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6 MYTH: FLUORESCENT BULBS ARE BAD SINCE THEY CONTAIN MERCURY.
REALITY: Yes, but not using them will pour even more mercury into our ecosystem.
Low-energy compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury, which is why some consumers understandably haven't made the switch from incandescent ones. "But if you care about mercury--and you should," says John Rogers, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, "the best thing is to cut down on your electricity, and CFLs are a great way to do that." (The leading source of mercury emissions in the U.S. is coal-fired power plants.) Considering that CFLs consume up to 75% less electricity than traditional light bulbs, using them decreases the mercury in the atmosphere. According to Energy Star, a 60-watt incandescent bulb adds 5.8 milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime, vs. 1.8 milligrams for a comparable CFL.
7 MYTH: I SHOULD WAIT FOR ALL MY INCANDESCENT BULBS TO BURN OUT BEFORE REPLACING THEM WITH LOW-ENERGY FLUORESCENTS.
REALITY: You'd be wasting a lot of money and energy.
Scientists Jeff Tsao and Mike Coltrin of Sandia National Laboratories calculate that you'd save money by tossing a new 60-watt incandescent and replacing it with a fluorescent. Why? The money you'd save on your electric bill with the CFL would more than make up for the cost of both bulbs. Over the CFL's 12,000-hour lifetime, you would save some $51. But what about the energy it took to make that incandescent bulb? It amounts to less than 1% of the total. "It's so small that you don't have to worry about it," says Tsao.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
COST PER DAY TO OPERATE
3.1C/ 13-WATT CFL BULB
14.4C/ 60-WATT INCANDESCENT BULB
8 MYTH: IT'S BETTER TO BUY AN ARTIFICIAL CHRISTMAS TREE THAN CUT DOWN AN EVERGREEN EVERY YEAR.
REALITY: Get out your ax.
Sure, fake trees might be usable year after year, but the question comes down to renewable vs. nonrenewable resources. "When a tree is cut down, another can be grown in its place," says Steve Long of the Nature Conservancy. "And when you're done with the tree in your home, it can be turned into mulch, so the tree has a life that goes on." Some 350 million Christmas trees are now growing on U.S. farms (about 30 million are sold each year), and as they grow, they will start to store carbon. Most artificial trees are made from nonrenewable plastics. On top of that, 92% of them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, had to make the trip last year all the way from China.
9 MYTH: PAPER GROCERY BAGS ARE BETTER THAN PLASTIC ONES.
REALITY: Plastics, young man, plastics.
You're standing at the checkout line, facing the guilty shopper's dilemma--paper or plastic? According to Franklin Associates, a waste-management firm, it takes four times more energy to produce a paper bag than a plastic one. Think of all those trees being milled and processed. Plastic bags do have a downside: They don't degrade easily and can pose hazards to animals. Use a cloth tote instead, and if you insist on plastic or paper, at least reuse--or recycle--the bag. But no matter which type of bag we choose to use, we may be committing worse environmental violations just by driving to the supermarket in the first place. According to the Sierra Club's Bob Schildgen, Americans burn 10 times more energy getting to the store than it takes to make a single plastic bag.
PAPER BAGS REQUIRE FOUR TIMES MORE ENERGY TO MANUFACTURE THAN PLASTIC BAGS.
10 MYTH: MY JEANS ARE MADE OF ORGANIC COTTON SO IT'S OKAY TO BUY AS MANY PAIRS AS I WANT.
REALITY: When it comes to wasting water, organic jeans are as bad as regular ones.
Estimates vary, but it takes as much as 2,100 gallons of water to grow enough cotton--organic or otherwise--to produce just one pair of jeans, not including the water used to dye and finish the fabric. Says textile expert Gail Baugh of San Francisco State: "In places where water is a real issue, you have to ask if growing cotton is the best use of resources." Recycled polyester may be a better bet in terms of preserving resources. Patagonia, for example, sells an R2 jacket, 40% of which is made with polyester of the hand-me-down variety.
Florian, Ellen, and Dody Tsiantar. "PRODUCTS." Fortune 12 Apr. 2010: 104. Academic OneFile. Web. 28 Apr. 2010.
Gale Document Number:A222050098