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Green Made Easy

by Chris Prelitz

The following excerpt is taken from the book GREEN MADE EASY: The Everyday Guide for Transitioning to a Green Lifestyle by Chris Prelitz. It is published by Hay House (April 2009) and is available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com.

Chapter 1

Busting Green Myths

Over the years, I’ve heard many individuals complain that going green is too expensive or that recycling doesn’t help. And I’ve heard many other green myths that just aren’t true. So, here are ten green myths debunked to clear up any misconceptions you may have about all this green stuff right up front.

Myth #1: Going Green Will Be Expensive

Busted. This is true for some things but totally false for others. Eating better with organic produce might cost more. Using green alternatives, such as coconut oil for shaving cream, usually costs less than store-bought products. Other green steps might require more cash up front, but they’ll save you money for years to come. Installing a water filter at home and using a refillable water bottle can save you thousands of dollars over buying bottled water.

Myth #2: I’ll Never Be “Real” Green Because I Can’t Afford a Hybrid Car

Busted. With a few small lifestyle changes, you can make more of an eco-wallop than buying a hybrid car ever could. For example, cutting back on how many steaks and burgers you eat can save more energy, water, and greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a hybrid.

Green Bite

With the energy needed to produce a single hamburger, you could drive a small car 20 miles and save about 1,500 gallons of water.2 Also, just by switching to locally grown produce—instead of buying food that has been trucked or shipped from thousands of miles away—you can cut your carbon footprint way down. (A carbon footprint refers to the measure of the impact humans have on the environment in terms of greenhouse gases produced.3)

Myth #3: We Need More Power Plants

Busted. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if we become more energy efficient, we’ll have all the energy we need. Switching over lighting in the U.S. to more energy-efficient compact-fluorescent or LED lighting would save billions of dollars and cut the need for 24 power plants. Hundreds of other sectors could see improvements like this as well.

Myth #4: I’ve Heard That Compact Fluorescent Lights

Contain Mercury, and That’s a Big Problem

Busted. Yes, today’s compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) do contain a speck of mercury—about four milligrams each, which is less than the amount in a watch battery. But heck, an old-fashioned mercury thermometer has about 500 milligrams of mercury, and older home thermostats had up to 3,000 milligrams.4

And here’s the good news for your naysayer friends: Compact fluorescents actually save you from mercury poisoning. Coal- and gas-burning power plants spew mercury in the air when they make electricity. CFLs use 2/3 less electricity than Edison’s incandescent lamps, so less mercury ends up in the atmosphere.

Green Bite

A power plant will emit 10 milligrams of mercury to produce the electricity needed to power an incandescent bulb over the course of its lifetime, but only 2.4 milligrams to power a CFL for the same amount of time—saving about 7.6 milligrams of mercury from going up in smoke.4

And, many communities are set up to recycle CFLs to make certain that the mercury is used over and over again.

Myth #5: Solar Panels Are Way Too Expensive—

I’ll Never Be Able to Afford Them

Busted. Solar-electric panels are actually the last thing you want to install in your home or office if you’re going green. Say what? It’s true! You can save more energy for a lot less cash by going energy efficient first—before taking the plunge for solar panels. For every dollar you spend to conserve energy, you can save $5 to $100 (or more) on the cost of a solar-electric system. Here’s the math: Replacing just ten standard incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting, which uses only a third of the energy, will cost between $20 and $50. And you’d save about $30 each month in electricity. A solar-electric system that would generate that same $30 of electricity each month would cost about $4,000.

Myth #6: Sure, Changing Lights Might Be a Good Investment, but Other Items

Will Take Too Many Years to Pay Back—I Won’t Be Around That Long

Busted. Every green investment, from using recycled batteries to installing a new Energy Star air-conditioning unit, will have a different rate of return financially and for the energy and resources saved. But many financial paybacks take only one to three years.

Green Bite

Adobe Systems, Inc., spent $1.4 million retrofitting three buildings with new energy- and water-saving technologies. In the first year, the company saved more than $1 million on energy and water costs. And the market value of those buildings increased by $10 million.5 Those same types of returns are available to everyone.

Myth #7: Small Changes Don’t Matter

Busted. Millions of people making small changes create a huge impact.

Green Bite

“If everyone in the country elected to buy one package of 100 percent recycled napkins instead of the non-recycled variety, that act alone would save one million trees.”

Jennifer Powers, spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council

Myth #8: Keeping Older Appliances Is Better Than Buying New Ones

Busted. Changing to energy-efficient appliances will dramatically lower your energy bills. There is some truth to this myth, however. New models do contain a hefty amount of embodied energy, which is the amount of energy used to mine and refine metals or even recycle old products and turn them into new appliances. Then to package appliances and ship or truck them to their new homes also requires a great deal of energy.

Green Bite

Many new appliances, especially refrigerators, can save 50 to 70 percent on energy over 1970s or 1980s models. It takes only a couple years for the energy savings to pay for the energy to build a new appliance—known as Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI)—especially if you take advantage of rebates being offered. The Website www.energystar.gov has a full listing of rebates.

Myth #9: It’s Better to Leave Computers On;

Turning Them On and Off Wears Them Out Faster

Busted. In the past, it was true that older computers didn’t like to be turned on and off very often, but all that has changed. You can save energy, money, and all the associated environmental impacts by turning your computer and monitor off when you’re not using them.

Green Bite

Pick up a Smart Power or WattStopper power strip that will automatically shut off all your peripherals (such as printers) when it senses you’ve turned off your computer. This will prevent phantom loads—an invisible “leak” of electricity that some appliances use, even when they appear to be off. See www.wattstopper.com.

Myth #10: There’s Nothing Wrong with Buying Plastic—It’s All Recycled Today

Busted. No, unfortunately, it’s not. Only #1 and #2 plastics get a new life as playground equipment or ski parkas. Vinyl or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) can leach heavy metals into landfills and spread nasties like dioxin into the air.

Green Bite

Adopt the mantra: “No #3 or V, please.”

The symbols #3 and V stand for PVC or vinyl. If you have old shower curtains, boots, or raincoats, get them to a hazardous-waste site for disposal rather than tossing them in the garbage (where they’ll end up in a landfill).

*** ***

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Article Archives  This Month's Articles  Click Here for more articles by Chris Prelitz
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