Each year, at least 8 million tons of plastic are discarded into our ocean, 64 million acres of trees are lost to deforestation, and seven million premature deaths are caused by air pollution. These environmental problems haven’t always been apparent; they’re the collective result of how we’ve continuously mistreated our planet in the modern age.
With talks of climate change now dominating headlines, it’s now more crucial than ever to make changes and take action.
World leaders at the COP26 agreement have outlined the next significant steps to thwart the climate crisis for the next decade, but what small lifestyle changes can everyone take to contribute to this on an even larger scale?
Here are ten everyday items that are harming the environment, and how you can replace them to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Stop using palm oil
Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that is derived from the fruit of oil palm trees. You’ll be able to find palm oil in many packaged products from the supermarket, as well as in toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and even makeup.
While palm oil is extremely useful, producing it is also harmful to the environment. In order to make way for plantations to grow palm oil, forests must be cleared. In turn, this destroys the habitats of endangered species including rhinos, elephants, tigers, and orangutans.
As palm oil is found in many foods and products, it’d be difficult to give up palm oil completely. Instead, look out for an RSPO label on the products that you buy. This trademark symbol certifies that the product contains sustainable palm oil, meaning it has been produced in a responsible way.
Give up on cigarettes
From the moment you light a cigarette, you’ll increase the risk of harming both your body and the environment. In fact, cigarettes are the number one risk factor for lung cancer, and non-biodegradable cigarette filters have been labeled as the most common type of litter in the world. Each year, it’s estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are disposed of in the environment.
Luckily, there are several alternatives to cigarettes that can benefit both your health and our planet. One of the most popular smoking cessation methods is vaping e-liquids with e-cigarettes, which is more sustainable, though not healthy either.
As explained by E-liquids.com, vape kit devices are filter-free, require fewer crops of plants for e-liquid production, and contain far less chemicals and nicotine residue compared to cigarette smoke. What’s more, e-liquid bottles and vaping hardware can be easily recycled with your usual household recycling waste.
Stop using plastic carrier bags
An immeasurable amount of plastic carrier bags make their way into our oceans each year, disrupting wildlife and cluttering beautiful beaches in the process. Worldwide, 13,000-15,000 pieces of plastic are discarded into marine life habitats every day.
To prevent this problem, make sure to use your plastic carrier bag as much as possible, or opt for a larger reusable carrier bag made from recyclable materials. Alternatively, you can take your old plastic bags to your local supermarket’s collection point.
Where possible, avoid buying plastic bags, and always carry around a smaller foldaway bag for unexpected purchases while on the go.
Limit the use of coffee pods
Single-use coffee pods are convenient, tasty, and cost-effective. However, with regular use, they can become an environmental issue. This is because coffee pods are mostly made from plastic, which can damage the soil and atmosphere once they have been discarded in landfills. On top of this, they’re also non-biodegradable, taking up to 500 years to fully break down.
In the UK, over 300 million aluminum and plastic coffee capsules are consumed, with a predicted 95% of them ending up in landfills. You can easily swap out your usual coffee pods for biodegradable, compostable, or reusable pods. This way, you can enjoy your morning brew all while knowing you’ve made a more responsible choice!
Try a meat-free diet
A meat-free diet has a multitude of benefits, some of which you may not be aware of. Vegetarian diets cost the average consumer £1,545 a year, which is 26% cheaper than the average meat-inclusive diet. There are also many advantages for your health, too – vegans and vegetarians on average consume fewer calories, and are at a lower risk of heart disease.
One of the leading reasons why so many choose a plant-based diet is to help tackle environmental issues. By avoiding animal products and encouraging others to do the same, we can help to decrease harmful greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy consumption, prevent water pollution, and even strengthen the earth’s soil. A meat-free diet has also been found to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73%.
As their name suggests, disposable razors are intended for one-time or short-term use. For a low-waste alternative, opt for a safety razor with a blade that can be replaced within weeks rather than days. There are also waxing options or hair removal creams, both of which promise smooth results.
Spray-on deodorants contain greenhouse gases including hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide, a form of compressed gas. To make matters worse, aerosols have a high package to product ratio, meaning they’re bought more frequently than roll-on deodorants.
All too often, people will choose to throw their used spray-on deodorants in their regular bin. However, it’s important to take the time to remove the lid, thoroughly clean the inside of the container, and recycle your aerosol.
Alongside roll-on and all-natural deodorants, there are many great alternatives to keeping yourself feeling fresh, including baking soda, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or coconut oil.
As makeup wipes are primarily made from plastic fibres and contain chemicals, they can take over a century to decompose in landfills. During this time, cosmetic wipes drop plastic fibers into the soil, which is then ingested by unsuspecting wildlife.
Fortunately, there’s now a number of biodegradable makeup wipes available on the market, as well as washcloths and reusable cotton pads which can be cleaned in your washing machine.
While only a small household item, toothbrushes are part of the “plastic crisis” as coined by National Geographic. With millions of people using and throwing away toothbrushes each year, the answer to this problem is simple and entirely feasible: opt for a renewable alternative!
At the moment, the best choice is an electric toothbrush or a bamboo-based toothbrush. Not only are wood-based toothbrushes an antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial option, but they’re also 100% compostable.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a used kitchen roll is recyclable. After all, it’s made out of paper. However, unless your local council instructs otherwise, used paper towels can only be placed in your usual rubbish bin to be sent to the landfill. From there, kitchen roll will decompose and release greenhouse gases.
Some of the best and easiest ways to swap out kitchen roll include using reusable microfiber cleaning cloths, napkins, towels, or sponges. For a personal touch to your kitchen, you could even try knitting your own cleaning cloth with a unique design.