8 Everyday Items that are Harmful to the Environment

8 Everyday Items that are Harmful to the Environment

We all know by now that certain items are better for the environment than others, but with so many consumer products being developed and made readily available to the public, it can be difficult to keep track of which products are sustainable and which are not. The obvious culprits like plastic straws and plastic water bottles are readily being replaced by stainless steel straws and eco-friendly reusable water bottles, but what about those products that haven’t made it to mainstream media just yet?

If you are interested in making product choices based on their impact on the environment, this guide is for you. We’re going to cover 8 everyday items that most of us have in our homes that are harmful to the environment and that you might want to reconsider repurchasing. Remember, you can always find a variety of affordable eco-friendly products when you visit Wowe Lifestyle.

1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is great for your skin, providing added protection from the sun’s harsh rays, but not all sunscreen is great for the environment. When you slather on your sunscreen before hopping in the ocean, lake, or river, it sticks to your skin for a while but eventually washes off into the water.

Chemical sunscreens often include chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene, which have been found to be harmful to marine life and especially coral reefs.  Now, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen is washed into coral reefs each and every year, contributing to the steady decline in the health of our coral reefs.

To avoid the negative effects of sunscreen while still enjoying the benefits, try to choose sunscreens without the chemicals mentioned above. Natural, plant-based options are best, but in general, try sticking to formulas with fewer ingredients.

2. Tea Bags

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to take your favorite warm beverage away, but we will be suggesting a more eco-friendly way of consuming it. Millions of tea bags are used around the world every day, generating a shocking amount of waste you wouldn’t believe possible from such small, seemingly innocuous items.

The problem with tea bags is that they are often made from plastic, or contain a number of materials that make them non-compostable. Even so-called ‘environmental’ tea bags often only contain a small amount of biodegradable material, meaning their chances of actually breaking down are slim. Because of this, we recommend choosing loose leaf tea whenever possible. Purchase yourself a cute little tea steeper or a pot that will do it for you, and keep enjoying your tea without the environmental guilt.

3. Menstrual Products

Menstrual products require individual wrapping to maintain cleanliness, meaning that all tampons, pads, and pantiliners are individually wrapped in single-use plastic packaging. On top of this, pads themselves are around 90% plastic, making them a long-lasting resident in landfills before beginning to break down into microplastics. The menstrual product industry produces more than 200,000 tons of waste per year from packaging, applicators, and the products themselves.

While there are reusable pads, cotton tampons, and other more environmentally friendly products on the market, the best option is to choose a menstrual cup. A single menstrual cup can last for years and can be easily cleaned and reused over and over again. Besides producing less packaging fewer products, and less overall waste, menstrual cups are also a more affordable option than traditional menstrual products.

4. Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergents often contain heavy metals, phosphates, and other toxic chemicals. When washed through waterways and into rivers, lakes, and oceans, these harmful additives can be poisonous to fish, impact oxygen supplies for marine life, and taint the quality of the water. Overexposure to laundry detergents can make the water acidic, harming fish, marine animals, algae, and other sea-life with effects similar to acid rain.

Luckily, more companies are hopping on-board the eco-friendly train and developing green detergents. These eco-friendly alternatives are made without artificial fragrances, diethanolamine, optical brighteners, linear alkaline sodium sulfonates, nonylphenol ethoxylate, petroleum distillates, and other harmful or toxic chemicals and ingredients. Want to take it a step further? Try making your own eco-friendly detergent at home! We share lots of tips for creating your own eco-friendly products in our weekly Going Green Tips

5. Disposable Chopsticks

Disposable bamboo chopsticks are commonplace throughout the world and especially in Asian countries. These single-use utensils are easy to store en masse and easy to keep sanitary, making them an understandable choice for fast-casual and take-away dining options everywhere. Unfortunately, the amount of wood required to keep up with the demand of billions of pairs of chopsticks every year is wreaking havoc on the environment.

The rapid degradation of land-quality due to over-planting, pesticide usage, and rapid over-harvesting has begun to impact soil quality and fertility, and emissions from chopstick manufacturing contribute significantly to global industrial emissions. To top it off, chopsticks cannot be readily recycled or reused, and most often are tossed in the trash to be sent to landfills.

Rather than grabbing a pair of brightly wrapped disposable chopsticks next time you grab takeout, invest in a set of reusable chopsticks! Find a set you like and you’ll be able to keep them for years. Buy a bunch, and you can order Chinese for a crowd with an added touch of style.

6. Scented Candles

For many of us, there is nothing better than lighting a scented candle and settling back for a relaxing bath, but if you care about the environment, you might want to ditch this habit. Scented candles release a number of toxic byproducts, including greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide when burned. These candles are typically made from paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, meaning your candles also contribute to the oil industry, oil spills, drilling, and so on.

To top it off, the chemicals used to create those oh-so-addictive scents may also release harmful chemicals, hazardous both to the environment and people with asthma or compromised respiratory systems. Don’t worry, you can still indulge in the warm light of a candle; next time, just choose an unscented soy or beeswax candle instead.

7. Makeup Wipes

A staggering 20 million pounds of disposable wipes are thrown away every day in the US. Largely made from plastic fibers and drenched in chemicals, makeup wipes and other single-use wipes are built to be durable, meaning they are also durable once they get to the landfill. As wipes break down, they drop plastic fibers into the soil, oftentimes getting picked up by critters and wildlife or leaching chemicals into soil or water. While many brands claim their wipes are biodegradable, the vast majority are not, and these claims should be taken with a pile of salt.

Rather than using disposable makeup wipes, invest in a soft washcloth and a makeup remover of your choice. Reusable, far better for the environment, and often more effective at removing stubborn makeup, a single washcloth will take you much further than a package of disposable wipes.

8. Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are a gimmicky item that rarely actually soften your clothes, but rather condition them with a combination of harsh chemicals. The majority of dryer sheets are coated in a chemical called quaternary ammonium compounds, a chemical that has been closely linked to asthma, respiratory irritation, cancers, and reproductive health problems. Additionally, dryer sheets are typically non-wovens made from plastic or other synthetic fibers, making them non-recyclable and slow to break down in landfills.

If you’re still worried about static in your dryer, try replacing your chemical-covered dryer sheets with a wool laundry ball instead. Made from solid felted wool, the balls beat the clothes to soften them naturally, and prevent static buildup with constant mechanical movement.

Interested in learning more about how your lifestyle impacts the planet? Visit Wowe Lifestyle to check out our full range of eco-friendly products and to check out our blog for more tips, tricks, and advice.