Lifestyle Personal Choices Which Impact the Environment Negatively
Do you practice sustainable living?
Sustainability is crucial for the environment for many reasons. Sustainability is the use of the earth’s natural resources to maintain environmental health and therefore ensure public safety. There are many consequences to not practicing sustainability and one of these consequences is global warming. Global warming and climate change are major and problematic catastrophes that humans have to face. Climate change and increasing greenhouse effects are related to the increasing Carbon Dioxide, which is related to human activity.
Lifestyle Behavior #1
The first lifestyle behavior which impacts the environment is not relying on renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, and hydropower. All these energy sources can renew themselves and never end. These sources are considered eco-friendly and do not pollute the environment or pose a danger to the population in the long term. The lifestyle behavior I practice that affects the environment is using non-electric cars. Nonelectric cars which run on gas emit Carbon Monoxide which can be harmful to the environment. Car pollution causes global warming by creating greenhouse gases that trap heat in the air. This can cause a rise in the temperature and will create environmental issues. Electric cars can reduce the use of fossil fuels which in turn will benefit the environment and sustainability.
Lifestyle Behavior #2
The second lifestyle behavior that impacts the environment is consuming meat and seafood. Cattle can contribute to climate change and pollution since it is related to methane gas. Methane levels have increased due to decay, guts of termites, and cattle. Methane comes from the food that these animals eat. According to an article by Hamburg (n.d.), Methane causes 25% of global warming, and its concentration in the environment has been increasing fast since the 1980s. The demand for beef is increasing as fast-food chain restaurants are expanding. The grazing animals contribute to climate change by the methane produced related to raising these animals.
There are many benefits to eating meat and fish for our health. Meat contains protein which is essential for humans. Furthermore, Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins which are good for the health and help with heart diseases and hypertension. The problem with eating meat starts with over-production and overconsumption of meat which is not sustainable. More cattle mean more methane gas in the environment and more pollution.
The issue with eating fish is not the fish itself, but the way the fish was caught. When fishers attempt to catch sea animals, they use fishnets. These fishnets can end up in the ocean and turn into microplastic. Microplastic can end up in the fish and consequently, in the human body. The overfishing of sea animals is not helping the environment or sustainability. When fishermen try to catch certain types of fish, for instance, salmon, they catch other fish with it that they did not desire. Bycatching other sea animals can occur due to fishing. These animals that are caught unintentionally die and get discarded because they were never meant to be caught.
Furthermore, there are countries that eat shark fin soup, which requires cutting the fins while the shark is alive then discarding the shark in the ocean. The shark is left in the ocean without any fins, unable to swim, and will eventually die. According to Brodkin (2017), shark finning is dangerous to the marine ecosystem and overfishing has caused a decline in the shark population by 90% globally. People need to pay more attention to these issues such as overfishing and overconsuming marine life. The more we eat fish, the more the ecosystem shifts and affects the environment negatively.
Lifestyle Behavior #3
The third lifestyle behavior that impacts the environment is using too much plastic. Plastic creates more waste in the environment. All this waste is discarded largely in the oceans. This can affect the sea life which can impact the environment ecosystem and supply chain. More sea animals are dying, and this can pose a problem to the balance of the food chain.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not help with the plastic waste problem. Working in a hospital, I started to use a lot of disposable single-use PPE which is all made out of plastic. These PPEs include shields, masks, goggles, gowns, and gloves. All of which are single-use and disposable after a short amount of time. According to Hignett (2021), masks are made of plastic largely and will take hundreds of years to break them down. Some providers started to reuse the masks instead of discarding them after one use.
During the pandemic, more restaurants started using plastic bags utensils, and boxes. Health advocates were concerned about reusable utensils due to the pandemic. Restaurants started to rely on food delivery, so these deliveries use plastic bags and utensils all plastic. Some restaurants use reusable cardboard packaging; however, the majority uses plastic. According to Newburger & Lucas (2020), Plastic waste surged during the pandemic since coronavirus incited restaurants to use more disposable packaging and utensils. It will be challenging for restaurants to go back to zero waste policies after the pandemic, however, it is not hard and could be done. Many restaurants started to generate QR codes to scan with smartphones instead of using disposable menus each time a new customer arrives.
Long-Term Environmental Consequences Due to Behavior #1
The long-term effects of the first lifestyle on the environment are more pollution. More air pollution can consequently create adverse health issues. These adverse health issues include asthma, cancer, and other raspatory issues. For instance, driving non-electric cars will increase air pollution by increasing Carbon Monoxide in the air. Gasoline production requires drilling deep into the ground to be produced from crude oil which is considered fossil fuel. Allison and Mandler (2018) state, air toxins may be emitted during petroleum, production, and combustion. According to Green (2018), the long-term effects of car pollution include global warming, acid rain, and adverse human health issues. 85% of U.S. energy comes from fossil fuels which release pollutants in the air.
