Valentines day is what we call a hallmark holiday, which means a holiday that exists primarily for commercial purposes. I consciously decide not to celebrate it for a number of reasons including the overconsumption it generates, the indirect environmental impacts it has and the sense of exclusion it gives to single people (oh and also the fact that I don’t want to support holidays created by smart markets in corporate offices around the world). Do you?Read More
Maybe you’ve made a list, maybe you haven’t (i’m in that second category) and if you have, your list might include stop smoking, workout consistently, travel more often or just any objectives you have for 2018.
But as the state of our planet is deteriorating at a incredibly fast rate and social inequality around the world has never been more more important, why not make 2018 a mindful year ? Don’t panic, i’m not talking turning your life upside down and moving to Patagonia to raise goats in a self sufficient tiny house (though that could be nice…). I’m thinking small changes in your everyday life that could have a tremendous impact at a global scale (ever heard of butterfly effect ?) and more specifically about fashion shopping habits. Why not set a goal of bringing more mindfulness to those in 2018 and reduce or even quit buying cheap, fast fashion and shift to a reasoned, slower, more respectful of the planet and its inhabitants kind of wardrobe ?
Why should you do that when you can get fashionable items at Zara, H&M and so on for a super cheap price f ? Here are a few reasons that might convince you :
1. Fast fashion creates a new model of fashion consumption that is, by definition, UNSUSTAINABLE
For decades, fashion has worked with 2 collections a year according to the seasons : spring/summer and fall/winter. The large amounts of time between the design decision making and the arrival in stores were linked to the strategy in place at that time : the push through strategy, according to which production begins without concern for what the customers are demanding and is rather based on forecasting previsions based on the fashion shows and the sale from the previous years.
Fast fashion thanks to enhanced design based on real time sales analysis, quick response and production methods (thank you outsourcing to low income countries !) is able to respond to the consumer’s demand in as short as two weeks in some cases which changes considerably the consumer purchasing behavior. No more waiting for sales, frequent stock up and low prices enables instant purchase and because of the idea of « here today, gone tomorrow », customers buy more frequently in the fear of missing out.
Moreover, the actual wearability of the clothes sold represents a challenge. Due to outsourcing strategies and mass production, the quality of the clothes has decreased leading to shorter life cycle (sometimes as short as 10 times) before the product becomes unwearable.
But overconsumption isn’t the only issue, fast fashion also impacts consumer’s behavior once the garment is bought ! Disposability is no longer an issue and while few years back, we would wear a garment for several years before buying a new one or try to repair it, with fast fashion items, repairing is no longer worthwhile as something new is waiting right here for cheaper.
Want figures ? Fashion consumption increased by 400% in the last 20 years in France and in the UK, 360,000 tonnes of used clothing is sent to landfill every year. That much.
2. Fast fashion is an ecological disaster
Often refered to as the second most polluting industry worldwide, second only to the energy sector, purchasing a fast fashion item entails massive environmental impacts throughout the supply chain.
For instance, conventional cotton, which is one of the most used and versatile fibers in the clothing industry, requires more insecticide than any other crop and accounts for 10% of the total pesticide use worldwide.
Yet, man-made fibers and synthetic fibers are also unsustainable in the sense that they require large amount of crude oil and other chemicals.
The manufacturing stage is particularly harmful in terms of water pollution and mostly happens in low-wage countries, especially south east asia where pollution episodes are often not taken care of due to poor environmental regulations. In China for instance, one of the largest exporter of fast fashion, Greenpeace found in two manufacturing facilities used by well known fast fashion brands « hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties ». To this date, no brands has been known to have taken depollution action.
Finally, the consumer using phase with its maintenance activities such as washing, dying, ironing and dry cleaning counts as an important part of the overall environmental impact of a fast fashion product. Indeed, frequent laundering uses considerable energy and sends toxic chemicals and micro plastics into wastewater (that eventually ends up in the ocean… yey !)
Is the environment safe once a product is discarded ? Nope… did you know that non biodegradable synthetic products causes methane emissions (one of the most important green house gas) to air and pollution to groundwater through toxic chemicals ? No rest for mama earth with fast fashion.
3. Fast fashion is a highly unethical industry
Ever heard of the Rana Plaza tragedy ? On the April 24th 2014, a building containing several clothing factories collapsed in Rakha, Bangladesh, killing over 1,100 textile workers, mostly young women that represent 80% of the workforce in the fashion supply chain.
