Your eco-friendly alternatives are doing more harm than good

Your trusty canvas bag may not be so great after all
Your eco-friendly alternatives are doing more harm than good

Sustainability is a buzzword if ever there was one – unsurprising, considering we’re in the midst of a climate crisis – and everyone is doing their bit to save the environment in whatever way they can. Since we can’t all be Greta Thunberg, this means swapping out single-use plastics, avoiding fast fashion and sorting our garbage probably too enthusiastically. But what if we told you your eco-friendly efforts could be negatively impacting your surroundings, rather than saving them?

You know those oh-so cute reusable cotton and canvas bags you have? The ones with the sassy eco-warrior slogan on them? They’re kind of a big problem. While staying away from plastic shopping bags is great – and helps them stay out of our oceans – manufacturing your tote created 606 times as much water pollution as making a plastic bag.

Studies have shown canvas and cotton bags to have a huge carbon footprint because of the resources it takes to produce and distribute them, and, because they’re often not used the 20,000 times required for them to offset their impact (which equates to about 192 years if you used it twice a week), they inevitably end up in landfills. If you’re gasping in horror, try using paper bags that you can throw in the recycling bin instead.

Recycling is an amazing way to be proactive about saving the environment, but make sure what you’re throwing in to the ‘paper’ bin is, in fact, paper. For example, to-go coffee cups may seem as though they’d be recyclable but alas, the plastic liquid-proof lining means they aren’t, as the layers can’t be separated. Just another reason to bring your reusable flask to Starbucks next time.

Another common practice that’s not-so environmentally friendly is throwing your recyclables in the recycling bin… still inside a plastic bag. Be sure to empty the items into the bin itself, otherwise the plastic bag will end up in a landfill and your good intentions will be wasted. If you’re in love with your reusable cutlery or metal straw and want to buy one for your home, office and car to be sustainable in every situation – think twice. The more you buy, the more that have to be produced. Just wash it, people.

Prepare yourselves, this one might hurt some people. Health-conscious individuals or eco-warriors often avoid dairy products but did you know that almond milk is terrible for the environment? It takes more than a gallon of water to grow just one almond, so you can imagine how much water consumption is behind your morning smoothie. Make the switch to oat milk (if you can bear it).

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to save the planet one eco-friendly item at a time, there’s a chance that misleading marketing is preventing you from doing so. According to a recent Canadian study, so-called biodegradable make-up wipes were found to contain plastic fibres that pollute our ecosystem. 23 make-up wipes labelled as being biodegradable were tested, and it was found that they weren’t able to break down efficiently and didn’t pass any of the study’s tests. Yikes.

With the internet at our fingertips nowadays, there’s no excuse for us not to research seemingly innocent items on our quest to save the world. Hopefully, the (slowly) increasing brand transparency in both the beauty and fashion industries will mean we’ll be more knowledgeable about what’s really going on and how we can help.

Photos: Instagram and unsplash