Review: Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists

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Review: Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists By Michael Brower and Warren Leon Brower, Michael and Warren Leon. Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999.292 pp. US $15.00 paper ISBN: 0-609-80281-X.

We've probably all heard of best-selling books like "50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth." And while such books are helpful, few books have accurately described which things are the very most important things we can do as American consumers. Fewer if any have described why based on an evaluation of concrete scientific evidence. Fortunately, this book does both. It accurately addresses which consumer choices and behaviors most critically affect the environment and why. Consumers today can be overwhelmed about what to do to help the environment. Some end up feeling that almost everything they do hurts the environment, while others feel that if they are at least recycling and turning off their lights at home more often then they are making an important difference. This book clearly shows which everyday consumer decisions count, which ones don't count (or matter marginally in the big picture), and why based on scientific analysis of current environmental data.

The first section of the book identifies four key consumption-related environmental problems: air pollution, global warming, habitat alteration, and water pollution. It next investigates how these environmental problems are linked to household purchases and activities. Its critical analysis yields truly interesting results. Certain widely held beliefs concerning popular environmental issues are critically examined and debunked. Some consumer choices identified as seriously damaging the environment early on by grassroots environmental groups are confirmed as such, but by real evidence rather than emotional appeal. And surprisingly, some consumer choices really don't matter that much at all in the big environmental picture. The second section's chapters on "What You Can Do" focuses on setting priorities for personal action, avoiding high impact activities, the seven rules for responsible consumption, and what the consumer can ask the government to do. All presented in a concise and easily understandable overview.

Considering the trouble the average consumer may encounter getting accurate environmental information, The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices is invaluable. …