A note from Lea: My short talk on ‘Daily Sustainability Tips to keep our Planet Healthy’ discusses sustainable practices that we can all incorporate into our homes. I put a strong focus on eliminating single-use plastics from ones home life as well as touching upon the #5RChallenge: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot and Recycle.
What Did I Miss?
Beginning a journey of sustainability can be overwhelming. It is often one of those goals that just seem to stay in the back of our minds – “I must be more sustainable”. It can be hard to get started because once you discover one thing in your life that can be done more sustainably, you will see another, then another. Then it becomes a complete lifestyle overhaul, which is a huge commitment. But in this session, Lea shared some excellent beginner tips and small changes that you can implement today. They are the perfect starting point, because they do not feel like a huge change, though they made a big difference. She encourages a slow transition into sustainability – “Do not expect to change everything overnight”.
This was an excellent discussion that gave precise advice. I often find sustainability content to be, unfortunately, pretty vague – such as ‘look into the brands that you’re buying from’ or ‘use less single-use plastics’. Lea goes into specific details about which brands are eco-friendly and specific companies, products, and shops that she uses. These are the little nuggets of gold which are great take-aways! Honestly, if you put together the notes on sustainability tips from this talk, you would have your own ‘little black book of sustainability!’
When it came to the Q&A section, Lea did an excellent job of handling such a wide variety of topics. They covered A LOT – it was great! Lea is clearly knowledgeable about ocean conservation and sustainability, being able to discuss a range of issues from furniture materials to localized beach cleanups. Read on to discover the questions & answers delivered during the session, as well as some answers to questions submitted when time had run out.
Questions & Answers
Q: What’s your advice to really be able to make behavioral change? I have the best of intentions, but I often fall short due to convenience, lack of being able to plan ahead.
A: So I would say the first thing, the first recommendation here is: maybe look at everything that you’re currently consuming and buying and start to think about what are some of those easy changes? You don’t need to go completely sustainable overnight. It’s about taking those first initial steps. And once you start to do those, you start to realize everything else. It’s kind of like this ping pong effect, when you’re on this kind of journey towards sustainability, so one really easy way, for example, is to start to look at like, what is your plastic usage within your home?
I gave some sustainable tips earlier, but if you’re someone who’s going constantly to pick up coffee every day, can you go and bring your own coffee cup to that process? If you’re noticing you’re ordering a lot of water bottles, what are those things that you can easily switch over? And that will happen in gradual impressions. Next thing you know, you know, you, you’re thinking about all the different scopes. So I would say focus on making it tangible and accessible there. Don’t be overly critical with yourself, and you need to have some level of achievement there too. Make sure that it’s manageable.
Q: Is bamboo considered to be a sustainable alternative for furniture?
A: Yes. So bamboo is amazing because it grows so quickly and actually needs very little water to grow. So in terms of choosing a wood that’s sustainable, and a fiber that is strong and durable and can also be grown and planted very quickly, I definitely recommend it. You do need to stay away from bamboo, for example, in clothing, because of the shedding of the bamboo, which a lot of the time that’s actually combined with things like polyester. And then it can have a negative impact, but [for] furniture is wonderful. Typically, you’re not washing that down where microplastics or anything would degrade [it] or it would be combined with something else.
Q: I used to work in nightlife; some clubs have started to invest in less environmentally impactful goods like hay straws versus plastic. What other day to day items do you expect to see phasing out?
A: So I think straw [usage] is one [activity] that we really saw a huge campaign around specifically, especially in the US and in Europe. Hay is actually an amazing option because it’s a byproduct of the wheat industry. So no waste was created through that, and that would actually typically go to landfill. So that was an amazing kind of push there and even much better than like paper straws etc. What we’re starting to see, we work a lot actually with the hospitality industry and if you’re in the nightlife space, I would recommend going to our website (Oceanic.global) and under the solutions tab we actually have an edition specifically for the nightlife [industry, about] how to eliminate single use plastics in operations.
We go through every single item, so straws is one of them… If you need to be selling water, you can actually have canned water made from aluminium. The list goes through Sarah’s shot glasses, napkins, coasters, a lot of coasters actually wax dipped in plastic, which most people don’t realize. So have a look at the guides. They’re free and available and actually throughout the different guides, we link through to different sustainable vendors. Just as a whole, we’re starting to see a lot more clubs really looking at shifting that over. So a few of the groups we work with in New York to help phase out single use plastics and actually started with straws, and one of them was Freehold, and the second one was actually House of Yes.
Q: What’s one thing you would suggest I can do today that is an easy switch, and has an impact on my foot print?
A: Because I have my “ocean hat” on, I’d say one of those things would be eliminating plastics. Two is if you are eating a lot of seafood, really starting to think about eating sustainable seafood. So switching out and staying away from things like tuna and cod which are actually really high up on the extinction list and being just very aware of that. If you are someone that has a very heavy meat diet: start incorporating more plant based foods.
Another good thing to do is to ask yourself about your carbon footprint? So what are certain things that you could be switching over? If you have a fan in your home, could you switch that on instead of putting on the AC all the time? Could you switch your light bulbs? If you are commuting at the moment could you be cycling instead? So there’s all these little things, but you know, really, what we like to do is look at solutions at the intersection between oceans and climate change, and there’s actually a lot of overlap between the two.
Q: From big brands, which are the most sustainable companies that others should model after? I think it’s important for people to know which brand(s) care(s) about them.
A: So this is a really interesting one. It’s been amazing to see how many brands are really looking at engaging in sustainability. But also, we need to be really cautious that they’re not just making these big sustainable commitments where they are pushing it out there and not actually following through. So we are seeing sadly a lot of greenwashing within the space. A few brands are really kind of pioneering it. Obviously Patagonia is one of them. They’ve done an amazing job at all levels of incorporating sustainability into the company. Another one actually is Puma. Puma is one of the most sustainable sports brands out there.
