Paper straws? On it. Separate recycling from regular trash? Done. Avoid single-use plastics? As much as possible. We all know we have to change some of our ways to avoid environmental disaster. And we’ve all made changes in our lifestyles to be more eco and environmentally friendly and sustainable. But, there are still things you may be doing or using that harm the environment without even knowing it.
Wait. Am I Hurting the Environment without Knowing? [Slideshow]
Using Exfoliating Soaps with Microbeads
Exfoliating soaps are great at making our skin feeling fresh and clean, but some of them can cause damage to the environment. Many exfoliating soaps contain plastic microbeads that are washed down the drain with each use. Once these microbeads reach rivers, lakes, and oceans, small creatures feed on them. Not surprisingly, eating microbeads isn’t good for those creatures.
Tip: Use ordinary soap and a face brush or an exfoliating gel that doesn’t contain microbeads.
Using Bleached Coffee Filters
You’ve chosen the perfect fair-trade blend and maybe even ground the beans yourself. Then you pull out a coffee filter and begin to brew your cup. Hold it right there. Unfortunately, most coffee filters are treated with chemicals that contain carcinogenic chlorinated hydrocarbons. These chemicals are not only bad for the environment but may also cause health problems for the coffee drinkers who use them.
Tip: Choose metal or unbleached coffee filters. Most grocery stores carry unbleached coffee filters, and metal ones are available online.
Keeping Up with the Technology Joneses
It’s always tempting to buy the latest device, but all those tablets, smartphones, wearable tech, and e-readers take a toll on the environment. And while you can recycle your used devices, this doesn’t solve the problem completely, since companies are creating pollution and using resources to make the new device.
Tip: The best way to reduce the environmental impact of these devices is to limit how many you buy and to wait until current devices stop functioning before you replace them.
Washing Your Clothes with Bleach
Chlorine bleach can create big problems for the environment. When chlorine reaches open water, it sickens sea life. It also reacts with minerals in ocean water to form dangerous toxins that take years to disintegrate. Even at low levels, chlorine leads to long-term health issues for bird and fish populations.
Tip: Use half a cup baking soda with your detergent to boost its cleaning power or choose an oxygen-based bleach, which is kinder to the environment.
Going Grocery Shopping
The grocery store is a minefield of environmental destruction that we don’t even realize. The main one that we don’t even think about is food packaging. However, nothing at the supermarket is free of a paper or plastic wrap or container. In the U.S., an estimated 1.4 billion Capri Sun pouches end up in landfills or as litter each year. That’s enough pouches to wrap around the Earth five times. Multiply that by every product you use, and you can really see the issue.
Tip: Reduce your environmental impact by bringing your own produce bags, buying locally, and choosing products with recycled or minimal packaging.