Times change, and with them fashions and fads come and go. The 1980s and 90s were all about consumption: the bigger, the better. It was a point of pride to go through more bottles of aerosol hairspray than anyone else in your social circle.
Now it’s en vogue to be green. Now you boast about reducing the size of your carbon footprint, recycling, reusing and any other means of being kinder to the Earth. Unfortunately, in their quest to conserve conspicuously, some people are falling a bit short of the mark.
Energy Efficient Isn’t Always Better
If you must purchase something new, like a dishwasher, you’ll want to choose the model that conserves energy, has an option for a half load and creates the least amount of impact to get your dishes clean. Just hopping on the energy-efficient bandwagon by replacing all of your windows and appliances with newer, more energy efficient models means you’re missing the whole point. In many cases, the existing windows are doing a fine job conserving energy, as are the fridge and stove in the kitchen. Remember that old slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”? It’s in that order for a reason. New products don’t magically appear at a store with a clean carbon footprint. It takes energy, materials and resources to make and transport those items. Sending perfectly good appliances and windows to the landfill to rot, slowly and uselessly is just wasteful.
The same holds true for car maintenance. Before you try some bizarre solution from a snake oil salesman to boost your MPG or otherwise “greenify” your car, consider the damage you might be doing. Simply using factory Nissan parts to repair your aging Pathfinder, rather than shoddy third party replacements, will keep that car running better and longer. Some cars are just never going to have great gas mileage. But like those windows and home appliances, it’s often better to use the car for as long as possible, rather than purchase a new one for green bragging rights.
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You Just Can’t Recycle Everything
It doesn’t matter whether you started the recycling revolution in your neighborhood, or just started filling the bin after it arrived. If you’ve taken it to the next level and started composting, that’s great — if you’re doing it correctly. If you’re not adhering to recycling or composting standards you can be doing as much harm as good, says an article on the Mother Nature Network website. For example, foods like leftover rice, old bread and milk products should be kept out of the compost pile as they can attract pests. Tossing in dandelions or other weeds is just wasteful— they will use the nutrient-rich compost to grow and take over the whole container.
As for what to keep out of the recycle bin, myriad items that most people put into their containers all the time can actually cause problems at the recycle plant. For example, plastic trash bags can gum up the machinery, and pizza boxes— while made of cardboard— tend to have too much leftover grease and pepperoni on them to be properly recycled. Most takeout containers and pet food bags also belong in the trash and not the recycle container. And just because that stack of old hangers is made of plastic, it is not the kind that can be recycled. Recycling is definitely a good thing, but it must be done correctly in order for it to benefit the Earth. All that trash you thought you could recycle? Now it takes two trucks to get it to the correct destination. For more information on recycling no-no’s, visit LearnMoreRecycleBetter.org.
Photo by Elliot Brown via Flickr
“Off” Isn’t Always Totally Off
If you turned off your DVD player last time you used it, then congratulated yourself on how green you were, ask yourself this: did you unplug it? A long list of appliances continue to drain energy 24 hours a day— even when they are not turned on. These “energy vampires,” as they are known, include everything from DVD players to air conditioners and many more says the Consumer Energy Center. In order to get the maximum energy savings, don’t just switch off your devices, unplug them. If that sounds like too much work for your entertainment center, look for power strips that turn off outlets based on what the master device is doing. They’ll save power and save you effort.
Photo by Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr