We like green. Green apples. Green Bay. The Green Mile. Asparagus. And we have this sweater. Anyway, we like green, but we've never been "green." We're, shall we say, suspicious about any word so often swathed in so much righteousness. Because "green" can too easily be equated with "good," which is a vast oversimplification, especially when so much fact gets aggressively manipulated by so many interested parties in the name of "green."
We have this friend who gave us some perspective on "green." His name is Bjørn Lomborg, a political economist, environmental activist, and fierce optimist, who brought eight economists (including five Nobel laureates) together a year ago to come up with a sensible plan for environmental activism. It's called the Copenhagen Consensus. He wrote an essay in our 75th Anniversary Issue (October 2008) that convinced us that the small things we do (and some of the big things we do) can't amount to much unless we overhaul our list of priorities (placing malnutrition above, say, reducing CO2 emissions). His essay makes environmentalism a powerful and complex idea. You can read it here.
So, about being "green" we're a little ambivalent. But about doing good we aren't conflicted at all. The products on these pages are good, and using them feels good. They improve our lives. They work. And they're environmentally sound. Which is a bonus.
If pollution and sloth ever become virtues, self-propelled and riding mowers will be the trappings of the righteous. Until then, we'll stick with old-fashioned manual mowers. They don't use gas, don't stink, don't involve a potentially arm-snapping rip cord. And then there's the whisperlike sound they make. It's almost worth the looks you'll get from neighbors.
The hatchback already comes close to the practical ideal: Seats five, sips gas, handles like a go-kart, looks cool — enough. Utilitarian. But the new breed of sport hatchback is more sport, less hatchback. Take the MazdaSpeed3 pictured above. (See also: Volkswagen GTI, Subaru WRX.) With 263 hp, 26 mpg highway, and a $23,500 base price, it's frugal enough for daily commuting, roomy enough for errands — and powerful enough to remind you you're not driving a Prius.
Until the late 1800s, beer came in one kind of container — the keg — and was sold in one place: the local saloon. Folks wishing to drink elsewhere would bring jugs to be filled at the tap. These were known as growlers. And the invention of the beer can all but killed them.
These days beer makers across the country are distributing growlers again. (And many brewpubs and specialty grocers will let you fill your own growlers directly from their taps.) Plunk down seven or eight bucks plus a two- or three-dollar bottle deposit, and head home with half a gallon of the crispest, freshest ale (or stout or pilsner) you've ever tasted. When you're done, you bring the bottle back and reclaim your deposit — or treat it as a down payment on the next growler. The bottle itself gets cleaned and returned to its source, ready to be filled again.
Before modern chemistry gave us oil and latex varieties, "house paint" meant milk paint. You'd take a bucket of milk, add powdered lime (the mineral, not the fruit) and some pigment, and stir. The result was an odor-free, fade-proof coating with the added benefits of extreme toughness and zero cases of lead poisoning. Since 1974, the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company has been offering genuine milk paint in powder form, and there's a new version formulated specially for interior walls. Look for it wherever gorp is sold (or at milkpaint.com).
There's no reason to buy hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, body bars, body wash, or shaving cream when you can just buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner's. The stuff's been around since World War II, is 100 percent organic, and cleans everything from rugs to babies. Dr. Bronner's comes in eight scents — we prefer the original peppermint — and according to the label can be used in eighteen different ways. (According to the Internet, there are hundreds more.)