Pros: Chock-a-block full of useful information
The Bottom Line: Need a quality book on how to live green? This is it. And yes; it's printed on recycled paper.
I'd considered looking into a few green-related books here and there, but never took the next step and bought any. So when I got to pick this one up for free, my first thought was, "Sweet."
At the time I'd never been into the whole "live green" thing. Yes, I recycle. Yes, I try not to drive too much if I can help it. Yes, I turn off everything I own when I'm not using it to conserve energy. I do plenty of things that are considered green, and wanted to do more but didn't because either I didn't know how to where to start, or because it just costs more (let's face it, organic food is more expensive than non-organic food). Renée Loux's Easy Green Living is a great place to start on gathering information on ways you might make changes, even if they are just baby steps. Every little bit helps.
It's a nice thick book, and at almost 400 pages it can seem a bit daunting to any first timer, but trust me, it's easy as pie to handle. This is because Loux doesn't get into technobabble or long-winded lectures or complicated text. Instead, her writing is very conversational, upbeat, and almost like chatting with a good friend. She'll end a sentence about a particularly nasty chemical with "Yucky!" or throw in a "Yay!" for good products. It's fun writing is what it is, and though most of the pages have text in two columns, reading it is nice and speedy. You'll be surprised at how fast you zing through this book.
Renée Loux has all the right credentials to be writing this book. Flip to the back and you'll see a huge list of all her references, which range from tidbits from reputable websites to scientific research papers. She's the host of Fine Living's It's Easy Being Green, and has been living green herself for many years.
Here's a quick contents list and rundown so you know what you'll be getting in this book:
Chapter 1: Green Living Is Easy ~ A short semi-introduction featuring green living tidbits, benefits, and tips.
Chapter 2: Green Cleaning Basics ~ All about cleaning using green methods; no harsh chemicals necessary.
Chapter 3: 5 Steps to a Green Kitchen ~ From appliances to a few extra kitchen cleaning tips, this covers the entire kitchen.
Chapter 4: 4 Steps to a Spic-and-Span Green Bathroom ~ A few more bathroom specific cleaning tips as well as how to save water, find green bathroom-related paper, and eco-friendly towels and such.
Chapter 5: Natural Beauty: The Simple 7 ~ Everything beauty related; makeup, shampoo, and yes ladies, even feminine products can be green.
Chapter 6: 6 Steps to Eco-Fresh Laundry ~ Products that are greener than what you're using now and methods to save energy, whether it means washing less or buying new machines.
Chapter 7: 4 Corners of a Green Bedroom ~ Ways to green your bedroom, mostly dealing with products such as mattresses, linens, and all the materials bedding is and can be made of.
Chapter 8: Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs: Save Energy and Money ~ A brief chapter about lightbulbs and how much switching to those wacky twisty ones can save you.
Chapter 9: Sustainable Ecological Home Furnishings and Materials ~ From floors to paint, there are green alternatives and this chapter has those in spades.
While this book doesn't tell you how about the benefits of installing solar panels or the evils of eating meat (which, by the way, I do, so I'm not knocking non-vegetarians), that's perfectly fine. This book is more of an inside-the-home green guide. Similar to the way you could take a feng-shui book and go room by room making changes to better the chi flow, you could take this book and go room by room, making changes to make it greener.
Each chapter is just full of useful information. I mean oodles of it. In each one, you'll find lists of chemicals to avoid, such as in makeup, cleaners, or even paint. It'll make you look a lot closer at these products in the future and their labels and warnings. For example, I was reading this book while at my sister's house helping her paint. By that time I was in the paint-related area of the book and went to look at the paint cans, which most of us avoid doing or just don't bother to do. And sure enough (and disturbingly enough), there were all those gross chemicals Loux discussed, as well as a warning that "This product contains a chemical known in the state of California to cause cancer." Now I know that most of us think of California as a bit more overzealous in the green living thing than the rest of the states, but that still made me less than excited. What's more, it makes you wonder if California claims such a thing, why no one is doing anything to prove or disprove that statement - or why that paint company apparently has no issues listing that warning on their cans. Ew.
While it is a bit disturbing to read about all these potentially nasty chemicals in so many things (and many of these chemicals, though used, are actually still under scrutiny by plenty of scientists) and how they're able to get through because there's just no regulation on makeup or cleaning supplies or mattresses, Loux does make sure to offer readers plenty of healthy green alternatives. Each section has multiple "Green Thumb Guide" spots that recommend a number of companies that produce eco-friendly items. And I don't just mean a general overview of stuff - I mean specifics. Deodorants, pillows, paint thinners, toilet cleaners, dish soap, facial moisturizer, trash bags, and a whole list of other goodies.
The Green Thumb Guides are all really handy because Loux mentions what the company makes, where you can buy their stuff, and how their products are made (organic, natural - yes there's a difference - some preservatives, a few chemicals, recycled packaging, etc.). I've used her lists several times in my quest to find quality products to replace things I've been using. So far it includes shampoo, hand soap, drain cleaner, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, and dish soap. Thus far I've only purchased a handful of small things such as a shampoo by Avalon Organics, and because of this book, I ended up getting some samples of Method's Sea Mineral Hand Wash as well as come coupons I intend to use soon.
This book really does get you excited to go green because it shows you the options you never knew existed. The idea of buying a kapok pillow is almost like a small dream of mine now, after so many lame polyester/cotton-filled pillows that smoosh and go bleh after a year or two (or less). I'd love to own a natural latex mattress because it would be so much softer and not be on a mattress made with materials that firefighters dub "solid gasoline" and then treated with a ton of fire retardant chemicals. I've already discovered the benefits and differences of my shampoo and the hand wash and have been very surprised. Not that they clean well, but because of the difference in the clean feeling.
Loux also offers up plenty of home recipes, mostly for cleaning, though there are a few beauty treatments thrown in, and the ingredients are all probably already in your kitchen cabinets (vinegar, baking soda, and so forth). You'll discover that oxygen bleach is, in fact, awesome (yep, that OxyClean stuff actually is for real). And you'll glean all sorts of tidbits like how much energy we would save if just 100 people switched to "this" green product, or how much money you would save if you turned down your water heater temperature or used less water when washing clothes.
I intend to keep this book around for a long time and take a peek in it every time I want to get something green or how I might wash my windows without using stupid streaky glass cleaner (vinegar + castile soap + water and wipe with a newspaper! Essential oils optional!). I'm glad to have this book because not only am I significantly wiser on the whole green living thing, but now I know how to find out how old a toilet is, what plastics I can actually recycle, how much mercury really is in those twisty bulbs (NOT a lot, by the way), and all sorts of other things.
If you're thinking of greening your home, this book is a great place to start. You can chip away at the little things and work your way up from there. It's easy, affordable, and this book will tell you everything you need to know about how to do it.
**I'd like to add that a few weeks after posting this review on Epinions.com, I purchased a latex pillow (thanks to this book, as I never knew they existed) and it is awesome. I have since replaced my old mattress with a latex one as well and it is equally fabulous.
Notes from the playlist: "All Souls Night" by Loreena McKennitt