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

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  206 ratings  ·  43 reviews
From one of the most prestigious nonprofit organizations devoted to environmental issues comes a clear, practical, and rational overview of the relationship between consumers and the environment.

Paper or plastic? Bus or car? Old house or new? Cloth diapers or disposables? Some choices have a huge impact on the environment; others are of negligible importance. To those of u
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Harmony
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May 02, 2007 ben rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who has felt holier-than-thou about their environmental practices
This book is a good read for anyone worried about the environment, but who isn't quite ready to head out to the local hippie commune. This book doesn't sweat big policy issues, and is several years old, but still provides a good primer on what exactly our how our consumer society is hurting the environment and what we can do in our day-to-day lives to minimize the damage. The scientific methodology is refreshing.

Aside from offering some relief from non-dilemmas such as "paper or plastic", the bo
This was an interesting read, and I like that it didn't give advice in a way that was overwhelming (such as "1001 things you can do to help save the environment" books). Instead, it just focused on the main causes of environmental harm: transportation, housing issues (heating/cooling, lawn care, construction), and what we eat. I also liked that the book made a point of stating the things where the differences in environmental effects are negligable, such as cloth or disposable diapers, or paper ...more
A little dated, but I knew I needed this book when I flipped it open in the bookshop to page 132: "Paper Versus Plastic Bags." The main takeaway of this book is that you should base your amount of concern on how HEAVY the product in question is. You should put a great deal of research and care into making large household purchases--and in this sense the book is much more useful for homeowners (buying a house is indeed one of these large purchases)--and not worry about literally lightweight decis ...more
I was curious about the The Union of Concerned Scientists and saw that this was one of their most popular books, though now quite outdated in terms of the data they used. I'm still happy I bought it! The authors bring science to the reader in the most approachable way with direct advice. They give consumers a way to understand how their choices affect the environment, what they can do to reduce their environmental footprint, as well as what they can ask government to do. Plus for their slightly ...more
Mike Lieberman
got about 50 pages in and stopped. wasn't feeling this book at all. talked about a lot of the supposed myths how recylcing doesn't really help and waste doesn't harm the earth. all things that are hard for me to believe.
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This review is for the 1999 edition. There is a digital version of the book published in 2009, but the content is not updated, just digitized.

From the back cover:

"Paper or plastic? Bus or car? Old house or new? Cloth diapers or disposables? Some choices have a huge impact on the environment; others are of negligible importance. To those of us who care about our quality of life and what is happening to the earth, this is a vastly important issue. In these pages, the Union of Concerne
A data-driven look at how American consumers impact the environment, and hence, what the most effective steps are to reduce that impact. Woulda been 4 stars but it's a bit outdated. The economy and the environment have changed a bit since 1999, so it would be cool to see an updated version, especially given the proliferation of internet-based advice (not all of it trustworthy).

Realizing that most people only have limited bandwidth available for changing their lifestyle to be more ecological, thi
A great book with data outlining how consumer choices affect the environment along various broad axes (greenhouse gases, air pollution, water pollution, habitat alteration). I learned a bit about how to think broadly about how different products affect the environment. The best part of the book though is the quantitative model which allows for understanding the big picture in relative terms. This leads to practical advice, both in terms of the things you can do to lessen your impact with the big ...more
Although this book is about 10 years old now, it has a lot of interesting data to use in considering consumption habits, particularly those that are easy to overlook. There is so much information regarding the factors of climate change that I get overwhelmed trying to determine what I can do to reduce my impact and what changes really are meaningful. This book looks at the major categories of resource use, putting them in the context of consumption and conservation and examines various debates, ...more
Jan 11, 2009 Amanda rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who know little about good environmental choices.
Two stars sounds so low, and really, this wasn't a bad book. I just didn't personally enjoy reading it that much. For me, I already knew at least half of the things talked about and have already started doing the majority of them. I also didn't care for the history of recycling, consumerism, activism, environmental degradation, industrialization, etc. etc., wah wah wah. Sheesh! I would've been happy with a simple list of do this, don't do that. But, I guess that's my fault, isn't it. After all, ...more
Liz De Coster
Despite being dated (published over ten years ago, with research dating back to to the mid-1990s), this is a good resource for people who are interested in the "Why" component of environmental impacts. The authors examine the largest threats to the environment from human activity (air pollution, water pollution, etc) and the changes people can make that will have the greatest impact on these threats. They also discuss what not to worry about - plastic vs paper is an example they give, but withou ...more
Yeah, it's a little dull. But it's packed with useful information if you can wade through it. I especially liked the authors' focus on the most significant sources of pollution, water usage, and etc. They make the point, for example, that leaving the water off while you brush your teeth is all fine & good, but that modern agriculture actually uses (and wastes) far more water than home use does. Thus, reducing your consumption of meat and conventional produce is one way to reduce your water c ...more
True, a lot of the content of this book was stuff I already knew. But it's good to see the facts laid out in a cohesive and accurate manner, from a trusted source with data to back things up. I appreciate their emphasis on understanding which decisions /don't/ matter as much as which ones do. It makes no difference if you choose paper or plastic; they have equal environmental impact, and either is dwarfed by the impact of driving to the grocery store. For anyone attempting to navigate the ever-t ...more
Brian Sullivan
An important summary of conflicting demands, expectations and facts.
This book is pretty much the opposite of "No Impact Man". It tells consumers to not sweat the small stuff, but instead to put a lot of thought into your bigger purchases and consumptions. I feel it is an important read for any aspiring environmental Nazi. I especially enjoyed reading about the debate between cloth and disposable diapers. Previously I thought cloth was a no-brainer, but apparently not! The beginning was a little slow, but it was a quick read. I got a lot out of chapters 4-6, and ...more
Amelia Mulder
I really appreciated this book for:

