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Going Green – Earth Day

8 Myth Busters about Going Green

Earth Day began in 1970 as a protest movement has evolved into a global celebration of the environment and commitment to its protection. Earth Day mirrors the growth of environmental awareness over the last three decades.

In celebration of Earth Day, we wanted to bring you these eight myth busters from “8 Ways to Not Get Tricked While Going Green” on the earth911.org website.

Your Recycling Division hopes these facts helped “clear the air a bit” for you when it comes to recycling and living a greener lifestyle. Remember, it doesn’t take much to do your part to help the Earth out each day.

If you have any questions about recycling please contact the Sanitation Division's Recycling Coordinator, Adam Kurtz directly at ext 7602.

Going Green light bulb

Just throw it out, it’s biodegradable

All paper should be recycled

Organic food is always better for the planet

The label says “Eco”

Adjusting my thermostat wastes energy

I have to spend a lot of money to go green

I’ll just plant a tree - that’ll fix it!

If I can’t do it all, I might as well do nothing

MYTH: Just throw it out, it’s biodegradable

Biodegradable materials like those used to make water bottles and frozen food packaging won’t necessarily break down because most landfills are not to the elements. Without exposure to light, air and water, a biodegradable container in a landfill won’t break down. Landfills keep the elements out, and it is precisely these elements that cause material to successfully biodegrade.

Need some cold, hard evidence? Food, one of the most biodegradable materials, can break down even when refrigerated. However, in a study of more than 20 landfills across North America, researchers from the University of Arizona discovered “hundreds of undecomposed hot dogs, corn starch and lettuce dating back to the 1960s,” based on the dates of more than 2,400 newspapers found in the vicinity of the discarded food.

FACT:

Manufacturers are using more efficient packaging and biodegradable materials, but recycling is still key to reducing waste. Home composting systems can handle many paper products. However, bioplastics may need a more advanced system, so check out composting options at local hardware stores or garden centers.

MYTH: All paper should be recycled

Heat is used to recycle plastic and glass. Paper, however, is broken down using water. Used paper plates, napkins and pizza boxes can be coated with oily residue – and oil and water just don’t mix. A few oily items mixed in with the watery pulp can ruin the entire batch.

Fact:

Many types of paper can be recycled in your curbside container. Please refer to the list of acceptable materials on the top of the recycling lid, or go to our website’s Residents Section under Trash, Recycling and Bulk Trash for more information.

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MYTH: Organic food is always better for the planet

Organic produce is often, but not always, the “greenest” choice. An organic banana from Chile travels more than 5,000 miles to reach Arizona, but may be no healthier than a conventional banana grown five miles from your home. How far an item travels before making it to your table has a huge impact on a product’s overall carbon footprint.

FACT:

When it comes to choosing between organic and local produce, consider the pros and cons. Organic farming is generally better for water systems, soil health and bio diversity. Organic produce can be a healthier choice, although there is little concern about the healthfulness of non-organic fruits and vegetables eaten without skins or outer leaves.

For produce with more delicate skins, the levels of pesticides that can be absorbed are much greater. In fact, according to studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group, 97.3 percent of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides. The below list can be used as a shopping guide:

When you should buy organic

When you can pass on organic

Basket of vegetables

Celery

Papaya

Bell peppers

Pineapples

Potatoes

Asparagus

Spinach

Bananas

Apples

Kiwi

Cherries

Avocado

Grapes

Broccoli

Nectarines

Cauliflower

Peaches

Corn

Raspberries

Onions

Strawberries

Peas

Pears

Mangos

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MYTH: The label says “Eco”

Americans spent $7.5 billion in 2006 on personal care products that claimed to be all-natural but often were not, according to the Natural Products Association, which represents more than 10,000 natural product companies and retailers.

Any time a trend or lifestyle gets popular, a lot of people try to get on the bandwagon. The good news is a lot of great ideas and products get created. The bad news, a lot of bad ones are too! This wouldn’t be a big deal if consumers could easily tell the difference. Unfortunately lots of marketing can go into making sure you can’t.

Regulations govern how many of the products we rely on are labeled. Organic, for example, is a claim that is regulated by state and federal agencies.

“Private organizations, mostly nonprofits, began developing certification standards in the early 1970’s as a way to support organic farming and thwart fraud,” said Cathy Greene, a spokesperson for the Economic Research Service/USDA, adding that most people feel confident buying products labeled organic.

FACT:

This same consumer confidence can be found in other green products with the help of labeling. Below are a few of the ones to watch for:

Original Good Housekeeping Seal

Green Good Housekeeping Seal

Photo: GoodHousekeeping.com

Looking for seals such as these can help insure your product is truly green.

