What’s lurking in your cupboards? What about under your sink, in your bathroom, or your fridge? Well, amongst the shadows and cobwebs, nestled between your fruit and veg, are items that you might look at every single day, and never once have realized just how incredibly harmful to the planet they are.
1. Plastic bags (all 16,000 of them!)
OK, maybe 16,000 is an over-exaggeration, however, it’s not as far out as you may think. The average American household takes in just under 1,500 bags every year (National Resources Defense Council). Considering that these bags take anything up to 1000 years to decompose (One Green Planet), this poses a ticking time bomb for our world. But what can be done with your stockpiles of plastic bags? An excellent effort is being undertaken by the Plastic Film Recycling Organization, which collect empty plastic bags for recycling. Visit their website and enter your zip code to find your nearest collection point.
2. Facial cleansers that feature microbeads
Microbeads are tiny polyethylene balls that can be found in everything from a facial scrub to toothpaste. When they enter our water systems, these miniature balls of plastic are being mistaken for food by our marine life – with 35% of fish having been found to have ingested these harmful plastics (Convention on Biological Diversity). A further study discovered that oysters were suffering problems with reproduction, energy uptake, and even offspring performance due to microbead pollution (PNAS).
Whilst these are being phased out throughout the US, and many brands have taken ownership of the issues being caused by microbeads, other manufacturers seem to be set on continuing to sell such products, so check the labels of your cosmetic goods carefully.
3. Air fresheners – They may smell sweet, but the stuff they contain is seriously scary!
Air fresheners not only release a lovely scent, but they also pump out an array of harmful elements, such as phthalates and chemicals that have been linked to reproductive issues and birth defects caused by the hormonal abnormalities that they bring about. The plugin kind could be considered the worst offenders of all, as they release harmful toxins into the air, whilst also sapping energy.
4. Foamy shampoos and soaps
You likely expect your shampoos and body washes to be foamy, right? However those suds aren’t a natural by-product of some lovely ingredients – they are made by Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – an element that is commonly contaminated with traces of a chemical known as 1,4-Dioxane – an element that has been defined as a likely human carcinogen.
For the planet, the news is equally as grim as SLES doesn’t biodegrade – so those suds build-up, and stay somewhere in our waterways for a long time to come. The answer to this issue is to simply shop for sulfate-free products.
5. Any product with Palm oil
Palm oil is estimated to be in around half of all the products that we purchase, and is particularly common in health and beauty items, such as cleansers and moisturizers. Over the past few years, the palm oil industry has had to turn to concerning methods for farming this lucrative ingredient – with methods that have been responsible for deforestation, landscape fires, and the draining of peatlands – all of which have massive implications for climate change. So, when you next shop for your bathroom shelf, be sure to only purchase items that are clearly labeled as having been produced with sustainable palm oil.
6. Veg and fruit that ends up in the bin
This pointer is less about harm and more about the good for the planet that can be achieved with one simple change. Rather than tipping your fruit and veg into the bin, create a compost. This needn’t be a towering compost heap that takes up your backyard – it could simply be a small container with a lid that sits neatly away in a corner behind a hedge. The Freecycle website is a great resource if you’d like to pick up a compost container for free. What’s more, with all that beautifully nutritious soil, you can feed your fledgling fruit and veg patch. There’s nothing quite like the cycle of life!
7. (ALL) Anti-bacterial products
Anti-bacterial products are pushed as critical for our health. We’re made to believe that without them, our family is going to be continually ill – struck down with bug after bug after bug. However, as research shows, the opposite could well be true – as the use of these products leads to the development of ‘super-bugs’ which not only can make you sick but can affect the immune systems of children. Instead of aiming to be completely germ-free, you should opt for simply being clean. Choose eco-friendly hand washes instead, these are guaranteed to be completely safe for you and your family – all whilst being kind for this equally delicate world of ours.
8. The well-stocked, chemical packed cupboard
Cleaning products are full of chemicals that are damaging the environment – packed into plastic that lasts 100 years + and likely shipped halfway around the world. But this isn’t the only reason you should re-think your cleaning cupboard.
Every day, more than 300 children are admitted to US hospitals with poisoning caused by cleaning products from within the home (CDC). This alone would be reason enough to consider switching to natural cleaning products – however, if you’re still in two minds, consider this: the toxins contained in cleaning products can impact almost every system in your body. Multi-purpose cleaners have been linked to liver and kidney issues; bleach can burn your skin, whilst oven cleaning products can damage the respiratory system.
9. The ‘helpful’ chemical fertilizer
Chemical fertilizer promises the world for our grass and plants it seems. You see, when chemical fertilizers enter our water systems, there are algal blooms that impact ecosystems in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Ultimately this kills wildlife, such as fish, and downgrades water quality. The solution is simple – when shopping for fertilizer, go organic.
10. The troublesome plastic bottle
It seems that we write often about the implications of plastic bottles on the planet (which inspired us to write an entire article committed to eradicating plastic from your life). However, no top ten harmful household item list would be complete without a mention of the planet’s biggest foe. Every year, there are almost an unimaginable 25 billion water bottles sold in America – the vast majority of which are thrown away after one use (Alternet).
However whilst many know that plastic bottles are a scourge on our planet, the same can’t be said about the awareness about plastic bottles and our health. At the center of this issue is ‘BPA’, or bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that can leak into the water and cause hormonal changes. Ultimately BPAs have been linked with everything from fertility issues to cancer.
Last update of the article: 11/17/2020.
Frightened by this top ten list? Perhaps we’ve skipped something that would make for a worthy addition? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.