1) Giving the scientifically researched conclusions about what to do (and not to do) to best protect the environment in laymen's terms;

2) Including a chapter on the history of consumerism, putting our wastefulness into the context of 'how on Earth did we get to this point?' I feel that understanding this makes me feel a lot less helpless, somehow.

Although this book was written in 1999, it is still very much relevant and most of the content still holds true.
a quick, data-driven but still accessible, overview of what really matters and what doesn't about consumer choices and the environment. we're always bombarded with "do this, do that" messages (often conflicting) regarding our ecological footprints, and here's a no-nonsense guide to evaluating those claims.

of course, the most important environmental choices of all (which they make clear but perhaps don't emphasize enough) are public, not private, but it's important nonetheless.
Read it a while ago so it may be out-dated now, but I DO remember being surprised that we spend a lot of time fretting decisions that don't make much of a difference. Paper or plastic? Disposable diapers or cloth ones? Probably doesn't make a difference. Some things kill trees and save water. Some thing poison the air while saving the soil (or vice versa).

If you really want to make a difference. EAT LESS MEAT and DRIVE LESS. If we all start there we'll be much better off.
A book that everyone should at least browse through. Talks about what really matters (car driving at the top of the list unsurprisingly). Contains an amazingly detailed appendix section that lists every activity and purchase you could think of and what its impact is. Breaks down the list not only by contributions to global warming but also toxic air and water pollution, habitat destruction and increased land use.
I got this book free from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It was about prioritizing our enivironmental choices, such as as recognizing that recycling can make more of an impact than whether you choose a paper or plastic bag at the grocery store. It had some interesting thoughts, no rocket-scientist ideas, and a lot of filler. I guess it was okay, but I think I'll recycle my copy of it.
Great basic guide, and a quick read. I ended up skipping or skimming parts of it because it just contained more detail than I needed or wanted. I wanted to know how to prioritize my decisions and thinking about purchases and resource use, and this book helped me do that. Maybe after I take research methods this semester some of the charts and graphs will be more interesting to me!
Dec 02, 2007 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a great book that helps you prioritize the things you can do to create a more sustainable world and to conserve energy. They have lots of great research on what things have a large or small impact (Driving= large impact on the environment along with you house. plastic bags vs paper bags, much less significant).

I was already aware of most of the book's info, and quickly went from reading critically to skimming. Kind of disappointing, but good on the whole. I understand the Union of Concerned Scientists will publish an updated edition in 2012. I hope it will have some newer, more thought-provoking info.
Mary Davis
May 13, 2011 Mary Davis rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beginners who want to save the earth
Shelves: non-fiction
written in 1999 by the Union of concerned scientists- a little dated in some references- but a great starting point if you are interested in sustainability. This is where we were in 1999. some things have changed, many have not- but there are tools to become more sustainable.
Raji Johnson
Very practical and rational overview of enviromental choices we as consumers can implement in our daily lives. The book identifies 7 most damaging spending categories,7 rules of responsible consumption,11 priority actions to make a significant positive impact on our environment.
Michelle Mullin
A must read for every consumer. Very well written, easy to read, and easy to understand. Prioritizes your decisions for you, no more worrying about paper v. plastic or cloth v. disposable diapers! Not reactionary, written by premier scientific consortium.
Eh. There's decent enough information in here, but none of it is particularly revolutionary. Worse, they treat you like you can't handle a little change; a little sacrifice. Stop holding my hand and tell me what needs to be done.
Sep 29, 2008 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: greenies, non greenies, chicgreenies.
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, it was written ten years ago and has the same message we hear all the time today: Eat less meat, use less gas, shut off electric, make smart choices...
Things are going to pot, kids. That's pretty much the gist.

Not for the casual reader, full of statistics and data to back up its claims though. Well written, but not exactly a how-to guide. Its also kinda old (1999), hopefully they update it for the 21st century...
Jennifer Beam
Jul 15, 2008 Jennifer Beam is currently reading it
too many people drive their suv's to the grocery store and think that "paper or plastic" is a meaningful choice... this book makes distinctions between the crucial and the trivial.
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