books

This is a list of links to information resources related to sustainable agriculture, organic farming and gardening, and growing and buying good, safe food.

Image created by Matt FarrarThese resources are organized into the following general categories (though some are relevant to more than one category): Organizations, Magazines and Blogs, Educational Programs, Funding & Investing, Permaculture, Urban Farms, Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours, International/Non-U.S. Initiatives, Films and Books.

At the end, you will find a few suggestions of simple ways to get involved in the good food movement.

Organizations

Magazines and Blogs

Educational Programs

Funding and Investing

(including some crowdfunding sites)

Permaculture

[Partial list; please mention other groups in the Comments.]

Urban Farms

[This is just a small selection; there are many, many more. Please mention other urban farms you are familiar with in the Comments.]

Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours

International/Non-U.S. Initiatives

Films and Books

Many films about food and farming have come out recently. One of the most recent is Symphony of the Soil.

There are also many good books on these topics. One new one is called Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, MD.

I also recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as books by Wendell Berry, Michael Ableman, Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, and Marion Nestle.

For other relevant books, check out the offerings from Chelsea Green Publishing, Mother Earth News, and New Society Publishers.

Taking Part

You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in sustainable agriculture and the good food movement. Here are just a few of the steps that almost anyone can take, to create a healthier family, healthier community, and a healthier planet:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO, and locally grown foods whenever possible (from the grocery, a farmer’s market, local farms, a CSA, etc.) To find local farms, farmer’s markets, or food providers, go to LocalHarvest.org, and if you live in California or New York, check out Farmigo.com, which is basically an online Farmer’s Market or CSA for small or large groups.
  • If/when you buy meat (from stores or at restaurants), avoid getting factory-farmed meats. Look for and ask for meats from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and that also, ideally, have third-party certifications (such as Animal Welfare Approved) verifying that the animals were raised and slaughtered humanely. Boosting the demand for such products will help shift the industry away from factory farming. (We’ll be adding a blog post with more information on humanely raised meat in the future.)
  • Buy organic, non-GMO seeds and organically grown plants, and plant them in a kitchen garden, window boxes, porch pots, raised beds, a greenhouse, a community garden, or wherever you can.  Use organic/natural rather than toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It’s fun and satisfying to swap your surplus harvest with friends and neighbors.
  • Replace water-intensive, conventional grass lawns with a garden, or no-mow native grasses or groundcovers. Choose low-water (drought-tolerant), native or adapted (climate-appropriate) plants and flowers, including those that attract and feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

 

Related posts:

Sustainable Agriculture in the Spotlight: Fresh films, books, etc.  [August 2009]

Sustainable Ag: Marin and Sonoma County Resources

Recent Films with Green Themes: Food, farming, energy, etc.  [2011]

Quotations for Gardeners, Farmers, and Others  [MotherEarthNews.com blog]

Chocolates of Choice: Organic, Fair Trade, and Delicious

 

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July 24, 2013
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More than a dozen of the Green Spotlight’s previous posts have referenced green products. Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from building- and home-related products to films, chocolates, and other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

At the bottom of this post, I’ve also added links to some books for eco-minded readers.

Home/Building Products

Other Products

Books

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, by Bernie Krause

Or if you’re interested in books on green business, check out the book listing at the bottom of our Green Business post.

You can find a wide selection of books on sustainable living from Chelsea Green Publishing and from New Society Publishers.

And here are a bunch of other books on sustainability topics.

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November 26, 2012
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Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information.

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

BlueSky MOD (based in Toronto, Canada)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Eco-Infill (based in CO)

EcoMod Structures (based in WV) *

FabCab

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)
C6 = their low-cost option*

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

Xtreme Green Homes (based in NC, SC, and VA)

ZETA Communities (modular multi-family developments; based in CA)

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *
(some of which are mobile)

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures:

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little Green Buildings (made w/ SIPs; based in WA)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

For a listing of many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see this Tiny House Directory.

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

Small House Society

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

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July 30, 2012
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In addition to writing posts for this blog (The Green Spotlight), I write articles and blog posts for MotherEarthNews.com and other publications, and I do writing and editing work for clients. I almost never mention my other work activities here on my blog, but it occurred to me that some readers might like to know a little about my other writings and my professional background.

I have been a published writer for more than two decades. I was a writer, reporter, and producer for public radio’s Living on Earth program for several years. More recently, I was a contributing author for the book Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing (2nd edition, edited by Global Green USA, published by Island Press). I wrote the chapter on Green Operations and Maintenance, as well as one of the case studies featured in the book.

I’ve written numerous articles and commentaries on green building and other environmental topics. My articles have been published by more than a dozen media outlets (e.g., magazines, newspapers, public radio, and online media), including:

  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Natural Home magazine
  • Environmental Design + Construction magazine
  • Urban Land’s GreenTech magazine
  • Living on Earth radio program
  • GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
  • GreenHomeGuide.com
  • KQED.org, and
  • Environmental News Network (ENN.com)

I’ve also written and/or edited guides, manuals, newsletters, reports, website content, marketing materials, case studies, and other types of publications on behalf of companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. My clients have included: New Leaf Community Markets, the David Brower Center, Global Green USA, Environmental Defense Fund, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Enterprise Community Partners, Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants, the National Building Museum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter, EduTracks, ICLEI, Industrial Economics, Lehrer Design, Compendia, the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Ecobanca, and the Resource Renewal Institute.

Here’s a small selection of some of my writing work in recent years:

  • Case studies on a few of the campus projects and programs that received the 2010 and 2012 University of California/CSU/CCC Best Practices Award: UC Santa Cruz Campus’ Water Efficiency and Water Management Improvements; UC Irvine’s Medical Education Building; and CSU Sacramento’s American River Courtyard residence hall. Written on behalf of the UC Berkeley Green Building Research Center / Lehrer Design, 2011-2012
  • Green Operations & Maintenance Manual for the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, along with a Healthy Home Guide for SMHA residents, December 2011
  • “Chemical cleaners can introduce poisons, health risks into the home,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2007

And the following are a few of my stories that were broadcast on public radio’s Living on Earth:

 

I invite you to visit my PUBLICATIONS page for a more comprehensive list of writings and broadcast pieces that I’ve written, edited, or produced.

For information about the editorial services that I offer, please visit my Writing and Editing page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

-Miriam

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May 30, 2012
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This post provides a list of links to green-business-related organizations, associations, websites, books, and other resources, which are useful not only to people who own, manage, or work for companies, but to all of us—as consumers and citizens who are affected by business decisions and corporate practices every day. The resources are organized into the following categories:

  • Green Business (general)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environmental & Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Financing, and Investing
  • Clean, Green Jobs
  • Local Economies / Community Investment and Resilience
  • Confronting the Corporate Corruption of Government
  • Ecological Economics
  • Online Media
  • Books

[Note: New links were added to this post in April 2012.]

Green Business (general)

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

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February 20, 2012
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About a year ago, I posted a piece with tips, ideas, and considerations for selecting green gifts. Here’s a summary recap of the 7 types of gifts I suggested in that post:

  1. Non-“stuff”  (e.g., activities, services, or donations, rather than products)
  2. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown stuff
  3. Locally made or Fair Trade goods
  4. Products with green attributes or purposes
  5. Re-gifted items or lightly used finds
  6. Eminently useful things
  7. Small stuff

Take a look at last year’s post to see the specific ideas that I suggested within each of those categories. This year, I’d like to supplement those suggestions with a few more. In addition to the criteria listed above, you also might want to consider choosing the following types of gifts:

  • Products (or services) made and sold by small, independent (and ideally local) businesses, rather than national chains or multi-national corporations. Or at least try to buy things that were Made in the USA (or whichever country you live in) to help boost the domestic economy.
  • Goods made or sold by companies that are members of the 1% for the Planet campaign: “a growing global movement of 1,395 companies [as of Nov. 2011] that donate 1% of their sales to a network of 2,691 environmental organizations worldwide.”
  • Goods made or sold by Certified B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations), which “are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of Nov. 7, 2011, there are 451 Certified B Corporations. That number will be growing, as more companies achieve this certification and as more states pass laws establishing the legitimacy of Benefit Corporations. One of the Founding B Corporations is BetterWorldBooks.

Speaking of books, here are a few green-themed books that might interest some of the people on your gift list:

Also, I might as well mention a few green product brands that are personal favorites of mine: Newman’s Own Organics; Seeds of Change; Sustainable Seed Co.; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; and Patagonia. I am not getting paid to recommend any of these companies.

