Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Why Sustainable Living Is A Growing Movement
Living sustainably, whether it's the food choices we make or which methods of transport we use, is becoming a decision that many of us are making every day.
With pressing issues such as the plastic pollution crisis, as well as the climate crisis, many of us are turning our heads for advice on how to live sustainably.
In this blog, we're going to go over some of the reasons why conventional living, in particular using single use plastic, is becoming less popular all the time.
Single Use Plastic
One of the main issues connected to the plastic pollution crisis, is the percentage of all plastic being produced, being single use.
With roughly half of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced every year being single use, single use plastic is not something we can ignore.
By cutting down on the amount of single use plastic we use on a daily basis as consumers, it will reduce the demand for single use plastic. In turn, this will lead manufacturers to create more environmentally friendly solutions, by the law of supply and demand.
Single use plastic has two main problems when it comes to disposal: the disposal of single use plastic not in the home, and disposing of single use plastic in the home.
When we are out and about, it's more than possible for us to have forgotten a water bottle, so we go into a shop to buy a single use plastic bottle of water.
When we are done with it, we have two choices: we can either take the bottle home with us to dispose, or throw it in a rubbish bin on the street.
It's more unlikely to find a recycling bin on the street, when compared to our own homes. We know exactly where our recycling bins are at home, but there might not even be a recycling bin in public areas.
This can lead to higher percentages of single use plastic entering landfill, or being incinerated, when used outside of the home.
However, just because plastic entering the correct recycling bin at home, does not automatically mean it will be recycled.
Only 9% of all plastic ever created has been recycled.
This means that on average, less than 1 out of ten items of plastic you put in the recycling bin, will actually be recycled.
This is where our sustainable living choices come into play.
With our current waste management systems not being effective, it is important to choose different materials altogether, that do not rely on these unsustainable systems.
Due to conventional plastics being produced from fossil fuels, part of a more sustainable move away from plastic altogether, can reduce your carbon footprint as well as your plastic footprint.
When put together, we can see that to live more sustainably, in terms of daily life, we can use reusable plastic free alternatives to conventional single use plastic.
The end of life should also be considered in terms of the sustainability of the product. Once single use plastics are used, they will likely end up in landfill, or be incinerated.
None of these methods are sustainable, for various reasons.
Landfill results in the creation of leachate, a combination of rainfall and non-chemically bound toxins in the plastic waste. Leachate slowly makes it's way down into the landfill, eventually polluting the surrounding soil and groundwater.
Incineration is much safer in developed countries, when compared to developing countries.
As much of the UK's waste is exported, it is not unreasonable to think that much of our plastic waste will be incinerated in countries that do not have the proper infrastructure in place to provide safe incineration environments.
The incomplete combustion of conventional plastics such as PET results in carbon monoxide being released, which can be deadly if the quantities are high enough in the human bloodstream.
What Is Plastic?
Before we dive even deeper into alternatives to single use plastic, let's discuss what plastic is.
Conventional plastic is what we know as 'plastic'. It has a high carbon footprint from it's production, as well as not being able to biodegrade which results in the creation of microplastics as opposed to natural components.
Plastics are materials made from polymers, which are long chains of repeating molecular sequences known as monomers.
Common conventional plastics include PET (polyethylene terephthalate), PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PP (polypropylene).
Now we know what plastic is, we can talk about the alternatives to conventional plastics that are more sustainable.
The first step in a material becoming a viable alternative to plastic is the source materials being renewable.
Using biomass to construct packaging and products results in lower carbon footprints, as well as not having a time limit on them until they run out. Materials like bamboo, cornstarch and sugarcane are all used in alternatives to conventional single use plastic.
Banning Plastic In Developing Countries
Many countries have started to bring in a total ban on single use conventional plastic. Nations such as Kenya have made single use conventional plastic bags illegal, with fines of up to $38,000 or prison sentences as long as four years.
In principle, this is a great idea. In practice, as with all law enforcement stances, there are issues that need to be worked out.
Kenya has a high poverty rate, as well as many people being one step away from not being able to pay for food and other vital necc to keep them alive. In many cases, market stall owners only have the income from their own stall to support themselves and their families.
