I'm not a tree hugger or an organic apple fiend. I like my meat to come from a cow, my showers extra steamy, my strawberries as cheap as can be, and my water bottled and of "natural spring" origin. Then there was Mindy Pennybacker, and this little book titled Do One Green Thing.
What was meant to be a lazy Monday morning with a creme puff in one hand and some random bookseller's recommendation in the other became two hours of life-scrutinizing, and ultimately, hopefully, a lifetime of more informed choices. Pennybacker packs these pages with no-nonsense non-fiction. She's on a mission, in deep on page one. "Free yourself from the bottled water habit," she commands. I cringed right there in the busy bookstore cafe. She got me, that Pennybacker. She knew me, and she knows you. We're products of the most consumer-driven country on the planet.
You've heard the pleas since preschool orientation: use less water, decrease your fuel consumption, save electricity, don't litter, don't waste! What once felt like grand tasks of immeasurable value and groan-inducing inconvenience are made relevant by Pennybacker.
Pennybacker recognizes people are reluctant to change their ways. Instead of driving less, why not take her up on her cold water challenge and wash four out of five laundry loads in cold water? If every household in America does this, she says, 50 million tons of carbon emissions will be eliminated per year, a figure equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road for one year. How's that for fuel-efficiency?
She measures such minute behavioral tweaks on a palpable and powerful scale: if one out of 20 Americans stops buying bottled water, we'd avoid 30 million pounds of toxic plastic waste; if one person passes on red meat for one day a week for one year, they'd reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as are emitted by driving 760 miles per year; one load of laundry hung to dry instead of placed in a dryer, saves 4.4 pounds of carbon emissions; if every household replaces one incandescent light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, we'd conserve enough energy to light 3 million homes for one year.
Pennybacker's analysis is straight-forward and her chapters are down to an almost rhythmic science. Her anecdotal evidence is often jaw-dropping, and is punctuated with enlightening answers to frequently asked consumer questions, myriad "choose it" and "lose it" tables and charts, and the science behind the facts. Are you a fish connosieur? If so, Pennybacker has something to say. Do you know which fruits are riddled with pesticides and which are generally toxin-free? Do your cosmetics contain "fragrance", and if so, do you know why this is very bad?
If you do one thing after reading this review, read "Do One Green Thing". Buy it, borrow it, or find it on consignment. Get your hands on it, and when you're finished, choose one task from the book and make the planet proud. Do one green thing. Then, do another.
It's too easy not to.
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About the reviewer
Jul 23, 2010
Apr 12, 2012 03:35 PM UTC
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Presents green decision making in bite-size pieces, with simple choose it or lose it comparisons throughout, from how drinking filtered water can help save oil to how skipping red meat at least one day a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Original.