You might think you already know how to reduce your carbon footprint. Surprisingly, though, many of the everyday choices we wouldn’t think twice about add up over time to harm the planet. Check out this article to find out what small lifestyle changes you can make to have a more positive impact on the environment.

We’re all somewhat familiar with different ways to live a greener lifestyle. Carpool, bike to work instead of driving, turn the heat down a couple degrees. You’ve probably read at least one article online detailing how our everyday actions harm the environment. Some eco-friendly habits have even become second-nature to us, like turning off the water while brushing our teeth or unplugging devices when they’re not in use. All these little things realy do make a difference. If you’re looking to take it one step further, though, you need to start reconsidering everyday choices that can seem harmless at first thought.

The harsh truth is that everything we do over the course of a day has a hidden environmental impact. The food we eat, the way we travel, what we buy – it all makes a demand on nature.  World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a great tool that roughly measures your carbon footprint. While you may not be able to trade in your old clunker for a hybrid, making more informed choices about the products you use on a regular basis will have a positive impact on the world around you. Here are a few examples of where to start.


Bottled Water

Despite the fact that public water supplies in the U.S. deliver clean and safe drinking water, Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles per year. Moreover, the country’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means more than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year. According to The Water Project, bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade. If they are incinerated, they produce toxic fumes.

Buying a reusable bottle, filling it with tap water, and carrying it around prevents you from wasting precious resources, and also saves you some cash. Worried about safety? The NRDC actually conducted a four-year study of the bottled water industry. Their conclusion? “There is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. And in fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle – sometimes further treated, sometimes not”. Something to keep in mind next time you head out to the store.


Paper Coffee Cups

Coffee enthusiasts need to get their morning fix; and to-go coffee cups are a convenient choice. It’s hard to think about the environmental impact of paper cups when you’re caffeine-deprived. Some coffee chains are making efforts to shrink their carbon footprint. Starbucks, for instance, uses 10 percent post-consumer paper in its cups. Even so, using a reusable mug instead can lead to a huge reduction in waste and energy consumption.

According to Metabolix, an advanced biomaterials company focused on sustainable solutions for the plastics industry, paper cups have a latex coating layer, typically made of polyethylene plastic (PE). This makes the cup impossible to compost. Also, the paper that was used to make it can only be re-pulped with great difficulty into post-consumer paperboard. In most cases, these cups go right into a landfill. The company is currently working on a developmental PHA paper coating to replace the PE plastic layer on disposable coffee cups. This paper coating is derived from renewable raw materials and it’s compostable. You can read more about it on their blog.


Beauty Products

If you’re a beauty product junkie, you might be doing the environment a huge disservice. Once you take a closer look at what’s inside your favorite products, the facts get ugly. Harsh chemicals and petroleum-derived ingredients are harming the planet and can even pose health risks. Furthermore, the packaging that comes with these personal care products also has damaging effects on the environment. Bottles and tubes end up in landfills once they’re emptied, where they can take hundreds of years to break down.  Even natural products aren’t always as green as one may believe.

Make a difference by switching to all natural, sustainable beauty products. Only buy products you truly need, finish what you buy, and dispose of waste and leftover packaging properly. Also, look up the companies you’re buying from and educate yourself on what ingredients they use and how these substances affect the health of the environment. For a few examples of companies that promote sustainable beauty, take a look here.

There’s no wonder why many people keep underestimating the real impact their daily habits and choices have on the planet. Unfortunately, few of us were raised to consider how our behavior affects the environment—but there are plenty of ways in which we can make up for it. Consider the tips above and start living a greener, more sustainable lifestyle. At the end of the day, small acts can prevent major environmental crises.

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