Wild Swimming Eco Book Review

You might think it’s a bit chilly in the UK to go swimming outdoors, especially in the ‘wild’, but as the introduction to Wild Swimming by Daniel Start says, it’s actually good for you. Swimming in cold water leads to ‘cold adaptation’, which: “brings down blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces fat disposition” and has a lot of other benefits.

So now you know it’s good for you then this book aims to help you find the best places in the UK to go for an outdoors swim. Sent to me by Natural Collection, its subtitle is “150 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain” and that’s exactly what the book does. Split up into sections of the UK, the author describes a personal trip to many of the places in a particular area and then picks out a few more swims nearby. If there’s one criticism it’s that some of the areas are quite large, central and east covers everywhere from Suffolk to Yorkshire and Merseyside. But that’s really because some places are better than others and have more hidden gems so the author can’t really be blamed for that.

Wild Swimming

The descriptions of each place benefit greatly from the author’s personal experience of visiting them, including a bit of history about the area and hints and tips about where exactly to go or park and who to speak to around the area.

What’s also impressive is the number of beautiful photographs. Some of the pictures are truly stunning and others are enhanced by having people enjoying the lakes or rivers, giving you a real sense of what to expect.

It’s essentially a reference book but done in a way suitable for the coffee table. You could easily spend an hour just casually flicking through it. Using it as intended to find a place to swim is also easy. Ordnance Survey references of two letters and six numbers are given for each location and also a postcode. Both can be used online to plan your trip and with the postcode the book also gives extra detail, like 400m north of the postcode, to help you get the right place.

I was pleasantly surprised reading this book as it wasn’t really a subject that interested me but it is now and I want to get out there and explore. The author’s done his job well.

Wild Swimming is available from Natural Collection for £13.95.


Eco Barons By Edward Humes – Eco Book Review

Edward Humes, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Monkey Girl has now written Eco Barons – The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet.

“A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or evil? Have I done well – or ill?”

So opens the book with that quote from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, followed by a fascinating introduction that talks about Esprit and The North Face founder Doug Tompkins buying a volcano (amongst lots of land) in Chile, and becoming. perhaps, one of the most influential eco barons of our time.

The book discusses the “secret plan” to save the earth, where the rich, celebrities and philanthropists are taking on the government to protect the environment, encourage green technologies and reduce pollution.

Eco Barons by Edward Humes

I’m enjoying the book so much I’m actually writing this before I’ve finished reading it, but there’s not much to go. Some other interesting discussions include:

  • How a Malibu pool cleaner did more to fight global warming than anyone on the planet.
  • How George Bush’s last-minute “midnight mischief” orders are doing even more damage.
  • What critical environmental policy shifts the US can expect to see under Obama, and what counteracting eight years of environmental disaster and neglect will require.
  • Ten vital steps every American can take to slow global warming – and save money.

There’s also an interesting chapter on the inventor of the plug-in hybrid, Andy Frank, and how he turns gas-guzzlers into 150-mile-a-gallon wonders using college students and off the shelf parts to build them. It makes poignant reading in light of the US auto-industry bailout.

There’s a quick resources section at the back, but there are better books for that, this is about the story of individuals changing the world. In a good way :). I read a lot of green books and honestly, this was a refreshing change, a glimpse of hope and the bright future that we can be part of, even without the money of the Eco Barons.

Due to be published March 3rd 2009, Eco Barons is available for $17.15 from Amazon. Also check out the Eco Barons blog here, and on Twitter.

Surviving And Thriving On The Land Eco Book Review

Surviving And Thriving On The Land – How to use your time and energy to run a successful smallholding is written by Rebecca Laughton and published by Green Books on recycled paper, using vegetable inks. And the subject matter is as green as the book itself.

The author spent four years on an ‘ecological community’ called Tinker’s Bubble in Somerset, UK and before writing the book she visited other land-based projects in the UK and France. And it really shows. Just by flicking through the book you get a sense of the huge wealth of information and advice on the subject.

