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September 01, 2008

Covering the bases: New, green books to read

Enter a new chapter in your life with these green reads

Heather Miller

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North Americans wanting to make a mark in the energy efficiency revolution will welcome step-by-step instructions in a new book by Alberta’s own Godo Stoyke.

The Carbon Busters: Home Energy Handbook 

By Godo Stoyke (New Society Publishers, 2007, $14.95) 

Carbon Busters: Home Energy Handbook is a 171-page volume chock full of quick facts, stats and tips every resident, business, or institution can put into practice. The savings from advice unfolded in the tome can translate to cheaper utility fees, but more importantly, will encourage environmentally-sound practices to fight global warming and climate change. 

Twelve chapters address everything from green transportation, heating and cooling to water and power consumption. Readers will be introduced to dangers lurking around them every day—“power vampires” sucking energy 24/7 including DVD players, computers, and printers. Also reviewed in its pages are the best energy-efficient refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and freezers. Who knew there’s even energy-efficient cookware! And of course, a section is dedicated to the huge carbon footprint left behind by the vehicles we drive. (Stoyke does, however, laud builders for high-energy furnaces, water heaters, windows and other eco-friendly features included in new homes.)

Quick tips throughout are sure to inspire. For example, the energy savings from using the “sleep” mode on a computer and turning it off when not in use can pay for the next computer system a user will buy—in full! 

Stoyke, who holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Alberta, heads Carbon Busters, an energy-efficiency consultancy. He figures savings to clients worldwide at 121 million pounds-plus of CO2 and $16 million in utility bills.

The Carbon Busters: Home Energy Handbook is worth picking up. It’s available at bookstores and online at

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada

By Adria Vasil (Random House, 2007, $24.95)

Review by L. Sara Bysterveld

With the media frenzy surrounding all things green these days, it can be overwhelming, to say the least, to try to figure out what is true and what is just “green-washing.” Many of us become so confused by all the conflicting advice that we just give up and go on with life as usual. 

In Ecoholic, Adria Vasil (author of the same-name NOW magazine column since 2004) has done an admirable job of cutting through the confusion and giving us clear answers on what actions we can take that will benefit ourselves and our planet, and which information has been spun into something misleading.

Anything you could buy or do is covered, from home improvement, children’s needs, clothing and personal care to sports, travel, transportation and investments, and of course, food. Even medications are included. Vasil comes at it from a variety of viewpoints, including impact on the planet, personal health and animal rights.

As could be expected, many of the solutions to the problems presented are expensive (bamboo clothing, VOC-free paints and organic foods, for example), but Vasil very deliberately includes options at all points that are often more affordable than conventional options.

Readers will appreciate Vasil’s straight-forward approach—it is clear that it is not her goal to mislead her audience or convince us of anything without sufficient support for her argument. Ecoholic is arguably an indispensable addition to any bookshelf.

Living Like Ed, a Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life

By Ed Begley, Jr. 

(Clarkson/Potter Publishers, 2008, $21)

Review by Anne Morris

It’s exactly the kind of book you want to recycle, hand over to a friend so at least one other person benefits from its wholesome goodness. And although Ed Begley, Jr. would no doubt relish the royalties accrued from everyone buying an individual copy of his Living Like Ed, a Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life, he would probably be pleased with the philosophy behind people passing his book on.

Begley, an avid environmentalist and actor, makes it seem so easy. Covering the gamut from investing in an ugly rain barrel to opting for organic toxin-free beauty products and promoting the merit of shorter showers, this book is an easy read offering simple advice on how to, well, live like Ed. And clearly, he practices what he preaches. 

His white picket fence around his home, for instance, is made of recycled plastic milk cartons and his so-called transportation hierarchy puts walking atop the list.

Packed with information, but also presented so tips can be grasped at a glance or in bite-sized reading sessions, Living Like Ed is an amusing, enlightening paperback made on 100 per cent recycled paper. Countering his serious, albeit pragmatic, approach are commentaries from his long-suffering but converted wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, which she offers throughout the 235-page read.

There’s also a workbook at the back for readers to chart out their personal plans and document cost savings in their bid to go green wherever they are. Be it in a condo or a house, readers are armed with some smart advice to start (or continue) living with a conscience, and make positive changes to their lives and 

world without—as Ed’s other half would say—compromising on aesthetics or comfort.


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