12 things we can live without


One of the abilities that have allowed us to develop to where we are now is a certain knack for creating tools to get the job done. Tools and useful implements have come a long way since the hand axe was discovered, and we now have items to do almost everything that we require.

Inventions for eating, cleaning, transporting, storing, powering and ease of use, have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations dramatically, however, they also often come with large environmental costs.

Some of our inventions are completely necessary, but there are also many other items, tools and gadgets that we can actually do without.

\"Climate1. Constant climate control

We need heat when it\’s freezing outside, and we need to keep cool when the sweltering summer arrives, however, these methods of climate control are generally overused, wasting energy and money as well. We\’re not saying don\’t use your climate control; just learn to manage its use with the environment in mind.

Top tip: Use your indoor climate control when it is necessary, but also supplement its use with a jersey, some thick socks or a blanket when it\’s cold, and try opening a window to get some natural ventilation when it\’s hot. A well insulated home also requires less heating and cooling.

2. Cling wrap and tin foil

These food covering cretins have huge impacts on the environment throughout the production, processing and post consumer stages. On top of this, cling film made from PVC often contains phthalates, which is suspected to be harmful to humans and ecosystems. We could all easily live without cling wrap and tin foil.

Top tip: Try to reuse foil if you do have to have it, otherwise try to use things like chemical-free and non-paraffin-based wax paper and cloth napkins to wrap sandwiches in. Store leftovers in sealable, reusable plastic or glass containers.

3. Disposable cups, cutlery and plates

Whether they are made out of plastic or paper, the fact is that disposable food and drink items create a lot of waste. Besides this, many disposable items are made of mixed plastics and are not recyclable, or if they are, they aren\’t labelled for recycling so it becomes difficult to not waste them.

Top tip: If you have to use plastic items, try and reuse them as much as possible before recycling them. Avoid disposable cutlery, cups and plates as much as possible.

\"Paper4. Paper towels, disposable dusters and cloths

Using our wooden resources for disposable products like these is a waste when there are reusable alternatives.

Top tip: Use cloth or material dishcloths and cleaning cloths instead of paper towels. Although these require water to wash and trees are a renewable resource, reusing them is better for the environment because of the impacts of the paper industry.

5. Non-rechargeable batteries

Using rechargeable batteries is a no brainer. Yes, they do usually cost a few bucks more for the initial purchase, and may use small amount of electricity to recharge. However, being able to reuse them over and over again outweighs both of these costs and results in much less potentially harmful waste.

Top tip: Buy and use rechargeable batteries. When they do eventually die, be sure to send them off for recycling where the materials can be reused, taking pressure off the need for new materials.

6. Disposable diapers

These little blighters have a major impact on the environment when they are buried in landfills and from all the paper and plastic needed to create them. The average baby uses over 6000 diapers until they are old enough to stop.

Top tip: Alternatives to disposable diapers include cloth diapers, but also washable and flushable diaper liners that fit into a reusable diaper housing.

7. Plastic shopping bags

These crinkly carriers are generally recyclable and reusable, however, the majority still goes to landfills, can take ages to degrade and causes problems for sea creatures when they break into smaller pieces. In essence, we do not need them. There are plenty of other reusable, non-disposable alternatives that can be bought and brought along on a shopping trip.

Top tip: Cloth bags and recycled carriers can be found everywhere and last way longer than the useful lifetime of a plastic bag.

\"Disbosable8. Disposable razors

Disposable razors are a waste. They are generally of poor quality, meaning they don\’t last long and they end up in landfills rather quickly.

Top tip: Buy a razor with better quality blades. Although these blades will also be disposed of when they are useless, they last longer. An electric razor is also a good option, and generally last a lot longer than manual razors.

9. Bottled water

Bottled water is a luxury. It is necessary in areas where water sources are polluted and where tap water is not of suitable drinking quality, but everywhere else (most large cities and urban areas) tap water is generally a better option for the environment and perfectly ok to drink. Click here to spill the truth on bottled water.

Top tip: Carry around tap water in a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle. Purchase a once off water filter to remove any unwanted characteristics from your tap water.

10. Paper slips and billing

Printing paper slips and cash receipts that you are likely just going to throw away anyway is a serious waste of paper. Trees are needed to make this paper, and many chemicals are used in the processing. This can all be minimised if we realise there is not much point in receiving a receipt if we look at it only once.

Top tip: Opt for electronic billing if you have the option, and display details on screen instead of printing.

11. Toothpicks

When we think about it, toothpicks are useful, but almost entirely unnecessary. Modern advances in dentistry and toothbrush technology almost eliminate the need for the toothpick entirely. If they weren\’t available, would people forget they needed them in the first place?

Top tip: At the end of it all, the best advice is not to use them at all, to avoid any associated environmental impacts.

\"Air12. Air freshener

If a room needs an air freshener because of bad smells, then there is likely a need for a more intense cleaning, as opposed to merely masking the problem. Air fresheners have been found to contain the controversial, potentially harmful substance, phthalates. Besides this, many air fresheners use propellants to spray the fresh smell into the air. However, propane (a gas derived from non-renewable oil and natural gas) is largely used as a propellant, meaning that these products (including spray deodorants) are reliant on non-renewable resources. And what makes it even worse? The gas is only used as a propellant, and the energy content it contains is wasted.

Top tip: Try opening a few windows to ventilate a room instead of using air fresheners. If you really need to use something to mask odours or give off nice smells, try things like flowers, essential plant oils, potpourri, eco-friendly air fresheners and non-paraffin based scented candles.

Take a stand and cut out over consumption

There are many superfluous products on the market that may prove extremely difficult to get rid of because of their access and cost effectiveness. However, when we consider their sustainability, we begin to think twice about whether we really need them or not. The point is that if the consumer demand decreases these items will quickly become old hat. It is up to every one of us to see what we can realistically live without in order to further the drive for useful low impact products, goods and services, and a sustainable future.

green24 is an impartial, informal place to find information and advice about green living