“A book review?!” I hear you ask. “Isn’t that just a thinly veiled excuse for Amazon Affiliate links to try and make a quick buck?”. The answer of course is no. It’s not veiled at all. With your cynical questioning out of the way, on to the review…
It’s Not Easy Being Green: One Family’s Journey Towards Eco-Friendly Living
BBC Books (13 April 2006)
This has been an interesting read for the past couple of weeks. I’m a fan of Dick Strawbridge’s past work including Scrapheap Challenge and various programmes about inventions. You really can’t go wrong with that combination of facial hair and welding for a start. The book is a spin off from the BBC TV series of the same name which I managed to mostly miss but did really enjoy when I caught it.
The basic premise is that Dick and the Strawbridge family sell up and move to a run down house in Cornwall to do it up, greenify it as best they can and then live as eco-friendly a life as possible. This book documents their journey but isn’t a howto guide. It’s aspirational rather than an instruction manual. I have to say I liked the balance of this book, the mix of story and technical details was very easy to read and gave what could be stale technical details some life. To be honest though, as a geek I got more out of the technical details and wish the diagrams were just a bit more technical and a bit less cartoony so I could figure out how some of it worked (I just couldn’t figure out the imploded glass greenhouse floor but it might have been getting late when I read that bit).
The Strawbridges managed to cover most aspects of self sufficency: making electricity; growing food; making fuel for cars and more. As a geek the bit that interested me the most was electricity generation. This is something I really want to do in the future (even though leaving PCs running 24 hours a day isn’t the best to run from a solar panel…). I’d like to do it now but I don’t have anywhere to put solar panels and battery banks.
Building a waterwheel and viaduct in the garden seems like an excellent idea to me but might not go down so well with the neighbours. Also, the lack of stream here would make it a bit pointless. Still, it would be nice to look at. It was interesting to see just how much you can actually get “for free” from nature if you’re in the right place.
On the whole the book is a light and fun read (with a few good chuckles), there is a grisly bit though in the food section to do with rearing pigs for food. This really isn’t a section for vegetarians. I struggled to read a few parts of it being the crap meat eater that I am (sometimes it’s best not to know where your food actually comes from). Still, that’s only a small part of the section and the rest is interesting to read.
The best part to this book is the thinking it forces you to do, going through the book you can’t help but score yourself on how much you recycle (8/10), how much electricity you use (6/10) and how much crap you buy (5/10). We’re not yet entirely self sufficent in tomatos just yet, although the bedroom window plants have so far produced one tomato (we count that as a glorious success) and at the latest count we have 14 “in progress”. I think we’re on to a winner here!
Of course, you should really just read the book yourself rather than listen to me waffle about it. Which you can do from Amazon. Or (and Dick would be proud of this), you can do what I did and walk to my library and take the book out on Sarah’s card. I should get my own really, or at least contribute to the fines…