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10 Habits That Hurt You and the Environment

10 Habits That Hurt You and the Environment

updated

Many people think that if something is good for you, it must be bad for the environment, and vice-versa. Think, for example, about those big, comfortable SUVs. In truth, however, many of our bad habits give both us and the environment a raw deal! Here are 10 of these habits, all of which you can kick to the curb and feel good about your decision:

1) Eating produce from across the country

Produce from California or Florida has to be flown in to other parts of the country on gas-guzzling trucks or airplanes. This pumps lots of pollution into the air we breathe, and when you add it all up, really takes a toll on the environment. And by the time the food hits store shelves, many of the nutrients are gone anyway! Solve both of these problems by buying produce from local farmers markets whenever possible. It'll be fresh, inexpensive, and eco-friendly!

2) Using plastic shopping bags from the grocery store

Another grocery store no-no is using plastic bags for your groceries. Just about everyone has horror stories of bags ripping and breakable groceries falling to the ground. The bags are a pain to store or throw away. And even if you can look past those annoyances, producing all of that plastic sends obscene amounts of toxins into the air every single day. The solution? Buy a half-dozen durable, reusable cloth shopping bags. They're available at virtually all grocery stores these days, and everyone will be better off for you using them!

3) Not using compact fluorescent light bulbs

It's just force of habit, isn't it? Strolling down the aisle at Wal-Mart or your local drugstore and picking up the cheapest light bulbs in sight. But ingrained as this habit may be, it's actually hurting your wallet and the environment a great deal! You could save some serious money on your electric bill by swapping out those old bulbs for new, energy efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Here's what EnergyStar.gov has to say on the matter:

"If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars."

4) Leaving things plugged in while you aren't using them

"Come on," you might be thinking. "You can't possibly expect me to bother with something this trivial." You might be thinking that - but you would be wrong! If a device is plugged in, the wall outlet pumps current into it whether it's on or not. Over the course of a year, all the wasted juice from leaving cell phone chargers, TVs, game systems, and other appliances plugged in can add up to a lot. Besides costing you a lot of money, all of that wasted energy can really damage the environment. So if you're not using it, unplug it!

5) Driving places that are easily within walking or biking distance

How many times have you found yourself driving somewhere that’s less than two minutes away? Probably more than you care to count. By not walking or biking to nearby places, you deprive your body of much-needed, yet simple, exercise. Think about it: people who remain spry and active in old age were most likely spry and active before they got old. And then there’s the environmental damage: imagine the fumes being pumped into the air from all the "five-minute drives" people indulge in!

6) Running the AC or heat on full blast all the time

Ever go to a restaurant hungry, order a ton of food, and then barely eat half of it? It's the old "eyes bigger than your stomach" syndrome, and there's a parallel lesson in environmentalism. Many people crank the AC or heat when it's very hot or cold, not realizing that a more modest temperature or usage time would make them plenty comfortable. This hurts your wallet (which will be very obvious when the bill comes in) and the environment (not so obvious, but just as real). So instead, try to see how little you can use AC and heat while still remaining comfortable.

7) Dogmatically insisting on buying everything new

Let's face it: sometimes, nothing compares to bringing home that shiny, brand spankin' new gadget or gizmo. It's an appeal most of us won’t ever fully renounce. However, buying used often makes a lot of sense for you and the environment. New products are more expensive, and one of the main reasons for this - excessive packaging - is responsible for the environmental harm. The shiny new packaging is typically thrown into landfills where it festers beneath the soil 'till doomsday. So do yourself and the environment a favor. See whether it might make sense to buy used before plunking down big bucks to buy it new.

8) Trashing your stuff instead of donating it

So much of what winds up in city dumps every Sunday could very easily be donated to people who need it. Donating offers two benefits: there will be less garbage clogging up dumps and landfills, and fewer people buying new what they can very easily buy used. Best of all, it doesn’t have to take you any more time to donate something than to throw it away. Places like Goodwill will happily take your old junk. These days, the Salvation Army even puts storage containers in parking lots for people to use at their convenience!

9) Excessively eating at fast food joints

Everyone loves the occasional Whopper or Big Mac. When you're on the run, few things satisfy your immediate pangs of hunger better. Eating at these places too often, however, does you and the environment a disservice. The food is absolutely terrible from a nutritional standpoint. McDonald’s® addition of salads to the menu notwithstanding, the typical burger and fries fare is still a shortcut to a middle-aged heart attack. Aside from that, fast food restaurants are among the leading agents of rainforest destruction today. The fix? Eat more meals at home or at more upstanding restaurants. It'll taste better and do less harm to you and the environment!

10) Buying huge cases of Poland Spring® every week

This one should be obvious to any water drinker who stops to do the math. How much could you save if you stopped buying that 50 pack of Poland Spring® each week? How much less plastic would be used? "That's all well and good," you may say, "but I want my cold, portable water!" Ah, but you can have it for much less money and do less environmental harm in the process! Just install a Brita® filter on your home sink, fill up empty bottles, and stash 'em in the fridge. You'll still have cold water whenever you need it, and it'll be just as clean as the bottled kind.

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