If you read our first instalment of the Olive Branch, you will know that at Olively we are committed to sustainability and preserving the planet. So it felt only natural to follow up with a discussion on the environment and the ways in which we can protect it.
It is not news to us all by now that the planet is experiencing a climate emergency. While it may seem as though no one person can reverse this fact, if we all make concerted and achievable changes everyday, it can make a world of difference.
To better understand the topic at hand, we have to look at two key lifestyle concepts in relation to sustainability; zero waste and sustainable living. The zero waste concept is largely self explanatory, in that its primary goal is to send nothing to landfill. It aims to do so by way of what we consume and how we dispose. While the sustainable living concept is a more broad way of life aimed at reducing our impact in day-to-day consumption, less so focused on physical waste.
As consumers, we hold a lot of power in determining how the market evolves and that power lies in where we spend our money. We can choose to support smaller businesses with full transparency and avoid large chain companies who employ clever marketing to mask environmental damage. When considering where to wield this power there are qualities to look for and some to avoid.
In the last decade, we have seen significant growth in Certified B Corps. This is a certification designated by B Corp, a non-for-profit organisation aimed at bettering the social and environmental impacts of companies throughout the world. Achieving this certification indicates a company’s commitment to accountability and transparency, from equitable employment practices, to their carbon footprint. Essentially, they have nothing to hide. If you wish to support those making a positive impact and practising fair trade you can find a full list of Certified B Corps on their website.
As the much needed trend of sustainable living has steadily increased over time, so too has the use of ‘greenwashing’ by businesses. Greenwashing is an unethical marketing practice wherein false claims are made to overstate the extent to which a business or product is environmentally sound, sustainable or ethical. With the current generations taking more and more of an interest in living and consuming sustainably, businesses will often make unsubstantiated claims as to their environmental efforts without providing the transparency to back up those claims. The term originated in the 1960s when the hotel industry would ask patrons to reuse their towels for the sake of the environment, when in actuality they were making money saving on laundry costs. There are several clues you can be on the lookout for when browsing businesses. One may be their use of language, overuse of words such as ‘green’, ’natural’ or ’sustainable’ with no more specifics as to how or why, could indicate false claims. Company ownership is another potential giveaway as larger conglomerations will often buy smaller businesses in an attempt to target those who are eco-conscious. If it is difficult to find information on exactly how a business is ‘green’, it is often a marketing tactic not backed by facts because those businesses that truly are sustainable will be entirely transparent as to their products’ origin and ingredients.
Now that we have some knowledge on the business landscape in relation to sustainability, we can look at what small changes you can make each day to help the planet. There is a range of everyday items for which there are now eco-friendly alternatives.
An easy place to start is of course with your soap, shampoo and conditioner buying habits…all of which Olively provides a solid bar option for in sustainable packaging, free of toxins and parabens.
When it comes to food, according to the United Nations, approximately one third of all food produce spoils and as a result ends up in landfill. Unfortunately, food rotting is sometimes inevitable however utilising a composting bin is a great way to avoid adding to landfill. Fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as your coffee grounds are all rich in nutrients and can make for a fantastic fertiliser for your garden or plants.
In preserving the food in your fridge, there are several options. Reusable food bags composed of silicone are an alternative to your everyday sandwich bags, they just require a quick wash between uses and you’re good to go again. Beeswax wraps have also been around for years as a fantastic way to keep your produce fresher for longer. Being composed of beeswax, these wraps have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. You only need to give them a brief wash between uses and then for their eventual disposal, the wraps are biodegradable.
Most notably when it comes to the Earth’s pollutants, is of course plastic. According to the EPA, plastic is the second most common item sent to landfill. Additionally, only 8.7% of plastic is recycled, with an alarming 75.5% ending up in landfill. For our grocery shopping trips alone, there are several ways to substitute out plastic for a healthier alternative. A single-use plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfill, so simply opting for a reusable bag or paper can do so much good. In bagging your fresh fruit and vegetables, consider opting for reusable mesh bags, not only do they spare the plastic bags but they’re also more breathable for your fresh produce. And finally, one of plastics largest contributors is plastic straws. One study has estimated a staggering 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. These can be easily replaced by metal, glass or paper alternatives.
People already often opt for a paper option over plastic these days, however this option is also not without consequences for the environment. It is estimated that appproximately 15 billion trees are chopped down each year for the sake of human consumption. So when shopping, keep an eye out for those paper based products which are composed of recycled materials. Instead of paper towel to mop up the inevitable kitchen mess, you may like to consider washable kitchen cloths. While a coffee on the go is often a must, as a global population we use roughly between 250 and 300 billion disposable coffee cups annually, with very little actually being recycled. With so many types of reusable coffee cups being produced, from glass, to ceramic, to repurposed plastic, there is surely a type for everybody out there.
These are just some of the countless ways in which you can be more eco-friendly in your household. Small, incremental changes can be made everyday which will very easily become habitual. Being a part of the Olively community you have already made a difference in choosing to support a sustainable small business and we too will continue to do our part for the planet.
National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling | US EPA. (2022). https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials#NationalPicture
Gibbens, S., 2019. Plastic straw bans are spreading: here’s how they took over the world. [online] Environment. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/news-plastic-drinking-straw-history-ban
Kenton, W. (2022). Greenwashing. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/greenwashing.asp
Bcorporation.net. 2022. Measuring a company's entire social and environmental impact. [online] Available at: https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/certification
55 Pivotal Sustainability Statistics for 2022. (2022). https://hivebrands.com/blogs/news/sustainability-statistics
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