4 Everyday Habits that Harm the Environment

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4 Everyday Habits that Harm the Environment

Lisa Wright · Apr 26, 2022
Businessman wastefully throws away paper.

It’s easy to feel like climate change is an insurmountable hurdle at the individual level — after all, how can one person actually make a difference against huge issues like ocean plastics, rising sea levels, and mass extinctions? While there’s no right answer here, there are things we can do that actually make a difference when it comes to curbing our impact on the environment.

Below are some common everyday habits that are potentially harmful to the environment, and some tips on how to replace them with more sustainably-minded, Earth-friendly practices.

Unnecessary Paper Waste

Paper waste can have a dramatic effect on the environment, directly contributing to increased fossil fuel consumption and ecosystem-devastating deforestation. And despite our collective best efforts to recycle, there’s still an overwhelming amount of paper waste created every year. The EPA estimates that in 2018 alone, landfills received a whopping 17.2 million tons of paper, with a recycling rate of only 43.1 percent (excluding newspapers). Makes you think, huh?

The good news is there are a number of ways to decrease your paper waste output, including going electronic with your bills, opting out of junk mailings, and using tree-free paper products. And don’t forget to keep recycling!

Tossing Toxic Products

Man throws batteries in the trash instead of disposing of them correctly.

We’ve all carelessly thrown away things like batteries, ink cartridges, cleaning products, cosmetic/beauty items, and paint before. Unfortunately, disposing of these things improperly has extremely toxic implications when it comes to the environment. Those seemingly harmless batteries have the potential to harm both land and marine wildlife when they end up in landfills — as do many of the other products listed above.

Fortunately, with a little education and awareness, all of us can work to be more conscious of the things we throw away. Below are some helpful resources for learning about safe and environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of many of these potentially toxic products:

How to dispose of batteries

How to recycle ink cartridges

How to recycle cosmetics/beauty products

How to dispose of paint

Buying the Wrong Stuff

It can be exhausting to read the label of every single item you purchase — and when it comes to items like cleaning or pet products, you may not even be able to decipher the ingredients, let alone recognize them as harmful. But one thing to definitely look for is synthetic ingredients, as they’re far more likely to wreak havoc both in and outside your home. The good news is there are plenty of plant-based alternatives out there that get the job done just as well as the synthetics. Just be sure to read the label and look for phrases like non-toxic, eco-friendly, and sustainable.

This goes double for pet products, especially when it comes to waste generated by packaging. The solution? Try to purchase products that come in recyclable packaging. Bonus for those who can also phase out beef-based foods from their pet’s diet, as their production can impact everything from greenhouse gas emissions to the depletion of natural resources. Just be sure to check with your vet first before changing your furry friend’s diet.

Fast Fashion

Young woman frowns as she sits surrounded by cheap clothes.

Trends in sustainability have started changing as a reaction to fashion’s impact on the environment. Experts estimate that the fashion industry itself is responsible for approximately eight to 10 percent of global carbon emissions. That’s even more than international travel!

Obviously, many of the changes necessary to make the fashion industry more sustainable must occur at the top with brands, designers, and manufacturers. But there are still things we can do to make a difference — namely, reevaluate our clothing consumption. This doesn’t just mean shopping less (though that does make a difference), it also means shopping with more eco-awareness and an eye for sustainability. Secondhand and gently used items are good choices here, and there are so many other stores (both brick and mortar and online) that offer reasonably-priced alternatives to fast fashion.

If you find yourself craving that fashion fix, try to at least shop with an eye for natural vs. synthetic materials, and look for more sustainable brands that incorporate reducing their carbon footprint into their manufacturing and production processes.

Climate change can often seem inevitable. What can one person do to stop the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced? Fortunately for us all, there are a number of things that can be done at the individual level to make an impact. Remember, sustainability starts in the home: your own little corner of the world where you can make small changes that actuallymake a big difference.

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