Lastly, here are some online resources for additional information on green products and reducing wasteful consumption:

Related posts:

Green Goods: Beneficial Products and Gifts (added November 2012)

Good Duds: Sustainable and Responsible Clothing (added October 2013)

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good (added July 2013)

Lesser-Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support (added December 2012)

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November 8, 2011
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If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).

One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.

One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques.  CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.

Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.

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June 3, 2010
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Homeowners (and renters) are increasingly interested in making green home improvements, and they’re particularly interested in knowing which improvements have a low cost and a clear payback—i.e., a decent Return on Investment, or ROI. Here are some commonly agreed upon suggestions for relatively easy and economical projects that reap surefire savings (in energy, water, and dollars):

  1. Switch to LED and/or compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. (Note: When buying CFLs, look for low-mercury products. Also, because CFLs contain mercury, they cannot be thrown in the trash; they must be recycled by a hazardous waste facility. Some stores, such as Home Depot, collect used CFLs. You can find other places near you that take used CFLs on Earth911.com.)
  2. Switch to WaterSense plumbing fixtures (e.g., dual-flush or other high-efficiency toilets, and ultra-low-flow faucets and showerheads). [MORE INFO here.]
  3. Switch to Energy Star appliances and electronic equipment when it’s time to replace old units. Install an Energy Star ceiling fan(s), to reduce or eliminate your use of air conditioning.
  4. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater; and add insulation to your attic (and/or walls and basement).
  5. Have a home energy audit done to check for air leaks and identify other inefficiencies; a home performance contractor should then make the needed improvements. More and more companies are springing up to offer these services. (One very experienced company in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.

For other ideas and helpful cost/benefit assessments, check out this new book: Green Sense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, by Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum (Taunton Press, April 2010). Here’s the publisher’s description of the book: “When does a green home project make financial sense? The authors of this book provide the answer to this and other questions relating to the cost (and relative value) of environmentally friendly home improvements. They evaluate a wide array of projects, including insulating pipes, weatherizing doors and windows, composting and recycling trash, installing a solar hot water heater, installing green countertops, upgrading appliances, building with reclaimed materials, and installing radiant heat.”

Other recent books include Green Home Improvement: 65 Projects That Will Cut Utility Bills, Protect Your Health & Help the Environment by Daniel Chiras, PhD (RS Means) and This Green House: Home Improvements for the Eco-Smart, the Thrifty, and the Do-It-Yourselfer by Joshua Piven (Abrams).

A number of federal, state, and local tax credits, rebates, and other financial incentives are available for installing energy-efficient equipment or renewable energy (e.g., solar) technologies at your residence.

For a more comprehensive checklist of ways to save energy, see our new post [added 5/2013]: Tips for Saving Energy

 

For additional tips on green home improvements and retrofits, these are some useful online articles and websites, most of which feature lists of cost-effective improvements:

If you’d like assistance with choosing and implementing your green home improvements or remodeling strategies, I am a green advisor who can provide this type of assistance through email consultations (or phone or in-person consultations). Click here for more info.

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May 6, 2010
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I’d like to let everyone know about these important new books, which were written by a few of my esteemed colleagues. Please click on the links below for more information about each tome:

Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society, by Andres Edwards (New Society Publishers) — This book will be available in May (2010), but it can be pre-ordered now. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book: “Thriving Beyond Sustainability draws a collective map of individuals, organizations, and communities from around the world that are committed to building an alternative future—one that strives to restore ecological health; reinvent outmoded institutions; and rejuvenate our environmental, social, and economic systems. The projects and initiatives profiled are meeting the challenges of the day with optimism, hope, and results, leading the way in relocalization, green commerce, ecological design, environmental conservation, and social transformation.” Click here to read reviews of the book, the book’s Foreword (by Bill McKibben), Table of Contents, or an annotated bibliography.

Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building, by Marian Keeler and Bill Burke (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)— This book serves as an in-depth textbook for design students and a comprehensive reference for practitioners. It presents the history, issues, principles, technologies, process, and practice of sustainable building design, as well as case studies of model projects. In addition, it promotes active learning by providing design problems, research exercises, study questions, and discussion topics.

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February 25, 2010
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