Surviving book

And while this encyclopaedic-type approach is the book’s greatest strength, it’s also its weakness. This book isn’t really suitable for the casual reader, while fascinating in parts, it’s more of a ‘how-to’ book and something you would refer to if you were planning on setting up a smallholding and starting to live off the land yourself. So if you approach it like that then I don’t think you’ll find anything with more information on the subject.

You might find a bit of a lighter and easier read as this is written a little like a university essay or thesis, starting with some historical background, theory and explanation of motivation, using human energy to produce goods and so on. As I said, it’s interesting stuff and doesn’t shy away from the fact it’ll be hard work to make a success out of your enterprise.

As Rebecca Laughton has experienced the process herself and visited many other places, the examples she writes about are real – both the successes and failures. This is invaluable to anyone wanting to set up their own enterprise. And it really does go into detail – from planning the farm, building a stove, selling goods, planning, employing people and generally making a success of your smallholding. At more than 300 pages I really don’t think it leaves any subject uncovered.

While text heavy and a bit of a daunting read, there are small pencil drawings and diagrams littered throughout, as well as eight pages of colour photographs in the centre which are quite inspiring. In fact the book very inspiring and if you have the time and the inclination then it’s well worth a read.

Surviving And Thriving On The Land – How to use your time and energy to run a successful smallholding is available from Green Books for £12.95.

Green Goes With Everything By Sloan Barnett – Green Book Review

Green Goes With Everything by Sloan Barnett – Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet is another great green household book if you don’t have one already.

Green Goes With Everything Book

Sloan is the Green Editor for KNTV in San Francisco, and wife of the CEO of Shaklee (prepare for lost of endorsements!), and the book is very interesting, from when her son was diagnosed with chemically induced asthma and what steps she took to remove the toxins from her home.

The book is well researched, and has a great comprehensive directory in the back that I will be using to help stock up and decorate my new house. It is a little wordy, sometimes just wishing she would get to the point, and when she does, not hammer it home quite so much. It’s similar to many other green lifestyle/household books I’ve read, but if you don’t have one and are looking for one single book to use as a resource for greening your household then this is excellent. Each chapter (such as Clean Body, Clean Baby, Clean Food) has Five Green-Hot Tips at the end that makes dipping in and out easy. Also ideas to make going green cheaper and save money are also useful.

You can watch a 6 minute video about Green Goes With Everything below, where Sloan explains the principles behind her book and what made her to discover what she discovered. It’s actually a pretty good short video that will explain what the book is about and quick tips for you to get started.

Overall it’s useful, I would imagine eye-opening to the average consumer, has great short tips and a very useful resources section. It costs around $13.57 in hardback from Amazon, or $9.59 for the Kindle version.

ACME Climate Action Book Review

I’ve briefly written about the ACME Climate Action book before and have included the video again at the end of this post. The book is available to buy from today (1 September 2008) and costs £15. As there’s the video and the website to explain what the book is about, I thought I’d write down my thoughts in bullet points for a change. Here we go:

  • Written by a guy called Joshua Blackburn and designed by his strategic communications agency, Provokateur, the book is a little different from the ordinary. Designed to be ripped up, pulled apart and given to friends it makes a big change in not only book design but also the way of getting an environmental message across.
  • It really is a change to read a book like this. The inside cover not only welcomes you to the book but encourages you to rip off the front and back covers, get the scissors out and make the covers into a photo frame. This book is going to be something different…
ACME Climate Action
  • The next page is actually about eight pages put together in a little booklet for you to rip out. Brilliantly designed, retro and modern at the same time, it’s easy to see it as a gimmick. But if you actually read this booklet you’ll realise while it’s still lighthearted, there’s a serious message and there are serious points it’s trying to get across.
  • Then the next pages are made up of stickers, games, postcards, things to go in your wallet, posters and much more. It’s hard to review this as a normal book, it’s not. It’s a call to action. You can’t really read it without doing something. It draws you in and gets you involved, even if it is only to put a sticker on the kettle to remind the missus not to overfill it.
  • I find myself showing friends the book when they come round and give them a part of it to take home with them. It’s almost a shame to rip it apart as I like the book so much, but it’s actually quite fun once you start.
  • Getting everyone involved is part of the theory behind this book and it works wonderfully. I really am in love with this book, it makes some great points along the way too. Grab a copy online at places like Amazon and Play, or it will be available in most bookshops in the UK after today.

