By Ashlee Piper
Read by Ashlee Piper
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It’s time to put your good intentions into action. It’s time to give a shit — about your health, your footprint, and your planet.
Give a Sh*t guides you through the transition to a kinder, healthier, more conscious, and sustainable life like no book has done before. With a humorous and nonjudgmental tone, savvy eco-friendly lifestyle expert Ashlee Piper walks you through easy-but-impactful shifts anyone can make to live and be better every damn day:
- In your home – Room-by-room guidance and tactics for a chic, affordable, sustainable living space, no matter where or how you live
- In the kitchen – 20+ unfussy, quick, and delicious plant-based recipes for every life occasion, from pantry staples like White Witch Almond Milk to exciting everyday fare like Walnut Chorizo Tostadas to kick-ass desserts like Jamocha Silk Pie
- In your closet – Advice for building a polished, ethical wardrobe in a world of fast fashion
- In the mirror – Beauty and grooming tips and DIY products (from skin care to foundation to, ahem, ladytime provisions) that are safer, natural, cruelty-free, and, best of all, effective
- In the wild – How to maintain your values (and your moxie) at work, in your social life, and when abroad
How to Give a Shit
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
I like to believe humanity is composed of pretty well-intentioned folks. We have a hunch that, no shit, the planet is dying under the weight of industrialized consumption and disposable culture and that we might have a little something to do with that. So we recycle our hearts out, buy fancy organic produce when it’s on sale, and carry our colorful reusable water bottles to the gym (when we remember), all in the hopes of making a dent in an issue that’s fast approaching DEFCON 1. But in a day and age when people claim to care increasingly more about sustainability, our planet is also in the worst state it’s been in, well, ever (we’ll get to specifics on that in a sec)1. How can this be? Well, here’s my hunch: the dissonance between our desire to be green and our sloth-like inaction stems from three factors:
1. An immobilizing belief that government regulation is more effective than individual action
2. Lack of clear, credible guidance on powerful personal solutions
3. The problematic stigma that sustainable living is expensive, inconvenient, socially isolating, and an all- or-nothing pursuit requiring absolute perfection
All of these limiting beliefs create and propagate a dangerous and defeatist ethos of “why bother?” So instead of realizing the precious individual influence that got us into this planetary pickle in the first place, we sit back and literally watch the world burn, hoping that some big shot will step in, pick up the pieces, or, at the very least, pour us a stiff drink.
WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE A SHIT
I had originally conceptualized this book to be about how to make eco-friendly living stylish and fun. Then, on the eve of November 8, 2016, whilst drowning my disbelief in endless glasses of raspberry vodka and soda along with millions of others around the globe, it became abundantly clear that the concept needed to shift because, holy crap, the stakes were raised exponentially in, like, four hours. Now, this isn’t a political tome, but to cover sustainability while ignoring a US presidential administration that denies climate change or thwarts efforts to alleviate environmental burden would be to pen a fantasy fiction book. And that, this is not.
While the term global warming (accurately) alludes to a worldwide problem necessitating international action, much of the information in the following pages focuses on the United States. And no, this isn’t because I’m touting some sort of ethnocentric agenda here; rather, this attention is because Americans are disproportionately responsible for climate change, very recently dethroning China for the infamous designation as the biggest carbon polluter in history. Accounting for only 4 percent of the world’s 7.5 billion people, Americans create 14.34 percent of harmful global emissions.2 We’re like an uninvited, empty-handed party crasher who drinks the pricey craft beer and vomits all over the host’s bed. Despite our size, the belief that four-car garages and nightly steak dinners are the apex of realizing the American dream has put us at the head of the class when it comes to fucking up the planet. And although this sounds grim, it’s important to remember that the same behaviors that got us into this mess are the very things we need to harness to fix it. Because humans are impressionable community dwellers, heavily influenced by our peers, individual behaviors can quickly become collective movements. Just as tossing plastic bags and driving gas-guzzling cars are the current norms, we can cut the shit on an individual level and watch as our more sustainable behaviors go viral among the masses like an internet cat meme.
World on Fire
Global temperatures remained at manageable levels until the end of the last Ice Age some seven thousand years ago, which also ushered in human civilizations. Research overwhelmingly supports that human influence and emissions attendant with the rise of industrialism have significantly accelerated global warming. The burning of fossil fuels and carbon emissions have led to a 2°C temperature rise since the nineteenth century, most of which has happened in just the past thirty-five years, with sixteen of the seventeen warmest years on record occurring since 2001.3 Given the planet’s success in self-regulation over seven hundred thousand years and the intersection of people, industry, and rapid warming in a comparatively short period of time, it’s pretty bananas to think that anyone capable of critical thinking is a climate change denier.
