We’re spending a lot of this month talking about the idea of innovation. And we often talk about it in big, big terms. For example, nobody on the planet today is making bigger innovations (in theory and in practice) than Elon Musk, and we are devoting an entire article to his biggest hits. But innovation doesn’t always have to be huge to matter. In fact, we also talk about how sometimes the biggest innovations aren’t necessarily really benefiting the planet or society. Sometimes it’s the smaller innovations that actually improve our quality of life and help us to live our beliefs much more than big, splashy innovations. Today on Postconsumers we’re taking a look at some everyday green innovations that we often overlook.
Reusable Bags. They May Not Seem Like an Innovation, But…
Any time we change the way people think, it’s an innovation. And convincing people about the need to use reusable shopping bags is a big shift in thinking. Why is that? Because it wasn’t that long ago that people worked really hard to change people’s thinking to believe plastic bags were an innovation that was good for the planet. And why is that? Because they weren’t paper and therefore weren’t destroying trees. That logic is sound, but then of course you dig into the actual facts. Because people don’t use plastic bags multiple times, they create huge amounts of pollution. And there’s a big carbon and chemical footprint to making plastic bags that often gets overlooked as well. So while reusable bags have been around almost forever (literally), the innovation of having them promoted within grocery stores and having users rewarded for using them is actually a significant shift in thinking that’s both gaining steam and having an impact. This puts you on the forefront of innovation when you grab your reusable bag on the way out the door.
Curbside Compost: Dream of It in Your City
You may think that just because food is biodegradable it’s fine if you just throw it away – but that’s not even close to true. Your trashed food goes into a plastic bag, and therefore it can’t biodegrade until the bag biodegrades. Using black trash bags? They don’t biodegrade for centuries, so you’ve added mass to landfills with materials that could easily have biodegraded and done good for the planet. And when you consider that the average American throws away forty-percent of their food, that’s a lot of landfill mass (it’s also honestly embarrassing). The good news is that about a hundred cities across the United States have started curbside composting programs to help minimize landfill waste and optimize healthy planet decisions. If you’re not in a city, composting can be as easy as a can in your back yard. But in a city being responsible about composting can actually be quite challenging. That’s why these innovative curbside composting options are such great ideas.
Goodbye Incandescent Light Bulbs
While 2014 is actually the target year that incandescent light bulbs are supposed to be phased out entirely, many people stopped seeing them in stores quite some time ago and are even starting to forget that they ever existed at all. That’s why it’s important to stop and think about what a truly large innovation it is that these energy-sucking light bulbs have actually managed to be entirely phased out for more energy efficient LED and CFL bulbs. To be honest, we’re surprised that we didn’t hear more protest of personal freedom and individual choice as incandescent bulbs were being phased out. Given how controversial just about any decision to reduce consumer choices can be, the innovation of actually removing a less eco-friendly option and providing only more eco-friendly options may be the biggest (and least noticed) environmental innovation of the last several years.
The Greening of Your Funeral. We Love This One.
We promise that we are not going to compare a typical funeral to the example of food waste that doesn’t biodegrade when it’s in a trash bag. But keep it in mind just a little bit. Now take a moment to think about how non-eco friendly traditional funerals are. Aside from the fact that the biodegradable part of you is inside an entirely non-biodegradable box, there’s also the carbon footprint associated with making that box. Even cremation creates about 6.8 million tons of carbon emissions. But lately groups have been coming up with very planet friendly alternatives that provide some options. From wicker and biodegradable caskets to composting your remains into the start of a fresh seedling tree, these newer green burial options are both natural and innovative.
Innovations that make a big difference don’t themselves have to be big. That’s an important thing to keep in mind on your Postconsumer journey. Even small changes when added up can be impactful on both an individual and societal level.
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Photo Credit: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr