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12 readings for summer home and garden projects » Yale Climate Connections

The arrival of summer can trigger two very different impulses. It can spark the desire to complete a major project – or work through a long list of minor projects – at home. Or, the rising temperatures and lengthening days can prompt thoughts of vacations – dreams of doing little someplace else. 

For June, Yale Climate Connections provides lists for both summer reading offerings. The first list, presented below, offers ideas and strategies for summer projects related to climate change. The second list, which will be posted next week, will cover the sorts of books (novels, memoirs, creative non-fiction) that one might read on a plane or train, by a pool or on a beach, or while sipping espresso or an aperitif at the street-side table of an elegant café. 

The to-do books

The 12 books (actually eleven books and one report) listed below fall into four groups. 

The first consists of general overviews, titles that offer tips for reducing climate impacts across every aspect of one’s life. 

Those thinking about clearing out closets or upgrading their wardrobe this summer should look carefully at the second group: three books and one report on the climate impacts of clothing and fashion. 

The kitchen is the focus of the third group, although these titles about reducing the amount one throws away each week apply to every room in the house – as well as the garage, the car, and one’s office at work. 

The fourth group of titles covers garden and landscaping projects. Two describe how to turn both vegetable and flower gardens into labor saving, carbon storage systems. The final book, a children’s picture book, models how parents can create backyard expeditions to observe the creatures that can be drawn by nature-friendly gardens and landscaping. 

Several titles in this list also include a caveat that deserves stress here: Reducing one’s carbon footprint does not eliminate the need for political activism. Add “join a climate rally” and “call congressional representative and senator” to your list of things to do this summer.

As always, the descriptions of the titles are drawn from copy provided by publishers.  

Things You Can Do: How to Fight Climate Change and Reduce Waste, by Eduardo Garcia and Sara Boccaccini Meadows (Illustrator) (Ten Speed Press 2022, 176 pages, $19.99 paperback)

Award-winning climate journalist Eduardo Garcia offers a deeply researched and user-friendly guide to the things we can do every day to fight climate change. Based on his popular New York Times column “One Thing You Can Do,” this fully illustrated book offers practical solutions. There are no lectures in Things You Can Do – just accessible and inspiring ideas to slash emissions and waste in our daily lives, with over 350 explanatory illustrations by talented painter Sara Boccaccini Meadows. In each chapter, Garcia digs into an issue, explains how everyday choices lead to carbon emissions, and then delivers a wealth of “Things You Can Do.” Things You Can Do is the book for people who want to know more – and do more – to save the planet.

Change for Good: An Action-Oriented Approach for Businesses to Benefit from Solving the World’s Most Urgent Social Problems, by Paul Klein (ECW Press 2022, 272 pages, $29.95) 

In Change for Good, Paul Klein shows how companies can help solve the social problems defined by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Change for Good includes people with lived experience of social problems in identifying promising solutions and collaborating to bring these solutions to life. This methodology can create impactful and sustainable social change in society in ways that aren’t possible when executives make decisions in their boardrooms that are intended to impact the lives of vulnerable people. Through case studies and practical tools, Change for Good will inspire readers and their organizations to shift from passive social responsibility to taking action to help solve the world’s most pressing social problems.

Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Climate Change, Colonialism, and Consumerism, by Aja Barber (Hachette/Balance 2021, 304 pages, $17.99 paperback) 

In Consumed, writer and consultant Aja Barber calls for change within an industry that regularly overreaches with abandon, creating real imbalances in the environment and the lives of those who do the work – often in unsafe conditions for very low pay – and the billionaires who receive the most profit. Barber exposes the endemic injustices in our consumer industries. Once the layers are peeled back, Barber invites readers to participate in unlearning, to confront the uncomfortable feeling that we are never quite enough and to ask why we fill that void with consumption rather than compassion. But the less we buy into consumer culture, the more power we have. Consumed will teach readers how to be citizen and not just consumers.

Worn: A People’s History of Clothing, by Sofi Thanhauser (Pantheon 2022, 400 pages, $30.00)

In this panoramic social history, Sofi Thanhauser brilliantly tells five stories – Linen, Cotton, Silk, Synthetics, Wool – about the clothes we wear and where they come from. Thanhauser makes clear how the clothing industry has become one of the planet’s worst polluters and how it relies on chronically underpaid and exploited laborers. But she also shows us how micro-communities, textile companies, and clothing makers in every corner of the world are rediscovering ancestral and ethical methods for making what we wear. Drawn from years of intensive research and reporting from around the world, Worn reveals that our clothing comes not just from the countries listed on the tags; it comes, as well, from deep in our histories.

License to Greenwash: How Certification Systems and Voluntary Initiatives Are Fueling Fossil Fashion, by Research Staff (Changing Markets Foundation 2022, 110 pages, free download available here

This report provides an in-depth investigation into 10 major certifications, labels and voluntary industry initiatives in the fashion sector. It finds that the majority of these schemes are acting as sustainability decoys for brands, enabling greenwashing on a massive scale. No scheme was found to be fit for purpose; some even rate fossil-fuel derived fibres as the more sustainable choice and are silent on critical issues such as overproduction and microfibres. Moreover, as fashion’s toll on the environment has worsened, these certification schemes have become part of the problem, giving the illusion of sustainability in the sector. Brands are also freely using their membership of such initiatives to greenwash and even escape government scrutiny.

