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Is all Green Green?

Green initiatives and products have appeared everywhere the last few years due to a growing demand in the public conscience to improve the environment and rely less on fossil fuels or other destructive and unsustainable resources. Unfortunately, not everything that is being done or offered is all that green, but there are ways to make sure you are doing the best thing for the planet and yourselves.

Solar Power – What is greener than solar energy? Solar panels require some dangerous chemicals to be used in the process like heavy metals and some greenhouse gasses that are 25 times more potent than carbon. These are contained and, so far, haven’t been a problem in being released into the environment. But, as they age, there is the problem of some of these ending up in landfills where they can eventually contaminate ground water. Solar power still isn’t very efficient and requires massive amounts of land and resources to compete with traditional power supplies. Despite all this, solar is still one of the best ways to shift away from the burning of fossil fuels and it is constantly getting better, less expensive, and less reliant on heavy metals.

Wind Power – Like solar, wind requires massive amounts of land and resources in order to compete with coal and fossil fuels. It takes huge amounts of acreage and tons of steel and isn’t possible everywhere. Once again, innovations are being made to make wind power more reliable, feasible, cheaper, and take less steel, but it isn’t there yet.

Hydroelectric – Hydroelectric requires reservoirs that alter the natural ecosystem and it is not entirely sustainable as reservoirs must be limited to certain areas and water resources are constantly under more and more demand.

Electric Cars – The factories that manufacture these cars and the batteries that go into them spew large amounts of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants during the process. Most batteries do not rely deeply on heavy metals like many opposed to electric cars portray, but it still takes over 40,000 miles to offset the carbon footprint that came into being during the creation of the car. That’s doable though if you take care of your car and treat it right. There is still the fact that most of the electricity used to power these cars still comes from coal, but electric cars and hybrids still offset carbon emissions up to 30%. So, after 40,000 miles, you’re making a difference.

Bamboo – Bamboo is actually a grass and grows quickly, making it a more sustainable product for flooring and many other products that used to come from old growth trees. Bamboo produces a lot of oxygen and also absorbs large amounts of carbon, locking it in where it can do less harm to the environment. On the surface, this seems like a great thing, but bamboo has some less than green flaws. It is grown mainly in Asia, where it must cross oceans to get to your living-room floor. That is burning fossil fuels. The increased demand is also driving Asian farmers to use more and more pesticides and fertilizers that contaminate the soils and drinking water. There are also deplorable working conditions to consider, and then many bamboo floors are sealed with formaldehyde that let off gases in your home. Cork is a bit better of an option, as well as reclaimed or recycled wood, tile, and cement.

Compact Fluorescents – These little bulbs use about 75% less energy. The downside, they come with a splash of mercury. Each one of these have a minute amount of this dangerous neurotoxin present, sealed inside that glass. They shouldn’t end up in the landfill, but since recycling them is difficult and a little hard to come by, they do end up going out in the trash where they can contaminate soil and water. This costs us a lot of money in cleanup. What to do? Keep using them, because they do save a lot of energy, but don’t just throw them away when they burn out. Most home improvement stores will accept them to recycle.

Green Cleansers – Many of the green cleansers have one of two problems. Either they are less effective and you must use more to do the same job as other cleansers or they are greenwashed and really aren’t all that great for the environment. Greenwashing is spinning visuals, labels, and key words to make a product appear green when it is not. Always check the ingredients of a green product. Look for plant-based cleaning agents. Check for certification tags and keep an eye out for the word “free.” These products will be better. If you want to be even greener, rely on things you know are safer, like hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, baking soda, and even cream of tartar. You can easily make your own cleansers, toothpaste, detergent, and more out of these.

There are many more things you can do to make the world a little greener. Energy conservation is greener than just shifting to alternative energy sources. Turn the lights off in rooms when you leave them. Adjust the thermostat to conserve energy during hours you are away. Make a menu and a plan before shopping so you won’t have to make multiple trips later. Some people choose one day a week to use for shopping and errands. The rest of the week you can keep travel and fossil fuel consumption down. Clean your refrigerator coils frequently. Wash only full loads of dishes or laundry. Unplug electronics that aren’t in use as many draw power constantly. Every bit of energy conserved is a step in the right direction.

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