Taking Another Look at 5 Classic Green Myths

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This guest post is an excerpt from Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, written by the Union of Concerned Scientists and published by Island Press. Find out more at www.coolersmarter.org

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right, but sometimes it’s dead wrong. Here’s 5 ways Cooler Smarter sets the record straight:

1. Buying local food is a great way to support local farmers and get the freshest food, but it is not an effective strategy for combating global warming; it turns out that transportation from the farm to your table actually makes up only a tiny fraction—some 4 percent on average—of the emissions involved in food production. That includes farms both local and overseas.

2. It is important to reuse the things you buy, but there's a limit when it comes to products that use lots of energy, like new cars and refrigerators. In the long run, a lot more carbon emissions are produced by running your older car or fridge than by manufacturing new ones. Our scientists explain that because we've created and strengthened government efficiency standards, new cars and fridges now on the market require so much less energy to operate than previous generations, that replacing an old inefficient model for a new one often winds up benefitting the planet and saving you money.

READ MORE: Was Cash for Clunkers Good for Anything?

3. While turning off the lights is always a good way to conserve energy, it pales in comparison to replacing incandescent bulbs with today's latest efficient compact fluorescents and LED light bulbs. In fact, energy-efficient bulbs have gotten so good, you'd have to shut off an incandescent bulb entirely for three out of every four days to achieve savings comparable to LEDs.

READ MORE: Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Save Water, Too

4. Shopping for a hybrid car is a great idea but the key is to be selective. With some "hybrid" labels, you could still end up with a gas-guzzler. That's because some automakers put the hybrid label on cars that use hybrid technology to boost power instead of cutting fuel use.

READ MORE: Hybrid Drivers Don't Always Buy Another Hybrid

5. You don't have to sacrifice comfort to reduce your emissions. A low-carbon lifestyle can still keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. For example, when driving around in the summer, new car air conditioners are often just as efficient as rolling down the windows in terms of energy use.

READ MORE: Is It Better To Live Somewhere Hot And Run The AC Or Somewhere Cold And Crank The Heat?

READ MORE: How to Live Without Air Conditioning and Beat The Heat

Perhaps the most important fact is that the changes you make can make a difference. For example, when people estimate the amount of energy they could save through efficiency measures they underestimate the benefits, which are three times greater on average.

TreeHugger readers can get a copy of Cooler Smarter at a 30 percent discount. Simply head over to Island Press and use the coupon code 2Hug.

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