Amid the swirl of information rising around the green movement, some myths have made their way into our brains and settled there as truth. Cloth diapers are unquestionably better for the environment than disposables. Smog creates beautiful sunsets. But Meaghan O’Neill, coauthor of Ready, Set, Green and editor of TreeHugger.com and PlanetGreen.com, knows better. She helped us craft a true-or-false quiz that separates fact from pop-fiction.
Organic foods tend to be more expensive.
F O’Neill says a Tree- Hugger.com contributor did a side-by-side comparison of organic and nonorganic staple foods purchased at a local supermarket and at a Trader Joe’s. “The organic version was actually equal in price or less expensive,” she says. “Even Wal-Mart is carrying organic food now, and it’s reasonably priced.”
It’s more efficient to turn your car off and back on than to leave it idling for 10 seconds or more.
T Well, for late-model cars, anyway. If your vehicle is from the 1970s, you can keep it running for a while longer.
Organic waste doesn’t always biodegrade when you dump it at a landfill site.
T Even carrots and cabbages need light and air to break down to nothing. The Environmental Protection Agency found 30-year-old whole vegetables buried at landfill sites.
The production of all meat -- organic or not -- has a high impact on land use and global-warming issues.
T Meat “is an energy-and water-intensive food to produce,” according to Ready, Set, Green. Leave it off your plate once in a while to reduce your carbon footprint.
For a truly green wardrobe, buy only organic cotton and hemp garments.
F Typically, more than half the energy spent on a garment over its lifetime goes toward its care, not toward its production. Wash in cold water and, as much as possible, skip the dryer and the dry cleaner.
Paper or plastic? Well, paper, of course!
F Producing a paper bag creates 70 percent more air pollution than producing a plastic one. But plastic takes more than 500 years to biodegrade in a landfill. So, bring your own reusable bag. Really.
Cars are the most frequently recycled consumer products.
T You thought it would be newspapers, right? Nope. Ninety-five percent of U.S. vehicles are recycled in some way, according to the United States Council for Automotive Research’s Vehicle Recycling Partnership.
Municipal recycling uses more energy than it saves.
F Reusing aluminum is 95 percent more efficient than creating new products from raw materials. And recycling plastic? That’s 90 percent more efficient.
The mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs offsets their energy- saving ways.
F “It’s such a small amount of mercury that it’s really not dangerous,” says O’Neill. “If [compact fluorescent light bulbs are] properly recycled, they don’t pose a threat to the environment.”
Eco-activists are everywhere.
T Even if you don’t consider yourself an activist, that’s exactly what you are when you tote your own bag to the grocery store.
There’s little harm in leaving your electronic devices in sleep mode overnight.
F That little sleep/ standby light will consume up to 75 percent of the overall amount of energy used in the lifetime of your electronic device. Turning it off is a much better idea.
Wind turbines kill a lot of birds.
F “It’s not that they don’t [kill any birds], but compared with, say, domestic cats, the number of birds being killed by wind turbines is very, very small,” says O’Neill.
If harnessed, the wind that annually blows through North Dakota alone could power one-third of the United States.
T And keep in mind that from 750 to 1,000 feet away, a modern wind farm “is no noisier than a kitchen refrigerator or a moderately quiet room,” according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Hybrid cars are the best way to drive green.
F It’s not about the kind of car you buy; it’s about the car’s fuel efficiency. Some hybrids pale next to traditional cars on the miles-per-gallon scale.
Hollywood’s glow of fame helps fuel the green movement.
But can you recall which star backs which cause(s)?
Answers: 1-E, 2-H, 3-G, 4-A, 5-C, 6-F, 7-B, 8-J, 9-D, 10-I