5 Products You Use Everyday That Are Bad For The Environment

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Written By: Shannon Sweeney

It’s nearly impossible to avoid headlines about climate change — how it’s affecting our oceans, how wildlife species are at risk of becoming extinct, and what’s in store for future generations. We’re all quick to share and react with an angry emoji, but are we really thinking about the impact our daily choices have on the overall health of our planet?

First, it’s important to note that I’m not trying to make you feel bad about using a straw or a paper coffee cup. I’m guilty of this, too, and believe me, I am far from perfect. I rarely used to think about how my disposable cup will more than likely end up in a landfill rather than be recycled, or about the type of face wash I use in the morning. But the more I read about what’s polluting our oceans, the more I realize that there are literally thousands of alternative options we can all use in our houses that don’t pollute our planet.

Here are some of the most commonly used household items that are terrible for the environment, and alternatives so that you can be more sustainable:


Plastic Straws

There’s a reason why major cities like Seattle are banning single-use plastic straws — and other cities like San Francisco and even New York are following suit. Companies are banning plastic straws, too (Starbucks, Aramark, and American Airlines to name a few). To put it simply: we have a plastic problem. Americans alone use 500 million plastic straws every day. Every. Single. Day. Add that to single-use utensils and the thousands of other plastic products we use, and that’s a huge problem in itself. Supporters of the plastic straw ban are hoping that it’ll make people think about the unnecessary products we use every day and how we can cut back — at the end of the day, is a plastic straw really going to make your drink taste any better?

If you absolutely need a straw, you can by a reusable set on Amazon for $10.99. And they come with brushes to clean them!


Plastic grocery bags

There are literal waves of trash washing up on the shores of the Dominican Republic, and if you look closely, a lot of it is made up of single-use plastic grocery bags. On top of that, marine life, birds, and more are ingesting these plastic bags because they mistake them for food — which is exactly what happened to a pilot whale that washed up on the shores of Thailand.

Some store chains charge people extra for using plastic grocery bags and offer discounts for using reusable ones. Reusable bags — like this one —are more durable and hold more stuff, anyway. Most grocery stores carry them, too, so you don’t have to order online.


Microbeads

The last thing you may think of is what you’re rinsing down the drain during your morning routine. Toothpaste brands, face washes, soaps, and more have been discovered to contain plastic microbeads, which do not biodegrade and also end up in the ocean. They are too small to be caught in ocean clean-ups, and they often attract toxic chemicals. Because of this impact, microbeads are banned in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and other countries are starting to do the same.

Take a look at this list to see what soaps and face washes are considered microplastic free.


Wet wipes

Wet wipes don’t biodegrade like toilet paper or paper towels, and they’re usually flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash and into a landfill. They’re popular because they’re advertised as ways to easily disinfect without needing to rinse. Most contain plastic fibers, and they are also consumed by marine life (just like plastic bags).

Instead, you can buy reusable baby wipesflannel wipes, and more that can simply be washed and rinsed out.


Paper coffee cups

Making the simple switch to a reusable coffee cup has the potential to make a big impact. Many paper cups are not recycled (even if they’re marked that way) because many paper cups are tightly lined with plastic and have liquid inside. That means that millions of paper coffee cups end up in landfills every year, and 20 million trees are cut down a year just to fit the demand.

Invest in a travel mug! A lot of coffee companies offer a discount to those who bring in a reusable cup, and they keep your coffee hot for longer anyway.

Just making the simple switch from some of these products can help make a huge impact on our environment  — and if we all do our part, we’ll benefit generations for years to come.