Eco Baby Book Review

Eco Baby, A Guide to Green Parenting by Sally Jane Hall, is the latest book from Green Books. A simple title but a massive subject, but at 224 pages it’s small enough to be manageable and is also broken into sections which means dipping in and out is easy.

I’m not pregnant and neither is my girlfriend so I passed it on a friend who’s due in July, but more on her opinion later. From non-childbearing point of view I had a look through the book and was amazed by the huge range of subjects covered in the book (and you need to know when having a baby).

What is good about this book is that it doesn’t just tell you what green things there are for parents, but rather how to be a parent in a green way. So it will go through things like what equipment is needed for nappy changing – information for any parent, green or not – and then how these steps can be done in an environmentally-conscious way.

Eco Baby

Practical tips like tax credits for saving accounts are interspersed with how to be green when buying presents for other people having babies. And also Sally will give reasons behind things – why going organic is better for babies and why some paints in the nursery are better than others. I like the fact she explains the reason rather than just telling you how to be greener.

There are also comparison charts which don’t shy away if being green is more expensive and then at the back of the book there’s a list of resources for further information and places to buy the suggested items from.

But that’s my view. Over to Lorraine for a parent-to-be’s view…

What do you think the aim of the book is?
It’s to provide parents (first time parents as well as experienced parents) with tips on how to be more environmentally friendly when bringing up their baby. Tips range from eco friendly paint in the nursery to enviro friendly household cleaning products/cosmetics.

What was the best bit?
I found the information about different types of nappies very useful. When shown the average cost of using re-usables against disposables it is quite an eye opener. I will be looking into using re-usuables and information has been provided in the book about which companies sell them.

Was the information presented in a clear way?
Yes the way the book set out all the information was very clear. There were a few things which were common sense, ie. if you want to be more environmentally-friendly then recycle and use some second hand items rather than buying everying brand new – such as cots or prams (but not car seats or mattresses).

Did it seem preachy or trying hard to convert you?
Not at all. The book sets out to give you the information about environmentally friendly alternatives, however, it also understands that as a new parent things are going to be difficult and not to set yourself impossible goals – just do what you can.

Was it a balanced, sensible approach or did you fine suggestions just not practical?
The suggestion for finding nursery furniture which was FSC was quite difficult. As well as trying to be enviro-friendly a lot of first time parents have tight budgets, not all the recommendations could be carried out on a low budget.

Forgetting about the ‘eco’ part, how was the book as a guide to parenting?
As a guide to parenting I think the book should also be used along side a book such as What to Expect When you are Expecting or What to Expect the First Year books.

At almost £10 would it be worth buying? Would you recommend to others and indeed pass the book on when you’ve finished?
I think the price is reasonable, I would recommend it to others, however, not for a while as I’d like to keep hold if it myself for a little while longer so I can refer back to some of the tips!

Eco Baby, A Guide to Green Parenting costa £9.99 and is available from Green Books.

The Ethics Of Climate Change Eco Book Review

The Ethics Of Climate Change (right and wrong in a warming world) by James Garvey argues that climate change is actually a moral problem, one that can be informed by economics, politics, science and society, but what we do is actually down to us.

The Ethics Of Climate Change

It’s a very interesting read, though a little heavy-weight for those not 100% interested in the topic. Serious, but never patronizing, Garvey presents his views in a series of nicely structured chapters and sub-chapters. Discussing the science and the facts and then moving quickly onto moral beliefs and ethics, the book is a detailed examination of what the options available to us are, who’s responsible, and ways of thinking about them. A lot of it I had never really thought about much before and it’s enlightening that a “green” book can provide something new and thought provoking.

I liked the author’s style, and the way the book was structured and presented. One of the reviewers on Amazon summed it up for me when I was looking for some final thoughts: “Witty without being frivolous, explanatory but never condescending, it is engaging and challenging in equal measure.”

Here you can read a good interview with the author, James Garvey (Secretary of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and you can buy the book from Amazon.