Nov 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign: Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson

Green Books Campaign: logo by Susan Newman

Today's post is part of the Green Books Campaign organized by the wonderful Eco-Libris. Here’s the official campaign description:
Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available at the Eco-Libris website.
Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa FarquharsonSleeping Naked is Green is the account of a year-long project that twenty-something Canadian journalist Vanessa Farquharson originally documented on her blog, Green as a Thistle: starting in February 2007, she vowed to make one green lifestyle change every day for an entire year. As I’m sure you can imagine, with so many changes some were necessarily bigger than others, but all were nonetheless interesting to read about.

However, Sleeping Naked is Green is more than a book version of Farquharson’s blog. It’s a more intimate and reflective account of her project—it doesn’t document all the changes, but it gives readers a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes: what did this experience feel like? How did it affect her personal life?

It always seems unfair to base my opinion of a book on how much I like its author, but with memoirs and first person accounts of any kind, this becomes somewhat inevitable. As with The Impostor’s Daughter recently, at first I had a bit of a hard time connecting with Farquharson, and that affected my enjoyment of the book. For example, early in the book she tells us she had never imagined herself starting a blog because she always thought they were for Star Trek fans, which…well, yes, I rolled my eyes too.

Also, as much as I love Broken Social Scene, I’ve always disliked the oh-so-cool-and-detached hipster scene she spends half the book trying to convince us, not always successfully, that she does not in fact belong to. And furthermore, her concerns seemed so different from my own. When making the transition to reusable shopping bags, for example, I can’t say I stopped to think about how much of a fashion crime most of them apparently are.

But I’m happy to report that was I read on, both the book and its author grew immensely on me; so much so that by the end of the book, I liked her a lot. What won me over was above all her honesty and her sense of humour. I’m sure she’s not alone in worrying about how well a reusable shopping bag will go with her outfit, but how many people actually talk about it at the risk of being accused of being superficial? And this kind of unflinching honesty is present in every aspect of the book. Ultimately she’s a young woman trying to juggle her personal life, her career as a journalist, and a personal project that pretty much becomes a second full-time job. She has moments of doubt and insecurity, of course, and she sometimes breaks her own green living rules. But in the end, neither that nor her fashion concerns make her goals any less admirable. Plus she’s done more than most of us have.

As for her sense of humour (which is often sarcastic—my favourite kind), it saves her from ever becoming greener-than-thou. There’s also the fact that she’s always aware of this danger, as well as aware that there’s only so far she’s willing to go, only so much she can give up. I think this is true of most of us, and unfortunately we tend to think that if we can’t completely commit to a green lifestyle, we might as well do nothing at all. Sleeping Naked is Green shows us than any change, however small, is worth making. They do add up.

Having said that, it’s best to approach Sleeping Naked is Green as a personal account of a very specific project, rather than as a how-to book. The book did give me some ideas—why didn’t I think of buying a couple of handkerchiefs instead of using paper tissues before?—but many of the changes she makes would be impossible for me. For example, one of the biggest is turning her fridge off altogether, and simply cooking and eating fresh food. Which is a great idea, but what if you don’t live alone, or don't have the time to shop every day, or have no access to fresh products? These changes fit her lifestyle—which is, let’s face it, that of a very privileged and successful twenty-something living in a developed country where there’s easy access to countless resources—but they would probably not fit most people’s.

But that’s okay, because Sleeping Naked is Green never pretends to be a manual, or really anything other than a book about one young woman's personal journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. The only thing I would have liked was more information about the reasoning behind each change. Some were explained, and others were pretty self-explanatory, but there were some that left me wondering how exactly they were green. It’s possible, however, that this information is available at Farquharson blog, and so she simply didn’t want to repeat it.

And because this Eco-Libris campaign focuses not only on books about green topics, but also on books that are themselves green, let me tell you why this is true of Sleeping Naked is Green: it’s printed on 100% postconsumer waste recycled and FSC certified paper. Hopefully before too long this will be true of all books.


  1. This does sound like an interesting book. It's funny how your perspective changes as you age. At almost 51, I don't care if my canvas shopping bag matches anything.

  2. This sounds like an interesting read - I'm intrigued by the turn-around from being a little irritated by the author -

    We are a lot less green than we used to be. We used to live without a fridge (in sub tropical Durban, I must add) simply because we could not afford one. It was not so bad, but it did mean we had to do without milk - and we are vegetarians in any case so no meat to worry about.

    We kept our perishables in a bucket in a cool cupboard.

    But its true we did have access to a vegetable market not too far from where we lived though.

  3. I share in some of your initial scorn...a little of this goes a long way with me. However, I could, perhaps, convince myself to go green by changing one thing in my life a month. Like, reading recycled books more often. How would we fare in the Zombie Apocalypse that Bibliophile speaks of? ;)

  4. This has such a fun title, I'd be sorely disappointed if it had disappointed you. I am also glad it wasn't "greener-than-thou." I felt that way a bit when reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it annoyed me.

  5. You're so right about the ability to do all that being dependent on a lot more than just desire!

  6. It sounds kind of like Animal, Veg Miracle- great ideas, but how many of us can put them all into practice? We all have to do what we can. I'd be curious to read it just to see what all the ideas are that I've never thought of.

  7. Great review! It does sound as though this is a very interesting read, but I agree with you that some of the things that she advises are just not practical for people with little access to fresh food, or to those of us on a budget. I am not sure I ever wondered if my reusable bags were tacky looking either, it just never crossed my mind! I think there are probably lots of useful things in this book, but some of her ways of thinking and getting her message across slightly turn me off. I will have to think about this one.

  8. Of course, the sign of true hipster is denying that they are, in fact, a hipster.

  9. This book sounds awesome! So many things I love... female journalists, people who do things in a year, sarcastic humor. I want to read it!

