A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button

Whilst I’ve really enjoyed books like Natalie Fee’s ‘How to Save The World for Free’ and Lucy Siegle’s ‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’, I’ve been after something a bit different for a while now. It’s not that these aren’t valuable titles – they absolutely are – but they can be a little… samey if you read a lot about the environment.

A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button looks at the problem of overconsumption from a different perspective –  by examining how marketers manage to get us to buy things we don’t need. As someone who used to work in the advertising industry, Button sheds light on the tricks that are used and how we can combat them.

Having decided that the ad industry wasn’t for her, Button then went on to create BuyMeOnce – an amazing resource for people looking to buy items which will last. Again, drawing on this expertise, she speaks about the sorts of questions we should be asking manufacturers and retailers when making a purchase, as well as the sorts of questions we should be asking ourselves.

In fact, there are whole sections of exercises for discovering what your ‘true’ tastes might be. Despite the fact that I grew up in charity-shop clothes and hand-me-downs, and have actively been trying not to aquire anything new for the last five years (and trying to reduce my general environmental damage for the last decade), I still found theses really useful – particularly the one concerning interiors.

Visiting friends and family in Denmark has often left me feeling as though I should decorate in a more… Scandinavian fashion. Home-decor there is a lot more homogonous and as a result, there’s a certain sense of visual peace to the country that I feel as though I should try and emulate. The exercisefrom Button’s book definitely helped me to realise that just because it is prevalent, that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m much more ecclectic and chaotic at my core. 😉

Though I did borrow this from my library, it’s a book I will be purchasing in the future. I’m on a deadline to return it, but I’d actually like to take the opportunity to work through all of the exercises slowly and carefully. I think they’ll be a total game-changer in the coming years – especially as my eldest enters their teen years. Being able to know which questions to ask to get my child thinking will be invaluable.

Have you read A Life Less Throwaway? What did you think? Did any of iwhat you learned come as a surprise? I’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on twitter.

How To Save The World For Free by Natalie Fee

How to Save the World for Free by Natalie Fee is exactly what it sounds like – a book full of no/low cost ways in which we can change our lifestyle in order to have a smaller impact on the environment.

The style of prose in the book is accessible and friendly, and the layout is really inviting. There was a lot of really great information – many things I hadn’t thought of before, as well as al the usual about reusable bottles etc.

My main qualm with the book was when the author said the Danes don’t have a word for draught. They do. Two, in fact – træk, and gennemtræk. You don’t need an overpriced degree in Danish Language to find this out, either. You can check on Google Translate… But that said, as my main issue with the book, it’s not a huge deal (though it does make me question the credibility of some parts…)

One of the things I liked most about this book, and which I had the biggest problem with in the XR book, was the citations. Instead of printing all the citations out and increasing the book size/hindering its accessibility, the references are available online. I really think this is a great and very simple compromise. It also means that anyone has access to the reference material, so even if you borrow this as a library book, for example, you can still check facts later and delve further into the topic.

I think, of all the books I’ve read so far, this is my top choice for anyone just starting out in trying to live a more eco-conscious life. It covers the obvious stuff, but also explores the less obvious.

Have you read How To Save The World For Free? What did you think?

RHS Plants from Pips by Holly Farrell

RHS Plants from Pips By Holly Farrell

RHS Plants from Pips by Holly Farrell is a great little book which everyone in this house has greatly enjoyed.

Not technically an ‘eco’ book, but definitely worthy of mention for so many reasons, this little tome is a wealth of information regarding regrowing plants from the seeds in our foods.

My mum originally gifted it to my children with a view to helping them learn where their food comes from, but it’s also a great way to produce food from what is largely considered waste -imagine  homemade compost, growing seeds we would otherwise throw out, planted in recycled containers, all producing delicious things to eat with zero food miles? It doesn’t get much better than that, really. And don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions that my growing army of house plants are going to somehow tip the carbon scales back in our favour, but they’re definitely not hurting! Imagine if everyone who ate an apple planted the pips – the world would be a vastly different place…

The instructions in here are clear, concise and accurate. So far, 4/5 of avocado pips we’ve planted have resulted in fledgling trees and we’re all delighted. My youngest is so taken with the idea that he’s even started coming home from nursery with carefully gathered kiwi seeds from his afternoon snack…

There’s not a huge amount more to say about the book – in short, if you can get hold of a copy then do. It’s pretty, it’s accurate, the instructions yield results even when undertaken by two under-tens and an adult with a genetic pre-disposition to destroy plants by looking at them… you can’t really ask for more, can you?

