12 Actions That Seem Environmentally Friendly but Fall Short: Are You Unintentionally Harming the Planet?

By Krystal Brown

In the quest to be environmentally conscious, we often make choices we believe are eco-friendly, only to discover that they may not be as green as they seem. Join us as we unravel the complexities of seemingly virtuous actions, exploring the possibility that our well-intentioned efforts might inadvertently pose a threat to the planet we aim to protect.

Using Biodegradable Plastics

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We were all made to believe that biodegradable plastic is safe and better for the planet, but lo and behold, this information is misleading because this material doesn’t help the environment at all.

When biodegradable plastics start breaking down in landfills (which are oxygen-free, by the way), they start emitting a greenhouse gas called methane. This is 20 times more potent compared to carbon dioxide, thus, resulting in methane gas released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

Paper Straws

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Paper straws are said to be eco-friendly, but surprisingly, they contain potentially toxic chemicals on their coating to improve their water resistance.  

These straws aren’t more environmentally friendly than regular plastic ones. In fact, they might even be worse for the planet. Why? The method of creating these requires more energy than usual, thus, resulting in the release of greenhouse gasses.

Buying Organic Food

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Did you ever wonder why organic food is more expensive than regular food? Well, they require more land to generate the same number of produce because of the decreased use of fertilizers.

Since more acreage is needed, expect more deforestation to occur. This isn’t something anyone wants because it decreases the capacity of carbon in soil. In the end, even if we were led to believe that organic is better, it still has some serious drawbacks.

Buying Electric Cars

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If you think purchasing electric cars helps the environment, you’re wrong. Raw materials used to create this vehicle need to be mined, and this method requires tons and tons of greenhouse gasses. After mining, these materials need some refining before they can be used, and again, the refinement process requires, you guessed it, more greenhouse gas.

Yes, electric cars have an overall better impact on the environment than vehicles with combustion engines but their environmental impact is still high.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

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These harm the environment because of the extra processing involved in creating them. The fact that plant-based meat uses soy makes it a questionable option when you want to help save the environment. They are also usually grown using monoculture, which impacts soil erosion.

Yes, these types of “meat” are somewhat better than beef. However, if you put all the methods of creating these together, plant-based meat might not really be the best food option for the environment.

Cloth Diapers

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People instantly assume that reusable cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposable ones. But in reality, things aren’t that simple. First, cotton is the material used to make cloth diapers, and growing this crop isn’t environmentally friendly.

Cotton is highly dependent on chemicals. Around 3% of arable land is allotted for cotton, but growing it needs 25% insecticides and 10% of all agricultural chemicals.

Plus, you have to use hot water to wash and disinfect the diapers, which also consumes energy. And of course, you’ll need detergent, which is another thing that harms the environment.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

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Using wood-burning fireplaces or stoves is said to be a great way to cut carbon emissions since logs are a low-carbon source of fuel. Doing so also reduces heating bills. However, burning wood in fireplaces also produces emissions that can be risky for people with lung or cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Wood smoke emits methane and carbon dioxide, pollutants that contribute to global warming and climate change.

Tote Bags

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A lot of people believe that using canvas tote bags can help save the environment. Yes, you can reuse them since they are more durable and last longer than plastic bags. However, you’ll need to reuse it thousands of times to be considered more environmentally friendly than basic plastic bags.

What makes this type of bag harmful to the environment is the process of making it. Producing one canvas tote bag takes the same amount of energy used to manufacture around 400 plastic bags.

Natural Sea Sponges

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These are popular among beauty enthusiasts for their exfoliating benefits; plus, they are known to be a sustainable choice for skin care. However, these are under threat from over-harvesting, sewage discharge, stormwater run-offs, and scallop dredging activities.

Global warming is also considered a factor since lately, it’s been continuously increasing water temperatures while also altering the seafloor environment.

Planting Non-Native Trees

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Planting trees is good for the environment. While that may seem like an obvious statement, it’s not always true. If you plant non-native trees, then they can become invasive and kill off other plant life in the area, negatively impacting the environment.

If you want to do some planting, then you need to be careful you won’t be causing a disruption. The trees you plant should be native to the area.

Carbon Offsets

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This is a form of credit that you or an organization can purchase to lessen your carbon footprint. When the obtained carbon offset credits are equal to your or the organization’s carbon footprint, you/the organization is carbon neutral.

The generated revenue from purchasing these carbon offsets is usually invested in projects that are environmentally friendly.

Carbon offsets aren’t generally good for the environment in the long run. Why? Because they are just a way for someone who creates a hugely negative environmental impact to absolve themselves of guilt.

Leaving Appliances on Standby

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Turning off your TV or any other device will save electricity and cut down on your bills, right? Well, that’s true but when placed on standby, those appliances will still be using electricity.

If you want to help the environment then you should go the whole way and ensure that all your appliances are turned off at the socket.

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