A Review of a Couple Books

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If you look carefully, you can spot a chihuahua sitting amongst the cushions.

Both of the reviewed books were borrowed from the library. The cover on this one is a bit worse for wear, which I interpret as that it has been checked out and read a lot.

The cover here tells the story: Bea Johnson has created an ultimate guide to reducing household waste. Her family’s story is one we have heard before. They had the large home in a nice area with a long commute and spent their free time taking care of the house and the yard and in the car. They relocated to a city home that was half the size, and this started them on the path to simplifying their lives in other regards as well.

While reducing the family’s landfilled trash output to less that a quart per year is an amazing achievement in our culture, I don’t think that that aspect of their adventure simplified their lives.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your trash output, this book will give you lots of good ideas: some simple, some complicated.

Best tip from the book: Look at the stuff that you put in your trash can and recycle bin and ask yourself how to find a way to keep from putting it there. Easy options include using reusable bottles and shopping bags to replace single use plastic bottles and plastic bags. More challenging options include making your own yogurt and buying clothing second hand and creating a compost. Probably too difficult for most of us include taking your own glass jars to the cheese and butcher shops so the staff can deposit their wares directly into your containers and teaching your elementary-aged children to say no to party favors.

Worst tip from the book: putting a brick in your toilet tank to reduce the water flow. Don’t do it! I have heard/read from several reputable sources that the bricks deteriorate over time soaking in the water and will cause plumbing problems.

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More challenging than getting your fish in a jar? Growing it yourself!

The Toolbox for Sustainable City Living will teach you how to grow your own vegetables, chicken, fish and small mammals for consumption in a city setting.

The techniques laid out are easy to understand and the supplies required affordable. It would be useful to own your own property before implementing these methods, but information is given on how to do so on abandoned city lots as well. There are plenty of diagrams and photos to help the reader replicate what Kellogg, Pettigrew and their community have achieved.

The environmental, economic and political benefits of this type of farming are also discussed in the book. I have added to my Travel List a visit to their community in Austin, Texas both to see the husbandry in action and to learn how they work as a community to get the work done.

9 thoughts on “A Review of a Couple Books

  1. I read Zero Waste Home, (several times, loaned from the library) & I found the spot/stain removal tips for clothing most helpful. I am baffled by her ability to purchase ALL second hand clothing for her AND her whole family. I have trouble finding second hand clothing that fits, or is what I’m looking for, where I live. Haven’t read the second one. I’ll have to check out my local library.

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    1. I, also, have been unable to 100% source mine and kids clothing from second hand. I find it a good place to start. While I find the zero waste goal admirable, I can’t make it a full-time job. Few others have that luxury either.

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  2. I’ve read Zero Waste Home. It was helpful to me! I haven’t read Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, but then again, gardening isn’t my thing. (Yes, maybe it should be, but it isn’t.) However I do love the idea of using city spaces to grow food.

    I didn’t notice the Chihuahua until you pointed it out, cute.:-) Merry Christmas!

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  3. Where is there a cheese shop that will fill my packages, instead of heat-sealing it in plastic wrap? Where can I get my dish-detergent, laundry-detergent, shampoo, conditioner and hand-cream bottles refilled? Where can I get transparent re-usable bags to substitute for the ones the groceries offer for our produce selections?

    I could put more paper in my compost, rather than in the recycling bin, but the compost is supposed to get a mix of green and brown additives, according to what I read, and more paper would overbalance it on the brown side.

    I really approve of reducing waste, but I’m not sure how much of this is practical. And there’s something to be said for not letting our lives be swallowed up by any one concern.

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    1. I agree about having a balance about the change we wish to bring into the world. I do think it is possible, in a city this size, to find such places—but it becomes a full-time job.

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  4. I used to read Bea Johnson‘s blog with some fascination, then she putthe book out. She does seem to have emerged as a/the leading figure for zero-waste with the advantage of appealing to both the US (where she lives) and Europe – she‘s French, so we don‘t feel steamrollered by the Americans!! Zero-waste is becoming a real mainstream trend, now…
    Btw, it doesn‘t matter much what you put in your toilet tank as long as it takes up room; I can see that a brick might not be a good idea, but I have seen a bottle of water recommended, among other things (preferably non-porous things).

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    1. I wish zero waste was more of a mainstream trend here. We are still producing lots of waste in the states. You are right about the water bottle in the tank. Good to see you commenting again.

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