13 ‘Going Green’ Myths, Busted

The truth about when to turn off lights or use your air conditioner.

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Myth: You should always turn off the lights every time you leave the room

Myth: You should always turn off the lights every time you leave the roomIstock/FangXiaNuo
Fact: Turn off incandescents if you're leaving the room for more than five seconds; CFLs, if you'll be gone at least 15 minutes.

Myth: You don't really need to unplug small electronic devices

Myth: You don't really need to unplug small electronic devicesiStock/OKRAD
Fact: Unplug. Even easier, plug everything into power strips with on/off switches. Here are 8 little ways to go green without noticing.

Myth: Washing in cold water won't get your clothes clean

Myth: Washing in cold water won't get your clothes cleaniStock/alzay
Truth: Washing your clothes in warm or even cold water will get rid of almost any grime, except for the worst dirt or oily stains. Switch from hot to warm water to cut energy use in half; cold, to cut it even more. Even seasoned homeowners make these laundry mistakes.

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Myth: It's better to wash dishes by hand

Myth: It's better to wash dishes by handiStock/Daniela Stark
Fact: Use the dishwasher, but stick to full loads, use the pot-scrubber option only if necessary, and hit the no-heat or air-dry option. And chances are, you're loading your dishwasher wrong.

Myth: Scour clean every jar you plan to recycle

Myth: Scour clean every jar you plan to recycleiStock/Kkolosov
Fact: Don't fret over getting that peanut butter jar squeaky clean. Rinse out what you can, then recycle.

Myth: Leave soda bottle tops on for recycling

Myth: Leave soda bottle tops on for recyclingiStock/FotografiaBasica
Fact: Off with their heads!

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Myth: Paper is better than plastic. Or, plastic is better than paper.

Myth: Paper is better than plastic. Or, plastic is better than paper.iStock/DragonImages
Fact: Paper and plastic are both lousy choices. Grocery shop with your own reusable canvas bags.

Myth: In public restrooms, paper towels are better than hot air dryers

Myth: In public restrooms, paper towels are better than hot air dryersiStock/Massimo Merlini
Fact: If there's a choice, go for the hot air.

Myth: It's fine to leave your computer on when you leave work for the day

Myth: It's fine to leave your computer on when you leave work for the dayiStock/digitalgenetics
Fact: If you won't be using your machine for 20 minutes, turn off the monitor. If it won't be needed for more than two hours, turn off the computer.

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Myth: Those 'paper-only' blue recycling bins are literally for only paper

Myth: Those 'paper-only' blue recycling bins are literally for only paper iStock/Janine Lamontagne
Fact: You can toss in newspapers, cardboard, magazines, envelopes with the plastic windows, and even the occasional staple.

Myth: You're better off letting your car idle

Myth: You're better off letting your car idleiStock/Michael Bodmann
Fact: Idle for 30 seconds if you must. Longer than that: Turn it off.

Myth: But you should idle your car in really cold weather before driving

Myth: But you should idle your car in really cold weather before drivingiStock/gremlin
Fact: Turn it on and go.

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Myth: You should always drive with the windows down/AC off to save on gas

Myth: You should always drive with the windows down/AC off to save on gasiStock/Petar Chernaev
Fact: On the highway, do what feels most comfortable. But around town, try to drive with the window down. Your hair will be a mess, but you'll save some gas.

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