For hundreds of years, humans have been polluting and damaging the planet we live on. Luckily, in recent years we have become more conscious of the impact we are having on the environment, and have been actively pursuing ways to try to fix the damage we have down. There are many small ways we are contributing to the destruction of our planet in our everyday lives. At a glance they may seem insignificant, but when added up with the billions of people on Earth there is a crisis on our hands. The best way to approach environmental issues is to become aware of the problem. From there it’s up to you. If you choose to make changes in your everyday life to help the environment, here are 6 of some of the most harmful habits in our everyday lives, and how you can lessen your impact on the planet.
Using plastic (grocery bags, straws, water bottles)
At this point, it seems to be common knowledge that plastic has a horrific affect on the environment (plus we lose A LOT of it). According to Business Insider, “Scientists have predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.” Plastic is not biodegradable, therefore, once it is discarded, it ends up piling up in landfills and the world’s oceans. Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals die each year from polluted plastic. No matter how you put it, that plastic straw you used for your drink is eventually going to end up somewhere in the environment, perhaps even choking a sea turtle. So, what can you do? Use reusable bags! Use reusable straws! Use reusable water bottles! You can buy stainless steel reusable straws, and at this point a reusable water bottle is very accessible (plus it saves you money). It’s a small change that makes a world of a difference to our planet.
Drinking coffee? I’m sorry to say but, yes, that coffee you have every morning is damaging the environment. According to Insider, “the coffee business is a multi-billion global industry which has resulted in deforestation, waste, water pollution, and contamination.” Most coffee is not grown sustainably, therefore when harvested it can have a damaging effect to the environment. The waste coffee also produced, from paper cups to plastic lids, also piles up in our landfills. Some alternatives are to use a reusable coffee cup (some coffee shops allow you to do this). When buying coffee for home, opt for shade grown which doesn’t have as damaging of an affect on the environment. Many eco-friendly coffee packages will be labeled “fair trade,” “certified organic,” or “Rainforest Alliance,” which are a good indication that the coffee was sourced sustainably.
Fashion, it’s everywhere. From going to the mall or shopping online, clothing is a top contributor to consumerism and one of the biggest contributors to waste. Fast fashion is fashion that is produced on a mass scale that is made inexpensively in response to trends. Fast fashion poses a major threat to the environment from waste accumulation, water pollution, water consumption, chemicals, greenhouse gas emissions, and rainforest destruction. Some staggering statistics are that 70 millions trees are cut down every year to make clothing and 1.5 trillion liters of water are used by the fashion industry each year. There are many brands that are selling sustainably made clothing, although they are often expensive. Thrifting is another alternative that is less expensive. When it comes to sustainable fashion there are 7 Rs: Reduce, reuse, recycle, research, repurpose, repair, and rent that are helpful guidelines to follow. When buying clothes be conscious of where they came from, or if you even really need them. When discarding clothes be careful how you dispose of them.
Yes, it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheap, but it’s not very good for the environment. According to Global Citizen, “In 2011, half of all street garbage came from fast food chains (…) Fast food companies still produce a large amount of waste – from manufacturing packaging to actual food waste. The process of just one Big Mac results in 1-3.5 kg of CO2 emissions.” Fast food produces a lot of excess packaging that cannot be broken down, such as styrofoam which takes 900 years to break down! The process of making the food also produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination, as well as releases toxic pesticides and herbicides into the environment. So, what you can do? Well, the best thing to do is to stay away from fast food (plus, fast food isn’t very good for you anyway). However, if this seems impossible, just try limiting the times you get fast food. Try to find better alternatives than running to McDonald’s.
Leaving the Lights on
Even if it’s just for a moment or two, leaving the lights on when you’re not in the room greatly impacts the environment (and your electricity bill). According to Business Insider, “Using less electricity reduces the number of toxic fumes emitted by power plants. That’s because most plants burn coal, fossil fuel, or crude oil to generate electricity.” Some solutions to this are to simply to remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room. You could also think about using bulbs that are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly such as LED and CFL. According to Eartheasy, “The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandescent bulb costs 5 to 10 times the original purchase price of the bulb itself.” Not only will you reduce the energy you use and the waste you produce, but you will also save money.
Palm Oil products (shampoo, soap, skincare, food)
Palm oil is everywhere. It’s in our food, shampoo, laundry detergent, and so much more. It’s almost inescapable. Despite its availability and how efficiently it can be sourced and distributed, palm oil has a disastrous effect on the planet and its ecosystems. Palm oil is found in tropical rainforests where forests are cleared at an alarming rate by palm oil plantations. This has led to a dramatic loss in forests’ rich in biodiversity, as well as the destruction of habitat of endangered species such as the orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos. Palm oil is found in a large amount of our household products, from chocolate, soap, lipstick, and ice cream. Sometimes, palm oil products come in disguise, not explicitly stating that the item contains palm oil, but instead saying vegetable oil, glyceryl, palmate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and a multitude of other aliases. You can of course purchase products without palm oil. If an item has a RSPO label or a Green Palm label it means the palm oil was sourced sustainably. Be conscious of what you are buying, and always check the labels. There is most likely a better and more environmentally friendly alternative.