Book Review: Go Green, Live Rich by David Bach

Got someone in your life who balks at “going green”? I think I’ve found the book for you.

Why do people fight the environmental movement?

Because they see it as a movement, that’s why.

How do you win over someone who thinks that “being green” is nothing but an annoying, touchy-feely, feel-good philosophy touted by a bunch of bleeding hearts and tree-huggers standing smugly in their pulpits?

A cantankerous uncle, perhaps. Maybe a high-schooler that feels “the whole save-the-Earth, go-green thing has become a trend that has to go” (that’s an actual quote from my local newspaper!).

This book is a good place to start.

David Bach is the bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire:A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich and Smart Couples Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner, as well as several other personal finance books.

I’ve read The Automatic Millionaire and found it to be practical and inspiring. In short, Bach recommends “paying yourself first”; setting aside a percentage of your income from an early age and allowing time, careful investing, and the power of compound interest do the rest.

Coining the now-familiar phrase “the latte factor”, Bach drives home the point that saving money is something anyone can do, no matter what their salary may be, and with little difficulty: those little dollars a day add up over time, and add up big.

It’s simple, it’s obvious, it’s proven, and very few people do it. Bach spends an entire book hammering away at this one point and ultimately changed the way I look at spending and saving.

So I was curious to see if he would prove as persuasive with Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying.

Go Green, Live Rich is an easy read, a fun flip-through, with lovely photography throughout. Each tip is a page or two long, highlights how much money can be saved by adopting it, and includes “Go Green Action Tips” for further reference. The list of 50 tips is fairly standard, beginning with Calculate Your Carbon Footprint, passing through old friends like Switch to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and Grow Your Own.

There are tips like Take a Volunteer Vacation and Carbon Offsets; these are gathered into sections titled Make Green a Family Value and Give Green, it’s nice to see these emphasized.

The first indication that Go Green, Live Rich is a little different from your standard “beginner’s guide to green living” is the heading BECOMING A GREEN MILLIONAIRE ON A FEW DOLLARS A DAY.

Bach makes the valid point that many people believe that being eco-conscious is a choice affordable only to the affluent. Who wants to pay more for organic produce or recycled-content paper? Can someone who is most decidedly not wealthy, or even affluent, live a sustainable and environmentally-friendly lifestyle without going broke?

Well, we do it. On a plumber’s salary. But David Bach goes so far as to say that going green will make you rich.


First up is a redefining of what it means to be rich. Bach describes “living rich” in these terms:

“living a life in line with your deepest values is a gift we give ourselves every single day. There is peace in knowing that the houses we live in, the way we work and travel, and our daily habits are serving the planet, our true home, not destroying it.”

I made the same argument a while back on my book blog– which is being sorely neglected now that I’m reviewing books over here all the time- when I clumsily point out:

When we fix our beliefs firmly in our minds, and consciously apply those beliefs to our actions; when we stop living for tomorrow and instead look at our lives as a series of right nows; when every action consciously reflects what we believe, that’s living.

The second argument is more likely to appeal to your cantankerous uncle. It applies the same principles illustrated in The Automatic Millionaire.

Let’s say you make four changes in your life based on tips found in this book.
Annually, you could:

  • Save $884 by improving your fuel economy.
  • Save $129 on power by sealing air leaks in your home.
  • Save $85 by turning your thermostat up or down by three degrees.
  • Save $1,560 by packing your own lunch.

“That’s a total of $3,758 per year, or approximately $10 a day of green savings.

And here’s the best part: If you were to invest that $10 a day (instead of finding new things to spend it on), and you earn a 10 percent annual return(some of the green funds you’ll learn about later have earned far higher returns), in 30 years you would have….$678,146.

With just four of the tips in this book you could earn nearly $700,000 for your future, all while living a greener lifestyle today.”

If that isn’t persuasive, practical incentive for living an ecologically minded lifestyle, I don’t know what is.

For the purposes of The Blogging Bookworm:

I’d rate this book 5 out of 5 for the newly green or the not-yet green for its concise, practical, non-preachy treatment of living an ecologically responsible life from an unexpected (read: non-hippie) source.

I would also recommend that deeper greens give it a flip through, even though you’ve probably already seen, if not implemented, nearly all of these tips.

We have to keep in mind where we started, with CFLs and recycling. Our “green roots”, so to speak.

