The environment is one of the world’s hottest topics right now. Climate change, plastic pollution, water quality and landfill are all issues we can influence — but to do so we must act together. Fortunately, we can make a difference by changing some of our household habits.
There are seven everyday agents many of us use everyday that have a profoundly negative impact on the environment. Stop using them, and you’ll be doing your little bit to protect the world we have to hand over to future generations.
1. Wet wipes
The use of wet wipes is on the rise, which is why a growing number are being found washed up on beaches. These chemical-laden sheets can cause significant harm to marine life, as they don’t dissolve in water the way toilet tissue does. If you have to use wet wipes, make sure you recycle them with the rest of your paper waste — and never flush them down the loo. As many wet wipes contain plastics too, opt for wet flannels or reusable cloths wherever possible.
2. Consumer plastics
If you could jump into a time machine and travel back to 1950s Europe, you’d struggle to find any plastics in the average home. Today, however, they’re everywhere. Whether you’re drinking soda, cooking meat or bringing in the shopping from the car, plastic is now part and parcel of modern life. It is estimated around 13 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year, threatening wildlife and marine habitats.
We can make a difference together by minimising the use of plastics at home. We can reuse shopping bags, buy loose foods, opt for paper and biodegradable packaging and recycle more. If everyone buys less plastic, we can make a difference.
3. Antibacterial soaps
Antibacterial soaps are designed to kill up to 99.9% of potentially dangerous pathogens. But is this really necessary? There is evidence to suggest that sanitizing homes to the point of obsession creates an environment in which antibiotic-resistant super-bugs grow. Not only that, many of these products contain chemicals that can cause harm to wildlife and natural habitats if they find their way into watercourses. Old-fashioned soap is just as effective at keeping people clean and healthy, and it’s generally a lot kinder to the environment.
Modern aerosols contain hydrocarbons and, in many cases, nitrous oxide. Both of these substances are classed as “greenhouse” gases, meaning they directly contribute to global warming and climate change. Moreover, most aerosols require a ridiculous amount of packaging and processing — increasing the carbon footprint they leave behind. As aerosol cans aren’t easy to recycle, it’s probably best to avoid them altogether where possible.
5. Certain detergents
Household detergents that contain phosphates are blocking many of the UK’s waterways. These chemicals are added in order to soften water. However, in the right conditions, phosphates act as a fertiliser for water-based plants, changing ecosystems beyond all recognition and causing serious harm to wildlife.7. Microbeads
A growing number of hygiene products contain microbeads — tiny plastic pieces that are used for exfoliation purposes. But billions of these plastic fragments are now ending up in our oceans, and many of them are being ingested by marine animals such as whales and sharks. The remedy to this particular issue is very simple. Don’t by hygiene products that contain microbeads.
Our planet is being choked by plastic, yet we lived for centuries without it. If we all stop using plastic, manufacturers will eventually stop making it — and that is something the whole world will benefit from.