7 Things You Use Every Day That Are Bad For The Environment & The Swaps To Make Instead
You're probably pretty stuck in your everyday routines, whether that's stopping at your coffeeshop for your morning brew or getting up to refill your water bottle every hour on the hour. (Hydration plus stretching!) While no habit is "bad" in and of itself, some have more environmental impact than others, and there are likely some things you use every day that are bad for the environment. But just as these things exist, there are also eco-friendly swaps that you can make with little effort.
While it can feel overwhelming to change long-standing habits, it's pretty doable when you know how to make efficient swaps. And when each of us aims to reduce our environmental impact, big changes can happen — not in the least because you send the message to corporations that you care about the environment.
From biodegradable items to reusable goods, you don't have to totally go without time-saving conveniences. And with a few modifications to your daily routine, you'll be an environmental superhero in no time flat. Not only does buying single-use products cost you more money in the long run, the environmental cost can be nothing short of crushing. With a few simple adjustments to your day-to-day habits, you can lessen your personal environmental impact in a major way. Here are seven things people use every day that are terrible for the environment, and what to opt for instead.
1. Plastic Shopping & Produce Bags
One hundred billion plastic grocery bags are produced in the United States alone each year, according to Sciencing. Whether sitting in a landfill or floating in our oceans, single-use plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. And given that they're made of petroleum, toxic chemicals from the bags can leach into our water and soil for a very, very long time.
Option two: Keep reusable shopping bags in your purse or car, wherever is easiest to remember them. And if you do get a plastic bag, save it to reuse.
2. Plastic Silverware
Single-use plastics, like disposable cutlery, wreak havoc on our environment. According to One Green Planet, 6million tons of 'non-durable' plastics get thrown out every year. When it comes to environmental impact, single-use plastic waste is a big deal, and it's putting about 700 million marine species at risk of extinction. So, passing on the plastic silverware next time you get takeout is a great idea.
3. Paper Coffee Cups
Christopher Bonanos wrote for New York Magazine in 2013 that paper cups are bad news for the environment in a major way. Not only are they hugely energy and resource-intensive to produce, they aren't always recyclable. Your best best is to get a reusable cup (and some places will give you a discount for bringing yours in).
4. Plastic Straws
Though plastic straws aren't the biggest environmental issue we're facing (and plastic straw bans can be detrimental to disabled people's quality of life), if you have the ability to avoid picking one up with your iced coffee, it can help reduce the likelihood of it ending up in our waterways.
5. Plastic Water Bottles
Not only can BPA-containing plastic water bottles have potential impacts for your health, according One Green Planet, they're brutal on our environment. In the United States alone, 1,500 plastic water bottles are used every second. Moreover, those bottle caps are not recyclable, and can end up in the stomachs of marine life. Not only does the plastic-making process require enormous amounts of water, being petroleum-based, plastic water bottles can contaminate soil and water as they break down. Keeping a reusable water bottle on hand can stop that cycle in its tracks.
Styrofoam is bad both for you and the environment, Richard Bruno wrote for The Baltimore Sun in 2017. Land, water, and marine life are overloaded with the stuff, which can contain potentially cancer-causing chemicals, Bruno said. While some restaurants are eliminating their use, you can also opt out of styrofoam consumption by buying reusable food containers instead.
7. Aluminum Cans
Mining, the refining process, and the vast amount of aluminum tossed out every day take a heavy toll on our environment, Sciencing says. The aluminum refining process requires a lot of electricity, and also wipes out forests and disrupts natural waterways, Sciencing wrote. Chemical processing used to extract aluminum during the mining process creates toxic byproducts that pollute soil and water.
Fortunately, aluminum is 100 percent recyclable. So, while tossing your La Croix can into the recycling bin is an admirable act, it's also not a bad idea to reduce consumption of aluminum products where you can. Additionally, companies like If You Care and Reynolds offer recycled aluminum foil as an environmentally sustainable option. (Just remember to rinse food particles off before re-recycling)
Lessening your impact on the environment means adopting a set of habits that add up in positive ways over time. If you feel overwhelmed, start with one or two changes and take it from there. Swapping out single-use plastics, and investing in reusable products whenever possible, is a great place to start. After a while, your increasingly eco-friendly lifestyle habits will become second nature.