The past year has really brought home two indelible truths: we can get by with much less than we think we need and our impact on the environment can come back and bite us in ways we never expected. If you haven’t yet started making changes in your spending habits, this year is as good as any to become more mindful of what you’re buying. Not only will it reduce your negative impact on the environment and make you a more responsible citizen of the world but it will also save you money. To help you get started, here are 20 things you should stop buying in 2021.
1 / 20
Single-use face masks
Like them or not, face masks have become a part of our lives: so much so that you can now get designer masks selling for hundreds of dollars, and even scented face masks. If you can wear your mask as a fashion statement, why would you then buy disposable, single-use ones in boring white or blue instead? There are other, more important reasons to invest in reusable masks instead. Like all things single-use, single-use face masks are fast becoming an environmental problem and the Government of Canada recommends that you avoid them. Also, they become a biohazard but unlike hospitals, most of us don’t have ways to properly dispose of what is essentially medical waste. It’s best to leave those medical-grade disposable masks for health workers and learn how to properly wash your reusable mask instead.
2 / 20
Plastic drinking straws
With bans already in place in some cities and a countrywide ban in the works, it’s best to ditch the plastic drinking straw habit early on. These straws just end up in landfills or worse, in our waterways and oceans, where they become a major hazard for wildlife. If you really need to drink your superfood power smoothie through a straw, invest in a reusable one. Besides, you can get steel or silicone straws that are slightly wider than most plastic ones, making it easier to sip that smoothie.
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3 / 20
With much of the world still implementing travel restrictions and countries going on lockdown at short notice, flight insurance probably sounds like a great idea. However, you’re really just wasting money, since most of the best credit cards for 2021 already have extensive travel insurance included as part of the package. Also, if there’s a reasonable chance that your flight might be cancelled because of the pandemic, should you be flying in the first place?
4 / 20
Of course it sounds like a great idea to get a hot tub installed on the balcony but is it really worth the money? The truth is that it probably isn’t. You’ll burn lots of calories keeping it clean but all that upkeep will quickly drain the joy out of it just like last night’s water. It’s not a great idea to have a bunch of friends over to sit and simmer in one another’s skin juices either, so the only way to really get an enjoyable but safe soak is on your own or with your partner: something you can do just as well in the bathtub.
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5 / 20
There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to that pepperoni pizza once in a while but eating processed meats regularly can wreak havoc on your body. Because they’re super high in sodium and all kinds of nasty additives, they’re linked to some of the most common health concerns in Canada, including certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They’ve also been linked to listeriosis outbreaks, including Canada’s deadliest, which killed 22 people, and the world’s deadliest, which killed over 200 people.
6 / 20
Be honest: would you really be able to tell the difference between an expensive Bordeaux wine and a decent Canadian one? Or a Scotch whisky that cost $50 versus one that cost $200? Forking out far too much for top-shelf alcohol makes even less sense if you’re going to add mixers to your drinks.
7 / 20
Even though Canadians seem to have caught on to the fact that buying bottled water is bad for the environment, statistics show that we are buying more enhanced water every year. So, we’re still adding more and more plastic water bottles to the environment but these ones have fancier labels. Most enhanced drinks don’t really have the kind of added nutrients that would make a difference to your body. Electrolytes – which you need to replenish when you feel the signs that you’re dehydrated – are easy enough to add to the water in your reusable water bottle through electrolyte powders or natural sources like salt or a squeeze of lemon juice.
8 / 20
If you’re healthy, popping an immune-boosting supplement with megadoses of vitamins and minerals won’t really give you a stronger immune system. At best, you’ll just pee out the excess nutrients. At worst, they can harm you: depending on the vitamin or mineral, symptoms of overdose may include anything from diarrhea to hair loss and anemia. In young children, too much iron can even cause death. The best way to boost your immune system is through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
See also: These 20 foods will boost your immune system.
9 / 20
Pre-cut and bagged fruit and vegetables
Fresh fruit and veggies are essential items on your healthy grocery checklist but it’s time to stop buying them pre-cut or bagged, unless it’s an emergency. For one thing, it’s just more unnecessary packaging that will end up in the landfill. There’s also the fact that you can never be certain whether those salad leaves were properly washed in clean water or whether the people handling those carrot sticks followed the proper hygiene protocols. Buying your fruit and veggies loose and then cutting them up yourself is not only better for the environment and your health but also for your wallet.