You might be thinking, But hasn’t the earth been warming for, like, forever? Sure, the planet’s been heating and cooling on its own for millions and millions of years, usually due to very small orbital variations that alter solar exposure. But these rhythmic shifts only averaged about 9°F and happened gradually over hundreds of thousands of years. What we’re experiencing today is like going from putzing around on a golf cart to careening down the Autobahn in the Concorde.4 And Mother Earth, like any woman scorned, has some pretty savage ways of showing us she’s mad as hell and she’s not gonna take it anymore:
Natural disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, tsunamis, earthquakes, and flooding are all sorta part of the living-on-earth deal. However, climate change increases and intensifies the impact and frequency of these catastrophic events. For instance, serious droughts increase the likelihood of wildfires, and warming ocean currents can whip a category 3 storm into a city-shattering category 4. The frequency and severity of North American hurricanes alone has upped dramatically since the 1980s.5
Melting ice caps and glaciers: Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have collectively decreased by some ninety cubic miles since 2002, and glaciers globally, from the Alps to the Himalayas, are literally withering away.6 Yeah, those sad videos you see of disoriented polar bears roaming cracked ice? Not CGI, folks. This is real shit.
Dangerous seas: Atmospheric temps aren’t the only things heating up. Oceans also absorb heat trapped in the atmosphere, and earth’s seas have warmed an additional 0.302°F since 1969. And hey, newsflash, those ice caps and glaciers I just mentioned melt into water, so as the temperature and oceans warm, sea levels rise. Over the last two decades, sea levels have risen eight inches, a rate double that of the last century. Rising temps and harmful emissions have also led to a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity, which, I promise, will not make your next beach vacation very fun.7
Suffering habitats and species extinction: The earth is biodynamic and symbiotic. As climates dramatically shift, habitats shrink (hence all of those sad polar bear photos you’re seeing) or become inhospitable to indigenous species. As prey animals and life-sustaining plants die off, predators have two crummy choices: starve or roam in search of new terrain. Our planet’s delicate ecosystem is a lot like Jenga: remove a few key pieces from the arrangement, and the structure becomes unstable; remove many, and it’s not long before the whole thing comes crashing down. (In case metaphors aren’t your thing, let me spell that out for you: plants, animals, and humans are all planetary Jenga pieces.) So it’s really not all that dramatic to say that the end result of unmitigated climate change is bad-news bears for more than just bears.
Everyday experience also provides us with anecdotal evidence of global warming. As I write this, Chicago—a city renowned for its subzero winters (and its sausage-chomping football fans)—recently had its first snowless January and February in nearly 150 years.8 If you’re thinking that none of these phenomena are tied to human influence, that it’s all a grand coincidence, I call bullshit. The very nature of life on earth is symbiotic.
Heightened risk of exploitation: Here’s a goody to pull out during your next contentious Thanksgiving table conversation: climate change is an issue of global security. Severe droughts, famine, and natural disasters choke resources and can force mass migration, which leave people frantic for jobs, food, and security. And desperation makes people do crazy shit. How does this relate to global conflict? Imagine you’re a Syrian wheat farmer. Life is pretty good until your rural area gets too hot or flooded to grow your crops. After trying, to no avail, to sell the saddest harvest ever, you pick up your family and migrate to a city where you attempt to get a different gig, despite having only specialized agrarian skills. Unsurprisingly, jobs are about as scarce as resources, and now you’re really afraid that your family is going to starve, until one day a well-fed-looking guy with a machine gun tells you how ISIS gave him purpose and protection in exchange for his participation. You pick up what I’m putting down here? Climate change creates the fragility and instability necessary for militarized factions like ISIS and Boko Haram to recruit people and thrive.9
And because it just wouldn’t be a party without administering some disproportionate blows to the poor, the impact of climate change, like so many things, will adversely impact those living in physically lower-lying, less developed, less economically prosperous areas. Wealthier countries, like the United States, utilize huge amounts of and profit from fossil fuels but don’t do their fair share to address the detrimental effects of said usage, while poorer countries, especially those in low-lying areas more likely to be impacted by rising sea levels, who use little fossil fuels, will be the first to bear the worst impacts of climate change.10
THE SOLUTION IS YOU
If there’s anything I want to leave you with after you read this book, it’s the belief that your actions are powerful. As evidenced by everything I’ve laid out above, human emissions and greed have royally screwed the planet. Surely, then, humans making sustainable shifts can unfuck the world. And by doing so, you’ll also help habitats, animals, and people. And if you’re the kind of person who needs further “What’s in it for me?” incentive before you buy into this whole “giving a shit” thing, I’ve got that for you, too. Living more minimally, with attention to environmental impact, benefits you in many, many rad ways. My first year of going balls-out and employing the strategies herein, I saved almost $15,000. Bidding adieu to my car, shopping from local markets and bulk bins, buying mostly secondhand, and minimizing my purchases wasn’t difficult—in fact, it was liberating and happened to leave a lot more green in my pocket. And for those of you wondering, no, that is not enough savings to buy your own personal helicopter. But it makes sense: buying fewer and better often means buying less, saving you money and, arguably, more precious time. Moreover, I felt less stressed (because I wasn’t as saddled and stymied by rampant, senseless consumption), healthier (because I replaced my love for fast-food animal products with more of the whole, real, from-the-ground goodness), and more aligned with my values than ever, which had and continues to have serious “my life has meaning!” moments.
