Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World

By Diane MacEachern

Avery/Penguin Group, $16.95

Reduce, reuse, recycle, and vote with your wallet is the 21st-century treehugger’s mantra. Best-selling environment writer Diane MacEachern shows women—who spend 85 cents of every dollar in the marketplace—how to start wielding their purchasing power for the good of the planet, and buying green as if their lives depended on it. Worth toting around in your  bag or glove compartment, Big Green Purse explains, in layman’s terms, concepts like nanotechnology; lists names of companies women can trust; and walks buyers through difficult choices in everything from food to lawn care to clothing.

What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People From Animals and Their Trainers

By Amy Sutherland

Random House, $18

When it came to handling the human animals in her life, particularly subspecies American husband, Amy Sutherland used to subscribe to the school of nagging. But in 2003, when she began trailing the nation’s top exotic animal trainers to research this book, Sutherland noticed their techniques work on people as well as on killer whales. Five years, one New York Times most-e-mailed article, and myriad social experiments later, she’s here to show you how to pick your battles, use positive reinforcement, and really notice behavior, your own included. But watch out—Sutherland has shamu-ed all her friends and family, and she just might shamu you, too.

Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World

By Gary Hirshberg

Hyperion, $24.95

Having helped Stonyfield Farm grow from a piddling seven-cow operation in the 1980s to the $330 million goliath it is today, “CE-Yo” Gary Hirshberg knows a few things about making sustainability profitable. He’s navigated the mostly uncharted territory that is “marketing with a mission” in corporate America, and been taught eco-waste management by a bunch of hogs (long story). But instead of preaching, Hirshberg offers his hard-earned secrets with a handshake and a gleam in his eye. His is a happy-ever-after tale of how a handful of small, idealistic companies (Stonyfield and righteous peers like Clif Bar, Zipcar, and Seventh Generation) discovered they could join the big league without selling out.

The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature

By Jonathan Rosen

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $24

Life is an exploration of birding as the intersection between nature and the industrial world and as Rosen’s antidote to “nature deficit disorder.” Enriched with revelations from history, science, and theology, Life is also generously sprinkled with literary candy (references to DH Lawrence and Saul Bellow, among others). It’s an elegant and honest account of how Rosen learned to live fully by learning to bird (and in particular, search for the elusive, possibly extinct, ivory-billed woodpecker). By the time you put the book down, you’ll agree that “looking up is the best we can do.”

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

By Neil Shubin

Pantheon, $24

When fish invaded land 375 million years ago, they didn’t look a whole lot like the doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers they would eventually become, but they did already share one important physical attribute with humans: hands. Fish is a strange and thorough tour through the human body, with paleontologist Neil Shubin—leader of the first team ever to uncover a fish-with-hands fossil—as your expert guide. Walking readers through head, shoulders, knees, and toes (and yes, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose), Shubin pauses at each stop along the way to explain how much we share with our mammalian and reptilian ancestors.

Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in February 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008