Living Green: The Missing Manual Shows You How To Do Your Part

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Image: O'ReillyImage: O'Reilly

Image: O'Reilly

By all creditable accounts, the environment is a mess. With problems ranging from ozone depletion to overstuffed landfills and plastic-bottle sargassos drifting the oceans, we all need to do more to help. But where can we start? Nancy Conner, author of Living Green: The Missing Manual, shows us how we can improve the way we live our lives.

Part One of the book tells us that the green revolution begins at home. What can we do to minimize our impact on the climate without leaving the house? Conner offers suggestions on energy conservation, choosing ecologically benign household chemicals, chemical-free gardening, managing waste, and green remodeling. How can you lower your carbon footprint? How do you conduct an energy audit? A lot of the suggestions are little ones we’ve probably heard before: use CFL bulbs, turn off the water when washing dishes. Some are a little impractical for most families, like Zero Waste living (no trash, only composting, reusing and recycling!)

My favorite chapter of Part One covers building and remodeled. Everyone homeowner out there has an idea of how to improve his or her house; Conner suggests ways to ensure that your building materials come from sustainable sources, teaches how to abate lead and asbestos, and offers tips on how to go solar.

Does recycling help? Conner answers yes: in addition to costing vastly less than producing new materials. For example, Connor says it costs 95% less to recycle aluminum than to produce new aluminum from bauxite. Perhaps more importantly, it also helps foster an ecologically focused, cradle-to-grave mindset.

Perhaps her best suggestion overall is to keep it small: Did you know that the average square footage of an American home has tripled since World War II? Do we really need all that space?

Part Two describes how to green your lifestyle, both inside and outside of the home. Shopping, eating, transportation… everything you do has an impact on the earth. People haven’t stopped having kids, and chapter 5 discusses how to provide a safe environment for family as well as how to protect the earth’s resources. Even better, the chapter covers how to teach kids about the environment. Sections on eating green, responsible shopping and green transportation rounds out part two.

Finally, Part Three describes green initiatives that may be out of our immediate control but is nevertheless important to know. She covers carbon offsets, ‘green-collar’ jobs, pro-environment charities, alternative energy and earth-friendly investments. The conclusion of this section describes how we can influence distant organizations via activism and investing.

Never before in the history of humanity do we understand more clearly how our lifestyles affect the earth. Ironically, however, we have less and less time in which to change our ways, which is why books like Living Green: The Missing Manual are so important.

Wired: Everything you need to live a healthier, greener lifestyle.

Tired: A bit overwhelming at times. Not every reader is ready to buy in to each area. Sometimes I’m happier not knowing what it took to make a cheeseburger.

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