In the world that we live in today, we become more accustomed to items that perform tasks easier. For example, we have coffee makers, instant noodles, microwavable food, and exfoliating facial washes. However, if they are benefiting mankind, how about the wildlife side?
That’s when we should start becoming cautious. In this article, we compiled a list of things that harm the environment for you to become aware of. Even the smallest items around the house, when used excessively, could contribute to environmental concerns such as deforestation, ozone layer depletion, carbon footprint, greenhouse effect, and all sorts of pollution.
Have you ever seen toothpaste brands and facial cleansers that have small little particles? These are microbeads. While they help scrub and exfoliate your face and cleaning your teeth, most of them aren’t helpful to the environment due to their plastic nature and construction.
Microbeads aren’t filtered by water treatments because they are technically small plastics. Therefore, they end up in bodies of water, such as the ocean or rivers. This will become a problem for marine life, such as fish. When the fish and other sea and river creatures consume them, it would cause toxic effects on their health.
Plastic Bags and Packaging
We’ve all seen plastic bans all over the world. Plastic has been a great invention at first, but given the environmental effects, it eventually became a disaster. Here’s why banning plastic or reducing its usage is important:
- Plastic harms farm animals and marine life due to toxic ingestion
- Plastic packaging is non-biodegradable and will clog rivers and waterways
- They are single-use items, which means a waste of valuable resources
- In the long run, consuming plastic is more costly than reusable containers
- Some plastics are toxic to both animals and humans
Did you know that you’ll need over 2,000 tons of water or more to produce a pair of jeans? Moreover, when you create denim jeans, you’ll end up with a lot of waste material that’s no longer usable. In manufacturing denim, pesticides and genetically modified cotton farming is used. Water depletion is an issue because we mentioned above that wet processing consumes a lot of water for making jeans.
On top of that, dyeing jeans is also a process that could cause harm to the environment due to the chemicals. Nowadays, since the pandemic has caused a great deal of distress to sales of clothing items, denim jeans have decreased in sales as well. Many stores have closed down and now we’re stuck with unsaleable items.
Excessive Laundry Detergents
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t launder your clothes. But if you do choose strong detergents all the time, you’ll end up causing harm to the rivers and fishes. Bleach is the most toxic chemical to use for laundry due to its poisonous composition.
There are over 25 VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in a household dryer. Moreover, various chemicals, such as those found in fragrances, as well as phosphates, are harmful to waterways and animals.
So, what can you do about it? Fortunately, many manufacturers nowadays resorted to creating non-toxic laundry detergents using safe ingredients. These aren’t usually found in the grocery store but you can find some of them online.
This includes disposable utensils like spoons, forks, knives, and even chopsticks. At a birthday party, you may also encounter disposable plates.
Like any other plastic item, these plastic utensils don’t end up in a pretty situation in a dumpsite or landfill. They become a problem for animals in the wild because they are non-biodegradable.
Moreover, disposable chopsticks deplete certain wood sources such as bamboo, aspen, cedar, and oak. Manufacturing chopsticks require the use of machinery, which creates sawdust that contributes to pollution. Much like utensils and cutlery, single-use chopsticks end up in landfills.
Fortunately, many restaurants and even fast-food chains have decided not to use single-use utensils and cutlery anymore. Reusable chopsticks, on the other hand, can be similarly bought from the store to stainless steel straws.
Used Pet Litter
Some pet owners swear by composting pet litter, as long as the pet litter is made of eco-friendly materials. Many commercial pet litters don’t exactly have environment-conscious materials so they end up in a dumpsite without easily biodegrading.
Composting cat litter, however, does require a bit of caution since you don’t want to pass on pet diseases. Nonetheless, it’s a way to help your pet do their business while not contributing to a landfill’s problem.
Charging Gadgets Overnight
Although it won’t harm your phone, the excess energy left behind will be wasted. Many phones today have a protective feature that doesn’t make your phone explode when you leave it all night long plugged into a wall outlet. Gone are the days of old phones doing such, and that’s why today, we call them smartphones.
But that’s not the issue here – anything that is plugged in and is not in use causes a waste of energy. Our energy resources are getting thinner because renewable energy is still in the works as much of the world’s population still depends on fossil fuel energy.
Leaving the Lights On
This is one of the basic environmental lessons we’re taught as a kid. Being conscious about the environment starts with turning off the lights when not in use. Unfortunately, many of us don’t fully follow this rule because we’re either too busy or too lazy to do it.
Leaving the lights on consumes electricity, regardless of whether you have traditional light bulbs or LED lights. This excess electricity could have been used to power other items around the house. If we start becoming more responsible towards our usage of lights then we won’t have to deal with the energy crisis soon.
There are many environmental impacts and concerns when producing coffee. For instance, a lot of these farmers use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Deforestation is also a problem, as well as water pollution due to processing such coffee cherries.
The excess waste made when producing coffee is also a concern. It will not only lead to water pollution but also make the soil degraded in quality due to sun cultivation. Shade-grown coffee is a better alternative that will require fewer resources, such as water, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Excessive Toilet Flushing
Like laundering, this is another part of our modern lives that we simply can’t do without, but it’s true. The harmful effect of flushing the toilet excessively is that it consumes a lot of water. Nonetheless, we can’t live in a world without flushing toilets anymore, right? Flushing toilets present convenience and sanitation.
