We are all afraid of the green police. You know, those people who go around being more righteous than thou and shaming us lesser mortals for our shortcomings. At The Green Mama, we implore people to judge less (especially themselves): just start somewhere, just do something, and, gosh, have a little fun along the way. Yet, most people still want to know what are the clues: the green faux pas that show they are tuned-out when they want to be tuned-in: like handing a person the sacred prayer cup with your left hand while in India, or asking for “gas” while in Europe, or picking up the cute eco girl wearing the “I HEART the planet” shirt in your brother’s Hummer.
To welcome the new year we will publish a different faux-pas each day… starting with number 15 and finishing with #1 biggest green faux pas of 2015.
15. Disposable, plastic shopping bags.
According to Worldwatch Institute, “Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags. (Only 0.6 percent of plastic bags are recycled.)” Many people have developed the habit of taking reusable bags to the grocery store, but what about all the other shopping that’s done? We can do more by taking bags with us everywhere and refusing a bag when we only buy a few things that we can easily carry. Reusable bags are everywhere now and are affordable, so this is an easy thing to do.
Using disposable plates, kitchens, towels, napkins,or utensils at home
Disposable products are an expensive habit around the house—both in terms of dollars and environmental resources. Petroleum is used in making most of these products and is also involved in the shipping of these products. As well, many of them are associated with serious, negative health effects from the super-toxin dioxin which is released when paper products are bleached to the endocrine disrupting (hormone-messing) effects of many plastics (vinyl and Styrofoam have some of the most dangerous human health effects of the plastics). As well, most of these products are not recyclable. A family getting out of the papertowel habit (using more than one roll a week) alone can save more than $50 a year.
10. Letting your car idle
Idling equals getting ZERO miles to the gallon. It wastes money and petro, damages modern car engines, and creates pollution. Each day Americans waste 3.8 million gallons of gas and 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide by voluntarily idling their cars. Voluntarily idling can also damage a car. It is better to turn the car off and back on, even if it is for just 20 seconds while you are at the drive-through or car-pool. Learn the facts of idling versus the myths at Hinkle Charitable Foundation.
Not composting your kitchen scraps
You can read more about the beautiful potential of composting in The Green Mama Composting 101 blog. The short version, though, is that we are spending loads of money and significant greenhouse gasses to take our kitchen scraps to landfills where they make up 65% of landfill waste and, once there, will take lifetimes to biodegrade (if they ever do). At home you can turn kitchen scraps, paper products, and maybe even compostable diapers into fertilizer.
Using toxic chemicals in your home
Our indoor air quality is consistently more polluted than our outdoor air. One of the main culprits are the cleaning supplies we use. We don’t want to drink chemicals, but we have no problem pouring them down the drain to be filtered out of our drinking water (we hope). We don’t want them in our food, but we clean our countertops with them. We don’t want our children exposed to poisons, but they play on floors cleaned with chemicals often known to be toxic, allow them to mouth toys disinfected with bleach, and play on grass treated with pesticides. We are scared of bees and ants and other bugs, but often forget that pesticide use around the home is associated with a 6-fold chance of childhood leukemia. Just having toxic cleaning products around the house is responsible for thousands of cases of poisoning every year in North America. Who is tracking the slower poisoning from everyday exposures?
Drinking bottled water.
Bottled water is an expensive habit. It can cost a family upwards of a 1,000 a year. And for what? About 40% of bottled water starts out as tap water. Bottled water isn’t required to meet as stringent standards as tap water and, according to the EPA, “bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water.” As well, bottled water can leach chemicals into the water from the plastic. Only 10 to 20% of the bottles ever get recycled and it requires significant petroleum to make the plastic, bottle the water, and ship the bottles to a store near you. A more affordable, healthier, and more ecological alternative—a GREENER option—is to filter your tap water.
Not getting the best meat and dairy and other animal products
Even Consumer Reports tells us that meat and dairy is among the most important foods to eat organic. In both the U.S. and Canada meat that is NOT organic can be irradiated (purposely nuked), and will be from an animal almost certainly fed artificial growth hormones, routine (even daily) antibiotics, and genetically modified (as well as pesticide-sprayed) grains. In the U.S. dairy cows can be treated with the artificial growth hormone rBGH and even though it is illegal to sell rBGH-treated U.S. dairy in most of the industrialized world, it can still be used in Canada as a raw material in products such as your child’s string cheese. Because many drugs, pesticides, and hormones concentrate in the fatty tissues of animals, we are exposed to greater portions when we eat meat and dairy.
Meat and dairy production are also responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gasses. One kg of beef releases the green house gas equivalent of 36.4 kg of carbon (more than driving 160 miles) and that doesn’t account for the emissions impact of farm equipment or transporting the meat, according to a study in New Scientist magazine. Grassfed beef reduced greenhouse gas emission by 40% and consumed 85% less energy, according to a 2003 Swedish study.
2. If you haven’t started reading labels, then you are getting duped.
Especially if you are a parent and definitely if you are buying beauty care products (and we are all buying beauty care products). There are over 10,500 industrial chemicals used in our beauty care products, most never tested for human safety. Both the U.S. and Canada have so many loopholes in regard to labeling, that even if you know how to read a label it doesn’t guarantee that the product will have listed all (or any) ingredients on the label. Even worse, kids products—especially the ones that taut Natural! Safe for Baby! No Tears! Doctor tested!—are usually the worst offenders. Look for meaningful labels such as USDA Certified Organic, EcoCert, or Natrue.
Source: The Green Mama