10 “Harmless” Things We Do That Are Negatively Impacting the Environment

10 “Harmless” Things We Do That Are Negatively Impacting the Environment

There’s no denying that our habits have caused irreparable damages to the environment. As we strive to make our lives easier and more comfortable, we are knowingly and unknowingly injuring the delicate environment that provides for us. While many of us understand the long-term consequences it has on our life and are making efforts to reduce the damage caused by our own kind, some broken things can never be fixed. However, there are a few ways to reduce these damages. Some things we consider to be innocent is in fact hurting our planet.

For instance, releasing helium balloons is considered a memorable event for something tragic. However, the hundreds of thousands of helium balloons we release, end up in the oceans and adversely affect the sea life. Here, we are listing 10 such acts that we consider to be completely harmless but are in fact negatively impacting our environment.

1. Releasing Chinese sky lanterns.

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Image: Jenny Le

The Chinese Lantern Festival was a tradition that started thousands of years ago. Every year, millions of Chinese lanterns are made and sold all over the world. The UK alone sells more than 200,000 Chinese lanterns annually. While releasing these lanterns into the sky appears innocent and can be relaxing for some, they are in fact harmful and dangerous. Every year, the lanterns are responsible for fires as well as harm caused to birds and animals. When the lanterns fall back to the ground, birds and wildlife mistakenly consume them or become entangled in the wire or bamboo frames.

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Image: ScottishNaturalHeritage

In 2013, a Chinese lantern landed on a plastic recycling factory, setting it ablaze, and causing irreversible damage with terrible consequences. Today, many countries are moving towards banning the sale of these lanterns since they are bad for the environment. A number of counties in England have taken steps towards banning the sales of the lanterns indefinitely. (source)

2. Purchasing stuffed animals for memorials.

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Image: Wikimedia

Everyone has their own way of expressing grief and we do not have the right to tell anyone how to express theirs. However, we have the right and the ability to help them distinguish between what’s right and what’s wrong. When unavoidable tragedies occur, millions around the world show their love and support to families by laying flowers and stuffed animals at memorials. While the act is innocent and shows support to the victim’s family, have you ever wondered what happens to these stuffed animals after a certain period of time?

Usually, the city workers who are responsible for maintaining the streets end up throwing them in the dump. Every year, millions of tons of plastic, stuffed animal toys and e-waste end up in landfills. While there are some countries that recycle these toys and donate them to the needy, not everyone follows the same mantra. Some internet users suggest that it’s time to get rid of purchasing stuffed animals for memorials and instead, donate the money to the victims family so they could use it for funeral expenses or donate it for a cause they believe in. (source)

3. Using too much packaging.

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Image: Skeeze/Pixabay

Today, there are more independent sellers who work from the comfort of their homes than ever before. There are approximately 50 million individual sellers and companies worldwide, who work hard to obtain customers and make sales. While sellers want to ensure that their product reaches the customer without damages, they can sometimes go overboard with the packing materials. Almost all of us have received at least one package that has had too much packing material inside. It’s understandable that consumers want to safeguard their product and maximize revenue by minimizing unnecessary loss.

It is estimated that we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. 8 million tons of the created plastic winds up in the oceans each year, while enough plastic is thrown away to be able to circle the Earth four times. In the United States, only 25% of the plastic produced is recycled annually. If we recycled the other 75%, we could save 1 billion gallons of oil and 44 million cubic yards of landfill space every year. You can also try to focus on buying products that have less packaging. This will discourage manufacturers from using one-time wrapping products on fresh produce and other food items. (source)

4. Buying items that are designed for one-time use.

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Image: AliExpress

Layovers can be extremely tiresome so we sometimes take extra steps to ensure that there’s something to do during those boring hours. One-time chargers or power banks are becoming increasingly popular these days since they allow people to charge their phones as they are mobile. While such devices allow users to move freely, they are often discarded after their intended purpose. It is estimated that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste is disposed worldwide every year. Airports have more charging ports than ever before and it’s time we utilize them to put an end to e-waste. Devices such as one-time chargers also contain harmful materials that are extremely toxic to the environment. If we reduce the demand, manufacturers will be forced to stop producing such useless devices. (source)

5. Releasing helium balloons into the atmosphere.

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Image: Ankush Minda

In many countries, releasing balloons is considered a tradition or a memorable gesture for a tragic event. While the act is beautiful and moving, it’s not healthy for the environment. Even though these balloons are filled with helium, they don’t float forever. The balloons that are marketed as “biodegradable latex”, return to Earth as ugly litter to harm animals and cause dangerous power outages. Winds can push these balloons to thousands of miles and cause them to pollute the most remote and pristine places.

