Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Self-Sufficientish Bible - cont'd

I have almost finished this excellent book. At first I thought I'd read bits and pieces of it, but it was so interesting that I'm reading it cover-to-cover. As expected, the "Bible" covers topics such as gardening, energy, recycling, composting, transportation, eco-minded consumption. I've read about all kinds of interesting ideas, suggestions, and projects.

I did not realise that regular cotton clothing had such a nasty side! It takes large amounts of dangerous chemicals to grow and the water and the workers become polluted. There is loss of habitat for many species due to re-routed water for irrigation and the corresponding increasing salt levels in the adjacent waterways. A 2005 study of Indian cotton farm workers over a 5-month period found 82 percent suffered from some symptoms of poisoning (mild-39%, moderate-37%, severe-6%). The WHO reports that over 20,000 people a year die from exposure to the agrochemicals used in cotton production. I had no idea. Buying used clothing helps, since it has already been manufactured, and hemp is a great alternative. I've begun sourcing hemp clothing in the Hamilton area and will post what I find.

Another surprise for me was the environmental impact of funerals. I'd always thought that cremation was pretty environmentally sound. Not so, apparently. Mercury from dental fillings can be release during the process of cremation and about 15% of mercury in the atmosphere could be attributed to this. Cremation is also energy intensive and a large amount of fuel is required, the authors say it could be the equivalent of a third of one person's average annual carbon emissions. This is not to say that burial in a casket is much better, the materials in coffins can include plastic and formaldehyde, which can pollute groundwater. (Not mentioned in the book, is the impact of the chemicals used in the embalming process.) Some greener options are suggested, including green coffins such as cardboard where the attendees of the funeral are given a pen to write a message to the deceased.

The Self-Sufficientish Bible is also cram-packed with nifty alternatives for everyday items. One of my favourites is the alarm clock powered by water. (I've been looking for a source for these, but they're not easy to find.) Or the solar-powered or crank charger for electronic gadgets (I think Canadian Tire sells one of these). Even better is the hand-crank MP3 Player (so far I can only find these in the UK). When I look around on the internet, I find all kinds of eco-friendly gadgets in Europe and the UK. As usual, they're way ahead of us and we'll just have to wait for the cool stuff to make its way over the pond.

(This once again raises the issue of where to find green products in Canada! I'm reading 2 other books right now, "It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living" by Crissy Trask [a US publication, but it lists some Canadian sites] and "Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada" by Adria Vasil. Hopefully they will provide some insight. I also just spotted a post on EcoSherpa that lists some "Canadian eco-merchants who offer online shopping".)

Okay, before I get too off-topic...there's some good ideas regarding celebrations and balloons. I had never considered the fact that expensive mylar balloons don't biodegrade, but cheap latex ones do. Another neat idea is to get together with a bunch of friends and buy (reusable) party supplies together to use year after year. This saves everyone money and reduces the amount of seldom-used stuff cluttering up our houses. I would have loved more info on gift-giving and how to make your own gifts. They do mention recycling greeting cards by cutting part or all of the cover off and pasting on a blank card, something I've recently begun to do. (I decided with my husband that we won't buy each other any more cards and instead we'll make our own by finding a nice verse and writing it one of our many inexpensive blank cards.)

All in all, this was a really enjoyable read. I loved the UK perspective, although there was some info that didn't apply to Canadian readers with respect to gardening, allotments, climate, and some available products for purchase. This book was light-hearted with great visuals. I have been inspired by their ideas on foraging for wild food and making your own cider. Best of all, they included some yummy recipes including those made with seasonal produce grown in your own garden, some of which I will be sure to try out (e.g, bread-machine apple bread, carrot cake, pumpkin and chestnut risotto)! Next, to investigate Andy & Dave Hamilton's website www.selfsufficientish.com.

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