6 Busted Eco Myths

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Busted myth #1: You can find great organic and local foods at your nearby grocer. Photo: Flickr/wahig

Now that April (aka Earth Month), is in full swing, it’s the perfect time to get moving with your eco-fabulous resolutions.

But the prospect of where to begin can be daunting, especially when you factor in the myths floating around about reasons not to shift your behavior towards that which is more eco-conscious. So enjoy Earth Month to its fullest and don’t be fooled by these six eco-myths.

Myth #1: Organic and recycled products are hard to find.

While this may have been true several years ago, even big-box stores like Walmart and Target are stocking up on organic and recycled goods.

You don’t even have to visit a food co-op or natural market to get your fix of sustainable goodies, as almost every grocery store now has an extensive organic selection.

What’s more, Web sites such as Green America’s National Green Pages have listings for everything from sustainably produced clothing to socially responsible mutual funds.

Myth #2: Too many choices make it difficult to get educated about sustainability.

Certification is not just for organic anymore. There are several organizations that offer screenings and certifications for environmentally and socially responsible producers.

In addition to Green America’s Seal of Approval, which requires companies to undergo a vigorous screening process, there is the Forest Stewardship Council, which reviews the business practice of paper and wood producers. TransFair USA certifies that products like coffee are produced under fair trade conditions, and of course, the USDA has stringent regulations on products that are carry the organic label.

In order to stay up on the latest news and understand the latest green lingo, follow a few of your favorite eco-conscious Web sites. Also, remember that a quick web search can answer almost any of your questions about getting the most out of your greening efforts.

For more information on what all of those regulations and labels actually mean check out our Top 10 Green Labels Guide.

Myth #3: Recycling and reduction is inconvenient.

As our society begins to view trash as a potential resource rather than a nuisance, more and more municipalities are instituting curbside pickup options so residents can recycle everything from metal to food scraps.

Even if your municipality doesn’t accept a recyclable item it in its regular curbside pickup (think televisions, cell phones or batteries), you can easily locate a local drop-off center. Check out Earth911 to find out what to do with those tough-to-recycle items.

As for reduction, your efforts can range from the simple – taking reusable bags to the grocery store, using a refillable water bottle, buying items with little or no packaging or taking shorter showers – to the complex – buying nothing for a week, shopping exclusively at secondhand stores or crafting new items out of old ones. For further inspiration, check out the No Impact Man or The Story of Stuff.

Myth #4: One person can’t make a difference.

Does it really matter if you don’t recycle or if you throw your food waste away instead of composting it? Yes. Much of what is in our landfills could have been reborn as a new product had it been reused. According to the EPA, 63.9 percent of what goes into landfills is paper, plastic, metal and glass.

An additional 44.8 million tons of food scraps and yard waste resides there as well, and the rotting organic matter in landfills turns into methane, one of the most potent global warming gasses.

With natural resources dwindling and climate change looming, it is more important than ever to utilize and support strong recycling infrastructures, while at the same time looking for creative ways to transform our trash into new stuff.

Myth #5: Going green is too expensive.

Putting aside the obvious joy of reducing your overall footprint, many steps that you take towards this goal will also help you to save money.

One person really can make a difference. Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year. Nearly eight out of every 10 bottles will end up in a landfill. Do your part and make that one less bottle by recycling. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Reducing the number of times per week you drive, turning down the heat or air conditioning a few degrees and reducing the amount of water you use can all add up to big savings on your bills.

On the culinary front, if you decide to compost your food waste and grow your own food, your grocery bill for that organic meal will drop significantly too.

Also, it’s important to take a whole-systems view when analyzing the cost of products you buy.

While many eco-friendly products are more expensive up front, consider that your purchase is supporting sustainable and oftentimes your local economy.

Plus, given all of the money you are going to save with your reduction efforts, your budget should still come out in the black!

Need more proof with some hard numbers? Check out our 8 Ways to Go Green and Save Hundreds.

Myth #6: Recycled and all-natural products are lower quality.

It is true that certain materials, such as paper, do gradually downcycle; however, as paper nears the end of its life (after five to seven cycles), pulp that is too small to be used ends up being filtered out of the machines and becomes waste.

When plastic downcycles, it is simply used to make lower-quality products. Today’s Tupperware might be tomorrow’s traffic cone. In the case of other materials, there is no loss of quality. Glass melts down to glass, and metal to metal (so long as the metal is pure). In these instances, there is virtually no difference between recycled or “virgin” products, such as bottles or sheet metal.

When it comes to food, the proof lies in the taste. Anyone who has eaten a giant, tasteless tomato will tell you that making something bigger isn’t the same as making it better.

