These Household Favorites Have a Hidden Cost

October 1st, 2020

It’s no secret that modern inventions and technology have made our lives more convenient than ever. Single-serve coffee pods take the hassle out of preparing a pot. Plug-in air fresheners mean you never have to worry about odd odors. But, these conveniences can have a dark side, and some negatively affect our health; others, the environment. Here are some of the most common culprits that have unexpected costs, and some alternatives.

Disposable coffee pods and filters.

Keurigs were a revolution. However, the pods are difficult to recycle, meaning that K-cups (and other brands of pod coffees) end up in a landfill more often than not. Think about it: If you drink two cups of coffee per day, every day, you’re tossing more than 800 pods into the landfill. And when you think about how many people use them, it really adds up.

Even paper coffee filters make a lot of waste, whether you brew a conventional pot or a sophisticated drip. Fortunately, there are more sustainable alternatives. Look for fine mesh filters that can be washed and reused. They even make them specially for pod-based coffee makers!

Fruits and vegetables.

Yes, yes, it’s important to eat your fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, though, many fruits and vegetables are contaminated with pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 90% of strawberry, apple, nectarine, cherry, spinach, and kale samples contained residue of two or more pesticides. On the other hand, avocados, corn, pineapple, eggplants, asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli contained the fewest pesticides. 

Short of growing your produce yourself, pesticides are hard to avoid. Look for fruits and veggies on the “Clean Fifteen” list, or shop organic.


Mothballs’ distinct smell is what keeps the moths away. But this odor is caused by chemicals that turn into gas when they meet air. Not only can this gas irritate eyes and lungs, they can seriously affect children, too. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the dichlorobenzene and naphthalene used in mothballs are likely carcinogens. 

If you use mothballs to protect your sweaters, look for ones that don’t contain these chemicals. You can also try switching to an herbal alternative to keep moths away, such as sachets of lavender or thyme. Additionally, make sure to thoroughly air out clothing that has been stored with mothballs before wearing again. 

Detergents and fabric softeners

There’s nothing like sticking your face in a freshly-laundered pile of clothes and enjoying that warm, comforting scent. However, some of the things we put into our laundry isn’t just unnecessary—it actively ruins our fabrics. Most of us use too much detergent, and over time that can cause an uncomfortable build-up on fabric. Additionally, fabric softener, which coats fibers to make them feel softer, can also ruin the absorbency of things like towels. 

Instead, go easy on the detergent and consider skipping fabric softener altogether.

Air fresheners

It isn’t just mothballs. Many air fresheners also contain questionable chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can expect to find formaldehyde, petrochemicals, dichlorobenzene, and other aerosol pollutants in air fresheners. This means that if you plug in an air freshener in every room, you’re likely releasing pollutants into your home. Over time, this may exacerbate respiratory diseases and aggravate asthma. 

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