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5 Green Guides Worth Reading



Although I now do the majority of my green research online, I still often turn to these books for information and resources, and also because they offer more of a comprehensive perspective than I can get surfing on the Internet.

My Green Book Recommendations



Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home by Christopher Gavigan (published 2009) was the first green book I read and also how I discovered a now-favorite organization and resource: Healthy Child Healthy World. I checked out the book from the library and soon knew I wanted to own a copy that I could read at my leisure while nursing my new baby. This book features chapters on pregnancy, cleaning, eating, body care, children's gear (toys, clothing and other gear), yard care, water and air, pets, home improvement, and community activism. Each chapter is organized into 10 steps. You could attempt to do all 10 steps for a chapter before moving on, or skim all the chapters and choose the easiest one or two steps from each chapter to get started. While the focus of the book is on creating a non-toxic environment for you and your children, the book has many ideas for eco-friendlier living (alternatives to paper towels, throwing a green baby shower, etc.) peppered throughout the text. Gavigan's book also contains many useful one-page "Copy & Carry" reference guides as well as sections in each chapter written by experts and celebrity parents. It also has an excellent resource section.



Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Care (published 2007) is written by Dr. Alan Greene, a well-respected pediatrician and authority on green parenting.  This book features extensive coverage of issues related to pregnancy and labor (with nearly one-quarter of the book devoted to these topics).  Other chapters discuss the nursery, kitchen, bathroom, garden, and whole house issues.  I liked the "Buying Green" sections (recommended websites, brands, companies, and products) in each chapter, as well as the additional information and green resources provided at the end.  Although the focus on the book is on non-toxic living, Greene also provides many practical ideas for leaving a smaller footprint.



Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure (published 2009) is my latest find.  One thing is for sure: author Jennifer Taggart (an environmental lawyer) knows her stuff and is very comfortable discussing the intricacies of chemistry, toxicology and governmental regulation.  The book begins by discussing the prevalence of toxic chemicals and their effects on children and then contains chapters addressing whole house issues, lead, the kitchen, food and beverages, nursery, playroom and baby gear, bathroom, cleaning, and pests.  This books also includes a guide for choosing a day-care and a list of useful acronymns/abbreviations.  Of all the green books I've read or perused, I think this one has the most detailed background scientific and regulatory information on toxic chemicals (perhaps more than would be of interest to the average parent). The best feature of Taggart's book are the sections called "Smart Mama's Simple Steps to Reduce Exposure."  These sections offer a summary of the steps you can take to reduce your exposure to the various toxic chemicals (asbestos, lead, BPA, and so on) discussed in each chapter.  For the big worriers out there (like myself), I think it's useful to be able to quickly find and read expert recommendations for reducing toxic chemical exposure, without having to wade through the sometimes harrowing reasons for avoiding these chemicals.  In addition, I found Taggart's "Simple Steps" to be realistic and practical, and also mindful of budgetary constraints. Often she presents the ideal solution, as well as several easier or cheaper steps that at least mitigate if not eliminate exposure.




In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet (published 2010), authors Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley focus on earth-friendly living on a budget.  The book includes plenty of information about avoiding toxic chemicals, but especially compared to the previous books, this green guide focuses on leaving a smaller footprint (often by simply consuming less).  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide has an exceptional section on cloth diapers.  It also has chapters on identifying which baby supplies you really need, buying used gear, eco-friendly companies, feeding baby, overcoming obstacles, and simple ways to help the planet. The authors give advice on where to save and where to splurge, and they present green product recommendations for a range of budgets. This book is very easy to browse and glean information from and has great additional resources listed at the end of each chapter. Last year I posted a full review of this book as well as ten things I learned from reading the book that I wish I had known before I had kids.



The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (published 2006) is a long book about where food comes from by journalist Michael Pollan. It is not a comprehensive guide about going green or non-toxic living, but it was an integral part of my own journey toward greener living.  In a nutshell, Omnivore’s Dilemma convinced me to strive to eat more naturally, more in harmony with our own biology, more the way our ancestors ate (before fast food and TV dinners came along). It inspired me to stop eating ground beef, join a CSA, eat less processed food, read ingredient labels religiously, make my own bread and granola, and pay attention to federal agricultural policy. I wrote about how Omnivore’s Dilemma changed my life in this post. While I found the book to be a quick and fascinating read, it is rather long.  For a more accessible/ quickly digested version, you can watch the documentary Food Inc., which is based on Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation (which is too gross for me to read).  Michael Pollan's subsequent books In Defense of Food and Food Rules are quicker reads and have many useful guidelines for healthy eating.


Additional Books about Going Green
I've flipped through many more books about going green in libraries and bookstores.  Some did not appeal to me because of the format, others because of the author's background or the perceived target audience.  For example, many green books are written to help moms go green without having to sacrifice their beauty regiment or fashion consciousness (example). Those books are not relevant to me personally, but they might appeal to you.  If you have the time and inclination, I would suggest browsing books at your local library or bookstore, or even checking out the previews of books available online at sites like Amazon.

A Note to Anxious Persons about Toxic Information Overload
While these books can be wonderful resources, they are meant to be encyclopedic. If you are a new anxious parent (as I was), reading an entire book like this in a short period of time may mostly cause you stress because your knowledge will far surpass what you are able to accomplish. Instead, consume your book in bite-size pieces. Pick the chapter about personal products or the nursery, and then don't read any more until you are comfortable with the changes you have made in that area. Even after all the toxic information I've consumed and green changes I've made, I still get a little overwhelmed and anxious when I read too much of these books at once. But they are very useful to have as a resource to consult when you have a specific question, or for additional ideas about how to green your life.

Additional Suggestions:

What is your favorite book about non-toxic and green living?

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival. This month's carnival is about green authors and books we love. The carnival goes live Monday, February 13, 2012 on Best of Mother Earth. Be sure to visit Karen's blog on Monday for books to add to your green reading list.