You brush your teeth with a plastic toothbrush, you toss a fabric softener in the laundry, you squeeze your shampoo out of a plastic bottle, and you don’t even realize that so much of what you're doing every day feeds into the slow degradation of our life on Earth.
So you’ve heard of a life hack, right? How about a climate hack? NBC Bay Area forecaster Vianey Arana has some ideas about how you can make small changes that will help you avoid feeding into the problem.
Catch new segments every Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on NBC Bay Area's Today in the Bay or on Vianey's social platforms:
Check out Vianey's list of sustainable and zero-waste lifestyle shops in the Bay Area.
You’ve probably never thought about it. But those sponges we use to wash the dishes are dirtying our planet. We go through an average of two a month. And when we throw out old sponges, it takes them hundreds of years to break down. But there’s something you can use instead that will have you throwing out half as many sponges a year - or none at all.
Plastic water bottles are super convenient when you’re at the gym or out and about running errands. Here’s the problem. A study found that around the world, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased each minute. And in the United States, only 30% of plastic bottles that are sold get recycled. So let’s switch to something more planet friendly, that can be used over and over again.
Most of us use them when we go to the grocery store. We’re talking about plastic bags. Whether it’s the produce bags or the plastic bags you get at the checkout stand - those plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes. What’s worse is most plastic bags, including those produce bags can’t be recycled because of how flimsy they are. So instead they end up in the trash or on our beaches. Let’s switch to reusable bags instead. If the average American family uses 1,500 plastic bags a year and everyone living in the city of Fremont switched to reusable bags, we could keep nearly 354 million plastic bags off our shorelines and out of the dump.
We’re all washing our hands like crazy these days and when our hands get dry, we reach for the hand lotion. But so many lotions come in plastic bottles - and it’s no secret those bottles are bad for the planet. Johnson & Johnson says nearly 40% of Americans don't recycle in the bathroom at all. Let’s reach for a zero-waste alternative instead.
Plastic snack bags are handy for taking food on the go. The problem is, they’re typically used just once before getting thrown out. In 2015 alone, we threw out more than 141 tons of plastic - including plastic snack bags. So let’s ditch those single-use bags and opt for something that can be used over and over again.
Many of us toss them in the dryer with our clothes and don’t think twice about it. But what if we did stop to think about dryer sheets - and what they’re doing to our clothes, skin and the environment? Wool dryer balls are a great alternative. Using dryer balls can cut energy use by 25%. That can cut down your carbon footprint by quite a bit.
500 million. That’s how many single-use plastic straws Americans use every day - enough to fill 127 school buses. But they’re recyclable right? Wrong. Plastic straws are something we can easily do without. Switching to a more Earth-friendly alternative doesn’t require us to make a big change in our lifestyle and will have a huge, positive impact on the planet in the long run.
Being a responsible pet owner means cleaning up after my pup’s stinky mess. Some days I use two or three of these bags between all of our walks. That means I use more than 1,000 plastic dog poop bags a year. But there’s a more planet-friendly option than using plastic bags that will sit in the dump for years before breaking down.
In the United States, 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away every year. They can’t be recycled because they are too small and too lightweight for the recycling machines. So those 40 billion plastic forks, spoons and knives will sit in the landfill for 1,000 years while they break down. Instead of using that plastic silverware, let’s carry reusable utensils with us. Or chose the “opt out” of plastic silverware button when ordering food to-go.
Most floss is made out of nylon and coated in wax. Under the best conditions, a single piece of floss you use to get that corn out of your teeth takes about 80 years to break down. And get this - if we added up all floss used by Americans each year, it would be enough to circle the earth more than 100 times. But there’s a zero-waste alternative you can use instead that will help prevent miles of that floss from ending up in the trash. Vianey Arana reports.
More than a billion plastic Chapstick tubes get tossed into landfills each year. They can’t be recycled because the ingredient most lip balms are made from aren’t good for the environment. Let’s make a switch to refillable lip balm, or Chapstick that comes in a cardboard tube. Even if just some of us swapped, think about how much plastic we’d keep out of the landfill!
Most of us have used them before and some of us might even have a jar on the bathroom counter. We’re talking about cotton rounds. But they don’t break down easily and we’re creating lots of waste every time we use them. If you make the switch to reusable rounds, you’d help keep at least 730 cotton rounds out of the dump each year!
Have you ever stopped to think about the harm your toothpaste is doing to the planet? From the packaging to the harmful ingredients - none of it is good for Mother Earth. So what can we do? Stop buying toothpaste that comes in a plastic tube and look for the metal tube that can be recycled. Since a tube of toothpaste should last about three months, you’d keep four plastic containers out of the landfill each year. If everyone living in San Francisco did the same, we’d keep nearly 3.5 million plastic toothpaste tubes out of the dump.
Single-use coffee pods are great when you want to brew just one cup of joe. But they’re not so planet friendly. Worldwide, more than 120,000 are made every minute. Each of those pods takes 500+ years to break down. Switching to refillable coffee pods can help keep more than 56 billion single-use pods out of the landfill each year.
Sometimes, life gets messy. And when we go to clean things up most of us grab the roll of paper towels. But when we do that, we’re killing thousands of trees. There’s a simple swap you can make the next time you go to clean up a mess that will help save those trees!
When we go to do the dishes, most of us reach for dish soap in those plastic bottles. And when the bottles are empty, pieces of them end up in the ocean instead of getting recycled. Switching to bars of dish soap can help eliminate plastic waste, keeping our oceans a bit cleaner.
Between the water bills, light bills and all the junk mail - we throw away a lot of paper. The average American tosses 13,000 pounds of paper a year, most of which is junk mail. But there’s something you can do to help cut down on the amount of paper being printed in the first place.
We use plastic trash bags to collect garbage and make sure it doesn’t end up in the streets. But those bags are actually hurting our wildlife. There’s a change we can all make that will help. We’ll explain the benefits of switching to compostable trash bags.
Laundry detergent bottles are floating around in the ocean and filling up landfills. But there’s something you can do to help make sure fewer bottles end up in the wrong place – buy one bottle that you refill. If everyone living in San Jose made the switch to reusable laundry bottles, we’d save 12 million plastic bottles in just a...
More than 20,000 pounds of elastic end up in landfills each day and it takes years to break down. A lot of that comes from those elastic hair ties. But there’s something you can use instead that’s sturdier in your hair and better for the environment.
Plastic toothbrushes help keep our teeth clean, but they’re cluttering up the ocean. What if you switch to using an electric toothbrush? Or even one made out of bamboo? We’ll break down how many plastic toothbrushes you could keep out of the environment in your lifetime.
Sixteen billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. Most of them can’t even be recycled. There’s a change you can make when you pour a cup of joe that won’t cost you anything and will help reduce our carbon footprint.