How to Give a Shit
When I first embarked on this exploration, I found some cool books that showed me how to not make trash or create my own cruelty- free cosmetics. But there wasn’t anything that holistically combined niche elements from different schools of sustainable thought to create an accessible road map to a healthier, streamlined, stress-free, and sustainable existence. Basically, Give a Sh*t is the kind of book I wanted when I was exploring how to be the best version of myself, and it will hopefully be your buddy through your transition to a kinder, more conscious life.
Some of the terms I use throughout the book may be ones you’ve heard of before, and others may be new to you. Together, these ideologies form the Give a Shit philosophy and aim to be your North Star as you gently, gradually shift your behaviors to support lasting change:
Animal friendly: Whether it’s adopting a more plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet; eschewing animal materials and ingredients in goods; buying only cruelty-free personal care and home products; adopting an animal at your local shelter; or all of the above, Give a Shit gives you practical advice on how to be a better protector of our animal friends through every aspect of your life. So if you find that animals start nuzzling you at parties and following you home, you know who to thank (me).
Minimalist: Living better with less. It’s a mantra that’s gained momentum in our ever-chaotic world of pushed consumption. From decluttering your space (and maybe your mind, as a result), to buying and owning fewer items (but of better quality), to considering population burden, a cornerstone of giving a shit is paring down to the essentials to allow for the clarity necessary to make solid, values-based purchasing and life decisions. From the items you own to the company you keep, when you only allow things that truly matter to make their way into your life, you save precious time and energy. If this philosophy hadn’t become my way of life, there’s no way I could’ve written this book while maintaining a full-time job and not totally pissing off my dog, friends, and family.
Low and zero waste: From repurposing, buying secondhand, reusing, recycling, composting, eschewing disposables, donating, collaborative consumption, and supporting closed-loop circular manufacturing, living a less wasteful life is a main tenet of the Give a Shit lifestyle. Suggestions in this book will guide you toward significantly reducing the waste you put into the world and landfills. In other words, we’re all gonna get a lot less trashy. Bless up.
People forward: Whether you’re purchasing a diamond ring, bed frame, or a carton of strawberries, this book gives you the necessary knowledge to make decisions that support fair wages, safe working conditions, healthy communities, upward mobility, and antislavery and exploitation initiatives for people at home and abroad. Moreover, philanthropy is a cornerstone of not only a life well lived but of the Give a Shit mantra. From donating items to people who can truly use them, to supporting and engaging in social justice activism, to adopting healthier habits that promote wellness and reduced stress, this book is full of strategies that move equality and fairness forward in electrifying ways.
Location considerate: Whether you’re opting for Made in the USA, eating like a locavore, supporting smaller businesses and makers, or traveling the globe lightly, Give a Shit considers where things are made or harvested, the lengths they (and we) travel, eco-friendly transportation options, and the jobs those choices create and sustain.
Eco-friendly: From choosing innovative materials and goods made from postconsumer content, to making simple dietary shifts that significantly reduce climate-warming emissions, to using personal care products that assimilate safely into waterways and soil, you can make more environmentally sound choices with the tools and knowledge in this handy guide.
