Today’s Solutions: December 09, 2022

Twenty praiseworthy products that are good for your body, your soul and the planet.

| April 2008 issue

With all the talk of recession, Ode decided to check in with two pioneers in the organic market to get their takes on what the money crunch might mean for their businesses’and for the sector as a whole. Walter Robb is co-president and chief operating officer of Whole Foods Market, America’s biggest organic food retailer. Joseph Wilhelm is co-founder and managing director of Germany-based Rapunzel Naturkost AG, one of Europe’s leading producers, manufacturers and distributors of organic food. Both men are decidedly upbeat about the future. And in that spirit, Ode presents its fourth annual Organic Top: our list of praiseworthy products.

Will the growth of the organic sector be threatened by the troubled state of the economy?

Robb: “I don’t think so. The sector has grown so much in the past decade that a significant number of people have incorporated their choices for organic food into their daily lives. That’s quite different from the way things were 10 years ago, when most people were still asking what organic food is exactly.”

Wilhelm: “I don’t expect that the organic sector will be threatened by the cooled-down economy, since we are still protected in a niche market. If you look at all the economic ups and downs of the last 30 years, these didn’t hit the organic market.”

How will your companies try to keep customers who may decide to buy cheaper, non-organic food?

Robb: “It’s essential for us to continue to encourage and develop the supply of organic products to meet the ever-increasing demand. This will eventually lead to better pricing relative to conventional products. We will also continue to support farmers staying in organics, as well as farmers transitioning to organic.”

Wilhelm: “In these times, it’s important to remain authentic and stay true to our philosophy. We’ve now introduced a new private label, BioGourmet, which has more than 100 certified-organic products – jam, oil, muesli, tomato sauce, etcetera’that we’re selling in bigger supermarkets. But we’ll never be able to compete on the price, and I don’t even think it’s necessary or sustainable to try to do that.”

What’s your advice on how to spend household money in hard times?

Robb: “You should consider prioritizing and spending money on things that matter most. I would always choose organic in fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy, because research has shown a clear health benefit. Cookies, cereals, chocolate’that might be of less importance. People should realize that when we buy cheap food, we’re not paying for the hidden costs of personal and environmental degradation. If people see whole foods – with a lower case ‘w’ – are health-giving, it will go a long way toward saving them money on their health-care expenses.”

Wilhelm: “When money is tight, live simply and healthily. Choosing organic is definitely part of that. After all, in the long term, organic food will be cheaper for you, especially if you live in a country where the health-insurance system is not as good as in Germany.”

Is an economic crisis the bottom-line test for sustainability within the organic sector?

Robb: “No. If anything, the economic crisis makes clear that organic is the greatest investment opportunity of the 21st century. It’s a matter of life and death for the planet, for our communities and for us. In fact, I think we should keep evolving the standards to incorporate evolving consumer concerns that include pasture requirements for organic dairy and animal care standards. We should even consider having levels above the base organic standard to reward progress on the farm.”

Wilhelm: “No, it’s the opposite. The organic sector is the sustainable answer to the economic crisis, since organic doesn’t depend so much on non-sustainable sources of energy and raw materials.”

Treetap Rubber

Wild rubber isn’t only used to make lovely bags, wallets and fashion accessories, but to help preserve a tradition among small communities in the Amazon. The tapping of wild rubber nearly disappeared when the Amazon’s ancient rubber trees were felled back in the late 1980s to make room for cattle-grazing. Most rubber is no longer made in the traditional way’tapping trees every five years and letting them rest for another five’so demand for the wild variety dropped. Treetap is a Brazilian company that’s been turning wild rubber into beautiful design products since the early 1990s. It’s thus helping maintain a tradition, as well as the rubber tree. This pictured black Treetap bag costs about $150 and is available at
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USBCell Rechargeable Batteries

All those alkaline batteries for the TV remote, the digital camera, the flashlight – contain nasty substances like zinc, manganese and sometimes even mercury and lead. Yet each year, some 15 billion of these batteries are tossed into the trash. Here’s a solution: the USBCell rechargeable battery. Just plug it into the USB port of your laptop computer, iPod, XBox, Wii or other device with a USB port. Wonderfully compact, the USBCell battery can be recharged 500 times and comes with a charge-level indicator. It does, however, take awhile to amp up fully: about five hours.
A package of two USBCell batteries costs $17.50, and can be ordered at

Macbeth Footwear

In 2002, Tom Delonge – a member of the punk rock band Blink 182 – decided to move into the footwear business. He was frustrated with the corporate sponsorship surrounding his music, and eager to apply the DIY ethos of punk to a business. Macbeth Footwear is the result. A crucial component to Macbeth’s philosophy is the vegan lifestyle. In addition to providing alternatives to leather and suede, Macbeth ensures the glue used for soles is never bone-based. This attention to detail recently earned the company a Libby award for “Best Vegan Skate Shoe” from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in the group’s annual vote on animal-friendly products. The spring ’08 collection includes stylish vegan models. The Wallister sneaker is spunky and casual; a black pair of Jackson slippers evokes a more adult sense of refinement.
A pair of Bronson Eisley vegan shoes sells for $59.99.

