What shade of green is truly eco-friendly? I have never been one to follow anyone or anything blindly without asking questions. More often than not, some of what we read in the media are myths. For example, how do we know whether eco-friendly household cleaners are what they claim to be, or just labeled as such? I have seen too many greedy manufacturers who would put any labels on their products if it would mean more sales.
I did some checking to find out which eco-friendly suggestions are myths and which are really good for the environment. Many of what we are encouraged to do are more turquoise than green.
How much do we understand about eco-friendly?
We know by now that air pollution, fuel-powered vehicles, coal-burning power plants and more cause global warming. How much do we even know and understand about greenhouse gas emissions? Learning that they are gases released during fossil fuels’ combustion makes me think there is not much I can do to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We blindly follow those who make big deals out of planting trees to prevent global warming. However, while digging deeper, (pun intended) I discovered that planting trees is not necessarily beneficial and could actually cause warming rather than preventing it.
Why not all forests are eco-friendly
We learn that forests cool the air, reduce air pollution, and their dark leaves absorb sunlight that would otherwise warm the planet. However, scientific studies have found that only forests around the equator affect climate change. So planting trees in any area outside the tropical belt is a waste of money and time. Interestingly, scientists say the more distance between forests and the equator, the more heat the dense canopies trap, causing rising temperatures.
Appliances use vampire power in off mode
Regardless of how diligently we switch appliances off when we don’t use them, they continue to use power. We call this power usage in standby mode vampire power. Even when switched off, televisions, computers, air conditioners, cell-phone chargers and devices that maintain and display clocks use power. Although it might seem insignificant per appliance, it could make up as much as 5% of your monthly electricity bill. Therefore, to maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle, you have to unplug devices.
Organic is not always eco-friendly
Organic food is not necessarily the eco-friendly default. Not everything that shows organic on the label is better than those without such tags. Produce must be free of growth hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to have health benefits. We also want to be sure dairy, eggs and meat involve free-range and cage-free animals that received humane treatment.
For dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit to be good for the planet and its soil, farming methods must be regenerative and sustainable.
However, only locally produced organic foods are eco-friendly. Anything that reaches you after being shipped, trucked or flown caused pollution and consumed energy, which are precisely what we want to avoid. The distance between source and market is called food miles. The more food miles, the more significant the contribution to global warming. Pause to think about it when you next find fresh strawberries in the store in December.
You can feel good about your part in fighting global warming if you buy your fresh produce from a local market, or better yet, grow it in your garden.
The difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation
Both energy efficiency and conservation are essential aspects of eco-friendly living. Conserving energy happens when we switch off the light when we leave a room. Efficient energy usage involves replacing things like standard bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. This applies to anything that requires less energy to provide the same result. However, energy efficiency and conservation go hand in hand. We must turn off even energy-efficient lights when we leave the room. Compare it to defeating the purpose by eating an entire pack of cookies because they are sugar-free or low-fat.
Hybrid vehicles may not be the right choice
Choosing a hybrid vehicle needs careful consideration. If you want to replace a truck or a large car, choosing a hybrid might be the appropriate choice. However, if you need only a smaller vehicle to haul your family around, going for a smaller gas-only vehicle might have a much smaller carbon footprint than a hybrid truck or SUV.
The bottom line
There is nothing wrong with living a greener life. It’s even admirable. All I’m trying to say is don’t just blindly follow others, do a bit of research and change your lifestyle in ways that would contribute to a healthier planet.