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Living

4 books on sustainability to shift your mindset on city living

Photography by Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed and Amandine Paniagua


Published April 14 2021

People are increasingly priced out of big cities, and it is becoming harder to thrive in urban environments. The house-price-to-income multiple or median multiple is a simplified, internationally recognised measure of housing affordability covered in the United Nations Framework, defined as the ratio between median house price and median annual household income. Much of the work supports the 3 x standard. Here in New Zealand, it is 8.15 x. And what that really does is make housing inaccessible. When we build systems around a concept and the inflation of that concept, that bubble fills up, and your system feels like it’s succeeding, but when it collapses, the entire system around it collapses, the fabric of society collapses.

So what does it mean to leave city life behind? Or to pursue alternative ways of living and working? The pandemic has promoted, overseas at least, a desire to move to remote areas, consider climate change impacts, moving away from metropolitan constraints and the consumerist mindset that comes with it. In part, it requires a reimagining of what it means to lead a successful life, to be successful. And while this represents unique challenges, what opportunities could exist for thriving outside our gentrified environments?

There is a certain pioneering spirit in moving the focus of your life from urban to rural, or at perhaps less developed. Rather than viewing the countryside as a place to retire, or to have a holiday home that for the most part is empty, on Airbnb, some people see it as an opportunity to build something new, contribute to the social fabric, giving impulses to areas that the youth has often deserted. This list of books is our recommended reading for city quitting or at least contemplation. And for those who will always find themselves in cities, use these books to guide projects within your urban boundaries and reimagine your city anew.

RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter's Guide to a Resilient Future — David Holmgren

Gifted by: Amandine to Benoit

Why you’ll want to read it:

Retrosuburbia condenses over 30 years of permaculture thinking, spread over 500 pages. A study for living well with the land and other human beings, this book will help you to downsize, live sustainably, and simply in a suburban environment. Filled with practical tips, this biblical handbook is the one you will keep forever—the reference to come back to every time you encounter a problem on your path to achieve resilience. For those who want to create change within their residential neighbourhood.

What stuck with me:

Sharp illustrations, clear, aesthetically pleasing.

Available from:

— RetroSuburbia website

Grown & Gathered: Traditional Living Made Modern — Lentil and Matt Purbrick

Gifted by: Tracey to Benoit

Why you’ll want to read it:

Grown and Gathered is the labour of love of Matt and Lentils Pubrick’s, a couple living now between Australia and Italy. Here they compiled their personal experiences of returning to Nature and the lessons acquired from developing their farm. These pages are about the reward of cultivating, harvesting, making, eating and trading your own—and the resulting happiness. Highly practical, this guide is the living exemple that becoming (nearly) self-sufficient is not only achievable but beautifully exciting. For those who wish to part ways with urban living.

What stuck with me:

The Kimchi and Passata recipes

Available from:

Book Depository

The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including Koji, Kombuchas, Shoyus, Misos, Vinegars, Garums, Lacto-ferments, and Black Fruits and Vegetables — David Zilber and René Redzepi

Gifted to Benoit by: Tracey

Why you’ll want to read it:

The Noma is not your typical cookbook. Written by award-winning chefs René Redzepi and David Zilber, this title tells the story of their acclaimed fermentation lab. An insight into a high-end professional cuisine, the lab is where they created the incredible flavours that brought Noma to fame—four times Best Restaurant in the world. And here they share their home cooks recipes, 100 step-by-step guides to successfully produce delicious all-types fermentation recipes, levelling up your game to prepare more than kimchi or sauerkraut. Fascinating, and your health will be grateful. For those pursuing fermentation requiring solid foundations or those seeking to deepen their knowledge.

What stuck with me:

The zip lock water bag tip for making sauerkraut and kimchi!

Available from:

Book Depository

Mon petit potager bio sur 15m² — Arthur Motté

Gifted to my brother Thibault by: Amandine

Why you’ll want to read it:

At the age of 15, Arthur created an organic garden after the passing of his long-term friend Alphonse, an elderly from his hometown who triggered his passion for gardening. Following permaculture principles, Arthur gave life to a lush, abundant 15 m2 vegetable garden through experimentation, consistency, and creativity. A refuge for biodiversity, Arthur’s bountiful garden could be yours! In his book, he shared with kindness everything he learned, tips and tricks to prepare the soil, sowing and successfully growing vegetables across seasons while protecting and enhancing your local fauna, essential for a healthy garden. Joyful, this is an indispensable guide that will blow away your fear of growing vegetables and get you to do the work. For those with restricted living environments who want to grow their food in small plots and don’t know where to start.

What stuck with me:

After Alphonse passed away, Arthur wanted to cultivate his garden to keep his heritage alive and battle climate change effects.

Available from:

Amazon

Everything we create is an effort to participate in a culture shift. All products featured are independently selected and curated by the authors, and we only feature items we use or would use ourselves that align with our values. As part of our business model, we do work with affiliates such as Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you decide to purchase through our links. The price would be the same to you either way, but if you find value in our work, then these affiliate links are a way to support it. We only recommend brands, makers and products we use — that we support. Transparency is important to us, so if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

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