13 ‘Going Green’ Myths, Busted

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

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


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


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


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

iStock/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


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


Fact: Off with their heads!

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


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

iStock/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


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

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

iStock/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


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

iStock/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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