When you look around your home, it’s all too easy to spot items that harm the environment — Ziploc bags, plastic sheets, paper towels and your gas guzzling car, to name a few.
But beyond the obvious, climate activists say there are many other household products that add to your carbon footprint, harm the air we breathe and contribute to global warming.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. Below, climate activists share the planet-damaging items they don’t have in their homes and what they use instead.
Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and other things that use a small gas engine
Products that use a two-stroke engine, a gasoline engine that powers many small items, don’t exist in the home of Jesse Little, vice president and chief of staff and chief sustainability officer at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. These include lawn items such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers, as well as motorcycles and boats.
“It emits smoke, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons, as well as particulate matter. But really disproportionate [amount] to engine size and the power they emit,” Lytle said.
“According to some tests, your lawn mower or leaf blower emits more than a pickup truck on an hour-by-hour basis,” he added.
He said there are alternatives to many of these gas-powered items. There are battery powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers that are comparable in price.
“I got rid of all my gas stuff over the years,” he said. “I only have a battery – it’s very convenient, it’s quieter and it doesn’t emit any pollution.”
Aside from the environmental impact, it is not healthy to inhale the chemicals these machines emit. You get behind the lawn mower or leaf blower when you use it, Lytle added, which can become a problem over time. Just think about it: You probably won’t be behind a running car for long, right?
Liquid laundry detergent and laundry bags
Hessan Farooqi, director of advocacy for the Boston Climate Action Network, said he doesn’t keep laundry bags or any kind of liquid laundry detergent in his home.
“Plastic bottles…are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recycle, hence the laundry bags themselves are made of plastic, so even when they decompose they still deposit some microplastics in the wastewater,” he said. .
Instead, he uses laundry detergent strips, which are just like laundry pods but are not made of plastic and dissolve completely. Farooqi says they work just like liquid detergents (but better for the environment).
Little said he doesn’t have red meat in his house because of its negative impact on the planet.
“I don’t like telling people what to eat or not to eat, and I grew up eating cheeseburgers and enjoying red meat, but it’s something I’ve generally stayed away from. Not 100%, but it ended up being an easy change I could make.”
He made this diet change because of the impact our food choices have on the environment.
According to the University of Michigan, approximately 10% to 30% of your carbon footprint can be attributed to your food choices. And Little said red meat increases your footprint. Nearly a quarter of the Earth’s surface is used for grazing, which would require major land changes.
“We’re cutting down trees, we’re disturbing the soil, so we’re disrupting all this natural carbon stuff. So, that’s really bad for climate change. The Amazon is where this is happening in a big way,” he said.
Moreover, the way cattle and other four-bellied animals like lambs and goats digest their food also harms the planet. “They belch methane, which is a really potent greenhouse gas,” he explained.
Instead of eating red meat, plant-based items are generally better for the planet (and better for your health, too), Lytle said. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out red meat completely; Even cutting back a little can help. “If we ate a little less, it would make a huge difference if we could do that at a population level,” he said.
Endless access to TV
It may surprise you It’s not like your TV directly has a huge impact on your ecological footprint — but what you watch might, too, said Reinmar Seidler, co-director of the New Hampshire Environment, Energy & Climate Network.
“There’s a real emphasis on the materiality that you can get from watching so much TV, both from advertisements and also from programming … That’s why people end up with so many things in their homes that maybe Seidler said,” Seidler said.
For example, an offer might make you feel like you need some items in your wardrobe, or an advertisement might convince you to buy unnecessary toys for your children. He said television is not the only thing that encourages materialism, but it is part of it.
Instead of watching TV, Seidler said he chose to be outside as much as possible. “Whether it’s gardening, or bird-watching, or picnicking, or just walking, or learning too… nobody can get to the end of what there is to know about the natural world,” he said.
Being outside allows you to slow down, too, and combats the fast-paced nature of television. He added, “TV is too fast, and it’s an unnatural way for our brains to work… not the way society should be at least.”
Refrigerators and air conditioners that you do not use
Do you have an old unused mini fridge, freezer or air conditioner? According to Lytle, these items are really harmful to the environment and should be disposed of appropriately.
