5 Everyday Products that Hurt the Environment

… and Sustainable Alternatives.

Image Credit: HuffPost UK

Image Credit: HuffPost UK

In our fast-paced busy lives it can be difficult to remember to make sustainable choices. Here are a few products that most of us use everyday that have a negative effect on the environment.

Plastic Bags

You’ve probably heard this one before, but despite widespread coverage of the issue, between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. These bags take enormous amounts of energy to produce and ship, they are difficult to recycle, do not decompose, and emit toxic chemicals into the environment.

Fortunately, there are many green alternatives to the plastic bag. Fabric or canvas shopping bags are relatively inexpensive to purchase and can be re-used for grocery shopping.

Produce Bags

Produce bags often get left out of the conversation surrounding plastic bags, but they are made from the same materials and are equally harmful. Try using mesh washable produce bags instead — they are fairly cheap and can be reused. https://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=as_li_qf_sp_sr_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=aps&keywords=reusable%20produce%20bag&linkCode=as2&tag=onegrepla-20

Exfoliant Products

Many facial soaps contain tiny plastic microbeads that help exfoliate the skin. These beads are too small to be filtered during sewage treatment and have started to build up in lakes and oceans. In a year alone, researchers found 1,500 to 1.7 million bits of plastic per square mile in the great lakes. California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland and New Jersey have already banned microbeads, and it is likely that other states will follow. There are many alternatives to these soaps which are environmentally friendly and better for the skin. Try using oatmeal, raw honey, or coffee grounds scrubs — often you can make them yourself from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. https://www.homemadeforelle.com/10-simple-exfoliating-face-scrubs/

Coffee Pods

They may be convenient, but single serve coffee pods aren’t recyclable, meaning that almost all of the 10 billion made each year end up in landfills. Brewing coffee the old fashioned way may take you a few minutes longer, but will reduce your waste in the long run. You can recycle the paper filter (as long as it’s unbleached) and compost the grinds or use them in a face scrub.

Non shade-grown coffee

While we’re on the subject, the coffee industry is responsible for massive amounts of deforestation and water pollution. Buying shade grown coffee is easier on the environment because it allows trees to grow alongside the coffee plants, which not only guards against deforestation, but controls soil erosion and filters carbon dioxide. Shade-grow beans also mature at a slower rate which creates a delicious flavor.

Prepackaged Food

From juice boxes to chips, almost nothing you buy at a grocery store is free of plastic packaging. While these products are convenient, they pose a risk to the environment. Like plastic bottles and bags, plastic food packaging is difficult to recycle and does not decompose. While there are alternatives to pre-packaged food such as zero waste grocery stores, they can be hard to come by. Try to reduce the amount of packaged food you buy, but when necessary buy bulk products instead since single serve items have more packaging.

In the end, working to reduce or eliminate your consumption these five products is a step toward a greener planet and a more sustainable lifestyle.



EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a volunteer in Guatemala City and is passionate about travel and social justice. She plans to continue traveling wherever life may take her.

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