In my line of work, I often overhear misperceptions about the challenges and hazards of adopting a greener lifestyle. Some of these reflect longstanding beliefs that were once true, but are no longer true today. Others are pure hearsay, and yet others are deliberately spread by parties with an entrenched interest. To clear the air and make it easier for people to make good decisions about greening their lifestyle, I debunk some of the most common myths.
Myth #1: Going green will be expensive.
Busted. Going green is about getting the best value, rather than the best price. Some green steps – like installing energy efficient lights – might take a little cash up front, but they could save you money for years. Installing a water filter at home and using a refillable water bottle can save you thousands of dollars over buying bottled water. Using green alternatives like coconut oil for shaving cream costs less than store bought products. Walking or biking is cheaper than buying gas. And while eating better with organic produce might cost more each week, living a long, healthy life is priceless.
Myth #2: We need More Power Plants
Busted. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 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. It’s similar to telling a very obese person that they can thrive on half the calories they consume. Once we get in shape and efficient with green products, we can meet all our needs easier.
Myth #3: 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 do to your home or office if you want to go green. Say what? It’s true, 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 more than $100 on the cost of a solar electric system. Here’s the math. Replacing just ten standard incandescent bulbs with energy efficient lighting that uses only 1/3 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#4: I’ve heard that compact fluorescent lights contain mercury and that’s a big problem.
Busted. Yes, today’s CFL bulbs 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 3000 milligrams. But here’s the really good news: compact fluorescents actually save us from mercury poisoning. Our coal- and gas-burning power plants spew mercury in the air when they make electricity. Because CFL’s use 2/3 less electricity than Edison’s incandescent lamps, less mercury ends up in the atmosphere. Tell that to the ‘green skeptic’ in your life!
Myth #5. Small changes don’t matter.
Busted. Millions of people making small changes creates a huge impact. Turning your appliances off at night, recycling your paper and plastic, and switching out a few bulbs for CFL’s are small things that make a huge difference if we all do them. “If everyone in the country elected to buy one package of 100% recycled napkins instead of the non-recycled variety, that act alone would save one million trees,” says Jennifer Powers, of the NRDC. By skipping that hamburger at lunch you just saved 1,500 gallons of water and enough energy to drive a car 20 miles.
Stay tuned for more tips on smart, healthy, money-saving ways to go green!
Adam Whinston is Director of Marketing for New Leaf America ([http://www.newleafamerica.com]), a provider of energy-saving products and home retrofit services that save customers money while helping to protect the environment. The New Leaf America team has more than 20 years of experience in residential green building, including off-grid communities and retrofits for existing homes to cut utility bills 50%- 75%, and even achieve net-zero.