Basic human and workers rights are poorly implemented for workers of the industry and the legal minimum wage is rarely enough to live decently (2$ a day in Bangladesh for instance).
Children exploitation is not uncommon in the fast fashion supply chain. In Uzbekistan for instance, one of the world's largest cotton exporter, cotton is grown on government-controlled farms. Every year, a big part of the population is sent to pick cotton in those farms. According to a study released in recent years by the Responsible Sourcing Network, entitled “From the Field: Travels of Uzbek Cotton Through the Value Chain,” "schools are closed from September to November, and children across the country, some as young as 7, are placed on buses and taken to fields where they work full days without adequate food, clean water, safety protection, and medical care.”
In Turkey where many migrants seeking refuge in Europe have ended up staying, children as young as 9 have been spotted working in textile factories, instead of going to school, in order to help their families survive. You can read more about the issue here: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/europe-migrants-turkey-children/
4. What can YOU do
There are plenty of things you can do if you want to start ditching fast fashion this year (and hopefully forever!) Here are a few that are super easy if you want to build yourself a clean, ethical fashion closet but the first and most important one is GET INFORMED. Watch documentaries (The True Cost is on netflix, River Blue just came out), read articles or NGO reports (Detox by Greenpeace for instance), learn to read a clothes tag, check the brand website but keep in mind that greenwashing is widespread and exercice your critical critical judgement. If it costs 10 bucks, chances are it wasn't made ethically. If it doesn't fit after 5 washes, raw materials is probably poor and it wasn't made to last.
Fast fashion is NOT a fatality. There are alternatives including some that will not make you look like a dirty hippie living in a cave (nothing against hippies living in a cave) and google is your best friend here!
Will you be stopping fast fashion in 2018?
Already the third and almost last part of the How to have a green and ethical Christmas series! Time flies and in a bit over a week, it’s Christmas Day!! (I still don’t get why it makes me so happy)
Anyways, now that we’ve covered trees (here) and presents (here), let’s talk about wrapping.
Traditional gift wrapping can be incredibly wasteful as it is not recyclable and has a lifespan of approximately 30 seconds, depending on how fast you are at unwrapping presents. In the UK for instance, the waste is such that it is enough to gift wrap the planet nine times. HUGE.
So if you’re having an eco friendly christmas or simply trying to reduce your environmental footprint during the holidays, here are 4 ways to wrap your present without contributing to unnecessary waste and pollution. Enjoy!
Newspapers & ads
My personal favorite! Whatever you’re reading, from serious editorials to washing machine advertisement found in your mailbox, EVERYTHING can be reused into gift wrapping. And it’s super original as you can either live it as it is or draw, paint or write on it. Just lay in on a flat surface, put your gift in it and start wrapping as you would with conventional paper!
Take a look at some lovely possibilities! (pictures are from etsy and Pinterest)
Bags you already own
Not everyone is trying to reduce waste or has been doing so for a long time. So if you still having some nice shopping/gift bags lying around either from a gift received or from something purchased, reuse it! It really gives a present that little something extra, especially if it’s shiny and red ;)
If you don’t have such thing lying around, why not use a cotton bag similar to the ones sold for bulk shopping? With a cord around it and a plants no other gifts will look cuter under the tree!
Fukoshi-what? Yes, thought so too. But this centuries old Japanese practice is as eco as it can get! It entails wrapping gifts in reusable cloth, tissue, scarves and makes delicate waste-free wrapping ideas. You can either use old fabric lying around in your house or get some really cheap in second hand stores.
The technique is not even really hard (unless you’ve got 2 left hands.. like I do) but requires a bit of learning so here are 2 little videos that I think are really well done on how to make gorgeous furoshiki wrapping! Promise, everyone will ask you how you did it!
Brown recyclable paper
For those who can’t get over the feeling of unwrapping christmas paper.
Indeed, unlike colorful gift wrapping, brown paper is 100% recyclable and much cheaper than its counterparts! You might already have some if you were sent boxes in the mail but otherwise it can be found in many convenient stores. Avoid the plastic ribbons if you want to make it 100% recyclable and unleash your creativity! The possibilities are endless to make a brown paper wraped gift look christmassy thanks to cord, greens and twine! Take a look below!
