November Book of the Month

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson (2002)

Silent Spring

In the past little while, we have been seeing the environmental movement making waves in Canada. Even on our campus, the Earth Centre is one of many environmentally proactive groups working to make a more sustainable Queen’s. Wouldn’t it be cool to know the origins of this movement? Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ is the 1962 book that arguably secured the environment as a priority in mainstream society. Carson created an outcry that eventually banned DDT and new laws to protect the Earth’s precious resources. All this during a time where the environment was not on the immediate agenda of the public. This is one of those rare books that changed the social paradigm of a society. This should be a priority read on the list of any friend of the earth!

The EC

October Book of the Month

‘The Story of Stuff’ by Annie Leonard (2010)
The Story of Stuff

When we think of environmental issues our brain is triggered to doomsday images of pollution, oil sands, a loss in biodiversity, glacial melting, toxins in the ozone layer, changing climates – I will stop because we could be here for a while. However, Leonard’s insightful novel looks at overconsumption and the impact this habit most of us are guilty of has on our communities and health. It is safe to say we have way too much stuff and Leonard is not shying away from explaining what this is doing to the dumps and factories around the world. Point blank: we are obsessed with possession and Leonard isn’t afraid to call you out on it in her fascinating read.

The Earth Centre recently had their Clothing Swap in the Queen’s University ARC. This event really emphasized the idea that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. This event inspired me to take a deeper look at Leonard’s novel. I think this event would have made her proud!

Check out the Earth Centre on Facebook and Twitter for future updates and book of the month posts!

March Book of the Month

Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil

Did you know that common household beauty products contain estrogen mimickers, endocrine disruptors, and known carcinogens?  Did you know that rain forests, savannas, and sensitive areas around the world are dug up to make way for palm oil plantations? Can you pronounce Cyclotetrasiloxan, and do you what it does to aquatic life?

If so, Kudos to you and your toxicology knowledge!  (And perhaps you have taken ENSC 201??)  If not, pick up this month’s featured book, Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil.

From body wash and shampoo to health care and contraceptives, Vasil covers everything you need to know about the products we use in our day-to-day lives, and how the chemicals we put on and in our bodies affect our health and the ecosystems around us.

Ecoholic Body represents the ethos of the Earth Centre, and our commitment to helping students Shop Responsibly and Live Sustainably.  This easy-reading guidebook will help you navigate through greenwash, and equip you with the knowledge to choose products that keep you looking, smelling and feeling great without unnecessary toxicants.  And hey, if you’re feeling inspired, you’re favorite non-profit campus store has some of her featured products available at cost – cheaper than listed in the book!

For those already familiar with the Ecoholic series, be sure to check out Adria’s blog for weekly posts on green-living tips and product advice

-Alex, Education Director

February Book of the Month

Special guest post by Milly, Finance Manager

100 heartbeats, by Jeff Corwin

When I first picked up this book I assumed the title-100 heartbeats referred to the hundred most endangered species on the planet. However, what the title actually refers to is what Corwin deems as the ‘hundred heartbeats club’, in which to become an affiliate there must be less than a hundred members left in the your species. Corwin tells the tail of the drastic population crashes experienced by species all around the world, from the of extinction of the well known Dodo, to the north American passenger pigeon to three species of tigers, the list at times, seems never-ending.

Throughout the book, whenever Corwin mentioned conservation efforts, genetics was a major topic discussed, as our DNA is the underlying thread that weaves our planets web of diversity. As a biology student at Queen’s I found that many topics discussed in BIO 205 (Mendelian and Molecular Genetic)and BIO 206 (Evolutionary Genetics) were also mentioned in this book, including the sad tail of Lonely George and the diseased Tasmanian devils of Australia. Every species is under some sort of attack it seems, whether from climate change, over-poaching, deforestation, habitat fragmentation or the outbreak of new diseases, no species is safe …including us.

