Updated: Jun 21
Eco-friendly living can be a polarizing topic. Even when people agree about the value of an eco-friendly lifestyle, they can strongly disagree on what that looks like or what it means. These contradictions exist largely because of lies people believe about eco-friendly living.
The issues of sustainability, green living, or eco-friendly lifestyles have become increasingly prevalent as we learn more about our impact on the environment. But inaccurate information is out there, which leads people to implement ineffective strategies and propagate myths about eco-friendly living.
This list is not exhaustive. Many more misconceptions about eco-friendly living exist, but these are some of the most common.
Lie #1: Eco-friendly living is all about the environment.
Yes, eco-friendly living is largely about the environment, but it’s not conserving nature for the sake of the environment itself. Eco-friendly living is actually about humanity.
There are two groups of people impacted by eco-friendly choices:
The people living on the earth today, and
The people of the future.
Humans need nature for survival. It’s the reason for national parks in developed countries. We need access to open space, fresh air, water, and sunlight. These elements impact our physical and our mental health.
Future generations will have to live with the effects of how we live today. If we fail to save the planet, we fail to save humanity.
Lie #2: There’s always one ‘right’ answer in an eco-friendly debate.
Eco-friendly issues are complex. Even the experts disagree on many things.
One of the more common debates is paper vs plastic. What type of shopping bags are better for the environment? There are many factors that contribute to the environmental impact of a shopping bag. The best option for one retailer might not be the most environmentally friendly for another retailer. Plus, you could include cloth bags into the mix to add even greater complexity to the conversation.
Consider these factors:
● Is the paper recycled or not?
● Is the plastic recycled or not?
● What is the environmental impact of delivering the bags to the retailer?
● What is the likelihood of the bags being reused?
● Are the bags compostable?
● What is the environmental impact of manufacturing the bags?
And the list goes on.
So, while there are concrete facts and numbers to quantify environmental impact, the ‘right’ answer isn’t always the same for every single situation and every single individual, organization, or business.
Lie #3: Eco-friendly living is expensive.
There is actually a grain of truth to this one. Sometimes, additional expense is required, but it’s almost always short term. When you look at the big picture, the “expensive” argument falls short.
If you’re just starting to make eco-friendly changes in your lifestyle, you’ll be spending more money than usual to replace some of your environmentally unfriendly systems - lightbulbs, furnaces, toilets, vehicles, etc. But over time, the efficiency of these products ends up saving you money.
For example, if you replace a single 60-watt incandescent lightbulb with an LED bulb, assuming that light is in use an average of 4 hours per day, you will save an average of $15 per year. If you replace 10 incandescent bulbs, you’ll save $150 per year!
Part of an eco-friendly lifestyle is consuming less. That means you buy less. Or buy used instead of buying new (as in secondhand clothing or furniture). Using reusable products instead of disposables also saves you money in the long run.
See How to Save Money & Live Sustainably at the Same Time for more examples. 
Lie #4: An eco-friendly lifestyle is plastic-free & zero-waste.
Reducing single-use plastic and reducing waste are excellent strategies for eco-friendly living. But the key word is “reducing”. It’s simply unrealistic to do away with all plastic and all waste completely.
So instead of feeling guilty for not being eco-friendly when you buy a plastic item or throw something in the garbage, make small changes to reduce your plastic and waste. Some simple ideas include:
● Use a reusable water bottle instead of disposable plastic ones.
● Use a cloth shopping bag instead of plastic ones.
● Shop at bulk stores so you’re not paying for packaging.
● Store food items in reusable storage bags or glass containers.
● Request restaurant drinks without the straw.
● Try buying local instead of ordering online.
Lie #5: Eco-friendly living is all about reusing & recycling.
Recycling metals, paper, wood, and plastics instead of disposing of them reduces our need to extract more from the earth. So using products more efficiently is always a good idea. But reusing and recycling is only one part of eco-friendly living.
If you live without any thought of environmental impact, but you diligently recycle all your recyclables, there’s a lot more you can do to cultivate an eco-friendlier lifestyle. Eco-friendly living encompasses what you purchase, where you purchase, energy use, water use, transportation, what you eat, and more.
Lie #6: Eco-friendly living is just for tree-hugging hippies.
