Halfway through the book I wrote "superb, clear-cut," and then the book whimpered to an end. This is a very good idea, it was offered for sale at Bioneers 2007, so I have left it at four stars in part because of that and in part because I liked the specifications of brands that made the grade.
The book consists of 11 short parts with the first six being fairly robust and useful, and the last five whimpering to an end, rather pedestrian and not as illuminating or diverse as the earlier sections.
1) PERSONAL: Cosmetics, tampons and pads, sex toys, all toxic if you buy the wrong brands. Woman's pee going into the oceans with artificial estrogen lowering the sperm count of ocean animals (this at the same time that human male sperm count is nose-diving for varied other reasons).
2) ECO-CHIC covers clothing and does a good job of outlining vitual water, sweatshop costs, and (new to me) the dry cleaning implications when wash and wear is not the default option. Similarly, jewlery is rife with blood diamonds and so on, new to me was the integrity of Canadian jewlery, the value of synthetic, and used jewlery.
3) FOOD advises among many other things to avoid farm fish (I would add, avoid Wal-Wart fish as their practices are destroying the South Pacific), be conscious of genetic and pesticide hand-me-downs (arsenic in fast food chicken from the feed seeking to kill worms in the chickens). Pays tribute to the "slow food" movement (something my wife and I are designing the new kitchen toward, inspired by the week I spent in a French country kitchen in Provance).
4) KIDS, avoid plastic, plastic, plastic. I was very surprised to learn about the relatively toxic nature of most plastic. I knew about the arsenic in the old wood playground sets. Wood toys recommended, used toys recommended. Excellent emphasis on how asthma in kids is sky-rocketing (and I would add, especially in low income neighborhoods with little green and excessive idling trucks) from pollution. Good emphasis on how many countries are forbidding advertising toward children.
5) CLEAN LIVING focuses on the relative toxicity of specific cleaners, many of which increase the oil in the water downstream. Suggests that one read and sort all items by the relative danger warnings on the labels, cut use fo detergent in half, buy a front loader washer for dramatic energy and water savings. Encourages the washing and re-use of zip lock bags, the elmination of seran wrap (and my wife told me tonight, now known to transfer toxicity to food when used in the microwave). Recommends trash triage, home compost hear. Useful pointer to web site 41pounds.org where for $41 a year, they will do all the work needed to eliminate all jumk mail (I sealed my office mail address and got a post box, achieved the same effect but at a higher cost). As with most Bioneers, the book is very strongly against buying water in plastic bottles, pointing out that most such water is tap water, and that the plastic bottles are one of the greatest threats we impose on the ocean. In this section, I have the notation, "superb list of web sites" largely in relation to computer take-back programs.
6) HOME is a lot of common sense, including no carpets, wood suspect because of toxicity of the sealants, cork and bamboo tops (I was enchanted by bamboo home and furniture exhibits at Bioneers). Green your home room by room, do NOT use petroleum-based candles, insist on beeswax or soy-based candles, don't use chlorine for pools and cleaning.
7) ENERGY, standard stuff.
8) GARDEN. basic.
9) CAR. Pedestrian.
10) Pets, ho hom.
11) Holidays, cute, some interesting detail.
Bottom line: I read it to the very end and I recommend it for buying, but this is a book that could be executed better, and it could be converted into a website in which one can select where they want to be on the greenness meter, and then print out a list of recommended everything by clicking on categories of interest. I think of this as a superb first generation effort, and look forward to seventh generation variations. In that vein, I am very excited by the possibilties of combining the "true cost" information being gradually built up within the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER), and the ability to use a cell phone to read a bar code, send it to WISER (eventually, not today) and get back the "true cost" as well as the txicity of the item, with alteranatives recommended by price and store.
Good book on balance, a fine use of my time on the flight back.
Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy
The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System
High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy
Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political--Citizen's Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption