I believe the first step in green living is to purge one’s home. I recently did a big cleanout and gathered up all of the unwanted stuff I no longer need or use. I sold some items and donated others, but the purge doesn’t stop there. My house is also full of environmentally harmful products. Here are just some of the items we should consider removing from our homes and the best way to dispose of them:
Skincare Products with Certain Chemicals
Not all skincare products are alike. Some contain chemicals harmful to the environment such as benzophenone, BHA, naphthalene, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and microbeads. Look for eco-friendly brands that avoid these chemicals, are cruelty-free, and/or sustainable certifications. Also avoid skincare products and toothpaste with microbeads. These tiny beads can be found in certain cosmetic products. They’re too small to be filtered through regular water processing plants and end up polluting waterways. I personally try to use up cosmetics before buying new ones. However, many eco-groups advise leaving the product in it’s container and disposing of it in a plastic trash bag.
Single Use Products
Products that are intended for one use such as disposable straws, coffee capsules, tea bags, plastic bags, water bottles etc. cause unnecessary waste. Plastic products can take centuries or more to full decay. Overuse of these products adds to the landfills and can leach chemicals into waterways. Opt for reusable plates, napkins, bottles, and other items. Unfortunately, since many of these products aren’t yet recyclable, they’re best secured in a regular trash bag where they won’t end up as litter. Separate your plastics from other waste before sending them to trash collection or look for clever ways to reuse these products.
Wet wipes, make up removers, and disposable cleaning cloths have become very popular, but they wreak havoc on the environment. Single use items produce a lot of waste. And wet wipes block sewage networks and are rarely biodegradable. Some of these clogs can be as large as a bus! Though some new products are biodegradable, a better option is reusable cloths and safe cleaning agents. I personally like to use olive oil or coconut oil for make up removal. Since these products cannot be recycled, it’s best to separate them from regular trash and dispose of them safely in a plastic bag where they won’t pose a threat to wildlife or water systems.
Certain sunscreens are problematic. Some contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and especially coral reefs. These chemicals include oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene. Opt for eco-friendly, natural sunscreens or better yet, limit your time in the sun and use fabric or umbrellas to cover up. As always, I try to use the remains of products I already have to prevent waste, but for a person who wants rid of harmful sunscreens, keeping it secure in its container and disposing of it in a trash bag is currently the best option.
Glitter may be fun for arts and crafts, but it’s a nightmare to clean up and these tiny microplastics can contaminate the environment. There are many biodegradable, eco-friendly alternatives being developed. The best way to dispose of it is to make sure it’s secured in one location. In other words, use up whatever is left in an art project and seal it epoxy or some other gloss to prevent it from coming loose. It’s also a good idea to avoid make up and other cosmetic products that have glitter in them. Some countries are even starting to ban the product!
Products intended to get rid of weeds, insects, or other unwanted pests in and around the home may be useful, but they also contaminate the soil and have been linked to the death of insects. The bee populations have especially been affected by harmful chemicals found in pesticides and insecticides. There are plenty of eco-friendly options to control weeds and insects that don’t have a lasting impact on the environment. These chemicals can be taken to a hazardous waste facility.
While CFC aerosols were banned in the 70s, many products still come in pressurized canisters including deodorants, hair spray, and spray paint. These products use hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide which pose a threat to the environment. They also release volatile organic compounds which contribute to smog and can cause respiratory issues. Fortunately, the cans can be recycled, provided they are completely empty. Loose and removable parts should be removed before they’re placed in the recycling bin.
Detergents and cleaners that contain phosphates, bleach, formaldehyde, ammonium sulfate, or dioxane can harm the environment in a number of ways. If not filtered through a city’s water waste system, these chemicals can find their way into groundwater and disrupt plant life. As a general rule, I try to use the rest of a product before buying a new one. I’m making the switch to eco-friendly laundry detergents. However, if you want to dispose of your harmful cleaners more quickly, they can be taken to a hazardous waste collection company.
Dryer sheets may smell nice, but they’re made of synthetic fibers and emit toxic chemicals into the home. These chemicals can cause respiratory issues and skin irritation. A great alternative is wool dryer balls. They reduce static and don’t use chemicals or fragrances. Dryer sheets cannot be recycled or composted or burned and must go in the regular trash contributing to waste.
This is a hard one for me because I love scented candles. Unfortunately, burning these candles can release toxic byproducts including greenhouse gasses. Paraffin wax, which is used in the manufacturing of many of these candles, is a petroleum byproduct, contributing to the oil industry. The fragrances are rarely natural, but fortunately, there are eco-friendly candles and other ways to make a house smell nice. Consider one made of beeswax that uses essential oils.
I’m going to do a thorough sweep of my home and see what I’ve got lurking in my cabinets that may be harmful for the environment. Wish me luck!