Doom, gloom, doom, gloom, doom, gloom, doom. Sounds like the start of a morbid Dr. Seuss book
or another environmental group’s report on global warming. Earnest reports on our heating planet seem to come out every week, and while they’re all absolutely true, they’re also completely depressing.

Each one is chock full of dire predictions showing we have years, months, maybe weeks to stem the tide of global warming before the point of no return. And the reports’ recommendations for drastic reductions in use of fossil fuels seem unattainable to even the most hopeful environmentalist (me). Either we’ll need some impossibly high-tech solution a la cold fusion to fix this mess or we’ll all need to start farming potatoes with our hands while wearing nothing but muddy burlap sacks. It’s enough to make even the most hopeful environmentalist shut himself in a SUV, lock the doors, and blast the air-conditioning. (I once drove one cross-country; I admit it was very comfortable. I didn’t use the air-conditioning.)

That’s why it was great to hear a speech on the radio from Amory Lovins, co-founder and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a group that helps industry leaders develop cost-effective environmental solutions. In the course of one wonderful hour, Levin laid out simple and manageable solutions to the world’s environmental problems that were being driven by better engineering and pure economic greed. Corporations have discovered going green helps their bottom line.

“Efficiency is cheaper than fuel,” he said.

For example, by making vehicle bodies out of carbon composites rather than steel, the average non-hybrid SUV would get about 60 miles per gallon, and would be much safer than SUVs on the road today. Wal-Mart is employing this kind of thinking to triple the fuel efficiency of its massive truck shipping fleet. Lovins had such a dizzying number of similar examples of environmental progress that by the end of his speech, I was cheering in my kitchen.

The best part was when he casually mentioned that scientists believe a three percent reduction in energy consumption would be enough to start rolling back the effects of global warming. Now, three percent may seem like a lot, but it isn’t undoable. Three percent is not burlap sacks. And energy consumption has been cut in this country before; Americans actually use less oil per capita than they did before the energy crisis in the 1970s, according to a National Audubon Society report.   

So why let industry have all the fun being efficient? I’ve compiled a list of everyday products we can cut out to achieve that three percent energy savings ourselves. While some might balk at the idea of curtailing consumer freedom, I challenge anybody to find something on this list the least bit essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If anything, banning these ten products will probably make our lives better. Avoiding wide-spread environmental destruction would be just the icing on the cake.

The Three Percent Hit List (in no particular order):

Libertarians might balk at banning useless products; they may not agree that these products are worth buying, but they’ll defend to the death Americans’ right to buy them. But if we don’t start trimming the excess of our consumer appetite, we might end up doing just that.