Back when I started this column in May 2007, I sought inspiration from several blogs. Among my daily reading material was Colin Beavan's NoImpactMan.typepad.com (a New York dad's attempts to remove himself from the grid), Treehugger.com (a catch-all for eco-news and tips), and TheCrunchyChicken.com (a mom and wife's tales of cooking and living green). They all offered great insights, ideas, and analysis.
But my favorite stop in the blogosphere was GreenAsAThistle.com, the project of a young, single female journalist living in Toronto, who made a commitment in March 2007 to make one eco-change every day for a year — and write about it on her Web site. Her mission was much like the one I'd created for myself with Going Green: to greenify her life, one bit at a time, and document it in the hopes that others would want to do the same (the fact that she faced this challenge on a daily basis, as opposed to monthly, only increases my respect for her).
In her blog posts, Vanessa Farquharson, who is 30 now, was personable, funny, and honest about the difficulties she faced in implementing certain lifestyle changes. She wrote about everything from organic shampoo and food choices to her sex life and her cat. She struggled with one of the biggest problems I've faced, as this column celebrates its two-year anniversary: What do you write about when you've gone as green as you'd like? There's only so much you can say about eco-friendly cat litter.
I was excited to see that she's translated her blogged journey into a book, Sleeping Naked is Green (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which comes out this month. "The big challenge," she says on the phone from Toronto, "was how to make sure that the book wasn't just going to be re-hashing the blog. It had to have more of a narrative."
And it does. Each chapter begins with a list of Farquharson's green changes that month, but she chooses just a few to write about at length. Woven in with her descriptions of these changes (switch to organic dairy and rennet-free cheese, no more toilet paper for number one, unplug the refrigerator, and, as the title suggests, sleep naked to save some laundry energy) is the account of her year, one that included professional challenges, the purchase of a home, and a good amount of romantic excitement. Throughout, she combines humor with personal journalism. (Her descriptions of her decidedly un-green sister are particularly hilarious.) By the end, we know not just how she changed her life to go green, but how her life was changed by doing so.
"So much stuff was happening in terms of my personal relationships, my lifestyle, my emotions, that didn't really have a place on the blog," she says. The book lends itself to these stories.
Most refreshing, aside from her candid evaluations of potential boyfriends (classic use of a pro-con list!), is her analysis of the project as a whole — her acknowledgement of her own slip-ups, her complete lack of self-righteousness. Her admission, on day 322, that "I can't wait for this to end. I really can't."
How is Farquharson feeling now that the 365-day challenge is over? She's thrilled to be eating (some) non-local foods ("I just didn't feel healthy eating just cabbage and beets."), her beau has moved in, and she estimates that she keeps up with approximately 74 percent of the changes she made.
Her take on environmentalism is still inspiring for its healthy dose of realism: "I created a kind of green-friendly zone in my home and my neighborhood," she says. "Being green within my own sphere was actually kind of easy. I really had to just accept a certain level of hypocrisy. It's impossible to be fully in line with your values all the time."
When it comes to going green, that realization is valuable in itself.
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.