How Big Is Your Shopping Footprint?, by Paul Mason
This book is at least somewhat disappointing because while it does talk about the environmental footprint of people relating to shopping, the end result is far more closely tied to qualitative rather than quantitative mathematics. Moreover, the book seems to pit different aspects of the well-being of the consumer against others. The author seems, for example, positively unfriendly to the desire of customers to spend the least money on goods and services, blaming it for a higher environmental footprint when this need not necessarily be the case (for example, when one shops at thrift stores with minimum packaging as well as re-use). Looking at this book from a somewhat critical perspective, there appears to be a desire to denigrate price-based shopping because the author’s preferred shopping options are generally highly expensive, and thus unavailable to those for whom price considerations are paramount, not least because buying things less expensively often means buying products made in foreign countries by low-wage workers. Virtue signaling is all over this book, and if there are some worthy considerations here, this book is not nearly as good as the author thinks it is. And that is a great shame, as this book could have been far better had the author been less biased and more quantitative in his approach.
This book is a short one at about 32 large sheets, and it is divided into a variety of non-numbered sections. The author begins with a discussion of environmental footprints in general, presumably because this book is part of a larger series on that topic. After that the author has some critical things to say about the shopping industry as well as the subject of raw materials and their use in manufacturing processes. A case study on the recycling of cell phones then follows. A section on the logistics of transporting goods and the relative environmental impact of various means of transportation (which is inversely proportional to their speed but directly proportional to their cost) as well as a case study on the popularity of locally-sourced Ugg boots then follows. The author discusses matters of where people shop before providing a case study that urges people to buy groceries online (a typically yuppie solution to grocery shopping). Questions of packaging and product life is followed by a case study on the packaging of handbacks. Finally, the book ends with sections about how big one’s shopping footprint is, a look at future shopping footprints, as well as a glossary and index.