    And as my slightly more intelligent comment, I agree with you about narrators. If someone is writing about themselves, you have to have a reaction to them (like or dislike). If you're neutral, the book probably wasn't very interesting.

  10. sleeping naked??? not since I was a baby!!! Great review and I love the green ideas behind publishing books!

  11. The title of this book definitely caught my eye!

    This campaign has some great titles attached to it. As for the blogs become books phenomenon... I'm not sure how I feel about it.

  12. Great review, Nymeth!

    I'm enjoying reading the reviews for the Green Books Campaign! :)

  13. JT~I'm not a hipster! :P

    Hm, I'm already annoyed with her over the whole Star Trek/blogging thing.

  14. Sounds like a lot of the same types of things would grate on my nerves and cause me to roll my eyes as well, but ultimately, I think that like you I'd like this book :) So I think I'm tossing it onto ye ole wish list! Oh you hipster you with your oh so convincing chic book reviews :p

    Have you heard the new Tori album yet???? There's a song that Tashya sings on!!!! :o

  15. excellent review and this sounds like a book that I would love to read.

  16. This sounds interesting, and the title sure grabs your attention. :) Great review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  17. That sounds really good. Love the green reviews I am seeing tonight!

  18. Loved your review of this book. I like that the author is funny and honest in her writing...with memoirs I find it's difficult to enjoy the book if you don't connect with the writer. She took on quite a project which I find interesting, too. I hope she learned that blogs aren't just for Star-Trek fans! lol

    Thank you!

  19. I know that the title is supposed to be attention-catching, but what does sleeping naked have to do with a green lifestyle? In winter, when it's cold, you'd have to heat your room a lot if you want to sleep naked. I can't get it.

    And no, I've never cared if my canvas bags matched with anything, either.

  20. It sounds interesting. I'll readily admit I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. But I do love a good memoir. Although the topic is pretty important, I still think I'd have a hard time connecting with the subject material. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid I'd totally zone out after awhile!!

  21. It looks like a good an interesting bunch of anecdotes. I checked out her blog, and enjoyed pieces of it.

    Thanks for the review, this was an interesting project to be involved with.

  22. I'm seeing quite a few of these kind of posts around today. What I really want to know is if a book has an FSC logo on its front pages what exactly does that mean? Does it mean it's made entirely from paper from FSC approved forests or is there a certain percentage of FSC content in each page?

  23. This is definitely an intriguing concept for a book. Thanks for the review.

  24. Kathy: I can't say I've ever cared either, but to each their own, I guess :P

    Masha: A cool cupboard sounds like a great solution, especially for Fall/Winter. I wish my life were less rushed so I could shop more often.

    Bellezza: One HAS to think of the Zombie Apocalypse! ;)

    Aarti: I haven't read that book, but I did get that vibe from some of the reviews of it I've seen, and that has kept me away :\

    Jill: There's a lot to take into account - but the pessimistic in me thinks that sooner or later we'll be forced to make some drastic changes, so we'd better start now.

    Jeane: Most of these were actually small and doable, though. It's just the big ones like the no fridge thing that left me a bit discouraged :P

    Zibilee: Interestingly, she actually says that while she expected a green lifestyle to be more expensive, she actually saved money. But it was mostly due to selling her car and saving on gas and insurance. I don't have a car to begin with, so so much for that :P Anyway, I got over my annoyance pretty quickly! She's actually funny and likeable once we get to know her.

    J.T. Oldfield: Too true :P

    Kim: I think you might really enjoy this, then! And yeah, first person accounts really do demand a personal reaction.

    Staci: lol, same here :P I tend to get cold at night even in the summer!

    Lena: Me either...but in her defence, I think this book worked better than most, probably because it didn't try to BE the blog.

    Lorin: Thanks!

    Melody: As did I :) I loved the variety.

    heidenkind:'s hard not to be :P But she DID change her mind and embraced her inner nerd :P

    Chris: lol - I'm not a hipster! Oh, wait :P And no, I haven't!! I only found out it was coming out on Sunday and was insanely excited :D TORI CHRISTMAS ALBUM ZOMG HOORAY! Okay, I'm done now :P

    Serena, I hope you do enjoy it if you pick it up!

    Anna: The title did grab my attention right away :P

    Sheila: I loved the campaign too!

    Amy: Very true about memoirs...I just can't help it. In the end, though, I did like her a lot. And yep...she learned :P Not that there's anything wrong with Star Trek fans!

    Alessandra: lol, I wouldn't have figured it out either if she hadn't explained. Sleeping naked=less laundry=saving water and energy :P

    Stephanie: I promise this wouldn't make you zone out! It's really not dense at all - there's information, but it's mostly about her daily life and how the green lifestyle changes fit into it. It's also funny, and there's even some romance :P

    therubycanary: I very much enjoyed taking part in the project :) And now that I'm done with the book, I need to spend some time at her blog.

    Jodie: I wonder too! In this case, the info (that it was 100%) was on one of those initial pages with credits and technical info and all that. I'm sure those have a proper name, but I don't know it :P

    Trisha: It worked better than I thought it would :P

  25. Sounds like you got a book that you warmed up to as you read it. I hadn't even heard of her blog (oops) and can see some of her comments being a bit much at the beginning. And you do make the very good point that not all of her choices are going to fit into everyone's life despite our desires to be as green as possible.

    However, as you say, since you got to enjoy her reading style it did provide some entertainment. AND just reading a book for the Green Books Campaign I imagine you've done something that she hasn't tried? ;)

    I was also a part of the Green Books Campaign and really enjoyed my choice, a take on the connection between reading and spirituality.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.