Tag Archives: pollution

Joint Book Review: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

51KRmbqxakL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Arguably one of the most important books on environmentalism, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a driving force in eliminating the use of the pesticide DDT, and was critical in spurring other environmental reforms.

Amanda’s Take

Having first read this book in a biology class in college over  decade ago, I was glad to have the opportunity to revisit this text.

Once again, I was struck by how relevant her words (written over fifty years ago) are to us still in 2016.  While DDT is no longer in use, a great many other abuses are done to the environment (both chemical and otherwise).  The need to solve problems in a sustainable fashion rings just as true now as it did in the mid-twentieth century.

What I appreciate most about this text is the fact that Carson backed up her poetic assertions with proof; she doesn’t just “allege.” I also appreciate that, because of this work, enough people began to question what they had been told, and so change became inevitable.  Why can’t change be spurred the same way, in 2016?

Silent Spring is a must-read for anyone with an investment in the environment…which, I would argue, is all of us.

Ronnica’s Take

I was so glad when Amanda suggested we read Silent Spring. I love to read books that have made an impact on history, and of course this one fits the bill. I’m really not sure why I had never read it before.

For this being a foundational book in the environmentalism movement, I expected that it would be more broad. However, it makes sense that a book about a specific problem with hard numbers and targeted examples. After all, it’s much easier to get people to demand action when you make it very clear to them what it will cost them if they do not.

I’m thankful for Carson and the work she did raising awareness about DDT. Her work isn’t done: we all have a part to play in leaving this world as better place than when we arrived.

Book Review: Depletion and Abundance by Sharon Astyk

depletion and abundanceI read Depletion and Abundance at Amanda’s recommendation. I’ll be honest, with the subtitle “Life on the New Home Front” I expected a much tamer read.

After all, I’ve bought into our culture’s devaluation of traditional “women’s work” at home.

Instead, Sharon Astyk fights for the importance of work in the private realm for our future. She anticipates (or at least prepares for) a time when our current economy is broken and we’ll be forced back into working to provide food and shelter for our families (rather than just for the money we use to buy those things).

I’m not a doomsday-er. However, I can’t help but see the current state of the United States as something that cannot be maintained throughout my lifetime. As individuals and as a country, you cannot keep borrowing against the future: at some point, it’s got to be paid.

That said, I’m more driven to make lifestyle changes towards sustainability by what Astyk calls “The Theory of Anyway:” “Living more simply, more frugally, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community–these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels.” – p. 49

This is my primary motivation for change: it’s how I love others. I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that we’re overpopulating the earth, but I do know that we’re not stewarding it like we should. As an American with an average paycheck, I can “afford” to use much more than my share of resources. After all, the burden of my excess pollution and waste isn’t shouldered just by me (or I might be driven to change more quickly).

One of the most interesting concepts in this book is the idea that the work that can be done at home is “better work”: work that actually feeds our bodies and nurtures the next generation. While we’ve all been lead to think of these types of task as drudgery, we forget to think that work that has purpose is often enjoyable.

Astyk longs for each of us to work more at home than we do now (as opposed to working for others outside it) and believes that we’ll all benefit from it. She spends a good amount of the book talking about the type of decisions that can be made in that direction. She’s more interested in everyone making better choices right where they are than for others to follow a particular game plan.

My one reservation about Depletion and Abundance is how family-centric the book is. As a single woman who lives alone, I’m more sensitive than others might be to this topic. That said, I don’t believe that the family unit is the most important organizational unit.

I like how the author pictures inter-generational families living together, but I think that we should take it a step farther, encouraging non-relatives to live in healthy community with one another as well, even under the same roof. I know that’s “weird” in this age when we value privacy and comfort above almost all else, but when you consider history, it’s far more normal than we might think.

Whether you spend an hour or twelve a day on domestic work, I think you can benefit from reading this book.

Bill Reduction: Part 1

In case you couldn’t tell, one of the aspects of stewardship that Ronnica and I feel pretty passionately about is personal finance.  We constantly strive to use our money in the best ways possible.  A significant number of posts on here discuss personal finance, debt reduction, and money in some way or another.

But if you are on a fixed or limited income, how else can you channel your money toward more meaningful things?

Enter bill reduction–specifically the following key points:



More negotiation.

Okay, perhaps the third one is a bit redundant, but if you are serious about reducing your bills, negotiation plays a huge part!

Negotiation is for Thursday, however.  Today, I’m discussing reduction.  I’m going to get a bit personal, and provide actual numbers from our own budget in this post and the next.  I hope that some of our tips and tricks help you as you tweak your own finances!

In much the same way that Ronnica made reducing her consumption of goods a priority, reducing what you spend on monthly bills should become a priority if you want/need money for other items in your budget.

