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Feb 22, 2010

Where to Go for Reputable Environmental Decisionmaking Help?

The conusmers guide to effective environmental choices practical advice from the union of concerned scientists 7 70  I'm looking for a reliable resource for scientific opinions on environmental issues.  I remember being impressed by the Union of Concerned Scientists' 1999 book The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists because it differentiated between big deal environmental problems and less-of-a-big-deal problems so that we could allocate our efforts accordingly (e.g., meat vs. vegetables is a bigger deal than paper vs. plastic).  I often want a similar title, updated for 2010.  For example, to address one visible concern of the environmentally conscious person today: what's the relative impact of worrying about my tire pressure vs. whether I'm drinking bottled water?  Or should I spend my next $25k on buying a new Prius, or should I just keep my old car very carefully in tune, buy a solar water heating system and a new heat pump, and donate the rest to a nonprofit that weatherproofs older homes in poor neighborhoods?

I welcome suggestions on organizations and/or publications that can help.  FYI: I don't have a sense of where the UCS sits on the credibility meter.  But I did like the intention of their 1999 effort.

09:47 PM in Misc. 2010 | Permalink


Resources for the Future (rff.org) does great policy work, and Environmental Defense (edf.org) does good work and supports smart public policies. To the extent that they have anything on their sites, it should help you, but neither one is a pocket Green for Dummies.

Posted by: Glenn | Feb 22, 2010 10:19:36 PM

My new goal: Earthships...along with some greenhouses and my own little farm. Sorry, no advice on actual books...tho I do think there is one called Earthships now that I think about it.

Posted by: Mike Harrington | Feb 23, 2010 8:04:31 PM

I hope you'll keep us posted on your search, Phil. I'd be interested to know myself.

I found Michael Pollan's, The Omnivore's Dilemma to be a great insight into where my meals might come from. It doesn't advocate a particular choice so much as enlighten us to the realities behind the choices. Not exactly what you're seeking, but worthwhile for the same reasons.

Posted by: Doc | Feb 27, 2010 8:16:00 AM

Phil - Union of Concerned Scientists is very well respected. And I think the principles of their 1999 book still hold up very well.

Bottled water and tire pressure? Both. You save money by changing both behaviors (about 1-3% increase in your gas mileage depending on how flabby the tires). (Probably more money saved by not buying the bottles).

Prius versus old car: what kind of mileage do you currently get, and how many miles a year do you drive it? it's estimated that ~25% of the carbon footprint of the car is from manufacturing it. So it depends on a bunch of variables. Try driving more slowly and smoothly (DO NOT coast through stop signs like some of the more rabid hypermilers) for three months & track your gas mileage. I bet you can get at least a 10% improvement in efficiency. Then you'll have even more money for that solar hot water heater.

I keep my 1998 Honda Civic at work for side trips during the day, ride the shuttle to work, and use Jen's car on the weekend if we're going out of town or public transit if we stay put. But to each their own.

Sometimes Yahoo! Green/Yahoo! Answers is helpful for covering such stuff.

Posted by: chris page | Apr 1, 2010 7:28:31 PM