Natural farming methods, aside from keeping food free of pesticide and chemical fertilizer residues, often result in a smaller, but more flavorful harvest. Products made through natural processes have the added health benefit of reducing air and water pollution (byproducts of chemical manufacturing), and everyone can benefit from a better quality of life as a result.

Read more
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  1. As a cost cutting effort due to unemployment we have been heating with wood in our wood burner to save money on Natural Gas. Our bills this winter have gone from $3-400/month to 12.00, 68.12, and $100. While we spent $300 for 3 cords of wood, we still saved $5-800 over all. We have been recycling glass, aluminium cans and cardboard too. It does not take much effort and is good for the economy. We have just started composting with worms indoors and compost pile outdoors. And, a garden will be planted this year. We are doing well at stewardship of our resources and we are proud.

  2. Good information but don’t confuse sustainable with organic in Myth #1. Your statement: “You don’t even have to visit a food co-op or natural market to get your fix of sustainable goodies, as almost every grocery store now has an extensive organic selection.” is really a mixed metaphor. While many national chain stores are offering organic produce it is not necessarily a sustainable practice when you think of the thousands of miles that produce probably went to get to the store. Purchasing locally grown in-season produce from your community’s farmers’ market or a local farm stand or CSA is much more sustainable and healthier. True, we all enjoy being able to consume produce that is locally out-of-season or not even grown locally we need to understand the environmental impacts of doing so. As noted in Myth #6 the proof is in the taste – and even organic food picked before it’s ripe, stored for days, shipped for hundreds if not thousands of miles and sitting in a store display for days does not have the taste, nutrition or quality of just-picked at the peak of ripeness that locally grown food has.

  3. Great article! Really appreciate the efforts out there to debunk general lethargy amongst us lazy consumerist types. The efforts are paying off, you are not only speaking to the converted! Thanks

  4. I wish that people paid attention to green AND cruelty free. We need to end the waste of testing products on animals. Does Mars candy bars really need to kill so many rats? Does Swiffer really need to keep testing? Did you know Burts Bees is now owned by Clorox? Come on – time to be smart and buy green, organic, AND cruelty free.

  5. Good article, despite the one observation by one contributor here in the comments section that it’s boring. It may be boring for that person — but it could be a revelation to someone else.

  6. While this article has some good info, the caption under the photo with the plastic water bottle is not good information.

    “One person really can make a difference. Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year. Nearly eight out of every 10 bottles will end up in a landfill. Do your part and make that one less bottle by recycling.”


  7. recycling plastic water bottles is not the real answer .we should work hard to keep our city neat and clean,

  8. Great article lots of good tips. And I have to agree with allot of the responses. I got on board with a river clean-up after I retired and the three things that I find every year is plastic bottles , plastic bags and styrofoam cups not to mention the roadside trash pickup that I do and find the same except there I find McDonalds bags and cups. Its sad the we don’t respect the earth any more then that. We need to change the mindset of people and start with schools. And educate on their age group.

  9. Very cool article. I especially liked Myth #4, it seems that people easily write off their actions to just “being one person.” If more of us could realize we do each make a difference we could see the changes from our actions much more quickly.

    Thanks for bringing up these myths.

    Side note: Karen thanks for bringing up starting with schools. I am also in that boat, educate early and it will become natural practice later in life.

  10. I have to agree with Amanda M above. Not using plastic water bottles in the first place is the best option. The next best is re-using them until they are unusable.

  11. This is a very good article, however, I do disagree with part of it. Where I am, recycling IS inconvenient. I live a couple of miles from the incorporated part of town that picks up recycleables. I have to take my items to a transfer station. I am willing to do that – but realistically, how many others are not? A whole lot. I believe if we make recycling easier, more people will do it. At the grocery stores near me, organic products ARE more expensive (except produce at farmers markets). A box of regular cereal may cost around $3.50; a smaller, organic box is over $4. If you’re feeding a family and on a strict budget, you’re probably going to spend thrifty first.

    As I said, I do what I can. An awful lot of people don’t, either due to inconvenience or expense. If we can change those two things, I believe more people will do what they can as well.

  12. One myth I would to see exposed is about the vampire power draw. People are grossly exagerating the savings involved, and underestimating the effect unplugging your electronics daily has on the internal components.
    If your TV or DVD player uses a few watts while turned off , it costs you a few dollars per year.
    The added heating and cooling expansion and contraction the electronics go through when you unplug them will cause premature failure in the device. So you can save a few dollars per year , and spend a few hundred to replace those devices early. Not to mention the environmental impact of discarding and manufacturing a new electronic device , compared to a few kWh of electricity.

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