On our shelves

On our shelves

On our shelves / Consumer spending–that is, going to the store and buying stuff like clothing, gadgets and toothpaste–represents two-thirds of the U.S. economy. No matter how much energy companies or auto manufacturers may spend to “green” themselves, the most important variable in building a healthier, more sustainable economy is you, and the decisions you make every time you pull out that debit card.

Most of us realize this, and even those of us for whom the “green” thing is not quite top-of-mind would still make earth-and-body-friendly decisions at the checkout line if doing so was straightforward.

To the rescue comes former Honolulu Weekly editor Mindy Pennybacker. Her book, Do One Green Thing, out this week from St. Martin’s Press, is generating buzz in publishing circles as a smart, easy-to-use resource for consumers looking to make smart choices.

Pennybacker told HW last week that a persistent theme arose in her conversations with readers over the years.

“People would read about something in the paper, something about pesticides or global warming or disease, and they’d write in and say ‘What can I possibly do about this?’” she says. “I felt so badly about that, because our individual purchasing decisions do make such a difference. I wanted to make a book that wasn’t lecturing or guilt-tripping, but simply gave people the tools to get started.”

Open to just about any page of Do One Green Thing and you’ll find a list of specific products by specific manufacturers that stand out above their peers. From cereal to cosmetics to seafood to toothpaste, Pennybacker’s book is to-the-point, and rooted in the best available science and research. Each chapter opens with one thing people who care about the planet should do–the first, for example: Stop drinking water from disposable bottles. Pennybacker then calculates the personal and collective impact that would result, and presents a range of alternatives. The book also features a foreword by actress Meryl Streep, a key player in the Alar apple scare of the late 1980s–which Pennybacker credits with the rise of the modern organic foods movement.

Pennybacker knows her stuff–the longtime editor of The Green Guide has been an environmental journalist for nearly two decades, and is the force behind [greenerpenny.com], a Web site for eco-conscious shoppers. Ultimately, Pennybacker says, she is a big believer in the power of the individual consumer: “We matter not just as voters, but as shoppers, too. Policy decisions and consumer decisions go hand-in-hand.”

Book signings: Kahala Barnes & Noble, Sat 4/17, 3pm, 737-3323; Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii, Sun 4/18, 2pm, 597-8967