Seven Wonder’s author John Ryan starts off asking a thought-provoking question: If everyone around the world lived as Westerners do, how long would our planet’s resources last? The answer is probably obvious to most of us. Thankfully, this little book outlines how seven ordinary items could hold the key to a dramatically lightened geo footprint, even for us spoiled modern folk.
They are: the clothesline, ceiling fans, condoms, Pad Thai, ladybugs, bicycles and the public library.
Some of the book’s suggestions are simple and almost easy for any of us. For instance, using a clothesline instead of your dryer. Even those who live in an apartment or condo and have no yard can utilize some of the fancy new indoor clothing racks (IKEA makes a fantastic one). Why bother? Because they’re “simple, silent, and completely nonpolluting”, to quote the author. After your fridge and A/C, your dryer uses more electricity than any other appliance in your home. Not using it can save you big on your utility bills and keep one TON of carbon dioxide out of the air each year for a typical family.
Another easy tip to implement is using ceiling fans to cool your home and turning the thermostat up a few degrees in summer. It costs you less than 10% of the energy costs to run fans than your A/C and don’t require CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer).
Granted, some of the book’s suggestions might be impossible for you. For instance,
trading in your car for a bicycle is probably out of the question if you live in certain parts of the country or have several children. And you might find the section on the condom downright offensive, as the author suggests that overpopulation is one of the biggest problems of the 21st century, which is a controversial topic to begin with, as experts disagree as to whether this problem actually exists in the first place.
Even so, the overall tone of the book is encouraging, and many of the suggestions are quite doable. Eating more Pad Thai (a food that the author calls a “sustainable wonder because it consists mostly of rice and vegetables”) will reduce your food budget and make you healthier too because it uses meat as a condiment, not the main dish. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the public library is a wonderful example of sustainability. Libraries keep more trees in the ground and tons of waste out of our water and air.
An additional benefit of the book is the extensive resources section that leads you to more information on the various topics presented inside, some of which are available for free online. Reading this book may cause you to make some changes in your life, but the good news is, you’ll probably benefit on many levels, not least of all the benefit to your conscience of minimizing your impact on the earth.