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4 Surprising ‘Sustainable’ Habits That Aren’t as Beneficial as You Think

Certain actions seem more sustainable than they actually are. Here are four "eco-friendly" habits that may do more harm than good.

sustainable habits that aren't as eco-friendly as you think
Written by
Samantha Bailon
The world moves pretty fast these days. Information is everywhere, and we're constantly inundated with new musings, facts, and opinions. With this comes an infinite opportunity to learn—and to get things wrong. This is especially true when one considers certain preconceived thoughts and practices around
sustainable living
Even the smallest eco-friendly lifestyle shifts serve to make us feel good, and we can start associating a bit of identity with the practices that mirror the sort of world we want to see. But as we dive a bit deeper into the improvement of our daily habits, we may also learn that certain actions only seem better on the surface.
And then we change them again!
We know, we know—it's an endless cycle. To help kickstart your environmental action audit, here are four "eco-friendly" habits that aren't as beneficial as you might think.

Habits That Aren’t as Eco-Friendly as They Seem

Washing Dishes By Hand

Many of us were raised to keep the kitchen sink clean and free of dishes, and the old-school nature of cleansing dishes by hand seems, at first blush, like the most environmentally friendly option. But what many don't realize is that washing dishes in the dishwasher is not only more convenient but also more energy- and water-efficient.
"A dishwasher—especially a high-performing water-efficient, energy-efficient dishwasher—is going to be the way to go for most people,"
says Jonah Schein
, the national program manager for Homes & Buildings at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Program. "It's really hard to beat the efficiency of a dishwasher. A modern dishwasher uses somewhere between a gallon and a half to five gallons per cycle."

Silicone Food Storage Bowls

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Choosing Paper Over Plastic

Plastic items, especially plastic bags, have long been something of a poster product for single-use consumerism—so far in the U.S., eight states have banned plastic bags altogether. But though paper bags are indeed recyclable and biodegradable, their production stage results in
70 times more air pollution
50 times more water pollution
when compared to their plastic counterpart. Plus, paper products contribute to deforestation.
Plastic bags may take
up to 1,000 years
to degrade, but they're also more durable and reusable than paper bags, making the answer to which is the more sustainable option far less clear than we'd like. The next time you go to the grocery store, bring your trusty
reusable bag
—it's always the best choice.

3. Replacing Everything With Sustainable Products

eco-friendly habits
When transitioning into a more eco-conscious lifestyle, it can be tempting to immediately replace all single-use products with more sustainable alternatives. But often, the issue is more to do with our
than with the products themselves.
Though shopping at local refill stores and stocking up on sustainable products may make you feel like you're on a greener path, stick with what you have on hand until it is truly in need of a replacement. If not, your eco-overhaul is contributing to our
overcrowded landfills

4. Trusting Greenwashing Terms

is a marketing tactic employed to make consumers feel good about the products they're purchasing—even if said product has a significant environmental footprint. Look out for terms like “organic”—unless tied to the USDA certification—“natural,” or “sustainable,” as these buzzwords mean little sans external vetting. 
While researching every product and company may be a bit too time-consuming, use your best judgment when directing your dollar. Read through ingredients, get to know brands, and invest in products that you feel you can trust. Most importantly, if a company isn't known for its positive environmental impacts, that one “green” item likely… isn’t.