The average person doesn't wake up and think, "Hmm, today I think I'll eat breakfast and then pour some harsh chemicals down the drain." Unfortunately, even with good intentions, we still manage to annihilate our own environment while going about our day-to-day activities. Check out four ways we destroy the environment -- without trying.
Exfoliate to Excess
Ah, the joys of exfoliating. Off with the old skin, on with the new. Shed the dead, bring on the silky smooth. Sounds like heaven, right? Wrong. When you exfoliate with products containing plastic microbeads, you are filling the ocean with waste.
Plastic microbeads (listed as polyethylene and polypropylene in the ingredients) are found in many popular face soaps, body washes, and toothpastes. They are sometimes included in lip gloss, nail polish, and "age-defying" makeup. Yet another reason to check the labels on your beauty products. Most wastewater treatment doesn't filter out microbeads, and they get discharged into waterways. As a result, microplastic particles are found in bays, gulfs, seas, and inland waters.
Environmental Science & Technology reports that daily, over eight trillion microbeads enter waterways and habitats in the United States. What happens when fish mistake the small plastic particles for food? Scientists are examining how microplastics are affecting marine life once ingested. Those chemicals may be transferred to humans when we eat seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, who is investigating the full consequence of the microbead.
Save the Ocean
If you want to save the oceans while getting great skin, skip the plastic microbeads. Instead, stick to products with natural exfoliating materials such as pumice, oatmeal, or walnut husks.
Ruin Your Recycling
You had a crazy week and you're exhausted. By the time Friday night rolls around, cooking dinner is just not going to happen. You order a pizza, turn on some Netflix and pass out on the couch. When you awaken, you have to reckon with an empty box and bad breath. You might think that the cardboard box belongs in the recycling bin, but if it's covered in grease and melted cheese you are mistaken.
According to Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, paper is particularly susceptible to food and beverage contamination, reports CityLab. When gooey cheese and oil stains co-mingle with other items in the recycling bin, they all get contaminated and can't be recycled.
Ways to Avoid Contamination
If your community offers high-volume composting, you can put the pizza box with the rest of your organic waste. If not, throw it out with the garbage. The same goes for other food soiled paper products, including napkins, tissues, and paper towels.
Jack Up the Junk Mail
Please, please Mister Postman stop bringing us catalogs and credit card offers, expired coupons and "free" vacation packages. A love letter would be nice once in awhile. We'd even take a postcard from an unsavory relative. But junk mail? No one wants that.
Most people either don't know how, or don't want to take the time, to stop the flow of unwanted advertisements to their home or business. According to Ocean Futures Society, an organization working to eliminate junk mail, more than 100 million trees are pulped each year to make junk mail and about 28 billion gallons of water are wasted to make junk mail each year.
How to Halt the Mail Flow
However, Direct Marketing Association's DMA Choice program handles about 80% of the total volume of marketing mail in the United States, reports Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. So, make a big dent in your junk mail by registering and adding your mailing information to the "do not mail file." Note it is only updated monthly. DMA members are required to update their lists at least quarterly. For all the rest of your unwanted mail, you can contact the marketers that target you directly or work with a non-profit organization like CatalogChoice or your local government.
Max Out on Meat
Next time you feel so hungry you could eat a cow -- don't. When people eat too much meat, the effect on the environment is enormous. But how much is too much? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Americans consume more meat than other countries and the global appetite for meat is growing. In the last 40 years, worldwide production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds. If the demand keeps going at this rate, production will double by 2050 to approximately 1.2 trillion pounds of meat per year. All this extra meat will require more water, land, fuel, pesticides and fertilizer. This rapid change will cause significant damage to the planet and global health, EWG warns in their Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health.
Make Smarter Meat Choices
The Meat Eaters Guide notes that "Lamb, beef, cheese, pork and farmed salmon generate the most greenhouse gases." It doesn't mean you must stop eating these foods all together, but when you do choose to eat these meals, look for certified USDA organic labels, humanely raised farm labels, or meats marked as being from animals that were grass-fed and only purchase what you can actually eat.
Know Your Impact
If you are tired of unintentionally causing harm to Mother Earth, get educated on environmental issues and stay up on new ways you can limit your negative impact. It's never too late to change your ways.