A Single (use) State of Mind
issue six : the shape of things to come
Is there any possibility of changing the shape of things to come? Yes, but we first and furiously need to change the way we think about single-minded solutions.
Earlier this week, I sat having lunch with a lovely, diverse group of people from all over the country. Intellectuals, foodies, creatives - many a mix of a few of those adjectives. We chose to sit down and eat in, rather than take-away. Whether it was to get out of the studio for a while or not add to the mountains of the future (in case that was a bit euphemistic in description, I am in no uncertain terms referring to landfill), perhaps we all had our own reasons for sitting down together and enjoying a meal and some worldly conversation.
The topic of plastic came up. As it does in most middle-class conversations these days. One member of the table proudly chimed "Ooh, I've stopped using straws and buying water bottles, I've even got a Keep-Cup!" "Bravo" congratulated another, "Single-use plastics are the devil!"
As I sat there staring at partially empty plates with disposable wooden cutlery and paper serviettes, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of how truly disconnected we are as a people.
Don't get me wrong, I was thoroughly delighted to hear that people were making great strides in minimising their plastic use. But here is the thing; plastic is not the problem. WE ARE! Plastic was a life-changing invention and has revolutionised the modern world. It is our (and by "our" I am meaning the entire human species) hedonistic, single-minded, self-absorbed disregard for anything other than ourselves and our bloodlust for instant gratification that is the real problem. These are strong words to describe a species I am very much a part of, but very few kinder words spring to mind these days. This disposable mindset that we have adopted is evident in nearly every aspect of our lives; from fashion to food to beauty...many even treat other people this way. Perhaps this is the bedrock of why we treat everything else the same? Some neuroscientists suggest that it is just the way we are wired from our primal years on this planet.
"Don't come to me with problems! Bring me Solutions"
To change the shape of the future, we need to drastically change the way we think...about a lot of things. We can start by realising single-use is single-use. Whether that's plastic, paper, wood or people.
I brought this opinion to the table and I was challenged with a rebuttal on my thinking by some. "You cannot tell me that single-use paper serviettes are worse than single-use plastic?" Other's at the table nodded in agreement with the question and some in acknowledgment of my point.
I wasn't trying to compare which was worse on a like-for-like point system. I was, and constantly am, simply wanting people to open their eyes are realise that it is our tunnel-vision on single issues that can lead to a whole heap of unconsidered problems later down the line. We all need to step up and educate ourselves and we can do this by simply questioning face value and experimenting with status quo. Einstein once said, "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right but a single experiment can prove me wrong."
Certainly, plastic is one experiment that will remain for eternity. But have you taken a moment to realise that every single-use item is made of materials that are disappearing at an alarming rate? Sure, trees grow back, but it takes a long time until they can become a fully functioning member of the environment again. That is, of course, to assume that the raw materials are coming from responsibly sourced timberlands. And, yes, many companies proudly bare the seal of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) providing us with some kind of assurance that the wood used to make the items were indeed sourced responsibly. But, If you haven't seen the packaging that they come out of, how can you be sure that they are coming from a responsible source and not just another money-hunger corporation? Have you considered the ecosystems within in these timberlands that are being eradicated from the face of the planet? This single-mindedness offsets the perfect equilibrium that is nature.
Have you thought for a moment, about the environmental impact of the means used to harvest the wood for your single-use chopsticks or cardboard containers (ie: the fossil-fuels used to make the diesel which is needed to run the chainsaws and trucks, water to soften and wash the wood to turn it into pulp or recycling it) or the toxic pesticides required to manage the GMO cotton crops in water-stressed areas? This think-piece is not meant to add more confusion to the already overwhelming environmental questioning we are all doing in the wake of Blue Planet II, I am merely trying to get you to think beyond the obvious and question the single-use mindset we have all become so accustomed too.
It is only with collective consciousness and a collective action that we can alter the impending vision of what is set to come for future generations.
It's really not that hard. Why not try Content Beauty & Wellbeing's Zero Wasted Kit.
Our beautiful impact
This being a beauty platform it would irresponsible for me not to discuss how this single-use mindset relates to our beauty regimes too.
Let us start with makeup wipes. Now, for those of you who don't know this already, the majority of wetwipes or makeup wipes are made from plastic. Those convenient little towelettes, seemingly so innocent, are one of the biggest offenders in the war on plastic. They are quite literally choking sewers and adding to the flooding problems in both first and third-world countries. Of course, there are eco-alternatives. Wipes made from sustainable bamboo fibres or chlorine-free organic cotton are certainly preferable solution when out and about, however, this is still part of a single use narrative. When and where ever possible, consider switching to reusable clothes like Endure Organic Eye Makeup Removal Cloths. I love this little cloth because it is black and does not land up looking like my boyfriend accidentally used my muslin cloth to clean the entire bathroom after just one use. It is made from a patent-pending mix of organic bamboo fibres, cotton and spandex to help gently remove makeup from the delicate eye area (but of course you can use it over your entire face). If you aren't into a heavy makeup application, you can use little more than the warm wet cloth to remove everything, but it can also be used in conjunction with your favourite untainted cleanser. This cloth can be washed every 2 -3 days in your regular 30-degree load and reused for up to nine months.
The Makeup Eraser is another such cloth, although not made from natural fibres, this product really does what it says on the tin and requires only water to remove even waterproof makeup (although you are left with makeup stains all over the cloth, even after following the cleaning instructions). The upside of this Makeup Eraser is that the cloth lasts 3 - 5 years and now does come in a host of colours so you and your house-mate never have to share one by mistake.
Of course, there are cotton-pads to remove your makeup too, but one wipe and in the bin they go. Without a second thought. While you can get organic cotton pads all over the place, with their obvious improvement towards the environment and the wellbeing of the farmers, this again doesn't eliminate the single-use approach. It also takes 20,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of cotton. You're better off just choosing a wash-off cleanser to clean your face, but for the love of humanity and common-sense, please turn the tap off while you're not using it!
It has been reported that by 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions. A 2012 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development predicted that by 2050 water demand is projected to grow by 55 percent by 2050 (including a 400-percent rise in manufacturing water demand. Not to mention the fact that global corporations like Nestlé and the likes are monetising this fundamental human right and capitalising on something that should be free to everyone on the planet.
The point being, this single-use mentality needs to change and a mountain or ocean of plastic is by no means our only current or looming environmental disaster.
While I am not pretending that there are any hard and fast solutions, I am certain that by each one of us thinking just that little bit more before we use something only once, we can make a big difference to the unconsidered resources required to make our lives (appear) easier.
A little game of "did you know"?
Did you know that you cannot recycle used paper-towels, plates or greasy pizza boxes? While recycling plants do clean the paper products they receive, there's no way to get the grease out of the paper's fibres and therefore these soiled items can ruin and the entire batch of recycling.
Did you know that you can recycle wood? But you will have to take it to civic amenity sites for it to recycling. You can also compost it but will have to turn it into saw-dust or wood-chips in order to do so. So, unless you are the kind of person who would actually keep all your single-use wooden items in a separate recycling container and take it to the appropriate bins at your local recycling plant - those items you use for food are going straight to land-fill my friend.
Did you know that biodegradable plastic is just normal plastic with a bunch of extra chemicals added to it so it degrades over time... a looong time and of course only under a very specific set of conditions. They also can't be recycled. I found this article very informative when researching plastics for the Why Good Packaging Matter's article earlier in this issue.