September 30, 2009

Living a greener lifestyle

People who cook outside and go to the bathroom inside baffled my grandfather. He had a contrarian’s view on many things, including progress: when you’ve come so far that you have to go out of the way to seem natural, something’s wrong, he figured.

I can’t think about the green movement without wondering where he’d stand if he were alive today. As a lifelong farmer and outdoorsman who grew his own food and, yes, killed his own meat, would he be glad to see people interested in protecting the earth? Or would he be among the chorus of conservative contrarians who deny the environmental impact of the past four generations?

At every turn, I find myself surrounded by global warming mockers. They catch a whiff of environmental hypocrisy in people like me: we cling to destructive consumer habits and justify creature comforts, sucking up resources unconsciously for most of our lives. When we realize our yoga mats are decidedly unfriendly to the environment, we suddenly become evangelists for the green movement. Some are truly committed. Others are still so clueless that we’d probably trash our old mats and buy a new “eco-friendly” mat upon learning the bad news. We deserve to be embarrassed.

If you’re among the recent converts who are sincere about reducing your own environmental hypocrisy, read Ecoholic (when you’re addicted to the planet): Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services. This book is loaded with realistic, eco-friendly tips on clothing, food, cosmetics, transportation, and money. Written by Adria Vasil, a Canadian author and journalist who writes a regular Ecoholic column for NOW magazine, this tomb suggests hundreds of micro-decisions you can make to live a greener lifestyle. You can check it out at your local library, but it’s an exhaustive reference book, so you’ll eventually want to buy a copy for your bookshelf. It’s organized in an approachable way with informative sidebars and suggested electronic resources to check products you use.

Two detractions:
1) There’s no bibliography to support the science that’s cited within. That’s unfortunate because it probably weakens the book’s validity, especially with our global-warming-mocker friends.
2) The designers of the book have done a wonderful job of making the book accessible—except for the solid green sidebars, underscoring the book’s green theme in a literal way. Anyone who is familiar with printing processes knows that black type on a solid background decreases readability—a lot.

Those factors aside, I’d still recommend the book as a first step for people who aspire to be an ecoholic. If you’re not already there, this book may be your guide. Beware: you might need to join Ecoholics Anonymous after reading the book!

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