5 Common Household Products That Are Bad for the Environment
And 5 things you should be using instead.
Having a clean house is great — but a clean environment is even better.
Many of the household and kitchen items we use on a daily basis may seem innocuous but have a detrimental effect on the environment. Ingredients found in soaps and detergents can wreak havoc on marine life and water systems. And despite our best recycling efforts, single-use plastic products like shrink wrap and coffee pods are still damaging to the environment.
While it would be impossible to completely eliminate all these items from most households, Global Citizen has rounded up alternatives to these products that can help make your home, and the environment, a little greener.
1. Laundry and Dish Detergents
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many detergents contain phosphorus and nitrogen. These ingredients make their way into water sources where they cause aquatic plants to proliferate and then die. As the plants decay, they sap oxygen from the water, suffocating marine life, Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety, and Environment reported. Detergents also frequently contain surfactants, which help to separate water and oil. But surfactants also attack the mucus coating of fish, leaving them vulnerable to parasites and other contaminants around them, according to the EPA.
Swap for:Laundry and dish detergents that have higher concentrations of plant-based ingredients and are biodegradable.
2. Single-Use Coffee Pod Machines
Who doesn’t love a cup of coffee in the morning? Especially if it’s easy and convenient to make.
In recent years, coffee pod machines have become extremely popular. In 2016, the machines — most of which use single-serve coffee pods — were predicted to overtake both instant and ground coffee.
And while companies like Keurig and Nespresso have introduced recyclable pods, not everyone is in the habit of recycling, and research has found that it can be a difficult behavior to adopt, according to the Huffington Post.
The plastic and aluminum pods that don’t get recycled ultimately end up in the trash and contribute to landfills.
Swap for: French presses or aeropresses, but opt for stainless steel filters over paper ones.
Take Action: Pledge to take three for the sea.
3. Tea Bags
If you were hoping to avoid the environmental pitfalls of coffee by switching to tea, you may be disappointed to learn that our tea consumption can also negatively impact the environment.
Pyramid-shaped tea bags have risen in popularity over the past few years, and while these bags are often described as “silky,” they’re plastic, so they cannot be composted and are not biodegradable.
While traditional paper tea bags are better for the environment, many are not fully biodegradable. A report released in 2010 found that tea bags produced by several major UK brands were 80% biodegradable at most, according to the Guardian.
Swap for: Metal tea balls and infusers, which can be washed and reused, or loose leaf tea in a pot.
4. Disposable Wipes
Disposable wet wipes — whether we’re talking about baby wipes or disinfecting wipes — pose a major problem for sewer systems and the environment. In the UK, the number of wet wipes found along the coastline has increased by more than 400% over the past 10 years, the Guardian reported.
And though many disposable wipes are marketed as “flushable,” they often contain plastic and are not biodegradable. Once in they’re in the sewer system, wet wipes bunch together and trap food and other waste to form giant blockages and “fatbergs” — clumps made of fat from food waste and wipes — according to the Atlantic.
Swap for: Stick with toilet paper or try washcloths. According to the Environmental Working Group, disinfecting wipes are not necessary for most messes, often a non-anti-microbial cleaning agent and a cloth will do the trick. As for baby wipes and other wet wipes, safe cleaning products are just as effective when used with reusable washcloths.
5. Plastic Cling Wrap and Aluminum Foil
Though plastic wrap and aluminum foil can help us reduce our environmental impact by keeping food fresh longer and cutting down on food waste, both have major negative consequences on environment.
Neither is regularly recycled and both require fossil fuels to produce, the Slate reported, which generates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Swap for: Glass or plastic reusable containers, or an environmentally-friendly alternative to cling wrap like Bee’s Wrap — a reusable wax-coated cloth that can be used just like plastic film.