Earthday Book Reviews
50 Ways to Go Green: A Simple Guide to Becoming Eco-Conscious, by Caroline Chabert and David Turner (Deckopedia)
When this unusual deck of cards found its way into my hands, I immediately chose four cards and set myself a goal to follow the green tips for a week. Here’s what I pulled: #9 Stop Unsolicited Mail, #12 Reduce Your Water Consumption, #28 Use Your Cruise Control (improve gas mileage by 15%) and #29 Drive The Speed Limit (prevent the release of over 1,000 lbs of CO2). cCard #9 turned out to be simpler than I’d imagined. I registered online for mail preference service offered by the Direct Marketing Association (www.dmachoice.org). It stops companies from sending you unwanted, wasteful mail. And the whole process takes about 10 minutes. So long junk mail! The free app PaperKarma (www.paperkarma.com) also stops unwanted mail. Just download the app and snap a photo of your junk mail. Voila. They’ll unsubscribe you.
It wasn’t as easy to see or feel the immediate impact from the following three cards, but I did find myself becoming increasingly mindful as I incorporated these changes into my routine. I timed my showers to the same four-minute song. Cards #28 and #29 went in my car visor and cup holder to remind me of my driving pledges. Making the cards visible was key to changing my old habits. By consciously engaging with these activities I began to hold myself accountable for other small daily tasks—putting scraps in the compost bucket, bringing canvas bags to the grocery store.
The deck is easy to use. Color coded by category—at home, with electricity, when buying—each card opens with a rationale, proceeds with a concrete action to be taken, and finishes with relevant trivia. The cards’ statistics are used effectively. Trivia like, “an Energy Star certified dishwasher saves about 5,000 gallons of water every year when compared to hand-washing dishes,” reinforces why these changes are essential. Did you know that if just one in 10 households in the U.S. chose paper-based cotton swabs—where the spindle is made from paper instead of plastic—the petroleum conserved by this action would be more than 7,800 barrels of oil?
The advice in 50 Ways to Go Green can be pretty basic – turn off unnecessary lights, minimize paper use – but it reminds us that changing our simple, daily routines can make an impact.
Two useful reference books
Forgotten Skills of Backyard Herbal Healing and Family Health, by Caleb Warnock and Kirsten Skirvin (Hobble Creek Press, 2015)
The latest in Caleb Warnock’s Forgotten Skills series is an herbal manual in the old Mormon tradition, updated for today. The authors exhort us to take back responsibility for our own health, instead of letting health insurance corporations and the sorry state of the standard American diet dictate how we fall sick and how we treat our illnesses. Warnock’s primer is a short-list of useful herbs, with instructions on where to get them, how to prepare and preserve them, and dosing advice from master herbalist Kirsten Skirven.
The Allergy Fighting Garden: Stop Asthma and Allergies with Smart Landscaping, by Thomas Leo Ogren (Ten Speed Press, 2015)
Ogren’s book is a quirky little reference manual that rates almost every common landscaping plant according to its potential for causing allergies. The author is on a mission to expose and remedy “sexist landscaping” that greatly increases the pollen count in most urban areas, as male trees have been marketed and sold to landscape designers as “litter-free” trees for many decades now.
Ogren’s solution hinges on planting your landscape with female trees—these produce no pollen and also actively remove pollen from the air—and filling the rest of your garden with low-pollen plants. Planting an allergy-fighting garden may not cure all of your springtime woes, but replacing that male silver maple outside your bedroom window with a female one may certainly help a great deal.
In the kitchen
Easy, Affordable Raw: How to Go Raw on $10 a Day, by Lisa Viger (Quarry Books, 2014)
Diving into this recipe book, by the raw vegan food blogger Lisa Viger, was an adventure beyond flavor. For example, Viger’s apple stacks seem simple enough—there is an apple and some nut butter of choice—but Viger recommends making the nut butter yourself. That step requires about two days of preparation: soaking the nuts overnight, drying them in the dehydrator for another day, then aggravating the tenant next door with 20 minutes of food processor shrieking, all for a smooth nut butter. The recipe’s other ingredients, should you choose to make them at home, required an equal amount of time and effort—the date paste begins with dates soaked overnight and the almond milk is homemade by, once again, soaking the nuts overnight, blending them, and filtering the liquid through cheese cloth.
These are not impossible feats but they certainly don’t make for a quick on-the-go breakfast experience. That being said, I would do it all again. There is a satisfaction that comes from having a hand in every step of the long, complicated process that amplifies the already rich taste of the final product.
To commit to this cookbook, you must be prepared for a serious investment of time, effort and money. Perhaps the more discriminating shopper can manage to do this on $10 a day, as she claims, but I am not that shopper. What you will get in return are high-energy foods that can realize your dream of eating healthfully and with pleasure. If, on the other hand, you are interested in ease and alacrity, I would suggest sticking to the smoothie section with easy, delicious recipes such as Hemp and Carrot Berry Smoothie and Cherry Chocolate Layered Smoothie.