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Inconspicuous Consumption

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Inconspicuous Consumption

The Environmental Impact You Don't Know You Have

Grand Central,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Your choices as an informed consumer and voter can make a difference and help restore the environment.

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Environmental journalist Tatiana Schlossberg paints a nuanced picture of how consumer purchases, food consumption and energy use intertwine. For example, organic farming preserves soil and reduces polluted runoff. However, organic yields are smaller than conventional yields and demand more farmland cut from wild places. With humor and perspective, Schlossberg clarifies how larger industry processes entwine with your small impact to spur climate change. Her message: Make better choices. Armed with her information, you can. 


Your personal devices incur high environmental and health impacts.

The actions you take as a consumer have an environmental impact you may not see. Of the 65 electronic devices in the average home, approximately 50 are always using power, even when on “standby” or sleep settings. A California study found that devices on passive sleep or standby settings use 25% of residential energy. Extrapolated nationwide, passive use adds up to $19 billion worth of electricity annually. Though renewable energy and natural gas reduce emissions, people are using more electricity. To use less power, group your appliances on power strips and turn the strips off.

Silicon Valley sends chip manufacturing offshore and exports the related environmental impact. In addition to toxic chemicals, most personal devices use a lithium ion battery. Most batteries contain cobalt, lithium and graphite. Cobalt mostly comes from Congo and is processed in China. Congolese miners work in unsafe conditions. Heavy metal pollutes their water. Graphite, mined and processed in China, spreads fine dust over crops and water, and into the air.

Exporting e-waste...

About the Author

Environmental journalist Tatiana Schlossberg’s work has appeared in The New York Times, the Atlantic and Bloomberg View.

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