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A Consumer’s Guide to Reducing Pollution

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Terry Turner and the Consumer Notice team give us a helpful summary as to how we, as consumers, can reduce our environmental impact and protect our own health!

Pollution occurs when harmful things, like chemicals and waste, get into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the environment around us. And we as consumers play a major role in creating pollution. By some estimates, household consumption is responsible for the majority of air and water pollution in the world.

Daily activities and household chores are a big part of the problem - using harsh chemicals for cleaning, single-use plastic products and even a car for transport all negatively impact our planet. A great example is using chemical cleaners in our homes, where toxic chemicals washed down the drain enter our waterways and atmosphere. Similarly, single-use plastic products generally end up in landfills or the ocean, taking hundreds of years to decompose and harming wildlife in the meantime.

An overflowing bin, just one example of the pollution we create in our everyday lives. Credit: Pixabay, Rita E.

Consumer Notice

Consumer Notice is a consumer advocacy organisation dedicated to providing reliable health and safety information.

With this in mind, Consumer Notice has created a guide, “A Consumer’s Guide to Reducing Pollution”, with the purpose of providing us with knowledge of how everyday activities are contributing to global pollution. If you don’t have time to read the full guide, Wild is pleased to present a short collaboration with Consumer Notice, introducing you to some quick, actionable steps that you can take to help stop pollution.

The Car We Drive:

Carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles play a role in the creation of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, that warm the atmosphere. Even breathing in higher concentrations of carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen our lungs can receive. But we can change this, because the way we drive and the vehicles we choose can cut back on not only harmful gas emissions, but also the money we spend on petrol itself.

Driving more efficiently, or even less altogether, can reduce the amount you are contributing to emissions - now imagine if we all did the same! Scheduling carpools and multiple home deliveries to all arrive on the same day helps reduce pollution, but so does keeping your car in good working condition to improve the mileage you cover, and simultaneously cut pollution.

Emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles are responsible for huge proportions of greenhouse gases (left; Pixabay, Ben Kerck), but switching to eco-friendly electric cars where possible (right; Pixabay, Geralt) can make a difference.

Household Products:

Many common household products contain chemicals that are harmful to both the environment and human health. They contain volatile organic compounds that, once escaped into the atmosphere, create ozone and other harmful gases.

But all hope is not lost - as consumers, we can look for household and industrial products that are low in volatile organic compounds, usually marked as ‘Low VOC’ or even ‘Zero VOC’. And there are always benefits to using environmentally friendly cleaning and hygiene products, so why not visit your local zero-waste store?

Household products contain harmful chemicals (left; Pixabay, tookapic), but looking for items with low VOC certification, or switching to zero-waste, eco-friendly products (right; Pixabay, Film Betratcher) can make your home safer and more sustainable.

Energy Usage:

Energy use and pollution are closely linked. Most of the energy we use comes from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, releasing harmful pollutants into not just the air, but also water and soil.

There are a whole host of consequences on human health that we, as consumers, should be more mindful of. Air pollution is known to have severe respiratory effects, often in low-income areas or communities of colour where air quality can be significantly poorer.

Consider options such as switching to renewable, clean energy providers, and be mindful of how you use the energy you are paying for - layering up in winter instead of blasting the heat can go a long way!

Landfill and Waste:

Disposing of waste in landfill is not a catch-all solution to our problems - decomposing waste releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and landfills are known to contaminate groundwater, running off into nearby waterways and harming aquatic life.

Practising sustainable lifestyles, actively thinking about consumption and need, and ensuring you correctly dispose of waste can make a huge difference to the pollution you emit as both a consumer and individual.

Everyday waste and rubbish that supposedly goes to landfill, more often than not, ends up in places it shouldn’t… Credit: Pixabay, A Different Perspective.

Reducing pollution in our daily lives is crucial for protecting the environment and promoting a sustainable future. But it is important to note that responsibility does not just lie with the consumer, but also with large companies manufacturing or providing the services we use. Our way of helping combat the problem can be actively choosing companies, products and services with environmentally-friendly practices.

By making changes, we can all help protect the planet we live on. Every small action can make a difference and collectively, our efforts can, and will, lead to a cleaner and healthier planet.

Thank you to Consumer Notice for their collaboration and handy guide on how to begin reducing pollution in our everyday lives. For more information on Consumer Notice and their work, visit them here at their website.

About the Author(s):

Terry Turner, Writer

Terry Turner is an Emmy-winning former television journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Prior to joining, he researched and wrote about dangerous drugs and faulty medical devices and the government policies that allowed them to reach and hurt consumers.

Kim Borwick, Editor

Kim Borwick has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years. While earning her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at the University of Central Florida, Kim worked as an editor for Full Sail University, assisting faculty in the development of course manuals, syllabi and other written instructional materials.

Madelaine Stannard

Madelaine Stannard is based in Sheffield, studying a Bsc in Zoology with a keen interest in animal behaviour, endangered species recovery and science communication. You can find her on Instagram @maddie_stannard_wild for wildlife photography and sci-comms, or on her website Maddie Stannard Wild.

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