10 Things You Should Never Buy Again to Protect the Environment

I’ve posted many ‘dos’ for protecting the planet, and here are a few ‘don’ts.’

This list of 10 items to never buy again comes from Green America (formerly Co-op America), and the commentary is mine. –April Moore

1. Styrofoam cups

These are relatively easy to avoid.  For picnics and other large events, heavy paper cups are available.  Even better, gather a collection of mugs that can be washed and reused.

2. Paper towels

This is the hard one for me.  I don’t use paper towels routinely to dry my hands or wipe the kitchen counter, but when it comes to cleaning mirrors and bathroom fixtures, or wiping up cat vomit, paper towels seem like the best thing.  I’m going to try using rags for these projects and see if I can wean myself from paper towels.  Two intermediate alternatives that waste less paper, however, are to buy the thin, rather than thick paper towels, and to buy the rolls whose towels are only half as wide as the regular size.

3. Bleached coffee filters

This is one of the easiest.  Melitta, for instance, sells natural brown paper filters advertised as 100% chlorine-free.  Even better is a cloth coffee filter that can be rinsed and reused. 

4. Teak and mahogany

Indiscriminate, unmanaged cutting of these beautiful woods has devastated rainforests and native communities in Brazil, Thailand, and elsewhere.  Furniture made of other kinds of wood–oak, maple, and pine–is readily available.  

5. Conventional household cleaners

Fortunately, there are earth-friendly alternatives to just about every commercial household cleaner.  I am a fan of white vinegar, and it can be combined with water to make an all-purpose cleaner (1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water) or glass cleaner (1/4 vinegar and 3/4 water).  Vinegar has many other cleaning uses.  See “10 Ways to Clean Your House with Vinegar’ posted on my site.

6. Chemical pesticides and herbicides

Organic methods of gardening and controlling weeds have become very popular, and information about earth-friendly practices is readily available.

7. Toys made with PVC plastic

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toys are not just harmful when chewed by children.  Toys made with PVC emit such harmful substances as dioxin, mercury, and phthalates throughout their life cycle–from manufacture to use to disposal.  Look for toys that are labeled “100% PVC-free.”

8. Plastic forks and spoons

Made from petrochemicals and usually used just once and thrown away, these ubiquitous little tools never really disappear from the environment.  When you’re eating away from home, whether picnicking or having lunch  at your office desk, why not keep a set of cheap, metal (like camping) cutlery in a cloth bag close at hand in your purse, back pack, or desk drawer?

9. Farm-raised salmon

Studies show that farm-raised salmon is much higher in PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins, and other toxins that are harmful to the environment and to human health than is wild salmon.  Farm-raised salmon are fed fish meal and fish oil that contain high levels of these toxins, which become concentrated as they move up the food chain.  Health experts recommend limiting one’s consumption of farm-raised salmon.  Recommendations range from no more than once a month to once only every four months. 

10. Rayon

The most common process used to create rayon for clothing and other products emits carbon disulfide, a highly toxic chemical known to be a human reproductive hazard.  The rayon-making process endangers factory workers and pollutes the environment via emissions into the air and water.