  • ENERGY STAR – This blue and white symbol can be found on products that have qualified as more energy efficient. To earn the ENERGY STAR, products must meet strict energy criteria that have been set in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Energy. These products include refrigerators, dish washers and light bulbs.
  • Forest Stewardship Council - The FSC has developed “a set of Principles and Criteria for forest management that are applicable to all FSC-certified forests throughout the world.” These 10 principles and 50 plus criteria address multiple areas of forest management including indigenous rights, multiple benefits and environmental impacts. This tree-shaped logo can be found on products ranging from paper and printers to pulp mills.
  • Good Housekeeping Green Seal – This label bares a strong resemblance to its famous counterpart with the distinction of its color (green). The Green Good Housekeeping Seal will debut later this year, after the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and a consultancy firm complete development of product evaluation criteria. To be eligible for the green seal, a product must meet the criteria for the original seal of approval, as well as meet standards related to product composition, manufacturing and packaging.
  • GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality – These planet-toting logos can be found on building materials that are manufactured to help “improve indoor air.” The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is a nonprofit organization that oversees the certification programs for building materials and indoor products. These logos let a consumer know that the products are regularly tested to meet chemical and particle emissions acceptable under IAQ pollutant guidelines and standards.
  • Scientific Certification Systems - This independent company gives certification of environmental, sustainability, food quality and food purity claims for products across the globe. Their extensive network covers consumer goods such as produce, fisheries, forestry, eco-products and floral.

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MYTH: Adjusting my thermostat wastes energy

Many people come from the school of thought that maintaining a temperature uses less energy than dropping the thermostat while gone and adjusting when you return. It isn’t that crazy of a notion. You might recall some similar theories around florescent lights and computers.

FACT:

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, it is better to turn down the thermostat while not in the house. In fact, “If you are out for a good stretch of time (say 8 hours or so), this temperature ’set-back’ will save more energy than it will to bring your home back to the desired temperature. (Note: If you have a heat pump, make sure you have a heat pump thermostat designed for your heat pump, and that it has been properly programmed.” There, it’s settled!

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MYTH: I have to spend a lot of money to go green

If you have ever checked out the price of a hybrid, or taken a stroll through a natural market, you know that green can add some extra numbers to most price tags. Sure as more people enter the market, prices get more competitive and eventually drop. In the meantime, don’t let those higher priced items dictate your level of commitment. Buying certain products is not the only way to green your act.

FACT:

In one of our recent 8 Ways, we explored the concept that some green acts actually save you money. Take for instance the simple task of buying in bulk. A Real Simple Magazine experiment in 2003 found that purchasing 15 common items at a warehouse store in bulk as opposed to the supermarket saved $58.74 in Illinois and $109.72 in New York (including a membership fee), and the major reason for the price discrepancy were the supermarket prices per state. It’s safe to assume that doing a majority of your shopping in bulk would save over $200 on supplies and $20 per year on gas, regardless of where you live.

It doesn’t have to stop there. Tons of everyday tasks can take the planet into consideration while not costing a thing. Even building materials can be more cost effective when sustainability is kept in mind.

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MYTH: I’ll just plant a tree - that’ll fix it!

 

Organizations like Floresta help to promote agroforestry, reforestation and soil conservation in rural areas. Photo: Floresta.org

Most everyone will agree that planting trees is an all around win. Not only does it help the environment by cooling the air, reducing air pollutants and absorbing sunlight, but they are also a beautiful addition to any area.

The issue at hand is not so much about the what (planting) but the where (benefit). According to writer Maria Colenso, “recent scientific studies show those benefits depend on where those trees are planted. Plant in the wrong part of the world and you may be wasting time and money.”

Organizations like Floresta help to promote agroforestry, reforestation and soil conservation in rural areas. Photo: Floresta.org

FACT:

Don’t give up on the planting; just make sure you have a plan. If you are planting it locally, in a park or community center, then plant away! Those venues are a great place to add a little foliage and make a small difference.

If you are planning to donate to a company or support a cause, do a little research to make sure they are putting their resources to the best use. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Forests located in the tropical belt that surrounds the equator have a large benefit on the planet.
  • These forests absorb CO2­ (a process called carbon sequestering) which helps lower temperatures.
  • Forests located outside of this belt could have little or no impact on climate change.
  • In fact, the farther away from the equator the forests are, the more harm they can do.

Known as the albedo effect, forests outside this belt are more likely to trap in heat, in turn, raising temperatures.

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MYTH: If I can’t do it all, I might as well do nothing

We have all done it. The overwhelming number of factors involved with the act of changing can leave even the most steadfast individual discouraged and on the verge of giving up. It is usually around this time that a little voice pops in with the final blow, “what difference does it make anyway?”

Or perhaps you haven’t felt this at all. You are filled with motivation and nothing stands in your way. Until…a co-worker pipes up over your reusable bag and Sigg bottle, giving you a piece of their mind. This usually includes something to the extent of, “you’re just one person, and one person can’t change the world.”

Both statements have some merit, but, that doesn’t make them true.

FACT:

When words don’t come easily on a subject as huge as this, using the words of another can usually do the trick. So here it goes.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This simple statement by M.K. Gandhi sums up why always trying is as important as actually doing. Though you may not see the results of your actions in one day, over time, all those actions add up.

Take for example our recycling rate. In 1960, the U.S. recycled 5.6 tons of waste. In 2006, we recycled 81.8 tons, an increase of over a 1,300 percent! Though not everyone who recycled an item between the 60s and today knew about it, they were part of a huge movement that helped change the way we approach waste disposal. What movement are you a part of?

 

This information was taken from “8 Ways to Not Get Tricked While Going Green,” earth911.org, March 30, 2009. Read the article in its entirety for more recycling information.

If you have any questions about Goodyear’s recycling program, contact the Sanitation Division's Recycling Coordinator, Adam Kurtz at 623-882-7602.

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Last Updated: 4/22/2009


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City of Goodyear • 190 N. Litchfield Road • Goodyear AZ 85338 • Phone 623-932-3910 • Toll-Free 1-800-872-1749
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