10 / 20
Tea bags are convenient but did you know that they can give you more than a nice cup of tea? Many brands of tea bags in Canada contain plastic, either in the bag itself or in the seal, and steeping these tea bags releases microplastics into your cup – not to mention what they release into the environment. If you want to be certain that you’re avoiding plastic tea, invest in a reusable fabric bag or a mesh tea strainer and buy loose leaf tea.
Related: 20 best teas to steep for your health.
11 / 20
Second-hand upholstered furniture
Of course you don’t want to buy the same IKEA furniture as everyone else but buying second-hand upholstered furniture is one of the biggest thrift-store mistakes you can make. Never mind the potential for bedbugs: those old couches and chairs often contain flame-retardant chemicals that are so harmful that they’ve since been banned in Canada. There are plenty of stores that sell furniture that’s not only affordable but safe. Alternatively, you’ll find lots of hacks to personalize IKEA pieces.
12 / 20
When your skin feels dry and itchy, it may need some exfoliation. However, store-bought body scrubs aren’t always the best solution. Some contain plastic microbeads that you don’t want to release into the environment. Others contain ingredients like apricot kernels or salt crystals that can cause microscopic tears in your skin, making it more prone to infection. Products with chemical exfoliants are often better for your skin but if you prefer the mechanical way, get working on your skin with a clean washcloth.
13 / 20
If you spent most of last year unable to go to the gym, you’ll probably understand why spending your money on a new gym membership this year might not be the best idea. You’ll never know when new restrictions close the gym again and even if the gym is open, it’s not exactly the healthiest place to be in the time of Covid. Of course the WHO wants you to exercise during the pandemic but you don’t need the gym for that: simply going for regular, brisk walks will already do wonders for your fitness level.
14 / 20
Trampolines became one of 2020’s surprise hits as people bought them to keep the kids busy during isolation. They’re also great for a fun, intensive, full-body workout but let’s be honest: they can be dangerous. Bouncing on a trampoline can give you stiff muscles and maybe a bruise or two. However, they can also cause more serious injuries, from sprains to spinal cord injuries that can leave you paralyzed or even kill you, in extreme scenarios.
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15 / 20
Unless they’re completely natural, most commercial air fresheners contain harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde and phthalates, which can mess with your endocrine system. If you want your home to smell nice, you can make your own air fresheners by using essential oils or simply place fresh or dried flowers and herbs in strategic spots. Avoid using essential-oil diffusers if you have pets, though.
16 / 20
Shaving products for women
The truth is that there’s not much difference between shaving products for men or for women, whether they are razors, shaving gels or creams or electric shavers. Manufacturers and retailers in Canada seem to have listened when women raised the issue of the pink tax, so there’s not much of a price difference between razors for men and razors for women. However, there’s still a significant difference in what you’ll pay for shaving gel or cream for women than the ones labelled "for men", for instance, even though they do the same thing.
17 / 20
Mothballs are a godsend for storing your clothes until next season or want to protect the linen in your cottage until summer comes. But that mothball smell that hits you when you open a closet? That’s the smell of a bunch of nasty chemicals like naphthalene and p-dichlorobenzene, which can cause all kinds of health problems, including liver damage. If you really want to protect your clothes and linen, the best is to invest in some airtight containers to store them in.
18 / 20
Dryer sheets may make your clothes smell great but they contain a cocktail of chemicals that can cause irritation. If you can’t dry your clothes naturally, you can reduce dryer time by adding a dryer ball – one of those items that will save you hundreds of dollars over time – or simply a dry towel. A few drops of essential oil will add the aroma you’re after.
19 / 20
Disposable menstrual products
Even when they’re the kind made of 100% organic cotton, disposable pads and tampons are still bad for the environment. If you don’t dispose of them properly, they end up in landfills and waterways and are a biohazard just like the kind that contains chemicals. And even though Canada got rid of the tampon tax, paying for a new pack of pads or tampons every month adds up. Be kind to the environment and to your wallet by investing in reusable menstrual products instead: a menstrual cup or disc, cloth pads or period panties, for instance.
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20 / 20
The best shows to watch during your introvert time are even better when you can watch them on a quality TV screen. The two main TV technologies available to most of us are LCD and OLED. At the moment, Samsung is working on a new technology that will combine the best of LCD and OLED. The company plans to stop producing LCD panels by the end of 2021 and their new QD-OLED TVs should become available in 2022.
Written ByDoug Murray