Rebecca Lexa, July 4, 2009 (view all comments by Rebecca Lexa)
Many resources on sustainability and permaculture focus on rural settings--buying a piece of open land, maybe an old farm, and restore it to a green paradise. This is a good goal to have, but not realistic for everyone. There's simply not enough room for everyone to have several acres--not unless we want to further crowd out wildlife and destroy more virgin wilderness. Like it or not, cities are a reality we have to live with, and so their greening is crucial to continued sustainability.
"Toolbox for Sustainable City Living" is a great starting point for this awareness and the action that springs forth from it. Based on the activities of the Rhizome Collective, who have created their own sustainability training center in Austin, TX, the text is a great resource for the urban dweller who wants to maintain their own small patch of city territory in as eco-friendly a manner as possible. It's divided into five areas of concern: Food, Water, Waste, Energy, and Bioremediation.
I say this is a great book for beginners, because it includes projects at all stages of sustainable development. They're not organized according to difficulty, but it's pretty apparent to this newbie that some of the projects are a bit out of my reach at this point. However, the variety is a strong point of the book, because it allows the beginner to have some low-hanging fruit--and then continue up the tree as resources and skills are available. I may not be ready to create my own greywater system, but I can certainly start up a vermicomposting bin. Additionally, if you're a renter and can only do so much with the property you're renting, there are still numerous options available to you right now, as well as things you can plan for in the future if you decide to buy your own home.
Be aware that because there are so many projects covered in this book, there are usually only a few pages at most dedicated to each, and the instructions may be bare-bones. This is a great book for brainstorming, but be prepared to supplement the information in it with other books, websites, classes and other resources. This makes it a very good book if you're looking for new ways to green your home, but don't let it be your only resource.
Overall, this book is exactly what I need right now. While I've been increasing the level of sustainability in my home for a few years, I'm still a relative novice, and the information gave me some great ideas as to what I can do beyond recycling, gardening, and cooking from scratch. I'll be hanging onto it for quite some time.
joe_tennis, December 22, 2008 (view all comments by joe_tennis)
If you've already changed your lightbulbs and realized that you haven't actually single-handedly stopped climate change as promised, then this book might be for you. This is like "101 Steps to Save the Environment," intermediate level. The ideas inside are for substantial projects that will make significant and tangible impacts on your local community, as well as furthering the less tangible global goals of those CFL lightbulbs. Specifically, Toolbox gives you resources to imp...more If you've already changed your lightbulbs and realized that you haven't actually single-handedly stopped climate change as promised, then this book might be for you. This is like "101 Steps to Save the Environment," intermediate level. The ideas inside are for substantial projects that will make significant and tangible impacts on your local community, as well as furthering the less tangible global goals of those CFL lightbulbs. Specifically, Toolbox gives you resources to improve your household and community food & water security, waste management, electricity & water consumption, and the toxicity levels of the land on which one lives. None of these projects seem really easy, though the ecology, resources, and mechanics involved are all simple. They are all doable, but you have to make a pretty big commitment to take them on and see them through.
Toolbox sometimes reads like a giant suggestion list, and less like an instruction manual for how to implement them. The authors highlight tons of projects, kind of giving you just enough depth to understand the basic properties of the project so you can either engineer your own version or else check out another book that's focused on the topic at hand. Even so, I think this book is definitely useful, if just to jive your imagination about the ways simple principles can be applied creatively to replace energy and resource intensive industrial systems.
The Rhizome Collective, who authored the book, base a lot of their work on permaculture. This is not a typical permaculture book though, and says very little about gardening. Instead, it tries to present ideas not already covered elsewhere. The best parts all focus on cleaning and recycling wastes. I got really excited about the small-scale constructed wetlands theme running throughout. Wetlands in 55-gallon barrels and plugged up bathtubs in which to grow fish, plants, and algae for eating; to store rainwater; to purify greywater. Also really cool was the giant section on bioremediation: using plants, wetlands, compost, and fungi to detox land of pollutants like diesel and heavy metals. This is so essential to urban food security and health but so little talked about!! Composting with worms and humanure, making simple biodigesters to turn food scraps into gas for your cook stove, creating plant-filled islands out of trash to clean water... there's some cool stuff in here.
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Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide (Do-It-Ourselves Guides)
Used Trade Paper
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South End Press -
In 2000 the dynamic Rhizome Collective transformed an abandoned warehouse in Austin, Texas, into a sustainability training center. The group's first book provides city dwellers with step-by-step instructions for producing food, collecting water, managing waste, reclaiming land, and generating energy.
A radical how-to for creating locally based, ecologically sustainable cities.
The tools you need tocreate self-sufficient, ecologically sustainable cities
“A surprisingly effective model for connecting people with dreams to the resources they need.” —Austin Chronicle
With more than half the world’s population now residing—and struggling to survive—in cities, we can no longer afford to think of sustainability as something that applies only to forests and fields. We need sustainable living right where so many of us are: in urban neighborhoods. But how do we do it?
That’s where Toolbox for Sustainable City Living comes in. In 2000 the dynamic Rhizome Collective transformed an abandoned warehouse in Austin, Texas, into a sustainability training center. Here, with their first book, Scott and Stacy, two of Rhizome’s founders, provide city dwellers—those who have never foraged or gardened along with those who dumpster-dive and belong to CSAs—with step-by- step instructions for producing our own food, collecting water, managing waste, reclaiming land, and generating energy.
With vibrant illustrations created by Juan Martinez of the Beehive Collective and descriptive text based on years of experimentation, Stacy and Scott explain how to build and grow with cheap, salvaged, and recycled materials. More than a how-to manual, Toolbox is packed with accessible and relevant tools to help move our communities from envisioning a sustainable future toward living it.
Scott Kellogg a Stacy Pettigrew are co-founders of the Rhizome Collective, an educational and activist organization based in Austin, Texas, that recently received a $200,000 grant from the EPA to clean up a 10-acre brownfield that they are transforming into an ecological justice park. Toolbox developed out of R.U.S.T.—Radical Urban Sustainability Training—their intensive weekend seminar in urban ecological survival skills.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.