nonfiction

Book Review: Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives and Other Extreme Adventures Across America by Rob Greenfield

Earlier this year, my daughter and I read a book for her homeschooling about making a difference for the planet. Recycling, refusing things that you don’t need, reusing the things you have in creative ways, being smart about how you use energy and water, biking and walking to get to places when you can, it was all pretty fun and inspirational. The author was a man named Rob Greenfield, and the book told a little bit of his story and about the wacky things he does to call attention to the need to live a sustainable life. I did a little research and found he’d written a book for adults as well, so I checked, and sure enough, it was living its best life on my library’s shelf! So on one of my next trips, I grabbed Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives and Other Extreme Adventures Across America by Rob Greenfield (New Society Publishers, 2015) and brought it home.

Rob Greenfield, known for wearing all his trash in a suit on his body for a month at a time, decided to go bigger to get his message across. He was going to bike across the US, with a list of rules for guidance. He could only eat local (to where he was) organic food, nothing packaged, unless it was food that was going to go to waste otherwise. He couldn’t use any electricity that wasn’t generated by his solar panels (with a few exceptions), and this even included walking in electric doors (he would have to wait until someone else went in and go behind them). Water had to come from natural sources (he had a purifier), and at times, he could only drink water that would have gone to waste. These were the rules that would follow him biking over 4,000 miles across the country.

And he did it! There were a few foibles along the way – flat tires, outrunning tornados, no bank branches in an entire state – but the over-one-hundred-day-journey taught Rob a lot of things along the way, both while he was on the road and when he stopped at various organic farms along the way. This is a wild and crazy journey that will definitely get you considering what you use, and how you can do more to be earth-friendly.

Wow.  First off, I love these kinds of adventure/experiment books, where people live out certain ideals or go on long adventures that take large amounts of time. Although I felt like sometimes Rob took things to the extreme (in no way shape or form would I drink unpurified water from a stream, nor would I EVER drink a half-empty bottle of water I found at the side of the road *gag noises*), I deeply admire his commitment to living out his ideals. He’s young; I feel like he recognized a lot of room for growth in himself and how he treated the friend who accompanied him for most of the journey, so hopefully that’ll be something he works on in the future. I do really like that he’s calling attention to food waste by dumpster diving a large portion of the food he ate while biking cross-country; he’s even mentioned in his TED talks about this experiment that he gained ten pounds while biking 20-50+ miles per day for over a hundred days. That’s pretty wild!

The book is written in journal format, so there are times it gets a little repetitive and navel-gazey, and his youth and immaturity show through, along with his lack of knowledge on certain subjects (there was a bit in there about race that made me cringe), but overall, this is an enjoyable read about something I’d love to be able to do but can’t. I do wish he would have spoken to the privilege that allows him to make fantastic journeys like this. He’s young, physically fit, and healthy (my garbage back alone disqualifies me from a trip like this); he’s male (the dangers a woman would face making a trip like this? Not something I’d want to risk) and straight (ditto) and white (he had a few interactions with the cops where he was very much given the benefit of the doubt in a way most Black and brown men would not have been offered). I’d definitely like to hear him speak on these topics a little more in the future (and maybe he has and I haven’t read it or listened to it yet; I have enjoyed several of his TED talks, however!).

Overall, this was a fun read, and definitely inspiring.

Visit Rob Greenfield’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

nonfiction · memoir

Book Review: The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

I’ve been on a kick lately, reading about tiny homes. I’ve watched documentaries about them in the past and enjoyed them, but I think I’ve just reached that part of middle age and that stage of the pandemic that a small house all to myself seems like the ultimate fantasy. Combine that with all the environmentalism stuff my daughter and I have been reading for her schoolwork, and having a smaller carbon footprint in a house mostly run on solar and built out of used materials sounds amazing. I dug through my library’s catalog and one of the selections they had was a book called The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams (Blue Rider Press, 2014). Yes, please! Into my bag it went on my next library trip.

Dee Williams lived a normal-to-hippyish life in the Pacific Northwest. She owned her own home (which was constantly breaking down in various ways) and had been building her DIY skill set since she was young (which came in really handy when her house needed repairs!). When a health problem surfaced that couldn’t be ignored, Dee began to take a hard look at her life and what mattered. What did she want? What would truly make her happy?

Almost overnight, she purchased a trailer and began to build an eighty-four square foot house on it. She had help; friends, neighbors, random passersby, the men giving free advice at the hardware store, they all pitched in to help her dream become a reality. And suddenly…it was built, and eighty-four square feet became home.

