5 Things That You Think Are Good for the Environment (Which Aren’t)

Today, everyone feels the need to do their part in taking care of the environment. We’ve all seen the documentaries, and we’ve all read the warnings from scientists about climate change. Collectively, we’re trying to protect the environment. But some activities that we’ve always accepted as “good for the environment” actually aren’t.

That doesn’t mean we give up on protecting and preserving the environment. It means we have to do even more to ensure our impact on the world is as positive as possible. Let’s look at five of the most common things that people have considered good for the environment, which actually aren’t.


Yes, you read that correctly. Recycling isn’t the bastion of environmental goodwill that we’ve so long considered it. However, the problem doesn’t lie directly with recycling. It lies more in the cost of recycling. While reusing items is always good for the environment, getting those items from point A to point B in the recycling process isn’t.

Related: Sustainable vs. Recycled: Which Paper is Best?

Scientific American notes that recycling costs are increasing, forcing recycling companies to spend more energy, powered by fossil fuels, on recycling activities. While we’re not advocating that you stop recycling entirely, it might be worth it to consider how you can recycle the vast majority of products at your own home.

Organic Food

Organic food is all the rage these days, but what impact does it have on the environment? The environmental destruction by the agriculture industry is well-documented, but is the same true for organic food?

According to U.S. News, the answer is yes.

“Organic food has a larger impact on the climate than conventional food because of the greater area of land required to farm it,” writes Alexa Lardieri. “A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that farming organic food can result in much higher emissions than non-organic farming.”

While organic food might be better for you, it’s not better for the environment on a large scale.

All-Natural Products

In the same vein as organic food, all-natural products aren’t always as environmentally friendly as we’d like them to be. The problem is, according to Green Living Tips, all-natural products tend to add ingredients that don’t actually do anything to enhance the product. They just allow the producer to slap the “all-natural” label on the packaging. This leads to overharvesting and increased use of natural resources that didn’t need to be used in the first place.

Grocery Bags

This one’s going to be hard for a lot of people to swallow. Plastic and paper grocery bags have been banned in numerous cities, both in the US and internationally. Reusable bags are supposed to be more environmentally friendly, right?

That’s not true. According to Discover Magazine, the issue with reusable bags is the same issue that plagues a lot of environmental initiatives – energy costs. The energy and resources needed to create one reusable bag aren’t worth it, even in the long run.

For your paper or plastic-based tote bag to be worth the environmental cost of producing it, you’d have to use it between 35 and 85 times. Is that possible? Only if you don’t need to replace the bag at some point, lose it, or decide that you need more bags for your shopping trips.

Cotton is even worse. Any tote bag made from cotton would have to be used 7,100 times to make up for whatever resources were used to produce it, and an organic cotton bag would need to be used 20,000 times. To put that in perspective, per Discover Magazine, you’d have to use that organic cotton bag twice a week for 192 years to make it worth its environmental production costs.


Cars, of course, aren’t good for the environment. But neither is upgrading from a vehicle with good-to-great gas mileage to a hybrid that touts better gas mileage. The environmental costs of producing a new vehicle, not to mention the mining of rare-earth minerals needed for batteries in hybrid cars, far outweigh using your current vehicle until it’s absolutely necessary to upgrade.

It might seem overwhelming to learn that so many activities we’ve thought of as environmentally friendly actually aren’t. However, you can use this knowledge to alter your impact on the world and come up with creative ideas that solve the problem instead of adding to it. One such way is to use sustainably-sourced paper products, like those we make here at Double A. To learn more, click here.