At first glance, "The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World" seems like a bit of an oxymoron. After all, isn’t overconsumption what got us into this environmental quandary in the first place?

But start reading, and you’ll find that most of the practical tips in this book focuses on the 3 Rs: Reduce, reuse and recycle. Written by Leslie Garrett, a journalist, "The Virtuous Consumer" is a slim guide for the would-be-environmentalist who wants to shrink her carbon footprint as much as possible while still functioning with relative normalcy in our consumer-driven world.

Garrett gives out well-researched advice with a personal touch, going so far as to name her favorite brands and products in each life category she addresses. Apparently, Garrett has a weakness for Green & Black’s fair trade organic dark chocolate and Bonterra’s organic cabernet sauvignon.

The book is also full of interesting shortcuts and tips for the environmentalist on the go. In her section about eco sex toys, for example, Garrett suggests putting products to the “smell test” in a pinch. Strong chemical smells probably means the pleasure prop was made with less-than eco-materials, she cautions.

Lots of little sidebars provide features on other “virtuous consumers” like Wendy Tremayne of Swap-O-Rama-Rama, helpful lists of items to look for or avoid, and short bits of eco-trivia. For those with kids, the book covers efforts to help parents avoid the commercialization of their children’s lives through kid-targeted advertising — as well as eco ways to remove lice!

The book is divided into 12 chapters that focus on one area of life, like food and transportation and pet ownership. You could tackle one chapter of "The Virtuous Consumer" a month to make this your year of going green!

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