8 Things to Stop Doing Right Now if You Don't Want to Destroy the Planet
Every year, 17 billion pounds of plastic gets dumped into the ocean, with studies estimating we could have one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in the ocean within the next five years. (There's a reason whales keep dying with tons of plastic in their stomachs.)
One common issue? "Aspirational recycling," in which eco-conscious consumers toss items that seem like they should be recyclable (single-use yogurt containers, shampoo bottles, disposable coffee cups) that can make it impossible to process actual reusables - meaning it ends up in landfills or worse, the ocean.
Confused about what can go in the bin - and how to discard everything that can't? We have the answers to all of your questions here.
Trashing Your Fashion
The fashion industry alone is responsible for dumping 92 million tons of waste in landfills a year, (roughly 80 pounds of waste per person). Fast fashion contributes exponentially to the problem, whether its the plastic fibers used to create the garments to the carbon emissions required to deliver new shipments to stores twice weekly or get the clothing to your doorstep.
Break the cycle by shopping secondhand at consignment stores or on sites like eBay, Poshmark and TheRealReal (Emma Watson recently sourced a suit from there!). You can also rent clothes through services like Rent the Runway or swap with friends.
If you're going to toss items, check to see if there is textile recycling available near you (H&M locations have in-store collection bins!) - or consider bundling it and putting it up for grabs on a site like FreeCycle.
Leaving the Lights On
Inefficient use accounts for 68 percent of how much energy Americans consume, according to the World Economic Forum (that means two-thirds of the energy we burn isn't actually necessary) - and that includes little things like leaving lights on, keeping coffeemakers plugged in and keeping the thermostat unnecessarily low.
Evaluate what you can easily fix out at home (like swapping out lightbulbs, and only running full dishwashers) and make the best use of your transportation that you can.
Sticking with Single-Use Beauty Products
Think about your beauty routine: How many one-time use or plastic items are you using that can be replaced for something more sustainable? Some examples include disposable razors, plastic toothbrushes, single-use face wipes, cotton pads, hand soap and plastic tampon applicators - all of which are convenient for travel, but can easily be replaced with eco-friendly alternatives in your at-home stash.
One 1 billion trees worth of paper a year get wasted every year on things like overprinting, junk mail and online orders that come in multiple shipments.
Easy fixes: Check your printer settings at work to make sure you're printing double-sided and not printing anything extraneous; unsubscribe from catalogs and opt to have your orders come more slowly, but in only one package.
Otherwise, take advantage of everything you can do digitally, including paying bills, organizing your files on a hard drive, sending digital invitations for special occasions through sites like Paperless Post or Punchbowl, and always choose to have your receipts emailed instead of printed.
By taking a flight or driving, you're already at a carbon deficit, which might make eco-friendly traveling seem daunting. But it's not!
Rather than take an Uber, choose to see the city on foot or by bike. Pack a collapsible water bottle and tote so you can hydrate and bring home souvenirs without getting plastic on the go. Note to your hotel that you don't want your linens changed daily. You can purchase durable and sustainable travel gear and accessories through sites like Eartheasy and Wild Minimalist.
Using Chemicals to Clean
A plastic bottle of cleaning fluid is a double threat to the environment: The container typically isn't recyclable, and the chemicals inside are dangerous when they enter the water supply.
Mixing your own cleaning products with household items is surprisingly convenient and really cheap. Vinegar and water can clean glass, baking soda and water can become a tough tile grout cleaner, sea salt mixed with lemon juice is a great mixture you can use to scrub dirty dishes. (Don't forget to use the rags you made out of old clothes!)
Consuming Food Carelessly
Every year, $218 billion is spent on producing food that is never eaten, resulting in 52 million tons of food getting sent to landfills each year to say nothing of the carbon emissions spent transporting the food and the pesticides used on the food that flow into the water supply.
Take stock of how much food from your weekly shop you actually consume, then edit your list accordingly. Some changes to make include: Buy local and organic food whenever possible; bring reusable containers to buy in bulk; and freeze extra produce you might put into smoothies later.
Choosing Plastic Over ... Anything
According to some reports, more than one trillion plastic bags, more than half a billion plastic straws, and 500 billion plastic cups are used globally every year, and it’ll all most likely end up in landfills and the ocean.
Swapping out single-use plastics is truly a cinch. For instance, glass is 100 percent recyclable without losing any of its quality or purity; you can use it to pack your own lunch or ask your to-go place to fill it instead of the standard salad clamshell. Also swap in cloth bags for plastic ones, stainless steel straws for disposable ones and reusable utensils for the flimsy ones that come with your takeout.