In celebration of Earth Day this month, below are a sampling of books that focus on different ways that you can contribute to a green planet right in your own home!  These books, along with countless others in the library, can help you make your home and your life more environmentally friendly.

The simple “green manual,” Easy Green Living is based on the author’s TV series dealing with green home and garden care issues.  The author provides basic tips to make healthy living affordable and not time consuming.  By not overwhelming the reader with too many suggestions, Loux breaks down and gives examples of small daily differences that you can make to be more environmentally friendly and peppers each chapter with a “5 Step List” of products that can be easily found in your home.

Super Natural Home by Beth Greer is a fantastic resource for the environmentally conscious family with its easy to use format with helpful quizzes that identify a home’s “toxic hot zones.”  Chapters include tips on healthy tap water, indoor air quality and safer alternatives to household cleaners.

Green Goes with Everything Transform your home into a “safe sanctuary” free of harsh chemicals with this book by author Sloan Barnett.  The author advises on the best ways to make healthy and safe choices for your family.  Topics featured in the book include healthy food preparation, cleaning solutions and safe water tips.

Green Housekeeping is an extensive resource by Ellen Sandbeck and includes chapters such as: clearing clutter and organizing your belongings in an environmentally sound way and learning to live without some toxins that could be found in homes, as a few examples.  Green Housekeeping contains numerous ancedotes that are authoritative and useful to help families save money and time – something we all can use!

greenchristmasYou can enjoy a colorful, festive holiday and still be eco-friendly. Check out I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty for lots of simple and creative ideas.

Getty touches on nearly every aspect of Christmas preparations – recipes, decorations, gifts – and also includes lots of general tips. There are the usual “green” recommendations with a focus on Christmas. For instance, buy local (purchase your tree from a local tree farm, and food and decorating materials from the Farmer’s Market), use what you have (create decorations from natural materials in your yard or common objects in your house) and recycle (make pillows out of worn out sweaters or ornaments out of tea bags) A lot of the suggestions have an old-fashioned charm – stringing popcorn for tree garlands, making wrapping paper out of newspaper – that have the added bonus of fun projects to share with children. Scattered throughout the book are lots of eco-tips which are useful at any time of the year. For instance, Getty has several recommendations for “green” shipping, claiming that UPS has the most environmentally friendly shipping policies and the largest alternative-fuel vehicle fleet.

Enjoy a greener and healthier holiday!

dreaming-greenInterested in making your home more “green” and eco-friendly? Afraid that that means that you’ll have to live in a cave or a tiny, windowless shack far from civilization? Then you need to turn to Dreaming Green by Lisa Sharkey and Paul Gleicher – you’ll be amazed at just how beautiful, modern and stylish being ecologically responsible can be!

The 15 featured houses range in location from urban to suburban to rural,  and are scattered throughout the country. While the house styles are mostly modern, they also include a cozy farmhouse, a traditional southern manor and a classic saltbox with a twist. While all of the houses are gorgeous, they are not merely for show – these are family homes that are loved and lived in.

While many of these homes are new-built, many are also renovations showing that being eco-friendly doesn’t require starting from scratch. Beautifully photographed, each house includes a list of “green features” that will inspire you on just how much can be done and there is an extensive list of resources at the back of the book to help you with your own quest for green. There is an emphasis on details – small changes can make a big difference – and going local both with labor and materials. All of the homes take advantage of location and make strong connections to the outside environment. All of it is beautifully done, with style and sophistication.

sewing-greenThe eco-movement has reached the crafts department – although sewers, quilters and crafters have always been experts at recycling. Sewing Green by Betz White will help you take this tradition even further with patterns, tips and fresh ideas for making the most of found materials.

Not sure what to do with those mis-matched but still lovely sheets and pillowcases? White suggests making lounge pants or a cute summer top. Turn a vintage tablecloth into a charming wrap skirt or placemats into a practical tote bag. Old cashmere sweaters get new life as a luxurious – but simple – patchwork throw. Even empty Mylar juice pouches can be stitched into an auto sunshade!

