Title: The Consumer’s Guide to EFFECTIVE Environmental Choices — 
Practical Advice From the Union of Concerned Scientists 
Authors: Michael Brower, Ph.D. and Warren Leon, Ph.D.
Published: 1999

Overview: A comprehensive and authoritative review of the impact of consumers’ activity on the environment, which is accompanied by commonsense advice for responsible consumption. Published by the highly regarded Union of Concerned Scientists with the intention of highlighting the most damaging activities and the most helpful and meaningful consumer responses. 

Detail: The book analyzes 134 separate categories of consumer activity (e.g. eating beef and pork, operating personal computers, driving recreational power boats) and then summarizes them into 10 broad activity areas (e.g. Housing and Transportation). For each activity, the authors detail four areas of environmental impact: global warming (greenhouse gas production), air pollution, water pollution and habitat alteration. A ranking of the most harmful consumer activities is summarized for each of the impact areas. Topping the list for overall harmful impact are the use of cars and light trucks and eating beef, pork and poultry. By consulting their tables you can answer nearly every question of consumption impacts you can imagine, e.g. which activities in our homes produce the most greenhouse gases or the most toxic water pollution. 

Based on the impact data presented, the authors then carefully prioritize actions for American consumers that can have the most beneficial impact (e.g. reducing driving and the number of cars owned, driving fuel-efficient cars, and eating less meat).

Responsibly, the authors work to focus the discussion on the actions that can make the greatest positive impact on the environment, considering realistic alternatives even when they require a change from today’s behavior. They also highlight a number of the highly visible but essentially marginal issues that have consumed consumer attention (e.g. paper v. plastic bags, cloth v. paper diapers, etc.). 

Three Points of Personal Interest:

1. Americans represent only 5% of the world’s population but consume 25% of the world’s oil, which on a per person basis is 2.5 times that of the English. And we eat per person 50% more red meat than an average European, and produce two to three times the amount of trash. 

2. The average family produces 8140 lbs of greenhouse gases from driving each year.

3. On an equivalent per pound of protein, red meat when compared to pasta is responsible for 20 times the land use, 17 times the common water pollution, five times the toxic water pollution and three times the greenhouse gas pollution. Over 40% of America’s land area is used for grazing and feed livestock, which produce over 2 billion tons of manure each year.