Dee Wiliams has written a charming memoir of the ups and downs of building your own home, of learning the skills you need to create a place you can live in, of figuring out what’s important and what can be discarded, and how to build not just a dwelling place, but a community. There are definite downs: her health scares are stressful, and she writes about an incident involving falling off a ladder that resulted in multiple unable-to-be-casted-or-splinted bones that made my whole body cringe (because I’ve also broken one of those bones, and it’s awful); pulling her house behind her down the highway is my actual nightmare (I’ll stick with my smaller vehicle and continue fantasizing about tiny homes that don’t need to be moved anywhere); not having a shower or washer in my tiny house is a no-go for me, but she manages just fine. But the ups outweigh it all. The community she builds around her, the friends who rally and cheer her on when she’s building and afterwards, the family she builds when the house is finished, it’s all so lovely and cozy-feeling.

You might not be ready to give all your possessions away and move into a house smaller than most bedrooms, but it’s still fascinating to read about someone who was, and did. I enjoyed the time I spent living vicariously through Dee Williams’s tiny house-building journey. What a fun and thoughtful book.

Visit Dee Williams’s website here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It by Tom Szaky

Part of the reason I’ve been reading about trash and sustainability lately has been because of some of the material I’ve been covering with my daughter now that we’re homeschooling. I’m doing my best to raise a responsible kid who cares about the planet and who isn’t going to junk it up, to the best of her abilities. And it’s on me to provide a good example of what that looks like. I recently signed up for TerraCycle and became aware of some of their local drop-off points for certain items (link is for the US, but you can switch it to match your country, they’re everywhere!), and I learned that their founder has written several books. Why yes, I DID want to read them! Luckily, my library had a copy of Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It by Tom Szaky (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014). At 168 pages, it’s a quick read and one that will inspire you, however much you’re already doing, to do more.

Tom Szaky started out creating worm tea fertilizer in recycled soda bottles, but his business soon expanded into recycling those items that you usually just throw away because your local recycling company won’t take them: toothpaste tubes, juice pouches, toothbrushes, potato chip bags. Dirty diapers. Cigarette butts. There’s a use for everything out there, if only we look hard enough to find it. We don’t have to be messing up our planet the way we are; the fact that we are is a choice, mostly driven by economics. Tom Szaky wants you to understand this, and he wants you to work with him to change this.

Changing the way we think about garbage is the first step, and Outsmart Waste will set you on that path. If we can shake up our mindset in order to mimic nature just a little bit more, we could see some real change. Things could improve. That may mean a shifting of priorities, possibly retraining for some of us, but in order to assure a healthy, sustainable future, it’s eventually going to be necessary. Why not make this shift when we’re doing it by choice, rather than be forced by a ticking clock?

This is a quick read, and a brilliant book that’s capable of shifting mindsets. I’m not sure if it’s possible to read this without drastically reconsidering everything about how you live. We can all do better, and Tom Szaky is here to cheer us on.

Follow Tom Szaky on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes

I realize I read about a lot of niche subjects, but garbage might just be the nichiest (what? It’s a word if I want it to be a word). Reading about the trash we create, the mess we’ve made of the world, and the people devoting their lives to cleaning it all up serves as a reminder to me of the work I need to be doing in order to make things better. If you’re beginning to realize that ‘there’s no such thing as away,’ that things don’t just disappear when you toss them in the trash, that everything you buy has consequences for the planet, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (Avery, 2012) might need to go from your TBR to your brain.

What happens when we throw things away? What exactly goes on in a landfill? (Sometimes it’s not much. People have unearthed 50-year-old hot dogs and heads of lettuce, looking pretty much fresh.) What exactly is all of this doing to the planet, and how much longer can this continue? Edward Humes has thrown the switch on the floodlights that illuminate the mess we’ve made, the dangerous situations we’ve created, and the people working to both take care of them and to make them better.

Because there are better ways, and Mr. Humes shows not only people who have chosen careers dedicated to improving how we deal with trash, but showcases people who have restructured their lives so that they create much, much less of it. While the book occasionally wanders into the technical, Garbology is a wake-up call and an inspirational manifesto for all.

This was a bit of a slow read for me, simply because I was trying to take it all in. We’ve really made a mess of things, when the ocean can be described as ‘plastic chowder’ by scientists who study this sort of thing. It’s all super depressing, but…it could be better. We could do better, and this book points that out over and over again. Garbology isn’t Pollyanna-ish in nature, but knowledge really is power, and it provides the reader with the important knowledge we need about the what, how, and why of our garbage, and how we can clean things up.