Have you tried planting any seeds from your supermarket vegetables? Did you have any success? I’d love to hear about your results – avocado or otherwise!

 

The best of the books

This year, since starting the Trail of Breadcrumbs blog, my leisure reading has taken an environmental turn – for obvious reasons. 😉

I’ve read some absolutely brilliant books, and as books make superb gifts – especially used ones! – I thought I would do a quick round up of my favourites.

So, in no particular order, here are some great environmental reads – including a few I haven’t yet reviewed on here;

My Zero Waste Kitchen – Dorling Kindersley

What’s it about? – How to reduce food and energy waste in the kitchen.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone just starting out in their attempts to lessen their environmental impact, or perhaps someone just moving out/starting university – it’s a nice change from the usual ‘cheap eats’ cookbooks, but achieves similar things.

A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy – Sarah Lazarovic

What’s it about? – Our patterns of consumption, particularly when it comes to clothes. The art style makes it feel like a really decadent object so I took great pleasure in reading it.
Who might enjoy it? – I feel like I would have benefitted from this greatly in my late teens/early 20s.

Turning the Tide on Plastic – Lucy Siegle

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What’s it about? – This history and future of our plastic use.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone, at any stage in the process of trying to reduce their household waste.

Eco Thrifty Living – Zoë Morrison

Eco Thrifty Living - Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want!

What’s it about? – Living within a budget, with good environmental practices.
Who might enjoy it? – Those trying to work in environmental changes, whilst living within their means.

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World – Lucy Seigle

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? Paperback by

What’s it about? – The harm that fast fashion is doing to our environment and the people working within the industry.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone interested in the production of clothes. This is the book which started me on the path to making my own clothing, so it might be the nudge your friendly neighbourhood craftsperson needs to address their own wardrobe.

Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson

What’s it about? – Setting up a near zero-waste home. But, an actually near zero-waste home. This is your Mason-jar ideal that everyone aspires to.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone interested in the extremes of waste-free living. It’s an incredibly inspiring work and has kick-started thousands of people into a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

This is Not a Drill – An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

This Is Not A Drill

What’s it about? – I would call this XR’s manifesto – it’s a series of essays relating the effects of climate change, followed by a series of essays regarding what we can do about it.
Who might enjoy it? – It’s a quick read at just under 200 pages, and the essay format makes it easy to read in small chunks. This is perfect for anyone with a busy schedule,  anyone skeptical about XR (as I was, before I read it), or anyone interested in social reform.

12 Small Acts to Save Our World – Emily Beamont

12-small-acts-to-save-our-world | Culturefly

What’s it about? – This is about change on an individual scale – it does exactly what the title promises.
Who might enjoy it? – Again, this is a very quick and accessible read – perfect for anyone who might want to start making a difference, but not have any concrete ideas how they could go about it.

Landfill by Tim Dee

“Landfill” by Tim Dee (Chelsea Green Publishing) | Ecovici

What’s it about? – The waste created by mankind, through the prism of gull watching.
Who might enjoy it? – This is a great book for anyone with a general interest in birds. I’ve found it to be a good ‘in’ for conversations with older family members on the topic of landfill waste.

How bad are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee

How Bad Are Bananas?

What’s it about? – This is basically an index of items, each with a detailed account of their carbon footprint. It sounds dull, but it’s actually fascinating.
Who might enjoy it? – This is a great title for anyone with tough decisions to make – i.e. do I drive 20 miles to get local, organic milk in a glass bottle, or do I save the petrol and live with the recyclable supermarket vessel?

Plastic Sucks by Dougie Poynter

What’s it about? – This is a brief introduction to the plastic problem, aimed at pre-teens.
Who might enjoy it? – This book is pitched at ages 9-12,  and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The focus on personalities and interviews might help it appeal to a slightly older audience, however.

This Book is Not Rubbish by Isabel Thomas

What’s it about? – Another pre-teen title about ways to reduce our impact on the world.
Who might enjoy it? – Again, pitched at 9-12, this is a little lighter on text that the previous title so might be better for more… reluctant readers.

Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey

Kids Fight Plastic : How to be a #2minutesuperhero: Martin ...

What’s it about? – This is my favourite of the children’s books listed. It generally does the same as the others, though.
Who might enjoy it? – Pitched at a slightly younger audience, I would say that this is suitable for ages 7+.

