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Q. Hi Umbra,

Can you recommend any books full of eco-friendly tips? I have Adria Vasil’s book, but I’m looking for something that might consolidate all of the information in your column.

Calgary, Canada

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A. Dearest Ashley,

Before I answer your question, a wee prologue. Dearest readers, please consider allocating a bit of your budget to Grist — tomorrow is the final day of our fundraising campaign, and we need 3,000 gifts of any size to earn a bonus $25,000. We could sure use your help.

Now back to our regularly scheduled advice column. You people still read books? This is very heartening. I do have recommendations for you, and I hope your fellow dearest readers will also weigh in with comments below.

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First of all, check out Grist’s very own Wake Up and Smell the Planet: The Non-Pompous, Non-Preachy Grist Guide to Greening Your Day. You say you want something that consolidates the advice in this column; roughly half of that book is drawn directly from my sage advice, and the rest comes from my wise peers, so I hope you will find it useful indeed.

Funny thing, actually: Around the time our book was published, a glutty glut of eco-guides hit the scene. This was back in 2008-2009, when green was fetching enough to be on the cover of Vanity Fair and other magazines, and book publishers were frothing at the mouth to cover every angle they could. As a result, you will find many breathless titles along the lines of 142 Green Tips to Save the Planet and Save Money and Look Good Doing It! Or my personal favorite, and this one is completely real, Eco-Horsekeeping: Over 100 Budget-Friendly Ways You and Your Horse Can Save the Planet.

It can be overwhelming. But the positive outcome of that weird frenzy is that you can find books geared very specifically for your interest area: weddings, beauty, travel, parenting, and so forth. So I think your best bet is to look for information on your topic of interest, from a source you trust, while avoiding the sort of breathy titles that promise to turn you into a chic, sexy person — especially since I’m sure you are already chic and sexy up there in Calgary. For instance, if you seek information on being green about the house, my standby is Annie Berthold Bond’s Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living. For years I didn’t go anywhere without my copy of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, and I’m excited to see that they have recently released a follow-up called Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. One of my other favorites is National Geographic’s Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely.

By the way, if you get tired of tips and yearn for something a bit more meaty, I encourage you to check out The Post-Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises, in which lots of smartypants people talk about our biggest problems and some of the solutions taking shape, or Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society, which documents people and projects around the world intent on building a better life.


P.S. Don’t forget to put down your book and give to Grist — even $5 will help. Thank you.