Doing your part to save the planet is, of course, admirable—but did you know some of the things you’re doing to save the environment may actually be hurting it?
Using cotton shopping bags
Wait, what? Aren’t these supposed to be a safer alternative to plastic? Reusable cotton bags may seem like a good substitute, but only if you reuse them consistently for at least 11.5 years. According to a Danish study, anything less won’t offset the fact that manufacturing these types of bags creates 606 times as much water pollution as making a plastic bag. A better option is to use brown paper bags for lighter items (and re-use and recycle them afterward), or reuse those flimsy but strong plastic bags.
Switching to biodegradable and flushable makeup and baby wipes
These aren’t as environmentally friendly as they appear. A study out of Ryerson University tested 101 of these products and none of them fell apart as they’re supposed to. They’re clogging pipes and sewers, doing further damage to the environment once they make their way into waterways.
Crushing aluminum cans
You may get the urge to crush your aluminum cans to fit more of them into your recycling bin, but you may want to resist that urge. Aluminum has an awful carbon footprint, but it can be recycled forever—unless you crush it. Most municipal sorting facilities use an automated process that categorize items by shape and size—which means a crushed can might get tossed into the wrong section because it’s wrongly identified as paper.
This may be the new way to get from A to B, but that may not be good news for Mother Earth. Why? These services are never operating at max capacity—it’s usually just one passenger and a driver. Basically, you’re trading your car for someone else’s—you’re not actually reducing the amount of cars on the road.