And I give it to you straight. Guidance for a comfortable eco-home, polished ethical wardrobe, and cruelty-free grooming routine, easily digestible advice to have a professional persona and social life aligned with purpose, and only the recipes you need to blow people’s minds for all of life’s occasions. Full of helpful tips, entertaining anecdotes, and plenty of swearing, this book is like getting juicy advice from your cool, slightly skanky friend (me) over a lovely glass bottle of wine—delivered with plenty of gusto but sans any bullshit judgment, ultimatums, or wacky expectations of perfection.
You see, I’m not going to tell you that in order to make a difference you need to go all or nothing—because that’s just untrue. This isn’t a diet book or a corporate HR manual. Sure, I’ll help you get your sustainable shit together, but here’s a list of things I won’t do:
Slap you on the wrist or take you on an in-law-style guilt trip for stuff you’ve done in the past—today we start fresh
Your laundry or taxes
Instruct you to eschew cool things like booze, wild shindigs, mind-expanding travel, beautiful clothes, mouthwatering food, or luxurious digs
In fact, being the life lover that I am, I’m going to encourage you to engage, imbibe, and go to town on all the things that make life a radical journey. This isn’t a manual of restrictions—it’s a manifesto for a life that’s, perhaps for the first time, in harmony with your desire to do good.
Who Am I to Tell You to Give a Shit?
You know those tabloids that are, like, “Celebrities! They’re just like us!” that show a supermodel with a small, singular cellulite dimple or Rod Stewart using a public restroom, and somehow we’re supposed to feel better or like we have a sudden kinship with them? Well, I’m no celebrity, and I do have some cellulite and have used a public restroom before, but here’s the part where I tell you of my decidedly un-eco-beginnings in an effort to show you that if I can do it, hot damn, anyone can.
I wasn’t born with a clear-eyed view on sustainability. Hell, I didn’t even know what the word meant until I entered my late teens. I grew up in Texas, where everyone is basically breastfed beef. That said, my mother was an animal lover through and through who brought home strays like it was her job (it wasn’t). At one point I shared my childhood home with a collection of sassy stray cats (like, deadly, bite-your-finger-off sassy), a one-eyed dachshund named Ginger, a gun-shy German shorthaired pointer named Susie with a crooked toe, a half-bobcat named Thomas, two hermit crabs, two box turtles, and one very unhappy catfish. It was an ever-so-slightly unconventional environment that instilled my love for animals early on. We’d always adopted companion animals, but I hadn’t made the connection between the pets with whom I shared bedtime stories and walks around the neighborhood (not the catfish) and the creatures on my plate. Like a good southerner, I was pretty meat-and-dairy focused in my eating habits (fave meal: Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff with a tall glass of whole milk) and never gave that a second thought. I even had my high school graduation dinner at Fogo de Chão, one of those places where waiters dressed as gauchos present you with a meat feast of Versailles- esque proportions, where I proceeded to shove as many of God’s creatures into my mouth as humanly possible. Date me.
But underneath my rampant carnivorous streak, I was an animal lover, protector, and defender—a level-10 vegan just waiting to happen. My first gateway drug into giving a shit happened when I was eleven years old, excitedly meandering the snack cake aisle (yes, an entire aisle) of my local grocery store. There, stuck to the floor with muddy boot prints, was a flier outlining the gory reality of animal testing. Clearly discarded by someone who didn’t want to be bothered, I peeled the pamphlet off the floor and, intrigued, had my first introduction to the seedy and cruel world of animal exploitation. I couldn’t believe that rabbits, mice, dogs, and cats, among others, were all experimented on to the point of injury and death for cosmetic and pharmaceutical efficacy.
So there I was—I had the information, I knew that the practice felt wrong to me, and from that point on, I never knowingly used another animal-tested product. This was in the nineties, and the cruelty-free movement wasn’t as prominent as it is today, so I spent much of my only-child youth talking to my dogs, listening to seventies AM favorites on a little pink radio (which makes me a formidable karaoke partner), and making my own lotions and other beauty concoctions. You know, like any normal kid. This odd education seeded an early desire to learn how to make everything from home cleaners to lipstick better, safer, and with more eco-panache. My first foray into green business was when my friend Jenny and I made homemade cruelty-free lip balms and sold them to our classmates for a cool $5 a pop. I wasn’t popular AT ALL, but that week, when even the mean girls took a break from making fun of my stringy bangs and flat chest to clamor for our creations, I felt, for a split second, like I had arrived. Mind you, this was just a stepping stone. I was still eating meat with abandon and wearing my patchwork leather “cool kid” jacket (that really made me look like a middle-aged 1970s taxi driver, but I digress) to school. I was taking baby steps, which is why this book never takes a dickhead all-or-nothing approach: you take the steps you are ready to take, and you keep going.
