Green Business Feature

I have always been told it is important to support the companies you have strong beliefs in and do right for the planet, versus some big box retailer like Walmart or Sams Club.  Patagonia is one of these companies, and they believe in giving: giving back, giving again, giving knowledge, and giving used.

Let’s start with if their clothing and merchandise is truly sustainable. Their production line uses 87% recycled materials. This means the majority of their items are made from recycled materials; raw virgin products are only sourced when they are really needed. Making this switch within the company has allowed Patagonia to avoid releasing around 4.300 metric tons of CO2 into the environment and air we breathe.   This is enough CO2 to power 500 houses for an entire year. Patagonia also works with farmers to source out their newly grown cotton. Since 1996, all virgin cotton used in the production of their clothing has been organically grown. This helps save water and reduce CO2 emissions by 45% when compared to conventional cotton.

Cotton Field

Now let’s talk about consumer impact and how you too can make a change if you purchase one of their products. On the Patagonia website, they have a section all about keeping your products in play and helping extend their product lifetime as long as you can. Sections include “How to Better Your Sweater”, aka get rid of pilling from constant wear and friction, “How to Patch your Insulation”, “How to Fix Your Button”, and “How to Fix Your Zipper Slider”. Each of these titles are videos where a representative shows real life examples to extending a products lifetime and walks you step by step on how you can do it for your products too. I think this section is important because it helps show consumers they too are responsible for their purchases and what impact they hold on the environment. If every customer were to throw out a jacket when the zipper breaks, this would lead to a landfill of nearly perfect condition clothing going to waste.

Patagonia Hiker

What happens if an item is in like-new condition but it’s not your style anymore? Patagonia has a plan for that too. The section of their brand, known as Worn Wear, accepts worn but good condition clothing in exchange for store credit. They then sell the item you traded in for a discounted price so it can be enjoyed and loved by someone new for even more years to come. Patagonia is committed to taking back 100% of gear consumers send in and making sure it has a place other than the landfill. If items are not fully salvageable, ReCrafted comes into play. This is a line of clothing that uses scraps from multiple pieces and repurposes them into something new and functional.

Finally, Patagonia has committed to putting 1 percent of all sales into restoration and preservation of the Earth and natural environment. 1 percent may not seem like a lot, but since 2002, Patagonia has been able to donate over $140 million to environmental groups that are committed to making a change, just like they are.

After looking into this company, I truly believe they are committed to staying green and impacting the planet in a positive way and they want us to be apart of this impact too.

Flying Solo-Less

Alaskan airlines has recently announced they are going to switch from single use bottles and plastic cups to plant-based cartons and paper cups throughout 2022, starting on Thursday November 4th, 2021.  This is a big change for the company.  During a conducted study, the company looked into the products on board that carried the biggest environmental plastic footprint and found beverages to be the problem.  Alaskan airlines has worked hard to make attempts to recycle their plastic goods but this effort wasn’t always carried out by passengers or even some lazy airline workers so they decided to turn to a new alternative that should be better for the planet.

Paper Cups

Alaskan airlines has already stopped the use of all plastic straws on their flights.  Making the switch to plant-based cartons and paper cups will remove around 22 million plastic cups and 32 million plastic bottles, or ~1.8 million pounds of single-use plastic, from their flights throughout 2022.  To put this number into an image for you,  this is equivalent to how much 18 Boeing 373’s weigh.


Boeing 373

This change was brought into action by Diana Birkett Rakow, the Alaskan Airlines vice president of public affairs and sustainability.  She noticed all the beautiful places the airline flies over, and decided a change needed to occur within the company to make sure these places stay beautiful and untouched by plastic for years to come. Alaskan airlines is the fifth-largest airline carrier in the United States, so hopefully after this change is set into place, other airlines will realize how beneficial the switch to plant-based cartons and paper cups can truly be for the environment and they will too be persuaded to make a change within their companies.  Alaskan airlines has also started allowing passengers to pre-order fresh made food before their flights to cut down on plastic snack packaging during their flights.

