A few things that are not – necessarily - going to save the Planet

A few things that, maybe, aren’t going to save the Planet but still will be beneficial for you and the Planet.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Looking for ways to live a more eco-conscious life? It can be overwhelming because there are so many choices we can make. It's hard to know where to start or what will really make a difference and there are many conflicting pieces of advice that are being banded about all over the place.

Here's a list of things you don't have to do to save the Planet, either because they ultimately don't have much of an impact or because there are simpler or less expensive actions that are actually better for the environment and have a much greater impact.

Having said the afore I am not saying that you should not take any of the actions below, but this is just a guide for those of us with limited time or resources who want to get a bigger bang for our buck.

Always buy organic – NO, not necessarily

There is no question that farming without pesticides is good for the Planet, but you can make a bigger difference with other food choices. Buying real instead of processed food is better for your health and that of the Planet. Choose what's in season and choose, wherever possible, local for produce that tastes better, is more nutritious, and doesn't have to travel thousands of miles to reach your table.

The problem with the local food issue is though that in most cases the vegetables that are grown in your local area may have to – by law, quasi – to travel to, as in Britain, vegetable wholesale markets, as Covent Garden Market in London, and from there are then taken back to where you live. An absolutely stupid and mental state of affairs which makes you sometimes wonder as to whether the lunatics are running the asylum.

If you can afford to buy organic, then spend your money on the fruits and veggies that tend to have the most pesticide residues such as peaches, strawberries, and celery, as well as dairy and meat. You can skip organic versions of onions, avocado, and other produce that's typically light on pesticide residues as well as processed foods.

Also, according to research, organic fruit and vegetables are no more nutritious than conventionally grown ones. However, I know that organic mostly tastes better. Personally though I cannot afford to make the organic choice and hence buy in a different way.

My advice, if you can where you live, buy your veggies at local farmer's markets or, if possible, direct from the farms. Better still, grow much of them yourself.

Furthermore, which is much better for you and the Planet, try to reduce food waste. Eat less meat and dairy (cut down on portion sizes or try skipping meat one day a week). The kind of meat you choose is also important. Red meat is harder on the Planet than poultry and pork.

While not being a vegetarian – at least not as yet – I have cut down the meat part considerably and especially now that I found this great microwave steamer at Lidl recently for less than the equivalent of $5. Just need another one or two of them.

Unplugging your electronics

While it is always being said and while it is, ultimately true that many plugged in electronic devices in our homes use energy even while they are turned off or not being used there are other ways to save energy and prevent CO2 emissions.

It's certainly easy enough to unplug cell phone chargers or the extra TV in a guest room that rarely gets used, but some people find it tedious to unplug computers, printers, cable boxes, and other electronics they use regularly. Or they just plain forget.

Instead, to really save energy at home, try these free and low-cost ways to make a difference (in order from least impact to most): Wash your clothes in cold water and when possible air-dry them. Turn out unneeded lights, use the energy-saving mode on appliances, install a programmable thermostat, seal large air leaks, or add insulation to your attic.

Shower in cold water and yes, you get as clean as with hot water and you save a lot of lolly. I do and I use Fairy Liquid® (a dishwash detergent) as liquid soap and shampoo. Lathers well in cold water and does a great job. Also, it does not sting in your eyes.

Dress according to the seasons at home. That way you don't have to run the air conditioning and in summer the option here may be to even go sans clothes. In winter, on the other hand, add a layer or two to be comfortable rather than turning the stat up. That really make a difference.

When it comes to forgetting or not being able to turn off appliances such as computers, etc., there are devices about that will do it for you and while they take a little residual current that is a lot less than the appliances themselves if left plugged in. On of those is the IntelliPanel which is available for TVs and PCs, and there are other devices such as this also to be had. A simpler solution is to use power strips that have an on/off switch and doing it manually.

Buying green products

Purchasing a bunch of "eco-friendly" products is not a great way to be supportive of the environment. The best thing you can do is buy less stuff. Resources are used to make, package, ship, and ultimately dispose of all products, green or not.

All over the place we are, nowadays, “encouraged” to buy this or that “must have” green product as it will make us better equipped in saving the Planet. That is greensuption in action and certainly not helpful tot he Planet at all.

Don't buy new just because there are greener products around than the ones that you use at present. When you have to buy new, then it's best to choose products with sustainable attributes if you can. Look for items that are energy efficient, are made of recycled or recyclable materials, or have minimal packaging. Before you go shopping try prolonging the life of what you already own, borrowing or renting something you'll use infrequently, swap what you no longer need, or buy a used product. But do not, as I have said already, replace an item that works perfectly well for a new one just because the new one may be a little more energy efficient.

Calculate the emissions in this way when you consider replacing something that works fine with “green”: There are the emissions that were created by making the product, by shipping it, etc., and then you add to this the emissions for the new product's manufacture and shipping and, last but not least, add up those that are emitted by disposing of the item. To hold on to what you have is much better for the Planet, even if what you have is a little less energy efficient than a new one rather than buying new. Alas, this is something that many people do not understand and other do not want you to understand.

Buying a hybrid

You don't need to buy a hybrid to make a difference. When car shopping, choose the most fuel-efficient car in the class of car you need. Some smaller cars rival hybrids when it comes to fuel efficiency and they often have a lower price tag attached.

Instead, the best thing you can do to help the Planet is to actually drive less and use the car less. Take public transportation when it's available and convenient, or try to carpool or telecommute once a week. Bundle errands when you can. Take good care of the car you already own, and don't let the engine idle. If everyone took these simple steps it would have a measurable impact on global warming emissions.

Get a bicycle, a used one will do, and even a good rebuild, and use that for trips to the shops, and in the local area rather than getting out the car. Depending where you live and how far from your work, why not, like so many, cycle commute.

A hybrid car, is not the answer, though many a green salesperson will tell you otherwise and the same it true with regards to green gadgets and products.

Even with a hybrid car, what are you going to do with that thing if the gas and diesel prices keep rising the way they do and you cannot afford to fill the thing up? Can you afford not to use it? Can you afford to let it sit on your drive – or even in your garage – depreciating?

Stick with what you got should be the advice in all cases instead of buying for the sake of buying.

© 2011