A “lifestyle of greater intentionality and simplicity has led to personal growth and fulfilment in my everyday actions,” writes Christine Liu in her book, Sustainable Home – Practical Projects, Tips and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-Friendly Household (White Lion Publishing, 160 pages).
The book leads the reader through their own living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, providing the rationale, generic advice, and specific projects that guide the author’s efforts at sustainable living. Liu invites the reader to join her on her rewarding yet “complex journey of continuous learning, investigation, and problem solving.”
In the first chapter on the living room. Liu introduces concepts appropriately applied to every part of the house and facts to support her own justification for seeking a sustainable lifestyle. She begins with a summary of minimalism and decluttering. Her mastery of the subject is evident as she takes six pages to convey the essence of a popular genre that has propelled the publication of thousands of pages and dozens of books in recent years. The impact of fossil fuels and energy use is also discussed in the living room. In this section, the author orders renewable energy options in terms of their non-climate environmental impacts.
While much of the book may not contain new information for the environmentally well-informed, there are interesting tidbits like this one: “a medium size fridge uses 322 kWh a year, and a mobile phone uses 361 kWh a year — due to background activities such as data streaming and sharing.” The living room chapter also includes sections on furniture choices and the use of indoor plants to improve the in-home environment. These sections bring the first two “Make Your Own” projects, a planter box and a terrarium which are both constructed from recycled materials.
In the remaining rooms, this hands-on aspect of the book becomes more prominent. In the kitchen, Liu extols the benefits of sustainably and locally produced, plant-based food for both the environment and the consumer. She also covers food waste, composting, and packaging waste. With seven more projects, this chapter marks a change in the tone of the book and the reader’s experience. The perspective on each subject starts a mile high with the “why” question, but considerably more time is spent down low focused on the “how.” It is also more personal, as represented in the recipes the author shares. She finds particular satisfaction in making her own black bean burgers, almond milk, oat milk, and sweet pickled vegetables. She ends the chapter with her self-proclaimed favorite recipe, one-pot lentil curry. “I love simple, convenient meals which can be cooked in a pot, appreciate how it saves energy, and sincerely enjoy a hot pot of curry on a cold day,” she writes.
In the bedroom, minimalism is again discussed, especially in the closet and as it pertains to the wardrobe. After establishing the downside of fast fashion, Liu dives into the creation of a capsule wardrobe, the virtues of natural fibers, less frequent laundering, cold water washing, and line drying. All are presented simply and concisely. A fun surprise is the clothing repair project where she freshens the dark color of some black jeans using dye made from water leftover from softening black beans, a nice tie-in to the homemade black bean burger recipe from the kitchen chapter. After sections on sleep and ecologically sensitive choices in bedding and mattresses, the chapter winds up with a recipe for homemade room spray.
That is an excellent transition to the bathroom chapter of the book where Liu shares recipes for producing personal care products like toothpaste, skin repair gel, skin cleansing scrub, body butter, lip balm, and hair rinse. After a side trip to the plastic-free benefits of safety razors, she plunges into water conservation and wraps up the chapter discussing the replacement of harsh chemical cleansers with inexpensive and readily available household products, such as vinegar and baking soda.
Environmental impacts at work, dining out, and getting around each get their own brief chapters. Finally, the author gives a one-page primer on personal environmental activism.
Lui has a background in packaging design and it shows throughout the book. Elegantly illustrated with a hard cover and high-quality paper, the book offers information in short, topical bursts, and it need not be read cover-to-cover to be fully enjoyed. This has the look and feel of a coffee table book meant to inspire conversation or pass the time. Sustainable Home is an excellent place for someone to begin their understanding of how everyday individual choices measurably impact the environment.