This book review was originally posted by GrrlScientist on Living the Scientific Life.
Carbon footprints, global warming, green living — are these phrases an inconvenient truth that keep you awake at night, wondering how you can live in a more environmentally friendly way? For many people, merely contemplating these things is enough to make them give up trying to help the earth before they even start! But before you allow yourself to become discouraged, there is a book out there that will inspire you to make changes in your life that are beneficial to the earth; Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2009) by Vanessa Farquharson.
This amusing and chatty book is both educational and irreverent, putting to death the notion that all environmentalists and “greenies” take themselves far too seriously. The idea behind writing and publishing this book was to provide inspiration to everyman, to convince the public that we all can make small changes to our lives that result in less damage to the environment, and to show people how easy (or difficult) those changes are to make.
Farquharson is a journalist with a taste for the finer things in life. But unable to shake her growing environmental worries three weeks after watching Al Gore film’s An Inconvenient Truth, she decides to change her life to become more environmentally friendly. Her strategy is to make one change each day for one year, announce it to the public on a blog created specifically for this purpose, and to write about that change; how it helped preserve the environment and how disruptive to her life that particular change ended up being. The author makes small changes, like giving up paper towels, to large changes, like unplugging her refrigerator (something that I have long contemplated doing, but cannot due to the wildlife roaming my apartment). Farquharson’s cat also makes changes, like changing to corn cob litter, which the author enthuses about. (After years of pet care experience, I always recommend corn cob litter to all my cat and small animal clients as being the best litter to use in small NYC apartments.)
Farquharson’s rather dry and sometimes sardonic sense of humor combined with a wonderful storytelling instinct makes her book more than just a “how to” guide or checklist; it is a personal journal/journey; informative and interesting in turns, and always amusing. I often felt like we were friends, sitting in a coffee shop and talking about a variety of topics from how to save the environment without smelling bad to looking for love. She writes about how certain “green” lifestyle changes didn’t work out so well for her (but could work better for other people) and discusses what I think is her strongest criticism of the green movement: the inability of individuals to calculate how important each lifestyle change is to the environment, which leaves those who wish to change their habits floundering around in the dark trying to decide which changes have the most impact. I agree with Farquharson that it would be immensely satisfying to be able to visualize the importance of one’s changes, and would likely broaden the appeal of the environmental movement overall.
There were a few lifestyle changes that Farquharson made that were not well explained, and I mention these because I was genuinely confused, not because I am trying to split hairs. The author doesn’t say how giving up chewing gum or stopping Q-tips use help save the environment, for example, and I always thought that using a microwave was more environmentally-friendly than using either an electric or gas-powered range, yet she advocates not purchasing one (but there is no explanation why).
This humorous book provides an accessible and realistic look into one woman’s struggle to make personal lifestyle changes that benefit her community and her world. Even though this book originally was published as a series of blog entries, this is the first example of a book that I’ve read that successfully makes that magical leap from blog to book. Additionally, unlike a blog, it is possible to read this book on the subway or an airplane, or when you lack internet access. And without getting eyestrain. Since I am also trying to “reduce, reuse and recycle,” and because I think you will really like this book, I am happy to mail my copy of Sleeping Naked Is Green to the first person who emails me or comments here asking for it.
Vanessa Farquharson is an arts reporter and film critic at the National Post, based in Toronto, Canada. Her blog, Green as a Thistle, tracked her year-long green adventure. She has been published in Eye Weekly and the Ottawa Citizen, profiled on Treehugger.com and featured numerous times on CBC Radio.