Paper cups have their pros and cons though.  Paper cups break down faster in landfills and are easier to be processed at a recycling plant when being compared to plastic cups.  They are also still single use, which helps cut down on the spread of germs and contact, which is especially important during times like now when Covid-19 is still spreading around to lots of people.  One major con of these cups is that many contain an inside plastic film layer, used so liquids cannot seep through.  They can also cost more which may just not be a reasonable switch for some smaller businesses that have to keep their expenses low.

This switch is part of Alaskan Airlines’ five step plan to reduce their environment footprint and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.  Although this switch may seem like a huge step, there are still many more items that will need to be switch out and replaced over the years before this airline can claim they are 100% plastic free.  This switch only affects the materials water is served to customers and plastic cups will still be used on Alaskan airlines to serve alcohol and soda to consumers.


One Small Step for the World, One Big Step for France

Fruits and vegetables survive for months outside in all conditions and remain perfectly intact because they typically have an outer layer.  If this is the case, what changes when these foods are plucked from their trees or vines and moved into a store? The answer is nothing except an additional and unnecessary piece of plastic.  In France, 37% of all fruits and vegetables are sold with plastic wrapping but they are now realizing this is a precautionary step everyone purchasing this produce can live without.  Starting with around 30 items in 2022, France is creating a ban on all plastic “waste” wrapping.


You may be thinking what I first thought when I read this: how much a difference will it really make if only 37% of produce has this packaging in the first place and it is only being taken off 30 items for now.  According to Independent, this ban will help cut more than 1 billion pieces of plastic waste in the year 2022 alone.  This ban is also just the beginning of a plastic packaging ban on fruits and vegetables that will move in phases and conclude in the year 2026.  In January 2021, France imposed a plastic ban on straws, cups, cutlery, and styrofoam takeaway boxes that is still in place.

Cockburn, the author of the Independent article has done a good job with including facts straight from the Environment Ministry in France.  This helps to eliminate some bias and provide readers with accurate knowledge on what will be affected by the ban.  He also mentions two different sides on how people feel about this ban.  The Environment Ministry is ready for this to come into place because they believe in a circular economy and brining a rise to reusable and recyclable packaging.  Francois Roch, the president of the French Fruit Sellers federation, has a different outlook.  Although it is possible, he believes it will be a hard and long process to find sustainable swaps.  He also fears this ban will turn people away from buying unpackaged produce because they may worry about other people touching the produce before they buy it.

Although there are some setbacks, such as accessibility to plastic-free packaging, this hopefully provides some companies the motivation to step up to the plate and create something recyclable so that they can further build up and grow their company, as well as impact the Earth in a more positive way.

Image 2

Even though this is a four year plan, there always has to be a starting point before you can get to the finish line.  France is taking a leap of faith into the journey to becoming a plastic free country one step at a time.  With the numerous plastic alternatives out there, such as cardboard packaging or reusable bags, I think every country should try to take the initiative and follow in France’s footsteps. During my lifetime, I am excited to see how this plastic ban in France progresses, as well how many other plastic bans and packaging changes occur so that the Earth can continue thriving for generations to come.

Biting the Bullet

If theres one thing everyone knows about me, it’s that I have a hard time with change.  I wear the same pair of shoes daily, have used the same toothbrush brand since I was young, only use one water bottle even though I have 8 more in my kitchen that never get touched, and I have worn pearl earrings since my freshman year of high school.  All of these may seem small, but they make me who I am today.  Plastic has a big part in my life, from the food I eat to the clothes I wear, but so does the Earth.  I love looking at the trees as I ride up the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall, running across a grass soccer field with my dog, and going on picnics with my friends at our local park. If I want to keep enjoying these things, I know I need to do my part in making a change towards less plastic and more sustainable practices.

When evaluating my recent Harris Teeter trip last week, I noticed every item I picked up contained at least one little piece of plastic, and most were even fully made of plastic.  So how do I change this?  The first step is becoming aware and educated.  Throughout my last month in my Swimming In Plastic Soup course, I was able to learn about different types of plastic and their impacts on the earth.  The next step was to list things I cannot live without, and simply find a less-plastic alternative.  After looking into this, I realized how simple it can be to make changes.