However, amongst the grim reality that many species face, there are also stories of success. Stories of devoted researchers, scientists and caregivers that have given their whole life’s work to studying a single species in hopes of understanding what threatens their survival.  Therefore, above anything I took from this book- it was the story of hope. As Corwin emphasizes on the fleeting pages, conservation efforts can begin in “your own backyard, when you let the garter snake slither away unharmed”, change is change, effort is effort no matter how small.

January Book of the Month

Straphanger: Saving our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe

Straphanger is the Earth Centre’s second book by Montreal-based author Taras Grescoe. The first, Bottomfeeder, exposes the problems in the world’s fishing industries, and what we as consumers can do to help solve them.  His newest book tackles a completely different yet equally important topic in terms of global sustainability.

A straphanger is “someone who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport rather than a privately owned automobile.”   According to Grescoe, transportation and urban development are inextricably linked. Thus Straphanger is not simply a book about buses and trains, but the histories of cities and how they have grown (sustainably or not) alongside transportation systems.  Following Bottomfeeder, Grescoe recounts his world-wide travels to illustrate the relationship between urban development and transportation, highlighting systems that work and those that don’t.   Fortunately he stays true to his Canadian roots, and includes chapters we can all relate to on Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Straphanger has been hailed by critics, and is listed amongst the top books of 2012 by the Globe and Mail and Amazon.  While not a quick read, Grescoe’s wit and attention to detail make the book enjoyable and informative.   For anyone interested in transportation and/or sustainable development, Straphanger is a book for you.

- Alex, Education Director

November Book of the Month

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

You check the labels on your food and beverage packages, and you avoid using toxins in your household and personal products (especially if you shop at the E.C.!), but have you ever looked critically at the contents of your closet?  For Cline, a former cheap-clothing addict, it takes the purchase of seven pairs of shoes at seven dollars each to realize that something is seriously wrong with her shopping habits.

Many of us (especially as students) have grown accustomed to paying incredibly low prices for our clothes, and this has enabled us to latch on to trends and replace our clothes at an unprecedented rate.  We are obsessed with steals and deals, and unlike Gob from Arrested Development, we openly brag about how little we pay to dress ourselves.

Yet the main message in Overdressed is that good clothes aren’t cheap – and there are huge repercussions for our fast fashion addiction.  In order for stores like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 to sell a dress for ten dollars, they must take advantage of economies of scale.  In other words, they produce hundreds of thousands of any one item, using the cheapest material possible and even cheaper labour.

Cline travels from New York to L.A., The Dominican Republic, China, and Bangladesh to document the industry’s rapid race to the bottom.  Throughout Overdressed, she covers the fall of American manufacturing and the decline of sewing; the environmental impacts along the entire chain of production and disposal; and the social injustices facing current factory workers.

By the end of the book, Cline’s pragmatic approach will inspire you to change the way you purchase and refurbish your clothes, and encourage you to think about what’s hanging in your closet.  If you wear clothes (especially cheap ones), then this is a book for you.

-Alex, Education Director

Interested and want to learn more?  Check out her website at


October “Book” of the Month – New Magazine Subscription

We are shaking things up for this Book of the Month, as it is technically not a book but a magazine.  We are excited to announce our new subscription to Pure Green Magazine, and that its latest edition (summer 2012, Volume 3) is now available at the Centre for your reading pleasure.

Pure Green Magazine is an independent, green-lifestyle magazine based out of Huntsville, Ontario.  It’s stunning photos and inspiring articles are printed on FSC Certified, 100% post-consumer recycled paper (made in Canada), with vegetable-based ink.  Even the envelope it is shipped in is FSC certified (once you see how nice the magazine is you will understand why this protection is needed).

Each edition (printed quarterly) includes DIY projects, delicious-looking recipes, and environmentally conscious home and personal style tips.  The current issue, subtitled “The Great Outdoors”, features a stargazing guide, an Algonquin Park canoe workshop, and several recipes for homemade chilled tea.

Now that the weather is getting colder we are eagerly awaiting the new fall edition, which should be available any day now.   Come stop by to see what all of the buzz is about!

Information for this review retrieved from

-Alex, Education Director