5 Ways European Citizens Can Help the Environment

European residents must do their part to protect the environment, just like all other global citizens. Climate change is real, and thousands of scientists continue sounding the alarm that we need to change our ways. Future generations may have to deal with all kinds of shortages if we can’t figure out methods to reduce our wasteful tendencies.

We’ll talk about a few things the average European citizen can do to help the environment right now. Most of these actions won’t require that much behavior modification, and you can feel good when you do them.

How European Citizens Can Help the Environment

Dispose of Cleaning Products the Right Way

Studies have shown the hazards of many cleaning products. Half a century ago, many chemicals people used around their homes harmed both those using them and the environment when a homeowner disposed of them.

When you buy household cleaning products, check the labels to ensure they don’t contain anything that harms the planet. You can find household cleaners that specifically say they won’t cause damage when you use or dispose of them.

Rather than dumping potentially harmful chemicals down the drain or somewhere outside, you can often contact your town or city’s government and locate waste disposal centers that will take them and deal with them. You might collect all the leftover chemicals and receptacles you have and take them there once a month or so.

Bike to Work or Take Public Transportation

If you can, take public transportation to work, when you need to go to the grocery store, or if you have another errand to run. If you don’t live somewhere with buses or trains nearby, then you can ride a bike to reach the places where you need to go.

green travel

You might have to take your car somewhere occasionally, such as if you’re picking up something that’s too large to carry with you on a bike or to take on a train or bus. If you can reduce the number of times you drive, though, every time you save yourself a trip, you are helping the planet.

If you bike or walk somewhere, you’re also getting in some much-needed exercise. Many of us live much more sedentary lives these days, so walking or biking helps you get your steps in and burns some calories. That can save you money you’d spend by joining a gym.

Purchase an Electric or Hybrid Vehicle

Every year, more hybrid and electric vehicles come out as well. If you can get one of those instead of one that runs exclusively on gas, that’s very helpful to the environment.

If you have a gas-running car, you can trade it in, which will lower an electric or hybrid vehicle’s cost.

You can also buy a used or certified pre-owned electric or hybrid car. That should save you some money if you can’t afford a brand-new one.

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Every year, European nations continue building more electric charging stations to help with this transition. The switch can’t happen instantaneously, but if you can join this gradual movement, you’ll know you’re taking a concrete step toward reducing your carbon footprint. That will reduce foreign oil dependency as well.

Use Long-Lasting Lightbulbs

When you go shopping, you can look for long-lasting lightbulbs instead of the old-fashioned models. It might not seem like that will make much of a difference, but an energy-efficient lightbulb can last far longer than the traditional kind.

Buying the energy-efficient kind with the coils will save you money since you will not have to replace them as often. You can usually count on these bulbs to last you for several years rather than a few months like you would get with the old-fashioned, solid version. Also, since you have to throw fewer of them away, they make less trash in landfills.

Shop Wisely

You can get in the habit of bringing cloth bags with you when you go grocery shopping or shopping for small items. You can reuse those bags again and again.

green-freezer-bags

You can keep those bags in the car with you if you go run some errands. If you happen to forget the bags, you can also ask for paper bags in stores instead of plastic ones. Many stores no longer carry plastic bags anyway, but you can insist on paper ones when you buy things in the stores that do.

These small actions can help conserve our resources, and you can set a good example for your friends, neighbors, and kids as well.

Common Household Items Containing Harmful Chemicals: What You Didn’t Know

Due to research and the increased efforts to reduce toxins and live more sustainably, many of our everyday products are a lot safer than they were 50 years ago. However, there are still some common products that contain substances that are toxic to the human body. Here are some common household items that you probably use every day but they may contain potentially harmful chemicals and some alternatives to those products.

Personal Care Products

1. Lotion

Some lotions may contain binders and preservatives derived from chemicals. Acrylamide is a binder thought to be a cause of breast cancer, while parabens (including propylparaben and methylparaben) are a type of preservative known to be a hormone disruptor. Avoid lotions and other personal care products with these ingredients as often as you can.

household items containing toxic chemicals

2. Sunscreen

Some sunscreens contain Ultraviolet (UV) filters such as benzophenone, homosalate, and octinoxate, which are also endocrine (hormone) disruptors. A safer alternative to these ingredients is mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in forms that aren’t inhaled. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays.

Household Cleaners

1. Antibacterial Hand Soap

Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps don’t actually make us cleaner than non-antibacterial soaps. In fact, the main ingredient in antibacterial soap (triclosan) increases the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. It has also been found that triclosan has contributed to toxic algae in water sources.  Bottom line, soaps and other cleaners labeled “antibacterial” are potentially doing more harm than good.

2. Multipurpose Cleaners

Many household cleaners, including window cleaners, contain an ingredient called 2-butoxyethanol. The EPA has found that this toxin can contribute to liver and kidney damage. While companies are not required to list this ingredient on their labels, you can avoid this by sticking to simple cleaning compounds, such as baking soda. Not only is this better for your health, but it’s also better for the environment.

household-hazardous-wastes

Food Items

1. Sodium Nitrate

This is found in processed meats. While it prevents the growth of bacteria, it also has some potential health issues. When sodium nitrate is heated at high temperatures, it can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Of course, this is more probable when consumed at higher rates, so it’s best to limit the amount of red meat you eat.

2. Glyphosate

Glyphosate is the main ingredient found in most weed killers that have been linked to certain cancers. Unfortunately, this ingredient has been found in several foods as well. Oat-based breakfasts (including oatmeal, granola, and cereal) have been shown to have high levels of glyphosate. This is likely due to the use of pesticides and herbicides in food production.

Other Tips to Remember

Not all “natural” is good.

While we are looking for natural alternatives, remember that not everything labeled natural is good. Products can be labeled as being 100% natural, but harmful substances can be classified as natural. Also, not all synthetic ingredients are bad. Always read labels, and if you don’t recognize an ingredient, you can always look it up.

Fragrance

Who doesn’t love scented products? Companies are not required to list the ingredients that go into creating their fragrances, but they do have to list “fragrance” or “parfum” among the ingredients. Unfortunately, that “fragrance” can be a mixture of anything. Whenever you can, choose “fragrance-free” products. It sounds boring, but an alternative would be to purchase essential oils to add your own fragrance to products.

It’s important to note here that essential oils should always be used as directed. Though they are natural and generally harmless, they are not to be ingested unless stated otherwise. They should also be used in small amounts and diluted with water or a carrier oil.

Science doesn’t change, but as new studies and information come out, we may have a better understanding of certain ingredients. For now, it’s important to research questionable ingredients and learn if they are okay at lower levels, or if we should just avoid them altogether.