Attainable Sustainable: a review of National Geographic’s new sustainability bible

Press product review

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“Before the days of pizza delivery and ready-made meals…people were do-it-yourselfers by default.”

And ain’t that the tea.

I recently spoke with my grandma about this exact thing. When I told her I’d been sent a book called Attainable Sustainable to review, her first question was, “what does sustainable mean?”

I felt like I was grandmasplaining sustainability to her.

This is a woman who grew up in post-war England. She tells me that, as a kid, it was her job to cut old newspapers into squares to hang in their outdoor toilet. That was their toilet paper. Disposable nappies (diapers) were unaffordable in her time, so they boiled reusable ones to clean them.  

This is a woman who still, to this day, pours the oils and fats out of her baking trays to reuse for tomorrow’s roast potatoes and stores used wrapping paper for future gifts.

I think most millennials today like to think of themselves as progressive and sustainable, but, realistically, we have nothing on our grandparents, who lived and breathed sustainability because it was the only choice.

And haven’t millennials seen a fair bit of the problem? We’ve grown up in an era of plastic-everything. Every toy, every bit of packaging was a mismatch of colourful plastics. We grew up with The Blue Planet on our TVs and saw the horrors of what was happening to the polar bears. We’re the generation supposedly leading the vegetarian movement.

We’ve realised, as 30 year olds, how damaging plastics, fast fashion and non-reusable energy sources are on our precious planet. We’re the generation now with 5 year olds, realising just what kind of damaged future we’re leaving to our grandchildren. 


PRODUCT REVIEW: ATTAINABLE SUSTAINABLE

As an avid reader and a sustainability-wannabe, when TLC Book Tours asked me to join them on a virtual book tour for a book on sustainability, I couldn’t say no.

I did worry about what I’d be receiving: I’ve definitely seen a fair share of whitewashed sustainability tips, advice and guides that do not take into account the important factor of Privilege. After all, it is my privilege that allows me to choose more sustainable options in this modern day society. 

For many, it isn’t possible to be sustainable. Poverty in the US is at shocking levels. Food deserts, whereby individuals do not have near access to fresh food, are in abundance. Many families rely on cheaply made foods that have several layers of packaging, as well as relying on cheaply made clothing (particularly since white privilege has discovered the ‘trend’ of thrifting. Rich white folks, more than ever, are buying up all of the decent clothes in charity shops and thrift stores).

Not taking into account accessibility and wealth when discussing sustainability is a terrible mistake, that leads to is shaming poor families. This isn’t useful for anyone. 

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When Kris Bordessa‘s Attainable Sustainable landed in my mailbox, I tentatively flicked through and was pleasantly surprised that, while privilege isn’t mentioned as such, the book is laid out in such a way that anyone of any level of privilege could benefit from it.

This book doesn’t guilt you into being sustainable. A large chunk of the instructions don’t call for you to go out and buy everything brand new (for example: on growing micro greens, Bordessa recommends using takeout packaging).

Within the first few pages, Bordessa tells her childhood story of gardening with her grandma, sewing lessons with her mother and taking pride in homemade jam. She heartwarmingly remembers snacking on lettuce straight from the garden after school. 

These wholesome stories (yes, like those ones we’d normally scroll straight past on any Pinterest-linked cooking recipe) provide insight into Bordessa’s background in sustainability. She talks about the kind of humble, farmhouse-themed lifestyle that any millennial today, myself included, dreams of.

Without giving away too many teasers, I’m going to note down a handful of things I’ve tried, or are on my list to try soon, from Attainable Sustainable:

Drying Herbs Attainable Sustainable Sustainability Guide

Drying herbs — page 22

This page came at the perfect time. I had brought a couple bunches of dill to have alongside salmon, and cream cheese bagels. Having used up all my salmon and bagels, I found myself with leftover dill and had no idea what to use it for before it went rotten.

By following the instructions, I now have a jar full of dried dill that can be used for next time I buy salmon. I may even use this dried dill to infuse some olive oil for next time I’m cooking fish.