Many people live close to oil production companies which is dangerous for human health. According to Bakalar (2019), living near oil production companies increases the risks of infant birth defects especially heart defects. Scientists concluded that women living near production companies and having a baby are 70% more likely to have a heart defect. It can also cause premature births and smaller babies and other adverse health issues.
An alley in Louisiana is called the cancer alley due to many people dying of cancer caused by the pollution and chemical plants which produce toxins. According to Denne (2020), there is a high risk of cancer in an alley in Louisiana because they are densely concentrated with chemicals related to petroleum and other pollutants. These chemical plants are mostly in African American communities and low-income communities. The risk of cancer in that area has increased, therefore, it was called the “Cancer Alley”.
Long-Term Environmental Consequences Due to Behavior #2
The long-term effect of the second lifestyle on the environment is increased methane gas in the environment, less fish in the sea, and more microplastic in our bodies. Ocean life sustains the climate; therefore, less ocean life means more climate change issues. According to Marks and Myrphy (2021), there are 11 foods that are mostly being impacted due to the climate change crises. Some of these foods include sardines, scallops, and wheat. Wheat is threatened because of the high temperatures due to climate change and rising CO2 levels. It is affected mostly by drought and this effect will double in the next 50 years. Sardines are affected due to the fact that ocean temperatures are rising. Scallops and shellfish are affected by the rising acidity of the water. Furthermore, bycatching is affecting marine life and will cause severe reduction to some fish which is dangerous to the ecosystem. According to Mannocci et al. (2012), the impact of bycatch is severe on dolphins and it is estimated that the populations of dolphins will be reduced by 20% in 30 years due to bycatching.
Furthermore, the long-term effects of overfishing of the sharks are dangerous since sharks are considered predators. Therefore, by overfishing these predators, other sea animals can thrive and that can be a potential threat to the environment. Aldern (2015) suggests sharks play a role in reducing climate change because they eat sea animals that eat seagrass. Seagrass traps carbon from the environment which regulates the amount of carbon.
On the other hand, plastic is mostly discarded in the oceans which affect ocean life. Plastic turns into microplastic and then it transfers to animals. If it ends up in the ocean, the fish eats the microplastic, it can transfer to the human body if not cooked well. According to Barboza et al. (2020), the microplastic that is found in fish can have toxic neurological effects on humans. The ingestion of microplastic is increasing due to the increased waste in the oceans. Scientists analyzed 150 fish from the North-East Atlantic Ocean and found 49% had microplastic in their system. The ingested microplastic can impact population growth, reproductive system and can cause mortality. Fish needs to be cooked well to avoid this problem; however, it still is a problem that needs to be addressed. Microplastic can be very harmful to the human body and more people need to be aware of its adverse health issues.
Long-Term Environmental Consequences Due to Behavior #3
The long-term effect of the third lifestyle on the environment is more waste on land and more trash that is thrown in the sea. The U.S. produces the most trash because of the overproduction of many products. According to the EPA (2020), trash, specifically plastic trash, has the greatest potential to harm the environment. Plastic absorbs dangerous chemicals and transports these chemicals to the food chain and harms humans. In addition, increased waste can reduce tourism and cause habitat alteration in the long term due to pollution. Furthermore, there is a lot of waste on land and in oceans which can travel and accumulate in locations that are inhabited by coastal and marine life. The overflowing of waste will cause diseases such as raspatory diseases due to pollution. According to Sebastian (2021), the United States is the third-largest country in the world that produces the most waste estimating 258 million tonnes of waste generated in 2017. It is estimated that the waste will increase by 70% globally in 2050.
Mitigation Measures for Behavior #1
The first lifestyle can be mitigated by using renewable energy sources. Using electric cars can combat the issue of gas emission and the overproduction of crude oil. We can also plant more trees to increase O2 levels and decrease CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Trees absorb CO2 and turn into O2 in return. Trees improve air quality by reducing the greenhouse effect because they absorb CO2. I have decided to donate to organizations that plant trees around the world. One dollar donated helps to plant one tree. One of these organizations is called One Tree Planted. They help with reforestation around the world.
Mitigation Measures for Behavior #2
A second lifestyle that can be mitigated by being vegan. Veganism will not only benefit the environment, but it will also benefit human health. Vegan food includes vegetables and fruits, mainly anything that does not come from animal sources. Vegetables and fruits contain nutrients that can combat serious illnesses such as cancer. These nutrients act as natural antioxidants which combat cancer. By going vegan, people can help the environment by using less animal meat and product which is being overused and produced. Changing to a plant-based diet, can significantly reduce my carbon footprint, and help stop the effects of climate change. According to Borunda (2019), methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, and about 20 percent of the warming the planet has experienced can be attributed to the gas since the industrial revolution.
