eco-friendly-products

Reduce Your Waste With These 15 Eco-Friendly Products

Help save the planet by replacing everyday options with their environmentally friendly alternatives

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Last week we celebrated Earth Day. The holiday was a good reminder of how beautiful and precious our home planet is. It reminds us that we need to change our lifestyles and consumer behaviors if we want to protect our planet. Plastic pollution has become a major issue, especially in the oceans where trillions of tons of plastic waste are getting accumulated into the habitats of marine life. Here is a list of products you can buy to help reduce your plastic footprint.

1. Metal Straws

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Many businesses and local governments have been making major efforts to eliminate plastic straws and replace them with eco-friendly alternatives. Paper straws have replaced plastic straws at many food and beverage businesses. To further reduce plastic waste, buy a metal straw for your home and bring it with you when you go out and purchase beverages.

2. Glass Containers

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Use mason jars or glass containers with glass lids for your food. Unlike plastic, glass can be recycled an infinite amount of times and maintain its durability. Plastic food containers have also been found to have a chemical called BPA in them. BPA can be harmful to your health as it has been linked to brain damage, immune system deficiencies, behavioral issues, and abnormal metabolism. Storing food in glass containers is much better for your health and the planet than plastic storage containers.

3. Compostable Utensils

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Plastic utensils can be convenient if you're throwing a big party or if you are on the go. Next time, try to buy compostable utensils which are made from wood or plant starch. It takes them only a few months to break down, whereas plastic can take over a hundred years to fully decompose.

4. Reusable Coffee Filters

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Using paper filters to make your daily cup of coffee can add up in the landfill. Buying a reusable coffee filter will save trees from being cut down and reduce the amount of trash you throw out. Having to clean out the filter can be a minor hassle, but it's worth the extra minute out of your day to help the environment.

5. Beeswax Food Wraps

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Rather than using plastic saran wrap to cover your leftovers, use beeswax food wraps instead. You just cover your bowl or container just like you would with plastic saran wrap and it preserves your food just as well. They can be easily washed with cold water and mild soap. Beeswax food wraps can last up to a year and easily compost at the end of its lifespan.

6. Reusable Water Bottle

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Billions of plastic water bottles are used every year, using a reusable water bottle helps you save money from continually buying plastic water bottles and reduces the amount of trash. Most reusable water bottles are also BPA free so it benefits your health as well. One reusable water bottle can replace over 200 plastic water bottles a year.

7. Reusable Grocery Bag

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Save plastic and paper by bringing your own cloth or mesh grocery bags when you go to the store. Keep one or two in your car so you are always prepared. You'll probably forget to bring your bags at first, but after a while, it will become a habit.

8. Bamboo Toothbrush

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A toothbrush that is made out of bamboo can biodegrade in just six months. However, the bristles are still made out of nylon which is not biodegradable so you have to pluck out the bristles when you're done with your toothbrush and compost the handle. The packaging for bamboo toothbrushes are usually made out of cardboard rather than plastic.

9. Menstrual Cup

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Every year thousands of pounds of menstrual product waste are dropped into our landfills. A menstrual cup is an eco-friendly alternative to manage your period. One cup can last up to ten years which will reduce your waste and save you money in the long run.

10. Bars of Soap

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All of our soaps, shampoos, conditioners and other shower products come in plastic bottles. Using bars of soap eliminates the need for plastic. When you are done with the soap, there is nothing left to be thrown away so it is great if you are trying to go waste-free.

11. Low Pressure Shower Head

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A low-pressure showerhead can decrease your water usage by half. This reduces your water usage and saves you money on your water bill. And with today's technology, low-pressure showerheads can give off a similar pressure as a regular shower head.

12. Organic Q-Tips

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Q-tips are made out of plastic meaning they will take hundreds of years to break down. While they are small, Q-tips are used regularly by most of the population creating a substantial amount of waste. Next time you are at the store try opting for organic cotton Q-tips that have a biodegradable stick.

13. LED Lightbulbs

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LED lights are much more efficient, emit more light and have a longer lifespan than regular light bulbs. They are almost free of any harmful chemicals so when they are thrown out in the landfill. LED light bulbs are also significantly cheaper saving your wallet and the environment.

14. Compostable Trash Bags

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Putting our waste into a plastic bag to throw away just creates more waste. Using compostable trash bags are to break down within a year. When it breaks down, it doesn't break into micro pieces of plastic that can damage our ecosystems. It is a much eco-friendlier alternative that costs about the same price as regular plastic ones.

15. Recycled Paper

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Paper in landfills has been found to be one of the major sources of methane release into our atmosphere. Purchasing recycled paper helps the air quality, saves trees, and reduces energy and water usage. And, with today's technology recycled paper has a quality level similar to non-recycled paper.

These products can reduce your waste, especially the amount of plastic that goes into the landfills and pollutes our oceans. Small changes add up over time and can make a difference in saving our planet.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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The Flint Water Crisis Is Affecting More People Than We Know, Including The Unborn

Flint is not the only city with water pipes contaminated with lead. At 40 weeks pregnant, I have to worry about the lead in my home’s water.

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Many Americans are familiar with the atrocities in Flint, Michigan. Flint received nationwide coverage when it was revealed that residents were being restricted access to clean water and were exposed to water contaminated with lead for many years. After the state discovered the lead, the residents were left with the contaminated water and still have it years later.

I have watched many documentaries on Flint like "Here's to Flint" and "Fahrenheit 11/9." The scenes from the documentaries are haunting and much resemble a war-torn, third world country. I was especially surprised when I received a letter in the mail from Chicago's Department of Water Management. The letter looked like nothing special and had been placed in a pile of junk mail that none of my roommate's wanted to read. I eventually went through the mail and was shocked at what I read. The letter casually says that my home uses a water meter and water meters activate lead in pipes.

It continued to say that most homes in Chicago test under the U.S. EPA's benchmark level for lead in drinking, however, 17.2% percent exceed it.

As a pregnant woman, this is horrifying news. I had been pregnant for months drinking and cooking with contaminated water before reading this letter. Drinking water contaminated with lead has long term effects for the whole family. For example, it affects the brain and nervous system development in children and increases the risks of things like kidney damage and high blood pressure in adults. The CDC itself says that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.

I especially remember a scene in "Fahrenheit 11/9" where they talk about the effects lead has on the babies born to pregnant women who consumed it. It can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. There are pregnancy complications like low birth weight, premature delivery, preeclampsia.

Babies whose mother consumed lead water have been reported to have behavioral problems, lower IQs, and learning disabilities.

My own home soon resembled that of a developing country. I had stacks and stacks of water bottles. I have to use these bottles for everything. Just like residents of Flint, I have to brush my teeth with water bottles. I have to go through about five water bottles to boil water to cook. If I am out of water bottles, I just have to wait it out because the alternative is not worth it.

Having to worry about lead in the water is very stressful. Along with all the other stresses of pregnancy, I have to stress about accidentally poisoning my baby. I know that I have to take precautions in my own home, but am unsure where else is contaminated. I don't know where is safe. I don't know who else received the same letter I did, but ignored it as junk mail.

I recently had a house guest stay from another state. He asked why our water had an odd smell. I had to casually tell him not to mind that, it's just the lead in our water. I find it very disheartening that the city, state, and country don't prioritize the health and safety of its pregnant women, babies, or children. It is sincerely unfortunate how things like access to clean drinking water in America are just a luxury.

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