By Georgia Carter
In Vietnam, Thailand, and India, many local grocery stores have adopted a new form of affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly packaging all in one - banana leaves.
Caption: Local grocery stores in Vietnam have switched to banana leaves for eco-friendly packaging.
Source: Propak Vietnam
For over 50 years, we’ve become reliant on single-use plastic to contain and store our products. In grocery shops that pepper the entire globe, plastic is utilised as the main source of packaging. From styrofoam and silicone to thin plastic wrapping and thick plastic containers, this malleable material finds its way into and onto nearly everything we purchase and consume.
But now, more than ever, we need to reshape the way we sell products. There are many environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic packaging. Some countries are already adopting more sustainable solutions. It’s time to highlight these necessary swaps and follow their lead.
Single-use plastic in the form of packaging makes up around 23% of all waste found in landfills, not to mention the enormous amount of litter and pollution that lays waste to our natural environments. This type of waste often goes straight in the bin, never given a second thought. But this mentality is what’s wreaking havoc. It’s not only negatively affecting our Earth but also our health as many forms of plastic containcontains harmful chemicals.
Caption: We rely heavily on plastic for food packaging.
Source: Mak, Unsplash
If you’d like to know how to manage your plastic waste properly, you can read our Ultimate Recycling Guide or peruse the 15 Ways to Reuse Common Waste Objects.
Sustainable Packaging Solutions
There are many eco-alternatives to plastic packaging that will benefit you as the consumer and the planet as a whole. Below are six examples of green packaging:
1. Mushrooms: Mushroom roots, called mycelium, are fused to create a moldable, cheap, and sustainable packaging alternative that can biodegrade once used.
Caption: Mushrooms make an effective and healthy eco-alternative for packaging.
Source: Presetbase, Unsplash
2. Seaweed: Agar, a gelatinous substance found in both seaweed and algae, can be used for both food packaging and as an eco-friendly alternative to gelatin.
Caption: Kelp and seaweed can be used as sustainable packaging.
Source: Ben Wicks, Unsplash
3. Recycled Cardboard and Paper: Why create new packaging when you can just reuse the old? It’s extremely affordable, efficient, and saves the environment.
4. Recycled Plastic: Some things, unfortunately, require extremely sturdy materials to make sufficient packaging. But instead of sculpting a whole new container of plastic, we can utilise what we already have by recycling and reusing plastic.
5. Organic Fibres: Hemp, recycled cotton, tapioca, and palm leaves make up organic fibres that can be harnessed and manipulated into sustainable packaging. All of these materials are compostable and will return to the Earth after use.
Caption: Hemp is one of the best eco-alternatives when it comes to packaging.
Source: Matthew Brodeur, Unsplash
6. Bamboo: Bamboo is cheap, easy to grow, and thrives in abundance. Using bamboo leaves as an alternative to plastic packaging is one of the best sustainable solutions around. It’s already being implemented in various countries with incredible results.
Caption: Bamboo can be used as a sustainable form of packaging and storage containers, among other things.
Source: Zoo Monkey, Unsplash
While sustainable solutions to single-use plastics and harmful packaging are on the rise, many still support and rely on plastic packaging. It’s time to release this dependency and start directing our consumerism habits towards companies that use sustainable packaging.
For the Earth and ourselves, making this simple switch could make an essential difference in saving lives and the planet as a whole.
EcoFoote's Sustainable Packaging Solution (Recycled corrugated cardboard)
Piling Up the Proper Way to Compost: What Composting is, Why it’s Important, and How to Compost Properly
Food waste harms everything. From the resources discarded in the production stage and the transportation used to move the produce to the unnecessary area taken up in landfills and the hungry people on the street wishing they had a tiny morsel, the disregard of edible items is causing damage to both the planet and humans - and it’s only getting worse.
But there are many sustainable solutions to this wasteful plight, one being composting. This simple yet effective practice can be done by almost anyone and requires little effort. In fact, it’s so beneficial in myriad ways that the process is enjoyable.
