Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Our Disposable Lifestyle - Throwing Sustainability Out the Window

By Trudy Slabosz

Have you ever considered our disposable lifestyle, how many of the products we use everyday are designed to be thrown out after as little as just one use? Tissues, toweling paper, razors, coffee cups, drink containers, food containers, nappies, tea bags, plastic shopping bags are all manufactured, packaged, transported and sold to be used once and then discarded, sometimes within a matter of minutes.

And it doesn't stop there, nearly all consumer products have a conceived limited lifetime. In a society that places so much value on the 'latest', 'greatest', 'up to the minute' fashion and trends it is not surprising that we often find ourselves throwing out or replacing many household and lifestyle items year in year out. Computers, televisions, white-goods, clothes, shoes, cars, home wares, furniture and so many gadgets and 'necessities' of everyday living are repackaged and re-released all the time, creating a false sense of obsolesce in the 'out dated' model.

This didn't just happen, it was designed. Throwaway, breakable, disposable goods were originally conceived after World War II as a way of creating mass economic growth and we have embraced them for their convenience and perceived necessity.

And you've got to hand it to them, this revolution in disposable goods certainly generated an economic boom but at what cost?

  • The earth is being forced to try and digest an ever growing amount of waste. Through landfill and pollution we are drowning the planet in toxic waste that, in the case of plastics, can never be entirely broken down.
  • We are relying on cheap oil to manufacture and transport all these goods for our convenience and immediacy but how much longer will this be an option?
Consider the amount of garbage one household generates, how much of our trash is made up by disposable, convenience items; plastic toothbrushes, pens, lighters, batteries, containers, cleaning cloths, oven trays, wrapping, packaging and so much more.

We need to consider the environmental impact of these items and weigh it up against their convenience.
  • Plastic is non biodegradable which means after it is thrown out it does not breakdown to a natural state and will more often than not end up as pollution either in landfill or quite often in our oceans and waterways
  • When plastic waste is incinerated it creates toxic fumes that pollute our air and environment
  • It takes large amounts of chemical pollutants to create plastic, as well as significant amounts of fossil fuels
  • Although biodegradable the paper industry also contributes to air and water pollution, energy consumption, water consumption and deforestation
When we look at the facts above it may be worthwhile considering an alternative to throw away and disposable items. Weigh up the very negative long lasting environmental impact of a disposable item's real lifespan against their designed use of a few minutes, days or months and an imbalanced picture begins to emerge.

Yet, there are alternatives readily available and with a few changes in our habits and product choices we can reduce the need and reliance on an unsustainable disposable lifestyle.

To limit our dependency on disposable items and our overall consumption and resulting waste; consider the following:
  • Use reusable items whenever possible this includes reusable shopping bags, pens, lighters, razors, food storage containers, refillable drink bottles, coffee cups, washable dish cloths, cloth napkins, hankies, nappies etc. And this doesn't necessarily mean going back to the days of old, there are new exciting reusable items available from sustainable forward thinking companies for nearly every item imaginable.
  • Avoid the use of plastic wrap and disposable sandwich and freezer bags by investing in quality glassware storage containers to refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always reduce, reuse and recycle and look for items made from recycled products or with recycled packaging. Be inventive, any item that can be washed out and reused saves on waste and consumption.
  • Before replacing an item consider the option of repairing it or replacing it with a second hand item. Is the need to replace it based on a conceived obsolescence? Can you make do with the item for a little longer?
  • Try not to be over influenced by fashion and advertising. When it comes to clothing, foot ware and gadgets consider the impact of your choices before buying into fashion and fleeting trends.
We owe it to our planet and ourselves to escape from this unnecessary throwaway lifestyle. Make a simple change next time you are faced with the option of disposable or reusable and see the difference. With a little imagination, creativity, forethought and care we can move towards a sustainable and positive future.
Small.Simple.Life Happy and Healthy, Ethical and Sustainable Living

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1 comment:

  1. By all means lets reduce and recycle, but food and other essential goods cannot be supplied in an undamaged and hygeinic state to millions of homes every day without plastic.

    However, plastic can and should be made biodegradable at little or no extra cost see and