Let’s pretend this lie is actually true. If tree-hugging hippies are the only people living an eco-friendly lifestyle, what’s wrong with that? Why does it matter? We should say, “Way to go!”
The problem is that when people believe only tree-huggers or hippies are eco-friendly, the assumption is that an eco-friendly lifestyle is unattainable or unrealistic for any other type of person.
But nothing could be further from the truth! People from all income brackets, vocations, health levels, and geographical locations are supporters of eco-friendly living. Anyone can make small changes toward a more sustainable society.
Lie #7: Small changes don’t matter.
And on that note, don’t believe for one second that small changes don’t matter. When we look at the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to question if our reusable water bottle really makes a difference. Maybe if that’s the only reusable water bottle in existence, it wouldn’t. But the reality is that collectively, our small changes make a difference if for no other reason than influence.
When you make an intentional eco-friendly decision, others see it. Someone is bound to like your idea and follow suit. And so it spreads. Soon, 90% of your circle of influence is using reusable water bottles.
How you spend your money also has an impact. Supply follows demand. So if more people buy environmentally friendly products, more companies will make environmentally friendly products instead of harmful ones.
Think about this: Paper made from virgin fibre has 3x the environmental impact as paper made from recycled material. If you switch to recycled paper products, you’ll have 3x less of a negative impact on the environment..
It takes 17 trees to make one ton of paper towel. How many trees could be saved if every Canadian bought a single package of 100% recycled paper towel? Even if they did it only once, if everyone did it, it would have a massive positive impact.
Lie #8: Hybrid vehicles are the most eco-friendly choice.
Not all hybrid vehicles are equally eco-friendly. Some get better mileage than others, but others (like trucks and SUVs) don’t get much better mileage than non-hybrid versions of the same vehicle. Fuel use is really the only significant factor here because everything else about hybrid vehicles is the same as non-hybrids.
An eco-friendly alternative might be to purchase a fuel-efficient used vehicle instead of a new hybrid vehicle. Vehicle production accounts for a tremendous amount of energy use. (41.8 MJ of energy per kg per vehicle, plus 5.23 kg of raw material is required to produce 1 kg of vehicle, to be exact.) If fewer people buy new cars, car manufacturers will need to produce less.
Another factor to consider is how you care for your vehicle. Regular tuneups, new air filters, and proper tire inflation all significantly improve your gas mileage.
Carpooling is another strategy to reduce your environmental impact by transportation. Or try walking or biking instead of driving - by far the most eco-friendly forms of transportation.
Lie #9: Eco-friendly living is too time-consuming.
There’s no denying that some eco-friendly options are inconvenient and time-consuming. Growing your own food takes a lot of work and time compared to simply buying what you need at the grocery store (especially if you have it delivered to your door).
But there are many eco-friendly things you can incorporate into your life in a way that becomes almost automatic. It doesn’t take more time to buy recycled paper products than virgin paper products. It doesn’t take more time to use a reusable water bottle or reusable shopping bag than disposable ones.
It’s about developing new habits. It takes some extra thought initially, but once it’s a part of your lifestyle, it doesn’t take any extra time at all.
Lie #10: We must lower our standard of living to be eco-friendly.
Does the idea of an eco-friendly lifestyle conjure up images of depravity? Do you picture bare cupboards, scant meals, zero indulgence, drab clothing, and a lot of hard work?
Actually, eco-friendly living can be extremely productive and lead to a thriving, healthy way of life. You still get to enjoy the things you love. Often, there are eco-friendly alternatives. When there’s not, you can either choose to go without, replace it with a new eco-friendly option you enjoy just as much, or choose to enjoy it anyway knowing that you’re making eco-friendly choices in plenty of other areas.
Eco-friendly living is not martyrdom. Refer back to Lie #7.
An Eco-Friendly Lifestyle is Possible in Calgary
Calgary, Alberta is a wonderful city for eco-friendly living. With over 10,000 hectares of parkland and natural areas, as well as 1,000 kilometers of pathways dedicated to walking and biking, Calgary is a great place to enjoy nature.
Melcom Homes is Calgary’s eco-friendly home builder. You can live an eco-friendly lifestyle in a sustainable home that looks great and lasts forever. Contact us to learn how your dream house can be eco-friendly.
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