We all know the age-old adage: reduce, reuse, recycle. But what exactly are biodegradable products? What is your carbon footprint? We are breaking down some eco-friendly terms with simple tips for how you can be a more eco-conscious consumer to help out the planet.
It’s hard to see an image of an overflowing landfill and not consider that our society may have a problem when it comes to consumption. But what if you love to shop? Particularly in these difficult times, takeout food and online shopping has provided a necessary comfort for many of us. Unfortunately, climate change isn’t going anywhere either. We are all about treating yourself, but you can also make a big difference by being conscious of what kind of products you are buying.
Whether it is ordering takeout from a local restaurant and walking over to pick it up, or purchasing quality long-lasting products to reduce your consumption, there are so many ways eco-friendly and eco-conscious buying habits that can positively affect your life and the planet.
What is biodegradable?
Biodegradable is a term used to describe an object or substance that breaks down into basic particles by other bacteria or fungi, which are then returned to the earth. Almost any substance is technically biodegradable, but some synthetic materials like plastic can take centuries to break down entirely and often result in harmful toxins being released. Even cement will eventually break down, but those toxins can come back to us in our water sources or food - a scary reality.
However, for a product to be labelled biodegradable, it needs to turn into organic matter. Biodegradable products can break down in as little as three to six months under the right conditions. Plant-based products can break down into carbon dioxide, water and other naturally occurring minerals.
Our Tip:Be mindful of what goes down your drain. When buying bath and beauty products, consider both what is best for your skin and what materials will decompose in future soil. Try purchasing traditional, plant-based products like those from brands like Lothantique or Belle de Provence. French products like savon de Marseille are still produced using techniques that are over 600 years old using natural products (AKA pre-industrial revolution and modern-day pollution).
What is your carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the amount of total greenhouse gas emissions resulting both indirectly and directly from your lifestyle choices. It considers every stage of a product or service including production, manufacturing, use, and end of life. Gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide can trap heat in the atmosphere. This impact is then calculated as the global warming potential of each gas by using a single unit of measurement. For example, a typical U.S. household has a carbon footprint of 48 metric tons CO2e/yr.2.
For individuals, your carbon footprint is often increased by decisions such as the food you eat (or, more often, waste), how often you are driving your car, or even leaving electronic devices plugged in when you are not using them. Some of these problems may seem more difficult to tackle than others, but one area in your life you can easily improve is avoiding single-use items.
In fact, in Canada the government is banning plastic bags, straws, cutlery and other single-use items by the end of 2021. Other nations like France have taken even further measures. The French Anti-Waste Law aims to take the country from a ‘linear economy to a circular economy’ where waste is minimized, and resources reused wherever possible. It requires any unused or returned clothing products, electrical items, hygiene or cosmetics to be reused, redistributed or recycled.
Our Tip:Buy a totally cute reusable shopping bag and fill it with quality products with a longer shelf life. Investing in a long-lasting soap that has been triple-milled to remove air pockets or a dish soap that requires a small dollop to get the job done (as opposed to half the bottle) will reduce your spending and save you money.
Bonus: Pay attention to your product packaging, not only to see what can be recycled, but also to see where the product was made. There are countries taking action with green initiatives that have made companies comply with more eco-friendly alternatives. Support a brand that cares about how it is affecting the environment.
The Most Important ‘R’ – Reduce
If given a choice between reduce, reuse, and recycle – the first is actually the most important. Reducing can be as simple as buying a quality product that will last longer whether that is an article of clothing or your cosmetics. Before purchasing, stop and think how often you will use the item in question.
You should also shop smart and fall back on your ‘old faithful’ – a product you trust and know works for you.
When it comes to reusing, there has never been a better time to get crafty at home. Save paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, old magazines, and bottle caps for fun DIY art projects to do with your kids or grandkids. With the pandemic, many non-profit organizations are asking for used or unused households goods as opposed to clothing. Be sure to do some research on local outreach before bagging your items for donation.
For our last ‘R' -the one we practice most often - it is extremely important that you recycle correctly in order to be effective. Not everything can be recycled. Pay attention to the number on the plastics, and be sure to rinse your food containers before putting them in the recycling bin. Items that can’t be recycled affect the sorting process at the recycling facility and may prevent other recyclable materials from being properly sorted.
Our Tip:Use products that can be refilled as opposed to simply re-purchased. While it might seem small, buying a soap refill and reusing the original plastic dispenser keeps another piece of plastic out of a terrifying garbage patch in the ocean.
Bonus: When shopping online, place one larger order as opposed to multiple smaller orders. Not only will you likely save on shipping costs, you can help to reduce packaging waste and save transportation fuel. Plus, who doesn't love a big box full of goodies?
There are so many small ways you can help make a difference for the environment as we work together for a better future. What do you like to do to be more environmentally friendly?