Switching out the conventional plastic toothbrush for a bamboo alternative is one of the simplest things you can do to minimise your ecological footprint. Bamboo toothbrushes can be found in almost any supermarket, pharmacy, etc and can make a real difference for an individual’s impact in the personal hygiene sector.
Why bamboo instead?
A large number of bamboo products, especially toothbrushes are biodegradable meaning they break down quickly. Whereas the traditional counterpart (plastic) can take comfortably over 500 years in many cases. The American Dental Association says that on average, people replace their old toothbrushes for replacements every 3 – 4 months; altogether that’s around 23 billion toothbrushes sent to landfill annually.
Soft plastic recycling
Here in Australia, there is a soft plastic recycling program called Redcycle (https://www.redcycle.net.au/) that our 2 major supermarkets actively participate in. The idea is simple: every time you buy something with soft plastic packaging, you place the waste in a bag or special bin in your house, and once full, take the bag up to the local supermarket to place in the soft plastics disposal bin. If you don’t live in Australia but would like to help, find a soft plastic recycling program relevant to you.
Why recycle soft plastic?
On average, the world produces around 380 million tons of soft plastic annually
and yet, less than 20% is recycled in some way and instead sent to landfills.
Around 8 million tons of soft plastics now enter the oceans each year. Experts
believe that by 2050, the amount of waste will outnumber the amount of marine life. By sending your soft plastics to a recycling program like Redcycle, you can play an active role in preventing tangible pollution on a large scale.
Reusable coffee cups
Reusable coffee cups are very much misunderstood as most people believe single-use cups are recyclable – only they’re not. Single-use coffee cups have a thin lining of plastic that wraps around the top of the cup; that small aspect of the cup is the reason as to why they can’t be recycled. Therefore, reusable coffee cups play a major role in removing rubbish from landfills. Similar to bamboo toothbrushes, reusable coffee cups can be found in supermarkets, online stores, retail shops, etc. Beyond the environmental factor, you also lessen the discrete financial burden as coffee shops often charge extra for the single-use cup your drink is served in.
Why should I purchase a reusable coffee cup?
In Australia alone, 1 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown away annually. Another problem with conventional coffee cups is that while the paper breaks down in landfills, the plastic linings don’t and instead sit in landfills for hundreds of years. Purchasing a reusable coffee cup is a simple exercise that benefits the pockets, as well as reduces the number of single-use cups that end up in landfills.
Palm oil-free products
Palm oil is among the largest culprits of global deforestation. According to the WWF (World Wild Fund for Nature), everyday products that contain palm oil include lipstick, instant noodles, pizza dough, shampoo, ice cream, margarine, chocolate, detergent, cookies, soap, biodiesel, packaged bread, peanut butter and more. Trying to find palm-oil-free product alternatives in most places should be easy, with new laws that either prohibit palm oil or make sure it’s registered clearly on the products it’s found in. However, it is up to the consumer to do the right thing.
What’s the issue with palm oil?
Every minute, around 48 American football fields worth of trees are cut down and around 137 species are driven to extinction every day. According to the WWF, palm oil continues to be a large culprit in the destruction of forests and other natural habitats. With the ever-growing human population, the demand for palm oil increases and so by removing palm oil usage, you can help be a part of the solution; not the problem.
Food waste – garden & food waste bin
In Australia, each council has a specific bin anyone can purchase that is used to dispose of garden waste and food scraps. The idea is simple: collect your food waste in a little bin and throw all the content out each night or two into the main green bin. In my council, the bin has a green lid but this may vary from council to council, country to country. The content allowed to be placed in the green bin may differ in area, state or country so make sure to go over your local rules.
Why participate in food & garden waste?
1/3 of all food produced is thrown away, adding up to 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually. A very large percentage of which is thrown into landfills. However, by placing your daily food scraps in the green bin, the content is instead sent to industrial compost facilities where (in Australia) the end product (soil) is sent to farmland in regions battling drought. Moreover, redirecting your green waste reduces methane (CH4) production; a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 84 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year time frame.
Today there are many 100% plant-based products for hygiene, food, house cleaning and more. There are many products on the market for those who want to remove the use of dangerous chemicals like EDCs and lower their ecological footprint including plant-based soaps, shampoos, conditioners, dishwashing liquids, meats and more.
Why start buying plant-based products?
By purchasing plant-based products, the risk of personal and environmental chemical exposure dwindles; with that, reducing the amount of contaminated soil and waterways. Like palm oil, animal agriculture is the most serious deforestation culprit globally – especially beef – and so cutting back on your meat consumption as well, further reduces your environmental (and ethical) impact.
Using a sustainable bag
When going to buy fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, etc at your local supermarket, taking a reusable produce bag or using a paper bag (should be provided at the store) is an easy way to reduce your plastic consumption. A reusable produce bag can be found in online stores and can be reused hundreds of times. Reusable produce bags eliminate the need for traditional plastic bags, and can also be used many times over without the environmental burden or exposure to EDCs like phthalates.
Why purchase a reusable produce bag instead?
