I randomly found Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen’s Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World while browsing the “Just Arrived” shelves at my library – and I cannot express how glad I am to have picked this one up! Making It has recipes and how-tos for every product you could possibly need to clean house, feed yourself, maintain good hygiene, and stay healthy. It is a complete idiots’ guide to the handmade, homemade, sustainable lifestyle, and Koyne and Knutzen’s procedures are outlined with simplicity, clarity, and even troubleshooting suggestions. Flipping through the projects contained therein, I kept saying to myself “I want to do this one!” and “I have to make that!” My noisy excitement was probably a bit annoying to Mike who was trying to focus on the baseball game, but I just couldn’t help myself.
Coyne and Knutzen break their projects down based upon the time it takes to produce them. So there are step-by-step guides for simple everyday necessities, like homemade soaps and shampoos, as well as instructions for long-term undertakings, like composting or building a chicken coop. This makes it super easy to start by taking up one or two relatively simple projects, as they encourage, before slowly building your radical home-ec repertoire. And the book covers a wide range of projects necessary for any individual who wants to live a clean and healthy life, from cooking basics to house cleaning products, preparing staple meals to homemade hygiene, gardening to herbal medicines.
So why join this “post-consumer” movement? Why take the time to do it yourself, follow these instructional guides, and rather than simply buy products from the convenience store? Well first of all, making it yourself is ultimately the cheapest route to go. So much of the money we spend on household products goes toward packaging. By purchasing the necessary ingredients in bulk and then whipping up the product ourselves, we can avoid the added manufacturing, shipping, and packaging costs. Plus, you’re not wasting gas money running to the store when it’s shower time and you realize you’ve run out of conditioner. And buying ingredients in bulk reduces their price per ounce, so the larger quantity of olive oil, though more expensive up front, will save you money in the long run.
There’s also a great sense of satisfaction from doing it yourself. I love to work with my hands but even more so, I love to create things that are functional and useful. It is deeply rewarding to enjoy food grown by hand in your own backyard, or to successfully whip up a relaxing soap mixture. I believe that the pleasure of having the skills to do a task is far superior to that of having the money to buy a product.
Health is another valid concern to anyone who uses commercial cleaners, processed foods, and chemical-based hygiene products. The projects in Making It avoid harsh, questionable, and dangerous chemicals that could cause untold harm to you or your family. I would much prefer to a product composed of a few ingredients with which I am familiar than one whose ingredients list is long and dominated by difficult to pronounce components. There are a lot of dangerous substances that we introduce to our bodies and our homes these days without knowing the full implications or consequences. The guides contained in Making It assure much safer and more friendly products.
This book is proof that becoming a producer instead of a consumer is affordable, accessible, and doable. I never realized how simple it could be to take a shower using not a single store-bought product – if I’d have known, I would have advocated homemade soap long ago! Coyne and Knutzen make it unbelievably easy to reverse your consumption trends and regain a sense of self-reliance. Even if you love your hair products and can’t imagine living without them, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some recipe for production in here that is conducive to your lifestyle.
I’m a huge library goer and, in an effort to be more of a self-producer than a consumer, I generally avoid purchasing books that I could just as easily access via the library for free. Making It, however, may ironically enough be the exception to this rule for me. It’s a veritable bible for anyone who wants to become a homemaker in a whole new sense of the world, and I count myself one among post-consumer homemakers for sure.
In the coming months I plan to grow my own sweet potato vine; make homemade lotions, shampoos, conditions, shaving creams, soaps, and lip balms; use homemade laundry detergent; and convert to chemical-free household cleaning products. Though I’m usually one to become easily overwhelmed by a long to-do list, Making It has made this list of projects totally easy to tackle for me. Rather than feeling daunted by converting to these sustainable alternatives to consumer products, I am highly excited and full of anticipation to see how the process unfolds. I’ll be sure to report back on my efforts but, in the meantime, go get your hands on a copy of this book. It is not to be missed for the eco-conscious, concerned, healthy, DIY-oriented, handy, sustainably-minded individual!