The totality of our day-to-day purchases, accounting for everything we buy, amounts to a massive destructive force on the environment. With every purchase, we are helping to destroy non-renewable resources, pump out industrial toxins into our water, our air, our soil, even our bodies. It’s very easy to stay detached from the connection between what we buy and the true ecological damage that those products do to the environment along their life cycle, so here are some shocking ways our purchases impact the world.
1. Industrial chemicals
This is one of the biggest categories regarding the impact our purchases have on the world. There are more than 80,000 industrial chemicals in use every day in our common purchases, many of which were declared safe decades ago when regulators were in their infancy. Today, mainstream toxicology thinking says that many of these chemicals build up in our bodies.
For example, the brominates that stop your computer from going up in flames are also carcinogens, which may off-gas particles that form part of the dust in your home. Industrial chemicals are one reason why clothing brands like ASOS, Boohoo and Debenhams are making big strides towards improving their sustainability efforts. Industrial chemicals damage everything organic that they come into contact with, and they need to be replaced with green-chemistry alternatives.
The products you purchase every day come from all over the globe. So many of the items we take for granted are actually manufactured in China or India and shipped here using various methods. Aeroplanes, ships, lorries, trains – every method of transport used to move the products we buy to UK warehouses and stores from all over the world increases the carbon footprint of that product.
Many large corporations are moving towards making greener choices throughout the supply chain of their products, and it will be good if consumers take notice and support products with a lower carbon footprint.
Plastic packaging and bags are some of the biggest problems for the environment, and awareness is growing about the scale of the issue. Recently, a new record was set for the deepest dive in a submersible – almost 11km below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Even down in this most isolated and unexplored of underwater places, it took only minutes to discover plastic bags, illustrating the extent of the problem with plastic waste entering the sea. Too many of the plastic packages our products are sold in are not recyclable, ending up in landfill or littering landscapes and undersea habitats in ways that are extremely harmful to flora and fauna.
In today’s fast-paced society, we tend to value items that have a short lifespan and are then disposed of and replaced. This spans everything from bottled drinks to clothing to electronics and other items in the home. The problem is that too little of this actually gets recycled, so it ends up as waste that sits in a landfill. Many of these products could be repaired, or at least designed with repairs in mind, but they aren’t, and this is a lifestyle choice that needs to change. By extending the lifespan of many day-to-day products, we could reduce waste and help the environment in the process.
5. The strain on the world’s resources
The hysterical demand for enormous amounts of meat means more and more animals must be farmed. This requires space, meaning forests must be cleared to accommodate livestock. The livestock must be fed, which means fields are needed to grow their feed, further increasing deforestation. The strain of supply and demand ultimately becomes a burden for the environment to bear, and our ravenous appetites for clothes, certain foods, cosmetics and more are more than our world is able to sustain. There will need to be significant changes in our lifestyle choices and appetites very soon if we are to stand a chance of halting the damage we are doing.
It is encouraging that a growing number of large companies are making strides towards greener practices and processes throughout the lifespan of their products. Consumers need to support these pursuits to ensure they continue to grow, so as individuals we can make a difference by purchasing products with a transparent lifecycle. Buy sustainable products and do your bit to promote a healthier future for our planet.