My second step is to take the initiative and change one thing at a time.  When going in college, I purchased Cleancult Laundry Detergent.  Their packaging is 80% paper, 15% PE (polyethylene), and 5% aluminum; all materials that can be easily broken down and recycled at local recycling centers. This is one of my favorite purchases in my journey to having less plastic waste because it is an item that I use weekly, plant based, comes in a variety of scents, and cost the same as other detergent brands found in stores, such as Tide. I have also purchased toothpaste tablets from Bite, and shampoo/conditioner bars from a local shop in my home town.  All of these items are either package free, or come in 100% recyclable packing that will be properly disposed of.

Being 100% plastic free is not always obtainable though.  One plastic item I cannot replace is my debit card; I carry it everywhere with me.  I use it to pick up food, purchase groceries, buy clothes, get paid at my job, even pay my college tuition every semester. This one little plastic card has been swiped thousands of times since 2019.  There are now things such as apple pay, where you can just use your phone and tap to pay directly from there, but since it is such a new system, many places do not even have it established yet.  Many places do not take cash either, due to the change shortage that recently occurred within the past year, as well as the pandemic and trying to cut down contact. Luckily this is a reusable item and only needs replacing once every three years under normal circumstances.

Although changing up things in your life may seem unobtainable, small changes can really make a big difference and they start to add up, sometimes all it takes is a little push.

Plastic Ties

I don’t want to sound like someone that has no hope for the planet, but plastic is inevitable.  Plastic is everywhere, and if you look up from your computer right now and take a look around, I’m sure you will be able to spot at least 5 items of plastic.  Even your computer contains plastic in some way.
I try to be as environmentally cautious as possible, but after logging all the plastic I touch in a day, I was truly shocked. I had 74 items, mostly synthetic but reusable, luckily.  Things like Tupperware, the handle to my dorm washing machine, tv remote, and the rubber is the soles of my shoes are all items that will last for an extended period of time.  Some items just aren’t able to be reused or recycled though.  In the bag of trash I collected throughout the day there was 5 items: 2 food wrappers, a paper cup (containing a plastic lining inside), a gatorade bottle cap, and a dryer sheet. I even collected this plastic trash in a bag made out of plastic, ironic right?
Trash collected throughout my day. Food wrappers, cup, dryer sheet, gatorade cap
I think this image fairly represents how much plastic I dispose of in a single day.  This amount of trash may seem small in scale of the whole earth, but imagine if every person on the planet collected this much trash in one day, for 365 days a year throughout their whole lifetime. That’s a lot of trash.
One main thing I have learned about my lifestyle over the past few weeks is the food industry needs a revolution when it comes to packaging.  4 out of 5 things in this picture are related to food and drinks, and were simply disposed of at the end of my day on Sunday.  There was no way to recycle or reuse these items.  I wanted a snack, and had to sacrifice the planet to enjoy the food I love.

Beth Terry states “Guilt is not encouraged”, but when thinking about it, maybe guilt should be motivating.  No single person has a way to get rid of all the plastic on the planet, but you hold the power to minimize the plastic in your every day to day life.  I think being able to see my waste from just one day just laid out on my dorm room carpet quickly made me realize that I have the power to leave a lasting impact on the Earth, and whether it’s a good or bad impact is up to me. When walking into a grocery store, I will begin to examine what I buy more carefully.  More cardboard and glass; less single use plastic and packaging in general.

I am lucky to attend a college that has a big focus on sustainability and contains recycling bins at almost every corner I turn, but what about the people that don’t have access to this? One thing I think is important about wanted to make an impact is increasing the accessibility and convince of recycling.  Many people don’t have the facilities to recycle items at, and I think this is a big drawback when it comes to an individual’s efforts to reduce their plastic footprint.  How much work and far would you be willing to go to make sure one plastic water bottle ends up at a recycling plant and not your local landfill?