11 Daily Habits That Are Terrible For The Environment
Problem: Eating red meat
As Australians, we eat about 50 per cent more meat than recommended. Despite our love of the stuff, red meat, especially beef, takes a tremendous toll on the environment.
A 2018 study found that beef production takes up 83 per cent of the world’s farmland, but provides only 18 per cent of calories and 37 per cent of protein. Beef can also release up to 105 kilograms of greenhouse gases per 100 grams of protein, by far the worst polluter among other protein sources. That burger tastes a little less delicious now, right?
Unlike immediately switching away from meat to a vegan or vegetarian diet, plant-based eating is like a delicious middle ground. This mode emphasises putting plants at the centre of every meal, sidelining animal products like cheese and meat.
According to that same 2018 study, plant-based proteins are much easier on the environment, requiring less space and releasing fewer greenhouse gases. Plus, by shrinking meat consumption and boosting the amount of plants on your plate, this diet is just plain better for you.
Problem: Tossing food scrapes and leftovers
When you can’t finish everything on your plate, your first instinct might be to toss the leftovers in the trash. However, this mindless action has a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
Organic waste accounts for much of methane emissions from landfills, but it doesn’t have the same impact when it’s diverted from this system, according to a 2015 study. Unfortunately, about 95 per cent of food scraps still end up in landfills.
Composting is one of the easiest ways to divert waste from landfills. Simply pick a receptacle or piece of land and toss your food scraps there. You can put a majority of your kitchen waste, plus flowers and plants, into a compost pile. Be sure to avoid including animal products like meat and cheese, as well as oil and grease.
As your compost pile starts to decompose, you’ll be left with nutrient-rich soil that’s perfect for starting a garden or growing your next round of veggies. You can rest easy knowing that your organic scraps aren’t going to waste in landfill—they’re going right back into the growing process.
Problem: Drinking any old coffee
If you’re one of the 63 per cent of adults who drinks at least a cup of coffee every day, you might be shocked to learn that your habit could be contributing to climate change.
Making coffee relies on a constant supply of coffee beans, and producing them can be tough on their ecosystems—and often leads to deforestation. International shipping also adds to coffee’s carbon footprint, making each cup deceptively harmful to the planet.
When coffee is shade-grown, that means its surrounding ecosystem hasn’t been cut down to produce the beans. But finding the right brand can be tough, since there’s no official shade-grown certification.
Instead, look for a Bird Friendly logo, given out by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, which denotes coffees committed to keeping local ecology intact. Bird Friendly brands include Peet’s Coffee, Allegro Coffee, and Dean’s Beans.
Problem: Using toxic laundry detergents
Washing machines are already water-intensive, and adding laundry detergent to the mix can only make the outcome worse. Many popular detergents contain chemicals like phosphates that are toxic to aquatic life and leave water more acidic than before. Bleach, another common clothes cleaning agent, is similarly detrimental to marine life.
All of these products are also likely to come in plastic containers, which are unlikely to be recycled. Since the average household does about 300 loads of laundry per year, this toll adds up quickly, silently swelling your carbon footprint.
Instead of giving up laundry day altogether, you can change the way you clean your clothes. Not all detergents are equally harmful to the environment, after all.
One solution is Dropps, a laundry detergent brand that eliminates plastic packaging, dyes, and unnecessary chemicals from the equation. They even use carbon-neutral shipping, eliminating your headache about eco-friendly washing.
Problem: Throwing everything in the dryer
The washing machine isn’t the only step that generates unnecessary waste when you’re washing your clothes. Dryers use so much energy that they can take up as much energy as a new washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator combined, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Dryer sheets also impact climate change. They’re single-use products that have to go straight to landfills, and they also have the potential to release toxic chemicals into the air. On top of that, they aren’t really necessary.
For those of us who have this option, air drying is the easiest solution to the problem of dryers. This method requires no energy and is about as easy as stringing up a line and hanging up your clothes—but don’t forget the clothespins. If you miss the scent of dryer sheets, mist your laundry with a little linen spray.
If you don’t have easy access to a backyard, you have a few options. Clothes racks are a great, low-maintenance way to air dry your laundry. And if you’re stuck using a dryer, you can at least shrink your footprint with wool dryer balls, which are more effective than dryer sheets.
