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The gift of knowledge: 6 green reads

This holiday season, why not furnish your loved ones with gifts that will help them find more planet-friendly ways to live? GreenDAY's Marisa Belger offers her top reads for the beauty buff, the world traveler, the new parent and more.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

While there’s never been a better moment in time to green your gift giving — environmentally conscious presents are cooler than ever (check out my green gift guide next week) — I continue to be partial to the gift of information. This year, I will be furnishing my loved ones with an essential green read.

Today there’s a book for every eco-personality, from those who are deeply embedded in the green loop to those who are just beginning to explore what it means to protect the planet.

For the eco-afraidTo my friends who are stuck in the belief that living an environmentally aware life requires sacrifices of untold proportions, I will present Josh Dorfman’s “The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). [Full disclosure: I helped Josh with the editing of his book.] Following the idea that most people want to do the right thing, but don’t want to compromise the way they live, Dorfman has compiled a comprehensive guide to goods and services that respect the earth without skimping on quality. “The Lazy Environmentalist” covers every aspect of creating a comfortable, incredibly stylish green life — including clothes, furniture, cars, kids, pets (animals need green gear, too!), investing, education and gardening.

For the world travelerMy perpetually nomadic pals will be receiving the perfect guide to a serious case of wanderlust: “Green Travel: The World’s Best Eco-Lodges & Earth-Friendly Hotels” (Fodor’s). Fodor’s, those trusty guidebook experts, have turned their attention to eco-minded travel by creating a book that equips wanderers with the information they need to choose accommodations that are not only easy on the environment, but also designed to support the communities in which they are based. And vacationers are not limited to eco-resorts in Costa Rica or Panama (the destinations I immediately associate with “eco” and “travel”). The book also covers South America, North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia — basically, the world — offering everything from swank hotels to yurt (fancy tent) living.

For the design loverThe design buffs in my life will be treated to “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” (North Point Press), William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s manifesto pushing for a new way of creating, using and reusing products. An architect and a chemist respectively, the authors are rethinking the life cycle of goods, working to eliminate waste altogether. Their philosophy requires something they call “eco-effectiveness” and involves a deeper look at traditional and seemingly ineffective environmental solutions like recycling (I thought recycling was a good thing, but McDonough and Braungart say we can do better).

For the thirsty folkElizabeth Royte’s “Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It” will be stuffed into the stockings of the friends and family who just can’t seem to kick the plastic-water-bottle habit. As I discussed in last week’s column, the proliferation of plastic bottles is an environmental disaster of epic proportions. And there is a way to stop the madness: Invest in a water filter and a portable water bottle and go back to tap. Royte walks you through the dirty consequences of our national addiction to the bottled stuff.

For the beauty buffStacy Malkan will be giving the ladies in my life an unadulterated look at what’s really going on with their beauty products in “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” (New Society Publishers). The book follows Malkan’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as it investigates the chemicals that are used in personal care products and works to push the beauty industry to develop healthier options. And when they’re finished with the book, I’m hoping that my girlfriends will leave it out for their guys. With hair products, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream and soap cluttering their side of the bathroom, men are not immune to unsafe products.

For the new parentFinally, all new mamas and mamas-to-be will be given Lynda Fassa’s indispensable “Green Babies, Sage Moms: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Organic Baby” (NAL Trade). Nine months into motherhood, my copy is positively dog-eared as I’ve used it as a weekly cheat sheet for the best in organic and nontoxic food, diapers, toys and more. (Read an excerpt here.)

As for purchasing these reads, sure, you can turn to the usual online retailers, but I invite you to try something crazy … visit your local bookseller. Buying books from your neighborhood (hopefully independent) bookstore puts money back into your community and eliminates the environmental impact of shipping. If you must buy online, do it somewhere good. sells used books found through library discards and college book drives, allows customers to choose carbon-free shipping and uses part of the profits to fund global literacy programs.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.