Ethical myths
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Date: 23 June, 2011


'Being green is sometimes hard work.'

Being green is sometimes hard work – it’s easier to put stuff in the bin than drop it off at the recycling bank, and its quicker to dry washing in the tumble drier than wait for a fine day and peg it out.

However, what can make it even harder are people telling you that what you are doing is wrong, and sometimes you just don’t have an answer ready.

So, we’ve done it so you don’t have to – here are five eco-myths busted at a mouse click. Read on and avoid the greenwash .

Click on the blue links to go visit other websites with further information about the highlighted subject. Please note that we are not responsible for the content of these websites.

Wind turbines kill birds and bats

One of the arguments pulled out by the anti-wind farm lobby is that wind turbines kill birds and bats.

Much of the data used in these arguments is from old designs of turbines, and the percentage of birds killed by turbines is small compared with the great many more killed by cars, by flying into buildings, or by pet cats.

To cut the numbers, wind turbines have been redesigned, and new wind farms are built away from areas where birds migrate.

Unfortunately, wind turbines do seem to affect bats , because they alter the air pressure and this damages the animals’ lungs.

There are ways around this, though – building turbines away from areas that bats fly, such as out at sea, slowing the rotors at night, or using radar to deter the bats.

Eco light bulbs are dangerous

Low energy (compact fluorescent) light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury – about 5 milligrams. This is 100-fold less than an old-fashioned thermometer.

However, coal-fired power stations emit large quantities of mercury (up to 50 tons a year), so using low energy light bulbs will reduce power consumption and so reduce the mercury produced by the power stations.

Just make sure that you drop them off at the recycling site rather than putting them in the bin .

Recycled products are low quality

Some recycled material, such as paper and plastic, is downcycled – made into products that are lower quality. As paper is recycled, the fibres break down, and as plastic is recycled, its quality deteriorates.

However, this means that virgin materials don’t need to be used to make low quality products, such as corrugated cardboard or traffic cones. However, glass and metal can be recycled without losing quality .

Dishwashers use more energy than handwashing

Actually, dishwashers, when used on a low energy setting, are greener than washing up by hand , especially if you turn the dishwasher off before the drying cycle and let the plates air dry. They also use less water. Maybe don’t use the Labrador method though…

Recycling just goes to landfill anyway

Around 95% of the materials collected for recycling are recycled. Of the 5% left, some of this has to be thrown away because it has been put in the wrong bin or is too dirty. The idea that a lot goes into landfill, or indeed over to China, is a myth.

Suzanne Elvidge is a freelance writer and Surefish Ethical Living Editor



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