We all know that humans, in general, are extremely wasteful. We are continually squandering natural resources to produce things we don’t need. And once we don’t need something, it gets tossed aside where it might take millions of years to biodegrade, but only a short time to have a negative impact on the habitats of local fauna. We’re constantly told not to use plastic bags, to avoid wasting paper and so on, that being environmentally responsible becomes a difficult challenge, so much so that we’re not sure if we can safely get out of bed without inflicting some kind of damage on the environment.

There are certain things we can do which don’t really require any thought or effort on our part at all. It is possible to live greener lives without thinking about it. Here are some ideas as to how:

Firstly, many people have switched to electric toothbrushes in order to avoid wasting so much plastic in the form of manual toothbrushes, which end up on beaches around the world. The problem with this is that, while it saves plastic, it creates a different type of waste, which is not as large in scale, but is equally as serious, and that is the environmental effect of discarded nickel cadmium batteries. The environmental damage caused by cadmium pollution is extensive – it can contaminate crops and poison shellfish and wild animals. This cycle continues to affect human health through consumption of those crops and foods. This primarily causes damage to our liver and kidneys, although those who live near cadmium-polluted areas can suffer damage to their lungs. As cadmium is a known carcinogen, the likelihood of developing cancer in those who ingest cadmium in their diets or inhale it, raises to the same risk that a regular smoker has.

In order to reduce this type of pollution, you can avoid electric toothbrushes which use nickel cadmium batteries and switch to one of several choices which use lithium ion batteries. These batteries last longer, which is better for you and reduces the amount of batteries going into landfill. This means that every time you clean your teeth, you are doing a favor to the environment. You don’t even need to remember that fact, but you can feel guilt-free the next time some greenie starts lecturing everyone.

In some countries, the government forces customers who want to use plastic bags to take their shopping home in, to pay a small charge for them. This is intended to have the effect of reducing consumption of these bags, which are often used once and then thrown into landfill – a tremendous waste of energy and resources. Customers have learned to carry their own baskets to the supermarket, which they can reuse over a much longer period of time.

However, in many countries – especially in the Far East – customers find themselves practically buried under plastic bags whenever they buy anything. Due to cultural preferences, retailers, supermarkets and convenience stores often wrap purchased items several times before allowing the customer to pay and leave. Of course, the first thing the customer then does is to unwrap the layers of paper and plastic and throw them straight into the garbage. The scale of this waste is mind-boggling, as it happens 24 hours a day, for every single transaction, for billions of people, every day of every year.

You can, of course, adopt the recent Western habit of carrying a basket with you when you make your purchases, but you will have to take care every time you want something, to instruct the cashier not to wrap it at all for you. If you can do this, that’s excellent and it would be great if it caught on.

Alternatively, you can use the plastic bags to line your own trash cans at home, so they at least get one extra usage before they are thrown into landfill. Even better, have them recycled. Some municipalities tell their denizens that such bags cannot be recycled – what they mean is they don’t have a structure set up to deal with them. You can find a local recycling center for plastic bags and try to arrange for them to collect from your neighborhood. Then you can relax and get back to normal.