Friday, April 22, 2011

Five things that aren’t going to save the planet


By Lori Bongiorno

Looking for ways to live a more eco-conscious life? It can be overwhelming because there are so many choices we can make. It's hard to know where to start or what will really make a difference.
Here's a list of things you don't have to do to save the planet, either because they ultimately don't have much of an impact or because there are simpler or less expensive actions that are actually better for the environment.
That's not to say that you shouldn't take the actions below, it's just a guide for those of us with limited time or resources who want to get a bigger bang for our buck. 

1. Always buying organic
There's no question that farming without pesticides is good for the planet, but you can make a bigger difference with other food choices. Buying real instead of processed food is better for your health and the planet's. Choose what's in season and local for produce that tastes better, is more nutritious, and doesn't have to travel thousands of miles to reach your table.
If you can afford to buy organic, then spend your money on the fruits and veggies that tend to have the most pesticide residues such as peaches, strawberries, and celery, as well as dairy and meat. You can skip organic versions of onions, avocado, and other produce that's typically light on pesticide residues as well as processed foods.
Other ways to make a real difference: Try to reduce food waste. Eat less meat and dairy (cut down on portion sizes or try skipping meat one day a week). The kind of meat you choose is also important. Red meat is harder on the planet than poultry and pork.

2. Unplugging your electronics
It's true that many plugged in electronic devices in our homes use energy even while they are turned off or not being used. It's certainly easy enough to unplug cell phone chargers or the extra TV in a guest room that rarely gets used, but some people find it tedious to unplug computers, printers, cable boxes, and other electronics they use regularly. Or they just plain forget.
Don't sweat it. There are plenty of easier things you can do to save energy at home that make more of an impact on the planet and your wallet. Some suggestions: Wash your clothes in cold water and when possible air-dry them. Here's a short list of free and low-cost ways to make a difference (in order from least to most impact): Turn out unneeded lights, use the energy-saving mode on appliances, install a programmable thermostat, seal large air leaks, or add insulation to your attic. 

3. Buying green products
Purchasing a bunch of "eco-friendly" products is not a great way to be supportive of the environment. The best thing you can do is buy less stuff. Resources are used to make, package, ship, and ultimately dispose of all products, green or not.
When you have to buy new, then it's best to choose products with sustainable attributes if you can. Look for items that are energy efficient, are made of recycled or recyclable materials, or have minimal packaging. Before you go shopping try prolonging the life of what you already own, borrowing or renting something you'll use infrequently, swap what you no longer need, or buy a used product.

4. Switching to cloth diapers
All diapers take a toll on the planet. Cloth diapers are typically made from conventional cotton and require energy, water, and (in many cases) harsh detergents to wash them. Disposable diapers end up clogging landfills and most brands are bleached with chlorine, which is highly polluting.
There are greener alternatives for each option (organic cotton cloth or non-chlorine disposable), but you should pick what's most convenient for you because one choice is typically not better than the other. Instead, spend your time and money on something that will really make a difference

5. Buying a hybrid
You don't need to buy a hybrid to make a difference. When car shopping, choose the most fuel-efficient car in the class of car you need. Some smaller cars rival hybrids when it comes to fuel efficiency and they often have a lower price tag attached.
But, really, the best thing you can do to help the planet is drive less. That's not easy for many people, but take public transportation when it's available and convenient or try to carpool or telecommute once a week. Bundle errands when you can. Take good care of the car you already own, and don't let the engine idle. If everyone took these simple steps it would have a measurable impact on global warming emissions.;_ylt=AhKyzMzHvDYL.n8fqT8dSMqAV8cX


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