Rather than go into detail on the obvious bill-reducing strategies–a simple search online will yield hundreds of great tips–here are some that have worked for our family.

A programmable thermostat will save a ton–of cash AND carbon emissions.  If you search for something like, “how to reduce bills”, chances are good this one will come up, and for good reason:  it works.  The premise is that you set the thermostat for a lower temperature (in winter) or higher temperature (in summer) when you are gone during the day, or when you are in bed than when you are up and moving.

N.B.  This tip will not work if you have a more “extreme” body temperature than others in your house.  It took Riley and I a few weeks–months, actually–to agree on a temperature that did not freeze me out or make him overheat in the winter!  But once you get that settled, you will not only save money, but you will also help the planet because you are not needlessly heating or cooling your home (depending on the season).  It is tricky to estimate the savings this has given us, because we recently got a newer, more energy-efficient HVAC system as well, but I’d wager this single tip has easily saved us several hundred dollars in the time we have lived in this house (five years).  Definitely invest in a good programmable thermostat–I promise you won’t look like this!


Use a dishwasher instead of hand-washing dishes.  It seems counter-intuitive, but studies have shown that using a dishwasher is actually more budget-friendly and energy efficient than washing by hand.  It also saves time and cuts down on dishpan hands! I agree with the data presented by Energy Star–this has saved us about $40 a year.  Don’t scoff…every little bit adds up!

Don’t use a clothes dryer.  This one saves money and helps the environment in several different ways. (Isn’t it interesting how going green also saves money?).  First, it cuts down on energy usage.  Second, it helps save your clothes–lint isn’t just random fuzzies that crop up in the dryer, but is actually bits of your clothes!–which helps save you money.

Third, if you hang up your clothes on a line, either inside or outside, you are burning extra calories.  It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’d argue this also helps to cut down on long-term healthcare costs.  In addition, if dryer sheets are something you currently utilize, you will not have that expense either, with air-drying.  The savings on this appear to vary from person to person, but personally I notice a huge difference between our winter electric bill (when I dry clothes in the dryer more often) versus our summer electric bill (when I line-dry)–to the tune of $50+ a month.

By far the biggest and best strategy to bill reduction is negotiation…come back on Thursday to read about tips and tricks to cutting your bills even further!

How It Works: Compost

Today, I would like to share a picture of what greets me every day in my backyard.

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Friends, this is our compost pile.  Or what is supposed to be our compost pile.

You see, a couple of years ago (in our one-child-only, non-digging-dog days), we had the brilliant idea of composting.  We had just significantly expanded our garden, and were producing a massive amount of waste (what family with a newborn doesn’t?) that could be redirected to a compost pile–fruit peels, vegetable scraps, non-meat items, dryer lint, and the like.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans, though:  our dreams of a compost heap never really came to fruition, further proving that you make time for whatever is a priority for you.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that that point in our lives, snatching sleep whenever we could took precedence over hauling out apple cores.

Composting just moved up the priority list.

In an effort to reap the benefits of composting, including diverting organic materials from landfills and nourishing our garden, we will be more intentional about actually using this little plot of land in our yard.  To prevent dogs from getting in (as ours are wont to do), we will put chicken wire around it.  To prevent excuses about walking all the way out to the backyard to drop off scraps, we will put a small container on the kitchen counter that is bug and odor proof.  Excuses be gone!

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for successful composting.  Stay tuned to see how this adventure goes!


Book Review: $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner

20pergallonThe title $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better stood out for me when I was browsing through book titles to read on a trip a couple of years ago.

This book by Christopher Steiner was published in 2009, so the rise in gas prices has not proven as fast and inevitable as the title suggests. We may be able to mitigate rising gas prices by increased domestic production for a little while, but the demand for oil will continue to rise as other countries follow our consumption example. We all know that there is a limited supply, and we’re foolish to live as if it’s limitless.

In this book, Steiner walks through the anticipated consequences of rising gas prices in $2 intervals.

I imagine you’ve had a conversation in the last couple of months about the price of gas (if not more than one), but it’s less likely you’ve had a discussion about prices of anything else. At the beginning of $20 Per Gallon, the author talks about why he believes gas prices are so personal to us: we know that if oil prices increase, our entire way of life must change. Not only will be have to change our driving habits (and therefore where we choose to live, work and play), but our consuming habits will change as so much of what we consume is  petroleum-based.

This book helped change my view of rising gas prices: I no longer see them as a bad thing. That is why I’ve had mixed feelings about the drop of prices this year. There will be growing pains as higher prices force us to forego our dependency on petroleum, but ultimately we’ll all be better for it.

Hopefully that happens soon. If we could make the changes without the rising gas prices, that’s even better.

I recommend this book if you only know the negative consequences of rising gas prices.