Also, if you're feeling crafty, check out this post from the queen of Zero Waste Lifestyle: Trash is for Tossers: http://trashisfortossers.com/a-guide-to-zero-waste-gift-wrapping/
It's really great inspiration for handy people. I think I'll stick to the newspapers or the fabric:)
Talk to you next week for the last post of the Eco-friendly and Ethical Christmas series!
Unless you’re in a minimalist (which I don’t claim to be (yet)) or your culture doesn’t celebrate Christmas, chances are, there’ll be a some presents involved at the end of December. And as you know, presents, except if they’re second hand or if you’re offering an experience, mean use of natural resources and possibly high environmental and social impact. Hence this list! I put together a few ideas of eco-friendly and ethical presents I have for people around me that are not always super into the green, vegan, conscious lifestyle as you’ll see. I hope this inspires you to make conscious gift choices this Christmas!
For the boyfriend that doesn't always understand your lifestyle choices but still supports you and goes to vegan brunch on the week end
1. A pair of vegan Veja
Considered by some (including me) as one of the most stylish and sustainable shoe brand out there (you can read why here but hint it includes fair trade wages, organic cotton and sustainable rubber), Veja recently launched a vegan line. Perfect to fit the boyfriend's shoe needs for a while!
2. A recycled wood watch that plants a tree for every purchase
Born in Italy, We Wood uses only reclaimed or recycled wood to make their gorgeous watches crafted in Italy. For each watch sold WeWOOD plants a tree, and since the program began in 2010, they planted 442 246 trees! Definitely a gift that gives back to mama earth!
3. A 100% recycled sweatshirt
No material used by Hopaal to manufacture their products comes from the Earth stocks. EVERYTHING IS RECYCLED! How cool is that. Plus, they have full transparency on their supply chain, whether in France or India. And I just love the colors of their tees and sweatshirts. Very frenchy ;)
4. A homegrown beer kit
Sounds weird? I know. But it's actually one of the most organic and eco friendly thing you can do! Just like food, our drinks are produced using natural resources. By using a homemade kit to grow his own beer, the boyfriend will be saving money, resources and be able to show off BIG TIME to his friends. Your boyfriend doesn't like beer? Change boyfriend.
For the skeptical mum that still ask you if you'll have salmon at Christmas even though you've been vegan for ages
1. A vegan and eco-friendly handbag
Handmade in France using cork, one of the most sustainable materials out there, peta approved Flore et Line bags are stunning! The colors are so gorgeous and the design uber chic. They also have a strong environmental commitment which was enough for me to be sold. Not inspired? here is a list of other eco friendly vegan bag brands that may help you find the perfect gift!
2. Organic and exclusive skincare products from the Himalayas
I might be biased here as I use Cime's products a LOT but I've offered them before to my mum (see the link?) and she loved it. The smell is incredible, everything is vegan and organic and their packaging are recycled and recyclables! Plus, it's a belgian brand so supporting small business and local economy!
3. A timeless embroiled shirt made of organic cotton
Ekyog is a pioneer french sustainable fashion brand. They only use eco friendly materials and are giving back to a lot of projects around the world. I love their timeless shirts as once bought for my mum I can steal them for myself! Beware though depending on your lifestyle choices, some pieces are not vegan.
4. A cruelty free lipstick that is also sustainable
My mum always wear red lipstick. ALWAYS. So when I searched for a luxury vegan and eco friendly alternative to her daily habit, I was so glad to find Axiology! All their products are made with organic materials, supports women artisans in Bali, environmental concerns and animal welfare programs and of course are never, never tested on animals! And the products look very luxurious as well, which is perfect for my mum :)
For the interested best friend who says she needs to try vegan every time she sees you but never does
1. A zero waste kit to get started
The waste issue we're facing is becoming more and more talked about. Bulk shops are popping up and plastic bags are soon to be gone in many countries. So this zero waste kit from Zorro Dechet France (but there are probably one available in your country) couldn't be more relevant! Including an organic cotton tote bag, a bamboo toothbrush, a 100% organic and natural soap and several other items to get you bestie started on a zero waste lifestyle!
2. Ethically and consciously crafted jewelery
I recently discovered Sacet's gorgeous rings, bracelets and necklaces and I feel it would make the perfect ethical gift for a friend. The silver used in their products is 100% recycled, the diamonds and gemstones are sourced from factories with fair and ethical conditions and the packaging are more eco friendly than I've ever seen. But let's not forget: the design are incredibly pretty and delicate!