They were one of the first companies in the world to have an environmental PnL, which means that they take the environment and sustainability; they put that into their balance sheets and they have a number attached to that, so they calculate the amount of electricity that’s used in their factories all across the supply chain from energy to water. What is its environmental human impact etc. So that’s an amazing brand to look at.
We’re seeing a lot more brands going package free pop-up, which is super cool. Allbirds. In every sector there is a sustainable alternative that’s coming out. So definitely go and check that out. Think about the really really big brands like the Nestles, the Pepsi Co’s, they’re starting to weave in more sustainable items within their offerings. One thing to keep in mind though, is to really be encouraging these big brands to be pushing that forward because one tiny little change within a huge company will have a much larger footprint than any of these smaller brands that would make that switch. Even if the big brands are not there 100%, let’s make sure we’re encouraging them through that journey.
Q: How about laundry detergent? How much of the damage is it doing to our oceans and what can we do to fix that?
A: I would definitely recommend using an eco laundry detergent. There’s lots of different options out there. So just go and make sure you know that whatever you’re putting in there, knowing that it does end up somewhere. And that’s not just for laundry detergent, but anything in terms of cleaning products, etc, just making sure that you know they’re not toxic to yourself and your health but also for where it will end up and the environmental impacts of that.
One of the things, and this is just a little bit of a sidetrack, that I think a lot of people don’t realize actually is when you all washing your clothes through that process it can be one of the most harmful in terms of the impact on the oceans and the reason is a lot of our clothes are actually composed of plastic fibers, so polyester is a big one.
Every time you wash your clothes, your clothes actually shed and so with that, tiny little microplastics are all going through your washer and actually entering our aquatic systems and we actually don’t have filters in place to be collecting that. So two different options there. One is Cora Ball which is a plastic bowl that you pop in with all your laundry and it actually collects the plastic and you can pull it out as fluff, which is the way it will gather and you know that’s a really easy one. I actually just leave mine all the time in my laundry machine.
The second one actually is a [Guppyfriend] and the [Guppyfriend] is probably the most successful one out there and it’s a big bag and you put all your laundry in that and then you put that in the machine. Again, that will gather all the microplastics, so you’re taking accountability and making sure that that’s not going to end the waterway.
Q: Fast fashion companies like H&M waste a tremendous amount of water. Do you think this level of waste will be preventable? Will it collapse under its own usage? Can nature give out under tremendous usage?
A: Fast fashion is obviously hugely polluting on the environment from a consumption standpoint. The amount of water, energy, dyes, everything that goes into it. Anytime you’re looking at making something cheap and not long term, and it’s extremely price sensitive, a lot of the time it will have a negative impact, sadly. H&M has really been pushing; we’re starting to see a lot of these big brands really starting trying to take accountability and changing it in terms of what that looks like long term, it’s really tough because it goes against the model of itself. Sustainability and something that’s not built to last kind of don’t go hand in hand.
But H&M as a whole, for example: I know they’ve really taken into accountability, looking at their dyes and making sure that there’s not as much toxic runoff there… When they’re actually manufacturing these products that’s a huge amount of water waste. They have a great give back program. So actually you can drop off all your leftover clothes, they take other brands in and actually produce clothes out of that. So I think a lot of the fast fashion industry realized that things are gonna have to change and then looking for ways to do that and to be more sustainable. But ultimately, if you’re looking at really being truly truly sustainable then you’re going to have to find a middle ground. In terms of the ideas and the base of it, there is a conflict.
Q: Has Oceanic researched the reasons for the increasing presence of Sargassum in the Caribbean in the last few years?
A: We haven’t. So we work with a few different groups. I have one that I really recommend. It is a group called Coral Restore. They’ve done a lot of work in Mexico, so definitely go and check it out. Another group that’s done a lot of cleanup around this actually in the US is a group called Force Blue. But I don’t want to speak too much on the behalf of that and the impact in the Caribbean. It’s not something that I’m hugely familiar with in that region.
Q: Do you have any tips for people on where they can volunteer for beach cleanups?
A: Yes. So there’s a lot of different groups that host beach cleanups. One that I would definitely recommend to check out is Surfrider. They host beach cleanups across the US. Another group is 4ocean, they do amazing beach cleanups, and they really kind of make it fun and gamify the whole process. They have community based beach cleanups, and then they also do impact cleanups. Check out what’s available in your different regions. So for example, if you’re out in LA or San Francisco, there is Heal The Bay. Each different area has different groups. Facebook is actually a great way to go and find what different keynotes are in your area, but also looking at what local nonprofits are all about. Reaching out to the Parks Department; A lot of different Parks departments will actually be hosting regular cleanups, etc.
Q: Some fish is more sustainable than others. Which is considered the most sustainable?
A: The most sustainable fish is actually a fish called lionfish. So that’s an invasive species. One of the things that I do is definitely recommend downloading a guide called the Monterey Bay Aquarium and there’s a seafood watch app. So it’s an app that’s on your phone, and what you do is anytime you’re in a restaurant or you’re looking at ordering something, you just type in the name, whenever is on the menu, you can also ask your waiter “where that fish came from” and [the app] will let you know, in terms of which category it’s in, and split into three different categories. If it is in the “no eat zone” hence on the endangered list or close to the extinction list, etc. It will actually have a sustainable recommendation for you. So check that out.
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Also, check out the Summary + QA of other Mentors from the Inaugural Virtual Wellness Summit – Powered By Plantie