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So what have I missed? What should I be reading next year? I’d love for you to set me a reading list! Why not let me know your favourite titles here, or on Twitter?

 

 

 

 

This is Not a Drill – An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

This Is Not A Drill

I would probablly call this book a manifesto for Extinction Rebellion. In short, it’s a series of essays relating the effects of climate change, followed by a series of essays regarding what we can do about it. Rather than pointing out the changes needed on an individual level – like most of the other environmental books I’ve read – this one speaks about system change.

The first point I would like to make about the book is how full of love it is. Whilst it covers some absolutely heartbreaking topics, the underlying feeling is one of hope, of optimism, and a genuine desire to create a world that is powered by arts and education and in which care is valued as it should be.

That said, my favourite quote from the book comes from the essay titled ‘We are not prepared to die’, by Mohamed Nasheed:

Let us not forget what we owe to decent, working people such as coalminers. The tremendous wealth the world enjoys today, the technological progress, the huge increase in living standars is due to the work of these people. We should not blame coalminers, or loggers, or oil-rig workers for causing the climate crisis.

As someone who grew up near the so-called ‘Oil-capital of Europe’ – indeed, as someone who directly benefited from the oil-industry throughout my childhood – I feel like this is a really vital distinction to make. People working in the industry are not the issue – the industry itself is the issue.

But back to the book – it’s a quick read at just under 200 pages and the essay format really lends itself to dipping in and out of. Language-wise, it’s also written in an incredibly accessible style.

My one ‘complaint’ is, however, to do with exactly that – the accessibility. I presume that academic-style citations were excluded to aid ‘readability’, however, as someone who likes to enjoy a factual book and then jump down the rabbit-hole of quoted works, I found the lack of citations… irritating. I know it’s a personal thing – citations do often exclude a lot of people, but for a group intent on telling us to ‘listen to the scientists’, XR are making it very hard to read the scientific papers they’re quoting.

Anyway, as I say, it’s a small complaint, and a personal one, and it definitely shouldn’t put you off reading this book.

Have you read This Is Not A Drill? I would love to hear your thoughts if you have.

 

Eco Thrifty Living – Zoë Morrison

Eco Thrifty Living - Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want!

Recently, I downloaded a copy of Zoë Morrison’s book, ‘Eco Thrify Living’, for my Kindle.

I’ve been following Zoë’s blog for a long while now and in addition to all sorts of really interesting articles, her list of package-free shops in the UK is so incredibly useful.

I think one of the things I liked most about this book was the realism of it – contrary to Bea Johnson’s (otherwise wonderful) work, this advocated the slow-change approach and I think for most people, this is the manner of change which will work best.

I also really like the format of it – it’s accessible and easy to read. I devoured the whole thing as I travelled down to see a friend and didn’t leave the book feeling disspirited. It’s so easy to read a book about the environment and feel helpless – too small to make even the slightest difference – but that’s not the case here. I felt empowered to continue playing my part as best I can.

As someone who’s been trying to reduce my impact on the planet for the past decade – at least – some of the information was a little basic, but actually, it was nice having the steps that I’ve taken ‘validated’. That said, there was lots of new information too and in coming posts, I’ll share whether or not the actions I’m implementing on account of the book are working.

Have you read Zoë’s book? What are your favourite environmental reads? Let me know here, or on Twitter.

My Zero Waste Kitchen – Dorling Kindersley

This is a really cute, colourful little book – laid out in classic Dorling Kindersley fashion. As one would expect from this publisher, there is a lot of really solid advice here, spread out in bright and cheery text boxes.

Overall, this reads like a cook-book for the experienced, rather than an environmental book and I’m not entirely sure who it’s aimed at. If you’re the sort of person who cooks the sorts of things in the book then you know most of these tricks already, however if you need the book to tell you this stuff, then you probably need more detail.

My eldest child (8) really enjoyed reading it and said it was very educational, but at the same time, how many 8 year olds are in charge of a kitchen? Perhaps this is something for students who are just starting out in their own flats?

That sounds disparaging, but I’m a really experienced cook and there was still new information to me here – I didn’t clock that microwaving my dish cloths would sterilise them, but of course that’s A Thing. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that before!

I guess this is one to get from the library if your local brach carries it. A great once-through sort of book with a few key points to take away.

What great waste-reducing tips have you found in unlikely places? Why not come and share them with me here or on Twitter?

 

A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy – Sarah Lazarovic

I first read A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic when I was looking at how to reduce our outgoings, rather than as part of a more eco-friendly way of life.

