First, some books.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (by Ellen Ruppel), was sort of like Overdressed, except that it had a much broader focus. I thought it was very interesting to read about the history of cheap products…basically how we got into the mess we’re in now. Ruppel also addressed some of the major problems with our cheap culture (like the fact that many companies are cutting costs by treating employees poorly, and sourcing goods from places that treat people poorly.)
I think I’d have liked a slightly more solutions-based end to the book, but Ruppel did highlight some companies who are bucking the trend and are managing to successfully run a business that treats their employees fairly and also offers a fair price to the consumer (I remember that Wegman’s, a grocery chain, was one such company that she mentioned.)
Zero Waste Home, by blogger Bea Johnson, was a fun read. It’s a very practical book, and Bea comes across as really approachable and down to earth in the book…the book gives you a bit more of a, “She’s in the trenches with you.” sort of feel than the blog does because you get to hear the story of how she and her family used to lived instead of just a snapshot of how they live now.
There are some good ideas in here, but Bea is a little (ok, a lot) more committed to this than I will ever be. For instance, she makes her own tooth powder to use instead of toothpaste, and she makes her own eyeliner by using the ashes of something that I can’t remember at the moment (I hope I’m remembering that right.)
I think the important thing is to do SOMETHING. Even if we all just do the easier stuff (use cloth bags, choose foods with less packaging, buy used whenever possible, buy quality items that will last) and don’t make our own eyeliner, we can have a huge impact.
The The Zero-Waste Lifestyle is also written by a blogger, but it reads more like a textbook on green living than Zero Waste Home does. It’s really informative, but just not quite as personal as Zero Waste Home.
The one slight beef I have with these books and with the zero waste movement in general is that they tend to talk about how going zero waste simplifies life and saves money. However, I think that’s only true if you’ve previously been living a typical American life…big house, lots of shopping, etc.
If you’ve been living a fairly pared-down existence like many of us in this blog community have, going zero-waste complicates things and usually ends up costing more. That’s not to say that I think living a less-trashy lifestyle isn’t worth pursuing, but I hesitate to sell it with a, “You’ll save time and money!” promise.
I found The Town That Food Saved (by Ben Hewitt) at the library when I was looking for his book Saved (which is about how he quit worrying about money). It’s a well-written book about a local food system in Vermont, and now I really do want to read his Saved book.
(Ohhh! I just checked again at my library and they do indeed have this book now. A hold has been placed. Yay!)
And to wrap things up, two links:
I liked this post from Mr. Money Mustache about how small efforts add up over time (warning: Mr. MM does occasionally use colorful language.)
I’ve known for a while that microbeads are very bad news environmentally speaking, but I didn’t know that they’re sometimes in things like sunscreen and toothpaste. (Thanks to a reader for sending me that article.)
Happily (sort of) some big companies are going to stop using microbeads in their products, but it’s going to take them up to three years to phase them out.
In the meantime, do try to avoid products that have those little beads in them. People have managed to get themselves clean without microbeads for quite a few years, so we probably can too.
(and if you want an exfoliating soap, give a natural one a try. Third Day uses oatmeal and cornmeal as exfoliators.)
What have you been reading lately? I always love to get good book recommendations.
Joshua’s 365 post: Disclaimer: This Post May Contain Snakes
(Actually, uh, it does. I found a small snake when we were a block or two into a walk last night, and we called Joshua on the cell phone to come out and see it! Fortunately, he had his camera in hand.)