Fix it: Separating the myths from reality for living an eco-friendly life.

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Your eco-friendly choices might not be as green as you think. Let’s separate some myths from reality.

Myth No. 1: Put food waste in the trash, not down the garbage disposal.

Reality: The effect is about the same. The real green approach is to compost food waste.

Myth No. 2: Keep the thermostat at a constant temperature, instead of using a programmable thermostat to move it up and down.

Reality: Although a furnace or air conditioner will run longer to reach a desired setting from a programmable thermostat, it will use less energy overall than cycling on and off to maintain a temperature.

Myth No. 3: Follow this flushing policy to save water: “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Reality: That works, but there are other solutions. A dual-flush lever, such as the HydroRight (about $25), can save up to 70 percent of water each flush. Or buy a low-flow toilet when it’s time to replace the old one.

Myth No. 4: Leave fluorescent lights on, because it takes so much energy to turn them on.

Reality: Turning on a fluorescent lamp does take more energy but only for a fraction of a second. The savings from using the efficient light make up for the start-up cost. Yes, turning fluorescent lights on and off will reduce their life, but you’ll still come out ahead by shutting them off, experts say.

Myth No. 5: It doesn’t pay to worry about being green when doing minor redecorating.

Reality: Of course it does. No- or low-VOC paint, renewable wood floors, natural-fiber carpets and Energy Star appliances — among many other green options — are better for the planet than the alternatives. They don’t always cost more.

Fix It by Karen Youso is an occasional feature. Send questions to fixit@startribune.com. Sorry, no personal replies.