There’s a lot to think about here, and I guarantee that, if you read this, you’ll be thinking about and looking at your trash differently. I refused a plastic bag this week after finishing this book, and I’m going to try to keep that habit up (I got distracted in another line and didn’t think about saying I didn’t need bags until it was too late). I’m thinking more about how I can reuse other parts of my trash (recycling is good, but it really should be more of a last resort; there’s a reason why reduce and reuse come first!), and I’ve located some TerraCycle drop-off locations in my area so I can collect the harder-to-recycle items, like toothpaste tubes, for them.

Garbology might change you – and that’s a good thing. Our planet desperately needs that.

Visit Edward Humes’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living by Kris Bordessa

When you know better, you do better, and who doesn’t want to do better when it comes to the way we care for ourselves and the planet? I’m always trying to improve the way we live our lives, to lessen our carbon footprint and green things up, so that’s how Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living by Kris Bordessa (National Geographic Society, 2020) ended up on my TBR. Kris Bordessa runs the popular website and blog Attainable Sustainable, so I was curious to see what her book offered.

Packed between these colorful covers is a primer on the why and how-to of homesteading-up your life. Whether it’s getting the chemicals out of your products, greening up your daily actions, farming up your yard, or simply moving towards a slower, more DIY-style of living, Kris Bordessa offers lessons on it all. Keeping chickens and goats, making soap, getting your macramé on, or baking bread: you can do it all with the help of this gorgeously-photographed book.

If you’re looking for the inspiration you need to make your life a little better, you really can’t go wrong with this book. First off, it’s absolutely beautiful! The photographs on every page are utterly stunning and will have you wanting to rearrange your life so it looks as though it comes straight out of this book. Second, the projects in here all feel doable (okay, maybe not keeping goats if you live in a high-rise Manhattan apartment; check with your landlord before bringing home farm animals, friends). There’s everything from the small, like sourdough, to the large, like tapping maple trees to make your own syrup. Choose the level that’s right for you, and fantasize about the rest (even if you know you’d make a horrifically anxious chicken farmer, you can still look at the pictures *waves*).

The world is a pretty scary place right now, and this book offers a little bit of control back in your life. Why not expand your DIY skills and feast your eyes on some much-needed beauty with Attainable Sustainable?

Visit Kris Bordessa’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves by J.B. MacKinnon

I’m a non-consumerist at heart, to the point of, I can actually list the very few things I’ve bought so far this year that weren’t fully consumable (a pair of shoes to replace a falling-apart pair that were about 18 years old, and a pair of battery-operated candlesticks. Everything else has been either food or stuff like shampoo). I’m fully aware of the fact that our societal and worldwide consumption is killing the planet – well, one of the things that is killing the planet, anyway – and that’s how The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves by J. B. MacKinnon (Ecco, 2021) ended up on my TBR.

We all know the world has a problem with stuff. Just look around at what we own: closets bursting with clothes (some of which we barely wear), garages and basements exploding with stuff. We even rent out storage units to keep the stuff we can’t fit in our house. And all of this – the production, the transportation, the space used to sell it and the electricity that powers the stores – taxes the planet in massive ways. What would happen if we…just stopped buying things? Just completely stopped? Journalist J.B. MacKinnon methodically explores the impact that would have on the planet and on life itself.

It’s not a simple question to answer, and with the way the world runs, the impact would be on the economy just as much as it would be on the environment, maybe even more so. But it would affect everything and everyone around us (okay, maybe not everyone, and Mr. MacKinnon does get into that). If you’re especially curious about the economic impact of a world that decides that enough is enough, The Day the World Stops Shopping is likely something you’ll enjoy.

This was okay. I was expecting something a little different, maybe a more personalized look at the impact on communities and day-to-day life, of the return of bartering and a more Depression-era take on repairing and making possessions last. Instead, this book focuses heavily on the economic side of the end of consumerism (massive flashbacks to helping my son with his Economics homework, ugh). It was still interesting enough that it held my attention, but I definitely hadn’t added this to my list because of an overwhelming love for the principles of economics.

So this wasn’t *quite* what I wanted, but I’m not unhappy I spent my time with it. I can’t say I care any more about economics than I did, but I learned a few things along the way, and that’s never bad.

