Convenience: It Will Tempt You
It’s 2015, so by this point we are already pretty aware of the danger of climate change and the impact that human activity is having on the planet. So many of the modern conveniences that we rely on day-to-day are contaminating waterways, polluting the air, and damaging the land. Even for people who care about the environment, it’s hard to cut these things out of our lives because they’re so darn convenient.
We make an effort to live sustainably most of the time, but we can probably all admit that we slack off every once in a while, crossing our fingers that that one plastic bag we threw away the other day isn’t going to destroy the planet.
And, the truth is, it probably won’t. But that one plastic bag, combined with the billions of others that are being thrown away, will. Sustainability is not easy, but our culture of convenience is threatening the planet.
Let’s remind ourselves of why we are committed to eco-living by taking a look at 5 of the worst modern conveniences and their effects on the environment. Then, read about some more eco-friendly alternatives that are almost as convenient to use but won’t leave you feeling guilty.
There’s nothing like throwing a big backyard party and knowing that at the end of the day you don’t have to worry about washing dishes. Everyone just throws their forks and knives straight into the garbage and all you have to do is pack up the leftovers. It makes your cleanup easier, but leaves a huge mess of a tab for the environment to pick up.
Unlike other plastic dishware (e.g. cups and plates), plastic utensils usually can’t be recycled, which means they have nowhere to go but the landfill. That, combined with the vast amount of energy and materials that go into producing the utensils, makes them a bad option for anyone who is trying to live more sustainably.
The best option, of course, would be to only use metal silverware. When throwing your own party you can collect all the silverware at the end of the day and simply toss it into the dishwasher along with the rest of your load. You can also carry around your own small camping set of utensils so that you don’t have to use plastic at other people’s events.
There is a more convenient option, however, which is compostable cutlery. They are sold by many different companies, and can be thrown into your compost bin along with the rest of the compost or into the trash where they will eventually biodegrade. It’s a win-win!
You drive to the grocery store, park your car, grab a cart, and get halfway through your shopping before you realize that you’ve left your reusable bags inside the car. For a second you entertain the thought of walking back outside to grab them, but it’s raining. And cold. And would it really be that bad if I used plastic just this one time? You ignore the sustainability angel on your shoulder and head to registers without the reusable bags, just because it would be inconvenient to have to walk back to the car. By the time you get home, you realize you ‘ve used dozens of plastic bags.
You’re not alone. Every year, people around the world use over 1 trillion plastic bags. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these don’t get recycled because most city recycling programs don’t accept them. When they inevitably end up in the garbage, they can take anywhere from 400 to 1,000 years to break down. Even worse, they are not biodegradable, so they break down into smaller and smaller pieces that just end up polluting our soil and water.
You already know the alternative: reusable shopping bags. The hardest part about using them is remembering to bring them with you, but if you get in the habit of leaving a note by your door, hanging them somewhere visible, or keeping them on the passenger seat of your car you will be remember them more often than not.
Of course, there will still be times that you forget your bags or run out and end up needing to use plastic. There’s no reason to beat yourself up about it. When that happens, just bring the plastic bags back to the grocery store for recycling. Most grocery stores have collection areas by the entrance for recycling them.
For many people, bottled water is the solution to having fresh, clean, cold water available at all times. Tap water doesn’t always taste good and, when you’re out and about, you can’t always find a water fountain. But, despite their convenience, disposable bottles of water are a plague on our environment. The industry uses more than 17 billions barrels of oil to manufacture the roughly 50 billion water bottles Americans use every year. Of these, almost 80% are not recycled, which means that 38 billion water bottles are going into landfills each year.
Instead of buying water bottles, invest in a water filtration pitcher or a sink-mount water filter. You’ll rest easy knowing you’re drinking clean water and it will work wonders for your pocketbook. When you’re on-the-go, just use your pitcher or faucet-mount filter to refill a reusable water bottle. For large parties, you can fill a drink dispenser with the filtered water and provide cups for your guests.
We think you’ll find it’s even more convenient than bottled water, since you’ll no longer have to lug huge packages of water home from the store!
It began in the 1990s as an idea for office break rooms but by now there are Keurig machines sitting on countertops across America. The little pods of single-serve coffee are quick and convenient, but at what cost? The plastic packaging is not recyclable, biodegradable or reusable. In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if you lined them up end-to-end they would circle the globe more than 12 times. That’s a shameful amount of waste to be dumping into our landfills just for our daily cup(s) of coffee.
The newer K-Cups can be recycled…if you disassemble them and separate the materials. But even then most city recycling programs don’t accept them because they can’t recycle #7 plastic, which is the plastic used to manufacture the K-Cups. Keurig has responded to consumer criticism by promising a fully recyclable K-Cup by 2020, but until then we need to kill the K-Cup.
If you still really want the convenience of a single-serve coffee maker, you can purchase a refillable pod for your machine. Purchase the pod one time and refill it with your own coffee—you’ll still get the convenience of a single-serving coffee without the guilt of trashing the environment.
Who doesn’t love going to the mall every week to find that the shelves have been completely restocked with new merchandise and styles? We enjoy changing our wardrobes with the seasons, and have become accustomed to seeing clothes go from in-vogue to in-the-trash in a matter of weeks. But the fast fashion industry is a real problem for the environment, one that only continues to worsen as the demand for clothing increases.
Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing a year, and only 15% of those are recycled. This is largely due to a lack of information and an issue of convenience. Many people don’t yet know that textiles are recyclable and even more people don’t have a means to recycle them because the majority of curbside recycling programs don’t yet accept textiles. Our culture needs to shift away from the trend of buying more and more clothing but, in the meantime, people still need a way to dispose of clothing they no longer need.See All Blog Posts