Good place to start an eco-friendly life

An easy-to-read reference handbook written by New Zealanders for New Zealanders.

Annmaree Kane and Christina Neubert
New Holland, pbk, $34.99

Review by Geoffrey Barnett

Living an eco-friendly, toxin-free, sustainable life is something to which a growing number of people aspire, but the amount of conflicting information available on environmental issues can be confusing.

The publication of an easy-to-read reference handbook, particularly one written by New Zealanders for New Zealanders, is therefore most welcome.

Topics covered include healthy eating, personal care products, air quality, sustainable business, organics, pet care, building and renovation, recycling, climate change and babies and children.

At the end of each topic is a section called "What can you do?", which suggests ways of putting into action what has been learned.

Useful websites and books are listed at the end of each chapter.

I found the section on healthy drinking particularly interesting given the current debate on fluoridation in Dunedin.

An impressive amount of information about the chemical's dangers is presented, including the results of studies showing increased cancer rates in areas where water is fluoridated.

In the United States, for example, it is claimed there are an estimated 10,000 deaths a year from fluoride-related cancers.

If fluoridated drinking water is best avoided, then milk from cows is a good substitute, right? Wrong, say the authors, who make it clear that although we live in a country dominated by the dairy industry, humans are not designed to consume milk past infancy and cow's milk is really designed for calves not babies.

The liquid that reaches us in plastic bottles is far from a natural product and there is evidence to suggest that the processing of milk has harmful effects.

The claim that we need milk in our diets to obtain calcium is dismissed by most natural therapists, the authors say.

They recommend Kiwis avoid it and instead invest in a good water filter.

A recent survey showed that 1.7 million people in New Zealand would like to buy products they believe are socially responsible and environmentally sound.

Purchasing this book would be a good start.

Geoffrey Barnett is a Dunedin journalist.

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