book by the Earth Works Group detailing specific actions that individuals could take to "do something for the environment
With the 20th anniversary of Earth Day approaching, editor John Javna and his Earthworks Press consulted experts from industry, energy utilities, municipal solid waste and recycling programs, and organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Berkeley Ecology Center, the Massachusetts Audobon Society, to come up with a user-friendly "how to save the planet" list.
The specific environmental concerns the book addresses (in one or two page mini-essays) are the Greenhouse Effect, air pollution, ozone depletion, hazardous waste, acid rain, vanishing wildlife, groundwater pollution, and solid waste management, although it doesn't even stick to those (action #1 (see below), while reducing solid waste, is written to address "saving the trees," which isn't mentioned anywhere in the introduction as part of the environmental crisis or the solution)
And here they are, the 50 things:
- Stop Junk Mail
- Snip Six-Pack Rings
- Use a Clean Detergent, i.e. a low-phosphate or phosphate-free one.
- Aerate Your Faucet
- New Ingredients, a combination of strategies to reduce consumption of disposable products in the kitchen or use environmentally benign ones.
- Tanks, But No Tanks, lower the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees Farenheit.
- Make a Phone Call, call local utilities and agencies to discover resource saving services (like energy audits)
- Brush Up on Paint, use latex-based paints instead of oil-based ones & properly dispose of used paint
- Time to Re-Tire?, maintain to reduce fuel consumption; recycle when possible
- Home on the Range, use energy efficient appliances
- Don't Go with the Flow, don't let the faucet run
- Gas Station Ecology, use unleaded gasoline
- The Twilight Ozone, avoid products made from or containing CFC's
- Your Gas is as Good as Mine, strategies for improving fuel efficiency in automobiles
- Recharge Your Batteries, i.e. use rechargeable batteries
- Attention Shoppers!, reduce use of paper and plastic bags
- Find the Hidden Toxics, use alternatives
- Leave It a Lawn, proper lawn care to reduce water and pesticide use
- Stamp Out Styrofoam, don't use it
- It's a Beach, pick up litter on the beach
- Buyer Beware, don't buy ivory/buy dolphin-safe tuna
- Pests & Pets, avoid chemical flea collars
- Make It a Royal Flush, adjust toilet tank to reduce water use
- Air-Power Your Shower, use a low-flow showerhead
- Recycle Motor Oil
- Tune Up the Heat, i.e. your furnace
- Light Right, use compact fluorescent bulbs
- Don't Let Go of helium-filled balloons
IT TAKES SOME EFFORT
- Reuse Old News, recycle newspapers
- Recycle Glass
- Don't Can Your Aluminum, recycle it.
Why does recycling fall under the "Takes Some Effort" category? In 1989, curbside recycling was not the norm in many American communities. More typical were neighborhood drop off centers, which required storing and hauling empty cans and bottles. The 1990s, with state and federal legislation encouraging/mandating waste reduction, along with public education from towns encountering rising costs of waste disposal and waste management companies eager to win municipal contracts, saw recycling became mainstream.
- Precycle, choose products with less packaging/recyclable packaging
- Use Cloth Diapers, instead of disposable ones
- Put It to Work... At Work, strategies for waste reduction at the office
- Recycle the Rest (plastic, tin, cardboard)
- Build a Backyard Wildlife Refuge
- Help Protect the Rainforests, support organizations, avoid tropical hardwoods
- The Great Escape insulate homes properly to minimize energy waste
- Plant a Tree
- Prevent Pests Naturally, use alternatives to chemical pesticides
- What a Waste!, dispose of hazardous wastes properly
- Carpool to Work
FOR THE COMMITTED
- Start Composting
- Install a Graywater Tank
- Drive Less
- Eat Low on the Food Chain
- Start a Recycling Program
- Stay Involved, support environmental organizations
- Spread the Word
Despite, or perhaps because of, its "mile wide and inch deep
" approach to environmentalism
, the book was a hit, becoming a number one bestseller
, with a print run of 1.6 million copies. It spawned numerous copycats, including Marjorie Lamb’s 2 Minutes a Day for a Greener Planet: Quick and Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth
(Toronto, Harper & Collins, 1990), The Green Group’s 101 Ways To Save Money And Save Our Planet
, (Paper Chase Press, 1992), Michael Viner’s 365 Ways for You and Your Children to Save the Earth One Day at a Time
(New York: Warner Books, 1991); Diane MacEachern’s Save Our Planet: 750 Ways You Can Help Clean Up the Earth
(New York: Dell, 1990); Bernadette Vallely’s 1,001 Ways to Save the Planet
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1990); Jeremy Rifkin
, et. al.’s., The Green Lifestyle Handbook: 1001 Ways You Can Heal the Earth
(New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1990), plus Earthworks own sequel
s: The Recycler's Handbook: Simple Things You Can Do (1990), 30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth (1990),50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth (1990), 15 Simple Things Californians Can Do to Recycle (1991), 50 Simple Things Your Business Can Do To Save The Earth (1991), The Next Step: 50 More Things You Can Do To Save the Earth (1991), 25 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth (1991), 50 Simple Things You Can do to Save Your Life (1991), The Student Environmental Action Guide: 25 Simple Things We Can Do (1991), 25 Simple Energy Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth (1992), 50 Cosas Que Usted Puede Hacer Para Salvar la Tierra (1992),
and 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Recycle (1994).
The book’s message: the actions of thousands of individual consumers can add up to make a significant impact in the effort to save the environment.
Sadly, the book lacks comparative analysis of the relative impact of each action. Thus, picking up litter on the beach and choosing to not use a car for one day a week are presented as roughly equivalent actions, even though the impacts on the environment are not equal. It would be nearly a decade before the Union of Concerned Scientists would tackle this concept with a book of their own.
50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth was, of course, printed with recycled ink on recycled paper.
Michael Brower and Warren Leon, The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999)