Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

ENJOY | The Green Life

By Avital Binshtock

Double Dose of Generosity | Trendsetter | Sage Brushing


If it's true that our cerebral pleasure centers glow brighter when we give than when we get, then the ecofriendly gifts on these altruistic Internet sites should make for a serious holiday buzz.

For a global array of responsibly produced gifts, try eBay's World of Good. The site's "Goodprint" section showcases eco-positive pieces and tells the story behind each handcrafted offering. Choices include banana-fiber napkin rings from Kenya ($30) and a bamboo flute from Thailand ($23). There's also a selection of efficient electronics, including a 12-watt solar-energy kit ($400).

This tube of recycled-newspaper coloring pencils (about $8) is available on the robust shopping site of UNICEF Canada. Buy it as a stocking stuffer and you'll help UNICEF's efforts to educate and protect legions of underprivileged children.

How do you gift wrap random acts of kindness? By buying a themed deck of cards from Boom Boom! The green deck ($10) has 26 easy directives benefiting the environment, such as picking up the next piece of litter you see. Once you've completed a good deed, register the card's unique ID code at, then hand it off to a friend. As others pass it along, you can map the card's progress online.

We love Blurb, a publishing house for the masses. You upload your text and design, then order copies of your self-published book ($5 to $187 each, depending on size). It's not just another vanity press, however: The site's philanthropic "Blurb for Good" section lets wordsmiths and photographers sell their art for the charity of their choice. Sales of elegant photo books benefit a wide range of human- and animal-rights groups, and a cookbook has collected more than $45,000 for Haiti. Love Pelicans ($39) raises money to rehabilitate the birds of the Gulf.

The idea of planting a tree in someone's name isn't new, but TreeNex makes it possible to track that tree's growth online. Its cheery holiday cards ($5.50 each) are 100 percent recycled, let recipients know that a fir or oak has been planted for them, and provide an online tracking code so they can see the sapling's planting date, its geographical coordinates, and photos of its nursery or forest.

ON THE WEB Find other do-good Web sites for holiday gift giving at


"There is no Planet B. We can't trash this place and go somewhere else."
—Fabien Cousteau

Fabien Cousteau, ocean explorer and Plant a Fish founder | Photo courtesy of Carrie Vonderhaar/Ocean Futures Society
Fabien Cousteau—third-generation ocean explorer, swashbuckling underwater filmmaker, and Renaissance environmental man—had a brainstorm late one night while reading an article about a tree-planting project. "Why does restoration stop at the waterline?" he wondered. "Why aren't we planting fish?"

He launched the nonprofit Plant a Fish in June to commemorate his grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau's 100th birthday and World Oceans Day—just as oil was gushing into the Gulf. PAF's first project was planting oysters in the Hudson River with students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. Next up: planting mangroves with high schoolers in Florida, restoring hawksbill populations with turtle-egg hunters in El Salvador, and cultivating coral reefs in the Maldives and the Florida Keys.

Q: It seems appropriate that you'd be involved with the New York Harbor School for the oyster project. Was your life outside the classroom like an international ocean school?

A: Absolutely. It's funny how so many people think of the world as countries—these political lines on a map. Nature doesn't care about these invisible lines on a piece of paper. Everything that goes on in nature affects everybody regardless of where you live, whether it's in the atmosphere, on land, or in the water. Fish don't have passports.

Q: How do you select projects for Plant a Fish?

A: Oysters was an easy one, because I'm based out of New York City and felt it was imperative that I give back to my own backyard. The key elements are education, getting people to connect with the ocean, to understand why it's important and why they should care, whether they're on the oceanside or not; empowerment, saying, you can make a difference, and come with us, let's go do it together; and, of course, restoration.

Q: I saw a video clip in which you said the water in the Gulf was akin to a "vinaigrette."