3. A good vibe spreading tee with a conscience
From being made of 100% organic cotton (which is rare enough to be highlighted) and approved by the Fair Ware Foundation to being printed in England with eco-friendly water based ink, Conscious Tees are as eco as you can get! Moreover, the tees and sweatshirts all carry messages promoting veganism, health, environmentalism, and for each purchase they give 20% to charity. Yes, you read correctly, not 1 or 5% but 20%!
4. A vegan cookbook that actually helps people go vegan
As a vegan, I know taking the step to a full plant based diet can be fairly daunting, especially when you have no idea what you're going to eat. And while there are plenty of vegan cookbooks out there, many are definitely not suited to beginners with tens of ingredients needed and a very fancy rather than simple and easy feel to it. But not Deliciously Ella's. They're my favorites! The pictures are gorgeous, ingredients are easy to find, recipes are simple and delicious and it's overall a great tool to start eating a plant based diet!
Hope this list helps you find conscious gifts that do not harm the planet or people to offer your loved ones this year!
I’ve been seeing so many trees being sold in the streets and people starting to buy them that I thought it’d be the perfect topic to inaugurate the eco friendly and ethical Christmas series. Because contrary to many people may think, the trees that really puts the Christmas vibe in our homes are not at all “merry” for our Planet Earth.
Natural or Artificial?
The main dilemma for conscious souls that are looking to lessen their environmental impact.
Artificial trees may sound like the most sustainable option as they do not involve cutting down living trees and releasing carbon in the atmosphere but look closer and it might not be. Usually made of PVC, one of the most environmentally damaging forms of plastic, they may contain lead which is not a very christmassy surprise right? Moreover, most artificial trees come from…. (Drum roll), China, involving a considerable carbon footprint in order to transport all the trees to consumer countries.
Moreover, studies differ on the exact number of years but in order to be the eco-friendliest alternative, it would have to be kept between 10 and 20 years. That’s the time it would take to have less environmental impacts that buying a real tree and it’s mostly linked to the materials it’s made off and the fact that it’s non biodegredable once disposed.
So, let’s buy a real trees then, right? Well, hold your hoses and keep reading.
While they used to come from the wild (chopping wild trees was not so good either), most real christmas trees nowadays come from specialized farms which are a perfect example of monoculture: the same crop cultivated on a large area. Moreover, less than 1% come from organic farms meaning that 99% may and have probably been exposed to pesticides of all kind and we all know how good these are for the health and the soils.
If you’re considering this option, try purchasing the tree at a local shop where the seller might actually know the origin of your tree and its production conditions. Avoid supermarkets, warehouses and other big retailers offering suspiciously low prices as that probably means that your tree comes from far away and/or has been grown using eco-unfriendly methods. And recycle it after christmas! If you live in France or Belgium, find out how to dispose it and if there’s a specific service for recycling, don’t just get rid of it on the streets. Not only is it pretty sad… it also shows little consideration for mama earth.
One of the best solution if you still want that live tree feeling but also care about where it goes next? A living one in a pot! Now you’re probably thinking: how the heck am I supposed to keep a living tree alive for a WHOLE MONTH. And I feel ya as I’ve never been the best gardener myself. But it’s actually not that hard. Avoid placing it near sources of warmth (radiators, fire places etc), don’t buy it too early and water it abundantly to help it keep its needles and increase its chances of survivals once it’s back in the wild!
If you live in Paris/France, you can order yours to be delivered at your home in a pot and then returned to its forest to keep growing if it has been taken good care of, or recycled at:
If you’re in Brussels, I havn’t been able to find a company that offers the service of picking up your tree to replant it so it’s up to you if you have a garden to attempt the process or give it to Bruxelles Propreté who will then recycle It!
Final Answer: natural over artificial unless you plan on keeping the artificial one for 10+ years. The real one should be In a pot if you bought it from a company that offers replanting of If you’re able to do so in your own garden otherwise cut but preferably with an eco friendly label to guarantee its production methods.
Why don’t we try something different?
If you feel like having a real or real looking Christmas tree isn’t that important to set up the mood, why don’t you try something a little different this year? Does DIY ring a bell? It refers to the Do It Yourself movement. And when it comes to Christmas trees, there’s so much you can do yourself that have a much lower environmental impact that purchasing!