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15 minute drop biscuits — page 48

With only 6 ingredients, these are being made in my household, stat. 

I’m excited not only because they look like rock cakes that my aunt used to make (that 👏 were 👏 freaking 👏 delicious) but because I literally already have every single thing on the menu already (and aren’t those the best kinds of recipes?). 

Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and milk. I may go and make these cakes tonight…

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Making grainy mustard — page 56

Something I’d never have thought to make before, but when I saw you only needed mustard seeds and apple cider vinegar, this was too simple not to try.

I should add a caveat that I already had mustard seeds — our pet bearded dragon eats the greens so I brought a TONNE of seeds to plant for him to munch on (mustard seeds are pretty cheap on Etsy). And I’m sure he won’t mind me stealing a cupful to make some yummy mustard. The awesome thing is that you can add whatever extra flavourings you want. I’m going to try stout mustard!

Attainable Sustainable DIY homemade salt scrub coconut oil

Coconut Oil Salt Scrub — page 120

I’m ashamed to say that scrub was a product I saw absolutely zero use in until I actually invested in a store-brought tub several months ago. 

I’ve been suffering from rubbishy skin since I turned 30, and my feet have been totally neglected and dry. Using that scrub in the shower for a couple of weeks actually made a fair bit of difference but, to be honest, I resented paying $10 for what seemed like an oily tub of sugar.

Attainable Sustainable is offering a 3-ingredient recipe to make your own and I am so here for this. Just sea salt, coconut oil and whatever essential oils you want to add? Yes please. 

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Growing from seeds — page 178

If you’ve followed @gowestmygirl Instagram since the start of the year, you’ll know I took it upon myself to start an #apartmentgarden in my lounge.

There’s been ups and downs. Sprouts and deaths. On the whole I’m doing alright, but to be honest I still have no freaking idea what I’m doing

A guide on what to do, scaled down to a few pages (as opposed to a million forgotten Chrome tabs) might just be exactly the thing I need. There’s pros and cons of growing seedlings directly in pots vs other methods and some specific information on what to expect from each type of seed. Challenge accepted.


 

Now, my shortlist of things to try barely spans two chapters. Attainable Sustainable is over 300 pages long, and is broken up into the following categories:

  • Eat
  • Make
  • Clean
  • Grow
  • Farm
  • Trek

One thing I love about this book is the sheer number of wholesome projects it contains. Spanning indoors and outdoors, there are so many suggestions on things to do, ranging from recipes, natural remedies, gardening tips, home DIYs and bushcraft.

This book is a great guide for living a sustainable lifestyle but it’s also just a handy book to have around for rainy days. There are projects for the whole family — I know as a kid I would’ve loved to have learned to create caterpillar food, how to do block printing and learn about safe foraging on forest adventures.

And I’m already looking forward to sharing all of this information with my Nan: I’m sure many of the topics in this book will remind her of her childhood.

While sustainability absolutely isn’t a new concept, it is wild to see how the cycle of eco-consciousness has come to almost a full 360°. And while I could use the rest of this page to go into a full rant on how it shouldn’t be on the individual, and how giant corporations have been exploiting people and damaging the environment to save a few bucks (alright, try millions of bucks), I’m not going there right now.

Attainable Sustainable is a wonderfully wholesome guide to living a more authentic, fuller life. And I think that’s something we can all aspire to.


 

You can find Attainable Sustainable at Barnes & Noble

11 thoughts on “Attainable Sustainable: a review of National Geographic’s new sustainability bible

  1. “a million chrome tabs” yessss! I love the Internet, but sometimes it’s completely overwhelming, with so much information that can often be contradictory.

    I was interested in this book for myself, but hadn’t even thought about getting it so I could do things with my kids!

    Thanks for being on this tour!

    Like

    1. @trish The amount of tabs I have on my laptop and PC is shameful… always things I want to come back to later and 4 months later I still haven’t got around to it! My new thing is just saving bookmarks instead so I can keep Chrome free, but then I always forget to check my bookmarks too… just no hope 🤣

      Like

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