Mitigation Measures for Behavior #3
The third lifestyle can be mitigated by reducing plastic waste. Instead of using plastic, I can use substitutes of plastic that are more environmentally friendly and reusable. Using reusable cups for coffee instead of throwing them away after one use harms the environment. I will also try to use more biodegradable cardboard boxes during my lunch away from home instead of plastic. I will also go to restaurants and use products that support environmental sustainability. There are organizations that help with educating the public about the harms of plastic on the environment, I started to donate to these organizations. There are also that help clean out the ocean and the beaches from waste and pollutants. One of these organizations is called The Ocean Cleanup. It is a non-profit organization that uses advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
AAFA. (2020). https://www.aafa.org/air-pollution-smog-asthma/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwreT8BRDTARIsAJLI0KJofRwQOTXZeTQR1Nu11aOnfb9q5Dlq9nqW1ThUCJ4DVWGGjYCjw2caAvhpEALw_wcB
Aldern, C. (2015, September 30). Want to slow climate change? Stop killing sharks. Grist. https://grist.org/climate-energy/want-to-slow-climate-change-stop-killing-sharks/.
Allison, & Mandler. (2018, June 18). Air Quality Impacts of Oil and Gas. American Geosciences Institute. https://www.americangeosciences.org/geoscience-currents/air-quality-impacts-oil-and-gas.
Bakalar, N. (2019, July 30). Living Near Oil and Gas Wells Tied to Heart Defects in Babies. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/well/family/living-near-oil-and-gas-wells-tied-to-heart-defects-in-babies.html.
Barboza, L. G. A., Lopes, C., Oliveira, P., Bessa, F., Otero, V., Henriques, B., … Guilhermino, L. (2019, November 14). Microplastics in wild fish from North East Atlantic Ocean and its potential for causing neurotoxic effects, lipid oxidative damage, and human health risks associated with ingestion exposure. Science of The Total Environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719346169.
Borunda, A. (2019, January 23). Methane explained. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/methane/
Denne, L. (2020, June 22). In ‘Cancer Alley,’ a renewed focus on systemic racism is too late. NBCNews.com. https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/cancer-alley-renewed-focus-systemic-racism-too-late-n1231602.
EPA. (2020, July 30). Impacts of Mismanaged Trash. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/impacts-mismanaged-trash#hab.
Green, J. (2018, March 13). Effects of Car Pollutants on the Environment. Sciencing. https://sciencing.com/effects-car-pollutants-environment-23581.html.
Hamburg, S. (n.d.). Methane: A crucial opportunity in the climate fight. Environmental Defense Fund. https://www.edf.org/climate/methane-crucial-opportunity-climate-fight?gclid=CjwKCAjwmv-DBhAMEiwA7xYrd0Z3BCnuAjLcNi1Mm5BaTookYKi7gOnAyjlLZPS-S0EJTJ-swSLVaxoC0okQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&utm_campaign=edf_methane_upd_dmt&utm_id=1518122016&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google.
Hignett, K. (2021, January 18). Covid-19 plastic WASTE: U.K. hospitals are Recycling Disposable ppe. https://www.forbes.com/sites/katherinehignett/2021/01/18/covid-19-plastic-waste-uk-hospitals-are-recycling-disposable-ppe/?sh=7849b984415f.
Mannocci, L., Dabin, W., Augeraud-Véron, E., Dupuy, J.-F., Barbraud, C., & Ridoux, V. (2012, February 29). Assessing the Impact of Bycatch on Dolphin Populations: The Case of the Common Dolphin in the Eastern North Atlantic. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032615.
Marks, A., & Murphy, H. (2021, April 19). 11 Foods That Are Already Being Impacted by the Climate Crisis. Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-pictures/foods-most-affected-by-climate-change-1144590/.
Newburger, E., & Lucas, A. (2020, June 28). Plastic waste surges as coronavirus prompts restaurants to use more disposable packaging. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/28/coronavirus-plastic-waste-surges-as-restaurants-use-more-disposable-packaging.html.
Publishing, H. (2019). Is plastic a threat to your health? Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-plastic-a-threat-to-your-health
Regulatory Information by Topic: Air. (2020, August 08). Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/regulatory-information-topic/regulatory-information-topic-air
Rustagi, N., Pradhan, S., & Singh, R. (2011, September). Public health impact of plastics: An overview. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299092/
Sebastian, A. (2021, March 25). 5 Countries That Produce the Most Waste. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/090716/5-countries-produce-most-waste.asp.
The Ocean Cleanup. (2021, March 30). https://theoceancleanup.com/.
Tree Planting Non-Profit: One Dollar, One Tree. One Tree Planted. (n.d.). https://onetreeplanted.org/.
U.S. Energy Information Administration — EIA — Independent Statistics and Analysis. U.S. crude oil production grew 11% in 2019, surpassing 12 million barrels per day — Today in Energy — U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2020, March 2). https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43015.