Green Facts and Fiction

YOU'VE HEARD Install a low-flow showerhead
WE SAY Save your bucks

If you're addicted to that steamy, full-on morning shower, you probably won't be happy with a low-flow showerhead, which cuts water output by 25 to 60 percent. Rather than stand under a trickle, struggling to rinse out conditioner, take a shorter shower; you'll save up to 2.5 gallons per minute.

Where you can cut back, however, is your sink. Install an aerator-they're just a few bucks-and it will reduce water flow by 2 gallons a minute, which is not a noticeable sacrifice.

 

YOU'VE HEARD Recycle your electronics
WE SAY Go for it

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, each American household owns approximately 24 electronic items. And it seems like every day, newer, better versions of our old cell phones, computers and TVs come out, which means a heap of outdated stuff to get rid of. But electronics contain hazardous materials, like lead and mercury, which need to be disposed of properly, so you can't just leave them out for the trash collector.

Log on to epa.gov/epawaste, then click on electronics recycling (ecycling) for a list of recycling organizations and links to stores and manufacturers-including BestBuy, Verizon Wireless, Dell and Office Depot-that offer their own programs. (And when you purchase electronics, go to a manufacturer, such as Apple, that encourages and facilitates recycling.)

 

YOU'VE HEARD Invest in carbon offsets
WE SAY Don't buy into it

This is an idea that sounds great in theory, but in practice, not so much. Here's the premise: To offset emissions you create going about your daily business-washing your clothes or commuting to work-you can pay a company that promises to help the environment by, say, curtailing air pollution; developing renewable energy sources, like wind power; or planting trees.

While it is a brilliant marketing idea, you can't cancel out the effects of your activities. Once you've taken a flight, the emissions from the plane are already in the atmosphere. There's no way to get rid of them, no matter how many trees you plant. Investing in carbon offsets may help alleviate some guilt, but it doesn't impact the bigger picture. Curtailing your energy use is a much more efficient alternative.

 

YOU'VE HEARD Purchase a hybrid car
WE SAY Jump on the bandwagon

Perhaps nothing screams "I'm pro-planet!" louder than driving a hybrid. These cars run on a small, fuel-efficient engine combined with an electric motor that assists the engine when you accelerate. Hybrids cut back on gasoline use and reduce emissions, and a 2008 report by Intellichoice also found they save consumers money in the long run (despite a higher sticker price) through lower maintenance and insurance costs and fewer repairs. Plus, if you purchased a hybrid after January 1, 2006, you may be eligible for a tax credit.

So if you're in the market for a new auto, by all means, shop for a hybrid. If it's not in your budget, there are plenty of other good fuel-efficient options, new and used. Go to fueleconomy.gov and you'll find mileage and emissions ratings for all car models.

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