Remember that you didn’t always grow your own food, hang out your laundry, take navy showers, bake your own bread, write your state representative, raise chickens, heat your water with solar power, or whatever it is that you do.

It started with awareness, followed by one action. Then another, and another, and then a forever striving to do more.

Green bloggers often get caught up in green competitions, a la Ed Begley Jr and Bill Nye ( I will continue to link to this article until everyone has read it), which is great; these challenges provide encouragement and a sense of community, as well as motivation to stretch ourselves. But I think many of us began blogging as a way of saying, “I went green, and you can do it too.” Do your posts still carry this intention, reflect this encouragement?

Books like Go Green, Live Rich serve as a touchstone to our green beginnings, a reminder that a very important aspect of being ecologically responsible is to spread awareness in a way that is accessible and achievable.

The real wealth found in this book is in its attempts to spread eco-consciousness in a new and universal way.

What new ways can we, as individuals and as a blogging community, use to attract the not-yet green?

In what ways have you found success?

What are your thoughts on the ethics of “get rich” as a motivation to live sustainably?

Non-bloggers, not-yet greens, please chime in! What sort of information and inspiration do you look for? Your input is most valuable!

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; the "Classic that Launched the Environmental Movement"

Jeez, with a title like that, who can resist?

Silent Spring is a book that most everyone has heard about; even my seven year old knew about Rachel Carson, the spring without birdsong, and the effects of DDT on eagle’s eggs.

It is comprehensive and admittedly somewhat exhausting; Carson explores the hazards of pesticide abuse from every conceivable angle, with the chemical, biological, and historical research to back her every step of the way.

Some fast soundbites that made my hair stand on end:

  • Ten years after the use of arsenic spray on tobacco was halted, the arsenic levels in cigarettes made from American tobacco increased by more than 300 percent. It has not gone away but rather continues to accumulate.
  • Since pesticides do not wash away but rather cling to leaves, grass, etc, as well as seep into the earth and groundwater, when earthworms process these items, the poisons become concentrated within them. The robin population in sprayed areas was decimated the following spring, when a lethal dose was delivered in 11 earthworms– about how many a robin will consume in fifteen minutes.
  • Many pesticides would be stored in the body within the fatty tissue, lurking undetected until a period of stress or a loss in weight would cause these tissues to be metabolised, releasing the poisons into the system.

The whole book is like that. It’s scary and infuriating.

It’s important to bear in mind what a radical idea Carson was setting forth at the time that she wrote Silent Spring. Chemical companies asserted that the pesticides they provided were tolerable within limits; Carson countered that there were no satisfying studies that explored the long-term effects that occur when varying chemicals accumulate residually in the body, and more frighteningly, begin to interact with each other on a cellular level.

While DDT and other pesticides like it have been banned, I think this alarm should still be sounding: why aren’t people more concerned about the residual, cumulative, interactive qualities of the chemicals we willingly expose ourselves to everyday? In our cleaning products, our foods, our clothing, our water, our car upholstery…in short, in everything.

From Afflenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic:

Out of 75,000 chemicals now in common commercial use,
only 1,200 to 1,500 have been tested for carcinogenicity.


Why don’t we hold the companies that produce these things more accountable? Why don’t we demand stronger regulation? Why doesn’t everyone buy organic whenever possible? Why do we turn our heads and hold our breath and hope the problem will go away?

Rachel Carson was also a female scientist in 1962, writing a scientific thesis in the form of an emotional appeal to the public at large. Chew on that for a moment.

Reviewers mocked her research:

“To identify the person whose views you are quoting is, according to this reviewer, name-dropping….My critic also profoundly disapproved of my bibliography. The very fact that it gave complete and specific references for each important statement was extremely distasteful to him. This was padding to impress the uninitiated with its length.”

Consider also how she was leaving herself open to public ridicule from her field: using the imagery of dead robins to compel the masses to take notice. Scientists were supposed to be objective observers, writing technical, scientific essays for other eminent scientists. I’m sure that many dismissed her work without even taking the time to examine it, as the treacly overwrought passions of a woman. “Oh, dear, the poor birds.” As Carson herself articulated,

“One obvious way to try to weaken a movement is to discredit the person who champions it.”

This attitude seems familiar today as well; some people dismiss the environmental movement by undermining the science- for example, 14% don’t think global warming is an issue, and another 23% aren’t sure– and others prefer to cast environmentalists as treehuggers, bleeding hearts who just like to find issues to preach about.

