sustainable bags myth

Common Sustainability Myths

Rachel Lark - February 8, 2023

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There are some common misconceptions about sustainability that may be holding you back from doing your part to help the environment. When you don’t know enough about a topic, you can easily fall prey to such myths that can do more harm than good. 

Common Myths About Sustainability

These sustainability myths are common and easily misunderstood. Don’t feel ashamed for believing them– we’ve all been there. These are just some of the misconceptions regarding sustainability. 

There are more out there, so do your research before you dive into what you think is sustainable. Any efforts are applauded and appreciated, but the end goal is to help our environment. Ensure you know what and how you are helping our planet when being sustainable.

Being sustainable is essential to the nature of our planet and the natural disasters we could face if we don’t step up our game. Here are some sustainability myths that may have led you astray and can help you either get back on track or begin your sustainability journey. 

1. Water Cans Are Better Than Water Bottles

Plastic water bottles are harmful to the environment, but cans aren’t a better alternative. Cans are just as damaging to the environment as water bottles are, so opting to drink water out of a can instead of a plastic bottle isn’t a method of practicing sustainability. Because aluminum is easy to recycle, people assume cans are better than bottles. However, 30% of aluminum cans aren’t recyclable materials. 

If the market for cans continues to grow with ideas like can preference over bottles, there won’t be enough recycled materials to meet demand. If you want a more sustainable option than plastic water bottles, drink out of a reusable bottle. Consume tap water instead of buying bottled water. If you don’t like the way your tap water tastes or you’re concerned about chemicals, get a water purifier to keep in your fridge. Tap water is a much safer alternative for our planet than cans or bottles of water, but if you must choose between them– cans and bottles are pretty evenly matched. 

2. Sustainability Is a Phase

Recycling is not pointless and sustainability is not a trend. It’s gaining traction, not the other way around. It is not on its way out– it’s rising in popularity due to our environmental crisis. Fast fashion is harmful not only to the environment but to smaller e-commerce brands as well. 

Gen Z claims they cannot afford higher-priced clothing that caters to protecting our environment by using natural resources and more sustainable efforts. Fast fashion overproduces clothing that largely contributes to the growing climate crisis. Sustainable fashion should be the industry’s future, not just a passing trend or fad. 

Some companies have always cared about their environmental impact, but consumer awareness is making it more real. There are many sustainable alternatives to products that you can use to reduce your carbon footprint. Shop consciously and less to be more eco-friendly– don’t contribute to fast fashion brands like Shein that just stand to gain a profit no matter what their business does to the environment. 

3. Sustainability Is Expensive 

Although the cost of raw materials is higher than traditional products, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be sustainable. Sustainability essentially means using less of everything. You can use what you already have and think more critically about your future purchases to be sustainable. Instead of rushing out to buy more sustainable options like more energy-efficient windows, see what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint with things you already own. 

You can be sustainable on a budget. Use less water and turn down your thermostat. Buy in-season produce and opt for paperless bills. Organic products are often higher in price due to their raw materials, but some have higher costs for marketing purposes. Be careful with what you buy and don’t believe every label or tag you read in the grocery store. Do your research to see if products are what they claim to be before buying into what could be a marketing scheme.

4. Paper Is Better Than Plastic

Amidst the plastic pollution crisis, using paper bags may seem to be the more appealing and eco-friendly selection. However, paper bags are just as harmful to the environment as plastic ones are. Paper bags are heavy and cost more to transport than plastic bags. It takes four times as much energy to produce a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic one. Paper bags are less durable than plastic bags, so they are likely not used more than once. 

The only thing sustainable about paper bags is that the material is recyclable, but there are still components used in the manufacturing process that are harmful to the environment. Plastic bags are more damaging to the environment after you use them, but that doesn’t make them any more or less sustainable than paper. Reusable bags are the most sustainable option for your shopping experience. 

5. Clothes Are Easily Recycled 

Clothes are not as easily recycled as you are led to believe. Recycling clothing can be differentiated into upcycling and downcycling, where clothes get recycled into fibers primarily used for carpets and insulation. Upcycling turns the garment into a new article of clothing. Polyester and cotton fabrics must be separated during the recycling process to be turned into new clothing items, which makes the process more difficult. 

One of the myths about sustainable fashion is that you should purchase eco-friendly brands. Buying a pair of jeans and then getting rid of them impacts climate change just as much as upcycling into a new pair. Most items that are donated end up in landfills, so be more cautious of the clothes you purchase so you won’t want to get rid of them. Buy clothing secondhand and donate your clothes to stores that resell them to sustainable buyers. 

Sustainability Myths

Sustainability myths are harmful because they can easily be believed and hold people back from doing their part to save our environment. Don’t be easily persuaded to believe something without doing a little research. Inform yourself about sustainable efforts so you can practice sustainability confidently and encourage others to do the same. 

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.