Caption: An autumn compost heap consists of many leaves.
Source: Annie Spratt, Unsplash
What is composting?
Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials that create simple organic compounds filled with nutrients once broken down. The result is a rich, healthy fertiliser that can be used on your plants.
The benefits of composting
Food scraps make up 30% of the garbage we throw away. Most of this ends up in landfills, not only taking up space but emitting harmful methane.
Composting tackles this problem in many ways while also creating additional benefits such as:
- The encouragement of healthy bacteria and fungi.
- Lowers carbon footprints.
- Enriches soil.
- Suppresses plant disease.
- Makes a natural fertiliser that saves you money.
- Reduces methane emissions.
Caption: A compost heap is made up of brown and green organic materials.
Compostable vs Biodegradable
Not all things are compostable, and what can go into your compost must not be mistaken as a biodegradable object.
Compostable means that the item breaks down into non-toxic components, whereas biodegradable refers to breaking down something into smaller pieces.
Eventually, compostable items will completely disappear and return to the Earth within a matter of weeks. Biodegradable objects may take decades or even centuries to vanish.
The Basics: What you need to start composting
Honestly, you don’t need much at all to start your compost heap.
Here are the bare basics and essentials:
1) Some space. This can either be outside in your garden, balcony, or even a little corner in your kitchen.
2) A tub, bucket, or bin. If you’re composting outdoors, make sure your container does not have a bottom or has drilled holes in the bottom. (If you’re opting for the indoor small compost bin, I recommend using a clay bowl)
3) Some organic, compostable produce made up of green and brown material (this is explained later in the article.)
Caption: All you need is some space and a container to start your compost heap.
Source: Edward Howell, Unsplash
What can you compost?
A healthy compost consists of one part carbon, referred to as dry brown materials such as cardboard; and one part nitrogen, which is called the green materials. These are your coffee grounds and organic matter. Finally, the last ingredient to the nutrient-rich soup is moisture, which can be provided with some water. You’ll need to assess your compost heap regularly to make sure it doesn’t have too much liquid but isn’t too dry either.
So, all in all, you have your browns, your greens, and your moisture.
Below is a list of things you can chuck into your compost heap:
- Fruits and vegetables (raw, uncooked)
- Coffee grounds (extremely healthy, but don’t throw in too much as you don’t want your heap to be nitrogen focused)
- Teabags (with any staples removed)
- Newspaper (remember to shred it first)
- Cardboard/paper (again, cut it up into bite-sized bits)
- Woodchips/ sticks
- Hair/ fur
Caption: Make sure your compost heap has equal parts of brown and green ingredients.
How to make a compost heap
First, seek out a shady spot in your garden or a cosy corner in your kitchen. Then start your heap by adding in equal parts of brown and green materials. Always cut up your larger chunks of produce - it will accelerate the process.
Moisten your dry materials with some water as you proceed. Once a pile is established, mix the green waste into the bottom half of the pile. Remember to stir your compost every one-two weeks.
When the bottom half of your compost heap is a rich, dark brown, it’s ready! Apply the compost to your plants and, if you don’t have many plants, head on over to your local park or communal garden and help out the foliage by applying your own compost - teamwork!
It can take anything from two months to two years for your compost heap to be ready, as it all depends on your size, components, and how you take care of it during the process.
Caption: Your compost is ready when it’s a rich, dark colour. This can take two months or more to reach.
Source: Heather Ford, Unsplash
What not to do when composting: Mistakes to avoid
There are a few common things people do when attending to their compost heap that will destroy it. Here are a few things to avoid in order to maintain the health of your compost heap:
- No meat as it attracts pests and creates a terrible smell. It also messes with the pH of the heap itself.
- No cooked ingredients.
- No dairy
- No diseased plants as the disease might survive and be carried onto your other plants when applying the compost.
- No coal. It’s toxic.
- No fat/ grease/ oil/ lard.
Frequently asked questions and answers.
Do I need a bin to make compost?
Caption: Compost is highly nutritious for your plants!
