The reluctant environmentalist

Blogger Vanessa Farquharson charms us with her practical guide to going green

Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days By Vanessa Farquharson Copyright 2009
Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days By Vanessa Farquharson Copyright 2009
Credit: 
Cartoon illustration by Andrea Por

In March 2007, Vanessa Farquharson started a one-year crusade to green up her lifestyle by giving up plastic bags, hot showers and Styrofoam—without being too smug.

Farquharson’s blog, greenasathistle.com, tracked her progress as she made one change every day for a calendar year to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. From relatively simple ideas like getting ice cream in a cone and adding an eco tip to her e-mail signature to more complicated gestures like taking navy showers in the dark and writing an eco-friendly funeral into her will, Farquharson painstakingly planned her green year—sometimes edging on the brink of insanity.

After finishing her challenge, Farquharson, ArtSci ’02 and a former Journal staffer, authored Sleeping Naked is Green: How An Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days, a more personal memoir of her uphill battle against going green or giving up. The book doesn’t explain the details of every day of her challenge, but instead constructs a narrative of the highlights of her successes and shortcomings.

The real charm in Farquharson’s narrative is her self-awareness when approaching a new challenge every day. She isn’t a hardcore environmentalist or expert, and doesn’t claim to be. At times she’s self-deprecating about her former life of shameless consumption, but subtly so. The cynicism with which she approaches the 366 changes to her life enhances the practicality of her goal—to see what happens when an average person tries to make their life as environmentally friendly as possible.

As the title suggests, Farquharson’s book also chronicles her search for the perfect environmentally minded boyfriend, a sub-plot curiously absent from her blog. Although eventually heartwarming, the single green female subplot sometimes detracted from her achievements and headed into Bridget Jones territory. After a particularly tumultuous November day in which she buys a house, Farquharson breaks down over the fact that she’ll be living there alone. Regardless of her tendency to undermine her own success by reminding her readers that she has no one to sleep naked with, her exploration of the plights of urban singledom is a relatable topic for many of her readers. Farquharson even finds a way to green her nervous breakdown by using tea and medication instead of drugs.

Farquharson’s blog continues where her epilogue leaves off, documenting her encounters with garden sitting, manatees and fellow environmentalists for readers interested in her life post-challenge. She managed to maintain 271 of her lifestyle changes—about 74 per cent—and her sense of humour.

This book is a truly interesting read for the cynical and the eco-apathetic. Farquharson proves that foraying into the green world doesn’t require quitting your job, buying a pair of Birkenstocks and moving off the grid.

Although not everyone needs to sell their car and unplug their fridge, adopting even a few of Farquharson’s accessible lifestyle changes would be beneficial to readers looking to cautiously lessen their carbon footprint.

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