While there’s always the options of not having a tree, you can also use waste such as branches picked up on your walk or discarded cardboard that you can work into a tree during a DIY workshop with the kids or some friends!
Or make use of objects you already have in the house such as books, plastic bottles, or even just a ladder! The possibilities are endless, just check out some of them below and let me know what you're planning on doing for your christmas tree!
From Donna at the amazing http://www.funkyjunkinteriors.net/2012/12/a-treeless-ladder-christmas-tree-day-10.html
As long as I can remember, I’ve eaten meat. From steak to sausages and fast food burgers, meat was an integral part of my life as a child, teenager and young adult who was never a big fan of vegetables.
Moreover, I’ve always lived in the city so while a huge animal lover since my early childhood, I had never made the connection between this cute cow I was seeing during the summer holidays in the french countryside and the steak in my plate, nor between this baby rabbit I held in my hand during school field trips and the meal I was ordering in restaurants at night.
At the same time, I was totally appalled by animal cruelty on cats and dogs and went to Thailand to volunteer the year of my 18th birthday with animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade or used as tourists entertainment. All of this while still eating meat. Talk about cognitive dissonance here !
So what changed? Well, I first considered vegetarianism and later veganism under the lens of the meat industry’s environmental impacts. As someone who is deeply affected by the impacts of human activity on the planet, I decided to pursue my Masters degree in Environmental Science and Management. The program included classes on agriculture, climate change and other multidisciplinary subjects but the connection between the meat industry and climate change was never clearly pointed out. Nevertheless, there were hints here and there on the deforestation happening in the Amazon to make room for soy fields to feed the animals we’re then eating or on the over fishing that is emptying our oceans each day.
Those newly discovered environmental impacts led me to going vegetarian with sometimes a small deviation for a sushi night or an oven made salmon with the family. Because « you have to keep on living » you know and otherwise « you can’t eat anything anymore ».
And I was fine like that until I watched Cowspiracy.
This extremely well done documentary highlights exactly the contribution of animal farming on the environment such as the fact that it is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (FAO) or that animal agriculture uses 20-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today and finally that livestock covers 45% of the Earth total land. That’s when I went vegan, about a year and a half ago. I couldn't keep on supporting an industry that literally consumes all of our natural resources at an alarming rate while participating in starving millions of people around the world. NO FUCKING WAY.
And then came the ethics. In France, an amazing NGO called L214 started releasing at the exact same time videos of slaughterhouses to national media, causing a the animal cause to finally become part of the public debate. The videos are just so terrible that they’re almost impossible to watch, yet they are necessary to show consumers where the products they’re eating truly come from. Bye bye dreams of green fields and free range cows, hello overcrowded filthy warehouses and forced insemination. That is what the meat, fish, egg and dairy industries look like. To me, and I hope for any human being, there’s just no way of not feeling deeply shocked and touched in our humanity by these images and these facts about the daily exploitation of sentient beings with whom we share feelings like hope, love, fear and moreover the fundamental will to live. Only for human's consumption, pleasure or entertainment.
I’m not a perfect vegan. While traveling, I sometimes eat cheese if there really isn’t anything else to eat or if my refusal might offense my host. I do my best but sometimes I miss the small line that says « might contain eggs or milk » on products at the supermarket.
But this is where I am now. Trying to live a conscious and emphatic lifestyle that respects other living beings that share this wonderful earth with us. To live everyday without harming any conscious souls for my own entertainment or pleasure. And now, I’m trying to spread the message,because hurting animals when we could perfectly not to and still have a perfectly enjoyable life is simply wrong, on every level, and it just has to stop. I’m full of hope for the future when I see how veganism is spreading and becoming more and more mainstream. But there’s still so much to do so if you’re still reading, why don’t you try veganism? Get out here, find out about what you’re eating, get educated and if you feel like it, give it a try ? For the animals, the planet, your health and basically everything else.
Thanks for reading,
Happy World Vegan Day,
So sorry I’ve been so late posting about this, especially since it’s one of my favorite topics in the sustainability world, but I’ve been overwhelmed in the past week by some personal stuff. Better late than never, back to the amazing Plastic Free July campaign and why you’d be making a considerable positive contribution to the planet’s health by getting involved in it.