Visit J.B. MacKinnon’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Eric and Wendy Brown

Finally! Finally, it’s warm out when I’m reading a book about foraging! Normally, it’s freezing and there are twenty feet of snow on the ground, a fact that never ceases to amuse me. Perhaps I’m just looking for a taste of warmer weather when that happens. This was more coincidence; Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Eric and Wendy Brown (New Society Publishers, 2013) had been on my TBR for quite some time and it was time to move it off of there. Thanks, interlibrary loan!

Eric and Wendy Brown, who live in suburban Maine, realized they wanted a more local, more sustainable way of life. They began to garden, they bought some chickens, they started to frequent their local farmer’s market. But they realized that this wasn’t enough, and that to supplement their diet, they needed to check out what nature was providing all around them for free. Starting with their own yard and branching out to the wide-open spaces around them, they began to learn the local plants that most people regarded as weeds or nuisances. Taking classes with urban foraging experts and instructors and learning from mycologists, they built up their confidence in identifying edible plants, fruits, roots, and mushrooms, and began to supplement their diet with items they foraged themselves.

This isn’t an instructional book. There are no, “Here are the plants that are safe to eat, here’s how you identify them and what you do with them once you’ve got them in your kitchen.” It’s the recounting of one couple’s adventures during a year of foraging in Maine. They talk about why they got started foraging (this part is a little doomsday-style depressing; it’s not necessarily inaccurate, just something to watch out for if you’re in a poor mood at the time) and their successes and failures, and all the reasons why urban foraging is a good idea. It’s not a bad story, but to be fully honest, I didn’t necessarily find anything new or inspiring in it, either.

I’m always impressed and a little bit baffled by people who live in the suburbs but who manage to find all sorts of wild-growing food. We have things like chickweed and common plantain and dandelions growing in our yard, of course, but there aren’t really stands of wild berries or apple trees growing nearby that are free for the taking. There are no empty fields where we can forage. All the forest preserves around us have signs all over explicitly stating that removing any kind of nature from the preserve is strictly forbidden. I’m very honestly unsure of where on earth we would find the kinds of things these authors are constantly stumbling across. There’s just not a lot of nature around us that we’re allowed to take things from, at least, not that I’m aware of. Maybe I’m just missing out. Our local community college did offer an evening prairie walk, pre-pandemic, where an instructor would walk with the participants and point out edible plants. I had planned on signing up for that, but, well, you know. I’m sure that’ll come back in 273489374923 years, when this is all over…

So this book was just okay for me. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and I didn’t find the writing to be terribly interesting. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but it was no Stalking the Wild Asparagus, either.

nonfiction

Book Review: Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel

Simple living. It’s not always the simplest way to go, ironically, but it’s something I’ve been engaging in for most of my adult life. Handmade gifts, homecooked food, canning and otherwise preserving, knitting and crocheting and sewing, doing my best to reduce, reuse, and recycle, it’s all a big part of my daily life. I happened upon Rhonda Hetzel’s blog, Down to Earth, a few years ago, and discovered that she had written a book on simple living, also titled Down to Earth (Penguin Australian, 2012). Onto my list it went. It took a bit to get to me via interlibrary loan; Mrs. Hetzel is Australian, and I don’t know how widely known her book is here in the US. My copy came from Virginia, which would probably take most of a day’s driving to get to from where I’m at! Oddly enough, the library in the next town over has another of her books, but not this one. Strange!

If you’re looking to get back to basics, to simplify your life and begin a gentler, more earth-friendly, more soul-nourishing way of living, but you don’t know where to start, Rhonda Hetzel has a plan for you. From the very basics of building a budget that ensures you can cut back and what you can cut out, to building a garden that works for you, and why knitting and sewing and mending is important, to the keeping of chickens, to home cooking and preserving and more, this is an explanation of what simple living looks like at its most fundamental level.

Seasoned homemakers and advocates for this slower way of life may not find anything new here (but inspiration to keep going is always nice, and this lovely book provides that in spades in its gentle encouragement and gorgeous photography), but for neophytes looking to escape the rat race, exhausted working parents barely able to keep up with the daycare costs, folks looking to retire a little early (if possible; here in the US, our lack of a nationalized healthcare system makes this tricky), newlyweds or college graduates just starting out in the real world, all of these people will find a glimpse into a way of navigating life that they may not have considered.

