When it comes to the environment, mere good intentions are not enough. We have to evaluate “green” practices for their true effectiveness. That is the basic premise behind Todd Myers’ new book, Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism Is Harming the Environment” (now available at Amazon.com or the Washington Policy Center website, hardcover $26.95, Kindle $9.95).

As the title suggests, Myers’ book calls attention to “eco-fads” that are simply trends currently in vogue that purport to address environmental dilemmas. His book brings an honest perspective on green accountability to the existing volatile discussion on energy and environment issues.

Myers’ book can be defined by what it is not. It is not a conspiracy-theory book. It does not try to debate the science behind climate change. It is not political-insider baseball.  Anybody who wants to help the environment will benefit by reading “Eco-Fads.”

Some would argue that if you truly loved the environment, you’d spend unlimited money on green policies. But there is an issue beyond just money here: eco-fads are often not so eco-friendly after all. Myers explains that simply spending money on anything labeled green is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Consider:

  1. We understand that we should conserve resources and avoid waste. Wasting money is wasting resources.
  2. Money wasted on bad ideas is money we can’t spend on effective ideas. And it detracts from solving real problems.
  3. Often these plans backfire and aren’t actually environmentally friendly after all. This is the signature of an eco-fad.

Myers goes into detail with examples of eco-fads in areas diverse as forestry, energy production, climate, and lifestyles. For example, in forestry, green certification systems can be somewhat arbitrary and actually penalize green practices. In energy, saving one ton of carbon only costs $20 on the European market, so a carbon-reduction project that costs $300 per ton of carbon reduced is wasting 90% of the funds. Subsidies may sound enticing, but they can encourage gaming the system via environmentally-poor behavior like shipping biofuels around the world just to collect a subsidy. And “buy local” isn’t necessarily greener because transportation is only 11 percent of CO2 emissions for food production.

Diving deeply into each issue and avoiding shallow politicized talking points, Myers explains why well-intentioned, rational people in business, politics, the media, and even science would succumb to an eco-fad.

Fortunately, Myers also offers solutions. He’s careful to emphasize that not all environmental policies are eco-fads. For example, windmills can be cost effective in certain scenarios in the right regions. A smart grid can help consumers shift energy consumption off peak usage where it is more environmentally-friendly to produce. And he shows how to avoid eco-fads by asking the hard questions:

  1. Efficiency: “Is that the best way to spend the money to accomplish that goal?”
  2. Accountability: “How well did the green program actually deliver on its promises?”
  3. Opportunity cost: “How much did that green job cost to create? And where did the money come from? How many jobs were lost to extract those funds?”

“Eco-Fads” is a must-read book for anybody who wants to be part of the environmental solution.


[photo credit: DonkeyHotey]