A plastic world
We’ve become so used to plastic. It’s everywhere. From the single use plastic bag at the supermarket, to packaging of pretty much everything to that straw that now inevitably comes with your drink and even when you would not suspect it such as in your cosmetic products and sometimes garments, it’s now over 322 million metric tons of plastic that were produced in 2015. That’s a 64 250% increase from 1950. Yep you read correctly 64 250% more plastic is produced nowadays than in the 50’s. But that wouldn’t actually be a problem is the afterlife of plastic products wasn’t so complicated to handle.
Here are the main issues caused by plastic:
- Most plastic is made from fossile fuels like oil and natural gas
- During the production, industries emit large amount of carbon monoxide, dioxin and hydrogen cyanide which are highly pollutants and can cause respiratory diseases, nervous system disorders and immune suppresion
- When burnt, plastic releases hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to degrade in a landfill
- Plastic bags are blamed for the annual death of more than 1 million bird and 100,000 marine animals as animals either get entangled in them or mistake them as food and may choke, be poisoned and eventually starve
- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times
- Scientists predict that in 2050, there will me more plastic than fish in the ocean
- At the moment, there is some much garbage into the ocean including plastic that three islands have formed around the world with the biggest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in central North Pacific which is larger than the state of Texas and gathers hundred of thousands of pieces of plastic per square meter
- A lot of the plastic that enters the oceans has been contaminated by toxins. They are then ingested by fish and eventually by humans. If you’re interested in toxins, plastic and the ocean, here’s a great piece by Nat Geo.
- Same goes with micro beads, plastic particules of under 5 mm ni length. Once ingested by humans through fish, the UN fears that “the presnece of microplastic on foodstuffs could potentially increase direct exposure of plastic-associated chemicals to humans and may present an attributable risk to human health”. Moreover, microbeads could also be breathed by people with noxious effects on lungs notably. And that is especially the case in East Asia for instance, where plastic pollution Is the highest.
Because processing all these information and acting on the issue can seem a bit overwhelming sometimes, The Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Western Australia and Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, a Churchill Fellow (grant towards the investigation of programs for solutions to plastic pollution), created the Plastic Free July Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness on the amount of plastic used each year and encourage people to eliminate the use of single-use plastic during each July.
By doing so, participants are taking a first step towards reducing their plastic consumption with an act that is feasible and less life changing than cutting plastic completely while still having a considerable impact. Indeed, most of the plastic waste found in the ocean comes from single use plastic items. As such, the campaign encourages new and hopefully lasting habits among its participants and opens the door to a real wake up call on the damaging impacts of plastic consumption on the environment.
While first beginning in Perth, Western Australia in 2011 with a few dozens participants, the challenge has spread around the world and gathered more than a million people In 2016. Let’s hope 2017 will be even bigger!
Want to go further?
If you’re already there or have finished Plastic Free July and want to take your commitment a step further, here are a few things you can do to drastically reduce your plastic consumption:
- Say NO. Beyond bringing your own reusable bag and cutlery, start saying no to situations where you know plastic will be involved. That is: specify you don't want a straw with your drink or disposable cutlery with your lunch salad. People will look at you a bit funny at first, but you'll get used to it and you'll be saving plenty of waste from entering landfills and oceans!
- Buy in bulk. In Europe, many shops are opening that offer the possibility to either bring your own container or buy some on the spot, enabling to shop zero waste. You pay exactly the weight you're buying minus the weight of the container so it's actually most of the time cheaper than buying in regular supermarkets!
- Start making stuff. That's definitely a major step so no worries if you're not there yet. But yeah, most of the plastic we consume exists because we're buying stuff instead of making it ourselves. This includes food, so ditch that premade salad from the supermarket once in a while, make it yourself and bring it to work ;) it will be all the more delicious! But it also includes cosmetics, cleaning products and pretty much everything we use in our daily life. My personal bible for a zero waste lifestyle (though I'm definitely not there yet) is Lauren Singer's blog: Trash is for Tossers (and if you're in NYC, she recently opened the first zero waste shop i the city!)
- Quit fish. Often referred to as "ghost gear" and thought to make up around 10% of marine litter worldwide, abandoned fishing gear is a massive threat to marine animals. Either lost during storms or abandoned deliberately, those lost nets can cause entanglement and eventually death for the animals who can't swim and feed anymore. If you're thinking what does my tuna consumption have to do with this, stay put. Sea food consumption being on the rise around the world, those incidents are happening more than ever and reducing fish consumption would mean less fishing, often by illegal boats that do not abide by national legislation, therefore significantly reducing the amount of discarded nets found around the world.
