In honor of the upcoming earth day, I'm posting about a few misconceptions some people in the general public have about being eco-friendly.
1. You cannot "make up" for an environmental misdeed with an environmental good. For example, you cannot "make up" for driving an SUV by recycling and using reusable bags at the supermarket. That's ridiculous and not how resources work. (That's like trying to make up for murdering someone by giving money to charity.) If you're not environmentally perfect, take responsibility for it! If you drive an SUV or drive a lot in general, know and understand that you're killing the environment and no amount of recycling you do can offset that. Own up.
Every little bit of environmental good helps (so keep recycling and using reusable bags, that's good) and every little bit of environmental bad hurts. However, driving is a LOT of environmental bad, not just a little bit.
2. In most places, you can't recycle anything with food stains on it. That's why you can't recycle used pizza boxes. Where I live, we're asked to rinse out any plastic containers before recycling them. Putting things in the recycling that have food stains on them when your local recycling plant can't handle them causes a lot of problems. Don't sabotage the recycling program!
You can yell at Starbucks for not offering recycling all you want, but the fact is you probably can't recycle those coffee cups anyway! The best way to minimize the environmental impact of your coffee is to bring in a reusable mug (and, of course, get "organically grown" coffee). Go a step further and bring Tupperware (or any reusable containers) to restaurants if you know you're going to take leftovers home (most restaurants appreciate not having to give you Styrofoam).
You can also suggest to your local cafe to use compostable/biodegradable plates/utensils/napkins/cups. That will make things a little greener.
3. You can't recycle plastic bags or Styrofoam in regular single-stream recycling. I don't care if it has the recycle triangle symbol on it. You can't put it in regular recycling.
4. Reusing is better than recycling. No contest. It takes energy to recycle (electricity and water to run the recycling plant, etc), especially plastics (see Wikipedia). Obviously, reusing does not take extra energy.
Now that I made some people feel bad about themselves, I'll join the self-consternation party and list my most heinous environmental misdeeds:
1. I take long, hot showers :(
2. I eat a lot of meat :(
3. I consume a lot of everything (food, clothes, makeup, electricity, etc)
4. I do ride in a car sometimes, approximately 3 or 4 times a month.
I'll keep trying to be better.