This is an absolutely lovely book- a bit smaller than a traditional coffee table book, more like a small textbook, but it’s filled with beautiful photography of Mrs. Hetzel’s gorgeous life. If you’re looking for a gift for a recent college graduate or a unique bridal shower gift, Down to Earth would make a fabulous choice. Let everyone know that there’s a better way than constantly stopping for fast food and precooked, preservative-filled junk at the store, that even in apartments, your life can be sustainable and earth-friendly.

Down to Earth is a lovely, gentle read about a way of life you may already be engaged in, or something you long for but aren’t sure how to get started. If you’re looking for an overview of all the ways you could slow things down, this is a beautiful place to begin.

Visit Rhonda Hetzel’s blog, Down to Earth, here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation by Sharon Astyk

What does your pantry look like? Do you have a dusty can of beans from a year when One Direction was still together, a package of an ingredient you’ve never used and are too intimidated by to open, and not much else? Or are you like me, with a few months’ worth of food stashed away in various corners of the house? This past year has shown us the importance of being prepared for tough times- job losses, shortages, weather events that cut off power and access to stores, all that and more has plagued us (pun intended) as a society, and being prepared for these terrible events isn’t a bad idea. Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation by Sharon Astyk (New Society Publishers, 2009) has been on my TBR for a while; it piqued my interested because having a fully-stocked pantry has always been important to me (mostly because I’m lazy and don’t ever want to have to make an emergency run for a missing ingredient!). This seemed right up my alley, so I requested it via interlibrary loan.

Think about this past year, when toilet paper, hand sanitizer, yeast, garlic, and various other products were nowhere to be found on store shelves. How did you fare? Having a well-stocked pantry in trying times could alleviate stress and get you through rough patches caused by job loss, weather events, power outages, economic downturns, illness, pandemics, and all the other chaos that disrupts daily life and may make getting to the store or procuring sustenance for your family difficult or impossible. Changing your diet to one more sustainable to your location, gardening, obtaining food and supplies from more local and sustainable sources, and preserving this food in a variety of ways are all suggestions that Ms. Astyk has for creating a better-prepared life.

It’s a lot of work, true, but so is pretty much anything worth doing, she argues, and stocking your pantry is never something you’ll regret if things go sideways. With in-depth discussions on gardening, locating storage space no matter where you live, recipes, the ups and downs of various forms of preservation, and more, Sharon Astyk has created a basic primer for anyone interested in living a prepared life.

This is a pretty good book for anyone starting out on the journey of planning and stocking their pantry. She lays out some pretty compelling arguments for the need for keeping your larder stocked, and a lot of the scenarios she frets about have actually taken place in the years since the book was published. Her pleas to her readers about the necessity of storing water don’t seem so wild after this year’s devastating winter storms in Texas that saw residents without running water for ages, and storing pantry food isn’t at all far-fetched after seeing the shortages on grocery store shelves during this past year. (I keep at least two full boxes of toilet paper from Sam’s Club in the basement at all times; it wasn’t even something I had to think about last year as I watched people all over the country scramble for even the rough stuff. The only thing I lacked was an adequate supply of hand sanitizer, but that’s because it wasn’t something I normally use. Now, though, I’ll always have some on hand!) Some of the Goodreads reviews seem to view her as a kind of out-there prepper, but I have to wonder how those people handled the crises this past year.

If you’ve been serious about storing and preserving for a while, there’s probably not much to learn here, but this is a great resource for anyone who has realized that maybe it’s not so bad to keep a three-month (or longer) supply of food on hand. Ms. Astyk covers all of the why, along with some of the how, and provides a few recipes along the way. This was a nice reminder of why I shop the way I do, and why my kitchen resembles a small overflowing grocery store.

Visit Sharon Astyk’s website.

Follow her on Facebook here.

nonfiction

Living More With Less- Doris Janzen Longacre

Sometimes reading one book brings another to mind, and that was the case with my last read that featured an Amish woman as a main character. The descriptions of her routine and the simplicity she incorporated into her daily life reminded me of a book on my own shelves, one that I’d started reading a few years ago but hadn’t finished. It was time to pick that book up again. Doris Janzen Longacre is probably better known for her More With Less Cookbook, the iconic cookbook that taught people to use meat more as a flavoring or an ingredient, and that soybeans could be satisfying when cooked well (I own a copy of this too!), but she also wrote Living More With Less (Herald Pr, 1980), an inspirational book that seeks to aid the reader in simplifying their life and feeling the better for it.

