A writer must “know and have an ever-present consciousness that this world is a world of fools and rogues… tormented with envy, consumed with vanity; selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions… He should free himself of all doctrines, theories, etiquettes, politics…” —Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?). “The nobility of the writer's occupation lies in resisting oppression, thus in accepting isolation” —Albert Camus (1913-1960). “What are you gonna do” —Bertha Brown (1895-1987).
10 Ways You Are Hurting the Environment and Don’t Know It by Tex Dworkin
You know the environment
needs help, and you’re just the person to do something about it. But sometimes
when you think you’re helping, you may actually be harming. Other times you’re
just going about your business, and you have no idea that what you’re doing is
harmful to the environment (Tex Dworkin).
Here are 10 ways
you are hurting the environment and don’t know it:
You just finished that last
lick of peanut butter, so now it’s time to wash it out so you can recycle it.
(Yes, it does need to be cleaned.) But water is an
essential resource, dangerously dwindling in areas like California, which is
now in its fourth year of severe drought. So is it worth wasting water to clean
recyclables? Yes and no. Clean them, yes, but waste water in the process? No. Here’s
what to do instead: Simply collect the water you used to clean dishes or pots
and pans, pour some into the recyclable, slap a lid on that baby, and shake.
You may need to do a little scrubbing to get it ready for recycling, but
there’s no reason to waste good, clean water in the process. And if there’s no
lid, cup the top with the palm of your hand before shaking.
3. Purchasing “eco-friendly” products:
You might think you’re doing
the right thing by choosing eco-friendly personal care and cleaning
products, but if they have any of these ingredients — polyethylene,
polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate or polymethyl methacrylate — well
then, “you’re cleaning up with plastic and being duped into contributing to
plastic pollution in the environment,” as the Story of Stuff put it. What
I’m talking about are plastic micro-beads, which are really small
particles found in body washes, hand soaps, toothpaste, lip gloss, nail polish
and cosmetics designed to be washed down the drain. Unfortunately, billions of
these tiny plastic particles make their way into our environment every day, and
they end up littering our rivers, lakes and oceans. The result is terrible for
our environment and the animals living in it because a single micro-bead can be
up to a million times more toxic than the water around it. What can you do about
micro-bead pollution? The Story of Stuff Project is leading a coalition of over
100 groups to get these tiny plastic beads out of commerce. You can find out more here.
That’s right. Even if it’s washed, recycling itself can
be harmful to the environment. Here are a few ways, according to this
must-read LISTVERSE article: The
mindset it gives people -- The idea is that by putting materials in the recycle
bin, by buying products made from recycled material, we’re saving the environment—we’re
all a team of individual Captain Planets, kicking pollution to the curb. But
how effective is that when the U.S. alone still produces 250 million tons of trash
every year? Recycling’s main impact is to convince us that it’s okay to be
wasteful in other areas, because we make up for it through recycling. It
encourages consumption, rather than pointing out ways to reduce consumption
overall. Recycling plants are huge polluters
…and the list goes on. So yeah, recycling is not the green solution to our
consumptive behavior. Eliminating, or at least reducing, is.
5. Reusable tote bags:
Of course you’re not harming the environment by bringing
your own tote bag to the grocery store, but if that’s where your concern for
minimizing waste ends, then Houston, we have a problem. It’s shocking how much
excess packaging exists in the grocery industry. The other day I went to buy a
cucumber at Trader Joe’s. An organic one, mind you. It came wrapped in plastic!
So much attention has gone to grocery bags, we forget to consider all
the other packaging associated with groceries. Stuffing an organic cotton
grocery tote bag with a bunch of excessively packaged products seems to defeat
the purpose, don’t you think? LISTVERSE says, “There
are about seven types of plastic that you’ll find in day-to-day life, and only
two of them are recyclable. Anything else placed in a recycling bin will be
collected, processed, and sorted, and then thrown straight into a landfill.” If you’re
looking to help the environment while you gather food, get hooked on products
that don’t come smothered in excess packaging. Until packaging-free groceries stores
come to your neighborhood, a great place to start is the bulk foods
section of your local grocery store, and don’t forget to BYOW (bring your own
whatever): mason jar, glass container, reusable sacks, etc.
Attention, chefs! If you’re making gravy, hold the corn
starch. Sure, it can thicken sauces and soups with the greatest of ease, but
corn starch is usually made with genetically modified corn.
Here’s why GMOs are a concern.
The good news is, you can skip corn starch and still thicken to your
heart’s content. Just use arrowroot powder instead. It’s an easily digested starch extracted from the roots of the
plant that works just as well as corn
starch, plus it has a more neutral flavor and can be used at low temperatures.
8. Upgrading your gadgets:
Updating to the newest
have-to-have electronic gadget is commonplace these days. People don’t even
wait for things to break anymore before lining up to buy the latest greatest
gizmo. That consumer thinking is part of the problem. Here’s a scary fact: Back in 2012 a partnership of UN organizations reported
more than 48 million tons of gadgets are
thrown away every year. That’s 11 times heavier than 200 Empire
State Buildings. The solution is simple: get
as much use out of each product you buy before tossing it aside to make room
for the new shiny object. If you think recycling your electronics absolves you
from premature upgrading, think again. Only 13 percent of electronic waste is
disposed and recycled properly.
9. Flushing things down the toilet to spare landfills:
Flushing unwanted items down the toilet is not a magic process
that makes things disappear. They end up somewhere, just like the garbage we
put on the curb each week. Even though some products are marketed as
“flushable,” that doesn’t mean you should flush them. Here are two Don’t Flush
items: Baby wipes: Technically
they are “flushable.” It’s what happens after those wipes go down the toilet that’s
causing headaches. They aren’t breaking down like they’re supposed to. Kitty litter: Although
most green litters are septic- and sewer-safe, it’s best not to flush them. Cat
feces contains the Toxoplasmosis gondii (TG) parasite, dangerous to pregnant
women and marine life, particularly sea otters. Unfortunately, TG is not
filtered out in most water treatment plants.
10. Putting food waste into the garbage disposal:
EcoMyths explains”Garbage disposals have been heralded as the ‘next great
tool for urban sustainability,’ but while sink disposals do have some clear benefits
over trashcans, they are not the greenest way to dispose of your uneaten
food.” According to life cycle analysis expert Eric Masanet, PhD, of
Northwestern University and Debra Shore, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water
Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the hierarchy of green ways to dispose
of food goes like this, from least green to most:Not-so-green: Throwing it in a trashcan
headed for the landfill; Light green: Running it through the sink
disposal, from which it then heads to the waste water treatment plant; Green:
Toss it in your compost bin for efficient composting; Greenest ever:
Reduce the amount of food we waste in the first place! Globally we waste about
a third of our food every year. Talk about an environmental footprint. So if
you want to spare the planet, the best thing you can do with your food is eat
Sometimes we truly want to do
what’s best for the environment, but what’s best isn’t always clear. If you
want to do your part for the planet, start by educating yourself. Please share
this post to help educate others, and if you know of ways people are harming
the environment without knowing it, tip us off in the comments.