Isodisnatura Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and health is getting a lot of attention these days. Research suggests that omega-3s’typically found in fatty fish, certain nuts and linseed oils – can help increase blood circulation, reduce heart disease and prevent mood disorders. Belgium’s Isodisnatura offers natural dietary supplements supported by this research. The supplements address specific concerns: “OM3memory” focuses on brain power; “OM3junior” is designed for children and “OM3emotion,” the top seller, is targeted at moods. Isodisnatura uses the oils of wild fish, which are more likely to consume the algae essential to the development of omega-3 fatty acids. Capsules are made from fish gelatin.
A box containing 30 capsules of OM3emotion is available for $14.95.

Numi Organic Tea

Looking for an exciting way to spark conversation at your next dinner party? Consider Numi’s “flowering” teas. Loose tea leaves are hand-sewn and assembled into flower-like clusters. No bags or filtres are necessary’simply drop the bundle (or “rosette”) into a glass teapot and pour in hot water. The leaves unravel into a lovely “flower” as the tea brews. Each ingredient in Numi teas is certified organic and free of artificial additives and is harvested according to fair-trade practises. If you’re not in the mood for flowers, bagged teas come in 21 varieties – each including 2.2 grams of full-leaf tea, which produce a rich and natural flavour. The website has useful information regarding processing, health benefits and preparation.
Boxed teas begin at $5.99 for 16 to 18 bags.

Zsweet Natural Sweetener

Do you want something sweet in your tea or coffee but prefer to avoid sugar? Zsweet offers a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. The active ingredient in Zsweet Zero Calorie Sweeteners is erythritol, a sugar alcohol occurring naturally in fruit. The company produces erythritol industrially, through a fermentation process that avoids genetic modification, and adds fruit extracts. Erythritol is resistant to oral bacteria, so it can help prevent tooth decay. It’s well-suited to special dietary needs. Diabetics, for example, needn’t worry about erythritol, since it doesn’t increase blood glucose levels.
A bag of Zsweet sells for $25.

Vegware Tableware

Picnics are fun, but all that plastic silverware produces an environmentally unfriendly mess. The British manufacturer Vegware has come up with biodegradable or compostable alternatives: cutlery, plates, cups, napkins and – for the ultimate summer experience – ice cream spoons made from 80 percent (non-genetically modified) potato starch and 20 percent vegetable oil. Hot food can be transported in boxes made from waste fibre left over after pressing sugar cane.
A mixed pack of knives, forks and spoons (10 each) costs $5.80 and is available at


Dirty diapers can be a nasty business, which is why many people forget about them as soon as they’re in the trash. But a plastic diaper can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. And cloth models aren’t always greener, given the energy and cleaning agents involved. Jason Graham-Nye, who co-founded gDiapers with his wife Kim, jokingly refers to his products as “hybrid diapers.” Like hybrid cars, gDiapers balance conservation and convenience. Your baby slips into a pair of reusable (and fashionable) “little g” pants, made primarily of breathable cotton. The interior contains something called a “flushable” –
a plastic-free insert designed with your toilet in mind. You tear the flushable from the pants and, after a few simple steps, send it to the sewer instead of the landfill. Flushables are great for composting as well, but be sure to dispose of the icky stuff first. Jason and Kim Graham-Nye support a family as well as a company. The idea for gDiapers came shortly after their first child was born. The offices of gDiapers are home to 15 employees and include an on-site child development centre, with two full-time teachers. According to Kim, ‘the Village,’ as they call it, strikes a balance “between making meaning and money.” By allowing employees intimate access to their offspring, gDiapers aims to ensure a stable future socially as well as ecologically.
A gDiapers Starter Kit, including two “little g” pants and 10 flushables, is available at for $26.99.

Auro Natural Paints

Anyone who’s ever painted the kitchen has seen what paint can do to the brush: turn it into a stinking, syrupy chemical-soaked mess. And the solvents (like turpentine) released during evaporation can make you feel dizzy’as well as damage your lungs and the environment. AURO natural paints don’t make you feel tipsy or leave you with a chemical hangover. That’s because AURO, a German manufacturer of paint, varnish, wax, glue and oil, uses only sustainably produced natural raw materials. Linseed oil and natural resin from the dammer tree (found in tropical rainforests) are used as binding agents, for example. The citrus oil thinner comes from orange peels. AURO does use solvents, but they’re water-based or made from natural mixtures such as gum turpentine. Brushes can be cleaned with water and stored in a jar filled with linseed oil. Plus dried paint scraps can be composted.
A 13-ounce can of paint costs $29.

