read green this summer

by anna rabhan
Many of us are torn between lazing away a summer weekend on the beach or the patio with a good book versus doing something that we, or our family members, might consider “useful.” Why not kill two birds with one stone? This is your summer to finally get a handle on all that green stuff people keep talking about. No, not the weeds in your yard – the environment! And since there’s something for everyone in the green reading category, get the whole family involved. Start with this list that, while short, includes some of the green must-reads but also some surprises, such as green fiction.

green classics
Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring concentrates on pollution and is said to have been the spark that ignited environmental consciousness. There are many other venerable green classics, but some more modern selections are destined to be classics or at least must-reads. An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore is one of those books you felt like you should have read when it came out so you’d know what all the fuss was about. Now’s your chance. Read Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet by Edward Humes as the who’s who of the green movers and shakers. Getting Green Done by Auden Schendler attempts to get us to stop talking about the environment and start doing, and You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does To Our Planet by Thomas M. Kostigan attempts to motivate by bearing witness.

green your kids
Educate and motivate the kids on a local level with Trouble on the St. Johns River by Jane R. Wood. Kids at several schools where Wood’s books are read have formed “Greenies” clubs like the characters do in her book. Wood says, “Kids get excited when … they can take it from an academic level and make it into action.” So don’t be surprised if your kids want to go visit the places, such as the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, mentioned in the book. For younger kids, the Pelican Pete series by locals Francis and Hugh Keiser is a great way for kids to discover nature through the eyes and adventures of an animal they’ll surely love. Think it’ll be tough to get your teen to read green? Put MySpace/Our Planet: Change is Possible in her hands. Sure, it’s a how-to for environmental stewardship, but it was written about teens, for teens, by teens – on MySpace!

show me the greenbacks
For the reader convinced that “green” refers to the money and economics involved, there are some great selections out there. Winning the Oil Endgame by Amory Lovin has a couple of years on it but is commendably comprehensive. A Declaration of Energy Independence by Jay Hakes, former head of the Energy Information Administration, focuses on what our leaders can, and perhaps should, do on our behalf. Strategies for the Green Economy by Joel Makower concentrates on how the individual company can position itself in the context of green commerce, while The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken is a great suggestion for those who fear all this green talk is somehow anti-capitalist. Not so, says Hawken, who recommends a mere shift in perception of the goal of business.

home, green home
Building, architecture and design buffs should check out Jennifer Roberts’ Good Green Homes. Not only does it serve as a primer for green building with its glossary of terms and description of best practices, but all the gorgeous photographs prove that beautiful design and green living aren’t mutually exclusive. If, after your maiden voyage to the farmers market, you’re looking for some practical advice on what to do with the overwhelming bounty you scored at ridiculously good prices, try Eugenia Bones’ Well-Preserved: Recipes & Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods. And if your batches aren’t so small, try co-op shopping with a friend or neighbor next time. If you’ve got your programmable thermostat installed and trained yourself to remember your reusable bags on shopping trips and you’re wondering where to go from here, read Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life by Lori Bongiorno. It’s a great, comprehensive guide for greening your life – everything from what you eat to home improvement.

green fiction and nonfiction
There’s no shortage of green fiction and narrative nonfiction these days. Try the exciting Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller by Neal Stephenson, especially if you like Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt character. Bernd Heinrich’s Summer World: A Season of Bounty will make you want to take the book outside and read it while lying in the grass. If you’re into biographies, Douglas Brinkley’s The Wilderness Warrior, filled with old-school conservationism Teddy Roosevelt-style, is set for release on July 28.
If you’re at the Jacksonville Public Library picking up all these great books, check out their green focus. Stacie Bucher, JPL’s Marketing Communications Manager says, “We’re doing what’s called ‘Year of the River,’ and for an entire year we’ll be doing programming about the ecology of the river.” Bucher also says the libraries are partnering with the St. Johns Riverkeeper to present exhibits, author visits and more. Visit the library and browse their great green selection. You’ve got your reading cut out for you! And if your family complains about you lounging around with your books, just tell them you’re learning how to save the planet. Then ask, “What are you doing?”

follow up on your green reading with these great green sites If you’re an eBay shopper, visit this green boutique. Want to change the world, Mom? Start here! Beginning localvores: Start with this list of seasonal produce and buy locally. What better way to green your kids than to start in their school? Get in on all those great green jobs. See what green builders in North Florida are up to. Get to know one of the titans of green business. What does the big guy in the White House think about the environment? Find local food co-ops and farmers markets near you. The Riverkeeper’s website has all kinds of practical advice for how to have a river-friendly yard and other green things you can do.