In the homo ecos: library, you can find a whole bunch of ‘green classics’. These books (and magazines/films) are available to browse and borrow for any bookworm who considers themselves a friend of homo ecos:. For those people who do not enjoy the art of reading, our EVS volunteer Janny will read and review one sustainable page-turner every month.
This month: “Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth” by Irish environmental activist Donnachadh McCarthy.
Filed under “environmental/self-help” by the publisher, this book is basically a do-it-yourself sustainability audit. It offers more than “500 simple steps to a greener lifestyle” – or rather, 508 suggestions with a checkbox next to it. You can go through them at your own pace, and figure out which things you are doing right, and which things you could be improving upon.
The first chapter also contains a table which you can use to track your energy and waste footprint. Author Donnachadh McCarthy advises you to fill it out every year, and to see if you’ve improved.
Investing time and money
As a follower of homo ecos:, you have probably heard most of the tips before: grow your own vegetables, use recycled paper, install solar panels. But the nice thing about this book is the way the tips have been sorted. The chapters follow the familiar themes (waste, water, food, cosmetics, etc), but the tips are further categorized according to the investment required.
The first series of tips always “save you money”, the second “cost nothing”, and only then does McCarthy list lifestyle changes that might “cost a small amount of money” or “require a significant capital investment”. Investments required are usually described in terms of “three packets of crisps”, “a good bottle of wine” or “a new washing machine”. This way, readers living on a smaller budget aren’t scared away immediately, but the book also addresses more serious issues such as installing a grey-water system in your house, or investing in wind energy.
From ballet to politics
The long lists of sensible tips do not make it very appealing to read the book from cover to cover. Luckily, McCarthy keeps the reader awake with short, personal introductions to the various chapters. In fact, I was most captured by the very last chapter, in which the author recounts his own road to environmental activism.
As it turns out, this Irish author with the impossible-to -pronounce name has led rather an incredible life! Only after dropping out of medical university did he take up dancing ballet – and he even made it to the national stage! An excursion to the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest made him realize for the first time that a) Western lifestyle is extremely harmful to our planet and b) it is indeed possible to lead a comfortable, happy life without “costing the earth”.
Through various smaller initiatives such as saving a local park and organizing tree plantings, McCarthy became involved in environmental politics – first for the local green party and later on a national level. It is quite inspiring to read how this medically-schooled dancer suddenly found himself campaigning for sustainable legislature on a national level. And, what’s more, he was having success!
If he can do it, why can’t we?