We all love casual conservation. Taking out the recycling, carpooling to work; small lifestyle modifications can help us feel like we’re contributing to the cause without sacrificing anything important. However, every day we also participate in activities that are hurting our planet beyond driving cars and burning fossil fuels for home heating. Small, nondescript actions that we do unconsciously can add up to a massive toll on the environment. It’s important to be aware of these common practices and to try to avoid them wherever possible.
Here are a few of the worst offenders.
A/C has surprisingly problematic effects on large bodies of water across the world. The air conditioning system works by cycling air flow through cold water, thus creating that refreshing blast of cold air whenever you walk into a store in the summer. Of course, as the day goes on, the water itself begins to warm and is eventually disposed of — typically in local waterways.
Air conditioning carries several risks. First, while the wastewater itself is harmless, with no undue contaminants, it is also far warmer than the average temperature of water in the area. When water from smaller lakes is used, replacing deep, cold water with warmer water every day will inevitably cause the temperatures to rise. As with any case of warmer marine temperatures, this will have strange and unknown effects on the environment in years to come.
Of course, there are also pollutants caused by the use of air conditioning. Like other forms of refrigeration, air conditioning formerly released CFCs into the atmosphere. This agent was largely responsible for eating a hole in the ozone layer. However, CFCs are widely banned today, and the units use HFCs — which are typically less detrimental to the environment. They are, however, still a greenhouse gas, and are contributing to atmospheric warming.
Clothing accounts for a vast industry within the US. Textiles, however, have a long history of environmental stress. Textile waste has become an increased hazard as more and more clothing is made from plastics, including acrylic and polyester compounds. Whenever these clothes are washed, tons of tiny plastic filaments wash off and eventually end up in larger bodies of water. These plastics — commonly known as microbeads — come from many different sources and have some inevitable an unknown effect on the greater environment.
On the clothing production side, the industry is responsible for a huge quantity of toxic waste products, which should be — but are often not — contained properly. In many of the production-centric countries around the world, environmental regulations are not as strict or enforced, and waste products are dumped directly into the waterways. Alongside other industrial contaminants, these include bleach, dyes and various Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
You can reduce your impact by thrift shopping or buying otherwise gently-used goods. As it sits, the fast fashion industry overproduces clothing at a ridiculous rate, and this also causes a ton of waste. Buying used clothing reduces the production waste, as well as the demand for cheaply-produced finished products.
It isn't about the huge efforts of a few individuals. If more people are willing to make small sacrifices in their daily lives, the problems that plague our planet will be reduced accordingly. Small purchases and everyday decisions are killing the earth, and being conscious of these choices is the first step towards preventing them.