New Data Shows There's Still a Lot to Learn About the Right Actions to Protect the Environment

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Carbon Tracking and Reduction Company, Climate Culture, Releases List of Top 10 Green Myths

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On the heels of a successful Earth Day 2009 in which environmental awareness reached new levels, a list of some of the most common myths about how people can be more "green" shows that we've still got a long way to go to change our behavior and improve how we treat the environment. The list of Top 10 Green Myths is being released by Climate Culture, provider of the premier online energy reduction tool, to expose some of the biggest misperceptions about being green.

Climate Culture has the largest database on how people use energy in America and uses its data to show how people can maximize their green efforts. Through partnerships with respected organizations like the US Department of Energy, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Carnegie Mellon University's EIOLCA program, Climate Culture is committed to providing consumers with accurate and personalized information on how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The 2009 List of Top 10 Green Myths includes:

Recycled paper - caveat emptor!
Recycled paper can sometimes be more carbon intensive than virgin paper. Virgin paper production facilities tend to be clustered in the Pacific Northwest or Maine, where a large portion of electricity comes from hydropower, while paper recycling facilities tend to be near large urban areas where the generation mix is often dirtier. This difference in emissions from electricity use in paper production can be larger than the emissions associated with cutting down the tree to produce paper in the first place. Let us know where you live and we'll help you determine whether you should be buying recycled or virgin paper.

Is local food always greener?
Local food doesn't necessarily result in much less carbon than non-local food. The method of production and type of food is far more important than the distance traveled in determining lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. For example, chicken from the supermarket is likely greener than local beef from the farmer's market. That said, there are plenty of non-carbon benefits of buying local that make it more than worthwhile.

Dishwashers are green? Huh?!
If you use hot water to wash dishes by hand, stop! Dishwashers can use less hot water than washing your dishes by hand. People often underestimate just how much hot water they use when washing their dishes by hand, especially when they just leave the water running rather than plugging up the sink. In many cases, depending on where you live, you would be better off using the dishwasher. That said, you would be best off just washing your dishes with cold water whenever possible.

Ditch that road trip? Just carpool!
Driving can actually be worse than flying if you are driving the same distance alone in a large vehicle like a station wagon, minivan, truck, or SUV. That said, the planet is virtually always better off if you have two or more passengers or a reasonably efficient car.

Mercury and CFLs - don't believe everything you read!
CFLs generally result in less mercury emissions than conventional incandescents, since coal-based electricity generation is the single largest source of anthropogenic mercury emissions and CFLs save a considerable amount of electricity. Broken CFLs do not pose much of a health risk, as the vast majority of the mercury contained in the bulb remains bound to the glass.

Don't let Whole Foods fool you!
Paper bags are just as bad as plastic bags from a carbon perspective. They also tend to generate more solid waste. If you really want to help the climate, just bring a reusable bag.

Buy an electric car? Hold that thought.
Electric cars can emit more carbon than high-efficient hybrids in states where the vast majority of electricity comes from coal. In general, they are still far from zero emissions unless powered solely through renewable energy.

Plant a tree to save the planet?
Planting trees in colder parts of the country does little to reduce warming. The additional sunlight absorbed by the dark-colored trees just about offsets any cooling from carbon reduced. Planting trees in high-latitude areas can actually heat up the earth. However, planting trees in the tropics is unambiguously good. Urban treeplanting is also generally good because urban surfaces tend to absorb a lot of light, which means the tree won't warm the area. Tree planting can also provide important ecosystem benefits independent of climate effects.

No plastic jugs? Think again.
Plastic half-gallon milk jugs have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than glass or paper containers, due to the fact that they use much less material to do the same job.

Show your garbage disposal some love.
Disposing of your food in your sink's garbage disposal may be preferable to throwing it in the trash, though the actual effects depend largely on whether your local wastewater treatment plant and landfill capture their methane emissions. Best of all is just to compost it yourself.

For more personalized energy saving recommendations, visit

Climate Culture, along with SmartPower, the nation's leading clean energy and energy efficiency marketing organization, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, is powering a nationwide contest that enables colleges to compete against each other in reducing their carbon footprint, called America's Greenest Campus. The contest, launched on March 31 with a video from featuring Obama Girl, has already engaged more than 6,000 college students nationwide to reduce their annual carbon emissions by 4 million pounds, save over $500,000 per year, reduce 1.5 million gals of water usage each year, and save over 25,000 gallons of gasoline. Everyone can sign up at

About Climate Culture
Climate Culture is the first interactive and entertaining utility for reducing your impact on climate change. For the first time, you can receive accurate and personalized advice on the amount of money, carbon and other resources you expend and save from hundreds of lifestyle and purchasing decisions. Climate Culture licenses its Personal Energy Advisor software to electric and gas utilities, companies, universities and other organizations seeking to better engage stakeholders on energy use and climate change. For more, visit


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Amy Neal
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