An awesome (and super-talented) friend of mine approached me a couple of weeks ago and said that my blog had inspired her to reframe how she looked at waste and personal products. That’s kick ass! If even one person gets something out of my ramblings, I feel like I’ve won (although my secret goal is a blog empire, complete with T-shirts…oh wait, that’s not so secret anymore…).
She wanted an annotated bibliography of sorts on how to get started in the zero waste, sustainable world, and I was enthusiastic to provide. Not to toot my own horn (because I should have been studying), but I’ve spent hours coming my fave, Amazon.com or the world wide interwebs, for resources on my goals of heavily reduced waste and healthy, mindful living. I’m happy to present to you my TOP TEN RESOURCES, my gals Friday (and Saturday, Sunday, etc.) for tips, tricks, hints and ideas on everything from organic gardening to living sustainably and healthily in today’s dog-eat-microbead-contaminated-with-nuclear-waste world (ha!).
LOW-WASTE / ZERO-WASTE
1. The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, by Amy Korst: This is my bible for zero-waste, and there’s a good reason for it. First of all, the first several chapters are a primer into WHY zero-waste or WHY waste reduction, and WHY our cities and governments aren’t doing enough to help with the problem (they need a little nudge here and there). It’s a scary couple of chapters, but well worth it, because its laid out in plain English with good organization. Then, the other great part about the book is the REST of it. Haha! Basically, Amy goes on to break down each room in the house, and to give you scaled solutions for waste in each area. Never judgy, never holier than thou, she gives you three “levels” of waste reduction, so if you aren’t ready for the full monty, you can scale it back a little. I, um, admittedly, came on a bit strong when I first started this, and I was like “MOAR WASTE REDUCTION PLZ” and my boyfriend was like “Yeah, I’m not ready to COMPOST MY TOILET PAPER.” Valid point. Gotta ease into things like that.
2. The Natural Kitchen, by Deborah Eden Tull: …and ANY other book in the Process Self Reliance Series. The Natural Kitchen was actually one of the two books that spawned my initial desire to go zero-waste. I grew up in a pretty conservation friendly household, and as I grew older and moved out and starting living on my own, my conservation habits took a turn for the worst, and yet, somewhere deep inside me, I knew that wasn’t how I wanted to live. But throwing things away became unconscious and I sailed along like that until someone gave us this book for Christmas. This is predominantly about the all-natural kitchen, from grocery shopping in a mindful way, to composting and organic gardening, but it’s a densely packed and inspiring read. I read the first three chapters and started darting about the house looking for things to upcycle. Nuff said.
3. Worms Eat My Garbage, by Mary Appelhof: this book got me into my top choice grad school!! Okay, not really. But it did inspire me to put some wormies to work chowing down on my compostables. Best part of all is that if you do it right (which I don’t always…nobody’s perfect, but my boyfriend banished them to the outdoors because there were too many fruit flies), its stink-free, fly-free, and totally doable indoors. And yes, Prime Lovers, Amazon has a worm farm that comes via Prime. SCORE. Mine is making the commute to Washington State with me, where it will continue chewing enthusiastically on my juicing scraps.
4. The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne: This is the precursor to the Natural Kitchen in the Process Self Reliance Series, and it’s just as good. If you’re like me, stuck in the big city and dreaming of your homestead in the country where goats stand on top of things and chickens inexplicably make huge holes in the dirt and your garden overfloweth, this book might be for you. Full of ways to translate the homestead experience to the urban front, and proof that us city-dwellers don’t have to be as wasteful as people tell us we are.
5. Self Sufficient-ish Bible, by Andy Hamilton: This one is for you, folks who aren’t ready to trash audit and argue with butchers about whether its a health code violation to put your meat in your container rather than their plastic wrap. Ways to be low-waste in a modern office, or a home office, or simply an urban apartment, and proof that being low-waste doesn’t have to involve hemp sandals and a marijuana habit, just a will towards change and a few small steps.
FOOD (AND WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT??)
6. Home Cheesemaking, by Ricki Carroll: For some, this might be a little far, but I find cheese-making fun, and sort of an interesting challenge. Plus, talk about a built-in conversation starter at your next party…I can see it now…”Oh, this stout cheddar is delicious! Wherever did you get it? Whole Foods??” “Oh, ho ho ho, nooooo, I don’t go to that overpriced corporation, I MADE it!”. Anyway, you can fill in the blanks how you want, and cheese-making does require that you make friends with a dairy (2 gallons of milk generates one round of cheese, generally), why the heck not, you know? This book is nice because it breaks down the basics in a way that even novice cheese makers can understand.
7. Well Fed, by Melissa Joulwan: This is technically a paleo cookbook, along with its companion, Well Fed 2 (More Paleo for People Who Like to Eat), but before you start snorting and rolling your eyes at me, consider this: the AMAZING woman who writes this, Melissa, had a host of medical problems and was overweight before she found paleo. But not only that, she belonged to a family of Persian-Italian EATERS, and struggled with the transition away from salt, dairy, and other comfort foods. But in the process of that struggle, she came up with some amazing food. This food is flavorful (like The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat or Lemon-Lamb Tagine), its clever (like Cauliflower “Rice” Pilaf), and its laid out clearly, directly, and with an eye to not spending all day in the kitchen slaving over your tagine. For anybody who wants to eat better without sacrificing flavor or kitchen-based joy, like me.
8. It Starts With Food, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig: this is the companion book for the Whole 30, an amazing food challenge! Whole 30 starts out sounding restrictive and ends up sounding like the best damn thing you’ve ever done for yourself. I did it last year, and it changed my life. Read it, and learn about how the foods you put in your body affect your mind and your well-being just as much as they affect your waistline. It’s a good primer for that.
9. True Brews, by Emma Christensen: for those home-brew curious out there, this book is AMAZING. I’ve always thought home brewing takes a huge investment of scary equipment that lurks in your basement (or your garage, here in Southern California) and threatens to explode, but I was brewing in no time with a relatively small investment of money. And my boyfriend went CRAZY with it (in a good way), and now he makes a hard apple cider that reminds my mom of her childhood (errrr, mom…were you a bad kid…?) and an equally delicious one that isn’t quite as scrumpy as the first.
10. Small Space Container Gardens, by Fern Richardson: this one is at the bottom because I’m cheating, and I haven’t read it yet. But it’s the next one on my list, and I’m hoping its awesome, which it promises to be. I’m moving to a truly urban condo that (foolishly) is allowing me to put containers on my postage stamp of a patio, and believe you me, there WILL BE VEGETABLES! I don’t think I will even need to water them (yay Seattle!).
And stay tuned for my companion post coming soon, the top ten PRODUCTS that I love (eco-friendly or healthy or whatnot), and also the top ten websites or blogs that I use pretty much constantly.
♦ Stay cool, friends.