Since the introduction of the 5p charge, plastic bag usage has plummeted in England by approximately 83%. Then BBC’s Blue Planet II with David Attenborough brought attention to other environmental issues such as the amount of plastic straws in the ocean. It resonated with the general public. They were able to relate to the problems and realized there was something they could do about it. The tide is certainly turning. People are actively looking for ways to make a difference – from re-usable straws to bamboo toothbrushes and electric cars.
Now the government is taking the lead again with its plan to introduce deposits when purchasing bottles and cans. The aim is to cut waste, reduce litter and add a boost to recycling – changing habits forever. I remember in the 70’s waiting for the ‘pop’ man so I could return my bottles and pick new drinks. We may have come a long way since the 70’s but a lot of time we just need to look back at what we used to do. The humble milk man and woman is making a comeback for a variety of reasons both old and new. We are now so time poor we demand our goods are delivered to our doorstep – maybe not by drone but by a living, breathing human being. It may seem a new idea but in essence its old technology re-imagined.
Brands are now coming to the fore with highly visible environmental and ethical messages in a bid to attract the environmentally aware customer.
Brands like who gives a crap launched on Indiegogo after the realisation that 2.3 billion people across the world don’t have access to a toilet! When you subscribe you receive 100% recycled toilet paper directly to your door (front door not toilet door, they are very clear on that!) There’s no plastic wrapping and 50% of profits go to people in need. The brand looks fantastic and backs up that image with a feel good message…all done with a wicked sense of humour to boot.
Now Apple have announced that its entire global operations are 100% powered by renewable energy. That’s really impressive. And at the same time it has reduced the amount of plastics in its packaging through a mix of sustainably harvested bamboo fibre and bagasse – a waste by-product of sugar cane manufacturing. But packaging wise there is so much more that could be done. Their aim is making an item feel premium while not over-packaging it in the eyes of the eco-conscious consumer. With advances in technology slowing down, perhaps replacing a great phone camera with a slightly better camera is the new environmental leap forward for the brand.
Waitrose are sensing the mood change too. After the success of its free coffee for members of their loyalty scheme, it has taken the decision to remove all disposable cups by autumn. Some 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away annually in the UK, almost none of which are recycled because of their plastic lining. Waitrose maintains its coffee cups decision underlines its commitment to plastic and packaging reduction.
While more locally places like Cambridge’s The Daily Bread are committed to supplying ethically-sourced natural foods to our local communities at affordable prices. Offering bulk buying of daily essentials meaning less packaging under their Values banner of be fair, be caring and be sustainable.
In laboratories and universities across the globe people are striving for new, sustainable packaging to meet the mood. From the Royal College of Art student Felix Pöttinger’s sustainable alternative to plastic packaging for food which uses washed-up seagrass, to the mushroom-based packaging by Ecovative, the anti-plastic trend continues. The Ecovative product contains mycelium, the vegetative part of a mushroom fungus. It binds with crop waste like stalks and husks to form a bioplastic meaning you can grow your own bespoke packaging forms. As I am writing this there is even news that Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles. It’s early days but the belief is the enzyme can reduce plastic bottles down to their original components. That means no more plastic would need to be created as we just keep using the plastic we have.
Consumers everywhere are looking to brands to offer them solutions, deciding on products or services based on what the brand says it is doing to reduce their environmental impact and to give them a feel good factor.
What can you do? Here are a few things to make a difference in the work place.
1. Create an environmental policy which sets a clear direction for your organization. If your company doesn’t have one, ask: “why not?”
2. Think hard before you print your emails. Paper free should be the goal but baby steps are a good start.
3. When producing printed materials think about recycled papers and environmental inks. The AVIDD business cards are made from recycled T-shirts and they look great. GF Smith have launched a range of papers made from used paper cups, proving there are options out there. It’s a subject you can talk about on social media to promote the fact you are trying to do your bit.
4. Use paper with FSC classification. Look for the “Tick Tree” logo. This system allows consumers to identify, purchase and use paper sourced from well-managed forests. It is different from using recycled paper but can work to create for a more sustainable product.
5. Take a reusable bottle to work with you for water. It’s good to hydrate and it will save money. Consider this – UK consumers use around 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year but more than three billion are not recycled.
6. If you are looking to produce some collateral, talking to the team at AVIDD is a great start. We can point you to options that will do good and, just as importantly, make you look good.
If we all do our bit, the world will be a better place for it. AVIDD