When trying to determine what is best for the environment, there are several options we are faced with. Here are some helpful and simple pointers to lead a greener lifestyle.

Paper or Plastic?

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One of the most common questions we are approached with while shopping is paper or plastic. Is it more ecofriendly to go with the biodegradable paper bag, even though trees were cut down in order to produce it? Or is it better to go with plastic? The answer might surprise you, it is actually better to go with the plastic bag, unfortunately. It takes much more energy and water to produce paper bags and since trees are cut down to produce them, these trees could otherwise be absorbing the CO2 emissions being made to produce bags in general, including plastic. Paper does not degrade that much faster than plastic in landfills and even if the paper is recycled, it still uses more energy to produce a new bag than a plastic one from recycled materials. If you do end up forgetting your bag and receive a plastic one to carry your purchases, be sure to recycle the plastic bag or put it to other good uses before throwing it away. Plastic bags are still very harmful to the environment and do not break down easily.

E-Readers or Paper Books?

Another question we are often faced with are e-readers or paper books? E-readers use electricity and energy and emit CO2 to make, but so does paper. Therefore, it is actually more ecofriendly to use an e-reader than to buy a paper book each time. The more ebooks you download, the more your e-reader is worth and you are making up for the amount of pollution saved that would otherwise be emitted from the production of paper.

Dishwasher or Hand Wash?

When washing dishes, is it better to run the dishwasher or hand wash them? This debate actually depends on the amount of dishes and if you are washing them with hot water or just warm water. Washing a large amount of dirty dishes with hot water actually uses more energy than the dishwasher. That is probably great news for many people who are not fond of doing dishes. However, just be sure to only run the dishwasher when it is full and run it at times when energy use is at a low demand or at low peak hours. That information can be obtained through your energy company.

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Coal or Natural Gas?

Of course, the most ecofriendly solution is the use of renewable energy, but between coal and natural gas, natural gas is the winner. Coal is the most popular source of energy and also the biggest source of pollution. It causes mercury pollution, acid rain, CO2 emissions and contributes to mountaintop removal, but is also the cheapest.

Non-Stick Pans Or Cast Iron Pans?

When cooking, which is better for the environment and our health: nonstick Teflon pans or cast iron pans? Cast iron is actually very durable, allows even heat distribution and may add small amounts of iron to your food, making it more beneficial. Nonstick Teflon pans have a bad reputation for leaking chemicals into your food. However, there are some sources that claim that Teflon flakes have not been shown to cause health problems even when consumed. Cast irons have not shown to cause any problems at all and are known to be a great alternative to nonstick cookware, as well as stainless steel pans for that matter. Therefore, it seems that any pan besides Teflon is better, even if some sources claim that they cause no detrimental health issues.

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Stephanie Siemek is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.