Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have

Grand Central. Aug. 2019. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781538747087. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781538747094. NAT HIST
This first book by environmental journalist Schlossberg details hidden environmental impacts in the fields of electronic technology, food, fashion, and fuel. The author explains that while the Internet operates as tiny packets of electronic pulses, running it and storing its data requires a global infrastructure. There are many buildings, servers, routers and exchange points, all powered by electricity. While online commerce might reduce physical shopping, it requires air freight and truck delivery trips. Turning to our food systems, Schlossberg’s focus is on unsustainable farming methods, depleted soil, wasted produce, overfishing, and acidifying oceans. With fashion, cheap clothes made of cotton, and oil-based and wood pulp–based fabrics create environmental issues. The fuels section touches on toxic coal ash, wood particulates, and petroleum burned by various modes of transportation. The author concludes, “Our indifference to the value of our resources and to their limits threatens everything, including our own success and survival.”
VERDICT Although Schlossberg’s asides sometimes derail the journalistic narrative, with this call for mass action she presents valuable information that could help readers make more sustainable choices in their lives.

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