Researchers suggest that around 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean each year alone while even more consume space in landfills. In addition, an estimated 100,000 mammals and birds die annually from single-use plastic bags. By spending around $15 to $30 AUD ($10.92 to $21.84 USD) on a reusable produce bag that last years, you can help tackle one of the biggest environmental problems: the plastic crisis.
Carbon-neutral internet & data suppliers
Signing up with carbon-neutral internet providers is simple but surprisingly important. Oblivious to most, the usage of the internet and data generates huge amounts of emissions annually. Just how much? Read on to find out…
What’s the issue with internet & data suppliers?
Internet usage produces 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions annually and is projected to jump by 5% by 2025. That’s almost 2 billion tons yearly – equivalent to all global air traffic. As for data, each year the energy usage for data doubles; with that comes more emissions. By 2040, experts believe data usage will account for 14% of all emissions annually or about 18 – 21 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. By switching to a carbon-neutral internet or data supplier, it’s bound to cut one’s personal emissions. A few companies are now becoming carbon-neutral or may already be, so now is a good time to get on board.
Buying local produce
Purchasing local produce is an efective and supportive way to reduce your environmental footprint by sourcing fresh produce locally; cutting down on both travel and packaging. Putting aside the environmental factor, people always say that local produce tastes better. The Coronavirus has also taught us a lot about supporting local businesses and this is – without doubt – one of the easiest ways of doing so.
How much better is supporting local?
10% to 30% of average household carbon footprints come from food. This will be from factors including land usage, water usage, energy usage, and transportation of the food eaten; so while cutting down on transportation won’t solve the entire problem, it certainly helps. The transportation factor of the food system accounts for a significant amount of greenhouse gase emissions, especially when sourcing produce from major supermarkets that predominantly receive their goods from distant and varied places. By simply eating 2 avocadoes, the average carbon footprint is around 846.36 grams of CO2. By sourcing food from local businesses, you can help reduce your ultimate impact. Additionally, sourcing food locally may be even more environmentally friendly as the shops may be closer to home; further limiting the distance your own car may have to travel (don’t forget to bring your reusable produce bag).
Investing in new, energy-efficient appliances
Investing in new, energy-efficient appliances like microwaves, ovens, dishwashers, washing machine cleaners and even hot water tanks may be a long-term investment but does make difference to your home’s energy efficiency. While this idea may requires long-term investment, it is very important and could drastically cut down on your home’s emissions significantly.
How much better would new energy-efficient appliances be?
Currently, 45% of an average household’s greenhouse gas emissions come from kitchen and laundry appliances, with the average house producing around 6 – 7.5 tons of emissions yearly. With more energy-efficient appliances, this figure could almost be halved. Today, there are roughly 1.1 billion housing units in the world and if all produced the same figures labelled above, housing alone would produce around 6.6 billion – 8.25 billion tons of carbon dioxide CO2 annually. If a large number of people were to purchase energy-efficient appliances, these disturbing figures could be slashed.
Investing in solar panels
Solar panels are an initally expensive purchase but are now viable and can be paid off after a few years. However, because this is not a cheap purchase, this is also a long-term investment opportunity. Eventually buying solar panels would be one of the better investments you could make, benefiting both the environment and your distant financial return. Purchasing solar panels helps lower overall emissions that come from energy consumption and save you some cash along the way, with some days’ worth of energy being entirely free. What’s better is that if the solar panels are generating more energy than what’s being used (excess energy), you are paid, on behalf of your energy provider, for sending energy to the grid. Sometimes waiting for government grants/incentives are effective ways to purchase solar panels at a far lower cost.
Why invest in solar panels?
According to Bill Gates, 27% of the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions produced annually come from the use of energy for electricity. Whilst your actions alone aren’t going to change the situation, the potential knock on effects are impressive. Solar panel investment is also a good decision for your own financial benefits: the average house installed with solar panels saves around $1,390 AUD ($1,012 USD) per year. Over a 10 -15-year span, that could be a saving of around $13,900 to $20,850 AUD ($10,120 to $15,180 USD). Not only would solar panels be a wise investment for the planet but for your own financial benefit as well.
Picking up rubbish when outdoors
Unfortunately, there is a number of people who believe it’s justifiable to litter, resulting in a tremendous amount of rubbish in urban and even rural locations. It’s also good to mention that litter can sometimes be accidental and simply slip away without notice from people or even out of landfills. One of the easiest things you can do when going for a walk or doing some form of physical exercise is to bring a bag/bucket and tongs and collect trash that may be near you to later dispose of correctly into park bins, your bins etc.
Is picking up trash worth it?
In Australia alone, 7 billion cigarette butts are littered each year and one in ten of those end up in the oceans. Around the world, there are 4.5 trillion cigarette butts littered annually. Joining the cigarettes, there are roughly 52 billion pieces of plastic that are littered annually; a large portion of which ending up in the digestive tracts of marine and terrestrial animals.
These are a few suggestions to those who wish to make a positive impact and reduce their overall damage to the planet. There are many more ideas out there and are only a few searches away. Other simple ideas to think about could be vegetable gardening, planting a tree in your backyard, investing in green companies, turning off power points etc. Hopefully, you may have gained some ideas and inspiration.