Eco Packaging is Not a Fad

Day 185 – More times than not the news about the state of the environment can be rather depressing. It does seem like an uphill battle. Thankfully, more and more companies are making changes to be more environmentally friendly. Many have started with their packaging choices.

Eco packaging can come in a variety of forms:

  1. Made from post consumer recycled (PCR) material – PCR is created by consumers after a product has reached the end of its use. The benefit of using post-consumer content is it reuses refuse in the manufacture of goods, preventing items from ending up in the landfill or needing to rely on raw materials.
  2. Compostable material – Compostable products are made from renewable resources such as corn or bamboo. Compostable products need the proper conditions to breakdown. A commercial compost facility is a place where the perfect balance of heat, moisture, and oxygen is created to break down organic and plant-based materials. Without this perfect ecosystem, compostable products don’t break down. If compostable products are disposed of in the trash, which is what people commonly do, they won’t break down.
  3. Recyclable material – Cardboard, paper, aluminum and glass are all more easily recycled than plastic.
  4. Biodegradable material – If something is biodegradable, then, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to its basic components and blend back in with the earth. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind. Some companies are beginning to use plant based packaging made of things like cornstarch, mushroom, sugarcane and coconut.
  5. Reusable packaging – Reusable packaging is packaging that can be used over and over again. Reusable packaging is key to a successful circular economy.

Kellogg’s – Kellogg’s already uses recyclable cardboard boxes for all of its cereal, and as part of their zero-deforestation pledge, most of these boxes are made from recycled carton board.

Lush – Lush makes handmade cosmetics using natural ingredients. Where possible, they use no packaging at all. For products that do require packaging, Lush uses sustainable, recycled materials for 90% of all packaging. Lush pots and packaging materials can also be recycled, composted or reused.

Colgate – Toothpaste tubes are usually made of a mix of materials that make them impossible to recycle. The company has been able to use high-density polyethylene to make a tube that can be recycled (much like milk cartons) but is also compatible with Colgate’s high-speed production equipment. The tube can even be ground up to be used to make something else.

Don Maslow Coffee – t’s using Elevate Packaging’s compostable films which are durable, yet moisture and oxygen resistant. As a result, every element of its coffee bags, including the seals, can be composted removing a huge amount of plastic from waste streams.

Alter Eco – Chocolate company Alter Eco has created wrappers, which are now fully compostable and non-toxic. The company spent three years developing the new material to ensure it protects the products as well as traditional packaging. It can be composted in industrial facilities but will also biodegrade if it ended up in the normal streams. Alter Eco has also created fully compostable stand-up pouches for its quinoa products.

Alima Pure – The certified B Corp sells its makeup in refillable compacts. So, when you’re done with your foundation (for example) just pop it out of the compact, then buy a refill magnetic pan filled with your desired new foundation and pop it in. Alima Pure is also proud to be carbon neutral and a member of 1% for the Planet.

Plaine Products – Plaine Products makes bath and body products packaged in aluminum bottles and eco-friendly shipping cartons. Plaine Products offers a refill program where you can send your bottle back to be refilled with product again and again, so you can save money and cut down on waste.

Who Gives a Crap – Their products are 100% plastic free and have options made from 100% recycled paper or 100% bamboo. Additionally, 50% of profits are donated to help build toilets for communities in need around the world. 

No Evil Foods – No Evil Foods sells a variety of small-batch, plant-based meat alternatives using sustainable ingredients. The brand’s innovative packaging uses fully compostable materials printed with plant-based ink.

Environmentally friendly packaging is out there, you just need to look for it. We also need to encourage more companies to use it.

Tomorrow, coming out of the pandemic and realizing that going back to “normal” is not an option.

What does a Circular Economy look like?

Day 172 – On Day 96, I wrote about the circular economy. However, I believe this topic deserves more attention. So, I’m writing again about the importance of a circular economy and what needs to be done to achieve one.

Sadly, 62% of consumers say that they are unfamiliar with the term “circular economy”. To better understand a circular economy, we need to understand a linear economy. In the linear economy, resources are extracted and turned into products that are disposed of at the end of their useful life. Many think that a circular economy is the same thing as recycling. Though, recycling is important, a circular economy involves so much more.

“The circular economy promotes the use of as many biodegradable materials as possible in the manufacture of products -biological nutrients- so they can get back to nature without causing environmental damage at the end of their useful life. When it is not possible to use eco-friendly materials -technical nutrients: electronics, hardware, batteries… – the aim is to facilitate a simple uncoupling to give them a new life by reintroducing them into the production cycle and compose a new piece. When this is not possible, it will be recycled in a respectful way with the environment.” – ActiveSustainability.com

In order for a circular economy to work, we need companies in critical sectors to improve their processes to make an impact.

  1. The Built Environment: Provide green renovation and the upgrade of buildings; improve building material recycling infrastructure.
  2. Plastics: Provide innovative alternatives and recycled packaging; improve the collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure.
  3. Fashion: Create rental and resale business models for clothing; improve the collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure.
  4. Food: Support farmer transition to regenerative agriculture; support food surplus and by-production collection and redistribution.

Consumers will also need to take action to support a circular economy.

  1. Buy less. Don’t just buy less stuff, buy less electricity; less house; fewer, smaller cars. Take only what you need.
  2. Buy better. When you shop, buy the best quality you can afford or buy secondhand. Prioritize quality over quantity.
  3. Use what you buy more. It’s not about how long something sits in your closet or garage before you pass it on. It’s about making full use of the resources you consume. Wear out your clothes, repair household items and refresh instead of replacing dated décor. And when you can’t get any more use out of an item, recycle it whenever possible.