Published posthumously after Longacre’s premature death from cancer, Living More With Less is written primarily for a Mennonite audience, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading. While religious belief and practice is woven throughout this book, its goal isn’t to convert or proselytize, more to remind its reader of their responsibility to their fellow humans. Why should we have so much when so many have so little? Regardless of your religious belief or lack thereof, it’s an important question that will have you thinking twice about what impact your every decision has upon the earth and your neighbors.

Ms. Janzen begins with chapters on ideals- doing justice, learning from the world community, nurturing people, and so on- then follows up with stories, anecdotes, and suggestions from others who have discovered how to incorporate these principles into their lives in sustainable, caring, and beneficial ways. While Amy Daczyzyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, though partially outdated (yet still invaluable!), will give you a better rundown on thrift for the sake of thrift, Living More With Less is more about adjusting your entire attitude, a kick-in-the-pants, if you will, for your mindset about your relationship to this planet and all the people on it. Why do you need a fancy new car when there are people who have to walk miles in the burning sun in order to procure a day’s clean(ish) water? Why do you need ten pairs of shoes when there are people who struggle to afford one? How is it justice that you have more food than you need when your neighbors are starving?

While every suggestion compiled by Longacre isn’t going to fit your needs (you probably aren’t in the market to build a geodesic dome house, for example, although I’ve seen a few of these and they’re pretty cool), it’s enough to read and consider how to implement the theory behind these suggestions into your own life. Could you walk more? Carpool? Implement a brown-bag lunch day with friends instead of spending money on restaurant food? Make your clothing last or trade with friends instead of buying new? There are hundreds upon hundreds of ideas and recommendations in this book that something is sure to strike a chord in you, that will make you sit up and think, “You know, I could be doing that a little better…” One suggestion even talked about making ice outside when the weather is below freezing in order to not force the inside freezer to work so hard, and I sat back in my chair, wondering why I’d never managed to consider that before. Cripes. What else am I missing???

Doris Janzen Longacre was a visionary before her time. So much of what she includes in this book could come straight out of any hot-off-the-presses new release on simplicity and sustainable living. While some of the statistics in Living More With Less are surely outdated, the odds are that things have only become more dire, with more need to cut out, reuse, repurpose, and cut back so that the resources can go where they’re needed. Much like the recent, heartbreaking death of Rachel Held Evans, the world lost something special when Ms. Longacre passed away far too early.

This is a book that will have a permanent place of honor on my shelf, and I feel like I’ll turn to it when I need an attitude adjustment, to remember why I do the things I do. We have a Mennonite church in my town (right across the street from the community garden, as luck would have it! They’re Mennonite USA, as opposed to the groups who are one step up from the Amish, and are indistinguishable in dress from anyone else in town), and it warms my heart that there’s a group of people nearby who are so committed to the ideals and principles in this book, which I live by as well. Always nice to better understand your neighbors. 🙂

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. Goodreads claims it’s out of print, but you can purchase a used copy on Amazon. I bought mine for a dollar from a used book store several years ago (the previous owner left the receipt in the book; they paid $10.95), and it’s still available at several branches of my local libraries. If you’re looking for a mental wake-up call as to the whys of simpler living, this is the book you’ve been looking for.

Two quotes I found significant in the book:

‘That way of living makes other people poor.’

‘The hard facts are that in order to raise significantly the standard of living of the many poor in the world it is necessary to lower the living standards of the rich. This means giving up some of the advantages the rich and powerful have in favor of the poor. It means a kind of political action and courage that has not yet been shown among nations.’ -Gordon Hunsberger

And I’ll leave you with a story which has vastly made me consider and reconsider what resources I’m using, why I’m using them, if I could use less, and how I could use everything more wisely:

‘In 1952 I was studying the Hindi language with my teacher Panditji. From his philosophic mind, which probed the meaning of events and circumstances, I learned more than Hindi.
I especially remember one lesson. It was Christmastime and as I awaited the arrival of Panditji, I quickly opened stacks of delightful cards, discarding the envelopes in the wastebasket. When Panditji entered the room, he sat down soberly and studied the situation. Then he solemnly scolded me in perfect English with these words, “The reverberation of this wasteful act will be felt around the world.”
Stunned, I asked, “What do you mean, Panditji?”
“Those envelopes,” he said, pointing to the wastebasket. “You could write on the inside of them.”
Chagrined, I apologized and began taking them out of the basket. He carefully helped me, almost caressing each one. For every Hindi lesson he taught thereafter, I took notes on the back of an envelope. Our class also began sharing envelopes with his growing family, for he could not afford [paper] tablets for his children. Today I still carefully save paper in my home and office.’