Use Sustainable Materials
Me ol’ bamboo.
Recycling’s brilliant. We all like a good recycle. But while we’ve had great times putting things in recycle bins we need to be smarter than just reusing stuff that can be recycled and binning the stuff that can’t. We need to cut down on non-recyclable stuff as much as possible and ensure the things we do recycle are made sustainably. All this takes is the very simple step of being completely obsessed with materials all the time always.
Sustainable, renewable materials are the things that can be replaced once we’ve swiped them. We’re talking wood, paper and card because they’re made out of trees, and new trees can be planted under sustainable forest schemes. We’re talking bamboo, cotton, straw, linen and hemp because bamboo grass, cotton bushes, cereal plants, flax and the devil’s lettuce can all be replanted. We’re talking cork because it can be nicked from the bark of living trees, and coir because coconuts can be recoconutted. We’re talking wool and beeswax because sheep can be bred and shorn and bees can be bred and burgled, although vegans will fuck you up for even thinking about it.
Then we have materials that aren’t renewable but can be recycled. We’re talking some types of plastic, which are derived from dirty-bad oil. We’re talking metals, which are dug up, like. We’re talking glass, which is made with sand, soda and lime. None of them are replaceable, but they can at least be recycled and reused.
And then we have materials that aren’t sustainable, can’t be recycled, and will take hundreds of years to biodegrade and wreck the planet while they’re at it. We’re talking polystyrene, rubber and loads of types of plastic. We’re talking knock-off wood like MDF, particle board and laminates that are just glue, dust and witchcraft. And we’re talking synthetic fabrics – yer nylon, yer polyester – which will still be around when Wall-E’s knocking about the place looking to get laid.
There is a very clear hierarchy here. It gets more complicated when you factor in production methods and transport – cotton takes a ton of water to produce, and coir and cork will clock up significant mileage – but generally we need to think in terms of the most sustainable, least harmful materials every time we buy anything.
Let’s look at some real-world examples. Let’s say we’ve just got back from cottaging in East Cheam and have worked up a mighty thirst. We can get coffee in a polystyrene cup, get sody pop in a recyclable plastic bottle, get rival sody pop in a recyclable aluminium can, or get coffee in a reusable cup we took with us. Or let’s say we need a coat hanger for the business of hanging a coat. We can buy one made of plastic or one made of wood. We need a doormat for the purpose of keeping dog shit on the exterior of our homes. We can buy one made of plastic or one made of coconut coir. We need a plant pot for the purpose of potting a plant. We can buy one made of plastic, metal, massively polluting concrete, china, or terracotta.
This is how we should approach everything all the time always. The recent interest in single-use plastic, and the bans on straws and cotton buds, shows we’re starting to shift our thinking. But the baby wipes and Covid face masks that continue to plague the oceans suggests we’ve probably missed the point. This isn’t an ideological crusade against straws and cotton buds. The problem is the shit they’re made from. We need to avoid that shit with everything.
These choices are simple. The sustainable options are no less convenient and no harder to find than the single-use, resource-guzzling, future-screwing options whose pointless wastefulness will doom us all. It’s a clear-cut case of Doing The Right Thing. So let’s do it.
Use sustainable materials
Reduce single-use waste
Save the goddamn world
Photo credit: The Zero
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