There are ways to help lessen the environmental impact of flushing the toilet. For instance, many toilet models today are water-saving compared to old ones. Many models today also have two buttons, which allow you to flush only the amount of water that you need. If you believe that you’re consuming a lot of water-based on your bill, try remodeling your comfort room to a more water-saving design.
We’ve seen restaurants and fast-food chains impose a ban on straws. Here’s why plastic straws are bad:
- They take 200 years to break down, like most plastics
- Animals end up inevitably eating them, making them sick
- Straws are one of the top contributors in a dumpsite
- If we reduce plastic straws, we’ll save all kinds of wildlife
If your want straws on your next milk tea or Starbucks drink, we suggest getting a stainless steel straw, which is reusable. Many straws of this kind exist in the market today – from small ones to big ones that are meant for sipping black pearls and jellies.
Too Much Time on the Road
Pollution is one of the harmful effects of vehicles, especially since much of the whole world still depend on petroleum fuel. Not everyone could afford hybrid or electric cars yet since manufacturers still sell them at a higher price. While it’s true that e-bikes and e-trikes are seen on roads today, they won’t get you very far compared to an electric car.
The transition period from petroleum to electric vehicles is slow, but we’re getting there. Burning fossil fuels is not advisable anymore because they are limited resources, much like mining for ores. Instead of petroleum, we could just invest in renewable energy resources to power up our vehicles, such as solar, wind, and hydropower.
Ways you can limit your fuel consumption and cause less pollution include:
- Walking to your destination
- Using a bicycle or skateboard
- Planning your trips ahead of time
- Consulting navigation apps when possible
- Going for an all-in-one excursion
- Supporting carpooling
- Hitting the road early to avoid traffic
Not Unplugging Unused Appliances
Phantom energy is a type of wasted energy that comes from appliances when they are left plugged in, even when not turned on. As mentioned above with charging devices and phones, unused appliances would still waste a bit of energy if you leave them plugged into the outlet.
When going outside for a long time, consider unplugging all of your appliances and devices, save for essentials such as, perhaps, aquarium apparatus.
Sanitary Napkins and Tampons
These feminine products might be sanitary for humans but they certainly aren’t for the environment. Each use you make causes a dumpsite to be overfilled. Since they are made from non-biodegradable materials, they’ll end up clogging rivers and waterways.
If you’d like to make a change and lessen environmental impact, going for menstrual cups is more advisable. They are reusable and are found in the market today. However, in certain countries where even tampons are considered taboo due to cultural issues with virginity, perhaps menstrual cups still have a slim chance of making it big.
Used for art projects and various other artistic purposes, a glitter is a form of microplastic that could be harmful to the fishes.
Today, glitter is not just limited to art projects but also makeup and fashion trends, making the pollution problem even worse. Many health and environmental experts are pushing to ban glitter entirely.
Aside from environmental harm to fishes and wildlife, glitter could hurt your eyes when not applied carefully. This is why many cosmetic companies take extra care to make face-friendly glitter for festival looks. They even put warning signs on packaging: “not for the immediate eye area”.
Boiling Too Much Water or Food
When you spend a lot of time boiling or cooking anything, you consume energy – whether it’s LP or using an induction cooker. Losing energy is bad for the environment if it gets put to waste, so make the most out of your kitchen preparations and only boil or cook what you need.
While wet wipes are heaven-sent in today’s pandemic problems due to easily cleaning surfaces off germs and viruses, wet wipes aren’t exactly eco-friendly. Polypropylene with plastic resins is common toxic chemicals found in wet wipes.
While not all sunscreens are made equal, some have oxybenzone, which is an ingredient that’s known to hurt marine animals and even corals. Perhaps going to the shade is still the best way to manage sun damage overall, but if you absolutely must get a sunscreen, consider looking for an eco-friendly product with ingredients that won’t harm reefs.
Plastic Tea Bags
Some tea bags are made of polyethylene or nylon so they aren’t very helpful to the environment. Fortunately, many attempts for eco-friendly tea bags are being made – most of which are reusable. If you’re a tea lover, consider going for these alternatives instead of traditional tea bags.
With today’s pandemic, thousands to millions of face masks end up in garbage dumpsites and into the sea. People tend to find more face masks than marine creatures and it’s a concerning problem. While we avoid the virus, we don’t realize that we end up passing them to the fishes, most of which we’ll consume – a scary thought!
We should responsibly dispose of face masks without having to harm the environment. Many people also resort to reusable face masks and just launder them.
Name: Rebecca Tarvin
Discipline: Integrative biology
Degrees: B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2010; Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin,2017
Rebecca Tarvin is broadly interested in integrating studies of natural history with molecular genomics and phylogenetics. Specifically, she aims to elucidate causal genetic mechanisms underlying novel traits, characterize phenotypic diversification at macro and micro-evolutionary scales, and identify factors that promote and constrain biodiversity.
She also likes to write about eco-friendly lifestyle and other material alternatives that are eco-friendly, aside from other ways to save Mother Earth