Edge

Move over, Kermit.

I’ll admit it – before sitting down to read environmentalist Josh Dorfman’s new book, “The Lazy Environmentalist,” I was hesitant. As an avid fan of environmental non-fiction and a political science major who has taken her fair share of environmental politics courses, I was not buying into Dorfman’s juxtaposition of “lazy” and “environmentalist.” After all, each of us has experienced the heated debate that inevitably arises when someone mentions the E-word (or worse, the G-word global warming), and there is nothing lazy about it.

But upon reading, re-reading and dog-earing the book so often that the cover will not close properly, I am pleased to report that Dorfman’s novel does not advocate environmental laziness per se, but rather offers a realistic road map for how we, as consumers, can alter our spending habits to best serve our ailing environment.

One of Dorfman’s first points is the fact that not all of us are destined to be professional environmental crusaders. “Designers are saving rain forests. Fashionistas are cleaning toxins from the soil. Architects are rolling back global warming. The market is their arena.” Dorfman illustrates that the first step to becoming greener is admitting and embracing our laziness, embracing it and actively seeking the available solutions.

Because our society is one that is inexorably entrenched in habits of consumerism and style, few of us will be willing to alter those behaviors unless we are presented with affordable, stylish and iconic alternatives that do not inhibit our daily routines. Dorfman points out that these alternatives are rampant and readily available; we simply need to know where to look to find them.

Thus, he organizes the book into 22 chapters, each illustrating a hip green product and instructing the reader exactly how to go about obtaining it.

Many of the chapters focus on big-ticket alternatives to large-scale products that most of us as college students are not personally concerned with. There are chapters detailing energy alternatives for homes, green appliances and transportation options for those not willing to forsake a stylish ride for cleaner emissions standards (one of which is an incredibly sleek-looking Vespa scooter that would look great on the boulevards of Miami Beach).

Dorfman also spends a good portion of the book discussing items more relevant to the college lifestyle. For example, he points out that buying a pair of Levis, H&M or Gap jeans made of 100 percent organic cotton costs $68 on average – no more than what many University of Miami students pay on a regular basis for inorganic denim. Thus, students do not have to swear off name brands or style in order to have an environmental conscience.

By enlightening readers to the existence of stylish, affordable and distinctive green alternatives to many of the products they use on a regular basis, Dorfman connects people’s interest in the environment directly with their pocketbooks. For this reason, it would be easy to accuse him of promoting consumerism as opposed to informing readers as to why they should cultivate an interest in environmental welfare.

Dorfman’s interest, though, is not in what actions would be taken in an optimal situation, but rather in those options that fit realistic expectations. Until politicians and other public figures initiate a mass promotion and discussion of environmentalism, he says we must do what we can, when we can, where we can. And if what he can convince people to do now is alter their consumption patterns, so be it.

Simply put, it’s a modern realistic mean to the same end.

More of a dictionary/encyclopedia/reference guide to green living and spending than a commentary on environmental issues and problems, “The Lazy Environmentalist” is a quick, enjoyable and easy read that will prompt readers to take immediate action. And that could be as simple as turning off your air conditioning, rolling down your windows and driving to Dadeland to explore all of your green options.

Kate Koza may be contacted at k.koza@umiami.edu.

Other Green Reads

Green Practices

Living Green: A Practical Guide to Simple Sustainability, by Greg Horn (Freedom Press)

The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigen (Three Rivers Press)

It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living, by Crissy Trask (Gibbs Smith)

The Everything Green Living Book: Easy Ways to Conserve Energy, Protect Your Family’s Health, and Help Save the Environment, by Diane Gow McDilda and Kerry Smith (Adams Media Corporation)

The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook: 77 Essential Skills To Stop Climate Change, by David de Rothschild (Rodale Books)

Why Care and Why Do Something About it Now

A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement, by Philip Shabecoff (Island Press)

Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, by James Gustave Speth (Yale University Press)

Eating Green

Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenko (Raw Family Publishing)

What to Eat, by Marion Nestle (North Point Press)

List compiled by Daniel Buyanovsky. He may be contacted at d.buyanovsky@umiami.edu.

November 15, 2007

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