To a point, thriftyness and earth-friendly living are very much two sides of the same coin, and this book beautifully sums that up. Use things up, borrow what you don’t have, swap if you need to, buy used, make it yourself and only if you can’t do any of the above, buy new. It’s great advice – both financially and ecologically.

Lazarovic has made an absolutely glorious book here. The illustraitions and text – if you can call them that – are individual works of art, and it’s a genuine pleasure to read. There’s no guilt-trip attached to purchasing – no inherent judgement – but it still manages to get its message across. The overall tone is warm and humerous, and – a massive bonus for me – I managed to read it in a single afternoon.

Part of the book includes the ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’:

I think this is probably the core concept that a reader should take away from the book – i.e. consume slowly to reduce your impact on the world and your wallet.

Whilst I love this little orange tome, I think it speaks to a specific demographic – those of us with enough disposable income to spend without having to employ the pinpoint precision of those on the breadline, those whose consumption is already limited to life’s absolute necessities. It highlights the fact that there is a great deal of privilidge inherent in living a broadcastable low-waste lifestyle – to have to choose low-impact alternatives is, by definition, to have the luxury of choice. So yes, let’s choose sustainability when we can, but let’s also fight for legislation which makes these low-waste options available to everyone at an affordable price. Because speaking honestly – who creates less waste? The low income family who watches their electricity consumption, their water metre, their food waste and clothes use, or those of us who have to think about whether or not we “need” a new jumper that happens to be really pretty? I know who my money’s on…

But I digress.

It’s definitely a book I’ve appreciated having. Because I’m a messy human, it tends to just sit on my living room table so periodically, the bright orange cover serves as an invitation to leaf through. That each two page spread is a work of art on its own makes it really easy to dip in and out of on the odd occasion I’m at a loss for something to do for a minute.

Regardless of where you are with reducing your waste, this is a really nice book to have, even if it’s just for the art.

Turning the Tide on Plastic – Lucy Siegle

When the lovely refillery in our village opened (how lucky are we?), they were selling copies of Lucy Siegle’s book, Turning the Tidy on Plastic.

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I’ve read Lucy’s earlier book – ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World’ – and really like the way she writes, so I couldn’t wait to check this one out of the library.

Aside from being struck by the irony of the book arriving in a plastic jacket when the publisher had taken pains to remove the plastic from the cover paper, this was pretty much what I’d hoped for; a realistic account of how you can go about removing single-use plastic from your home.

The book begins by recounting the history of plastic and in further irony, how it was initially develloped to help preserve animal life. With tortoise-shell buttons and ivory billiard balls being replaced by plastic equivalents, a lot of the early innovators in the field had conservation in mind. I found this especially heartbreaking – I don’t know if it’s just me but the idea of the substance being twisted by greed to the point where it’s choking the oceans really hit home and strengthened my resolve to remove more single-use plastics from my life.

I also found the following passage incredibly sad, and true, and moving:

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After having discussed what plastic was supposed to be vs. what it became, Siegle examines what we can do about it.

Initially, she encourages people to examine what they’re disposing of through keeping a diary of items which enter their bin. After which, it’s easier to identify what is/isn’t avoidable.

What I liked most was that she discussed something which has been on my mind for a long while – the aesthetic of low/zero waste on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram in contrast with what this concept actually looked like in peoples’ homes. It’s often a difficult thing to covet beautiful wooden surfaces, stainless steel bottles and bamboo cutlery when what you’re living with is aging formica, a ‘disposable’ plastic bottle from six months ago (which you really will get round to replacing with a ‘proper’ reusable one soon) and some plastic cutlery you got from a visit to Pret. The interesting part here being that whilst the former list of things looks pretty, it’s probably more wasteful at this point in time because these items have been specifically created – thus using energy and resources – whilst the latter existed anyway and you’re saving them from landfill…

This touched on what’s probably been the hardest part of reducing plastic for me – the stationary nature of the ‘journey’. It can appear that nothing changes, when in fact, simply by this fact alone, everything has changed. By keeping our possessions the same – by preserving what’s there already instead of dizzily consuming more – we’re changing everything – we’re suddenly part of the solution.

I learned a lot of things reading this – particularly about how important it is to know what you can and can’t recycle and why recycling isn’t a solution, rather than a stop-gap.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to reduce the amount of plastic waste in their life.

Other than this and ‘To Die For’, what are your favourite books about the environment? Recommend them here, or on Twitter. ❤