Being concerned over climate change and making efforts to help the environment is praiseworthy. However, certain so-called environmental practices aren’t as green as you think and may cause the environment more harm than good.
Banning Plastic Straws
Drinking a coke at a McDonald’s isn’t the same without plastic straws. A lot of restaurants — and even airlines — have banned their use. Certain cities in the USA have legislated bans on plastic straws, and more cities will be following their lead. People have been using plastic straws for decades and getting rid of them won’t go so well with the public. Enter paper straws, the alternative to plastic that most environmentalists are espousing. Unfortunately, paper straws don’t work quite as well as plastic ones, and they’re not recyclable. Producing them takes much more energy and resources, hence more greenhouse gases. Paper straws aren’t as biodegradable as simple paper. If you’re not putting them in a compost pit, they could last for years and years. In landfills, the difference between paper and plastic waste recycling is negligible, even when it comes to their rate of decomposition. A better solution is to ramp up state and commercial recycling efforts and to encourage people to recycle actively.
Driving Electric Vehicles
If you think you’re doing the world a favor by driving an electric car, you aren’t, at least not in the USA. Just building an electric vehicle uses significantly more energy and resources than making a regular vehicle. Even before purchasing your electric car, it has already produced 3 tons of CO2. While electric vehicles do reduce air pollution in city streets, they don’t cut the overall pollution. Your vehicle will need to charge through the grid, and more than 60 percent of electricity in the USA still comes from burning fossil fuels. Even if you have solar panels — unless you’re only charging your car during the day — your electric car will still be running on fossil fuels, albeit at a much lower efficiency. If you want to help the environment, drive a smaller car or better yet, use public transport.
Advocating for Hydropower
Hydropower is considered as the only reliable source of clean energy; wind power requires the right weather conditions, and solar power only works during the daytime. However, hydropower isn’t clean, nor is it environmentally friendly. Building a hydroelectric station requires large tracts of land to be submerged. Every tree, shrub, and grass for miles will be underwater. Every animal in the area will lose its habitat or get drowned in the process. When it comes to emissions, some hydropower plants even produce more greenhouse gas than coal-burning plants as the submerged plants produce methane which then gets to be released into the air. Nuclear power is a better option, requiring only a small area and producing zero greenhouse gases.
Making an effort to save the environment and fight climate change is a noble undertaking. However, you need to choose your battles and make sure that you’re in the right.