Oro Verde Gold

Gold is the symbol of purity, DURability and love. No wonder gold rings have been tokens of undying fidelity for millennia. But the work of goldminers – involving long days at low pay – is anything but loving. Extracting the precious metal is bad for their health and the environment. Mercury and cyanide end up in nearby rivers, where locals fish; dynamiting creates huge dust clouds that miners breathe and clearing the old growth forests leads to soil erosion. Take the Colombian region of Choco, famous for its biodiversity – and, since the 16th century, for its gold deposits. Today, descendants of the African slaves who mined this area live off the small nuggets of gold they find the natural way, using shovels, sieves and their bare hands. Through the Colombian co-operative Oro Verde (“green gold”), these mine workers not only get a better price for their gold, but assistance in fine-tuning their craft. The socially minded Colombians involved in Oro Verde help the miners plant trees to rebuild the forest and crops to help feed the communities.
The price of Oro Verde products ranges from $875 to $2,200. Jewelry shops that carry it can be found at
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Annie’s Homegrown

Macaroni and cheese has traditionally been more suited to dorm rooms than organic kitchens. The meal’s bizarre colouring and synthetic texture has made it the antithesis of nutritional food. Annie’s Homegrown is changing that. Annie’s transforms macaroni and cheese from a quick-and-easy solution into a delicious, healthy treat. Each box features fresh, natural cheeses and organic semolina pasta – without artificial additives or preservatives. Certified organic cheeses are available in seven of Annie’s 11 varieties. (Who knew there were so many ways to make macaroni and cheese?) The adorable, bunny-themed packaging will attract your child’s attention, while you can browse the tips for green living on every carton.
> A six-ounce box of Annie’s Natural Mac and Cheese (shells and white cheddar) costs $2.39.

Macaroot Supplement

Add a few drops of Maca Magic Energy Extract to a glass of water, and great things begin to happen. University researchers from Pittsburgh to Peru have concluded that its active ingredient – macaroot – can help increase resistance to toxins. Herbs America, the Oregon-based company that produces Macaroot, says the herbal supplement’s mix of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can assist in maximizing energy and revitalizing the immune system. Maca Magic products take a number of forms – including capsules, powders and breakfast shakes. Macaroot was discovered in the highlands of Peru some 2,000 years ago. Once nearly extinct, communities in the high Andes region have restored the root’s production over the past 30 years. Herbs America works with local Peruvian communities to cultivate it. While maintaining an awareness of the indigenous traditions surrounding its harvest, Herbs America ensures sustainable, organic practises in the region.
> A two-ounce bottle of Maca Magic Express Energy Extract sells for $16.99.

Teeccino Coffee Alternative

Coffee is as much a ritual as a beverage. Many people can’t get through the day without it. But coffee also loads you up with caffeine, which can lead to anxiety and heart problems. Teeccino is a certified organic, caffeine-free herbal coffee alternative that mirrors the robust flavour of coffee with a roasted blend of grains, herbs, fruit and nuts. A typical cup contains 80 milligrams of potassium, which stimulates the nerve impulses that send oxygen to your brain – giving you that boost of energy you crave in the morning.
A one-pound refill bag of Vanilla Nut Herbal Coffee is $12.95; the Java Herbal is $11.95.

(2022 Update: Teeccinno is now one of our sponsored partners! Support us both on Teeccino’s site.)

Kashi Natural Foods

Kashi products contain a mix of seven whole grains and sesame, forming what the company calls “Kashi pilaf.” The Kashi range comprises more than 50 products, including hot and cold cereals, snack bars, waffles and frozen pasta. Most items are high in fibre and protein. Organic Promise cereals come in three light, flavourful varieties – Autumn Wheat, Cinnamon Harvest and Strawberry Fields. All are naturally sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice, and two are sodium-free. The Kashi website offers tips, tests and recipes to help you stay healthy.
The cost of 10 ounces of Kashi Organic Promise Strawberry Fields ranges from $3 to $5.

