Book Review: Simply Green Giving by Danny Seo

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[img_assist|fid=1454|thumb=1|alt=Simply Green Giving|caption=Cover shot of the book Simply Green Giving by Danny Seo.] A few months ago, I was chatting with an online friend of mine, and the conversation turned to authentic living and living an eco-friendly life. My friend, who by any and all accounts lives a most authentic and sustainable life, was showing me a bit of her cynical side. While I don't remember her exact words, our conversation went something like this:

"It just seems to me," she sniffed (as much as one can sniff on instant messaging), "that many people use the phrase 'green' or 'eco-friendly' or 'sustainable' because it's the chic or fashionable thing to do. In truth, I bet there's a considerable percentage of these people who, when they use these terms to refer to their own lives, have absolutely no idea what the words mean."

"Oh, I don't know," I responded, all Pollyanna-like. "I mean, does it really matter? So what if people do it just to be fashionable? At least they're helping the environment in some small way."

It was in this optimistic frame of mind that I received a copy of Simply Green Giving, the new book by Danny Seo, from HarperCollins Publishers for review. According to the book's cover, its contents will teach the reader to "create beautiful and organic wrappings, tags and gifts from everyday materials." Although at the time of its receipt I was unfamiliar with most of Seo's work, I knew that he was a self-described "eco-lifestyle" expert -- sort of like a green Martha Stewart (without the blonde hair or the criminal record) -- so I was looking forward to reading his tips for giving environmentally-friendly gifts.

I eagerly opened the first page to the Foreword, written by Debbie Levin, the President of the Environmental Media Association. My heart sank as I read the following:

Today Danny Seo is bringing green living to a whole new level with the publication of this gorgeously photographed lifestyle guide, Simply Green Giving: Green living is chic and fun.

"Chic and fun"? Was she kidding? Surely my friend wasn't right -- surely the entire purpose of this book wasn't to sell the reader on the value of living a more sustainable life on the basis of its "chicness"! Where were the facts and figures indicating that it was incumbent upon each of us to live a more sustainable life in order to, I don't know, save the planet, say? I grimly turned the page, and started to read the book with a considerable amount of trepidation.

Turns out I needn't have worried. Seo's new book (produced sustainably on recycled-content paper and without the addition of a dust jacket, I might add) is chock-full of clever ideas -- some of them chic and fun, yes -- but mostly, the pages feature projects which clearly embody the concepts of the three "R's" which make up the basis of living green: reducing, reusing and recycling. Divided into four sections -- cards & tags, boxes, gift wrap & bows, and handmade giving -- Seo presents an abundance of creative crafts and projects to suit every style and crafting experience level.

For example: in the cards & tags section, Seo includes a simple way to craft discarded business cards into a small, but beautifully personal gift tag (perfect for people like me: so unartistically-inclined, that whenever I make gifts for friends, they invariably ask if the result is my handiwork, or that of my two-year-old daughter's). But for the adventurous, he also provides the directions for making more involved items like clear, colourful gift tags using clear glycerin soup and Scrabble® tiles -- so that after the recipient has opened their gift, they can continue to reuse the tag every day in the shower as well.

Not all of the ideas included in the book resonated with me -- for example, there are a few projects that call for the destruction or dismantling of old books. For whatever reason, I've always held books to an arbitrarily higher standard than most other items; for me, it seems sinful to destroy them in any way. This notwithstanding, the book's small size belies the abundance of tips its pages hold (one of my personal favourites: visiting a cigar shop to reclaim their discarded wooden boxes, to be used as a neat way to present your holiday cookies). Finally, the handmade gift ideas for the various people in your life -- the "road warrior," the "wine connoisseur" -- are great, and come the holidays, I'm sure I'll find them worth the cover price alone.

Clever projects aside, for me the best part of the book was toward the end, where after all of the smart craftwork and beautiful creations, Seo describes his personal journey toward eco-activism, and challenges the reader to be environmentally conscious and give through charity. Seo presents several simple ideas, "baby steps," of a fashion -- for how to make small changes to living a more sustainable life. He even includes a section on how to inspire children, from toddlerhood to adolescence, to give back to society and minimize their own footprints on the earth.

In short: I enjoyed this book, and I think anyone who desires to maintain an environmental focus through their gift-giving will as well, regardless of whether they're new to eco-friendly thinking, or are old hats at living sustainably. The book definitely inspires creative thought when it comes to gifts and packaging ... the fact that it's chic and fun is merely a fringe benefit.


Contributing Editor Karen Walrond also blogs at her green shopping blog, Emerald Market, where this review was originally published. No payment was received in exchange for this review. The suggested retail price of this book is less than US$ 25, and therefore, in accordance with BlogHer Editorial Guidelines, was not returned to the publisher.

Read more of Karen Walrond at her personal blog, Chookooloonks.


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