“The refrigerants that are out there, those are the worst possible climate change gases,” he said. “You can do more damage to climate change by letting one of these things rot in your driveway than by flying around the world for a year.”
It is very common to have an old mini-fridge in your garage or a broken air conditioning unit in the basement. If that’s the case, Lytle said you need to dispose of the item properly. There are several ways you can do this.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some places in the United States have “rewards programs” where local companies sponsor appliance delivery days—you can check with your electric utility company to see if there is a program like this near you. Plus, some stores do hardware pickup or delivery, so it’s worth checking out your local retailers as well.
Plastic water bottles
Plastic water bottles are also something that Farooqi avoids buying and having in his home.
“Single-use plastic water bottles are damaging to our environment, as they can take hundreds of years to decompose and harm wildlife and ecosystems,” said Farooqi. “When microplastics find their way into drinking water or seafood, this also harms human health.”
So, choosing other options instead of plastic water bottles can reduce your carbon footprint. Conveniently, Brita filters and refrigerator water dispensers reduce the need for those plastic bottles that harm the planet.
In addition, Farooqi said that he is planning ahead if he is going to move away from his home. “I always carry a reusable water bottle with me when I’m out and about,” he said.
Certain light bulbs
“aTungsten filament lighting, including halogen bulbs, is not in my house, said John Gage, New Hampshire volunteer coordinator for the Citizens Climate Lobby.
Tungsten filament bulbs are the classic bulbs you’re used to seeing in home stores (and maybe in your own home).
“Halogen bulbs often confuse people—they’ve come out as a new science and are good for bright light, but they’re also very energy-intensive bulbs,” said Gage.
“I replaced all high-energy lighting with efficient LEDs because it saves money, reduces pollution and is easier to do,” he said.
According to Gage, LED lights are a little more expensive to buy, but they will save you money because they use less energy than other lights on the market.
Single use plastic gloves
Many people wear disposable plastic gloves to protect their hands when washing dishes or coming into contact with cleaning chemicals, but Farooqi said these were another item that was not in his home.
These disposable gloves further contribute to the aforementioned Farouk plastic issue. Instead, he has reusable gloves that can be used for the same tasks but not thrown away after just one use.
Gas-powered large items
“I plan to replace my gasoline-powered car, my oil furnace and my gas stove over time when it is appropriate to replace them,” said Gage.
While choosing appliances that don’t use gas can reduce carbon pollution, it’s also important to wait until it’s time to replace these large items.
“I don’t throw away expensive equipment that I own or that I own [that] I came with my own home before the time of natural replacement for that equipment because there is an upfront cost and carbon footprint associated with producing things.” He added that when new items (even energy-efficient products) are built, emissions are produced.
When the time is right, consider investing in energy-efficient products. These items may be more expensive up front, but, like the light bulbs above, they will save you money (and help the planet) in the long run.
In addition, Gage said, you can use incentives such as rebates and tax credits from the Inflation Control Act to buy better-for-the-environment items such as an induction stove, an electric car, and a more efficient home heating system.
Think about your influence outside of your home, too.
“It is always great when individuals do what they can to mitigate their environmental impact, but with such huge problems as the climate crisis or issues of plastic pollution in the environment, collective solutions are the only way we can adequately address the problem,” said Farooqi.
This means that it is not just up to us as individuals. “It is governments and companies that have the capacity to implement change with the scale and scope necessary to address this crisis,” Farooqui noted.
To play a role, you can join climate advocacy groups locally or nationally that are already organizing to change policies. “And then also make sure that you vote and care about the people you’re voting for and understand their policies or lack thereof to address these problems,” Farooqi said.
Once in office, it is important to hold them accountable and ensure they keep their promises.
Farooqi noted that local elections may not get as much fanfare as national elections, but they are really important for advocating for sustainability. Mayors and city councils are the ones whose decisions can affect climate change in your town or city.
“Individual change is always good,” said Farooqi, “but collective change will be necessary in the long run.”