Problem: Plucking any deodorant off the shelf
Most traditional deodorants are shockingly bad for the environment. Sprays are by far the worst of the bunch, at least when it comes to air pollution. These products contribute to smog formation and the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Stick deodorants are detrimental for another reason: They come in containers that are almost impossible to recycle. By some estimates, personal care products make up a third of all single-use plastic in landfills. When you finish a stick, it doesn’t disappear—it likely ends up sitting in a landfill.
Skipping deodorant isn’t necessary—thanks to a bevy of new products, personal care can be guilt-free. Many of them work the same way: You get a reusable case and load it with deodorant stick refills, which are biodegradable or recyclable.
The two most popular options are by Humankind and Myro. Both companies have multiple scents and positive reviews, and they use sustainable packaging. The choice, as they say, is yours.
Problem: Loving up on plastic shower products
Much like deodorant, shower products like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are most likely to come in plastic containers. Considering that 91 per cent of plastic isn’t recycled, those containers are vastly more likely to end up in a landfill.
Even “recyclable” packaging isn’t the answer here, given that personal care products make up a third of all single-use plastic in landfills.
Skip the plastic packaging and opt for personal care products that don’t need to come wrapped in plastic. Plenty of brands specialise in solid shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, including Ethique and Dove.
If you’re attached to one scent or brand, play around with packaging-free options. Whether you settle on a green tea soap bar or solid conditioner for curly hair, you’ll likely find a product that’s right for you and your body.
Problem: Flushing the toilet
Most of us don’t think twice about using the bathroom, but, believe it or not, flushing is actually one of the most water-intensive activities we do every day.
The average person flushes five times per day, according to a study by the Water Research Foundation. With multiple people in a home, flushing even makes up about 31 per cent of household water use, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
No one is suggesting that you completely avoid the toilet to save the planet. But, hey, why not avoid flushing when you don’t absolutely need to do it?
You won’t just be saving water—you’ll also be reducing the use of nitrogen and phosphorous at cleaning facilities. (And above all else, remember that if it’s #2, you shouldn’t feel bad about flushing immediately.)
Problem: Choosing non-reusable sanitary products
Like plenty of other personal care products, sanitary pads and tampons are largely detrimental to the environment. Most brands are made with non-recyclable materials including plastic, and they’re also not likely to be biodegradable.
And flushing them down the toilet can be even worse. Just like billions of plastic bottles and wrappers, sanitary products can end up floating in the ocean, adding to marine plastic pollution.
Sanitary products are a necessity; their toll on the environment isn’t. Thankfully, there are plenty of options available for women who don’t want to contribute to climate change when they experience their period.
The most prevalent option is a menstrual cup, which catches any discharge before it exits your vagina. If that’s not your first choice, though, you can also try period underwear and reusable menstrual pads, which both accomplish the same task without the unnecessary waste. In the long run, these options could also save you some money, so it’s a win-win.
Problem: Recycling incorrectly
Most of us probably want to assume everything is recyclable and immediately forget that any packaging ever existed. Unfortunately, that’s not how recycling works—it’s a delicate process that’s impacted both by your location and the products you buy.
A shocking amount of products can’t go straight into your recycling bin, including aluminium foil, tissues, foam containers, textiles, glassware, plastic wrap, and paper with special coatings. For a full list of items to avoid, look up your local recycling guidelines.
Sadly, part of this adjustment is understanding that not everything can be recycled. Avoid placing unsuitable materials in the recycling bin—instead, you can find new uses or upcycle them.
Save old clothes and fabric scraps to donate or recycle at properly equipped facilities, and do the same with plastic bags. For items that can be recycled, like cans and bottles, make sure they’re clean and stripped of their labels, ensuring they’re more likely to be recycled. You can’t save everything from the landfill, but you can at least try.
Problem: Buying plastic water bottles
Not everyone is guilty of this habit, but buying water bottles in bulk is still quite popular. Unless it’s absolutely necessary that you avoid the water at home, though, you should leave the multipacks at the store.
A million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world, and only 7 per cent of them are actually recycled into new ones. The result: more plastic waste than we can handle.
The answer is really quite simple—just pick a water bottle and take it with you wherever you go. By making this easy change you’ll curb your plastic consumption and keep single-use packaging out of overcrowded landfills.
There’s a water bottle for every need, whether you’re hoping to keep your drinks cold, improve your workout, or even make a fashion statement. All you need to do is start looking.
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.
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