I almost bought this book the first time I saw it — I had just started what would become this blog but was then a retooling of an old zine I used to do. I was still working on the idea that would become my complicated (but effective!) environmental-friendliness product comparison formula, and the subtitle A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life sounded like a siren song. It also bore, above the title, an endorsement by a man of whom I’m very fond: Michael Pollan.
I’m glad I didn’t cave — but don’t let that put you off this book. It simply wasn’t for me. There was precious little in this book I didn’t already know, but I spend most of my waking moments mentally evaluating my environmental impact — so I’m not normal. For initiates — people just starting to wonder what they can do for the earth besides just turning off the tap while they brush their teeth — this could be a very valuable guide. Nearly pocket-size and concisely written (“This book is a series of one-pagers” says the author in the introduction.).
I found myself nodding and nodding while I read, heartily agreeing with her suggestions and reasonings for them, and making mental notes about some of the listed resources, but as it become apparent that I was a choir-member and rather familiar with the sermon, I began nodding off.
My only real complaint about this book (which, to reiterate, I wholly endorse for newbies and intermediates of green-thinking and -buying) came in the transportation section. Here is the line that set my teeth on edge: “What should you do with an old diesel car, which can emit 60 percent more pollution tan a new one? ‘Buy a new car’, says the NRCD’s Kassel. ‘I hate to be that blunt about it, but there’s no way to make that old dirty diesel significantly cleaner.'” What?! The correct answer — discussed in a sidebar just one pager later — is alternative fuels. For a fraction of the cost of a new or even just newer diesel you could retrofit your existing one to run on biodiesel, SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil) or WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil) and emit little more than water droplets and eau de French Fries. While I’m glad that she covered alternative fuels, I’m still upset that the stand-alone paragraph quoted above didn’t reference the sidebar or its subject in any way. Someone leafing through the book at the store, or who is subject to AADD (American Attention Deficit Disorder) could easily miss it.