in the form of a patty. Delicious and easy, it's the go-to thing for my wife and me when one of us is alone. The taste is exotic, with curry, cumin, potatoes, and carrots. It's also soy-free, affordable, and goes well with mustard, ketchup, and pickles." $2.49 for 10 oz.

CAT CORA is an Iron Chef and the author of three cookbooks. During Iron Chef's "pig battle," she carved up a whole swine. Of Southern and Greek stock, she's not shy about using meat.

"My favorite is Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles. It's full of flavor, it tastes exactly like ground beef, and you can use it in just about any recipe that calls for ground meat. It's really a pleasant product to work with--I love using it in spaghetti or chili. Morningstar pays attention to how they season their products, using ingredients like evaporated cane-juice crystals, spices, onion, and garlic powder." About $5 for 12 oz.

JOHN WOOD is a fifth-generation meat farmer and the founder of U.S. Wellness Meats, a cooperative in Missouri and Wisconsin that specializes in grass-fed beef.

"I really like Lightlife's Tempehtations in the Classic BBQ flavor. It comes in pre-marinated pieces, so it's easy to throw in with fresh vegetables for a quick stir-fry. The sauce is tasty but not artificial tasting or overly sweet. Plus, the actual tempeh is good--they're not trying to mask an inferior product with a lot of sauce. I also like that Lightlife doesn't use unnecessary additives or things people don't expect in their food." About $4 for 6 oz.

MARK STARK owns Stark Reality Restaurants, an upscale mini-chain in Northern California's wine country that includes Willi's Seafood, Monti's Rotisserie, and Stark's Steakhouse, which boasts its own meat-aging room.

"I always have a stash of Original Gardenburgers in the freezer. Toasted in a little olive oil, served on a soft bun with daikon sprouts, cilantro, and a good slathering of homemade Chinese-honey mustard with a cold beer, it would stand up to any Sunday football game. They always cook up crisp and moist, with a fresh, whole-grain goodness that thoroughly satisfies." $4.50 for 10 oz.

MARK SOLAZS owns the Bronx's Master Purveyors, a company his father started in 1957; it supplies some 10 million pounds of meat per year to restaurants nationwide.

"I've been pleasantly surprised at how far meat alternatives have come. Those from Seattle company Field Roast are the most promising. You can use Field Roast Loaves almost any way you'd use meat--in sandwiches, soups, stews, and chili. They're grain-based and come in three zesty flavors: lentil sage, wild mushroom, and smoked tomato. They have an earthy, smoky character and a firm, meatlike texture that's appealingly tender. Dedicated carnivores will know it's not meat but won't feel deprived." $4.49 for 12 oz.

ON THE WEB Read more vegetarian recommendations from carnivores at sierraclub.org/greenlife.


Green Biz

Artisans who work out of their homes are inherently ecofriendly. They spare the air by staying off the road, and many make art out of society's flotsam.

Lately, indie craftspeople are finding it easier to earn a living, thanks to Etsy, an online marketplace that exposes their wares to millions. Unlike eBay, where sellers often offload unwanted junk, Etsy is a virtual craft fair. Artisans set up online "booths" to hawk quirky pieces (e.g., clocks made of hard drives). And it's growing fast: Etsy's sales doubled to $180 million in 2009 over 2008, and the site now hosts 250,000 merchants.

Many Etsy sellers integrate eco-practices into their works. Margaret Kasper, owner of Mountain Girl Clothing in New Hampshire, turns thrift-store finds like old sweaters into, as she says, "more stylish, modern, and versatile pieces than what they started as."

Christy Schwathe of Hu.made creates accessories from vintage clothes, recycled scraps, and sustainable new materials. She operates from her house at the foot of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains. "This is the way I live," she says of her earth-conscious habits, "so why wouldn't I apply it to my business?" —K.B.


Photos, from top: Lori Eanes (5); Victoria Pearson; Mitch Tobias; Lori Eanes; Robert Quailer; Lori Eanes; U.S. Wellness Meats; Lori Eanes (2); Master Purveyors; Lori Eanes

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