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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 19, 2010

The power of 1

BY Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Author Mindy Pennybacker, a former New York journalist specializing in environmental reporting, grew up in Hawaii and is now living here again.

Courtesy of Mindy Pennybacker

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What if every American stopped buying water in disposable bottles?

• 17 million barrels of oil would be saved annually

• Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 2.5 million tons

• $100 billion spent on bottled water could be spent on something else

• Tap water is not only safe but more strictly regulated, and you can drink it from a reusable bottle made of safe plastic or stainless steel

What if you paid all your bills online?

• Paper waste would be reduced by 1.6 billion tons a year

• Greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 2.5 million tons a year

• There would be fewer cancer-causing dioxins released into the air from chlorine used to bleach wood pulp.

What if you only used skin products with simple, nonsynthetic ingredients?

• You would reduce your exposure to chemicals linked to cancer and hormone disruption that are readily absorbed through the skin

• You would also limit the chemicals that wash off your skin and into the environment , where they severely damage aquatic eco-systems

Source: "Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices" by Mindy Pennybacker; available at Barnes & Noble, Native Books, Borders and online at www.greenerpenny.com

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Mindy Pennybacker will join Avril Jenkins, manager of The Green House, a sustainable learning center, and Wendi Kamiya, of Kanu Hawai'i, for a panel discussion that follows a free screening of "No Impact Man," a documentary about a New York family's effort to live off the grid for a year.

6 p.m. today

Thurston Memorial Chapel, Punahou School

Find out more: www.punahou.edu/sustainability, 943-3609.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mindy Pennybacker, center, will be part of a sustainability panel discussion today at Punahou. Itís free and is preceded by a film.

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Let's face it, when someone tells you that your personal health habits ó from the soap you use to the water you drink ó affect the health of the planet, the reality can be paralyzing.

Perhaps worse is trying to navigate the world of helpful solutions and find something that you can trust. Environmental journalist Mindy Pennybacker calls this "eco anxiety."

Pennybacker has created a solution for the overwhelmed citizen yearning for clarity: "Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices," just published by St. Martin's Griffin.

The book is a guide to simple, affordable changes you can make toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle without having to engage in radical change.

"I wanted it to be substantive but appear light so it didn't appear threatening," she said. "I don't want people to feel they have to do a lot of hard work and be lectured."

The 270-page paperback is jammed with information, suggested alternatives and the impacts one personal choice can create. Pennybacker examined water, food, home, personal care and apparel.

Each chapter begins with the same simple question: If you could do one green thing, what would it be?

What follows are answers that include good choices and the consequences of the choices you should avoid. She explains the science behind her suggestions and their connection to both your health and that of the planet.

Pennybacker also includes consumer-oriented material, such as suggested shopping lists and which product labels you can trust.

Of course, one of the most important questions is why you should believe Pennybacker.

The 57-year-old author, who was born and raised in Hawai'i, spent the bulk of her journalism career in New York City, including 20 years specializing in environmental reporting. She was editor-in-chief of The Green Guide and a founding editor of greenguide.com. Then she founded her own site, GreenerPenny.com.

Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Sierra and The Nation.

Pennybacker returned to the Islands last year with her husband, who is also a writer and editor, and they live near Diamond Head in the home she grew up in.

Pennybacker started the book in 2008 with the hope that she could show the benefits of cumulative efforts.

"I wanted to have a book about individual solutions," she said, "and show how, as part of the big picture, we do make a difference while saving money and reducing toxic exposures in our daily lives."

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