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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking
This book is a guide to spending your money in a way that does less harm to the environment than the way you are spending it now. The authors began their book by undertaking a project to identify the greatest environmental problems caused by consumer activities, and find ways to measure which consumer activities cause the most damage. First, they gathered data about...
Published on January 16, 2004 by Amazon Customer

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars worth reading, but getting dated
This book is now a bit dated. The largest impact we make on the environment according to the authors is driving a car. What, in 2007, is the best environmental car choice, a hybrid (what happens when all these batteries die?) or a high mileage diesel that the European car makers are building?

Likewise, in home heating, now that there are tax credits for...
Published on April 24, 2007 by Dan


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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, January 16, 2004
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
This book is a guide to spending your money in a way that does less harm to the environment than the way you are spending it now. The authors began their book by undertaking a project to identify the greatest environmental problems caused by consumer activities, and find ways to measure which consumer activities cause the most damage. First, they gathered data about environmental problems, compared the data and analyzed the numbers. Through this research, they determined that the greatest environmental problems in the US related to consumer activities are air pollution, global warming, habitat alteration, and water pollution.
Having determined the greatest environmental problems related to consumption, they then looked at all the ways a household consumes, and quantified the percent of the household's total environmental damage caused by each item on their list. This enabled them to determine which items on the list are most damaging. Another way they looked at consumption was to take the average cost of each item on the list, and calculate the environmental damage associated with each dollar of expenditure in that category. This is used to find which items on the list give us the worst bang for the buck.
Based on these numerical calculations, the authors determined that the worst consumer activities that the average household engages in are cars and light trucks, meat and poultry, fruit, vegetables, and grains, home heating, hot water, and air conditioning, household appliances and lighting, home construction, and household water and sewage. With the worst activities identified in this way, they go on to make the following suggestions to address these specific items: choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive; think twice before purchasing another car; choose a fuel-efficient, low-polluting car; set goals for reducing your travel; whenever practical, walk, bicycle, or take public transportation; eat less meat, buy certified organic produce; choose your home carefully; reduce the environmental costs of heating and hot water; install efficient lighting and appliances; choose an electricity supplier offering renewable energy.
The authors also point out some non-issues, like landfill space, paper vs. plastic shopping bags, disposable vs. cloth diapers, styrofoam cups, and cotton vs. synthetic materials for clothing. In each of these cases, either the environmental harm of the item is often played up out of proportion to the harm caused by other consumer activities, or the two choices are more or less equal in terms of environmental damage caused. The authors argue that if we really want to make a difference, we need to focus our efforts on the big items, like transportation, food, and housing, rather than on these minor items. There's no sense putting a lot of effort into using cloth napkins instead of paper while ignoring the fact that you have an old water-hog clothes washer and an electric full-time water heater in a room lit by incandescent bulbs.
The authors also include a chapter on priority actions government should take to decrease damage to the environment. There is an epilogue by Susan Strasser covering the history of consumption in America, an appendix, where the authors describe their research methods and results, a second appendix providing resources for concerned consumers, footnotes citing sources of data and statistics, and an index.
Overall, I found the book quite interesting. In reading the appendix covering the methods and results, I am not completely convinced I agree with all of their methodology. In general though, the results the authors come to are plausible. One direction I would like to investigate next is to complete the cost-benefit analysis. In this book, the authors mainly focus on costs- -what are the environmental costs of each activity? But what if we were to focus on benefits instead, and ask, what are the environmental benefits of taking each action that they suggest? For example, if all Americans gave up their private cars and trucks tomorrow in favor of public transit and bikes, the environmental benefits would be obviously tremendous. But what would happen if all Americans became vegetarians tomorrow? How would the environmental impact shake out then? It would be interesting for the authors to do a follow-up study that quantifies potential environmental improvements based on each type of consumer action aimed at reducing environmental costs. These results could be compared with the costs of the associated actions to the consumers in terms of money and time. Then we would have even better answers about prioritizing our actions aimed at lessening our environmental load.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You really CAN make a difference!, March 25, 2002
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
If you're like me, you feel overwhelmed at times with environmental problems: global warming, water depletion and pollution, ozone alerts, animal waste runoff, garbage, plastic, etc. etc. So much seems to be broken that it's difficult to figure out what to begin fixing--especially when you're just an average consumer. Where to begin? And even if you do begin, can you really make a difference?
The virtue of this *Consumer's Guide* is that the authors help us separate the urgent from the not-so-urgent, the easily doable from the this'll-take-more-time-and-effort. They pinpoint three major areas in our consumption in which we can make immediate changes that really do impact for the better on the environment: vehicle usage, how we heat/cool our homes,and what we eat. Almost all of us use our cars more than we need to, and a growing number of us have vehicles much larger than we really need; all of us can do better about insulating our homes, cutting down on electricity, and using environmental-friendly appliances; and we don't really need to eat as much meat as we do--growing food animals is a colossal waste of grain protein as well as a major water and air polluter.
