Now studies show that saving water actually damages the environment! Why? Long story made short - because there's a lot of rainfall in Germany and only a small percentage of this water is being used. So, in order to keep the water clean and safe, there has to be more "water traffic" going on, otherwise grease and food will get stuck in the pipes, lead and other metals don't get flushed out and chemicals have to be used to keep the water clean.
I started thinking about whether this applies to the States as well, at least for areas with a lot of rainfall. I will research that soon.
Is it possible that some of the things that we believed were the right thing for the planet turn out to be, um, not so good?
A while ago a reader commented on a post about recycling and mentioned that paper recycling has its downsides. I promised to look into that. And I am very surprised by my findings:
- Recycling newsprint actually creates more water pollution than making new paper: for each ton of recycled newsprint an extra o 5,000 gallons of waste water are discharged (source: New York Times)
- Recyclables are usually transported over long distances by energy-consuming, pollution-spewing vehicles
- Every ton of paper that is burned rather than recycled prevents 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions (source: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management)
- Many recycled paper products are treated with a mixture of bleach and/or other chemicals and toxins that make their way into our homes
- Products made of recycled paper such as paper towels or bathroom tissue are often not so soft and absorbent with lower wet strength and higher fibre content. As a result, consumers use more towels at a time
- One anti-recycling argument has been that, even though a lot of trees have to be cut to produce new papers, more trees will be planted in their place. And there's something to that: America's forests have three times as many trees now than in 1920
- "Paper is an agricultural product, made from trees specially for paper production.Acting to conserve trees by recycling paper is like acting to conserve cornstalks by cutting back on corn consumption." (Jerry Taylor, Director of Natural Research Studies at the Cato Institute)
- If you buy paper products, make sure to buy FSC- approved products (Forest Stewardship Council - promotes responsible management of the world's forests)
- If you support paper recycling, make sure the recycling plant in your area doesn't use chlorine
- Buy only recycled paper products that are unbleached or bleached without chlorine, to keep dangerous toxins out of your home and the environment
Minimize consumption. That's the only thing to do. As with everything else, we overuse paper. Think packaging, cleaning supplies, books, magazines,...
I cleaned our apartment today and didn't use a single piece of paper towel. I have reusable cleaning cloths that I bought years ago and throw in the wash after use, and they work just fine.
Reading the news and magazines online, getting books from the library or at least second hand are other ways to reduce paper consumption.
Buying products from the bulk aisle will cut down on the light cardboard packages. And if you order something, make sure to pick companies that don't overpack their products.
Oh, and call those firms that keep sending you those junk mailings and ask them to take you off their list, or put a sticker on your mailbox that says "NO JUNK MAIL PLEASE".
And keep this order in mind: Reduce, Reuse, and finally, if at all in this case, Recycle.
This, by the way, applies to everything in our lives, not only paper :-)