How to Break Up with Fast Fashion: A Guilt-Free Guide to Changing the Way You Shop—for Good, by Lauren Bravo (Headline Books 2022, 304 pages, $15.99 paperback) 

Fast fashion is the ultimate toxic relationship. It’s bad news for the planet, our brains and our bank balances. We can’t go on like this; our shopping habits need an overhaul. Journalist Lauren Bravo loves clothes more than anything, but she’s called time on her affair with fast fashion in search of a slower, saner way of dressing. In this book, she’ll help you do the same. How To Break Up With Fast Fashion will help you to change your mindset, fall back in love with your wardrobe and embrace more sustainable ways of shopping – from the clothes swap to the charity shop. Full of refreshing honesty and realistic advice, Lauren will inspire you to repair, recycle and give your unloved items a new lease of life without sacrificing your style.

The Climate Diet: 50 Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint, by Paul Greenberg (Penguin Books 2021, 176 pages, $13.00)

We all understand just how dire the circumstances facing our planet are and that we all need to do our part to stem the tide of climate change. But the task of cutting down our carbon emissions feels overwhelming. With The Climate Diet, award-winning food and environmental writer Paul Greenberg offers us the practical, accessible guide we all need. It contains fifty achievable steps we can take to live our daily lives in a way that’s friendlier to the planet–from what we eat, how we live at home, how we travel, and how we lobby businesses and elected officials to do the right thing. Chock-full of simple yet revelatory guidance, The Climate Diet empowers us to cast aside feelings of helplessness and start making positive changes for the good of our planet.

Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics, by Jennie Romer (Penguin Books 2021, 272 pages, $22.00) 

Since the dawn of the recycling system, men and women the world over have stood by their bins, holding an everyday object, wondering, “can I recycle this?” This simple question reaches into our concern for the environment, the care we take to keep our homes and our communities clean, and how we interact with our local government. Recycling rules seem to differ in every municipality, leaving the average American scratching her head. Taking readers on a quick but informative tour of how recycling actually works, Can I Recycle This gives straightforward answers to whether dozens of common household objects can or cannot be recycled, as well as the information you need to make that decision for anything else you encounter. 

How to Go (Almost) Zero Waste: Over 150 Steps to More Sustainable Living at Home, Work, School, and Beyond, by Rebecca Grace Andrews (Rockridge Press 2022, 172 pages, $13.99 paperback)

A zero-waste lifestyle can have a profound impact on our environment and the health of your home. How to Go (Almost) Zero Waste is here to make sustainable living easier, with more than 150 different ways you can make more sustainable choices at home, school, work, and beyond. Learn how to reduce your footprint at your own pace with simple steps like carrying reusable shopping bags, more intermediate steps like mending your own clothes, and major steps like creating a garden-to-cafeteria program at your local schools. How to Go (Almost) Zero Waste offers changes big and small and stresses progress not perfection. This book will help you take the incremental steps to sustainable living, based on your budget and lifestyle.

Grow Now: Go Beyond Organic, Rewild Your Land, Sequester Carbon, and Support Biodiversity, by Emily Murphy (Timber Press 2022, 248 pages, $27.95 paperback)

Did you know you can have a garden that’s equal parts food source and wildlife haven? In Grow Now, Emily Murphy shares easy-to-follow principles for regenerative gardening that foster biodiversity and improve soil health. She also shows how every single yard mirrors and connects to the greater ecosystem around us. You’ll find detailed advice on increasing your nature quotient, choosing plants that cycle more carbon back into the soil, selecting a broader variety of vegetables and fruits to improve overall soil fertility, rethinking space devoted to lawns, and adding companion plants for pollinators to rewild any plot of land. Grow Now is a joyful roadmap for growing our way to individual climate contributions. Gardening is climate activism!

The Regenerative Garden: 80 Practical Projects for Creating a Self-Sustaining Garden Ecosystem, by Stephanie Rose (Cool Springs Press 2022, 176 pages, $24.99 paperback)

Whatever the size of your space, from a tiny patio garden to a big backyard, The Regenerative Garden is here to help you become a better, more eco-conscious gardener. Through 80 DIY projects, author Stephanie Rose of the popular website Garden Therapy introduces you to basic backyard permaculture concepts in an easy-to-follow way. Each of the six chapters covers a critical element of gardening, including soil, water, plants, climate, ethics, and community. As you check off projects on Regenerative Garden’s DIY list, you’ll find you’ve reduced your long-term work load, conserved water and other resources, turned your yard into a habitat for wildlife, and learned to grow perennial foods in creative ways.

Expedition Backyard: Exploring Nature from Country to City, by Rosemary Busco and Binglin Hu (Random House 2022, 128 pages, $12.99) 

Each day, Mole and Vole venture out into the world – never forgetting their nature journal! – to see what they can find in their own backyard. From pigeons and jumping spiders to swamp milkweed and maple trees, these two explorers get to know every part of their local environment. But after an accidental move from the country to the city, Mole and Vole worry that everything will be different. As they explore, they discover plants to look at and animals to meet in their new home as well.The story of these two best friends brings to life a nonfiction adventure of finding wonder in nature everywhere – no matter where you live. This book concludes with fun activities for kids to do at home.   

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