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3 green living misconceptions you might not know

From separating your recyclables to installing solar power for your home, making efforts to go green can have a positive impact on the environment, but some common green habits may not be as eco-friendly as you think. Some ideas sound great in theory, causing them to gain traction and become commonplace, but they may not actually have as positive an effect as has been touted. Let's take a look at some of the most common misconceptions and how to get around them.

1. "Switching off" stops energy usage
Perhaps one of the most common tips you hear when it comes to conserving energy is that you should shut off lights and appliances when they're not in use. While this is sound advice, many often believe that by flipping the switch, their devices are no longer using energy. This is actually not the case for items that are plugged into electrical sockets, as they will still draw a small amount of energy, even when they are not in use. Habitat for Humanity pointed out that while some appliances, like the microwave or DVR may need to remain plugged in at all times, others, such as phone chargers, tea kettles and lamps don't need to be. The source suggested plugging items into power strips that can be switched on and off to make the habit of unplugging non-essentials easier to maintain.

A power strip with an on/off switch can help conserve energy.A power strip with an on/off switch can help conserve energy.

2. Hand-washing dishes can save water
While running the dishwasher to clean a handful of plates and cups is certainly going to use more water than it would take to scrub them in the sink, the idea that the sink is superior is not always true. For a larger load, you may expend more hot water washing each item by hand than would be used to run the dishwasher just once, consuming not only water but the energy to heat it as well. An Energy Star-certified dishwasher can actually save you up to $40 on your utility bills as well as nearly 5,000 gallons compared to hand-washing in a single year.

"In 2012, recycling centers began accepting bottle caps."

3. Recycling non-recyclables and vice versa
While plastic bottles and tin cans are simple enough to distinguish as recyclable materials, some other items may not be as easy to decipher. Take bottle caps for instance. Many people remove them from the bottles and trash them. This was the correct method for many years, but in 2012, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers began to include the caps in its list of recyclable items, Good Housekeeping explained. This can be an easy switch to make, but other items may be more complicated. Cardboard is one of the trickier materials, as some can be recycled and some cannot. If the cardboard is dirty, such as a pizza box, the dirty part is not able to be reused and must be placed in the trash. Good Housekeeping pointed out that the uncontaminated parts of the box, such as the top, can be removed and recycled. 

Green living is a step toward reducing your carbon footprint, so long as you're making effective and eco-friendly choices. Even if you're certain a particular habit will be beneficial, these three examples should be a clear indicator that looks can often be deceiving. Before you start making large-scale green changes in your home and your life, such as converting to solar energy, it's always a good idea to do a bit of research to stay on the right track. Learning the best way to approach a green idea will ensure you're making the biggest difference possible from the start.

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