Just as handy, the *Consumer Guide* gives tips for social and political as well as individual action. Changing one's own behavior is essential; but building coalitions with others and putting pressure on corporations and the government to be more eco-responsible is essential too.
Finally, Susan Strasser's concluding essay, "From Walden to Wal-Mart," a reflective analysis of our consumerist culture, is by itself worth the price of the book. Very nice indeed!
So get this book, read it, and take hope: you CAN make a difference!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful resource for educators, March 1, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
This book is challenging but worthwhile for young people of college age, the ones inheriting our environment in the next century, for better or worse. On my first reading, I was struck by the motivating use of concrete examples and the effort by the authors to make complex issues clear. Most important, this book addresses the central ethical choices we are making each day which affect our environment, choices we too easily make without being aware of their implications.
I selected this book to teach in freshman college composition at our community college because current research shows American high school students are more challenged by informational reading, but this is a book by which informational reading can connect directly to everyday life. With this concrete connection to their lives, students have much material to write about at various levels ranging from concrete to abstract.
Students are challenged by the cause-effect implications in the book as well as by the numberical literacy involved in reading of various charts and graphs. I have provided worksheets and writing assignments to support student growth in this area. So far, the groans of the early part of the semester seem to give way to enthusiasm as students use the content and the resources in the appendix to develop their own research projects on topics ranging from Great Lakes Pollution to lightbulb or clothing choices.
Some might criticize this book for its lack of illustration--the current generation reads much more enthusiastically with visual enhancements to text. However, since the appendix provides lists of related Web Sites, students can easily find their own access to related pictures.
At first, I was disappointed that the authors did not discuss family size and population pressures in greater detail. But the three-page discussion that is included, roping off this area as one to be dealt with by individual couples with a right to their own faith and values, is sensitive and appropriate.
One other critique might address the vocabulary level: Although I find the range of vocabulary suitable but challenging for community college freshmen, a high school class would have more difficulty with it. Nevertheless, I chose this book as the one to give for graduation gifts last summer--no material could be of greater importance to the high school graduate setting out on his or her own into the world of environmental choice
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable resource for everyday choices, June 10, 1999
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
Most people are willing to modestly alter their behavior on behalf of the environment. Many of us recycle, ride public transportation and try to conserve energy. What's not clear though, is how effective these and other measures are. What daily activity of ours is most damaging to the Earth? Is it driving, wasting water, or discarding paper napkins? Do we do greater harm by using disposable diapers than by eating red meat? The merits of many conservation efforts have been hotly debated, often with inconclusive results. The ensuing uncertainty has in some cases stalled public (and governmental) endorsement of otherwise sound environmental practices and diffused our will to act.
On the pages of their concise handbook Brower and Leon rid the air of much of this uncertainty. In a clear and dispassionate analysis they lay down the hard numbers that tell the truth: transportation, food production and household operations account for the great majority of environmental destruction at the hands of consumers. They emphasize, however, that between and within these broad categories there are great disparities. This makes consumer choice paramount. Just how we choose to live our lives matters a great deal to the Earth.
The authors identify the most significant environmental problems affected by consumer spending. "Alas," they note, "many of the things that cause most damage are pretty fundamental to the American middle class way of life." Radical change is not likely or in some instances even possible. Yet despite the trade-offs we face the authors show how responsible consumption is possible without drastic measures. In most cases their simple recommendations benefit the environment and our wallets. By focusing on those few activities that are most damaging Brower and Leon show us how we can reduce our impact without unnecessary anxiety.
Those seeking to go beyond personal change will find sound advice for promoting green technology and gently persuading friends and local institutions to assess their own consumer choices. A final chapter recognizes the fact that without the help of government our impact is limited. As the biggest polluter, the largest land owner, the greatest consumer, and the maker of laws government's choices carry the most weight. The authors describe four key government strategies to diminish its environmental burden that merit our support.
Apart from providing interesting reading, this consumer guide has proven an invaluable reference that I consult weekly as I learn the ultimate consequences of how I spend my money. I highly recommend it.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars worth reading, but getting dated, April 24, 2007
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
This book is now a bit dated. The largest impact we make on the environment according to the authors is driving a car. What, in 2007, is the best environmental car choice, a hybrid (what happens when all these batteries die?) or a high mileage diesel that the European car makers are building?

Likewise, in home heating, now that there are tax credits for energy efficient home improvements, what is the most cost effective thing we can do that makes a difference?

