Yes, it’s exciting that the concern for our environment is growing substantially and we are all looking for ways to decrease our footprint. And, indeed there are many different ways. On the contrary, there are a lot of people out there who believe saying no to one plastic straw or saying no to one plastic bag may not have an impact on the problem. Why? Because they believe it just isn’t enough.
But.. what if we look at the COMPLETE journey of an item. Just like life, it is essential for us to understand the bigger picture in a unbiased manner, without being influenced by the media out there. We find that replacing plastic straws with bamboo alternatives is a growing trend, but do we know where this bamboo is coming from, and that it may be depleting another natural resource? Why do we even need straws?
It’s amazing because saying no to a plastic bag indeed decreases demand, which drives the economy. A lower demand means lower profitability for an organization, meaning less resources and capital to fund their production process. Only way for a company to then survive is to listen to consumers and become more sustainable.
If you think saying no to plastic bags and all the other single-use plastic items is only because of poor disposal infrastructure and ending up in oceans, IT’S BIGGER THAN THAT.
A key framework that helped me become mindful of this is the lifecycle assessment.
The lifecycle assessment highlights a cradle-to-grave approach and provides us all a technique to understand and become mindful of all the various inputs that go into all the stages of the product we end up purchasing.
The lifecycle of a product includes the sourcing of raw materials, distribution and processing of these materials, the usage and LASTLY disposal. So to be completely honest, saying no to plastic bag and helping decrease the demand does not only decrease the wrongly disposed items, but also all the carbon, chemicals and deforestation that occurs early on in the process (raw materials etc.)
This framework helped me understand that it’s just not about disposal, but also about other factors that can help protect our environment. Know that saying no to single-use or even bamboo straws can help decrease the amount of deforestation and carbon footprint.
Even if we don’t conduct an in-depth lifecycle assessment of the items we buy, just having a general idea of what goes into manufacturing the product, selling the product and using the product gives a HUGE UNDERSTANDING that this is more than just wrongful disposing.
Just as an example, check out this lifecycle assessment of a Cotton t-shirt. It’s extremely eye-opening.
Look, its not about knowing everything and being perfect at it all, it’s mostly important that we are aware of what is going on throughout all processes, throughout all conversations, throughout all opinions and perspectives.
Finally we leave you with this quote:
We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.Anne-Marie Bonneau