You probably think you know the many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, like turning the lights off, walking instead of driving, and using reusable bags at the grocery store. But there are probably many things you do on a daily basis that you don’t realize are hurting the environment – and, even if they seem small, they can add up in a big way. While you may not be able to cut out or limit everything, even focusing on small changes can have a big impact.
1. Antibacterial Soap
We hope you aren’t still using antibacterial soaps, as they’re not only said to be a significant factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” but they’re bad for the environment too. The chemical triclosan, which is the active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps, has been found to create dioxin when exposed to sunlight and chloroform, and continues to build up in the environment. It’s been detected after treatment at sewage plants, and surveys by the United States Geological Service have frequently discovered it in streams and other bodies of water. Once in the environment, it can disrupt algae’s ability to perform photosynthesis.
Researchers out of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that after flushing antibacterial products down the drain, about 75 perfect of triclosan and triclocarbon compounds survive treatment at sewage plants. They end up in waterways, in sludge spread on agricultural fields, and possibly on produce too, according to the environmentalhealth.ca.
Dr. Rolf Halden, Ph.D, lead author of the study, said, “…we mass-produce and use a toxic chemical which the Food and Drug Administration has determined has no scientifically proven benefit…when we try to do the right thing by recycling nutrients contained in biosolids, we end up spreading a known reproductive toxicant on the soil where we grow our food. The study shows just how important it is”.
2. You’re Using Chemical-Filled Household Cleaning Products
Chemicals in household cleaning products also harm the environment in many different ways, whether they’re released into the air when used or poured into the drain, seeping into the water system. This hurts both our indoor and outdoor air, contributing to air as well as water pollution, and has toxic and reproductive effects on aquatic species in addition to adversely affecting the water we drink, contributing to climate change and damaging precious ecosystems.
This negative impact can occur at many points throughout a product’s lifecycle, from extracting the raw materials and manufacturing to packaging, distribution, product usage, and disposal. Here are our top picks of natural non-toxic cleaning products available.
3. Feminine Hygiene Products
Feminine hygiene products pose multiple dangers to your health and to the environment.
Founder of Naturally Savvy, Andrea Donsky, conducted extensive research into these commonly used female products and published her findings in a 2013 article titled, Conventional Feminine Hygiene Products: A Women’s Issue With Toxic Implications.
According to her research, each conventional sanitary pad contained the equivalent of about four plastic bags. Numerous studies have revealed the hazards of plastic chemicals, including substances like BPA which can disrupt embryonic development and increase the risk of several types of cancers. Phthalates, which is what gives a plastic tampon applicator a smooth feel, have been associated with dysregulate gene expression and DEHP, which can lead to multiple organ damage. Plastic and other synthethic materials also restrict the flow of air, trapping heat and dampness, potentially promoting yeast and bacteria growth in the vaginal area.
Not surprisingly, there are not only a lot of dangers to your body, but to the environment as well. Over a lifetime, women use thousands of sanitary care products. All those pesticides and plastic chemical compounds are also leached into the environment. If just one conventional sanitary pad is equal to four plastic bags – and we already know the detrimental effects they have, just imagine how much just one person is contributing to the devastation of our environment?
That doesn’t mean giving up hygiene, just be sure to look for organic, cloth pads made with cotton, hemp or even bamboo, and for heavier days, or when you’re especially active and find that a pad won’t work, look for a reusable menstrual cup made with natural, non-toxic materials such as gum rubber.
The average family is reported to do at least eight loads of washing every week, equating to more than 400 loads every year, and about 17.5 billion cups of laundry detergent that are being used annually in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of chemicals to come in contact with. Some of the worst offenders when it comes to laundry chemicals include:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
- NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
These chemicals aren’t just potentially damaging to your health, but they are also harming the health of our environment and contaminating our waterways. The Journal of Oleo Science reported that a laundry detergent concentration of only 2 ppm can cause fish to absorb double the amount of chemicals they would ordinarily absorb. The accumulation of these compounds in our waterways and groundwater is having a significant negative effect on our wildlife.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, research studies on laundry detergent chemicals like SLS have shown an association with everything from minor to major health issues, like skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, developmental or reproductive toxicity, possible mutations, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and biochemical or cellular changes. Use a homemade, non-chemical version like this one instead.
5. Cleaning Up Dog Poop
We’re definitely not advocating that you should just leave your dog’s poop lying around, but what you shouldn’t do, is pick it up using plastic bags, which is what many pet owners tend to do. Care2 reported that in 2012, there were 78 million dogs in the U.S., creating 10 million tons of feces every year. If everyone used plastic bags to pick it all up, well, that’s an awful lot of plastic bags sitting in the landfill. According to the Los Angeles Times, plastic bags of poop account for 4% of the municipal waste in San Francisco’s landfills, as much as the whole city’s disposable diapers. Take a look at these eco=friendly, biodegradable dog waste bags from See Spot Go on Amazon.
6. You Leave Your Computer Monitor On
Many people believe the myth that it’s better to leave your computer monitor on standby mode rather than to turn it off and on every day. But Energy.gov says that you should turn your monitor off completely if you’re going to be away from it for more than 20 minutes.
7. Using Bleached Coffee Filters
You may think that because coffee filters can go straight into the compost bin, there’s no harm in using them, but if you’re using the bleached type, it can contribute to significant harm. That’s because most are bleached using chlorine and contains dioxins, which are a known toxin. Plus they’re typically made using un-recycled paper. This is an easy fix, however. Just choose brown paper filters that are made from recyclable materials instead like these ones on Amazon, or a reusable stainless steel or cloth filter.
8. You’re Always Getting The Latest New Tech Gadget
There are lots of people who always “have” to have the latest new tech gadget. It doesn’t matter if the change from the last version is minute, they’re lining up to buy the latest and greatest. But that’s a big part of the problem when it comes to the environment. What happens to all of those “old” gadgets? They’re thrown away. In fact, in 2012, a group of UN organizations reported that there are over 48 million tons of them thrown away every single year – 11 times heavier than the weight of 200 Empire State Buildings.
Even if you recycle your old electronic gadget when prematurely upgrading, odds are, it’s still causing harm as just 13 percent of electronic waste is reported to be disposed of and recycled properly.
9. Eating Farmed Fish
Eating farmed fish is bad for your health and the environment. That’s because the food the fish are given often contains antibiotics and other drugs. That means that the food the fish don’t eat drops to the bottom of the water and dissolves. Algae is also common in fish farms and can develop into red tide, harming other species.
Offshore aquaculture, even when well-engineered, brings the risk of fish escapement, which can spread disease to our natural ecosystems. About a fifth of the world’s valuable mangrove forests has been destroyed due to shrimp farming in Asia. Wild fish are part of an interconnected web, which means they feed other species, protect watersheds, and nourish ecosystems, not to mention providing a livelihood for traditional fishing communities.
10. Your Flushing Habits
One of the easiest habits to break that harms the environment is flushing every time you go. If you flush even just once or twice less a week, it will have a significant difference in the amount of water you use.
Also remember that just because you can flush something, it doesn’t mean you should. Things like tampons, applicators and certain kinds of wipes, don’t dissolve like toilet paper, but instead, settles or clumps up, creating blockages that can lead to damaging sewer leaks.