Customer Reviews: Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A do-it-Ourselves Guide
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on September 30, 2008
When searching for books on sustainability its easy to find books heavy on opinion while practical application books are few and far between. This is one of the latter, a very accessible project oriented guide to making changes in the way we act. This book is filled with small scale systems that provides a great starting point for people who want to make actual change in their lives and not just read environmental theory, as great as that may be. The real gem in this book is the well organized bibliography, as many of the projects I would feel more comfortable completing with more detailed background knowledge of the processes going on, which is of course beyond the scope of this publication. Not to downplay the information contained in the book itself, which is awesome.
The key to making change is to make small changes, baby steps, slowly building your new lifestyle. I started with the vermicompostig, which is pretty tame, and moved on from there. Good Luck!
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on February 10, 2009
I found "ToolBox.." to be a quick and enjoyable read, however, when it came to the details of implementing described projects I found limited information. Don't get me wrong, I do not regret purchasing the book, I was just expecting more guidance on specific projects. For instance, when I started reading the energy chapter, I got really excited when there was a discussion on a "bicycle wind mill", however, after a brief description of the design, the authors quickly moved on to another idea. I was also hoping for some design ideas utilizing bicycle "human powered" generators or such. Strong points that I will mention about the book, are the really good descriptions of graywater harvesting and filtering systems. In all, very informative, but do not expect it to provide all the answers.
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on February 2, 2009
Wow this little book has a lot of information in it! A lot more than I bargained for, actually. I was interested in doing a little "urban farming" in the form of apartment-gardening and helping friends plant food on the unused hill behind their house, maybe starting a compost heap. But this book covers everything from constructing a homemade "wetland" for filtering household water, to recycling human waste (see the hilarious section on the Mobile Composting Toilet!), and so much more. It's not just about taking small steps to get yourself off the grid, it covers comprehensive ways to move communities off the grid entirely--which, the book explains, may become necessary in the not-so-distant future. Frank and crisp in style, and completely without condescension or hysteria, the book describes in clear terms what we can expect in the future if our current systems persist, and how to start making our homes and communities sustainable, equitable and autonomous. While I can't see myself putting all of it to use (there is a section on cultivating insects for chicken feed, making me relieved to retreat into vegetarianism), I felt vastly more aware when I'd finished it, in addition to learning a few things I will try.
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on October 28, 2008
This book is everything it promises. After reading it I felt that I could begin projects that would bring me closer to sustainability.

The explainations and diagrams seemed simple and affordable.

This book is the answer to the question, 'What can I do right now?'

Thank you for this book.
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VINE VOICEon September 22, 2010
Here's the rub: a city dweller, especially an apartment dweller, is almost always using fewer resources to heat and cool their homes. We (yes, I'm a city dweller) have more options for public transportation and we also tend to walk more. But our spaces aren't nearly as green (literally, green), and many of our buildings tend to be inefficiently constructed. We also tend not to have as much access to fresh produce, if for no other reason than that our soils are deficient and sometimes toxic. It's very easy to feel impotent to change any of these things when we are "city-locked".

This guide is for people who already see the need to make a change. Although they provide some information as to why city dwellers and everyone else should try to live sustainably, it's not exhaustive. However, they do give some information that isn't common knowledge (or at least getting talked about as much). I didn't realize the extent to which urban soils were depleted, and I didn't realize that we were going to approach "peak uranium" in 50 years at the rate we're going. Not that I was ever a proponent of nuclear power, but now the building of new nuclear power plants seems even more ridiculous. Also, although everyone is going to be squeamish when it comes to the subject of human waste, it's pretty hard to deny the need to do something along those lines when the authors explain how inefficient, wasteful and polluting the current sewage process is.

The book is divided into strategies and techniques for Food, Water, Waste, Energy and Bioremediation (bringing soils back to life). I'm not the expert, but it seemed that they tried to list out solutions that could work reasonably well in an urban environment on a small scale. And sometimes not that small- the bathtub setup that they explain for rain water purification seems doable but heavy duty to me. You might also have to gulp a little bit before you do things like purify and use used vegetable oil as biodiesel for your car. Not a big production, but something that needs to be done with extra care to make sure you don't damage your car.

