12 green myths put to the test

5. Removing your lawn is better for the environment

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NASA’s ecological forecasting research group found that it would take 184–238 gallons of water per person, per day, to keep every lawn in the lower 48 states well-watered. (This includes businesses, private homes, and golf courses.) It would be easy to say that your little patch of yard doesn’t matter, but that simply is not true.

To save water, reduce carbon emissions caused by mowers and leaf blowers, and eliminate pesticides leaching into drinking water, consider going “native.” Most lawns in America are seeded with Kentucky Blue Grass. This may not pose a problem to areas with a mild climate and plentiful rainfall, like the Northeast, but everywhere else, maintaining this type of grass requires heavy fertilization, pesticides, and watering.

Instead of forcing your lawn to be something it isn’t, consider landscaping with native species. In Minnesota, that means milkweed, side oats grama, or wildflowers. (Bonus: These are better for pollinators like bees and butterflies, too!)

6. Littering organic material isn’t really littering

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It came from the Earth and now back to the Earth it goes…in about two years. While tossing a banana peel into the woods may not cause direct harm to the ground it lands on, it doesn’t do much immediate good either. Biodegradable organic material (like orange peels and banana skins) can take years to decompose and, while doing so, poses a threat to surrounding wildlife otherwise equipped to survive off a diet more suited to their natural environments.

Dispose thoughtfully by composting those food scraps instead.

7. It’s better to drive than fly

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In the 1970s, this may have been true, but with time comes innovation (and increasingly packed coach quarters). For shorter routes, planes certainly become less efficient when considering the fuel it takes to takeoff and land. When it comes to long distances, however, taking to the skies means less energy use per passenger mile than driving, especially if you would’ve been tackling the road trip solo in a large, fuel-inefficient SUV (or Hummer—you monster!).

A cross-country train ride would be the optimal choice for cutting down those greenhouse gases—unless you’d prefer to walk, Forrest Gump-style.

8. Paper is better than plastic

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Paper or plastic? Plastic or paper? Is there really a lesser of two evils when both choices impact the environment in equally negative ways? Paper production results in 70 percent more air pollution than plastic, consumes four-times as much energy, and uses three-times the amount of water. Plastic litter is found everywhere you look and proves especially dangerous to wildlife. And neither option degrades especially well or quickly when piled up in landfills.

Have goods to carry? Reusable bags are the answer.

Next page: Electric cars, idling vs. restarting, & small changes

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