I once had a professor blow my mind with the idea that I and my fellow students were in most cases not makers, but consumers, wearing, using and surrounded by items that were made either by machines or by people thousands of miles away who we would never meet or even see. At about this time, in the same city in which our good professor was educating us, a new Do It Yourself revolution was getting off the ground.
A New York City couple -- she in marketing, he in banking -- decided to change their lives by turning their backs on "the lust for stuff," and trying to live a lifestyle with a smaller "footprint." Their journey took them from Brooklyn, where they found it hard to live an unconstrained existence within the confines of a metropolis, further afield, much further afield.
Wendy Jehanara Tremayne and her partner, Mikey Sklar, left the big city for Truth or Consequences, N.M., moved onto a barren RV park and began scavenging materials to reuse in both creative and practical ways, growing their own food and bartering for what they couldn't make or grow.
When the couple went in search of a simpler life, they were following a path blazed in the 1950s and 1960s by others looking to drop out. Tremayne acknowledges this debt in the book's preface.
There is an aspect of rediscovering the wheel here since Third World peoples have been using, reusing and repurposing First World castoffs for many, many years. For a good discussion on the creative repurposing of so called trash by native peoples see Jared Diamond's book "The World Until Yesterday.
Equal parts how-to guide, love story and the search for meaning in a consumer driven society, "The Good Life Lab" provides some simple ways to help conserve our natural resources and avoid adding to the ever expanding waste stream.
Thankfully, the book does not come off as preachy, but instead relies on leading by example. And although some of things the couple do -- for instance, saving their urine to feed their plants and use less water (no toilets flushed here) -- may seem extreme, there are a number of easy to make products from toothpaste to wine, as well as more advanced projects -- like making your own biofuel -- for those so inclined to make such big lifestyle changes.
It doesn't hurt that the book is beautiful to look at, with bright, bold illustrations and plenty of pictures of Tremayne and Sklar at work on various projects. This book will both look good sitting on your table and may even change your life for the better.