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As someone who grew up in a middleclass household in Bombay, India, where my mother recycled out of necessity and ethics, not fashion – we lived in a reality where starving people existed in the slums around the city, so wasting food was discouraged; ziplock bags were not available, so she used the re-sealable packages our potato chips arrived in to wrap our school lunch sandwiches; and we ate fresh, home-made yoghurt each day (there were no packaged alternatives to purchase); I consider myself a reasonably eco-aware citizen, one whose green sensibilities expanded when I moved to the West in my early twenties, in reaction to both the choice and waste of products, edible and otherwise that I encountered here.

These days, I continue to scrutinize the labels of every product that I purchase, spend more on groceries to buy organic, “override” my tropical sensibilities to ride my bicycle through much of Vancouver’s wet winter and as a yoga instructor, teach the idea of interconnectedness of all beings (animate and not), definitely environmental principles.  Yes, you might say that I have some insights into my environmental footprint.

Even so, I found Adria Vasil’s book  “Ecoholic, (when you’re addicted to the planet)” to be both informative as well as an engaging read.

Part comprehensive directory of “green” products and services available in Canada, part sharp-focus lens revealing the effects of harmful chemicals in various aspects of our daily lives, Ecoholic is also a comprehensive environmental product and services guidebook offering the reader simple and intelligent solutions to make more sustainable choices.

It is an ambitious attempt, one that Vasil accomplishes by leading us on a journey that begins with a deconstruction of the very personal realms of how we bathe and clothe ourselves, and what we put inside our bodies.  There is no subject left untouched – she even discusses the environmental impact of sex products (condoms, IUDs, toys etc).   The book continues on to focus on other aspects of our lives – our children’s habitats, our offices, schools and larger ecology – while presenting the repercussions of our every decision in relationship to our larger environment.

For instance, I already knew that aluminum is one of the main ingredients in conventional antiperspirants – it closes our pores so that we literally do not perspire. But I didn’t know that over half of the many eco-alternative deodorant sticks “still contain petrol-based propylene glycol (PG) – which in 100% concentrations, is known as antifreeze and is extremely toxic to aquatic life.”

Vasil is a long-time environmental reporter and since 2004 the eco-columnist at the NOW newsweekly in Toronto and has made it her hallmark to comment on pressing environmental issues in a fresh contemporary manner.  She is in her element in Ecoholic, bringing eco-awareness to the masses and exhorting us to commit to at least one green change and try it on for size.

And while I recommend this book to anyone who wants practical and comprehensive advice regarding our environment, it does strike me as ironic that these words are printed on paper, 352 pages of it, albeit ancient forest friendly and recycled.

With the ubiquity and utility of the internet, one cannot help but think that the online medium might have been a more practical and sustainable method of presenting the information contained in Ecoholic, as some of it, especially the product listings sections is continually evolving and hence dated.  At this point, I hope that the publisher chooses to use the book’s existing website more effectively (www.ecoholic.ca) to provide annual updates and other relevant information.

To purchase the book go to www.ecoholic.ca

US readers rejoice, the new US focused edition with updated information on US products and services is available in stores now.

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