Is it really green?

With so much conflicting information, and quite a lot of green-washing, out there about reducing our carbon footprints and living more sustainable lives, a book that helps you make better choices is very welcome. Georgina Wilson-Powell’s Is it really green? is just that book.

The first question to answer is whether or not the fact that this book has been printed is really green. I could have chosen to get it as an ebook, but I find that anything more like a textbook, where I might want to move around in the book rather than just read from start to finish, is better as a physical book. In this case, Is it really green? is printed on recycled, matte paper using vegetable inks and is produced with as minimal emissions as possible. The production and use of ebook readers has a carbon footprint too. In order to make using an ebook reader greener than reading print books, you’d need to read 25 ebooks a year. So, if you read fewer than 25 books in a year, it’s greener to read them as physical books. I checked my ebook reader to see how many ebooks I’d read last year and it was 24. I read a mix of ebooks and physical books and probably read just as many physical books as I did ebooks. This year I’ll be tracking it and am aiming to read at least 25 ebooks. At the end of March, I’d read six ebooks and five print books, so not a bad start to the year.

Is it really green? has short answers to many questions divided into areas such as Green Kitchen, Green Wardrobe, Green Technology, Travel, Family and Relationships and Green Shopping. My motivation for buying the book was to answer the question whether washing up by hand is greener than using a dishwasher. Newer, efficient dishwashers are greener than washing up by hand, but getting a dishwasher means re-doing my entire kitchen so it’ll have to wait for now. For a lot of the questions, the answer is a variation of ‘it depends’ because it does depend on where you live, how you act, and what’s available to you. Wilson-Powell gives you the information you need to assess your situation and make the greenest choice.

While my life is relatively low carbon, I still found a few more things I could easily change that would help. There was also plenty in there I could do but will take a bit more time and effort. This book helps to identify a few steps that you can easily take. And when those become habit, there are more ideas. I think this is a book I’ll come back to regularly.

DeGrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era

DeGrowth: A Vocabularyfor a New Era is a collection of essays exploring degrowth and related concepts.

Degrowth is a philosophy that says in order for human societies to survive the climate catastrophe, we have to shrink our economies, and to re-think what it means to live a good life. The dominant ideology of our time is rooted in constant, devouring growth, using up finite material resources such as oil and rare earths. The degrowth movement says that we have to let go of growth as our marker of progress and success. Sustainable development is rejected as a delusion; we can’t halt or reverse the damage we’ve done to the earth and still have a consumerist society.

A challenge with the degrowth point of view is how societies are organized and focused if we are not driven by growth. Many of the concepts defined in this book are ideas of how to do that both in terms of institutions and individuals. Some sectors of the economy, such as care, healthcare and education would be expected to expand, and societies would be more focused around community. Ways in which to reduce inequality and to ensure that the onus of degrowth is put in the right place (on the over-consuming elites of the Global North) are also described.

This is a useful book which lays out a series of concepts that could help us live more at peace with the earth and each other. It’s also a good pointer to the thinkers in this space so that you can read more.