A: I compared it to a vinaigrette because everyone thinks, "Why can't we contain this oil spill with booms?" If [the ocean] were a bathtub, oil would have the tendency to float, and we could skim it off. But it's not a bathtub. It's a dynamic system, with storms, wave activity, currents that churn the oil down deep and up above. It's like opening Pandora's box. So, yeah, it is like shaking up a vinaigrette. And that's maybe more of the way we should look at this. —interview by M. P. Klier

ON THE WEB Read a longer interview with Fabien Cousteau at


In search of toothpastes that are hard on plaque but easy on the planet, we asked five high-profile dentists to name their favorite ecofriendly brands. Our caveat: The docs couldn't have any affiliation with their pastes of choice. —A.B.

EMANUEL LAYLIEV directs the New York Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. His celebrity clients include Tom Brady, Padma Lakshmi, and Clinton Kelly.

"My favorite is Tom's of Maine Whole Care. Unlike other natural toothpastes, it's a gel in which fluoride serves as a naturally sourced ingredient. It comes in such flavors as peppermint, spearmint, and orange-mango—all made from real flavor oils rather than artificial sweeteners. Tom's contains naturally sourced fluoride for remineralization and silica derived from sand for tartar control. It's ecofriendly in every dimension." $5 for a 5.5-ounce tube

FRED POCKRASS is a restorative dentist in Berkeley, California. He maintains a green office, Transcendentist, and is the cofounder of the Eco-Dentistry Association.

"I love PerioPaste from Bio-Pro Dental. It's made with organic wild-crafted herbs and has a fresh, minty taste. It naturally and effectively whitens teeth without using titanium dioxide or sodium lauryl sulfate (a foaming agent). PerioPaste uses coenzyme Q10 and folic acid to support healthy gums, and xylitol, a natural cavity fighter and fluoride alternative. PerioPaste is not tested on animals, its packaging can be recycled, and it's economical because the concentrated formula lasts a long time—you only need a pea-size amount for each brushing." About $8 for a 4-ounce tube

MITCH MARDER, of Integrated Dentistry in Seattle, brings alternative methods such as acupuncture, herbal treatments, and homeopathy into conventional dental procedures.

"Coral White uses ionic coral minerals that are harvested from above the sea, earning its ingredients both EcoSafe and organic certifications. The toothpaste alkalinizes the mouth's pH, neutralizing bacterial acids that cause tooth decay and gum disease. It also includes hydrogen peroxide for whitening and bacterial reduction; mint oils for flavoring; and echinacea, goldenseal, and ginkgo for their antimicrobial properties. It's free of fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, and potentially toxic preservatives, colorings, and flavorings." $7 for a 6-ounce tube

JOE KRAVITZ is a Washington, D.C.–area dentist and the author of Dirty Mouth, a book about how food choices affect dental and overall health. He was named a "top doc" by Washingtonian magazine.

"I am proud to share a TOOTHPASTE RECIPE that is not only environmentally safe but also a superb DIY alternative that's effective in fighting cavities and gum disease: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate, 10 drops of water, 1 to 2 drops of peppermint oil, and 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil. The result: a fresh and cool peppermint flavor. Using this recipe, you can reverse the damaging effects of acids, eliminate bad breath, and strengthen teeth—all while reducing your carbon footprint."

DAVID FIELDS of Fields Cosmetic and Family Dentistry was nominated as his state's top family doctor by New Jersey Family magazine. He maintains a nearly paperless office by sending insurance claims (and soon, he hopes, prescriptions) electronically.

"Kiss My Face Triple Action has a pleasing minty flavor and is a smooth gel, not gritty. I especially like the ingredients coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant found in our bodies, and tea tree oil, a natural antibacterial agent. It contains no sodium lauryl sulfate, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or animal ingredients. It's all natural and contains organic aloe vera." $6 for a 3.4-ounce tube

Photos of gifts and toothpastes by Lori Eanes
Joe Kravitz photo by John Troha Photography; David Fields photo courtesy of Fields Cosmetic and Family Dentistry



Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2024 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.