Toolbox for Sustainable City Living

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living

A Do-it-ourselves Guide

Book - 2008
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The tools you need to create self-sufficient, ecologically sustainable cities

"A surprisingly effective model for connecting people with dreams to the resources they need." --Austin Chronicle

With more than half the world's population now residing--and struggling to survive--in cities, we can no longer afford to think of sustainability as something that applies only to forests and fields. We need sustainable living right where so many of us are: in urban neighborhoods. But how do we do it?

That's where Toolbox for Sustainable City Living comes in. In 2000 the dynamic Rhizome Collective transformed an abandoned warehouse in Austin, Texas, into a sustainability training center. Here, with their first book, Scott and Stacy, two of Rhizome's founders, provide city dwellers--those who have never foraged or gardened along with those who dumpster-dive and belong to CSAs--with step-by- step instructions for producing our own food, collecting water, managing waste, reclaiming land, and generating energy. 

With vibrant illustrations created by Juan Martinez of the Beehive Collective and descriptive text based on years of experimentation, Stacy and Scott explain how to build and grow with cheap, salvaged, and recycled materials. More than a how-to manual, Toolbox is packed with accessible and relevant tools to help move our communities from envisioning a sustainable future toward living it.

Scott Kellogg a Stacy Pettigrew are co-founders of the Rhizome Collective, an educational and activist organization based in Austin, Texas, that recently received a $200,000 grant from the EPA to clean up a 10-acre brownfield that they are transforming into an ecological justice park. Toolbox developed out of R.U.S.T.--Radical Urban Sustainability Training--their intensive weekend seminar in urban ecological survival skills.


Publisher: Cambridge, MA : South End Press, c2008
ISBN: 9780896087804
Branch Call Number: ANF 640 KEL
Characteristics: xviii, 241 p. : ill. ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Martinez, Juan
Pettigrew, Stacy


From the critics

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Feb 04, 2018

Here's the rub: a city dweller, especially an apartment dweller, is almost always using fewer resources to heat and cool their homes. We (yes, I'm a city dweller) have more options for public transportation and we also tend to walk more. But our spaces aren't nearly as green (literally, green), and many of our buildings tend to be inefficiently constructed. We also tend not to have as much access to fresh produce, if for no other reason than that our soils are deficient and sometimes toxic. It's very easy to feel impotent to change any of these things when we are "city-locked".

This guide is for people who already see the need to make a change. Although they provide some information as to why city dwellers and everyone else should try to live sustainably, it's not exhaustive. However, they do give some information that isn't common knowledge (or at least getting talked about as much). I didn't realize the extent to which urban soils were depleted, and I didn't realize that we were going to approach "peak uranium" in 50 years at the rate we're going. Not that I was ever a proponent of nuclear power, but now the building of new nuclear power plants seems even more ridiculous. Also, although everyone is going to be squeamish when it comes to the subject of human waste, it's pretty hard to deny the need to do something along those lines when the authors explain how inefficient, wasteful and polluting the current sewage process is.

The book is divided into strategies and techniques for Food, Water, Waste, Energy and Bioremediation (bringing soils back to life). I'm not the expert, but it seemed that they tried to list out solutions that could work reasonably well in an urban environment on a small scale. And sometimes not that small- the bathtub setup that they explain for rain water purification seems doable but heavy duty to me. You might also have to gulp a little bit before you do things like purify and use used vegetable oil as biodiesel for your car. Not a big production, but something that needs to be done with extra care to make sure you don't damage your car.

Yes, there are some politics here, and it seems that the authors assume you're already on the same page with them. It is also more than a little survivalist, and sophisticated urban dwellers who have easy access to finished goods might not buy into it. However, it seems that the ultimate argument they are using is that the energy resources we have come to depend on are dwindling faster than we can manage, and we need to change now. They got a thumbs up from me when they noted that the the "green consumerism" movement isn't going to get us out of our current problems. If you don't agree with that, this really isn't the book for you.

Jun 13, 2017

This book provides a good overview of sustainable things that you can do. The book and I got off on the wrong foot however when the first page had a typo and the second page claimed that solar panels are useless after 25 years. Solar panels are normally guaranteed for 20-25 years to perform 80% of their initial rated value. After 25 years, the panels do not just stop working, they continue to produce however at a lower output. In a developing nation, 75% output is still not that bad...

I would describe this book as an idea book, not a DIY book as it states on the cover (it does not tell you how to do any of the ideas).

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