In recent years, we’ve come to see the word ‘sustainable’ just about everywhere. It’s the new trend in the cosmetics industry, the clothing industry and well just about every industry now.
From recycled phone cases to sustainable toothbrushes, it has never been easier to find an environmentally friendly replacement for your daily uses, but just what exactly does the term ‘sustainable’ mean and how can you fit it into your working day?
You’ve seen the David Attenborough documentaries, you know what plastic is doing to the poor turtles and the polar bears, and we imagine you feel pretty bad about it. But when you’re busy getting through your working week and thinking about the things that need to get done before the day ends, it’s not really the ideal time to think about your carbon footprint, and many of us just grab a bottle of water and a pack of sandwiches to eat on the go.
But with our guide to quick sustainable alternatives, you can go about your busy day while still doing your bit for the environment.
First things first, ‘sustainable’… what does it actually mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means something that can continue to exist and carry on. So when you’re making sustainable decisions, you’re choosing things that can continue to be re-used easily or recycled easily and quickly to make a new product again.
At this point you’re probably thinking ”I recycle plastic, so why can’t I just keep on using plastic?”
The answer is that while you might put your plastic in the recycle bin, the majority of this plastic doesn’t get recycled. It’s gets sent away to dumping grounds in Europe and Asia and of the 8.3bn tonnes of virgin plastic produced worldwide in the last year, only 9% has been recycled.
So when the recycling figures are so bleak, it seems the best solution is to choose products that don’t need to be thrown in the bin in the first place. And since plastic bottles and food packaging are some of the worst culprits, we’ve listed four key alternatives that you can add to your busy day with ease.
In the UK, it’s estimated that around 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year, most of which doesn’t get recycled. And it’s not only the environment that plastic impacts; it’s not healthy for our bodies either. Plastic bottles contain harmful chemicals such as Antimony and there have been reports of this chemical leaching from the bottle. However, studies show that the amount of chemical being leached is so small that it won’t cause concern – this theory is still being disputed.
What everyone can agree on is that bacteria do grow in reused plastic bottles – especially in any scratches within the bottle. One study, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, took 76 samples of water bottles used by school students. Nearly two-thirds of the samples had bacterial levels that exceeded that of drinking water guidelines.
But luckily, the economy has seen a huge boom in the purchase of refillable cups and bottles. And with companies like Chilly creating bottles that are sleek and on-trend, having a steel water bottle on your desk never looked cooler.
Refillable water bottles are also incredibly efficient as well. Steel water bottles are great at keeping things close to the temperature you want. So if you’re after a crisp ice-cold gulp of water that feels as fresh as if you’d got it from the mountains yourself, then a steel bottle could prove invaluable.
Check out our list of the best reusable water bottles for eco-friendly hydration?
Reusable Beeswax Wraps
Another product that is growing rapidly in popularity is the beeswax wraps. In fact, they’re so popular as an alternative to clingfilm that we imagine you’ve probably seen them around the office already.
The reason for the recent surge of interest?
They score high on a lot of features being that the material has anti-bacterial qualities as well as being durable, washable, reusable and very easy to mould around food. Not to mention, you can choose from a range of patterns since the wrap is organic cotton coated in beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin.
They’re already cheap to begin with, but since you’re reusing them as well, swapping clingfilm for beeswax wraps will end up saving you money in the long run.
And since the material is freezable and breathable, you can rest assured that your food stays fresh.
But the best way is to try it for yourself, so why not drop the tin foil and clingfilm on your next shop and try carrying your sandwiches in a beeswax wrap?
Bamboo Packed Lunchbox
While bamboo is not a completely perfect option – since there are a few environmental downsides – it does still remain an excellent alternative to plastic because it’s biodegradable and natural. It has environmental benefits over plastic being that the production process is much more low maintenance and of course it releases oxygen into the air – which we’re pretty sure plastic doesn’t do. It’s also incredibly fast-growing which makes it easy to sustain as well.
If you usually just put your dinner in a plastic bag or buy it when you’re at work, then this lunchbox will save you from using plastic and most likely save you money as well since you won’t have to buy expensive pre-made dinners anymore.
Bamboo lunchboxes are often lightweight, airtight and leakproof making them pretty darn practical – many are even microwavable as well.
Reusable Coffee Cup
That first cup of coffee in the morning is pretty sacred and for a lot of people, it’s essential in order to hit the ground running as soon as they get in the office. But the time to sit down with a morning brew is a luxury not all of us get.
And if you’re prone to grabbing a coffee on the way into work, then a reusable coffee cup might once again prove a better alternative to both the environment and your wallet.
You can choose from a bamboo coffee cup, stainless steel or glass. And since disposable coffee cups are actually quite bad at retaining heat, treating yourself to a reusable coffee cup will simply make that glorious first coffee last even longer – especially if you choose a stainless steel one.
Not only this, but many of them are leak-proof and spill-proof so even if you’re driving or dodging bustling crowds at the train station, your coffee isn’t going to end in a third-degree burn.
And while more resources might go into making a reusable coffee cup, the fact that you can use them every day for years works to cancel this out and is inevitably going to stop plastic and cardboard from ending up in landfills and in the ocean.
In short, they’re sustainable, safer, more convenient and cheaper in the long run – it’s a no brainer if you ask us.
We get it… grabbing food and drink on the go is easy, but don’t you just hate spending your money on an overpriced cheese and ham toastie or a plain baguette sandwich? And don’t you secretly wish you could relish in that great – borderline smug – feeling of knowing you’re doing your bit? We think so, and we hope at least one product from this guide will make it into your working day.
And all that’s left is to pass the baton of sustainability over to you and fight the war on plastic together. We’re relying on you comrade.