There's no denying that green living is catching on. A trip to the store reveals a range of eco-friendly products, and on a walk down the street you're apt to see a solar-powered trash can or parking meter. However, given the amount of information currently available on sustainability, it's easy to become overwhelmed and confused.
Meteorologist and eco-expert Terri Bennett believes some sustainable living advice falls into the category of "green myths." In a recent column for the Sacramento Bee, Bennett busted some of these ideas.
While eating organically has its benefits, Bennett said it isn't always necessary to spend the extra money on organic food. Purchasing locally-sourced produce is another important way to live a green life, because these food items are not shipped around the globe, and contribute less to the emissions of trucks, trains and planes.
Walking down the store aisles, you've no doubt seen many products labeled "eco-friendly," "natural" or "green." However, according to Bennett, some products are labeled as such because of a lack of regulations and standards.
Underscoring Bennett's point, there are no real hard-and-fast rules governing what foods can be labeled "natural," according to Greener Ideal. The website quoted the Food Marketing Institute as saying, "Most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and health codes that apply to all foods.”
According to Greener Ideal, if an item is listed as "100 percent organic," each of the ingredients has to be on the label and has to be organic. However, if the product just says "made with organic ingredients," it only has to be 70 percent organic. There are several websites that consumers can check to ensure they are purchasing organic items.
Instead of purchasing some items that claim to be all-natural, there are two products that can be used for cleaning that many consumers most likely have, according to Bennett. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are safe and inexpensive cleansers that have been touted by many environmental advocates throughout the years, and each can be used for multiple purposes, which is another perk to keeping them around the house. Bennett offered a word of warning, though: Vinegar cannot be used on marble surfaces.
Another question that consumers always ask, said Bennett, is whether or not they are living sustainably if they don't drive a hybrid vehicle. According to Bennett, there are steps to green your ride even if it is not a hybrid. Keeping a vehicle regularly serviced and making sure the tires are properly inflated, for example, will make it more fuel efficient in the long run.
Some homeowners believe that whatever goes in their storm drains will be filtered and not cause later harm. However, Bennett said this is not true.
"Unlike what goes down the drain at home, this stuff isn't filtered before heading into our streams, creeks, and eventually our oceans. It's critical to properly dispose of household hazardous waste," she wrote.
Another myth busted by Bennett: Appliances and devices that are turned off are not drawing electricity. Plugged-in devices actually draw "phantom power," Bennett pointed out. Therefore, you can save money on your monthly bills by unplugging unused appliances and electronics. According to TreeHugger, household appliances such as toasters, DVD players, coffee makers and computer monitors can account for about five percent of a home's energy use.
Although Bennett provided some great insight in her column, the topic of sustainability is a big one. If you're in doubt about what's true and false when it comes to green living, one good resource is the Federal Energy Management website of the U.S. Department of Energy.