Taking away plastic could be detrimental to the market stall owner's immediate health, by endangering their income to pay for food, shelter and water.
How can people in the UK make a difference to somewhere like Kenya in terms of behaviour?
Well, as mentioned before, we can change a lot of things as consumers with the power of supply and demand.
There is a conception that companies shouldn't be able to profit by using the environment. This, in our opinion, is completely wrong. It is somehow considered a bad practice to use the environment as a tool to make money with.
If companies can't profit over being kind to the environment, then it only leaves companies who are profiting at the expense of the environment.
By creating a green economy with people and businesses thriving, the environment around us can also thrive.
Increasing the demand will have a knock on effect internationally of bringing prices down.
With developments making processed cheaper and more effective, eventually small businesses in developing countries will be able to work with environmentally friendly alternatives to single use fossil based plastic.
If we think back to when conventional plastic was invented, it was far too expensive for any people bar the richest in society to buy. Over time, plastic has become so cheap that plastic is now almost universally available.
This trend will happen with bioplastics as well.
Until then, a potential solution for the governments of developing countries could be to introduce grants to support small businesses make the transition to using eco-friendly bioplastic bags.
If small market traders go out of business through not being able to afford bioplastic bags, there is no positive outcome that can come of this.
Education is imperative to creating a generation that understands not just how, but why reducing conventional plastic is a crucial component of creating a safe future.
Conventional Plastic And Climate
From the fact that conventional plastic is produced from fossil fuels, plastics such as PET have a high carbon footprint.
This is not only due to the material itself, but from essentially every step in the manufacturing, transport and disposal methods to process conventional plastic.
Because of this, it is estimated that fossil based plastics were responsible for the emissions equal to 200 coal fired power plants in 2019. By 2050, at the current rate of fossil based plastics being produced, the emissions will equal 600 coal fired power plants.
In order to meet the key points of the Paris Climate Agreement, humanity as a whole must reduce carbon emissions by 45% by the deadline of 2030.
The current trend showing the increase of fossil based plastics is dead set against the efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and as a result will be responsible for 1/8th of the entire carbon budget by 2050.
This leaves less room for other carbon emitting sources, which are far more valuable and in some cases necessary to benefit society.
Plastic not properly disposed of, which includes all degrading plastic polluting the natural environment and degrading plastic in aerobic landfills, releases greenhouse gases when exposed to UV light.
This method of plastic breaking down via sunlight is known as photo-degredation. One type of conventional plastic, low density polyethylene, actually emitted greenhouse gases at a higher rate as time went on.
A main concern is that microplastics continue to emit greenhouse gases in the natural environment, and appear to continue doing so without a set time limit.
Fracking is a method of extracting fossil fuels from the ground, which in itself has concerns over it's environmental safety. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short, it a method of releasing trapped shale gas from the natural environment.
There have always been safety concerns over fracking, and these concerns were spiked in 2019 when several earthquakes occurred near a fracking plant in the UK. Since then, fracking has been halted by the UK government.
In places with high population density such as the UK, taking these risks could result in people losing their lives.
A reason why fracking is more acceptable in the US, Texas in particular, is that there are large stretches of land with no people living there. This means that if there are earthquakes, there is less chance of people losing their lives from the earthquake effects.
In this blog, we've gone over several reasons why living sustainably is key to creating a safer future for us, and the generations after us.
The world has been changing at such a fast pace in the last century, that environmental concerns haven't been taken seriously by governments around the world.
By living sustainably, we can show there is an appetite for change, which will make it easier for governments, who in some cases are bound by their own self serving interests, to take significant action to protect our environment.
If you would like to read more about sustainability and why it is important, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.
About Our Gifts For Eco Warriors
We aim to provide a range of gifts for eco warriors that minimize waste sent to landfill, and use sustainable materials in place of single use plastic.
With every order made, you can relax with the knowledge that every gift we sell is at its optimal environmental standard.
Our collection of special gifts for eco warriors are carefully put together, with the environment and joy of the recipient at the forefront of our mind.