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How We Pollute

I have always loved nature. Laying on the grass under a big, sheltering tree while listening to birds chirp and the wind sway branches is my fastest route to Nirvana. I adore fruits and vegetables, and as I cook different creations, I constantly think about how the earth produced these items and packed them with the nutrients my body needs. And I depend on essential oils, distilled from plants, for my emotional and physical wellbeing. Yet, for all my love of nature, I am also a serious polluter.

In my defense, the main reason why I pollute is because I don’t have a very clear understanding of how my actions affect the environment. I know not to litter, to turn the light off when I am not in the room, to take shorter showers, that cars cause pollution and that I shouldn’t pour undiluted Clorox down the drain as it can hurt the wildlife. How else do I pollute on a daily basis?

Doing an online search on this topic doesn’t reap easy answers. But based on the information I have found, here are some questions we can carry with us throughout the day to keep the wheels in our minds rolling. Keeping these points in mind has opened my eyes to all the different ways I impact the environment.

If you have more info on this topic, I beg you to leave it in the comments section or email me at since we at LYB truly want to learn more. In our next Happy Planet blog post, I will offer solutions I have come up with to reduce my impact on the environment.

How are the products we use made?

Here is an example that got me thinking about this question.

One of my mom’s nicknames for me used to be “Ziplock Girl” because I used to use Ziplocks for everything. Unfortunately, “most plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques that destroy fragile ecosystems.” To matters worse, once discarded, they live in a landfill for-evah (we don’t know exactly how long it takes for plastic to decompose, but some say 100 years, some say 500!)! In the landfill, it can cause serious damage to the wildlife that eat it. And if it leaches from the landfill (and even the best-build landfills have leaching issues), it can seep into the ground and nearby water sources and pollute those.

Are there alternatives that pollute less?

Unfortunately, “there may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock (see source)” for meat, eggs and dairy. But, thankfully, where we get our meat, milk and eggs from makes a huge difference. There is such a thing as sustainable livestock husbandry!

What is in the products we use?

Would you believe the EPA says we shouldn’t pour beauty products down the drain? I was stunned. I have thought nothing about using shampoo, facial creams and make-up, but it turns out, as it washes off my hair and face in the shower, it actually affects the watershed and our treated water supply.

Household cleaning products and home improvement items (like paint, wood stain, etc) can, obviously, be even worse. And unfortunately, these toxic chemicals don’t just cause water and land pollution, they also pollute the air we breath at home.

On this note, if I may ask you to consider doing one thing for your health and the environment: please rethink your use of synthetic air fresheners. Among other toxic substances, these contain phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that are especially harmful to unborn babies, babies and children.

Learn more about Volatile Organic Compounds, where they are found, how they affect our health and environment.

Are these items recyclable or reusable? How can I discard them responsibily?

Upon Lisa’s suggestion, I am going to start reading Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home. I am hoping this gives me further insight into how to treat waste. For now, I keep thinking about what can be recycled, what can be reused, what needs to be taken to a hazardous waste site, what belongs in an e-cycling facility and what could be composted (because one day soon, I will start composting!).

I especially ask this question when buying toys for my kids. So many of them are made of hard-to-recycle plastic, and I know they won't play with them for longer than a year. Many of them also sneak in batteries, like the firefighter costume I recently bought him, which came with a battery-operated flashlight.

You have to look at your local laws to know what is what, but from what I gather alkaline batteries (check the label) can be thrown in the regular trash everywhere other than California. That said, it is better to take them to a Household Hazardous Waste Site. Rechargeable batteries must be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste Site.

To discard old electronics, including old cell phones, remove the batteries and take those to a Household Hazardous Waste Site. The electronics themselves should be taken to an E-cycling facility.

How long can I keep this?

Since I have begun being mindful about my impact on the environment, I think about sustainability all the time. Just the other day, I was shaving my legs when I realized all my razors have been disposable plastic. This means over two decades of tossing plastic razors! Shouldn't I just buy a really good, long-lasting heavy-weight razor? I bet in the long run, it will also save me money!

This point also applies to clothes. It's so easy to buy cheap, trendy clothes I know won't last me past a season. It's totally fine to buy some of those to complement my wardrobe. But considering how much pollution is caused by the textile industry, and especially the fast fashion industry, isn't it better to buy items that will last me a long time?

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