50 Simple Things

I cut my teeth on environmental work volunteering with the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) back in 1991. This was in the wake of 1990, a remarkable time which included the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, Congress amending the Clean Air Act, and SEAC hitting a high watermark by bringing 7,000 students from 50 states to the huge Catalyst conference at the University of Illinois.

1990 was also the year that a cool book chock-full of advice for protecting the environment sold like hotcakes: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth, self-published by John Javna and Julie Bennett.

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Now, thanks to the hard work of the original author and his two teenaged kids Sophie and Jesse, this classic has been updated, enhanced and published under the same memorable title.

As a newly-minted father, I was touched by his rationale for launching this project, as he described it in the introduction:

"In 2006, my 13-year-old daughter, Sophie, started to become environmentally aware. She began asking why we didn't compost anymore...and why I didn't bring cloth bags to the supermarket. One day, I started to tell her why it didn't matter [John had become disillusioned since 1990] --why all the well-meaning recycling in the universe wouldn't stop global warming. But I stopped in mid-sentence. It was weird--I found myself staring, literally, into the eyes of the next generation, the person I had written my book for years before she'd been born. It dawned on me that I couldn't afford to be cynical-- I had to keep trying because I love this planet.

That epiphany was the genesis of the book you're holding in your hands. It's a father's effort to reclaim the Earth for his children, and yours."

The book as re-conceived has 50 specific issues, and progress with resolving each would have a big effect. And there is a partner with whom readers can collaborate on each issue. Some partners are small, like Seacology and Eco-Cycle, while others are big like Sierra Club and -- I'm honored to say -- NRDC.

NRDC, specifically our Move America Beyond Oil project, is the partner for #20: Too Much Gas! which calls for saving gasoline and therefore oil.

As the piece we helped John to write makes clear, and as I've written about before, getting higher fuel economy standards as we did in last year's energy bill is a good start, but there's a lot more we can do. Individually, we can inflate our tires, tune our engines, avoid idling, and take other measures. In terms of policy, the federal government must stop obstructing California and other states from moving forward with standards that will cut more pollution and save more gas, as my colleague David Doniger has discussed on these pages.

The book offers practical suggestions like these for saving gas and provides interesting background and facts on this and a host of other important environmental issues. John and his kids deserve huge kudos for this production, and I urge you to check it out and to track this issue on NRDC's new web page designed specifically for our partnership with the Javnas.