Twenty years ago, in a Berkeley attic, freelance journalist John Javna wrote and self-published one of the most important books of 20th Century environmentalism. 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth went on to sell 5 million copies. It was a great success, but also caught some backlash â€“ I recall Gar Smith of the Earth Island Journal writing a parody called "50 Really Hard Things You Can Do to Save the Earth." ("1. Get rid of your car.") The book eventually went out of print, but its concept â€“ an accessible list of things average citizens might actually feel they can do â€“ has been copied and modified hundreds of times.
Now Javna, inspired anew by the environmental consciences of his two teenagers, has returned with a new edition â€“ this time paired (of course) with a website, www.50simplethings.com. And this time, his list of things isn't quite so simple.
The new 50 Simple Things partnered with 50 environmental groups, including EWG. Each group picked one issue to explore in depth, telling you how to start close to home but keep pushing for change at the state, national or even international level. For example, EWG's chapter and web page, "We've Got Chemistry," includes our Everyday Pollution Solutions, but also urges readers to support the Kid Safe Chemical Act, federal legislation that would require that chemicals are safe for kids before they're allowed on the market.
Most of the nation's major environmental groups are in the new 50 Simple Things, but there are plenty of groups I was glad to learn about, like CoolCities and 1Sky. My favorite (non-EWG) group in the book: Interfaith Power & Light, run by EWG board member the Rev. Sally Bingham.