The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009


This book, written by Michael Brower, Ph.D. and Warren Leon, Ph.D. is subtitled “Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists.” The subtitle is the best clue to what this book contains—practical advice. The basic premise is also quite revealing, which is that: “… all consumption is not equally harmful.” In addition, their reasons for writing this book are that it:
1. will help the consumer set priorities.
2. will help us stop worrying about insignificant things.
3. is based on extensive analysis of how everyday household decisions actually affect the environment.
4. is backed by the research and credibility of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which was founded in 1969.

To demonstrate this premise, the authors delve into all aspects of the environment where consumers can make a difference through their choices of consumption and attention to areas that matter most. The book is logically divided into Consumers & the Environment (part one) and What You Can Do (part two).

Perhaps the most important chapter in part one is Chapter 3: The Real Impacts of Household Consumption. Citing four areas that are responsible for most of the environmental damage attributable to consumers, the reader becomes more sensitized about his/her personal impact on the planet. The four areas are:
1. Air pollution
2. Global warming
3. Habitat alteration
4. Water pollution

There is also a list of the most harmful consumer activities with tables displaying Environmental Impacts per Household. These 7 categories are:
1. Cars & light trucks
2. Meat & poultry
3. Fruits, vegetables, & grains
4. Home heating, hot water, & air conditioning
5. Household appliances & lighting
6. Home construction
7. Household water & sewage

Part 2 deals with practical steps we can take to reduce our negative impact on the planet with priorities for personal action, avoiding high-impact activities, seven rules for responsible consumption, and what you can ask government to do. The information under the seven rules are quite helpful, so I have included the list:
1. Give special attention to major purchases.
2. Become a “weight” watcher.
3. Analyze your consumption quantitatively.
4. Don’t worry or feel guilty about unimportant decisions.
5. Look for opportunities to be a leader.
6. Buy more of those things that help the environment.
7. Think about non-environmental reasons for reducing consumption.

This book cleared up many of the misconceptions I had about the environment and how my own practices impact on the planet. It also helped me understand where I need to focus my energies, since doing everything to reduce my carbon footprint can be overwhelming!

The book is available through Random House and their email address is: The price is $15 and well worth the expense.

Below is one of the pictures we took in L.A. at the Virginia Robinson Gardens….a beautiful environmental setting in the midst of a bustling city.