I would like to read something a little more up to date on these topics, but this book was a good readable into to making good choices.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Numbers, Weak Message, May 22, 2008
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
The goals of this book are admirable, but the authors (on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists) fail to deliver a truly practical message. Brower and Leon constructed a pretty impressive quantitative methodology to measure the true environmental impacts of a wide variety of consumer activities. But while the numbers are impressive, the authors transformed them into confusing and contradictory recommendations for the concerned citizen. The authors certainly found that some consumer behaviors that seem to be harmful to the environment, such as buying the occasional over-packaged grocery item, are not worth worrying about so much (taken individually) when you crunch the numbers. This is the authors' overall message - look at the numbers to determine which consumer behaviors actually harm the environment the most, and which can be worried about a little less by the conscientious citizen. But the problem is that the recommendations lose their focus and bleed into a very inconsistent message for the reader.

Regardless of whether the one Styrofoam cup I use today has a quantitatively small impact on the environment, I'm not buying the authors' contention that I shouldn't worry because it's just one cup amongst billions of tons of waste produced by business and industry. Maybe so, but things add up, and if many people care a little, then even the authors' quantitative methods would detect the long-term benefits. This book is docked an additional star for the epilogue about the history of American consumerism (written by a third author), which is fairly interesting but reads like the literature review for a graduate student thesis. This epilogue is filler at best and not consistent with the general themes of the rest of the book. On the good side, the extensive bibliography, though outdated, offers a plethora of books and websites that would probably tackle the matter of environmental consumerism better than this book does. [~doomssdayer520~]
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars distinguishing the crucial from the trivial, November 9, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
We've all read well-intentioned books with titles something like "50 ways to save the earth." While all 50 ways listed might be at least marginally helpful, there was no way of telling from such books which ways were really helpful and which were more or less a waste of time and effort.
This book does just that. It is thoroughly researched and well thought out. If you want to read the most current thinking on what you as an individual can do right now to help improve the environment, this book is a great start.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and easy to apply in your life, October 18, 2003
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This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
This books is very good and gives clear updated information about what are the choices you can take in your life to avoid causing bad consequences to the environment.
They can easily be applied in your life, often saving you money too.
I feel that people need to be educated about the consequences and repercussions that their daily choices and lifestyles can cause. It is essential to realize that our children will not be able to live in the same beautiful environment we grew up into, if we don't revise our wasteful, egocentric and inconsiderate behavior.
Also check their web site, [...]
a lot of information there as well.
Roberto
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful information for concerned but confused consumers, May 10, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
The "Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices" offers an excellent and inspiring look at choices that we consumers make every day in a clear, objective and interesting way. The authors offer plenty of information to help concerned folks make decisions on a daily basis, keeping in mind that most people would rather focus on several changes in lifestyle that will make a big impact rather than worrying about small or negligible actions. They also suggest steps for improving policies of local, state and national government. Excellent resources are included for further information on a number of issues, including websites. This is an empowering, extremely practical book, which I would recommend for everyone, especially well-intentioned but guilt-ridden, overwhelmed people like me.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful resource for educators, March 1, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists (Paperback)
This book is challenging but worthwhile for young people of college age, the ones inheriting our environment in the next century, for better or worse. On my first reading, I was struck by the motivating use of concrete examples and the effort by the authors to make complex issues clear. Most important, this book addresses the central ethical choices we are making each day which affect our environment, choices we too easily make without being aware of their implications.
I selected this book to teach in freshman college composition at our community college because current research shows American high school students are more challenged by informational reading, but this is a book by which informational reading can connect directly to everyday life. With this concrete connection to their lives, students have much material to write about at various levels ranging from concrete to abstract.
Students are challenged by the cause-effect implications in the book as well as by the numberical literacy involved in reading of various charts and graphs. I have provided worksheets and writing assignments to support student growth in this area. So far, the groans of the early part of the semester seem to give way to enthusiasm as students use the content and the resources in the appendix to develop their own research projects on topics ranging from Great Lakes Pollution to lightbulb or clothing choices.
Some might criticize this book for its lack of illustration--the current generation reads much more enthusiastically with visual enhancements to text. However, since the appendix provides lists of related Web Sites, students can easily find their own access to related pictures.
At first, I was disappointed that the authors did not discuss family size and population pressures in greater detail. But the three-page discussion that is included, roping off this area as one to be dealt with by individual couples with a right to draw implications from their own faith and values, is sensitive and appropriate.
One other critique might be the vocabulary level: I find the range of vocabulary suitable but challenging for community college freshmen, but a high school class would have more difficulty with it. Nevertheless, I chose this book as the one to give for graduation gifts last summer--no material could be of greater importance to the high school graduate setting out on his or her own into the world of environmental choices!
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