Everyone has that bad habit they can’t shake, no matter what the doctor says. But have you heard what the scientist has to say about it?
It so happens that many of our little vices can have just as much of an effect on the environment as they do to our own health. Some of these seemingly small habits tie to issues that Global Citizen campaigns on, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing waste.
For a healthier you and a happier planet, Global Citizen urges you to break these seven bad habits for good:
As if you needed one more reason to quit smoking, here it is: growing, producing, and smoking tobacco have a high cost for the environment, according to a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Smoking also releases pollutants — such as ammonia, nicotine, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides — into the environment, which also enter into the lungs of the smoker or others via second-hand smoke.
Then there’s the human cost of smoking. Each year, $1.4 trillion is spent on related health-care expenses and lost productivity, according to the WHO study.
"Tobacco not only produces lung cancer in people, but it is a cancer to the lungs of the Earth," Dr. Armando Peruga, who reviewed the WHO study, told CNN.
2. Tossing Electronic Waste
What do you do when you break or lose your cell phone? You replace it. But what happens after you replace your old phone?
Oftentimes, your cell phone ends up in a closet or attic, eventually making its way to the dump.
Today, there are more cell phones in the world than there are people. But despite 70% of cell phones being recyclable, only 14-17% are recycled each year.
The rest eventually find their way into the garbage.
When cell phones and electronic material are not recycled or disposed of properly, the toxic materials they are made of can harm the environment and people’s health. These toxins — including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine — can leak into the soil and water supply, contaminate drinking water and plants, and lead to organ failure and cancer in humans.
The average food size served in restaurants, fast food chains, and grocery stores has increased by 138% since 1970.
That means people today are eating larger portions of food than they were 50 years ago, and often don’t know what a healthy portion size should look like. This can lead to people buying more food than they will eat, the rest of which ends up in the trash.
The rate of overweight and obese people around the world is climbing, according to Forbes.
Furthermore, food waste sitting in landfills releases methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas that is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
4. Taking Uber When You Can Walk, Bike, or Metro
There are plenty of times when it might be tempting to drive or call an uber to get somewhere, even when walking or biking is the alternative.
However, choosing not to take a car can be a simple way of avoiding unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.
The average car releases 4 tons of carbon dioxide each year; this greenhouse gas is a big contributor to climate change. Vehicles also release several other pollutants that can cause problems for people with asthma and sometimes lead to birth defects, cancer, and serious illnesses. The increased use of cars in the US has also contributed to a rise in people today living more sedentary lives than ever before, which has been linked to an increase in obesity, heart disease, and strokes.
Choosing to strap on your sneakers for even one day can have a positive impact on the environment and your body. Research shows that moving around for just 20 minutes a day can improve one’s health.
If everyone in Canada did this for just one day a week for a full year, the country would save 3.8 millions tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. If everyone in the US stopped driving for just one day each year, that would prevent 3.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.
5. Eating Fast Food
It’s no secret that eating fast food regularly is bad for your health. The high-calorie and high-trans-fat food not only makes your waistline expand, but also accounts for other unpleasant health consequences. Researchers have tied fast food to headaches, depression, and premature aging, among other things.
If that pink slime picture was not enough to turn you away from fast food altogether, consider the environment.
In 2011, half of all street garbage came from fast food chains, according to one study. Fast food companies still produce a large amount of waste — from manufacturing to packaging to actual food waste. The process of making just one Big Mac results in 1-3.5 kg of CO2 emissions.
And many fast food restaurants still package food with styrofoam, which can take 900 years to decompose.
6. Binge Drinking
Alcohol production requires a large quantity of raw materials and land that could otherwise be used to feed people, and it produces a ton of greenhouse gases in the process.
Alcohol manufacturers in the US alone release the equivalent of 1.9 million households each year, according to Mother Jones.
While a little bit of alcohol is not bad for the body (a glass of red wine a night can decrease one’s risk of an early death), excessive drinking can be harmful.
Binge drinking has both short- and long-term health consequences, including unintentional injuries, alcohol poisoning, sudden infant death syndrome, and cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
7. Not Practicing Proper Oral Hygiene
A few minutes of extra care before and after you fall asleep is no sacrifice when you consider the environmental and health reasons to take better care of your teeth.
Frequently skipping your teeth cleaning (that includes flossing) can cause bad breath, yellow teeth, gum infections and tooth decay. Bad oral hygiene is also precursor to other health problems, including coronary artery disease and non-communicable disease like endocarditic, a heart infection.
Bad oral hygiene practices will not make the environment smile.
Individual Americans use more water per person than anyone else around the world today; still, 95% of water used in an average household is wasted, according to Credit Loan. A leaking faucet alone can waste 20 gallons of water each day.
Decrease your water footprint by turning the faucet off while you brush your teeth, fix leaking faucets and use tap water to brush your teeth rather than bottled water.
Many of these vices we commit every day — and sometimes more than one of them.
The good news is that all of these habits can be overcome with a little bit of mindfulness and dedication, which is something that everyone, and our green planet, can smile about.