St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Green Myths Busted

The results of our Twitter poll and the reason for this post!

You asked for it, so here it is! We hope you find this blog a useful resource for busting common misconceptions about being or going green. If there’s something you’ve heard conflicting things about, please let us know and we will do our best to clear it up for you. And if this blog does inspire you to make a change, do let us know.

Below you’ll find  8 green myths and why we think they are not true.

The Big One: ‘climate change is still under debate’. This one is so important I haven’t even counted it as one of the eight! There is no useful debate about whether or not climate change is happening; the only debate that is truly needed is how we deal with it.  So, read on as we bust these myths and help you to make a difference.

 

  1. It’s too late to have an effect

The reality is that the Earth does have the ability to heal, if we work together to give it the time to do so. One major example is the hole in the ozone layer. International cooperation means that scientists now believe the ozone layer will have recovered by 2050. So no, it’s not too late to have an effect. For a dose of climate hope, head over to the 10:10 website which features good inspiring news from around the globe.

 

2. Sustainable changes are more expensive

In some cases yes, the costs may be more at the moment, but you could argue that as demand rises competition will bring costs down over time. We would argue that most aspects of a sustainable lifestyle such as use of renewable energy are actually an opportunity for economic growth and hopefully the establishment of a ‘steady state economy’ or people-centred economics promoted by The New Economics Foundation.

Not only do  renewable energies create more jobs than fossil fuels governments and therefore taxpayers will save billions of dollars worldwide per year on energy costs – the sun and wind don’t send the bill! On top of creating jobs, reducing costs and increased energy efficiency globally we would be looking at making rather than spending money.

Fighting the symptoms of climate change, such as increased flooding will be much more expensive than reducing our impact on climate change now.

 

  1. I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference

Completely untrue! Let’s use a simple example. If I put one penny into my change jar every day for a year I’ll have just over £36 at the end of the year. Now if 10 people did the same we’d have saved up £360… The same applies to sustainable lifestyle changes – they accumulate, and you might find that after a year 1p is second nature so you can suddenly place ten pence  in your money jar. In sustainable terms that might be swapping your light bulbs for LED ones, walking or cycling to work one day a week or going meat free one day a week. The big things that you can target (if you were that way inclined!) would be your choice of vehicle/transport, the energy you use around your home and your diet. Remember that your efforts are cumulative, so if you do what you can and maintain it you are already making a difference. Still not sure? Check out crowdacting and some successful examples here. (we hear that a UK platform will be starting up soon!).

 

Rethink waste pyramid – from www.prrrdy.com

4. Recycling is more expensive than just sending my waste to landfill

Ok, it is fair to say that the actual process of recycling is not cheap, but a tonne of recycling will cost the local council around £100 to collect and process, landfill on the other hand will cost around £130 a tonne. The major benefit of recycling is that those materials you are reusing are stopping manufacturers having to extract virgin materials so the financial benefits just keep adding up.

 

  1. I don’t have time to clean my recycling so there is no point in putting it out

Items in your recycling don’t need to be pristine but they do need to be rinsed. It’s better for you if you do as it won’t attract pests, you won’t have to clean out food waste from your box and you won’t have to worry about your recycling being rejected for being contaminated. You don’t need to remove labels or lids, but if you use our collection service please do keep cardboard away from paper – we separate materials by hand on the kerbside and it’s so tricky to do when you are wearing gloves! A nifty trick some people do is to fold/squash all of their cardboard into one reasonably sized cardboard box within their container. If you can squash your plastic and cans it is better for everyone as you will be able to put more in the container and it’s a bit less likely to fly about in the wind. The main thing is to only put the correct materials in your box and rinse anything that could be contaminated with food waste.

 

  1. It’s biodegradable anyway so it doesn’t matter if it ends up in landfill

To be able to biodegrade microbes and bacteria need oxygen. The UK households produce around 7 million tonnes of food waste a

Plastic sea pollution – often the end consequence of “biodegradable” plastics or spillage of nurdles (raw plastic pellets used to make nearly all plastic products).

year and when that is squashed under other land filled waste it squeezes out all of the oxygen, so instead methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas is produced. The same applies to biodegradable plastics but in many cases it’s been found that supposedly biodegradable plastics just break down into smaller and smaller pieces which can end up in the stomach of local wildlife. Only inert waste should be sent to landfill, and even then there might be local means of disposal available that you hadn’t thought of.

 

  1. ‘Organic’ is just a label to make me spend more money on my weekly shop

It is true that organic is taking off a bit at the moment and a lot of people make the decision to purchase organic for health reasons but did you know growing organically can help sequester carbon in soil? Growing organically also doesn’t use nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides which are made from fossil fuels. Although organic does not always equate a lower carbon footprint (organic livestock uses more land as opposed to mega farms), it has lots of other benefits. Healthy soil retains more water than unhealthy soil so it may also help reduce flooding, using less chemicals means more wildlife and biodiversity, which aids resilience and is better for our health, and higher standards of animal welfare are a given. The easiest way to make a difference to carbon emissions is to not overeat, cut back on meat, avoid processed or heavily packaged foods and reduce food waste. If this answer has inspired you to learn more check out this People, Plate and Planet report published by The Centre for Alternative Technology.

 

  1. We can’t (easily) make or destroy water so I can’t really be wasting it

First off, this statement makes a big assumption about water quality. Just as you wouldn’t drink from a stagnant pond or wash your clothes in a puddle, water wastage generally refers to clean usable water.

There are two kinds of usable water: consumptive and non-consumptive. Non-consumptive water is extracted from a local river, used and, after treatment, returned to the same source. Consumptive use refers to water that is lost to the local area. This might be water that has been used for crop irrigation, animal consumption or the manufacture of products. We have no control over where that water goes, the water may return to the atmosphere as rain and could end up being precipitated anywhere in the world. Consumptive use is the main reason why in a water shortage the first things that are banned are hosepipes.

A BBC image showing the extent of a hosepipe ban in 2012.

Now to make it even more confusing some cities pump their water out of the ground so in many cases (not all) the treated wastewater is discharged to a nearby stream or river that then flows out to the ocean. Once it leaves the underground aquifer, it is still lost to the local area and may not get replenished. In these areas long showers and baths would be just as frowned upon as using hose pipes during a water shortage because it makes no difference how the water is used – in the end it will be all lost into the sea. Singapore is solving their permanent water shortage by recycling its sewage.

Finally, for every litre of water you use a utility company needs to extract and clean it, get it to your tap, take the used water away again, re-clean it and finally discharge it. That lengthy process takes a lot of energy, and that’s before we’ve even boiled it in our kettles or heated it for a shower or a bath. Around 6% of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from the energy needed for water use – learn more on our page about sustainable water.

 

The planet would be much better off, and the future of our own species much more secure, if we all start thinking and acting on a personal level to address our own impacts on the planet. The solutions that work for you might not work for your neighbour but making those cumulative differences does add up!

 

This post was written by Recycling Coordinator Sam Taylor. You can leave her a comment below.

 

27 July 2017 | Categories: Inspiration, Opinion Piece | Tags: answers, busted, difference, eco, economy, environmental, green, growth, impact, learn, myth, mythbuster, one planet, organic, permaculture, queries, Questions, recycling, renewable, soil, soil health, steady state, unsure, upcycling, water, York

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