Our entire world is now hurtling towards an eco-friendly bent of mind post this pandemic. Images of masks being strewn carelessly on sidewalks are a daily visual feed. Sarcastic meme’s at human kind’s expense are doing the rounds. So is there is anything we can do besides pour vitriol on ourselves to make up for all these excesses. The answer is a poorly formulated yes!
Why poorly formulated is because most of our reactions are kneejerk. “I will hence forth buy a bamboo toothbrush.” “I will now replace all my fridge storage with reusable silicone bags.” “I pledge to not use single use plastic yet when I go to a hotel I have no option but to use the plastic toothbrush given to me.”
These are new-year resolutions at best and forgotten immediately after. This is not to say that our fellow citizens on earth are not responsible. Most people respond to mainstream advertising and therefore have no research on how to practice the sustainability that they would wish to practice. Another deterrent is a lack of will or time or both.
It is important to realize that all our endeavors to sustainability are a function of its carbon footprint. With plastic becoming a taboo word, we have forgotten that it is a king that cannot be dethroned. From our laptops & phones to IV drips and from silicone cups to airplanes & cars, plastic cannot be wished away owing to its ease of use and low cost. What matters is where we can make a responsible choice by choosing to use materials with the lowest carbon footprint.
For example, did you know that a bamboo toothbrush will create 9 times heavier carbon footprint as compared with a pine needle toothbrush and both will compost in soil or water?
According to a study published in the Journal for Waste Resources & Residues, researchers conducted a life cycle assessment of various drink containers and found that glass was two and half times heavier than plastic in terms of carbon footprint.
So think again before saying we should switch to glass bottles. The best options are usually industrial scale provided they are managed well such as steel and therefore we should switch to steel bottles.
It therefore goes without saying that while plastic is ubiquitous, there are options to displace it as well. A socially focused enterprise called Vasshin Agro Composites actually has these pine needles collected by rural and sometimes elderly hands to convert them into these amazing products such as a chai cup instead of a glass cup among others. With carbon emission savings of 7 kg for a coffee mug compared with no savings for a plastic coffee mug, it is certain that responsible purchases have an outlet now.
The time is upon us when we must examine and understand how we wish to see the world around and us and we all have the power to make a change, with one pine needle toothbrush at a time.