A lot happened in 2010, with the oil spill in the Gulf, flooding in Pakistan, an earthquake in Haiti and a great deal of political and economic unrest around the world. At times, the environment seemed to take center stage, while at others, other priorities seemed to steal the limelight. Books are generally a relatively slow medium compared to 24-7 TV and Internet coverage, although this year has already seen several tomes on the BP disaster.
Still, we're taking this opportunity to reflect back on some of the environmental books that came out in 2010 and that were authored by staff, contributors and friends of The Daily Green. As it turns out, our relatively small circle is relatively prolific, and these recent works span a pretty broad range of topics and styles, from natural health to food, tech and even sex.
Tell us which are your favorites!
I was recently fortunate to team up with Jay Egg to co-write a new book on geothermal heating and cooling. Jay has more than 20 years of experience in the field, and he studied with modern geothermal HVAC inventor Dr. Jim Bose of Oklahoma State University. Jay's company, Egg Geothermal, has done many successful installations throughout Florida and Georgia, and beyond, to the Bahamas and soon maybe even the Middle East.
As I learned from researching the topic with Jay, geothermal heating and cooling can be applied almost anywhere on the planet. It uses heat pump technology, similar to what's in a refrigerator, to take advantage of the stable temperatures of the Earth, rear-round. Geothermal systems, also called "earth-coupled systems" or "ground loop systems," provide exceptionally even, perfectly tempered heating and cooling. They are very low maintenance and last much longer than conventional systems.
Geothermal heating and cooling takes advantage of the clean heat beneath our feet. It is renewable and home grown, and it is increasingly affordable. Excellent federal tax credits, good until at least 2016, can often be paired with state and local incentives. As we show in the book, Jay has seen payback periods for his real world customers as low as one year for large commercial installations, and as low as three to four years for homes. That's much quicker than solar or wind power, and it increases the value of your property.
Geothermal HVAC is a fairly technical book, but it is written for the lay person, as well as professionals in the field. We tried to write in an engaging style, with lots of real-world examples and case studies. We included numerous photos and dozens of original illustrations, which clearly explain the concepts, show you how to understand contractor proposals, and show the many applications of the technology.
Another book I worked on that came out in 2010 is Green Lighting, about energy-saving light solutions and strategies you can start using today to save money and help you live smarter and more comfortably. I recently highlighted seven things about lighting people should know, from the book, and you can read what others are saying about it here.
Although the book has a pioneering LED (light emitting diode) on the cover, it isn't just about the emerging technology, or even "light bulbs." Although my coauthors and I went into depth about the debate over mercury in CFLs, the impending lighting efficiency standards and the versatility of new designs, we also covered the benefits of daylighting, dimmers and sensors, recycled fixtures and lighting strategies. For example, did you know that having a single ceiling light is actually a terrible way to illuminate a room?
Jeff Yeager, aka TDG's Green Cheapskate, has had quite a year. He's appeared multiple times on national TV, and he's done a lot of writing for AARP's website and magazine, reaching one of the country's largest audiences. Jeff has been writing for The Daily Green since nearly the beginning, and he is also one of our most popular scribes. We love his unique voice, charming wit and oh-so-simple advice.
Jeff recently completed a bicycle-based book tour, and his latest book, The Cheapskate Next Door, shares much of what he has learned from his travels and his adventures in cheapdom. Jeff interviewed folks around the country who are "cheerfully living below their means," as he likes to put it. Find out how families are getting closer together, reducing stress and planning for the future by cutting out waste and reducing the kind of consumer spending that tends to leave one unsatisfied, and at the mercy of creditors.
Lots of people point out that consuming less is the way to green, but few people make that mantra as practical, and enjoyable, as Jeff Yeager.
We've long been honored to host the writing of Marion Nestle, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. Nestle has written numerous books and is a thought leader in the field of healthy nutrition.
In 2010, Nestle published an updated second edition of Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety. She also co-wrote Feed Your Pet Right and Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, extending the importance of safe, healthy food to our furry friends.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the regulations are even looser when it comes to pet food, and many of the practices of big agribusiness are even more questionable. But an increasing array of more natural alternatives are coming online.
Kim Flottum has written about bees and beekeeping for TDG since the beginning, and this year he published a book on the subject that is getting a lot of attention and is burning up the Amazon rankings (though you wouldn't hear that from Kim, since he is among the humblest guys around). The book is a wonderful primer on beginning beekeeping for home and garden. (Hey, the practice has recently become legal in more places!)
Kim is at the forefront of research on colony collapse disorder and the most advanced beekeeping techniques, but he also knows how to make the subject accessible to casual readers. Hobbyist beekeepers are growing in number, particularly in urban areas, where hives are often kept on green roofs or along medians or other marginal land that doesn't have a lot of other uses.
If you or someone you know has considered getting into bees, Kim's book is a great place to start.
Earlier this year, some of you may have participated in the Conscious Kitchen Challenge, which celebrated Alexandra Zissu's new book. Lexy has been one of our core bloggers for a long time, and we are continually inspired by her wealth of knowledge on everything from the best pacifiers to her homemade cleaning products.
