Book Review: True Green - 100 Everyday Ways

altThe full title is True Green - 100 Everyday Ways You Can Contribute to a Healthier Planet. And the full impact of such a book is hard to judge. If the question of our time is: our planet is sick, but what can little old me do to help? Then books such as this are the answer. A simple format, clean engaging design, heaps of images, minimal text and maximum information (in keeping with our new sound-bite induced short attention spans). True Green is a modern reworking of earlier classics, like 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, from back in 1989. And the format is much the same. Present an issue, with accompanying scary statistics, and follow through with actions that the reader can take to limit their contribution to said impact. Oh, yeh, and provide a bunch of resources for further information. True Green manages to pull this off with aplomb by being as succinct as possible, and being clear about the solutions one can take. The authors Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, with experience in managing the Clean Up the World campaigns, don't gloss over the tricky points. "while synthetic textiles such as nylon polyester and Lycra are produced from fossil fuels, opting for natural fibers is not the clear-cut environmental choice you might think." Whence they note that cotton uses a quarter of world's pesticide and one pound of wool requires 22,400 gallons of water (they suggest going for organic cotton. linen and wool, plus hemp.)Unlike the environmental problems themselves, the book is not heavy going. It is easy to dip into. The 100 tips are divided into six sections of home, garden, work, shopping, travel and community. As befitting a publication supported by National Geographic the images are strong and carry the message well. Although modelled on a book of the same title released in Australia last year, this is completely a U.S. focused edition. All the data has been re-researched, as has the language. For example, Australians would have no idea what a 'rain barrel' was. And the stats are arresting. Americans use 380 billion plastic bags per year. 188 million trees are used to generate the 8 millions of U.S. office copy paper used every year. 800 million gallons of gasoline is consumed annually to run lawn mowers.

But True Green is not about blame, it's about taking personal responsibility for one's environmental contribution. And it that realm it looks like it should succeed. The Certainly the Australian edition has featured prominently on bookshop shelves, so booksellers their obviously thought their customers were currently attuned to a solutions focussed publication. Let's hope the same is true (!) for the U.S.

A book reviewer is almost honour bound by tradition to find something to grizzle about. My only two gripes would be a.) the lack of a comprehensive contents page or index. Without either, finding, say, the page on washing machines is a bit hit and miss (they account for nearly 200 pounds of green house gas emission per year.) And b.) the book pages are not of recycled paper!? Nor even of wood pulp that bears the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Otherwise True Green delivers on what it set out to do: make it easy, in a non-threatening manner, for individuals and businesses to find those environmental actions they can fit into ordinary lives. True Green is due for U.S. release on 10 April 2007, from all the usual outlets, including Amazon.

There is an accompanying website:

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