________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada.

Adria Vasil.
Toronto, ON: Random House Canada, 2007.
343 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-0-679-31484-4.

Subject Headings:
Green products-Canada-Guidebooks.
Environmentalism-Handbooks, Manuals, etc.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4


You know, it’s funny: Canadians are surrounded with so much damn nature we think that automatically nominates us for outdoor MVP of the year. But when hundreds of trees fall in the boreal every minute, does anybody really care? Well, aside from a few folk singers and some placard-bearing enviro-groups, my answer as a reluctant no. . . . Then, sometime in the last year or two, someone somewhere pulled out the defibrillators and called “clear”. . . . a perfect storm of factors made us sit up and say Holy Toledo, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

But what’s exciting about this surge, this outpouring of interest in all things green, is that everyone, from the trucker up the street to the CEO of Wal-Mart, is taking notice. And whether you’re expressing your concern for the planet by reaching for organic milk, turning off the taps as you brush, driving a little less or not driving at all, it all adds up to a movement. . . . Every drop of water you conserve, each watt of power you save, every green pepper you purchase from a local organic grower sends a message. . . 


After I finished reading Ecoholic, I returned to the beginning and read the ‘Introduction’.  And, I am glad that I did, because after reading the entire book, I needed a reality check, a reminder that “you don’t have to . . . chain yourself to a tree to be green. Just do what you can, one step at a time.” Remember when Kermit the Frog used to sing that “it’s not easy being green”?  Truly, it’s a challenge!

     Not that Vasil doesn’t provide you with plenty of resources for finding and evaluating the environmental friendliness of many common products and services: 11 chapters cover everything from tooth-paste to toilet paper, lingerie to lawn care, groceries to gift-giving. In short, every aspect of human existence, from the cradle onwards, is examined for its environmental impact and ways in which humans can minimize our all-too-heavy footprint on planet Earth. Interestingly, death and funeral services are about the only area which Vasil failed to discuss: cremation vs. burial; “green cemeteries” could easily have done with a page or two.

     Certainly, there is much to learn from Ecoholic. Just what do terms like “biodegradable”, “fair-trade”, and “ancient forest-friendly” really mean? Are all those supposedly “green” products touted by major retailers as virtuous as they claim? And if you didn’t know your environmental ABC’s (the alphabet soup of chemicals which we have to breathe, ingest, and contact), you will, after reading this book. Printed on 100% ancient forest-friendly, post-consumer recycled paper, the book blends a 21st century message with line drawings and single-colour “retro-style” illustrations. Vasil writes the “Ecoholic” column for NOW magazine, and the pull quotes, side bars, lists of web sites and “helpful hints” add to the book’s accessibility. Living “green” is not equally easy to do everywhere in Canada. However, the “Resource Guide,” which concludes the book, provides the contact information for provincial and federal environmental services, as well as health food stores, farmers’ markets, and environmental activist groups for those who are trying to do their best. 

     Truthfully, I think that few of us can be full-fledged “ecoholics” but the book’s message is that all of us can take some steps to stop wasting resources and to be more judicious consumers. It should be noted, as well, that many of the consumer items and services described in the book are those more likely to be purchased by older teenagers and adults. Ecoholic is subtitled Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products, and Services in Canada [when you’re addicted to the planet]. Climate and environmental change is taking place all too rapidly, and the book will remain current for only so long; perhaps this will be the first in a series of revised editions. Still, senior high school and public libraries will find the book a useful acquisition, both in reference and circulating collections.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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