Noted for his work on Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman tackles the ecofriendly world with his book, Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. In my opinion, this topic is a stretch for him, especially since he is noted for his books on psychological issues.
However, he brings a fresh, more behavioral perspective to the subject than some of the other books in the genre which drone on about their eco-political agendas, lapse into techspeak, see the ecofriendly debate as having no middle ground, or who advocate an unrealistic-for-the-masses “freegan” lifestyle.
Like many of us, Goleman expresses his frustration as a consumer with the lack of information about how, where, and by whom products are made, as well as about the ingredients in them. He illustrates his point with this almost unbelievable example of a glass jar.
How many distinct inputs or processes do you think goes into manufacturing a typical glass jar for pasta sauce?
- Impossible to know
Answer 3 is the correct one. Everything from the silica sand, caustic soda, limestone, a variety of chemicals, electricity, natural gas, and on and on–each with dozens of suppliers in their production chains. But if you answered 4, I think you probably were somewhat right, too, since it may be impossible to know every input. It just depends on how far back in the chain you want to go.
And that’s a relatively simple product of a glass jar. Imagine what it takes for a computer or a car!
One of the great finds from this book was GoodGuide website. This site lists over 70,000 consumer products and rates them based on their ecofriendliness, safety, and accountability. The vision is that this info will one day become available at the point of purchase where most decisions about products are made. GoodGuide has taken on a huge, but oh so needed, task.
Three key points which I think are so important from this book:
- Nothing that is manufactured industrially can be totally green, only more or less so.
- Green is a verb, meaning that we are constantly going to be working towards becoming more ecofriendly.
- That we vote with our wallets. By buying more ecofriendly and socially responsible products, we are telling manufacturers that these issues are important to us.
While presenting the dire consequences of our consuming behavior, Goleman does help the reader feel empowered to help make the small changes that will bring about a better world.