Concern about our mounting global waste is escalating. Climate emergency announcements and images of the millions of tonnes of microplastics in our oceans are almost unavoidable. Environmental researchers predict that rising seawater will reach dangerous levels in the next 50 years.
According to a study by Science Advances, people around the world have produced about 8.3 metric tons of plastic. The waste industry only recycled 9 per cent of it. The rest is cluttering landfills and ocean water. This year in the Philippines, scientists found a dead whale with 88 pounds of plastic lodged in its stomach.
It's hard not to feel worried about the future when we know our current global consumption is unsustainable, which is why eco-friendly consumerism is growing in popularity.
Unilever reported that a third of consumers are buying from brands based on their environmental impact.
Statistics like this have led to a growing wave of so-called "green" products hitting the market. All of which are attempting to win the hearts of consumers with the promise of sustainability. But not all green products are created equal, and many products marketed as such, have been proven otherwise.
This is called greenwashing, a term created by environmentalists to describe the act of misleading consumers about how eco-friendly a product is. One memorable case of this includes the time a California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Aquamantra, Inc., Balance Water Company. The company falsely marketed its water bottles as “biodegradable” and “recyclable” though there was no scientific evidence to back it up.
This kind of misinformation-filled green marketing environment has brought on the rise of a new term which is changing the narrative around green consumerism: zero waste.
What does zero waste mean?
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as:
“the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to the land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
The zero waste movement:
The term zero waste was coined by zero-waste lifestyle bloggers, starting with Bea Johnston. The New York Times featured her in a 2010 article, then other zero-waste bloggers followed in tow and built massive followings. Kathryn Kellogg fit two-year’s worth of trash into one 8-ounce mason jar and started goingzerowaste.com. Other leading blogs in the community include trashisfortossers.com, treadingmyownpath.com, litterless.com, and zerowastechef.com.
Characterized by a goal to send less trash to landfills, the zero-waste lifestyle may look different depending on your day-to-day routine. A more zero-waste individual might bring jars to purchase groceries at markets, shop for second-hand items, compost food waste, reuse a metal water bottle, buy local, and stop ordering Styrofoam-filled shipping boxes.
Zero waste consumers buy less, use what they have, and replace things mindfully.
What does this mean for businesses?
In a survey done by OnePulse for Futerra, 88% of consumers said they would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily lives. Almost half of those consumers said brands aren’t helping. According to a Nielsen poll, 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.
Several large companies are taking notes. The single-use waste recycling company, TerraCycle partnered with Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Clorox, and Danone. Other zero-waste products include Dove's 100% recycled plastic bottles. Thinx's feminine hygiene products, Abeego's beeswax food wrapping, FinalStraw's compostable straws, and Nouri's reusable food storage bags.
Though zero-waste products are not the be-all-end-all solution to reverse the effects of climate change, it’s at least a working contribution. Zero-waste products, services, and initiatives show responsibility for the well-being of future generations and care of our planet. As a bonus, companies in some states that go zero waste and reduce carbon emissions may get tax incentives, conserve energy and lower printing, lighting, and gas bills. Using green cleaning supplies means cleaner, healthier work environments with less harmful chemicals.
How can your business make a change?
We may not be able to get rid of 100% of our waste, but reducing it is possible. If your business wants to help, start with changing one product, sub-service, or packaging process. When preparing for trade shows and public events, opt for zero-waste promotional products.
Zero waste habits may help reverse the negative effects our historically wasteful and plastic-producing economy created. As concern for climate change and dying ecosystems grow, companies who switch to zero waste will do themselves, their customers and their Earth a huge favor.
Zero waste promotional items from Botanical PaperWorks
Botanical PaperWorks makes seed paper products from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial paper waste, recycling it into seed paper that grows. The special eco-friendly paper not only removes content from waste streams but also doesn't require any further resources to be recycled. Instead, you plant them in soil and grow plants that will give back to our Earth. No waste is left behind.