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Convenience is a staple of modern society. These days it seems there is a simple solution to every problem and there is no task that broken down to a single step with the help of technology. Just think – when was the last time you hand-washed every item of clothing you own? Just throw the whole heap of dirty laundry in the washing machine and with a press of a button, problem solved. It’s rather amazing to think back and consider all the time people in the “olden days” used to spend performing the tasks we don’t even think twice about these days!

But with all of the inventions of modern convenience, we have begun to forget that convenience for us, may not necessarily mean convenience for the planet. What we’re talking about here is the “disposable” craze, the fad that has capitalized on the human love for convenience and created a plethora of items that are super convenient but also incredibly wasteful. One of the small joys of living in a culture of convenience is not having to think about making your own coffee, or not having to worry about the stack of dirty dishes after a big meal – because, everything can be tossed away into a trash can and disappear from our minds completely.

The danger with this habit of “forgetting” the trash is that after a while things start to build up. In the United States alone, it is estimated that one person generates one million pounds of garbage a year. Knowing this statistic, the fact that we are running out of landfill space becomes quite understandable. So for a moment let’s take a look into the things we often don’t think twice about throwing into the trash to save us some time and consider whether or not a few minutes is really worth trashing the planet.

1. Coffee Pods

Mornings are hard … seriously, we understand. So, the allure of the single brew coffee machine that allows you to skip the step of measuring out two (massive) scoops of coffee grounds, is quite understandable. The down side is that every time you make a single cup of coffee you are left with a little plastic pod that ends up in the trash. If you drink two cups a day, thats 14 pods per week – throw in a few more house-hold coffee drinkers and that number can easily total out to 40+ little pods accumulated in the trash. In fact, in 2013, the coffee maker, Green Mountain, produced 8.3 billion single brew coffee pods … that’s enough to circle the earth 10.5 times.

Try This Instead

A reusable single brew coffee pod. This mini-reusable coffee filter allows you to brew a single cup of coffee, without the waste. All you have to do is throw in your grinds and press start!

15 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

2. Coffee Sleeves

Another invention to make the consumption of coffee more enjoyable for all – the coffee sleeve. This handy circle of paper/cardboard makes drinking extremely hot coffee, on the go bearable. You probably don’t even think twice about grabbing one to slip around your hot drink anymore, so shops even pre-sleeve the cup for you! It is estimated 14 billion cups of coffee are served every year with an accompanying coffee sleeves, which equals out to 2.8 billion pounds of trash that ends up in landfills. Yikes. Most people throw out the sleeve along with the cup. While it may appear that cups are made of recyclable paper, the plastic and wax inner lining is not recyclable in most communities. In fact, only about 39 percent of Starbucks locations are equipped with the appropriate recycling bins that ensure their cups do not end up in landfills. So, remember, if the cup isn’t recycled, the sleeve won’t be either!

Try This Instead

A reusable coffee sleeves (yes, they exist). There are many companies who make reusable coffee sleeves that you can even customize. Or, to save a few dollars you can save the sleeve and reuse every time you get coffee.

15 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

3. Cotton Swabs

These little tools have a myriad of uses (one of our favorites is using these to entertain cats) but they’re pretty wasteful. Every year, Unilever manufactures 25.5 billion Q-tips. And that’s only one of the countless brands out there.

Try This Instead

The best bet is to skip the Q-tip entirely for cleaning your ears – it’s bad for them anyway! But for all the other reasons you use cotton swabs, consider getting a washable, reusable make-up applicator.

15 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

4. Plastic Cups

Unlike standard drinking glasses, plastic cups do not break when you drop them, and they do not require any sort of special cleaning – just insert in trash when done. But did you know it takes a plastic cup around 80 years to decompose? A minute of clean-up for you … over half-a-century of clean up for the planet. Oh man.

Try This Instead

There are a ton of alternatives to plastic cups, you might consider a reusable water bottle, or a mason jar.

