There’s this new term in town, a new wave of options and you might not be following what’s going on. Sustainable – it’s a big name, but what does in actually mean? Sustainable products – zero waste home is a trend, but how does it fit into the modern world. Technology brought many good things with it, the development of our modern culture relied greatly on advances that could not have been imagined without the technology we unfolded. One of the greatest discoveries of our generation is plastic.
Plastic is one of the refined products of oil and is applied in the most varied ways in our daily activities. 90% of what an urban resident touches today is made out of plastic, even your wooden furniture sometimes presents a plastic layer to increase it is durability. But, is that a problem? Plastic is the modern’s man best friend – but it also carries the stigma of being an urban villain.
Nowadays more than 9 million tons of plastic is released to the oceans yearly and the problem has grown into a scope that we are still figuring out. The problem is so alarming that entities from all across the globe are joining forces seeking to solve or at least contain it. In this sense, you will find more and more campaigns like the “Planet or plastic?” promoted by National Geographic urging the population to be more aware of their waste and help spread the information. It is a growing concern everywhere. From the recycling bins, you see gaining space in urban areas, to the governmental actions of banning plastic bags in supermarket and stores.
Even worse, don’t be alarmed if in the process of getting informed you stumble upon researches like the one presented by Barboza et al. (2018) stating that we are now reinserting plastic in our food chain in form of microplastic due to all the pollution rates that keep spiking up. It is nearly chaotic. The damage and health problems that will come from all this pollution is hard to estimate and we fear not just for our health, but for the health of our future generations
Is it Sustainable?
That’s where Sustainable comes in. Sustainability is the concept of promoting development, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet the needs of future generations (Giovanni and Fabietti, 2014). A sustainable product, therefore, is a product that from it is a concept to application ensures that it will not compromise future generations from achieving or completing the same tasks. Wait, what?
A Sustainable Product is “green”, it is composed of long-lasting renewable materials. For example, instead of immediately purchasing plastic kitchenware, you can give preference to bamboo, wool, or leather materials. All the three come from renewable sources, the energy and resources used for fabrication of these are restored within the natural environmental cycles. On the other hand, the plastic that would be used for the same material depends on oil, and oil takes eras to process and become the material we extract from the soil nowadays. In fact, the decomposing cycle that transforms organic matter into the black fluid that we now and apply in so many varied ways take billions of years to complete – and that is not sustainable.
Some might say that it is. Some might fight back the sustainability concept justifying that eventually the oil reservoirs will restore themselves and it will be available in some time in the future again. But that does not guarantee that our next generations will ever live to explore that resource again. So, in sum, that is not the general understanding of Sustainability.
How are we dealing with this?
Taking into account the dimensions of the problem society is slowly becoming more conscious, more aware. And for those who are not aware – they are being forced by the masses, by the environmentalist, and by the government to understand where we stand. China, in a surprising measure in 2017, banned the plastic waste import from the UK, creating a huge problem for their waste management. In total, over 2.7m tons of plastic was imported to China and Hong Kong since 2012 (Laville, 2017).
That is just one example of how the problem has been piling up and how urgent change is required. Sustainable products emerge with the main promise to reduce the waste, create an organic market that is capable of self-maintaining and supporting the demands of modern society. The changes proposed by a sustainable culture embrace from personal use to changes in industrial set-ups. But keeping it simple – there a couple of immediate measures you can take to join forces into fighting the unsustainable.
How can you do your part?
OK, so you know plastic is becoming an issue and you know there are better options out there. What can you do in a small to large scale? Let’s think local, private almost. How can your home become a “Zero Waste Home”?
Nowadays there are several alternatives that will solve your daily problems and help you avoid plastic, almost altogether. Since the main idea is not to generate more waste don’t go throwing away all your present belongings because they are plastic or made cheaply. That won’t help either! But moving forward what can you do?
While shopping for any kind of supply, from furniture to clothing – seek for the ones with recycled, sustainable or green tags. It is sometimes fabric made with recyclable material, sometimes it is furniture made out of reforestation wood and sometimes it is just reused material applied for different purposes. The fact is, anything you look for will have a greener option available on the market.
As for the waste you generate – if you don’t recycle: start! For the non-recyclables – take a look at home composting. It looks weird at first but the use of your organic residue as fertilizer for your home garden is a great way to guarantee your trash is reused in the best way possible. For all your other consumables – rethink!
Most of the materials we buy nowadays can be bought in bulk. Most of the stores that offer the option of bulk shopping will encourage their client to bring their own containers – size and material are up to you. The focus is to avoid the constant flow of plastic packaging for all the materials we purchase. One of the easiest ways to get a picture of what all this means is just by going to social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and search for #zerowaste. You will soon find a list of stores around you that already practice a zero-waste culture focused on reducing waste production and mostly plastic consumption.
As it is with any new change, change is hard. Adapting to the new reality
and new cultures are also hard, especially when you have bad habits or the convenience playing a strong role in your decision-making processes. To help out, here are some tips to help make your house more sustainable.
• Ban the personal use of plastic bags. If your city still allows it in markets and stores – take the proactive measure. Buy an Eco-Friendly grocery bag (you can easily find them in most supermarkets or shops) and leave it in the car, carry it in your backpack or just make sure to take it with you whenever you go shopping.
• Buy yourself a decent water bottle. Don’t go “free PBA”, don’t go “fancy shiny and sparkles” – STAY AWAY FROM THE PLASTIC ONES! Find yourself stainless steel (that is more durable) or even a glass bottle. More importantly. – carry it with you. Keeping hydrated is extremely important, and the amount of plastic wasted in water bottles sold yearly is enormous. Save yourself some money too, carry your own water bottle.
• When shopping for non-perishable – go bulk shopping. Instead of throwing away that shampoo, dishwasher or soap container, find yourself a bulk store and buy the refill. It will save you money and avoid one more form of waste. With time, you can replace the containers for metal or glass containers that last longer too.
Be open to new options
In adapting to a Zero Waste Home, keep an eye open for new ideas. Get involved with the community, offer to participate in local environmental groups and interact. You might find out that you have the potential to do more, change more and save more with small changes that did not occur to you. The most important part you have already started – you are getting informed.
Change is a process, and it is OK to struggle a bit. For now, try adopting these three measures to try out and observe the changes that will bring to your life. If you want to see the evolution throughout time, you can also estimate the amount of waste you produce monthly or weekly, document it with pictures and compare how much you will have of residue once you do these steps. The end result might surprise you!
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