I had the privilege of staying a few nights off-grid on the West Coast this summer. Set in beautiful, native bush were two parts of the house – a massive yurt was designated as the sleeping area and a purpose-built shed contained a basic kitchen, wooden table and comfy couches. Rainwater was collected, a composting toilet provided nutrients for the vegetable plots, and solar-powered batteries kept cellphones charged and lights on. There was, however, no hot water unless you had the fire going, no electricity to run a fridge or freezer (or anything else) and just a basic gas stove to complete the kitchen unit. It was a beautiful setting and an unforgettable experience, but I did wonder, do we have to sacrifice development in order to become more sustainable? I left wondering if this experience was a progression forwards, or backwards.
With more and more focus on sustainability in our lives both at work and at home, I wanted to explore what changes we can expect this year and in the future. While it is globally recognised that our current pace of living is impacting our environment in an increasingly negative way, there are many sustainability practices working to counteract this. These changes will impact us all in some way now or in the future.
Here are three major global environmental facts:
- Plastic: 12 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year (sustainability.com). That’s a staggering amount! The other fact is that all of the plastic ever created is still in the World today in some shape or form (Craig Leeson, director of A Plastic Ocean).
- Deforestation: Forest covers just 30% of the world’s land, while land for livestock covers 45%. 8 million km2 of agricultural land has been added since 1987 (sustainability.com).
- Climate Change: The globe is slowly heating up. NASA reports the global sea level measured 84.8 mm in July 2017, which is an increase of 40mm in 10 years (due to melting ice sheets and the expansion of seawater as it warms). It is estimated that by 2050 approximately 90% of the world’s coral reefs will die due to climate change.
It is hard not to be dismayed and disillusioned when considering these facts. The task to reduce plastic, deforestation and climate change is huge. Fortunately the drive most of us feel to do something to help change these facts is collectively creating a positive need for change. We are living in an exciting time where consumer choices are driving the change.
turning the tide
Mintel, the World’s leading market intelligence agency, has suggested that more and more consumers are demanding change and transparency from the companies and industries they are working with and buying from. Personally, I am more and more interested in the origin, development process, distribution and philanthropic activities of the companies that create the products and services I use. I’ll choose a product that contains environmentally friendly ingredients over a product that does not; I will pay slightly more for products that are produced under fair-trade practices; I am left with a bad taste in my mouth when products arrive with ridiculous amounts of plastic or polystyrene packaging.
2018 will see more companies responding to consumer (and legislative) demands with change happening in every industry. Mintel highlights some examples we can expect to see more of:
- ocean-friendly packaging
- greater brand purpose
- business transparency
- digital disclosures and regulation protecting consumers’ information
- renewable energy sources
- biotechnology developments
- electric vehicles
- energy-efficient buildings
- brands that build consumers confidence, reducing (especially teenage) anxiety
- the pursuit of facts in all reported news.
I am looking forward to seeing companies develop and communicate their brand’s sustainability story – for sustainability to become the fabric of their being and a key driver of their business. I want to see companies creating more plastic-free (or at least, fully-recyclable packaging) to reduce land-fill (see the global packaging trends for 2018 here). Eveready and Energizer, please stop shrink-wrapping your battery packs with annoying and non-recyclable plastic. Why not use pure cardboard packaging instead? The changes are exciting and will impact the way we purchase, use and consume products and services.
At BDC we are starting small, but we are making changes in the way we run our business too.
the sustainable life
It is becoming the norm to use reusable shopping bags and coffee cups, reduce the number of meat meals eaten per week, and to teach our children about the importance of recycling, saving water and planting trees. While I don’t think my off-grid experience on the West Coast is the epitome of sustainable living, there is no doubting that we can all contribute to preserving the World we live in through our actions.
Gaining knowledge and understanding of the key environmental issues that affect each and every one of us is important. Knowledge is the first step towards change.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and more sustainable 2018.
Written by Chantell Bramley