We featured her book as one of the best cookbooks of the year, and we think you'll agree. Conscious Kitchen isn't just about recipes, it's also about how to keep a clean, healthy, positive home environment.
We spend a considerable amount of time in our kitchens, so why not make them as healthy and as enjoyable as possible?
Lexy has also teamed up with Seventh Generation founder Jeffrey Hollender on the new book Planet Home. Certainly, it's about nontoxic, affordable green cleaning, but it also takes the "systems" approach to the home, since that's the way Hollender likes to break everything down. Although he is no longer CEO of Seventh Generation, Hollender still reportedly owns a chunk of the company, and he continues to be active on the lecture circuit, and he is busy trying to build a greener, more conscious alternative to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
If you want to start viewing your home more as a holistic system, pick up Planet Home, and take advantage of the collected wisdom that arises from a collaboration of one of the movement's superstar businessmen and one of its most dedicated writers.
Ben Hewitt hasn't written anything for TDG in some time, which is very unfortunate for us. His former Green Hacks blog was among our most popular sections, instructing readers how to whip an old cardboard box into a solar oven, or build a super-efficient chest freezer. Unfortunately, Ben got too busy with his books, including The Town That Food Saved.
Ben lives with his family in rural Vermont, on a 40-acre farm that is off the grid. The nearby town of Hardwick had fallen on hard times recently, with high unemployment and low average incomes. But a group of entrepreneurs then started working together to establish a new crop of local food-based businesses. The Town is the heartwarming story of how a high tide can really raise all boats, and how communities that rediscover the joys of healthy, local eating can reinvent themselves.
Alexandra Spunt and Siobhan O'Connor wrote a book that has been taking the natural beauty world by storm, knocking sense into many women who weren't yet aware of the toxins lurking in conventional products they use every day. The Canadian-but-living-in-America duo shared what they have learned with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, debating with an industry representative who was pushing for business as usual.
O'Connor shared the story behind the book with TDG: after going for Brazilian blowout hair straightening, the women discovered that the popular treatment is often laced with toxic formaldehyde. Horrified, they decided to turn their reporting skills on the loosely regulated, often proprietary world of beauty and personal care products.
No More Dirty Looks isn't the first book to tackle toxic beauty products, but it rises above several earlier tomes because it provides a lot of great recommendations for more natural alternatives, and because it is written in an accessible, contemporary style, with colorful language that makes it easier to digest words like parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate.
One of the best friends to TDG online, Dr. Edward F. Group III's Global Healing Center has published a beautifully produced, full-color book on alternative GI health. New for this year, the 2009 book is also now available on the Kindle reader, for a very affordable price of $2.99.
Dr. Group's book explains the science behind his various cleanse products and treatments, and attempts a holistic approach to digestive health. Group is a doctor of the chiropractic and naturopathic disciplines, as well as a clinical herbalist, holistic health practitioner and clinical nutritionist. He weighs in on so-called overnight cleanses, toxins, intestinal parasites and the effects of drugs and stress on the body.
Although some cleanses are controversial in the medical community, The Green Body Cleanse is packed with info that can help you learn about this increasingly popular world. Just be sure to check with your health provider before you attempt any cleanses.
Speaking of bodies, charismatic author Stefanie Iris Weiss has written a delightful and nearly pocket-sized guide to going green between the sheets. Stefanie recently shared some of what she learned with us in a post about green sins that sabotage your love life. Did you know that many sex toys and lubes contain toxins? As do perfumes?
However, Stefanie also keeps it real and steamy, playfully admonishing those who would let their eco-fears ruin all the fun. "Don't be an environmental schoolmarm when you're about to do the deed," she cautions. Luckily, her book is packed with lots of great tips to keep your love life fresh, from recipes for natural aphrodisiacs and massage oils to the skinny on the best condoms.
Although it's packed with info, Eco-Sex is an accessible guide to the "Eco-Sexual Revolution." Even the New York Post thinks so.
TDG contributor and friend Mindy Pennybacker has more experience in green consumer reporting than just about anyone else, having co-founded The Green Guide with Meryl Streep and others a few decades ago. Mindy has always held her work up to the highest standards, serving as a kind of one-person Consumer Reports who is interested in actual performance and measurable greenness, not hype or pack thinking.
In her review of Do One Green Thing for TDG, Chris Prentice wrote, "Pennybacker weaves easily between basic fact-sharing and recommending actual products. Her question-and-answer format helps make that possible. Here's an example: 'I get confused by all the different green labels on meat, poultry, and eggs. Which labels ensure me the best choice for my money?' Pennybacker organizes her response into easy-to-comprehend (and color-coded) Choose It or Lose It categories."
In the forward to the book, Meryl Streep wrote, "The key to making green a byword in everyone's life is ease of access. This focus is what makes Do One Green Thing such a pleasure to read."
Also check out more books in the TAB Green Guru Guides, the series that includes Green Lighting and which is also edited by Seth Leitman:
1. Solar Power For Your Home by David Findley
2. Renewable Energies For Your Home by Russell Gehrke
3. Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits by David Findley
4. Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman and Bob Brant
5. Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel
6. Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman
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