- And more. You can find other zero waste initiatives (and please, don't be frightened by the zero in zero waste, it's hardly ever zero, even if you're hardcore committed) on Lauren Singer's blog: Trash if for Tossers, Bea Johnson's website (the mother fits one year worth of waste into one jar) or outlets such as Mindbody Green and One Green Planet.
educing plastic is actually more easy than we think, but the first step is being aware of how much we consume!
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is an edible oil coming from palm fruit grown on the African palm oil tree. While these originate from Western Africa,they can grow in most tropical environmental where heat and rainfall are abundant. Hence, you can nowadays find palm oil trees in most part of the world though 85% of worldwide production originates from Indonesia and Malaysia. In total, tens of millions of palm oil enter markers around the world each year and account for over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production, making it the world’s most popular oil!
Palm oil is everywhere
Thanks to its high versatility and low production cost, palm oil can be found in most of transformed products. From chocolate paste to pre-prepared micro wave meals to shampoos and fragrances, it can be found in around over 50% of household products and is also increasingly used as a biofuel.The reason it’s so widely used is because it
· Uses 10 times less land than other major vegetable oils
· Is highly productive per hectare (up to 4,000kg of palm oil)
· Requires less fertiliser, fewer pesticides and stores more carbon than other oil crops and is GM free
All of this added to low production cost makes it the ideal raw materials for agri businesses, cosmetics brands and other industrial companies.
Palm oil controversies
However, despite its business qualitites, palm oil production has a HUGE impact on the environment and the local communities in its production countries (mostly Indonesia and Malaysia such as:
- On the Environment:
· To make room for palm oil plantations, agri business companies are clearing tropical forests at an alarming rate, even though it might be illegal in some cases. According to a report by the European Commission, palm oil production is responsible for 8%% of deforestation worldwide and 40% in Indonesia alone, which is home to one of the three greatest and oldest rain forests on earth (the other two being the Amazon and the Congo Bassin)
· Moreover, vast areas of peatlands (carbon-rich swamps) are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, something through burning. This releases huge amounts of carbon dioxyde into the atmosphere which is responsible for climate change. This has made Indonesia the third largest global emitter of greenhouse gases.
2. On biodiversity:
· The large scale deforestation to make room of plantations are causing loss of habitat for sometimes critically endangered species including the orang outan, sumatran elephants and tigers but also dozens of others
· In the past 10 years, the orang outan population has decreased by 50% as the result of habitat loss
· The replacement of dense tropical forests with plantations increases the accessibility of animals to poachers and human-wildlife conflicts with local villagers. Thousands are killed each year and the killing of adults often leads to babies being sold as pets or used for entertainment in neighboring countries
3. On local communities:
· Some companies have been ceizing the land of indigenous communities with sometimes the complicity of local government to turn them into palm oil concessions
· Moreover, the industry has been linked to major human rights violations such as child labor, exposure to hazardous chemicals, unpaid overtime, pressure on employees etc.
· The Free, Prior and Informed Consent policy possesses by many companies is often non applied and dozens of land disputes are ongoing throughout Malaysia and Indonesia
The sector’s unconvincing solution
To tackle those issues, the WWF partnered up with major actors from the sectors and created in 2004 the Roundatble on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Nowadays the RSPO has more than 3,000 members worldwide who represents all links along the palm oil supply chain.
Yet, despite this initiative that unites oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, NGOs etc, the palm oil industry has suffered considerable scandals in the past year, many including RSPO certified companies.
However, I feel it's fundamental to say that boycotting palm oil a 100% is not the solution. Palm oil is more efficient than other alternative oils that require much more land, fertilizers and water to grow. Moreover, it helps millions of smallholders in Indonesia and Malaysia earn a living.
So what can you do?
1. Find out: an educated consumer will have a mindful consumption and be able to share its knowledge with others.
Here you can find more information:
2. Reduce your consumption (less demand necessarly means less production)
3. Learn to identify it: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol ALL MEAN PALM OIL!
4. Get political: sign petitions that deal with palm oil and ask your favorite brands to ditch conflict palm oil in favor of sustainable certified palm oil. WWF's scorecard is an excellent resources that scores major brands regarding their palm oil consumption!
· Spread the word! Share the impacts of palm oil with your entourage and tell them to be mindful of their consumption