The point that I am making is that Rachel Carson didn’t care about that. I think people are waiting for another Martin Luther King, another Gandhi, another JFK, someone who is going to be the spokesman, the leader. Rachel Carson looked at the world around her, identified a problem, defied the condescension of her peers, stepped up proudly on her soapbox, and spoke compellingly from her heart to everyone that would listen.

And people responded. A movement was born.

What we can learn from Rachel Carson is the importance of our voice, as individuals.

We achieve nothing if we do not appeal to everyone- every person- to take a look at the world around them and observe the changes that are undeniable.

To compel them, through the example of our actions and the strength of our convictions, to step up.

To see the interconnectedness of all things, to demand action and accountability.

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, with steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water. Perhaps he is intoxicated with his own power, as he goes farther and farther into experiments for the destruction of himself and his world. For this unhappy trend there is no single remedy- no panacea. But I believe that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
from a speech Carson gave in 1954

For the purposes of the Bookworm Challenge, I would rate Silent Spring 4 out of 5 stars for its historical context, and recommend it to the “deeply green”.

For the “not-quite-as-hardcore-green”, I would recommend Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson , a collection of excerpts from Carson’s essays, published writings, letters, notes and speeches. This book captures her intelligent spirit in manageable bites without having to slog through the sometimes dry scientific analysis of Silent Spring.

For parents, I highly recommend The Sense of Wonder. The subtitle reads, “Words and pictures to help you keep alive your child’s inborn sense of wonder, and renew your own delight in the mysteries of earth, sea, and sky.” This was one of Carson’s essays, first published as “Help Your Child to Wonder”, which she had intended to expand into a book; an inspiration to revisit the natural world through a child’s perspective. This particular edition is an oversized hardback, includes lovely photography, and is appropriate for sharing with a grade-school-aged child; I think I may start giving out copies as birthday presents, or maybe end-of-year gifts for teachers.

I’m still working through the 800+ pages of John Muir’s Nature Writings, but am liberally peppering his words throughout everything I write; what an inspiration this man is to me. I would guess a formal review of his life and essays will be ready sometime mid-July.

Thankfully, the Bookworm Challenge has been extended for as long as we bloggers want to keep on reading, and the resulting reviews, thoughts, etc. now reside at their own site, The Blogging Bookworm. Inch through the stacks, or join in on the fun.

I really feel that it’s done me no end of good. I’ll keep reading no matter what (like anyone could stop me!) and I’ll keep blogging about it until the overwhelming majority petitions me to stop.

What should I read next? Taking suggestions for late July and August…

Last Child in the Woods: Raising Backyard Naturalists

child holding toad

Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events of their lives.
-Thomas Berry

In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder Richard Louv links the troubling trends in childhood obesity, diabetes, attention-deficit disorders, and depression, to the increasing disconnect between children and nature.

The most obvious culprit is “screen time”: TV, computer, video games.

But there are other factors, too. Even I, hippie-dippie earth mother that I try to be, am guilty of some of these:

  • Fear of the Bogeyman. Our property is bordered on one side by a crumbling, never-used side street that ends in a huge field. This field is part of a state nature preserve and hiking trails lead off it, eventually ending in a creek. Not only do I not allow my older children to travel down this road, but I don’t even go down it alone. No matter how unlikely it is that any of us would be attacked or abducted- and it is, statistically, extremely unlikely- I can’t walk down this road without a feeling of trepidation, mentally framing tomorrow’s headlines.
  • Fear of accidental, self-inflicted harm. My husband is the guilty party here: I know that as a child he must have built things, wielded nails and hammers, climbed trees. This is directly responsible for his hands-on abilities today, his creative instinct in practical endeavors, his “out-of-the-box” thinking. And he knows that. But he is convinced the children are going to going to require a trip to the emergency room, if he leaves them to their own devices for even a moment. He lives in mortal fear that they will get hurt. He rarely allows the kids to do things with their own hands, and if they do, he watches over them like a hawk. A nervous, bossy, stifling hawk.
  • Fear of nature. “Don’t go in the woodpile- there’s probably snakes and god knows what else.” “Careful you don’t get stung.” “Don’t touch any plants you can’t identify, it’s probably poison ivy.” If we issue too many warnings, the kids will just give up and go inside. Nature will seem just too dangerous and not worth the trouble.
  • Lack of solitude. Kids need solitary time, time to immerse themselves in the world around them, to identify their place in it. They need peaceful, unbroken quiet, to develop confidence in themselves, a strong inner voice, a real sense of who they are. Louv points out that many of history’s greatest thinkers, creators, and inventors relate a specific and vivid incident from their childhood, wherein they experienced a solitary moment in nature that took on a spiritual aspect; a moment of clarity. This moment serves a vital purpose; it is a cause for future reflection and motivation, a touchstone to youthful optimism and wonder. (My moment, by the way, was feeding squirrels at the bus stop, something I did all the time, when suddenly one sat up on his hind legs and started to chatter and scold at me. I could not have been more shocked if it had produced a pocketwatch and done the macarena. If squirrels talk, I wondered, what else do I not know about?) I tend to send my kids out as a team, figuring there is safety in numbers. They probably could use more time alone. I do not want to have their moment of zen stolen from them.
  • Lack of trust. Louv recounts a Ben Franklin story, where young Ben steals stones from a local quarry after the workers have left for the day. He is constructing a jetty for people to fish from, and when caught, argues that he is performing a civic service. His father, after having him return the ill-gotten goods and apologize, explains that honesty is the real civic service in this situation….Over the weekend we passed a large, open lumberyard. My husband remarked that “This must be where all the local kids steal their wood for treehouses.” Somehow, I doubt it. We don’t let our kids out of our sight, partly because we fear this very sort of heathenism. But, we cannot argue that Ben Franklin learned an important lesson that day about stealing, honesty, and personal responsibility. By not allowing our children the room to make mistakes- even illegal ones- are we depriving them of lessons learned? To frame it another way, if we do not allow them the chance to violate our trust, do we form them into future citizens worthy of trust? Are we making clockwork oranges of our children?
  • An overemphasis on nature as an “other”, something distant and apart. Yes, we want our children to save the earth. We want them to help polar bears and save the rainforest. But what about the right here and the right now? Are we causing nature to take on an abstract form in their minds? Does the concept become too large for them to see?

This last one is the “big thing”, I think, for me. This is my call to action. This is something I can do, actively; in fact, have already begun. I can bring about personal intimacy with our immediate environment. I will work on the other points, too, but this is the one that has me rubbing my hands together. Goodie, a project.

Louv worries about the abilities of future generations to see problems in the environment as they occur; if no children are skimming ponds for tadpoles, how will they know when those numbers begin dropping? If they are not learning to identify and name insects and wildflowers, will they notice when they are gone? If they are not outside at night to hear the spring peepers, who will sound the alarm when the night air is silent?

“[What is the] extinction of a condor
to a child who has never seen a wren?”
-Robert Michael Pyle

Yes. I will take my kids out-of-doors. Together we will “name all the animals”.

“Humans seldom value what they cannot name.”
-Elaine Brooks

This is my pledge: We will become backyard naturalists. We will look for, identify, and record everything our backyard wilderness contains. We will share, with exuberance, everything that we learn. When we have become satisfied that we know our property, we will move on to the nature preserve. To the river. To the watershed. Who knows how far we can go?

Love for the Earth first means love for the earth. The small and the familiar.

“Though it’s a small area, just a square mile or two, it took me many trips to even start to learn its secrets. Here there are blueberries, and here there are bigger blueberries…You pass a hundred different plants along the trail- I know maybe twenty of them. One could spend a lifetime learning a small range of mountains, and once upon a time people did.”
-Bill McKibben, in The Age of Missing Information


“To quote the words of Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel…our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
-Rabbi Martin Levin

P.S. In a really bizarre instance of blogosphere serendipity, as I was casting about trying to find a good photo to accompany this review, my husband walked in and said that a toad was hopping around him outside, did I want to show the kids? And take a picture? What, you mean just like the cover of the book? Sure I do. Thank you, blogosphere.

backyard naturalist

Please note: All quotes in this post come via Last Child in the Woods, not from my personal stash.

I still have lots to say on this subject, so stay tuned! If you are a parent, truly you need to read this book. Twice.

More information about Richard Louv and the movement his book has inspired, No Child Left Inside, can be located at the Child & Nature Network.

Book #1 of the Still a Bookworm Challenge for Green Bean Dreams: Done. Next up: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Maverick is reading the companion book to Last Child in the Woods, entitled I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature . I’ll have him let you know what he thinks. The book is meant for adults, but, whatever, the kid likes to read.

Finally, I cannot at present name or identify this toad, but I will let you know when I do.