15 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

5. Plastic Produce Bags

Well, if you thought 80 years was a long time for plastic cups to decompose was bad, get ready for another shock … it takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to compose. It is estimated that the U.S. alone goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags every year! While most people consider how wasteful plastic grocery bags are, and opt to go for canvas totes, plastic produce bags are still a go-to when shopping for fruits and vegetables. Let’s say you use a minimum of four bags for different produce on every trip to the grocery store, at least 200 plastic bags are added to the trash cycle every year.

Try This Instead

Did you know they make cloth produce bags? Check out Reuseit.com for options!

12 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

6. Plastic Straws

Everything tastes better through a straw, right? Well get ready to spit out that last sip of liquid you just sucked through that plastic tube … 500 MILLION straws are used in the United States everyday. These plastic straws find their way into the ocean and are incredibly harmful to marine life, like sea turtles, who accidentally ingest them.

Try This Instead

Glass straws! These are not only much more attractive then their plastic alternative, but they are much less wasteful. There are also stainless steel straws that are great for people who are worried about breaking glass straws.

10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

7. To-Go Containers

Getting food to-go and eating it straight from the container can be a lifesaver when you’re starving but have no ingredients to make a meal in your house (we’ve all been there). The down side of this convenience is the exorbitant amount of plastic waste that all those containers can add up to. In 2009, disposable plastic take out meal items generated 13 million tons of waste in the United States.

Try This Instead

Bring your own containers when getting take-out, if you call before hand and ask restaurants are much happier to oblige. For your everyday storage needs try glass containers (mason jars work wonders!).

10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

8. Disposable Pens

If you were to look through your bag right now, how many disposable pens could you find? One from the restaurant you just went to, a couple hotel pens, one from a bank … the list goes on and on. And you’re not alone. According to the EPA, 1.6 billion disposable pens are thrown out every year. Maybe it’s time to think twice before you take the one you used to sign that receipt, huh?

Try This Instead

Opt for a pen that can be refilled when the ink runs out. Or go digital, you write notes to your friends on Facebook anyway, so just make all your note-taking a digital affair.

10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful


9. Disposable Razors

Did you know plastic razors aren’t actually recyclable? If you’ve ever experienced what happens when a disposable razor gets left in the shower for a few days (hello, rust city) you know how frequently they need to be replaced. In fact, about two billion of these shaving tools are dumped in landfills every year! And you thought razor burn was painful…

Try This Instead

Look for a stainless steel razor that comes with replacement blades, not only do these last WAY longer, but the blades can be recycled when they go dull.

10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful

10. Sticky Notes

Sticky notes might be great for leaving subtle reminders for yourself and friends – but they are definitely not great for the world’s forests. Unlike the other items that made this list, sticky notes earn themselves the title of “super wasteful” because they cause large scale deforestation. Nearly 90 football fields of forest have been clear cut in the U.S. to produce 3M sticky notes. We suggest moving reminders to your phone calendar instead.

Try This Instead

Keep a notebook made of recycled materials, this will ensure all  your little notes are in a place you can actually find them and it will reduce the need for a million one-inch paper squares. But if you’ve already decided to ditch the disposable pen and go digital, chances are you computer has a “sticky note” app that will allow you to keep digital reminders for yourself.

10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful


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0 comments on “10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful”

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1 Years Ago

So true... I have to add to the list: Golf Courses, Hotel Soap, and Grass Lawns. These all could be handled better...

I wrote a blog post on this, hopefully it adds to the discussion!

Vonda Lavway
4 Years Ago

I save 2 or 3 of the disposable coffee sleeves and keep them in my car. They don\'t usually give you one unless you ask so you can recycle them and save a lot of waste...and maybe help with the cost of future coffees as well!

15 Sep 2014

This is a great list! You mention coffee pods and coffee sleeves... but what about the disposable coffee cups themselves!? Consumers let convenience trump the fact that these single-use cups take a huge toll on the environment. We need to start embracing the "reduce, reuse" mentality with so many things, including the ten you pointed out here!

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