In 1986, Cleveland released 1.5 million helium-filled balloons into the atmosphere, causing one of the biggest environmental disasters of all time. The project was part of a fundraising scheme by the United Way, and an effort to break the world record for biggest simultaneous launch. Once the balloons were released, they clouded the sky, causing airports to shutdown. They also covered the ground with un-biodegradable material, which took several weeks and hundreds of volunteers to clean up. Apart from that, helium is also a finite resource, so, it’s time we understand the negative impact of releasing balloons into the atmosphere. (source)

6. The blight of light pollution

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Image: NASA

Most living creatures on planet Earth rely on the night’s darkness, which is followed by the brightness of day. However, as we are colonizing lands at a fast pace, we are also lighting up the night sky. While we comfortably sleep inside our own homes, there are many animals whose lives are being disrupted by the artificial light that we are generating. According to the International Dark Sky Association, studies show that the artificial lights at night are disrupting the natural biorhythms of many amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.

Other studies show that light pollution also affects nocturnal animals who sleep during the day and are active by night. The artificial lights causes confusion among the animals, affecting their reproductive rates and population. Within the past decade, fireflies have had a significant reduction in their population due to light pollution. In order to tackle this, many countries are encouraging counties to install lights that face downwards to light public areas. (source)

7. Overpopulating the planet.

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Image: Ishan

Currently, our planet houses 7,694,424,789 people. From 1950 to 2010, the global population nearly tripled from 2.5 billion to 6.9 billion, or by 174%. At this rate, it is estimated that our planet will be home to approximately 10 billion people by 2050. While the numbers don’t show a large increase, it can have a devastating impact on our planet and its environment. Many scientists, including the eminent Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, believe that our planet has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 to 10 billion. The scientists came to the conclusion after carefully observing Earth’s available resources, such as freshwater, and the amount of food that Earth can produce. (source)

8. Over-use of antibiotics.

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Image: Anastasia Dulgier

While antibiotics are considered to be the keystone of modern medicine, their excessive use continues to generate unwanted side effects. The majority of common colds are viral but most of us have the habit of taking antibiotics to treat them. These medicines however, do nothing to stop the infection and can in turn cause negative side effects, such as respiratory infections. Today, our consumption of antibiotics has risen to such as level that strains of bacterias have evolved defenses against them.

Apart from that, taking unwanted antibiotics also eliminates both good and bad bacteria in our bodies; leaving us more vulnerable to illnesses. According to the CDC, antibiotic resistant bacteria could be one of the world’s most serious public health problems in the near future. (source)

9. Deforestation

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Image: Marek Novotný

There is no denying that our forests are the Earth’s lungs. The forests provide us with oxygen, reduce carbon dioxide, provide us with shade, and support all living beings on this planet. Apart from that, our forests also play a key role in limiting soil erosion, flooding and helping to regulate local climates. Not only us, but thousands of animals, birds, insects and other inhabitants also rely on the trees and plants to survive.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, we are losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually, which is equivalent to 27 football fields a minute. However, there’s still hope. Eliminating wooden products that are designed for one-time purpose and planting more indigenous trees may help reverse some of the damage done to our forests. (source)

10. Coral reefs being destroyed at an alarming rate.

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Image: Sagar

Coral reefs are home to the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Not only do they clean the oceans and provide for the marine life, they also protect the shores from erosion caused by tropical weather and waves. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, 25% of the world’s coral reefs are already considered damaged beyond repair and another two-thirds are under serious threat. The damages are being caused by garbage and plastic waste reaching our oceans. Sewage from cruise ships, agrochemicals and oil spills also play an important role in their destruction. Many travelers who go scuba diving are also known to collect coral reefs as souvenirs. While it’s important to hold on to memories, it should be done in such a way that it causes no harm to our planet or the environment. (source)

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