Myth No. 2: 'Green' choices are painful and expensive.
How would you like to save $50 this year with a few simple clicks of your computer mouse? You would? Then turn off your screen saver, says Powers. Instead, select the "sleep" or "hibernation" mode for periods of inactivity.
One live nighttime concert event can burn as much electricity as 700 households use all year.
Screen savers, which were created for old-style CRT monitors, are relics of a bygone age. The constantly changing pictures kept images from getting burned into the screen. These days, most people are using LCD monitors, which don't run the risk of burned-in images. And with today's software, sleep modes are a lot more responsive and user-friendly, says Powers. So, unless you still have that 1990s dinosaur, turn off the screen saver and use that cash for something you'd really like.
While some greener options (like some organic products) do cost more, others (like turning out lights, using water-saving faucets and keeping the thermostat at a reasonable temperature) are money-smart strategies, too. "They're good ideas, and they pay off," says Erich Pica, director of domestic programs for Friends of the Earth, an international grass-roots environmental group. And when you do shell out for eco-friendly equipment, like new appliances, "some of the upgrades pay themselves off far more quickly than you budget for," he says.
A single fast food order of a hamburger, fries and soda takes 1,500 gallons of water to make -- including the water needed to grow potatoes, the grain for the bun and the cattle and everything for the soda.
Myth No. 3: Keeping old appliances is a form of recycling.
Half right. True, you're not clogging up the landfills, but keeping the old stuff isn't necessarily the greenest choice either, says Powers.
If you still have that avocado green fridge from the 1970s, you're using 70 percent more power than you would with a new model. If you are using an appliance with an Energy Star label, your savings will be closer to 90 percent, says Powers.
That's simply because newer appliances do a lot more with a lot less juice: If the old equipment is more than 10 to 15 years old, you can probably cut significant energy use by replacing it. And because many retailers will take your old appliances and recycle them (as will some collectors, like 1-800-GotJunk), you don't have to fear that your old model will be lying in a landfill for thousands of years. Just ask a few questions before you buy.
Myth No. 4: The country needs more power plants.
Actually, by making smarter choices, we can make the energy we have go a lot further, according to numbers from the Natural Resources Defense Council. For example, if everyone used more efficient lighting solutions, including compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, consumers would collectively save billions each year on energy and cut the need for 24 power plants, according to the group.
And yes, in this case, there are some trade-offs. CFLs last about 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs and use about one-quarter of the energy, says Powers. But they also contain a small amount of mercury, she says. So you definitely don't want to break them. And instead of simply throwing them away, you need to call your local municipality or garbage hauler about safe disposal rules.