Levi’s Eco Organic Jeans

Looking to get the pesticides out of your wardrobe as well as your kitchen? Levi’s offers an innovative way to turn your blue jeans green. Levi’s eco range features clothing made from 98 to 99 percent organic cotton (the remaining 1 to 2 percent Lycra is used in the elastic). The external packaging is made from recycled paper and organic fibre, and all text is printed with soy-based ink. The contents come in a wide range of styles. For the ladies, the Mid Rise Boot 553 is the most conservative, while the Low Skinny 531 is sassier and more revealing. For guys, the Slim Straight 514 is the no-nonsense classic that sells best. Levi’s eco line isn’t limited to jeans either’the Hi-Rise skirt is playfully bookish, and the spring collection features miniskirts and ladies pants. Looking for a premium upgrade? Check out the Capital E series. Made entirely of organic cotton, this line offers recycled buttons and zippers – as well as a more nuanced fit. For men, the Matchstick jeans look casual but sophisticated, while the ladies can go retro with the Super Hi-Rise Wide jeans. Shirts, shorts and tank tops are available
as well.
A pair of Levi’s eco Skinny jeans sells for $78.

Natural Collection’s Logmaker

If you don’t live in or near the woods, having a fireplace can be as frustrating as it is enticing. Logs and kindling are often hard to find – and once you’ve purchased them, there’s the question of storage. A cramped urban apartment can be an awkward place to stack lumber. Fortunately, the UK’s Natural Collection offers an inspired solution: the Logmaker. This quirky contraption reduces clutter instead of creating it. The mechanics of the Logmaker are pretty simple – a valve and two levers. Simply feed old newspapers into its open end, and after some simple compression, you’re the proud owner of a log of recycled paper. It takes about one newspaper to make a log, which will burn for roughly an hour. It’s an inventive alternative to forest depletion and landfill waste. And it makes a good conversation piece while you’re sipping cocoa next to the fire.
Natural Collection’s Logmaker is available online for about $60 plus shipping.

TCHO Chocolate Bars

Few vices are more enticing than chocolate. On Valentine’s Day, you might buy it for someone special. But desirable as chocolate may be, just a handful of chocolate-makers take it as seriously as TCHO of San Francisco, California. Made from scratch in the company’s Pier 17 factory, TCHO’s premium dark chocolate reveals the many undetected flavours hidden in cocoa beans. The “nutty” taste is smoky and savoury, whereas “fruity” is tangy and slightly bitter. For a refined improvement on an old favourite, the “chocolatey” bar does the trick. Two other flavours- “earthy” and “citrus” – are scheduled to appear later this year. TCHO’s approach is inquisitive and experimental. Biting into a bar doesn’t simply delight your senses, it challenges them. TCHO founder Timothy Childs has developed a ‘smart sourcing’ program to “bring more value directly to the producers themselves.” TCHO provides incentives for its cacao farmers to improve the quality of their raw materials – including supplying them with drying racks and fermentation equipment. And they’re offered samples of the end result. According to Childs, most cacao farmers have rarely tasted the product of their labour. Childs hopes to expand the specialty market for premium dark chocolate, believing it deserves the same distinctions found in wine or coffee. It’s a compelling idea. Next to a bar of TCHO chocolate, those old Valentine morsels might taste like a freeze-dried cup of decaf.
A two-ounce TCHO Bar sells for $6.

Orlio Organic Beer

Healthy and ethical consumption can be fun, and Orlio Organic Beer proves it. Throughout the year, Orlio offers a Common Ale that’s smooth, firm and not too heavy. For the winter, the Seasonal Black Lager makes a bolder impression. Its rich flavour will please beer enthusiasts, and its playful hint of chocolate helps separate it from the pack. As summer grows closer, try the Seasonal India Pale Ale for a sharp, slightly bitter taste.
Orlio’s markets are rapidly expanding – click the “locator” function on the website to find the provider closest to you. A six-pack of Orlio’s Common Ale costs $8.99.

Cell Sensor Gauss Meter

Many consumers worry about the potential health effects of low-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by everything from televisions to microwave ovens to cellphones. The Cell Sensor Gauss Meter monitors the strength of EMFs, allowing you to detect levels of magnetic fields within your environment. Simply turn on the hand-held Cell Sensor and watch the metre as you move about your home or office. As EMF levels rise, the sensor provides audible and visible alerts. If you think an appliance puts out too many gauss, simply move it away from the most frequently used parts of the room. Be sure to test all your appliances; the EMF levels of something as mundane as an electric toothbrush might surprise you.
The Cell Sensor Gauss Meter is available through the Life Extension Foundation for $36.

Kettle Chips

A bag of Kettle chips might arouse your suspicions as well as your appetite. How can a potato chip made from natural ingredients taste so good? Healthy snacks are known to be brittle and flavourless, but organic Kettle chips are rich, crunchy and yummy. They’re also made from real potatoes, cheeses and spices, and come in three flavours. At the firm’s headquarters in Oregon, more than 600 solar panels power offices and manufacturing sites. The energy not produced by the panels comes from wind. And all the excess cooking oil is converted into biodiesel.
A five-ounce bag of organic Kettle chips costs about $2.50 at a natural foods store.

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