Shifting to the circular economy would change the trajectory of our climate crisis and growing economic instability. Now is the moment to invest in a circular economy model. If everyone embraces this opportunity, the next generations will be able to enjoy the economic, environmental and societal benefits of sustainable living.

Tomorrow, reasons why we should be protecting the rainforests.

GotSneakers: Recycling shoes and raising funds

Day 151 – On Day 62, I gave a list of options to donate or recycle your shoes. Well today, I have another option for you. This one can bring you a little extra cash.

“At GotSneakers, we’re making it socially and financially rewarding to contribute to a circular economy with our FREE sneaker recycling programs for individual sellers and organizations of all types and sizes. When you join our sneaker recycling community, you will be making a global impact AND you will earn money for every pair of sneakers you contribute.” – GotSneakers

If your an individual seller, hosting a fundraiser, or part of a retail program, GotSneakers can fit your needs. Signup is easy and FREE. Just let GotSneakers know how many bags you need and if you need more they will send more. Once your bags arrive, fill them up with your sneakers (only sneakers), seal the bags and drop them off at either UPS or FedEx. Your prepaid postage will specify as to which service you will need to use.

All sneakers collected are recirculated to people who want quality, reusable footwear at affordable prices or repurposed into new surfaces such as playgrounds and tracks. Each pair will be professionally evaluated by GotSneakers’ trained staff, to determine the quality, style, and brand of each pair of footwear. You can check out the compensation chart HERE.

The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Monthly Recycle Popup, will be collecting sneakers, starting on June 19th. We will be using GotSneakers and hopefully raise a few dollars to put toward our recycling efforts.

Tomorrow, the problem with plastic toys.

Circular Economy: Eliminating waste and minimizing the use of resources

Day 96 – You find that your shampoo bottle is just about empty. So, you take it to your local store and refill the same bottle. No need to toss the old bottle and buy a new one.

You order takeout from your favorite restaurant and your food is given in reusable containers. When you bring back the containers, you get back the deposit that was paid when the order was placed. Those containers are then sanitized and used again for another order.

These two scenarios are examples of a circular economy. The circular economy is a closed loop system where the focus is on eliminating waste by reusing, recycling and refurbishment of equipment, products, machinery and infrastructure for a longer duration. Currently, only 9% of the world’s economy is circular. It’s calculated that the opportunity to profit from the conversion of the remaining 91% sits around $4.5 trillion.

A circular economy is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

A circular economy is not only good for the planet, but it is also beneficial to the companies implementing the system and for the consumers. Reusing resources is much more cost effective than creating them from scratch. As a result, production prices are reduced, so that the sale price is also lowered, thereby benefiting the consumer.

The days of the linear economy needs to come to an end. The planet can no longer withstand more waste. We have reached a threshold and changes need to be made. As consumers, we need to demand the use of a circular economy.

Image borrowed from H2AD.org

Many businesses are paving the way. From edible cutlery, to farm waste being used to create building material, companies are finding ways to reuse, reduce and recycle.

Loop is one example of companies that are using the circular economy system to bring grocery and household items to consumers. By offering their clients reusable containers, there is no waste produced from consuming these products.

So, what is preventing us from becoming a 100% circular economy?

Sadly, the answer is, us. Our behavior and attitude toward this type of economy needs to change. We need to stop buying new and tossing our unwanted items into the trash.

Image borrowed from H2AD.org

There are five actions that will help consumers to choose products and services that are better for the environment and, at the same time, provide monetary savings and an increased quality of life: (outlined by ECO Soluciones)

  • Promote energy savings as well as the efficiency, durability and recyclability of products.
  • Improve the enforcement of existing RULES on guarantees and tackle false “green claims.”
  • Support an increasing focus on “buying green” by governments and public bodies.
  • Improve reliable and adequate consumer information.
  • Increase the demand of products and services that are supportive of the circular economy, which will create new business opportunities.

The time is now! Help close the loop. Help save the planet.

Tomorrow, the effects of shipping our trash around the world.

National Geographic: 133 years old and still going strong

Day 27 – On January 27, 1888, National Geographic was founded in Washington D.C. Its purpose was for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”

As a kid, I had a subscription to National Geographic. Sadly, I was not a big reader and spent most of my time looking at all the beautiful pictures. I dreamed of working for National Geographic one day. I figured I would probably have to be a photographer, because I was not the best writer.

Fast forward 35 years, I’m still dreaming of being a National Geographic photographer and I’m still enjoying the National Geographic magazine. The only difference, I’m reading a few more articles now. And it’s those articles that have given me a glimpse into the vast world around me. Giving me a window into places and people, I may never have a chance to see for myself.

National Geographic has also been a wonderful resource in my journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. They have covered every topic imaginable when it comes to having a more environment friendly way of living.

Here are a few of my favorite articles:

  1. You Can Help Turn the Tide on Plastic. Here’s How
  2. How People Make Only a Jar of Trash a Year
  3. Closing the circle on waste
  4. The business of nature
  5. Do You Know How to “Go Green”?

So, on this National Geographic Day, I encourage you to spend a little time reading one (or many) of their great articles and be sure to check out the amazing pictures.

Tomorrow, a clock that everyone should keep an eye on.