How we pollute the environment

Little things you do that pollute the environment, even though you (might) not realise they do

Society Nature

Leaving the tap running while you brush your teeth, drinking bottled water and throwing chewing gum on the ground. These, and other everyday habits show that we are sometimes unaware of how we pollute the environment. Learn about the small daily habits you can change to benefit the planet.

Not long ago, we thought that nature was not only wise, but also indestructible. We believed it could overcome, volcanoes, ice ages and meteorites as destructive as 10 billion atomic bombs. However, in the 21st century we are faced with images of a planet being choked by oceans of plastic, with melting icecaps and parched forests becoming deserts. The evidence is there: the planet is on the edge of an abyss and we are going down with it.

How we pollute the environment

We are breaking a terrible record, one that has never occurred in the history of mankind. Animals and plants are becoming extinct thousands of times faster than they have done in the last 500 million years and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), if we don't do something about it now, within a century we will have lost 67% of the currently endangered fauna and 99.9% will be in serious danger of extinction.

According to a study conducted by the University of Aarhus in Denmark in 2018, the damage will be so devastating that the planet will need between 3 and 5 million years to recover from the sixth mass extinction in history and the first caused by mankind. The effects of development, agriculture and industrial livestock farming, forest destruction and CO2 emissions, among other actions, are speeding up the loss of biodiversity due to global warming, desertification and the pollution of oceans and rivers.

The key figures of global warming


Temperature of the planet

Due to mankind’s activities, in 2017 the temperature of the planet was already 1ºC higher than it was before the industrial revolution


Sea level

The global sea level has risen 20 cm since 1880 and it is expected to rise an additional 30 - 122 cm by 2100


Global CO₂ emissions must be reduced to zero by 2050 to limit heating to 1.5 ºC


A bold climate action could generate at least 26 billion dollars in profits by 2030


Paris Agreement

It covers a third of the CO₂ reductions needed to keep the world below 2°C


Energy industry

It will create more than 18 million jobs related to sustainable energy by 2030

10 everyday activities that pollute

We are all responsible for global warming. We habitually use things that pollute the environment without knowing it and we need to avoid them at all cost. For example:

  Using aerosol deodorants
Aerosols damage air quality, although, according to a 2018 article in scientific journal Nature Communications, their effects on temperature vary according to the part of the world where they are used.

  Bottled water
Plastic water bottles take 500 years to break down and they release microparticles which are dangerous to health.

  Throwing chewing gum on the ground
Chewing gum consists primarily of neutral plastic and, as well as littering the streets, it chokes and kills many birds who mistake it for food.

  Washing with the tap running
Scientists from North Carolina State University (USA) Have calculated that we would save over 1,400 litres per person per month just by turning off the tap when we wash our hands and brush our teeth.

  Eating foods that contain palm oil
Chewing gum consists primarily of neutral plastic and, as well as littering the streets, it chokes and kills many birds who mistake it for food.

  Leaving cigarette butts on the beach
This is the most commonly found waste on the coast, they take up to 10 years to break down and release contaminating metals.

  Throwing disposable wipes down the toilet
These do not break down like toilet paper and they are responsible for most blockages in water treatment plants and sewers.

  Releasing helium balloons into the air
This is extremely dangerous to birds, fish and other marine animals that can choke if they eat them by mistake.

  Throwing batteries in the rubbish
They contain mercury — one of the most toxic metals in the world — and take 500 to 1,000 years to break down. Just one battery can contaminate up to 3,000 litres of water.

  Throwing away plastic six-pack ring carriers without cutting them up
These plastic rings trap animals like fish and turtles, causing mutilation, malformation and even death.

Actions that protect the environment

Now we are aware of how we are damaging the environment, we need to find solutions and change our habits. Here are some suggestions from the United Nations (UN):

  Separate your waste: don't mix your household waste, separate everything into different containers.

  Recycle and reuse: stop using single-use plastics and always choose packaging and items that can be reused several times. Before you throw something away, think whether you can give it a second use.

  Save energy: make use of natural light, install LED bulbs, switch off lights you don't need, adjust your thermostat and air conditioning.

  Eat organic food: buy fruit and vegetables free from fertilisers and other pollutants.

  Turn off taps: ensure they are not dripping when you finish washing up or washing.

  Use sustainable means of transport: walk, pedal or user public transport whenever you can.

  Do not use single-use bags: use cotton bags instead of plastic and paper ones.

  Fill your house with flowers: plants and trees produce oxygen and are essential to nature.