Big Green Picture, Big Green Plan

Simply Going GreenBottled water, plastic bags, energy audit, and heat leaks. All easy ways to start making your life more sustainable. These suggestions come from “The Simple Things First,” the first chapter in Simply Going Green, an e-book produced by blogger Kaayla Canfield from the Simply Going Green blog.

Review. Kaayla Canfield, Simply Going Green in Three Years or Less, Kaayla Canfield Publishing, 2008.

Simply Going Green contains primarily Canadian resources but helps anyone to ask enough questions about sustainable lifestyle in order to begin to answer big questions for themselves. The book itself doesn’t ask or address big picture, such as WHY we need to green our lives, but the Foreward from Dave Bronconnier, the Mayor of Calgary begins to. These personal actions encouraged by the book, he writes, are a necessary step toward responsible stewardship. “Choose the actions that best fit your circumstance and create your own three-year green plan to make a difference. Every step you take will reduce our ecological footprint and brighten our future.”

The author herself seems to see the book as a kind of workbook toward that 3-year plan. She left a space next to each item suggesting that readers check off what they are already doing then mark 1, 2, and 3 for items they can do in the next three years. Having marked up the book, the reader has a plan to go green.

Unfortunately, in order to mark each item, you will need to print the book, which quite defeats the purpose of a low-impact e-book.

As an academic, I have a lot of books on paper, a lot of printed research, but I’ve become better over the past 20 years at keeping more of my information in digital format. Especially if I am reading about how to lower my overall environmental impact, I’m less likely to print even in order to use as intended.

Despite this major flaw in the book, I find it very helpful to look over another person’s idea of the most important steps to green one’s life. Though, when it comes down to it, what constitutes a sustainable life includes a lot of personal values. For me, for example, labor must always be considered, which is why fair trade chocolate is now my only chocolate. What sustainable values guided this author’s choices? That isn’t clear.

Most of the book I found a good, general reminder of excellent steps to take. The chapter on children, “Our Precious Little Ones,” was very disappointing, though. So much could and should be said about why parents make the environmental choices they do for their children, and how parents can begin to sort through implications of their choices. Unfortunately, this section is unlike other sections of the book that do help the reader think through choices. The chapter on children ends up being is a shopping guide with web addresses. “[H]armful chemicals and pesticides,” she writes, “may be found in everything from our food, baby bottles, and toys to the diaper they wear.” What harmful chemicals? How do we find them? How should knowing this shape our choices? Follow the links to stores to find out.

Overall, the book is more checklist than guide.

If you are looking for the big, green picture, you will need to provide this yourself. If you are looking for a helpful, simple guide to first steps—steps that could lead you to create your own green family plan—you will find that in Simply Going Green.

Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Environmental Living Week with tips, products, resources, and personal experiences.

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