Book Review: True Green Home by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin

Living a low-impact, eco-friendly life often boils down to simplicity and sheer common sense. Just follow the old proverb “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and you will be a long way towards minimizing your impact on the environment.

But sometimes consuming less and acting with a green heart still leaves much in the “gray area” of wastefulness and pollution. To help make your life at home as green as can be, Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin compile 100 great eco-tips in True Green Home. Part of the National Geographic True Green series, True Green Home serves as an accessible introduction to the countless areas of your home that can be either eco-friends or eco-foes.

It is also a great “cheat sheet,” as the authors call it, by combining comprehensiveness with brevity and generality.1 That is, you get a lot of quick glimpses into where your home (or apartment) might be wasting resources and some basic steps you can take to reduce your environmental footprint. (Nearly every page has more space devoted to a photo than words.)

Of course, many of these “inspirational ideas” are next to common knowledge now that “green” has become such a large part of popular culture. You know, stuff like: live close to where you work and shop, use breezes and fans instead of air conditioning, switch to compact fluorescent bulbs.

There are more than just environmental truisms in True Green Home, though. McKay and Bonnin, both leaders in the organization Clean Up the World, manage to serve up some really spicy, juicy tidbits in their smorgasbord of good ideas. Here are a few that I found particularly interesting, surprising, or otherwise noteworthy:

  • ”More than 70 percent of discarded computers and monitors and more than 80 percent of TVs become e-waste and are dumped in landfills” (91). Good grief!
  • Houseplants are not only attractive but effective green additions to your home, since they freshen air and remove toxins and pollutants (76).
  • Garlic is good for more than repelling vampires: mixed with vegetable oil, water, and liquid soap, it makes an excellent non-toxic insect repellent for your garden (117).
  • Radiant heat systems, which heats floors, walls, and ceilings, are much more efficient than convection systems (24).
  • Windows are responsible for wasting 25 to 35 percent of energy used for heating and cooling in your home (21).

The authors divide these and the other 100 tips in True Green Home into 10 sections, either by location or topic, and precede each section with a case study. These case studies reveal just some of the people, businesses, and organizations that are putting green living principles into practice on the large scale. And since each includes three tips at the end, True Green Home actually contains more than just 100 eco-ideas.

The final section contains resources, including websites for researching some of the topics and methods described in the book–since, after all, True Green Home is not a how-to manual. It also has a glossary of important terms you will surely come across whenever you try to find greener ways to live.

Unfortunately, though, True Green Home does not contain an index, so finding specific topics and ideas can be a bit tricky. The section headings help a bit here, but an index would make this an even handier reference book for your library.

I also found some of the tips rather redundant. How many times and ways can the authors tell us to use natural cleaning products and take advantage of natural light? It sometimes seems like McKay and Bonnin were pushing for the magic number “100” and “recycled” previous tips to make it there.

On the whole, though True Green Home is a valuable way to explore how you can make your habitat a healthier one for you, your family, and the Earth. A quick, enlightening read, this book will inspire you to look at your life more closely, investigate different methods of green living more deeply, and live your human home life more naturally.

1. Bonnin, Jennny, and Kim McKay. True Green Home: 100 Inspirational Ideas for Creating a Green Environment at Home. True Green Home. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2009. 8.

  1. Bobby B.

    Your equation of “green” and “pop culture” is truly uncanny. Each week on “24” there is a commercial break where one of the characters comments on what the viewer can do about the climate change crisis. This type of pandering has become commonplace in entertainment, but does the average environmentalist really regard a show like “24” as a proper venue for such propaganda?

    “24” is a show in which the characters rely heavily on high-energy use computers, recklessly driven vehicles, and last but not least, military-grade weapons. The police agencies have surveillance equipment virtually everywhere. Anyone on a street or in a building is being watched by big brother. Computers that require entire floors of office buildings connect these cameras with satellites, cell phones, and every other imaginable electronic device. When these systems fail to circumvent the terrorists’ efforts, full sets of tires are smoked on vehicles driven with no regard to smooth starts, controlled stops, other vehicles, pedestrians, etc. Whenever a key turns an ignition, the resultant high speed pursuit generally ends in a major crash. And as we all know, vehicles crashed on television usually catch fire, explode and burn to ashes. Naturally, the main characters survive this carnage to confront the bad guys with guns a blazing. The small arms fire of the good guys and the high impact weapons of the bad guys naturally produce more explosions, fires, death, and destruction.

    Being a right-wing nut job, I personally enjoy the entertainment value of the program and have become a devoted viewer just this season. The show is so good that I even plan to rent or purchase previous seasons. Although I consider the obligatory green public service announcement a major downer, I have to laugh when I compare it to the wasteful content of the program at large. However, when I consider the success of this show, it is apparent that its audience must include people with beliefs contrary to my own. So, I have to ask, do left-leaning liberal kooks watch “24” just to see the weekly 30 second green commercial spot?

  2. Bobby B.

    “Whatever will get ratings and viewers, right…no matter the ideology?”

    This is probably the one point upon which most of us right wingers take issue with the greenly devoted. The left’s favorite celebrities promote a cause to which they themselves refuse to adhere, and you guys just eat it up. Making a single episode of “24” (or any other action series for that matter) probably uses more energy and creates more wastes than most families do in a decade, but the weekly 30 second PSA buys them a pass from any green scorn. Al Gore, whose family wealth is partly due to a large strip mining operation, is revered as the prophet of the coming environmental apocalypse. T. Boone Pickens is an oilman intent on privatizing water rights to gain billions more in profit, but secures the blessings of the green crowd with the promise of building a few windmills. One could compile a nearly infinite list of such dichotomies and the green leftists would just chalk it up to “nobody’s perfect.”

    Ironically, conservative preachers, celebrities and politicians get no such pass from either side. Let one of them get caught in a compromising situation and people of all ideologies are on him like a pack of wild dogs. The sins of sexual misconduct, drug or alcohol addiction, and gambling are unforgivable if committed by someone who has ever said that such activities are wrong. The major media outlets garnish a ratings boost by running the stories on continuous loops for weeks. They know that the public will seize upon any unseemly story. The accused is quickly (and probably correctly) tagged a HYPOCRITE for being “no better than the rest of us” and suffers no less scorn than Hester Prynne. Usually, he leaves – or is removed from – whatever position he holds and never sees the limelight again.

    So, if it is okay to turn against and seek the ruin of moral hypocrites, why do the green leftists defend the actions of environmental hypocrites? More importantly, why are they willing to live a life of want at the behest of those who live a life of opulence?

    Note: I have asked these questions many times across several years and have never received a cogent answer.

  3. Green Home

    Eliminate the impact of buildings on the environment and human health by practicing a green building concept. Renewable resources are made use of to increase the energy efficiency of the building as well as reduce any hazardous impact on the environment. Photovoltaic techniques, passive solar and active solar techniques are used as renewable resources. The philosophy of designing a green building is to put in harmony the natural features and resources surrounding the site.

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