Source: Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash
By: Georgia Carter
By: Georgia Carter
It’s estimated that 1.3 billions tons of food are wasted worldwide - every single year. Not only is that one-third of all the food produced annually, but it’s also enough to feed 815 million hungry people four times over.
Food waste is a global problem. Behind the illuminated shelves of products displayed in grocery shops, the environment suffers in innumerable ways. From the agricultural practices and transportation of produce to consumer habits and unreliable labels, desperately required food is thrown out without a second thought.
Caption: Edible fruit and vegetables are thrown out purely because of their looks, maintaining the incredibly high standards of grocery shops and consumers.
Credit: Ja Ma, Unsplash
What is food waste?
Food waste is food fit for human consumption that has been discarded. This is due to numerous factors, from farm to table, and abuses important resources along the way.
The process of food waste
Produce is lost even before it leaves the farm. Due to the incredible high aesthetic standards both retailers and consumers have, many perfectly safe, healthy, and edible products are tossed simply because of their looks.
Caption: Farmers harvesting crops. Most edible produce doesn’t even leave the farm due to numerous factors.
Credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash
An immense amount of farming land and water is used to grow these foods, not to mention the fossil-fuel technology it takes to harvest and process crops. In developing countries, farms lack the required infrastructure to procure and store food, such as reliable refrigerating. This leads to more tossed food that could have been perfectly fit for consumption.
Caption: Farming trucks and tractors are required to harvest crops, but use an immense amount of fossil fuels to work.
Credit: Richard Bell, Unsplash
Fast forward to the grocery stores. Decades of customer demands and habits have sculpted an unhealthy way of looking at food. Supermarkets, therefore, refuse to stock produce that appears ‘old’, even if the food item is perfectly safe for consumption.
Caption: Grocery stores have unbelievably high aesthetic standards of food, which consumers have adopted and now expect.
Credit: Thomas Le, Unsplash
Customers also expect their local shops to be stocked to the brim and spoiled for choice. To supply this demand, stores stuff their shelves, leaving the background stock to slowly expire while never receiving a second glance.
Labels also play a big part in food waste. ‘Best Before’ and ‘sell by’ dates are not accurate - they’re a farmer’s assumption. But because we’re prone to handing over our unyielding trust to these labels, we tend to throw away an abundance of edible produce simply because the label doesn’t permit it so.
Finally, enter the restaurant. Many restaurants abide by a high standard, which is understandable, but many also follow this as a ‘no leftovers allowed’ policy. Tons of edible food is discarded just because it’s seen as unwanted when these items could go to feeding the hungry.
Caption: One-third of all produced food is wasted every year.
Credit: Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash
The environmental impact of food waste
When food is abandoned, it’s never just the product itself that’s discarded. It’s also the litres of water required to make that item, the land it needs to grow, and the fuel it took to both harvest and transport. All are generally highly unsustainable practices and cost the earth as much as it does the farmer.
The human population is expected to explode up to 9.8 billion people by 2050. If we don’t change the way we think about food, there will be tons more food waste that have used an immeasurable amount of finite resources to create. And there will still be starving people peppering the world.
Caption: Food waste also relates to the land, water, and energy resources that have been misspent.
Credit: Tomas Hertogh, Unsplash
Our relationship with food needs to change. Our agricultural practices need to shift to a more sustainable way. And this needs to happen now.
Sustainable solutions to food waste
Globally, there are a few things that need to be done. First, developing countries need to receive better training and education on the matter, as well as improved technology to help them better reap the rewards and fruits of their labour - literally.
Secondly, the technology required to plant, grow, sustain, harvest, and process crops need to shift from a dependency on fossil fuels to a reliance on renewable energy.
Thirdly, it’s vital that we as consumers transform both the way we perceive products and how we shop.
Finally, all produce that is essentially on its way to waste needs to change its directory and be donated instead of tossed. Simple as that!
Food waste is a rising and persistent issue across the globe. But even you as an individual have the power to change the trajectory of this issue. Be mindful, consume with awareness, and donate your unwanted food.