Wellness is an ongoing pursuit that involves diet, exercise, mental health and many other factors. But the activities that make us feel good might be causing harm to the planet without us even knowing. Here’s how. 

various crystals on a tree stump surrounded by leaves

Crystals

For those who feel a connection with Mother Earth, crystals are said to offer healing qualities, protection and the ability to calm the mind, among other benefits. While crystals are natural resources from the Earth, problems arise from how they are sourced. Many reports claim anything but safe working conditions for those harvesting the gems, with lax labor laws and many poverty-stricken areas being ruled by brutal military groups. In many countries, the industry is completely unregulated, which means in addition to the human cost, the planet is paying the price. Without oversight, mines can destroy animal habitats and cause extensive water pollution. In tropical areas, abandoned pits fill with stagnant water and create an inviting habitat for malaria-ridden mosquitos that contribute to the spread of disease. Although many retailers do their best to buy from reputable dealers, the supply chain is questionable at best with no transparency to truly know the path of the crystal you hold.

Related: Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact

Essential oils

small brown essential oil bottles surrounded by slices of orange, lime, seeds and herbs

For thousands of years, people have used plant oils to treat ailments, anxiety, headaches and much more. As the industry enjoys a resurgence, we wanted to peek into the production and waste components of essential oils, and what we found isn’t great news for the environment. Essential oils are naturally available from plants, some producing the oils on the outside and others storing it in pockets inside the plant. Regardless of the type of oil, it takes a lot of plants to source a single pound of oil. Many of these plants are grown on commercial farms with the same pesticide and water consumption concerns as other crops. Plus, if they are not native to the area, it can take more resources to keep them productive. For example, it takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to garner one pound of rose essential oil.

An even bigger issue is the post-consumer waste from essential oils. If thrown into the garbage, it contributes to overflowing landfills, and down the drain, it can create toxic water for fish and other wildlife. Additionally, many municipalities don’t allow recycling of the glass bottles because essential oils are classified as a flammable substance. In short, that means there is no great waste solution for millions of bottles of essential oils that should responsibly be recycled through toxic-waste collection events. To try cleaning up your act, look for native plants rather than those forced to grow in an area outside their normal habitat. Also, look for companies that offer a return program to recycle bottles. Alternately, source your own plants, being sure to check local regulations for your area.

Sheet masks

a white sheet mask on a blue background

Face masks hydrate and exfoliate, leaving your skin looking vibrant and healthy. However, the common practice of using sheet masks may not leave the planet so healthy in its wake. Starting with the production of millions of sheet masks, the carbon footprint begins to unfold. Plus, transport around the world further contributes to pollution and resource consumption. Then there is the post-consumer waste to consider. Most sheet mask packaging contains a combination of aluminum and plastic, making it unrecyclable, so it ends up in the trash. The thin plastic sheet that often accompanies the mask follows close behind. Finally, the sheet mask itself typically ends up in the landfill as well. Even bamboo and cotton options are often treated in a way that keeps them from being composted so they get tossed. Let’s be honest, sheet masks are marketed as single-use products and as such will continue to produce waste. But before you cut out your sheet mask treatment, consider purchasing brands with packaging made from recycled materials, composting or recycling options, or significantly reduced packaging waste as your first choice. You can also select 100% biodegradable masks.

Keto diet

a steak surrounded by loose seasoning and a sprig of herb

There seems to be a diet plan for every week of the year and Keto has made more than a few headlines with its low carb, high protein layout. But all that steak and butter comes at a cost to the planet. Meat is a high-polluting industry, consuming high quantities of drinking water as well as water for feed crops. Plus, it contributes to methane gas in the air. Even if livestock is not being raised for meat, the same problems occur when it comes to milk animals used for cream, butter and other fats. While many oils come from plants, the increase in livestock production equally contributes to greenhouse emissions. Put simply, raising plants is much better for the planet than raising cattle.

Hot yoga

a hot yoga studio with a sweaty person in the foreground

While it might be good for your body, hot yoga’s ramifications on the planet are less appealing. Classes take place in a studio, heated excessively by natural gas, electrical heat, propane or other sources. This alone contributes significantly to the studio’s carbon footprint. Additionally, lighting the studio, washing towels, cleaning and showers eat up additional resources. If you travel for your yoga class or retreat, the plane or car contributes to air pollution. To minimize your impact, look into mass transit and carpooling options or simply take your yoga class online. As another option, invest in carbon offsetting programs. Also be aware of the fabrics you wear to the gym, selecting organic fibers and options that will last for many years. Plus, invest in a quality yoga mat for long-term use.

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