5 everyday items you didn’t realise were harming the environment

By Alexandra McCarthy |

I Quit Sugar - 5 everyday items you didn’t realise were harming the environment

You may have heard the term sustainability thrown around recently, but what does it actually mean and how does it affect you?

Sustainability refers to how a natural system functions – in this case, our world – and its ability to produce what it needs to survive and remain balanced. Basically, it’s how we humans live in harmony with the natural world, in order to keep the species going without damaging the environment.

And in short, it does affect you! Or, if you don’t feel the effects of it now, future generations definitely will so it’s essential we implement measures to keep our environment healthy, now.

While it’s no secret that waste places a huge burden on our planet, you may not have considered just how much these five everyday objects can impact the environment…

1. Straws.

We barely think twice when we drink our smoothie through a plastic straw and then chuck it in the bin, but plastic straws are having a hugely negative impact on the planet. Just think about how many people use single-use straws every day – from cafes to bars, they’re literally given out wherever a beverage is served. And once they’re thrown away, they often end up in our waterways. In fact, a scuba diver by the name of Kasey Turner conducted an experiment where she collected straws during a dive near Manly, Australia, and she picked up a whopping 319 straws during her 20-minute snorkel!

If left in the ocean, these straws often become entangled with marine life or are eaten by fish thanks to their small size. So, it’s time to ditch the straw habit! Either invest in a reusable stainless steel straw to carry with you, or simply ask for no straw when ordering a drink because in all honesty, your gin and soda is going to taste exactly the same sans straw.

2. Sanitary items.

Thanks to the recent popularity of menstrual cups, period undies and reusable pads, there has been a bunch of conversation about the impact of disposable sanitary items on the environment. And, considering that the average Aussie woman will use around 10,000–12,000 disposable sanitary items in her lifetime, the impact ain’t good! Most tampons are made of cotton or rayon, but come wrapped in plastic, while pads are generally made from a mixture of cotton, plastics and other synthetic material and are also wrapped in plastic – and they all end up in landfill where they take around 500–800 years to biodegrade. On top of that, there are also environmental impacts of producing the cotton for these products, which uses extreme amounts of water in the process. So, while pads and tampons may be familiar and convenient, they aren’t doing the environment any favours!

3. Microbeads.

These tiny plastic balls – known as microbeads – are used in a plethora of products including face scrubs, body wash and some toothpastes. They are generally added as a synthetic exfoliant instead of using sand, sugar or nut kernels.As soon as you use the product containing microbeads, the plastic balls are washed down the drain and end up in waterways where they are regularly ingested by marine life. And, in some instances, these tiny beads reenter the food chain after being eaten by fish! In Australia, there has been a move to phase out microbeads from products, with major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths pledging to remove all products containing microbeads from their shelves, but there is still no legislation as of yet that completely bans them. The solution? Opt out of buying any products that contain these little plastic balls as they may still be for sale at your local store!

4. Plastic cutlery.

Every year, around 6 million tons of non-durable plastics, like disposable cutlery are thrown out and guess where they end up? Our waterways! Plastic knives, forks and spoons are another example of disposable items that we barely blink at eye at when throwing in the bin. Thankfully, some countries have begun to take notice and France has even gone so far as to ban plastic cutlery, cups and plates – way to go, France! While the use of these objects, is still ingrained in our everyday lives, it’s not a hard habit to change, you simply have to be prepared! Invest in a set of toteable cutlery, or if you happen to use disposable knives, forks and spoons, then keep them! Carry them with you and reuse them as many times as possible before they are no longer usable.

5. Coffee pods.

The advent of coffee pod machines may have added another level of convenience to our lives, but it also brought about a whole new negative environmental impact with the creation of disposable coffee pods. In fact, the former boss of Nespresso – one of the largest coffee pod companies – came out a few years ago to declare that these pods were killing the environment as billions of these capsules were ending up in landfill – where it could take up to 500 years for them to break down. While many of these companies have scrambled to find a recycling solution for these pods, you can already purchase reusable coffee capsules which fit nicely into coffee machines like Nespresso.

I Quit Sugar: 5 everyday items you didn't realise were hurting the environment

Do you use any these products? If so, will you be eliminating your use of them? Let us know in the comments below!

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