Will this diet go the way of the dodo, like so many diets before it? Image via: Flickr
While there are books aplenty today about going green, greening your lifestyle and green for dummies, The Climate Diet is the first to offer you greening solutions in terms of a weight watchers diet. The book also shows how you can not only cut emissions but also save money by cutting out the excess in your life.
The Climate Diet: How You Can Cut Carbon, Cut Costs, And Save the Planet, by Jonathan Harrington, offers readers tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint in areas of their life, such as, heating, transportation, community and home. While it's a good 'how to go green' book, it doesn't necessarily offer anything that the other green books haven't. Instead of sitting on your couch and arguing over what made you carbon heavy (or whether China is to blame), Harrington says, "all the debate in the world about the roots of our environmental crisis will not solve the problem" so we have to just get up and do something about it. Data is often thrown around today stating that the US has a tiny fraction of the global population but currently emits up to 25% of global CO2, but Harrington also makes the interesting point that,
"between 1850 and 2000, the US produced almost 30% of total cumulative global carbon emissions. This is especially notable given the fact that only 2% to 4% of the globe's population called the United States home during that same period."Looks like we're responsible for putting that donut in our mouth.
Climate Dieting as a Fad
Using a 'diet' as the metaphor for reducing carbon footprint is a tricky concept - how many diets are fads and better yet, how many people actually stick with a diet long term? If we are going to reduce our carbon output and slow climate change, then we need something more permanent than a fad diet. (Or, maybe the dieting analogy is completely appropriate if you think going green is just the latest fad and we're not likely to turn the tide on climate change).
Many of the examples of what to do involve changing lightbulbs, but rarely does the author go into what you can do beyond that. The more helpful items were the random lists of "additional" items you can look into as these tended to be more helpful because they are the less-often mentioned items in conservation. That being said, this book is targeted at developed countries and the US in particular.
One favorite tip from the book: Try water in a pool heated that is exposed to the elements year-round. A typical pool heater uses 50,000 watts with another 2,000 watts for the pool pump. This amounts to 45,000 lb of CO2 emitted each year or the equivalent of operating THREE typical SUV's year-round. (Moral: If you don't have a solar system to heat this water, get one!)
The author also plays a fun game of 'Find the Oil' with his daughter where she goes through the house and lists each of the items that are produced with oil. The list she comes up with is pretty wide-reaching and informative.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Each chapter includes lots of tables with information comparing energy use of a typical household, compared with what one should aim to use, but some of the tables are not exactly user-friendly. All of the tables can also be found online where users can download them and modify the tables with their personal energy consumption patterns.
Readers of The Climate Diet are told to aim for different "medal" categories as they complete more and more energy saving actions, and the book also says that there are three paths - the shortest cut diet plan, the shortcut diet plan, and the full home audit and comprehensive diet plan - but the author never really goes into these or explains what is included in each.
To be honest, the author should have saved the trees and instead used the Climate Diet analogy to develop something online, say similar to weight watchers, where participants can enter lifestyle data, any changes they make, their target 'climate weight' and watch as the program displays progress over time. The program could even offer new tips in the same way that diet programs offer new recipes, complete with what you can improve on, ways to do other energy saving items, and how to get more people involved.
Published by EarthScan.