5 common myths in fact check
Living ecologically sustainable is a real need for more and more people. In their everyday lives, they want to make at least a small contribution to preventing environmental pollution and global warming from being driven forward.
Unfortunately, however, there are numerous mistakes in reasoning and logical short circuits that have exactly the opposite effect. In this article, 5 of these eco-myths are fact-checked.
Exciting topics and interesting facts with an aha effect. (Scroll down to the article.)
1. Myth: Cotton bags are more ecological than plastic bags
Plastic bags don’t have a good reputation. Rightly. But cotton bags are not automatically more ecological. Because cotton consumes a lot of resources and energy in its production. More pesticides are used in cotton cultivation than in any other area. In addition, there is the weight of the bags, which increases the CO2 pollution during transport. Only when a cotton bag has been used more than 30 times does it score better in the ecological balance than the classic disposable plastic bag.
Stable reusable plastic bags are far cheaper. As these are often made from 90% recycled material, they trump the ecological balance of the disposable bag after only 5 uses.
It looks really bad with paper bags, by the way: Harmful chemicals are necessary for their production, their weight is also relatively high – and then they usually end up in the garbage after just a few uses. There is no discernible advantage over plastic bags.
Conclusion: Cotton bags that are used a lot are quite good. But stable reusable plastic bags are more sustainable.
2. Myth: Glass bottles are more ecological than plastic bottles
The same applies here: although plastic is a problem for the environment, the alternative is not always better. Because glass bottles are extremely energy-intensive to manufacture. In addition, you have to factor in the much higher weight for the transport.
Thus appear ReusableGlass bottles are initially considered to be the most ecologically beneficial option. Glass bottles can be refilled up to 50 times and the reusable network is quite tight in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which shortens the transport routes.
However, if a North German purchases a “mountain spring water” in a reusable glass bottle, there is no longer any ecological advantage over the non-returnable PET bottle from the discounter. The long transport route is the fatality of the heavy glass bottle. Incidentally, the smaller the bottle, the less favorable the balance for glass.
Because of their lower weight, according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, reusable plastic bottles are superior to glass bottles, although they can only be refilled up to 25 times.
DisposableBottles made of glass – such as those used for vinegar, ketchup or wine – fail completely in the ecological balance. Unless they really are regional products. If you take a closer look, vegetables in jars are usually less sustainable than vegetables in tins, for example.
Conclusion: Glass only shows its advantages when the transport routes are short. Therefore, pay attention to regional products.
3. Myth: “Organic” is healthier
Many people associate particularly healthy foods with the “organic” label. But even the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW) has to admit that no study has so far been able to determine a direct health benefit of organic products over conventional foods. There are fewer residues of unhealthy substances in organic products. But even with conventional foods, such residues are already in a range that is classified as harmless to health.
Those who prefer to be on the safe side are of course well advised to use organic products. When it comes to health, the most important thing is lifestyle: a balanced diet, little meat, lots of exercise, little stress, and no smoking. This usually works just as well with organic products as without.
The question still remains about the nutrients and the indirect health effects: organic fruits and vegetables often come from regional cultivation because they cannot be stored for that long. As a result, the food is often fresher and contains more nutrients. The shorter transport routes also have a positive effect on the general air quality. However, this also applies to regional fruit and vegetables from conventional agriculture.
Conclusion: In principle, you can live healthy without organic products if you pay attention to the mentioned aspects of lifestyle.
4. Myth: “Organic” protects the environment and the climate
This myth is true to a large extent, at least. Because ecological agriculture requires more cultivation area than conventional farms for the same yield. The additional area that is required for organic lettuce could instead be used, for example, in an ecologically more sensible way for a forest. The positive effects in terms of energy use and greenhouse emissions are also negated by the larger cultivation area.
In addition, the use of “natural” pesticides in organic farming is repeatedly criticized. While chemical agents can be used quite specifically against certain pests, organic pesticides often have a broader effect. This means that they can also harm other living beings in the fields.
Nonetheless, organic farming has the edge over conventional farms. Because organic farmers usually pay attention to robust varieties and more variety, which means that fewer pesticides are required overall. Organic production also has advantages when it comes to livestock farming: By doing without factory farming, less manure is produced per square meter, which is gentle on the soil and water. Thanks to the species-appropriate husbandry, the animals also stay healthier and need less medication, which can then end up in the groundwater. And that a cow would rather be in a meadow than in a 2m2-Stall romps, can certainly also be rated as a plus point.
However, “organic” is only really environmentally friendly when the consumption of meat and animal products such as milk, eggs and cheese decreases overall. Because despite the advantages of organic agriculture, the number of livestock that are needed to meet the current demand in western countries is still many times over an environmentally and climate-friendly value.
Conclusion: organic labels are justified. However, they cannot entirely compensate for the problems that arise from the intense demand for animal foods.
5. Myth: E-cars have the best ecological balance
There is a heated argument about the advantages of e-cars, petrol or diesel. Here, too, the reason is that the life cycle assessment is calculated from a large number of factors. For an extremely complex product like a car – compared to a glass bottle or cotton bag – this is much more true.
Because it is well known that the electricity with which electric cars drive does not just come from the socket. If the electricity comes mainly from coal-fired power plants, the CO2 emissions from e-cars look pretty bleak. In addition, the production of the batteries requires a lot of energy and rare earths, the degradation of which is extremely harmful to the environment. The disposal of old batteries is just as worrying.
Production, efficiency, performance, direct and indirect emissions, service life, type of use, infrastructure and recycling must therefore be included in the calculation. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that most studies come to the conclusion that e-cars have a more favorable ecological balance than petrol or diesel. For this, however, two circumstances must exist: On the one hand, the switch to renewable energies must be successful and, on the other hand, traffic must not increase any further. It is to be feared that many people, believing that they are getting into a “clean” vehicle, will also take the e-car for shorter distances for which they would otherwise have used public transport or the bicycle.
The Federal Environment Ministry comes to the conclusion: “Electric vehicles are not a panacea for making road traffic climate- and environmentally friendly. Last but not least, a liveable city needs more public transport, more bicycle traffic and short distances between work, living and supply. “
Conclusion: Better to ride a bike in urban areas than switch to e-mobility.
A more sustainable way of life is an important step in protecting the environment and the climate. However, it is important not to make hasty judgments, but to be aware of what your personal contribution to more sustainability can really look like.
In many cases, a little more restraint in consumption, reaching for fresh, regional food and the good old bike are even better than all the “eco” labels put together.
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Sources: geo, zeit, ergobag, quarks
Thumbnails: © Flickr / Alícia Roselló Gené © Flickr / Jonas de los Reyes