Book review: The Urban Homestead.


The Urban Homestead: Your guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city.
by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
Port Townsend, WA: Process Media

In honor of Earth Day, here's a brief review of a fascinating book about making your lifestyle more sustainable. While some friends of the blog jokingly refer to this as "that hipster survivalist book," The Urban Homestead is not a book about how to be a green poseur. Rather, it is a book that breaks down various elements of living greener and lays out a variety of strategies -- some easy and some ambitious -- to make it happen

Included are tips for growing and preserving food, ranging from container gardening to garden-beds in the ground to guerilla gardening in vacant lots. Sections on water usage discuss ways to minimize loss of rainwater (through roofing choices, landscaping, and building rain barrels) and more ambitious projects (including reconfiguring your pipes to divert "gray water" to water the yard). There is advice on reducing energy usage, on cleaning with less toxic (and cheaper) substances, on scavenging fruit from neighborhood trees, on raising chickens, and even on dumpster-diving.

The advice is detailed, and the authors do a nice job of identifying the projects suited to apartment-dwellers and renters (at least unless you have a like-minded landlord). They cite plenty of other useful resources (e.g., a book devoted to dumpster-diving for those who find themselves in the neighborhood of especially bountiful pickings). Moreover, the authors make a point of flagging their own points of disagreement (for instance, on the necessity, or not, of a clothes dryer).

We are far from implementing all of the ways this book describes to live more sustainably, but The Urban Homestead is a rich source of ideas for do-able ways to tread more lightly. Given that many of these ideas involve ways to live more cheaply, too, this guide could help a lot of people find ways to get through the economic downturn while enhancing their standard of living.

The authors suggest, in their engaging commentary, that these strategies may also be useful in riding out a zombie holocaust. I'm not sure how to evaluate that from the facts at hand, but survival skills are survival skills.

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I like the book, and I REALLY like that Dr. Tom Leddy graces the cover. I miss your classrooms and lectures. Thanks for a great review on the book.
Jesus Sanchez

Perhaps the most comprehensive guide to a "sustainable" lifestyle, by an author who has never been accused of being a poseur, is the Unabomber Manifesto. If he had never hurt anyone, where would you disagree with his ideas?

By Neuro-conservative (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink

Sounds like a great book, but couldn't they have put the woman out front with the man gazing adoringly at her? That seems more appropriate both as an update of the American Gothic stereotype and in honoring the order of the authorship.