Green Facts and Fiction

YOU'VE HEARD Opt for cloth diapers
WE SAY Give your washing machine a break

Cloth versus disposable: It's the mother of all eco controversies. At first glance, it may seem like a no-brainer. After all, babies go through an estimated 5,000 diapers before they're toilet trained-that's a lot of plastic piling up in landfills. But when you factor in the water and energy used to wash all those diapers, the choice isn't as clear-cut. In fact, a British study showed that disposable and cloth diapers have the same environmental impact for that very reason.

Then there's the question of convenience. How many bleary eyed, spit up-stained parents really have the time to wash a dozen diapers every day? While there's no such thing as a 100 percent biodegradable disposable, some are better for the environment than others. Companies like Seventh Generation (seventh generation.com), TenderCare (tendercarediapers.com) and Tushies (tushies.com) are made without chlorine, so they don't emit toxins during manufacturing. Also consider GDiapers (gdiapers.com), a hybrid between disposables and cloth. They have a reusable cotton cover that's held on with Velcro, and a liner you flush down the toilet.

 

YOU'VE HEARD Replace regular bulbs with compact fluorescents
WE SAY Make the switch in certain rooms, not all

By far, the easiest way to save energy is to change out incandescents for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use about 75 percent less energy and can last 10 times longer. So why hasn't everyone made the swap? The main reason is light quality, which is still inconsistent across brands. For a warm, incandescent-like glow, choose a CFL with 2,700K (Kelvin) rather than 5,000K (the lower the number, the warmer the color of the light), and pick a highly rated manufacturer, like GE or N:Vision. Then install CFLs where lighting isn't a big deal, like in a hallway or bedroom, and keep incandescents in the living room and bathroom.

Finally, remember that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury. When the bulb burns out, call your municipal solid-waste department or go to epa.gov/bulbrecycling to find out about disposal in your area. You can also drop off used CFLs at Home Depot or Ikea stores.

 

YOU'VE HEARD Opt for paper over plastic
WE SAY Bring Your Own Bag

Think about a typical day spent doing errands: You stop at the pharmacy, bookstore, shoe shop and supermarket. Back home you unpack 10 plastic bags and toss them in the trash (or use them to hold garbage), albeit with a tinge of guilt. Not only do those bags pile up in landfills, but if you live in a city like New York or Seattle-which have proposed charging consumers for plastic-they also could wind up costing you a chunk of change. That's why reusable totes are the only way to shop. Green-kits.com sells loads of natural and organic cotton bags, including produce-specific versions and stylish personalized totes that make cute, pro-earth gifts.

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