Eco-sin: Buying a designer “environmentally friendly” bag Don’t be fooled by smug, “Greener than thou” marketing. Simply manufacturing these products generates pollution. Besides, it’s not as though anyone actually uses their cheapo designer bags to put their groceries in. Double earth polluting bad karma if you bought a fake. The real green alternative: Why not just use the zillions of bags that you’ve got sitting around at home? Edward Chen Yue-fai, Campaign Manager for Greenpeace says, “If consumers want to buy eco-friendly products, the most important factor they should consider is if they really need it. The first principle is to reduce consumption, to buy things when you need them rather than in response to a trend.” Eco-sin: Buying a brand new, fair-trade, organic cotton wardrobe So you’ve thrown out your trendy sneakers that were handcrafted by slave children in some godforsaken part of Asia? Good for you. But before you go out and buy a completely organic new wardrobe made of hemp and lentils, consider how many more clothes you really need. Chen says: “Again, being green is all about reducing consumption. When people shop, they should consider their actual needs, and they should consume cleverly in order to pick goods that cause less harm to the environment.” The real green alternative: Buying less clothes and wearing your old wardrobe until it wears out. Eco-sin: Recycling your old appliances by giving them to the “recycling man.” Chen warns: “Sometimes people have obsolete products that they sell to recyclers on the street. They think they are helping the environment, but we often have to double check to see if these recyclers really are who they say they are.” But what do we care? Out of sight, out of mind, and as long as you’re not the one dumping the antifreeze from your fridge, what’s the problem? “Sometimes these people are traders that sell products to mainland China and other countries for dismantling or dumping, which causes pollution there,” he adds. The real green alternative: Chen advises people to recycle by returning appliances to the producer and making sure the company will recycle responsibly. “You should also consider joining the recycling program conducted by the Environmental Protection Department, which will ensure that the waste will be handled properly.” Eco-sin: Drinking bottled water Mmm... you’re lapping at Mother Nature’s sweet nectar, straight from the earth itself. But what about the plastic containers you need to get rid of? And do you ever feel guilty that according to the charity Water Aid, over one billion people worldwide don’t have access to clean water? The real green alternative: Boil tap water and store it in a reusable container, duh. Eco-sin: Eating jet-fresh organic produce flown in from overseas You think eating organic is good for you. But is it good for the earth? Think about the huge carbon emissions from the planes used to fly your products in next time you’re sipping your organic Australian wine and enjoying your South American quinoa cake. The real green alternative: Chen says, “When people choose organic food, they should consider supporting the local organic suppliers that don’t have such a long distance to cover, or such a long travel time.” Eco-sin: Eco tourism. You might think that flinging turtles back into the sea is a worthy way to spend your holiday, but this isn’t necessarily the case. “There has been a lot of promotion from the tourism industry, encouraging people to get back in touch with nature. But people are going to ecologically sensitive areas like the South Pole or visiting glaciers, despoiling these places. The Galapagos Islands are really struggling now with the ill effects of eco-tourism, for example. And of course, overseas travel means a lot of energy will be consumed due to flights, and a lot of carbon footprints will be produced,” says Chen. The real green alternative: Remember that bicycle trip around China you always claimed you wanted to take? Well... PLUS: Why aren't we greener? The government is claiming they've spent billions in the past decade on combating pollution. Yea, we haven't noticed either.