This journey continued and expanded into adulthood. By all accounts I’d done all the right things—paid bills on time, not housed a meth lab, created a cool career as a political strategist, and basically was a pretty contributive member of society (vodka-fueled 3 a.m. Air Supply karaoke solos in the street aside). But a huge part of me wanted more, and as I began to explore how fun, easy, and impactful environmentally friendly living can be, I found my purpose.
I spent much of my twenties traveling for work whilst carving out time to learn how other cultures adapt to, beautify, and respect their environments. I studied indigenous beauty and culinary rituals, got loads of mosquito bites, and made out with guys who had cool accents and overwhelming colognes. The biggest takeaway from these adventures, however, was how the rest of the world seems to have us beat with the whole “living better with less” thing. In Western societies we see everything as disposable—from our morning coffee cup to our clothes to our mattresses (and to get really deep, even our relationships)—and it’s literally killing the planet and our overall happiness. New studies emerge every day tackling how we are depleting the ozone, contributing to the exploitation of animals and workers, and becoming increasingly more depressed because we value stuff, comparison, and status over contentment, charity, and gratitude. It sounds heavy because it is.
- "The time for stepping up and protecting our planet is now. And this book is an easy, enjoyable place to start."—Moby
- "If everyone gave a shit, we'd have a far better world. This is Making Kind Choices for today's audience, and I love it."—Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President and Co-Founder and author of One Can Make a Difference
- "I love Ashlee's honest and fun writing style. It's so refreshing to read the truth about topics people like to pretend don't exist. Big fan!"—Daniella Monet, actress and activist
- "Become the superstar human you kind of knew you were but needed guidance on becoming . . . read this book and you (and the whole, wide world) will be better for it."—Kathy Freston, New York Times bestselling author of The Lean, Veganist, and Clean Protein
- "Getting it together never felt and looked so good. Listen to Ashlee . . . she's the sh*t."—Nicole Lapin, New York Times bestselling author of Rich Bitch and Boss Bitch
- "Saving the world can seem like a pretty daunting feat without a guidebook to start you on the right path. This is that book. Ashlee Piper gives you all the inspiration, information, and instruction you need to make those small changes that can have a huge impact.—Annie Shannon, bestselling author of Betty Goes Vegan and Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking
- "A smart, quick, useful, and, yes, hilariously profane guide to living in ways that will make the world a far better place. Who knew being good could be so much fun?"—Suzy Welch, New York Times best-selling author of 10-10-10 and co-author of The Real-Life MBA
- "Give a Sh*t is like having every savvy article on going green-from how to properly recycle to tips on creating a non-toxic beauty routine-all in one place. It's the perfect dose of eco-guidance for anyone craving real, no-BS advice."—Greta Eagan, author of Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe
- "This is the guide well-intentioned-but-overwhelmed people have been waiting for. Thoughtful, funny, and utterly practical."—Natalie Slater, author of Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans
- "Ashlee makes a strong case that it's not so hard to give a shit. She makes it chic to be eco-friendly for a new generation of consumers who don't want to choose between efficacy and sustainability. This book is so on point!"—Leila Janah, CEO and founder, Samasource and LXMI and author of Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time
- "Ashlee Piper is a maven of consciousness, a conduit to kindness, and a green glamazon of the highest order. She preaches the ethos I've been espousing for decades: you can look like a fox and still be truly good to the planet and all its inhabitants. This is a book all sustainable-curious, committed plant-eaters, and green fashionistas should have handy."—Chloé Jo Davis, founder/editor of GirlieGirlArmy
- "Fun, friendly, and girl-powered (but dishing out the skinny on some serious stuff), this book will chat its way into your heart and, more importantly, into your choices. Piper's plan for saving animals and the planet also has you spiffing your style and living to the fullest."—Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan and Living a Charmed Life
"Ashlee makes it easy to give a shit. This book is a simple, modern conversation with simple actionable plans to live by and really make a difference. None of us can afford to just suck air and take this life for granted. I think everyone needs a copy of this book!"
—Brook Harvey-Taylor, founder of Pacifica
- On Sale
- Jun 26, 2018
- Hachette Audio