Little Green Lies

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Adopting a sustainable lifestyle often brings a few additional challenges for the homeowner. The web is filled with advice and information but also, misinformation. Unscrupulous marketers want you to believe that their products or service is more sustainable than it actually is while old wives’ tales somehow become fact. Below are some of the greening myths you might find.

1. Organic food is more sustainable: this is mostly true but there are a few points to consider. In the case of locally grown produce, the above statement is true. If, however, you enjoy organic fruit from a tropical destination the food item becomes less sustainable as it has been flown around the world. Another problem is that “organic” is a term that is bandied about freely in marketing – some products may not be entirely organic. If society as a whole adopted an organic diet it may have a knock-on effect. Conventional farmers lose out and may look to export food to developing nations meaning that food is transported long distances. The other side of this is that conventional farms may employ many labourers who could lose out on an income if we all made the switch. This scenario is unlikely at present and would probably only present itself if there were a mass inclination to organic products. For now, consumers should be wary of false claims and do what they can to source local produce.

2. Green products are only found in specialty stores or markets: it is true that many green items can be found whilst browsing your local weekend market, but major retailers are starting to stock eco-friendly goods. As demand grows so will the list of goods they supply. Again, consumers need to check labels to ensure that an item is truly green.

3. Green cleaning agents don’t work: true, there are some brands of “green” detergent that may leave you seeing red because they are inefficient, but vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and even olive oil work well on certain surfaces. Even regular bath soap can be used instead of a chemical detergent – it’s not ideal but it does work and is far less toxic.

4. Hybrid vehicles are better: again, not entirely true. You would first need to consider the energy used in producing a vehicle. In South Africa we also have a limited number of hybrids to choose from but in other territories there are hybrid SUVs and vans. These cars might be hybrids but still use more fuel than a small petrol-only vehicle.

5. Energy conservation vs. energy efficiency: we all consume energy every day and often think that choosing certain types of light bulbs or appliances helps conserve energy and therefore lowers carbon footprints. There is a difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation – to conserve energy we stop using certain appliances altogether. To be energy efficient we find a replacement that does the same job but uses less power to do so. Products are services that promise to conserve energy are misleading.

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