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TAKE A GREENER PATHWAY

Forget paper or plastic. Instead, consider hybrid or gas guzzler.

As a new year approaches and brings environmental challenges, some advocates are urging people to think big as they make their 2005 resolutions.

"We want them to sweat the big stuff," said Rich Hayes, spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists.advertisement

"While it's good to think about paper or plastic, the car you drive has a much bigger impact on the environment."

An analysis done by members of the Union of Concerned Scientists found that Americans' transportation choices - specifically the widespread reliance on the car - accounted for the biggest environmental impact.

For example, transportation accounted for 51 percent of the toxic air pollution and 32 percent of the greenhouse gases generated in the United States, according to The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.

The "paper or plastic" debate pales in comparison, authors Michael Brower and Warren Leon note. They cite studies that found plastic bags had a lighter environmental impact even though the paper bags are commonly recycled.

"But no matter what you do, it's not all that big a deal," they conclude.

But it is a big deal to add another car to the garage or to buy a new refrigerator. And it's these major household decisions that people should consider carefully if they really want to make a difference in the environment, they say.

Their 1999 book contains their analysis of the environmental impact of purchases related to transportation, food and household operations and suggests the "greener" path to take when those decisions arise.

Likewise, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki and his foundation are pushing what they say are the 10 most significant things people can do to conserve nature's bounty and improve their quality of life.

But many environmental changes are beyond the scope of individual action.

Brower and Leon urge people to get involved with their government officials.

Large-scale changes are needed, for example, to change tax structures that give industries, such as oil, a competitive advantage. Likewise, government can set environmentally sensitive standards for such things as land use and consumer goods. Government also can help pay for research into environmental issues.

Written by: Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic

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