I sighed as I read this. Because I lack an independent outdoors space, many of these solutions are not accessible for me. However, it inspires me to continue the things I can do in my community, like composting and community gardening. I'm also now on the lookout for like minded friends who want to join me on some of the bigger projects, like rainwater capture and greywater recycling.

Yes, there are some politics here, and it seems that the authors assume you're already on the same page with them. It is also more than a little survivalist, and sophisticated urban dwellers who have easy access to finished goods might not buy into it. However, it seems that the ultimate argument they are using is that the energy resources we have come to depend on are dwindling faster than we can manage, and we need to change now. They got a thumbs up from me when they noted that the the "green consumerism" movement isn't going to get us out of our current problems. If you don't agree with that, this really isn't the book for you.

I would have liked to have seen more examples of the integrated systems in action. Not that we should have a blueprint for how to do it, but seeing how it has worked can be inspiring.
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on February 21, 2009
I've read a lot of books on being green and living lightly on the earth and I've found the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living (TfSCL) to be one of the best and most comprehensive intro books on sustainable living, especially in the cities where more than 50% of the world's people live. So many other books strike a tone that makes me feel hopeless and intimidated, especially because I am not likely to ever have 3 acres of land for a Mother Earth News style homestead.

Yet, the condition of the world's economy and the effects of peak oil clearly show that the time to act is now!

Scott and Stacy have a style and the content that makes me feel ready to try things like vermicomposting. Yes, it's true that there are only 3.5 pages on vermicomposting in the book and I still have a lot to learn from the references noted in the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living. Yet, the motivation to get up and try it is really important. In fact, I'm planning to buy worms today! :)

Also, Scott and Stacy offer workshops called Radical Urban Sustainability Training (R.U.S.T.). My husband and I attended one in Albany, NY last Fall and we highly recommend it!
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on March 5, 2014
Some of the things in this book I will not try unless an apocalypse comes through (like composting human waste... gross), but I will absolutely take to heart some of the other articles. I loved the mention of gentrification and I got some great ideas for grey water, and I'd love to travel down I-35 and visit their Austin commune? compound? - it's a fairly short trip from Dallas.
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on November 15, 2008
With over half the world's population residing in cities, TOOLBOX FOR SUSTAINABLE CITY LIVING becomes more important than ever, providing step-by-step instructions for city dwellers on how to manage waste, reclaim land, and generate energy using cheap, recycled materials. From composting to graywater discharge, chapters cover all the basics including water storage, conservation, and much more.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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on October 6, 2012
This book is full of practical step-by-step methods of developing a sustainable practice at your home or organization. It is a grass-roots movement with big dreams, that has the potential to change the way we see our isolated daily activities. The writers include a healthy dose of theoretical concerns and solutions, making it a well rounded endeavor.
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on December 9, 2008
Imagine an egalitarian, directly democratic, and autonomuous urban ecotopia where neighborhood microlivestock collectives raise their own free-range poultry, city buses run on waste vegetable oil, parking lots have been converted into organic orchards, and small-scale wind turbines provide household electricity. If such a vision of radical sustainability excites you, and it should given the frightening reality of peak oil, global warming, and fresh water scarcity, then you need to read this highly informative and inspiring book. Written by co-founders of the Rhizome Collective and beautifully illustrated with the amazing artwork of Juan Martinez of the Beehive Collective, this is a truly excellent introduction to the principles of urban permaculture, covering topics like aquaculture, bioshelters, vermicomposting, bioremediation, renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, and more. If you haven't already done so, I'd also recommend reading some books by Murray Bookchin on social ecology. Clearly, the time to start relocalizing our food systems and supporting sustainable alternatives to car culture is now. So, let's say goodbye to fossil fuels and begin creating a rational ecological society based on racial, economic, and gender equality!
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