White gives lots of tips on what to look for at flea markets and thrift stores – what can be fixed and what to avoid. She also profiles several “eco-innovators”, people who have embraced the green movement with style, creating organic and eco-friendly materials and products for the public.

There’s a good dash of fun and whimsy in all of the projects – a draft dodger shaped like a log, a tote bag made out of Tyvek envelopes – but they’re also practical and made with basic skills anyone can master. It’s repurposing made fun!

cooking-greenWe’ve all become very aware of our environment, it’s perilous condition and how we impact it every day. Many of us have taken steps to reduce this “carbon footprint” by recycling, using less energy, cutting back where we can. But have you considered your “cookprint”?

In Cooking Green Kate Heyhoe explains that your cookprint is the environmental impact produced by your kitchen, then clearly advises you on how to reduce yours. A lot of her ideas are common sense – buying Energy Star appliances for instance – but some are techniques you may not be familiar with. For instance, she advocates passive cooking which takes advantage of residual heat – start your lasagna in a cold oven, then turn it off 15 minutes early leaving the oven door closed till finished. You’re still cooking the foods you want, just doing it smarter.

Heyhoe looks at each zone in the kitchen (cooking, cleaning, refrigerating) and discusses the best green alternatives. She also talks about the food itself – buy local as much as possible, consider the impact of production and transportation of other foods, eat more plants than animals. She explores the higher environmental costs of meat and seafood, but offers smart, simple ways to reduce their negative impact.

Of course, who would go green in the kitchen if there wasn’t anything good to eat? Heyhoe addresses that too, including 50 delicious recipes, from main course to vegetables to desert, with tips and ideas on the best way to prepare them. Each recipe has a “green meter” which tells you exactly what you’re saving (in energy, time and money) The dishes are simple and practical and would be a great way to help you take advantage of seasonal foods from the farmer’s markets.

This fun and fascinating book will entertain and educate the cook and non-cook alike.

April 22 is Earth Day!  This holiday has been celebrated in America since 1970, but due to the timeliness of this topic, there’s a vast array of newer materials on all things having to do with “green” and the environment.   Check out some of these titles:

from-bottom-upFrom the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers by Chad Pregracke with Jeff Barrow.  Talk about a home-town hero! Chad started his river clean-up project right here on the Mississippi in the Quad Cities.  His Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization, has received tons of corporate sponsorship and has now expanded its efforts to clean up other rivers.

green-bookThe Green Book: the Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet by Elizabeth  Rogers and Thomas Kostigen.  This compact little book is clearly organized, which makes it easy to quickly check the areas you most interested in — be it home, work , school or travel.  Another appealing addition (interspersed between chapters) is the series of quotes from celebrities, such as Robert Redford and Martha Stewart.

hot-flatHot,  Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman.  This book by a Pulizter Prize winning author has received rave reviews and has been a number-one bestseller.  Basically, the sub-title sums it up: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America.

October is a great time to get your house ready for winter. You know the drill — have your furnace checked, caulk up those drafty holes, clear out those gutters. But with heating bills sure to rise, it may also be time for an energy audit. In the Quad Cities, Mid-America supplies both gas and electric energy to most homes, but they also offer this service, called EnergyAdvantage Home Check. You do need to make an appointment, but they will come to your home and offer energy-saving suggestions. At my house, the person doing the energy audit not only gave us new lightbulbs and low-flow showerheads, he actually took the time to install them! I don’t know if this is standard service or not, but I was very impressed with this service.

In the meantime, if your looking for other ideas on how to save energy around your house, check out these new titles at the library:

Greening Your Home: Sustainable Options for Every System in Your House by Clayton Bennett. This slim paperback is loaded with ideas for changing your lifestyle, as well as for using new technology (such as low-flow faucets) to save time, energy and money.

50 Simple Steps to Save the Earth from Global Warming is another easy-read paperback with very practical tips. For example, Step #8 – Unplug your chargers. Did you know that 95% of the energy used by mobile phone chargers is wasted? I didn’t.

Energy Crossroads: a Burning Need to Change Course. This is a new DVD that, according to the cover jacket, “comprehensively covers the key aspects of the energy/environment/economy dilemma.”