The Cost of Convenience
We’re living in an age of convenience. Our lifestyles are busier and our attention spans are shorter. This has created a huge demand for products that are instantly available and disposable, at low prices. Advances in technology have made this possible for us. We can have what we want so cheaply that we don’t even have to think about what we’re throwing away.
The big problem is that we’re actually throwing away much more than we think – potentially, the future of the planet. Our demand for disposability is generating huge amounts of waste and pollution. Many of the products we take for granted, and throw away every day, have sustainable alternatives – so why aren’t we using them? Here we take a look at a few of the worst offenders and what we can do to change the situation before it’s too late.
1. Plastic Waste
Plastic is a highly convenient material – the chances are we could all put our hands on something made of plastic right at this moment. It revolutionised the manufacturing industry because not only could it easily be moulded into any shape, it was also cheap to produce. However, it’s this low cost that has helped to create a huge environmental problem – plastic goods don’t cost much to replace. We think nothing of throwing them away. This has led to landfill sites all over the world overflowing with plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose and releases toxic chemicals into the earth as it does so.
Plastic is also depleting the world’s supply of fossil fuels as it is made from petrochemicals. The truth is, there’s no need for nearly as much of it to be produced if we look at more sustainable alternatives, which we can easily use in our everyday lives.
Some of the main plastic waste comes from what we eat and drink. Convenience foods are quick to prepare, so many of us choose them, but they’re wrapped in plastic every time. Likewise, plastic water bottles are consumed at a rate of 1,500 per second in the USA alone. This problem could easily be eradicated by preparing our own homemade food more often and investing in a reusable water bottle, which will not only save us money in the long run, but will also go a long way towards protecting the planet.
2. Hygiene Products
Convenient hygiene products such as babies’ disposable nappies and female sanitary products are not biodegradable, so they too go to landfill, where they release toxic chemicals that pollute the earth around them. Many synthetic cleaning cloths are now also designed to be thrown away after a single use. Natural cloth options are available to replace all these products – while we may not relish the idea of having to wash them, it’s a far better alternative than continuing to create harmful waste.
3. Synthetic Clothing
Clothes made of synthetic materials such as nylon and acrylic are cheap, which is why we love them. However, they are actually harming the natural life of our planet. Synthetic materials give off tiny microfibres each time they are washed, which are small enough to get through water treatment plants. This means they end up in the seas and oceans, where they are ingested by fish and other sea creatures. Ultimately, these harmful chemicals are infiltrating the whole food chain. It’s worth spending a little more on clothes made from natural fibres for the sake of preserving our marine life.
We could all make changes in our lives to contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future. It can be hard to adapt because we’ve grown so used to the convenience, and often the environmental costs aren’t immediately apparent to us. It can be hard to understand the impact of something we can’t see yet.
However, the planet does not have unlimited resources nor can it continue to sustain life as we know it today if we choose to not change our habits. If we don’t act now to slow down our consumption and decrease the amount of waste we’re producing, future generations may simply not have the habitat they need to survive.